In last week's episode of Downton Abbey, Lord Grantham suffered a burst ulcer and the audience suffered the trauma of seeing Cora splattered head to toe in a volcano of blood. Events this week are a little less gruesome - let's look back at the major talking points from season 6, episode 6.
Branson or Talbot?
Lady Mary is a brilliant character. She's vain, self-obsessed and her favourite sport is bullying her unwed-able younger sister. Despite her long list of negative personality traits we've always been expected to see Mary as a good person... deep down. And it seems season 6 is setting up Mary's dilemma as the major storyline of Downton's last hurrah, so you'd better know which side you're on.
This week, Mary jumps at the chance to accompany Anna to London. "Pack something for the evening, medium-smart," she commands her ladies' maid, adding "I'll make some telephone calls" in the manner of a '20s gangster. The reason? She wants to see Talbot (Matthew Goode) again, naturally - and she extends the invitation to Branson, which isn't weird at all.
When Talbot and Mary get caught in a flash storm, their dash for cover culminates in a kiss. Back at the house, Branson encourages Mary to make a go of it with Talbot. It's a ridiculous web of unspoken lust, this triangle, with Tom still referring to Mary as his "sister" despite the mounting chemistry between them. Even Talbot knows he's not the guy for Mary, but you can be damn sure he's going to keep on trying his luck. Don't make the wrong call, Mary. There's no shame in shacking up with the ex-chauffeur who had a baby with your dead sister. It's 1925, for God's sake!
Thomas: Tragedy of the Underbutler
This season seems to be a redemptive arc for Thomas. Cast your minds back to season 1, when the then-footman spent his days conspiring with noted baby murderer Ms O'Brien and finding ways to get Bates fired. Sure, he's still a dick to Bates (wouldn't you be?), but Thomas is something of a reformed character these days, even helping Andy to learn to read.
But apparently nobody among the downstairs staff trusts him, and when Mrs. Patmore witnesses Andy emerge from Thomas' room, she has a quiet word in Carson's ear, earning Thomas an interrogation from the butler. Downton is so liberally written that it's easy to forget that 90 years ago, sexuality was a pretty big deal, and it's kind of heartbreaking to see Thomas vilified, particularly with Carson's absurd comment about "vulnerable young Andrew".
Just to affirm that Thomas is now Quite A Good Person, we see him playing with George, something Mary picks up on. I stand firm in my belief that Thomas will still have a job by the time the finale rolls around.
The Dowager is dethroned
As Robert recovers in bed with his family sat around him (at a safe distance), Cora announces that Downton will open its doors for an Open Day, giving the unwashed masses a chance to see how the aristocrats live.
Daisy, of course, has a strong opinion on that, mouthing off in the kitchen "I think all these houses should be open to the public. What gives them the right to keep people out?". Well Daisy, there's the small matter of the fact that they own it - but when did logic or reason ever stand in Daisy's way?
Meanwhile, the hospital board have decided the Dowager Countess should be removed as President, and Dr. Clarkson and Isobel have conspired to have Cora elected in her place - only nobody's told the Dowager herself, leading to an epic showdown at Downton when Violet does eventually get the memo. "Tell Cora I do not wish to see her face until I am used to having a traitor in the family!", she hisses at Robert, shaking with such rage that she looks quite likely to dissolve into a pile of hot ash - which could be quite a fun sequel to last week's gore.
Will Violet ever forgive her loved ones for their betrayal? Should Mary pick Talbot, or her "brother" Tom? And will anybody apologise for treating Thomas like a criminal? We'll find out soon enough. Until then, leave a comment and share your thoughts!