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Downton Abbey Review: Strange Bedfellows

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The last scene of Downton Abbey episode 306 had a sort of ominous feel to it, as if all was too right with the world.

Perhaps things at Downton will take on the tone of Lady Edith's life: just when you think things are looking up, you hit yet another stumbling block to remind you that you're not going to have that picture perfect ending.

(Before we get started, be sure to check out the Downton Abbey quotes because given the extra time and subject matter, there were a lot of great ones.)

With the baby

Baby Sybil finally got Christened. Tom wasn't going to give the others a chance to “behave properly” at the Christening, as he was only going to invite Mary and Matthew. Instead, even Robert was in attendance, and much to his chagrin, he was even photographed with the priest while holding baby Sybby (I'm not sure how to spell that, but it's the name Cora has taken to calling her granddaughter).

I find it interesting the way Mary treats Tom and even his brother, offering to let him stay in the house because he's family, even if he is a 'bit of a rough diamond.' Mary likes diamonds, but she still doesn't like Edith. Those moments never slip past me; when she has the chance to accept her sister in the same manner in which she so easily accepts others, solely based on their association with Sybil. Edith always gets the short end of the stick.

Edith took the journalist job writing for the London paper, and was getting on quite well with the editor. Until she discovered he was a married man. As is everything in Edith's life, it turned out to be a very complicated situation. God forbid she should find a man she could call her own, one her family might be proud of and with whom she could easily share her life.

Instead this fellow has a wife who is, quite literally, a lunatic. She'll be spending the rest of her life in an asylum and her husband isn't free to divorce her. Where that will leave Edith is up in the air, but given her past pursuits, she'll most likely go along for the ride.

Did you see that platter of meat Alfred and James fought over serving? Lobster tails, fish parts, chicken. It was the most lovely meal, which was then accompanied by sauces that we were not lucky enough to see. Just once I'd love to have the opportunity to sit at a table the likes of which was a normal nightly dinner at Downton.

Alfred and Ivy went to the pictures together, and he told her Jimmy wasn't interested at the very moment Thomas was struggling with the idea of confronting Jimmy about any possibility of feeling he may have for him. I wonder if the closeness of working in a household at that time really did create such tangled webs, or if it's all at the whim of the writers. Their lives are held captive inside Downton, with very little chance to meet others.

That one event, which lead Thomas to act on what he considered to be reciprocated desire by Jimmy, caused a crap load of discomfort and upset for the house. No member was left unaffected. From Robert to Daisy, everyone at Downton was involved in some tiny way, with Bates leading the charge to free Thomas from the hole he had dug for himself.

Miss O'Brien won The Creep of Downton award. Granted, it was a race of only two, but what she did to Thomas after all the many misdeeds they had done together was disgraceful. That Cora has kept her in her employ after so many close encounters disgusts me. As much as I have hated Thomas, I would not have wished what happened to him on anyone. To see him crying in the street after all his bravado over the years was like a swift kick to the heart.

I could have reached out and hugged Mrs. Hughes for making Thomas tell her his tale. Even more so when she spoke her mind to Carson. Maybe the log up his ass fell out just a bit once she let him know what she thought.

I had forgotten what about Bates was so compelling while he was in prison, but what he did for Thomas brought that flooding back. He always was a just a great man. It was easily forgotten during that prison debacle and nice to see him in action, putting Miss O'Brien in her place. Even Anna wondered why he felt the need, but once he felt what it was like to have everyone against him he couldn't sit back and see it happen to someone else.

It wasn't as if Robert didn't have enough to deal with at Downton without the addition of a scandal within the household ranks. With Jarvis as Robert's Estate Agent in the running of Downton, it was no surprise he was running the place into the ground. Jarvis made the Earl look downright convinced of the need to change by comparison. To have the nerve to stand up and walk away after hearing what happened to the many Earls before Robert and how they barely squeaked by with Downton safely in tow was appalling.

