Downton Abbey: The New Order

Previously on Downton Abbey: The lack of a nearby convalescent hospital drove a soldier to suicide, so Sybil and Isobel leaned on Robert and Cora to turn Downton into a convalescent home for wounded officers. Thomas returned to work at the hospital and showed a little humanity, as did O’Brien when she bonded with the severely shell-shocked new valet, Lang.

Things are all a-buzz at Downton as workmen, servants, and nurses set up beds and equipment for the incoming officers. Isobel observes and tells Cora she plans to keep the library as a recreation room. Cora pouts and asks where she’s supposed to sit on her ass and do absolutely nothing all day, then? Isobel dismissively tells her they can screen part of the library off for her to be idle in, then goes off to actually get something done. Sybil wonders why they’re only going to have officers at Downton, because ordinary men need to convalesce as well. Sybil, you’re lucky your parents agreed to this at all. Don’t push it. Isobel agrees with Sybil, but knows the rest of the Crawleys won’t, a fact that’s confirmed by Violet, who comes in and says that the men convalescing there will need rest and relaxation, which they simply can’t get if they’re forced to mix with people who didn’t go to Eton or Oxbridge. Those lowly shopkeepers’ sons are known to make a racket when recovering from horrific war wounds, you know. Sybil tells Violet that the classes can mix without the world coming to an end, but Violet’s idea of class mixing is pretty much limited to dancing with Carson at the annual staff ball. Sybil gives up, and Isobel snaps at Edith for not doing anything. Well, give her something to do, Isobel.

Belowstairs, Anna tells everyone she’s heading into town, if they want her to pick anything up. Carson thanks them all for helping out with the hospital setup, and Ethel chimes in that it’s strange to see all the rooms converted like that. Anna says she thinks it’s a good thing, because it was wrong to just go along as if the war was only affecting other people. The camera zeroes in on Lang for a while just so we remember that the war is still having an impact on him. Daisy wonders who’s going to be in charge now, Isobel? Carson says he’s sure the chain of command’ll be figured out soon enough. I guess that kind of talk veers too closely to military style, because Lang suddenly gets up and books it out of there.

Violet’s got Mary in the library to pump her for information on whatever mysterious past there is between Carlisle and Lavinia. Mary couldn’t care less and doesn’t know anything about it. You know, I’m starting to feel like she’s sort of over all the drama her grandmother and aunt are creating over Matthew’s engagement. I feel like Mary’s disappointed but reconciled to it, whereas everyone else is using it to drum up more drama because they’re just bored. Violet sniffs that she doesn’t think it’s proper for a gentleman to talk to a lady the way Carlisle talked to Lavinia, and Mary immediately pounces on the fact her granny thinks of him as a gentleman. And she thinks of Lavinia as a lady, too, which surprises me. Violet tells her granddaughter she’ll be heading up to London to stay with Rosamond in a few days, and she thinks they’ll have Lavinia over for tea. Oh, for heaven’s sake, Violet, find a hobby or something! Leave poor Lavinia alone, isn’t she sufficiently out of her depth with all of you without you making life even harder on her for no reason at all?

In the kitchen, dining arrangements for the soldiers are discussed (the walking wounded will dine with the family, the rest in beds, presumably). Daisy mentions that William’s got a bit of time off between his training and shipping out and wants to know if he can stop by Downton on his last night. Carson and Hughes have no problem with that at all. Carson heads out, handing Branson an official looking letter as he goes. Uh oh. Daisy worries that William might have plans for his trip to Downton—you know, like, romantic plans—and Patmore tells her she’ll just have to deal with that when it comes.

Anna’s down in the village, strolling towards the post office when she catches a glimpse of Bates just before he ducks behind a tree. She dashes over, but either she’s hallucinating or Bates is surprisingly spry for a man with a limp and a cane, because she doesn’t find anyone there.

Sybil and the nurses are busily making the beds while Mary and Cora stand around whining about what a pain all this is going to be. For heaven’s sake, ladies, this is war! Do your part! All you’ve done the past three episodes is sit around and complain. Mary and Cora leave, and Edith watches Sybil for a little while before admitting she envies her a bit. Sybil innocently asks if Edith misses working on the Drakes’ farm, and Edith is all: “What, farm? Me? No, why, what have you heard?” Sybil, of course, didn’t mean anything, so Edith backs down and says she does miss it, and now she feels kind of useless. Sybil reassures her big sister that she’s a special snowflake, and she’ll find her secret talent soon enough and astound them all. Sybil really kind of is a saint, isn’t she?

