'Downton Abbey' Season 5 Finale Recap: All I Want for Christmas Is You

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Hark! What sound is that? It’s the sound of another legendary Downton Abbey Christmas Special! Do I really have to remind you of the always-in-effect spoiler alert? There, I did it! On to the Abbey!

A car pulls up in front of an official looking building and we see the magenta back of a stylish Mary, who I’ll wager is headed to prison to check on Anna in this season’s first Orange is the New Black crossover episode.

Back at the Abbey, Robert “Donk” Grantham pretends to care about Anna’s false (?) imprisonment to Bates, but then starts talking about a trip they are taking or something.

Downstairs, everyone is hurrying around, presumably related to this alleged trip (did I miss something last episode or is this just another symptom of my smart-phone-related dementia?). It appears that Baxter is now attending to both Cora and Mary. Oh man, this just now occurred to me: why does Mary have a lady’s maid and Edith doesn’t?! Is Mary physically incapable of buttoning her own buttons? I paused the show to type that and my question was answered immediately: Anna was supposedly also Edith’s lady’s maid?! Um, when did she ever, ever help Edith pick out a fancy dress? Or buy prophylactics for her? Suddenly, I’m beginning to think Anna is a dark-hearted bully who ignored Edith on purpose and may also be a murderer. Jury’s still out, people!

In jail, Mary of course looks stunning.


At a luncheon of some sort, the family sort of talks vaguely about this impending trip and then Violet reveals that the Princess, the wife of her true love, no big deal, is coming to England, like momentarily. Um, what the hell, Violet? I get trying to be cool for your new boyfriend, but you’ve got to think about number one and, in this case, number one is the magic blossoming between you and the Prince! Hong Kong is lovely! The Princess would have done great there!

In prison, it kind of seems like Mary dressed up to make Anna feel bad. What I’m saying is Anna doesn’t look great.

In a downstairs hall, Carson and Hughes debate the question of Mary’s prison visit. Carson, the perpetual Mary apologist, thinks it’s bad because people might think it’s somehow improper. Carson, how do you feel about sex vacations?

At the downstairs table, the help fight over guns.

In the special Hughes and Carson room, Ross/Carson and Rachel/Hughes drink wine and talk about real estate.

At the house, it is revealed that the destination of the family trip is Atticus’s family’s place that they did quickly discuss last episode. See? I remember! Anyway, everyone is going and the moms and dad have to say goodbye to their children, who they probably only see 20 minutes a day anyway. Edith is like the most terrible at pretending she isn’t Marigold’s mom. So terrible that even Donk can see it plainly now. How have Tom and Mary not noticed? Are they just drunk all the time?

Violet and Isobel bid the family adieu at the train station. I thought they were taking a ship somewhere. That would have been a bit more interesting. I guess they’re just going somewhere else English to shoot at things.

In the library, everyone is doing a deep cleaning, since the family is away, which gives a great bookish setting for Molesley to question Daisy about her studies and for Daisy to once again wiffle-waffle about her education. Patmore calls her out because Patmore is the one who tells it like it is on this show. We are all Patmore.

In the fanciest train, the Crawleys all sit in one room without murdering each other or even suggesting murder. Maybe because the train is moving they feel less anxious in each other’s company? Like they could jump out at any time? Oh, wait! Spoke too soon! Miserable Mary suggests locking all the children up in a box in the attic and not letting them out until they are 21. Also: she doesn’t appear to be joking. She refers to herself as “the mother around here” and Donk gives a deep side-eye scowl to Cora. Edith, your secret ain’t safe for long!

Atticus' family’s “place” turns out to be a huge and magnificent castle! Downton now seems stupid. Remake the show please and, this time, set it at this fancy castle! Atticus' parents speak with yet another New Butler. The problem with character proliferation on Downton is thus: every time a new upper class person shows up, you know somewhere there’s going to be a servant-y type too. Basically the cast is increasing exponentially.

Cars pull up to the castle, giving us another glimpse at this magnificent place. My main question, obviously, is how do they heat it?

