Welcome back to Downton Abbey, where we are no longer at war! Well, kind of. World War One is over, but the shit is still on at Downton. The soapiness increased roughly a thousandfold, as we saw the return of the heir who drowned on the Titanic (Or did he? Or did we?), and the theft of Mr. Carson by Sir Richard Carlisle; meanwhile, Ethel's baby was so hungry he ate a stick, and Lord Grantham was so put out by having to spend one lunch alone that he flirted with a maid. Let's break it down.
Lord Grantham, as always, sulks about being abandoned by Lady Grantham, and then by Carson. Luckily, that gives him a chance to start making moves on new maid Jane. Becomes the Sybil of this season in his fancy new suit that's so modern it's unsuitable for public viewing.
Lady Grantham continues to ignore her wifely duties and the concept of good acting. Summons Lavina back after Carlisle convinces her that he can't impregnate Mary with Matthew there, as she must spend all her waking hours pushing him around in a circle. She discovers Mrs. Hughes' feeding Ethel and Ethel's 5-year-old newborn, and gets involved in the plot to make Major Mustache claim his bastard, but too bad, he's dead.
Lady Mary wheels Matthew around and dodges Sir Richard Carlisle. Remarkably, finds someone even more repulsive than her betrothed -- her secret ex-fiancé, the undead/maybe heir/sausage-face, Patrick Crawley/Gordon. Wheedles Lord Grantham into letting Carson go; that's Daddy's little girl.
Lady Edith finally meets someone with a face that her family finds more disturbing than her own. It belongs to a man who claims to be Patrick Crawley, the heir to the Grantham lands and titles (and Lady G's fortune), who everyone thought died on the Titanic, and whom Edith used to have a thing for despite his having been engaged to Mary. Edith's romantic complications have romantic complications, no wonder she falls for a bro who took his name from a bottle of gin. Maybe if she stopped wearing that awful belt she'd catch a single man within her demographic who is not a disfigured grifter. Is it him? Is it not? Did his giant, rolling eyes remind anyone else of a frightened horse? What a mystery! And what an absurd, soap operatic plot line that we hate! Thank goodness he fucks off at the end of the episode. May we never have to see him again.
Lady Sybil continues to make beds, cocktease Branson.
The Dowager Countess plays Cousin Isobel like a fiddle, convincing her to leave Downton and help the poor, helpless war refugees. Damn, she's good.
Cousin Matthew, sulking around in his chair like a 15-year-old who just discovered The Smiths, continues to be the most pathetic, until the end when he looks at Mary's butt and feels a tingling in his nethers. COULD IT BE? Okay, if he can walk, they better fire that bossy Dr. Clarkson because that ain't no small mistake! Is he regularly looking at charts and being like, "Terrible news, you've got two weeks to live," and then turns it upside down and is like, "No, my bad, you're pregnant" ?
Cousin Isobel wants to keep Downton open as a military recovery center, general store, and maybe car wash. Oh, the possibilities! She allows herself to be aimed like the world's pushiest gun at the refugee effort, because she's the type of rich person who isn't happy unless she's helping poors. If she lived in San Francisco today, she'd definitely be waist-deep in the slow food movement and own at least three pairs of Tom's.
Miss Lavinia Swire is summoned back to Downton to care for Matthew. Even though he's but half a man, she still loves him. Yes she will marry that self-pitying crybaby and live a sexless life pushing his chair in circles, and there's nothing you can do to stop her, Matthew. Maybe her mother-in-law can teach her to channel her personal and sexual frustrations into helping the poor! It works for her and Sybil!
Sir Richard Carlisle offends everyone by deciding to buy the neighbors' giant estate. How dare he keep Lady Mary close to Downton in a beautiful, modern home? What a dick! He convinces Carson to come with Mary when they decamp to basically across the street, which proves a further affront to the rest of the house. Obviously Sir Richard is a creepy creep (no way will she Lady Marry him, RIGHT, SHOW?), but the rest of the family's outrage at his efforts to make the best possible home for Mary is pretty obnoxious. He brings it on home in the end with a charmingly physical threat to ruin Mary if she breaks their engagement, so at least he's consistent.
Bates still can't get his divorce. Evil Mrs. Bates is so wily, she manages to die in the most inconvenient way, ending the episode laid out like Laura after a good New Year's. HOO BOY! Anna, continuing her self-destructive spiral, tells Bates that she would run away with him if they have to; if she loses Eeyore, she'll never love again!
O'Brien is jealous of Bates and Anna. Why, O'Brien? You've got a sweet weave, a caustic sense of humor, and we're pretty sure we're supposed to believe you're a practicing witch. Work it, crazy curls!
Thomas takes a secret loan to deal in black market baking powder, sugar, and flour. The most delicious black market! Wonder what the vig is on cake ingredients.
Mrs. Hughes continues sneaking food to Ethel, plotting with Lady G to force Major Mustache to take responsibility for that giant, insatiable baby. Teaches us that "behind the bicycle shed" was the place that young men got busy before there were Burger King restrooms.
Carson is wooed by Sir Creepy Carlisle to buttle his new house with Mary. Carson is like, "Well, I hate you, but I love Lady Mary. WHAT TO DO?"
Branson moons over Sybil, talks about the modernization of Europe to a disbelieving Carson. More crazy pronouncements, less political prescience, hot stuff.
Daisy is still crazy upset about granting a dying man his wish, and refuses to accept her war widow's pension. The other servants pretend to sympathize, but they all think she's being ridiculous. Because she is. The Crawleys must be paying her a massive salary if she can afford to let guilt get in the way of financial security.
Ethel's baby daddy, Major Mustache, is killed in the battle of Vittorio Veneto, and nobody is sorry to hear it, the rat bastard. There goes her dream of being an officer's wife. Who will keep the baby in whittled sticks and linen bonnets?
Jane is a little plot-mover-along, asking everyone leading questions to allow them to explain what they'll be up to later in the episode/season. Manages to have multiple private conversations with Lord Grantham, which he seems to interpret as flirtatious, though she is clearly skeeved out by him.
O'Brien: "I just don't want [Bates' and Anna's impending nuptials] to spoil things."
Bates: "Why? Because we've all been such pals until now?"
"Your lot buys it, my lot inherits it." -- Lady Mary to Sir Richard. Man, old money is the BEST.
"I'm an American; I don't share your English hatred of comfort." -- Lady Grantham talks sense. Let Lady Mary have indoor plumbing!
Lady Grantham: "[Cousin Isobel]'s such a martyr."
The DC: "Then we must tempt her with a more enticing scaffold."
"What's he done that all young men aren't anxious to do behind the bicycle sheds every night?" -- Mrs. Hughes has an oddly specific concept of sex out of wedlock.
"I feel sorry for Ethel but I cannot condone her inability to pronounce a simple two letter word: 'No!'" -- Carson, the feminist
"Monarchy is the lifeblood of Europe." -- Carson, the populist.
"I wish I knew how an engine worked." -- Sybil, to Branson's junk.
"The trick of business is to mind your own." -- Anna, to O'Brien.
"So you summon Lavinia to be sacrificed like some latter-day Iphigenia, doomed to push his chair through all eternity?" Lord Grantham does not appreciate it when the ladies don't submit their plots for his approval.