Previously on Downton Abbey: Rose married a Jew, which gave her mother ample opportunity to be absolutely repulsive; Violet tracked down the wife of a former lover/flirtation (we’re not quite sure how far this thing went); Daisy started getting into some book learnin’; Tom convinced himself to move to ‘Besten’; Edith adopted her own daughter; Mary found herself suitorless; and Anna was ridiculously arrested for murder.
Ahh, Isis may be gone, but her bum lives on in the credits.
Mary goes to the prison to visit Anna, wearing a rather spiffing coat, if I may say so.
Back at the house, preparations are underway for the family to travel to Brancaster Castle to join Rose’s in-laws, the Sinderbys, for a shooting weekend (the only kind of weekend Violet knows). Robert expresses his sympathy for Anna’s and Bates’s situation before catching up with Thomas and actually delivering an ‘as you know’ expository speech. Thomas is going along on this trip instead of Bates (it’s later revealed to be because Thomas can act as a loader for Robert, something Bates can’t do, although big houses would have people on hand to act as loaders; guests didn’t have to bring their own). Sinderby has brought his own butler to the rented castle, which Robert thinks will only cause disruption. He warns Thomas to be on his toes.
Belowstairs, Hughes offers to help Baxter pack, since she’s covering Cora, Mary, and Edith. Molesley shows up to deliver some awkward dialogue about fashion, saying it’s a lot to cope with, what with tweeds and evening dresses and tea gowns for three ladies. Hughes mocks him for bringing up tea gowns, reminding him they’re not in the 1890s anymore. Yes, Hughes, but, as you know, ladies still did have to change out of the tweeds and into something suitable for the afternoon after shooting. You couldn’t even wear tweeds to the breakfast table. So, while the afternoon dresses may not have been gowns anymore, they were still part of the uniform and were delicate and took some looking after. Plus, someone had to help the ladies into them, so leave off Molesley there, eh?
Violet’s come up for lunch and wonders if Mary took a cake with a file in it to see Anna. Robert points out that Violet would go see Denker if she were in prison. I highly doubt that. ‘Only to check if the locks were sound,’ Violet responds. Hee! Cora’s convinced that the Bateses will be two times lucky on beating murder raps. Violet changes the subject to the upcoming sale of the Della Francesca which is…upcoming. Robert excuses himself to attend an appointment in York. Cora wonders why he didn’t go in with Mary and he says he didn’t want to have to amuse himself ahead of his appointment.
Cora’s face: You’re kind of a dick sometimes, you know that?
She asks Violet what she plans to do while they’re away and Violet drops the bomb that Shrimpy’s found the Princess Kuragin and she’s on her way to stay with Violet. Woah, that’s a hell of a revelation to just drop into lunch like that. Cora figures Violet’s looking forward to the reunion, but that’s clearly not the case. Tom wonders why she went to all the trouble of helping this woman when she clearly doesn’t like her, but Violet gives no details.
Anna and Mary sit down, and all Anna’s worried about is the papers hearing that Mary’s gone to the prison. Mary thinks it’ll show that the family’s sticking by her. Anna has little faith that she’s going to get out of this, but Mary reminds her that the case is so thin it makes tissue paper look like concrete.
Carson and Hughes discuss Mary’s visit to the prison. Carson doesn’t like it, because he’s afraid the press will make a scandal of it. Hughes, like Mary, thinks it’ll just show that the Crawleys believe Anna is innocent. They go into the servants’ hall and Carson is annoyed to find Thomas cleaning Robert’s guns in there. Guess they blew their budget on the boot room and couldn’t stretch to a gun room set. There’s a bit of sniping between Thomas and Bates, and Baxter tells us that Thomas’s father was a shooting man, and as we all know, on this show, having a relative who can do something automatically means that you can do it too (you know, like Tom’s farmer grandpa, who gifted Tom with the ability to run Downton). Molesley comments that it must have been hard for Bates to miss his visit with Anna that day, but Bates was ok with it, since Mary wanted to go. Anna only gets one visitor at a time? That seems unduly harsh for someone who hasn’t even been indicted yet. Bates says he’d cut his arm off if he thought it would help Anna. ‘Don’t do that, Mr Bates, we can’t have you wobbly at both ends,’ Thomas says. Heh.
Carson and Hughes enjoy a glass of wine and check out the paperwork for a few properties they’re considering investing in. Carson suggests a visit to each one so they can make a final decision.
