The fair has come to town, and with it comes romantic hopes for several Downton Abbey inhabitants. In a triumph of the absurd, Violet asks a baffled Matthew to use his legal acumen to dissolve the entail — the very document by which he is to inherit Downton Abbey. Matthew's findings and his hopes for Downton cement his growing closeness with Robert, and a new warmth suffuses his encounters with Mary. But Mary's thaw doesn't extend to her sister Edith, as their competition becomes crueler. Cora simply wants Mary married, but newly circulating rumors may hinder that aspiration. Meanwhile, Violet's power struggle with Isobel moves from the hospital grounds to the annual flower show as Isobel casts her democratizing gaze upon Violet's prize-winning roses.
A kind gesture by Bates is not lost on Anna; but he cryptically professes to not being capable of more. Sybil discovers the politics of gender and class, with the help of the socialist chauffeur, Branson, and Carson discovers that several valuable bottles of wine have gone missing. The vulnerable kitchen maid Daisy, under increased pressure and ire from a fretful Mrs. Patmore, possesses a dangerous secret that she learned upstairs.
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
When the fair comes to the village, romantic possibility abounds for Downton's staff. The second footman, William, tries to ask Daisy along but just out of spite, Thomas invites the infatuated girl himself then proceeds to bully William in front of her. He is more amused than threatened by Bates's defense of William.
Violet launches another offense on the entail. She surprises Matthew in his office and as the bewildered solicitor tries to regain his composure, she asks him to look into breaking the entail, severing the very channels by which he is to inherit Downton Abbey. Dutifully, he complies, and when he runs into Mary in the village, he expresses his sympathy for her situation as she confides her dissatisfaction with her lot.
As the staff prepares for visits to the fair, Carson tells Mrs. Hughes that several bottles of wine are missing from the pantry. But she, too, is preoccupied with the fair, as a former suitor, Joe Burns, is meeting her there with the hopes that she will leave Downton and marry him. Anna is sick in bed with a cold and cannot go to the fair, so Bates brings her a tray, an act of tenderness and affection.
While most of the staff is down at the fair, Mary helps Matthew meet with Robert to confirm that indeed, the entail is unbreakable, explaining his awkward situation to the man who is becoming more of a mentor and father figure to him. Their growing closeness is mirrored in Matthew and Mary's friendship, which is suffused with a new warmth.
But Mary's resentment about Robert's relationship with Matthew only grows as the earl praises the son he never had about his work thus far at Downton. Hurt and resentful that she has been so overlooked by her father, she retreats in tears, followed by Cora who tries to console her daughter while warning her away from rejecting Matthew, who could be her only hope if news of her transgression were to get out.
William continues to be the target of Thomas' bullying, even with Bates' angry defense. When Mrs. Hughes comforts the homesick footman, she realizes that her place is at Downton and she is satisfied. Bates finds Thomas acting suspiciously in the wine pantry. The footman lies about his presence, but Bates isn't fooled, and when Thomas shares his concern about being spotted stealing wine with O'Brien, she suggests that they shift the blame and accuse Bates of the theft before he can accuse Thomas.
Meanwhile, Sybil has found a like mind in Branson, the chauffeur, who is supplying her with pamphlets about women's rights. Her consciousness awoken, the youngest daughter is dogged in her attempts to help Gwen secure a job as a secretary. Isobel, too, has extended kindness beyond her station. Noticing that Molesley's hands are irritated and raw, she again puts her medical training to use, treating the valet with supplies from the hospital. There she finds Violet, who immediately corrects Isobel's misdiagnosis and handily wins a round in their ongoing clash.
But greater stakes are at play elsewhere: O'Brien and Thomas have noticed that Daisy, spooked by Mary's bedroom, is keeping a secret connecting it to Mr. Pamuk's death. O'Brien exploits Edith's animosity toward Mary by suggesting that the Lady might be able to help the poor kitchen maid by relieving her of her secret, which is somehow related to Mary. In this way, Edith takes O'Brien's bait and learns about Mary and the Turk.
With rumors that Mary is not virtuous circulating in London, Cora resolves that the girl must marry. She encourages Mary to give Sir Anthony Strallan, a stuffy older landowner completely lacking in charm, a chance. Mary refuses, spitefully suggesting that her mother reserve her efforts for Edith, who, lacking in advantages, could use the help. Edith overhears, and at dinner she showers Sir Anthony with interest. But his palate is offended by Mrs. Patmore's pudding, sprinkled liberally with salt instead of sugar, and while the poor cook downstairs confesses in sobs that she is going blind, Mary cruelly mocks the man and then her sister. When Edith strikes back, Mary challenges her sister, claiming that Edith cannot even secure her cast-offs. Effortlessly, Mary charms Sir Anthony, stealing him back from Edith but inadvertently humiliating Matthew who, stung, quickly leaves Downton Abbey for home.
With Molesley the younger healed, it is now his father stuck in between the two titans — with preparations for the annual flower show underway, Isobel deems the senior Mr. Molesley's roses the most worthy of the Grantham Cup, an award typically given to the Dowager Countess every year. As everyone ventures to the village for the show, Anna declares her love for Bates, who is deeply moved but cannot reveal why he is not a free man. Mary attempts to explain her behavior to Matthew but he politely, coolly, excuses himself. Edith, seeing the interaction, cannot help gloating.
As Violet announces the winner of the flower show's Grantham Cup, she "reads" Mr. Molesley even though it again had been awarded to her. The surprised crowd surrounds the old man, weeping with happiness, as Violet is pleased with her new status as benefactor.
But not all surprises are good. By candlelight, Edith seals and addresses a letter to the Turkish Ambassador in London.