In this week’s Downton Abbey, Mrs. Hughes does everything she can think of to ease Bates and Anna’s suffering, from exaggerating about the lady’s maid’s busy schedule to beseeching the rape victim to come clean with her husband. When none of that works — and Robert’s valet threatens to quit rather than continue to live in agonizing bewilderment — the head housekeeper does what Anna doesn’t dare to: She tells the truth. Well, kind of. Read on, and I’ll explain.
ANYONE BUT THE BUTLER DID IT | Knowing that Anna fears Bates will seek vengeance on her attacker — and knowing that she’s probably right about that! — Mrs. Hughes lies that the perp was an outsider, not Tony’s valet. Afterward, the sensitive tough guy weeps for his missus and sweetly assures her that she’s not in the least, as she thinks, “spoiled” for him. But neither the revelation of the (bent) truth nor Anna’s decision to move back in with her spouse means it’s all over and done. On the contrary, “nothing is over,” Bates tells Mrs. Hughes, looking for all the world like the wild-eyed Axeman from American Horror Story: Coven, “and nothing is done.”
WHAT’S COOKIN’ | Meanwhile, the rest of the servants are preoccupied by the arrival of Cora’s new maid, the seemingly lovely Mrs. Baxter, who’s in cahoots with and/or indebted to Thomas, and Alfred’s upcoming culinary school admissions test. Predicting that the wannabe chef will pass his exam, Carson offers Molesley his job. But instead of accept at once, the former valet dithers about whether he can take the step down to footman for so long that Alfred has time not only to take the test but flunk it. If Molesley had said yes right away, Carson explains that he would have been stuck with him as an employee. Now, however, he’s missed his chance. “As I generally do,” the sad sack observes.
BUSINESS, AFFAIRS | Upstairs, Robert surprises — and pleases — Mary and Tom (and, for that matter, me) by loaning a dead tenant’s son the money he needs to repay his debts and keep farming the land that’s been in his family for generations. On the downside, Mary learns that Tony and Mabel are now engaged, and Tom starts talking about moving to America with baby Sybbie. Even more upsetting, we get a hunch as to why Edith is so upset not to have heard from Michael lately — not that not hearing from her beau isn’t bad enough — when she pays a visit to a doctor in London. (Pregnant much?) Violet’s good deed — hiring a young gardener named John at (as usual!) Isobel’s urging — seems to be punished when her prized paper knife, Mr. Pointy, mysteriously goes missing. (Note: She doesn’t actually call it Mr. Pointy.) And finally, when Mrs. Patmore balks at the installation of a fridge in place of the ice box, Cora’s moved to ask whether there’s “any aspect of the present day that you can accept without resistance.” To which the cook responds, pricelessly, “Well, m’lady, I wouldn’t mind getting rid of me corset.”
Okay, your turn. What did you think of the episode? I thought Bates’ reaction to Anna’s shame was rather beautiful. But, as much as Mr. Green has it coming to him, I’m not crazy about the idea of another murder so soon after Vera’s demise. (This is Downton Abbey, after all, not Bates Motel!) If we need a mystery on the show, Mrs. Baxter’s connection to Thomas will suffice nicely, thank you. Hit the comments!