Rose and Atticus, now married (if you know what I mean), greet the family at one of the doors. I imagine this place is just rife with doors. Atticus’ Mean Dad and Atticus’ Sweet Mom show up and the two families who just love each other to bits are in the same room once again. Soon, they will be shooting guns together!

Downstairs at the castle, Thomas introduces himself to the New Butler, who is extra mean which seems reasonable since a) his boss, Atticus’ Mean Dad, is also mean and b) no one in their right mind should ever be nice to Thomas. He smells weakness like sharks smell blood.

Back home, the Old Ladies Club meets in a garden to discuss the upcoming arrival of the Princess. Look, I thought this was the Christmas Special. It seems really warm for Christmas, if these ladies can have tea in a garden…

At the castle, there is a gauche tea in the library. Ugh, so not the place for tea. The New Butler is openly rude to Tom. I am sorry, but that is just not done, okay? He is a monument to the perfect and wonderful Sybbie and is the only one I trust with a car.

At Violet’s, Violet sets her two servants up to fight each other. Oh my god. Why am I even acknowledging this is happening?

In the hall downstairs at the Abbey, Ross and Rachel talk about real estate. Bates goes to visit Anna in prison to, I'm assuming, talk more about real estate?

At the castle, everyone and some dogs get into horse-drawn carriages, which take them out to an open field. I can’t think of what is better than carts full of armed people who hate each other!

In the killing field, Mary gives Atticus’ Mean Dad a lecture on family unity, while using some sort of special walking stick designed for weak females out in the field.

Behind a bush, Atticus’ Sweet Mom and Tom talk about not being accepted. I think it would be a bit more heartwarming without the loaded weapon in Tom’s hands, but that’s just me.

Behind a wall of some kind, Robert continues to evade Cora’s questions about his beginning-of-the-episode trip to York. Yeah, I should have mentioned this before, but I didn’t and now it’s come up three times so it’s obviously a thing. So sorry. Sue me.

Everyone keeps shooting and the shots ring out dramatically as the scene cuts to the Bateses in prison. Drab Anna-In-Prison reveals to Bates that her stepfather abused her when she was a kid and she cut him with a knife. That doesn’t seem like permissible evidence in this case. Does she have a lawyer?

Back at the castle, Non-Sneaky-Edith cannot stop talking about the children. The New Butler continues to be a total jerk to Tom.

On a real estate field trip, Ross and Rachel have some delightful patter.

At Violet’s, some crazy wife-swapping is about to happen. The Prince is there, as well as Isobel and her man. Upstairs, the Princess readies herself for battle.

At the castle, Baxter dresses Mary (who is dressing Edith? WHO?!) and Mary tries to get Baxter to get Thomas to do something to make the New Butler look bad.

Downstairs, Baxter relays Malevolent Mary’s message to Thomas, who isn’t that reformed after all and can’t wait to destroy the New Butler.

At Violet’s, the Princess enters the room. She is clearly a horrible woman who kind of rightfully hates Violet because, you know, her husband is in love with her.

Back the castle, Thomas sets his trap for the New Butler.

At dinner, a harpist plays and Atticus is such a sweetheart as usual.

Back at Downton, Patmore has set a romantic dinner for her favorites. It seems a lot nicer than the dinner in the castle.

Speaking of which, the New Butler is still being overtly un-nice to Branson. Too bad for him because Thomas’ plan is working! His plan? Get the New Butler to serve a boring dinner! Atticus’ Mean Dad blows up at the New Butler and the Crawleys feel right at home (because every one of their meals involves yelling).

At Violet’s, the wife swap is in full swing. The Princess is basically Debbie Downer, serving sad, deadpan one-liners to anyone who will listen. Even Sprat thinks she’s rude. Violet seems to have decided her love with the Prince shall never be. Why, Violet? You could have had it all! Isobel’s Fancy Fiancé leaves with the Prince and the whole wife swap is abruptly turned into the usual: a meeting of the Old Ladies Society to talk about boyz.

