This week’s episode had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, my stomach tied in knots and my heart thumping. Lots of intrigue and plotting, lots of innuendo and even a few, you know, actual declarations of love!
The Abbey is now almost completely taken over by the convalescing soldiers and the episodes starts with Mrs. Crawley showing up to start her managerial duties, only to be met by a very much in charge Cora. Seems like everything’s being handled with great efficiency by the lady of the house and Isobel is not too happy about her reduced authority. It appears that she’s not needed upstairs, so she storms downstairs, only to be told by a harried Mrs. Patmore that Lady G. has changed the luncheon schedule (and consequently the nurses’ shift schedules). The nerve! How dare Cora change Isobel’s arrangements! Of course, she confronts Cora and threatens to leave. I have to tell you, I thought Mrs. Crawley’s arguments with the Dowager were entertaining, but they’re nothing compared to the showdown with Cora!
Lady G. basically tells Isobel that Downton is her house and she knows how to manage it, thank you very much. Mrs. Crawley leaves in a huff and goes off tattling to Dr. Clarkson who coolly informs her that if Lady G. wants to run her household, she has every right to do so. Well! That comes as a great surprise to Isobel, who then promptly decides to really leave and go to France to volunteer for the Red Cross, leaving Mr. Molesley and Mrs. Bird to manage an empty Crawley House.
In the meantime, Mary has to, once again, assure the Dowager that Lavinia did not have an affair with Sir Richard. The Dowager has her doubts, of course, and questions Mary on her choice of her possible fiancé, “And this is your beau, is it? A man who lends money and then uses it to blackmail the recipient?” Well, she has a point. I mean, we’ve hardly gotten to know Sir Richard, but I honestly think Mary can do better. She deserves better! Mary defends him, but you can see that the Dowager is clearly not convinced.
Their conversation then turns to Sybil, and the Dowager wonders whether or not she has formed and “attachment” to “some man she doesn’t care to mention.” Wait. How does Violet know these things? Did she spy on Sybil and Branson talking? It’s scary how she figures these things out. I don’t think she knows about Sybil & Branson per se, but I think she just knows that Sybil is in a position to fall in love with the wrong sort, given her daily proximity to soldiers, etc. Mary tells her that she doesn’t think Sybil’s involved with anyone and then...uh oh! She runs into Sybil and Branson having a cozy little chat out by the car park. Mary doesn’t really hear the actual conversation, but she’s pretty smart and can tell by their body language (they are standing a little too close) that something’s up.
Have I mentioned how much I just LOVE Sybil and Branson? I do! I honestly think they’re made for each other, class distinctions be damned! They are both idealistic and committed to their beliefs, they are young, beautiful and oh my god, the chemistry! What’s not to love? They’re having one of their ideological arguments and Sybil’s wondering why Branson won’t leave to stage more protests against the war and she questions whether or not he’s planning on staying at Downton forever, instead of “fighting for freedom.”
Branson: “Truth is, I’ll stay in Downton until you want to run away with me."
Sybil: “Don’t be ridiculous!”
Branson: “You’re too scared to admit it, but you’re in love with me.”
Well! Now he’s gone and put the idea in her head. I mean, we know that she loves him but now he’s said it out loud and that’s all she’s going to be thinking about. Hee. Go Branson!
Anyway, Mary decides to head things off at the pass and asks Sybil for an explanation. Sybil gets upset and denies having any feelings for Branson. Methinks the lady doth protest too much! Mary sees through it, of course, and warns her not to do anything stupid. She makes Sybil swear to stay away from “the chauffeur,” and in turn, Sybil asks Mary to promise not to say anything to Lord G. She then goes down to tell Branson that Mary knows and that she has to stay away from him. Branson assumes the worst and thinks he’s going to be fired.
Branson: “Well, that’s me finished then. Without a reference.”
Sybil: “No she’s not like that! You don’t know her, she wouldn’t give us away.”
