Thomas, Downton Abbey's dashing butler and dastardly villain, has done his share of terrible things what with his constant attempts to get Meeeehstah Baaaaayyyytes fired, his black market business ventures and all the gossip he swaps over courtyard cigarettes with O'Brien. Still, few of his actions have upset American audiences quite as much as the time that he stole Lord Grantham's yellow lab (whose butt is the breakout star of the opening credits) and locked him in a shed in the woods so that, once the household realized the dog was missing, he could be the one to return him and get Lord Grantham's gratitude.
Rob James-Collier, the actor who plays Thomas, tells Slate:
The scene where I hid the dog in the Christmas Special. [Americans] do not like that. America does not like people being not nice to dogs. I got a bit about it in England, but over here, even more so. You can try and get an innocent man sacked and frame him for stealing. You can trip up Bates, who is essentially disabled. That's all fine apparently, but put a dog in a shed overnight over here, and people are not happy.
And, sure, Thomas may have fucked with the wrong dog, but that doesn't mean his character is a one-dimensional villain. As James-Collier points out, he is actually one of the series' more modern and nuanced characters:
I think Thomas is quite a modern thinker, in terms of the show. He doesn't believe in the class system; he's always questioned it. He's always wanted to see it ended. He ventured out to become a businessman, an entrepreneur when he attempted to go on the black market. In them days, that was unheard of. So that's modernistic. And he's not ashamed of his sexuality, which in a time when it was illegal and against God, was no mean feat. There's a great line in this season where he says to Mr. Carson, "I am not foul; I am not like you, but I am not foul." And he says it with such dignity, and holding his head high, 'cause he's like "I'm not apologizing for who I am," which, again, is extremely modern attitude. He's ahead of his time.
It will exciting to see how Thomas does in season 3. The folks of Downton are entering the roaring twenties and it's all about to get real modern real fast.