It is the spring of 1925 and on a sunny day Downton is hosting a fox hunt. As they make to leave, Cora reminds Robert that there is a hospital board meeting later that afternoon, which she feels he is missing on purpose. He doesn’t argue, and indeed confesses later to Mary that this is indeed what is happening. No one knows why the board meeting has been called or why it seems so urgent.
As the hunt gets underway, a strange woman is watching, and catches Mary’s eye. Carson tells the woman where she can go to watch the hunt.
In the kitchen, Mrs. Patmore and Thomas are entertaining the children. Patmore asks Hughes if she and Carson have set a date for the wedding yet, and Hughes confesses they haven’t. Patmore finds Hughes in her room and presses the matter. Hughes tells her, in an adorably roundabout way, that she’s worried about what Carson will expect from the marriage, in particular what their physical relationship will entail. She asks Patmore to talk to Carson, and find out what his intentions are. Patmore doesn’t want to do it, but agrees anyway.
On the hunt, Mary sees the strange woman watching her, which distracts her to the point that she falls off her horse. Robert stops but she tells him she’s fine and the hunt resumes.
Back in the library, Edith is on the phone, being yelled at by the editor of the magazine she inherited from Michael Greggson. It all comes down to the fact that he doesn’t like working for a woman. Cora asks her if she might sell the magazine to get rid of the bother, but Edith says she wants to keep it.
At the hospital board meeting, Violet has news. She’s heard from a friend that the county wants to take over their local hospital. Violet is aghast at this news, wanting to retain local control. But Isobel thinks it’s a good idea, as it will lead to more modern treatments and streamlined fundraising. Lord Merton agrees with Isobel, Dr. Clarkson with Violet and Cora is undecided.
The hunt returns, and Mary is intercepted by the woman who’s been watching her. Her name is Rita Bevin and she was a maid at the hotel Mary and Tony Gillingham stayed at during their tryst in Liverpool. She says she has proof, and will expose the affair if Mary doesn’t give her 1000 pounds. Mary tells her that she won’t pay, and Bevin tells her she’ll be back.
Robert and Carson have a conversation in which he intimates that he’s thinking about cutting down the staff, as times have changed and most people do not live as they’ve been living. Carson tells him that they already have, but understands that change must come.
Mary tells Anna about the blackmail plot, and Anna is aghast. Mary says she won’t pay because she confident the woman will just keep asking for more and more money. Mary asks Anna about what has been going on, because she seems like she’s been down lately, but Anna tells her it’s nothing.
Later, Bates asks Anna the same question. She confesses that she’s upset because she thought she was pregnant, but it turns out she isn’t. She tells him that she’s already had two miscarriages and doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to have a baby. Bates tells her it doesn’t matter, all he needs is her, but she’s not mollified by this.
That night at dinner, Mary discusses a letter she’s had from Tom, which makes her think everything is going well for him in Boston. They discuss replacing him as estate agent, and Mary announces that she wants to do the job herself. Robert and Violet are skeptical, but Isobel, of course, thinks it’s a great idea. They move on from this, and Violet and Isobel argue again about the hospital.
Patmore goes to see Carson, and she tries to bring up Hughes’ concerns, but is too embarrassed to get around to it, which only leaves Carson confused.
After dinner, Robert and Violet discuss Robert’s concerns about their way of life and his thoughts concerning reducing staff. Later, Robert joins Mary and Edith. Edith tells him she’s going to London the next day to speak to her editor and deal with Greggson’s flat, which she has been letting out. The tenants are leaving, and Edith isn’t sure if she wants to let it out again or use it herself.
At the Dower House, Denker is getting Violet ready for bed when Violet tells her about the possible staff reductions at Downton. She makes Denker swear not to say anything to anyone about it.
Hughes asks Patmore if she’s had a chance to talk to Carson. She tells her she tried, but just couldn’t seem to bring it up. She’ll try again.
The next morning, Bevin returns, saying she has a message for Mary from Violet and she must deliver it herself. Reluctantly, Hughes takes her upstairs to Mary. When Hughes leaves, she tries to extort Mary again, but she’s having none of it and has Anna escort her out.
At the hospital, Isobel talks to Dr. Clarkson, and they find that they are on opposite sides of the issue of the county takeover.
Back at Downton, Sergeant Willis has returned to talk to Bates and Anna. He tells him that a woman has confessed to Green’s murder, but Detective Viner isn’t certain the confession in genuine. They need a corroborating witness. For his part, Willis tells them that he believes her, but they need evidence.