On the way out the next morning, Mary wonders why Murray can’t just get Anna out of jail already. Robert says the detectives have uncovered something, but they won’t reveal what it is. Isn’t withholding evidence from the defense illegal? I’m honestly not sure, I’m not a legal expert by any means, but it doesn’t quite sound kosher, does it? I guess it’s only an issue if the prosecutor conceals evidence. Cora joins them, holding a letter from Susan, who’s outraged she hasn’t been invited to Brancaster as well. They all figure it’s because of the impending divorce, but I’m pretty sure it has at least as much to do with Susan’s antisemitism and inability to act like a civil adult as it does with her marital status. Cora asks Robert what he was up to in York the day before but he puts her off. Edith frets that the kids haven’t appeared and Tom reassures her they’re outside. He, Edith, and Mary greet their respective kids and bid them farewell. Robert watches Edith with Marigold and asks Cora if she’s sure he shouldn’t tell Edith he knows about the kid’s parentage. Cora tells him definitely not, since it’s not their secret to tell. But they’re not telling anyone the secret, he’s just letting Edith know that he knows, so she doesn’t have to tiptoe around him anymore, which can only do her good. Geez, Cora.
They set off. Violet and Isobel come to see them off at the station. Robert tells Carson that everything’s in his hands. Isn’t that always the case?
Back at the house, Molesley asks Daisy what she’s going to be studying while the family’s away. Daisy’s not sure she should go on with her studying, Oh, God, not this again. Come on, we’ve already trod this particular road, and it’s pretty worn. Patmore says as much, but as I’ve told the show before, just because you lampshade something doesn’t make it less stupid. Let Daisy develop and move forward, Fellowes! Same for Edith, while we’re on the subject. Talk about a character spinning her narrative wheels.
The family has a powwow in the dining car. Cora reminds them all to be on good behavior around Sinderby, for Rose’s sake. Tom wonders if it was a good idea for him to come, but the girls stick up for him and Robert points out that Tom’s a good shot, which most hosts will forgive anything for. Robert winces and Cora asks if he’s ok. He claims he is. Edith frets about the kids going on a picnic and Mary eyerolls that she’s an actual mother and she’s not bothered about what her kid’s doing. That might say more about your maternal feelings for your kid than whether it’s right to be concerned, but ok, Mary, I hear you—Edith’s obsession is getting kind of annoying.
Cora’s face: Mary, you’re kind of a dick sometimes, you know?
Brancaster is very grand and very castle-like. It’s really only lacking a moat. The butler, Stowell, reports that everything is in order, despite the fact that the house staff isn’t too keen on taking orders from a butler not their own. He snottily informs Lady S that tea is usually served in the sub-library, but she tells them they’ll be taking it in the library, as planned.
The Downtownians arrive and are greeted by Rose and Atticus, just back from their Venetian honeymoon. The Sinderbys come down and greet the new arrivals, introducing Stowell at the same time. Rose and Lady S tell the Downtonians that they’re not a huge party, but they’ll be having some of the locals around. Rose suggests they use their Christian names instead of titles, but Sinderby, clearly not having unbent over the past couple of months, snarls that his name is not a ‘Christian name’. ‘You know what I mean,’ Rose sighs.
Barrow introduces himself to Stowell belowstairs, who makes it clear he knows all about Anna’s situation and Tom’s background. He clearly approves of neither. Stowell goes on to say that Thomas will be serving as a footman while he’s there.
Thomas’s Face: Oh, hell no!
Violet and Isobel discuss Princess K’s impending arrival. Violet’s seen to her wardrobe and invited the prince for dinner. She’s also invited Merton, just because.
Over tea, Sinderby repeats that they’re not a large party, for those of us who missed it the first time, but Atticus has a buddy coming, and their agent will be joining them. Robert suggests they invite Shrimpy, only to get a freezing silence in response. Thomas passes sandwiches and Sinderby snottily orders up some milk. Branson tries to ask Stowell for some sugar, only to be rudely ignored. Edith is shocked. Rose is mortified and tells Mary that Stowell is clearly punishing Tom for his background. ‘Well, we can’t have that,’ Mary says.
Back at the dower house, Denker brings Violet some soup and Violet remembers some amazing chicken broth that a past maid used to make. She thinks those days are gone, but Denker doesn’t think so. Sprat pours scorn on the idea that Denker can cook, which gets the two of them sniping at each other while Violet looks stressed. Why is she still putting up with this stupid nonsense?!
Molesley tells Hughes and Carson he feels badly for Anna and Bates.
Guests and residents at Brancaster set off for the shoot. The ladies are going as well, even though ladies didn’t join the shoot until after luncheon, historically speaking (sorry to be insufferable here, but I’m working on two novels set around this period and this class, so I’ve been doing a lot of research into these things and where else am I going to show all that off but here? Plus, once you know these things, mistakes like this can kind of grate.) Mary is apparently going to be keeping Sinderby company on the drive, which she doesn’t seem too pleased about.
As they head to the blinds, Sinderby comments to Mary that he realizes Robert’s not pleased that Shrimpy wasn’t invited. Mary suggests that Sinderby just accept the situation with Rose’s parents, since all is said and done now and there’s nothing to be gained by being a jerk about it. Sinderby refuses to pretend to approve of divorce.
