Emmy Episode Analysis: Jim Carter (‘Downton Abbey’) consoles a widow, reconciles with a friend

Jim Carter has earned his third consecutive Drama Supporting Actor nomination for playing Mr. Carson, head butler for the Crawley family, on “Downton Abbey.” He has submitted the two-hour fourth season premiere to the judging panel.

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SYNOPSIS: Carson’s storyline begins with him throwing away a note he’s received. Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) takes the note out of the trash and reads that Carson’s former song-and-dance partner, Charley Grick, has fallen on hard times. She visits him at the workhouse and decides to help him despite Carson’s unwillingness to do so. This angers Carson, who tells her to mind her own business. Nonetheless, Mrs. Hughes enlists the help of Isobel (Penelope Wilton) in hopes that she can help Mr. Grick.

Meanwhile, Tom (Allen Leech) enlists Carson to help Mary (Michelle Dockery) get past her grief over the death of her husband, Matthew. But when Carson visits Mary in her room to suggest that she become more involved in the running of the estate. Mary accuses him of overstepping his boundaries. Before Carson leaves, he tells Mary that she’s letting herself be defeated. Later, Mary visits Carson in his office, apologizes, and finally breaks down over her loss. Carson consoles her, and the next day Mary heeds his advice about taking responsibility for the estate.

Emmy Episode Analysis: Can Maggie Smith (‘Downton Abbey’) pull off a hat trick?

Later, Carson reveals to Mrs. Hughes that he and Mr. Grick parted on bad terms because Grick had married a woman, Alice, whom Carson had been in love with. Isobel arranges a job for Grick at a theater in Belfast, and after much prodding from Mrs. Hughes and Isobel, Carson shows up at the train station to see his performing partner one last time. The two discuss the past, and Grick tells Carson that even though Alice chose him, she felt she should have chosen Carson instead. They part ways as friends. Carson then tells Isobel that he wants to pay back some of the money she spent taking care of Grick.

Among “Downton’s” actors, only Maggie Smith has won an Emmy. Can Carter change that this year? Here are the pros and cons:


The episode is two hours long, and Carter is never off-screen for too long.

We get to see a good emotional range from Carson: from being annoyed with Mrs. Hughes, to comforting with Mary, to remorseful when he learns how Alice really felt.

There is still a lot of love for “Downton” at the Emmys. It received more nominations this year than most experts were expecting. So judges on his panel might already be fond of him.


Carson is stubborn. His refusal to help an old friend or even accept changing cultural norms could make him less likable to voters.

Carson’s stiff upper lip means Carter never gets any outwardly expressive scenes. That could put him at a disadvantage if Emmy voters are looking for fireworks.

“Downton” has gotten a lot of Emmy love when it comes to nominations, but it has not had the same success when it comes to winning. In fact, since the show moved to drama from the movie/miniseries races in 2012, the program has only won a single trophy at the main telecast: Drama Supporting Actress for Maggie Smith.

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Carter ranks sixth in our predictions with 100/1 odds. Do you think we should be ranking him higher? Make your predictions below.

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