Set between August 18th and September 30th 1920.
Downton Abbey's annual cricket match with the village takes place and it brings out Robert Crawley's competitive side. Molesley spends a lot of time bragging about his skills, only to fail miserably in the actual tournament.
Violet Crawley's great niece, Lady Rose MacClare - the daughter of Violet's niece, Susan MacClare and her husband, Hugh MacClare visits, and a trip to London reveals that there is more to her than meets the eye. She is a wild girl who likes to drink and party, and has been secretly meeting a much older man who is already married.
Mr. Carson controls Thomas' future, and Thomas finds an unlikely ally in John Bates after O'Brien pressures Jimmy into making sure Thomas is ruined. Only after her darkest secret is threatened to be exposed does she relent. Robert then decides to make Thomas under butler instead of having him leave and even protects him from the police, surprising everyone.
Mary and Matthew are keeping secrets from one another. Mathew visits Mary's doctor in London to find out if he is able to have children, only to learn from Mary that she was the one who had a problem, but now the problem is gone.
Robert is totally against Matthew's plans for the estate, but is devastated when the rest of the family supports Matthew. Only when Tom gives an eloquent speech on Downton and the entire family does he agree to support the plan.
Edith soon learns her editor, Michael Gregson, who had been flirting with her, is married, but continues to write for him after he explains his wife is insane and by law he cannot divorce her. He says that it means so much to him to meet Edith and read her words.
Molesley and his father inspect the cricket pitch, which has held up well in spite of all the rain. His father remarks that the village team is taking things very seriously, but Molesley says that no one is more serious than his lordship when it comes to the yearly cricket match, no matter what he likes to pretend.
Mr. Carson has called Thomas to come into his office so that he may tell him what he has decided to do in regards to the accusations made against him. He informs Thomas that Mr Bates has had his rest after being released from prison and wants to get back to work. He says that it is time to "draw a line under this whole unfortunate episode". A visibly shaken Thomas asks if that means that he is to go out the window. Mr. Carson says that he cannot hide the fact that he finds Thomas' situation revolting, but says that he is not entirely unsympathetic. He believes that Thomas has been twisted by nature into something foul, but he can see that Thomas didn't ask to be the way he is. He tells Thomas to resign quietly citing Bates' return as his reason for leaving. Mr. Carson says that he will write a perfectly acceptable reference, and there will be nothing about it that is hard to explain. Thomas is informed that he will help Lord Grantham that night, but Bates will take over the next day. Thomas stops on the way out, turns to Mr. Carson and tells him that he is different, but he is not foul. Mr. Carson rises to go to ring the dinner gong and he finds O'Brien outside the door. He tells it is time to stop eavesdropping and return to work
Robert talks to his wife and daughters in the library about the cricket match. He says that they are fortunate to still have Thomas. Edith questions that as she understands that he will be leaving soon, but Robert says that he will make sure it is not before the match. He thinks that it is unfair that the gardeners and outside staff must play for the Village Team instead of the House Team. Edith points out that Robert owns both teams, but Robert says that he is the captain of the House Team, so that is the one he supports. Cora points out that the Village Team always wins, but Robert says that they usually do most years, but not always. Robert later discusses their chances and who will take part in the game with Matthew, Branson, and Carson, as they are short of the correct number of players. Worries continue about whether their team will be up to the challenge, by all except Molesley, who brags about his skill and being raised on cricket. Branson consistently refuses to join the House team, as he has never played the game in his life.
James is satisfied that Thomas will be leaving Downton, but it is not enough for Sarah O'Brien. She is unhappy that they are simply going to let Thomas go. O'Brien goes to James and says that he must insist that Thomas be refused a reference. She says that if he doesn't speak out, people will think that he is like Thomas and not disgusted by the actions that occurred. Bates overhears part of their conversation, but doesn't understand what they are talking about.
Cora and Mary talk in private. She recommends Dr. Ryder to her daughter. Matthew comes in the room and surprises them, and Mary says that they were only discussing women's issues. Edith talks of her latest newspaper article about WWI soldiers left destitute after the war.
The Dowager informs the family that Rose, daughter of her niece Susan, is coming to stay with her. Her mother had written that Rose hated London, and she would stay with Violet until her parents could leave London for their country estate in Scotland. Isobel doesn't envy her having to handle a young girl.