Lady S is accompanying Tom and asks him what his shooting background is and how hard it was joining the family. He says he had to find his own way, since Sybil was dead. Lady S sadly says that the Crawleys seem much more welcoming than her own family (or, rather, her husband, since she’s as nice as pie).
Robert complains to Cora that Sinderby is a prig. Cora takes the opportunity to ask again where he went in York, but luckily for him, the birds start to fly and he can start shooting and avoid talking.
Bates visits Anna and tells her that there’s no case. And yet, she’s still in prison, which is a bit mind-boggling. Hasn’t she been there months at this point? I know people can be held for longer in the UK than they can in the US, but surely they can’t be held this long on such scant evidence? Anna tells her husband that they’ve found something out about her past: her stepfather, who was apparently a drunken pedophile, made a move on her and she stabbed him. Not fatally, and when his screams brought the local watch, her mother convinced him to tell them that he slipped and fell. And after that Anna moved further north and took a job as a tweeny and got her start in service.
Are we serious about this? This is the ‘evidence’ they have against her? This makes no sense whatsoever. There would have been no record of her involvement—the guy said it was an accident. There probably wouldn’t have been a report at all, because how many local police in the Edwardian period would be writing up that a guy slipped and cut himself? Maybe there would be some sort of incident report, since they did respond (though I highly doubt it), but, again, Anna wouldn’t have been mentioned. Why would she be? She’ll have a different last name from her stepfather, unless he adopted her (also doubtful), so how would anyone have made the connection between her and a completely obscure incident from probably more than two decades ago? At that time, the detectives would have had to track down her birthplace and send for the records, which someone would have had to dig out of the archives. And those records would have proved nothing, other than the fact that her stepfather was a klutz. So, what the hell? God, Downton. Your idiocy continues to annoy me. Stop working so hard to make this dumb plotline happen. It’s not happening!
Over lunch at Brancaster, Edith wonders what the children are doing right now. Sigh. Look, show, we get it, Edith is super devoted to her daughter. That has been made quite clear. But now she’s just starting to seem a little crazy. I’m a fairly new mother myself, and just about everyone I know is also a new parent, and while, yes, we talk about our kids a fair bit, we also talk about other things and don’t obsess endlessly over our children every second of the day because, like most decently well-rounded human beings, we have other interests. Edith, you have other interests! Talk about them for a bit! I’m begging you!
Once again, the butler disses Tom, and Mary takes note. Atticus does too, and apologises on Stowell’s behalf. Rose tells Mary that Stowell doesn’t really like Sinderby and tends to snipe behind his back. Mary thinks that’s kind of awful, considering how much staff know about their employers.
Carson and Hughes check out the first property and talk about it. Hughes doesn’t seem too keen.
Kuragin arrives at Violet’s, resplendent in white tie, for dinner and thanks her for sending a car. Violet, Merton, and Isobel are already there and ready for the big reveal of Princess K. Isobel wonders if Kuragin wouldn’t prefer to see his wife alone, but he’s quite happy with the buffer the rest of them provide.
While she gets ready for dinner, Mary comments to Baxter that she hates how Stowell treats Branson. Baxter says he doesn’t seem to approve of Branson having bettered himself. Mary suggests Thomas come up with a way to give Stowell a black mark and Baxter agrees to mention it.
Thomas doesn’t mind bringing the guy down a peg or two but needs a minute to come up with an idea. When he hears that Sinderby’s valet is away, he gets one and asks Baxter to help him get a piece of paper and a pencil.
Princess K is announced and comes sliding in. Her reunion with her husband is…not exactly joyful, and her attitude towards Violet is positively glacial. Merton and Isobel try to break the tension, but just get icy blasts of their own. Princess Kuragin is a bitch. She makes Violet look absolutely cuddly by comparison. For the record, we learn that the prince and princess are heading to Paris.
Thomas catches one of the maids and hands her a note for the cook, saying it’s from Sinderby’s valet.
At dinner, the guests are serenaded by a harpist and the quietest bagpiper on earth. I’m going to take that as a funny throwback to the deafening bagpiper Shrimpy had playing at dinner in the Christmas special two years ago. Atticus announces that his friend has another friend staying with him, so he’ll have to bring the man along on the shoot or leave him to his own devices. Atticus said to bring the man, which means that Atticus will have to miss the day’s shooting. Mary is positively outraged on his behalf, for some reason. His dad offers to just tell the agent not to come for the day, but Atticus thinks that’d be unkind to poor Mr Pelham (the agent). ‘Don’t know why exactly, but we feel a bit sorry for him,’ he tells Edith, for some reason (probably because she knows something about being the person everyone feels sorry for.)
Hughes and Carson join Patmore for dinner. Carson is startled to learn that they’ll be joined by Molesley and Daisy, whom he thinks should only be waiting on them. Still a snob, I see. Bates also comes along, mostly to tell them all he’ll be away most of the following day, but will be around to talk to Murray, who’s coming up to see Anna. Murray must be so tired of having to deal with this family’s criminal legal proceedings.
