Downton Abbey Review: Tom on the Run

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Jan 21, 2013

Downton Abbey S03E04: "Episode 4" (or S03E03/"Episode 3," according to PBS)

This week in Downton Abbey Land, U.S. women got the right to vote and Edith wrote a letter about it, Mrs. Hughes bought a toaster, and Tom helped toast another noble’s estate. And by “toast” I mean in the "like a marshmallow" sense, not the "with a glass of champagne" sense. Then he went on the run and ended up at Downton with preggo Sybil en route behind him. Probably. I mean, he thought so, and she called and said she was coming.

So Robert was having a hard week and to top it all off, Matthew decided to tell the Dowager Countess that her offspring was mismanaging the estate and he was concerned because he just sank his whole fortune into it. Matthew just goes all in, doesn’t he? Just last week it was all guilt-trip this and blood money that and “I AM UNWORTHY” and as soon as a conveniently penned letter absolves him of any wrongdoing it's HIS money and HIS investment and IT BETTER NOT GET BLOWN ON ONE RAILROAD THIS TIME, ROBERT.

Also, now that Downton has been saved and Mary isn’t constantly regretting the decision to marry her cousin mostly-for-true-love-but-also-kind-of-for-the-money, it’s time to make dem babies and apparently Matthew and Mary are having a hard time of it, which actually isn’t funny at all but because it’s those two and it’s dramaaaa, it's actually hilarious. If it’s not one source of dignified angst, it’s another. Man, why can’t we just have a NICE family dinner, huh? No runaway relatives, no scandalous suffragists, just the fam sittin’ down for some chow while Alfred tries to remember which spoon to hand out.

On second thought, that would be really boring. Commence with the baby crazy!

Sybil and her baby frump (were maternity clothes in the '20s REALLY that unkind?) eventually caught up to delinquent daddy-to-be and it was a full house for the Crawleys as they yet again worked their way through a potential scandal at the hands of Mr. and Mrs. Branson. To his credit, Tom claimed that he didn’t actually start the fire, he was totally against the idea, and he felt really bad about it. However, when Robert went to town to pick up his son-in-law’s Get Out of Jail Free card, he learned that while everything that Tom said may be true, he was considered quite the instigating force back in Ireland and regularly attended meetings unbecoming of a dude married to an Earl’s daughter. Our particular Earl’s daughter didn’t know about the meetings and didn’t approve of the meetings and OMG ARE THEY FIGHTING? Stop it, you guys! Tom and Sybil don’t fight! That’s what Mary and Matthew are for!

In the end, Tom avoided jail time, but found himself banned from entering Ireland. Looks like he and Sybil will be hanging around Downton on a more permanent basis, and I’m okay with that. While Tom and Sybil having a row makes me want to hide under a blanket because it’s like mommy and daddy are fighting, at least their conflict, you know, matters. It’s a trust issue. Sybil gave up a lot to be with Tom and I think she puts up with a lot. I love me some Tom, but sometimes he seems like that really hot dude in the back row in Sociology 101 who routinely told the professor how wrong she was and he was just so angry and dreamy and smart and then you dated and he actually ended up being a tool who dumped you because you don’t think high heels are the shackles of the patriarchy, and now sometimes you stalk him on Facebook and think “Wow, I’m really glad that relationship didn’t work out,” because he’s probably on an FBI watch list somewhere. You know that guy, right? He’s okay enough, but he’s also prone to being blinded by his self-appointed role as savior of the earth.

Tom and Sybil are having a baby and it’s not selfish to ask him to take a step back and concentrate on that baby. Now that they are basically exiled to Downton, I’m sure there will be ample opportunity to work on that. I also think Tom himself, in the aftermath of his experience at the fire, realizes as much. It’s become much harder to “other” the people who aren’t like him now that he essentially has a foot in both the privileged world of the English aristocracy and the generally suckass lot of a poor Irish guy in the early 20th century.

Elsewhere, in the other type of big house featured on Downton Abbey, Bates fell out of favor with the guards and, as punishment, stopped receiving mail. He immediately thought the worst, that Anna had moved on, while Anna assumed the same thing about Bates and wept in hallways all over Downton. With a little help from his apparently only friend in prison, Bates blackmailed his sucky roommate and got back in the guards’ good graces. One of them warned him that Bates is now no longer in favor with his sucky roommate, but honestly, was he ever? Can we #freebates already, please? Edith is getting political, Tom and Sybil are having the baby at Downton after all, Matthew is determined to modernize the estate, and Mary is doing... whatever it is that Mary does. Every single story is moving forward except for this one.


– Dowager Countess Sass of the Night: Edith: “Do something? Like what? Gardening?” Grandma: “Well no, you can’t be as desperate as that.” Also her snide comments about how Drumgoole castle, the one Tommy Boy may or may not have helped torch, was “hideous” anyway. <3 her.

– Shameless leering at the wardrobe time: Cora’s blue dinner/Tom-interrogation dress. WANT.

– Pwning Noobs: Thomas continued to be jealous of Alfred, and found a new rival in the genetically gifted James. Daisy finally formally got her promotion to assistant, and Ivy joined the staff as the new kitchen maid who very quickly made an enemy out of Daisy by catching Alfred’s eye. Sometimes I wonder how this staff manages to get anything done.