That evening Robert is served by Thomas as valet, but Bates is there as well and will be taking over the job the next day. Robert says that Carson will see things right for Thomas. After Lord Grantham goes, Thomas calls Bates the victor, and he is very bitter about it. Matthew and Mary prepare for bed and Matthew says that the cricket match will show Robert that traditions can be maintained even as other things are changing. Matthew seems amorous, but Mary says that she is too tired after her trip to London.
James comes to Carson and threatens to go to the police and report Thomas, unless he is given a bad reference. He says that innocent people in respectable houses could otherwise hire him. Carson says that James will do no such thing. Thomas will be given a reference in order to make him go quietly, and Carson will not tolerate the scandal that police involvement will bring to Downton, but James refuses to back down. He says that he cannot remain silent if Thomas gets a good reference; he insists that he cannot turn a blind eye to sin.
Rose arrives and Violet takes her to Isobel Crawley's house. Ethel comes in with the tea, but at the Dowager's icy silence, Isobel says that she will pour. Violet has received replies to the ad she placed for Ethel, and she gives them to Isobel.
Thomas is emotionally overwhelmed at the news that after ten years of service, he will receive no reference. He says that he will go to his lordship, but Carson reminds him that he cannot do that without explaining what happened. Much to Mr. Carson's surprise, Thomas continues to defend Jimmy. Thomas says that someone must have put him up to this, as he would not on his own be so unkind. Carson agrees that Thomas can stay a few days until he can make plans.
Bates and Anna are in their new cottage home and decide that with paint it has possibilities, but she will not let him climb a ladder. Edith announces that she must take a trip to London, and Rose pleads to be allowed to go with her. She wants to arrange a surprise for her parents and asks them all to not ruin it. Edith agrees that she can come and stay with her at Aunt Rosamund's. Matthew also has business in London.
Tom talks to Cora about the plans to farm one third of the estate farmland directly. Tom thinks that he and his daughter should stay in the estate agent's house, but Cora says that they are welcome to live in the main house. Tom won't talk to Robert about the plans, saying that it should be for Matthew to explain. Isobel Crawley tells Ethel about the Dowager Countess and her job advertisement. She explains Violet's reasoning that a change to a place where no one knew of her past would "wash her clean". She gives Ethel the responses and says that it will be her decision.
Mrs. Hughes, the housekeeper, finds Thomas crying in the rain. She tries to comfort him by saying that it is not as bad as that. He's been trained and can easily get a job as a butler. He tells her that she doesn't understand, but he can't explain as it would shock and disgust her. Mrs. Hughes says that now she must hear. Later, Mrs. Hughes goes to Mr. Carson and tells him how wrong his treatment of Thomas has been. She says that he is not the first man of his kind that she has met, and believes that James may have led Thomas on unintentionally. She calls James a "vain and silly" flirt, and she will not let that whipper-snapper ruin a man wounded serving his country (she is unaware that Thomas orchestrated his injury). Carson cautions that if they do give a reference to Thomas and if James goes through with his threat, then Thomas will go to prison, a fate worse than that of having no reference.
Bates is fetching coal when he see Thomas in the dark, outside his cottage. Thomas says that he envies Bates, being part of a happy couple, and that everyone is so happy for them. He can't imagine having that. Bates tells him that he should be nicer, but Thomas informs him that being nice is what got him in trouble. Bates is confused, but Thomas says never mind and that he will be gone soon which should make Bates glad.
Edith, Matthew and Rose are greeted by Rosamund in London. She tells them that dinner is at eight. Rose goes immediately to make a call, and later sneaks out of the house and takes a taxi. Edith receives praise from her editor on her article about destitute soldiers. He asks her out again, but she declines as she has plans at Rosamund's. He says next time.
Anna doesn't understand why Bates is concerned about Thomas; as far as she is concerned it's good riddance to him. He tells her that it was the remark about envying him. He decides to ask Mrs. Hughes. Later, Bates now understands what has been happening. He asks Mrs. Hughes why Carson was shocked, as he thought that everyone knew about Thomas. She explains that he hadn't known officially, so he didn't have to deal with it before. Bates feels sorry, as he wouldn't wish prison on any man.