Branson: “But she won’t encourage us.”
Sybil: “No … why are you smiling? I thought you’d be angry.”
Branson: “Because that’s the first time you’ve ever spoken about ‘us.’ … Look, it comes down to whether or not you love me. That’s all. That’s it. The rest is detail.”
Go Branson (again)!
In the Mary/Matthew angst fest, it seems that the Dowager is not the only one worried about Sir Richard as Mary’s possible intended. Lord G. tells her that he’s had a letter from Sir Richard officially asking for Mary’s hand. Mary assures Lord G. that she hasn’t given him an answer yet and Lord G. insists that she write to Matthew and tell him about it.
Back at the front, Matthew gets Mary’s letter and immediately decides that he needs to go out on patrol with William in tow. Hm. Interesting that he decides to put his life in danger the minute he hears of Mary’s possible engagement. Any way, they go off on their own and oh my god! They are ambushed by the Germans! Eep!
We’re left in suspense as gradually everyone finds out that Matthew and William never showed up at Downton for their scheduled leave. Daisy’s pretty worried and in a breach of decorum, actually approaches and asks Edith to try and find out if there’s any news. Edith takes it directly to Lord G., who confirms that yes: Matthew and William are indeed listed as missing in action. He makes Edith promise not to tell Mary and in fact, not to tell anyone else about it because he believes that they will turn up. Did I say eep? Eep!
Meanwhile, things are pretty hectic below stairs. There’s a veritable army (no pun intended) of helpers in the kitchen, but no one’s really helping the actual household staff. Mr. Molesley, who’s bored out of his mind, comes over and offers to help. Both Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes are thrilled and they hint at his possibly coming back to act as Lord G.’s valet. Molesley is over the moon about it because well, being the valet to an Earl is quite a step up for him.
Thomas and O’Brien are back to their old devious selves and it seems that Thomas has found out about Bates working at a pub from a friend. They’re discussing it outside during one of their infamous smoke breaks (where, you know, they plot all their plots) and Daisy overhears them. She casually mentions Bates’ whereabouts to Mrs. Hughes and it cascades up to Mr. Carson and of course Lord G., who after confirming the exact location with Anna, decides to go down and pay Bates a visit. Everyone’s a bit shocked that Anna has known about Bates all this time and hasn’t said anything, but she declares that it wasn’t her “secret to tell.”
Mr. Bates and Lord G. have a great reunion and Lord G. apologizes for having been so rude to Bates when he left. He asks Bates to tell him about his plans for divorcing Vera and tries to get him to spill the big secret that Vera has threatened to share. Of course, Bates dismisses it as just a bit of nonsense, but gah! We know better! This is going to get super ugly. Any way, Lord G. tells Bates about Matthew being MIA and how he feels like he’s losing his son (aww!) and asks Bates to come back to the Abbey and “help [him] through the veil of shadow.”
Yay! Bates is back! Everyone is thrilled of course, but the look on Anna’s face is just...pure joy. My heart! The only people who’re not happy to see him back are Thomas and O’Brien. Shocker. Oh, and poor Mr. Molesley! He rushes in to help dress Lord G. and runs right into Bates. There go his dreams of becoming an Earl’s valet! Back to being bored at Crawley House for him, I guess.
Speaking of Crawley House, Molesley and Mrs. Bird are sitting around wondering what to do next when an errant soldier walks in the kitchen asking for food. Mrs. Bird resists at first, but finally gives in and feeds the poor man, and before you know it, she’s taken on the task of feeding a whole bunch of them once a week. And she’s paying for the food out of her own pocket!