Violet has had some of the best ideas on Downton Abbey Season 3. She's an utter genius. While her plan for Ethel was partly based on the fact she doesn't like having to be near someone who has acted as a prostitute, sending her away with a good reference to live a happy life where no one would be privy to her past was a brilliant way for everyone to come out ahead. Isobel seemed reluctant to move forward, but Violet pushed on, placing an ad and even getting Charlie's grandmother over to Isobel's to let her know she wants Ethel in her grandson's life.

Violet's even better flash was to make Tom the new Estate Agent. Not only is he family, he works well with Matthew and has experience in the very industry they are hoping to expand into. He certainly has passion for everything he touches, and he's clearly making great strides to keep Sybil's family involved with his daughter Sybil's life.

I loved that Tom's eloquence finally convinced Robert to buy into Matthew's ideas and Tom's position as the Estate Agent – as long as he agreed to play cricket for the house. If that's all it took to get him to agree to a profitable Downton, then they should have had a cricket match much sooner!

The introduction of Violet's niece, Rose, was …. interesting. I'm not sure what the point was of bringing her to Downton. I was more interested in Robert's sister Rosamund popping up and housing everyone on their sudden. almost-daily trips to London. Downton to London is quite a trip. In modern day travel  it's about a five hour drive. It struck me as odd they all started going back and forth with so little effort.

It wasn't much of a surprise that Mary was undergoing a procedure while she was in London, given the many references to her pregnancy during the episode. I don't know why she was so afraid to talk to Matthew about it and why she decided to keep it from him. It was very good that he followed up and found her there, but I would have liked Mary to have confided in him. They've grown so close that it just didn't feel right. Apparently she will be pregnant in no time, but that still doesn’t make up for keeping Matthew in the dark.

Other thoughts:

  • Poor Molesley was so cock-sure of himself in the cricket match, and fell apart at bat.
  • It was good to see how many people had Thomas' back with regard to his sexuality. Even Robert and Mrs. Hughes thought nothing of it.
  • It's a shame Sybil had to die for Tom to be truly accepted by the Granthams, but that seems to have been his destiny.
  • I really enjoyed seeing both the staff and family in the same attire at the cricket match, on the same team, as peers. 

Be sure to come back next week for the Downton Abbey Season 3 finale. That's right folks, we've already hit the end. Have you stayed away from Downton Abbey spoilers?

Review

Editor Rating: 4.6 / 5.0
  • 4.6 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (48 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

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Forgot to write that I think my favorite character is MRS. HUGHES! She is just...well, AWESOME! Her gentle intervention in the lives of Ethel and Thomas helped untangle their very dire situations. I swear, the woman has diplomatic skills that Kissinger would admire. No one else could diffuse a standoff between Violet and Lady Grantham as well as Mrs. Hughes, and leave everyone with their dignity. I just *love* her.

Deann

Oh, and I also found it a bit too convenient for everyone to use Sybil's memory as an excuse for what needs to be done. But what I wonder is why no one is pointing out the Dowager's constant manipulations and pushy behavior for these episodes. She was like some machivelian spider, doing things behind Isobel's back,making plans for that young gal to be forced to go to someplace boring, etc. She was on a tear, and no one seemed to notice, let alone try to say her nay or stop her! I loved the scenes where Mary and Matthew were holding the baby or showing their love for one another. Sigh. So beautiful. I am loving having Bates back, and overjoyed that he and Anna have a little cottage together.

Deann

MrWriteSF, though I believe that GLBT people should all be accepted without prejudice, I believe at that time, Edwardian England was not at all accepting of gay men in particular. Look at what they did to poor Oscar Wilde. He was never the same after being jailed for homosexuality. That is why I didn't find it at all strange that Carson was so disgusted at Thomas's play for James. It would stand to reason that most of the household would be prejudiced against him at that time in history. I am not saying it was right, I am just saying that historically, being gay was illegal and considered highly immoral, and most people were not tolerant, so I think Julian Fellowes has made more members of the Downton staff out to be liberal and tolerant than would actually have been tolerant in those early years of the 20th century.

