Welcome back to Downton Abbey, where things have morphed into a straight-up soap opera. It's pretty dire. Since the war is over, they brought in the Spanish flu because a plot driven by character development is not enough for Downton Abbey -- there must be DRAMATIC HAPPENINGS. In this episode, which we like to call "One Depressing Wedding and a Weird Funeral," we're treated to two hours of crazy drama, which we have analyzed to the best of our ability.
Because this week's episode was twice as long as usual, this recap is lengthy, but we feel strongly that we must dissect each ridiculous story. To Downton!
Lord Grantham is still one sad, useless sack of a man, as nobody is listening to his every boring word even though the war is over and this is HIS house. The nerve! He forcibly kisses Jane, is a jerkbutt to his wife and daughters, threatens to disown Sybil for her impending marriage to Branson. "Nobly" doesn't take Jane up on her offer of sexytimes, so we can still respect him? Manages to get over himself just a little bit at the end, giving Sybil and Branson his blessing to marry in Ireland. Congratulations, you're not a total dick.
Lady Grantham is all business, wanting to send the poor crippled Matthew into the wild and questioning the employment of potential wife-killer (and part-cripple) Bates. She's further upset when Matthew can walk and wants to marry Lavina at Downton -- that might detract from Mary's nuptials to Sour Grapes Carlisle. Looks phenomenal in an orange blouse and turquoise skirt [says Meave] before almost dying, because that's how Downton closes the season: threatening Lady Grantham's life. Apologizes to Lord G for "neglecting" him while she had an awesome time working and helping people, because when wives don't attend their husband's every word, he tries to sleep with the help.
Lady Mary is a total b to Carson when he's like, "I don't want to work for a dude who is clearly an asshole to you and everyone around you," and Mary's all, "FINE I DIDN'T THINK YOU WERE PRETTY, ANYWAY!" She has no sympathy for Ethel, because no one who makes a mistake deserves forgiveness in the eyes of a person who feels constantly judged for her own mistakes. Shuts down Sybil and Branson's elopement like a pro. Gets in one final, romantic dance with Cousin Matthew before Lavinia dies and Matthew's guilt squelches the inter-cousinal forever. Sets up Anna and Bates (Celebrity name, Batana?) with a honeymoon suite/sex dungeon, giving us a Batana love scene, which we 100 percent did not need. Unless you're into jowls, in which case, yow.
Lady Edith is like, "Now that the war is over, I guess I'm just the useless uggo again!" At least she's not a bitch anymore! Instead, she's resigning herself to a life of cheerful spinsterhood. We feel you, girl. Honestly, she's lucky the flim-flam man she fell for last episode ran away -- you know she would've low-self-esteemed herself into marrying him.
Lady Sybil, bored without any beds to make, finally gives Branson what he wants: FULL FRONTAL NUDITY. Psych, this is Downton Abbey, so it's a kiss and her heart. Aww. They're set to run away together to Ireland so he can be a journalist (??) and she can be ... a housewife? Anyway. They try to elope to Gretna Green, but Sybil stupidly leaves before everyone is in bed, which allows Mary and Ethel to find her note and track them down. Doesn't give a fuck about the societal repercussions of marrying her family's (former!) chauffeur.
The Dowager Countess isn't in nearly enough of the episode! Too many stupid plotlines detracted from what the show should be -- rich people being silly, maids working hard and being grateful, terrible spinsters and gays being terrible, and the DC zinging them all!
Cousin Matthew claims the tingling was in his legs BUT WE KNOW BETTER. He can hella walk now because this show is ridiculous. According to Dr. Clarkson, Matthew couldn't walk because he had "spinal shock," which sounds an awful lot like Brain Cloud to us. Everyone is very happy because before he was just this pathetic cripple, and now he can walk! Yay ableism! Manages to fuck things up with Lavinia right before she dies, and fuck things up with Mary immediately afterward, swearing his guilt over breaking Lavinia's heart on her deathbed prevents him and Mary from ever being together. Get your shit together, Matthew.
