Series Two: Episode Eight
Cora and the Earl are busy making plans for Matthew’s wedding when they are horrified by the news that Sybil intends marrying one of their servants. The Earl threatens to disinherit Sybil and tells her that she will become an outcast from society, but she is steadfast. He then switches his attack to Branson, attempting to bribe him to give up his claims on Sybil, but he too rebuffs him.
The Spanish influenza epidemic reaches Downton, with Cora, Carson and Lavinia all catching the illness. Thomas takes advantage of Carson’s incapacity to take on more work in the house, hoping to impress so that he can be offered a good job that would help him to recover from his losses on the black market.
With Lavinia confined to her bed, Matthew tells Mary of Violet’s advice that he should end his engagement to Lavinia and marry Mary instead. They both agree that this would be dishonorable and unfair to Lavinia. At the end of their conversation, they cannot resist kissing, and Lavinia, who was coming down the stairs at the time, sees and hears everything. She tells Matthew that she thinks they should end their engagement, but he refuses. Meanwhile, Sir Richard comes to the Abbey in an attempt to stop Matthew and Mary taking the opportunity offered by Lavinia’s confinement to spend time together.
Major Bryant’s parents come back to see Ethel. They tell her that they want to take her son (Charlie) away and raise him themselves, and she would never see him again. Although she realizes what a good chance this would give him in life she cannot bear the thought of being separated from her child and so refuses.
The Earl finds that he cannot master his attraction to Jane and once again makes a pass at her, and this time she reciprocates. They plan to meet in the night, but they are interrupted, and Jane realizes their actions were wrong. She hands in her notice and leaves, with the Earl promising to support her son through life.
Cora becomes seriously ill with the ‘flu and O’Brien devotes herself to her care, racked with guilt at having caused her previous accident and miscarriage. Cora recovers but Lavinia dies, telling Matthew that it will be easier for him if she does. The pain and guilt this causes him leads him to tell Mary that it is now more impossible than ever for them to marry.
All these dramatic events, as well as his own poor behavior, give the Earl a little perspective and he finally, if rather grudgingly, gives his blessing to Sybil and Branson’s marriage as they set off for a new life in Dublin, where Branson has landed a job as a journalist.
Anna insists that she wants to marry Bates so she can stand by him as his wife, no matter what the future might bring. Mary gives them her blessing and they secretly start their married life in one of the Abbey’s guest rooms. The next morning the police arrive and arrest Bates for Vera’s murder.