Downton series 6 episode 3 recap: bullies, criminals and wedding bells

Edith sacks her editor, Branson returns, Spratt attracts suspicion and Carson and Mrs Hughes say 'I do'

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There are mere days until Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes are set to say ‘I do’. The wedding night is sorted, but Hughes isn’t terribly excited about her impending nuptials. It seems the duo’s disagreement over a reception venue has marred the occasion…

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She’s muttering about posh folks’ parties and nibbly canapés that get stuck in your teeth. She’s even rebelling against her fancy soiree by refusing to purchase a new wedding dress. She’ll grace the Grand Hall in an old brown day dress, she says steadfastly. Mrs Patmore isn’t convinced and secretly orders her a new frock from a catalogue.

Upstairs, Violet is still going on about the darned hospital. Things moved slower in the olden days, you see. She’s popped over to tell Robert that he isn’t being sensible, that Cora is confused and that she is right, always is. In addition, Robert and Cora have been – heavens above – talking to each other and she really wishes they wouldn’t. It messes with her plan for total Downton domination. 

Anna and Mary gossip in her bedroom. Mr Branson’s sent Mary a rather sad note about his dreams and his eyes being filled with tears. He’s obviously distressed. She simply must reply straightaway, she says. Or at least soon. After the wedding maybe?

Anna confides that she might be pregnant again and Mary enthusiastically compliments Mr Bates’ virality. “Lord knows the problem isn’t Bates!” she shouts. 

Later, Mrs Patmore meddles a little more in the Carsons’ wedding. Her and Cora are finalising menus in the kitchen – brandied pears and the like – and Mrs Hughes’ official spokesperson takes the opportunity to raise concerns about the upcoming wedding. Its reception venue in particular. 

Cora then decides it’s her turn to get involved, asking Hughes and Carson to join the family in the drawing room after dinner. Cora coaxes and Hughes admits she doesn’t want to get married in the Grand Hall. She wants a sit down dinner, music, dancing, a bit of a hooley. Cora understands and a new venue is selected, while Mary – “Does anyone have a sit down wedding breakfast anymore?” – is visibly repulsed at the thought of having to attend a party at the school house. Cora calls her a bully and Mary calls Cora a snob. There’s almost a bit of a to-do, until Carson strides back in and they all cease squabbling. 

Edith’s off to London to try to calm her editor again. Violet worries aloud about whether it’s proper for a young woman to be alone in her flat. [I look around my darkened, empty living room and feel rather chided.]

While sauntering through an alleyway, as young ladies do when unaccompanied, Edith bumps into Bertie Pelham. She pretends not to recognise him at first. Playing it cool. But when he asks her if she’d like to have a drink with him later and she flushes and says, ‘Yes, why not.’ 

However drinks with Bertie are soon off the table. After another argument with Editor Skinner, Edith sacks him. She’s rather pleased with herself, until ” Crikey! ” she realises she has to get an unfinished magazine to the printers by 4am. Bertie then proves he’s either a keeper – or a terribly lonely fellow – by offering to come and work into the early hours with her, making coffee and carrying bits of paper around. He’s already got this journalism malarkey down to a T…

The night is a success. Bertie says she inspires him and the two look at each others’ lips hungrily, before sipping another cup of coffee. The following day Edith returns to Downton with the proofs of her finished magazine. Robert puffs with fatherly pride while Mary repeatedly rolls her eyes. 

Meanwhile, at the Dower House, Spratt has been innocently organising his stamp collection. He’s terribly excited to be adding the first ever commemorative stamp to his binder. Denker mocks his wholesome pastime until the door bell rings and silences them both. Spratt gets rid of their late-night caller sharpish, looking awfully uncomfortable, so Denker ups her standard Spratt surveillance, snooping as he later sneaks out of the house in the dead of night. 

Her investigation takes a surprising turn the following evening when Sargeant Willis (we know, HIM again) turns up. He’s had an enquiry which concerns Spratt “and a certain Mr Wally Stern.” Wally is Spratt’s “unfortunate nephew”. He’s absconded from York prison and is on the run. Spratt shifts around in his shoes and raises his eyebrows uncontrollably, until Denker steps in to back-up his protestations that Wally hasn’t been in touch. 

It’s all for show though. “After you put him up in the potting shed, did he get away safely?” purrs Denker, as soon as Willis leaves. She finally has something over her domestic nemesis. It’s Denker: 1, Spratt: 0. 

Back at the Abbey, the secret mail-order frock has arrived to replace the “awful” brown one, but it’s not much better. It did seem like a bargain, Patmore forlornly admits, insisting the grey shapeless number looked better in the pictures. Anna takes matters into her own hands, and Lady Mary, kind as always, volunteers one of her mother’s embroidered evening coats.

Cora is none the wiser. She’s been to visit the Royal York hospital before attending yet another medical board meeting. Violet and Clarkson are appalled that she’s ventured behind enemy lines and Isobel loses her cool. Violet accuses Isobel of being drunk and the meeting once again descends into chaos. If I were the Royal York, I’d take over this establishment immediately. 

An angry Cora returns home to find Anna, Mrs Patmore and Mrs Hughes rifling through her embroidered evening coats and snaps. The women disperse, embarrassed and without a wedding outfit. It’s back to brown.

Patmore and Hughes retire to the parlour to sip tea and avoid bumping into the groom-to-be in the corridors. (What a hen party, eh?) Cora soon appears below stairs, coat in hand, metaphorical tail between her legs. Mary has explained about the brown dress. Cora gives Hughes the coat and says she wants her to keep it.

The day of the wedding arrives. Flowers are picked from the greenhouse while Hughes quivers under her single bedsheet and Carson practises his vows. The ladies dress the bride while Moseley, Andy and Thomas become last-minute ushers. 

Charlie Carson and Elsie Hughes say their ‘I do’s. There’s no kissing or hand holding but the pair look pleased as portion of Patmore’s punch.

They head to their reception in the school. There are pies and jellies as far as the eye can see – and no fancy canapes. Just what Hughes wanted. The crowds toast the Bride and Groom. Denker smirks and stalks Spratt around the room, Moseley ponders whether he has wasted his life in service and a familiar face sneaks in through the back door…

It’s Tom Branson. Mary never did get around to writing that letter but it doesn’t matter now. He’s back at Downton for good. “Downton is my home and you are my family,” he finally says. 

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