Wow. That’s all I can say about this week’s episode: a big, whopping, WOW. The writers really pulled out all the stops on this one. You know I said last week’s show felt a bit flat to me? Well, this week more than made up for it!
We start out with the last of the hospice paraphernalia being removed from the Abbey. It is now 1919, the war’s been over for a few months, and Lord G. is back in civilian clothes. Things seem to be still a bit chilly between Cora and Lord G. They’re bickering and he’s clearly just annoyed with her. She’s on her way to help Isobel with some refugee work (!!!) and asks him if he’s heard anything more about the “Bates situation.” In what appears to her to be a very practical concern, she asks Lord G. if he’s planning on keeping Bates on, what with his wife having committed suicide and all, and he gets all snippy with her.
Oh, and to add insult to injury, Cora’s questioning whether or not it’s time to send Matthew home, which of course, makes Lord G. really angry. What is up with Cora any way? She’s just become so…heartless? Insensitive? Clueless? I don’t know. But I have to say; she’s bugging me too. I mean, I get that she’s concerned for Mary and wants to let her get on with her life and all, but for crying out loud! It’s Matthew! He’s been seriously injured and he is the heir, so why can’t he just stay on as long as he needs? Yes. I’m coming down on Lord G.’s side here.
Any way, Lord G. stomps away and goes for his morning walk and runs into Jane on the garden path, picking up some spilt apples. They have a bit of an intimate moment and he tells her that he’s written to Freddy’s school and told the headmaster to look after Jane’s little boy. Of course, Jane looks completely smitten. They sort of lean in towards each other when a car pulls up and they step back. Oh no. Seriously, this does not look good.
Downstairs, Mrs. Patmore bemoans the lack of supplies and Thomas does his best I-know-something-you-don’t snicker. He’s all dressed up in a nice suit and tells O’Brien that he’s going into the black market business. Apparently, he’s found himself a dealer and a shed in the village to store the foodstuffs. He’s pretty cocky about the whole thing. Well, it is Thomas, so cocky is his natural state. O’Brien’s pretty worried, though. She’s always been a bit more practical than him.
Dressing for dinner, Lord G. asks Bates about the state of the inquest into his wife’s suicide and wonders how Vera got her hands on the poison she apparently used to off herself. Sir Richard is back for a visit and he corners Anna, offering her money to essentially spy on Mary. Of course, he doesn’t say it quite like that, but it amounts to the same thing. Anna refuses and he asks her not to tell Lady Mary. I really don’t like this guy. I understand that Mary’s prospects are slim, but is this the best she could do? Ugh.
Post war changes are affecting everyone in the family and they all question their lives in their own way. Edith and Sybil are not happy and feel useless. Isobel is all for change (shocker) and Violet is not (again, shocker). Even Lord G. is questioning whether or not his life will have value. It’s an interesting situation for them because they now essentially face going back to their old languid life, but how does one do that after having experienced such a horrific, worldwide upheaval?
Cora tells Carson that Mr. and Mrs. Bryant want to visit Downton, it being the last place their son, Major Bryant, stayed before shipping off to the front again and being killed. Mrs. Hughes finds out about the visit and rushes to let Ethel know about it. She tells Ethel to bring the baby over to Downton, but hide while she tries to find some time alone with Mrs. Bryant and tell her about Ethel’s predicament.
In the Sybil and Branson corner, there’s more talk about how she really doesn’t want to go back to her old way of life. He keeps harping on her “making up her mind” about them and she demurs. Okay, seriously? Come on Sybil! Either say yes or no! Poor Branson looks like a lost puppy.
Bates is still helping Matthew get around on his wheelchair and as he’s getting him ready for bed, Matthew confesses that he’s been feeling some tingling in his legs. This could be great news and Bates tells him to wait and see what happens.
I’m going to stop here and say something that might sound trivial, but it felt a little odd to me: Matthew’s bedroom is not exactly the opulent digs you’d expect them to assign to the future Lord Grantham. I mean, he’s in a nice enough room, but sleeps in a hospital bed and…well, I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel “right,” if you know what I mean. I’m wondering (and yes, I’m totally making this up), whether or not Cora’s done that on purpose, trying to make it not quite as comfortable for Matthew so he wouldn’t prolong his stay? Yeah, probably not.
Any way, back to the story. The next day, Matthew is sitting in the library when Lavinia comes in to check on him and sees the leftover tea tray on the sideboard. She decides to help and carry the tray out when she trips and as she’s falling…OMG!!! Matthew stands up and grabs her arm! Yay! Matthew can walk now! The entire household is alerted and everyone is absolutely overjoyed. They call in Dr. Clarkson who admits that what he had assumed was a permanent injury to Matthew’s spine might’ve been a really bad bruising and that given time, Matthew would fully recover.
The following afternoon, Lord G. is looking for Carson when he runs into Jane in the pantry off the dining room. They have yet another intimate moment and this time – oh god! He… he…he just…practically jumps on her and kisses the daylights out of her! Eep!!! See? I KNEW this was going to be bad. He apologizes and walks away and she runs downstairs all flustered and out of breath. Really Lord G.? Really? Sigh.
