With only two episodes left of Season 4 before the Christmas special, drama has reached a new level at Downton Abbey. Story lines developed way back in the first episodes have veered along new, surprising turns with Episode 7 taking us to from the back alleys of London to the mucky pig styes of the grand estate.
What all happened? Find out in our recap below.
Lord Robert Sets Sail
When an urgent telegram arrives from Countess of Grantham, Cora Crawley's (Elizabeth McGovern) mother calling Robert (Hugh Bonneville) overseas to help Cora's brother out of a legal jam, it looks like Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) may have to set sail too, leaving emotionally fragile Anna (Joanne Froggatt) to fend for herself.
Thankfully, however, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) saves the day once again by recruiting Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) to convince her father to take Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) instead. How does Mrs. H convince Mary? It's not my secret to tell, she tries to explain, only to have the perplexed and stubborn Mary press for answers. Eventually, as Mrs. Hughes had to with Mr. Bates, she explains about the attack on Anna, telling the same version she told Bates: that an unknown, untraceable robber assaulted Anna.
Later, Mary tries to talk to Anna about what happened.
"I'm glad in a way that there's honesty between us again, but I can't talk about it," Anna says. Mary insists she only wants to help, telling Anna, "You've helped me, God knows," a reference it would seem to the night Anna helped carry a dead Kemal Pamuk out of Mary's bedchamber.
The two end at a stalemate but at least we know Mary is there to support her friend, support she'll most likely need soon if the rest of the episode gave us any hint.
The Dowager is Sick!
Almost immediately after Robert leaves for the train station, Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) falls ill. Feverish and coughing, she takes to her bed where she stubbornly refuses to let anyone help her. That, of course, doesn't stop Isobel (Penelope Wilton) who finds her way into the Dowager's sick chamber where she takes it upon herself to nurse Violet back to health.
The resulting scenes of a delirious Dowager babbling to Isobel would be hilarious if we weren't so concerned one of our favorite characters wouldn't make it out alive from her battle with bronchitis. But thankfully Isobel is as good at nursing as she is at being overly helpful (which is to say very good) and the Dowager emerges from her illness right as rain by the end of the episode.
Unfortunately for her, however, there's a price to be paid for accepting Isobel's help: The Dowager now feels obligated to be the lonely widow's friend, which means endless nights of playing gin rummy. In our opinion, a few annoying conversations with Isobel are a price well paid if we can keep the Dowager around a little longer.
Mr. Blake Falls Under Mary's Spell
"Mr. Blake is not under Mary's spell," Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) says with a note of jealous approval in her voice at the start of the episode, a clear sign that by the end of said episode Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden) will be decidedly enamoured by the eldest Crawley daughter. How we get to this point, however, is a major change of pace for the show and one we most certainly enjoyed.
Let's set the scene. It's a lovely evening at Downton and so Charles invites Mary out for a walk so she can showcase the estate's latest venture: pig farming. The two haven't exactly gotten along since Charles's arrival last episode so perhaps the walk will give them a chance to get to know one another.
Upon arriving at the newly constructed styes, however, the pair come upon a tipped over water trough and severely dehydrated pigs. Charles almost immediately ditches his dinner jacket to jump into the muck to help — and, the best part of all, Mary's right behind him. As she tells the clearly impressed Charles, "I'm not going. They're my pigs."
And so it is we see the perpetually prim and proper Mary covered in mud, falling down in muck, and winning over the stern Mr. Blake. Based on the concern the typically always unconcerned Mary was already paying to Charles's opinion of her — "Why is he always so superior?" she says at one point. "I'm not aloof, am I?" she asks at another. — it seems she was already developing feelings for him. The fact that she let him see her covered in dirt and then made him scrambled eggs (LADY MARY COOKED!) hints at a stronger attachment. Will it go anywhere?
No, if Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks) and Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen) have anything to do about it. You read right. Anthony returns and seems as in love with Mary as he was back when he proposed, which is really quite inappropriate seeing as he's an engaged man now (poor Mabel Fox, wherever you are). Turns out Tony and Charles served together during the war but, as quickly becomes apparent during their brief chat at the end of the episode, they won't be allies where Mary is concerned.
Who will win Lady Mary's heart? That's up to her and, honestly, we're not even sure Mary wants to find love at this point, she seems so befuddled by the abundance of suitors at hand. Oh Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) why did you leave?
Tom Branson Takes a Seat
After some gentle prodding from Isobel, the resident family socialist, Tom Branson (Allen Leech), decides to stop by a political meeting in Ripon (a popular place this season, no?). While there, there's an awkward exchange about an empty seat that leads to Tom meeting a potential new love interest: Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis). We've heard she's the new schoolmistress in Downton, which makes it seem likely that Tom will be bumping into her again.
Although he's clearly hesitant to open himself up to love in the wake of Lady Sybil's (Jessica Brown Findlay) tragic death in Season 3, we wouldn't mind Tom finding a new lady friend and mother for little Sybbie. Perhaps if he falls for someone he won't be quite so eager to leave
us Downton for good.
