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The double episode of Downton Abbey proved oh-so-dramatic but also refreshingly light-hearted compared to what the audience has come to expect over the course of the third season. That being said, there is much to cover, so let's get to it.
The happy times begin with Bates' return to Downton. He is greeted warmly by everyone except for Thomas, as the two have a troubled past and Thomas has taken over Bates' job while he has been in prison. Lord Grantham tells Bates not to worry and things will get sorted out. In the mean time Bates has time to help Anna smarten up their new home together. It is pretty heartwarming to see the two reunited after their long ordeal apart.
Ms. O'Brien continues her meddling when she tells Thomas she has heard that Jimmy can't stop talking about him. Thomas pretends to not believe her, but his feelings get the better of him and he decides to take action. He goes into Jimmy's room at night when he is asleep and tries to kiss him. Alfred walks in at just the wrong moment, waking Jimmy, startling Thomas, and creating chaos. The three find themselves in an incredibly uncomfortable situation that takes some time to resolve.
First, Carson expresses his extreme distaste of Thomas, saying "I do not wish to take a tour of your revolting world," and tells him that he must leave Downton. Softening slightly later on, he advises Thomas to use Bates' return as an excuse for leaving. With a letter of reference from Carson, Thomas will easily find another job, That would be too easy, however, and Jimmy soon tells Carson that if he writes Thomas a letter he will go to the police about the kissing incident. Of course, this is all due to Ms. O'Brien's insistence that James must protect his honor as a man. She really has it out for Thomas.
Although Bates also has a troubled history with Thomas, he tells Anna he wants to help because he knows what it's like to feel completely powerless. Prison really does change a man, after all. Following a slightly complicated series of events, with help from both Bates and Lord Grantham, Thomas will stay to work at Downton as an under-butler (who knew that was an option) and James will be promoted to first footman. Thanks to the threat of "her ladyship's soap," provided by Thomas and delivered by Bates, Ms. O'Brien ends up having no say in the situation.
In other comings and goings, Edith makes several trips to London while beginning her endeavor as a writer. Her editor is very encouraging about her writing and also appears quite smitten. Edith seems hopeful but cautious about the situation, which is understandable considering her past experience with an older man.
During one of her trips to London, Edith is accompanied by Matthew and young relative Rose, who manages to cause drama by arranging a meeting with a married man at a jazz club. Matthew, who came along on the trip to visit a doctor about potential "problems" with his fertility, tries to quell the impending storm of drama. The Dowager finds out, of course, and manages to play her part in taming young Rose, much to her dismay. As far as fertility troubles go, both Matthew and Mary have been seen by the doctor and after a small operation on Mary's part are ready to "make a little prince."
Ethel's presence continues to bring tension to the household, particularly between Cousin Isobel and Violet. Again, all turns out well when Ethel finds another job near her son's new home, meaning she will have a chance to see him occasionally. Edith believes she has a tense situation of her own to sort out, when she finds out through some investigating that her flirty editor is actually married. She confronts him, and he admits he is married but to a woman committed to an asylum who no longer recognizes him. A potential future romance for the unlucky-in-love, it seems.
The entire family participates in baby Sybil's Catholic christening, and Lord Grantham even gets a photo with Tom and the priest. However, far from maintaining perfect harmony, Lord Grantham continues to resist advice that Matthew is giving about how to run the estate. Fortunately, Tom turns out to be the perfect mediator and quells tension between the two. Being less stubborn than he has in the past (in part due to his "rough diamond" of a brother visiting), Tom agrees to stay at Downton with the baby and, in what appears to be the most important news of all, agrees to play in the annual cricket match.
Although the beautiful final shots of the cricket match might suggest otherwise, I doubt the Crawley family will avoid further drama for long. Playing a sport in all-white uniforms is just asking for trouble, after all.