Downton Abbey series three, episode seven review: Edith is hired, Thomas is humiliated

Yet more downstairs shenanigans, plus plenty of scheming among the aristocrats. Catch up with our comprehensive recap!

This week we yet again spent most of our time concerned with matters below stairs, snagged on the complex, many-pronged love pentagon of Alfred, Jimmy, Thomas, Daisy and Ivy. At the end of play, their emotions ranged from eye-rolling, spoon-gripping irritation to career-threatening humiliation.


Pallid gonk-up-a-lamppost Alfred simply cannot be put off from propositioning Ivy in front of everyone, despite her evident preference for the smirking Jimmy – although Jimmy is revealing himself, to us if not yet to Ivy, to be a bit of an ankle-biting sneak. His latest effort to undermine Alfred was playing a trick on him involving spoons, causing Alfred to slop langoustines all over the Dowager Countess. Carson saw straight through this.

Alfred’s invitation to tramp the 35 miles down to the village to see the new Lilian Gish movie was reluctantly accepted by Ivy (Daisy was annoyed by this, but she’s being gradually written out so nobody took any notice) and reluctantly approved by Mrs Hughes, on the condition that they be accompanied by two extras dressed as kitchen staff. On the way back, Ivy told Alfred flat out that he was second choice behind Jimmy, and that his only chance of lifting her apron is to prove Jimmy’s not interested.

Rather than tell Ivy where to stuff it, Alfred swallowed this indignity and set about completing the task – but Jimmy’s attention was elsewhere, as another of O’Brien’s astonishingly basic schemes came off.

Despite his former ally having told him quite clearly the other week that she was going to bring him down to Chinatown, Thomas didn’t smell a rat when O’Brien reported that Jimmy cannot get enough of chain-smoking, Brylcreemed sociopaths, romance-wise. So Thomas chatted Jimmy up with a few textbook moves: saying “I love you” semi-jokingly, observing their similarities, tenderly getting Jimmy to reveal that his family are all dead, etc.

Jimmy remained neutral and went to bed, leaving Thomas alone in the kitchen, flicking through a newspaper and imagining Jimmy in his room, hanging a towel up by the fire, topless. We were helpfully shown this.

Finally Thomas caved and began congress with Jimmy in the normal, accepted manner: sneaking into his room, climbing on top of him and kissing him in his sleep. Just then, Alfred entered, presumably to ask Jimmy to sign an Ivy-shunning affidavit. Jimmy reacted violently – to Thomas, not Alfred, threatening to clock his admirer and chucking everyone out.

Once O’Brien had pressured Alfred into squealing about this to Carson, Thomas’s position in the house was hanging by a thread, and not just because Bates has returned and will probably steal back his old job of removing lint and dandruff from Lord G’s upper back. Thomas looked suicidal. Or maybe murderous.

Upstairs, Lady Edith received a second invitation to become a newspaper columnist, causing further friction between Matthew and Lord G when Matthew told her to go for it. Go for it Edith did, bombing down to London on the ten o’clock train and hitting it off immediately with the twinkly editor. It’s little remarked upon, but Edith basically has a 100% hit rate with blokes: everyone she meets is hot for her within seconds. It’s just that she’s only ever met about five men. Unleashing her on the capital permanently could plunge London into erotic anarchy.

Matthew and Lord G finally faced off over the future of Downton. Matthew thought they should get organised, and got rather aerated about it in a way that briefly threatened to disturb his hair; Lord G and his faithful retainer, Jarvis, thought they should bumble on as usual until Murray, the other faithful retainer, bravely pointed out that Lord G was the latest in a long line of colossal boobies who had gradually run Downton into ruin. Amazingly it wasn’t Murray but Jarvis who left his Lordship’s employ, flouncing out when he didn’t get his way.

Meanwhile, Tom’s cheeky, alcoholic and distressingly Irish brother Kieran arrived to cause moderate havoc, such as ordering beer in the drawing room after dinner. Carson obliged with what looked to be a solid silver tankard filled to the brim with crushed ice, but Kieran’s major influence was to underline the horror awaiting Baby Sybil in Liverpool: living in rooms above a garage. In Liverpool. Surrounded by people from Liverpool.

The Dowager Countess had failed earlier, at least temporarily, with her scheme to help find Ethel employment elsewhere, thus lifting the fug of shame from Crawley House and nearby villagers; Isobel had nixed that, but now Violet roared back into form by suggesting that Tom stay to manage the estate, thus avoiding both derelict outbuildings and a greasy heiress. A happy-ish Catholic christening ensued.

>> Series three, episode six: Ethel causes a stir, Cora bears a grudge