‘Downton Abbey’ Season 6 Episode 2 recap: Ladies take sides; kindness creates chaos

“Downton Abbey” Series/Season 6 begins in April 1925 and in the second episode we’re still in April with Violet and Isobel at war and people are taking sides. Mary shows her kinder side and that brings promise and problems.

The episode opens with a man in uniform cycling to the mansion. Robert Hugh Bonneville), Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Edith (Laura Carmichael) are at the breakfast table. The Granthams have received news from Tom Branson (Allen Leech) and Rose (Lily James). Mary suspects that Rose might be pregnant because she says, “I might be back in August, but it’s a bit early to say.”

Edith replies dryly, “”As usual, you add two and two and make 53.” Mary doesn’t blink.

Robert asks Carson (Jim Carter) about the wedding and offers the servants’ hall which angers Mary, but Mary is too polite to say so in front of Carson. She tells her father she’ll address this matter later.

Violet (Maggie Smith) had said in the previous episode, “May the best man win,” and this time the better man may not be Violet. But she has asked Robert to stop by on hospital business without telling Cora. Secrets do have a way of causing more trouble for everyone and this is almost always true at Downton Abbey.

Mary asks, “Have you told Mama?…She’s a trustee; she belongs there.”

Robert explains, “Not all the trustees can be at every meeting and I want to see if there is some way to sort it out before there’s blood on the carpet.”

Carson informs the Crawleys that a man has come to see the agent and he doesn’t want to see Lady Mary. Edith notes that there isn’t one, but Mary can handle business. And part of the problem is Mary wants to handle everyone’s business.

When Robert asks Carson about the wedding plans, Lady Mary says that it should be at Downton Abbey and Robert suggests, “We can decorate the servants’ hall and make it look really special.” Carson doesn’t commit and thanks Lord Grantham.

When Carson relays the message to Mrs. Hughes, she isn’t enthusiastic. She explains, “I just don’t want to be a servant on my own wedding day.”

The meeting consists of the Doctor Clarkson (David Robb), Violet, Robert and Isobel (Penelope Wilton).  The Royal Yorkshire has written to all the financial donors to drum up support for the takeover.  Violet thinks that’s a sneaky tactic. Isobel thinks it is a sensible move because “The principle benefit of the new arrangement will be to make our money raising activities more coherent and logical.” There is no government funding available for either side.

Violet declares, “Which means we’ll become a ward of the larger establishment, while the local community forfeit any claims to being treated in their own village.”

Isobel replies, “that depends how we divide the new departments” and Robert cuts in and reminds them both, “In the end, surely, it comes down to how many lives will be saved.”

Clarkson asks, “Lord Grantham, are you saying we don’t save lives?”

Robert replies, “No, of course not.”

Only to have Violet snap, “If you can’t say anything helpful, Robert, please be silent.”

Isobel asks, “Helpful to whom? And why isn’t Cora here?”

Violet them explains her strategy, “It doesn’t concern her. I am the president, you are the almoner, Dr Clarkson runs the hospital and Robert is the patron and his father gave the land on which the hospital is built. The four of us constitute a quorum.”

Isobel replies, “I disagree. Tell her about this meeting and, when you do, say that Cousin Violet would have kept the rest of us away if she could.”

Violet has a quick answer, “Don’t give me ideas.”

Downstairs, Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) worries about his position. Once ambitious and manipulative, Barrow realizes that things are changing. He asked Mr. Carson, “Mr Carson, I don’t suppose there’s any more news on when you’ll be serving notice?”

“Nobody’s going to be flung into the road, I can assure you,” Mr. Carson comments.

Barrow continues, “No, but I mean should I start looking for another job?”

Carson replies, “How could it hurt.”

Yet Barrow is being hurt. He is faced with the unfortunate results of his earlier selfish behavior. While Baxter (Rachel Cassidy) hears, that he won’t be asked to leave until he’s found a place to go. Barrow hears, “I’m for the chop and they won’t wait forever to make it come true.”

Even though Barrow recommended Andrew (Michael Fox) for the job, the servants seem determined to prevent Barrow from becoming friends with Andrew. Andrew had been hired by Mr. Carson to work at Grantham House for Rose’s wedding. When Denker (Sue Johnston) took advantage of him, Mr. Barrow came to his rescue and it was only through Barrow along with the support of  Mrs. Hughes and Daisy that Carson was willing to give him a chance. That was Series 5.

