(submitted by musee-hades)
Yet another piece of Sybil/ Tom defense
When it comes to Downton Abbey, I have always felt that Tom Branson and Sybil Crawley are two of the most likeable characters, with or without their relationship. I am always surprised when I encounter so much Tom Branson hate. I have been reading some fantastic Tom and Sybil defense pieces, and I thought it was time that I threw my hat into the ring. I have trouble with a lot of the anti-Tom arguments that circle about the web and wanted to bolster my argument, and the standing of my OTP with one more supportive article.
A lot of anti-Tom sentiment comes from Downton lovers who say that he was far too pushy about starting the relationship and convincing Sybil that he was who she should be betting on. I couldn’t disagree more. Tom wasn’t pushy—he was confident, something that none of the other housestaff are allowed to be in front of the upstairs set. When Tom confesses his love of Sybil at the hospital in York he spoke in such a way to take responsibility for what he was about to do, and also because he couldn’t afford to be wishy-washy. While Tom knows that Sybil is a progressive, he isn’t under any illusions about who she is or who she was raised to be or the state of the world when he does his confessing. He has to show Sybil that he is a contender right out of the gate, and that he is strong enough to be open with her, and strong enough to fight for her love. Men are still expected to take care of their wives and he knows that if he marries her he’ll have to take care of her. At this point he doesn’t even know if she’ll be successful in nursing. He’s puffing up his feathers to prove to her that he isn’t just a chauffer, but that he is a capable man who will succeed and work for her happiness.
When he does this he has already known her for some time: they aren’t strangers, and they’ve shared a few things. Tom already knows the state of Sybil’s mind and ideas. He watched her help Gwen get a job, and he was the one who had to pull her out of the political rally, not the other way around. (I am still annoyed that Matthew got all of the credit for saving Sybil. I’d rely on Tom before I relied on Matthew for my life.(was that Matthew and Tom time a indicator of bromance to come??)) He has also seen her buck the system by wearing pants, (and inexplicably show up the window grinning like a dork. How did no one see him?) and begin to cook (once again, Tom Branson stops to stare) and give up her life at Downton to become a nurse. These are things that Sybil has done by herself. She also speaks openly to Tom and respects his mind. Tom Branson didn’t start playing headgames with her to force her to love him, he fell in love with who she was already. More about the political rallys: when Sybil and Tom are at the first rally, watch Tom’s body language when Sybil talks to cousin Isobel. He steps in to keep any of the men around her from grabbing or shoving at her. He shoves at a few of them himself, struggling them off while he talks to her. He is glued to her while aware of their surroundings. She is able to enjoy the event and think and feel the excitement while her bears the burden of the threat around them—and he does so in a way which is friendly and kind, not over protective and overbearing. Afterwards, in the car, the two have a good dialogue in which Branson can be honest with Sybil about his feelings on class discrepancies and she encourages him to be more than just a chauffer. Of course he sees what she can’t yet—they are bonding.
Speaking of their past interactions: Sybil has already allowed Branson to become more intimate than a friend or a servant would be allowed to do. At the garden party, when Gwen is given the news about her job, Sybil is holding Branson’s hand when Mrs. Hughes approaches. You can see for yourself. At 53:57 Sybil is clearly holding Tom’s hand after they’ve all hugged, and he’d put his hand on her waist when they ran to tell Gwen to the good news. This is a good indicator for Tom that Sybil is in fact keen. Tom would never have acted that way around Lady Edith or Lady Mary, that is for sure. After Mrs. Hughes breaks up the celebration there is a moment when Tom and Sybil both look positively gaga for one another.
So, Tom tells Sybil to bet on him at York and she refuses. Of course she refuses and of course it will take her some time to make her mind up. The fact that she doesn’t run and tell her papa about Tom’s offer indicates that she at least cares about him on some level—and the fact that she keeps approaching him after she has sorta rejected him is a good indicator of her feelings rather than his. He never corners her or is forceful. Sybil returns to the garage over and over again to speak to him, not the other way around.
I’ve always been really annoyed that Lord Grantham was so uptight about Sybil and Tom’s impending marriage—especially since he has been having an affair with a housemaid. He can go and fool around with the help, but when one wants to be with his daughter that is just too much to bear. The way he treated Tom was truly awful—he acted so righteous when all of us know that he was running about with another girl! I am probably hitting the mark when I say that ever Tom Sybil shipper was disgusted.
Anyhow, I have rambled enough.
(blogger note: Great defense here! Just to say, I agree that it’s very irritating that Lord Grantham couldn’t accept his daughter marrying the chauffeur whom she loved, yet was having an affair with the housemaid. Sadly, it was very common for married Earls and Lords to have affairs, let alone affairs with the help. So whilst it’s still very bad of Robert to do such a thing, it shouldn’t be shocking when considering the hypocritical standards of the time. A rich man could cheat on his wife and get a divorce if his wife cheated on him, yet a poorer woman like Vera couldn’t cheat on her husband and couldn’t divorce him if he cheated on her.)