Downton Abbey: Party Like It's 1925! (S6 E1 Recap)

DOWNTON ABBEY: Party Like It's 1925! (S6 E1 Recap)It’s the sixth and final season of Downton. Those of you who hoped we might jump to 1929 and watch the Crawleys go bust in the crash may be disappointed. Nor does it look like the servants or tenant farmers are going to storm the castle. It’s 1925, and while we’ll soon enough learn that the manor life is dying out, it seems to be in full swing when we open with the hunt. Thank you show for the pretty countryside and dogs and horses, and not showing us little foxes being torn to shreds.

Hey remember when Mary was still riding side saddle at some event last season because Violet’s would have a stroke if Mary rode astride? Those days are over. She’s mounting that horse with her legs open further than you’d think they could go given that stick up her butt.

Always a lady, even astride a horse.

Always a lady, even astride a horse.

A mysterious drably dressed woman is hanging around. Is she a farmer’s wife? No one seems to recognize her, but there’s something about her that unsettles Mary enough that she falls off her horse.

Now, let’s catch up with the Downstairs People:


The children who haven’t been sent off to boarding school yet are in the kitchen with the servants who raise them. With little Sybie living in America, we’re down to two kids, Lady Mary’s son Master George, and the little foundling child what looks so much like Lady Edith who’s always fawning over her. Thomas is good with the kids. Maybe he has a future as a Manny? Daisy has more tests coming up. Why is she even still there? Shouldn’t she be off with Miss Bunting plotting a revolution or something? Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson still haven’t set a wedding date. What are those two love birds waiting for? Mrs. Patmore wants to know the answer to that, which leads to a strange and strained conversation with Mrs. Hughes, who it seems is more than a little nervous about the possibility that this marriage thing might actually include the S-E-X, which is a word not said or spelled out, but approached indirectly and with great caution. Hughes, who’s afraid she’ll be a disappointment to her husband and is sort of hoping they could live like affectionate siblings but not the creepy kind, gets Patmore to agree to talk to Carson and find out his expectations. Patmore isn’t quite sure how she managed to get roped into this but leaves their chat muttering, “I’ve had some commissions in my time.”

Downton Abbey

But what if he wants to, you know, GO ALL THE WAY?

Edith and Cora, not being horsey types, are hanging at the house. Edith gets a call from her editor who’s giving her problems because he doesn’t like working for a woman even if it is now past the first quarter of the 20th century and they can vote and ride astride. Cora has some meeting with the hospital committee, which turns out to be a very cozy group consisting of Chairwoman Violet, Almoner Isobel, Dr. Clarkson, Lord Merton, and Cora. Violet has heard that the Royal Yorkshire Hospital wants to take over their little village hospital and she’s against it. Clarkson agrees. Isabel and Dickie think it’s a swell idea, and Cora isn’t ruling it out. Looks like trouble, but maybe it could bring those two crazy lovebirds – Isobel and Dickie – back together again. Also I looked up “almoner” so readers wouldn’t have to. It’s the person in charge of giving out alms at the hospital, but it sounds like Isobel basically runs the place or thinks she does.

Isobel and Violet on opposite sides. Who'll win? Call your turf accountant.

Isobel and Violet on opposite sides. Who’ll win? Call your turf accountant.

The hunt ends. Mary wasn’t hurt by the fall, but Robert seems to be clutching at his belly. Didn’t we go through this two seasons ago? The drab woman approaches Mary. She was a chambermaid at the hotel in Liverpool where Mary had her dirty weekend with Tony. She stole a page from the register and wants a thousand pounds to keep this out of the papers. Mary tells her it’s not happening, but when she turns away, she looks scared.

downtown abbey s6 e1 blackmailer

The inevitable result of a Labour victory.

Robert and Carson discuss staffing. There are going to have to be cuts. They’re going about it slowly, but Robert says, “Who has an under-butler these days?” I think they mean you Mr. Barrow – but didn’t he save someone last year? How soon these rich people forget! Then again, it was only Poor Edith, the Ugly One. If it had been Master George the heir, I’d bet they wouldn’t consider letting him go. Hmm. Maybe Barrow will start a fire?

