In the last episode of “Downton Abbey” before the Christmas special, Mary gets her revenge on Edith over a decade later and Mary gets her happy ending because of Tom and Violet. There’s a new beginning for Mr. Molesley and Daisy and lessons in life all around.
There are some things that family should never do, particularly in the 1910s. One of those things is let outsiders know about a scandal. Edith (Laura Carmichael) did just that. Edith will call Mary (Michelle Dockery) a female dog in this episode, but Edith herself has been a snippy little lady herself. Last episode she called Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode) “oily.”
If you recall during Series/Season 1, Mary had just lost her fiancé, the never seen Patrick, who was heir to Downton Abbey when Patrick died in the sinking of the Titanic. Mary was fond of her fiancé, but it was Edith who loved him. We don’t see the two women pursuing and being pursued by Patrick, but we do see Edith pursuing Matthew Crawley, the subsequent heir to Downton. In the end, Matthew isn’t interested in Edith, either.
In 1913, a woman’s reputation was everything and good girls didn’t get raped. Lady Mary was fascinated by Evelyn Napier’s friend, the Turkish diplomat Kemal Pamuk. Mary had rejected Pamuk when he kissed her and even when Pamuk had, unbeknownst to Mary, blackmailed Thomas into leading him to Mary’s room, Mary had initially rejected him again. Pamuk was a practice seducer and blackmailed her into having sex with him: He knew that if she was found with a man in her room, her reputation would still be ruined. Pamuk died in Mary’s bed and Mary gets help from Anna and Cora in transporting Pamuk’s body back to a guest bedroom in March of 1913. Unfortunately, the corpse’s transport is witnessed by Daisy. It is Daisy who tells Lady Edith in August of 1913.
Lady Edith then writes a letter to the Turkish ambassador. By May 1914, over a year after Pamuk’s death, rumors about Mary surface and Carson and the dowager Countess Violet hear them. Violet gets the truth from Cora. When Matthew finally proposes to Mary, she feels she cannot accept unless she tells him about Pamuk. Matthew misinterprets Mary’s hesitancy, particularly when Cora finds she is pregnant. When Mary finally accepts Matthew’s proposal, he withdraws it, unsure of her true feelings. Mary does finally tell Matthew about Pamuk during the Series/Season 2 Christmas special and they still become engaged.
By that time, Mary has already confronted Edith about her betrayal (Series/Season 1) during the summer of 1914. Mary’s revenge is to mislead her former suitor Sir Anthony Strallan into believing that Edith finds him old and boring on the day he planned to propose to Edith. During Series/Season 2, Edith became too close to Mr. Drake (Fergus O’Donnell) while helping on his farm, driving a tractor. His wife witnesses this exchange and afterward she sends to a note to the Crawleys saying the Drakes now have a man to drive the tractor (April 1917). In November 1918, Edith then falls in love with a badly burned Canadian officer who claims he is Patrick Crawley who survived the Titanic but suffered from amnesia. Yet Lord Grantham’s investigations indicate that the man may be a friend of Patrick’s who immigrated to Canada. The man leaves, leaving a note for Edith and is never heard from again.
In Series/Season 3, Edith renews her pursuit of Strallan in April 1920 although her family members feel he is too old for her. Mary wishes Edith happiness at her wedding and is genuinely upset when Strallan leaves Edith at the altar. During this year, Edith also is invited to write a regular newspaper column and goes to London to meet the editor, Michael Gregson. Tom knowing that Gregson is married warns Gregson off, but Edith pursues her relationship with him.
Edith is less ethical in her approach to love and romance. She has taken up with a married man, not caring about the scandal, the wife or his social status. She wanted to be needed by a man like Strallan. She gets involved with her editor, also a married man although his wife has been institutionalized (echoes of “Jane Eyre”). In the last episode, she received a proposal from Bertie Pelham but fell short of telling him about Marigold, her illegitimate daughter by Gregson. Unfortunately for Edith, Mary has figured out her secret.
This episode actually begins with Cora and Edith walking under their parasols on the grounds of Downton Abbey.
Cora counsels, “You mustn’t make him wait forever.”
Edith confesses, “I love him. I’d accept him in a trice if it weren’t for Marigold.”
Cora asks, “You say he’ll let you keep her.”
Edith then explains, “That’s not the problem.”
Cora then asks, “What is?”
Edith further explains, “If I stay silent, there’s a lie at the heart of my marriage. But if I tell him the truth, will I ruin it?”
Cora replies, “Edith, you’re a grown woman and I can’t force you. But you cannot be married to a man and leave him out of a secret like this. It’s not possible and you won’t be happy.”
Edith then in her typically pessimistic way asks, “How happy am I now?”
