Catch up on what has happened in the sprawling world of Downton Abbey. Watch a short video recap for episode 6 or read the full synopsis below.
As the last of the recovering officers depart Downton, the house is reverted to its former state — but not so its residents. The future looms large for a lost and melancholy Robert, an uneasy Bates, a determined Sybil, a cunning, ambitious Thomas and a desperate Ethel.
A stunning revelation deeply affects Robert and Cora and incites Richard to tighten his grip on Mary. But Mary has accepted her fate with detachment. Violet, however, will do no such thing, and even Carson reaches his limit.
Sybil discovers unlikely, however unenthusiastic, allies. A wedding is planned but fate cruelly intervenes. In its wake lay guilt, grief and, among the servants, fresh horrors.
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
As the last of the wounded officers leaves and Downton prepares to revert back to life before the war, Cora suggests to Robert that perhaps Matthew should be leaving, too. His recuperation is over, he is well cared for by Lavinia, and with him back at Crawley House, Mary can get on with her future with Richard. Robert is disgusted with her suggestion and calls it heartless. But neither knows that Matthew has felt a tingle in his legs; not wanting to get anyone's hopes up, he has told only Bates of the sensation.
Though the war has ended, Robert is gripped by depression over all the senseless death. He is still grieving William, worried about Matthew, and concerned about Bates, whose wife Vera, it's been determined, committed suicide from drinking rat poison. Finding Jane, the new maid, in the pantry, Robert admits his ennui and kisses her.
Ignorant of the depths of Robert's distress, Cora announces they will host a lunch for Major Bryants's parents, who wish to visit the place where their son convalesced before his death. Mrs. Hughes informs Ethel, and together they hatch a plan for her to show them their grandson. While the Bryants enjoy lunch with the family, Ethel bursts in carrying Charlie. Mr. Bryant is enraged and demands proof from Ethel that the child is his son's, but there is none. He forces an anguished Mrs. Bryant to leave.
All plans change when Matthew, in a reflexive move to save Lavinia from an accident, suddenly lurches out of his chair to his feet. The family is dumbfounded and joyful as Doctor Clarkson admits his mistake, confirming that Matthew will most likely walk again. With the prognosis of a full recovery, Matthew and Lavinia move their wedding date forward to April. This will delay Mary's marriage to Richard. Yet despite Mary's efforts to mask her pain upon hearing of Matthew's pending wedding, Violet observes it, and seeks Matthew out for a frank discussion. She reveals her belief that Mary is still very much in love with him and wants to know: Could he ever love her again? Surprised, Matthew expresses that he is unable to turn Lavinia away after all she has done for him. He stands by his choice, yet is unable to give away the lucky charm Mary gave him to take to the front.
Richard, not content with Mary's assurances about Matthew, asks Anna to spy on Mary for him. But she refuses, then tells Mrs. Hughes and Carson about Richard's proposal. This confirms it for Carson — he cannot work for a man of such poor character. He tells Mary that he won't be going to Haxby and she is furious at both Carson and Anna.
Bates is troubled. He confesses to Anna that, at Vera's request, he had bought her the rat poison months ago. She urges him to tell the police but he fears that to tell them would make a case against him. Worse still, he shows Anna a letter Vera had written a friend before his last visit in which Vera stated that she was afraid for her life. Damning evidence pointing to his guilt is piling up. But Anna is determined to stand by him. She requires that he accept her love and support, and knowing that if he were to be arrested she wouldn't have access to him unless they were married, she insists they move their wedding date forward.
The war is over but Sybil doesn't want to revert to the old way of life. She finally tells Branson that he is her ticket away from this house and this life, in full knowledge that if she runs away with him there will be no way back.
Thomas is still at Downton but knows that his welcome is running out. He has made a contact in the black market and shells out all his savings, receiving a store of food which he intends to sell at a large profit. With O'Brien's encouragement, Mrs. Patmore agrees to try Thomas's supply with the ingredients for the wedding cake. But the savvy cook won't pay Thomas until she's tasted the finished product. Daisy is eager to bake the cake, wanting to impress Mrs. Patmore. But her finished product in inedible — Thomas's materials are spoiled and cut with plaster dust. Upon learning this news, Thomas goes to his store and discovers that he has been swindled out all of his money. He is defeated and hopeless, for there are no jobs and he has no money left. Desperate, he attempts to get back into Carson's good graces. But the butler wants him out as soon as possible.
When Sybil is missing from dinner, having sent word that she feels ill, a suspicious Mary finds Sybil's door locked. She gets Anna to borrow the keys and they discover an empty room; Sybil has eloped with Branson and they are headed for Gretna Green. With Edith behind the wheel, she, Mary and Anna set out to try to stop her. They see the old car parked outside a pub, burst in on the still-chaste lovers, and persuade Sybil to return to Downton. Although Sybil declares that her love for Branson will not be swayed, Mary is hopeful that it will soon cool.
As stories of the Spanish flu circulate, Cora informs a sullen Robert that she will be busy helping Isobel with her refugee work.
Three months later, Downton is being readied for Matthew and Lavinia's wedding. Sybil informs her sisters that after the wedding she will be leaving for Dublin with Branson, who's secured a job as a journalist. They tell the family, and Robert is furious, denying them his blessing. Carson orders Branson to leave immediately. Visiting Branson in his rooms at the pub, Robert tries to pay him off, but the chauffeur will not be bought.
Mrs. Hughes learns that Mrs. Bryant has written asking to meet Charlie, and they arrive with a heartbreaking offer: they will raise Charlie and give him a better life but Ethel can have no part in it. After much anguish, the former housemaid informs Mrs. Hughes that she is unable to part with her son.
Just as the wedding day draws near, the Spanish flu arrives, striking down Carson, Lavinia and Cora swiftly and mercilessly. Out of enormous guilt, O'Brien takes it upon herself to be Cora's sole caregiver, tending to her needs as Cora's condition worsens. O'Brien attempts to ask for Cora's forgiveness but Cora is too fevered to understand. While Cora suffers, Robert and Jane, behind closed doors, passionately kiss. Fortunately, Robert is brought to his senses when Bates interrupts them. Meanwhile, Anna and Bates, who married earlier that day, spend the night together in a room Mary had specially prepared for them.
As Lavinia rests upstairs, Matthew and Mary share a tender and honest moment in the hall and they kiss, but are interrupted: Lavinia has come down the stairs. She seems better but Clarkson urges them to postpone the wedding. Selflessly, Lavinia suggests that perhaps they should call it off entirely, as it turns out that she heard the conversation and witnessed the kiss. Matthew feels terribly guilty and insists the wedding will proceed when she is better. However, during the evening, Lavinia takes a turn for the worse and dies with Matthew at her bedside.
As Lavinia dies, Cora starts to feel better and apologizes to Robert for neglecting him. Carson recovers as well, but not before Thomas is reinstated in the house. Ever the opportunist, he'd make himself indispensable, and Carson feels he cannot fire the footman after all that he has done.
At Lavinia's funeral, Daisy sees Mr. Mason by William's grave, and as she speaks of William, she cries for him with genuine love. But Lavinia's grim graveside offers no such condolences for the guilt-ridden Matthew. Filled with shame, he tells Mary that they are responsible for her death and that they are cursed. With deep compassion, Mary agrees and allows herself to be led away by Richard, resigned to her future with him.
The tragic events have given Robert pause and when he finds Branson with Sybil at the funeral, he gives them his blessing. But as the servants return to Downton, they are greeted by an anxious Mrs. Patmore, who informs Bates that two men await him in the servant's hall. To Anna's horror, and to the astonishment of the staff, Bates is arrested for his wife's murder.