Upstairs, Cora’s getting ready for dinner and being semi-lectured by O’Brien, who tells her that this is her house, not Isobel’s, and they need a friend in charge of things there, because Isobel will just run them all over and be a general pain in the ass. O’Brien suggests they bring Thomas in, and Cora seems to consider it.

Anna’s in Mary’s room, experimenting with a new curling iron. Mary observes that she seems preoccupied, and Anna tells her about possibly seeing Bates in town that afternoon. Mary offers to telephone Carlisle in London and have him look into it. He’s a scandal monger, so he knows people who can find people. Then, because she’s Mary and can’t say nice things without balancing it out with something bitchy, she insults the guests they get at the house and kind of sniffs at the job Anna’s doing on her hair.

Poor Lavinia’s in the lion’s den, explaining to Violet and Rosamond that she knows Carlisle because he was a friend of her father’s and her uncle’s. That uncle was apparently a Liberal minister. Lavinia changes the subject by complimenting the house, which is fairly effective, since it draws Violet’s attention to insulting her late son-in-law. Lavinia gets a look on her face like she can’t fathom the family she’s about to marry into.

Sybil finds Branson out washing the car a little agitatedly. She heard he’s been called up. He tells her it’s ok, because he’s not going to fight. He’s going to be a conscientious objector. Sybil’s horrified, pointing out that they put people in prison for that, but he doesn’t care, for some reason. Branson, you’re pretty young to render yourself essentially unemployable. People did not look kindly on those who refused to fight. They had a really, really hard time of it after the war. Having a record’s bad enough, but having a record for that? Very bad indeed. Plus, going to prison was the least of your worries. Some people were shot for refusing to fight. The others could get as much as 10 years in prison. You’re too pretty for prison, Branson.

Branson’s got a whole plan, though: he’s going to get his physical and his uniform, go for his training, and then when they’re out on parade somewhere, he’ll fall out of line and put his foot down on the whole fighting issue, in the hope it’ll end up on the front page of the newspaper. What? He wants to go through all that for publicity? Publicity for what? Sorry, but when did Branson become an idiot? Because that kind of thing will definitely get you shot for cowardice.

Lang comes down the back stairs and drops a brush, and then when he bends to pick it up, he starts dropping all sorts of other things, drawing Mrs. Hughes’s notice. She tells him to cheer up, then invites him to confide in her. She’s much warmer and nicer than she was last season. That eye surgery did her a world of good. He admits that he often feels like he’s the only one who knows what’s going on at the front. Well, cheer up, Lang, soon enough the house will be full of people who understand exactly what’s going on over there. He tells her everyone just wanders around, living their lives like nothing has changed with no idea what it’s like there, how scared the soldiers are. She tells him that her nephew was recently shot for cowardice, but she knows that he never would have done such a thing unless he was out of his mind with fear, so seriously, she gets it.

O’Brien’s got Thomas out in the courtyard for a smoke and plotting. She tells him about her plan to get him put in charge of Downton. He’s not really sure he wants to do it and wonders why she cares so much. She says she doesn’t want to see Cora bossed around and hurt by anyone. Thomas agrees to take the job, because bossing Carson around sounds like fun to him.

Isobel has the doctor and the elder Crawleys in the library to discuss the final arrangements before the soldiers arrive. Robert doesn’t seem all that keen on this convalescent hospital idea either, which makes me want to reach into my screen and slap him. He was the one complaining about not having enough to do on behalf of the war effort, and then when a really great opportunity to help out drops into his lap, he bitches and moans about it. So, essentially, he only wants to help so long as it doesn’t disrupt his day-to-day life in any way. He sucks. Cora sucks. They have a GIANT house to live in, and they’re endlessly complaining about having to give up some space to men who have just come back from war. War, people! Have a heart!

All right, enough from me. Robert asks where they’re going to live, and Isobel says they’ll block off part of the library and give them the boudoir. Plus all their bedrooms, so they’ll have more space than the average family back then. Robert asks where they’ll eat and Isobel hesitantly says they can share the dining room. Robert flat-out refuses to do so, and Isobel tries to tell him they all have to make sacrifices. “No!” he snaps, like a child. God, these people. I’m losing patience with almost all of them. The doctor smoothes things over by saying they’ll put up tables in the great hall, then. He also brings up the subject of putting Thomas in charge, which Robert hates almost as much as having to share his dining room. He doubts that the officers at Downton will listen to a lowly corporal. But you’ll be there too, right, Robert? And you’re a lieutenant, as well as an earl, so you can back him up, can’t you? Plus, it’s not like Thomas is leading them into battle, he’s just overseeing their convalescence. Is he really going to be reeling off orders that often?

