As mentioned by Edith last episode, it's house party time at Downton; as such, Mrs Patmore is freaking out and eventually self-induces a panic attack. Alfred -- who you'll remember has cooking experience -- fills in and I'm guessing he's going to end up in the kitchen, which will allow Molesley to return to the house. Speaking of, Molesley is now a delivery boy until Jimmy James -- or "Mr. Clever Clogs" as Mrs. Patmore hilariously dubs him -- makes an ass of himself by showing off and hurts his wrist to boot. So Thomas is forced to fill in as footman, much to his chagrin. For the next day, though, Carson gets the idea to call Molesley in for relief, and Molesley isn't super-thrilled about stepping down to footman status either, but at least realizes it's a good offer given his current position.
The young "Lord Gillingham," played by Tom Cullen, turns up along with his man Green, who takes an immediate shine to Anna, which is noticed and unappreciated by Bates. Gillingham was no stranger to Downton when he was younger; he was apparently somewhat tiresome back then, but is congenial and rather fetching now. Gillingham is also involved with a very desired heiress -- but he still asks Mary out riding, where he gives her some advice about how to get Lord Grantham to listen to her about solving their tax problem. At the end of the weekend, Lord Gillingham seems rather pleased with the way things went, so it seems like Mary and we will be seeing him again, which is welcome on both counts.
One of the guests, Mr. Sampson, is a poker sharp who's obviously cheating, and Lord Grantham isn't the only one he swindles; the good news, such as it is, is that he's favorably impressed with the way a visiting Gregson also took his own beatdown like a man. Gregson's stock only rises higher as he figures out Sampson's game and beats him at it, forcing Sampson to forgive all his weekend winnings to avoid public exposure. This, of course, gets Lord Grantham on his side, but does make us wonder what other secrets and illicit talents Gregson might be hiding.
Isobel informs Dr. Clarkson that she's not going to inflict her bereaved presence on the Downton party; however, the Dowager Countess catches her in town and urges her to attend the last night of the festivities. She does, but is unamused to see Mary enjoying Lord Gillingham's company; nevertheless, she seems glad to have attended, and the Dowager Countess pats herself on the back and I can't say I blame her.
Having been forced to dance with an ancient Duchess who has no idea what to make of his ignoble upbringing, Branson goes to Lord Grantham and tells him he obviously doesn't belong at Downton. Although Lord Grantham assures him that's not the case, it doesn't stop Branson from accepting a chalice-sized glass of whiskey from Edna, who later enters his room… presumably for some Sexy Irish Fun Times. What's the point if we're not even going to see the preliminaries?
Cora has booked Nellie Melba to sing over the weekend, and Carson gets up in arms about the idea of AN AUSTRALIAN SINGER EATING WITH HER LADYSHIP. Said Ladyship, however, wants her at dinner and chews Lord Grantham out for going along with Carson. So Lord Grantham reluctantly sits next to her, only to delightedly find out that she's a wine snob. Sounds about right, no?
During the concert, Anna pops downstairs for some headache relief, whereupon Green wastes no time in physically and sexually assaulting her; there's lots of screaming and violence and while it's not super-graphic, it's also not sugarcoated at all. When Mrs. Hughes later finds a distraught and disheveled Anna, she wants to go to Bates, but Anna begs her not to tell anyone she was raped, as she's afraid convicted felon Bates will go and kill Green in retribution, which would mean at least the end of his liberty… if not his life. Dead Green and off-the-show Bates wouldn't seem that bad to me, but it's true Anna's been through enough without that kind of pain.
A parade of cars heralds the advent of Cora's house-party weekend, and it's so reminiscent of Gosford Park that I hope no one slips and calls Violet "Lady Trentham." And speaking of movies I love, Tom Cullen hops out of one of the vehicles, and this will be the last time I'll mention this, but his performance was the very best of many great things about Weekend, which -- if you haven't seen it -- is in my opinion the best gay film of this decade thus far. (I wrote a little something about it here.) Anyway, Tom Cullen (okay, okay… his name is "Lord Gillingham") tells his man that the housekeeper used to be Mrs. Hughes, but he's not sure if she's still there, so apparently he hasn't been to Downton in a while… and also Mrs. Hughes is old. Inside, Lord Gillingham's man bumps into Anna and flirts with her a bit in aid of asking her for directions (or the other way around), and then we cut to upstairs, where several gracious lords and ladies are standing about with teacups in their hands. Lord Grantham asks a "Sir John" about his train trip and is told that it was jolly good; we then learn that a "Mr. Sampson" is there thanks to Lord Grantham seeing him at White's every now and then.
Seeing Lord Gillingham, Lord Grantham asks who the "glamorous pirate" (hee) is, and Cora asks if he doesn't recognize "Johnny Gillingham's son." Lord Grantham (after recalling that he used to be called "Anthony Foyle") replies he hasn't seen him since the father's funeral. He heads over to say hello, and Mary joins them not a few seconds later to note that the last time he visited, he was "a very superior young man who found three little girls extremely tiresome to deal with." Well, he might have just been taking his cues from your dad, Mary. Lord Gillingham looks amusedly chastened, but someone who's not seeing the humor in all this is Gregson, who's like, Edith, your dad doesn't liiiiike me! Also uncomfortable is Branson, who gets some tin-eared sympathy from an older lady over Sybil's death; it seems reasonable for him to seem awkward as he casts about for a change of subject, but the Dowager Countess worries to her son that "Tom's small talk is very small indeed." Lord Grantham actually defends Branson, saying not everyone can be Oscar Wilde, but the Dowager Countess replies that that's a relief, and I'm going to choose to believe she only doesn't like him because he might conversationally outdo her on a good day. Lord Grantham then invites the group to retire to their rooms and announces that they'll gather in the drawing room at eight. It sounds like such easy living, but I bet some of the attendees are going to have to allow twenty minutes for the walk from the guest bedrooms.