Back at Brancaster, Tom is once again dissed by Stowell, and Sinderby finally notices and asks him what the hell his problem is. Sinderby’s mood is not improved when he’s served up what looks like a boiled chicken breast. He asks his wife to explain, but she has no idea what’s going on, so he turns to Stowell, who reports, with some attitude, that the cook received a note, allegedly from Sinderby via his valet, that he was to have plain food. Sinderby informs his butler that someone’s played a joke on them and Stowell’s to fetch him some decent food and stop being such an asshole to Branson. He also snaps at Thomas, ordering him to bring back a platter of meat, and calling him a ‘stupid fool’ for good measure. And for redundancy. Rose tries to break the tension by suggesting a tour of the estate the following day, which is not a shooting day (I’m going to guess the following day is Sunday. Shooting on Sunday was not done). Mary admits to Atticus that she rather enjoyed that scene, since she doesn’t like Stowell. She does, however, guess that Thomas won’t enjoy being called a stupid fool.
Things are still tense at Violet’s, where Isobel and Merton are gamely trying to ease things, to no effect. Princess K finally excuses herself, after complaining about how awful it’s going to be living in Paris. Oh, you poor darling. Was Singapore or wherever you were such a paradise, then?
Violet, to Kuragin: What time will you be by tomorrow, to take this harridan off my hands?
Kuragin replies that he’ll be by early, if that’s what Violet really wants. She firmly tells him that that’s how it must be, since he’s got a wife and all. Kuragin leaves. Before he goes, Merton murmurs to Isobel that he senses a game of high stakes has been played there that night, but he’s not sure who the winner is. He hopes he is. Why did you think this evening was about you, Merton?
Once they’re alone, Isobel asks Violet if she’s told Kuragin that his cause is hopeless. It sounded to me like she just did, Isobel. Yes, Violet says, thought she admits she’s sad about it.
Robert’s clearly in pain, and Cora finally demands he tell her what’s bothering him. He confesses he’s been having pains in his chest. And his side. And his stomach. So, pretty much all over, then? He went to see a doctor in York who thinks he might have a touch of angina. Jesus, Robert. I know you’ve taken the stiff upper lip to the platinum level, but this is definitely the kind of information you share with your wife. Cora, naturally, is distressed, though Robert reassures her he’s probably not going to drop dead of a heart attack. But he decides to go talk to Edith because, you know, he might just drop dead of a heart attack. This is, after all, a Downton Christmas special.
Violet tells Sprat she needs a break from rich dinners for a while, so Sprat suggests she give some of Denker’s restorative broth a try. There’s a convenient stove in the still room she can use for it and everything! Trapped, Denker agrees.
Robert goes to Edith’s room and makes it clear he knows she’s Marigold’s mother. Edith tries not to freak out but is quickly reassured that she won’t be forced to give the child up. He admits this isn’t the way he would have wanted things to be for her, but he believes Michael was an honourable man, and now they need to do what’s best for his child. They agree to keep the truth of the matter in the family. Edith sadly asks him if he forgives her and he warmly reassures her that there’s nothing to forgive. Aww, that was actually a rather sweet moment. About time Edith got one of those.
Baxter catches Thomas downstairs and figures he got a bit more than he bargained for. He sure did, and he’s steamed about it. She tries to talk him down by reminding him that Stowell got in trouble, which is what they wanted. Oh, Thomas is just getting started. He continues down the hall to Stowell’s sitting room to offer his sympathy over the scene at dinner. Stowell asks Thomas for a handwriting sample, but because Thomas is not a moron, he disguised the writing in the note, so the sample doesn’t match it. Stowell, being a moron, now trusts Thomas completely and they sit down for a drink and a gossip together.
The younger crowd is out for a walk the next day and talk about the scene at dinner. Mary asks Rose why she and Atticus were in a huddle at breakfast and Rose tells them that Atticus has been offered a job in New York. So, Rose is really off the show, then, I guess. She’s gone off to be Cinderella and take abuse from Cate Blanchett and Daisy while falling in love with the King of the North. This brings them to the subject of Tom’s impending departure, which saddens Mary. Edith comments that Mary hates to be left behind when others are getting on with their lives and Mary nastily snaps that she just hates being left behind with Edith. Bitch.
Denker can’t make a broth, apparently, so she goes to Daisy and Patmore for a lesson. They have nothing better to do, so they agree.
Murray and Bates go to see Anna. Murray, being terrible at his job, thinks this new ‘evidence’ against Anna is damning. Apparently it’s just a short skip from wounding a man in self-defense to pushing someone out into traffic, a calculated act of actual murder. Murray believes this constitutes a pattern. He thinks they can have the previous incident ruled inadmissible, since there were no charges filed against Anna by her stepfather. Then how did anyone find out about it? Explain, show!