Back at Downton Abbey, the Sergeant Willis (Howard Ward) is there asking, “Mrs Patmore, you are the owner of No.3 Orchard Lane, Haughton-le-Skerne.”
Patmore (Lesley Nicol) proudly says, ” I am. I’m running it as a bed-and-breakfast place.”
The police officer continues, “Among your guests, was a certain Doctor Fletcher and his wife?”
Mrs. Patmore is still proud and says, “They were my first. Very courteous and respectable, I must say.”
Now the officer bursts her bubble, “Not as respectable as you think. Dr. Fletcher was a Mr. Ian McKidd and his ‘wife’ a Mrs. Dorrit. Mr. Dorrit is now suing Mr. McKidd for damages related to adultery. You may be called upon to testify. There is some concern Haughton-le-Skerne will be in the news, as a site of a house of ill repute.”
Patmore is quite shocked and upset and can only repeat, “A house of ill repute?”
The officer replies, “I’m afraid the rumor mill has already begun, but there’s a chance that Dorrit may settle out of court. I’ll keep you informed.”
Mrs. Patmore is speechless, but Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) replies for her, “Thank you, Sergeant.”
Upstairs Robert and Rosamund are discussing the absence of Violet. Robert says that “Mama has exhausted my patience this time” but also tells Rosamund that she did give him a new puppy, Tiaa, and for that he forgives her for everything. Yet there are other problems such as Edith and Marigold.
In town, Mary learns of Lord Hexham’s death is in the newspapers. She wonders what Bertie will do now since he was only a land agent and now might be out of that job. Tom thinks she sounds a bit gleeful. Hexham died of malaria in Tangiers.
News of Mrs. Patmore causes amusement upstairs and downstairs. Anna (Joanne Froggatt) tells her husband, Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle). Mrs. Hughes tells Mr. Carson (Jim Carter). Anna tells Lady Mary who mentions that “My romance might not be the only one to come to an untimely end. Rosamund calls Mrs. Patmore an “unlikely bawdy house madame.”
There’s more news downstairs. Moseley has accepted a position teaching five courses at the school. Mr. Dawes tells Daisy (Sophie McShera) that she passed every paper with high marks.
Yet Edith has a surprise for everyone. “He is the new marquess, Bertie,” Edith tells her family and Bertie will be coming for dinner. Robert says, “Edith would outrank us all…Golly gumdrops, what a turn up.”
Elsewhere, things aren’t always what they seem. Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) tells Isobel (Penelope Wilston) that Amelia (Phoebe Sparrow) is a “very kind and gentle soul.” Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) takes for time off from work so he can teach and yet his first day is a failure.
That evening, Rosamund pleads with Edith to tell Bertie but the pessimistic Edith says, “With my luck, I’ll regret it either way.” Soon after, we switch downstairs and Molesley is making lesson plans that includes tests and tells the other servants (Mrs. Patmore, Mrs. Hughes, Anna, Mr. Bates and Miss Baxter), “I think if you expect a lot, you get a lot.” Perhaps Edith doesn’t expect a lot.
Bertie is due to drop in at Downton Abbey on his way to London and then Tangiers. Later in the privacy of their bedroom, Robert says to Cora, “If anyone had told me Mary would hitch up with a mechanic and Edith would marry one of the grandest men in England, I’d have knocked them down.”
As they wait for Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton) to arrive, Robert (Hugh Bonneville) tells Rosamund (Samantha Bond), “Mary and Tom are agenting and Edith’s gone to meet Bertie’s train.”
Rosamund comments, “Are we going to talk about it? Are we going to sit by and let this young man’s family and future be put at risk from a scandal we are hiding from him?”
Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) interjects, “I don’t think she has to tell everybody but I agree. She must tell him. Then it’s his choice.”
Robert says, “Isn’t it up to Edith?”
Rosamund then remarks, “You say that because after Tony Gillingham had gone, you thought none of your daughters would make a marriage worthy of the name. Now there’s a chance and you can’t bring yourself to give it up.”
Robert rather unkindly remarks, “You haven’t got children. You don’t understand these things.”
Edith arrives with Bertie and the conversation ends.
At dinner, Cora asks, “You’ve talked of your mother but what other family do you have?”
Bertie replies, “That’s it. My father’s dead, obviously, there are no siblings. It’s just me and Mother.”
Cora comments, “You were joking when you said she was cock-a-hoop but she must feel a certain pride.”
Bertie comments, “I wasn’t joking but judge for yourselves when you meet her.”
Tom (Allen Leech) asks: “You talk as if we should be scared.”
Bertie then explains, “She makes Mr. Squeers look like Florence Nightingale.”
