Answers. That’s all we’ve ever really wanted from Downton Abbey and particularly this season. And finally, the January 26 episode gives us some. Kind of.
In the midseason installment of the series, we reach critical points in a few of the season’s meatiest plot lines. In true Julian Fellowes fashion, however, nothing is fully resolved, making sure we tune in next week to see what’s next for our favorite characters both upstairs and downstairs. Don’t you worry, Jules. We’ll be there.
Lady Mary Keeps Moving Forward
Within the first ten minutes of this episode, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) tells us where her head is at: “The world moves on and we must move with it.” Never one to let the world see her softer side, Mary puts on a brave face when she hears of the formal engagement of Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen) and Mabel Lane “Second Choice” Fox. (Side note: As much as we like Tony, this guy moves really fast, are we right? Sure, he told Mary he would propose to Mabel if she turned him down, but still, couldn’t he have given the whole situation a little space?)
The news may have Mary secretly wiping away quiet tears but never fear, there are a couple new blokes on the horizon. First off, let us reintroduce the handsome companion to the memorable Kemal Pamuk (Theo James): Mr. Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks). When Evelyn arrives, Mary fairly glows, she’s so happy to see him.
It sounds as if Mr. Napier, who is still holding a torch for the eldest Crawley daughter, has a new gig lined up: assessing the stability of various grand estates. Mary invites him and his boss to stay at Downton when they tour the area, a move we already know will lead to the introduction of yet another suitor for the young widow Mary: Evey’s boss, Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden). You’d think Evelyn would learn to stop bringing guests when he goes to Downton.
Anna’s Secret Comes to Light
This week there are actually a few pieces of good news for Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt). First, she’s not pregnant, an important development that prompts Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) to ask, “Can’t you start to get past it and tell him something.” Anna, however, just can’t. She says Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) can “read me like a book” and so she keeps her distance from her husband, convinced it’s for the best if he doesn't know about she was raped.
Left in the dark on what has come over Anna, Mr. Bates tries to uncover what’s happened. The result continues to prolong the heartbreak with Mr. Bates at one point telling Anna he only wants to know “because I love you and I want to find out why you don’t love me anymore.”
Desperate for answers, he eventually turns to Mrs. Hughes, whom he overheard confront Anna about her secret. Mr. Bates threatens to leave Downton forever if the housekeeper doesn’t tell him what they were talking about. Knowing his sudden departure will be the end of Anna, Mrs. Hughes tells Bates what transpired the last night of the house party. However, she leaves out one crucial detail: the man to blame, Mr. Green (Nigel Harman). An enraged Bates — eyes dead, fury barely checked — makes a vow we have no doubt he will fulfill: “I will find out who he is.”
Returned from her trip running errands, Anna is in the boot room when Mr. Bates tells her that he knows what happened. Anna, relieved of her burden, confesses she feels unworthy of her husband. “But I am spoiled for you,” she tells him. And here Bates wins all of our love as he rightly tells Anna there is no shame here for her and that she could never, ever be spoiled. If anything, he loves her in this moment more than he’s ever loved her. “Truly?” Anna asks. “Truly,” Bates replies.
Anna, smiling again after what feels like years, returns to the cozy cottage she shares with her husband. Everything looks to have turned out alright (well, as alright as it could). Then Mrs. Hughes tells Bates that she hopes the couple can put the past behind them. Hardly, he replies. “Nothing is over and nothing is done with,” Bates says, his face transforming into a hard mask of revenge.
Baxter Joins the Staff
To keep with the theme of the season, the Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) has a new lady’s maid (that’s number three, if you’re counting). Phyllis Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) seems nice enough and even brings a touch of technology to the Abbey, much to the shock and horror of Luddite, Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol).
Everyone seems to take to the new addition to the staff, much to the delight of Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier). He and Baxter have some sort of unspecified tie, which, true to type, Thomas plans to capitalize on. Get the Crawley family to trust you, he tells Baxter, and keep me informed of any coming changes. There are dark clouds on the horizon between these two, we suspect.
Isobel Crawley Gets Herself a New Mission
Nothing adds a pep to Isobel Crawley’s (Penelope Wilton) step quite like a do-gooder mission. In her latest quest, the Queen of the Rebels (thanks for that one, Dowager Countess!) gets Young Pegg of the village a job as a gardener at the Dowager Countess’s (Maggie Smith).
Soon after his arrival, a valuable letter knife disappears (a gift from the King of Sweden, no less!). The Dowager suspects Young Pegg is behind the theft. She’ll hold off on sacking him, however, until there’s more proof at hand.
Honestly, there doesn’t seem to be much to this particular plot line save for the one-liners it gives the Dowager the opportunity to throw in Isobel’s general direction. They’re all priceless with one of tonight’s finest being, “I wonder your halo doesn’t grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara around the clock.” No one could have said it better, Dowager.
Is Edith Expecting?
Last episode wild child Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) had a night of passion with her lover, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), as he prepared to leave for the Continent. As she eagerly awaits a letter from him to arrive from Germany, Edith makes a visit to London — more specifically, to a doctor’s office in London. Could she...guys, could Edith be pregnant? And if she is, what does that mean for Edith? What does it mean if Michael has abandoned her for German pastures? Julian Fellowes doesn’t elaborate so start your speculation now.
Tom Wants to Get on a Boat and Never Look Back
It’s no newsflash that Tom Branson (Allen Leech) feels like an outsider at Downton. Without the steadying anchor of his beloved Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) there’s little holding the hot-blooded Irishman and semi-Socialist from looking for a new life elsewhere. But would he really go as far away as America?
When Tom revealed he may pick up baby Sybbie and head across the Atlantic Ocean, we wanted to reach through the screen and slap him. Surprisingly, the Crawley family seemed to take the news in stride, perhaps because they don’t think Tom is serious. We’re not so sure particularly in light of what went down between Tom and former lady’s maid Edna Braithwaite (MyAnna Buring) earlier in the season.
Alfred Gives Top Chef a Try
Although Alfred Nugent (Matt Milne) seems much more decent than his Aunt O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran), we didn’t find ourselves particularly invested in his cooking test at the Ritz. This kid clearly wants out of service and will likely find a way despite his rejection letter from the Ritz. More power to him. Also, he’s super tall.
- The quote of the night goes to Mary who, as she continues to resurface from her grief, is back to sparring with her younger sister. When Edith teases that she thought the newly engaged Lord Gillingham seemed to fancy Mary, the eldest Crawley daughter doesn’t miss a beat: “Not for the first time you’ve got the wrong end of the stick.” That’s one worthy of the Dowager!
Robert (Hugh Bonneville) wins some points for his gentlemanly handling of the whole Drew farm foreclosure issue. Rather than let a long-time tenant become homeless, Robert advances the family a private loan in the spirit of “partnership” between Downton and its tenants. It’s a refreshingly adult move from a character whose spoiled rich kid side has been showing more often than not of late.
- Poor Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) strikes out once again. In a gesture of goodwill on the part of Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), Mr. Molesley is offered a job as footman at the Abbey. His hemming and hawing only serves to frustrate the prideful Carson who takes a particular kind of joy in later telling Molesley the offer has been rescinded seeing as Alfred won’t be vacating his job. “You have missed your chance, Mr. Molesley,” Carson says. “As I generally do,” the Eeyore of the Abbey replies.
- Robert’s birthday party sounds to be an upcoming focal point of the series especially seeing as high-spirited Rose MacClare (Lily James) is chipping in ideas. We have a sneaking suspicion she’s got a particular handsome jazz singer in mind to provide the night’s entertainment.