So much excitement and drama on Sunday night’s episode of Downton as we come up to the penultimate episode of the series. Marriage proposals, puppies, picnics and unfortunately tragedy was on the menu. Lord Grantham and Tom are just giddy at the prospect of watching Henry race at Brooklands. Lord Grantham, because he is bored out of his mind, and Tom because he finally has a new male friend to talk about cars with. Even Bertie Pelham has been invited! Of course, Lady Mary is on the fence about the whole thing. She’s nervous because of the danger and whether or not Henry Talbot is the right man for her. She even solicits Anna’s advice who is totally uncomfortable with the giving her opinion. Mary presses her and Anna admits that she’s not sure that Henry and Mary are a perfect match. Even Robert and Cora are not sure that Mary and Henry are right for each other. Robert points out that Henry might have more sex appeal than Tony Gillingham, he’s lacking in things like money and job skills.
Isobel is shocked to have received an invitation to the wedding of Lord Merton’s son, Larry and Miss Cruikshank. Violet senses something crooked is going on and visits Miss Cruikshank to investigate. Miss Cruikshank is outgunned, outclassed and outmatched in this chess match. The upshot is that Miss Cruikshank wants Isobel and Lord Merton to get back together because she has no interest in being a companion to an old man. “You want a free nurse to take a tiresome old man off your hands. You’re a cool little miss, aren’t you? I’d feel sorry for Larry if I didn’t dislike him so much.” When Miss Cruikshank suggests that the Dowager should leave because if she doesn’t, the two might feel awkward when they next meet, which they “are bound to do.” “I think not, Miss Cruikshank,” Violet counters. “Not if I see you first.” Violet advises Isobel to reconsider the match with Lord Merton. If Isobel marries Merton, she’s practically guaranteed no contact with his son since Larry’s new wife won’t want anything to do with them. So it’s a win-win situation for everyone! Isobel doesn’t agree but she won’t have Violet to advise her further since the Dowager is off on a cruise aboard the SS Paris because she wants a vacation that will “make her eager to come home. A month among the French should do it.” Apparently she’s still not over the whole hospital debacle.
Downstairs, everyone is excited about Mr. Moseley and Daisy taking their exams while the family is up in London. And Mrs. Patmore is getting ready for her first guests at the cottage. She’s even put in an indoor privy. Everyone except Thomas who mentions that he’s the only one who doesn’t have something to do. Carson reminds him that he could use the time for job interviews. Mrs. Hughes apologizes for Carson’s lack of tact. She advises Barrow that a change of scenery might do him good, he might actually meet someone. But Thomas replies that Downton is the first place that he’s put down roots. Sigh, perhaps Thomas should have thought of that before and treated everyone in the house better, not just the cute footmen. Speaking of cute footmen, Mr. Mason wants Andy to help out with the accounts which means adding arithmetic to the things that Andy doesn’t know. The truth comes out while Daisy and Mr. Moseley are picnicking between exams. Mr. Dawes, the schoolmaster, offers to help Andy out. When Thomas remarks that he can help Andy study, Mr. Dawes brushes him off.
Mrs. Hughes confides in Mrs. Patmore that Carson is still being a big booby when it comes to how his dinner is cooked. The two women cook up a scheme whereby Mrs. Hughes pretends to be injured and can’t cook. So it’s up to Carson to prepare the evening meal while Mrs. Hughes gently gives him instructions. The poor man is so knackered that he falls asleep in the middle of the apple crumble. Mrs. Hughes takes pity on him, he can leave the dishes to soak and wash them in the morning!
Edith decides to invite her nice editor Laura to the races, presumably to meet Tom, who really needs to meet a woman who is neither a raving lunatic nor a potential blackmailer. The Crawleys’ really know how to do it up, with champagne and a lovely spread although Mary is too nervous to eat. Not even a scorching kiss from Henry can calm her nerves. She feels trapped in a witches curse for all eternity. Unfortunately all her fears are realized when Charlie Rogers, Henry’s friend and teammate dies in a fiery car crash. Henry is gutted, even more so when Mary breaks up with him over the phone which is way harsh even for her. Tom, who is a complete mensch, tries to convince Mary to take a chance on love, even if it means getting hurt. His pleas fall on deaf ears. The day’s tragedy spurs Bertie Pelham into action. He proposes to Edith and doesn’t even seem phased when she asks if the family ward Marigold can live with them. Edith, however, puts off giving him an answer.
Mr. Moseley, closet genius, not only passes his exam with flying colors but Mr. Dawes offers him a job teaching at the village school. Both Baxter and Daisy are wicked impressed. When the family return from London, Isobel hands Robert a letter and Carson informs him that the Dowager’s butler Spratt has brought him a present. It’s an adorable wiggly lab puppy that Robert promptly names Tiaa, after the wife of Amenhotep II and the mother of Thutmose IV which is a nice nod to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, the financial backer of the search for and the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. “He does love his dogs,” Mrs. Hughes remarks to Mrs. Patmore. He does indeed!