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'Downton Abbey' recap: Tummy troubles

'Downton Abbey' recap: Tummy troubles
Phyllis Logan as Mrs. Hughes and Jim Carter as Mr. Carson. (Nick Briggs / Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for "Masterpiece")

At the risk of sounding insensitive, it would be kind of perfect if Lord Grantham died. Just hear me out. "Downton Abbey" has charted the slow demise of the aristocracy over six seasons; what better way to end the series than with the (literal) demise of the show's most prominent aristocrat?

We all knew when Lord Grantham complained of a stomachache this week that something was going to happen, but who among us could have predicted his ulcer would burst, sending blood and gore all over the dinner table in a scene so graphic it felt more like "The Walking Dead" than "Downton Abbey"? And that he'd do so during a visit from the future prime minister, Neville Chamberlain? Talk about drama.

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The question now is what will become of Lord Grantham. Best case scenario, he survives the gastrectomy and faces a dramatically altered lifestyle; no more eight-course meals followed by port for him. Worst case scenario, he dies.

Either way, Downton Abbey is headed for a very different future under Mary and Branson's stewardship. Mrs. Patmore sums it up best when she observes of Carson, "Everything he's based his life on has proved mortal." Of course, she's referring both to Lord Grantham and to the aristocratic system. Mary and Branson's ascension parallels the broader social changes for women and working-class people of the era. (Mary has even taken to wearing menswear-inspired looks, in case we missed the fact that she's now in charge.)

Grantham's right-hand man Carson is also facing tummy troubles of a much less dire kind and may need a gastrectomy if his marriage to Mrs. Hughes is to survive. While his new bride is an expert housekeeper, it turns out she's less skilled in the culinary arts. She even has the audacity to serve him bubble and squeak as a vegetable with lamb! The horror!  Carson even asks Mrs. Patmore to give Mrs. Hughes a refresher course in the kitchen because "it's been a while since she played with her patty pans and she has some catching up to do." Could be he more patronizing if he tried?

As usual, Mrs. Patmore offers up some sage, highly quotable advice for Mrs. Hughes: "I think the correct response is to say 'men' and sigh."

Here's one of those seemingly slight "Downton" subplots that is actually quite revealing. Mrs. Hughes probably hasn't cooked for herself in decades, because she eats most of her meals at Downton with the other servants. She's never really had to learn how to cook.

It's also a reminder that Carson, as lovely and big-hearted as he is, is used to being imperious; in fact, it's his job. Let's hope, for Mrs. Hughes' sake, he learns to take it down a notch. Men. Sigh.

Mary could also learn a thing or two about humility in relationships. Despite her evident attraction to the highly swoon-worthy (but not especially wealthy) Henry Talbot, Mary tells Branson she won't marry down. "I don't want to be grander than my husband." I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'd be more worried about the race car driving than his bank account. Do I need to remind Mary how her first husband died? Something tells me Mary is the kind of girl who could get used to drinking pints at the local public house. And maybe, now that she suspects the truth about Marigold, she'll soften up a bit.

Speaking of softening up: In a subplot that felt a bit too "After School Special" (or "Wayne's World" Oscar clip ) for my liking, Thomas discovers that Andy never learned to read. Being illiterate hasn't hurt Andy too much in his service job, but if he wants to rear those pigs (and, presumably, win Daisy's heart) he'll need to master his ABCs. Thomas, get to work!

Follow @MeredithBlake on Twitter.

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