Merton goes to see Isobel, who tells him that she can’t marry him because his sons hate her and she doesn’t want to come in between a man and his children. She’ll only reconsider if the Merton brats come around. Merton accepts the challenge.
Denker’s broth is terrible. So terrible that Daisy suggests she just make a broth and smuggle it into the dower house. Meanwhile, Denker could just chop up some veg and pretend she’s actually doing something. The idea goes over like a treat.
Murray promises to use every precedent there is to get Anna off on this murder charge. Murray, still being terrible at his job, thinks this entirely circumstantial case is a strong one.
At the castle, Stowell tells Thomas he may have gossiped a bit too much the night before, but Thomas reassures him he doesn’t remember anything.
Mary asks Atticus if he’ll be shooting tomorrow, or has he ‘given way to the uninvited guest?’ He’s not uninvited, Mary, Atticus invited him to come shoot. Tom offers to give up his place, but Atticus won’t hear of it. Mary hopes this neighbor knows how accommodating Atticus is being and Atticus foolishly invites her to give the poor man a piece of her mind, since he’ll be staying the night. She sniffs that she finds it astonishing that people take these sorts of things for granted. Man, what’s her problem with this guy? Is she so attached to Atticus that she can’t bear the thought of him not being able to shoot for one day? And why is she so prepared to be bitchy to this guest who probably doesn’t have any idea that he’s put anyone out? He was invited to stay with a friend and is now being taken along on a shoot, I doubt he said to his host, ‘hey, can we see if we can put some people out while I’m here? I so love being an asshole to the neighbours!’
Carson swings by Hughes’s office with some wine and suggests they put an offer in on one of the houses they saw. She puts her wine aside and sits him down for a confession. Apparently, Hughes has a sister who’s ‘not quite right’ and lives in a home. It’s taken pretty much everything she’s ever earned to take care of Becky, so she has no savings, not even for retirement. She’ll have to drop in the traces, as they say. This seems like a really random time to bring this up for the first time. It would have worked better, narratively, to have seeded this early on, like back when Hughes was considering that farmer’s proposal back in series one, or when she had that breast cancer scare. Or when Carson first started talking about them buying a house together. What was her plan there, did she hope he’d just give up on the idea at some point? Carson is more distressed at her having kept this secret from him than having been strung along, but further discussion is interrupted by Bates bursting in to ask to use the telephone, because he’s just gotten a telegram from Murray that no doubt contains Important News.
On the shoot, Sinderby assigns ladies to the guns. What the heck? No, no, the host did not just portion out his female guests like door prizes. This is just a method of pairing Mary off with Talbot, the gun who squeezed out Atticus, who is played by Matthew Goode. Edith accompanies the agent, Bertie Pelham, who seems like a nice chap.
At the blind, Talbot thanks Mary for keeping him company. He appreciates that she’s easy on the eye. I normally like Matthew Goode, but he’s playing this character a bit flat. I think he’s bored. Maybe he’s realized he’s got a featured role in a film that’s pretty much guaranteed to sweep the Oscars and he feels like TV soaps are a bit beneath him now? Anyway, Mary gives him a bunch of attitude, which he quickly picks up on, and she tells him Atticus isn’t shooting so that Talbot could come. Talbot, as I thought, knew nothing about this arrangement and is kind of appalled and embarrassed. See, Mary? Maybe consider not automatically jumping to the conclusion that everyone’s an asshole right off the start. He asks if her husband’s on the shoot and, when he learns she’s a young widow, figures the war got him. The birds fly and the shooting begins.
Edith makes small talk with Pelham, who tells her that his father was the agent because he was a cousin of the local lord. And then Pelham got the job because, you know, family. ‘No burning ambitions?’ Edith asks him. ‘Not really,’ he replies easily, though he admits he did always feel jealous of those people who flew the Channel and all that. He asks if Edith’s pining for some unfulfilled ambition and she says she isn’t, not just now. Today, she’s happy.
Sprat catches Daisy as she leaves the dower house, asking after her empty basket. Daisy lies, poorly, that she’s looking in at the shops on her way home.
Isobel shows Violet a letter she received from one of Merton’s horrible sons, which basically accuses her of having put his father up to persuading the boys to like her. He goes on to say that his feelings are unchanged and will remain so, and she should stop meddling with his dad. What a dick. Isobel’s not sure if she should tell Merton about this, but she is sure she’s not going to marry him. Violet giggles that Clarkson will be delighted.
Isobel’s face: I’m so glad my pain is amusing to you. Bitch.
On his way back from the drive, Robert gets a message from Murray. There’s a date set for Anna’s trial. He gets a pain and Cora orders him to rest. He reluctantly agrees to let Atticus take his place that afternoon.
