'Downton Abbey' Season 6 Premiere Recap: Let's Talk About Sex

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 6 years old.
Photo: PBS

Piano keys plink dramatically, a bell tolls, a single rose petal falls, a feather duster flirts with a chandelier: all portents of the final season of Downton Abbey, a soap opera we all didn’t have to feel bad about watching because of the vaguely historical storylines and the fancy British accents.

Forget everything that happened last year? Refresh your memory.
Wonder how I think everything should end? Read up.

Everyone else, let’s do this!

A crazy amount of dogs follow white dudes in fancy red coats and top hats on horseback. Right off the bat, the Downton Abbey producers are trying to make up for killing Isis, the only dog that matters. This will not work.

Thomas carries a tray of goblets out to the red coats. Maybe one of them will be his new rich love interest and he’ll finally have the means to quit this dumb job and live happily ever after? Yeah, probably not.


He passes a drink to Mary, who is wearing a bowler hat and a black coat and NOT riding side-saddle like a proper, demure lady, because, ever since her sex vacation last season, she doesn’t really give a you-know-what.

Sad, overwhelmed Molesley comes outside and all the dogs immediately sniff out his desperation and start barking at him. Per usual, Molesley sucks at life and comes *this close* to dropping everything on his tray. Carson raises an eyebrow at him that translates to: How in the world have I not fired you yet?! That’s a really good question.

A woman in a hat approaches Downton. Let it be Sybil! Maybe she faked her own death to get a break from all her nosy relatives and travel the world or become a progressive politician or something? I don’t care how outlandish the story, I just want Sybil back! #MakeItRightJulianFellowes #BringBackTheHaremPants #StandAgainstPreeclampsia

Cora Crawley reminds her husband, Robert, that he probably shouldn’t bail on some important board meeting in order to go hunting. Robert, who has learned nothing from his long history of screwing up business transactions and losing much of the family’s fortune, is like, Whatever, mom! and gallops off.

Cora should have listened to me last season when I screamed at her through my computer screen: STAY WITH THE ART DUDE! OR GO TO JAMAICA AND GET YOUR GROOVE BACK! ANYTHING BUT THIS!

Mary and Robert notice the woman in the hat and wonder who she is. She doesn’t look like Sybil so who cares.

Robert gives Mary a hard time for not being "graceful" and riding side-saddle because it’s only been 2 minutes and we need a reminder that he represents ye olde patriarchy. Mary is not having any of it.

It’s 1925. Remember when the show started with the Titanic sinking? That was 1912, which means that it’s supposedly been 13 years (math!) since we first met these characters. Even Maggie Smith has wondered how the Dowager Countess is still alive. I'm not concerned with that because the answer’s easy; a being as perfect as that is clearly an immortal goddess dating back to ancient Egypt. What I do wonder is: why is Daisy still basically a baby? Also immortal?

Carson talks to Not Sybil, who's still loitering. I have no idea what in the world they’re talking about. Intrigue!

Mary and Edith’s kids watch Mrs. Patmore bake. One of them speaks (a first!) and asks to lick the bowl. Eventually, the subject will shift from how delicious cake batter is to how the nearly constant absence of their parents contributed to their inability to accept love or engage in any meaningful intimacy. Hopefully the family still has money for all those therapist bills by then (not likely, if Grandpa Robert keeps bailing on meetings to futz around in the woods).

Mrs. Hughes and Thomas talk about how nice (i.e. cute) the new footman, Andy, is. Then, Mrs. Hughes basically warns Thomas not to get an unrequited crush on this one. He stares at her with a weird smile for a beat too long, which means he’s fantasizing about killing her for saying that, but he snaps out of it in order to give baby George a piggy back ride 'cause why not?

Daisy asks Mrs. Hughes if she’s set a wedding date yet. She hasn’t because Carson only really kisses her on the forehead and a woman has needs. (I may have inferred a great deal of this.)

Later, Mrs. Patmore finds Mrs. Hughes for some real talk. Mrs. Hughes pretends nothing is wrong and Mrs. Patmore gives her a girl, please look. Turns out I was wrong about Mrs. Hughes wanting more than forehead kisses. She is really freaked out about having sex.

Mrs. Patmore brings in reason: "There's nothing so terrible about it, is there?" But then she keeps talking: "…so they say…I wouldn't know, of course."

So you mean to tell me Mrs. Patmore, who is easily pushing 60, has never ever had sex?! Hurry up, Women's Lib!

