Previously on Downton Abbey: Robert decided to take a turn at being a terrible father by trying to ruin Edith’s relationship with Strallen for absolutely no good reason at all. Mary, meanwhile, kept herself busy trying to pump Martha for cash, only to find out Martha’s money is too tied up to save Downton. Oh, and Mrs. Hughes has a suspicious breast lump and it looks like Ethel’s a prostitute now.
Downton’s getting all dressed up for yet another big to-do while Edith looks on happily. Aww, I’m so happy for her! I’ve always been Team Edith, even when she was doing awful things back in series one. Violet arrives and Edith ushers her into the sitting room, where presents are being organized. Violet says she always knew it would all come right in the end, as if she wasn’t the one urging Robert to destroy this relationship just last week. Is she getting a little out of it in her old age? Edith can’t believe something is happening in this house that actually revolves around her. That’s a bit sad. There’s some talk about the dress—it’s by Lucille (that would be Lucille, Lady Duff Gordon, a Titanic survivor who was best known for designing racy lingerie that was popular with the upper classes. She also pioneered the catwalk runway show).
Belowstairs, O’Brien taunts Thomas about last week’s missing shirts and he snaps back that he’s put a few aside so that’ll never happen again. Anna departs, promising to be back for the dressing gong, and Patmore pulls Hughes aside to ask if she’s heard from the doctor. Nope. She wonders if they should go see him, but Hughes doesn’t see the point. Carson listens in from his pantry nearby.
Thomas catches up with Molesley and asks him about some friend of Molesley’s whose daughter is looking for work as a lady’s maid. He tells Molesley he wants a word with him, but he needs to keep it secret from O’Brien. Oh, Thomas. What’re you up to? And Molesley—don’t you know better than to listen to this guy? Not listening to a word Thomas says should be part of every new staff member’s orientation at this place.
Cora, Robert, Matthew, and Branson are relaxing in the library and discussing the apparent impending sale of Downton. Branson asks where they’ll go and Robert says they have a smaller place up north whose tenant they can kick out. Cora suggests they take a picnic up there the following day, to give them all a break from wedding stuff. Mary comes sweeping in and announces Molesley wants a word with Cora. She shows him in and he offers his friend’s daughter as O’Brien’s replacement, when O’Brien decides to leave. Robert’s confused, because he wasn’t aware O’Brien was leaving, and clearly Cora didn’t either. She lies that she knew and sends Molesley away and then moans that this is just awful. First world problems, lady. Robert takes this as the opportunity to start wondering when they should tell the staff they’re about to be unemployed. Mary urges him to wait until after the wedding.
Carson finds Clarkson out in the village and asks if there’s anything he can do to help Hughes with her “condition.” Clarkson says she should have her duties reduced but for once remembers to be professional and tells Carson he can’t divulge any information on her condition.
While they’re getting ready for dinner, Matthew tells Mary that he heard from Swire’s lawyer. The death certificate for the other heir arrived from India and the lawyer wants to deliver it to Downton in person. Strange. He’ll be by the next day. Mary’s annoyed that he forgot all about that picnic, which sounded kind of informal, but she’s acting like he’s forgotten about something incredibly important. It’s probably mostly that she’s upset about this whole inheritance drama that Matthew’s creating because he just loves being a martyr. He asks her to understand and she snaps that she’s trying, which is more than I’m doing at this point.
Cora stares at O’Brien creepily while she gets ready for dinner and asks if there’s anything she wants to say. O’Brien has no idea what’s going on and just leaves. In comes Robert to hurry her along, because Strallen won’t be late. Cora picks up on his mood and reminds him that there’s plenty to be happy about with this match: Edith will be local, and she’ll have plenty to do with that estate. And let’s not forget, crappy parents, that she’s actually in love with this man! Look at her—she’s glowing! But Robert can’t stop being a complete shit for even a second and says she’s just going to be a nurse for some one-armed old man. As opposed to being a nurse for a two-armed old man, which is what she’d be for you, Robert, if she remained unmarried. What a douche.
