At the London Grantham House (oh fancy, look who has a house in London), it is 1923, which means it’s been 11 years since the Titanic sunk, throwing the Crawleys into a frenzy. They’ve all aged remarkably well. Luckily, Mary has held on to her youthful hatred of her only living sister: “I’d rather sleep on the roof than with Edith,” she says to no one who cares.
At the Widow Crawley’s house, her love interest, the father of noted drugger Larry, is back! And he is a top level flirter, as is, it turns out, Matthew’s poor mother. They use French! And not in a way that implies they abandoned a baby in Switzerland!
Back in London, Rose is obviously at a dangerous jazz club. Except at this jazz club, the Prince of Wales is in attendance. Who is this, historically, I wonder? Queen Elizabeth’s dad? I don't hear any lisping...must be the uncle.
The final Crawley girl leaves Downton for London, leaving Tom all alone to have his teacher-related fun. Sadly, Thomas is also there, so he’s probably going to get found out like immediately.
Thomas, it turns out, is still pissed that Tom isn’t driving cars anymore and gets to live upstairs. So this is probably not going to end well for Tommy Boy Branson.
In London, the American Super Stars are spotted by Daisy and Mrs. Hughes. Apparently, American Grandma, Shirley MacLaine, really likes Hughes. I mean, who doesn’t though, right? Paul Giamatti as Uncle Harold is magnificently bald and shifty. He and Edith are hopefully going to be allies in this crazy mixed up world.
In the servants’ unloading area, the servants start talking. Fact: on Downton Abbey, real Americans (Americans played by Americans) put on awkward period accents that sound vaguely British and uncomfortable (Cora) and fake Americans (Americans played by Brits) put on very oddly thick American accents (the Jazz singer). Can there be no middle ground?!
In all the hustle and bustle, Daisy delivers her message from Thomas to Baxter as menacing music plays and Molesley looks on.
At some sort of gallery, Mary’s two top suitors meet. Will they battle amongst the paintings? Sadly, they will, but it will be the passive aggressive battling of two idiots who love a sociopath and not the more entertaining WWE style battle American suitors might put on.
Downstairs, Carson is terrible at coming up with fun things. Hint: ask the Americans! They’re loads of fun!
In the drawing room, Harold admits that he is traveling Europe to avoid the Teapot Dome scandal. House of Cards crossover! Harold is sooo Raymond Tusk right now.
In town, Violet shames Branson in front of the teacher by making a big deal about going to the palace for a party. Whoopdeedoo. The teacher doesn’t care. She’s seen Branson fix a car, which is hot enough to make up for his snooty upper class-ness.
In the kitchen, cultural misunderstandings between American servants and British servants abound. These silly Americans are so free! They go by their own names! They wear what they want and just do one job!
In the pub, the teacher forwardly asks Tom for a tour of Downton. Oooh, boy. Just wait 'til Thomas gets wind of this.
In London, Robert is a jerk. “I wish Tom had arrived,” he says to his wife. “It’s so nice to hear you say that!” she says as would any wife when their husband finally warms up to a son-in-law. “No, I mean he’s bringing Isis and I do miss her,” he says, of his dog. So glad you came back from America, Lord Grantham. So glad.
At the party, some drama arrives with a man named Sampson and Robert’s sister. Ahh, Sampson. The cheater at cards! The one Michael shamed! Oh, no! Has he murdered Michael?
Mary’s suitors suit up (I’m still Team Pirate obviously) and Sampson surveys the crowd for a mark. It looks like that’s gonna be Harold, and it’s not just cards he’s marked for but potentially marriage to a penniless young girl.
The American valet’s attempts to be a footman are failing because he keeps opening his big flappy American mouth.
In the drawing room or wherever this pre-party is taking place, Edith gets existential and says: “I sometimes think we should make more scenes about things that really matter to us.” She is immediately chastised by the Pirate and Mary for being unpatriotic by having emotions. Seriously. Where is Michael? Will she ever see her baby again?
At the Abbey, Tom shows the teacher and Isis around the house. It’s class warfare at its best, especially when Thomas the Duke of Dark Corners shows up out of the shadows. Saw that one coming a mile away.
As the music plays, the young girl gets pimped out to Harold and Rose blows off Sampson the Bad Guy pretty satisfyingly. Except leaving him alone with bags is a terrible idea as he’s a top shelf thief. Bad move, Rosey Posey.
At breakfast down home, the Toms have a no eye contact, passive-aggressive boss-off. This would be so much better if Sybil were here. Or even Baby Sybil. Where is Baby Sybil by the way? Is anyone even watching her?
In Isobel’s sitting room, the older love birds flirt shamelessly.
At Rosamund’s, it turns out that Edith is going to be in charge of all of Michael’s affairs. She is doing a pretty great Episode One Mary impression now -- even with blonde hair, she's quite the little Wednesday Addams herself. However, she does kind of deserve the pity party. Turns out her little girl is living with some people called the Schroeders, probably learning a lot of French. But in a nice Downton loophole, there is no formal adoption agreement. Edith is for sure going to get the little lady back.