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I'll have to go back and watch some things again...I was doing some other stuff during part of the episode, so I missed a few things. Even so, I was glad to see Mr. Bates' behavior toward Thomas after all of the grief he and Mrs. O'Brien had given him. Not a whole lot of people would have been that way. I also liked the way almost everyone else other than Carson knew about Thomas' sexual orientation and didn't care. To be perfectly honest, I find it kind of sad that the attitude shown by them in early 20th-century England is more progressive than that of many people in 21st-century America...but that's another discussion.

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"Robert is really top-notch when it comes to smoothing over staff issues..." Perhaps, but he seems rather clueless until it's too late, and only where the male servants are concerned. Bates told Robert flat out that O'Brien was behind the James / Thomas debacle and he appeared to do NOTHING where O'Brien was concerned. If your wife's Lady's Maid was making trouble, shouldn't your wife be informed?

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"It looks like the outer circle of Hell in Dante's 'Inferno.'" - Matthew Crawley (upon entering a jazz club) IMO, this was just one of many LOL moments in last night's 2-hour installment. It was a bit of a roller-coaster with so many serious moments followed by hilarious bits like Cora's thinly concealed exasperation with the cricket match, Rosamund's withering takedown of Rose in her foyer (oh, that was good!), and Violet' description of how Lady Grantham brought up her children. The writing in that last hour was just hilarious (yes, it was 2 separate episodes aired together). SO nice to see Bates & Lord Grantham back together again, and Robert's reaction to Thomas' situation. I liked how the final scenes highlighted Robert's role at Downton Abbey. While his younger sons-in-law may have new ideas about how to run the place so it doesn't lose money, Robert is really top-notch when it comes to smoothing over staff issues, staying connected with the villagers & tenants, & facing law enforcement square in the eye. He's not as irrelevant to DA as he feels. I liked how his place as "captain of the ship" (as Cora called it) was further reinforced, and how the family tries so hard to remain together even when they disagree.

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I said out loud that I couldn't believe I was feeling sorry for Thomas, right before Bates said the same thing. Having said that, I don't think he should have gotten off "scott free" and then been given a rank higher than Bates, presumably just because they wanted him in the cricket game. I thought that whole thing was weird. The story line built up and built up and then ... nothing actually happened. I'm not saying he should have been let go, but it just seemed that something else should have come from it - maybe O'Brien getting hers at last. I don't know. I just didn't like it.

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Oh look...it's DISH-pimp. You're late--what kept you? LadyJay...meet Travis, the DISH-pimp. Travis doesn't actually WATCH Downton Abbey--or so you would think given that he just paraphrases the review and others' comments. He's too busy hocking his employer's services to actually USE them and contribute anything meaningful. Be sure to catch him next week. Maybe he'll surprise us.

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I had no idea the show was going to be two hours, I was so tired but glad I stayed up to watch it all. I loved the ending scene with the guys all together. It put a big smile on my face. I love how they are coming around to liking Tom, shame it took Sybil dying for that to happen. The idea of them all working together was great as well. Edith is now my fave character now that Sybil is dead and I so feel for her. Seems like she can never get a break with love or happiness. I too thought what is the purpose of bringing on Rose. I felt that whole storyline was unnecessary to a great show last night. I like the scenes between Mary and Matthew last night because Mary usually seems so cold even to Matthew, so it was nice to see them having close and sweet moments. I was happy to see Bates and Anna together again outside of the jail. Great episode last night and can't wait to see what the finale brings.

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(continued again) One final note to the Crawleys: Do you think Lady Sybil would have liked you to use her memory as an instrument of guilt and emotional extortion? There were WAAAAAY too many references to "what Sybil would have wanted" in this episode.