Rose has not returned by dinner time. A cab driver is brought into the dining room. Rose left a scarf in his taxi, and he has come to return it. The driver is able to tell them where he drove Rose. He tells them that she went to the house of a male friend, and they spent two hours together, before having the driver take them to a nightclub. He describes it as "that kind of club". When asked what kind, he says, "you know". They go to the club where there is jazz, inappropriate dancing and dress, and a great deal of drinking. Matthew describes it as an outer circle of Dante's Inferno. They are shocked to see a very different Rose on the dance floor. Edith, Matthew and Rosamund follow them to their table. Rose is appalled. She introduces them to her much older lover Terence Margadale who Rosamund determines is married. Rose says that he used to work for her father. She begs them not to tell her parents. Matthew dances with Rose, and makes her promise not see this man for the remainder of her time with them. Matthew is unsympathetic as Rose portrays him as a married man with a horrid wife for which divorce is difficult. He advises her to meet his wife and decide for herself. Rose agrees not to see him for now, and they leave the nightclub.
The Dowager Countess insists that she was a very attentive mother and spent an hour everyday with her children. Isobel tells Violet that Ethel found only one of the ad replies suitable, but that was because the Mrs. Watson that replied lived very near to the Bryants, who had adopted Ethel's illegitimate child, Charlie. They both agree that Ethel would like to see her child, but understand that the Bryants would eventually learn of her presence, and that could be trouble.
Matthew is seeing a doctor in London, seeking tests as to whether the lack of fertility in his marriage is his fault. As he is leaving the doctor's office, he finds his wife Mary in the outer office. She has been coming to see the same doctor for the same reason. Mary and Matthew go to lunch afterwards, and she tells him that something had been wrong with her and that she had undergone an operation several weeks before. She cannot discuss the details, but it is why she has kept him at arm's length. Matthew is relieved, thinking she was no longer interested in him. She is now completely healed, and though the doctor has said to return in six months, he has assured her that she will be pregnant by then. Matthew is very happy that they can start looking forward to babies.
Rosamund is furious at Rose, but they agree to keep silent if Rose behaves. However, as Edith and Rose return to Violet's house, she overhears them talking about how angry she would be if she knew that they were keeping a secret from her. She tricks Rosamund into telling her everything by making her think that Edith had told her. The Dowager Countess tells Rose that her mother has decided to open their country estate early and send Rose to Scotland with a stodgy aunt. She assures Rose that a maid will escort her the entire way so that she will have someone to talk to. Rose is extremely angry at whichever one of her cousins told on her.
Bates goes to Lord Grantham and explains what has been going on regarding Thomas. He is amazed at the ridiculousness of it all, as "we all knew about Thomas", and if he himself had hollered every time someone at Eton had tried to kiss him, he would have been hoarse in a month. Bates explains that it is not all James' fault as O'Brien, who is now an enemy of Thomas, had put him up to it. Bates is with Carson, when James comes in to ask when Thomas will be leaving, and Bates asks him why he is being such a "big girl's blouse" about this. James leaves and complains about Bates to the others. He later snaps at both Ivy and Daisy for saying that not getting a reference is not fair. He tells them that they know nothing about it, and should keep out of it.
Thomas is amazed when Bates comes to him and wants to help. Thomas says that prison changed Bates. He still can't believe James wants to hurt him and perhaps this is why he seems very despondent and says that he is truly beaten; he is making plans to simply walk away and go to find a cousin in Bombay. Bates tells him that he can't let O'Brien win, and he must know some information to use against her.
Robert is furious when Matthew returns from London and sets out his plans for compensating tenants and moving them off the land, as many had been there for generations. He is still talking about investing, possibly with a man in New York named Ponzi. Cora maintains that Matthew's plan is all they have. If Downton is not made self-sufficient, it will continue to drain their money, until debt overwhelms them, and they must sell. Robert concedes and says that he will let them handle the estate without him from now on, which is not what they want.
Recent events have concerned Edith. She places a call to the newspaper office in London seeking information on Gregson.
Bates wants to meet O'Brien at their cottage. Anna question why his is doing this, as he doesn't like Thomas. Bates says that he feels sorry for him, as he knows what it feels like when your life is slipping away and you can't do anything about it. O'Brien comes and is surprised that Bates is taking an interest, but she refuses to convince James to withdraw his threats about the police. Bates leans close to her and whispers a secret in her ear, and says to get James to change his mind by morning, or her secret will not be safe with him. O'Brien agrees and goes to see James. She tells him that he has made his point and if he stops now all will see him as the better man, one who is merciful, not vindictive. James is angry as she put him up to it, and he would not have taken it this far otherwise. He goes to see Carson, leaving O'Brien looking shaken.