At the castle, Cora finally gets Donk to tell her what’s wrong, which turns out to be “pains in…[his] tummy.” (Yes, that was unfair quoting, but did you not giggle slightly?) Donk apparently has angina maybe, but don’t worry: he can still hunt! Since he’s on the verge of death, he decides to tell Edith that he knows her deep, dark, poorly kept secret.

At Violet’s, the whole deal between Sprat and Violet’s Lady’s Maid is still, sadly, part of the plot. Can Violet’s Lady’s Maid make soup? Will we ever know?!

At the castle, Donk knocks on Edith’s door and Edith has her hair down and looks amazzzing. Edith for Cinderella!! Anyway, he’s there to tell Edith that he’s totes down and cool with Marigold being his granddaughter. They have a real nice father-daughter forgiveness moment. I feel so bad for Edith because tomorrow Donk will most likely come up to her and be like: “You know that whole thing last night? So sorry! I thought you were Mary because I was kinda sleepy and ate a big dinner and was maybe drunk...”

Downstairs at the castle, Thomas is now pissed because yes, his light prank worked, but he was insulted by Atticus’ Mean Dad in the crossfire. Heads will roll!! Never cross Thomas. Now he’s going rogue. This is about to be a bender on evil. Just remember: relapse is part of recovery.

In the New Butler’s office, Thomas tries to ingratiate himself with the New Butler, who is now doing a handwriting comparison with all the staff to find out who wronged him. Oh, dang. Did Baxter write the offending note? Will Angel Baxter fall once more? Thomas gets the New Butler to sell out Atticus’ Mean Dad. Never be mean to Thomas, but, more importantly, never be nice to Thomas.

On a walk out on the grounds, the youngs discuss plans to move to America.

Back at Downton, Violet’s Lady’s Maid engages Patmore and Daisy to make her soup for Violet. Snooze.

Just when you thought you couldn’t get any sleepier…the Bateses are in jail, talking about things again. Seriously, did the writing staff just decide they wanted to go on a little vaycay and could completely recycle this entire plot line and just switch which Bates is in jail and no one would even notice? I’m a little offended, writers! Do you know how closely I watch this show?

In Isobel’s sitting room, she and her Fancy Fiancé (I hope!) are in the midst of real serious relationship talk. Isobel is like, I will not be an evil stepmother! So the Fancy Fiancé decides to put a hit out on his children.

In the Downton kitchen, the Lady’s Maid has ruined her soup. Seriously, how hard is it to make soup? That is like one thing I am totally capable of making and I can barely cook toast.

Back at the Orange is the New Black crossover, the prison is boring as heck. Where is Red? Where is Crazy Eyes? I was led to believe a women’s prison would be a fun good time!

At the castle, the New Butler is regretting his drunk over-sharing with Thomas. Too bad, dude. Your fate is sealed. Try again next time! Morally Bankrupt Mary is pre-angry at an uninvited guest, who is taking Atticus’s spot hunting tomorrow. I bet he’s her true love. She’s also present-moment angry at Donk and Edith, who are BFFs now that Donk is dying and Edith is out to him as a mom.

In the special Ross and Rachel side room at Downton, Ross is ready to toast their new future as bed and breakfast owners, but Rachel has to let Ross down because—plot twist!—Rachel has no money because she’s been sending all her money to the caretaker of her “not quite right in the head” sister. Oh, Rachel! You are an even bigger angel than Baxter. Their intimate discussion about siblings, investments and real estate is interrupted by a very worried Bates, who has received a telegram from the lawyer that apparently said: “Bad news! Call me.” That seems like a rude telegram to send! Just say: “Call me.” You’re the lawyer. He’s going to call you stat.

Back at the castle’s shooting grounds, love is in the air. Edith is paired up with the Agent who, if you’ll remember, “everyone feels a bit sorry for.” Classic Edith. Mary is somehow paired up with the Hanger On she’s been dogging the whole episode. The Hanger On is a Benedict Cumberbatch look-alike who is terrible at shooting and who Mary has decided to torture, her favorite form of flirting, over guns.

