Previously on Downton Abbey: Mary considered marrying Gill seriously enough to enjoy a weekend bonkfest with him, during which they checked into the same hotel under their own names. I think we should all be grateful that this particular brain trust fell apart and didn’t breed. Speaking of breeding, Edith gave birth to a kid and handed her off to the Drews, which went so incredibly poorly that she took the kid back and offered up the feeble explanation that the Drews couldn’t care for her and now little Marigold (yes, Marigold) is her foundling. In one of the show’s more ludicrous plotlines, Anna was accused of and even jailed for the murder of Greene, all on the extremely shifty evidence of a witness who’s come out of nowhere after sitting on their information for over a year. Yeah, really reliable there. Anna’s now out on bail, waiting to find out what will happen to her. Branson and Rose both decided to pursue movie careers move to America, and Carson and Hughes got engaged.
Home stretch, everybody! Now, for our American friends just joining us, I feel I should warn you. Apparently, on this side of the pond there was a lot of talk prior to the season airing about how this was going to be THE BEST DOWNTON SEASON EVA! But let’s keep in mind that Fellowes said something very similar about his Titanic miniseries, and we all know how that went. So I guess what I’m saying is, if you’ve heard that…
If you’ve got ‘a hunt scene’ on your Period Drama Bingo Card, you get to tick something off early, because here we are knee deep in hounds and hunting pinks, and oh look, Mary’s finally decided to start riding astride. Her father sniffs about that, telling her that sidesaddle’s much more elegant, and she points out that it’s also far more dangerous, and she’s good with her neck unbroken, thanks. A crowd of locals has gathered to take in the sight of the hunt, and amongst them is a particularly smug young woman. This is Rita, our cartoon villain of the season. She has all the obnoxious classist outrage of Sarah Bunting combined with the maddening, buffoonish absurdity of Vera Bates. Fun!
Before the riders leave, Cora mentions some meeting of the hospital committee that day, mildly scolding Robert for going hunting instead of attending, although this is the first it’s been mentioned that Robert has anything at all to do with the hospital.
Belowstairs, the tots are helping to mix something and Andy the footman’s all settled in. Thomas is ready to show him the ropes but Hughes suggests he let the young man find his own way. George begs for a piggyback ride and Thomas immediately and rather cheerfully obliges, which seems very out of character. In the kitchen, Patmore mentions the lack of kitchen maid and Daisy asks Hughes if she’s picked a date for her wedding. She has not.
Hunters gallop across the fields.
Patmore goes upstairs and finds Hughes mending a loose button.
Patmore: Hey, what’s your deal? You seem kinda squirrelly.
Hughes: Since you asked, all this wedding stuff makes me nervous, because it’s suddenly occurred to me that he may expect to have sex with me, and that’s super uncomfortable. I mean, once the tits meet the waistline you kinda figure those days are behind you, but here I am!
Patmore: Maybe keep the lights off? Or suggest a sexless marriage? Live like siblings? Really affectionate siblings? Not Game of Thrones affectionate, obviously.
Hughes: I think some ground rules need to be set, but I’m way too stereotypically British to do it myself. Hey, since we’re friends and all, why don’t you ask my fiancé if he wants to have sex with me? I hear girlfriends do it for each other all the time!
Patmore: The hell now? All I wanted to do was ask if you were ok. This is so not ok!
Hughes: But it’ll make me feel better
Patmore: Oh, all right, then.
On her way downstairs, Patmore runs across Anna, who’s crying but lies that she’s just got a cold.
As the hunters cross a brook, Mary spots Rita and, even though Mary has no idea who the heck she is, she’s so distracted and distressed that she somehow manages to pop right off her horse even as it’s going at a fairly slow canter. Mary’s a terrible rider. A local farmer helps her back to her feet and gets her back on the horse.
Edith, back at the house, is on the phone with her editor, who seems like an asshole who can’t do his job and gives her a ton of attitude. She tells Cora that the guy doesn’t seem to like working for a woman. Well, then, maybe you should help him seek employment elsewhere, Edith.
