Downton Abbey series 6 episode 6 recap: coups, kisses and commoners

Henry Talbot makes his move, the Dowager Countess is dethroned and the Abbey opens its doors - it’s all here in our terribly comprehensive recap

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A sickly-looking Robert is back at the Abbey. He’s stopped spitting up blood and is propped up on pillows but this hospital drama is far from put to bed. One burst ulcer hasn’t changed anyone’s mind on the matter.

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The battle continues and the Crawleys have even decided to open Downton Abbey for the day to raise money for Clarkson’s Cottage Hospital (and to let the poor folk see how the other half live.)

Robert thinks it’s “crackers”, but posters and flyers have already been distributed around town. HRH Mary has wasted no time taking all important decision-making off her papa.

Downstairs, Carson is grumbling too. He’s worried commoners will poke, pry and stuff the odd first edition down their trousers. Bates agrees. It can only lead to rebellion and discontent. “The next thing you know there’s a guillotine in Trafalgar Square,” Carson splutters, grabbing his walking stick to whack any offending paupers.

Across town, the Dowager Countess is perfectly perplexed by the whole affair. The Abbey is “ordinary,” after all. What are they coming to see? “Roll up, roll up. Visit an actual dining room complete with a real life table and chairs!” she jeers.

Meanwhile Carson’s sneaking a snifter of wine to bedbound Robert. But he’s being sensible both medically – burst ulcers don’t go well with a robust red – and financially. He’s settled on simplifying staff. Downton might have cut down on maids and stable boys, but two footmen and an under butler is just excessive. It’s bad news for Thomas who holds the offending, dispensable title: “a post that is fragrant with memories of a lost world.”

Anna is feeling peaky and Bates insists she sees the fancy London doctor. He’ll pay if Mary won’t. He has savings apparently, presumably acquired by nefarious means. Luckily, Mary’s up for a trip to London. She feels like a “medium smart” jaunt in the Big Smoke and plans to surprise Henry Talbot at a dinner with Evelyn Napier (dragged out for his annual play for Mary’s affections.) Branson is dared to come with her and agrees.

Back to the hospital drama and Clarkson has received a letter from the board of governors. Finally, change has come. The village hospital will be combined with York. Clarkson and Isobel will retain their positions – so far so good – but they also want to offer the role of president to Cora, with the DC being “allowed to step down after so many years of noble service.” The victorious team should be celebrating their win, but instead they are petrified. “Golly. They’ve sacked the captain,” gasps a pale Cora.

They decide to keep shtum until the dethroning has been made official. None the wiser, Violet visits the Abbey. She predicts smugly (and incorrectly) Robert’s bloody scene will have changed minds over the hospital, and smiles serenely, promising to be magnanimous in victory while Cora and Robert squirm.

Carson decides it’s high time to test Hughes’ breakfast cooking skills. He’s concerned her coffee won’t be up to par – and has some other concerns about her wifely performance thus far too. “I want to start bringing things a little more up to standard,” he says, suggesting the hall boy comes down to help Hughes with the polishing and a maid helps her learn to make the beds properly. Married life, eh? 

Down in London Mary is contemplating dressing herself. Anna has been an age at the doctor’s but it’s good news. She’s suffering from standard pregnancy pain. It’s something to do with ligaments and nothing to worry about.

After the surprise and a delightful dinner with society’s finest singletons, Henry says he’ll walk Mary home. “You’re a darling,” she sighs to the evening’s organiser Evelyn Napier, kissing him on the cheek and smashing his heart into a thousand tiny pieces for the umpteenth time.

Wandering back to Rosamund’s, Mary reveals the real reason she hates the car racing: Matthew and his untimely demise at the wheel of an automobile. Henry is sympathetic but their heart-to-heart is cut short when the heavens open. He steers Mary into a nearby alleyway where they kiss passionately. Henry then breaks all early dating rules and immediately implies he’s trying to make her his wife. But she doesn’t seem to mind. “This is moving much faster than I’d imagined,” she swoons.

Back at Downton, Moseley is organising Daisy’s exams. She’ll need a whole day off to sit six separate exam papers (cripes!) He’s terribly excited and his enthusiasm is noted. “I like your respect for education,” says the schoolmaster. And Moseley himself is invited to take an exam to assess whether a future at the school would be appropriate for him…

Edith’s Bertie – whom Mary has branded “boring to an Olympic degree” – is walking to Downton, suitcases in hand. Edith meets him on the drive and the pair kiss. “It feels so automatic,” gushes Edith. Romance isn’t dead.

In other matters of the heart, Lord Merton drops by Isobel’s unannounced with horrid Larry’s new fiancé – who is there to call a truce – and Daisy and Patmore come to blows over Mr Mason. “I don’t understand why you can’t just leave him alone,” Daisy snaps. 

The day of the Open House has arrived and crowds of commoners have appeared on the lawn. Bertie says someone needs to tell the visitors about the house, but it turns out their librarian (they have a librarian?!) is the only one who knows anything about the place. They’ll have to fake it.

“They were all rather marvellous and sort-of living that life,” says Edith unhelpfully when one guest asks about the people in a portrait while Cora is quizzed over architects and painters she knows nothing about.

Violet arrives half way through to berate Cora for her disloyalty. The unhappy letter from York has arrived and she’s an-gry. And also not ashamed to make a scene. She parts the crowds dramatically and heads upstairs to let Robert have it. “I do not wish to see Cora’s face until I am used to having a traitor in the family,” she spits.

Downstairs, more dramas are unfolding. Patmore’s B&B is finished and ready to receive guests. She’s even installed a phone in the house for bookings. “My my, well you’re blazing a trail now!” breathes Hughes. Baxter’s chap in prison has sent her a letter asking her to visit and Andy’s reading lessons have begun, but are already causing waves. 

Patmore overhears Thomas whispering “My room or yours?” in the hallway while Carson spies Andy creeping out of the under butler’s room in the dead of night. It’s highly suspicious. There’s a confrontation and an already unhappy Thomas is left sobbing alone in the servants hall.

“Golly moses!” shouts Robert when he hears how much the Open House has raised. “I don’t suppose we could open the house on a regular basis?” wonders Branson. It would solve a lot of their financial woes. “At the moment it doesn’t raise a penny towards washing its own face…”

Robert is aghast – “What a revolting suggestion” – but the family can’t help but ponder their dwindling way of life.

Mary, however, baulks at the very thought. “This is weakling talk! Thankfully George and I are made of sterner stuff than the lot of you. And we are not going anywhere.”

So that’s them told.

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Downton Abbey continues on Sunday at 9:00pm on ITV