Mrs. Hughes thinks her "late middle age" body is repulsive and prefers the idea of living like "a very loving brother and sister" to Carson ever seeing her naked. Mrs. Patmore points out that Carson's body is probably pretty gross too. Mrs. Hughes agrees and momentarily feels better, before asking Mrs. Patmore to go iron this whole naked sex arrangement out with Carson. Now that's a friend!

In the stairwell, Mrs. Patmore runs into Anna, who is crying because that's all her body knows how to do. I wish she would make a pro/con list about her marriage.

Pro: he's kind of cute, if you're into that sort of thing.

Con: he's maybe murdered two different people, is always grumpy, scares potential friends away, talks a big game, but can't back it up, etc. etc. etc.

Out in the woods, Not Sybil is loitering again. Get a hobby already!

Mary spots her and instantly falls off her horse into the mud. Her dad is kind of worried, but had suspected Mary would be taken down, one way or another, by the un-feminine way she was riding. Not Sybil looks pleased and evil in the distance.

Back at the Abbey, some insecure editor dude is yelling at Edith over the phone. He apparently doesn't like working for a woman. Cora suggests she just sell the business and go back to just sitting around. Edith is like nah.

At the board meeting, Dowager Countess and cousin Isobel are fighting again (so much for all that ya-ya sisterhood last season). Some big hospital wants to buy their little village hospital. Countess wants to retain control. Isobel thinks it would be better for the patients if they were to hand it over. Isobel's former suitor (you remember, the one with those jerk sons) tells her he's glad they agree. Isobel replies by singing the chorus of Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together."

Mary returns home to find Not Sybil lurking in the bushes. She's had enough and confronts the mystery lady. Turns out she's a chambermaid from the hotel where Mary had her sex vacation. Well, damn!

She allegedly has receipts to prove that Mary is a whore and wants money to keep quiet. Mary says that this isn't the first time someone's tried to blackmail her and walks away in the rain. Not Sybil But A Blackmailing Chambermaid keeps spewing threats.

Can we just skip this storyline? It's the final season. Let's spend it worrying about more important things like getting Mrs. Patmore laid and figuring out a way for Edith to kill some Nazis for probably killing her baby daddy!

Downstairs in the servants' rec room or whatever, Anna is still being a downer. Meanwhile, Thomas is tired from giving baby Marigold piggy back rides all day. Is he grooming these children to be his accomplices since none of the other servants are evil these days?

Molesely says something like, Gosh, how great that Lady Edith found this random pauper baby in the village and wants to give her a better life! So simple and gullible. Bless his heart.

In the drawing room upstairs, Robert and Carson complain about how the servant to rich person ratio is going down. Robert then proceeds to condescendingly lecture Carson about how you can’t resist time or progress, despite the fact that he tried to do just that every moment of the previous five seasons.

In Mary's bedroom, Anna and Mary talk about the blackmailer and the latest in Anna's court case (she's on bail for now) before talking about what's really important: whatever will they do about Mary's wet hair?!

In the shoe-shining room (if Tori Spelling's mom can have a whole room dedicated to gift-wrapping, the Crawleys can have one for this, okay?), Bates tries to figure out why Anna is sad. She insists that she's fine…and then bursts into sobs. She had a miscarriage. Did a woman who's married to a creepy bore and is currently on bail for maybe killing her rapist really need another adversity, Downton writers?

At dinner, the family speaks of Tom Branson (come back!). He's found a flat in Boston and Sybbie likes her new school. Robert uses this news as an opportunity to diss the American accent. Cora quickly reminds him that, despite her weird hybrid accent, she is an American! Again, art dude or Jamaica; you have options, Cora!

Mary announces that she is going to take over Branson's former duties and everyone gets into a debate about whether women are capable of doing stuff. Robert has changed his tone from outright misogynist to pretend feminist: "Long live women's rights and all that, but it's not a good idea to take on a job that wears you out."

Cousin Isobel brings up the hospital fight again in front of everyone. Both the Countess and I are appalled at her lack of manners.

In Carson's office, Mrs. Patmore tries to broach the uncomfortable naked fornication subject. It's a shame Salt 'n' Pepa's "Let's Talk About Sex" wasn't written yet. That could have helped things along.

Mrs. Patmore finally gets around to kind of sort of bringing it up: "Do you expect to share your…way of life?" And thus, she wins the award for best euphemism for a penis ever uttered. As if we could love her any more, she then takes a shot of port and gets the hell out of there.

Upstairs, the Dowager and Robert whine about downsizing. Boo hoo.