– I don’t care about Ethel. I don’t care about Ethel. I don’t care about— wait, she did what? She gave her kid away? That’s... that’s really upsetting! And she did it right after laying down a fine zinger about how it’s nice and all that Isobel thinks a mother’s love is more important than money but isn’t it a lot easier for her to say that after her own son got to go to a fancy school and eventually got to marry distantly related nobility? Fine. You win, Ethel. I care.

– The Adventures of Detective Anna, Super Sleuth: Not a lot of Anna action this week. Actually, NO sleuthing action this week. She pretty much did the pining-for-her-incarcerated-husband thing the whole time. Bleh. #FREEBATES

What say you about this week’s Downton Abbey? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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  • gnjuss Jan 24, 2013

    As a fan of DA I must say reading your comments is almost as fun as watching the show.Season 3 is over in my country,so I don't want to spoil anything,but trust me when I say you're all in for a few "am-I-sitting-down?!" surprises,and one big whopper as well.Stay tuned America.

  • YiWernYoong Jan 24, 2013

    hahhaha love the description about tom branson xD!!! Love him tho!!!!

  • IndianaMom Jan 23, 2013

    What's Mary doing this season? Growing more and more pale. Seriously, is anybody as white as Lady Mary?

  • gwendolynmr Jan 22, 2013

    The dowager countess was on fire (pun appropriate considering they were talking about arson?) this episode, which was nice because I found other parts quite dull.

    Don't really care about Ethel (does this mean that storyline can finally be put to bed?), tired of Bates and Anna being separated. Yes, watching them both get the letters was lovely, but it's difficult to maintain chemistry between two characters when they never see each other. Hoping for a big payoff there for our patience.

    And, ultimately, very confused by Mary's response to Matthew's concerns about the finances. Considering it is him, her and whatever offspring they have (did anyone else think she didn't look at all sad that she wasn't pregnant yet?) will inherit Downton, you would think she'd be a little more invested in making sure it was around for them a few decades down the road. Surely, knowing it was running itself into the ground through financial mismanagement would at least prompt her to be a bit more interested in what Matthew has to say.

  • pa-tan Jan 22, 2013

    I actually liked the whole letter "situation", it made sense that they were worried and when they both recieved the letters I was so happy for them

  • joy9585 Jan 22, 2013

    Um... I don't think that Thomas "found a new rival" in James/Jimmy... I think he found a new crush! It was the first time I think I've ever seen Thomas smile. I also think that O'Brien kinda caught on to that when she spotted Thomas being nice to James/Jimmy while he was half-undressed.

    Does anyone else think that Branson is still considering going back to Ireland (sans Sybil)? It looked like he was seriously torn in that last scene...oh, and goodness her clothes are hideous!

  • patsully Jan 22, 2013

    Agreed on Thomas' romantic interest and I'm pretty excited at the idea of O'Brien is aware of it now.

  • Lady_Lancaster Jan 22, 2013

    This article is ridiculously badly written and it shows the writer doesn't actually understand the way 'Downton Abbey' works at all. It's not a soap opera, it's a period drama which is very realistic. Watch it closely and properly and see.

  • Pawtley Jan 22, 2013

    I don't think those two terms need to be mutually exclusive; DA seems to be also a form of heritage cinema/film (heritage serials?), where specifically the British past is "recreated" with fond nostalgia in an attempt to romanticize the Empire (cf almost any Jane Austen adaptation). If you don't like the writing here, why not try another reviewer?

  • patsully Jan 22, 2013

    I might have agreed with this idea in season 1, but season 2 was firmly in the soap opera realm. Remember the horrifically injured soldier with amnesia who might have been the heir to Downton? In no way was that realistic drama.

  • katikool Jan 21, 2013

    Seriously, the Bates prison thing needs to end. By this point in the season I was hoping he'd get shiv'd to death if only to end this thing already! And sorry guys, but it won't be ending any time soon :(

    Also, Matthew and Mary became really dull and unpleasant this season. It almost makes me pine for the days when Matthew lost his penis in the Great War and Mary was with that douche-tastic newspaper magnate. Almost.

  • noelrk Staff Jan 21, 2013

    I really liked Carlisle. He brought some lovely nouveau riche menace to the show.

  • radiumgirl Staff Jan 21, 2013

    Dull and unpleasant is a really great description of those two right now. It's sad, but they were more pleasant when Matthew was missing his peen and Mary was committing to a long live of marital misery. :/

  • erin12312 Jan 21, 2013

    I thought season three finished?

  • radiumgirl Staff Jan 21, 2013

    It did in the UK. It's just airing in the US now.

  • peachykeen817 Jan 21, 2013

    I'm glad Matthew is going to attempt to fix the mixmanagement of the estate. Because let's face it, so far Robert has lost his own money, and his wife's. He might need someone else to step in...

  • radiumgirl Staff Jan 21, 2013

    Yeeeeah. I want to be on Robert's side, but he makes it so hard with his WTF-ery.

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