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Reunions prove complicated, good deeds go awry, and the personal becomes heartbreakingly political as Downton Abbey nears the conclusion of its third series.

The winds of change rise with every series of Downton Abbey, but as this year’s aristocratic exploits reach their height, it seems like life at Downton might look very different when our time with the Crawleys comes to a close.

Episode 7 began with something returning to normal – on the surface, at least. The long (long) awaited return of Mr. Bates from his unjust incarceration. Much joy and hand-shaking commenced in Downton upon his arrival, despite the fact that no one seemed to know exactly what to do with Bates. Anna was confident that Bates would resume his position as Robert’s valet, but for the time being, Bates seems to be doing much the same as he did in prison: very little, only with much nicer clothing.

Upstairs among the Crawley family, Matthew struggled with Robert to bring the estate into the 20th century, while continuing to worry about Mary not yet having conceived. Mary herself remained confident on that front, though she had to try considerably harder to emphasize the importance of family for her father, Tom, and Tom’s exceedingly unpleasant, visiting brother.

Edith, meanwhile, took steps away from her family, visiting London in consideration of the standing offer to write for a paper there. Isobel, on the other hand, found opportunities for change forced upon her by Violet, who took charge of The Ethel Situation in a definitive and unsympathetic fashion.

But it was the drama downstairs that caused the most radically ruffled feathers this week. After several episodes of burgeoning interest, Thomas finally tried (with a spectacular lack of success) to initiate a relationship with universally-lusted-after footman Jimmy. Unfortunately for Thomas, his assumption of Jimmy’s interest was based on a few patently blatant lies from O’Brien, and the object of his affection was disturbed (to put it mildly) to find Thomas in his bed in the middle of the night.

To further complicate matters, O’Brien’s nephew Alfred accidentally walked in on Thomas’ misbegotten attempt at romance. At O’Brien’s urging, Alfred reported his uncomfortable discovery to Mr. Carson, leaving Thomas at the mercy of both Carson and Jimmy’s respective responses to his actions.

The episode concluded with the Catholic christening of baby Sybil Branson, or at least its photogenic aftermath. Though stiff postures and sad smiles abounded, at least the Crawley family did seem to find common ground in rallying around their (totally adorable) new addition.

Next week (already!) brings the finale of Downton Abbey‘s jam-packed third series, at least until the December Christmas special. ITV says of next week’s episode:

There is excitement in the house and village as the annual cricket match approaches, and it brings out Robert’s competitive side.
As Violet’s great niece Rose arrives, a trip to London reveals there is more to her than meets the eye.
Thomas’s future is in Carson’s hands, but Bates may be an unlikely ally.
What secrets are Mary and Matthew holding back from each other?

Who is this “Rose” character? (And she does seem like a character!) How can Bates help Thomas? Don’t Matthew and Mary tell each other everything? And why on Earth are they all playing cricket?

We guess we’ll find out next week! The series finale of Downton Abbey airs on ITV Nov. 4 at 9 p.m.

  • goldensnidget92

    I am so glad Edith took the writing job – she needs more appreciation, and she certainly doesn’t get enough from her family! Thomas is such a frustrationg character – I can’t decide whether I like him or not! I suppose that makes him more human… I actually felt sorry for him by the end of this episode, and from the trailer for next week, it looks like it’s going to get worse :(

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Maria-Wang/542480760 Maria Wang

      I didn’t. Feel sorry for him that is.
      But I think it’s the sexual frustration, that’s what makes him so nasty.

  • http://twitter.com/msqu Marie Squyres

    Just want to point out that for those not watching the season until it premieres in the US in the new year, the photo on this post spoils that Sybill is not at her child’s Christening… Might want to pick something else.

  • Anna S.

    I just watched a promo for the next episode and I got the terrible feeling that the Dowager Countess is going to go. But that’d be ridiculous because we just lost a Crawley and I’m sure Fellowes values his life too much to kill off two. Sorry but just a feeling.
    Loved this episode. So glad Tom is staying at Downton and with baby Sybil, he deserves some happiness right about now :) Feel terrible for Thomas. I’ve always liked him in a strange way.

    • Elphaba Thropp

      I had the same feeling while watching the episode… :/

  • Blue

    I think Edith is going to fall in love with her editor. Just saying, he seemed VERY interested in her love life.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Maria-Wang/542480760 Maria Wang

      from the preview, it seems like she’s angry with him, perhaps because part of the reason he hired her was because he fancied her. He seems like a nice bloke though. Maybe we will finally get Edith her man

    • Elphaba Thropp

      I really hope so. I didn’t like whatshisname, the first guy, but maybe this time someone will like HER first? I’ve always liked Edith, just felt sorry for her.

  • Ikhlas

    Does anyone know if there’s going to be a Christmas special for this season? Or a 4th season? Or is this it?! Gosh, I hope not!

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