Patmore dispatches Alfred with the pudding and notices Carson lurking about, so she asks him what he needs. He tells her he saw Clarkson and he’s worried about Hughes. She says they all are, but she doesn’t think Clarkson should have spoken. She agrees that having Hughes’s workload lessened would be good, but she doesn’t think Hughes would be happy to hear her medical condition’s being blabbed about before it’s even confirmed. Carson immediately deduces this is cancer we’re talking about and unnecessarily tells Patmore she’s the one who confirmed it for him.
The boys are all gathered around the dinner table with their brandy and cigars and—hey! Branson’s wearing a dinner jacket! It’s not white tie, but it’s a vast improvement! Good o, maybe he’ll stop being so awful now he’s picked up a few basic manners, like adhering to you hosts’ house rules. Strallen politely mentions he’s heard Branson’s interested in politics (like he wasn’t at the drunken dinner where Tom railed on and on about Ireland) and Robert rudely breaks in to condescendingly call Branson their “tame revolutionary,” like he’s some sort of pet. “Every family should have one,” says Strallen, not improving things at all. Branson suggests a game of billiards to Matthew and they leave. Once they’re gone, Robert says they’re “getting used to Tom” and he hopes Strallen will too. Strallen has never once voiced an issue with Branson and has even defended him in the past, so that was all completely unnecessary and just further evidence of Robert’s snobbishness and douchebaggary. Strallen ignores that and tells Robert he’ll do everything in his power to make Edith happy. Robert says he knows, and that his objection wasn’t at all personal. It wasn’t? Your objection was due to his age and a bum arm (which is not that big a deal, really) that was a result of war (which Robert wasn’t allowed to fight in—jealous, perhaps?). Not only is that completely shallow, it’s also sort of personal. Strallen asks if Robert’s happy with this arrangement and Robert non-answers that he’s happy Edith is happy. Jesus, this man. What happened to him? You couldn’t have all your daughters marry Matthew, Robert.
Belowstairs, Hughes is going over some last-minute change to the wedding menus while Carson asks if Patmore can do it and worries that Hughes will get tired. She asks him who he’s been speaking to and he covers quickly.
Isobel’s at her home for wayward girls (this needs a snappy name. Any suggestions?) trying to teach them to sew, but one only cares about when they get lunch. Ethel once again wanders in and Isobel welcomes her. Ethel says she’s past help but Isobel says she’s no such thing and she wants to help her just like she’s helped all these ladies. Ethel says she hasn’t come for help for herself, she’s come for…but then she freaks out and runs again. This is getting tiresome—can we move this story along a bit, please?
Matthew’s meeting with the lawyer in the library when in comes Mary (wearing a dress I rather covet) to hustle Matthew away for this picnic. The lawyer leaves and she and Matthew talk about how hard this is going to be on everyone. Matthew looks conflicted.
Out front, Carson runs through some last-minute instructions with Alfred, who’s going to be in charge of this whole thing. Carson wonders why they’re going to this place at all but lets it go. As Cora emerges from the house, Carson asks for a word and requests that some of Hughes’s duties be switched to him, since Hughes has been “tired” lately. He admits that Hughes is ill, perhaps seriously so, and he doesn’t want the wedding to sink her. Cora stresses about how they’ll manage without both Hughes and O’Brien, and the last bit throws Carson. Robert calls her into the car and she leaves, while Carson looks somewhat befuddled.
Anna’s on a mission to see Mrs. Bartlett, who shakes her down for some cash and then refuses to say anything. Anna persists and asks if Vera ever mentioned being depressed or unhappy. The woman sniffs that of course the woman was unhappy, having been abandoned by her husband and all. She goes on to say that he had changed and Vera was scared of him. Anna asks when she last saw Vera and the woman invites her inside, suddenly all ready to be cooperative.
Prison. Bates and the other inmates get some exercise by walking around in a circle. Another inmate sidles up to Bates and warns him to watch out. I’m guessing it’s because Bates’s inmate is gunning for him, but honestly, the other guy’s accent was so thick I couldn’t make out a word he was saying.
