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Downton Abbey Season 4: ep. 5 recap

Great hall

This week’s Downton Abbey centered around Robert’s “surprise” birthday party, and the arrival of yet another new character this season, Charles Blake.  The love polygon downstairs took an interesting turn, and Isobel and Violet quarreled over missing knick-knacks.

Warning: Spoilers for episode 5 ahead!

Upstairs, the family is abuzz over the impending arrival of pigs, something I never thought we’d hear on Downton.  But Robert’s decided to get on board with Tom and Mary’s idea to work the land, and Tamworth pigs seem to be their latest idea.

Mary & Blake

Mary is also excited by the news that Evelyn Napier has accepted her invitation to stay at Downton, along with his friend Charles Blake.  Her hope that they will advise them on how to best manage Downton soon fades when, upon their arrival, Charles Blake explains that they aren’t there to help the landowners, but rather to figure out how best to use the land that is being sold off.  The two take an immediate disliking to each other, as Blake feels Mary is an entitled snob, and Mary feels Blake is an enemy who doesn’t care about families like hers.  I liked the dynamic between the two of them, and hope we get to see some fun sparring, which to me is when Mary is at her best.

Rose

“What’s everyone looking like that for?”

Meanwhile, Rose plans the big surprise for Robert’s birthday–and no surprise to us, it’s Jack Ross and his band.  We all knew Rose would find a way to see the charming crooner again.  Ross’s arrival sends shock waves rippling through both upstairs and down.  Not only is their a jazz player in their midst, but a black jazz player.  Mary receives the biggest surprise of the night, finding her cousin Rose doing some serious making out with Ross downstairs in a dark room.  Lest we forget, one of our first encounters with Rose last season was when she went to visit a married “friend” in London, where she stayed in his home for a few hours before heading out to a jazz club.  Looks like Downton hasn’t tamed her as much as her mother had hoped.

Mary, Rose, & Ross

Tom still contemplates the idea of going to America.  While he admits to Isobel that he’s come to love the Crawleys, he doubts another aristocrat is going to fall in love with him, and he’s not so sure the Crawleys would welcome a middle class Irish woman into the family.  As they dance to jazz in the Great Hall, Isobel points out that Downton Abbey, and the Crawleys, have the ability to change with the times, and perhaps he shouldn’t buy that ticket to America just yet.  I’ve enjoyed watching the developing relationship between those two, and it feels like Isobel has taken Tom in as a sort of surrogate son.

Uh oh, Edith

Uh oh, Edith

Elsewhere, Aunt Rosamund’s prediction for Edith looks like it’s coming true.  With Michael Gregson still nowhere to be found, Edith receives a note from the doctor informing her that her symptoms do indeed match those of a first trimester of pregnancy.  And there goes the possibility for an exciting storyline in which Edith becomes a career woman.  Instead we just get little snippets of Edith becoming increasingly worried about the whereabouts of Gregson–now with very good reason since she’s carrying his child.  She’s yet to confide in anyone about the latter, though both her parents finally seem concerned enough to talk to her about what’s going on (I laughed out loud when Cora told Edith her “mother’s instinct” led her to believe something was wrong.  It’s not like Edith was putting on a brave face and hiding her anguish!).

Edith

Downstairs, Alfred receives the exciting news that he has been offered a place in the cooking course at the Ritz after another student dropped out.  Daisy’s heart immediately crumbles, and as expected, she blames Ivy.  Ivy’s got issues of her own, though, since apparently trips to the pub and the movies equal hanky panky privileges to Jimmy.  When he tells her she owes it to him, Ivy realizes what a stand-up guy Alfred was, further angering Daisy.  After she cuts into her, a clueless Ivy asks Mrs. Hughes what that was about, to which Mrs. Hughes responds “Oh, I’d say it’s about the fact you had it coming.”  Mrs. Hughes has seriously gotten some of the best lines this season.

Anna & Bates

Then there’s Anna and Bates, who are still struggling to move on from Anna’s assault.  But “everything is shadowed” for the couple because of it, and while they decide going out to dinner and trying not to think about it for one night might do the trick, they still end up talking about it anyway.  Bates feels like he should have protected her, Anna wants him to stop looking at her as a victim.  And then who should show up to interrupt them but Lady Cora!  She just happens to be at the same “frightful hotel” for an orphanage committee meeting dinner.  But it’s a good thing she is, since the uppity maitre d’ had no wish to seat Mr. and Mrs. Bates at first, until he found out they were acquaintances of Lady Grantham.  At the end of the meal, she butts into their conversation and offers them a ride home (complete with the same creepy smile she had plastered on her face every time she spoke to them).  By butting into said conversation, she overhears that Anna’s been hurt somehow and Bates feels he should have protected her.  She relays the information to Lady Mary, while Baxter is in the room.

