Downton Abbey Season Six, Episode Four: The Art of Avoiding Disaster


It is breakfast at Downton, and Tom is filling in Mary and Robert on his decision to return. There was nothing wrong with Boston, per se, but he just didn’t feel like her belonged there. Everyone wants to know what Mary will do now that Tom has returned. Will she remain the agent? Tom says it’s something they can talk about later. Also discussed: the Carsons are on their honeymoon in Scarborough and will return Friday, and Rosamunde is coming tomorrow, ostensibly to get involved with the hospital fight, probably to take Cora and Isobel’s side.

At servants’ breakfast, Patmore announces that Sgt Willis has called and want to speak to Miss Baxter. Thomas is upset because, as acting butler, this invitation should have been run by him.

Cora is having breakfast in her room when Robert comes in. She tells him that Violet will be bringing her friend Lady Shackleton to dinner tomorrow, probably to act as support for her position.

In the office, Tom and Mary discuss plans. Do they want to become joint agents? Tom isn’t sure what he wants to do. He’d like a life outside of the estate, but doesn’t know what form that would take. For her part, Mary just wants him to be happy and fulfilled, and will support him in whatever he decides to do.

Willis arrives to talk to Baxter, and she’s asks Molesly to be in the room to support her. It seems Peter Coyle is out on bail, and they want Baxter to testify against him so he can be put away for good. Baxter’s not sure she wants to do it. Does she want to subject herself to this process? Molesly thinks she should do it.

In the library, Cora tells Robert that Lady Shackleton has asked to bring her nephew to dinner. Tom comes in and tells them they’ve found a cottage for the Carsons to live in. Cora brings up Yew Tree Farm, and says they should find a new tenant, clearly thinking of Mason. But Robert and Tom both seem to want to manage it themselves, saying Mary agrees.

Mary and Anna are in Mary’s room. She tells him she still hasn’t told Bates about the pregnancy, even though she’s started to show, just a little. Bates comes in and they ask him to take some cases to the car, as Anna can’t carry them. He seems a little suspicious of this, but doesn’t say anything.

Violet and Lady Shackleton are having tea, and Violet fills her in on what she’s expected to say at dinner. Shackleton doesn’t seem to be totally on board with what Violet is suggesting, but says she’ll do her part anyway.

At servants’ lunch, Daisy is wondering how long Mr. Mason will have to wait for his new farm, when Thomas tells her that’s not the plan at all, that they’re going to manage the farm themselves and let out the house. Daisy is taken aback and angered by this news.

Rosamune and Edith are driving to Downton. Rosamunde is telling Edith that she’s become a trustee for a school for underprivileged young women, and has suggested Edith be asked to join the board as well. The reason she’s come to Downton is for a meeting with the board treasurer, one Mr. Harding.

Back at Downton, Molesly finds Cora and, offscreen, asks her to help convince Baxter to testify against Coyle.

Daisy is mad at Lady Grantham for getting Mason’s hopes up and then dashing them. Patmore interjects that it was really Daisy who did that, that it was never definite and Daisy just assumed. Daisy is undeterred in her anger.

Just before dinner, Lady Shackleton and her nephew, Henry Talbot, arrive. Mary recognizes him as the race car driver she met at Brancaster Castle during their last holiday, and is very happy to see him. Rosamunde asks Cora to invite Harding to Downton, and Cora agrees happily. Violet asks Shackleton about Talbot’s prospects, clearly thinking him a possible match for Mary, but Shackleton tells her they are “adequate. but not overwhelming.”

Downstairs, Baxter is upset at Molesly for going to Lady Grantham about the testimony. While they are arguing, Anna walks by, having pains in her stomach.

At dinner, Isobel makes her case, again, which makes Violet angry. Lady Shackleton refuses to take a side, and Violet finds herself outnumbered, and gets more and more shrill as the argument goes on. When Edith says, “Cousin Isobel is entitled to put up and argument,” Violet responds with “Of course she is, she’s just not allowed to win it!”

Talbot and Mary spend the dinner ignoring the conflict, and Talbot tells her that he makes a living racing. After dinner, Talbot gives Mary his card and she takes it, even though she tells him she could not possibly be less interested in cars.

As Shackleton and Talbot leave, Robert is overcome with stomach pains. Cora expresses concern, but she just waves it off, saying he can’t drink port anymore.

Outside, Thomas is having a cigarette while Baxter keeps him company. He is going on about his miserable situation. He has no friends, and he thinks he’s about to be let go. He says he wishes he could make friends like Baxter does, and she tells him she wishes she could just not care about what people think, the way Thomas seems to. This is clearly the reason she doesn’t want to testify. Thomas tells her she’s wrong, that he does care, and he walks off.

The next morning, Sergeant Willis has returned to convince Baxter to testify. He tells her about the other girls Coyle has ruined, two of whom are now prostitutes, and one of whom is dead. Does she really want him to go on, ruining lives. She does not, and she agrees to testify.

