“Downton Abbey” Season/Series 6 Episode 3 features the continued rise of Cora and ends with a wedding surprise. This episode brings us into the month of May.
Carson (Jim Carter) wants to be married at Downton Abbey and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) has decided it should be in the great hall. Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) doesn’t feel it is quite right, but Mrs. Hughes has friends working for her. The episode begins downstairs. Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) asks Mrs. Hughes if she’s chosen what she wants yet for her wedding meal, but Mrs. Hughes replies, “Whatever you think best,” as they walk up to Mrs. Hughes’ room.
Mrs. Patmore replies, “That doesn’t sound like a bride on the brink of wedded bliss!”
Mrs. Hughes comments, “It’s a long time since I’ve been on the brink of anything. Except possibly the grave. I wanted a big wedding breakfast. All of us sat at groaning tables having a jolly time.”
Mrs. Patmore asks, “Why can’t you have that?”
Mrs. Hughes explains, “It’s not how posh people do it. They stand about with nibbly bits stuck in their teeth and that’s what we’ve to do.”
Mrs. Patmore asks, “I don’t see why. We could put trestle tables up in the hall.”
Mrs. Hughes then explains, “No, Mr Carson wants it like the family would do it.” She then sighs and says, “I don’t mind” but we know that she clearly does. Mrs. Hughes is only going to wear her brown day dress and Anna will tidy it up a bit. Mrs. Patmore isn’t convinced that the dress will do for the wedding. She has her own ideas. While talking over the menu for the family with Cora, she also mentions that Mrs. Hughes isn’t happy.
Violet (Maggie Smith) comes to visit her son and Robert (Hugh Bonneville) tells her, “I have been talking to Cora.”
Violet replies, “That is a mistake.”
Robert states, “You can’t expect me to avoid talking to my own wife! Why not? I know several couples who are perfectly happy, haven’t spoken in years.”
Edith (Laura Marmichael) breezes in and greets her grandmother, and declares, “I’m off to London to calm my editor.”
Violet is a bit scandalized that Edith considers saying alone at her flat instead of with her aunt and Violet’s daughter, Lady Rosamund Painswick (Samantha Bond). Violet queries, “Is it proper for a young woman to be alone in a flat?”
Edith replies, “Granny, Adrienne Bolland flew alone over the Andes mountains four years ago. Anyway, I’m not a young woman. I’m staring middle age in the face.”Bolland or Boland (1895-1975) was called France’s most accomplished female aviator. Her flight over the Andes was in 1921. She had actually taken up flying to pay off gambling debts. She married a fellow aviator, Ernest Vinchon, and during World War II they were part of the Resistance.
Violet does leave before Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) comes upstairs, saying that she can’t stay to say hello because, “Oh I have a feeling Cora and I will be saying hello rather less than en garde!”
Upstairs Lady Mary is in her room and tells Anna (Joanne Froggatt) that she’s received a poignant letter from Mr. Branson, her brother-in-law (Allen Leech). She reads from the letter, saying, “I dreamt last night I was in the park at Downton, walking with Sybbie under the great trees, listening to the pigeons cooing in their branches. And when I woke, my eyes were filled with tears.” Mary resolves to write to Tom after the wedding. Anna mentions that Mrs. Hughes has given her an old day dress, and she doesn’t think that a brooch will brighten it up. Luckily, Mrs. Patmore again has something planned. Mary learns that Anna is pregnant so they begin planning an escape to London for minor surgery.
At the evening meal, Isobel (Penelope Wilton) is there, but Violet is not. Isobel asked, “Am I here tonight without cousin Violet to cement my alliance with Cora?” She also asks, “Does cousin Violet know I’m here this evening?” but Robert replies, “Not unless you’ve told her.” Isobel is somewhat relieved, but tells Robert, “I don’t want her to think I’m plotting against her.”
As they move to the drawing room, Robert asks, “Aren’t you?”
Isobel replies, “Yes. But I don’t want her to know.”
