Oh here we are in a post-apocalyptic ratscape, the horrors of war summed up neatly in one long shot of vermin at the front. Our boys put on a brave face and head out to meet their destinies while back home the ladies of Downton are swooning left and right. Daisy and Lady Mary are suddenly taken by a ghostly chill, implying their hidden loves aren’t so well hidden, as our heroes take a fall. Mr. Mosley, in a last ditch effort to be useful delivers the telegram we all know is bad news. Matthew and William are not yet dead, but almost. This week’s Downton Abbey goes there: it’s dark.

Dowager Countess puts on her dueling gloves: Dowager Countess is killing it this episode. She’s got her game face on ready to do battle. She and Edith, her trusty sidekick, go to bat for William and his Chin, so that they may be moved to Downton Hospital for Invalids and Deadbeat Dads. Captain Clarkson’s a royal asshole on this one and he won’t budge. Never mind, no trouble at all for Team Dowager Countess, she’ll just go over his head in the world’s greatest phone call ever committed to film, a stilted screaming exchange between the Dowager Countess and “Shrimpy.”

Gratuitous Zing!: “When you gives these little people power it goes straight to their heads like strong drink.”

The Wedding of Daisy and William and His Chin: Oh what a sad, sad state of affairs. William, returned to Downton by the Dowager Countess’ killer negotiation skills, is fading fast in a lovely room upstairs with his father at his bedside. He wants nothing more than his sweetheart’s hand in marriage, and a reluctant Daisy couldn’t be more uncomfortable about it. She really does make such a fuss over the whole thing – being forced into matrimony by a cook and all – especially considering it’s nothing more than marriage in name only, and as a widow of war she’ll get benefits. But you’ve got to give the girl credit; she’s coming from a good place. Not good enough though, as she grants William his dying wish and borrows Lady Edith’s hair to marry him on his deathbed. The Downstairs staff all shed a tear for a wedding and a funeral, and even the Dowager Countess makes an appearance, claiming her overactive tissue work is the result of a cold and not feelings. Well played, Lady Violet.

EVIL-OFF: Evil Dragon Mrs. Bates and Sir Richard Newspaper do battle to see who can, in fact, be more evil. As Lady Mary confesses her sordid past – the incident with the dead Turk in the her bed and the oh-so-obvious loss of her virtue – to Sir Newspaper, he throws his head back in a maniacal laugh that echoes in the steeples and the spires of the city he lords over. Promising to keep her secret safe and backing Evil Dragon Mrs. Bates into a contractual corner, he seals the deal with the most evil of handshake that just smacks of soul-stealing. Watch yo’ back, Lady Mary.

The Trouble with Matthew: This is one long, sad song for the ladies who love Cousin Matthew. Lady Mary casts aside what’s proper in order to do what’s right. She volunteers to nurse Cousin Matthew, despite Dr. Clarkson’s warnings that things could get ugly. Never mind that, Lady Mary knows ugly. Lest we forget, a handsome stranger died in her bed and she hauled his lifeless Turkish carcass across the house late in the night, swallowing her pride and her honor. She’s no stranger to ugliness. Though this may be more than she can bear, Cousin Matthew truly is in a bad way, and we have to give Mary some serious snaps for keeping it together as she lowers him by the ankles onto a hospital bed, gazing at the blood stains on his lightly rising chest as his labored breathing leads him deeper into a morphine-induced stupor. She grits her teeth and draws him a bath, and prepares for the arrival of Miss Lavinia (her?) so that they may take turns hearing awful news. Matthew’s prognosis is not good, his spine has suffered permanent damage and he will probably never walk, nor bear children. Which means he can never, you know. The lords and ladies of the house have really got an open line of communication, they can say so much by saying so little. There so very much talk of sex – the sex Cousin Matthew won’t be having, sadly – without so much as a passing mention of actual sex. What is this, Secret Life of the American Teenager? Nevertheless, back to these touching moments, Cousin Matthew sends Miss Lavinia away, swearing he couldn’t take away the life she deserves to have, leaving the playing field wide open for Lady Mary to slide in, hold a bowl for her beloved to vomit into, and wipe the sweat from his tired but lovely brow. Lady Isobel returns at just that moment, to see Lady Mary caring for her son in his darkest moment. Her sad and silent gaze says it all: Miss Lavinia who? Lady Mary’s Florence Nightingale takes the prize.

Downstairs Drama:

–       O’Brien and Thomas’ smoke time scheming takes a downhill turn as O’Brien’s invitation to Evil Fox Monster Mrs. Bates has been readily accepted and the hag should be swooping in at any moment to ruin all the fun. Super fun scheme time is turning into an exercise in mitigating disaster, which, if BP has taught us anything, the British aren’t very good at. No good at all.

–       This is more backyard drama, but Branson and Sybil share an intimate moment over the death of the Romanovs. Quiet caresses, stolen glances, should she? Shouldn’t she? The tension is mounting.

–       Teen mom Ethel gets all Dorothea Lange gazing wistfully out the window cradling her bastard cursing that bastard! No, his father, Major Mustache – a real live asshole, WWI deadbeat dad.

–       Cheers to Anna for Mary’s magnificent sleeping braid.

–       Our new maid is a widow with a baby from the village, here’s hoping there’s a take your children to work day at Downton, and we can watch Carson play peek-a-boo!

Bates and Anna Update: Everything in our garden is rosy again? Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure. “Dun dun dun!” (Mrs. Bates’ theme.)

Fashion Faux Pas de Deux: The Dowager Countess’ Leeds Hospital don’t-mess-with-me-Shrimpy-I’m-on-to-you Fur vs. Evil Dragon Mrs. Bates’ Fox-With-a-Face-Only-a-Mother-Could-Love stole for confronting Sir Richard Newspaper.

Next time on:  Sir Richard Newspaper swoops in with an evil plan to out-evil them all. Mrs. Bates, O’Brien, Thomas: take notes.