Even vacations are dramatic for the Crawleys. The “Downton Abbey” Season 5 finale followed the family from their summer vacation with Rose’s (Lily James) in-laws all the way to Christmas, allowing time for plenty of scandal. Episode 9 featured tons of secrets, including affairs, illegitimate children and murder confessions. However, the episode lightened up when someone got engaged.  

The Murder Confession: Before heading off on a hunting trip, Mary (Michelle Dockery) went to visit Anna (Joanne Froggatt) in jail. Anna worried the visit would make it into the papers, but Mary said she didn’t care. Mary believed Anna was innocent and was positive it could be proven. Anna wasn’t so sure.

When Bates (Brendan Coyle) visited, Anna revealed that, like her husband, she had a dark past. Her stepfather had abused her, and eventually, she threatened him with a knife. She cut him, and she never got in trouble for it. Yet, the police somehow knew she had threatened her stepfather. Bates said it didn’t matter, and she would still be proved innocent.

A lawyer told Bates there was a strong case against his wife. Bates decided he had to do something drastic. He left Molesley (Kevin Doyle) with a handful of letters and went off to London. The letters revealed he left Downton, seemingly for good. Mr. Molesley went to Bates and Anna’s cottage to figure out where he may have gone.

Bates revealed in a letter to Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) he was going to take the blame for Mr. Green’s murder. Bates left Robert a forwarding address and phone number in Ireland. Still, Molesley wanted to find an alibi. He took Bates’ picture to York to figure out which pub he was in the day Mr. Green was killed.

Once Christmas came around, Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) and Molesley finally found the pub. They had spent their days off showing Mr. Bates’ photo. A bartender actually had a clear memory of Bates, and he was willing to swear to that.

The lawyer said the witness who saw Anna was having doubts, so it seemed they wouldn’t have to worry about Anna getting arrested again after Bates was proved innocent. Anna's husband returned to her in time for Christmas.

The Affair: After five years missing, Princess Kuragin (Jane Lapotaire) was found. She was delivered to Violet (Maggie Smith) first, and the Dowager Countess invited Isobel and Lord Merton to greet the princess. Isobel (Penelope Wilton) thought the Prince (Rade Sherbedgia) might want to be alone with the Princess, but he said it would be easier with other people in the room.

“The presence of strangers is our only guarantee of good behavior,” Violet explained.

The Princess was still incredibly rude. After she went up to bed, the Prince asked the Dowager Countess if she still refused to have an affair with him. Violet had to turn him down once again.

“I will never again receive an immoral proposition from a man. Was I so wrong to savor it?” Violet sadly asked Isobel. 

At Christmas, Isobel revealed she and Kuragin “fell madly in love.” They were even going to elope and leave their families behind, but Violet’s maid went to the Princess. The Princess physically pulled Violet out of the carriage she was in. “Within a week I felt she had pulled me back from the brink of the abyss. And now at last you see, we are even. She saved me and I saved her,” Violet told Isobel.

The Breakup: Meanwhile, Isobel tried to turn down Lord Merton’s proposal. She claimed she couldn’t break up his family. Lord Merton asked her if she would marry him if his children liked her. She said she would, and he accepted the challenge.

Isobel received a letter from Lord Merton’s son, and he said he would never accept Isobel. Lord Merton swore he loved Isobel, and it didn’t matter what his sons thought. Yet, Isobel said she couldn’t tear apart his family. They had to end their relationship.

The Illegitimate Child: The Crawley’s were off to visit Rose’s in-laws in a castle in Northumberland. While Lord Sinderby (James Faulkner) was happy to invite Rose’s cousins, he wouldn’t invite her parents. He didn’t approve of their divorce.

The only person ruder than Lord Sinderby was his butler Stowell (Alun Armstrong). He forced Barrow (Rob James-Collier) to be a footman and blatantly disrespected Tom Branson (Allen Leech). He even revealed to Barrow he knew all about Anna’s imprisonment. He looked down on the whole family, but he also seemed to dislike Lord Sinderby’s family as well.

Lady Mary eventually decided she’d had enough. She asked Baxter to send Barrow after Stowell. After all, if anyone could cause trouble, it was Barrow. He forged a note to the cook that messed with Lord Sinderby’s dinner. Of course, the Aldridge patriarch yelled at Stowell during dinner.

Barrow didn’t just stop at embarrassing Stowell, though. Lord Sinderby called Barrow stupid for following Stowell’s lead, and Barrow decided to get revenge. While drunk, Stowell revealed Lord Sinderby’s secrets to Barrow.

Then, a woman named Diana Clark (Alice Patten) arrived at the castle with a son called Daniel (Lord Sinderby’s first name). Lord Sinderby was immediately panicked, but Rose stepped in. She claimed Diana was an old friend. Diana quietly told her that she received a letter telling her to come by. Diana quickly left without making a scene, but Rose wanted to confront Stowell.

Stowell asked if she would tell Lord Sinderby about his indiscretion. “I can’t decide,” Rose said. “But in the mean time, I hope you can be more polite to Mr. Branson while he’s with us.”

Lord Sinderby thanked Rose, Mary and Lord Grantham for pretending to know the woman. “I see now that we are lucky to have you in the family,” he said to Rose. He even said he would invite her parents to the castle.

Of course, their act didn’t fool everyone. While out shooting, Mary met a friend of the Sinderby’s agent called Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode). Mary was a bit rude to him because he was an unexpected guest, but they eventually bonded. He even knew something was wrong when Diana came around. “Naturally I’m not going to answer any of your questions,” Mary said. “But I’m impressed you should ask them. Well done.”

Mary even invited him to stop at Downton if he was ever in the area.

The Engagement: Of course, Mary wasn’t the only one experiencing love in the Season 5 finale. Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) started to look at real estate for a bed and breakfast. However, Mrs. Hughes revealed that she couldn’t buy any property. Her sister was handicapped, and Mrs. Hughes was paying for her sister’s care at a facility, which drained her savings. She apologized for leading him on.

At Christmas, Carson revealed he bought a place and registered it in both of their names. Mrs. Hughes was grateful, but she thought that it was a rash decision. She said she couldn't accept it. After all, they didn’t know what the future would hold.  “You don’t want to be stuck with me,” she said.

“But that’s the point,” Carson said.

“What is?” Mrs. Hughes asked.

“I do want to be stuck with you,” Carson assured her.

“I’m not sure I’m hearing you right,” Mrs. Hughes said.

“You are if you think I’m asking you to marry me,” Carson said.

Mrs. Hughes thought it was amazing that she could still get a proposal at her age. Then she gave him her answer: “Of course I’ll marry you, you old booby. I thought you’d never ask.”

Of course, the 95-minute finale was loaded with other important storylines: 

  • Lord Grantham was experiencing some pains. A doctor said he might have angina. Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) was concerned, but Robert didn’t want to tell her about it. Eventually, he had to tell his wife about his health. He had some tests done and discovered he had an ulcer. 
  • Robert finally talked to Edith (Laura Carmichael) about Marigold. He revealed he knew Marigold was her daughter. Edith immediately said she wouldn’t give her daughter up and begged her father for forgiveness. Robert made it clear he didn’t need to forgive her and said they would keep this news within the family.
  • Tom also revealed to Edith he knew Marigold was her daughter. Edith told him Mary was the only one who didn’t know.
  • Rose and Atticus (Matt Barber) were leaving for New York soon, and Tom was set to leave for Boston in January. “Oh I’ll be back one day,” Tom promised. Still, Robert took the time to tell Tom how much he grew to love him and even made a speech in front of everybody at Christmas.

“Downton Abbey” will return for Season 6, but a date has not been announced yet.