These are dark times, dark times indeed for Downton Abbey. A war is on, and everyone’s all in a tizzy, making sacrifices and upping morale, and desperately seeking some sense of control in a world full of chaos. What we get is a whole lot of drama and a million marriage proposals. This week’s Downton Abbey is all about Romantic Geometry.

The Parallelogram: Lady Mary – Matthew Crawley  – Miss Lavinia Swire (Her?) – Sir Richard Carlisle of the Newspaper
When last we left Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley, she had begrudgingly fallen for her cousin despite his nearly killing granny with the introduction of the concept of the weekend. But if Lady Mary is good at one thing, (she’s not, she’s good at two. The other is killing it in a high-waisted skirt.) it’s screwing everything up the second she has to commit. She fell for cousin Matthew when his inheritance was on lock and spurned him when it seemed he would have nothing. Now here we are, on the eve of the end of the world, and cousin Matthew is engaged to a Miss Lavinia Swire (who?). Carson can’t even find her Burke’s Peerage, or even Burke’s Landed Gentry! Lady Edith, with her rat face and black heart just can’t wait to tell Mary about Miss Lavinia (her?). Mary gets all tight-lipped and crazy in the eyes and yaks on and on about how she’s so into Sir Richard Carlisle of the Newspaper Carlisles. Her eyes fall out of focus and she screeches, “It’s fine. I’m fine. Isn’t it wonderful? It’s lovely. Is it hot in here?” She dismisses everyone so she can trace the outline of her own face in the mirror and quietly eat her hair while the world falls down around her. Oh Lady Mary, you’ve really gone and done it now. You and Matthew have their million moments alone, a million moments for you to just tell him, tell him Mary!

First, she comes to tell him she loves him, but finds a sobbing Lavinia in the garden going on and on about how she’ll just die (could she?) if something happens to Matthew. It’s all too much and Mary chickens out on the confession. She gets her second chance in a gut-wrenching train station goodbye scene, but all she can do as she bids Cousin Matthew adieu is to give him a tiny stuffed wiener dog to remember her by and hope he doesn’t die. Rest assured, Matthew almost certainly loves her back, as we find him in the trenches clutching not a portrait of Miss Lavinia, but Lady Mary’s wiener. (Matthew, just the fact that you call it that is proof that you’re not ready to have it.)

Sir Richard Newspaper proposes to Mary, “because I think very highly of you,” which would be way more appropriate if her were nominating her for student of the month. She will consider it, but confides in Anna in one of the most fraught hair-braiding scenes of the night, that she intends to accept. Don’t settle, Mary!

The shortest distant between two points: Edith – The Farmer
Edith learns to drive, and the family is more than willing to throw decorum to the wind just for the chance to get her out of the house. She gets a job in the village driving a tractor for a farming couple with simmering marital problems and wearing the world’s worst pair of pants. I don’t care how skinny you are, those driving bloomers make you look 15 pounds heavier. But finally, Edith has found someone who can appreciate her horse face, and she totally does it with the farmer in the barn. She is promptly fired. That’s what you get, dear Edith, when you give it up too quick.

Sitting inside a Pentagram: Anna – Bates – Mrs. Bates – Mosley
Mr. Bates is MIA at the start of the action, off in London to mourn his dead mother. Anna pines for his return while absentmindedly folding hospital corners in her ladyship’s hair and braiding the curtains. Mr. Bates returns with a marriage proposal in the guise of an end-of-the-fiscal-year report. His dead mother left him enough money to divorce his awful wife, and if Anna should agree to it, they can one day open a hotel and gaze longingly at each other while looking for extra towels for the rest of their lawfully wedded lives. Of course Anna agrees in that lilting little accent of hers. But wait! Evil walking plot twist Mrs. Bates shows up and threatens to take down the Crawleys with some serious dirt regarding the Turk who took Lady Mary’s virginity and then promptly died in her bed. The story, should it leak, would ruin the Crawleys and take down Anna with them, since she helped carry the body. I want to know Mrs. Bates’ sources, they’re very thorough. Bates resigns and ditches Anna who proclaims she will never love again, knowing that Bates is no doubt doing something noble in leaving. He’s always doing that. Lord Grantham doesn’t take Bates’ resignation quite so well and throws quite the hissy fit.

Though who could blame him, all he gets to do this war is putter around in costume and throw parties for the cause. He’s feeling useless and frustrated, and gassy and embarrassed, so many feelings all at once, when he confuses an invitation to join a costumed supper club with an actual call to arms.

Oh, and once Bates seems gone for good, Mosley wastes no time spitting game with Anna. But she sees right through him and swiftly turns Mosley’s sexy plan to have a sexy time talking about sexy books into an all-servant book club. Nice try Mosley.

The Modern Woman’s Love Triangle: Sybil – Branson – work
Lady Sybil has finally found something even more modern than pants: work. Cousin Isabelle hooks her up with a gig training as a nurse and suggests she fulfill the prereqs of spending five minutes in the kitchen for the first time in her life, where Lady Sybil embarks on a slapstick marathon of overflowing teapots and pies in the face ending with a smash of china on the floor and a cloudburst of flour and a wah-wah-wah-wah on the trombone. Before dropping her off at school, Branson, the Radical Irish Chauffeur declares his love for Lady Sybil, and makes the ultimate feminist proposal: “Change the social order by marrying me!” Who knows when she’ll find the time, now that she’s got all this thinking to do about how to make her nurses whites look more subversive.

Downstairs Drama:
–          O’Brien still scowls in the corner, looking like a turkey in a dress.

–          Carson nearly gives himself a heart attack worrying about everyone else which means we get to see him in his PJs!

–          Sassy new maid Ethel is the butt of everyone’s jokes, not least of all because her name is Ethel

–          Thomas is back, looking enigmatic and ambiguously gay to everyone else and still finding time to smoke pointedly in the courtyard of a place he doesn’t even work at anymore

Fashion Faux Pas de Deux: The second coming of
Lady Mary’s Dinner-With-Sir-Richard-Newspaper Dress- “We all must make sacrifices for the war, me by wearing this dress TWICE” versus Lady Edith’s Driving Bloomers- “Is that an extra fifteen pounds settling around your hips or are you just happy to see me?”

Dowager Countess Zing! Of the Night:
Regarding Cora’s taste in flower arrangements, “They are more suited for a first communion in Southern Italy.”

Next time on: Downton becomes a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers, conveniently placing everyone – lords and ladies and working folk alike – back under one roof for more salacious scandal. Will Bates return to claim his precious Anna? Where will the Dowager Countess take her tea if there are to be amputations in the drawing room? Will Lady Mary ever find the words to actually express her thoughts or will she forever rely on her eyebrows to do the talking?