When you're dealing with a large cast like the one on Downton Abbey , it's sometimes hard to give everyone their own compelling storyline. Most of the time our attention is drawn to Lady Mary's love life or the whole Mr. Green murder mystery that appears to be picking up some steam (finally). However, my main interest in last Sunday night's episode began and ended with Thomas' unusually mysterious behavior and this week, it only got worse when Barrow appeared rather sick and took some kind of drug upon his return to work. Now, of course, Thomas is known for his many mischievous deeds. (Bless him.) But usually when he's concocting some sort of plan, we as the audience, are normally in on the scheme… until now, that is.
Early on in last week's episode, Thomas asks Mr. Carson if he can use the phone for a personal matter, to which Carson obliges. It's there that we see Thomas, who clearly does not want to be overheard, call someone in response to an advertisement he saw in the paper that's called Choosing Your Own Path. No sooner is this conversation over with that Thomas requests to take some time off on account of his father being very sick and wanting to see him before he dies. Of course, Carson allows him to go without question, but we all know better.
This is an out-and-out lie. But why? What is it that Thomas needs to go do and how does it involve this Choosing Your Own Path group and why does he come back looking so ill? While some of you may be quick to assume Thomas is involved in some sort of money-making scheme, I have a bad feeling this has less to do about money and more to do with Downton's under butler trying to change some aspect of himself… like his sexual orientation. Of course, nothing has been confirmed yet. (This is Downton Abbey, after all, and we keep such personal matters hush, hush.) But there's just something about the name Choosing Your Own Path that gives the whole situation a rather sinister vibe. To me, it might as well be titled Who You Are and What You're Doing Is Wrong, So Change!
Even though we're only a few episodes in, this has proven to be a bit of tough year for Thomas. With Jimmy gone and Baxter no longer his ally (though she does seem to care about his well-being at least a little when she finds him taking drugs, Mr. Barrow is pretty much all on his own. Not that he doesn't deserve it with all the trouble he likes to create for others, but loneliness can do many things to a person — even make them start hating themselves. Thomas has always felt like an outsider due to his homosexuality, which back then was fraught with harsh and unfair judgment — not to mention punishable by law. Which is what makes me think Thomas is looking to rid himself of being gay altogether.
Back in the early to mid-century, there were many ill-advised methods of "curing" homosexuality, one of which included three main types of aversion therapy: electrical, covert, and the use of the drug Apomorphine, which, according to psychologist Dr. Charles Silverstein, "induces nausea in the patient." Some folks on Reddit have pointed out that other chemicals such as Laudanum and Heroin were used as homosexuality aversion therapy. Basically, the underlying gist here for all of these different scenarios is that homosexual men and women would be forced to look at people of the same sex and experience either physical pain (like electricity) or become violently ill (due to the Apomorphine). This would theoretically train the patients to associate that discomfort with their feelings for their gender, and thereby repel that so-called "wrong" behavior.
American Horror Story fans may recognize this type of therapy from the show's second season, Asylum, when Dr. Oliver Thredson attempted to help Sarah Paulson's Lana Winters become straight by injecting her with doses of Apomorphine as she looked at pictures of naked women. (Thankfully, such treatments were later terminated in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.)
Could this be the "path" Thomas is choosing to go down? Or would he opt to go more for the "shock therapy" route? Then there's always the possibility that he's falling for some quack medication that is just a scam to make money off of other's insecurities. I certainly hope that doesn't end up being the case, especially since a random combination of fraudulent health products (commonly known as "snake oil") could end up severely harming him, maybe even to a fatal degree.
I never thought I'd say this, but I'd take any of Thomas' mischievous antics over something like this. Because as much as his conniving nature frustrates me at times, I would derive no pleasure at all in seeing him compromise himself in such a way. There are a lot of things about Thomas that needs fixing, but his sexual orientation is not one of them.