Cora has asked Mr. Carson to bring Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) to join them in the drawing room. Robert, could have excused himself, but he knows that something is up. Cora has also asked Lady Mary to be there.
Mrs. Hughes comes up and is somewhat embarrassed and asks, “How may I help, My Lady?”
Cora sweetly says, “I’m sorry to put you on the spot. But I believe you’ve been rather railroaded over your reception. I understand you don’t want to be married from this house.”
Carson quickly answers, “My Lady, we’re both honored to be allowed the privilege.”
Cora is firm and says, “No. I want to hear from Mrs Hughes.”
Mrs. Hughes explains, “Your Ladyship, I have no wish to sound ungrateful. This is a fine house. And Mr Carson’s right.
It would be an honor to hold our party here.”
Yet Cora persists, “But it’s not what you want.”
Mrs. Hughes continues, “Well, to start with, I’d like a kind of reception that’s different from the ones you’re used to.
With a solid meal served at proper tables.”
Lady Mary exclaims, “Does anyone have a sit-down wedding breakfast any more?”
Mrs. Hughes continues, “A great many people, My Lady. And then I’d like to feel we could ask all sorts. Everyone who’s been part of our lives here. And I’d planned for music later on. And maybe a bit of a hoolie. None of which would be suitable in the Great Hall.”
Mr. Carson agrees, “It would not.”
Mrs. Hughes then adds, “There you are, we’re agreeing.”
Lady Mary comes to Carson’s defense, saying, “Mrs Hughes, doesn’t Carson deserve a wedding in this house? Where he has served this family for so long and with such loyalty.”
This time Mrs. Hughes, now emboldened, replies, “And will continue to do so while there is breath in his body.
But this is our day, My Lady. It’s about Charles Carson and Elsie Hughes. And not about this glorious house or the glorious people who have lived in it. Just us, and that’s the way I’d like to celebrate it.”
Cora says, “I couldn’t understand more, Mrs Hughes. I hope we’ll be invited.” Mrs. Hughes asserts that the Crawleys are all invited but she is glad that the reception will not be moved to the schoolhouse.
When Carson and Mrs. Hughes leave the room, Lady Mary asks, “Why did we have to listen to that?”
Cora gently but firmly comments, “I want you to stop bullying them. And let them do it their way.”
Mary can’t help but retort, “You think I’m a bully? I think you’re a snob.”
Before this all can be worked out, the Crawleys quiet down, not wanting to argue in front of Carson. Later, Lady Mary will complain to Carson, saying, “I hope you weren’t upset by that business in the drawing room.”
Carson replies, “Not at all, mylLady. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe Her Ladyship was acting for snobbish reasons.”
Mary admits, “Perhaps not. But it annoys me to see you cheated of your just desserts. I wanted the best for you.”
Carson consoles her, saying, “And I shall have it, my Lady. If you attend the wedding, that’s enough for me.”
In London, Lady Edith bumps into a certain Bertie Pelham (Harry Hadden-Paton). Bertie is not a very ambitious fellow. We first met him during the 2014 Christmas special. That was the special at the ends of Series/Season 5. Lord Sinderby (James Faulkner), the father of Atticus Aldridge (Matt Barber), the man who marries the lovely Lady Rose (Lily James). Lord Sinderby (James Faulkner) rented Brancaster Castle in Northumberland and invited the Crawley family up during grousing season for a bit of hunting.
Lord Sinderby’s butler, Stowell, treats Tom Branson poorly but Mary Crawley decides to get even. She asks Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) to find a way to get back at Stowell (Alun Armstrong), and Barrow was also being humiliated by the proud Stowell. Barrow also succeeds in not only putting Stowell “back in the box,” but also in changing Lord Sinderby’s attitude toward his daughter-in-law Rose. After getting Stowell drunk, he learns that Lord Sinderby has a mistress and an illegitimate child and Barrow sends an invitation for the woman Diane Clark (Alice Patten) and her son to some under the belief that Lord Sinderby has sent the invitation and will be there alone. Rose pretends that Diane is an old friend of hers, pulling Robert and Lady Mary into the ruse.