Edith has received bad news from London. She confronts Gregson with that fact that despite his flirting, he is a married man. She finds this repugnant and is therefore resigning. Gregson explains that his wife is in an asylum and that he cannot legally divorce her due to her mental state. She does not even remember him, and he has come to accept that she is gone. He tells Edith that reading her columns cheer him up, and he asks her to reconsider her decision and stay.
Robert starts to wonder if it wouldn't be better if Thomas stayed at Downton instead of just being given a reference. He says that it would allow Carson to re-establish his authority if he insist that Thomas stay as under-butler; in actuality Lord Grantham doesn't want to lose their best cricket player for the yearly contest. Alfred is upset Thomas will get a reference, but James says that if he gets it, he will go and they don't have to see him again.
Robert talks to Tom over breakfast. Tom points out to him that they need Robert to stay involved in the running of the estate. He says that it doesn't matter if one is born to this place or marries into it. They all owe it to do what they can to make Downton prosper. Matthew, he says, knows the law and business, while Tom says that he knows something about farming and the land. Lord Grantham, says Tom, knows about the responsibility they have to the people and what they owe them. With the three of them working together they can do it. Robert says that Tom is very eloquent and agrees to think about it, but only if Branson will play cricket for the House team.
Isobel and Ethel have been invited to the dowager house in the morning. Once there, they find Violet with Mrs. Bryant. She had written in order to find out what they would think of Ethel working nearby. Mrs. Bryant says that it is wrong to totally separate Ethel from seeing her child, but she didn't want to confuse him, at least not until he is older. Ethel has a solution; she suggests telling him that she was his old nanny, before she left their service. As long as she is able to see Charlie sometimes, Ethel is overjoyed.
Hughes talks to Carson and asks how they are going to get James to accept that Thomas will be staying as under-butler. Carson says that Lord Grantham wants him to stay, so he should tell him. Matthew tries to teach cricket to Tom.
On the day of the big cricket match, Thomas is the star of the team, while Molesley is a dismal failure. Bates talks to Anna and regrets that in trying to help get Thomas a reference, he has succeeded in getting Thomas promoted until he outranks Bates, who is still valet. He calls himself a damn fool. If he had left it alone, Thomas would be out of their lives. Anna asks what the phrase was that Thomas had told him to use against O'Brien. Bates tells her that it was "her ladyship's soap".
James is shocked when told that Thomas would be staying on, but Lord Grantham tempers the news by congratulating James on his promotion to first footman.
Just when everything looks resolved, a police detective arrives. Alfred, who has been looking nervous, has called them and reported Thomas of homosexuality and the crime of assault on James. Lord Grantham says that he will get to the bottom of it, while Carson prevents the police from following him. Robert appeals to Alfred to show kindness; he says that Thomas is not evil, and we do not choose who we are.
Returning to the police with Alfred in tow, he tells them that there was a misunderstanding. He says that Alfred saw some roughhousing and mistook it for something else, as he was drunk at the time. Alfred confirms Robert's version of events. Lord Grantham apologizes for wasting the officers time and invites them to tea. They decline and depart.
Tom is walking toward the pavilion and he sees his daughter amongst the large extended Crawley family. Mary holds baby Sybbie. Tom goes to Cora and asks what she would say if he decided to live with them until Sybbie was older. Cora says that she would be delighted. Matthew tells Mary that Robert has agreed to work together with them, and they promise to always count on each other. Matthew again professes his love for Mary.
Thomas has put the House team in the lead, but the other team is at bat. Dr. Clarkson gets a hit, but Tom catches, it ending the game. The House team wins, and Robert is on the field celebrating with Matthew and Tom (an interesting scene as before Robert had been a man that only had daughters).
- Downton Abbey - 3x08 - ITV - Promo
- We can infer these dates based on Episode 3.04, Episode 3.05 and Sybbie's birth: Sybbie was born in August or September 1920; we can infer this from Robert's words of "Tennessee is going to ratify the 19th Amendment." in Episode 3.04. The ratification of the amendment happened on August 18th, 1920. This means that Episode 3.04 is set before August 18th when the Amendment was ratified. This also means, as the 2012 Christmas Special is set in September 1921, that Sybbie must have been born after the 18th of August - as that is after 3.04 and the ratification of the ammedment - and on or before the 30th of September 1920 - which is a year before the events of the 2012 Christmas Special. As well as this, September is the end of the cricket season - which spans from May to September in the UK - and Cricket is played in Episode 3.08, thus it cannot be after 30th September, as that was the end of the cricket season in 1920. This places the episode firmly between the two dates.