Baxter

And Baxter, who is being puppeteered by Thomas for still-unexplained reasons, reports the news, though she’s reluctant to do so.  She likes Lady Cora, but Thomas tells her she needs to decide where her loyalties are: with him, or with her ladyship.

Next week it looks like the rumblings about Uncle Harold and some oil scandal is going to blow up and become a bigger issue.  If he’s looking to Robert for financial advice, he must really be in it deep.

Now it’s your turn!  What did you think of this week’s episode?  And which “Mary suitor” do you like better, Lord Gillingham or Charles Blake?  Is it just me, or does it seem like Fellowes has essentially taken Matthew’s personality (from season 1) and split it in half, giving Lord Gillingham the kind-hearted, sympathetic-to-Mary part, and Charles Blake the “I don’t like rich people and their ways” part?

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Downton Abbey Season 4, ep. 2 recap

Mary & Anthony

At the end of last night’s episode of Downton Abbey, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to approach today’s recap.  Episode 2 depicted a brutal act of violence on one of the most beloved characters, making all other plot lines seem insignificant and petty by comparison.  It was a jarring note that was sharply out of tune with what Downton Abbey fans expect from the show each week.  Yes, we were dealt some emotional blows last season with the loss of two major characters, but there was something about this plot twist that seemed so terribly out of place with the rest of the series.

That being said, I will still recap the episode, leaving my personal thoughts on “that BIG thing that happened” for the end.

Warning: Huge, major spoilers ahead!

This week’s episode begins with a house party at Downton, one that makes old-fashioned Robert remember the good ol’ days before the war.  The purpose of the party is to help cheer Mary up and continue to bring her back around into society.  Anthony “Tony” Foyle (Lord Gillingham), an old family friend, seems to have been invited solely for that purpose.  Even though he’s nearly engaged to a wealthy heiress, he doesn’t do much to hide his new-found fancy for Mary.

Mary & Anthony 2

This causes Mary to go into self-reflection mode, as she tells Anthony that Matthew changed her, and she wonders if she wouldn’t be stronger now if she had been the person she was before Matthew.  But later (after she sees Matthew’s old gramophone while dancing with Anthony), she tells Anna she doesn’t know if she is more in mourning for Matthew or for the person she was when she was with him.  Hopefully Mary will soon find her footing in her Matthew-less world.

Edith & Gregson

Michael Gregson is dragged out to Downton by Edith, who wants her father to get to know him better.  Gregson tries to catch Robert, but as we all know, he’s pretty good at the whole avoidance thing.  Robert is also in his usual “let’s throw money down the drain!” form and loses a tidy little sum to another house guest, Terence Sampson.  Gregson at last endears himself to Edith’s Papa when he uses some old tricks to outsmart Sampson the card sharp, and wins back all of Robert’s money.  So now that Robert likes Gregson, we can anticipate that Fellowes will likely place a new obstacle in Edith and Gregson’s way (besides the whole divorce thing).  Because happy endings just aren’t what he’s about these days.

The other house guest, Sir John Bullock, sets his cap at Rose, and we see them interact a bit, but to me it was mostly background noise as I was trying to keep up with everything else that was going on. (Plus Rose still isn’t my favorite….why the heck didn’t she ask Mary if it was okay to use Matthew’s old gramophone?  Typical teenager.)

Rose

Amidst all this, Tom is feeling like a white-tie-clad fish out of water.  The Dowager tries to help him fit in, but he’s bad at the small talk, he doesn’t know the proper way to address people, and frankly, he has nothing in common with them.  If Matthew had been around, I’m sure he would have kept Tom company and helped ease him into these sorts of situations (since they were once new to Matthew as well), but without him there, Tom’s adrift.  So, cue Edna!  What is this woman’s end game, exactly?  Does she actually like Tom?  Or does she just enjoy messing with his head?  I’m going with the latter.  At the end of the episode, she brings him a huge tumbler of whiskey, suggests he take it to bed with him, and then decides to join them.  Without asking.  Given the scene that took place right before this one, I couldn’t help but think there was some sort of horrible theme Fellowes was trying to inject into the episode.

The big upstairs event of the house party was the performance of opera singer Nellie Melba (portrayed by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa), who Lord Robert and Carson could not figure out where to place (given what happened at the end of the episode, doesn’t this seem so immaterial?).  She’s above a servant, but below a house guest.  Oh, what to do?  In the end Cora solves the problem for them by becoming furious at Robert and inviting Dame Melba down to dinner, where she and Robert bond over a shared love of claret.  Crisis averted.

Robert & Dame Melba

While Mary seems to be coming out of her mourning, Isobel is still mired with grief.  Penelope Wilton’s portrayal of the grieving mother was in top form this episode.  The dinner scene in which she sees Mary laughing was wonderfully done.  She knows it’s not fair to think Mary might grieve for her son forever, but at the same time Isobel is having trouble moving on.

