As the episode opens, Downton Abbey is all a-bustle: The floors are being scrubbed, the flowers laid out, the maids are in smart uniforms, and there's a dapper gent using a pushbroom. It’s basically “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here” from Annie, but the little redhead is Lady Edith instead of little orphan Annie, and she’s not getting adopted by Daddy Warbucks, she’s marrying a man old enough to be her father, Sir Anthony Strallan. And oft-neglected Lady Edith is pumped: “For once, something happening in this house is about me!” Sybil and Branson (who were there for Mary and Matthew’s wedding last episode) are still around and everything is just happy, happy, happy! Or they would be if the Crawleys weren’t about to be evicted from Downton Abbey. Womp, womp.
To refresh your memory, Lord Grantham found out he lost all the family’s money by investing everything — yes, EVERYTHING — in some sort of "can’t-miss" Canadian railroad and they’re going to have to sell Downton. Oops! In an amazing coincidence, Matthew found out he is inheriting a boatload of money from the late father of his late fiancée Lavinia Swire. Problem solved?
Uh, not quite. Matthew doesn’t want to use the money to save Downton. He broke Lavinia’s heart, and thinks it's wrong to take her father’s money. (Sidenote: Is anyone else now super-worried about their own moral compass?) In any event, Reggie Swire’s lawyer is bringing a letter for Matthew, and Mary is losing all hope that Matthew will change his mind about the money.
Speaking of moral compasses, or lack thereof, the feud between Thomas and Miss O’Brien continues. After last week’s hidden shirts incident, Thomas gets poor, gullible Mr. Molesley to do his dirty work by hinting that Miss O’Brien is leaving Downton, a fact Molesley then shares with Lady Grantham. But more on that later. First, it’s time for a picnic.
The Crawleys pack up to visit another home on the estate where they will live when Downton is gone. They will rename the tiny, 20-berzillion room shack "Downton Place" and suffer through. Luckily Branson is there to give some perspective: “You do realize that for most people [Downton Place] looks like a fairy palace?”
Now, on to people with real problems!
Mrs. Hughes is still waiting to hear about the results of her cancer test, but she won’t fess up to Carson that anything is wrong. Carson, the cagey bastard, tricks Mrs. Patmore into telling him what’s going on and then he goes and tells Lady Grantham. What follows is one of the most heartwarming moments in recent Downton memory: Lady Crawley calls for Mrs. Hughes and says, “I don’t want you to have any concerns about where you’ll go or who will look after you, because the answer is here and we will.” Awww.
But will she have a Downton to stay in? The jury’s still out. What with all the picnicking, Matthew hasn’t had time to read Reggie Swire’s mysterious letter. He doesn’t want to open it because it will inevitably be about how great he is, and he could not stand it. Wah-wah-wah.
Mary, who suffers from no such compunction, reads the letter and plans to tell Matthew about it whether he likes it or not. It seems that Lavinia told her dad everything before she died, because he knew all about what went down! "If the money has come to you, know that it is with my full knowledge of what transpired. Please do not allow any grief guilt or regret to hold you back in its employment. God bless you, my boy." Well, that settles it. Right?
Nope! Matthew thinks someone forged a letter to Reggie and remains unconvinced until Mary goes down to the staff dining room to see if anyone posted a letter from the dying Lavinia and finds out that Daisy did! Downton is saved!
We were never that worried, because the star of Downton Abbey is really Downton Abbey, and that would be like killing off Matt Damon in the first Bourne movie. But we are totally on board with how Mary delivers the news to Matthew: “If you try one more excuse not to accept the money, I’ll have to beat you about the head.”
Now for the bad news: Edith, NOOOOOO!!!!!
Poor Edith. Yes, she’s been a pain in the buns in the past, but this woman just cannot catch a break.
Edith is glowing with happiness as she walks down the aisle. She exchanges a breathless “good afternoon” with Sir Anthony, but before the priest gets past “dearly beloved” Anthony calls it off, saying, “I can’t let you throw away your life like this.”
Even if her grandmother thinks Edith would have been, “beginning her life as an old man’s drudge,” this is a devastating moment. Anthony seemed to actually care for Edith, and the adoring looks he gave her earlier in the episode filled us with hope that something might actually work out for her.
The mood is dark all over the house, but in the end Edith will not be pitied. When Anna offers to bring up her breakfast, she instead gets up with grim determination. “No, I’m a useful spinster, good at helping out. And spinsters get up for breakfast.”
Oh, and in this week’s less-important plotlines: Anna continues her sleuthing but hasn’t come much closer to proving Bates is innocent, and his life in jail just keeps getting worse and worse, mostly because of his creepy, vindictive cellmate. O’Brien finds out Thomas was behind the rumor about her quitting and threatens him in no uncertain terms, so that feud will continue for probably ever, knowing how those two can hold a grudge. Ethel, the former Downton maid, has popped back into the picture, via Isobel’s charity for reforming prostitutes, so we’ll probably be seeing more of her.
Now let’s end on a high note: Mrs. Hughes is just fine! Her tests show everything is benign, and after Mrs. Patmore tells Carson the news (secretly, of course) he returns to his work, singing. Carson! Singing! Things might just work out after all.
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