More significantly for Season/Series 6, at Brancaster, Lady Mary meets Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode) and Edith meets Bertie. Lady Mary stands by Henry for the grouse shooting. Talbot is the nephew of Violet’s old friend, Lady Shackleton. He dances with Mary at the ball and wonders about Diane Clark.
Bertie is the second cousin and a good friend of the owner of Brancaster, Peter, the Sixth Marquess of Hexham. He acts as the agent for Brancaster. At the hunt, he offers to have Lady Edith stand next to him during the shoot. At the ball, he dances with Edith. He is very sympathetic when Edith appears worried. Edith tells him that she and Tom Branson were discussing Marigold, the ward of Downton. In truth, Edith has been startled that Tom figured out the truth about Marigold, that Edith is Marigold’s mother.
Bertie, of course, does not know that Marigold is Edith’s illegitimate daughter nor that Lord Sinderby has an illegitimate son. He didn’t notice the drama with Stowell and Lord Sinderby or the others. He tells Edith he’s in London on business and that he remembers the Crawleys as “a very jolly party.” So much so he admits, “I told Lord Hexham he should try and let to the Sinderbys again this year! Are you having a good time in London?”
Edith rarely has a good time anywhere. The first thing Edith says is that she’s been working and that she’s “missing Marigold, of course.” Edith is so transparent and Bertie quite dense. She tells him “I’ve got rather a drama on my hands with my magazine. You’ve probably forgotten by I own a magazine.”
Bertie ventures, “Indeed, I have not. I thought it was incredibly modern.” Bertie asks Edith to meet for a drink.
As Edith leads us into the modern world with opportunities for women, Thomas Barrow’s adventure reminds us where we once were during Season/Series 1 in April of 1912. Barrow has gone to Dryden Park near York. While Mr. Carson hopes this will be “a painless solution to the problem of Barrow,” Robert Crawley only remembers Dryden Park as a place his parents used to go, but he says, “I haven’t heard anything about it for years.”
At Dryden Park, he meets Sir Michael Reresby (Ronald Pickup) and it is Sir Michael who answers the door. The walls do not sparkle. Newspapers and magazines are piled on the chairs. Sir Michael admits, “As you can see, we’ve rather let things slide. It’s been very difficult since my wife died.” His wife was a lady-in-waiting to the old Duchess of Connaught. They had two sons. Both went to war and did not return.
Sir Michael wants, “Someone who knows about fighting for his king and his country.” When Barrow comments, “I expect this was a wonderful house for entertaining,” Sir Michael remembers, “Oh, you should have seen it! We had such fun in those days. Do you know what I shall always remember? The women going up to bed at the end of the evening. Their faces lit by the flame from the candle. Yes, diamonds twinkling as they climbed up into the darkness.”
Sir Michael has an outside man and a woman who comes in three days a week, but no other staff. Although he wants someone to fulfill a “position of trust” in a “prominent household,” Sir Michael does not see the reality. He remembers when he entertained Connaughts, the Fife princesses, the Duke of Argyll and the Queen of Spain. While Barrow excuses himself gently, Sir Michael exclaims, “We can’t let them down, do you see? When the good times return, they will all come back. We must be ready. Can’t let our standards slip.”
Although he says, “I hope you find the man you’re looking for,” Barrow lets out a small dig as he excuses himself, “And good luck with those standards.”
Standards are a concern for Edith and she finally sacks her editor, Mr. Skinner. Perhaps he didn’t think a female publisher would fire a man? Edith confers with her female staff members, saying, “I refuse to be defeated by a petulant and overweight tyrant.”
It is already 7 p.m. and Edith and her staff only have nine hours to finish layout before it must be at the printers by 4 a.m. Edith has the good manners to dash off to meet with Bertie. She tells him a bit of a lie, claiming that “My editor has walked out” and not that she fired him. Bertie proves himself a lovely fellow by coming with her to the office. He tells Edith, “I can make coffee. I can fetch sandwiches. I can carry bits of paper around.”