In the London kitchen, Daisy does get a bit smiley sometimes it turns out, though of course only in Alfred-related situations. The American valet is jealous. Sorry, bro. Daisy only has eyes for one man.
Back in the village, the old ladies insult each other as they share a ride to the train station. I guess the whole near-death-friendship thing has worn off by now.
There’s something going on with Bates’ overcoat. I know this because nothing ever happens without a purpose in Downton Abbey so this giving away of the old overcoat must be dripping with plot. It probably is blood spattered or something. Or he wrote out a confession to like 10 murders, but accidentally left it in his pocket. Oh, it’s a train ticket, which very clearly puts Bates at the scene of the murder. Well, Hughes will certainly just destroy it. Of course she won't!
At the coming out or whatever it’s called, everyone looks fabulous, especially Robert. I so want that red outfit he’s wearing! It’s so much more exciting than the beginner wedding dresses all the girls have on.
The Royal Palace looks surprisingly like Downton. The girls also all look surprisingly alike. Question: if I never went through a ceremony that involved a monarch nodding at me, does that mean I never actually became a woman?
In Carson’s office-away-from-home, the American valet pries into Daisy’s personal life behind her back.
At the Palace, there’s a bunch of milling around and Rose gets presented and my-oh-my the King talks to her! So who is the Prince of Wales? How is this king related to Queen Elizabeth? Which one is Colin Firth?
Back at the London House, Hughesy is tattling on Bates to Mary, which makes zero sense, since she then makes a whole deal about how if he was, hypothetically, a murderer, she wouldn’t condemn him for it. Can’t wait for Bates’ book, If I Did It.
Back at court, the main activity seems to be aimless wondering and discussing. Nothing so interesting as murder, but there are the outfits and potential romance and money. Also, missing love letters. So Sampson stole a letter and not money. I’m still not sure who the girl is with the letter or what her deal is with the Prince.
Never mind. Onto Harold at the buffet, awkwardly and incorrectly introducing himself. I’m with him. These British manners are nonsensical.
Back in the kitchen, it turns out Harold is truly the worst at British manners. He’s invited the girl whose dad is trying to marry her to him out for a picnic. The scandal! Call Olivia Pope.
In the London drawing room, Rose has revealed to Robert the treachery of Sampson, Stealer of Love Letters Between Married Women and Princes. Robert decides the only thing to do is break into Sampson’s house. So of course he calls his best criminal: Bates.
Back at Downton, the passive-aggressive-class-warfare between the Toms continues to boil when Tom tells Thomas he can’t sit in the back seat.
In the kitchen, the romance picnic is getting prepared and the American valet is getting ready to woo our little Daisy. Patmore has the line of the night when she says: “Mr. Carson, all women need someone to show a little interest every now and then, preferably in a manner that’s not entirely proper.” Preach.
In the drawing room, Robert asks Bates to find him a forger. Little does he know that Bates is a master of all crime trades and will probably be doing the forging in-house.
At Rosamund’s, Edith is thinking of revealing the fact that she had a baby who now is a Schroeder in Switzerland. Turns out Old Michael seems to have gotten in some Nazi trouble. Is he in a camp? And why is Rosamund such a jerk about this baby situation? Edith, run to Switzerland, pick up Schroeder and then swoop by Germany and get Michael out of whatever prison situation he’s in. They can not possibly kill him. Two half orphans are enough.
Bates is full-on forging at the kitchen table.
In the drawing room, the riches plot about how to retrieve the love letter. Mary gives Patmore a Line of the Episode run for her money when she says about lying to her family members: “I’ll do it. I don’t mind lying.” #sociopath.
At the picnic, Harold is looking surprisingly dapper in a hat and vest. I can almost, almost, see what the young girl sees in him, besides the many dollar signs of course. Harold is about the worst of all wooers though, even with his hat, when he starts talking about how he owns a yacht and likes pretty girls. This isn’t a rap video, Harold.
Rose and Mary travel through the servants’ quarters, getting everything ready for their night of subterfuge. Rose because she likes drama and excitement and Mary because she likes to crush people.
Speaking of crushing people, she seems pretty intent on drawing Bates out about his mystery London trip. Doubtful he’s going to just admit to murder, Mary, but good try! Still, Mary seems like she’s going to tell someone. She pretends it's related to ethics, but really she just loves drama.
In the drawing room, everyone who isn't Mary is terrible at lying. Violet is so confused by the whole idea of playing poker after dinner, she starts saying dramatic things I don’t understand in French. What is this? Switzerland?
Many men show up and the trap for Sampson is set! But first Thomas shows up to do his favorite activity: cause trouble by snitching on someone. Are we seriously still listening to this guy's nonsense?! He’s the Francis Underwood of Downton Abbey. Meddling, power hungry meddler.
In the staff eating area, Carson’s plans for fun are the worst. Thomas is menacingly smoking as usual. And then the American valet invites Daisy to America!
At the card table, the men don’t talk about their feelings.
At Sampson’s, the crime fighting team of Rose, Mary and the Pig Man begin their search for the Magic Letter.
