Downton Abbey returned for its sixth season Monday night, opening in the early spring of 1925 – 13 years after the Crawley family was first introduced.

Downton Abbey Season 6 Premiere Recap

Out on a fox hunting jaunt with her father Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) and a number of others, Mary (Michelle Dockery) realizes that a woman appears to be stalking her. Distracted by the unwanted guest, Mary eventually falls from her horse. As it turns out, she’s a former hotel chambermaid, who means to blackmail Mary.

In exchange for her silence in regard to Mary’s secret rendezvous with Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen), she wants Mary to pay up a thousand pounds. “Your lot’s finished,” she hisses at Mary within her own bedroom. “You’re going down and we’re coming up.” Despite the threats, Mary seems resolute against paying up.

Downstairs, Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) is hard at work baking a cake as George and Marigold lick at the spoons, while also trying to help Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) through her pre-marriage worries. Though Mrs. Hughes has agreed to marry Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), she’s not sure what Carson expects from her in the bedroom once they wed.

After a chat with Mrs. Hughes, Mrs. Patmore goes to Mr. Carson to explain Mrs. Hughes concerns. In response, Mr. Carson expresses his love for Mrs. Patmore, and also his desire for “a full marriage” and to “live as closely as two people can in the time that remains to us on earth.” Upon hearing Mr. Carson’s eloquently stated response, Mrs. Hughes is more than happy to give him his full marriage.

Marriage woes are also in store for Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle). Anna, who is now out on bail after being arrested in the murder of Mr. Green (Nigel Harman), has some upsetting news for her husband. She informs him that it’s unlikely that they will be able to have children together as she’s already suffered three miscarriages. Anna sadly tells Mr. Bates that she fears she’s let him down, but he tells her that she could never. And, the couple does have some good news to celebrate, as Anna is cleared of Mr. Green’s murder.

As for the ever single Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), she is having it out with Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) over the future of the local hospital. While the Dowager Countess is insisting that the town keep control of the establishment, Isobel is fighting for a larger country hospital to take it over. As the argument is had during dinner, others weigh in on the matter as well. While Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) agrees with Isobel’s take on the situation, Dr. Richard Clarkson (David Robb) is inclined to agree with Violet.

Edith (Laura Carmichael), meanwhile, is dealing with work concerns. She’s unsure if she should move to London, where she’d be better able to focus on her publishing house, or remain in the country. She’s further stressed after a call from her editor, who’s been giving her a tough time. Her mother, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), gives Edith her full support in her career pursuits, though Mary is less encouraging. She even delivers a low blow about Edith inheriting the business from Mr. Gregson.

Perhaps foreshadowing what could be to come at Downton, while the Crawleys are still enjoying relative security and wealth, Mallerton Hall, a neighboring estate, is up for auction. Everything within the house is for sale – from trophies to family heirlooms. Could Downton’s downfall be next?