In the sitting room, Edith mentions going to London and maybe setting up her own apartment there. One second after she leaves the room, Mary lets one fly: "Edith, alone on the town, what will she get up to?" I wish these two would duel and get it over with. Maybe it would even inspire a super popular Hamilton-esque musical!

The next day, Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore are speaking in code about sex again, when Blackmail Girl interrupts. All these servants and no one is serving as a bouncer? Who let homegirl in?!

Anyway, she wants to deliver something to Mary herself and Mrs. Hughes rightly says "We don't know you" as shadily as Mariah Carey would, but the blackmailer makes it happen because Mrs. Hughes is busy thinking about Carson's "way of life."

Up in Mary's room, Blackmail Girl says a bunch of rude things, while eating a bit of Mary's toast. Then, she THROWS THE PIECE OF TOAST DOWN REALLY HARD! I was so scandalized, I gasped. Did you? Mary calls the woman "revolting" and has Anna, who isn't crying for once (!), escort her out.

In the village doctor's office, he and cousin Isobel disagree some more on the hospital crisis. He asks, "Do you not care?" I'll answer for all of us and say, Not even a little bit. Next!

Back in Mr. Carson's office, a police officer tells Anna and Bates that some woman has confessed to the murder of the rapist, but that they're not in the clear just yet. Bates is pissed that he told them at all, which means that this police dude has a 82% chance of ending up mysteriously dead before the season is up.

Upstairs, Carson tells Robert about the eviction of Daisy's father-in-law (remember she married that dying guy even though she was totally just not that into him way back?).

Downstairs, Carson runs into his fiancé and calls her Mrs. Hughes, as he always does. She suggests he start calling her Elsie. He says, nope, and then presses her to set the date. She refuses and gets the hell away from the gross naked body underneath his clothes.

The Dowager's maid, Denker, shows up and stirs the pot by telling everyone they're probably getting laid off. Everyone hates her and her weird eyebrows.

Upstairs, Robert confirms that yes, Daisy's father-in-law is probably being evicted. Ah, glad that's settled.

Over at the Dowager's pad, Denker is now telling Spratt, the butler, that he's probably going to be laid off. The Dowager enters and asks Spratt to let the cook know she's ready for dinner. Spratt falls right into Denker's trap by going all Tourette's and blurting out, "I will, although you could have rang for her yourself!"

The Dowager whips around and has him beheaded on the spot. Well, actually she just says "I beg your pardon?!" in an outraged old lady sort of way, but it's basically the same thing.

Upstairs, Anna tells Mary about how much she wanted to slap the blackmailer. Yes, Anna, less crying, more revenge!

In Carson's pantry, Mrs. Patmore and Carson finally start talking about sex, albeit only through euphemisms. Carson must decide between sexless companionship or hanging from the chandeliers. Which will it be?!

Outside, Anna feels like a loser for being barren.

Back inside, Carson decides that yes, he does want to have naked sex. Mrs. Patmore says she hopes he gets to have sex soon and goes off to relay the message to Mrs. Hughes. Wow, hooking up pre-Tinder was super involved!

Spratt tattles on Denker because the "snitches get stitches" aphorism wasn't invented yet.

In the Downton kitchen, Daisy shares her plans to attend her father-in-law's former landlord's auction by riding in the front of one of the Downton carriages. Mrs. Patmore says Mr. Carson won't allow it and Daisy responds, "Even Mr. Carson can't always have his own way." Yes, Daisy, you immortal, ageless beauty, do whatever you want!

Ugh, Blackmail Girl is back. Molesley lets her right in 'cause, again, he sucks at life. Carson is over her too and tries to kick her out, but she worms her way in again. After a nuclear holocaust, all that will be left is cockroaches, Cher and Blackmail Girl.

In London, Edith tells her aunt that she's met Virginia Woolf before. Way to bury the lead, Edith! I knew you were cool! Her aunt thinks so too and asks if she wants to spend the rest of her life hanging around Downton "being sniped at by Mary" or if she wants to be a hipster in London. Be a hipster, Edith! Become Virginia Woolf's publisher and lover 'cause being with men hasn't been really working out for you so far. Lest we forget that burn victim you crushed on who was also your maladjusted cousin or whatever!

Back at Downton, Mary comes home to find Blackmail Girl hanging out with her Papa. He pays her off, against Mary's wishes, and BG leaves in a cloud of insults (if it was 2014, I would say "Bye, Felicia!" but I can't anymore because 2015 happened so I'll just leave it at "Bye").