Mr. Speers is a character in Charles Dickens’ 1839 novel “Nicholas Nickleby.” His full name is Wackford Squeers and he is also physically deformed as he is emotionally. The schoolmaster has only one eye and he runs a boarding school in Yorkshire where he mistreats the boys by starving them and beating them. Nicholas befriends the sickly Smike there who turns out to be Ralph Nickleby’s son. Ralph Nickelby is Nicholas’ uncle.
Molesley attempts to teach history and English literature from 1642-1688 but finds the class chaotic. He’s a bit shook up by the experience.
Henry Talbot drops in for dinner, but that only angers Mary. He apologizes to Mary, but continues, “But you see, I think we love each other very much. For some reason, you’re fighting it. I’m not. My birth is respectable, so it can’t be that, which forces me to believe that it is my lack of money and position that present the problem. Aren’t you better than that?
Mary asks, “What?”
Henry continues, “Well, it just seems rather small to me. Not to marry a man for lack of money is the same as marrying him because of it.”
This angers Mary who feels he considers her nothing more than “grubby little gold digger,” and she tells him, “You got a nerve.”
Anna feels that Mary is afraid of Henry because he’s stronger or as strong as her.
That evening, Bertie also pleads with Edith to give him an answer and “Let me go to Tangiers with a sense that my tomorrow is beginning.”
Edith confesses that she loves him, but hedges and says, “The trouble is I’m not as simple as I used to be. My life isn’t that simple.” She worries that she is “living in a fool’s paradise” and dragging Bertie in with her.
Bertie sweetly says, “I’ll still take it as a yes.”
At breakfast, Mary comes down to find that Henry has gone. Mary is upset at this news. Lord Grantham leaves which somewhat disappoints Bertie. Bertie has news and was waiting for Mary to come down.
Edith doesn’t think now is the time for such an announcement because, as she tells Mary, “Well, Henry’s abandoned you.”
Mary replies, “No, he hasn’t. I wanted him to go.”
Edith replies, “That’s not what it looked like.”
Mary answers, “Well, that’s how it is.”
Tom states, “There’s no need for this. Edith, if your news is good, then we are very happy for you both. Aren’t we, Mary?”
Edith replies, “See? I told you. The one thing Mary can’t bear is when things are going better for me than for her.”
Bertie says, “I’m sure that’s not true.”
Edith answers, “You don’t know her. I’m getting married and you’ve lost your man. And you just can’t stand it.” Edith has to push the dagger in and give it a twist.
Tom immediately understands just what is happenings and interrupts, “Edith, there is no need for…”
Mary then goes on the offensive and becomes politely offensive, “You’re wrong. I’m very happy for you. And I admire you, Bertie. Not everyone would accept Edith’s past.”
Tom can only say, “Mary, don’t.”
Bertie is mystified: “What do you mean?”
Mary continues, “Well, you must’ve told him? You couldn’t accept him without telling him?”
Bertie asks innocently, “Tell me what?”
Mary then lets the secret out: “About Marigold. Who she really is.”
Edith now looks like she is physically ill and confesses, “Marigold is my daughter.”
Bertie is surprised and asks to be excused. Later Bertie tells Edith that she should have told him the full story and asks her if she didn’t trust him. Of course the question is, “Would have you married me in a lie?”
Edith can only weakly comment, “I don’t think so.”
Bertie doesn’t want to marry someone “I couldn’t trust and who didn’t trust me.” That is understandable.
Now from trustworthy people who have failed to be trustworthy, we switch to those who one shouldn’t ever trust, Larry Grey’s fiancée Amelia. Amelia tells Isobel, “I hope you don’t mind my saying that you seem very suspicious.”
Isobel replies, “Do I? But you must admit, your attitude is quite a volte-face.”
The cool little miss, Amelia, attempts to assure Isobel, saying, “I want Larry’s father to be content. Is that a volte-face?”
Isobel wants to hear from Larry Grey himself and not the cool Amelia to speak for him. A volte-face means an act of turning around so that one faces the opposite direction and as such it means an abrupt and complete reversal of opinion or attitude.
Back at Downton Abbey, Mary attempts to explain herself to Tom, saying, “I still can’t believe she’d never told him. How was I to know that?”
Tom doesn’t believe her, “Don’t play the innocent with me. Don’t lie! Not to me! You can’t stop ruining things! For Edith, for yourself! You’d pull in the sky if you could, anything to make you feel less frightened and alone! ”
Mary defends herself, saying, “You saw Henry when he was here, high-handed, bullying, unapologetic. Am I expected to lower myself to his level and be grateful I’m allowed to do so?”
