Downton Abbey Season 3: Episode 3 on Masterpiece Classic PBS – A Recap & Review

Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 3: Miss O'Brien and Alfred

Last week in episode 2 of Downton Abbey Cousin Matthew accepted his dead fiancée’s dead father’s money, gave it to Lord Grantham, and they became business partners (whoa) saving Downton from ruin. Those who were not game to the cause were promptly crossed off the list and sent away – point in case for mama Levinson who because she could not save the estate, again, with her husband’s fortune, exited stage left and was never spoken of again. Hmmm? Plots churn so quickly in this series that we are not given a moment’s repose to think lest we see the wholes.

Was there really any doubt that the money would materialize? After all, the show is not called the Crawley’s.

#TeamEdith went down in flames after the ungentlemanlike behavior at the altar by that infamous drudgemaker Sir Anthony Strallen. We are still reeling over his erratic behavior. Could it be post-traumatic stress syndrome from the WWI? We like to think so and feel the need to rationalize it to death. He seemed like a nice enough chap even though the family thought him a looser. Really harsh—even by toff standards. I just had to dwell on her beautiful wedding dress a bit longer and post a picture of her in it before she has the maid burn it.

Recap of Episode 3 (spoilers ahead)

Downton Abbey Series 3 Episode 3: Lady Edith, wedding dressNow that the coffers of Downton are once again flush from cash from a dead fiancée’s dead father, the household staff will be pumped up to pre-war standards by searching for a new footman, housemaid, and kitchen maid. This means Anna will be a lady’s maid and Daisy will be assistant cook (finally) and not have to carry out the duties of two positions while being paid for one. Unfortunately, Anna does not seem excited in the least because there has been no mail for weeks from her husband John Bates who is locked in the hoosegow in York for bumping off his wicked wife Vera. She thinks he is being honorable and wants her to move on with her life without him. Depressed and downtrodden at Downton won’t do, so Mrs. Hughes to the rescue with a pep talk cheering her up, and us! Jimmy the dishy young footman is quickly renamed James, because Mr. Carson could never take anyone seriously who has a nickname. While James sets hearts throbbing downstairs with the ladies and valet Thomas, Daisy’s working strike is finally over when Ivy is hired as the new kitchen maid to replace her. However, she is not happy that her crush, Alfred the footman, has eyes for Ivy.

Mrs. Hughes has a visit from Isobel Crawley who delivers a letter from former housemaid Ethel Parks, who left service after an affair with an officer recuperating at Downton during the War left her in a motherly way. Once again she would like Mrs. Hughes to intercede and arrange a meeting with her son’s grandparents who she previously turned down for help. Isobel, always eager to get involved and be helpful to anyone would like to make Ethel her new project to get her off the street. The meeting takes place and Ethel surprises everyone by giving her young son to his grandparents to raise. A reversal of finger pointing for Mr. Bates and his cellmate in prison frees up a cache of letters from Anna being held as punishment by the guards, while Anna in turn receives her own stash of letters from him renewing their confidence in their love for one another.

Lady Sybil rings up from Ireland with a cryptic message that Edith reveals to the family shortly before her husband Tom Branson shows up on their doorstep dripping wet with rain and Irish rebellion. He has fled the country to escape the law after helping to burn down an Anglo-Irish country estate. The Crawleys are horrified by his participation in such a violent act, except Lady Violet who thought it an ugly castle anyway. Lord Grantham is furious that his pregnant daughter has been left to fend for herself in a foreign country, but still acts on Tom’s behalf with the authorities in London to clear the waters. Tom’s punishment is the worst imaginable (short of prison) to a rebel who wants to be a part of the Irish revolution: he must never step foot again in Ireland or he will be arrested. Other family members rebel too. Edith takes up a banner for the cause of women’s suffrage and writes a letter in protest of the current laws to The Times which is published, much to her father’s horror. Matthew Crawley goes over the estate finances only to discover that they are being greatly mismanaged. He seeks the advice of the dowager countess who does not see how the news will not put many noses out of joint.