Still puzzled Edith replies, “Aren’t you having dinner somewhere? I thought that’s why you hadn’t suggested it.”
Bertie cleverly explains, “No, I didn’t think you’d accept dinner. I planned to ask you halfway through the drink.”
Edith, her staff and Bertie finish the proofs in time and send it off to the printer. Bertie asks Edith if she is the editor now. She find a caretaker she tells him. But then has tells her, “In the end, the question must be are you a country woman or a townie?”
Edith replies, “It’s more than that. I know now I need a purpose. That’s what I’ve learned. I can’t just lead one of those purposeless lives.”
Quite sweetly Bertie replies, “You inspire me.”
Back at Downton Abbey, downstairs, Mr. Molesley (Bernard Gallagher) is helping Daisy (Sophie McShera) with her studies. He tells her “Keep it simple and straightforward.” Earlier, last episode, he told her that by passing the exams and getting a better position, she’ll be able to help her father-in-law, Mr. Mason (Paul Copley). Now he gives her more reason for hope: “When I was serving tea in the library, I heard them say that the Drewes are giving up Yew Tree Farm.” Daisy always rash, assumes that it is a done deal although Moseley cautions that nothing is certain.
Mrs. Patmore’s surprise arrives the day before the wedding, but it’s not as beautiful as the picture in the catalogue. Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) sadly says, “It was so nice in the picture. It wasn’t dear but it seemed like a bargain.”
Anna says, “It’s the thought that counts.”
Mrs. Patmore objects, saying, “Not with a frock, it’s not!”
Anna replies, “Lady Mary says she’ll lend her a brooch or something.”
Mrs. Patmore retorts, “A brooch? She’ll need a diamond parure to make this look any good.” A parure is a necklace and earring set.
Anna takes the news upstairs to Lady Mary.
Mary asks, “Can’t we lend her a dress or something?”
Anna considers the possibilities, saying, “She wouldn’t fit into a dress of yours. And Her Ladyship is too tall.”
Lady Mary has a bright idea and suggests an embroidered evening coat because “the length wouldn’t matter so much.” She means to ask her mother Cora, but Cora has already left. Cora is going to visit the Yorkshire hospital.
Mr. Carson asks Mrs. Hughes, “Are you nervous? A little. And I’m sad about my dress. I wish I’d made more of an effort, but it’s too late now.”
Mr. Carson is reassuring, “I’m sure you’ll look wonderful.”
Mrs. Hughes replies, “Well, I’ll look tidy.”
Lord Merton (Douglas Reith), Cora, Isobel, Violet and Dr. Clarkson (David Robb) have a meeting and it doesn’t go well.
Isobel finally blurts out an accusation to Dr. Clarkson, “I’m afraid you see the new arrangement as diminishing your own importance. You’re the king of this place, but once it’s a wing of the Royal Yorkshire, you’ll be one more local doctor with some authority, yes. But it will not be the same.”
Lord Merton interjects, “Shall we call a halt to this before we say things we will regret?”
Violet adds, “I rather hope Mrs Crawley regrets what she’s said already.”
Cora wearily says, “I’m going home. In future, let’s try to manage things in a more civilized manner.”
Isobel has behaved badly.
Downstairs, Barrow admits that things did not go well. Barrow is sad that Andrew seems a stranger. He tells Baxter, “We were friends when he first came. I helped to get him the job, for God’s sake! But now you’ve all poisoned his mind against me.”
Baxter gently replies, “Then tell him.”
Barrow remains pessimistic, commenting, “It’s too late. The damage has been done.”
Cora returns and finds Robert, Edith and Mary in the library. but before Lady Mary can say anything, Cora goes to her room. Just before Cora enters, we see Anna, Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes trying on the coats.
Mrs. Patmore is commenting, “See? That dress doesn’t look bad now as a foil to set off the colors of the embroidery.”