I guess so, because the doctor’s arranged to have Thomas promoted to the rank of Acting Sergeant. Seems like things are settled as far as the Thomas question goes. He’ll still be answering to the doctor, though. Robert feels like there should still be someone in a position that falls in between Thomas and the doctor, and the doctor agrees, promising to fill that position as soon as he can find a coin to flip between the two matrons squeezing him. Violet’s cool with having Thomas manage things. She likes the idea of one of “their creatures” being in charge. Isobel snippily asks if she plans to try and influence him, and Violet sniffs right back that she wasn’t planning it.

As Lang dresses Robert for dinner, Carson brings up William’s proposed visit, which Robert’s fine with. Carson wonders if there’s any way they can arrange to keep William out of harm’s way, since he’s an only child, and the talk clearly starts to upset Lang so much he can’t even get Robert’s cufflinks fastened. Robert dismisses him, and he and Carson talk about how it’s a pretty lousy idea to have Thomas back in the house, considering the last time he was there he was stealing left and right. Robert’s determined to keep Cora ignorant of that, for some bizarre reason, and anyway, he doesn’t feel they should hold Thomas’s crimes against him when he’s been wounded in service and all. So, Thomas it is.

The servants are gathered for dinner, and Ethel mentions that Branson was telling them the news from Russia. Carson feeds the bear by asking what the news is, and Branson needs no encouragement to start talking about how awesome Lenin is and how he wants a people’s revolution, and isn’t that great? Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought last season Branson said he wasn’t really a revolutionary type? And he usually seems so laid back, I feel like this firebrand attitude is coming out of nowhere. And why’s he so obsessed with what’s going on in Russia, instead of, I don’t know, commenting on all the craziness that was going on in Ireland at the time?

Anyway, Branson thinks this whole people’s revolution thing is just great, but Carson wants to know what’s up with the tsar. Branson says he’s been imprisoned with his family in the Alexander Palace, which Mrs. Patmore thinks is dreadful. Like an idiot, Branson scoffs that they won’t hurt the tsar, because what could be gained from that? Um, Branson, you’re a fan of history, right? Have you not heard of the French Revolution? Remember what happened to that royal family? Branson thinks this is a marvelous new dawn of a new type of government, and nobody wants to start that off with the murder of a bunch of girls. And a hemophiliac child, a doctor, a maidservant, and a dog, which is how the murders in Ekaterinburg actually went down. Lang tells Branson he doesn’t know the tsar will be safe, because nobody knows how these things will go down when they first start. Then, he shoves his foot right down his gullet by bringing up Patmore’s nephew and how he was shot for cowardice. Nobody would have guessed that would happen when he was a kid, right? Everyone freezes and Patmore clearly dies a little bit right there, having had her family’s shame exposed for the whole household staff. She starts to cry, then bolts from the room. Lang realizes he stepped in it and Mrs. Hughes warns him to watch what he says in future, before she goes off to help Mrs. Patmore.

Thomas arrives for his first day of managing and immediately gets an earful from Carson for coming through the front door. Thomas reminds him he’s not a servant there anymore, he’s the manager, so Carson tightly asks if he’ll be staying in his own room, or a guest room, then? Thomas generously offers to stay in his old room. They snipe at each other a bit more before Carson goes off to gets some work done.

Robert wanders around his library, pouting at the ping-pong table that’s been set up and the screen that marks off where his family will have to slum it for the rest of the war. Cora pouts in the great hall, looking around at the tables they had to set up because Robert wouldn’t deign to share his dinner table with wounded officers. Robert joins her and they go out front to greet the first wave of arriving soldiers. Thomas shows one of them—Major Bryant—to his room, asking the man if he minds the stairs. “Depends what I find at the top,” the Major smarms. Ethel catches a glimpse of Bryant and declares him handsome. Anna reminds her that the men are off-limits, but it doesn’t seem like Ethel’s too concerned with that rule.

