Holy Dockery eyebrows, I don’t even know where to begin. If you’re following along with these recaps after watching the show in Britain, you’re probably like, “Whaaat?” Because twice now PBS has sandwiched a pair of original episodes into a behemoth megasode. This week, for example, we got the final two episodes of the UK season. And next week’s PBS finale was Britain’s Christmas special. It’s glorious not to have to wait, but also, the way Julian Fellowes chews through plotlines, it’s like watching half a decade fly by in a minute.
The Spanish flu has arrived, and much like the cholera outbreak which happened at a masked ball (oh, Dowager Countess) a handful of Downton residents are stricken ill. For most of the episode, it looked like Cora was going to die, which was especially troubling since the apparent heir to her position would have been the maid named Jane who looks unnervingly like a young Simone Lahbib, but unlike Helen Stewart shows no scruples about making out on the job. Lord Grantham is having a full-on mid-life/post-war crisis because he just doesn’t feel useful now that all those soliders have stopped getting plowed down by machine gun fire on the battlefield while he sat around reading books in his army uniform. So he seduces Jane, once in the cupboard and once in his bedroom, and it’s gross and Cora knows it and I still can’t tell if they actually did the sexing or not.
Seemingly invincible Carson is struck down with the flu also, a plight made much sadder by the rift in his and Mary’s relationship. Sir Richard asks Anna to spy on Mary because he’s afraid she’s still in love with Matthew (which: duh. That’s the worst-kept secret since Mary shagged Mr. Pamuk to literal death.) Anna spills the beans about Carlisle’s proposition so Carson backs out of being their butler and so Mary goes colder than she’s done since season one. “Butlers will be two a penny now they’re all back from the war” is the new “At least I’m not fishing with no bait.”
It looks for a minute like Mosley’s got the flu, but it turns out Mosley’s just can’t hold his drink.
And then there’s Lavina. Longsuffering Lavinia. First,her fiance gets shipped off to war, then his legs and pecker get paralyzed, then he breaks up with her, then she agrees to forgo sex for all of her whole life, then she finds out Matthew can walk, but then she gets punched in the lymph nodes with influenza, then she finds Matthew and Mary totally dancing/making out in the library while she’s supposed to be on her death bed. It’s been a rough couple of years, is what I am saying. But Lavinia went to John Bates School of Stoic Martyrdom, so she gives Matthew her blessing to marry Mary — and then she dies like a good little plot point/blonde piece.
I’ll get back to Matthew and Mary in a second, because: guh! But let’s just traverse down the bloody halls of John Bates School of Stoic Martyrdom for a moment, shall we? Either Vera committed suicide to frame Mr. Bates for her murder. Or Ms. O’Brien took a train to London and killed Vera with her bare hands while making it look like a suicide attempt to frame Mr. Bates for murder. Because she was bored, OK? A person can only stand in the courtyard smoking and looking sour for so long before something snaps. Anyway, Anna is like, “Enough with the waiting! Everyone on this show has been doing nothing but waiting since the Battle of Liege! Let’s get these plots moving!” They have a secret wedding and a secret honeymoon (with Mary’s permission, of course) and Bates exposits that Anna is a tiger in the sack. (No surprise there. Five years of foreplay will do that to a person.) And then, still glowing from his wedding night romp, Bates is arrested for Vera’s murder.
Also hatching secret wedding plans this week are Sybil and Branson. She’s all, “Blah blah blah wait” and he’s all, “Blah blah blah IRA” and then she listens to her family have an inane conversation about whatever aristocratic thing and decides that Branson is her ticket to go backpacking across Europe like bohemian she is. That’s literally what she says to him: “You’re my ticket to travel” and he kisses her and finally puts that one skill of his — ” And while I am sure that Branson has many virtues. No, no, he’s a very good driver. — to use and drives them away from Downton. But the joke’s on him because guess who else can drive a car? LADY EDITH, BITCHES. She and Mary take a road trip to save Sybil and it’s everything you always wanted Jane and Lizzy Bennet to do when Kitty eloped with the deplorable Mr. Wickham. It’s perfect, really. I’d watch a spinoff where Mary and Edith drive around Britain, Mary doing eyebrow things and Edith rebuilding that Model T engine every day the way Branson used to do.