Branson abandons Sybil, Anna thinks Bates wants her to move on, and Carson hires a hot new footman

By Denise Warner
Updated January 21, 2013 at 03:01 AM EST
Sybil Branson Kiss
Credit: PBS

No, this week’s Downton has nothing to do with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend. But it might have been better if it had. To me, this hour felt like a filler after the Matthew-Mary wedding/Shirley MacLaine/jilted-Edith/Downton-saving drama of late. Nonetheless, Branson and Sybil provide some intrigue, although it ultimately proved he’s still a complete jerk. Meanwhile, Anna believes Bates is ignoring her, and Bates thinks Anna is ignoring him. Sigh. At least Carson hires a sexy new footman, who makes all the ladies downstairs, and Thomas, swoon.

Edith receives a mysterious phone call from her sister in Ireland before the Crawleys’ big dinner with the Archbishop. “I’ve no time to talk, but tell them I’m all right. I’m out of the flat. They haven’t stopped me,” Sybil explains. “Who hasn’t stopped you?” Edith asks, but Sybil hangs up before answering. Edith tells Cora and Mary of the call, leaving all the ladies a bit perplexed.

Then, during the dinner, there’s a loud knock on the front door. It’s Tom! Mary rushes to greet her brother-in-law and inquires after her sister, who is clearly not with her husband. Tom’s cowardice comes out in his explanation. “I had to get away and leave her to follow.” That’s right, he left his pregnant wife while he ran away. (Later, Robert will be appropriately angry about the situation.)

Mary returns to the table and tells everyone that it was just an “idiotic man trying to deliver a pamphlet” — a description that suits Tom perfectly. After the Archbishop and other guest leave, Tom spins his story to his in-laws. Basically, the police think he helped burn down an Irish castle and now he’s on the lam. Oh yeah, and the police might have Sybil. If they do, Tom says, he’s ready to go back in exchange for her freedom. Robert gets red in the face and yells a lot, admonishing Tom and telling him to “go to bed.”

The next day, Robert travels to London to fix the situation in the only way an Earl can. In the meantime, Sybil arrives at Downton unharmed and she and Tom share a passionate, yet undeserved on his part, kiss.

Back from London, the Earl informs his family that Tom was a bit more involved with the Irish protests that he had let on, which angers Sybil. The Earl also tells them that Tom can never go back to Ireland, lest he go to prison. That night, in bed, Sybil and Tom argue. She wants to stay at Downton to give birth. He wants to be a brat about everything. They kiss again. Someone explain to me why she married him.

NEXT: Wait a minute, Mr. Postman

The Bates and Anna saga continues. Down in the servants’ hall, Anna is absolutely heartbroken as Carson hands out the mail. “Nothing for me, Mr. Carson?” “No Anna, once again, there’s nothing for you.” Come on Carson, you could be a little bit nicer about it. Her husband is in jail. Then we fade to the prison, and — not surprisingly — there’s nothing for Bates in the post, either. Something’s afoot!

Anna’s dismay over not hearing for Bates keeps her from being properly excited over her promotion to lady’s maid. “I haven’t had a letter from Mr. Bates in weeks. I worry, I worry that he’s being gallant and trying to set me free. He wants me to make a new life without him,” she tells Mrs. Hughes. “I doubt it very much,” she replies, and convinces Anna that there is a good reason for the radio silence.

As it turns out, Bates’ cellmate Craig conspired with the guards and reported Bates as a violent prisoner — meaning, he couldn’t send or receive letters, and no one could come to visit. “Thank God, what a relief,” Bates says when his prison friend tells him this news. “Don’t thank God until you know what else they’ve got in store for you,” his informant warns. (I must note that Bates is a bit of a violent prisoner. He did threaten Craig with physical force two episodes ago, right?)

Bates turns the tables on Craig by planting something in his bunk that the guards easily find. (Was it drugs?) At any rate, Bates privileges are re-instated — he’s back “in favor” now — and both he and Anna receive a stack of letters from each other. All is right with the world.

NEXT: Matthew apparently didn’t get the memo about spinsters and breakfast

As for the rest of the members of the household, here’s how they fared this week.

Edith: Matthew questions why she comes downstairs for breakfast, when her sister and her mother don’t. “Because I’m not married,” Edith replies tersely. Matthew, has life at Downton taught you nothing? It’s at breakfast, though, when Lord Grantham mentions that every woman in America will be granted the right to vote soon. (The 19th amendment was ratified in the States in 1920, and at the time in England, only women over 30 who were either graduates of university, married to members of the Local Government Register, or members themselves could vote.) Edith voices her opinion on the subject, and Matthew encourages her to write to the Times. She does, the letter gets printed, and the Crawleys have another budding “journalist” in the family.

Matthew and Mary: First Mary wants him to be involved with the economic welfare of the estate. Then, when Mathew shows an interest, she becomes angry with him. Women, am I right? He appeals to the Dowager Countess with the news that Downton is being mismanaged and he’s worried. Mo money, mo problems, as they say.

Ethel: Remember last season when she had the soldier’s baby, Charlie? Then the soldier died, and his parents — the Bryants — offered to take the child and she refused. However, after turning into a prostitute and struggling to care for Charlie, Ethel comes to the realization that his grandparents could give him a better life. Mrs. Hughes and Isobel act as go-betweens, and Ethel ends up handing her son over to Mr. and Mrs. Bryant. “I give you my blessings for your whole life long, my darling boy,” she tells Charlie as her parting words. Try not to tear up now, just try.

The new staff: Due to Matthew’s investment, Lord Grantham allows Carson to hire a few more servants. Jimmy Kent, the new footman, is so good looking that even Mrs. Hughes is affected. And just as Daisy is about to confess her feelings to Alfred, Mrs. Patmore introduces the new kitchen maid, Ivy Stuart. Ivy catches Alfred’s eye immediately, upsetting Daisy and souring her toward the girl. Romantic intrigue, all around!

And now for the Dowager Countess’ best quotes:

A guinea? For a bottle of scent? Did he have a mask and a gun?

Edith, dear. You’re a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do.

No family is ever what it seems from the outside.

What do you mean you wrote to a newspaper? No lady writes to a newspaper.

He looks like a footman in a musical revue.

I think I can safely say a great many noses will be out of joint.

Until next week, fellow Downton Abbey lovers!

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