Thomas is outside sobbing when Mrs. Hughes finds him and tells him it can't be as bad as all that -- with his training, he could apply to be a butler. Thomas realizes she doesn't know everything, then, so she asks if he'll tell her. Obviously wanting to take her up on it, he tells her he's afraid if he does, he'll shock and disgust her and Mrs. Hughes smiles: "I think I have to hear it now." She kindly takes his arm and leads him inside and while I expect some changes to his character after this is all over, I don't have to like Thomas to think Mrs. Hughes showing him some human decency speaks rather well of her.
Isobel finally tells Ethel of the Dowager Countess' opinion that Ethel's history at Downton has left her lonely. Ethel brightly says it's kind of the Dowager Countess to concern herself and you can practically feel Isobel clench as she goes on that it isn't just that -- she's worried about the gossip as well, so she placed an ad for her. She hands over the responses as she concludes that Ethel could go to a new position with references from both her and Mrs. Hughes, and as such she could forget about her earlier life. Ethel looks like she doesn't know how to react, which is understandable. I mean, she hasn't even read the letters yet. What if the Dowager Countess' ad said she'd work as a chimney sweep?
Having been summoned, Edith comes into Mary's bedroom and after complaining that her maid isn't working out and that she misses Anna, she asks what's up. Mary asks by what train Edith will be returning from London and when Edith names a time of 3 PM on Thursday, Mary asks her to make sure Matthew doesn't catch an earlier one. Edith, with her usual impatience when dealing with one of Mary's schemes, doesn't see how she can promise that, but eventually gives in, though not without complaining that everything with her sister is so complicated. In Mary's defense, she did warn you that Sybil dying wasn't going to make you two get along any better.
Lord Grantham tries to worm information on Matthew's plan out of Branson and when Branson keeps mum, Lord Grantham complains to Cora that Matthew has "some ghastly scheme" for the estate about which he's being kept in the dark. Meanwhile, downstairs, over a drink, Mrs. Hughes is telling Carson he can't allow Jimmy James to blackmail him and when Carson apologizes for her having had to hear about it, Mrs. Hughes is like, do you think Thomas is the first man "of that sort" I've come across? Carson's eyes go wider than I've ever seen them at the thought of Mrs. Hughes having hagged it up, and Mrs. Hughes continues to shock and awe by suggesting that Jimmy James might have led Thomas on. I'm not saying I agree, but I did note earlier that Jimmy James certainly had no problem getting emotional support from Thomas even though he clearly knew what he was all about. Mrs. Hughes kind of is of the same mindset, saying that she's not saying it was deliberate, but Jimmy James is "a vain and silly flirt," and it would have been easy for Thomas to misread the situation. The hits are coming so fast that it's taking all Carson's restraint not to start chugging spirits straight out of the decanter, but Mrs. Hughes goes on that she's not going to sit by and let Jimmy James ruin a man's livelihood. "Not a man who was wounded in the service of king and country!" I mean, I'm with Mrs. Hughes a hundred percent, but it's unfortunate she chose that particular incident as evidence of Thomas' character. Carson points out that they may have no choice, as "these practices with which you're apparently so familiar" (hee) are against the law and if they defy Jimmy James, the result could be that Thomas gets sent to prison. Unfortunately, Mrs. Hughes has no pithy reply for that reality...