The show has fast-forwarded eight months to 1923 and Cousin Rose is coming out into society. The whole family and most of the staff have left the Abbey for Grantham House in London, where Rose stirs the pot, Mary juggles suitors and Edith has returned from Switzerland, no longer pregnant, but gloomy as ever.
Adding to the mix are Lady Cora's mother (Shirley MacLaine) and brother Harold (Paul Giamatti), fresh from the Teapot Dome scandal and reluctantly touring the continent with his mother.
The finale was filled with zippy dialogue, brilliant fashion, cross-cultural snafus and zingers galore thanks to a double whammy of divas, with MacLaine's Martha and the Dowager Countess squaring off.
Here are the quotes that recap the season finale of Downton Abbey:
"Do you think your friend Mr. Sampson might be capable of something dishonorable?" tweet itRose asks Lord Grantham, trying to find out whether it's possible that he stole an incriminating letter from the Prince of Wales to his mistress Freda Dudley Ward. Robert quickly tells her that the card sharp who fleeced him is no friend of his and is certainly capable of theft. When Rose reveals it was a love letter from the Prince of Wales, Robert is greatly alarmed that the Crawley family will be the ruin of the monarchy, and insists that they recover the letter. They devise a Scooby Doo-esque plan to break into Mr. Sampson's home and find the letter. All the pesky kids will need is Aunt Rosamund to take Martha, Violet and Isobel to a play, while Robert and Harold play cards with Tony Gillingham and Lord Aysgarth – who will bring Mr. Sampson, while Mary, Rose and Blake break into Sampson's flat with a forged letter from Bates. Unfortunately, the letter cannot be found in the flat and the family gives up. Luckily, Bates knows how to think like a criminal and lifts the letter from Sampson's pocket. In gratitude, the Prince of Wales shows up to Rose's ball and sets society ablaze by dancing with Rose.
"I own a yacht and I like pretty girls," tweet itsays Cora's brother Harold in an attempt to shock Madeleine Allsopp, who has been foisted upon him by her father, Lord Aysgarth. Harold knows exactly what is going on: "Don't worry, I'm used to it. Fathers wanting me to dance with their daughters." Madeleine eventually learns to appreciate Harold's bluntness and agrees to be his friend. Meanwhile, Aysgarth has his eye on Cora's mother to prop up his dwindling fortunes. She's aware of his intentions, though, and tells him, "I don't really want to spend the rest of my life among people who think I am loud, opinionated and common." She does offer to bring him to Newport and introduce him to rich widows who desire English titles.
"Mr. Bates must be ruined or hanged because of a vile, vicious man?" tweet itMrs. Hughes asks Mary rhetorically as they debate what is to be done about potentially incriminating evidence that Bates was in London the day Anna's attacker died. Anna had donated one of Bates's coats to Russian refugees, and when Mrs Hughes searched the pockets, she found a train ticket that proves Bates had the opportunity (and, of course, the motive) to kill Green. Mrs. Hughes takes the information to Lady Mary for some reason, which throws Mary into a crisis of conscience as to whether to report the evidence – it is another man's life, after all, even if he was despicable. Mrs. Hughes is not so troubled: "If he was there to avenge his wife’s honor, I won’t condemn him for it. I’m sorry, but I won’t." After Bates helped with the great break-in, though, Mary decides to throw the ticket into the fire, disposing of the evidence – and hopefully the storyline – once and for all.
"We may love them but if we don't fight our corner they will roll us out flat," tweet itsays Tom to Edith, not realizing the power of his words on her fragile psyche. She takes his words to heart and sets out to Downton to make a plan to get her child back. While Edith had the baby in Switzerland and gave it to a family to raise, she is racked with regret, especially as it becomes clear that Michael Gregson is never coming back. Despite Aunt Rosamund's assurances that there will be "other loves and other children," Edith is determined to get hers back. After Tom's accidental pep talk, she enlists tenant pig farmer Drewe to adopt the baby "for a friend." He agrees and promises to keep her secret.
"But we still have to call him 'Sir'," tweet itgripes Thomas to Ivy about Tom. While it's been ages, Thomas is still angry that Tom has risen above him due to his marriage to Sybil, and while the rest of the staff is in London, he has been left at Downton to tend to Tom. When possible love interest Sarah Bunting invites herself to tour Downton and goes so far as to step into the upstairs gallery where the bedrooms are, Thomas sees his chance for revenge. He calls Tom out on the breach of etiquette, and despite Tom's protestations of innocence, Thomas then rats him out to Lord Grantham. Nothing comes of it, though, which seems to be par for the course this season for Thomas.
Nick Briggs / Carnival Film & Television Ltd / PBS
"We're getting on Mr. Carson, you and I. We can afford to live a little," tweet itteases Mrs. Hughes. The staff has had to work extra hard while in London, so Cora had Carson arrange an all-day outing as a thank-you. At first, Carson had terrible ideas for where to spend the day off, before eventually settling on a trip to the seaside. At the beach, Carson dips his toes into the water and immediately begins to fret that he’s in too deep. "You can always hold my hand if you need to feel steady," says Mrs. Hughes, offering him her hand. "I don’t know how, but you managed to make that sound a little risqué," Carson responds. "And if I did?" she says with a teasing smile. With Alfred gone and Ivy off to America in the employ of Harold Levinson, perhaps Carson and Mrs. Hughes will be the downstairs love affair for next season.
"Let battle commence," tweet itsays Mary to Mr. Blake as he throws his hat into the ring for Mary's affections and a fight with Gillingham. While Gillingham may have had the upper hand in their very civil courtship, he ruined it by wanting a "fair fight" and informing Mary that Blake is in line for a title and a huge inheritance. While Mary says that her destiny is to save Downton for George (her rarely seen son) she is more than happy to let her two beaus duke it out for her love. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until next season to find out the winner.