War is getting wild and Lady Cora says what we’re all thinking. “Where are we to sit?” A house is not a home when your library has been turned into a rec room for convalescence and the mixing of ranks, and it’s got everybody’s panties in a twist. Not least of all Cora. When the going gets tough, the tough get changed. Nothing provides a sense of control in a world full of chaos quite like a good costume change and this week’s Downton Abbey is all about what not to wear.

Everyone puts on their sunday best.

While distractedly burning her Ladyship’s hair with a WWI-era curling iron – notoriously finicky – and it’s clear something is troubling her. Lady Mary inquires within, if only for the sake of her hair, which may not hold up much longer to the heated abuse it’s taking. Anna’s suffering visions. She thinks she saw Mr. Bates in the village, but she can’t be sure, he’s supposed to be in London taking daily floggings from the Witch Queen Vera. Lady Mary will have her new boyfriend Sir Richard Newspaper look into it, it’s the least he can do to be useful since he has so far proven himself otherwise insufferable. Oh and by the way, Anna, “not bad on the curls, and there’s plenty of time to practice before anyone who matters has to see me,” says Lady Mary, quickly re-establishing class lines with a well-placed quip and a raised eyebrow.

The Dowager Countess’s Modest proposal: The Dowager Countess kicks off this evening by making an argument for “Why she’s good at mixing.” She and Carson always danced the first dance at the Rich Man-Poor Man-Footman Gala. Whenever you’re sad just picture Carson and the Dowager, eyes locked in a breathless foxtrot. Oh, if only. The Dowager Countess is out for blood this week, and she has her sights set on Miss Lavinia Swire (her?). She and Lady Rosamund have sniffed out a tasty morsel of gossip concerning Miss Lavinia, a disgraced uncle, and some nasty dealings with Sir Richard Newspaper, which they assume is a sordid affair. Lady Mary is encouraged to take this sliver of information and leverage it with Cousin Matthew to skewer Miss Lavinia, running her out of town and ruining her forever. But Lady Mary is resistant. This war and the possibility of imminent death has her reckoning with her own mortality and her prospects for the afterlife. That, or she needs to rack up some serious good karma if she’s going to have a sizzling curling iron that close to her face all the time. She doesn’t reveal all to Matthew, instead taking the revelatory moment to endorse Miss Lavinia’s loveliness. Oh Mary, you shrew. The best defense is a good offense. Keep your enemies closer with this one.

Lady Edith Tries on a New Look: After her first career bought the farm – sorry, that’s an insensitive metaphor – Lady Edith searches for meaning in her life and finds it in what turns out to be a surprisingly pleasant bedside manner and wild popularity with convalescing soldiers. When asked about one she confirms that he hasn’t an unkind bone is his body. How do you know about his bones? Lady Mary says what we’re all thinking with this WWI-era slut shaming. Oh and, speaking of which, it seems these swarthy convalescents have all the ladies of the house a flutter. Mrs. Hughes catches Ethel with a mustachioed man and calls her out for “tucking him.” SKANK. 

Branson’s Revolutionary Robes: Branson’s dreams of conscientious objecting are dashed by a heart murmur, so he turns to domestic terrorism and endorsing Lenin. Downton gets meta here with its interpretation of an episode of 24. Mrs. Hughes picks up some intelligence that points to homegrown terrorism right her in Downton! She vets the intel with an analyst – just to be sure – before bringing it up with the head of security. Carson IDs the threat level: imminent! The team races against the clock, hearts pounding, brows sweating, because no doubt there’s a bomb in the pudding and it’s about to- nevermind, the intel was off. It’s not a bomb. It’s a soup tureen of garbage juice, so that the general may know he’s a marked man. Literally. That’ll stain.

Lord and Lady Grantham, all dressed up with no place to go: Lord Grantham gazes sadly out over the ping pong tables while Cora casts sad eyes across the mess hall, wondering if perhaps she should change so as not to clash with the drapes. These two are really out of the element, perpetually overdressed for an occasion that it seems may never come to pass.

Downstairs Drama:

–       Mr. Lang’s night terrors afford us yet another opportunity to see Carson in his PJs.

–       O’Brien and Thomas convene in the courtyard. He smokes the ever-present cigarette, but his dead eyes nearly pop out of his skull when O’Brien reveals the “Team Cora!” t-shirt she’s started wearing under her livery.

–       Speaking of Lang, he is a hot mess, sweating and sobbing at the most inopportune of times.

–       Go and grate that suet before I grow old and die! – an indication that Mrs. Patmore might not be the best source of advice for Daisy

–       William and his chin return to Downton one last time to tie up loose ends, to play footman one last time, and to elicit the world’s most pained expression from Daisy, who finds herself accidentally engaged at 16. What is this, MTV?

–       Carson and Mrs. Hughes seem to be old drinking buddies.

Bates and Anna Update: Mr. Bates has installed himself in a nearby pub, apparently waiting for Anna to curl her hair and call on him. When she does, he looks deep into her eyes and with that smooth chocolatey voice of his, he wets his lips and exhales slowly while Anna’s heart flutters and her brow glistens in the candlelight as her man explains to her all the ways he is going to screw English marital law and legally do away with his adulterous swamp monster of a wife and then he will make an honest woman out of her. Anna blinks the stars from her eyes and offers to be his mistress, but Bates will not allow. And so we are at an impasse.

Fashion Faux Pas de Deux Cora vs. Mrs. Crawley in a downstairs stare down over control of the servants. The two engage in a fiery duel for control of the house. Cora wins by a nose, if only because Mrs. Crawley’s power trip borders on insufferable.

Dowager Countess Zing! Of the Night: “Really, Rosamond, there’s no need to be so gleeful. You sound like Robespierre, lopping off the head of Marie Antoinette.” (she titters gleefully.)

Next time on: Matthew and William and his chin go to war together, though it seems not everyone may return. Will the chin take a bullet for his master? Can Daisy take control of her life, or will she go full on Betty Draper with this marriage? Which of her Ladyships will play the skank of the week this time? And of Cora and Mrs. Crawley, who will win out in the withering stare contest over control of the Abbey?