Favorite Moments:

Other men have normal families with sons-in-law who farm or preach or serve in the army.” – Robert, Lord Grantham

Maybe they do, but no family is what it seems from the outside.” – Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham

Wow! That line is like the gun shot at Sarajevo. No one saw it coming because they were ignoring the truth.

Good God almighty. You abandon a pregnant woman in a land that is not her own. You leave her to shift for herself while you run for it?…Go to bed. I’ll give you my answer in the morning.” – Robert, Lord Grantham

Serious moment for Tom Branson and the Crawley family. I can’t help feeling by Lord Grantham’s last words that he does not treat his children like adults. I thought he would blow a gasket.

Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 3: Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Crawley

You’ve done a hard thing Ethel, the hardest thing of all.” – Mrs. Hughes

What chance is there for a woman like her? She’s taken the road to ruin and there’s no way back.” – Mrs. Hughes

Another really, miserable moment in Ethel’s down-spiraling life. I know that her character is there to let us learn how women in this era had little choice if they broke the rules of propriety, and how the aftermath of the war multiplied this and forced many women into a life of prostitution, but it is just so dang depressing to watch.

Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 3: Daisy and Mrs Patmore

Downton is being mismanaged cousin Violet and something must be done. The thing is, how do I do it without putting people’s noses out of joint” – Matthew Crawley

Oh my dear. I doubt there is a way to achieve that. You must do what needs to be done, but I think I can safely say a great many noses will be out of joint.” – Violet, Dowager Countess Grantham

Well, Cousin Matthew, personally I would rather carry a deceased Turkish diplomat through the halls of Downton Abbey in the black of night than tell Lord Grantham he has mucked up the estate finances, but if you don’t, your dear dead fiancée’s dead father’s money will be gone with the wind in no time. Even the Downton whisperer, Lady Violet, is stumped and that is a very rare instance indeed. We shall see how you progress with this new business arrangement without alienating every member of your family including your wife (that document forging vixen you sleep next to) who you know will think your conclusions idiotic. Really, good luck with this.

My Review:  

After the high drama of last week’s jilting at the altar, this episode seemed rather tame – but there was actually a great deal going on – but none of it good news. Even though many of the plot developments were depressing, this episode was really interesting for me. I am glad to leave behind some of the old, long standing conflicts such as Matthew’s dithering over the Swire money, Edith’s pseudo-decrepit beau and the down-spiraling, wrongfully imprisoned Mr. Bates. It was actually a relief to me that Anna could not visit him in prison and their communication was entirely shut down. It was worth the prolonged misery of both to get our reward of seeing them reading their letters to each other after they were finally delivered. We are also really proud of Edith for using her brain and abilities (at Granny suggestion of course) and struck out from the family strictures by voicing her opinion on women’s rights. Yes, let’s let Edith be a flapper and go a bit wild on us, please-o-please. We want something else happy and fun in this family to be about her that really happens.

Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 3: Mr. Bates in jail

Besides Bates’ incarceration, several characters seem to be imprisoned by duty or default. It is disturbing how the family used their influence to cover up the crime that Tom committed in Ireland. Despicable, really. Even his wife Lady Sybil was shocked by his activities. I wonder why they chose to return to Downton where he hates the life of his English oppressors? Ironically, he is now a prisoner there and cannot return to his homeland. What will he do? Matthew is discovering that his business arrangement with his father-in-law is going to be more challenging than he ever imagined. How could he be so naïve? Here is another example of how Cousin Matthew is not very smart (or the writers just don’t allow him to be) even though he is a college educated, practicing attorney! Now he is surprised to learn that the estate is being mismanaged? It appears that it has been happening for generations: first when the current Earl of Grantham’s father needed to shore up the estate by having his son marry an American heiress, and recently by the bit of foreshadowing after Lord Grantham lost the family fortune on the one shot railroad deal in Canada, and then brushed off concerned comments by his attorney about how things should be done differently with the estate. Change will be difficult for everyone as the plot powers up for more crises.

This episode in definitely a bridge to new conflicts. Despite the questionable efforts of its inhabitants, Downton still stands!

Further reading:

Images courtesy © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE; text © Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com