In the Library, Robert is telling Cora about a letter they’ve received from Rose which says she’s doing very well in New York, when Mr. Mason arrives. The owners of the estate where he’s a tenant have sold, and he’s received notice that he may have to leave. He asks Robert to find out what is going on. Robert discovers that the estate is indeed being sold, but some of the tenants might be kept on. Nothing is certain. There is an auction coming up, where most of the family’s possessions are going to be sold, which Robert says they should attend.
Daisy hears of this and is very angry on Mason’s behalf.
Denker arrives and tells the staff that she’s heard there will be cutbacks. Thomas asks Carson if he knows anything about it, but Carson just tells him now is not the time to discuss it.
Back at the Dower House, Denker tells Spratt about the cutbacks and intimates that he might be let go. After all, the countess will always need to dress and undress but does she really require a butler? Later, Spratt asks Violet if she’ll please give him warning before letting him go and tells her what Denker said. Violet tells him she’ll take care of everything.
Carson calls Patmore into his office and tells her that he’s quite sure they never really got around to talking about the point of Patmore’s visit last time. Patmore agrees, and after sum hemming and hawing comes out with it. Carson is a little shocked, but after a few moments’ consideration asks Patmore to tells Hughes that he loves her, and wants a true marriage with everything that entails. His speech is lovely, and Patmore is very moved. She says she’ll take his message to Hughes.
Back at Downton, Bevin has returned and demands to see Mary. When Carson tells her she is not home, she says she’ll wait, over his objections. Robert comes in and wants to know what’s going on, and she says she’ll speak to him instead, inviting herself into the library.
Edith and Rosamunde visit the flat, and Edith is still trying to decide what to do with it. She’s at a crossroads in her life, and is considering moving to London full time. She thinks there will be fewer questions about Marigold there.
Mary returns to Downton to be told that Bevin is in talking to Robert, she panics a little and bursts into the library, where Robert is writing Bevin a check. As Bevin goes, he tells her that he knows everything, and is a little disappointed but understands. He only gave Bevin fifty pounds and made her sign a confession of blackmail, which they’ll use if the news ever gets out. He also tells Mary that her refusal to bow to Bevin has made him think she’ll be an able estate agent after all.
Thomas asks for details about the possible reduction from Carson, and is once more put off. He tells Baxter that he’s sure it will be him put on the chopping block.
At Violet’s, Isobel arrives for tea and expresses that hope that despite this disagreement between them, they can remain friends. While she is there, Violet calls in Denker and Spratt. She tells Denker that she’ll miss her when she goes, but couldn’t live without Spratt. Denker is stricken, but Violet tells Isobel she has no intention of losing anyone, but “sometimes it’s good to rule by fear.”
The family plus Daisy go to Mallerton, to the auction. Robert reminisces with the former owners, and is afraid he sees something of Downton’s future. Daisy and Mason view the items up for sale, while Daisy gets angrier and angrier about how Mason is being treated. When she sees the new owners, she goes up to them and basically rips them a new one about how they are treating the tenants. They yell back at her and say, basically, that Mason is definitely out now. Robert and Cora try to intervene, but there’s nothing to be done. Daisy walks away, realizing that she’s just made everything much worse.
Back at Downton, Daisy is worried that she might be fired for her behavior. Everyone is settling in for their afternoon tea when Willis returns. In front of everyone, he tells Bates and Anna that they’ve found a witness and know the confession is genuine. They are officially off the hook. Everyone rejoices, and when Carson tells Robert they news he asks that the good wine should be brought out for a celebration. He raises a toast to British justice, which Bates and Anna reluctantly join, as they’re not sure they believe in it quite as much as Lord Grantham does.
Later, Carson discusses the Daisy issue with Robert and Cora. Cora says she knows there needs to be some consequence, but doesn’t want Daisy fired. Otherwise, they leave the punishment up to Carson.
Robert asks Cora to agree support Violet’s case concerning the hospital, or if she can’t do that, to at least stay out of it. Cora says she can’t do that, as she agrees with Isobel. Robert sighs and says it will be a tense spring.
After Carson and Hughes tell Daisy she gets to keep her job, Hughes wants to have their own conversation. She’s thought about what he said, and has decided that she wants what he wants, a full marriage, with all that entails. It’s finally time to set the date.