Also upstairs this week is the tripod of drama revolving around Mary, Matthew, and Lavina. (Oxford Comma purposefully placed.) After seeing Lavina and Sir Richard engaging in a slap fight in the rose garden, Aunt Rosamund has been on the prowl for information. What she uncovers is that Lavina gave Sir Richard a press tip that broke open the Marconi Scandal. Rosamund thinks she did it because she was shagging her uncle, and she wants Mary to tell Matthew about it immediately so he can break up with Lavinia and marry Mary, who, herself, has never been involved in any sort of sex scandal.
The Dowager Countess, on the other hand, just wants to gobble Lavina right up. And not in a good way. In, like, a Hansel and Gretel kind of way. The Dowager Countess has taken her maniacal laughter up a notch this season, and it is a wonder to behold: “Really, Rosamond, there’s no need to be so gleeful. You sound like Robespierre, lopping off the head of Marie Antoinette. Mwahahaha!” The way Maggie Smith laughs at her own punchlines is the most amazing thing about all one million amazing things about this show.
Like an Austen heroine of yore, Lady Mary has learned a thing or two about taking advice from from a bored old lady, so she straight up asks Lavina if she broke open the Marconi Scandal. And even Michelle Dockery (and her Michelle Dockery face) can’t distract from the clunky dialogue Fellowes always saddles characters with when he’s expositing something historical. She asks her if she tipped off Sir Richard and then she explains the scandal thusly: “The chancellor and other ministers were involved.” (“You know, it’s like the English version of what will eventually be known as Watergate in America.”) Whatever, though. Lavinia says she did it to protect her family and Mary believes her, so she doesn’t dime her out to Matthew, no matter how many longing, aching, lustful glances they exchange with one another over the course of his visit. At one point, Matthew just blitzes right past his fiance without even introducing her so he can makes jokes with Mary about their bickering mothers.
Downstairs, there’s love triangle drama too. Bates has returned to the village. Anna sees him sneaking around behind trees, tip-toeing around like some kind of cartoon detective. So she has Mary phone Sir Richard so he can phone a PI so she can find out that Bates has taken a job at a local pub. Now, an actual Austen heroine would take that information and sit on it and fret until the end of time, hoping against hope that Bates would one day wander into her path so she could hint around about his motives for returning. But not Anna the Maid. Oh, no. She’s already suggested living in sin one time, and she’s going to make perfectly sure that Bates knows the offer is still on the table. She marches down to the pub, with her curling-ironed hair, and (softly) demands an explanation. Bates’ wife has cheated on him and he has proof, so now it’s just a matter of, I guess, lawyers and buying her silence w/r/t the whole Poor Mr. Pamuk thing. In the meantime, though, he plans to keep an eye on Anna by skulking around in the shrubbery.
But that’s not the only love that’s still simmering downstairs. William returns from his basic training to say goodbye to Downton and also to collect that photo Daisy promised him. He proposes, of course, and even though Daisy has (inexplicable) objections to marrying him, Mrs. Patmore practically performs the ceremony right there in her own kitchen and cleans off the table so William and Daisy can consummate their love and he can go off to war knowing he’s a beloved husband and possibly also a father. I understand that she’s over-invested owing to the fact that her nephew was shot for cowardice, but good Lord, Mrs. Patmore.
Branson is still in love, also. He loves Lady Sybil. But not as much as he loves his Bolshevik Revolution. He’s more determined than ever to make his Socialist voice heard, and when he finds out he’s not fit for military duty — and, therefore, cannot complete his scheme to single-handedly humiliate the British government for the Easter Uprising — he decides to pour a tureen of slop onto a visiting general during dinner. It is … the dumbest plan Downton has ever seen. Take a tip or two from Mrs. O’Brien, will you, Branson? You’re an embarrassment to villains everywhere. Anna uncovers an apology note Branson left for Lady Sybil, so she runs it to Mrs. Hughes who runs it to Mr. Carson who runs upstairs to thwart what he assumes is an assassination. The moral of the story: Better to have one of your servants murder a dinner guest than have a lady maid rush into the dining room to stop it.
So, by my tally, that’s one new engagement (aww!), zero broken engagements (boo!), zero Downton war deaths (for now!), one rogue ping-pong ball (goddammit!), and seventy-three billion zingers from Dame Maggie Smith (“She knows some of these feeble-minded idiots on the liberal bench!”). Oh, Downton Abbey. Let’s see if Mrs. Patmore will clear us off a space for making babies together.