Bartlett tells Anna that Vera had told her Bates was coming by for tea the day she died, and that she seemed really strange that day, all jumpy-like. And that was the last time Bartlett saw her. As soon as she heard she was dead, she knew Bates had done it. Anna, for some reason, looks conflicted. Is this completely biased woman’s account really making her think Bates is guilty?
Strallen’s traveling with Violet and Isobel in his chauffeur-driven car, reassuring Violet that traveling in a car is totally safe and Edith’s a speed freak. Violet asks him if he thinks he’ll be able to keep up. Isobel changes the subject to ask about this place they’re visiting. Violet, of course, doesn’t think much of it.
Which is too bad, because it’s quite beautiful. I mean, it’s probably roughly the size of Downton’s stables, but it’s lovely. If you have to slum it, well, this is the place to do it. Robert, naturally, is not pleased, and Mary thinks they’ll be cramped. Branson reminds her that, to most people, this is a frigging palace. Robert comments that they’ll only really need eight servants, max, so it’ll be economical. Violet wonders where she’ll go and Robert reminds her that they still own most of the village, so it’s not like she’ll be out on the street.
Isobel asks Edith how things are going for the wedding (which is tomorrow, so presumably they’re pretty much all done) and says she thinks it’s unfair that Princess Mary got an archbishop to marry her while Edith has to make do with the local vicar. Yeah, that sucks, but as long as it’s all legal, who cares who says the words? Edith sure doesn’t. She actually prefers to have the man who christened her do it, which is rather sweet.
Mary and Matthew wander off and discuss a letter the lawyer delivered earlier, which apparently was from Swire. Matthew hasn’t opened his yet, because he knows it’ll be full of praise and he’s not done beating himself yet. Jesus, this man. Matthew, SHUT UP ALREADY! This is so goddamn tiresome I just want to reach into the TV and slap him so hard he lands in the next county. What a blowhard. Look, you loved Lavinia when she was alive. You know you did. Yes, you had feelings for Mary as well, but you clearly cared very deeply for Lavinia and you did make her happy. And on her deathbed she gave you her blessing to be with Mary. Stop ducking behind her all the damn time in this bizarre ritual of self-punishment. You’re harming more people than yourself at this point, so really you’re just being selfish. This is so boring.
Blah, blah, blah, the letter will make me feel guilty-cakes.
At Downton, Isobel heads belowstairs and finds Hughes so she can ask for an address for Ethel. She explains that Ethel seems to have fallen into a bad way and Hughes says she’s sorry and goes to fetch the address.
Prison. Bates pulls his bed apart and finds some kind of contraband there that his bunkmate must have hidden. Guards come in to toss the cell and seem surprised not to find anything. Bates hides whatever it is in his hand and practically sweats bullets. The guards leave and bunkmate acts all annoyed.
Servants’ dinner. Carson asks O’Brien if she’s planning to find a new job soon. She doesn’t know what he means, and when Molesley pipes up that’s what he heard, she gets mighty pissed off at him, as she should. Instead of telling her that Thomas was behind this, Molesley just looks fairly gormless and Thomas suggests Carson ring the dressing gong. O’Brien promises to deal with Molesley later and Daisy offers him her sympathy.
O’Brien tells Cora immediately that she has no intention of leaving and that Molesley must have been making it up. Cora’s sure he must have heard something from O’Brien that led him to believe what he said and she tells O’Brien that she feels let down. Why? Did O’Brien not explain that she isn’t leaving? Who let you down, Cora?
In comes Hughes, having been sent for, so Cora dismisses O’Brien and immediately tells Hughes she knows she’s not well. Hughes is alarmed that this word’s getting around and tells Cora that she’s perfectly capable. Cora reassures her that, ill or well, she’s welcome to stay there as long as she wishes, and Sybil will help find a capable nurse. She doesn’t want Hughes worrying about where she’ll go or who’ll look after her. That’s sweet. See, Matthew? That’s part of what places like Downton were for—providing safe haven for long-serving servants when they couldn’t take care of themselves anymore. Hughes swallows and says she’s not sure what to say. She thanks Cora.
