Barrow is alone in this world, and a man burns alive. But it's okay, because puppy!

By Kevin P. Sullivan
February 14, 2016 at 11:54 PM EST
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Ever since the season 5 finale, when Henry Talbot jumped into his roadster and tore into the Scottish sunset and Mary’s heart, the suitor’s hobby has acted as Chekhov’s race car. There was simply no way that the manner of Matthew’s death wouldn’t get tangled up in this possible new romance for Mary. Her husband died in a very specific way, and a new guy loves driving recklessly? No, it’s not quite the ideal match we all would have hoped for.

But up until now the budding relationship appeared to be progressing steadily without too much fuss made over the fact that Henry Talbot could very well end up just like Matthew Crawley (married to Lady Mary and dead from a car crash). Appropriately, the second-to-last normal hour of Downton Abbey ever — let that sink in for a moment — ended with a gut punch that made the similarities between Henry and Matthew impossible to ignore.

Although by the end, everything was all right because PUPPY! But we can’t only talk about Tiaa. That would be ridiculous and adorable, so we’ll have to come back to her once all of the other non-puppy recapping is out of the way.

And there is a lot to talk about. Andrew’s illiteracy making a big comeback. Daisy’s exams. Molesley’s exam! All thrilling stuff, but by far the most baller story line was the Dowager Countess’ scorched earth exit on her way to the south of France. Ninety years later, you can still feel the heat!

After the surprisingly pleasant meetings Isobel had with Miss Amelia Cruikshank last week, she receives a formal invitation to Larry “Devil Spawn” Merton’s wedding. Odd, right? Especially considering that he’s the worse person — fictional or otherwise — to have lived. While Isobel isn’t keen to jump right back into the Dicky Merton game, the diplomatic campaign started by Miss Cruikshanks appears to be working. She’s softening, and if there’s anything that Violet can’t stand, it’s softening.

So before the Dowager heads into self-imposed exile in order to cool down and avoid the family she believes betrayed her, she pays a visit to Miss Cruikshank to check up on her and ask, “What’s good, Amelia?” Thanks to the Dowager’s incomparably withering stare, the truth doesn’t remain hidden for long. You were correct last week to wonder “Why would such a lovely woman marry that turd?” The answer is that she’s also a turd. With Lord Merton getting older, Larry and Amelia wanted to pawn off Dicky onto someone, who would then become a de facto nurse for him, allowing the married couple to be awful and worry-free.

Though I can’t imagine that this is the last we’ll see of the Dowager before Downton comes to a close, that would be one hell of a mic drop. It’s a classic moment for Violet, whose wits were always best used on those who thought they knew better. Because you will always lose to the Dowager. Always.

Any episode with the theme of comeuppances and the receiving of them is pretty much guaranteed to be at least an 8 out of 10. There were at least two courses of just desserts this episode, and the second one was oh-so sweet.

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Carson has been terrible — to Barrow, to Mrs. Hughes, to everyone — and it was about time that the butler was made to look a fool. After Carson once again requested dinner at the cottage, Mrs. Patmore revealed a small scheme she had concocted to give him a taste of his own misogynistic medicine. This is excellent news because Downton with schemes is the best Downton.

The plan was elegant in its simplicity. Just before Mrs. Hughes was to make a meal for her husband, she complained that she had hurt her hand in a fall. With his wife unable to do all of the damn work, it would be up to Carson to get everything just right. By the time it was all ready and on the table, the poor bastard was too tired to eat. That’s what you get, bro. Hopefully, all of this unpleasantness will wrap up next week with Carson seeing the error in his ways and acknowledging that a healthy relationship — even in 1926 — is built upon a partnership and a willingness to contribute.

NEXT: Good news for Molesley, bad news for Barrow

Poor Barrow. Those are two words that are difficult to type considering how consistently awful the footman-turned-under butler has been throughout his tenure at Downton, but these days, it’s hard not to feel for the guy. Last year, he was giving himself injections in order to cure his own sexual orientation, and now just as he was making a connection with Andy, that dumb teacher guy has to swoop in.

The conversation came up during a break in exams for Daisy. Mr. Molesley had already finished his general knowledge test, while the assistant cook had a few more papers to go. It’s suggested that Andy read from one of the exam papers, as if everyone knew that he was illiterate before Barrow volunteered to help. He actually does pretty well for how long he’s been reading, and that dumb teacher is impressed enough to suggest night courses. The catch is that Barrow has to stop the lessons he was giving, in order to avoid confusing Andy.

The teacher guy isn’t strictly a bearer of bad news, though. Molesley passed his test with flying colors. Our boy is going to be a teacher! Over the course of the show, he really has come quite far, making for one of the most lovable arcs ever. (Least lovable? Daisy thinking that Mr. Mason possibly getting some sugar from Mrs. Patmore takes away from her relationship with him. It’s dumb.)

Even before the family got to the racetrack at Brooklands, there was trouble for Mary and Henry’s totally obvious relationship, and it came from an unlikely source. Anna voiced her opinion of the pairing, suggesting that he wouldn’t fit into her life.

The day of the race was a lot of fun until that fiery crash. All of the drivers were wearing white jumpsuits over their shirts and ties — which, I’m guessing, will be the thing to wear this spring — and they had to run to their cars before driving away, a tradition that I think NASCAR should bring back.

When the crash happens out of sight of the crowds, there’s a mad rush to find out who was hurt and possibly killed. Later, Mary would regrettably admit that she was glad to hear that it was Henry’s friend Charlie Rogers, rather than Henry himself. And, to be fair, that’s understandable. I was happy too. Well, not happy-happy, but relieved.

Anyway, both Henry and Mary are really torn up about the accident. Henry’s response is to quit racing for good and get married. Mary, on the other hand, doesn’t want him to change in order to be with her, so she breaks it off. It’s a bummer moment, but with one normal episode and a supersize special left, I’m not exactly grieving just yet.

And neither should you, because the hour punched back at the depressing twist with two dollops of goodness. Bertie proposes to Edith, and then there’s a puppy! I go back and forth on which surprise I’m more fond of. The loss of Isis has hung over the show for too long, and I guess that Edith should ultimately find some source of reliable happiness. But, I mean…. that was a very cute puppy!

Episode Recaps

The war is over, but intrigue, crisis, romance, and change still grip the beloved estate.
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