Out of the blue, Matthew drops by, having been given a few hours off during his recruitment tour. Isobel’s delighted to see him, but she’s dragged off by Mrs. Hughes, so they’ll have to catch up later. Matthew heads into a ward, where he finds Mary handing out carafes of water. He tells her he never would have pegged her for Florence Nightingale. Nor should you, Matthew. This is the first time she’ll helped in the past three episodes. She says they can’t leave all the moral high ground to Sybil, because she might get lonely there. You’ll have to do a lot more than just hand out water to be in Sybil’s league at anything, Mary. She and Matthew make small talk about what he’s up to, and he mentions that it’d be nice PR if his general could come visit Downton and see what the place is all about. Isobel appears briefly to fire off some orders and drag Sybil away, and Matthew comments that she’s probably driving Cora insane. Mary refuses to comment.

Branson’s having his medical exam. The doctor says he’s surprised they didn’t nab him earlier, as he makes a few notes on the chart. Branson asks if he should report for duty and the doctor shortly says he’ll be told what to do.

Isobel’s belowstairs, trying to work out how the household staff will interact with the hospital staff when Cora comes down, just spoiling for a fight. She suggests they continue this discussion upstairs and Isobel gets the hint and follows her up. Ethel wonders if Thomas is going to be a manager or a referee.

Cora’s got Isobel in the library with Robert for a dressing down. Robert tries to intervene, but before he can get far, Mary comes in with a letter from Evelyn Napier. Seems he’s been wounded and would like to finish his convalescence at Downton. Yay, Napier’s back! I don’t know why I like that character so much, but I do. The doctor and Isobel say it’s out of the question, because they can’t go cherry-picking their convalescents. Robert puts his foot down and reminds Isobel and the doctor that Downton is still their home and they’ll invite any guests they want to stay, and if they can’t handle that, they can jolly well just pack up and get the hell out. Well then. The doctor’s ready to call it a day and avoid further conflict, but Isobel can’t shut up, so she brings up the subject of the dog, and finally it gets a name: Isis. She wants to know what they’re going to do to keep Isis out of the patients’ rooms. Robert, who clearly has progressive views on the benefits of canine therapy for the time, says they won’t be doing a damn thing. Hey, animals are good for convalescence, right? If mine were better behaved I’d love to take them into hospitals for visits.

Robert’s trying to read peacefully in his section of the library, but he’s interrupted by a ping-pong ball flying over the partition. Oh, poor you, Robert. Go read in your bedroom if you must.

Upstairs, Ethel and Anna are making up the bed in Mary’s room. Mary comes in, dismisses Ethel, and tells Anna she just heard from Carmichael: Bates is back up north, working in a pub in a nearby village. Anna wonders what he’s doing in a pub, and also seems to be wondering what she should do with this info.

Out front, Branson’s wiping down the car door as he waits for Robert. Sybil notices him standing there and he tells her he’s been turned down by the army because he has a heart murmur. You lucky bastard. Sybil asks him if it’s dangerous, and he bitterly says it only is if you plan to humiliate the British army. Oh, come off it, Branson. First off, one guy stepping out of a parade and refusing to fight probably wouldn’t cause that much of a stir more than a few minutes after it happened. You’re not going to make any sort of lasting political statement by doing that. If you want to make some kind of a stand against the British, then stop working for them and go back to Ireland and join Sinn Fein or something. You know, the people actually trying to make Ireland independent? Put your money where your mouth is.

Whatever. He promises to get the army one way or another, and Sybil asks him why he has to be so angry all the time. What? When has he ever been angry (before this week, that is)? He’s always been pretty laid back, from what we’ve seen. Except this week, when he started getting all weirdly bitter and combative. This new Branson isn’t gelling for me at all. Sybil steps in it by admitting the British weren’t “at their best” in Ireland, and that sets him off, because he had a cousin who was shot during the Easter Rising, just for walking down the street. Ok, Branson. That wasn’t Sybil’s fault, so why are you acting so pissed at her?

Robert emerges from the house and gets into the car, and Branson takes a moment to glare at Sybil a bit more before driving off.

Inside, Edith’s hurrying around fetching books for one soldier and reassuring another that she’ll get the tobacco he wants just as soon as she can run down to the village. Mrs. Hughes wanders by and notices Ethel outside with the Major, tucking a blanket around his legs. He smarms some more that he’ll need some more tucking very soon. “Well, no one tucks better than I do,” she says. Oooh, look at the double entendres we’re getting! Scandalous! Mrs. Hughes comes out and tells Ethel to get back inside.

