(Series 3, ep.8) The annual House v Village cricket match was a hot topic in the final episode of the series, and who was chosen – or agreed – to play was a key indicator of who was in and who was out.
For most of the episode it looked like Thomas would be very much out. Out of Downton altogether, that is, and possibly even out of the country (India and America were mentioned at various points). But not out of the closet, because as far as most of the members of the household were concerned he was never in. This didn’t stop O’Brien from being able to whip young Jimmy into a frenzy of homophobic fury, leading him to demand that Thomas was let go without any references, otherwise he, Young Jimmy, would go to the police and tell them exactly what kind of man he was.
It was interesting that most of the other members of the household were fairly cool about Thomas’s sexuality. Even Lord Grantham, hardly a beacon of liberal thinking, was pretty comfortable with it, having spent his years at Eton apparently besieged by boys wanting to kiss him. I admit I spent the rest of the episode trying to imagine that and failing, but never mind. It was a testament to Rob James-Collier’s acting that Thomas finally became a sympathetic character – partly because we hopefully now live in more enlightened times, but largely because when things aren’t going Thomas’s way is when he shows his humanity and a grace that he lacks when he’s feeling smug and superior.
An unlikely champion emerged in the form of Mr Bates, the man with no first name (I know it’s John, but even his wife calls him “Mr Bates”), who applied pressure on O’Brien to apply pressure on Jimmy, by uttering the magic words, “Her Ladyship’s soap.” So it looks as though Thomas will be staying, which was just as well because he’s pretty useful at cricket.
Cricket also symbolised Tom’s decision to accept life at Downton. Not only did he join the cricket team, but he’s going to continue living there with Baby Sybil. Will Baby Sybil have a little cousin to play with as she grows up? Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley spent the episode privately fretting about their fertility issues and ended up bumping into each other at the same private clinic. Poor Matthew had been worrying that his temporary paralysis might have permanently affected his Manly Prowess, but it turned out that Lady Mary had had a little operation to sort her tubes out a couple of weeks ago and there’s no reason why they won’t have a little crawling Crawley very soon. In fact, I’m expecting an announcement in the Christmas episode.
A flighty young cousin we haven’t heard about before was parachuted in to cause a minor scandal when she was found to be having an affair with a married man. This foreshadowed a bit of a dilemma for unlucky-in-love Lady Edith, who discovered that her latest admirer, her editor at the newspaper she writes for, was already married. His wife is technically a “lunatic” and lives in an asylum, but he’s not legally able to divorce her. This will be just one more thing for Lord Grantham to get shouty and sulky (he’s a terrible sulker) about in the next series.
The best line of the episode came, as usual, from the Dowager. In answer to speculation that the only contact she’d had with her children when they were small was to spend an hour with them after tea when they were all spruced up and starched, she gave one of her trademark withering looks. “Yes,” she agreed, “But it was every day.”
Oh, I’m going to miss Downton.
Posted by PLA (other Downton-related blog posts here)