This is a recap. There are major spoilers here.
It is a few weeks after Rose’s wedding, and the family is getting ready to join the Sinderbys at Brancaster Castle, which they have rented for a shooting expedition. With Anna in prison, Bates isn’t going, so Thomas will be acting as Robert’s valet, while Baxter will be taking care of Cora, Edith, and Mary.
While preparations are underway, Mary has gone to visit Anna in Prison. Anna is afraid that it will reflect badly on Mary that she’s come, but Mary assures her that it will help the case, that everyone at Downton can act as a character witness for her, proving that killing Green just is not in her nature.
At lunch, the family discusses Anna’s case, with assurances that she will be exonerated. Robert tells everyone that he has an appointment in York, but doesn’t say what it is about.
Downstairs, Carson and Hughes discuss their plans to buy a house together. Carson has identified several candidates and wants to look at them the next day. Hughes wonders what the hurry is.
The next morning, the family departs for Brancaster. Cora says Rose’s mother, Susan, is furious that she’s not been invited. She also wants to know what Robert was doing in York, but he won’t tell her. As they get in the car, Robert sees Edith saying goodbye to Marigold and wonders to Cora if he should tell Edith he knows the truth about the child.
At Brancaster, the Sinderbys are waiting for everyone’s arrival. Their Butler, Stowell, will be supervising the castle’s staff, and the staff doesn’t like it.
When the Crawleys and their entourage arrive, they are greeted by Rose and Atticus, who have just returned from their honeymoon in Venice. As everyone is introduced, Stowell is rude to Tom. Thomas introduces himself to Stowell as Lord Grantham’s valet, and Stowell informs him that he will also be serving as a footman, which pleases Thomas not at all.
Back at Downton, Violet and Isobel are having tea. Shrimpie has found Princess Kuragin and she will be arriving at the Dower House the next day. Kuragin has been invited to dinner for a reunion. Violet also wants Isobel and Merton there to cut the tension.
At tea at Brancaster, Stowell orders Thomas around while Lord Sinderby and Robert make plans for the next day’s shooting. Stowell refuses to serve Tom. A big deal is made of the fact that Rose’s parents haven’t been invited because of the divorce.
The next day, while shooting, Cora demands once again to know where Robert went in York. He still won’t tell her. Mary asks Lord Sinderby if maybe he should accept the situation with Susan and Shrimpie and move past it, but he is unwilling to do so.
Meanwhile, at the prison, Bates and Anna are having a conversation. Anna is afraid they know of an incident in her past, where he stepfather tried to molest her and she defended herself by cutting him with a knife. The stepfather did not press charges, but there was a record of the incident which could have been discovered, and which would look really bad for Anna.
Back at Brancaster, lunch is being served. Stowell won’t serve Tom without prompting. Rose says he doesn’t seem to like Lord Sinderby much either, and Mary wonders what could be done to put the butler in his place.
Carson and Hughes look at houses. They discuss how one is not suitable, but move on to the next on their list, Hughes clearly reticent about something.
Baxter and Mary discuss Stowell, and Baxter reveals he talks rudely about Sinderby downstairs. They enlist Thomas to come up with a way to get Stowell in trouble, and Thomas is all over it. He says he has an idea and Baxter says she will help. Thomas says they will need a paper and pen.
At the Dower House, Prince and Princess Kuragin are reunited. It’s very awkward. The Princess complains a lot and is very unhappy. The two do not seem to be very happy to see each other.
At Brancaster, Thomas delivers a note for the cook.
At dinner, Atticus reveals he’s invited the estate agent, as well as a neighbor, to come shooting with them. The neighbor has a guest he’ll be bringing along, which means Atticus won’t be shooting. As the meal is served, Lord Sinderby is given different food than the rest of them. He’s angry, and demands of Stowell to know what’s going on. Stowell says he thought it was a request from Lord Sinderby, and argues with him. Lord Sinderby ends up shouting at him, then calls Thomas an idiot. Thomas is obviously angry and seems to have a new target: Lord Sinderby.
Dinner ends at the Dower House, and Princess Kuragin excuses herself early. As Prince Kuragin leaves he wonders if this is where he and Violet say goodbye forever. She tells him it is and it can’t be any other way.
As they get ready for bed, Robert seems to be in physical distress and Cora demands to know what is going on. He tells her he’s been having pains in his chest, and the doctor thinks he might have angina. Cora is alarmed and demands that he take it easy and excuse himself from shooting, which he refuses to do. He switches topics and tells Cora that he’d decided to tell Edith he knows the truth.
He goes to Edith’s room and tells her he knows about Marigold, and doesn’t judge her, saying that they must do what is best for the child, and that’s obviously to be with her mother, even if no one else can know the secret. Edith tearfully tells her father that’s she’s sorry, but he tells her he’s the one who should be apologizing to her.
Thomas meets with Stowell in his office, and it is clear they have a common enemy: Lord Sinderby. Thomas gets Stowell to spill all the dirt he knows about him, and makes a plan.
The next day, before going shooting, Atticus and Rose announce that he’s been offered a job in New York, at which point Tom tells them that he’s definitely going to Boston to work with his cousin.