Mary’s calling on her grandmother, who tells her Rosamond’s going to find out what the deal was with Lavinia’s uncle and Carmichael. Mary uncomfortably says she feels sorry for Lavinia, and Violet says that Lavinia’s an obstacle to Mary’s happiness, and when this is all over, Mary can be sorry at her leisure. What? Jesus, Violet, Mary and Matthew broke up three years ago! Give it up already! Seriously, you need a hobby, lady! Find someone for your younger two granddaughters to marry or something! They broke up because Mary sucked, it was her fault it went down the way it did, so stop making poor, blameless Lavinia pay for it! And anyway, even if you did get Lavinia out of the picture, what makes you think Matthew would fall back into Mary’s arms? He didn’t crawl back to her between the time he dumped her and the time he hooked up with Lavinia, so why should things be different now? This whole plotline is getting so tired and frustrating and really bugging me, because it’s distracting from some of the actual interesting things that are happening, like the power struggle up at the house or the fact that Edith’s finally finding her footing. Give me more of that and less of this nonsense!

Back at the house, Anna’s playing with Mary’s curling iron before bed, while Ethel talks dreamily about the Major and how he asked her out to the movies, once he’s allowed to leave Downton for day trips. Anna tells her that’s kind of crazy, but Ethel insists the guy really likes her. I’m sure he does. And I’m sure he’ll think very fondly of you after he’s gotten his roll in the hay and moved on.

It’s Anna’s afternoon off, and naturally she’s taken a field trip to the pub where Bates is working. It seems like working at a pub would be hard on someone with a bum leg like Bates—you’re on your feet a lot, after all. Anna walks in, and he quickly gets rid of another customer before saying he’s not sure if he’s dreaded this moment or longed for it. Aww.

Oh, God, Rosamond’s back. She, Mary, and Violet are having tea together at Violet’s house and talking about the general’s visit the next day. Rosamond’s excited that Lavinia will be there and tells Mary they’ll have to seize the opportunity to bring her down. Mary rolls her eyes right along with me—see what I mean about her not being nearly as interested in this as her female relatives?—and says she doesn’t see what they’re going to do that with. So, Rosamond spills the dirt: Lavinia stole papers from her uncle and gave them to Carlisle to publish, and what erupted was the Marconi Scandal, which was essentially an insider trading scandal involving certain cabinet ministers back in 1912. Whoop dee doo, a five-year-old scandal? Who cares? Mary sure doesn’t. In fact, she thinks Lavinia did the right thing making the whole thing public. Violet thinks the juicier story would be why Lavinia was willing to betray her uncle to Carlisle in the first place. Rosamond assumes it’s because they were lovers. Wait, what? What made you jump right to that conclusion? I’d figure it was because he had dirt on either her or someone else close to her. Someone closer than her uncle. That’s what Carlisle deals in, isn’t it? Dirt? Rosamond thinks it’s now all up to Mary to save Matthew from the evil clutches of a scheming harlot. Are we going to have to put up with this bored and rather boring woman for much longer? I really don’t like her.

Ahh, good, characters I do like and care about. Anna and Bates are sitting at a table in the pub for their tête-à-tête. Bates has discovered Vera’s been cheating. Big shocker there. But he’s got proof, and that’s all he needs to get a divorce. This is one of those few times the double standard of the time worked in a person’s favor and I approve: he can get a divorce purely on the adultery grounds, but she couldn’t divorce him for the same thing. She’d have to prove something like cruelty or insanity. Bates left her to prove the adultery had destroyed the marriage, and he plans to pay her off not to fight the divorce and to keep her from going to the papers.

Bates notices that Anna changed her hair, which is pretty cute. She asks him what he thinks, and he tells her he’d love her no matter what her hair looked like. Right, but it looks good, doesn’t it? Reassure her, Bates. Anna tells him that she’s willing to toss everything and go off with him, since it’s not against the law to take a mistress. Bates takes her hand and tells her he won’t do that to her, but she needn’t worry, because it won’t be long now. Right. Famous last words.

O’Brien spots Branson out in the courtyard polishing something and confirms he’s not going off to war. He, in turn, confirms that Matthew’s bringing a famous general to Downton soon. Oh dear.