Mary and Robert proceed to talk about her sex vacation in a much more straightforward manner than Mr. Carson and Mrs. Patmore did earlier. Papa, I had to know if he was bad at sex before I married him and he was! she said (in so many words).

Plot twist: Robert did something awesome for a change! He only paid Blackmail Girl 50 pounds and made her sign a confession! And then he said he believes Mary can run the estate, despite her ovaries! Huzzah!

Downstairs, Mrs. Hughes is still not sure if she wants to have sex or not. Good grief, girl, just do it. You'll like it. Unless you don't (see: Mary's sex vacation).

Upstairs, the Crawleys are leaving for the auction. Edith alludes to leaving Yorkshire to become a Bloomsbury hipster. Mary is at a loss for words 'cause she's probably mad she didn't think of it first.

Carson randomly ignores Thomas, inspiring another one of Thomas' one-beat-too-long stares and smiles. He's totally going to kill all of these people someday soon.

At the Dowager's house, cousin Isobel talks about the hospital situatio….zzzzzzzzzzz. Oops, nodded off there for a second, where was I?

The Dowager off-handedly tells Denker she will miss her, although nothing is yet settled. Denker waits until she's in the hallway to die a little inside. The Dowager then shares some advice on how to be a boss with cousin Isobel: "Sometimes, it's good to rule by fear."

At the auction, the Crawleys chat with the sad sack who has to sell all his stuff and move to a small hole in London. He warns ominously not to hang on so long that they lose everything. Edith is like, Right on! 'cause she's moving soon and no longer gives a damn.

In a different room, Daisy and her father-in-law, whose family lived and worked at this place for generations, gawk at all the rich people's things…until Daisy finds the new owner who is kicking her father-in-law out and loudly lets him have it. What all that book learnin' has wrought!

Robert and Edith keep trying to stop her from speaking, but she has something to say! Cliffs Notes version: The proletariat rules, the aristocracy drools. This does not go over well.

Back at Downton, Daisy worries aloud about how she's probably going to get fired, but everyone is like, Shut up, the police officer is back! He tells everyone that the confession has been confirmed. Anna is officially a free woman!

The Crawleys run downstairs to pop some bottles. They even get out the gramophone! Everyone does the 1925 version of twerking.

Anna is excited and all, but she brings up her inability to have babies again 'cause she's gotten used to always being distraught over something.

Carson finds Cora and Robert, asks if he should fire Daisy and compares what she did to Guy Fawkes blowing up Parliament. Those two incidents are exactly the same; you're right, Carson. Ugh, I hope he never ends up having sex. Thankfully, Cora and Robert respond with a tepid meh.

Mrs. Hughes and Carson finally talk about sex and agree to do it, even though Carson doesn't deserve it. "If you want me, you can have me, warts and all," she says. Then, they make out…using their lips!…zero foreheads involved! Good for them.


After every episode, it's only right to reward characters who've impressed and diss the ones that haven't, so here goes:

PIECE OF COAL: Blackmail Girl/Not Sybil: Better luck next time, loitering jerk. P.S. You're probably going to hell for throwing that piece of toast like that. Hope you packed sunblock.

HONORABLE MENTION: Isis: The Downton producers are gonna have to find more dogs than that, if they want us to forget you, old friend (impossible).

BRONZE: Daisy: Tell it, sister! And stay in school!

SILVER: Edith: For knowing Virginia Woolf and planning on moving out. Your day in the sun has come at last (or has it?)!

GOLD: Mrs. Patmore: We would all be so lucky to have a bestie like you. Talking to Carson, the stodgiest person ever to live, about boinking? That's immediate first place status. A Nobel Peace Prize isn't out of the question either. Take note, other Downton denizens!

Until next week!


Season 5 recaps:

'Downton Abbey' Season 5 Premiere Recap: We Didn't Start the Fire

'Downton Abbey' Season 5 Episode 2 Recap: I'll Make Love To You

'Downton Abbey' Season 5 Episode 3 Recap: Call Me Maybe

‘Downton Abbey’ Season 5 Episode 4 Recap: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

'Downton Abbey' Season 5 Episode 5 Recap: Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting

‘Downton Abbey’ Season 5 Episode 6 Recap: Runaway Train

‘Downton Abbey’ Season 5 Episode 7 Recap: Dog Days Are Over

‘Downton Abbey’ Season 5 Episode 8 Recap: London Calling


‘Downton Abbey’ Season 5 Finale Recap: All I Want for Christmas Is You