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"We all live in a harsh world, but at least I know I do" -Tom Branson
Although there have always been obvious class distinctions on Downton Abbey, there are even greater tensions between the haves and have nots playing out this week. Branson shows up at the house in the middle of an important dinner with an archbishop, and when Mary answers the door he tells her doesn't want anyone else to know he has arrived so unexpectedly. Turns out, Branson is in a bit of trouble for plotting with Irish revolutionaries to burn down an old castle and then showing up at the scene of the crime. He says he felt incredibly guilty after seeing the family he left homeless, but Lord Grantham isn't at all happy about having to try to clear his name. The rest of the family is more concerned about the fact that Branson left pregnant Sybill to fight off the police as he ran for hiding. Fortunately, Lord Grantham manages to smooth things over for Sybil's sake, and as long as Branson doesn't go back to Ireland, he won't be arrested. It remains to be seen how long restless Branson will be able to stay away from his home, but by the end of the episode Sybil had found her way back home and the two were safe at Downton.
Ethel finally finds the courage to reach out to Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Crawley, and admits that she wants to give up her son Charlie to his grandparents in hopes of a better life. Mrs. Crawley tries many times to persuade Ethel to keep her son, saying her love and affection will be enough, but it appears as if she is unfamiliar with the true challenges faced by the lower class. A meeting is arranged between Ethel and the grandparents, and rather than accept their monetary support Ethel sends Charlie away with them.
Meanwhile, Bates is facing his own class hierarchies unique to the prison system. His cellmate Craig is in cahoots with one of the guards selling drugs. At first, both Anna and Bates are confused as to why they are no longer receiving letters from one another, and both are worried that the other has given up hope. It turns out, thanks to his cellmate's finagling, Bates has been labeled a 'dangerous prisoner' and isn't allowed visitors or letters. With the help of a fellow prisoner Bates manages to hide a mysterious package in his cellmate's bed and get him in trouble - for the time being he is out of his hair. Bates and Anna finally receive a pile of letters from one another after Bates is removed from the watch list.
Edith is still reeling from her traumatic wedding-that-never-was, and asks Cousin Violet for advice on what to do. The Dowager tells Edith to stop feeling sorry for herself and find something to occupy her time. Edith ends up writing a letter to the paper advocating for women's suffrage in England. She is surprised when the letter is published; met with support from Branson and Matthew and grumpiness from her father.
Lord Grantham is certainly clinging to the old days - he is upset about Branson's presence in the family, argues with Edith about the changing voting laws, and doesn't want to hear Matthew's concerns about Downton Abbey. Matthew, now that he is part owner, has looked into the books and discovered that Downton is being mismanaged. However, when he tries to bring up his concerns with Lord Grantham he is brushed aside. It remains to be seen how the sensitive subject will be raised in the future.
In more lighthearted fare, two new staff members and a new appliance are introduced this week. Jimmy (or James) Kent is hired as a new footman, and with his dashing good looks brings some excitement to the house. Daisy finally gets the kitchen assistant she has been after, but when Alfred pays the new girl some attention she becomes upset about the extra set of hands. Finally, always holding on to tradition, Carson is appalled to find Mrs. Hughes has bought an electric toaster to experiment with.
Changes have arrived at Downton, and the developments over the course of the season are sure to bring more dirty looks from Carson and Lord Grantham alike. Much to their disappointment, even Downton can't escape the passing of time and the societal developments that come with it.