Isobel

While everyone’s having a grand time remembering the good ol’ days upstairs, it’s frantic chaos downstairs to make sure the house party is pulled off successfully.  There are visiting valets and maids, though not as many as Carson would like to see (apparently he has yet to accept the newsflash that many aristocrats are feeling the post-war financial crunch), so that means some of the downstairs staff have to attend to the guests.  But no one is feeling the strain more than Mrs. Patmore, who has a panic attack  while preparing the big dinner and Alfred jumps in to make the sauces (yay, Alfred! For once your character had something else to do besides pining over Ivy!).

Mrs Patmore

But even with all the craziness happening downstairs (Jimmy sprains his wrist while twisting a jar to impress Ivy!  Oh, when will the hi-jinks end?), Lord Gillingham’s valet, Green, still finds time to strike up some friendly card games with the downstairs staff, and takes an instant interest in Anna, something Bates is none too happy about.  But Anna, being the kind, trusting creature that she is, thinks it’s completely harmless.  It turns out to be anything but.  While the entire Downton staff are upstairs attending the performance of Dame Melba, Anna goes downstairs for some headache powder.  There she is cornered by Green and subsequently beaten and raped.  No one is downstairs to hear her screams.  Mrs. Hughes later finds her, huddled shaking in a corner.  Anna begs Mrs. Hughes to keep what she’s seen a secret.  Anna fears that Bates will go after Green and land himself in jail once more.  She makes up a flimsy excuse to Bates, saying the bruises were a result of fainting and smacking her head against the sink as she went down.  She refuses to walk home with him, and goes out into the darkness, crying quietly.

I have no idea where this storyline is going, but Bates is bound to put two and two together and figure out what happened.  I will just be interested to see if he finds out from Anna, or if he figures it out himself.  But whatever happens, I have no doubt this event will put a great strain on Bates and Anna’s relationship.

For my part, Downton Abbey has always been a wonderful escape, and while I’m not saying rape is a subject that shouldn’t be discussed or to pretend it never happened in the past, the violent act just felt so out of character for the show.  Depending on how they move forward with this, I am concerned about Fellowes’s motives for doing this.  Was it just for shock value, or will it have a major, long-lasting (and seemingly devastating) effect on the character?  And will that effect be realistic and true to the period?  Of one thing I’m certain, Downton has taken a seriously dark turn, and there’s no going back now.

I had some other thoughts about last night’s episode, and I think that Edwardian Promenade covered them very well.  Here’s the link to the recap: http://www.edwardianpromenade.com/downton-abbey/downton-abbey-season-4-episode-2-recap-downtonpbs/

What did you think about the episode and the shocking turn of events?

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Downton Abbey Season 3, ep. 3 recap

There were an awful lot of new plot lines jammed into this episode (in classic Julian Fellowes style, we flitted from one character’s story to the next, hardly giving us enough time to digest what just happened), and while there were no major shocker moments like last week, it looks like the groundwork has been laid for some escalating conflicts that are sure to come in the remaining episodes.

Warning: Spoilers for episode 3 ahead!

Upstairs revolved around two main stories: Tom and Sybil’s escape from Dublin, and Matthew’s increasing involvement in the running of the estate.  The former was the big drama for the night, the latter looks like it will create quite a bit in future episodes.

Branson

Tom shows up on Downton’s doorstep (on a dark and stormy night, of course), on the run from the law after his involvement in burning down an Anglo-Irish estate.  He and Sybil had a plan in place in which they would leave Ireland separately should something like this happen, but that doesn’t save Tom from getting an earful from the Crawley clan.  I can’t say it was undeserved, leaving a pregnant woman in a very volatile situation to fend for herself.  But, fortunately Sybil arrives safely, much to Tom and the family’s relief.  And Tom’s name is cleared with the authorities thanks to Papa, as long as he doesn’t return to Ireland.  It’s understandable that Tom is crushed by this; after all, Irish independence is his passion and to be kept away is a cruel punishment for him. But Sybil becomes the voice of reason, telling her husband the baby’s safety is what’s important, and so at Downton they will stay.  Side note: I wish we could have heard a bit more about Sybil’s experience in Ireland here, and how she feels about Tom burning down an aristocrat’s home, given that she was raised as one herself.

Tom and Sybil

Matthew

Matthew realizing his father-in-law is not the best business manager.

