"I am a woman, Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose," says Violet. Later, when she hears convalescing soldiers clamor through an open door, she says, sighing, "Really. It's like living in a second-rate hotel where the guests keep arriving and no one seems to leave." With that, the Dowager Countess is back.
The ladies take the lead this week at "Downton Abbey." The cousins are almost at war, while the sisters make an uneasy (no doubt temporary) peace. Lady Mary has decided to say yes to Richard Carlisle; Lady Sybil is considering the overtures from Branson, the revolutionary chauffeur. Downstairs, Mrs. O'Brien starts to shift her allegiance from her fellow conspirator Thomas to Lady Grantham, making small moves that can have big effect. The house cooks quietly conspire to turn the Crawley house in town into a soup kitchen. Ethel, who wants nothing more than a next adventure, finds one in her Omar Sharif. And even Little Daisy, the lowest of the maids, makes two significant things happen: she inadvertently tips off the house that Mr. Bates is working in a pub in town, then insists that her sort-of-beau William's not coming back to Downton for a short leave means something must be wrong.
Something is: last we saw him, he was on patrol with Matthew, running into the forest with bullets coming from both directions. Now he's missing in action.
Cousin Isobel also quickly disappears from the scene. Her duties running the convalescing officers at Downton Abbey have been absorbed by the running of the house -- with a bit of velvet glove control from Lady Grantham. Sure, Isobel is annoyingly officious, but Lady Grantham locks her out rather cruelly. Isobel responds by marching off in a huff -- all the way to France, where she will serve the Red Cross where she's needed. An extreme reaction, perhaps -- not to mention dangerous.
Lord Grantham seeks out Bates; apparently, a Lord visiting a pub was a pretty unsual event in 1918. Even more unusual: he apologizes to him, admits that he's come to love Matthew like a son and his disappearance has him verging on despair. Then he invites Bates to return as valet, or perhaps valet-slash-confidante-slash-shrink. Bates, sick of slinging pints without Anna at his side, says yes.
After the jump: more, including an end-of-episode plot twist.