Welcome back to Downton Abbey! It's 1918 and the officers' convalescent home at Downton Abbey is popping off. Upstairs, the ladies have adjusted beautifully to their new roles (HBiC, "nurse," personal assistant, blanket-thrower, Mary), and downstairs the servants' intrigues never stop. That's why Downton Abbey is so big: It's full of secrets.
Lord Grantham disapproves of obvious villain Sir Richard, begs Mary to somehow get Cousin Matthew back. Poor Mary, she gets to choose between Jafar and her COUSIN. Shit, that scene is more dire than it is for the straight ladies of San Francisco. Grovels back to Bates; theirs is the series' biggest love story, by far. We'd root for some making out but PUKE. He really hates when the officers have fun, especially via ping pong. Good lord, he hates ping pong.
Lady Grantham has become the HBiC of Downton Civilian and Downton Army; discovers the secret soup kitchen that Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Bird are running out of Cousin Isobel's house and then becomes the boss there, too. Turns out she's a natural leader -- we wonder what her bossy ass could've gotten done pre-war if she hadn't spent all her time getting her hair braided and twisting her face into an oatmeal cookie. Her super-competence at running the household forces Cousin Isobel to move to Siberia. Later, bitch!
Lady Mary discovers Sybil's secret "romance" with Branson by interrupting their millionth public argument about whether Sybil loves him. We're surprised it took her daft ass that long.
Lady Edith continues to be the wounded officers' best girl. But platonically! Someone's developed some self-esteem! Looks like she's also developed a taste for oddly placed belts. Work it, girl. Kind of.
Lady Sybil continues to develop a speech impediment concerning the letter R. Gives an amazing, manic monologue about her conflicted feelings for Branson while zipping around changing linens, which makes us suspect she, like Daisy, is far too young to be considering marriage.
The Dowager Countess basically pushes Sybil into Branson's arms through her insistence that 1. Sybil has a secret boyfriend and 2. her secrecy must mean he's unsuitable in some way. Ding, ding, we have a winner! The DC knows all.
Matthew Crawley is at war, then is lost, then comes back to sing a love song with Mary and again declare his love of Miss Swire. Looks into getting a chin but decides that, as an Englishman, it could be considered unpatriotic.
Bates continues to operate as the noble keeper of secrets. He nobly keeps the secret of his wife's threat to expose the Lady Mary + Turkish gentleman scandal from Lord G, and nobly accepts Lord G's romantic proposition to "help [him] through the veil of shadow" (read: be his valet again). Returns to Downton covered in the glory of noble secrets or whatever.
O'Brien and Thomas scheme and plot. O'Brien exposes the secret of Mrs. Bird's and Patmore's weekly wounded veterans' soup kitchen, only to have Lady G approve of it, take it over, and make O'Brien help. Spinsters be trippin'. Thomas continues his campaign to make "cock of the walk" his catchphrase. He and O'Brien straight-up announce their plans to plot against Bates in the next episode, we get excited.
Anna inexplicably continues to put up with Bates. He says, "you're stuck with me now" and we're supposed to be like, "YAY!!!" but really, isn't that the sign of an abusive relationship? Their constant goodness is getting on our nerves, we just really want one of them to say something racist or out themselves as sexy German spies or SOMETHING.
Branson proposes to Lady Sybil! And then makes us hate him a little for being dismissive of her work. Irish socialists don't care about ladies' jobs! Less talk, more shirt-unbuttoning, pal.
Daisy worries about William -- but not in a romantic way, she swears! -- wears an ugly hat, spills the beans about Bates. William spends most of the second half MIA, only to turn up dramatically at the end-of-episode concert with Matthew and a high-larious story about wartime communication difficulties. "Oh really, it was nothing, we were just playing pinochle in the woods and lost track of time!" they explain.
Mrs. Hughes fires Ethel after discovering her banging Major Mustache in a pile of broomsticks and dirty laundry. We feel bad for whoever has to wash those sheets, probably poor Anna. Who didn't see that coming? Later, this dude will perform some olde-timey magic, which, of course he does -- have you seen his mustache? Only the most spectacular creeps can grow that kind of facial hair. Ethel returns for the last scene of the episode to beg for Mrs. Hughes' help: Major Mustache has TOTALLY KNOCKED HER UP.
Molesley is the only sadder sack than Bates. Abandoned by Isobel, he helps Mrs. Bird start a soup kitchen and makes a move to become Lord G's new valet. Buys a fancy new shoehorn to impress Lord G, but is foiled by Bates' return. Poor old Molesley, constantly chasing after Bates' sloppy seconds; is there anything sadder than this sad sack?
The Dowager Countess: "I'm a woman, Mary; I can be as contrary as I choose."
Cousin Isobel, all het up: "I shall go! I will!"
Lady Grantham, cool as an American cucumber: "Perhaps that would be best."
Cousin Isobel: "I repeat: I mean it!"
Lady Grantham: "I'm sure you do. And so do I."
Lady Edith: "I wish we had a man."
Lady Mary: "Amen."
Laura and Meave: "GIRL, AMEN."
Oh, Branson: "You're too scared to admit it, but you're in love with me." Has this EVER worked, in the history of relationships?
Branson again: "But the truth is, I'll stay at Downton until you want to run away with me." This is so important we hear it once in actual conversation and once in a Dramatic Voice-over.
The DC: "You see, sometimes in war, one can make friendships that aren't quite ... appropriate, and can be awkward, you know, later on. I mean we've all done it. I just want you to be on your guard."
Lady Sybil: "Appropriate for WHOM?"
The DC: "Well don't jump down my throat, dear, I'm only offering friendly advice."
The DC: "Really, it's like living in a second-rate hotel, where the guests keep arriving and no one seems to leave."
"I know precisely what you were doing, Major. I may not be a woman of the world, but I don't live in a sack!" -- Mrs. Hughes, who obviously lives in a sack.
Lady Sybil, as the camera tracks her down the hall in one long, manic shot: "Nothing's happened ... I mean it. We haven't kissed or anything I don't think we've shaken hands I'm not even sure if I like him like that he says I do but I'm still not sure."