This episode saw just about everyone in Downton undergoing some sort of transformation. Everyone, except, of course, the Dowager Countess, who is still banging on about that hospital and enlisting her pal Lady Shackleton (the always welcome Harriet Walter) to join her cause with this humble plea: "Are you here to help, or to irritate?" She's here to help, but it's Mary who reaps the benefits. It turns out she's aunt to the dashing Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), who is, alas, not heir to a mumsy womenswear retailer but rather a race car driver, and not even a NASCAR one at that. He is, however, very handsome and pays Mary compliments like "you are the opposite of shabby." What's not to like? With the Carsons on their honeymoon/long-awaited sex-fest, Thomas has been bumped up to butler. That gives him license to boss everyone around, but still does nothing to thaw the cold shoulder Andy's been giving him. Speaking of power trips, Daisy's acting so riled up about the prospect of Lady Crawley going back on her implied promise of Yew Tree Farm to Mr. Mason that Mrs. Patmore has taken to calling her both Karl Marx and Madame Defarge. Can we join Mrs. Patmore's book club, please? Indeed, Branson's conversations with Mary suggest that the plan is to use Yew Tree Farm for themselves. Daisy has a word with Branson, but that doesn't stop her from getting so worked up that she storms upstairs to tell off Lady Crawley for leaving her father-in-law high and dry. Cora stops her just in time to tell her the good news: Mr. Mason will get the farm after all. Madame Defarge retreats and counts her lucky stars she didn't blow a gasket. Mr. Mason's good fortune hasn't been cleared by Mary, however. That's because she's in London with Anna, who needs that cervical stitch STAT before she has another miscarriage. Mary manages to squeeze in a date with Henry while Anna has her procedure. All goes well and Anna finally confirms to Bates that's she pregnant. Yay.
Perhaps the biggest transformation of all is that of former housemaid Gwen (Rose Leslie), who left to
fight in Westeros pursue a secretarial career. She's now Mrs. Harding, who is invited with her husband to tell the Crawleys about her endeavor to help underprivileged women find work. ("It's marvelous for ordinary women to aim at rich and fulfilling careers," Cousin Isobel says as the eyes roll back in our heads.) Her former employers don't recognize her, but Anna and Thomas do. Thomas, of course, takes the opportunity to call her out during a luncheon for having been a maid. Gwen recovers by sharing her inspiring story and revealing Lady Sybil's involvement. Branson looks touched and Mary and Edith feel like assholes.
The episode ends with the newlyweds returning from their honeymoon. Everyone's tripping over calling them Mr. and Mrs. Carson, but this is one transition they needn't bother with. They'll be sticking with Carson and Mrs Hughes, thanks. We'll toast to that.