'Downton Abbey' Season 6, Episode 5 Recap: What's Happening to Lord Grantham?


It's a wild week at Downton Abbey, with escalating flirtation, swirling secrets, casual blackmail of government officials, marital squabbles and one very bloody dinner table eruption. The final season's fifth episode packs an unexpected, uncharacteristic punch — here's how it all played out.

Read more: 

Flirtation on all fronts: Tom accompanies Mary as she pays her latest suitor, Henry Talbot, a visit at the race track where he's testing out a new car. Afterward, the trio heads to a local pub where Mary and Talbot strike up a polite, if charged, exchange that ends with Tom calling them out for keeping up the thinly veiled pretense.

"You are funny," Tom remarks, after Talbot proposes Mary join him for dinner with mutual friend, and Mary's former suitor, Evelyn Napier. 

"What do you mean?" Mary asks.

"The way you have to keep making reasons for why you'll meet," Tom replies. "You to watch him drive cars, you to have dinner with a friend. Why can't you just say, 'I'd love to spend more time with you, when can we do it?'"

"You see, he may have assimilated in some ways, but he still fights playing by the rules," Mary quips as she and Talbot make eyes at one another over their drinks. 

Edith, meanwhile, heads to London for some business and some pleasure. Tasked with finding a new editor for her magazine, she also agrees to meet with a probable love interest, the agent Bertie Pelham. Although she insists to her chiding family that her trip to London is not a date, Edith extends an evening invitation that can't be read otherwise.

"Come to my flat for a drink, I'll show it to you," Edith tells Pelham. "Then we can go somewhere else, you choose."

"What a racy plan," he remarks.

"Not as racy as all that," Edith responds, laughing. But it is every bit as racy as that fairly tame remark — helping Edith into her coat, Pelham spins her around and kisses her squarely on the mouth. Bertie Pelham, official contender for Edith's hand.

Carson reveals himself to be an enormous baby. Spoon-fed on Mrs. Patmore's delicacies for decades, Mr. Carson has developed quite the particular palate, unfortunately for Mrs. Hughes. After making a dinner table fuss about serving plates that are too cold and vegetable side dishes that clash with the meal's protein, Carson chastises his wife in front of Mrs. Patmore, asking the cook if she might give Mrs. Hughes a kitchen refresher. 

"It's been a while since she's played with her patty pans and she's got some catching up to do," he says, missing a face from Mrs. Hughes that suggests she might club him with one of said pans.

More drama springs from the eternal well of conflict, Mr. Mason's farm. Mr. Carson isn't the only old man under Mrs. Patmore's spell. On a visit to Yew Tree Farm, she packs a picnic basket that prompts Mr. Mason to call her "an angel of mercy," which incites testy jealousy from Daisy, who was content being the only woman in Mr. Mason's life and heart, thankyouverymuch. 

Her feelings for him aren't so fond that she's ready to move in with him when he extends the offer over tea, but servant boy Andy — who's also come along for the housewarming — jumps on the prospect, volunteering as tribute for the job of pig handler, which requires more physical strength than the aging Mr. Mason possesses. 

Unfortunately, the position requires him to read a stack of books, which is almost a disqualifying prerequisite for the secretly illiterate Andy. Mr. Barrow sniffs him out, though, as Mr. Barrow is wont to do, and offers to teach him how to read away from the staff's prying eyes. 

Light blackmail of historical figures: In a multi-episode fight over the local hospital, the Dowager Countess of Grantham finds herself suddenly alone on the side of tradition: Cousin Isobel persuades Dr. Clarkson to join the united front she's formed with Cora, who now chairs the Downton Hospital board. But Grandmama doesn't give up easily. 

"When we unleash the dogs of war, we must go where they take us," the dowager intones, and she means it. As an elephant-minded witness to the youthful shenanigans of a mustachioed Neville Chamberlain, she is in a position to blackmail the minister of health into dining at Downton and forcing him to shut down Isobel and Cora's progressive plan for the hospital. Her scheming is waylaid, however, when...

Death sits down to dinner. Lord Grantham, whose biting stomach pains dedicated viewers will remember from episode four, stands up from his seat at the dinner table in an attempt to silence the controversy. "Can't we stop this beastly row?" he says, before projectile vomiting blood all over the family's evening attire. 

As it turns out, Robert had been suffering from an ulcer, which bursts under the apparent stress of the hospital debate. His blood-spattered family members rush him to the hospital, where surgery is performed and the earl's life is saved. The brush with mortality steels Mary's resolve that she and Tom should be entirely responsible for running the estate.

What to watch for next week: Carson's possible death by Mrs. Hughes' frying pan; hot pursuit of both the Crawley girls by their respective gentlemen; a blossoming friendship between Barrow and Andy as the former teaches the latter to read (or Andy's public embarrassment when the whole downstairs finds out about the arrangement); and Mary's continued sleuthing into the subject of Edith's "ward," Marigold, whom the Crawley heiress suspects to be a bastard child.