Seven key takeaways from last night's gala event (warning, spoilers ahead):
1. Sullen Lady Mary Has a New Suitor. When an old family friend, Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen), attends the party, the sullen Lady Mary finds herself possibly, maybe having a tiny bit of fun. On a horse ride, the two bond over the burdens of death and taxes. While Gillingham is technically engaged to a woman chosen for him by his parents, he seems rather smitten with Mary, even after she runs away in tears after realizing she was dancing to music played on a gramophone that belonged to her beloved Matthew.
2. Lord Grantham Is Far Too Old School. Robert is struggling with the new class system. The only person he can turn to is Carson the butler, perhaps the only soul at Downton more old fashioned than him. When Lady Cora discovers that the two old fuddy duddies decided their honored guest performer – a world-class opera singer who was honored by no less than the Queen – should dine alone in her room, because she is "beneath" them, she's outraged. "Am I the only member of this family that lives in the 20th century?" she moans, instructing Robert: "You will have her next to you at dinner and you will like it!"
3. Isobel Crawley Is Not Ready To Be Happy. As Downton returns to party mode, Violet, the Dowager Countess, tracks down Isobel Crawley to invite her to the festivities. Unfortunately, Isobel can't escape her grief over Matthew's death. Violet, embracing her strange new role of good-natured gadabout, convinces Isobel to come anyway. However when Isobel sees Mary (GASP!) laughing and dancing, it's all too much for her.
4. Molesley Still Exists, Tests Our Patience. This week, Matthew's unemployed valet has been reduced to carrying groceries for the local merchant, which everyone seems to think is worse than last week's odd job with the road crew. When Jimmy the flirty footman injures himself showing off for the kitchen maids, Carson calls on Molesley to don the attire of a footman and step back into service. While somewhat grateful for the opportunity to return to the Abbey, Moseley seems shocked and offended that he is to serve as a footman and almost gasps in horror when Carson asks him to wear gloves. He finally admits that beggars can't be choosers and sets to work, but not before we've all died of boredom at this incessant storyline.
5. Lady Edith’s Beau Is Apparently a Card Sharp. Lady Edith invited her married London beau, Michael Gregson, to Downton for the party. While her parents, particularly Lord Grantham, have no interest in making nice with the magazine editor making eyes at their daughter, Edith seems to be very happy having him around. Gregson takes advantage of an intimate poker game to befriend Robert and when a visiting card sharp causes Robert to lose his shirt, Gregson jumps in to win back the money and make a friend – or at least less of an enemy – out of him. Still Edith might be wise to use caution around a man who can out-cheat a professional.
6. Tom Branson Has Very Poor Judgment. When maid Edna Braithwaite returned to Downton, it was clear she had her eyes set on Tom, the chauffeur-turned-widow of the Crawley family's youngest daughter. Tom is still battling his insecurities about his new lofty station in life and the society party, with its illogical niceties, proves to be a terrible struggle. While Lady Violet brushes it off, “If I were to search for logic, I should not look for it among the English upperclass!” Tom turns to drinking whiskey and ends up retiring to his bedroom very, very drunk – figuratively and literally leaving the door open for Braithwaite to make her move.
7. About the Big Awful Thing That Happened To Anna... In a sharp turn from the frivolity of the party and the series' usual upstairs-downstairs drama, last night's episode took a decidedly dark turn. As per custom, Downton's party guests brought along their staff and Lord Gillingham’s valet, Green, who is at first blush charming and charismatic, turns out to be a true force of evil. While Anna (Joanne Froggatt) is friendly to the visiting valet, Bates takes an immediate dislike to the man, a sentiment proved correct. As the opera singer performs for the household, Anna excuses herself to fetch some headache medicine downstairs. With the entire staff occupied upstairs, Green takes advantage of the opportunity to follow Anna to the kitchen where he violently attacks and rapes her. Beaten and bloodied, Anna goes to Mrs. Hughes for help begging the woman to not tell a soul, terrified that Bates would murder Green and return to prison if he were to ever learn the truth.
When this controversial scene aired in England, hundreds of complaints were lodged by viewers shocked and dismayed that their guilty pleasure period melodrama unexpectedly turned into an episode of Downton Abbey: SVU. (Woe be to any parents who were watching with their children!) While Anna seems determined to suffer in silence without so much as a trip to the doctor, it’s clear this will dramatically change the tone and focus of Downton this season. Here, actress Joanna Froggatt reflects on the dark and pivotal scene: