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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 3, ep. 1 recap

Well, it’s been a long year of anticipation, Downtonites, but boy did it pay off!  The premiere of the third season of Downton Abbey was well worth the wait.  If the first episode is any indication of the focus of this season, we’re in for a more “estate-centered” story that puts priority on the people living and working at Downton Abbey, as well as on the house itself, something I felt we got away from in season 2.  Not that I disliked the second season, it just felt all over the place at times and I’m glad to see we’re getting back to a central focus.  Now, onto the episode recap.

Warning: Episode 1 spoilers ahead!

Last night’s episode had Fellowes’s fast-paced story-telling style going at full speed, with plots piling up one after another.  There was a lot going on, so I am going to hit the highlights.

Upstairs it was all about wedding bells and money woes.  Finally (finally!) Matthew and Lady Mary are about to tie the knot, and it is so nice to see the two of them as a couple, swapping flirtations.  And Mary smiling!  Such a nice change from last season.  Of course, their impending nuptials are overshadowed by the fact that Lord Grantham, who apparently does not understand what “diversify” means, has lost the “lion’s share” of Lady Cora’s fortune in a really bad business deal.  I like how Lady Cora points out that what he did was stupid, but stands by her man.  Further proof that the woman is a saint.

Robert & Cora

The money troubles put a damper on the wedding, especially when Mary wants Matthew to use the potential money he’s inherited from Lavinia’s father to save Downton.  But Matthew, being the morally upright man that he is, just can’t bring himself to use money that reminds him of his betrayal to Lavinia.  Thus we have THE argument that leads to Mary storming off and possibly calling off the wedding.  Good thing Anna is there to remind Mary that good men aren’t like buses (“there won’t be another one along in ten minutes’ time”), and Branson, er, Tom, points out to Matthew that he’ll never be happy with anyone else.  So they kiss and make up.  I like how the two (well, mostly Matthew) realize that there are going to be some bumps in the road in their marriage, but they are just going to have to work through them because they love each other and want to be together.  We already knew it wouldn’t be smooth sailing for them, but at least the characters acknowledge it as well.

After making all that fuss about it being bad luck to see each other, why did traditionalist Mary open her eyes?

After making all that fuss about it being bad luck to see each other the night before the wedding, why did traditionalist Mary open her eyes?

One of my favorite portions of the upstairs drama was the interaction between the rest of the family with Sybil and Tom.  The two have obviously been living “a very different sort of life” and they both feel a bit out of place at the dinner table (of course, the constant questioning isn’t exactly helpful).  The scene in which Tom basically gets “roofied” by Sybil’s old suitor and Matthew steps up and asks him to become his best man was one of the best of the night.  The future earl is welcoming him into the family (after all, they’ve got to take on the “Crawley girls” together), setting the example for the others to follow. (Side note: I wonder if Mary would be quite as willing to welcome Tom into the family if he had married Edith instead of Sybil?  I didn’t think s0.)

Tom & Matthew

Matthew saves the day

Of course, we also have the introduction of Martha Levinson, Lady Cora’s mother, who travels from the States for the wedding.  She was a breath of fresh air, but I was somewhat underwhelmed by her presence.  It was a bit predictable, and so much hype surrounded Shirley MacLaine’s performance that my expectations were pretty high.  Still, the scene where she serenades Lady Violet was pretty classic.

The wedding goes off without a hitch.  Well, I assume it did, given we didn’t see the actual ceremony (which I was okay with–it was enough to have that little exchange between Matthew and Mary at the front of the church), and we cut straight to Mary and Matthew returning from the honeymoon (which again, we didn’t get to see–I would have liked a “first night together” scene, just because I’d like to know if Mary was afraid for her new husband’s life, given what happened the last time she took a man to bed–or if perhaps Matthew teased her about it.  But something tells me the Pamuk scandal is a sensitive subject).

Mary & Matthew in bed

Oh good. I’m glad to see you’re still alive.

In other upstairs news, we’ve got Edith flinging herself at Sir Anthony Strallan again.  I want Edith to be happy and I’m all for her take charge attitude, but she just comes off as a little bit desperate to me.  Does she really love Sir Anthony, or is he her “only hope” in her mind, given that so many British men were killed during the war?  By the end of the episode, despite her father and grandmother’s attempted intervention, it seems that Edith has secured her man.

Edith & Sir Anthony

While all the family drama and money issues are taking place upstairs, we’ve got health scares, workwoman’s strikes, and a new footman downstairs.  O’Brien manages to get her nephew Alfred Nugent a position as footman, and soon sets her sights on getting him promoted to Matthew’s valet.  For once I actually felt sorry Thomas, who worked for years to earn such a promotion.  I don’t blame him for disliking Alfred.  He’s not only being groomed for a position Thomas doesn’t feel he’s qualified for (rightfully so), but he’s put a wedge between Thomas and O’Brien, his only “friend” downstairs.  So naturally, Thomas and O’Brien turn on each other, and something tells me it’s going to get a bit nastier than coat-tail torching and shirt-stealing.  Each knows the other’s weaknesses and they’re going to use them to their advantage.

Thomas isn't about to help O'Brien's nephew learn the ropes.

Thomas isn’t about to help O’Brien’s nephew learn the ropes.

Elsewhere we’ve got Daisy, who STILL, three seasons later (that’s 8 years in Downton time) hasn’t learned to ignore Thomas.  She goes on strike, much to Mrs. Patmore’s amusement, and Mrs. Patmore, treating Daisy like the child she is being, ignores her until she finally comes around.  Most pointless and ineffective strike ever.

Daisy's protest of 1920.

Daisy’s protest

One of the more intriguing plot-lines was Mrs. Hughes’s cancer scare.  Given her status downstairs, the only person she has to turn to is Mrs. Patmore, whose bedside manner leaves something to be desired (but also led to some of the funnier downstairs scenes of the night).  How frightening it must be for a woman in a position such as Mrs. Hughes, who has no family to turn to in the event her health does decline.  How long can she stay on as Downton Abbey’s housekeeper?  And how long until she lets poor Mr. Carson know?

Mrs. Patmore & Mrs. Hughes

“If you must pay money, better to a doctor than an undertaker.”

Finally we have Anna and Bates.  Their storyline feels so out of place to me this season.  Everything else is revolving around the house, and here we have Bates stuck in prison, with his wife playing detective and trying to find the piece of evidence that will finally set him free.  I’m still interested, yes, but it does feel a bit out in left field to me.  Good to know that Anna bought a garter while in France, though.

Bates contemplating Anna's wardrobe addition.

Bates contemplating Anna’s wardrobe addition.

So, looks like we’ve got quite a few questions raised in the first episode to keep us tuning in.  Will the Crawleys be downsizing from Downton?  How tumultuous will Mary and Matthew’s marriage be?  What will Matthew do with his unwanted inheritance?  Will Edith and Sir Anthony marry?  When do we get to see more of Sybil and Tom (they left so soon!)?  Will Anna ever exonerate Mr. Bates?  How out of control will O’Brien and Thomas’s one-up-manship become?  What will happen to Mrs. Hughes?  So many questions, so much more Downton  to come that will hopefully answer them!

What did you think of last night’s episode?  And for those of you who have seen spoilers, please don’t mention them here!

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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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