Previously on Downton Abbey, the Dowager Countess continued to be correct about everything, from her choice of tea time furs to her assessment of every county shenanigan; Cousin Isobel came down with a dreaded case of Insufferability; Thomas officially changed his last name to Malfoy and purchased a parcel of land in Wiltshire where he made plans to one day build a manor of his own; Mrs. Patmore got engaged to William on Daisy’s behalf; Lord Granthem began wearing all of his army uniforms at once, layer upon layer of woolen tunic and trousers, lest anyone doubt his commitment to the war effort; and Michelle Dockery’s eyebrows garnered their very own (well-deserved) Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.
The year is 1918. Americans have finally joined the war effort; Branson’s beloved Bolsheviks have finally axe murdered Tsar Nicholas II and his kids; after losing their most handsome ambassador to the virgin hijinks of Miss Mary Crawley and waging a multi-faceted war in their homeland, the Turks have finally signed an armistice with the Allies; and the end of the Great War is finally in sight. You know what that means: Time for a concert!
Everyone besides The Dowager Countess — “Really, it’s like a living in a second rate hotel, where the guests keep arriving and no one seems to leave!” — seems to have adjusted to living in a house full of recovering soldiers.
A confident, purpose-driven Edith is leading the charge for a night of singing and dancing and magic tricks to lift the spirits of the convalescents of Downton. Ever since Lord Granthem set fire to their ping-pong table, things have been pretty glum around there. Edith smiles and delivers tea, smiles and delivers the morning mail, smiles and tells Mary she simply must take a break from reading depressing sonnets and weeping openly in her bedroom to cheer the soldiers with a song. Actually, that’s a lie. Mary may be resigned to the fate of marrying that cad, Sir Richard, but she’s still clinging to her modus operandi of never letting anyone see her cry. Also, despite her brokenness, Edith knows Mary would still gladly level her with a combination of verbal barbs, elaborate machinations, and fists. Basically, Edith takes her rightful position at Mary’s feet and begs for a favor and Mary agrees to bless us all with a single song.
The other upstairs power struggle this week takes place between Cousin Isobel and Her Ladyship, who has taken it upon herself to rearrange the dining schedule in such a way as to keep the servants from starving to death. This information piled on top of the news that Dr. Clarkson has dared to make the rounds without her is enough to send poor Isobel spiraling into such a fit. She bursts into Cora’s own personal bedroom and throws herself down on the floor, fists and feet just kicking and flailing like everything, and demands to have her way or else she’s going to France. Cora agrees a change of scenery is just the thing Isobel needs to keep from getting bitch slapped. Cora reiterates that she will go to France, and Cora is like, “Yes, that’s what I assumed you meant when you said you’d go to France.” Ten, twenty, thirty times Cora makes her cross-country travel plans known, and ten, twenty, thirty times Cora smiles and nods. Finally she’s like, “You’d better be on your way, Cousin Isobel. Please tell O’Brien to bring me some tea and schemings on your way out.”
Isobel leaves Mosley and Mrs. Bird with instructions to feed and clothe Matthew however he pleases if he turns up on one of his weekly war holidays, and also to continue her legacy of unbearable condescension in the village in her absence. “If, for example, Mrs. Bird, you come upon a lady who cannot cook, remind her at every turn that you are a skilled chef due to your years of training and therefore should be consulted every time someone in town fires up an oven.”
Instead of being the worst, Mrs. Bird (with the help of Mrs. Patmore and Daisy) opens up a soup kitchen for wounded war veterans in Cousin Isobel’s kitchen. Perched in her vulture’s nest high atop the treeline, O’Brien spots them with some binoculars, dimes them out to Lady Grantham, and is rewarded with a spot on the serving line. (Later she adds Patmore, Bird, and Daisy to her to-murder list.)