The show's shocking development belied the mostly tranquil events that led up to it. I'll return to the end later, but let's start with the show's much more placid beginning where Daisy's father-in-law, Mr. Mason, is preparing to settle in at beautiful Yew Tree Farm. It's an idyllic setting, almost enough to make you forget about the poor Drewe clan, the family that was evicted from Yew Tree because Edith couldn't bear the public shame of admitting that Marigold is her daughter.
Putting aside that unpleasantness, it's a pleasure seeing the relief and happiness on Mason's face. In the kitchen at the abbey, Mrs. Patmore is preparing a welcome basket filled with goodies that she, Daisy and Andy then deliver to their new neighbor.
Mrs. Patmore pours Mr. Mason a hot cup of tea and it all looks quite steamy. "It does me good to see a friendly woman bustling about the kitchen," Mr. Mason tells her and she's quite pleased with the attention. Mrs. Patmore has a yearning deep inside. She knows it's no sin to be glad she's alive. Recently she has hinted several times about wanting a man in her life and as this entire season has been aimed at pairing off partners, it wouldn't be a shock to see Mrs. Patmore become Mrs. Mason. For some reason, this possibility annoys Daisy, who thinks of herself as the only woman in her father-in-law's life.
In other news, the Dowager Countess has hatched a plan and it's a doozy. She wants to bring the minister of health to Downton for a visit. A certain Mr. Neville Chamberlain. Ring a bell? It does if your name's Adolf. She's hoping he'll come to Downton to work out an agreement in the hospital debate.
The real Neville Chamberlain, who went on to become prime minister in 1937 and is widely, though not universally, blamed for following an appeasement policy toward Nazi Germany, did indeed serve as Minister of Health for several years. Maybe that's where he got his start as a negotiator.
"I want him to come here," Violet tells Robert. "I want him to listen to our arguments against the York Hospital's plans."
Does Chamberlain know what he's up against? One would think that going head-to-head with the Dowager Countess would've have more than prepared him to go up against Herr Fuhrer. But then maybe he was always one to go along to get along.
Downstairs, it's just a few weeks into their marriage and things are already looking a little dicey for the Mr. Carson-Mrs. Hughes partnership. Mrs. Hughes, who's no Julia Child, asks Mrs. Patmore to prepare a basket of food for her to cook up at home.
At their house, Carson sits imperially while his wife prepares dinner. He holds up the silverware and wipes off a smudge. When the plate's delivered he asks if the lamb is cooked enough and then, touching the plate, announces: "This plate's cold, which is a pity."
Not as cold as your bed is going to be if you keep this up Carson.
Mrs. Hughes is not pleased. She plops the bubble and squeak onto the plate. Bubble and squeak sounds like a brand of dish soap, but the Google machine tells me it's a fry up of mashed potatoes, cabbage and Brussel sprouts. Yum.
My wife is not pleased with Mr. Carson's behavior. "I don't think they'll break up, but they should because she's lovely and he's annoying," she tells me. Note to self: Never criticize my wife's bubble and squeak. (That sounds a bit rude, doesn't it?)
Later, back in the kitchen, Mr. Carson thanks Mrs. Patmore for preparing the dinner and then he does the unthinkable. In front of his wife and Daisy, he asks Mrs. Patmore to give his wife a few cooking lessons.
"It's been a while since she's played with her patty pans and she's got some catching up to do," he says. Mrs. Hughes fixes him with the grim smile of a Mafia don.
Back in London, Edith hires an editor, a woman, for her magazine. They immediately come up with a story idea for the next issue: Victorian babies grown up into modern women. If they were writing it for a website they would title it "Seven things you wouldn't believe about hot Victorian babes" but luckily for them they won't have to worry about such things for nearly a century.
That task handled, she then invites Bertie Pelham over for a drink at her apartment. The chap likes the place. And he likes Edith. They start to head out for dinner and there's a magical kiss. Good news at long last for Edith. And yet another couple forged. If there's anyone who's still single at the end of this season it will probably only be because Mrs. Hughes has strangled Mr. Carson.
Elsewhere in town, Downton's silliest characters, Mr. Spratt and Miss Denker are at it again. Denker finds out that Dr. Clarkson is changing sides in the hospital debate. This is upsetting to the Dowager Countess who had counted on his support and so Denker is upset as well. She'll do anything to kiss up to her boss. But this time she goes far too far. She runs into the doctor on the street, gives him a snarling dressing down and calls him a traitor. Naturally, he does not appreciate this. He writes a letter to the Dowager Countess who is mortified.
"It is not your place to have opinions of my acquaintances, let alone express them," Violet tells Denker.
"He can't claim your friendship now, not when he's turned against you," Denker replies.
"If I withdrew my friendship, from everyone who had spoken ill of me, my address book would be empty," says Violet. Spoken like a true Washingtonian.
Then she tells Denker it's time to get packing.
But Denker has one last card up her sleeve. She threatens Spratt saying that unless he intercedes on her behalf, she'll reveal that he harbored his criminal nephew from the police. Spratt huffs and puffs, but there's nothing he can do but save her bacon. In an otherwise semi-serious show, these two vaudevillians are too silly for words.
