Allow me a little midseason indulgence – because wasn’t that what this week was all about? Two hours uninterrupted Downton Drama: there’s nothing more indulgent – and let me wax poetic on the subject of the opening credits. At the very sound of that tittering piano melody hovering there in the upper octaves, at the very sight of that fine English dog butt, my pulse quickens and my nerves are all a-tingle at the thought of what comes next.

Here’s hoping that’s what that feeling is, because this week’s Downton Abbey has a touch of the flu and it certainly is catching.

Flu Well, now that the war is over, we could sit and wait for the requisite flow of emotions: first relief, then disappointment, according to someone in the beginning of this two hour marathon event. But it wouldn’t truly be Downton unless we upped the stakes. And the next logical step after war is, of course, pestilence. The Spanish flu takes hold of Downton, rendering us all bewildered and helpless as one beloved character after another swoons into their soup and retreats to a bedroom to shake and sweat with fever. First Carson, then Cora, then Miss Lavinia (her?). Each taken down, no match for this strange disease. It’s horrifying how quickly the sickness progresses. This flu makes bird flu and swine flu look like.. I don’t know, baby flu. In a matter of minutes, Cora goes from a touch peaked to looking like an extra on The Walking Dead. Miss Lavinia too is felled quite quickly. While it seems for a time that it is Cora who is on her way out, Miss Lavinia comes from behind in the last quarter and goes all the way. She dies in a Botticelli-styled plot device with Matthew and the Crawleys at her bedside, paving the way for the (GOD I HOPE SO) Matthew/Mary Match up we’ve all been waiting for.

Love Bug Dowager Countess gets MVP for these past few episodes and she keeps up her hot streak tonight. Barging in on a – oh, by the way! – newly mobile Matthew late at night, the Dowager Countess gives it to him straight. This marriage thing is a BFD, and he had better be sure he’s doing it right, and for heaven’s sake, Mary is still in love with him, and feeling bad for Miss Lavinia is not a good enough reason to join in holy matrimony as long as you both shall live. (Which, as we now know isn’t very long at all). Meanwhile, Lady Mary’s acerbic wit takes a turn for the cynical, and why shouldn’t it? She’s saddled to cartoon villain, Resident Evil Snidely Whiplash and he’s been angling to have the servants spy on her while she watches Miss Lavinia swoon over Matthew’s stand up-sit down performance. Cousin Matthew and Miss Lavinia plan to marry at Downton post haste, and now Lady Mary must keep her stiff upper lip, twitchy eye, and taught and ready to snap neck tendons in the midst of wedding preparations in her own home. That is, until the flu takes out some major players, and she and Matthew are granted a moment alone to dance like no one’s watching and (FINALLY) kiss like no one’s getting married in three days. Someone’s watching though, Miss Lavinia catches them in the act and promptly loses the will to live.

Sybil and Branson (FINALLY) kiss and then make a run for it. Though Ladies Mary and Edith are hot on their train and cut the elopement short, hoping Sybil will come to her senses and give up the ghost for this life of separatist terrorism and pants. No such luck, though, as Sybil is very nearly disowned. Though that’s not really the kind of guy Lord Grantham is, and he begrudgingly gives her his blessing.

A Case of “Wandering Eye” Lord Grantham, who is in the throes of some kind of existential crisis, continually finds himself at these lonely luncheons, sitting at the head of a long, long, empty table, apathetically pushing peas around his plate, digesting nothing but the sound of the fork against the China echoing across an empty room. He heaves a hefty sigh, but the sound stops short of ringing across the room and back, for who should obstruct it’s inevitable path but that maid! That maid with the dreamy blue eyes and the precocious little boy who so desperately wants to get into the finest of schools. That maid who continually finds herself alone in her lordship’s presence. And it’s with that maid that Lord Grantham pulls a full-on Newt Gingrich. The moment his wife falls ill, he takes the maid to bed. Or at least attacks her face in the broom closet. 

Downstairs Drama

–       The internship program at Downton is off and running with multiple candidates stepping in when Carson falls ill. We have Mosley decanting the wine (straight into his mouth) followed by an eerily chipper Thomas angling to get his or any job

–       Incidentally, Mosley is a drunk. Who could blame him though?

–       We just can’t seem to shake Ethel and baby mustache who make quite an entrance at luncheon with Mr. and Mrs. Mustache, baby mustache’s grandparents. There’s a nice little “will-they/won’t-they” dance they do, when at first Grandpa Mustache refuses to acknowledge the child, and then agrees to raise him but only if Ethel agrees to throw herself off a cliff never to be heard from again. All the women who independent throw your hands up at me: Ethel you don’t need this crap. She keeps the baby, and says “Good day” to the Mustaches.

Bates-Anna Update: After about six hundred whispered meetings in the hallway, ten thousand tender caresses on the cheek before getting back to work, and a half million declarations of love, Bates and Anna are FINALLY married. And consummated in a swanky honeymoon suite care of Lady Mary and That Maid, which by the way, was a visual I could have done without. We keep those pasty English upper arms covered for a reason, obviously. Though of course, not all can be well here, and as soon as they’re together they’re ripped apart again: Bates is arrested for the alleged slaying of Evil Dragon Mrs. Bates. Next up, murder trial.

O’Brien and Thomas Smoke Break Thomas, who’s out of a job and a half-assed reason to lord over everyone, makes a play for the black market. But he gets what’s coming to him when it turns out all his supply is actually well packaged garbage. He’s been taken for all he’s worth, and in this economy, that means he’ll have to start at the bottom. O’Brien, meanwhile, has been forced to reckon with her own evilness at the bedside of her dying Ladyship, so she hasn’t much time to be evil this week.

Fashion Faux Pas de Deux Isobel’s staunch support of higher hemlines and looser waistlines that allow for “doing something” versus the Dowager Countess’ penchant for whatever fabulous thing she’s already wearing and her preference for keeping to the chaise lounge for the rest of her days.

Dowager Countess Zing! Of the Night: Don’t be defeatist dear, it’s very middle class.