Elsewhere upstairs, Mary encourages Matthew to take a greater role in the estate, now that he’s invested in it.  She’s probably going to regret her prodding.  Matthew uncovers a lot of waste when looking over the accounts, which is not a big surprise given Lord Robert’s penchant for business management (need we be reminded of episode 1’s Canadian railway disaster?).  Matthew brings up the bookkeeping to Mary, who reluctantly tells him to talk to her father about it.  But Papa quickly brushes him off.  When Downton was so quickly saved thanks to Reggie Swire’s money I wondered where else we could go regarding story lines with the estate.  Now I know.  There’s going to be a showdown between Matthew and Robert, and maybe Matthew and Mary.  Change is certainly not their strong suit.

Mary and Matthew

A few other minor things upstairs: an interesting little scene between Matthew and Mary in the former day nursery.  Matthew apparently is looking to start a family, Mary not so much.  Seriously, can we please have a few scenes in which Mary doesn’t seem like an ice queen towards her husband?  It’s like first season Mary all over again.  What happened to dewy eyed love struck second season Mary?  Bring her back!

Edith

And then we’ve got Edith.  Poor Edith who seems a bit lost since her jilt at the altar.  But this episode gave me some hope that she’ll soon be finding her voice.  Her dear Papa is shocked when the newspaper actually prints an article she wrote about the women’s vote.  And Edith is not just becoming more vocal about suffrage, but also about the way her family perceives her.  I want to see Edith gain a little backbone when it comes to her family and the way they treat her.  And maybe move somewhere where she’ll be more appreciated, where she isn’t the overlooked middle child.  Go Edith!

Carson and the toaster

“What in God’s name is it?”

There was a lot of exciting new plot developments downstairs, and I’m not just talking about Carson waging war against a toaster.  Now that Matthew’s money has saved Downton from financial collapse, new staff members can finally be hired (even if Matthew seems reluctant about it…but Robert easily overlooks this), allowing Daisy to get her at-long-last promotion in the kitchen, and Anna to officially become lady’s maid to Lady Mary.

Daisy

Poor Daisy, can this kid ever catch a break?  She’s got her eye on Alfred, and she even goes to visit her father-in-law for a heart to heart about being interested in someone else.  And wouldn’t you know, every single time she’s about to say something to Alfred, Mrs. Patmore interrupts.  Does this woman have some sort of sixth sense for interfering in Daisy’s love life?  I had hoped we’d be rid of Daisy’s scowl and foul moods once she got promoted, but just as she’s about to tell Alfred how she feels, Mrs. Patmore comes in with Ivy, the new kitchen maid, who immediately catches Alfred’s attention.  So Daisy’s promotion came with a simultaneous jilt in the romance department.  I don’t expect that scowl to disappear anytime soon.

Anna

This week’s edition of the “Anna & Bates saga” was a little more interesting.  All communication was cut off between the two for the majority of the episode, causing some temporary anguish as Bates feels Anna has given up on him, and Anna worries that Bates wants her to move on and forget about him.  But thanks to a helpful fellow prisoner and a set up of Bates’s cellmate, his good favor is restored in the prison, and a backlog of letters finally gets delivered to them both.  It was nice to see at least one happy couple in this episode.Bates Anna with letter

Jimmy Kent

The new addition downstairs that causes the biggest stir is handsome footman Jimmy Kent.  His arrival turns all the maids’ heads, gives Mrs. Hughes pause (did anyone else notice her look him up and down?), and catches the attention of Thomas.  That attention does not go unnoticed by O’Brien, and I could see the cogs of evil working in her head.  I have a feeling she’s figured out what her next move is going to be, and I fear it is going to be exceedingly low.  Because now she not only needs to get back at Thomas, but she has to keep this headstrong new footman from taking away Alfred’s chances for advancement.

O'Brien

O’Brien forming a new scheme

Ethel

Finally, we have Ethel, who is still hanging around.  I actually felt some sympathy for her this week when she made the extremely difficult decision to give up her darling boy Charlie to his paternal grandparents.  I thought that might be the end of her story.  But now it appears that in next week’s episode Cousin Isobel is indeed going to make her her new project, and hire her on as a maid in her house.  Good luck with that, Isobel, we know how well that went last time.

I’ll be interested to see how all of these new developments play out in the remaining episodes.

All right, your turn!  What did you think of episode 3?

Missed an episode?  Read my episode 1 and episode 2 recaps.

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Downton Abbey Season 3, ep. 2 recap

Well, that was interesting.  I’ve got some mixed emotions about last night’s episode–some parts were excellent, other parts contrived and eye-roll-able.  Let’s just get right to it, shall we?

Warning: Spoilers for episode 2 ahead!

Preparing for wedding

Upstairs the house is preparing for another wedding, this time for neglected middle child Lady Edith.  But everyone seems more concerned with the inevitable selling of Downton Abbey and the move to what Cora has termed “Downton Place” (which sounds like a great name for a soap opera, which this episode took plot cues from at points).  Matthew is still being badgered by Mary to accept Reggie Swire’s money and save the estate so the family is not forced to move into….a gorgeous country home with accompanying village that they own…?

Downton Place

Certainly it is no Downton Abbey.  And I can understand Mary not wanting to leave the home she grew up in, one that’s been in her family for generations.  But is it really worth putting your newly wed husband in guilt-ridden agony for months on end by constantly harping about the money?

Matthew

Yes, please, let’s talk about Reggie Swire and my guilt over Lavinia’s death. AGAIN.

On the day of the picnic at “Downton Place” Matthew receives a letter from the deceased Reggie Swire, which he refuses to read, much to flabbergasted Mary’s irritation.

Side note: This was my favorite "Mary outfit" this episode.

Side note: This was my favorite “Mary outfit” this episode.

So Mary takes it upon herself to read the letter, much to flabbergasted Matthew’s irritation.  And this is where my eye-rolling commenced–Reggie Swire’s letter reveals that Lavinia, on her deathbed (though I suppose she didn’t know it at the time) wrote her father a letter about calling off the wedding and Matthew’s chivalrous “I’m going to marry you anyway” attitude.  But wait, no one saw Lavinia write such a letter, or saw it leave the house (and for that matter–where did Lavinia get the paper and pen to write it if she was lying in bed the whole time?).  So Matthew accuses his wife of forgery–which to be honest, I wouldn’t put past Mary at this point in her desperation to stay at Downton.  He takes back his accusation, but doesn’t believe the letter’s legitimate.  But if it is real, it relieves Matthew of all guilt, regret, etc. in one tidy little note.  Why, what a handy, convenient little plot device!  First thing next morning Mary goes downstairs, her hair undone in her haste, to learn that Daisy was the one who posted the letter.  And in one fell swoop guilt is swept away and Downton Abbey is saved!  Good thing Daisy’s own moral dilemma over marrying William didn’t cause her to forget to post the letter.

Daisy saves the day.

Daisy saves the day.

So now that’s settled, it’s time for Edith’s wedding.  At least Matthew is kind enough to ask Mary to wait until after the wedding to inform dear Papa that he doesn’t have to move, so as not to steal Edith’s thunder.  Because you know Mary would have.

Edith's wedding gown

Despite countless efforts to convince her otherwise, Edith is prepared to walk down the aisle and give her life to taking care of an older man with a lame arm.  And boy does that get hammered home about a thousand times in this episode.  It’s featured in every discussion between Lady Violet and Lord Robert, and every conversation between Sir Anthony and Edith.  So I guess we should have been prepared for what would happen next.

Edith & Sir Anthony

Poor Edith!  Her very happy day, the one that was supposed to be all about her, turns into a train wreck as soon as she arrives at the altar and Sir Anthony stops the proceedings by announcing he cannot marry her.  In front of everyone.  And to make matters worse, Edith drags the scene out by begging him not to leave her.  Granny has to step in and tell her to let him go, which he promptly does.  I know Sir Anthony did it because he loves Edith and did not want her to end up spending her life with a man she’d have to take care of, but he really picked a bad time to finally make his mind up about it.

Edith

But, I will say that while I wanted Edith to win the day and get her man despite what everyone else said, this gives us a chance to see a potentially more fleshed out character.  Laura Carmichael’s performance as the jilted bride was fantastic.  And now, instead of having all three Crawley sisters settled down into married life, we have one whose character arc could go in any number of directions.  So here’s hoping Edith picks herself up and finds a less traditional path for her life.

Matthew delivers the good news to Robert.

Matthew delivers the good news to Robert.

And just in case we weren’t positive that Edith doesn’t matter that much, we’ve got a scene where Lord Robert quickly dismisses Edith’s broken heart with a “she’ll get over it” and then is overjoyed to learn his son-in-law, thanks to his newly unburdened conscience, has saved the day, and in his thanks makes him a partner in the estate.

Mrs. Hughes smiling at Mr. Carson's serenade to the silver.

Mrs. Hughes smiling at Mr. Carson’s serenade to the silver.

The downstairs stories felt a bit weak to me this episode compared to the altar jilting happening upstairs.  We continued to bite our nails over the diagnosis of Mrs. Hughes.  Lady Cora (who finds out from Carson, who finds out from Mrs. Patmore, who apparently can’t keep a secret for a gold clock) tells Mrs. Hughes she knows about her health, and wants her to know she’ll always have a home at Downton.  A very touching moment, and it seemed to make Mrs. Hughes feel a bit closer to the family, as illustrated when she allows Alfred to talk badly about Sir Anthony for leaving Lady Edith at the altar.  In the end, it looks like the scare was for nothing, as the results indicate a benign tumor.  As Mrs. Patmore tells Carson everything is okay, I kept waiting for Mrs. Hughes’s relieved face to droop as if she were putting on a brave face and not telling the truth about her diagnosis.  But it never happened, so perhaps the health scare was just another minor plot point to pull us along for a few episodes before wrapping up neatly.

