This week opens with a terrified-looking Matthew, assisted by his new military manservant William, preparing to lead his men into awful awful battle. As they all pour out of the trenches, getting mowed down by enemy fire, back in Downton Abbey’s kitchen, Daisy shivers. In the sitting room, Mary drops her tea.
You know something terrible is coming with such dramatic foreshadowing, so it’s only slightly shocking when a mortar soars into the path of our two heroes, and William throws himself in front of Matthew in a feeble attempt to protect him from the blast. OH WILLIAM. As the Germans surrender, we see the two of them unconscious in the mud, and things look bleak indeed.
The news reaches the Crawley household in the form of a telegram meant for Isobel; as she is still in France, poor Mr. Molesley has scurried to Downton Abbey in the middle of the night to let Lord Grantham open it.
Matthew’s alive, but badly injured. William isn’t doing so great either, it turns out, but because he’s not an officer, he’s being treated in a hospital far from home, forcing his father to leave his farm to go be with him. Fortunately, Violet isn’t going to stand for that.
O’Brien has written to the evil Mrs. Bates to let her know her husband is back at Downton and making moony no-we-mustn’t eyes at Anna, but now she’s having second thoughts. Given that actual drama is already happening without her intervention. You know, I don’t even remember why O’Brien hates Bates so much; is it for busting Thomas for theft? Did he trip her with his cane at some point and I’ve just forgotten?
Bates escorts Anna to the village church so she can pray for Matthew and William’s recovery, and there he explains that he’s like THIS CLOSE to being divorced, seriously! Like any day now! Poor Anna smiles and is happy. I’m starting to wonder if she has any flaws. She then says to Bates “Let’s pray together” and I think it’s supposed to be romantic? What do I know.
Naturally, any time Bates and Anna have three seconds of happiness, the evil Mrs. Bates smells the seductive aroma of their joy from miles off and suddenly appears to Spoil Everything. She turns up at Downton and informs Bates and Anna that she’s not keeping her word AND BATES IS SHOCKED BY THIS -- because she’s always been so reliable before! His evil wife says she plans to sell her scandalous story -- that’s the one about Lady Mary accidentally killing the Turkish diplomat in the bedroom with her womanly charms; it sounds like a dirty game of Clue -- ANYWAY.
Bates is all, “But I gave you moneeeeeeyyyyyyy!!!!” I don’t know why Bates, who is married to this woman, cannot understand that her motivations are fueled not by cash but by Satan, apparently. He asks if she would be doing this had he stayed away from Downton, and Mrs. Bates refuses to answer. “You’re angry because I’m happy,” he accuses. “You won’t be happy for long,” she counters.
The dowager countess has actually been moved to use the telephone in her efforts to bring William home to Downton Abbey, which says something about the strength of her convictions on this. When she is successful, we learn that William is not expected to survive his injuries; although he looks fairly intact on the outside, the internal damage is not repairable, and it’s all very sad. At least he will be allowed to die in a familiar place, thanks to Violet’s machinations.
Matthew arrives at the hospital, unconscious owing to being pumped full of Morphine. Ladies Mary and Sybil are there to receive him, and in spite of everyone’s warnings that Mary may want to hang back until they’ve scraped all the blood and gore off Matthew’s shattered body, she valiantly insists upon helping.
Sybil -- who is wonderful and smart and demonstrating a marvelous capacity to get the job done in spite of her aristocratic origins -- explains matter-of-factly to Mary that Matthew will have to be bathed, and warns her that she may want to leave for that, as it can be “grim” with dried blood and open wounds. Mary doesn’t budge, but instead nods and asks how hot the water should be. OH MARY, you are so likeable here it’s almost unbearable.
Back at Downton Abbey, O’Brien is SERIOUSLY regretting her letter to Mrs. Bates because it could mean that the whole family -- her beloved Lady Cora included -- gets dragged through the scandalous mud. She tells Thomas she didn’t know what the evil Mrs. Bates was going to do, and Thomas is all “DUH, why didn’t you ASK?” O’Brien doesn’t know! She wasn’t thinking. Clearly.
Also, I have to include this because it’s amazing. Here is a picture from the red carpet at the UK’s National Television Awards last week. Who’s the sexy sexy lady in the red dress? It’s O’BRIEN!
I love actors. ANYWAY.
Matthew is awake and being examined; there are terrible black bruises on his back, and Dr. Clarkson is trying to determine whether he has damage to his spine. There’s a wonderful moment here in which Lord Grantham moves one of the privacy screens hiding this process from the open ward, and when he pushes it back he reveals Mary, patiently watching what is obviously a gruesome scene.