Taking a much needed break from the kitchens, Mrs. Patmore and Daisy are walking along when they see the line of soldiers being led into Crawley House and go in to investigate. Once they see what’s going on, they jump in and start to help. When Mrs. P. finds out that Mrs. Bird has been paying for the food herself, she takes matters into her own hands and starts storing some extra food back at the Abbey and takes it down to the House once a week. And this folks, is where some of the intrigue starts. The ever present, ever nosy and every malicious O’Brien catches Mrs. P. dropping off food at the House and tells Cora that the cooks must be in cahoots with each other and are selling off the food to make a little money on the side. Seriously, O’Brien? Is there no end to your scheming? What the heck have Mrs. P. and Daisy ever done to you? Grrr.
Anyway, Cora insists on going down to Crawley House and catching the “thieves” herself. Mrs. P. stands up to Cora and tells her that they haven’t been taking any food that was paid for by the Abbey, but have been using the army provisions for their little soup kitchen. In a truly great moment, Cora tells them that they should take the food from the Abbey’s stores and then rolls up her sleeves and offers to help with the soldiers! And oh look! She even drags O’Brien into it! Hah. So much for trying to stir up trouble, O’Brien!
Guess what else is happening down below! Remember Ethel? The rebellious maid who’s looking for a better life and was totally flirting with Major Bryant last week? Well, she’s clearly not given up and is actually being pretty blatant with the Major. How blatant, you might ask? What would you say if I told you that Mrs. Hughes actually catches her and the good Major in a...er... compromising (yes, I mean naked) position?! She does and of course, fires Ethel on the spot. Ethel packs up and leaves, but doesn’t tell anyone why she’s been sacked. Anna goes to plead her case with Mrs. Hughes, but of course, there’s no way Mrs. H. would budge. A few nights later, Ethel shows up at the Abbey and begs Mrs. Hughes to help her because—oh no! She’s pregnant!
Meanwhile, there’s still no word about Matthew and William. In a rare instance of sisterly love, Edith decides that Mary really should know what’s going on. Poor Mary is just devastated. Lord G. ends up telling Cora and everyone’s in a pretty somber mood as they head down to a concert that Edith’s organized for the soldiers. The concert’s intended to boost morale and Mary’s agreed to sing. She has a beautiful voice. She starts singing about a boy and a girl wondering “what if,” when … OH. MY. GOD!!! It’s Matthew!!! And William!!!
I swear I thought Mary was going to just run down and jump in Matthew’s arms! She stops singing and stares at him and then just exhales a relieved “thank god.” See? This is what I meant when I said my heart was thumping. Matthew stares right back at her for a little while and then starts singing the song. Mary joins in and they perform a gorgeous (and heartbreaking) duet.
Matthew (singing): “I would say such wonderful things to you...”
Mary (singing): “There would be such wonderful things to do …”
Everyone sings along: “If you were the only girl in the world, and I were the only boy.”
Okay, so it turns out that Matthew and William had gotten lost and were trapped behind the Germans, but were never actually caught. They managed to find their way back to a medic station and since there was nothing really wrong with them (i.e. they hadn’t been injured), no one had reported back to their unit.
Oh, as an aside, Thomas, who’s been particularly mean to Daisy and is basically being a pompous ass telling everyone that he’s in charge and doesn’t work for Lord G. any more, etc., is chastised by Dr. Clarkson, who is in fact, his superior officer. Of course, Thomas immediately assumes that Bates is the one who sold him out and of course, O’Brien agrees with him. What is it with these two? I honestly don’t even understand what their motives are any more. Any way, it turns out that Mrs. Hughes is actually the one who complained about Thomas. I’m sure there’s going to be some fall out from all of this in the coming weeks.
Next week looks pretty intense too. Vera’s back and is clearly not interested in Bates’ deal to take the money and keep quiet about what she knows. It looks like Sir Richard is now refusing to marry Mary. Ugh. Can’t wait to see how this all plays out!
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Naz Keynejad is an avid reader, wanna-be writer, editor and self-professed geek. She has a “thing” for period dramas and will watch anything as long as it’s filled with suppressed sexual tension, angst and of course, period costumes. Oh, and there has to be tea. Lots of tea.