In another corner of the field, Edith follows her sister’s lead and does some of her own flirting over guns.

At Violet’s, Daisy is terrible at subterfuge.

In Violet’s garden, Isobel has a letter from Larry the Petulant Drugger who really, really doesn’t want a new mommy. This is always what happens when you don’t teach children boundaries!

At the castle, it’s raining and the Lawyer is apparently telephoning Donk about Criminal Anna things (they’ve set a date for her trial), even though he can only telegram Bates. Donk’s tummy problem is acting up so tragically Cora won’t allow him to play with guns anymore this afternoon, which solves everyone’s problems since now Atticus can shoot. Really, these guys are just terrible at taking turns.

At a lunch outside at the castle, Mary is in full-swing in her torture-flirting and Benedict Cumberbatch is eating it up.

In the kitchen at Violet’s, Sprat calls Violet’s Lady’s Maid out on the fact that Daisy actually made the soup in this terrible subplot. Problem: Violet’s Lady’s Maid is using a very large knife. Sadly, she does not turn the knife on Sprat and instead watches him pour the soup down the drain. Open a can, dude! It’s not that hard!

Somewhere, a child steps out of a car.

Back at the castle, it turns out that’s where the kid was getting out of the car! And who is this kid? Well, it seems like it might be the illegitimate child of Atticus’ Mean Dad. Rose thinks on her feet to save her new father-in-law and pretends the mom of the kid who got out of the car is her BFF. Somehow, this works. Turns out Thomas decided to go nuclear on everyone and telegrammed Atticus’ Mean Dad’s Mistress and told her to bring his other son. Classic Thomas. Luckily, Mary loves subterfuge and also improv so she gets in on the game of pretending to know Atticus’ Mean Dad’s Mistress.

Back at Downton, Bates is all dressed in black and seems to be giving his notice in letter form to Molesley to give to Carson. We all know what a goof Molesley is! Hilarity will ensue!

At the castle, Rose bids goodbye to the Mistress and Edith chats up her new love interest, the Agent. Rose blackmails Atticus’ Mean Dad’s Butler, while Mary looks on proudly.

In the hall before dinner, Atticus’ Mean Dad stops Mary, Rose and Donk to thank them for not selling him out to his family and then totally changes his position on Rose being his daughter-in-law. Take note, ladies: If your father-in-law hates you, help him avoid an embarrassing situation with his mistress! #WifeTips

Downstairs at Downton, Carson has opened the letter from Bates and apparently it isn't a notice but a confession to the murder of the Rapist. But, duh, they know it was a girl, Bates! Anyway, Sherlock Molesley is on the case! Find Bates and prove his innocence!

Back at the castle, there’s a gramophone in the library and everyone is dancing. Mary is, of course, dancing with Benedict Cumberbatch and trying to remain as uninterested as a person can while dancing with another person. He quizzes her about the earlier appearance of the Mistress and she’s impressed that he noticed what was going on, even though you would have to be deaf and blind not to see what was happening. Speaking of obvious situations everyone is trying to pretend away, Tom finally tells Edith he also knows Marigold isn’t some random foundling. Now it’s just Mary who doesn’t know and mainly she just doesn’t care. Edith dances off with the Agent.

At the Bateses cottage, Molesley is on the hunt for exculpatory evidence.

At the castle, Benedict Cumberbatch and Mary share some last-minute flirting until he tells her his real passion is for cars. Oh my god! Stay away from sun-dappled lanes!! Mary, however, seems to have forgotten her long, dark history with automotives and is left weak in the knees as her new love interest speeds off. “Matthew who?” you can almost hear the wind whisper.

The cars pull up to Downton and the children come out for their customary parade and Carson tells Donk that Bates is gone.

Downstairs, no one knows what to do now that two main employees are gone.

In the library, no one knows what to do now that two main employees are gone.