Mary wants Mr. Mason to take on the pig farming duties, but she worries that he may be too old to manage. Enter Andy who has been pining for farming life and sees pigs as his future. "I want to train in the care of pigs, m'lady," he tells her. Oh Andy, you're adorable.
Many readers wrote in to point out the possibility of a relationship between Andy and Daisy. But I think Daisy only appeals to him because she presumably stands in line to take over Mr. Mason's tenancy. I haven't seen a note of romance between the two of them this season. If he could somehow position himself to take over Mr. Mason's farm without marrying Daisy, I think he'd do it. I mean, why buy the cow if you can get the pigs for free?
Despite Andy's offer to help with the pigs, there's a bit of a problem. He doesn't know how to read. And when Mr. Mason gives him books on the subject, he's panicked. Not to worry, Andy, it'll be all right. You know Mr. Barrow? The one you've been blowing off since you arrived at Downton because he's gay and you don't want to give him the wrong idea? Well, when he's not being horrible, he's actually a decent chap and he'll help you read.
Barrow realizes that Andy can't read and needs help and so the Dr. Jekyll side of his personality emerges.
"You're a clever lad," he tells Andy, kindly. "You'll get the hang of it." It's a scene right out of an Afterschool Special.
Meanwhile, Mary has more on her mind than pigs. Henry is coming to the area to test drive a car and he wants Mary to watch. Mary has had very bad luck with men and cars, but she agrees to go to the track and Tom takes her.
If any scene looked like it might end badly, this was it. Mary has to contend with the memory of the man she loved who died in a car crash and the man she is now interested in who drives cars as fast as he can for a living. It would seem a recipe for a dramatic and bad ending. But despite the frantic music and many closeups of the the tense drivers speeding along the raceway, the race ends harmlessly. Tom, Mary and Henry head off to the local pub for a few pints. None looks to be the designated driver.
At the pub, Henry and Lady Mary engage in flirty back-and-forths, throwing little love darts to see if any find their mark. Tom, who has been observing their obvious interest in one another, cuts through all of their of their careful cutesiness.
"You are funny," he tells them. "The way you have to keep making reasons for why you'll meet. Why can't you just say, 'I'd love to spend more time with you. When can we do it." American directness has rubbed off on Tom, it seems.
As they prepare for the big dinner with Mr. Chamberlain, Robert is having more stomach pains. But he keeps a stiff upper lip. In the drawing room, Carson announces the Right Honorable Neville Chamberlain, minister for health and the famous man enters the room.
Chamberlain is immediately set upon by the Dowager Countess and then Mrs. Crawley who both try to lay the groundwork for their arguments about the hospital debate. At the dinner table, the squabble continues, but Chamberlain is only here because Granny has some old dirt on him. He's just hoping to get out without too much damage.
"Goodness, I thought I was here to be lectured by a united group, not to witness a battle royal," he tells the table.
"Oh, don't you enjoy a good fight?" the Dowager Countess asks.
"I'm not sure I do," he replies. That may be the night's best line.
Then Robert, who has been in obvious discomfort during the dinner, stands up and looks like he's about to faint. Instead, he retches, spewing up blood across the table and onto his guests and his wife and then falls to the floor. It's horrific, terrifying and thoroughly unlike anything previously on "Downton."
"If this is it," he tells Cora as he lies on the floor, "just know I have loved you very, very much." It's a beautiful line in the midst of a bloody mess.
"This isn't it, darling" Cora reassures him. "We won't let this be it."
Robert has a bleeding ulcer and needs to be rushed to the hospital. Now, of course, we see what the season-long debate about the hospital has been leading to. As they wait for the ambulance, Cora tells Chamberlain to proceed with the plan for the hospital consolidation and then she tells the Dowager Countess that she doesn't want to hear another word about it.
"Don't reprimand me, mama," she says. "I think the new system will be better and I haven't got time to be diplomatic."
The DC is offended that Cora even thinks that she's worried about such a thing at this time.
"It's better we be honest," Cora replies. "There have been too many secrets. Let's have no more of them." She starts to walk away.
The Dowager Countess follows her. "If you mean Marigold, you know that's settled and I am sorry," she tells Cora. Mary is standing nearby and overhears the comment. She realizes for the first time that Marigold may be Edith's daughter.
As he's waiting to be picked up, Chamberlain reveals to Tom how he was blackmailed by the DC to come to dinner. It involved some youthful folly that if revealed would make him look bad in the papers. It makes no sense that he would tell this to Tom whom he's just met and would now become another person who could reveal his secret. But maybe that's just the kind of decision Chamberlain makes.
Downstairs, the servants are distraught. Their leader, their father figure is in mortal danger. Very much hangs in the balance. Finally a call arrives. It's Lady Mary with good news. His lordship has had his operation and is now recovering. The prognosis is promising.
Mary and Edith return to Downton looking quite worn out. Mary says goodnight to Edith and she clearly sees her differently. Mary then tells Tom that they have to take over all the responsibilities at Downton and that Robert can no longer be involved in managing its affairs. Mary is exhausted but she asks Anna about Marigold. Anna doesn't give up any more information and so Mary goes to bed. But everything has changed.
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