Mary tells Anna about the blackmailer. Anna has troubles of her own. She’s out on bail, but either she or Bates could still get charged in Green’s murder. When it comes to tragedy, Anna is always going to beat her boss, except maybe for that one time Mary’s husband died on the day their son was born. Also Anna’s pretty sure she’s had a miscarriage or three and can’t have babies. Bates suggests it might be the fact that they are always worried about being arrested for somebody’s murder.


Dinnertime. This isn’t one of their dinner parties where someone will wind up storming off. It’s just family, but Violet and Isabel are at each other about the hospital. Also with Tom in Boston, they need an estate manager, but Mary says she can handle it. Robert isn’t so sure.

After dinner, Patmore goes on her mission to talk to Carson, but they never get within a football field of the subject, and Carson has no clue.

Violet tells Denker that Robert mentioned maybe cutting down on staff, but not to tell anyone. Why didn’t she just broadcast it over the wireless?

The next morning, Patmore admits to Hughes that she totally failed to arrive at the topic. The blackmailer comes to the kitchen door pretending to be a maid from the Dower House with a message for Mary from Violet that must be hand delivered. Hughes goes up with her. Mary is reading the newspaper and eating breakfast in bed because being the estate agent is such a tough job. When Mary sees who it is, she lets her in, and tells Hughes to send up Anna. Like Miss Bunting and Daisy at her worst, the blackmailer exists to spew resentment because the working class are just awful. She grabs something off the breakfast tray and tells Mary, “You’re going down and we’re coming up,” which no one actually said to another person ever.

Mary tells her she still won’t pay. Anna escorts her out of the house. Mary looks as terrified as she can look given that she can’t actual move her facial muscles.

Over at the hospital, Dr. Clarkson is all, “I’m a doctor and I know best,” and Isabel, is all “Oh yeah? Try reading the mortality reports.” Then he mentions“that fount of medical knowledge” Lord Merton, and how he’s “influencing” Isabel.  Does Clarkson think he still has a chance with Isabel? Is he still pissed off because he doesn’t? Is he twelve?

Sgt Willis stops by to make things worse. It’s a good news/bad news kind of thing. The good news is there’s a confession. The bad news is it may be a false confession because they can’t prove a connection, and the woman could just be crazy. So the murder charge is still hanging over them because that’s what it is to be a Bates.

Will Bates ever be able to turn his wife's frown upside down?

Will Bates ever be able to turn his wife’s frown upside down?

Upstairs: Everyone’s excited because there’s a letter from Rose, who loves New York. And wouldn’t that be a great spin-off? Carson announces that Mr. Mason wants to talk to Lord Grantham. Mellomar or whatever consonant they’re eating, a nearby estate, is being sold and that means Mason may lose his farm. Robert says he’ll call the family and check out what’s happening. It turns out to be true, and Robert tells Mason they’re sending vacancy letters to everyone, and the new owners will decide who can stay.

Denker comes by, as we knew she would, to start trouble downstairs. She focuses in on Barrow whom she hates the most and talks about the coming cutbacks. Carson tries to talk to Hughes about setting the date but she avoids him.


After Mason leaves, Cora expresses sympathy for him and for their poor rich friends who waited too long and will now only have a townhouse in London. Then it’s time for the five minutes during the day when Mary and Edith hug their children.

Over at Violet’s, Denker works her magic on Sprout, suggesting he should “live for the moment,” and that Violet could live without a butler but not a lady’s maid.

Mary feels sorry for herself in front of Anna, whom she can’t possibly be paying enough to. Anna tells her they’ll both get through their problems, but she doesn’t mention that hers might include being hung.

Carson approaches Patmore because he suspects she was previously on some kind of mission from Mrs. Hughes that she failed to complete. There is an even more awkward conversation finally leading to Padmore saying, “I think we got there.” She is the Violet of downstairs with all the best lines.Carson tells her to tell Hughes that he wants a “real” marriage, and absolutely adores her. Padmore is clearly on his side. Will love win?

Sprout has a bewildering exchange with Violet – that is bewildering until he repeats what Denker told him. Clearly, Violet enjoys the drama because this kind of thing happens every week. What will Violet’s next move be? It won’t be firing Denker because where’s the fun in that?

The blackmailer comes back. Mary isn’t home. Carson tries to shoo her away, but somehow she gets to Robert. This is terrible! He’ll be disappointed in Lady Mary!