Cora & O'Brien

Cora under the misimpression that O’Brien will be leaving her.

Elsewhere we’ve got O’Brien and Thomas playing a slow, vindictive game of tennis.  Last week Thomas made trouble for Alfred (and therefore O’Brien), and then O’Brien retaliated by taking Lord Robert’s shirts.  In this episode Thomas starts a rumor that O’Brien is leaving, catching poor Molesley in the middle.  And now the ball is in O’Brien’s court–so what’s she going to serve Thomas with next week?

Bates finding the contraband his cell mate planted.

Bates finding the contraband his cell mate planted.

And then we’ve got the ongoing Anna & Bates saga.  Bates’s cell mate is out to get him for unexplained reasons, but Bates receives a tip off from someone on his side, which allows him to hide some contraband the cell mate has planted before the jail wardens raid the room.  Anna continues to devote every spare moment to freeing her husband, this time interviewing a friend of Vera’s who lived nearby.  If you’re playing “collect the clues,” we know that Vera ate an arsenic-laced pie.  The neighbor indicated that Vera made the pie the afternoon before she was found dead, and when she came to visit her she noticed that Vera was scrubbing under her fingernails like mad–my guess would be to make sure there were no traces of arsenic that would lead anyone to suspect she had put it in the pie.

Ethel and Isobel
Ethel appears again in this episode to say the same line over and over: “I shouldn’t have come.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I was done with Ethel last season, so why do we have to keep picking at this thread?  Yes, I get that we’re trying to show the gritty, not so pretty side of life after the war, and Ethel represents that.  But I’ve just never cared much about Ethel for some reason.  However, Cousin Isobel seems dead set on helping her, and my guess is she’s going to wriggle her way into Ethel’s life whether she wants it or not.

Daisy, besides informing Lady Mary that she posted the letter for Miss Swire, didn’t have much of a role this week, except to ask Anna if perhaps she should speak her mind more like the American girls.  She also seems to have her eye on Alfred.  I’d like to see an outspoken Daisy, maybe it’ll spice things up downstairs a little bit.  Because, for me at least, this back and forth between O’Brien and Thomas just isn’t cutting it.

Sybil and Edith

Just a few final thoughts–give me more Sybil and Tom!  They were barely in this episode, but I loved Sybil’s saucy little comment to Edith about not sleeping on her wedding night.  And Tom was in black tie!  But I thought he’d never buy such frivolous clothes–what made him change his mind?  And why wasn’t he more outspoken about the family having to potentially downsize to a house that has its own village attached to it?  Maybe he’s trying to play nice for his wife’s sake?  It looks like next week’s episode is going to feature the couple more prominently (and Tom leaves his pregnant wife behind in Dublin because he’s on the run?  What on earth will Granny have to say about that?).

I hope now that the ghost of Lavinia has been laid to rest we can see more cheerful moments between Matthew and Mary.  Yes, I know they’re going to bicker and squabble, but they’re newlyweds.  Surely the honeymoon period hasn’t ended already.  Give us some more light-hearted “proposal in the snow” type moments!

And even though the day ended in heartbreak, Lady Edith’s dress was stunning and in my opinion trumped Lady Mary’s.  I think the very simple gown Lady Mary wore fit her pragmatic personality, but Lady Edith’s dress with the detail work on it was just gorgeous.  So even though she didn’t actually get a husband on her wedding day, maybe Edith can take solace in knowing that her dress was prettier than Mary’s?  Maybe?

Finally, I know that Downton Abbey has soap opera tendencies (like last season’s misdiagnosis that allowed for Matthew’s miraculous spinal recovery), but I really hope we don’t have too many more all-too-convenient plot devices that allow for difficult situations to be easily fixed.  That letter from Reggie Swire still bugs me.

All right everyone, now it’s your turn!  What were your thought’s about episode 2?

Miss the premiere of season 3?  Read my recap.

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Downton Abbey Season 2, ep. 5 recap

All was doom and gloom in the fifth episode of Downton Abbey as the war draws to a close.  After last week’s focus on the horrible repercussions of fighting on the front, this week the drama generated within the household as a mysterious stranger arrived claiming to have some pretty serious ties to the family.