Barrow applies for a position of an “assistant”  butler only to find that he’d be expected to act as footman, chauffeur, valet and butler. The man asks why Barrow isn’t married and calls him “delicate.”

Mr. Molesley (Bernard Gallagher), who has always been kind, continues to help Daisy (Sophie McShera). Daisy is preparing for exams to be a teacher, but Mr. Molesley has gotten previous exam questions for Daisy to study. Daisy, who didn’t want to marry William, continues to be concerned about his father, Mr. Mason (Paul Copely). With the estate sold, Mr. Mason will have nowhere to go. Daisy blames herself for her impetuous ways and asks Cora if she could intercede, but Cora doesn’t know if there’s anything she can do.

Lady Mary is coming into her own and like her mother, she does try to be kind but doesn’t always listen. Mary learned that Anna has kept her miscarriages secret. She insists on taking Anna to her doctor in London. The doctor tells Anna that she has “cervical incompetence.” He explains, “the neck of the womb is weak and as the fetus reaches three or four months, it becomes too heavy to be supported.” the remedy is a simple procedure that Anna and Mr. Bates could not afford. That should make current Brits happy for the national healthcare plan.

Lady Mary has also decided Carson should be married in the great hall. That pleases Carson, but he admits that Mrs. Hughes isn’t pleased, but only says, “She’s a little bit hesitant. She’s not quite convinced that it would be appropriate.”

Lady Mary replies, “Carson, you’ve worked in this house man and boy for half a century.
If you’ve no right to be married from here, then who does? ”

As part of her duties as the estate’s agent, Lady Mary will be showing pigs at a small local show and must go to the Drewes to inspect the proven winners. She discusses the matter in front of Lady Edith, Cora, Robert and the two remaining children, George and Marigold. George wants to see the pigs and Lady Mary decides to take George and Marigold. It’s a generous move, but she’s also the only adult in the room who doesn’t know Marigold is Edith’s illegitimate child and that Mrs. Drewe (Emma Lowndes) has become quite attached.

Lady Edith can’t go with them because she needs to go to London and deal with her angry editor, Mr. Skinner, but Cora steps in. The visit seems to go well until Mrs. Drewe sees Marigold and is visibly upset. Robert later discusses the problem with Mr. Drewe (Andrew Scarborough), but Mr. Drewe thinks he can handle his wife.

In preparation for the Malton show, Barrow had volunteered to help with the tea service after the show, but Carson asks Andrew and Mr. Molesley instead. Barrow then asks Carson, “Then when do you need me, Mr Carson?”

Carson dryly replies, “When indeed?” Barrow is given more reason to look for a new position.

Unfortunately, when the family is at the livestock show and watch Lady Mary win with the pig Golden Empress, Mrs. Drewe takes Marigold away and is reluctant to give her back. Mr. Drewe decides he and his family must leave and he tells Robert, “We made a plan, Lady Edith and I, but we forgot about emotion.”

Not all the problems are resolved at the Malton show. Lord Merton is given encouragement to pursue Isobel by Lady Mary.  Mrs. Patmore warns off Mr. Barrow from making friendly gestures toward Andrew.

Lady Mary’s kindness in taking Marigold along with George has resulted in the Drewes leaving, but Lady Rosamund Painswick (Samantha Bond) has already urged Lady Edith to tell Mary the truth while Edith was in London, fighting with her editor. It is Edith’s insistence that has kept her parents silent on this matter. In the end, Robert must sort out a problem caused by Lady Edith.

Lady Mary knows what Carson wants and even deserves and Lady Mary and Carson continue their touching friendship, but Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) doesn’t have the same relationship with the family.

Carson tells Mrs. Hughes, “It means a lot to Lady Mary and the family that we’re married in the house and I can’t see why we shouldn’t be.” He adds, “If we had family nearby, or a place that meant something special, it’d be different, but we don’t and Downton Abbey means much more to me than the school. I’m sorry, but it does.”

Misplaced kindness can create chaos. The Series/Season 6 Episode 2 originally aired on Jan. 10, 2016 is available online until Jan. 24.

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