It’s time for the denizens of Downton Abbey to work it out—literally! Episode 4 of the sixth season centers on the world of work with residents both upstairs and down mulling over what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives. Upstairs, Branson is back from the U.S., infused with American entrepreneurial spirit. He wants to do something unconnected with the estate, leaving Mary (Michelle Dockery) who looks immaculate even at the breakfast table in a crisp white blouse with a lace bib, in sole charge as estate manager.
Meanwhile, Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) is visited by an old friend, who brings her nephew Henry, a tall, dark, and handsome gentleman racing driver, but with no title and no estate. As a result, Lady Violet’s assessment of him as a marriage prospect for Mary is “adequate, but not overwhelming.” She may not need to worry. When Henry gives Mary his card, she responds that she’s “totally uninterested” in cars.
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Downstairs, Barrow is enjoying exerting his authority while he stands in as head butler for the honeymooning Carson. At the same time, he is concerned about his inability to get people to like him. Despite his growing awareness that he could be a better human being, his dark side comes to the fore when former housemaid Gwen (Rose Leslie, above), who got her first non-service job with the late Lady Sybil’s help, returns to the house as a luncheon guest.
Gwen, invited as the wife of a self-made businessman whom Lady Rosamund is hoping to enlist to the board of a college for working-class women, does not immediately reveal her past to the Crawleys, leading a jealous Barrow to blow her cover. It backfires when the family warms to her as a reminder of Sybil’s kindness, and Lord Grantham even rebukes Barrow for his spitefulness.
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Both Lord Grantham and Anna (Joanne Frogatt) are troubled by sharp stomach pains, though for different reasons. Fearing a miscarriage, Mary whisks Anna off to London to see a top gynecologist, dealing with this crisis in yet another beautiful, pristine blouse, a pintuck ivory silk georgette. While in the city, Mary has dinner with Henry at the Royal Automobile Club, where her signature brand of icy flirting is very much on display.
Back at Downton, a reassured Anna shares her happy news with Bates and the newlyweds return to a downstairs celebration (above). Even Lady Violet attends, noting: “I haven’t been to the kitchens for 20 years.” To everyone’s great relief, the bride will continue to be known as Mrs. Hughes while at work to avoid confusion. There’s only so much change the estate can handle!