From there it was a simple matter of Bates getting the full story, grilling Thomas for any secrets he might hold against O'Brien, and then inviting O'Brien to tea in his and Anna's hovel. O'Brien entered the cottage, poised, glassy-eyed and more satanic than ever, accepting tea but not removing her coat. The sudden drop in temperature caused some of the new paintwork around the hearth to crack. O'Brien refused to pressure Jimmy to change his mind until Bates got up and whispered something in her ear, at which point she leapt up and exited faster than Carson intercepting a fish course with a steak knife on it.
Bates thought that had settled that, but the cricket match between the house and the village was looming, and Thomas was to be Downton's star player. His absence, together with that of Branson, who had a note from his doctor saying he was Irish and could he be excused, would leave Lord Grantham with nine men.
It turned out that arguments over the future of the estate and the risk of a gay-slave scandal engulfing the family, not to mention the whole grieving for Sybil thing, were mere trifles in Lord G's mind compared to the pressing task of not losing at cricket to the village oafs. So Plan A, with Thomas slipping away to find work elsewhere, wasn't a goer. Lord G wanted him to stay on. Thomas ended up with a promotion to under-butler, which puts him marginally above Bates in the pecking order and could mean Bates once again having his stick kicked away on the gravel drive.
Most excited about the cricket was Molesley, who regaled everyone who would listen, which was hardly anyone, with his knowledge of the game and all its hidden subtlety and majesty. At one stage he seemed to be trying to show Ivy and Mrs Patmore how to bowl leg spin, the key to his prowess being his firm but tender grip on the ball.
Nobody was fooled, preoccupied as they were with the incomplete information filtering down about Thomas's employment status. Jimmy shouted in Ivy's face when she enquired, which would have been a cheering sight for Alfred were he not sitting broodingly in the corner, thinking about the horrifying sights he'd seen the other night.
Upstairs, the toffs were all off to London. Edith went twice, first to deliver her debut column about the plight of ex-soldiers, a serious subject that her editor, drunk with lust, announced was the work of a "balanced female voice in debate" – a great innovation in the 1920s.
Sensing that this two-armed charmer might be the one, Edith took the precaution of doing background checks. It seems the Glenn Mulcaire of the flapper era was the Daily Telegraph's "information desk": Edith rang them asking for personal info on the Sketch's head honcho and was told he was married. Back she went to the capital to say she wasn't interested in his column, literally or euphemistically – only for the ed to tell her that his wife is in an asylum and can't be divorced. Is this true? We'll find out in series four, because Edith and her editor will surely be an item.