Anna says, “I agree. It’s plainness is a virtue. And I’m sure we can do something about the length.”
Cora finds Mrs. Hughes in her room with Mrs. Patmore and Anna. Cora angrily asks, “Excuse me? Will someone explain to me what’s going on?
Anna attempts to explain, “Didn’t Lady Mary tell you, My Lady?” Tell me what? That Mrs Hughes is going to borrow one of your coats to be married in.”
Cora replies curtly, “Was I to have any say in this as you rifle through my cupboards?”
Mrs. Hughes is sad-faced and says, “Your Ladyship, there’s obviously been a misunderstanding.”
Cora continues, “I’m surprised at you, Mrs Hughes. This is not the kind of behavior I would look for from you.”
Mrs. Hughes then replies, “We’ll hang them up at once and leave you in peace.”
Anna still tries to explain, “Lady Mary said,” but Cora won’t let her continue, replying, “Lady Mary may dispose of her own clothes as she sees fit, but I do not know what gives her the right to dispose of mine.”
Cora continues, “Now please leave me. I have a headache and I need to lie down.”
Anna explains what happened to Mary and Anna says, she’s never seen Cora so angry. Mary goes to her mother’s room and confronts her mother who is with her father. She explains, “I hope Anna’s wrong, but she seems to think you wouldn’t lend Mrs Hughes a coat.”
Cora defends herself by saying, “I just walked in and they were putting on my clothes.”
Mary asks, “Please tell me you weren’t rude.”
Robert comments, “Your mother has had a horrible afternoon with Granny. They were at each other’s throats.”
Mary continues, “Does that excuse insulting a woman who has served us faithfully for many years, who simply wanted something nice to be married in?”
Cora then asks, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Mary replies, “I tried to but you stormed off.”
What follows is a lovely scene. Mrs. Hughes is being comforted by Mrs. Patmore. Mrs. Hughes confesses, “I felt like a naughty child in need of a smack.”
Cora knocks on her door and enters. She begins, “Mrs Hughes, I won’t beat about the bush. I behaved badly earlier.
I hope you’ll accept my apology.”
Mrs. Hughes replies, “It must have been strange to find us all there, My Lady.”
Cora doesn’t excuse her behavior. “Nevertheless, I have no excuse to behave as I did. Not to someone who deserves our loyalty as you do. Please forgive me. I can only say I was angry about something quite different. I allowed it to cloud my judgement.”
Mrs. Patmore comments, “We’ve all done that, My Lady.”
Cora then tells Mrs. Hughes, “Finally, I’d like you to have this coat. Or I’ll feel I’ve spoiled the day, which is the very last thing I’d want to do. Furthermore, I want you to keep it. I’ve asked Baxter to fit it for you tonight. She’s happy to do that.”
Mrs. Patmore, Baxter and Anna come to dress Mrs. Hughes. The ceremony goes off without a hitch although Mr. Carson has no ushers and quickly enlists Molesley, Andrew and, as an afterthought, Barrow just before he leaves for the church. After the wedding, Dr. Clarkson and Isobel mend their rift with both apologizing. That displeased Violet immensely. Throughout this episode Violet’s lady’s maid, Denker, has been snooping around and realizes that Spratt may have been given his nephew, an escaped convict, temporary refuge. She means to hold it over him, but Spratt has more secrets. Mr. Mason thanks Cora because obviously Daisy has told him that he will get the farm being vacated by the Drewes. This hasn’t been settle at all, but Cora isn’t able to correct that notion. The big surprise at the wedding is the return of Tom Branson and his daughter, Sybbie.
Tom says, “I had to go all the way to Boston to figure something out, but that’s what I did. I learned that Downton is my home and that you are my family. If I didn’t quite know that before I left, I know it now.”
This episode of “Downton Abbey” (Season/Series 6 Episode 3) was broadcast on PBS on Jan. 17, 2016. It is currently available to stream online. Visit the “Downton Abbey” webpage.