Mr. Green Returns — Did Bates Figure It Out?
The thing about Downton is you think things are going along just peachy and then something horrible happens. This episode there were two such instances with one being the dreaded return of Mr, Green (Nigel Harman). As valet to Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen), he returns with Tony, our hatred of him reaching new levels with every quip he shares and grin he flashes to the Downton staff.
Only Anna and Mrs. Hughes know of the terror he brought during his last visit though Mr. Bates has his suspicions. In fact, it looks as if Mr. Bates connects the dots when Mr. Green makes an off-hand comment about being downstairs during much of the opera performance. (According to Anna, it was only her and the unnamed attacker at the time.)
As much as we'd love to see Bates rip Green into a million little pieces or, at the very least, wipe that smug look off his face for good, any violent action could only reek more havoc in Anna's life, something we're not sure we can bear to witness.
If there is one good thing that comes out of Mr. Green's return, it's the shining moment Mrs. Hughes has during Episode 7. The head housekeeper follows Green into the boot room where she shuts the door and proceeds to threaten him like the boss we always knew she was.
"If you value your life, I would stop playing the joker and keep to the shadows," she tells him, stone-faced and dead in the eyes. Mr. Scumbag then tries to make excuses for his vile behavior the night of the opera, saying he and Anna were drunk and are both to blame.
"No, Mr. Green, you were to blame," Mrs. Hughes says.
The exchange between them had us applauding long after the episode ended. We only hope Mr. Green takes Mrs. Hughes at her word and keeps where he belongs — the deepest, darkest shadows — until he departs Downton and promptly gets hit by a train driven by Anna and co-captained by Bates.
Edith Makes Her Decision
Last episode Edith discovered what we'd already suspected: She is pregnant with the baby of her lover, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards). To complicate matters further (and goodness knows they're already very, very complicated), Michael is nowhere to be found. After checking into his hotel in Germany, he went out for the night and never returned. Edith hasn't told her parents why he was abroad — to seek a way to divorce his mentally ill wife so he could marry Edith — and she most certainly hasn't told them she's expecting his child.
Feeling trapped — "I just can't see over the top of this," she says — Edith travels to London where she stays with Aunt Rosamund Painswick (Samantha Bond). Always a peripheral character prior to this episode, Rosamund shows she's made of stronger stuff than her posh airs may hint at. When Edith confesses all that has happened and that she plans to "get rid" of the baby, Rosamund says "I refuse to be shocked" and offers to accompany Edith when she has an abortion.
The whole resulting sequence is yet another heartbreak served to us this season. We follow Edith and Rosamund into a grimy alley Edith located through an advertisement in a lady's magazine. They're escorted upstairs into a dimly lit room where a distraught Edith wrestles with the choice at hand. As she tells her aunt, "I don't want to be an outcast" with herself and her bastard baby mocked and ridiculed by society but she also knows "I'm killing the wanted child of a man I'm in love with."
The decision is a heart-wrenching one with Edith ultimately deciding she will in fact keep the child. How she will tell her family and face the consequences ahead remains to be seen.
- Seeing as we've already given Mrs. Hughes her highly deserved shout out, the quote of the night goes to Mary who tells her father, "I've been married. I know everything." We have a sneaking suspicion Mary knew plenty long before becoming Mrs. Matthew Crawley (coughKemalPamukcough) but we like her explanation.
- Who would have thought Alfred Nugent (Matt Milne) would be the heartbreaker of Downton? When the chef-in-training stops by on a quick visit, he sets Mrs. Hughes, Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol), and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) into a tizzy trying to keep the young bloke from upsetting the precarious balance between Ivy Stuart (Cara Theobold) and Daisy Lewis (Sophie McShera). Unfortunately, however, their elaborate lie about flu making Downton an unwelcoming visiting spot comes to naught when Alfred pops by anyway. Is Ivy as head over heels for her former suitor as it seems, or is she just trying to get Daisy's goat? And what about Jimmy Kent (Ed Speleers)? As he tells Thomas, "nothing's going to come of that" when it comes to Ivy so what kind of mischief will he get up to now?
- In the latest from troublesome Rose MacClare (Lily James), she joins Edith in London on the pretext that she has "errands" to run. Those errands turn out to be boating with Jack Ross (Gary Carr), the African American jazz singer she was caught snogging during Episode 6. Rose appears to be totally fixated by Jack and so despite his unfortunately very practical concerns about their relationship, she charges on ahead. We don't see this ending well for anyone involved.
- A final thought: Is it just us or was Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) paying particular attention to lady's maid Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) this episode? It's delightful to see a cheery Mr. Molesley employed at Downton and we can only imagine how gleeful he would get if he finally found a Mrs. Molesley. Perhaps as happy as he was back in Scotland during last season's Christmas special?