Back at the jail, Bates and Anna are meeting with the lawyer. The news is not good, the police can prove Anna has a history of violence, she had a motive for killing Green, an opportunity to do so, and a witness that places her at the scene.
Back at Downton, Isobel tells Merton that she won’t marry him if his sons are opposed. He tells her he will find a way to make them change their minds.
Carson and Hughes have a meeting in his office. He’s identified the house they should buy together. Hughes then tells him she can’t go in with him. She has a sister who’s mentally handicapped, and all her extra money has gone to pay for her care. She’s broke. As Carson is processing this, Bates comes in and asks to use the phone. He’s had news from the lawyer, and it’s not good.
During Shooting, Mary is paired with Talbot, the man Atticus gave up his place for. She teases him about this and they talk, Mary informing him that she’s not married. They seem to hit it off. As do Edith, and the estate agent, Pelham. As everyone returns for lunch, Robert is in obvious pain, and Cora demands that he let Atticus take his place.
Later, during tea, Brancaster has a visitor: A woman named Diana and her child, named Daniel (which is Lord Sinderby’s name). It’s obvious that this is Lord Sinderby’s mistress and child. Rose senses what is going on immediately, and tells Sinderby to let her save him. She pretends that Diana is an old friend come to visit her, and even gets Mary and Robert in on the ruse. Diana says that she was summoned from London and she thought it was an invitation from Sinderby, who was supposed to be alone.
Rose thinks Stowell is behind it, while Mary wonders if this was part of Thomas’ machinations. Rose finds Stowell and tells him she’ll try to keep him out of it if he will be kinder to Tom. Later, Lord Sinderby finds Robert, Mary, and Rose and asks them to keep the secret, which they say they’ll do. He praises Rose for her quick-thinking, and she beams.
Back at Downton, Bates leaves notes for Carson and Robert with Molesly. The notes tell them that Bates has confessed to Green’s murder and fled.
After dinner at Brancaster, Tom dances with Edith and tells her he knows about Marigold. She asks him to keep it a secret from Mary. He says he will and that he does not judge her. They are interrupted when Pelham asks to dance with Edith. Mary also dances, with Talbot, who wants to know all about what was going on, but she refuses to tell him.
Molesly is at the Bates’ cottage looking for clues to where Bates has gone. He finds a photograph of Bates and seems to have an idea.
The next day, Mary catches Talbot as he is leaving and says goodbye. They both express the hope that they will see each other again.
As everyone returns to Downton, Robert announces that Bates has gone, hoping to save Anna. Thomas wonders if he will stay on as Valet to Lord Grantham. Later, Robert tells Cora that Bates has left a way to get in touch with him, and the two agree not to tell the police.
The next morning, the lawyer returns to Downton with Anna, who has been released on Bail.
Before dinner, Robert has two announcements: They have sold the Della Francesca painting for a good sum, and that he has an ulcer, not angina as was feared. Cora tells him he will go on a special diet, and can’t have alcohol. He agrees to abstain until Christmas Eve.
With the sale of the Della Francesca, there’s enough money to finally hire a footman to replace Jimmy. Thomas, Daisy, and Mrs. Hughes all express the hope that Carson will hire Andy.
Christmas Eve arrives and Andy has indeed been hired. Everyone is decorating the tree. Carson is telling Hughes that he bought the house, when they are interrupted by Molesly, who says he and Baxter have news.
They tell Robert, Carson and Hughes that they found the pub where Bates had lunch in York, and they can prove his innocence so he can return. Mary wonders if that means they’ll re-arrest Anna but Robert has found out that the witness is waffling, and Anna can no longer be placed on the scene; she seems to be out of the woods for now.
Isobel has received a letter from Merton’s son, Larry, saying he will not reconsider his opposition to the marriage. Sadly, Isobel breaks up with Merton, telling him she won’t be the cause of such strife in a family.
Later, at the Christmas Eve celebration Violet takes Isobel aside to commiserate. Isobel wonders why Violet fought so hard to find Princess Kuragin, and Violet says it’s because the Princess saved her from making a big mistake with the prince and she owed her. The Prince and Princess are in Paris now, out of her life.
At the celebration, Robert, who hasn’t had alcohol in a while, is drunk and gets up to make a sloppy speech, but is saved by Tom.
Carson takes Hughes aside to tell her something. He’s put the house in both of their names. Hughes is baffled and tells him he’s made a mistake, that he shouldn’t want to be stuck with her. But he tells her it’s no mistake and that he does. Then he asks her to marry him. She waits a minute, then joyfully says yes.
Upstairs, Robert gives a speech saying good bye to Tom. As everyone watches and listens, Bates sneaks up behind and surprises Anna. The two leave to be joyfully reunited, their problems forgotten for this one moment.
Chad Grayson has been a gas station attendant, sold video games over the phone, and even was the person who cuts the mold off the cheese in the cheese factory, but spent most of his career as a middle school Language Arts and History teacher. He is now a full-time stay at home dad and writer. You can find him on twitter at @chadgrayson and on his blog at cegrayson.wordpress.com.