After dinner, Edith is describing what sounds like a wonderful surprise honeymoon Strallen has planned. Aww, he’s romantic! Sybil asks about Strallen’s house, which Mary immediately dumps on, because she’s still a hateful, condescending bitch. Violet sends Edith off to bed, but smiley Edith says she won’t sleep a wink. Sybil naughtily asks if she means tonight or tomorrow.
Belowstairs, Molesley catches O’Brien and apologizes, saying he just repeated what he was told. She forgives him and says she knows it wasn’t all his doing, but if he talks to Thomas, he should mention she might be making some “mistakes” herself in the future.
The servants sit for dinner and Alfred invites Daisy to join them. How long has he been in this house, now? He doesn’t know how this works? Carson explains that Daisy eats with the kitchen staff, so Alfred asks if she wants to get together for a game or something later. Patmore refuses on Daisy’s behalf. She can’t keep herself out of this woman’s love life, can she? Anna demurs as well, as she has a letter to write. Molesley pipes up that he’ll play, but Alfred clearly isn’t interested. Aww, poor Molesley!
Upstairs, Matthew’s reading Mary the riot act for having read Swire’s letter. Although he tells her not to, she starts to tell him what the letter said. Apparently, Lavinia wrote her father just before she died and said she loved and admired Matthew for refusing to call off their wedding, and because of this, Swire loved and admired him as well. Swire urges Matthew not to let any grief or guilt keep him from using the money for good. Wow, Swire really knew him well, didn’t he? Matthew immediately suspects the letter’s a forgery, which just shows how insanely desperate he is to keep up this absurdity. He really thinks that someone forged this letter and managed to deliver it to Swire’s lawyer in such a way that the lawyer thought it was from Swire? That makes no sense. Unless the lawyer’s in on it, which seems unlikely as well. Who would be behind this? I don’t think Robert has the brains (or the money) to pull this off. Violet? Whatever. It’s a stupid thing to think. He’s clearly grasping at straws. He gets into bed in a snit.
Carson lets himself into Hughes’s sitting room and asks if there’s anything he can help her with. She says there’s nothing, but she asks if he said anything to Cora. He plays dumb, but she says she doesn’t mind, because Cora was kind and Hughes was really touched.
The next morning, Mary comes downstairs while the servants are having breakfast, because she needs to know if Lavinia really did send her father a letter the day she died. Everyone looks around cluelessly and Carson says no incident of letter posting was ever reported to him. Mary thanks them and departs as Daisy comes in and asks what that was about. They tell her about the letter question and Daisy tells them she posted it. Mary overhears and wanders back in (rather hilariously, all the servants pop right back up from their seats when she returns) and Daisy explains that, when she was making up the fire in Lavinia’s room Lavinia asked her to post the letter. Mary thanks her.
Violet and Robert are having a little pre-wedding get-together in the library. Violet observes that this’ll be the last of the kids out of the house and Robert says he’s glad they hurried it so she could be married from Downton. She’s still not pleased with this match, snapping that Edith’s beginning her life as “an old man’s drudge.” ARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHH! I—I can’t—ARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHH!
Violet continues her own character assassination by saying she doesn’t think a large drawing room is consolation for all that, and when Robert asks why she’s dwelling on this now, her response is: “Because I want the pleasure of saying ‘I told you so.’” Wow. I knew she was a difficult, nasty person before (though at least an entertaining one) but that right there crossed a line. Not only slamming down a match that clearly makes her granddaughter happy but apparently actively hoping it’ll fail? Christ, lady. I hope you do end up having to make do in some tiny room at a new house, where you and Mary can both take your horrible, entitled attitudes and shove them.
As they prepare to leave for the church, Carson tells Hughes that, as soon as she feels tired, she’s to tell him so he can step in and take over whatever she’s doing. He also urges her to stay behind and have a little nap. At this point, she snaps and growls that she wishes everyone would actually wait to hear that she really is sick before putting her in a box. Carson makes himself scarce and Hughes asks Patmore who he heard it from. Patmore plays dumb. And then Hughes foolishly tells her that Clarkson called and said he’ll have the results the following afternoon.