Harding and his wife arrive for luncheon at Downton. His wife turns out to be Gwen, who way back before the war was a house maid. She’s the one Sybil helped attain a position as a secretary for the phone company. She tells Anna she didn’t know she was coming to Downton until she was here, and clearly feels embarrassed about it and doesn’t want a fuss made. Thomas has recognized her as well, and is annoyed.

Before luncheon, they discuss Hillcroft, the school. Isobel is very interested, as she would have liked to have more of a education so she could have been a doctor instead of a nurse. She asks Gwen for her story. Gwen tells her she worked for the phone company, then went into local politics where she met her husband. She omits her time at Downton, but Mary thinks she looks familiar, even though she can’t quite place her.

As Luncheon is announced and everyone goes in, Tom pulls her side to catch up with her. She clearly doesn’t want him to say anything about her time there.

Downstairs, Thomas is angry, accusing Gwen of putting on airs. The rest of the staff doesn’t seem bothered by it, and Thomas is told, basically to get over it.

At Luncheon, they are discussing the school, when Thomas outs Gwen. Mary seems annoyed she wasn’t more forthcoming, but as Gwen talks about Sybil and all the help she gave her, the mood softens. Everyone is touched by the story, grateful for the remembrance of Sybil’s kindness. After luncheon, Gwen goes downstairs to catch up with the servants.

As they are all leaving, Daisy catches Tom, to talk about Yew Tree Farm. She makes Mason’s case, and Tom promises to think about it, clearly moved by the idea. Robert is upset Thomas tried to catch Gwen out like that, and Thomas is chastened.

Back in Mary’s room, they are discussing Gwen and Sybil, when Anna is overcome by pain. She’s afraid she’s having another miscarriage. Mary says they’ll go to London right away, to the doctor, They’ll tell everyone they’re going for Mary. Tom sees them on the way out and Mary tells him what’s going on. She tells him the real story, but tells everyone else the cover story, securing permission to use Rosamunde’s house.

Downstairs, Daisy has been inspired by Gwen to have it out with lady Grantham, despite everyone else’s objections.

After dinner, Cora wants to talk to everyone about Yew Tree Farm, she thinks they should give it to Mason, and Tom supports this idea, saying it’s what Sybil would want them to do. They should just present it to Mary as a done deal. Everyone agrees.

As Cora is on her way back to her room, she is found by Daisy, who is accompanied by Baxter, who wants to protect Daisy from herself. Daisy is getting ready to rip into Cora, when Robert comes out and tells her the news about Mason and Yew Tree farm. Daisy is deflated and delighted at the same time, and as they walk away, Cora tells Robert she feels like she dodged something. but doesn’t know what.

In London, the doctor is done seeing Anna. He’s performed the procedure, and Anna is fine, and hasn’t lost the baby. She just needs a couple of days’ rest.

Daisy, Patmore, and Andy are discussing Mason and Yew Tree Farm, and Andy expresses his desire to live the country life and have a similar situation someday.

In London, Talbot and Mary have dinner at a club. They talk about their respective interests, Mary telling him about her work as the estate agent. He’s impressed. She tells him she “hopes he’s boiling up to make a pass” which she will refuse, but enjoy the process anyway.

The next morning, Daisy and Mr. Mason tour Yew Tree Farm. He’s happy and grateful to Daisy.

The servants are readying their hall to welcome the Carsons home. Bates has figured out Anna’s secret, but thinks she’s lost the baby. She tells him it’s happy news, and they quietly rejoice together.

Upstairs in the library, they are having yet another meeting about the hospital. Violet lays out her reasons: she tired of seeing the government taking over everything and thinks they need to work to stop it. Isobel tells her she understands this position, and thinks better of Violet for holding it, as opposed to just wanting to hold on to her power.

The Carson arrive and everyone welcomes them. They are relieved by the announcement that Mrs. Hughes is still going to be called Mrs. Hughes.

Rosamunde, Isobel, Edith and Mary discuss Edith’s magazine. Edith says she wants to be a kind of co-editor, as is going to hire a woman to work with her. Isobel is delighted by this, and Mary, uncharacteristically, supports Edith in this, since it’s a women’s magazine.

Carson gets a report from Thomas, who says he found being the Butler more challenging than he’d expected. Afterword, Carson quietly goes upstairs to make sure everything has been removed from his room. He takes a moment to say goodbye to it, then removes his name from the door.

Chad Grayson
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
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3 Responses

  1. Dear Downton Abbey writers: If you insist that Anna and Mr. Bates lose their baby, I may have to stop watching. Please give them a baby, or two.

    p.s. Am I the only one who’s losing patience with Daisy?

  2. Avatar EasternCounty says:

    Nope, the writers aren’t doing Daisy any favors.  She should start keeping house for her father-in-law and leave Downton.  Although, I thought Andy might be in line for Yew Tree Farm.  Perhaps if Mr. Mason needs a young helper, Andy could leave service and join him — and Daisy if she leaves.  Was there a time when either Mary or Edith was smitten with Tom?  Now that he’s back, could the sisters again be rivals?  Sunday won’t come soon enough!