Robert runs down the schedule for the general’s visit, which will conclude with a nice dinner. Carson grouses about making the dinner suitably grand with no footmen. Hey guys? Can’t you just borrow Molesley when you need an extra pair of hands? You borrowed the Crawleys’ cook that one time, so there’s precedent, and Molesley certainly knows how to wait at table. What’s the problem here? Is it because it would be a huge step backward for Molesley to take on the footman role when he’s now sort of a valet/butler? Isobel says she’s pretty sure the general has had it rougher on the front than a dinner without footmen, but Cora sticks up for Carson, saying he only wants to show the general proper respect. Isobel volunteers to tour Downton with the general and the doctor tells her that she and Cora will go around together.

That night, Edith makes her way through one of the darkened wards. A soldier calls out to her and she sits down at his bedside, calling him by name, even though they haven’t met yet, introducing herself, and offering to show him around the next day. Wow, she’s really on top of things. He tells her he wants to write a letter to his parents. She says there’s paper in the library, but there’s a further problem. See, he hasn’t written yet because he didn’t want to worry his mother with the different handwriting. It’ll be different because he no longer has a left hand, and he’s a southpaw. He shows her the bandaged stump and her eyes widen just a bit. He says that he asked around and the others told him to ask Edith for help. Awww, look at Edith, finding her groove! Edith readily agrees to help him with the letter the next day. I can’t imagine that’s an easy one to write.

Branson tracks Carson down to the silver pantry and volunteers to help serve at the dinner, adding that he’s waited at table before. Carson’s grateful for the help, and also pleased that Branson won’t be leaving Downton after all. “Who knows what the future may bring?” Branson says ominously.

Late at night, someone starts screaming bloody murder, rousing the servants, who all follow the noise to Lang’s room. Carson shakes him awake, because Lang’s in the grip of the worst nightmare you’ve ever seen. He’s writhing and sweating and looking possessed. O’Brien hurries over to help, and Thomas grouses about the noise and tells Lang to put a sock in it. Oh, come on. I thought he was starting to develop some actual human feelings last week. What’s his problem? I would have thought that, as a medic, he’d be at least a little more sensitive to shell shock, which he must have seen at some point.

The other servants file out, leaving Carson and O’Brien to ease Lang back into bed. Lang piteously apologizes, and O’Brien looks up at Carson and Hughes and tells them it’s no wonder this man’s so irretrievably damaged, after what he’s been through.

The family and staff are all lined up out front to greet the general, just like they were when the duke came last season. Matthew introduces Robert and Cora and Dr. Clarkson, and Isobel introduces herself, announcing that she’ll help show him around the house. Clarkson intervenes and says both Isobel and Cora will show him around, and in they go. Thomas falls into step beside Clarkson and starts talking about how difficult his job is, with the two of them at loggerheads all the time, and before she goes in, Rosamond takes a moment to look pointedly at both Lavinia and Mary. Lavinia asks Mary what Rosamond’s deal is, and after some hesitation, Mary takes her somewhere to talk.

In the kitchen, Daisy’s stressing out because she thinks William’s going to propose when he comes to visit. Patmore tells her that, if he does, she’s going to go ahead and accept. I think this is taking things a little far, Patmore. I know you don’t want William going off to war heartbroken, but going along with a guy’s assumption you’re his girlfriend and actually agreeing to marry him are two rather different things. What happens when he comes back? Or what if he doesn’t want to wait until the end of the war?

Mary tells Lavinia what Rosamond found out about Lavinia’s involvement in the share scandal. I have one question: Why was Carlisle confronting Lavinia? If this was the big scandal, why’s he bringing it up now? He got what he wanted out of her, so why was he being so threatening in the last episode? What would he have to gain by scaring her and uncovering the secret of her involvement? It makes no sense. Plus, this whole thing’s a tiny bit forced, since the Marconi Scandal doesn’t seem to have been that huge a scandal even when it first broke. It had certain political ramifications, sure, but ultimately it was a few libel cases that ended with one guy having to pay £100 in retribution. Not really that big a deal, actually.

Lavinia admits that she did steal the evidence, but she doesn’t get to explain more before Cora calls Mary away.

The general’s wandering the wards, talking to some of the patients, all of whom Edith knows quite well. He chats with Captain No-Left-Hand (Captain Smiley), who’s now up and about, and Isobel immediately worries that the captain’s complaining. Edith reassures her he doesn’t have an unkind bone in his body. “How do you know?” Mary asks. Uh, because she’s actually pitching in and making herself useful instead of sitting around drinking tea and enabling your female relatives’ insidious attempts to bust up Matthew and Lavinia, Mary. The general tells Cora that he’s very impressed by what he sees. Cora beams, like she really had anything to do with it.