Mary enters the card room and shakes her head. No letter. She doesn’t really mind though because it gives her another chance to play with the Pirate and the Pig Man. Funny humans, with their feelings. It seems like she’s favoring the Pig Man but bleh. Why? Pirate! Pirate!
In the drawing room, Robert says his first words to Edith in eight months and then promptly realizes she is Edith and not Mary and walks away.
As the men leave, Bates does one of his jail tricks on Sampson. What is it?! Pie poisoning?? Nope, just pick pocketing. Pick pocketing to save the day.
The music gets serious as Sampson gets home and realizes the Magic Love Letter is gone.
In her chamber, Mary decides not to press charges against Bates, since he used crime to help the monarchy and save the family. Quid pro quo. She burns his train ticket.
And now! It’s time for the ball! Downstairs, Hughes is trying to use subliminal messaging to get Carson to take the staff to the beach. Upstairs, people are doing their favorite activity: milling. That is until the Prince shows up and starts the dancing! He’s just so grateful they found the letter, he decides to shine some of his royal light down on the Crawleys. Robert and Cora start dancing and then Mary and the Pirate (I love you, Pirate!) and then Branson and Violet and all is well with the world. Except for the Pig Man. He’s sad he doesn’t get to be dancing with Mary all the time.
Downstairs, Molesley gives Baxter a pep talk of his own, telling her to stand up for what is right, which is rich coming from the Saddest Panda in the World. But I guess he isn’t a bad Panda, just a boring, weak one.
Upstairs, Mary laughs as she says to the Pirate: “I feel so cruel dangling you and Charles and even Evelyn on the end of a string.” She can’t even say it with a straight face! She loves feeling cruel! It’s her number one favorite feeling! Tragically, the Pirate admits to Mary that “Charles” the Pig Man is actually going to inherit a ton of money. Now Mary is totally into the Pig Man. Ugh.
Back on the dance floor, Isobel’s love interest finds her and Mary dances with the Pig Man and Branson unknowingly gives Edith the courage she needs to go rescue her baby from the Schroeders.
In the hall, the two Grannies insult each other. Does Violet have it in her to be nice to anyone, ever?
Downstairs, Hughes' subliminal messages worked and they’re all going to the beach!
In the day light after the ball (were they pounding Red Bull all night?), Mary tells the Pig Man that she’s excited for him to start more openly fighting the Pirate for her affections. Oh great.
Back at Downton, Edith is going with her original Plan A to get the share cropper to watch her baby but super secretly. So that isn't like taking a huge stand, Edith.
At the beach, the staff is having the time of their lives, except for Thomas who is getting stood up to by Baxter, who has the wind of Molesley's bravery at her back.
Daisy decides not to go to America, but Ivy is so down to go instead. She just wants out of Downton and also she wants everything Daisy might have potentially wanted. Send her to America!
The Bates’ stroll through the sand romantically and Hughes and Carson put their feet in the ocean, which is a perfect excuse for them to hold hands! More romance! Finally!! Skin to skin contact! Next thing you know, it will be make out parties in the kitchen late at night! Hughes and Carson forever!
Episode Character Ranking:
5. Harold: I like your schlubby “playboy” style, bro.
4. The Pirate: I like everything about you, bro!
3. Tom: You might be struggling a bit with your new status, but you're definitely the nicest member of the family. Plus, you are now Thomas' enemy and any enemy of Thomas is a friend of mine.
2. Isis: Good dog! We got to see you at least twice this episode and even heard about you when you weren't on screen! I love you, puppy. Never die.
1. Hughes and Carson: You win. You gave us what we wanted: the closest thing to a Carson/Hughes sex scene. At a beach no less! Ross and Rachel are finally together. What could possibly happen next season?!
Overall Season Ranking (this is science):
5. Daisy: It wasn't the greatest season for Daisy in terms of unrequited love, but she did do a good job putting Ivy in her place, getting wooed by Americans and being real friends with Patmore. Kudos! You'll always be a Downton Treasure.
4. Mary: I generally despise Mary so I am confused by this result, but I can't mess with my methodology (adding) and it was a great year for Mary. Now that Matthew's dead, she gets to basically run the whole farm by herself while flirting with everything that walks through the door. Congrats, Mary. You deserve it, just for your open hatred of everything good and kind.
3. Jack Ross: Jack Ross did very well in the rankings, considering he wasn't on every episode and he's a new character (the only new character to crack the Ultimate Top Five!). But he shook up the Abbey by being American, a jazz singer and not white. He also made Rose mildly more interesting. Bring back Jack Ross!
2. Tom: Tom, Tom, Tom. Without you, the Crawleys would be almost unendurable. Your kind eyes, silly mistakes (late night trysts and house tours) make you a winner. Please don't move to America, my darling. We need you here. Downton needs you. Also, Downton needs you.
1. Hughes: She's the glue that holds the house together and the only person who knows every secret. I bet Thomas wishes he could get in on some of that, but now that she's holding hands with Carson, she's going to be unstoppable. Rename the show Hughes' Downton Abbey!
What will happen next year? Will Michael come home? Will Edith's baby be ugly? Fingers crossed! See you then!