Edith and Aunt Rosamund our hanging out in Gregson’s bohemian yet swanky apartment, which Edith is considering occupying. Rosamund asks her if she really wants to spend the rest of her life hanging out at Downton and being swiped at by Mary. She isn’t sure. Really? She isn’t sure? What?

Could this be the year when Poor Edith finally finds happiness?

Could this be the year when Poor Edith finally finds happiness?

Mary comes home and Carson tells her about that the drab woman got in to see Robert. Mary tells Carson, “Some day they’ll be something I’ve done that even you will condemn me for.” But really there won’t be unless she votes labour, like that would ever happen!

Mary goes into the library where Robert is handing a check over to the blackmailer. After she’s gone Robert tells him he’s most disappointed with Tony, but Mary explains how he wanted to marry, her and taking him for a test drive was her idea. But then Robert has mellowed what with Sybil running off with the chauffeur,and Poor Edith the Ugly One having a bastard-child, and he decides the escapade wasn’t that big a deal because she was already a widow and not exactly “a deb in [her] first season.”

That was HARSH Robert!

Also it turns out Robert didn’t give Miss Drab the thousand pounds she was demanding. He gave her fifty pounds, and in exchange she had to sign a confession to blackmail, so if anything came out in the future or she came back, he could send her to jail.


Mary is impressed with her father, but not as impressed as Robert is with how Mary was planning to tough it out. He’s now convinced she’s the man to manage his estate.

Hughes thanks Patmore for talking to Carson, and apologizes in case it got vulgar. Patmore tells her, “Mr. Carson wouldn’t be vulgar if you put him on a seaside postcard.” She is the best!

Isabel stops by Violet’s for tea, even though they’re fighting about the hospital. Violet says she’s not going to the auction because seeing people part from their beautiful things makes her feel all sad on the insides. Isabel remarks that they feel differently about “things.” Violet asks her if it ever gets cold on the moral high ground. Violet is the Mrs. Padmore of the Upstairs People. Then Violet psyches out Denker implying she’s fired, but she admits to Isabel that she couldn’t live without a lady’s maid, and it’s good to rule by fear.

Over at the everything-must-go auction, Mary’s still snipping at Edith because it’s daylight. John, the head of the fallen house, tells the Crawleys, “We hung on far too long and now there’s nothing left. Learn from us.”

Daisy is there with Mason, who wanted a chance to see the house – other than at a Christmas party, and maybe to grab a cheap knickknack to help him remember his old life after he’s forced out and becomes homeless.Then Daisy, who apparently has caught Miss Bunting disease, finds the new property owner and starts berating him for sending Mr. Mason a vacancy letter. Cora and Robert both try to shut her up, but she won’t be shut up, and Henderson (the new lord of the manor) tells her that now thanks to her there’s no way Mason will be staying.

Too bad for Mr. Mason, but here’s some good news! Sgt. Willis comes back and says there’s a witness, and the confession is real, so the real killer is going away for manslaughter and won’t hang, and Anna and Bates are both in the clear. Carson goes upstairs to tell the family. Robert tells him to break out the veuve clicquot because it’s time to party, and when you got it flaunt it.

Upstairs goes downstairs and they even break out the gramophone and start dancing. Robert somehow finds the newfangled thing called a refrigerator in his own kitchen and grabs a snack like a normal person. Cora and Robert tell Carson not to fire Daisy because it’s such a happy day. Carson was really looking forward to sacking someone maybe because he isn’t in the sack with anyone, but orders are orders so he just scolds her. Has she learned her lesson? Later we see her dancing with Andy, the footman. Is he her future? This being the final season, we’re shipping everyone! Speaking of which….


Carson talks to Hughes. He thinks she’s having second thoughts, but she’s actually come around and tells him he can have her “warts and all.” They tenderly embrace, and kiss – possibly the French way. It must be the champagne!

So it looks like even with her job managing the estate, Mary still has time to be mean to Poor Edith the Ugly One. How long will it take her to see how much the little foundling child looks like her sister, and what will she do with that information? Also where’s that handsome man she met last season from The Good Wife? And what of Edith? Will she one day run into Gregson – blind, disfigured, amnesiac, but still alive? Or is there something else out there for her? And how long will it be until the Crawleys realize that dressing yourself and brushing your own hair really isn’t that difficult?

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

TV Show: Downton Abbey

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