Over lunch, Mary informs Talbot that he’s off the hook for ‘his thoughtlessness’ because Atticus is now allowed on the afternoon drive. What the HELL? His thoughtlessness? In what way was this poor man thoughtless? He was invited on the shoot by Atticus. Atticus turned down numerous opportunities to come along on the shoot. It has been made abundantly clear to Mary that Talbot knew nothing about the inconvenience he caused and he swiftly offered to set it right immediately. Why is she acting like this? Oh, right, because behaving like a horrible bitch to men apparently makes them fall in love with her. Why is this creature such a fan favourite?
Denker’s faking making her broth in the still room. Sprat comes down and accuses her of being a faker and pours the broth Daisy made down the drain, so now Denker’s on her own.
A woman and a small boy arrive at Brancaster, where the company is having tea (and I’d like Hughes to know that the ladies, are, in fact, in tea gowns). The woman and her kid are shown in and Sinderby blanches. Rose quickly assesses the situation and asks him what the woman’s name is. He tells her it’s Diana, and Rose immediately goes over to her, greeting her warmly by name and telling Lady S that Diana’s a friend of hers who just stopped by. One look at the woman reveals this is a complete lie, but Lady S believes it nonetheless and invites the woman to stay for tea. She asks after the boy and learns that he’s named Daniel, just like Lord Sinderby! How about that! Lady S takes the boy over to the tea table and his poor mother confusedly says that the telegram summoning her claimed Sinderby would be alone. Rose kindly says she’s sure it did, but now they kind of need to do some damage control. Atticus comes over and introduces himself. From a distance, Robert watches and wonders who this woman is. Mary’s figured out what happened and admits she asked Thomas to get Stowe into trouble and now she thinks he might have overdone it. I’ll say. This is pretty nasty, even for Thomas. But then, it was rather stupid of Mary to encourage Thomas in the first place. That’s not putting the cat amongst the pigeons, it’s putting a lion in a cage with pigeons whose wings have been clipped. The slaughter is inevitable.
Sinderby takes a moment to catch his breath and his wife notices and asks what’s the matter. He says he’s just tired.
Rose enlists Mary’s help, and Robert joins in on the lie, asking Diana how she’s been since the last time she was at Downton. Diana wonders why Sinderby won’t come talk to her and Mary and Robert tell her that he most definitely can’t just now because his wife and family are all over the place and now is not the time for him to be chatting up the mother of his illegitimate child. She sadly says she came all the way from London. Stowell looks like he desperately wants the floor to open up and swallow him.
Bates asks Molesley to give some letters to Carson that evening. Molesley asks if everything’s ok, promising he’d gladly help him any way he can. Bates says he can only help by delivering the letters. He then picks up a small suitcase and leaves.
Rose sees off Diana, who thanks her for saving Sinderby and Diana from a hideous situation. Seriously, this is so f’d up. If all had gone according to plan, this poor woman and her very young child would have come all the way from London (a not inconsiderable journey) thinking they were going to be able to spend time with the child’s father, only to find themselves at the very centre of a shitstorm in which Sinderby’s darkest secret blew up right in front of his family and guests. Which I’m sure would not have had good results for him, his marriage, or Diana and her child. But hey, all’s fair in revenge, right?
Edith comes out as the car’s driving off and asks Pelham if he’s leaving. He’s not, he’s staying for dinner.
Inside, Rose and Mary ask Stowell how he knew about Diana. Rose tells him she’s not sure if she’s going to tell Sinderby yet, but while she’s making up her mind, could he not be such a dick to Tom?
Before going into dinner, Sinderby calls Rose, Robert, and Mary aside and asks if they can keep the whole Diana situation a secret. They promise to do so. He also thanks Rose for saving his ass and realizes he’s lucky to have her in his family. He’s going to invite her parents to stay at the first opportunity. Separately, I hope. He also informs her there’s a gramophone in the library and she’s like, ‘new toy! Awesome!’
Carson opens the letters Bates left, which states he’s sent a written confession to Murray. The other senior servants (and Molesley) are there to discuss the contents and think this is all rubbish. Molelsey remembers that Bates spent that day in York, but all they have to go on is the fact that he had lunch in a pub. Which pub, they’re not sure. Molesly offers to go poke around the Bates cottage for a clue.
The youngsters fire up the gramophone and dance. Stowell’s bowing and scraping to Tom. Mary, dancing uncomfortably with Talbot, gleefully notes that the butler is ‘back in his box’ which Talbot notes is pretty snotty of her to say. He asks what the deal was with Diana earlier, noting that Sinderby freaked out, Rose took over, and Robert completely faked knowing who Diana was. I think you could add all those things up and come up with an answer on your own, Talbot. He probably has, but he wants confirmation, which Mary won’t give him, though she gives him points for having functional eyes and a brain.
Tom dances with Edith and makes it clear he knows she’s the child’s mother, because this is officially Downton’s worst kept secret, and honestly Mary’s looking pretty stupid for not having figured it out. She begs Tom not to tell anyone, which of course he would never do. A new song starts up and Pelham asks Edith for a dance, noting that she looks quite intense. She says she was just talking about the family’s ward, a little girl they adopted.