Upstairs, Mary’s getting dressed in a truly lovely blue chiffon and lace dress. In comes Matthew, who acts like there’s absolutely nothing amiss and tells her she looks marvelous. She tells him what she knows about Lavinia having posting the letter, which means everything Swire said in the letter was true. And just like that, Matthew’s resolve crumbles. And Mary steps in for the audience and tells him that, if he finds one more crap excuse for refusing this money, she’s going to kick his ass. He only asks that they keep this secret until after the wedding, so they don’t steal Edith’s thunder. Let that please be the end of this stupid, tiresome plotline.
Wow, Edith’s looking très chic in her marvelous wedding gown. Her mother tells her she looks great (and she really, really does) and Edith spares a thought for her younger sister and the Branspawn, which is sweet.
Strallen’s at the church, waiting for his bride. Violet observes that he looks like he’s waiting for a beating from the headmaster. Which is it, Violet—is he an old man or a child? He can’t be both. She also makes a few unnecessary bitchy comments that appear to be just loud enough for him to hear.
Out front, the three Crawley sisters get a picture taken. Mary and Edith have a nice moment, where she wishes Edith all the luck and happiness in the world. They head into the church.
Edith and her father parade down the aisle as Strallen looks…bored. The heck? Edith smiles up at him and wishes him a good afternoon. “Good afternoon, blessed one,” he says back. The vicar gets started, but about three seconds in, Strallen calls a halt to the proceedings and says he can’t do this.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NONNONONONONONONONONONONONONONO! WTF? Even Robert’s eyes bug out, and poor Edith’s brain can’t even compute fast enough to process this hideous moment as Strallen tells her she shouldn’t waste her life with him, she should go off and be happy with someone else, like she’s got some line of suitors running out the door or something. Robert tries to step in, far too late, and says it’s really too late for this, but then Violet….oh god, Violet steps forward and tells Edith to let Strallen go, because this is all for the best. I hate Violet so very, very much. What a horrible, horrible, horrible, hateful woman. SHUT UP, Violet. SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP! Learn to keep your trap shut for once in your goddamn life. What a dreadful bunch. Edith, go stay with your grandmother in America. Your own family in England hates you. Dear Edith tries desperately to form some words as she’s dreadfully humiliated in front of all her friends and family, but Strallen turns and flees, like a coward, and even the fact that he’s clearly broken up about it doesn’t save him for me. Mary and Cora help Edith get out of there while she at least has the tiniest bit of dignity intact, and everyone else looks like they want to die.
Edith bursts through the doors at Downton, startling Alfred, who’s preparing the champagne. She rushes up the stairs, sobbing, heartbroken, rips the veil from her head and tosses it down into the hall. In her room, she climbs onto the bed, tearing the headband out of her hair and looking a mess. My heart breaks and I wonder just why Julian Fellowes hates this character so much. Why dump all the crap on her and constantly reward Mary? Christ.
And you know what the real problem is here? It’s just terrible, sloppy writing that’s clearly jammed in to create fake conflict. Nobody had an issue with Strallen back in series one, when Robert was actively promoting a match between him and Mary (and Mary’s only about a year, maybe two years, older than Edith, so they can’t argue that she was a more appropriate age). No one had an issue with Strallen dating Edith in series one either, before Mary completely destroyed it, the cow. And Violet helped get them back together in the Christmas special, so obviously the age thing didn’t bother her then. This is just so completely contrived. So what if the guy has a bum arm? Lots of men came back from the war with injuries (some much worse than that). It hasn’t stopped him from being an active person, he just can’t shoot or drive. And he clearly makes Edith happy. I could understand their objections if Edith didn’t seem that into him and just wanted to get married for the sake of being married, but that’s not the case. She clearly loves Strallen, so her own father and grandmother working actively against her happiness like this makes them look like awful villains in a completely out of left field plotline that the show would have been fine without. After all the crap that’s happened to her, why can’t we let Edith be happy?
Robert comes in and tells Alfred to just clear everything away, because there isn’t going to be a party today.
