Last week, Lady Mary was possessed by grief, six months after Matthew twanged his charabanc into a tree. At several points in episode one she had a touch of the Linda Blairs about her - as if any minute she might spider-walk down the stairs for luncheon, or dispassionately projectile-vomit into Branson's face.
All that had to change this week, as a box of effects arrived at Downton from the solicitor's office where we have to trust Matthew at some stage did some work. Inside a book inside the box: a letter, written by Matthew six months ago, just after his agent rang to say he should get out and try his luck in Hollywood.
The note said, in essence: "Mary - Just in case I drive into a hedge tomorrow, I mean obviously that's realistically pretty unlikely but bear with me on this: just in CASE that happens, and just in case your dad has turned a bit possessive about Downton and made up some story about having to run the estate on baby George's behalf, when really he wants to do it because otherwise he'll having nothing to do except get in and out of his dressing gown - I want YOU to have everything. So chew on that, Lord Grantham, who I imagine is reading this out in a tuxedo in front of the fire in the library. Love Matt xox."
Lord G hadn't taken this well, previewing the letter privately and threatening not to read it out in front of the fire in the library at all. He wanted to "send it to Murray", which sounds like a euphemism for some sort of permanent disposal method, but in fact meant posting it straight to the family solicitor for verification as a viable will.
One brief verbal from the Dowager Countess later (“When you talk like that, I’m tempted to ring for Nanny and have you put to bed with no supper”) and his Lordship was beaten. Or so it seemed: before she could progress to the position of deputy under-assistant manageress of Downton, Mary had to negotiate an evening meal during which her dad was on monumentally passive-aggressive form. Mary said she wanted to have an opinion on things. "There's a question of using empty farmyards as new sources of revenue," said his Lordship, looking like he could bite one of Mrs Patmore's wooden spoons in half. "I'd LIKE to know what you FEEL about THAT... there are LOTS of things I'd like your OPINION ON."
Cora and Isobel came to Mary's aid. "I'm just SAYING," sulked Lord G, glowering into a goblet of 1898 Beychevelle.
Mary was hurt ("Papa gave me such a whacking at dinner!") but she had another friend: Tom Branson, who has got almost half a series' head-start on her when it comes to forgetting one's spouse. He told her to get "stuck in" and later - before it was discovered that the will was legit and Mary was on board - accompanied her on a lovely hats-and-coats walk round the grounds, discussing whether the family should sell Harrogate and surrounding areas to save money, as per Lord G, or follow Branson's plan and put the land to good use.
Branson was faultlessly charming and generous, and he's such a good listener. Could he be on his way to chalking up his second Downton sister?