A Slightly Happier 'Downton'

After the first two emotionally draining/wrecking/exhausting episodes of Downton Abbey, the series returned this week with equal parts intrigue, humor, feels, and drama-o-rama. It was Downton at its Downton-iest . Now that all (well, almost all, Mr. Gillingham) of the fancy people have left, we were back to focusing on the leading ladies and gentlemen. Except poor Edith, of course, because she's Edith.

Sunday night's episode was chock-full of unrequited, star-crossed love — from Carson's stolen love, to Lady Mary and the determined/insensitive/downright pushy Lord Gillingham, to Lady Ugh, sorry, Lady Rose and her scandalous dance. The episode surrounded the sustainability of love and the fleeting nature of passion. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the fanciest soap opera on the planet.

We start off downstairs with Anna still reeling from the trauma of her rape. All of the downstairs staff are on edge early in the morning, but according to Mr. Carson, there is "Something foreign about high spirits at breakfast," and everyone goes about their business. Anna excuses herself abruptly (wouldn't we all if we had to sit next to our rapist for a meal) then recoils as Bates tries to reach out.

Mrs. Hughes, as her sole confidant, urges Anna to go to the authorities, but she refuses. She achingly admits she cannot confess the truth to her adoring and protective husband, nor can she bear to continue living with him — she feels as though she isn't worthy, that she is soiled, and that what happened was somehow her fault. She cries that she will simply kill herself if there is a baby from Green. If only Anna's world was filled with more Hughes to let her know it was nothing she did, but rather the acts of an evil, criminal man.

And it's not only Bates who is becoming terribly concerned with Anna's emotional distance. Mary, Cora, and nearly all of the downstairs staff have noticed a change and only time will tell if the truth ever comes out. We can see the words begging to come out, but she retracts and chokes back the awful reality. Oof.

Back upstairs, Lord Gillingham has extended his stay at Downton and Lord and Lady Grantham are all too happy to see it happen. It's still only been six months since Matthew's tragic death and they're already giggling like teenagers over a new suitor for their widowed daughter. What in the what what? Wasn't Lord Grantham the one who wanted to let Mary sit and wallow for as long as she wanted? And now he's ready to throw her back into the marriage game. OH HELLLLLL NO.

Folks, the cringing has just begun. Edna sneaks into Tom's room and corners him and accuses him of treating her wrongly. Don't get me wrong here, I do agree that both of them have behaved terribly. And I could write a whole essay about the problematic nature of their relationship and the notion lf "blame." However, Edna's dubious intentions have tipped the scale of whose side we're on. So her entrapment with the whole "What if I get pregnant" thing is just downright yeeee-iiiiikes.

Back in one of Downton's many sitting rooms, Mary will be off to London to discuss more tax business and will be staying with her sassy and stuffy aunt Rosamund. Rose, naturally, jumps at the bit to tag along. Seriously, does anyone else feel like Rose is reaching levels of Anne Hatha-hatin' circa 2013?

Ugh. Anyway. Word goes 'round the kitchen about a training program at the Ritz in London that catches the attention of Daisy and Alfred. Fed up by how quickly Ivy is rising in the ranks, Daisy is intrigued. She also sends Alfred to the boot room in order to catch Ivy and Jimmy snogging. Listen to Mrs. Patmore, dear Daisy. It's not worth it. Focus on YOU, girlfriend. Ohhh, scandal!

Mary, Daisy, Edith, Tom and Anna are off to London, and when they arrive, surprise surprise, Lord Gillingham is there. Which also means Green must be there. *Expletive. Expletive. Expletive.* And already Rosamund seems to be in on the whole Mary-Tony love affair. Seriously, everyone, pump the brakes.

The gang then decides, despite Tom's and Mary's reservations to head off to a jazz club — and the world's strangest triple-date was formed. Poor Tom, always the date to the grumpy older women of the fancy class. In any case, at the club, Tony moves in on Mary in a deleriously obvious way and Rose's date is embarassingly drunk. When John stumbles off looking for the porceleain throne (ah, college), the handsome, and *1920s gasp* black singer from the band steps in to take Rose's hand to dance. She is immediately intrigued and charmed by him. His name is Jack, by the way. Yes, Downton Abbey just set up two star-crossed lovers: One from the upper class and one from a marginalized sector of society. And their names are Jack and Rose. COME ON.

Anyhow, it's 1922, so Tom rushes over to take her away. The fancy brigade scoots out of the club, heads down. Rose's reaction to their anger with her is quite justified and we see that, though she is young she is of a new generation and is thinking forward. Okay girl, we can hang.

Before leaving London, Edith gets a lashing from Aunt Rosamund. She thinks Edith is throwing her life and reputation away on a man she shouldn't trust. And we all leave with a nasty taste in our mouths.

At the end of the evening, Mary encourages Tom to confess what's been distracting him. Of course Mary is the last person he could confess to without ruining his entire new fancified life. But Mary's urging to let the truth set you free is a throughline for many-a-folk at Downton. And like the stern silent priestess she has become, Tom then does confess to Mrs. Hughes.

Now we have in our hands what should be a Downton-Sherlock crossover, because Mrs. Hughes has some sick sleuthing skills. She calls out Edna on her plot to trap Tom and unveils that she is not at all pregnant. And when Edna tries to pull the "I can always tell her ladyship" card, Hughes once again calls her bluff and threatens to destroy Edna's career. And to everyone's relief... Edna leaves Downton. Though not without having a fussy tantrum with Thomas in the stairwell. Ickiest of ick, those two. (But still kind of deliciously scandalous, no?)

Upon hearing the news of Edna's departure, Lord Grantham bemoans, "Are we living under a curse? Doomed to lose our ladies maids at regular intervals!" And oh, such #fancypeopleproblems.

Right, and finally, the most (melo)dramatic point of last night's episode — Tony's big profession of his love to Mary. He can't stop thinking of her! She invades his brain! He must have her! He doesn't care how long it takes so long as she promises to marry him! And in literally the WORST proposal of all time, "I never met Matthew and I’m sure he was a splendid chap. But he’s dead and I’m alive." Why Mary didn't slap him for that, I'll never know. And though she rightfully rejects the guy, because duh, she's not over Matthew and this bro is terribly insensitive...she still gives in to his request for one kiss. The music sweeps and it's all just a bit much.

And as our Sunday with Downton dwindles down, Lord Grantham opens up to Bates and encourages him in a very warm emotional way to be patient with Anna. And without us having to say it, Robert admits, “My goodness that was strong talk for an Englishman.” Oh, bless. We can only hope he's right and that Anna will finally talk to Bates, and that he will not have to suffer a broken heart or a broken neck.

With a bit of talk of a new and older ("That won't hurt" ehhh Tom?) lady's maid to come in at the end of tonight's episode, all I could think was, well where in the heck was Violet tonight? Bring back the Dowager to Downton next week. Too much Tony, not enough Maggie.

Image: PBS