Downstairs, it turns out that Sherlock Molesley has a Watson of his very own; Baxter offers to help him vindicate Bates.

In Donk and Cora’s bedroom, the Lord and Lady conspire to keep Bates-related evidence out of the hands of the authorities.

The lawyer and Anna arrive at Downton, but, while free, she is sad because Bates One is on the run in Ireland and all freedom really is for her is dressing bratty adult women, constant anxiety that Bates will get caught and probably a sprinkling of PTSD to round it out. Prison was probably better, is what she’s thinking now. Crazy Eyes was so fun at that Christmas Pageant! She could have gotten really serious about her yoga practice!

At Violet’s, the moment we’ve all been waiting on the edge of our seats for has arrived! Violet must taste the soup made for her by her Lady’s Maid, while Sprat looks on gleefully. What will she do? How bad is it?? But Violet is nothing but classy and spiteful towards Sprat so she pronounces the broth “delicious” and goes to bed, where we all hope this story line is finally going too.

In a drawing room, Donk announces that he isn’t about to go meet Isis in Heaven but instead has an ulcer. Womp. Good news though: the Art Guy’s favorite painting sold for like a lot of money.

Downstairs, the windfall means that Carson is hiring a new footman. Oh, just what we need, a new cast member to remember. Thomas and Daisy who have similar taste in men make a bid for the New Cast Member from Rose’s Wedding. He’s pretty cute so I say, yes, go with him!

Suddenly, it is Christmas 1924 and I feel a Tom and Baby Sybbie sized lump in my throat. Never leave us, you two! The New Cast Member has been hired and his name is Andy, which I think I can handle. The babies and their parents trim a massive tree and Baby Sybbie has the presence of mind to use her adorable British accent to say words.

In a snowy town, Sherlock and Watson look for someone who remembers seeing Bates.

In their special room, Hughes wraps a gift for Carson. Carson tells Hughes that he bought their dream house himself. When is he going to invite Hughes to live with him there, happily ever after?

In the library, Sherlock and Watson present their new Bates-saving evidence to the Crawleys.

In their bedroom, Cora and Donk discuss the particulars of contacting the soon-to-be-cleared (again) Bates. Also: ulcers. Such pillow talk between these two!

In the kitchen, Christmas is looking fancy. I can’t be sure, but I think they may be having a bacon wrapped goose? Okay, I will eat that. Everyone encourages Daisy to study because no one knows what they want around here!

At Isobel’s, she’s finally showing the nasty letter from Larry the Drugger to his dad, her Fancy Fiancé. She breaks up with him because he’s got a stupid son, even though the Fancy Fiancé is the best and so nice and so rich. Violet comes in on them during the breakup and the ladies both mention, almost as an afterthought, how “sad” the whole thing is. Sad?! Heart breaking! You should be crying, Isobel! You just let the terrorists win!

Lonely Anna sits alone in her cottage.

Upstairs, Edith and Tom talk over the children’s stockings. Mary comes in so Tom decides they should have a Christmas séance for Sybil. Donk walks by and makes a play to keep Baby Sybbie for himself. Oh, Donk. Not happening.

Downstairs, the whole village sings Christmas carols around the tree. Rose teaches Atticus the words because he’s a Jew so he’s never heard a Christmas carol before. Donk, it appears, is drunk, since he’s been abstaining from alcohol for awhile due to his non-lethal ulcer. Violet’s Lady’s Maid also drinks liberally from the punch bowl. Rose and Atticus talk about how awesome and exciting it is to be married. Next thing you know, Rose is going to be starting a blog about her super cool life as a wife, which will turn into a fashion blog and then a mommy blog. Watch out, world! As usual, Thomas and Daisy both flirt with the same guy.

In the drawing room, the Old Ladies Society have a special Christmas meeting to tell the best boyz story of all, the love story of Violet and her Prince. Drunk Donk breaks up the meeting though, as jovially as possible.

