Editor’s note: This comes to us by Chad Grayson via KIXE, the PBS station that hosts Downton Abbey the popular program that aired last night, Jan. 4 after its between-season hiatus. This article may contain possible spoiler alerts for those who aren’t fully up to date with the program. Read on.
It’s 1924 and the world is changing. A new labor government has been elected, its prime minister one of the common people, and Lord Grantham insists that he is “dedicated to the destruction of people like us.” His attitude isn’t helped when the committee to erect the town’s war memorial asks Carson to be the head instead of himself.
The world is also changing for the staff, and they have differing reactions. Ivy has left and been hard to replace because, according to Mrs. Hughes, no one wants to live a life in service anymore, preferring instead to work in shops and factories. Carson is having none of it. He doesn’t want to step over Lord Grantham to take the position on the memorial committee. For her part, looking forward to a life beyond her current station, Daisy is taking correspondence courses in math, even while Mrs. Patmore wonders aloud what the point is.
Attitudes seem to be changing as well. Mary, still torn between her three suitors, wonders to Anna if it might be better to become intimate with one of them before choosing whom to marry. Anna is scandalized, but later Lord Gillingham, one of the suitors, proposes to Mary exactly that: come away with him, become his lover, before making her choice. Mary agrees, but stresses that they must be discreet about it.
And the Abbey is full of secrets. Edith often visits her child, who is being raised by the Drews. Mr. Drew approves of the contact and reveals that he’s known all along that Edith is her mother. Mrs. Drew, however, doesn’t know, and is afraid the visits are a sign that Edith has fallen for her husband. Edith and Drew conspire to find a way for Edith to act as the child’s mother even as they keep the secret.
Another secret belongs to Baxter, and it’s one Thomas has threatened to reveal to Lady Grantham if she doesn’t come forward with damaging information about Bates and Anna. But acting on Mosley’s advice, Baxter comes clean herself, telling Lady Grantham about her past as a thief. Cora doesn’t quite know how to respond, but doesn’t fire her immediately. She does threaten to fire Thomas over his attempted blackmail.
Jimmy is revealed to have been in contact with his former employer, Land Anstruther, who clearly has a thing for him. He protests that she’s done nothing to encourage it, though it is clear that he has. Later, Lady Ansthruther invites herself to tea and contrives an automobile breakdown and is invited to stay the night.
It all comes to a head at the party thrown to celebrate Lord and Lady Grantham’s thirty-fourth anniversary, wherein Lord Grantham gets into an argument with Tom’s friend, the teacher Sarah Bunting, and Carson reveals that the memorial committee has asks Lord Grantham to be its patron. This seems to be enough to soother Lord Grantham’s wounded pride.
Later, Edith is perusing a book that once belonged to her lover, Gregson. Overcome with sadness, she throws the book into the fire. It bounces out. This starts a raging blaze, which Thomas discovers. He rescues Edith, who has been overcome with smoke, and together he and Lord Grantham lead the evacuation of the house. During this, Lord Grantham finds Jimmy in bed with Lady Anstruther.
The Abbey is evacuated, the fire put out and everyone saved. Lord Grantham takes Carson aside to tell him that Jimmy needs to be discreetly fired.
Thomas, however has played the hero, and Lady Grantham tells him that all is forgiven.
There was a lot going on this episode, and we get movement on several major plotlines, as well as to get to poke a little fun at Lord Grantham, who is clearly dealing with the feeling of entitlement that often plagued the landed classes. We are also reminded of Mary’s moral flexibility which once landed her in hot water with the Pamuk near-scandal first season. It’ll be interesting to see where things go from here, and if she can stay out of trouble this time.
Downton Abbey airs as part of Masterpiece Classic Sundays at 9:00 p.m. on KIXE Channel 9
Chad Grayson has been a gas station attendant, sold video games over the phone, and even was the person who cuts the mold off the cheese in the cheese factory, but spent most of his career as a middle school Language Arts and History teacher. He is now a full-time stay at home dad and writer. You can find him on twitter at @chadgrayson and on his blog at cegrayson.wordpress.com.