'Downton Abbey' recap, Branson's revolutionary war

  • Tom Branson lets out a good cry.
Tom Branson lets out a good cry. (Screengrab via ITV )
January 20, 2013|By Jordan Bartel, assistant editor, b

What better time than a Crawley dinner with the Archbishop of York for Branson to get all revolutionary and escape to Downton?

Loved the transition here. Robert is talking to the archbishop about Catholics and admits that he's anti-Catholic. "There always seems to be something of Johnny Foreigner about the Catholics."

And bam — next shot is Sybil running through the rain, making a frantic, cryptic call to Edith: "I have no time to talk, but tell them I'm all right. I'm out of the flat. They haven't stopped me."

Man, Ireland seems rough. Moments later, there's a bang on the door and it's Branson. Not sure how he got to Downton from Dublin — and in the rain! — but he explains that a bunch of revolutionaries have burned down the house of an aristocratic family in Dublin (oh no, the Irish version of the Crawleys!) and he was there.

The Dowager Countess laughs off the news — "That house was hideous," she says — but Robert isn't in a laughing mood. Turns out that Branson left Sybil behind and ran away, though he insists his pregnant — a reminder ... pregnant! — wife was not involved with the whole house burning thing.

"You abandon a pregnant woman!" Robert yells. He has a point. And it's difficult to imagine our kind-hearted Branson being an arsonist. He claims that once he saw the family "turned out" and the children crying, etc., he had a change of heart. Branson, did it not occur to you that a family was living there?

Either way, Branson goes to bed crying as Robert prepares to head to London to try to get this sorted out. Man has serious connections. The next morning, there's another family meeting, and while Robert agrees to help Branson stay out of prison, he adds, "What a harsh world you live in."

"We all live in a harsh world, but at least I know I do," is Branson's reply.

it takes awhile, but Sybil arrives at Downton and she and Tom embrace and kiss as the camera pans around them in circles, which sort of makes me dizzy. Sybil later explains tot he fam that it was their plan all along to separate if something like this happened.

"They didn't try to stop me, but it doesn't mean they won't come after us," Sybil says very matter-of-factly. Despite all the drama, Sybil insists that Tom wants the baby to be born in Dublin and Mary, all aghast — can only show sympathy for those poor people burned out of their ... castle.

Later, Robert arrives from London securing a deal for Branson: If he goes back to Ireland, they will put him in prison, but if he stays in Downton, they'll leave him alone. Turns out Branson failed to tell Sybil that he was at meetings where the attacks were planned.

"I can't stay away from Ireland!" Branson says. Dude, your wife is pregnant. You will go to prison. Stay put and let Mrs. Patmore make you a nice Irish stew or something.

Finally, Sybil puts her foot (gently, soft-spokenly) down and tells her husband that, "We need peace and safety. Downton can offer us both."

It appears they'll be staying — for now. I can't help but thinking that I'd love to see police storm Downton and face off with the Dowager Countess. Perhaps she'll beat them off with her sturdy cane?

Ugh, more Ethel

After two episodes of Ethel not being able to physically speak to Isobel Crawley about ... something ... she decides to have Mrs. Crawley forward a letter to Mrs. Hughes.

This is getting tedious. I don't mean to not care, but, well, I'm pretty bored by the Ethel subplot. Even with the had-a-baby-with-a-visiting-soldier-at-Downton plot, she was never that interesting.

Still, we hear that she wants Mrs. Hughes to write to her baby's grandparents, the Bryants, again. Even Mrs. Bird can't stand her; Isobel's housekeeper won't even give Ethel her coat. Sure, that has more to do with the fact that Ethel's now, you know, a prostitute. But a little part of me believes Mrs. Bird's tired of this subplot as well.

So Ethel and her cute (if dirty. Seriously wipe his face for a second) son visit the Bryants, and we learn that Mr. Bryant has had her followed and knows all about her occupation. "I judge her and I find her wanting," he says. Which, I believe, is 1920s upper-crust speak for "You're nothing but a ho." Still, the Bryants offer Ethel some cash.

She turns them down. Saying she doesn't think the money will be enough, she says her son deserves a better life, with good schools, Downton-like surroundings, etc. So she gives him up, cries, etc.

"I'll never see my son again," she says. True. Possibly. I don't know. Blah.

New blood

Now that Matthew has devoted his fortune to Downton, it's time to hire some new staff! Because that should be the first order of business — not trying to help Downton make money but spend more. Matthew has been pouring over the books and sees lots of mismanagement, but when he brings it up to Robert, he quickly turns the subject in such a way that suggests, "I ain't gonna change my Downton ways, darn it!"

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