In a scene worthy of soap operas around the world, Matthew miraculously stands when Lavinia trips in front of him. I guess those tingles he was feeling in his legs really meant something! While it was heartwarming to see the family applauding when he stood, I was glad when it stopped, and extremely grateful they did not feel moved to applaud when the doctor told Matthew that he would live a “full life”. Being the swell guy that he is, Matthew reinstated his engagement to Lavinia, explaining to Mary that it wouldn’t be fair to toss her aside now that he can walk again. That’s not a basis for a happy marriage, Matthew.
Speaking of marriage, Sybil and Branson decide to elope, but are thwarted by Mary and Edith. It’s nice to see those sisters getting along, for once. Mary manages to convince Sybil to come home and tell their parents of her wishes and try to win them over. As expected, Robert and Cora do not take the news well. Robert tells her she’ll be cut off with no money, and looks shocked with Sybil replies that she still wants to marry Branson. Thanks to an unexpected death, Robert is able to open his heart and give his blessing (and some money) to the couple, and the Dowager Countess manages to spin Branson’s background into something that won’t shock their aristocratic friends.
Robert, the Earl of Grantham, seems a bit lost after the end of the war. He and Cora are not getting along as well as they have, and there’s a pretty new maid who piques his interest. Jane is charmed by Robert, and before you know it, he’s kissing her in the butler’s pantry and pulling her into his room at night. Thank goodness Bates came by and gave Robert a chance to come to his senses! I hope I wasn’t the only one who yelled “WHAT?!” when the first kiss happened. Seeing him yanked back into his role as husband due to Cora’s illness was a bit gratifying, but even better was seeing Jane resign her position. The Earl performed one last great kindness by helping her son after he’s finished with school, which I sincerely hope is motivated by guilt rather than love.
Cora’s illness turned out to be a nasty bout with the Spanish Flu. She, Carson, Lavinia, and Moseley were all taken ill in the same day, and she and Lavinia bore the brunt of it. Carson recovered quickly and Moseley was proclaimed to be drunk, not sick. O’Brien showed her heart again, staying by her mistress’s side day and night. I think O’Brien might have been hoping to confess her part in the miscarriage, but she wisely kept that to herself. Robert also showed his heart and his marriage to Cora was patched up as she healed.
After Lavinia is taken ill, Mary and Matthew find themselves dancing to the new gramophone. They declare their love without actually speaking the words, and kiss. If only they’d actually bumped into the gramophone to make the needle skid across to punctuate what they felt when they realized Lavinia was watching them.
Lavinia sees what has happened, and does not want to stand in Matthew’s way of happiness. The flu makes that terrible decision for them, and Matthew is crushed with guilt over her death, since he has it in his head that she would have fought harder to survive if she thought he loved her and not Mary. Matthew says as much to Mary at Lavinia’s funeral, and Sir Richard the Jealous is only to happy to remove Mary from the scene. I think if Richard could punch Matthew while yelling “she’s mine!” over and over he would have done that ages ago. However, he is right to realize that she loves Matthew and is only marrying him because he blackmailed her into it. Richard might have still had a chance of winning some part of Mary's heart if he hadn't tried to bribe Anna into spying on Lady Mary for him.
Former maid Ethel and her child were able to make themselves known to his father’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bryant. Mr. Bryant was comically rude and self-important and demanded proof that his late son was the father. It’s too bad there weren’t DNA tests available then, although I doubt he would believe one. Mr. Bryant bullied his wife into leaving Downton, but Mrs. Bryant obviously worked on him and they returned some time later with a solution: Ethel gives up the boy to them and they raise him and tell him his mother is dead. I could tell Mrs. Hughes wanted to tell Mr. Bryant to shove it, but Ethel proved to have a clearer head. After careful consideration, she rejects their horrible offer and opts to keep her beloved son with her.
Anna and her beloved Mr. Bates are finally married, and have their wedding night at Downton.
As suspected, Anna’s happiness is short-lived, because Bates is arrested for killing Vera as soon as he and Anna return from the funeral.
I think I may have watch this one again before next week.