Although it's not immediately apparent unless you think about it, we're jumping ahead to after the honeymoon, with Mary and Matthew speeding toward Downton in their new convertible. Mary asks whose head he thinks will explode first on seeing it, the Dowager Countess' or Lord Grantham's. Matthew: "I should think they'll howl at the moon in unison." Well spoken, Matthew! Did Branson come along on the honeymoon to teach you a thing or two? When they arrive though, Lord Grantham is more impressed by the car than anything else and then he asks Matthew how the honeymoon was, to which the reply is "My eyes have been opened." I wouldn't have thought that sex with his daughter is something Matthew would casually reference to Lord Grantham, but maybe he's talking about the beauty of the French Riviera.
Inside, Thomas finds Alfred with one of Matthew's shirts open in front of him on a table and can't believe Alfred's been assigned to look after him. Anna explains that Molesley is staying on at Crawley House, so Thomas asks why he wasn't invited to do it. O'Brien interjects that Carson thought it was best, and from her tone I wonder if she had a hand in it; Thomas apparently thinks the same as he pointedly asks how that came about. I wouldn't have thought that they'd split Thomas' attention from Lord Grantham if they could help it and besides, he complained about having to look after Matthew before. All the same, he's got a point about not even having heard about it until now. Thomas then tells Alfred that he should only do business with shirts in a proper dressing room, not in a place like this where the shirt could get marked; Alfred, guileless as ever, thanks him, but O'Brien sardonically chimes in, "Yes... thank you, Thomas, for always trying to be so very helpful." Careful, Mrs. O'Brien. I'm on your side, but you're not the only one against whom Thomas might retaliate and I'd say that without having seen the rest of the episode.
Martha is still at Downton and while I wouldn't expect her to travel all this way just to pop back after the wedding, it must have seemed like the longest month of the Dowager Countess' life... and considering how long that's been, that's saying something. After hearing that the south of France was lovely, Martha says she hates the fact that France closes up in the summer. "I love the sun." The Dowager Countess: "So we can see." You'd think the Dowager Countess would be glad for the continued opportunity to score points, but she whispers an inquiry to Lord Grantham about when Martha's leaving, and when Lord Grantham admits he doesn't know, she remarks that no guest should be allowed on the property without an agreed-upon departure date. As a recipient of houseguests who have overstayed their welcomes, I couldn't agree more -- nor could Lord Grantham. Isobel tells Matthew that there's a rather "hideous" pile of mail waiting for him and then, in response to a question from Mary, announces that she's found herself a new occupation, although she's "afraid [the Dowager Countess] doesn't think it's quite appropriate." In as genteel as a pinched voice can sound, the Dowager Countess asks if they can discuss it later, but that only gives Martha the chance to crow about how she didn't think there were forbidden subjects in 1920, which is hilarious, although not as hilarious as the way Martha keeps inhaling her food while everyone else sits uncomfortably. Lady Cora agrees that not every subject is suitable for the table, and Martha clues in: "Pas devant les domestiques?" ("Not in front of the help," in case it's unclear.) Martha goes on that Carson and Alfred know more about life than any of them ever will, prompting Lord Grantham to wonder if they can stop this conversation. The Dowager Countess: "How? It's like a runaway train!" Hee. Lady Cora asks if they might go through, whereupon Mary asks after "poor old Strallan," which, fairly enough, gets Edith's back up; across the room, the Dowager Countess asks Lord Grantham if it's not "dangerous to let this Strallan nonsense continue." Lord Grantham thinks Edith is the one pushing it, so the Dowager Countess tells him to ask Sir Anthony to end it. "It'll be more effective than if we try." Probably true, but I must ask again: leaving aside the fact that Strallan is not only respectable but about as decent a guy as you'll find on this show, would they prefer Edith to be a spinster? Because I don't recall a lot of other people lining up for their shot and it would be one thing if they'd support a single life for Edith and think she's just doing this out of a wish to be married to anyone, but it's rather plain that she has real affection for Sir Anthony. I can believe this attitude from Lord Grantham and the Dowager Countess, but I'm pretty surprised -- and honestly not a little disappointed -- that Lady Cora sees it their way. But perhaps I should keep such opinions to myself, since this recap is already threatening to be long enough to require its own server. But on that subject, the less alive a show, the less anything's happening in a particular moment, the less I generally have to say about it, so this is really a love letter. One that apparently will never end, but still.