Warning: Spoilers galore ahead

While Lady Edith has stayed mostly in the background the last several episodes, she finally had a large part in a plot this week.  Officer Patrick Gordon, whose face is disfigured from terrible burns, arrives at Downton and poses as long-lost cousin and heir Patrick Crawley (the one who was supposed to have gone down with the Titanic and thus created the central plot of the first series, when new heir Matthew Crawley comes into the lives of the inhabitants of Downton).  Only Edith buys into Patrick-if-that’s-even-your-real-name Gordon’s story.  Maybe because it’s her unexpected chance at becoming the future mistress of Downton (at last winning a victory over Mary), or perhaps because she genuinely wants to believe the man she once loved has returned from the dead.  But Patrick makes a hasty retreat when information is learned about a “Peter Gordon” who was good friends with Patrick Crawley.  And with him goes Edith’s little glimmer of hope.

Edith reflecting on the house that will never be hers

Regardless of whether or not he believes Patrick’s story, Matthew wishes the family would entertain it as a valid possibility, as in his mind he is no longer a suitable heir for Downton.   I’ve read many reviews that feel the character goes a bit overboard on the self-pitying, but really, can you blame Matthew?  Yes, he’s still alive, but his entire life has changed, and he does not want to subject anyone to a life of looking after him.  He does perk up a bit when Mary is around, and we are treated to a few scenes with the two of them alone together.  Richard Carlisle has a right to be concerned.

Cora grows concerned that Mary’s time with Matthew will dash her chances at a good marriage to Richard.  In a rather un-Cora-like move she contacts Lavinia and convinces her to grow a spine and come back to Downton to care for Matthew.  This raises the ire of Robert, and their marital strife deepens.  Robert continues to feel neglected, and is slipping ever closer to a scandal with new maid Jane.

We also find Cora in cahoots with her mother-in-law this episode, as the two manipulate Isobel Crawley into staying out of Downton Abbey’s future.  I liked this scene (as I like all the scenes when Lady Violet is at the helm), but I never believed cousin Isobel to be so gullible.

Thanks to Cora’s meddling, Mary is ousted from her position as caretaker of Matthew, something she makes the mistake of mentioning to Sir Richard.  He demonstrates just what he’s capable of during a withering exchange in which he tells Mary she has given him the power to destroy her and she best not jilt him.  Oh Mary, you’ve met your match–h0w are you going to get out of this one?

Things are no better downstairs.  As I predicted, Daisy feels nothing but guilt over marrying William, and refuses to go to meetings to learn about getting her pension as a war widow.  Carson must make the difficult decision between staying at Downton or leaving to take charge of Mary and Richard’s new estate (and since Carson would “open his veins” for Mary, we all know which he will choose).

Then there’s Bates.  His patience for his wife’s refusal to sign on the dotted line and make their divorce official is long lost.  After a trip to London where he tries to “reason with her” there’s a tell-tale mark on his face that leads one to believe that more than a calm discussion was had.  And then Mrs. Bates is found dead.  This is not looking good for Bates (or Anna, for that matter), as there’s some incriminating statements floating about that O’Brien overheard, and that were said directly to Lord Grantham (perhaps you should not tell your employer that you wish your estranged wife was “the late Mrs. Bates”).

As usual, there are the other odds and ends throughout the episode.  Lady Sybil and Branson have another short exchange and it seems that Branson’s endless lectures of sacrifice (or perhaps his partially unbuttoned shirt and rolled up sleeves) have finally convinced Sybil that he’s the man for her.  Judging from next week’s preview it looks like the news is going to break, and it’s not going to be pretty.

Thomas is scheming to sell rationed food on the black market to make some extra cash, and O’Brien is busy gathering information to bring down Bates (I know she doesn’t like the man, but why is she so dead-set on “making him pay?”).  Ethel’s last hope of being saved from a life of poverty is extinguished when the father of her child is killed in battle (I still can’t get into this particular story thread).

If there was any sort of silver lining at all in this episode (and boy was it hard to find), it was when Bates wheeled Matthew out of the great hall after the armistice was observed.  It seemed Matthew was able to feel something in his legs, which he begins to ask Bates about, but then retracts his question, saying that it didn’t matter, at least not until he felt it again.  Could it be that Matthew won’t be bound to a wheelchair for the rest of his life after all?

Next week it looks like the Dowager Countess finally takes the Mary/Matthew matter into her own hands, and Cora becomes very ill, prompting O’Brien to perhaps confess her part in Cora’s miscarriage five years prior.  With only two episodes left, I still have no idea how these plots are going to tie themselves up, and can’t help but wonder what else will be thrown at us in the meantime.

What were your thoughts on episode 5?

Miss any other episodes?  Read my recaps here:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

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Filed under Downton Abbey, Period Pieces

Downton Abbey Season 2, episode 2 recap

Tensions ran high on Downton Abbey this week (but then, when do they not?).  The house is turned upside down as it is prepared as an officers’ convalescence home, leading to all sorts of trouble.

Mrs. Crawley overstepping her bounds.