The hospital committee gathers at Downton so Violet can tell them all, in a rage, that a larger hospital wants to take over their hospital. Isobel’s annoyed that she hasn’t been informed of this before now, since she’s the hospital almoner and nobody’s been in touch with her. Violet basically just got a bit of gossip from a friend. This is a super boring side plot, but essentially Isobel and Merton (he’s on the committee too?) think there could be benefits to letting the bigger hospital take over, whereas Violet’s reluctant to cede any power. Merton whispers that he’s glad he and Isobel agree and she bitchily snaps at him not to make too much of it. Damn, Isobel. I know you’re pissed off at Violet just now, but don’t take it out on poor Merton, who has done NOTHING to you. I love Merton’s ‘maybe it’s best we’re not married after all’ eyebrow raise, though.
Robert and Mary return home and after Mary sends her horse off with a groom she notices Rita lurking about and asks her who the hell she is. Rita and her attitude introduce themselves and Rita announces she was a chambermaid at the hotel in Liverpool where Mary and Gill stayed. Man, did I call the stupidity of staying there under their own names or what? Also, why has this woman waited nearly a year to come forward with this information? Is that some sort of unspoken rule on this show? Anyway, she’s blackmailing Mary to the tune of £1000, or she’ll go to the News of the World. Damn, £1000 was a LOT of money in 1925. I happen to know that in 1930 that was worth the equivalent of around £40,000 today, so five years earlier it would have been even more. Mary laughs at her and tells her not to bother with this, since she’s not the first person to try and blackmail Mary. Glad the show’s actually acknowledging its tendency to endlessly recycle plotlines. Shows some self-awareness.
Down in the servants’ hall, Bates asks Anna what’s bothering her and she tells him she’s fine. Molesley comments on how lucky Marigold is to have been plucked from some lowly farmer’s family to be brought up at Downton.
Upstairs, Robert tells Carson that they may have to consider cutting back the staff at some point. Carson, aghast, says that they’re pretty much at bare bones as it is, especially now two housemaids have handed in their notice. Robert’s like, ‘well, sign of the times, right? Maybe we should reconsider the unnecessary under-butler, who’s a terrible person to have under our roof anyway.’
Mary tells all to Anna, who asks Mary what she plans to do. Not pay the woman, certainly. She doesn’t see why any newspaper would print a story about her having a dirty weekend with a newly married viscount and Anna’s like, ‘have you seen the shit they print in that rag?’ Mary changes the subject to Anna and asks if there have been any movements in her case. There have not. Mary figures that’s what’s been bothering Anna.
In the kitchen, Patmore asks Carson for a word later on, making it all seem very mysterious.
In the boot room, Bates and Anna polish shoes and Bates talks randomly about children needing homes, which is all Anna needs to start sobbing. He hurries to comfort her and she weepily tells him that she miscarried, and this isn’t the first time. She starts to freak out, saying she can’t seem to have a baby. He reassures her that it’ll be fine, and if they can’t have a kid, well, c’est la vie. She thinks she’s let him down, but he promises she could never do that. Man, can this woman not have any happiness?
Violet asks how the search is going for Tom’s replacement and Mary announces she will be the new agent. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Over dinner, the family talk about Tom, who’s all settled in Boston. Violet asks how the search is going for his replacement and Mary announces she will be the new agent. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, wait, she’s serious?HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I’m sorry, but that’s beyond daft. She has shown ZERO ability to do anything around this estate. The only thing of use we’ve seen her do is fetch water for some pigs once, which she only managed when directed by someone else (a man, might I point out). What the hell does she know about running this estate? Not that Tom really knew anything about the job either, but at least he had ideas. All Mary’s ever done is give half-assed opinions once in a while (I like the prettier houses!) and stand around in the background while Tom and her father actually make plans. This is stupid.
Robert: Don’t take on a job that wears your poor little brain out.
Mary: I’m already doing the job
Robert: Yes, and it’s exhausting you! Look at you, barely able to stay on a horse during the hunt!
What a trying job she has, if she has time to spend the day hunting.
Violet and Isobel start bitching at each other about the hospital and Robert says the president and almoner can’t be at odds. And yet, here we are.
Patmore goes to see Carson, the poor woman, and this is as painfully awkward as you’d expect. Moreso, really. Why is this poor lady being made to do this? I usually like Hughes, but this is so not acceptable. Who would make their friend do something like this?
Anyway, when it comes right down to it, Patmore can’t quite bring herself to ask about the prospective sex life of a man who outranks her, so she just downs her port and leaves.
After dinner, Robert and Violet chat about things and he says he’s not sure how long they can really go on living in this manner. Servants are actually demanding living wages now, damn them, and that’s making it dashed hard to hang onto housemaids and such.
He sees Violet off and joins his daughters in the drawing room. Edith mentions going up to London to set her editor straight (please, can we see that scene?) and to have a look at Michael’s awesome flat, which the current tenants are moving out of. Mary identifies it as Gregson’s place, but Edith is sick of people not giving her her due and firmly reminds her that the place is actually hers now. Mary rolls her eyes unnecessarily. Edith goes on to say that she might not retenant, since it’s occurred to her it might be a good idea to have her own place. Robert agrees it’s a worthwhile thought. Edith leaves and Mary wonders what she’ll get up to, alone on the town. Probably less stupid and damaging nonsense than you do, Mary. Robert dismisses that and asks Mary what’s bugging her. Mary lies that nothing’s wrong.
As she gets ready for bed, Violet tells Denker that the staff at Downton might be reduced soon. She tells Denker not to repeat this and Denker promises not to.
Rita’s back. She goes into the kitchen and lies that she’s a new maid at the Dower House and has a message for Mary that she must give to Mary herself. Hughes, who had just enough time to find out that Patmore got nowhere the day before, takes her upstairs.
Mary’s in bed reading the paper, but she jumps right up as soon as Rita is shown in. She thanks Hughes and asks her to send up Anna immediately. Once Hughes leaves, Mary asks Rita how she dares coming there. Rita helps herself to some of Mary’s toast and actually says the words ‘your lot’s finished’. Watch out for falling anvils, folks! Mary tells her to get lost, and no, she’s not giving this woman any money. Anna comes in and Mary tells her to get rid of the woman. Anna takes Rita by the arm and marches her out of the house. Mary looks a little sickened. Uh, Mary, I know that you’re stressed and that thinking of others isn’t your strongest suit, but don’t you think you should let Gill know what’s happening? Any story that gets out would affect him too, and he should really be aware of this situation.
Clarkson and Isobel have a meeting and Clarkson tells her that the bigger hospital will just swallow them up and do things their way without any regard to the area. What sort of special regard does this little village need? Isobel tells him she’d really like to see survival rates at this crappy little hospital improve, something which will never happen while Clarkson’s running the show. Zing! He smarmily suggests that this is something Merton’s put in her head, and he’s got some nerve to say that. Let’s not forget that this woman saved a man dying of dropsy back in series one, Clarkson, while you just stood around with your thumb up your ass. She clearly knows her business, and she knows it better than you do. Isobel somehow manages not to punch him in the nuts, probably because she’s too shocked.
Sargeant Willis goes to see Anna and tells her that someone’s confessed to killing Greene. Seriously? And they waited, what, two years now to come forward? Of course they did. Oh, but Anna’s not out of the woods yet, because Inspector Vyner, for no fathomable reason, thinks it’s a false confession. Which gets crazier and crazier, because it turns out that the person who confessed is a fellow victim of Greene’s. Why in god’s name does this man think a woman would falsely confess to having been raped and to having killed her rapist in 1925? It’s not as if there was some kind of cachet to being a rape victim! If anything, it was, socially, much worse than it is now! Also, has his history as a rapist been revealed to the world at large? Even if she was faking, how would she know to say that? And there’s nothing to gain by confessing to murder, unless you really relish being imprisoned and hanged. What the hell is wrong with this man?
Apparently, this other woman was picked up by Greene in a pub, and ages later she just so happened to see him in Piccadilly and thought he really looked ripe for squashing. Right. Since that’s actually the least ridiculous thing about this whole plot, I’ll let it go. Willis, who’s a nice guy, just wanted to let them know what was up and reassures them it’ll all come right in the end.
Carson goes and tells Robert that Mr Mason has come to see him. Seems the owners of Mallerton, the estate where he’s a tenant, are selling up and now he’s being kicked off his farm. Cora’s more shocked to hear that the neighbours are leaving, but apparently it’s such a done deal the contents of the house are going to be auctioned off. Mason just wants to know if there’s a chance he might be able to stay on, ultimately. Robert agrees to give the current owners a call and feel things out.
On his way downstairs, Carson runs across Hughes and asks if she’ll consider setting a date. She rushes off. Carson then tells Mason that Robert’s telephoning now. Daisy’s horrified that, after all the work he’s put into the farm, he can just be kicked right off. Mason shrugs that, at the end of the day, he’s just a tenant. ‘That’s not how I see it,’ Daisy says ridiculously. ‘It doesn’t matter how you see it,’ Thomas points out. Thank you, Thomas.
In comes Denker to announce to everyone in earshot that some of them are going to get fired. The hell? Oh, you know what?
This woman would so be out of a job, for a couple of reasons. 1) It would not have been considered ok for a servant at one house to just go around shit-stirring. Nobody wants that nonsense, and frankly, it wasn’t that hard to replace ladies’ maids at the time. 2) Nobody wants a maid who’s a gossip. Ladies’ maids and valets were privy to a lot of personal information about their employers, so they had to be discreet. It was part of the job. (Could you imagine what would happen if Anna got to talking?) No way would anyone want to keep on someone they know is spilling secrets, especially secrets they’ve been explicitly ordered not to tell. This woman would have been out on her ass in no time flat, no reference, nothing.
Patmore snipes at the woman for being a bitch and then asks who the new maid is who came by that morning. Denker starts to say she has no idea who that is, but before she can finish the bell from the library rings and Carson takes Mason up.
Robert tells Mason that Sir John is super upset about screwing over all his tenants in this manner, but he couldn’t sell the place without vacant possessions. It’ll be up to the new owners to decide if Mason gets to stay or has to go. Mason thanks him for trying. After he goes, Cora bemoans the misfortune of being left in such an uncertain place, at that advanced age, and then asks how Sir John is taking everything. Naturally, the poor rich man is very upset. Robert has agreed to go to the auction, which seems a bit creepy to me, and apparently to Cora as well.
Denker’s nosing around in Violet’s journal. Spratt comes in and Denker tauntingly spills the beans about the impending layoffs, which she’s now extending to the Dower House, because why not? ‘What can you do? Que sera sera,’ she says, remarkably quoting a phrase that won’t enter the general lexicon for about another 30 years. Denker figures she’s safe, because Violet will always need someone to help her dress and undress, whereas Spratt is probably a luxury. With that still on his mind, Violet comes in and asks him to let the cook know she’s ready for dinner. ‘You could have rung her yourself,’ he comments, still a bit out of it. He immediately panics and apologises, saying he was just thinking aloud.
Anna helps Mary get ready for bed and asks what she plans to do about Rita. For about the fifth time, Mary says she won’t pay the woman, for fear of having a bloodsucker on her for the rest of her life. But, if she refuses, she risks ruining her reputation. Anna advises she not allow herself to be blackmailed. Mary agrees, still not considering that this does not only affect her.
Carson pulls Patmore into his office for another chat. He’s managed to figure out that she was on a mission for Hughes and thinks that Hughes has changed her mind about marrying him. Patmore reassures him that’s not the case. She finally manages to, in a very roundabout way, get to the heart of the matter. Carson’s a bit dense about it for a bit, but then realises what she means by ‘wifely duties’.
As Bates and Anna walk home, he starts talking about them making plans, once this Greene thing is behind them. She thinks he’ll never be happy without kids, despite what he says.
Patmore and Carson relax a bit, now the really awkward bit is over. Carson sends a message through Patmore: in his eyes, Hughes is beautiful, and yes, he does want a full marriage with her, not just a ‘warm friendship’. He tells Patmore he loves Hughes and he’s ‘happy and tickled and bursting with pride that she would agree to be his wife.’ Hee! I’m not really a big Carson/Hughes fan, but that was cute. He says that he’ll understand if Hughes wants to withdraw from the relationship, but he just can’t live as friends.
Spratt goes to see Violet and asks for sufficient warning before she fires him and kicks him out of the house. She reassures him that he’s not going anywhere and wonders where he got this idea. He says that Denker’s been talking and she tells him to leave this matter with her, and she’ll attend to it. Violet, FIRE HER!
Daisy is attending this auction as well, now, in support of Mason, who wants to go because he wants to support the family. That’s some serious loyalty on his part.
Rita’s back, and this time she’s come through the front door. Molesley tries to get rid of her, telling her Mary’s not at home. Carson takes over, but before he can shove her back out the door, Robert comes along to see what’s happening. Rita rudely pushes past him and into the library.
Rosamond and Edith discuss the possibility of Edith moving to London permanently. DO IT, Edith!
Rosamond and Edith check out Edith’s flat and talk about the possibility of her moving to London permanently. DO IT, EDITH! Seriously, get away from Downton! Rosamond thinks the countryside is healthier for a small child, but she does agree that people in London are less curious about a child’s parentage, so there’s that. Rosamond urges her niece to really consider the future she wants to have: does she want to hang around Downton being sniped at by her bitchy sister? Travel? Be a publisher? Well, I think we can all agree which of those options is the least appealing.
Mary returns home and Carson tells her that a young woman ‘of a most unappealing aspect’ showed up. Mary hastens to the library just in time to see her father hand Rita a cheque. Rita sneers that Mary’s the lucky one before she leaves. Mary asks Robert what Rita told him. Everything, apparently, and like a true sexist, he’s most disappointed in Gill. Women can’t control themselves, you know. Mary tells him that Gill intended to marry her, but she reconsidered. Robert just sort of shrugs the whole thing off but asks Mary what she intended to do with Rita. Let her publish, of course. Robert points out that would have been a but unfair on Gill (thank you, Robert!) and Mary’s face goes, ‘oh, yeah…’
Mary offers to telephone the bank in the morning and pay Robert back (with what money? Oh, I guess she inherited from Matthew), which gives Robert a chance to tell her that all Rita got was £50, because it was either get that and sign a paper in which she confessed to blackmail, or leave with nothing and be reported to the police. Ha! Mary admits to being impressed and calls her father Machiavellian, which he isn’t, really, and offers to at least repay the £50, but Robert thinks it’s money well spent because, if you can believe it, this showed him that Mary is a grown up and is quite tough enough to run the estate.
What? The WHAT NOW? How do you figure, Robert? If anything, this matter has shown that Mary is not intelligent or mature enough to run anything, not even her own life. She gives zero thought to other people or to the potential ramifications of her actions, which seem like terrible traits in someone running an estate that hundreds of people rely on. And she wasn’t tough at all, all she did was say no to this woman twice and then had Anna march her out. And then she had to be rescued by her daddy. The last time she was blackmailed, she had to be rescued by a man too. I don’t understand the logic here in the least.
Cora comes in and wonders if Edith will want to come with them to Mallerton tomorrow, which is turning into quite the family day out. Mary thinks they should make a day of it, ‘Fall of the house of Usher,’ she comments, rather nastily and nonsensically. That’s two literary references in one scene that didn’t really work. I don’t think Mary reads much. Also, it’s incredibly shitty of her to treat the downfall of a family she undoubtedly knows very well as some sort of entertaining spectator sport. Cora rightly calls her out on that, reminding her that they may very well be next. I’m kind of starting to hope so. Honestly, I would be delighted if at the very end of this thing Mary has to beg Edith for a secretary’s job at the magazine.
Hughes joins Patmore in the kitchen and apologises for sending Patmore to do her dirty work. Patmore’s already filled her in on what Carson said, adding that he spoke quite tenderly of Hughes.
The family gathers to leave for the auction and Edith tells them that she might not be in Yorkshire much going forward. Robert seems to be having memory problems, because he thinks that sounds odd, even though just two evenings ago she was talking about going to London more often and keeping a permanent base there, and he was cool with that. As they go out, Thomas tries to ask Carson if he’s about to be fired. Carson puts him off. Baxter reassures Thomas that he’s fine, but Thomas is now fully paranoid and keeps saying that Andy barely talks to him, so clearly the others are telling him to steer clear of Thomas… I don’t know what’s going on with him right now. Honestly, if the others are warning people to stay away from you, Thomas, it’s probably not for reasons like you’re getting fired, it’s probably because you’re a severely toxic person.
The family, along with Daisy, motors to Mallerton.
Isobel swings by Violet’s for a visit with minimal rancour, if possible. Violet rings for tea, and while Spratt and Denker are conveniently in the room together, Violet hints that she’s going to fire Denker, because not everyone needs a lady’s maid. After all, Isobel doesn’t have one! Denker leaves, looking crushed. Of course, Violet has no intention of doing up her own buttons in the near future, she just wants to scare the woman. Not that this’ll cure her of being a gossip, which is still a problem.
The Crawleys arrive at the lovely Mallerton, which is full of people going over the family heirlooms. Robert waxes nostalgic about coming to visit as a boy. ‘Sic transit Gloria mundi’ Edith reels right off. At least someone has the brains to use quotes properly. Robert’s horrified to see that the family really means to sell everything, even paintings of their ancestors. Yeah, that does seem really rough. They’re joined by Sir John, the proprietor, who tells them this really sucks, but ‘what’s the point of storing the rest? This life has ended for us. It won’t come back.’ Do you hear that, people? CHANGE!
He takes them to meet the Hendersons, the new owners, while Daisy and Mason wander about. He sees a decorative box that was a wedding gift to Sir John from the tenants. Mason put half a crown towards it and went without beer for a week. When you put it like that, it’s kind of shitty to see it sold. Daisy thinks this is all totally wrong and decides to go give the Hendersons a piece of her mind. She barges right over, despite Edith trying to intervene, and accuses Henderson of booting out families who’ve worked the land for generations. The Downtonians try to talk her down, and Sir John tries to say something, so she turns her ire on him for selling his wedding present without a care for what sort of deprivation went into it. Mason looks like he wants to die. Cora tries to excuse Daisy, but Henderson’s a rich asshole and decides he’s now going to punish Mason for Daisy’s behaviour. Sir John and the Downtonians try to calm the waters, but it’s no good. The auction starts and everyone uncomfortably takes their seats. Sir John plonks down beside Robert and complains about the ‘poky little house in Thurloe Square’ he now has to live in and figures that, in 20 years, there won’t be any more houses like his, aside from those that have been turned into institutions. That would make more sense if he hadn’t just sold his home to a private buyer. Also, those ‘poky houses’ in Thurloe Square are mostly six to seven bedrooms, so suck it up.
Back at the house, Daisy stresses about having just gotten herself and Mason into trouble and wonders what the poor old man will do, because who’ll take him on as a tenant at his age? Andy nonsensically comments that it’s a good life. What, homelessness? That line didn’t in the least follow what came before it. I don’t feel like Julian Fellowes is paying any attention at all to what he’s writing.
Oh, good, Willis is back. He’s come to tell Anna they’ve found a witness who remembers Greene picking up this woman in a crowded London pub. Of course, another magical witness to an event that took place years ago! It’s a Downton Miracle! Anna’s now totally off the hook, and the actual murderer is going to be locked up for manslaughter.
Carson brings the news to the family upstairs, and they’re so overjoyed that they all go downstairs to pop Veuve Clicquot with the servants. Man, they weren’t this celebratory when Bates was released. This is…kind of hilarious, actually, probably because this whole plotline was ludicrous to begin with, which made it impossible to take any of it seriously. The family’s over-the-top joy seems almost mocking.
Downstairs, Robert proposes a toast to British justice, the envy of the world! Mary sends Andy to fetch the gramophone so they can have a proper party, and Anna asks Willis to tell the woman who actually committed the crime that she forgives her for letting this ride so long. Bates suggests going to look at some properites, now they’re both free of murder charges and can move on with their life together. The gramophone is cranked up and the servants start dancing.
Robert and Cora go into the kitchen and poke around in the fridge for leftovers. Carson comes in and asks what they should do about Daisy, reminding them she could be dismissed for spouting off. Cora begs for leniency and Carson reluctantly agrees. Robert suggests Cora stay out of this hospital matter, but she thinks it’s too important to take a back seat. Robert sighs that it’s going to be a very trying spring and summer. For all of us, Robert. For all of us.
Daisy is called to the carpet and scolded by Carson for speaking out of turn. She’s already terrified and agrees that she should probably start learning to control herself. Seriously, this girl has got to be in her late 20s at least. Kind of about time she learned when to keep her mouth shut, but then, Mary’s got at least three or four years on her and hasn’t learned that lesson yet. She’s sent back to the party and starts dancing with Andy.
While they have a minute alone, Hughes has a word with Carson that’s super awkward but ends with the two of them having a sweet moment and Hughes telling him that he can have her warts and all. They share an extremely passionless kiss.