Molesley sneaks around the Bates cottage, and before you ask, no, he does not find the contraceptive device Anna hid for Mary. He does find some photos, though I can’t help but wonder what he thinks he’s going to find here. A picture of someone else pushing Greene under that bus?
Mary catches Talbot as he’s about to leave the following morning and tells him she feels badly for making him feel guilty the previous day. She suggests they get together some time when he’s in Yorkshire. He says that’s possible, though shooting isn’t really his thing. Cars are. You’d think that’d be a red flag for someone who lost her husband in a car accident, but Mary shows no such qualms and instead comments that the car he’s about to get in is rather nice and indicates his friend has hidden depths. By ‘hidden depths’ I guess she means ‘deep pockets’ because otherwise that line makes no sense. How does having an expensive car make someone deep? Isn’t having flashy things usually a sign of shallowness? Of course, the car is Talbot’s. He dashingly leaps into it while Mary looks all hot and bothered. She did always like a snazzy car.
The Downtonians return home and are greeted by the kids and Carson, who tells Robert that Bates has taken off.
Belowstairs, Thomas asks what Bates’s disappearance means for him—is he valet again? Baxter wonders if Anna will be released now, but Carson doesn’t have answers to any of these questions just yet.
Upstairs, the family is gathered to figure out what’s happening. Robert thinks Bates is hiding in Ireland, because why not? He’s off to telephone Murray to see about getting Anna out of jail.
Downstairs, Baxter finds Molesley and says she heard what he was planning to do with a photo of Bates he found in the cottage. She wants to help out, which pleases Molesley, of course.
Before bed, Robert tells Cora that Murray thinks he can get Anna out soon. Robert adds that, in his letter, Bates left instructions for how to get a message to him in Ireland. Robert’s not sure what to do with that information.
Cora: Well, since withholding it is abetting a fugitive, you should probably tell the police. However, since the police in this world are incompetent idiots hell bent on arresting someone—anyone—for a maybe murder, let’s keep this info to ourselves, shall we?
Anna arrives back home, accompanied by Murray, and is greeted on the steps by Robert and Mary, who are relieved to see her. Anna tells them she hasn’t been officially released, she’s just out on bail. Uh, ok. Whatever. Robert’s certain that, with a signed confession, the charges will soon be dropped. Anna’s worried about her husband being thrown into prison again. Seems like it never ends with these two. Mary invites Anna to go into the house by the front door but Anna heads round back to get back into the swing of things.
Denker takes her broth off the heat and gets some crap from Sprat. Violet comes in and takes a taste, and either she’s seriously trying to put Sprat in his place, or her tastebuds have gone, because she declares it delicious, even though it’s clearly lousy. Sprat can’t believe it. Neither can Denker. Violet tells Sprat that there’s a point where malice ceases to be amusing and heads out. Denker cackles at Sprat, which he deserves.
The Crawleys gather ahead of dinner and Robert announces he has an ulcer, not angina. Cora tells him this means a change in diet, which includes no alcohol.
Robert: Hold up—you mean I actually need to face life sober? Every day?
Mary suggests he just lay off everything until Christmas. Robert agrees. He also tells them the Della Francesca sold really well.
Carson goes downstairs and tells Molesley they’re getting a new footman. Thomas puts in a word for Andy, the spare footman they had in London for Rose’s wedding.
Christmas! The kids help decorate the tree, Andy is now on staff. Tom turns on the tree lights, delighting Sybbie.
Molesley and Baxter hop in and out of pubs in York.
Carson surprises Hughes while she’s wrapping gifts and announces he’s bought the house he had his eye on. She congratulates him. They express regrets over Tom leaving. Molesley knocks and asks for a word with Carson.
Baxter, Molelsey, and Carson head topside to tell the family they’ve managed to find the pub where Bates had lunch in York. They went pub by pub with Bates’s photo until they found a barman who recognized him. Mary points out that proving Bates’s innocence will likely result in Anna being re-arrested. Robert says they’ll just deal with that when the time comes, but meanwhile he thinks Molesley and Baxter have done a fine thing, and he’s sure Bates will be very appreciative. Yes, I’m sure Bates will really appreciate that you guys torpedoed his plan to get his wife out of jail. I’m not saying that what they did was wrong by any means, but I doubt Bates will be pouring out the gratitude.
That night, Robert tells Cora Murray thinks there shouldn’t be any problems. Cora urges Robert to contact Bates and summon him back. Murray doesn’t think Anna will be re-arrested because the witness who identified her is having doubts (what, now? Thanks a lot, you jerk!) and the prosecution knows their case is pathetic and won’t stand up.
Talk turns to Tom leaving, and Robert wonders if they can persuade him to leave Sybbie. That’s kind of shitty, Robert. ‘Yeah, you can go, but leave your kid, will you?’ Cora shuts the idea down. She warns him not to overdo it at Christmas, because his alcohol tolerance is so low he’ll probably get wasted on the pudding.