Back at the party, Drunk Donk is about to give a speech! Scandal! Fortunately, as his final good act in Britain, Tom saves him by starting a round of "He’s a Jolly Good Fellow." Then Mary sings "Silent Night" while Edith plays. When did they ever spend enough time in the same room to practice? Also, why do none of these versions of these songs rhyme? Is that a British thing, to not rhyme your song lyrics?

Carson brings Hughes down to their special room and tells her he put their dream house in both of their names. She’s like, “Look, I can’t let you do this amazing thing for me! I don’t want to tie you down!” And he’s like, “Oh, Hughes! I want to be, metaphorically and maybe literally, I don’t know, tied down by you! Will you marry me??” Finally! I don’t know what comes next, but that was the best moment of the season and this slow-burn romance better get a spinoff where they own a bed and breakfast together! With Patmore as the cook! Can you even imagine?!

At the party, Drunk Donk tells Tom that he actually likes him now and then proceeds to give a speech to the entire village about how great Tom is. As the whole town joins together to sing “O Come All Ye Faithful,” Bates appears at a door and then sneaks up behind Anna and whispers into her ear. While a normal person would probably scream at that, Anna seems pretty stoked and Bates forgets he’s lame, literally, for a minute and picks Anna up into the air.

And credits.

 Episode Character Ranking:

5. Violet: She gets ranked this week for her great love story and the sly bit about how she totally continued to cheat on her husband.

4. Baby Sybbie: She coined the terms “Donk” and now she’s passing it on to her cousin Marigold. Kudos, girlfriend! You’re a pretty cool baby.

3. Tom: Without Tom, Edith and Mary will murder each other. It’s going to make for a bloody but interesting season. Still, I will miss Tom and his cute face.

2. Carson: Finally, he got the guts to propose to his Rachel and it was magnificent. I love you, old guy!

 1. Hughes: When Carson asks her to marry him, she doesn’t mess around. She says: “I thought you’d never ask.” That is how a proposal should go. That is how a season should end.

Season Character Ranking (Scientifically-ish based on total season scores!)

5. Patmore: While this season wasn't especially meaty (get it? she's a cook!) for Patmore, she's always a solid character and one of my favorites. Glad to see she made it in.

Tied for 4: Mary and Hughes: I'm offended at myself for allowing the worst and the best elements of Downton to tie for such a paltry spot. Mary started strong but became unbearable, whereas Hughes was, as usual, the backbone of the whole gosh darn house!

3: Violet: Violet came through this season by having an affair with a prince. We have to respect that, whether or not we agree with her decision to not move to Paris with him and live out the rest of their days in bliss.

2. Edith: Edith deserves every happiness she has by the end of this season, especially now that we know that Mary is probably going to murder her at the end of next season.

1. Tom Branson: Oh, Tom! I can't stand to see you and Baby Sybbie leave, but thank god they didn't drive you down a sun-dappled lane. Maybe you guys can come back for a guest spot in next year's Christmas Special?? If you promise to come, I promise to recap again. One more time for old time's sake. I love you, Tom! RIP Sybil!

Thank you guys for following along with me this season! It's been fun and sad and hard. We lost dogs to cancer and potential husbands to Hitler. But we're still here! Next year, I predict Edith will marry the Agent, Mary will marry Benedict Cumberbatch, Donk will get another tummy ache, and Hughes and Carson will finally kiss! See you then!

Previous Season 5 recaps:

'Downton Abbey' Season 5 Premiere Recap: We Didn't Start the Fire

'Downton Abbey' Season 5 Episode 2 Recap: I'll Make Love To You

'Downton Abbey' Season 5 Episode 3 Recap: Call Me Maybe

‘Downton Abbey’ Season 5 Episode 4 Recap: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

'Downton Abbey' Season 5 Episode 5 Recap: Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting

‘Downton Abbey’ Season 5 Episode 6 Recap: Runaway Train

‘Downton Abbey’ Season 5 Episode 7 Recap: Dog Days Are Over


‘Downton Abbey’ Season 5 Episode 8 Recap: London Calling