Rob James-Collier as Thomas.

Rob James-Collier as Thomas. (Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE / February 10, 2013)

The Thomas and Jimmy situation just got real(ly sad). 

Yes, a lot went down in this two-hour penultimate episode of Season 3. It all felt, at times, a bit laborious (this was two of the U.K. episodes, for some reason, smashed together), but it advanced several plot lines a great deal.

And gave us double dose of biting, hilarious Dowager Countess comments!

I'd like to start with the sad case of Thomas Barrow, so often the evil glaring villain. I had a friend a few weeks ago tell me how much she hates -- hates! -- Thomas. And yes, he's often pretty awful and smokes a lot and evil-y schemes while smoking a lot.

But in this episode, it's hard to not feel sympathetic for the bloke. And yes, I said "bloke." Hey, it's a British series. Give me a break. 

As the house is prepping for a Downton cricket match (the house vs. the village!), things heat up for Thomas. After a few episodes of O'Brien scheming against her former BFF, partly because Thomas refused to mentor her nephew, Alfred, and partly because she's, well, O'Brien Mistress of the Devil Dark, her plan to ruin him came to fruition.

Already on edge because Bates is back and will be taking back his old valet job, Thomas lets his guard down with O'Brien after she calls he and Jimmy a "cozy couple." Yes, all Thomas did was give Jimmy advice, but O'Brien is the queen of manipulating even the most inconsequential of events, twisting them to her benefit.

She tells Thomas that Alfred told her that Jimmy is always going on about how great Thomas is. Thomas dismisses the news, but the seed is planted. And O'Brien can see that, as she smiles to herself. 

Later, Jimmy and Thomas are alone in the kitchen as Jimmy vents his anger of being passed over as first footman in favor of Alfred and the fact that Carson hates him. "Well, I love you," Thomas tells him, in a friendly way. But still, a little heavy handed here. Jimmy reveals he's pretty much alone: his parents are dead, no brothers or sisters, etc. 

He leaves and O'Brien is around the corner, swooping in to say that she knows what's up between the two. Thomas dismisses this again, saying that Jimmy is "a proper little ladies man." You can tell that Thomas is being respectful and has no intention of trying anything with Jimmy, as much as he'd like to. 

O'Brien sharpens her dagger, repeating that Alfred tells her how much Jimmy talks about Thomas.

"If Alfred says Jimmy is interested in me, he's lying," Thomas reiterates. 

"Oh dear," O'Brien says. "Is it supposed to be a secret?" And she leaves. This is kind of the worst that O'Brien has behaved ... and she almost killed Cora's baby with a cleverly placed bit of soap.

Her plan is realized. Thomas sits alone in the kitchen, torn about what to do and overcome with attraction to Jimmy (even though Jimmy is a whiny little you-know-what. I hate to say this, but Thomas can do better).

Thomas angrily gets undressed and stews in his bedroom a bit before walking slowly into the hallway and into Jimmy's room. Jimmy's asleep as Thomas creepily hovers over him. Tension mounts as Alfred returns from the movies with Ivy, and we see Thomas lean in for a kiss just as Alfred walks into the room he shares with Jimmy.

"Get the hell off of me!!" Jimmy yells (1920 gay panic!) and Thomas, surprised and scared, mutters something about how he thought there was something between the two.

"There's nothing between us except for my fist," Jimmy says. Thomas is devastated, retreating back to his room.

The next morning, the breakfast table is awkward-quiet. The saddest thing ever: Thomas offering Jimmy a plate of food and Jimmy looking at him with pure hatred.

What will happen next? Well, enter O'Brien, who manipulates both Alfred to talk to Carson about what happened and then gets Jimmy to get so angry about everything as to demand that not only Thomas leaves but that he intends to report the guy to the police. Homosexuality = illegal. This is 1920 Britain after all. 

The most riveting part of the two hours came when Carson confronts Thomas about the news. It's interesting to watch the pejudices come out (Carson saying Thomas should be horse-whipped. Yikes), but also more interesting to see how Thomas deals with everything.