My, how time flies. Its 1918 already and the war is still a-stirrin’ up trouble at Downton. The place is filled with invalids, hobos, surplus valets, marriage proposals, and randy officers. With that kind of crowd someone’s bound to step on a couple of toes. This weeks Downton Abbey gets confrontational. 

Cora vs. Isobel Her Ladyship goes to bat for control of Downton and she comes out gun blazing. Cousin Isobel didn’t really stand a chance, not when her Ladyship is looking fierce and rearranging schedules before luncheon. Cora rolls up her sleeves and gets down to business taking control of her own house culminating in a deliciously tense competitive exchange of tight-lipped niceties in which Cousin Isobel is reduced to playing her trump card: “I’m moving to France.” There’s no one on team Isobel, not even Dr. Clarkson, who aptly points out that running a convalescent hospital requires almost no early 20th century medical knowledge of tinctures and bleeding and the like, so Cousin Isobel is fairly superfluous. Her Ladyship accepts her victory and moves on with her life, happily contemplating her next outfit change, and we are rid of Cousin Isobel for now. Cora: 1, Isobel: 0

Valet Showdown: Mosley vs. Bates With Bates tucked away at the pub, and the Crawleys off fighting battles on various fronts, Mosley finds himself twiddling his thumbs with nothing to do. He approaches Carson about taking on some extra duties in the main house and spends the next few days going above and beyond in what is the most conscientious unwarranted job interview ever. He’s essentially interning as Lord Grantham’s valet, wide eyed and hopeful the job will come through. We can see his little heart breaking even as we’re cheering the triumphant return of resident bad-ass with limp: Mr. Bates. Everyone’s pumped about this, Lord Grantham gets his valet back, Anna gets her fiancé slash future business partner slash almost-lovah back, and O’Brien and Thomas have something meaty to scheme about on smoke-breaks. Finally. Sorry, Mosley, you didn’t stand a chance. Bates: 100, Mosley: 0

Sybil vs. Society With Mary’s fortunes apparently settled, (for the moment, come on let’s be real. Sir Richard Newspaper has made but one brief appearance, and that was his proposal. There’s no way Mary’s settling.) The Dowager Countess has taken up a new cause: Sybil and reminiscing about the parade of handsome idiots who marched through her life as a young girl besotted with crushes. PAUSE: let’s just imagine a young Dowager Countess underage drinking and loitering with some no-goodnik from the wrong side of the tracks. It’s amazing. The Dowager Countess is worried that because Sybil hasn’t made her affections known for anyone, she must be hiding someone. And that someone’s probably poor. Oh Granny, how right you are. Your most progressive of granddaughters has a thing for the radical Irishman driving around in that hot rod. You better watch out or she’ll run off with this young Michael Collins and pull a Crying Game before going full on Angela’s Ashes. (My Irish metaphors are pretty limited.) Mary calls out Sybil, promising not to tell Papa as long as Sybil promises not to drive off into the sunset. This of course drives (ha) Sybil straight into the arms of the Chauffeur, who in the heat of battle, with societal norms crashing down all around him, has declared that he will stay at Downton until Sybil agrees to run away with him. Sybil’s still marginally reasonable, wondering how this will ever work, and if she really wants to give up her family and her work and her harem pants for a life on the road. We shall see. Draw

Lady Mary and Matthew vs. The Horrors of War Here is an open letter to Lady Mary and her handsome cousin Matthew: Dear Lady Mary and Cousin Matthew, just get married already. Best, Everyone. Word arrives at Downton that Cousin Matthew and William and his chin have gone missing at the front. It’s all hollow eyes and gasping and clutching of bosoms as news travels upstairs and down. When Lady Mary finally receives the news – from a sincere Lady Edith, deep into a marathon of good intentions – she swoons like a champion. Oh, how telling. Lady Mary, you have no desire whatsoever to live happily ever after with Sir Newspaper in a dead man’s house in London, because after the war the market will be flooded and we can take our pick of nice houses! That’s just something you say when you don’t feel like engaging with your feelings and dumping a newsman. We wonder all night where Matthew and William and his chin could be, though we dare not think the worst. And we don’t need to, we have O’Brien. There could be a hundred explanations for the disappearance, Mrs. Hughes says. “Yes, and one of them is that they’re dead:” O’Brien, always in good taste. Matthew and William and his chin make their triumphant return and save everyone from a horrific sing-a-long meant to cheer up the convalescents. Matthew and Mary do a duet and gaze longingly at each other and for one moment we all see what a perfect world this really could be. Mary and Matthew: 1, Horrors of War: Zilch

Dowager Countess Zing! Of the Night: The Dowager Countess’ face during a sing-a-long.

Downstairs Drama:

–       An influx of hungry hobos at the backdoor coincides perfectly with Mrs. Bird’s sudden surplus of free time, and the Downton staff decides to start a soup kitchen for the wounded and wandering.

–       Daisy outs Mr. Bates for working at the local pub, leading Lord Grantham straight to him for apologies and rehiring.

–       Thomas finally gets a stern warning from Dr. Clarkson about continuing to be an asshole to everyone: he shouldn’t.

–       O’Brien and Thomas: 1918’s Boris and Natasha

–       Mrs. Hughes follows the dulcet tones of lovers’ giggles to find Ethel, hair down and naked, wrapped in the arms of the convalescent Major Mustache. That tart gets herself fired, at once! Gone before breakfast.

–       And back by dinner, because guess who’s got a mustachioed bun in the oven? Ethel’s pregnant!

Bates and Anna Update: Be patient! He tells her and us.

Next time on: The Dowager Countess continues to be a woman, and therefore as contrary as she chooses.