William’s arrived for his visit and is sitting in the servants’ parlor, telling everyone he’s more nervous than scared. Mrs. Patmore tears up, thinking of how proud William’s mother would have been. She mentions her nephew and totally falls to pieces, so Mrs. Hughes steps in and reminds her that her nephew went off to war before he was asked to, and he gave his life for his country. That helps Patmore calm down, and she takes Daisy and returns to the kitchen. William calls after Daisy that he needs to talk to her, but she happily uses work to excuse herself.

The general, the Crawleys, and the other guests are gathered in the library/game room to muck about with some of the tabletop games set up. Robert asks Matthew if he’s enjoying his rest from the front, but Matthew says he’s not, because he just lost his soldier/servant and he hasn’t found a replacement. Poor lamb. Also—lost? As in—the guy died? If that’s the case and all you’re worried about is the fact that you can’t find a replacement then you’ve just gone down several pegs in my estimation, Matthew.

Before they go in to dinner, Rosamond urges Mary to talk to Matthew and not to leave everything until it’s too late. Talk to him about what, exactly? That Lavinia leaked proof that cabinet ministers were getting rich off of state secrets? I think that would just raise her in Matthew’s estimation. As Rosamond leaves, Mary wonders to Violet why Rosamond is so obsessed with this, since it’s Mary’s heart that got broken (oh, please) and Rosamond’s advice that broke it. No, Mary, as Mrs. Hughes said, you broke it by jerking Matthew around until he couldn’t stand it anymore. Rosamond didn’t step in until you’d been stringing him along for months, so don’t go passing the blame, this is all on you.

Branson heads topside with a soup tureen while Anna’s at work in one of the bedrooms. There, she finds a note addressed to Sybil and, naturally, she reads it, then hauls ass downstairs, just as Branson’s heading into the dining room. He sets the soup tureen on a sideboard while Anna races into Hughes’s sitting room and shows her the note, which reads (at least in part): They’ll have arrested me by now, but I’m not sorry. The bastard had it coming to him. Yeah, that doesn’t sound good. She finds Carson and shows him the note, and Carson freaks out, goes into the dining room, and marches Branson right out. Nobody at the table, save Mary, notices what’s just happened, and her WTH? face is pretty funny. Anna follows them with the tureen.

Carson twists Branson’s arm up behind him and shoves him into the kitchen, accusing him of attempted murder. Branson doesn’t know what he’s talking about, because it’s not poison in the tureen, it’s a vile mixture of oil, ink, cow patty, and sour milk. Ick. And I guess when you think about it, the idea that he would have poisoned the soup wouldn’t have made any sense, since that would have meant poisoning everyone at the table, including dear, dear Sybil, and we all know he’d never hurt her. His actual plan was to dump the mess over the general’s head. To achieve…what, exactly? The guy’s back from the Western Front, Branson, he has nothing to do with what’s going on in Ireland, if that’s really what you’re so mad about. Plus, there’s no way this story would get out—the Crawleys and the general would have hushed it right up, fearing social embarrassment.

Hughes grabs a copper pot for the soup and Carson wonders how they’re going to keep this dinner going, now they have no footman. William sweetly volunteers to serve.

Upstairs, Robert asks Carson what the heck is up with the soup, and Carson just tells him they had a wrinkle to iron out, and by the way, William will be filling in for the rest of the night. Matthew takes a moment to thank Mary, Violet, and Rosamond for being so nice to Lavinia, and Violet says they all want to get to know Lavinia better. Matthew jokes that he hopes they haven’t unearthed anything too terrible, and Violet tells him to ask Mary.

The general moves on to ask the doctor who’s in charge of Downton when he’s not around, giving the doctor the perfect opening to announce that that responsibility will now be shared jointly by Cora and Isobel. Yes, that shouldn’t be a problematic arrangement at all. Thomas and O’Brien, listening in, smile smugly. The general says he’s very pleased by what he’s seen that day, but he’s afraid one person’s contribution is going largely overlooked, and it’s quite a contribution, too. Cora and Isobel both start to smile, each thinking he’s talking about her, and while that makes some sense in Isobel’s case, I don’t see what Cora thinks she’s done to deserve any praise. Apparently she hasn’t even bothered to get to know any of the soldiers, which suggests she’s spent little, if any, time amongst them. But no, the general is actually talking about Edith, who’s shocked to have anyone take notice of her. Mary briefly gets that awful, scary look she gets when Edith’s getting attention and she’s not, and I instinctively wince, remembering the whole Strallen affair. Everyone raises a glass to Edith, and she blushes and smiles happily.

