Welcome, readers and children, and gather round the fire! Snuggle yourselves upon the hearth as we recount to this week's episode of A Downton Carol! Our favorite British sitcom family was on the receiving end of a lot of ghoulish life lessons last night -- lessons about the poisons of lust, power and vanity! Lend us your ears.
In this episode, it was ordained that Thomas Barrow would be visited by three ghosts who would reveal much about his terrestrial path. Take that back, it's just one ghost, and this ghost happens to look a lot like Sarah O'Brien, lady's maid and chief docent of the Secret Order of Pickle-Faced People. As a very rude and mean person, O'Brien's chilly tides have turned against Thomas in recent days. For starters, he's on bad terms with her nephew, old Cheetoh-haired Alfred. Also, Thomas used to be cool in a kind of Regina George type way, but he's just been, well, kind of a dumb asshat recently? Worst of all, he pissed off his biggest former ally. Let's remember that this is a woman who once killed an unborn baby. O'Brien's familiar with his slippery ways and she knows that he's got a little secret. A little crush, maybe? On -- oh, I don't know, a certain FLOPSY HAIRED FOOTMAN? Perhaps one whose name may or may not rhyme with "Shmames 'Shmimmy' Shment?"
Ghostly O'Brien convinces Thomas' that he needs to put a move on Jimmy, that this will somehow work out extremely well. OK? But that gets forgotten quickly, because Bates is back. FINALLY. This house has really gone to crap since he left. Everyone is overjoyed, except for Thomas, who's like "Ummmm... anyone gonna talk about how awkward this is?" Molesley brings it up. Oh Molesley! Always keen for a jolly. In related news, there's a movie playing in town. Alfred, Daisy and Ivy all want to go. Ivy's making a play for Jimmy's affections and Alfred's calling her bluff: "Ivy, don't you get that he doesn't know you're alive?" Ivy: "HE DOES LOVE ME." K, Ivy. Alfred: "Welcome to the incorporate town of Friendzone, population: you."
Speaking of the devil, Jimmy Kent's stirring up trouble as per usual. Carson despises it. At dinner he puts Jimmy on sauce duty and Alfred on meat duty. Ha! It seems things could work out for ol' Cheez Doodle Alfred yet. Jimmy's all "Carson hates me, he likes Alfred more!" Well duh, James. Maybe if you weren't so afraid of breaking a nail or sweating in your cashmere underthings you'd be the one winning all the Employee of the Month awards.
Back upstairs, Edith is telling everyone about her new possible gig as a journalist! She's got to be on the 10 a.m. train to London. Bob's like "wait a tick! Aren't you a woman? Women don't work!" Real quick to the chase, Bob. Granny actually comes to Edith's rescue, though it more or less ends as an insult. "Edith's not getting any younger." Code, of course, for "Edith's only major plotline is her altar jilting and she has the nose of a thoroughbred stallion. Dear god, let her have a nice moment of pretend achievement." Looks like Edith 'special snowflake' Crawley will be on that 10 a.m. train to London yet.
BTW, Granny is full of do-gooding this episode. Not only does she back-hand compliment Edith, but she also realizes Ethel's life sucks and puts an ad in the paper for her to find a new job. Can it be? Can the Dowager's heart be softening? I grow concerned. Anyway, Isobel is in denial about how unhappy Ethel is. As it turns out, she's miserable. Maybe a new job could be a nice new change, just the thing needed to makeover Ethel's life. Like getting bangs! Or buying new bedroom furniture!