Tom replies, “Listen to yourself. ‘Lower yourself to his level.’ You’re not a princess in ‘The Prisoner of Zenda.’ “The Prisoner of Zenda” is an 1894 adventure novel about a king (King Rudolf of Ruritania) who is drugged on the eve of his coronation and kidnapped to be imprisoned in a castle in the small town of Zenda. A distant cousin, an Englishman, is asked to impersonate the king until the kind can be found and rescued.
Tom continues, “You ruined Edith’s life today! How many lives are you going to wreck just to smother your misery?” Tom calls her a coward, “Like all bullies, you’re a coward.”
From here, the scene switches to another bully or at least a former bully, Thomas Barrow as he sees Anna and Miss Baxter. Miss Baxter is going to support Moseley on his second day of teaching.
When Mary finds Edith, Edith is not in a forgiving mood and tells Mary, “I know you! I know you to be a nasty, jealous, scheming bitch!” This from the woman who wrote a letter to the Turkish embassy.
Mary defends herself, beginning, “Now listen, you pathetic…”
Edith is far from eloquent and replies, “You’re a bitch! Not content with ruining your own life, you’re determined to ruin mine!” Edith, of course, could have avoided that if she had followed the advice of Rosamund or her mother or her own conscience. She also didn’t have to egg on Mary. If Edith had been, like Mary, brave enough to make the confession Bertie wouldn’t have felt Edith was trying to trick him.
Mary replies, “I have not ruined my life and if Bertie’s put off by that, then…”
Edith angrily cuts her off, “Don’t demean yourself by trying to justify your venom. Just go.” And yet, Mary is essentially right.
The way to face scandal is to confront it and to show kindness. Lord Grantham does when he tells Carson that he thinks the family can “show a little more backbone” and attempt to help Mrs. Patmore by taking Rosamund’s suggestion and eating at Mrs. Patmore’s bed and breakfast. All of the reservations have been cancelled. Lord Grantham reminds Carson that Mrs. Patmore has been loyal to the Crawley family and “now this house must be loyal to her.”
Back at the village, Miss Baxter and Mr. Molesley are almost at the school house. Miss Baxter suggests that Mr. Molesley tell his students that he is a servant in a big house so he doesn’t have to fear that the students or their parents will find out. He makes an off-hand comment about something Barrow said to him that sends Miss Baxter running back, “He suddenly told me out of the blue he hoped I’d make more of my life than he’d ever make of his.”
Miss Baxter runs back to Downton Abbey and goes into the male servants area where she meets Andy. Andy tells her that Barrow went into the bath room. Andy breaks down the door to the men’s bath room and they find Mr. Barrow partially clothed; he has attempted to commit suicide. Andy gets Mrs. Hughes and they get Barrow out of the bath.
As Barrow is being tended in the attic, downstairs, Mr. Bates comments that it’s wonderful that Molesley finally gets rewarded for his kindness. Everyone gets their rewards. Robert gets the news about Barrow from Carson just as Rosamund, Robert and Cora are about to confront Mary. Mary asks her father if he still thinks that letting Barrow go was a good idea which Robert finds a low blow even for Mary.
Master George and Mary come to comfort Barrow. They find themselves to be in a similar situation. Both have said and done things that they now regret.
Tom has wisely written to the only person who can entangle the problems of the lovelorn: Violet. Violet returns to find her butler gone and Edith in London.
Mary says, “Oh, Granny please don’t lecture me on sentimental virtues.”
Violet replies, “Don’t worry. Don’t worry. I believe in rules and traditions and playing our part. But there is something else. I believe in love. I mean, brilliant careers, rich lives, are seldom led without just an element of love.” Violet tells Mary to first, make peace with your sister and then make peace with yourself.
Mary rings Henry Talbot who should be there by luncheon and they decide to marry. Mary visits Matthew’s grave. “Remember, however much I love him, I will always love you.” She meets Isobel there and Isobel gives Mary her blessing.
Surprisingly, Edith shows up before the wedding and forgives Mary: “Because, in the end, you’re my sister and one day, only we will remember Sybil or Mama or Papa or Matthew or Michael or Granny or Carson or any of the others who have peopled our youth until, at last, our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike.”
After the wedding Robert says, “It seems all our ships are coming into port.”
Cora asks, “And Edith?”
Robert notes, “Of all my children, Edith has given me the most surprises.”
Violet interjects, “Yes, surprises of the most mixed variety.”
Robert concludes, “A surprise is a surprise, Mama, and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last one yet.” The episode began with Edith and then ends with Edith watching the children playing. You can be sure the last episode will deal with Edith. “Downton Abbey” Series/Season 6, Episode 8 originally aired on Sunday, Feb. 21 on PBS and is currently available online. The last episode (2015 Christmas special) and the finale, will air on March 6 on PBS.