After dinner, Lavinia grabs Mary to explain herself. She reassures her that she and Carlisle were never lovers, but that Carlisle had lent Lavinia’s father a lot of money, and he offered to waive the debt if Lavinia handed over proof of her uncle’s guilt. He then threatened to tell Mary all about it (again, why?) but Lavinia’s already taken care of all that for him. She swears she only did it to protect her father.

Downstairs, William’s finally got his time alone with Daisy. He asks her if she has the picture he asked for, and she obligingly hands it over. He starts to get on with his proposal, nervously, but Daisy says he can’t possibly be sure this is what he wants. He seems pretty sure. Patmore, who’s puttering about in the background, says Daisy’s sure too, because she’s been saying that this is just what she’d hoped for. Ok, Mrs. Patmore, I know you’re trying to do William a solid here, but it’s time for you to butt out and keep your mouth closed. You’re trapping this poor girl. Daisy looks like a deer in the headlights and William asks her if they’re engaged. Daisy halfheartedly agrees and he throws his arms around her. She’s terrified. What a dreadful situation for everyone involved. Mrs. Hughes comes in to break it up and ask if William wants to go up and see the general off.

Back upstairs, Matthew joins Mary and Rosamond and asks if there was something Mary wanted to tell him about Lavinia. Mary says no and says all she knows is that Lavinia is charming, and they all love her. Rosamond has no choice but to agree.

The servants are all lined up out front, and Lang’s barely holding it together. As they walk out, Robert asks Matthew if he might be able to take William as his new servant/soldier. Matthew promises to look into it, though he can’t promise to keep him safe. Over Matthew’s shoulder, Robert can see Lang starting to panic and he hurries over to him. Lang collapses against him, sobbing, and Robert comforts him as best he can. Lang sobs that the sight of all the officers is scaring him, because he thinks he has to go back with them. Oh, this poor, poor man. He’s totally cracked up, hasn’t he? Carson and O’Brien, as usual, take over as the general drives off.

Hughes and Carson sit down for a glass of port and a chat about what to do next with Branson and Lang. They agree that Lang doesn’t really belong at Downton. The man clearly needs some time off to get straight, although that might be just as bad as having a job around a lot of soldiers. Too much time to think. They move on to Branson, and Carson thinks it’s a delicate business, wondering if it would really be right to call in the police and cause a ruckus. Hang on a second: you didn’t call the police when Thomas was stealing. That’s very illegal. You didn’t even really want to fire him right away. But you’re contemplating bringing the police in for a smelly soaking that only ever took place in someone’s head? I’m pretty sure you can’t get a conviction for that.

William heads into the servants’ parlor, where Anna and most of the others are getting ready to pack it in for the night. He takes Daisy’s hand and announces their engagement as Patmore looks on, beaming, which is just bizarre, considering she knows this is all fake. Ethel gets all excited and asks when the happy day will be and Daisy quickly tells them it’ll be after the war. William says he’s not sure he can wait that long. See, I was afraid of that.

Carson goes upstairs to talk to Lang and finds him already packing. Lang apologizes for letting Carson down, but Carson says they all let Lang down, because he wasn’t ready for work and they should have realized that. He gives him two months’ wages and tells him that, when he’s ready to work again, he can rely on a good reference from Carson. Lang thanks him and gets back to his packing. Outside Lang’s room, Carson takes a moment to look sad and depressed.

While they’re getting ready for bed, Robert mentions that he’s going to pull some strings to get William appointed Matthew’s servant at the front. Cora starts talking about how Matthew and Mary looked so natural together that night and Oh My God, if I have to keep listening to this nonsense it’s going to ruin this show for me. I wish Matthew would marry Lavinia already so we can be done with this, but she’s probably going to end up dying in the influenza pandemic or something, so we’re just going to end up right back at square one, aren’t we? Robert waxes poetic about how the world was in a dream before the war, but now it’s woken up, and they must wake up too.

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