Cousin Isobel is not with the refugees. Guess that plot line was just dropped. She does bust Matthew with Mary's lucky Beanie Baby in front of Lavinia, impressing us again with her ability to be completely inconvenient and weird to everyone all the time.
Miss Lavinia Swire is totally excited to have a real, sexual marriage to Matthew, until she nobly dies to free Matthew of his obligation to marry her, because everyone can see and acknowledge Mary and Matthew's total loooooove except Mary and Matthew. Dies gasping her demand that Matthew "be happy" like the champion one-dimensional character she was.
Sir Richard Carlisle gets even creepier as he tries to bribe Anna into spying on Mary, and cautioning his beloved against cutting her hair boy-short. (Which Mary could totally rock, and she knows it. You bring the Irene Castle Parisian realness, girl.) He's a straight-up Disney villain at this point. There's nothing nuanced about this guy; he might as well be raping an invalid while checking his stock prices in the newspaper, ya know?
Bates keeps quiet about his suspicious actions toward the late Evil Mrs. Bates prior to her death, and Anna (and everyone else, including us) is like OMG GO TO THE POLICE NOW AND EXPLAIN THAT BITCH CRAY, but he doesn't listen and then his ass is very rightfully arrested and sad music plays forever. The late Evil Mrs. Bates sabotages him from beyond the grave! At least he allows Anna to talk him into getting married before he's carted off to prison. Look, Julian Fellowes, either Anna and Bates are gonna be 2gether 4ever or not, but this constantly throwing obstacles between them is feeling more and more contrived -- it's not entertaining!
Anna blows up Sir Richard's fiancée-spying spot, because she is a goody-goody who only lies to cover for her ladies, not her ladies' beaux. Insists that Bates marry her ASAP, for tactical reasons as well as sexxxxy ones. Adorably continues to call her new husband "Mr. Bates," which is the only charming thing about these two anymore.
As hinted at last week, Thomas officially starts dabbling in black market dry goods. Oh, poor, naive Thomas, don't you know this show will teach you a lesson because you're a devious gay? Another question: Does Julian Fellowes secretly hate servants? Because Thomas and Ethel, the two staff with extra-service ambitions, are both brought awfully low in this episode.
O'Brien is the world's most sardonic cheerleader for Thomas and his short-lived black market biscuit-making business. Her guilt over letting Lady G slip on the soap and miscarry last season drives her crazy during Lady G's illness. O'Brien is way less fun when she's expressing sincere emotions. Now that Thomas is back in livery, can they please go back to plotting and zinging?
Carson really doesn't want to go work for Carlisle and is pretty relieved when he finds out he doesn't have to because Carlisle has been creeping around, asking Anna to spy. He can't work for a man who isn't also a gentleman! We love that this is what makes him realize Carlisle is a full-fledged creep, like the baby-strangling and puppy-kicking didn't clue him in. He is super-pumped to employ a bunch more shell-shocked veterans as footmen, now that the war is over.
Mrs. Hughes says what we're all thinking, "To me, Lady Mary is an uppity minx who is the author of her own misfortunes." GIRL, SING IT. Wrangles Ethel multiple chances to share her whopper of a baby with his grandparents, which mostly results in the late Major Mustache's father saying "bastard" like 50 hundred times.
Branson has his elopement plans foiled by Sybil's familial loyalty. Gets a job at a newspaper, refuses Lord G's bribe to end the engagement, allowing him multiple opportunities to make impassioned, self-righteous speeches in front of his former employers. He persists in talking about Sybil like she belongs to him, because all ladies want their loved ones to treat them like objects. Less talking, less shirt-wearing, please.
Daisy gets to hang out with William's dad, who is AWESOME. Seriously, fuck the rest of this episode, we just want to see William's dad give Daisy advice for two hours.