The Crawley ladies go to Edith’s room and Cora gently asks if there’s anything she can say to make it better. Edith drags herself up and looks at her sisters, sobbing that they both have husbands and Sybil’s pregnant and Mary probably is too. She begs them to leave and they comply. Cora tells Edith that she’s being tested. Why? She’s ALWAYS being tested! Can’t this show crap on someone else for a little while? Please? Cora says being tested will make her stronger, but Edith says she doesn’t think it’s working for her.
Downstairs, the wedding cake is hustled away and all signs of the wedding that never was are erased. My heart breaks all over again.
Robert wanders out back and is joined by Matthew, who wonders what they should do now. Kick Strallen’s ass? Repeatedly? I’d make popcorn to watch Branson and Matthew do that, even if Strallen is crippled. Robert says there’s nothing they can do but get along with the business of dumping Downton. Matthew tells him the good news about the inheritance, which he plans to hand over to Robert. Robert refuses to take it, but he will allow Matthew to have a share in the place. So, Matthew will just take ownership a bit earlier, then?
Downstairs, Anna and Daisy chat and Daisy asks if she thinks women should say what’s on their minds, regarding romance and such. Anna says that women already are speaking out, but a lot of men are being scared off by that. Alfred wanders in and grabs one of the uneaten wedding pastries, then departs.
Upstairs, the family’s having a very subdued dinner. Cora tells Carson she doesn’t want Edith to see any of the wedding food and Carson says that’s taken care of—it’s being donated to the poor. “If the poor don’t want it, you can bring it over to me,” says Violet. Wow, just when you though she couldn’t sink any lower, now she’s trying to appropriate the food from the wedding that she helped wreck. There was a time I was sad at the thought she might get killed off this season, but I hate her so very, very much right now, I’d rather welcome it. Isobel suggests they help Edith out by finding her something to do. Here’s what she should do: go to America to stay with the grandmother who doesn’t hate her (and who I bet throws awesome parties) and return home with an excellent Jazz-age wardrobe, cigarette holder, and chic look that makes Mary look downright dowdy (to be fair—1920s hairstyles aren’t suiting Michelle Dockery as it is). Oooh, and maybe she can nab Carlisle!
The servants are feasting on the wedding canapés downstairs and talking about how sorry they are for Edith. Alfred thinks she could do better than a “broken down old crock,” and when Carson scolds him for his choice of words, Hughes says Strallen totally deserves to be called all sorts of names. Carson reluctantly agrees.
The next day, Anna walks into Edith’s room, gently picks up the discarded headband, and offers to bring up some breakfast. Edith says no and prepares for her future as a spinster who has to get up for breakfast. Only married ladies get breakfast in bed.
Hughes prepares to go see the doctor, once again accompanied by Patmore. Carson watches her go, sadly. He tries to stay busy about the house while Hughes and Patmore arrive at the hospital and wait to meet with Clarkson. When the nurse comes out to fetch Hughes, she tells Patmore to wait. She’ll face this alone.
And in a plotline I don’t care much about, Thomas and O’Brien get a little passive-aggressive face time during which she sort of threatens him in the future and he smiles blandly. I feel like I missed something with these two. I remember her not being so fond of him after the Christmas special, but at what point did that turn into all-out war? Was it just because he wouldn’t help her nephew out, back in episode one? It feels like it went from cool indifference to all-out hate very quickly last episode, and that’s thrown me a bit.
As soon as Patmore returns, Carson catches her and asks what the news is. She says it’s not cancer, it’s a benign something-or-other. He leaves and Hughes comes in and asks Patmore if she told him. Patmore says she put him out of his misery. Carson’s so happy he’s actually singing while he polishes the silver. Hughes smiles to see his happiness, but then her face crumbles. Uh oh.
And that’s it for this week. And all I have to say is: SCREW YOU, JULIAN FELLOWES. If I wasn’t already committed to recapping this show, I’d be tempted to stop watching altogether right now. Seriously, I’m ready to break up with Downton Abbey, which is really saying something, because I used to love it (and during season two, I tolerated it). But this relationship is getting toxic. SCREW. YOU.
That is all.