It's just after the funeral and everyone's in mourning for Sybil, especially Branson, who seems like a ghost doomed to walk the earth, and Cora, who continues to forbid her husband from entering her bed. But let's get some minor bits out of the way first; Jimmy James is almost to the point of yelling "NO TOUCHING" at Thomas, while Alfred and Jimmy James are becoming less-friendly rivals for Ivy's affections. Also, Daisy goes to visit dead William's father, Mr. Mason, who offers her a job running his farm, which essentially means that she'll stand to inherit everything from him. Mrs. Patmore points out how set that would leave Daisy, and Daisy's realization of how hung up Alfred still is on Ivy must be further incentive for her to bust a move.
Matthew, of all people, wonders if the subjects Sybil talked about on her last day indicate that she had some idea her number was up, and Mary acknowledges that she's thought the same thing. The idea at least brings them closer together and I hate to tread on a tender exchange, but they both seem a lot less anxious at the moment.
True to the henchguard's word, when Murray questions Mrs. Bartlett, she denies everything she told Anna. Realizing that she's likely been intimidated, Bates -- during the daily forced march outside -- suddenly pulls Craig aside and menaces him with an instrument of cutting, telling him that if he doesn't get Mrs. Bartlett to reverse her story, he'll concoct one of his own that will add years to Craig's sentence. Soon enough, Anna has gotten word that Mrs. Bartlett made an official statement and as a result, Bates is going to be set free. I'm rooting for that, only because I think it will mean the show spending less time on the two of them.
Cora calls her husband out for letting Tapsell's aristocratic status sway him and throws in some truly regrettable, if still understandable, comments into the mix. Branson, for his part, declares his intention to leave Downton and start his own life. While Lord Grantham backs him up, Matthew and especially Edith ask him not to rush and draw his attention to christening the child. Branson opts to name his daughter after her mother despite the initial pain it will cause, but that's less of a concern than his stated intention to raise the baby Catholic. Lord Grantham stomps off and complains about both points to Mary, but Mary tells him he's being ridiculous. His next stop is the Dowager Countess, who tells him that if his marriage is having problems, he and Cora should take some time apart. Worried about her son, the Dowager Countess then summons Dr. Clarkson and asks him, for the sake of the union, to tell Lord and Lady Grantham that a C-section wouldn't have saved Sybil. Clarkson, as you might imagine, isn't thrilled at the idea, but doesn't completely shut it down, which is a testament to the persuasive powers of the Dowager Countess. Meanwhile, Lord Grantham has Travis over to try to push for the baby to be baptized Anglican, but gets more than he bargained for when literally everyone else in the room takes Branson's side in the discussion. The matter is settled when Mary relays the conversation she had with Sybil in which Sybil said she'd be happy for the baby to be raised Catholic.
Isobel wants to have a ladies luncheon to cheer Cora up and even Ethel knows that her cooking isn't up to snuff, so she tracks down Mrs. Patmore in town and talks her into helping out on a consultant basis. Unfortunately, Carson catches sight of Mrs. Patmore emerging from Crawley House and goes running to tell Lord Grantham, but when Lord Grantham rides his Indigno-Carriage over to Crawley House and tries to get his women out of there by revealing the news of Ethel's former occupation, Cora not only refuses, but also takes the opportunity to call him out for his judgment. His embarrassment is geometrically increased by the fact that even the Dowager Countess declines to accompany him out. Mary later comes to see her father and tells him that he's not helping his cause with the Ethel issue or the christening, and Lord Grantham confesses how desperately he misses Sybil. In the end, Clarkson goes through with the Dowager Countess' plan, which allows Lord and Lady Grantham to collapse into each other's arms in mutual grief, convinced that there's nothing they could have done. It's not perfect, but it's a way forward, which is why it's got the Dowager Countess' stamp of approval.
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I should probably mention that PBS' airing schedule is different from what was done in the UK, where they had eight one-hour episodes and a two-hour Christmas special. As you know from my first recap (which you may still be reading), PBS combined episodes 1 and 2 into a two-hour special; similarly, they're combining the episodes that aired as 7 and 8 in the UK into a two-hour offering next week and calling it Episode 6. Finally, the two-hour Christmas special will air the following week. What all this means is that you're going to be hearing me babble about this show a lot in the next couple weeks. So fair warning and all.
From the somber departure of many gracious lords and ladies dressed in black, we can infer that Sybil's funeral has just taken place at Downton. Inside, Matthew apologizes to Branson for sounding like a parent, but says he and Mary would really like to help. Branson can barely meet Matthew's eyes, as if he feels cursed and unclean, and says that his wife has died. "I'm past help." Sorry to bring it into the gutter quite this early, Branson, but I feel safe in saying that there are many people who won't be so easily dissuaded from trying. (Also, I just realized on a re-watch of Rome that he played Agrippa, the grown-up Octavian's trusted adviser. Different accent; same level of hotness.) He does manage to thank Matthew while still staring hauntedly out the window and then Lord Grantham enters and tells Cora that some couple was looking for her to say goodbye. With palpable tension, she tells him she was where he is now and then Isobel -- possibly feeling like the day has been stressful enough -- rises and asks the room to let her know if there's anything she can do. Mary thanks her and then the Dowager Countess rises to join her, softly saying it'll save them having to get the car out twice. Lord Grantham invites them both to stay for dinner, but the Dowager Countess begs off: "Grief makes one so terribly tired." It's true; days tend to feel like months in situations such as these. After a speculative look in Branson's direction that goes unnoticed by him, the Dowager Countess says her goodbyes, gently advising Cora while she's at it to get some rest now that it's over. When she's gone, Cora tightly asks Lord Grantham if when one loses a child it's ever really over, and I don't think that's exactly what the Dowager Countess was referring to, but Lord Grantham's on thin enough ice with Cora without pointing that out.