After the evening's dinner, Thomas sojourns to his room, where he considers O'Brien's suggestion about hitting on Jimmy. How he wishes Jimmy would but come to him! He can imagine it right now: A knock at the door. "Whatcha doin, Thomas?" Thomas: "Um... nothing! I'm just being in my room!" but really he's cruising OkCupid, trying to find someone to love him for just a minute or two out of his shitty, sad little life. He opens the door and his heart leaps when he sees Jimmy. Sweet, decadent nymphet Jimmy, beholder of mind-slaying beauty, heralder of romantic witchcraft, bearer of intoxicating forbidden fruits. Thomas is like "welcome to my adventurous underground psychosexual lair, er, I mean, my humble living quarters! Not much but it's home. Coriander tea biscuit?" To which Jimmy responds, "Cut the BS, Tom. we both know why I'm here. It's to take back my tinted lip balm which we both know you took! No, but really, I'm here to confront you about your latent homosexuality and the passive-aggressive come-ons you've been word-vomiting every time we're in the same room. It's getting uncomfortable, and TBH I'm considering talking to HR about it. This sort of stuff is definitely not approved conduct pursuant to section 6, paragraph 3, subclause C of the Downton Corporation's employee handbook. Also I was for real about the lip balm, I need that back." And then he plucks that lip balm straight out of Thomas' grimey little hands and vanishes in a puff of Evian spray.
But it didn't go like that. How it went was that Thomas instead visited JIMMY'S room, where -- overcome with emotion and lust -- he was about to lay a sweet kiss on Jimmy's perfect bowtie mouth when all of a sudden Jimmy wakes up, screams and him, and the whole thing is witnessed by Alfred the pumpkin head, who was tipped off by O'Brien. GREAT. Woe, thy name is Thomas. I do feel bad for him. He's so alone and tragic and lovesick. He may be a terrible person 85 percent of the time but it's nice to see he does have a tiny, pinched little heart somewhere in that Grinch-y body.
At breakfast the next day it's hella tense. Alfred/Thomas/Jimmy (who could really form a Josie and the Pussycats cover band) are all bickering about what happened last night. Jimmy tries pathetically to assert his masculinity by hitting on Ivy. Nice try, Jimbo. Alfred confides in O'Brien, who tells him to go straight to Carson, who's sure to sack both of them. Alfred goes and cries to Carson, who reams Thomas out, but it doesn't really have the horrendous affect he was hoping for. Oh Alfred. When you tattle, nobody wins.
Edith goes to the big city to meet with a slick newspaper editor. he asks her to lunch and she agrees. She shows up in a big straw hat, orange dress, and costume jewelry. She looks like a lady who enjoys gardening, pottery, and educational television. I believe Edith will live the longest of all the Crawley girls. She will end up exactly like Rose Dewitt Bucator in Titanic, making pinch pots in her granddaughter's Bay Area apartment at the age of 100, having lived her last 50 years without having sexual intercourse a single time. Anyway, yay for you, Edith. You're living the dream one giant clay statement necklace at a time. Never change.
At home, 'Call Me Tom' Branson's brother has arrived and BOY, is he ever a firecracker. He's kind of a fun drunk and you can already tell he's going to let loose with a series of goofy hijinks that will really stir up this uptight, by-the-book family! Speaking of the Bransons, Cora and Bob decide to hire Tom on as the estate's manager, after Matthew's horrible know-it-all attitude alienates Mr. Jarvis so much that he ups and quits.
Oh, Matthew. When did you turn into your father in law? Matthew has been insistent about revamping the estate to make it profitable. Bob's like "This is a bad ideaaaaaa! We don't need to." To which Matthew says, "Bob, you are seriously wrong. This whole place is running on your wife's money. Please for the love of god, get a job." And then Bob harumphed and stomped off, probably to sulk and go make Carson play checkers with him. Matthew, natch, complains to Mary. Mary is very bad at being sympathetic, but she does a decent job at half-trying. "There there, pet. It... OK. Don't be cry." Mary and Matthew, Ugh, I do not want to think about the two of them sleeping together. Like two glue sticks rubbing together.
Tom prevails on his goal of baptizing Baby Sybil Part II as Catholic. It's a lovely ceremony, except for the part where Bob held the baby as if it were a non-Protestant alien. Then they all take a nice family portrait. Cheese! Aw, you Crawleys. At the end of the day, still family. Right?? And then the Family Matters theme song rolls, as the sun sets over Ripon, just an average British town full of honest working folks just like you.
Tune in later for Part II of last night's double-episode of "Full House: The Downton Years," where we'll discuss more nutty adventures of America's favorite TV family.
Follow Hannah VanderPoel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HanVanderPoel