Lavinia has arrived at the hospital and Mary goes to say hello. Dr. Clarkson and Lord G join them and Clarkson breaks the bad news: Matthew’s spine has been severed, and he’ll never walk again. The good news is, he’ll survive! Lavinia cries and goes to him while Lord G and Dr. Clarkson slip away to discuss the important question of whether Matthew’s manly parts will still function as nature intended. Dr. Clarkson says they will not. UH OH.
That means no sexytimes and more importantly, no children for Matthew. The amount of punishment being heaped on Matthew lately feels more like harm/comfort fan fiction than an actual TV show, but I guess Julian Fellowes knows what he’s doing.
Mrs. Hughes has been taking food to former housemaid Ethel, whose solider lover Major Mustache (one of you called him Freddie Mercury in comments last week, which was very funny) refuses to see or otherwise acknowledge his child. Ironically, her replacement is also a single mother, albeit a war widow, which makes it OK.
William is being made as comfortable as possible in one of Downton’s swank bedrooms, and he wants Daisy to marry him right now. Poor Daisy is just a bundle of nerves over everything to do with William, and puts him off as gently as possible.
Mary finally gets a few minutes alone with a fully-conscious Matthew, but he mostly wants to mention how weird it is that he can’t feel his legs, and is that supposed to happen? With characteristic grace and indirectness, Mary lets him know that he can’t feel his legs because he has a spinal injury that means walking is probably a thing of the past. Matthew fights tears as he thanks her for telling him, and OH they would make such a lovely marriage, wouldn’t they? Guys? WOULDN’T THEY?
Mary thinks not, as she’s off to London to prostrate herself -- in a totally snooty and dignified way -- before Sir Richard, having been alerted to the evil Mrs. Bates’ plan by Anna. Sir Richard relishes the news of Mary’s impropriety in a manner that is altogether creepy. He not only agrees to help her, but he will ALSO still marry her! Um, yay.
Meanwhile, Matthew has been taking Noble Sacrifice lessons from Bates, and puts them into practice by telling Lavinia he won’t marry her now, because “We can never be PROPERLY married,” hint hint. He means you won’t be able to have the sex, Lavinia. It takes her a minute but eventually she gets it, and still she refuses to leave him.
Matthew tells her to go home, and to “think of me as dead.” Then he asks her to excuse him because they’re bringing in a cross to he can nail himself to it.
Daisy continues to be hounded by almost the entire household to marry poor dying William. William knows he’s not going to make it by now, and pleads with Daisy to marry him so she will receive his pension as his widow. When William’s father begs Daisy to go through with it, she finally agrees.
Sir Richard alerts Mary to his success with the evil Mrs. Bates -- whose story he has bought and whom he has compelled to sign a strict contract forbidding her from sharing the tale with anyone else -- by putting their formal engagement announcement in his newspaper, without asking permission or even letting her know. Lord Grantham is not pleased, but Mary seems resigned to such discomfort by now.
Of course, this results in the evil Mrs. Bates turning up at Sir Richard’s office the moment she realizes she’s been had, and she is PISSED, pledging that although the Crawleys may have escaped her grasp, her husband will still suffer. Sir Richard may have 99 problems, but a demonically-possessed Mrs. Bates ain’t one, and he lets her know he doesn’t give a damn what she does next so long as she doesn’t violate their contract.
Matthew lies in bed singing Morrissey songs under his breath -- he knows he’s unloveable, you don’t have to tell him -- and explains to Mary that he’ll never marry anyone now. Lovesick Mary inquires, like, what if some totally hypothetical lady wanted to be with you under pretty much any terms, married, or whatever? Matthew is too mired in his own misery to notice. Then he vomits, and Mary placidly holds his hair. THIS IS WHY THEY SHOULD BE TOGETHER.
Isobel finally chooses this moment to come home, and appears at the end of Matthew’s bed as Mary takes the bowl of Matthew’s sick away. He cries when he sees his mom. Awww.
Daisy and William are married, thanks to Violet’s reminding the vicar hesitant to marry a dying man that his whole life relies upon the Earl of Grantham’s good mood. Daisy looks adorable all dolled up, with flowers in her hair. The whole staff attends, and Violet cries during the bedside ceremony, blaming it on a cold. But soon everybody’s crying.
The happy couple enjoys an hour or so of wedded bliss when William dies. Our little Daisy, she’s growing up more every day.
Next week: further mayhem, when Matthew’s position as the heir is threatened by a mysterious stranger.