Mrs. Crawley and Lady Cora butt heads over the running of the household and which rooms should be sectioned off for the convalescents.  We already knew Mrs. Crawley could be assertive, but she seems to forget her place here and the family has to remind her with some force.  O’Brien, who has become Cora’s protector after the bath tub debacle of last season, conspires with Thomas to make sure that Cora is put in charge of the household alongside Mrs. Crawley, much to the latter’s chagrin.  O’Brien also uses her pull over Cora to get Thomas assigned as the household manager, which Carson is none too happy about.

Sybil busies herself with setting up beds in the various grand rooms of the house, with Edith watching on, feeling she has no purpose and is only in the way.  Sybil gives her some kind advice which Edith takes to heart, telling her everyone has a purpose, she just needs to find hers.  Edith does so by making the newly arrived officers feel at home, getting to know them, and helping them write letters to loved ones.  She shows compassion (something I wasn’t sure Edith possessed), and many of the soldiers note this to General Stratt when comes to visit the house, garnering her recognition at the dinner given for the general that evening.  Mary’s face was priceless in this scene, though I’m not sure if it was envy that I saw, or once again that sensation of feeling somewhat out of place, not knowing what her role is exactly now that the war is here.

Sybil bears the brunt of Branson’s anger when the army rejects him due to a heart murmur and he cannot make the public protest he hoped for when he is called up.  Sybil does not understand the source of his anger and tells him as much.  Branson informs her his cousin was gunned down by an English soldier during the Easter Rising in Ireland (which took place in 1916).  Branson later comes up with a new way to make his voice heard, concocting a special “soup” for the general.  Carson, Mrs. Hughes and Anna stop him before he has a chance to spill the disgusting concoction over the top of the general’s head.  With such anger and conviction, this won’t likely be the last of Branson’s attempts to make his views known.

Anna has a glimmer of hope when she believes she sees Bates in the village.  Mary offers to help her find out about him using the services of Sir Richard.  As she explains to Anna, “he works in newspapers, a world of spies, tip offs, and private investigators.  I promise you he can find out whatever he likes.”  I’d say this offers some fairly significant foreshadowing as to what’s going to happen to Mary.  No doubt Sir Richard is going to find out about the Mr. Pamuk scandal and use it against her so that he does not lose her.  We see his power over Lavinia Swire; no doubt he could do the same to Mary.

Sir Richard does indeed find Mr. Bates’s whereabouts, and Anna goes to visit him.  Bates left his wife so the divorce proceedings can take place soon, and is confident he will be able to pay his wife more than any newspaper would for the story she has on Mary.  Why do I get the feeling it isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds?

Granny and Lady Mary have a chat about Matthew.

In the meantime Mary learns another interesting tidbit, this time about Lavinia Swire.  Her aunt learns that Lavinia gave information to Sir Richard which led to the Marconi scandal of 1912, and that the two were lovers.  Lavinia soon confesses the former to Mary, but insists that the two were never romantically attached and she only did it to save her father from financial ruin.  Mary tells her she believes her, and Lavinia informs her that Sir Richard “threatened to tell you all about it, but now I’ve done it anyway.”  I have two theories on this one: either Lavinia hasn’t told Mary the whole story and wanted to beat Richard to the punch so Mary would believe her over him, or this is an example of how Sir Richard uses the vast amount of gossip he can dredge up to control people.  But regardless, Mary does not say anything to Matthew about Lavinia’s secret, though she certainly could have used the story that her aunt had procured.  Again, we see that Mary’s former pettiness has been replaced with actual compassion, even towards a woman she could consider her rival.

Lavinia reveals her secret to Lady Mary.

Downstairs, Daisy’s in over her head, no thanks to Mrs. Patmore, who insists that she must accept William’s proposal before he goes overseas.  She tells Daisy she can go back on it when he returns home, and Daisy accepts against her better judgment.  Mrs. Patmore isn’t the only one who is trying to look out for William.  Lord Grantham asks Matthew if he will take William on as his servant, to which he agrees, but says he cannot guarantee his safety.

This episode also saw Lang’s mental state deteriorate further due to shell-shock.  He wakens the entire servants’ quarters with his screams during a vivid nightmare, and begins to break down when the general and the other officers leave Downton, afraid that they might send him back to the front.  Carson and Mrs. Hughes agree that he is not ready to come back to work, and Lang agrees.

The episode closes with Lord and Lady Grantham, who are still adjusting to the new role their house is playing.  Lord Grantham states one of my favorite lines so far: “The world was in a dream before the war.  But now it’s woken up and said goodbye to it, and so must we.”  He realizes that change is inevitable, and to continue fighting against it will do them nothing but harm.

It looks like the action heats up next week with a scandal involving Ethel, Branson asking Sybil to run away with him, and the news that Matthew is reported as missing after he returns to the front.

Missed the first episode?  Read my recap here.

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Filed under Downton Abbey, Period Pieces