Sitting at dinner, Matthew thanks everyone for their support and kindness and announces that he’s pushing up his marriage to Lavinia and wants to know if they can get married at the Abbey. Lord G. graciously agrees and poor Mary plasters a fake smile on her face, which doesn’t go unnoticed by Violet. Sir Richard catches on too and asks Mary point blank to deny still being in love with Matthew. The ever-savvy Mary quips that she can never be in love with someone who prefers another woman to her. Cora’s not too happy about having the wedding at Downton because it would push back Mary’s wedding. Wait. I don’t understand this. Why? Why would Matthew’s wedding trump Mary’s? It’s just one more thing for Lord G. and Cora to bicker about and given what happened with Jane earlier, I’m seriously worried about Lord G.’s state of mind and well, marriage!
Meanwhile, Anna shares Sir Richard’s “offer” with Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Carson, who promptly tells Mary about it. He also tells her that he can’t in good conscious leave the Abbey and work with her. Sir Richard walks in on their conversation and Mary coolly informs him that Carson won’t be in their employ. As Carson’s leaving the room, Mary reverts back to her old, mean self:
Sir Richard: “What a shame.”
Mary: “Not really. Butlers will be two a penny now they’re all back from the war.”
Back in the village, Thomas gives O’Brien a tour of his hoard. It seems that he has all sorts of non-perishable food items stored away, just waiting to be sold at outrageous prices. He’s pretty sure of himself and tells O’Brien that he’s going to start with selling his wares to Mrs. Patmore. The scheme almost works. Mrs. Patmore agrees to sample Thomas’ stock and buy from him on the condition that the goods are up to her standards. Daisy, who’s been chomping at the bit to try her hand at cooking, begs to help make Matthew and Lavinia’s wedding cake and Mrs. Patmore agrees to give her a trial run. Using the supplies Thomas provides, Daisy makes the cake and it turns out to be completely inedible. Oh no! Turns out that Thomas’ “supplier” has totally cheated him and has loaded him up with inferior goods! There’s plaster mixed in with the flour and some of the other items are not even really food. So, Thomas has spent all his savings and “then some” on this business venture and is now completely ruined. Can’t say I feel bad for him.
The Bryants arrive and Mr. Bryant is a loud, pompous man who clearly doesn’t want to be there. Mrs. Hughes tries to get a moment alone with Mrs. Bryant, but isn’t successful, so she goes back to Ethel who’s hiding out in the cellar and tells her to just go back home. Ethel, being Ethel, doesn’t listen and storms into the dining room with the baby in tow. She confronts the Bryants and Mr. Bryant basically tells her that she’s lying and that his son would’ve never had a child and not told anyone about it. Mrs. Hughes and Anna rush in and hustle Ethel out of the room. Clearly upset, the Bryants leave and downstairs, the staff tries to comfort Ethel.
In a complete breach of decorum, Violet stops by Matthew’s bedroom to have an uninterrupted chat with him about Mary. She basically comes right out and tells him that he needs to think very carefully about whom he chooses to marry because Mary’s still in love with him. Poor Matthew is pretty shocked, but defends his decision. Violet’s pretty relentless though:
Matthew: “Do you think it would be right for me to throw <Lavinia> over because I can walk? To dismiss her because I no longer have need of her services?”
Violet: “Spoken like a man of honor…I would just say one thing: marriage is a long business. There’s no getting out of it for our kind of people. You may live forty, fifty years with one of these women. Just make sure you have selected the right one.”
Go Violet! Great way to plant the seed in Matthew’s head. (As an aside, the next morning, Isobel brings in the little stuffed dog Mary had given to Matthew as a good luck charm and asks him where it came from. He hedges the question and quickly pockets the toy. See? The seed’s been planted all right.)
Sybil goes down to visit Branson and tells him that she’s made up her mind and wants to be with him. They finally, finally kiss. Phew. Later, she pleads a headache and doesn’t come down to dinner, but when Mary goes to check on her, she’s not in her room. Gasp!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen: Sybil has eloped with Branson and is on her way to Gretna Green! Mary, Edith and Anna jump in the car and go after her. They find the “happy” couple ensconced in a hotel on the road, but when they burst in the room, it’s clear that nothing’s really happened. Mary convinces Sybil to go back with her, telling her that it’s much better to be honest about what she wants to do than to run away in the middle of the night to get married. Sybil reluctantly agrees, but promises Branson that her heart belongs to him and that she will be with him, one way or another. Drama!
Meanwhile, Bates confesses to Anna that a few weeks before Vera killed herself, she’d asked him to buy some rat poison, which he’d done. Anna tells him that he should let the police know immediately and not let them find out because it would make it look like he was trying to hide something. Apparently, Vera had also sent a letter to a friend of hers bemoaning Bates’s last visit and claiming that she was afraid for her safety! What? Wow, that woman had some serious issues. I mean, she’s reaching back from the grave to make a mess of things for Anna and Bates.
In the final scene of the episode, Lord G. is having breakfast, and Carson’s gone back downstairs to drop off a chafing dish when Jane walks in. She’s very nervous and offers to resign and he tells her that it’s not necessary. He insists that she not pay the price for him “behaving in an ungentlemanly manner.” Of course, that’s precisely when Carson comes back and Jane runs out of the room. Oh, I wonder how much Carson heard and what’s going to happen here.
See? I told you! So much happened this week! Next week’s episode promises to be pretty exciting too. Sybil and Branson present a united front to the family and Mary and Matthew share a private dance. But it looks like Cora’s really sick! And O’Brien is about to make a bedside confession. Eep! Can’t wait.
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