A year after Sybil’s death, the Crawleys and selected servants pack up to go on the traditional family vacation to Scotland—for shooting, fishing, and partying at the palatial estate of Violet’s niece Susan and her husband, Shrimpie. Susan and Shrimpie have a bickering marriage and a rebellious daughter, Rose, whose London escapades featured in the previous episode.
Meanwhile, making his way to Scotland for a “coincidental” rendezvous with Edith is her amorous editor, Michael Gregson.
Amour is also in the air back at Downton Abbey, where the new maid, Edna, is plotting romance with Branson; the new grocer, Mr. Tufton, has his eye on Mrs. Patmore (or at least on her cooking); and Dr. Clarkson is steeling himself to pop the question to Isobel.
In other news, Mary is eight months pregnant. Heedless of the risks, she and Matthew go to Scotland. It is there, while fishing, that Matthew and Gregson talk frankly about the latter’s chances with Edith. Like the hero in Jane Eyre, Gregson is married to a madwoman, with whom divorce is impossible. Matthew tells him to forget about Edith, since Robert would never countenance a scandal.
Various intrigues reach a climax at two big social events: a gillies’ ball at Shrimpie’s estate and a village fair near Downton Abbey. At the ball, Edith is defiantly her own woman and tells Gregson that she wants to see more of him, despite Matthew’s advice to cut off the relationship. Shrimpie confides to Robert that he has run his estate into the ground and compliments his cousin on his forward-thinking management of Downton Abbey. Little does Shrimpie know that Robert would be in the same boat were it not for Matthew.
Also at the ball, Anna demonstrates her mastery of the Scottish reel, thanks to Rose’s instruction. O’Brien, for once, is the target of a plot, which she deftly turns back on its perpetrator—Susan’s lady’s maid, Wilkins. Molesley gets gloriously drunk. And Rose is invited to live at Downton Abbey after her parents depart for India, where Shrimpie has been given a colonial post.
At the fair, the Downton men win a tug of war against local toughs, who retaliate by attacking Jimmy when he is alone. Thomas saves the day but gets severely pummeled instead.
After the festivities, Mrs. Patmore learns what an unreliable flirt Mr. Tufton is; Branson comes to his senses about Edna, who is dismissed; and Dr. Clarkson realizes that Isobel has given him the gentlest possible refusal of his proposal.
All that remains is for the fate of Mary’s pregnancy to be settled, for she has gone into early labor. Despite her sister’s fatal experience, Mary and the baby emerge in fine shape, and Matthew gets to meet the culmination of three seasons of plot twists: a male heir, the future Earl of Grantham. Everyone’s prayers have been answered!
But there is one final complication. Elated and driving too fast back to Downton Abbey, Matthew swerves to avoid an oncoming truck, plummets down an embankment, and receives a mortal blow to the head. The newborn heir to the earldom is now the next in line.