Hey, guess what? We've got back-to-back weddings! That's right, after all this time Edith and Sir Anthony are getting married, and Downton is once again abuzz with preparations and Dowager Countess barbs. But despite having gone along with it, Lord Grantham still isn't thrilled about the match between Edith and Sir Anthony, and when he has a moment alone with Sir Anthony, he basically tells him so.
Mrs. Hughes' test results still aren't back, but Carson overhears a conversation between Mesdames Hughes and Patmore about them so he goes running to see Dr. Clarkson, who suggests he could help Mrs. Hughes by lightening her duties. Knowing that he's acting against Mrs. Hughes' wishes, Carson approaches Lady Cora and spills it all about Mrs. Hughes, asking if she might send some of her work his way. Lady Cora's answering move is to send for Mrs. Hughes and tell her that if she is ill, she's welcome to stay and they'll arrange for her care. Mrs. Hughes barely keeps it together in the face of Lady Cora's kindness and she later admits to Carson how touched she was by the gesture, but her condition is benign and Carson is so happy he literally sings, which in turn brings much joy to Mrs. Hughes.
Molesley has mentioned in passing that he has a friend whose daughter is looking for a situation as a lady's maid, so to pay O'Brien back for the stunt with the shirts last episode, Thomas tells Molesley that O'Brien is planning to leave, which sends Molesley down to Lady Cora to try to push his friend's daughter as a replacement. When O'Brien gets wind of this, it looks like Molesley's days on this earth might be numbered and it doesn't help that Lady Cora doesn't buy that O'Brien said nothing to Molesley. Molesley does eventually reveal the real culprit to O'Brien, prompting O'Brien to make to Thomas what sounds to me like a formal declaration of war.
Ethel returns to see Isobel and runs off again, but this time at least she confirms she'… um, eligible for the clinic's help. Now quite concerned, Isobel gets Ethel's last known address from Mrs. Hughes, but that's all for that subplot since the episode isn't two hours long again, THANK GOD.
Anna goes to see Mrs. Bartlett, who at first is as nasty a piece of work as you might expect, as she takes Anna's money and then tells her she's got nothing to say. However, she consents to invite Anna in and tell her what she knows, but none of it seems particularly helpful; however, I wonder if there isn't a nugget in there that Anna will realize she can use at some point. Also, Bates gets a warning that his cellmate is going to set him up for something and, sure enough, he soon finds an incriminating package planted in his bed and palms it seconds before the guards burst in to search the room; while they're busy with the bed, he slides it into a hole in the wall. It's too bad about the roommate, because if he weren't watched -- and with the walls in that kind of shape -- Bates could probably Andy Dufresne his way out of there.
Apparently, no financial miracle has presented itself since the previous episode, and Lord Grantham has resigned himself to selling Downton. This forces the conversation of when to inform the staff that their service(s) will no longer be required, but Mary prevails on her father to at least delay that announcement until after Edith's wedding. This makes the arrival from India of the death certificate of Lavinia's father's Heir #2 rather exquisitely poorly timed; not only that, now that Matthew is definitely the beneficiary, the lawyer brings him a letter Lavinia's father wrote before his death. Matthew, drama queen that he is, refuses to open it, but Mary does in his stead. It turns out that Lavinia wrote to her father the day she died -- that is, after she had tried to get Matthew to call off their wedding -- and told her father how much she loved and admired Matthew, given his willingness to sacrifice his own happiness for her. As a result, Matthew finally agrees to pass the money on to Downton, although he does decide to wait until after the wedding to tell Lord Grantham so as not to steal Edith's thunder.But -- and you could see this coming with one look at Sir Anthony's ashen face on the big day -- all the disapproval combined with his own self-doubt is too much for the man, and he leaves a distraught Edith at the altar. Despite the Dowager Countess' assurances that the development is for the best, Edith is inconsolable. Fortunately, the overall mood is tempered when Matthew tells Lord Grantham about his change of heart. Lord Grantham won't accept the money outright, but will allow Matthew to invest in the place, making them joint masters of Downton. To seal the deal, they come as close as two men can to hugging without touching chests or groins. And with that, the Crawley family lives to see Downton Abbey another day.
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The multitude of flowers and wineglasses and the rolling up of the huge carpet in the hallway could only mean that Edith's wedding is imminent, even if the woman herself weren't beaming as she observes the preparations from above. We then cut to her having descended, and she looks around like she can't even take it all in. I'm going to try not to make jokes like "And she might as well not," but it's going to require actual physical effort, and I can't promise I'm not going to strain something as a result. Edith sees the Dowager Countess approaching and asks her if it isn't so exciting, getting this reply: "At my age, one must ration one's excitement." Her failure to mention Sir Anthony as another in that category is probably about as well-behaved as she's going to get. They arrive at the sitting room, in which there are already a number of gifts, and Edith can't believe that something happening in the house is actually about her. After some discussion between Lady Cora and the Dowager Countess about the dress, the Dowager Countess asks after Sir Anthony and Edith tells her he's so excited: "Just when he thought his life would never change, he's going right back to the beginning." The Dowager Countess remarks what an invigorating prospect that is and since Edith's back is turned, Lady Cora drops the smile and glares. Hee.
Downstairs, Thomas is walking ahead of O'Brien and Alfred as he informs them that he's hidden a couple spare shirts away, so they might as well not bother again; they're both like, who... us? Whoever Ashton Kutcher's ancestor in this time is should know about the punking war going on below stairs here. Anna looks like she's heading out and Mrs. Hughes checks in with her about the flowers; once Anna's gone, Mrs. Patmore appears and asks if there's any word from the doctor. The answer is negative, but as it happens, Carson overhears their ensuing conversation and I'd wonder about the lack of discretion, but it's got to be exhausting checking around every corner for eavesdroppers and Mrs. Hughes is tired enough as it is.
Upstairs, Thomas wastes no time escalating the feud, as with a sunny smile he buttonholes the hapless Molesley, recalling that he mentioned the daughter of a friend who is looking for a position as a lady's maid. Molesley complains that such slots are really hard to come by, but Thomas is like, hey, you're in luck, I've got some great news on that front that I'll just whisper in your ear because O'Brien doesn't want it known yet! Of course, you'd have to be an idiot not to notice just how Arctic the relationship between Thomas and O'Brien is at the moment, which is to say that Thomas has chosen the purveyor of this false rumor very wisely.