Downton Abbey
Episode Six

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Couch Baron: B+ | 8 USERS: A
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Branson The Bridge-Builder

Outside, we see O'Brien leaving the big house, coat and hat on, and from the cut to Bates and Anna's cottage, we can guess that's where she's headed. Anna confirms as much, asking why O'Brien has to be their first visitor, but Bates thinks it's best to conduct this business in private. Anna wonders again why he's even doing it, as Thomas is hardly a friend, but Bates says he empathizes with the powerlessness Thomas must be feeling. Not that this is necessarily a motivation for Bates here, but he could also end up turning his greatest enemy into his staunchest ally. Anna smiles and asks if Bates has thought about standing for Parliament, but if he has, a solid test of his ability to broker a deal is knocking at the door. O'Brien is all smiles when she's shown in and is asked if she'd like tea, but she does say she's not sure if she's staying long enough, since she doesn't know precisely why she's there. Bates assures her that she'll have time, which causes her smile to fade a bit...

...while in other serious news, Isobel informs Ethel that she's had a letter from the Dowager Countess asking the two of them to call in the morning. Ethel wonders why her presence would possibly be needed, but Isobel tells her they'll find out soon enough. Well, Ethel will find it hard to sleep tonight, not that she's the only one...

...as Bates and O'Brien are getting into it, with O'Brien saying she's surprised to learn that Bates is "a fan of Mr. Oscar Wilde." Anna can't help but smirk at that one, but when Bates asks why O'Brien suddenly feels this way about Thomas and she replies that perhaps she's come to her senses, Anna's ready: "You mean you've found a way to be even nastier than usual." Glad to hear Anna can give it sugar-free when the situation warrants, not that this fazes O'Brien. Bates, however, tells O'Brien that she wants her to get Jimmy James to reverse his position on the reference, and he leans into her ear and whispers something that makes her blood freeze; the acting on this show is so uniformly good that I often forget to mention it, but Siobhan Finneran is terrific here as O'Brien is confronted with the specter of something she probably had only recently succeeded in forgetting about. All custom forgotten, she gets up and says she's going, but Bates tells her if she hasn't done as he asks by that evening, her secret will no longer be safe. She hurries out...

...and has wasted no time, as she's telling Jimmy James that she thinks he's made his point and letting it go now would be the gentlemanly thing to do. Jimmy James is confused, but O'Brien, thinking fast and yet hardly hearing her own words, tells him that he resolved any doubts about his own sexuality with his initial response and now he can afford to be merciful. Speaking of running for office; no one can make both sides of a flip-flop sound as good as O'Brien. Jimmy James protests that he never wanted to push it this far in the first place and it sounds like he's going to take O'Brien to task, but once she assures him he'll come out looking the better for it, he's convinced. When Carson enters to tell him he's needed upstairs, he asks him for a word first. Carson has no reason to hope this is good news, but still beckons him to follow whereupon it takes everything O'Brien's made of not to break down completely.

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Downton Abbey

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