Mrs. Patmore entrusts Daisy to bake a cake and upon tasting it is like, "DAISY GODDAMMIT YOU SCREWED IT UP AGAIN!" then is all, "Waaaait a minute, these ingredients are from that motherfucker Thomas!" She shuts down Thomas' nascent black market dry goods business overnight, and Daisy lives to see another day!
Ethel's baby is neck-roll-deep in his battle with childhood obesity when Ethel learns that the late Major Mustache's parents will be visiting Downton Abbey because the writers want to hang onto this tired plot line. She bum-rushes the luncheon with the late Major Mustache's clearly abusive father and submissive mother, and they get pissed and drive away in a big puff of smoke. BUT THEN! They come back and offer to buy the baby off Ethel, and Ethel declines. She's like, "I'd rather be eaten out of house and home by this insatiable monster than have him raised by you two psychos!" Go on, girl. We think? Definitely all children want their biological parents to raise them regardless of ability, and no one wants the privileges of financial and social security. Then again, why give those two a chance to raise Major Mustache junior? That guy was a dick.
Jane invites Lord Grantham to "taste her sweet wine" and so he does, in the most awkward embrace we've ever seen on television, and that includes when Michael Jackson used to hug his shrouded children. Because she's his servant, she immediately apologizes. Later totally tries to fuck the sadness out of Lord G, only to obediently resign when Lady G pulls through the flu and there's no chance of becoming Lord G's secret mistress/Edith's hot stepmother.
Molesley does a piss-poor job filling in for sick Carson, getting drunk on the family's wine before he serves the second bottle and passing out in the kitchen like the loser he is.
Catch up with our recaps of earlier episodes (one, two, three, four, five). How did you feel about this episode? How about sending your favorite recappers some Downton valentines? We'd love to see you back here next week for the Christmas special, if you're not totally disgusted with the season!
"If you think trying to protect Mary with a ring of steel is 'silly,' then I am silly." Lord Grantham makes us all uncomfortable when he talks about chastity belts.
"Oh I get about, Mrs. Hughes, I get about." -- Carson, who does not get about.
"You mean you'd be uncomfortable working for a spy master?" -- Mary to Carson. DUH, Mary, haven't you met Carson? Motherfucker's ALL business.
"Don't listen to me, I'm a foolish man who's lost his way, and I don't know how to find it again." -- Lord Grantham, in a moment of COMPLETE CLARITY.
"All this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite." -- The Dowager Countess. We agree except we say, "All these absurd plot-twists have driven us to binge!"
"I'm ready to travel, and you're my ticket. To get away from this house, away from this life." -- Lady Sybil to Branson. Listen, if anyone says this to you in response to your romantic proposal, RUN.
"Even so, there's no legal reality to it. The child is her bastard and has no claim on them." Sir Richard, sealing his fate with profanity in mixed company.
"Steady on, sir, the ladies have had enough shocks for one day." Lord G, standing up for propriety.
"He knows this is just the sprat to catch the mackerel." -- Mrs. Patmore understands the black market.
"Marriage is a long business. There's no getting out of it for our kind of people. You may live 40, 50 years with one of these two women. Just make sure you have selected the right one." -- The DC don't play.
"Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle-class." -- The DC, and ain't it true.
"No, she's not being rude. Just wrong." WORK, DC.
"If you're turning American on me, I'll go downstairs." Lord G is the best husband.
"It's wonderful what fear can do to the human spirit." Mrs. Patmore loves pathetic Thomas.
"Mother, it is not for us to have an opinion." Cousin Matthew gives a lesson in the upper-class English way of shutting down nosy bitches.
"Wasn't there a masked ball in Paris when cholera broke out? Half the guests were dead before they left the ballroom!" -- The DC.
"Thank you, Mamma. That's cheered us up to no end." -- Lord Grantham says it facetiously, but it really did cheer us up.
"He's a stout little chap, isn't he?" -- Mrs. Hughes and the art of understatement.