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Now that feels more like it. Episode 3 returned to what Downton Abbey does best, lavish house parties with various aristocrats all having some angle to play and some goal to achieve. And while the preparations for this particular party were not as explored as fully as they have been in the past, it was nice to see things get back to a more normal speed. Until, perhaps, the vilest act that has ever been committed on Downton’s grounds happened.
After last week’s two hour premiere in which Mary’s near catatonic depression was dealt with and gotten over, it was time for Robert and Cora to help stir the pot of Mary’s re-acclimation to the outside world, and perhaps even the world of romance. While the purpose of the party was not solely to get Mary to interact with some men her age, it certainly felt like one of the main goals from Robert and Cora’s standpoint. And Mary seemed to buddy up with a Lord Gilliam quite easily when all was said and done.
Mary now suffers from a different type of inward strife. Instead of being sad by Matthew’s death, she, seemingly selfishly, says she also mourns the woman she used to be before Matthew – saying that he had softened her. This revelation seemed out of place considering the previous two episodes dealt with her coming out of her deep depression over Matthew’s death. It should also be interesting to see if this becomes a recurring story line for Mary and, if so, how she will change because of them. Isobel also continued struggling with Matthew’s death, telling Violet that she felt all the guiltier every time she laughed because in that moment she forgot that her son was dead. By the end of the episode, Isobel was glad that she had come to the last night of the party so it remains to be seen how much longer Isobel will struggle with Matthew’s death.
Even as Mary rode on horseback with Gilliam’s company, discussing all matters of things including love and business, Branson unfortunately did not have as much fun. While Branson needed a refresher of proper etiquette and was tasked with entertaining a duchess who knew a far different side of the town in which Branson grew up in, he was constantly reminded of how much he did not belong in this world. This opened up an opportunity for Edna to become a supportive figure with Branson – in hopes igniting some passion in him for her as she has for him. But it did not take long for Edna to seize her opportunity after it seemed as though she may or may not have spiked one of Branson's drinks at the end of the episode.
Edith had brought Gregson in hopes of him being able to charm Robert but, no matter her machinations, Robert always found an excuse to get out of any such opportunity for Gregson – until they decided to play poker with a guest named Sampson. After they both suffer expensive losses to Sampson, Gregson has a plan to put himself in the good graces of Robert. It seems Gregson has a bit of experience as a card shark in his youth and, having spotted Sampson using these very same tricks, Gregson decides to give Sampson a taste of his own medicine the next night. Even though Robert did not play in the next night’s game, Gregson handily defeated Sampson and wiped away any I.O.U.s Sampson had collected from the other guests throughout the weekend, including Robert. And thus, while Robert was still not entirely pleased with Gregson, he did find the act to be quite gentlemanly.
But while the main event, an Australian opera singer performing a private concert for the guests, and Gregson’s poker redemption were in full swing upstairs, it was downstairs where the drama was happening. Lord Gilliam’s valet had been flirting with Anna all weekend, much to a jealous Bates’s chagrin. Anna went to fix herself a headache remedy during the performance and Gilliam’s valet followed her downstairs. Soon he forced himself upon her and, in a rather shocking move for Downton Abbey, he raped her.
Mrs. Hughes found a bloodied, hysterical Anna after the concert and got her a change of clothes. And despite Mrs. Hughes’s wishes to tell Bates, or the authorities, or anyone for that matter about the heinous act that was just committed, Anna did not allow her, saying that Bates would need to exact his revenge and that he didn’t have another chance after his previous incarceration. Bates found Anna after her change of clothes acting very skittish with a few wounds on her face and clearly felt the situation to be off. This smells like a plot that will be carried on for a few episodes at least and yet another Downton secret that will do more harm as a secret than it would as a truth. What Bates’s reaction will be once he finds out is anyone’s guess but I have a feeling it will end up with Bates not flying off the handle. It should also be interesting to see if this incident galvanizes the staff, especially Edna and Thomas who, in the episode prior, had wrongfully blamed Anna for a mistake Edna made.
And while everything else in comparison will seem unimportant, there still was some other bad news for a few of the staff. Mrs. Patmore suffered a panic attack during the dinner, which thrust Alfred onto the stove to make the sauces. Jimmy, while trying to show off in front of Ivy, fell on the ground and injured his wrist. And while the injury seemed minor, who knows how it may continue to affect his job. Although for the first time there was an exchange between Jimmy and Ivy where it actually seemed like Jimmy showed some genuine romantic interest in the girl, as opposed to the usual air of one-upmanship he has when interacting with her. Jimmy’s injury also meant that Carson had to turn to a not entirely happy Molesley to take on his responsibilities to serve the dinner.
While much of the third episode of this season seemed trivial, Anna being raped may have been the biggest incident the show has ever seen. Sure, Sybil and Matthew had random deaths last year but neither the staff nor the Granthams have had to deal with such a huge incident with a living person. Hopefully it will not take too long for the news about Anna to get out, as it would only put off how every character deals with the situation.