'Downton Abbey' recap, Branson's revolutionary war

Tom Branson lets out a good cry.
Tom Branson lets out a good cry. (Screengrab via ITV)

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!"

Oh well. The new staff is at least interesting. We meet the new footman, the ridiculously handsome Jimmy Kent (who looks like Simon Baker's younger brother). Mary urges Carson to pick him because it will "cheer us up a bit. Alfred looks like a puppy who has been rescued from a puddle."

Oh, Mary! Making fun of the servants is such fun! Alfred's not as handsome as the rest of us!

Despite him disapproving when Carson insists he be called James now, Jimmy seems to equip himself well. Thomas, of course, takes notice of Jimmy and actually offers to help him ... with anything he needs. Wink Wink. O'Brien picks up on this and starts planting the seed in Thomas' head about how awesome Jimmy is. She's up to no good, right? Right. It's Mrs. O'Brien.

We also meet the new kitchen maid, Ivy, who immediately grabs Alfred's attention — much to the dismay of Daisy who was thisclose to telling Alfred how much she liked him. Sure, Daisy. Like that would happen.

Mr. and Mrs. Bates

Anna spent most of this episode super-sad, which is not pleasant to watch. She hasn't been getting any letters from Bates and is being denied visitation, which makes her think Bates is trying to "set her free."

Bates wouldn't do that, would he? Nope. Turns out that after the whole debacle with him hiding the drugs of his cell mate, he's on the Scary British Prison bad list. One of the guards is in cahoots with his drug-dealing snarly cell mate, so they're holding the mail and such. Which is better than beating him, I guess.

So he hatches a plan with another prisoner to set up his cell mate's drugs to be discovered by one of the honest guards. He's rewarded by finally getting a packet of Anna's letters. Anna gets a bunch of his, too.

The cutest scene: watching Bates, alone in his sad cell, laugh and smile as he pours through Anna's letters. At the same time, we see Anna cry tears of joy reading his letters alone in her room.

These two are the best.


And Edith ... does something


Ah, Edith. The jilted shall move on! She appears at breakfast with the men of the house and learns Americans are about to give women the right to vote.

When she suggests she'll write to the editor of the London Times about female equality, Robert suggests she, instead, talk with her mother about what's on the menu for dinner that night. Ouch.

Edith is now trying to occupy her time with running errands for her grandmother, who is done with her granddaughter's whining (now she's done?)

"You must find something to put your mind to" the Dowager urges.

"What, gardening?" is Edith's offer.

"No you can't be as desperate as that," the Dowager says. "You're a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do."

Yes, please. So Edith decides that her "something to do" will be writing that letter to the Times — and they publish it!

"Earl's daughter speaks out for women's rights!" Robert says angrily, reading the headline.

Carson doesn't approve either. But it seems like Edith might have a journalism career in her future. Or perhaps she'll garden.

More highlights from Season 3, Episode 3

Best line from the Dowager Countess: "No lady writes for a newspaper."

Most confusing stance: Branson says that "I was always against personal violence. I swear it." But arson? OK!

Wonder how he feels about butter and jam: Carson does NOT approve of Mrs. Hughes newfangled toaster. Sure, she almost burns down Downton, but ... fast toast!

Most obvious display of attraction: Thomas walks by Jimmy as he's changing shirts ... and immediately starts to smile as wide as we've ever seen him smile.

Line that seems like it should belong on a movie poster: "No family is ever what it seems from the outside" — Dowager Countess

A serious amount of spoons: Carson goes over spoons with Alfred. In order: teaspoon, egg spoon, melon spoon, grapefruit spoon, jam spoon and bouillon spoon. What, exactly, is the difference between a melon spoon and a grapefruit spoon? Discuss.

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