Lord Grantham has finally got out of bed. But he’s terribly bored. Mary’s beau Henry Talbot has invited the entire family to watch him race at Brooklands – and Robert is keen to go along too. The last time he left the Abbey he was covered in blood in the back of an ambulance, after all. Cora’s not convinced, but the whole clan are going. Bertie, Branson… even Mary’s put aside her aversion to automobiles for the day.
Meanwhile, the Lord Merton conundrum continues. Isobel has been invited to Larry and Amelia’s wedding but she’s not going. She’d “feel like the wicked fairy at the christening of Sleeping Beauty.” Violet is immediately suspicious of the invite and its sender: the curiously friendly Miss Crookshanks. She knows a schemer when she sees one.
Talking of schemes, the great hospital debacle might be behind us, but the aftershocks continue to ripple through the Dowager Countess’s “former kingdom.” She’s terribly angry and thinks it better she removes herself from the situation. “While angry I say things some people find hard to forgive. I’d rather vent my rage on the desert air and return when I’ve regained control of my tongue,” she says sagely, which is most disappointing as we rather like her when her tongue is out of control.
Luckily, she’s got time to drop in on Amelia Crookshanks before her departure. She wants to know why the betrothed young lady is suddenly advocating romance between Isobel and her father-in-law-to-be. It seems Merton’s old, lonely and in need of care. “That you’re not prepared to give?” cuts in Violet, calling her a cruel Miss. “You want a free nurse to take a tiresome old man off your hands.”
Upstairs the family are pondering Mary’s future with Henry. Cora is worried about getting the racing driver’s hopes up – but surely he’s got something rather special if he trumps Gillingham’s wealth and title? Perhaps it’s sex appeal, suggests Robert. They can’t be certain. “We have a very contrary daughter,” sighs Cora.
In fact, Mary isn’t so sure herself. She wonders what Anna thinks because, of course, all ladies want the blessing of their lady’s maids. “I’m just not sure your life and his life fit together,” Anna ventures. Opposites attract, but do they live happily ever after?
While the Crawleys head off to London, the DC plans her departure. She’ll sneak off while they are away without saying goodbye, though naturally she’ll write to Tom “because he’s the most sensible.” She’s heading to the south of France, where she’ll bide her time until she’s desperate to return to her traitorous family. A month among foreigners will do the trick nicely.
In London, the family dine at Rosamund’s. Robert gets back on the wine, Cora bemoans the property market – “Almost everyone we know is selling their London house” – and Henry turns up out of the blue to gaze longingly at Mary.
The next day is the big race and the day Daisy and Moseley test their academic mettle. The duo tackle the tricky questions with determination – and the truth about Andy’s reading difficulties come to light – while, at Brooklands, the Crawleys muck around with motors. Tom can barely contain his excitement as Robert clutches another large glass of red while Mary looks on, wearing giant sunglasses and looking awfully bored.
Soon, though, it’s time to rev those engines. Henry grabs Mary’s hand and pulls her to the edge of the track. She’s terribly nervous for him, she says. She can barely stomach the lobster sandwiches and the champagne feels dreadfully flat.
He insists he’ll be fine and plants a kiss on her mouth. The Crawleys cheer and rousing music plays. But we all had a rather bad feeling that something bad is going to happen. Spoiler alert: we weren’t wrong.
The race heats up. Henry and his BFF Charlie Rogers are neck and neck. Branson is red faced and excited while Mary squirms. The race has been going on for an age. “It feels as if we are trapped in some witch’s curse for all of eternity,” she groans, while behind her the crowds gasp in shock as her worst nightmare becomes a reality.
A car has crashed. Everyone rushes onto the track to see smoke and smashed glass. Charlie Rogers’ motor has gone up in a ball of flames. Henry throws himself into the fire but Branson and Bertie pull him back because there’s nothing to be done. Charlie is no longer.
Later, Mary finds Henry alone on the racetrack. He’s crying, dragging on a cigarette and wondering aloud if his best friend’s dreadful demise was his fault. Mary assures him it wasn’t but doesn’t stay long – she’s got dinner at Rosamund’s and mustn’t be late.
Back at Downton, Moseley gets a visit from the teacher who oversaw the exams. He’s passed his test with flying colours and is offered a place on the teaching staff at the village school. Moseley’s open mouthed with shock, and a tad teary, as the staff celebrate his success. This is the end of service for him. He’s on to bigger, better and brighter things.
There’s good news for Mrs Patmore, too. She’s had her first booking at her B&B and (despite a shadowy character hanging around and taking notes) she’s in a terribly good mood. She’s even come up with a cunning plan for how Mrs Hughes can teach Carson a lesson. Mrs Hughes pretends to hurt her hand and Carson is terribly concerned because he’ll have to cook himself dinner. He flaps around the kitchen burning potatoes before falling asleep at the table, while his wife struggles to contain her giggles.
Dinner at Rosamund’s is a much more somber affair. Everyone is upset about the “bloody awful” business at Brooklands. Robert tells Rosamund to shut up and they both to go bed like chastened children.
Meanwhile Henry isn’t doing much better. He’s been drinking and telephones Mary. He can’t sleep until he knows where the two of them are headed. Mary begs him not to initiate ‘the conversation’ now, but he insists. Charlie’s death has made him realise he wants to seize the day with Mary by his side… but she says no. “We’re not meant to be together, Henry. We’re not right… I want you to have a long and happy life, just not with me,” she sobs.
Branson overhears and looks distraught but she’s tired of listening to his romantic wisdom.
Meanwhile, the course of true love is running a little smoother for Edith. She’s cuddled up with Bertie in the drawing room and they are happy. So happy he just comes out with it. He wants to marry her. She’s thrilled and delighted but rather surprised. She must think about it, and what with Marigold, the late Gregson and that previous jilting you can’t really blame her.
Back at the Abbey, Isobel’s waiting for the Crawleys in the drawing room with a letter from Violet informing them of her European vacation. She’s snuck off already and sent Spratt to the servant’s hall with a present for the family.
It’s a new lovely golden Labrador puppy. She’ll be called Tiaa, in the Egyptian tradition.
Downton Abbey concludes on Sunday at 9:00pm on ITV