The kitchen is buzzing with activity, much of it under Daisy’s direction. Hughes and Patmore tell Daisy she needs to keep up her studies, because learning is important. Who cares if it creates more work for Patmore, it’s Christmas and she’s feeling generous!
Isobel, for some unfathomable reason, has just decided to show Merton his douchy son’s letter. What the heck, Isobel? You’ve been sitting on that for months! And not giving Merton an answer all that time? You really are Mary’s relative, aren’t you? Merton tells her that things will never be good between him and his son again. ‘But not because of me,’ Isobel says, stupidly. Um, actually, Isobel, it’s entirely because of you. Larry’s dad is angry with him for writing this letter and scuttling your marriage. You’re a pretty integral part of all that. Merton tells Isobel that he loves her. She appreciates that, but she doesn’t want to go setting him against his child.
Violet comes in and giggles about having interrupted a lover’s tryst.
Merton: I’m so happy that my pain is amusing to you. I’ll just be going now.
He departs and Violet seriously comments that he seemed rather sad. Isobel seems sad too.
Alone in her cottage, Anna looks at a photo of herself and her husband.
The tenants are arriving at Downton for the annual Christmas party. While he sends the servants upstairs with canapés, Carson asks Hughes for a word later.
Tom finds Edith in the nursery, hanging stockings for the kids. He has a thoughtful moment and tells her he’s storing up some memories. With feeling, she tells him she’ll really miss him. Mary joins them, hanging up a stocking for George, and the three take a moment to join hands and remember Sybil, which is really sweet. Robert overhears as he passes and sadly notes that this is Sybbie’s last Christmas in the house where she was born. He then asks Tom if he’d consider leaving the kid behind, and of course Tom says no, but he’s happy that Robert loves the girl.
The family, servants, and tenants sing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen in front of the tree. Rose adorably teaches Atticus the words and he gamely tries to join in. Robert, clearly a bit lit, welcomes everyone and urges everyone to drink up. Sprat sees Denker taking a cup of wassail and asks what she’s doing. ‘You are a dreary little man,’ she sighs. Seriously. Violet joins them and tells them to bury this hatchet already, because this is miserable.
Atticus tells Rose and Mary that it’s only just sinking in that he’s part of two families now. Rose thinks it’s really lovely. She’s so in love it’s adorable.
Violet pulls Isobel into the drawing room for a word by the fire. They reflect on the craziness of the year and Isobel asks Violet why she fought so hard for Princess Kuragin. Violet tells her that she fell madly in love with the prince and they agreed to run off together. But Violet’s maid told the princess and Princess K caught up with their carriage, yanked Violet out and sent her back to Grantham. In doing so, she saved Violet from ruin and losing her kids and, possibly, death or penury at the hands of the Bolsheviks. Since Princess K saved Violet, Violet thought it only fair to return the favour.
Robert stumbles in and drunkenly tells the ladies to come out and join the party.
Mary sidles up to Tom and asks if he’s all packed. He mostly is. He tells Mary she should take over his office, but she claims not to know where to begin.
Cora rushes over and tells them that Robert’s threatening to make a speech, which is not a good idea, in his condition. Tom intervenes, thanking Robert for the party and leading everyone in a round of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow before calling Mary forward to sing for them. She sings Silent Night, and it’s considerably better than the last time we heard her sing. Carson pulls Hughes aside for that private word. They head downstairs to his office and he informs her he registered the new house in both their names. She says she can’t accept this, because who knows what the future holds? He might not want to be stuck with her forever. Oh, but he does. He wants to be as stuck as stuck can be. He proposes marriage and Hughes, though shocked, accepts. That was sweet. I’m not a huge fan of this coupling, because personally I preferred them as close and respectful colleagues, but it was still sweet.
Upstairs, Robert has a word with Tom.
Robert: Look, this is just the booze talking, but I’m really fond of you and will really, really miss you.
Tom: Thanks. I’ll miss you too, Donc.
So, I guess Tom’s actually leaving the show, then? Is it because Allan Leech realized he’s a featured character in a film that’s guaranteed to sweep the Oscars and TV soaps are beneath him now?
Robert sweeps Sybbie into his arms and dangerously asks what Marigold should call him. She suggests Donc, and Robert laughs that it’s perfect. Robert then steps forward to actually give a speech, thanking Branson for all his work on the estate’s behalf. He leads everyone in a round of applause before they sing Oh Come All Ye Faithful. Violet looks like she might cry. Cora asks her husband how he manged to not sound drunk and he reminds her that he’s a soldier and can therefore hide his tipsiness.
Patmore glances off to the side and sees Bates sneaking along the corridor. He comes up behind Anna and whispers ‘Happy Christmas.’ She almost weeps with joy. They sneak into the servants’ stairwell and he lifts her off her feet in a hug. Bum leg? What bum leg?