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Downton Abbey

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Downton Recaps: Episode Two, Season Two

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And we’re back once again with our Monday recaps of Downton Abbey. This was mostly a filler episode, in my opinion, as it set up the major dramas for the rest of the season (Downton as a convalescent hospital, Cora vs Isobel, Violet and Rosamund urging Mary to scheme against Lavinia to win Matthew, the evilness of Mrs. Bates, Ethel & Major Bryant, etc)–but it was still sumptuous and entertaining. Tasha and Lynn have returned to fill you in on the doings of Downton!

Robert, Matthew, and Sybil

Lynn: This week’s episode dives immediately into what seems to be this season’s main theme – that the war erases class boundaries and the precious rigid structure of English society will be forever changed. In the aftermath, what will the privileged do all day to have meaning and what new roles will the servant class find for themselves?

Tasha: This episode all centers on the changes coming to Downton because of its new role in the war as an officer’s convalescent hospital place. The order in the household is all mixed up–ladies are becoming nurse maids, maids are becoming lady’s maids, footmen are hanging out with gentlemen, chauffeurs are becoming footmen, and THOMAS IS IN CHARGE!!! It’s utter madness. One cannot relax when one has to mix with the lower social orders, as Lady Violet might say. Everyone’s stressed out, especially Lord Grantham, who has to read the paper while people play ping-pong on the other side of his library! The indignity! And then they want to keep his dog out of all the rooms? OH NO YOU DIDN’T.

Lynn: As I get ready to watch this week’s episode, the thing I am most excited about is finding out what Lavinia’s secret is. Did she mistakenly kill the Ukrainian Ambassador’s footman during an affair? Did she have the gall to wear colors while still in mourning over a distant relation?

After watching this week’s episode, I’m left with so many questions. So what else is new? It looks like they are setting it up for Bates to come back to Downton. YAY! Hope that happens next week. The tidbits form the sneak peaks at next week’s episode seem to say so. They also tell us that Matthew goes missing. Since William’s take on the position of Matthew’s soldier servant, is he missing too. Oh I ma already worried about them. it also looks like Cora gets fed up and kicks Isobel out of Downton. That should be a good cat fight. MEOW!

Tasha: Matthew’s mother has inserted herself, in the most unpleasant sense of the word, into Downton and is pretty much throwing her weight around. O’Brien looks like she wants to squeeze Mrs. Crawley’s neck until her head pops like a grape. I bet that image lulls her to sleep at night, in fact. Meanwhile, there’s some sort of secrety secret about Lavinia that Lady Violet’s daughter found out! She hopes fears it will spell the ruin of Matthew and Lavinia’s engagement, so she’s going to travel straight to London to drag the truth out of Lavinia, Grantham-style: over tea. Fear not, Mary, Grandma’s on the prowl!

Isobel and Cora, no doubt organizing the house for its renovation as convalescent hospital

Lynn: As the family readies the house to become a convalescent hospital, it becomes clear that the lines between rich and poor, officers and not, are going to have to blur if people are to be treated humanely through their recovery. The family and the soldiers will have to eat together, recreate together and live together. Separation will not be possible. How the house will be managed – and just who will manage it – is a point of contention and disorientation for everyone. Does Lady Grantham run the house? Is Mrs. Crawley calling the shots? Should Dr. Maj. Clarkson be in charge? O’Brien comes up with a brilliant solution to the confusion – let Thomas come back and manage the house. WHAT?! Oh why not put me in charge of the chocolate?

Surprisingly, Lady Grantham seems to like the idea. Has she lost her mind? When O’Brien tells Thomas her plan, he doesn’t trust her reasons for trying to put Thomas in charge but he’s anxious to boss Carson around. Lord Grantham really has his knickers in a twist about all the changes needed to make Downton into a convalescent home. Especially letting Thomas run the place – mostly because he’s just a corporal. Who will listen to a corporal? “Not to worry”, says Major Clarkson “We’ve arranged to promote him to acting sergeant.” HA! Isn’t it Thomas’ lucky week?

When Lord Grantham tells Carson that Thomas is coming to manage the convalescent home, Carson predictably bristles at the idea of Thomas – a known thief – even being back at Downton. But Lord Grantham thinks Thomas’ being wounded in service shows he’s changed. Yeah right. Oh this should be both fun and painful to watch. And indeed it is. When Thomas shows up at Downton, he and Carson literally circle each other like sharks around a drunk late-night swimmer to size each other up anew. What’s the male version of a cat fight called because I want to say “meow” – again.

The servants are excited to see so many men in the house when the wounded officers arrive. Ethel especially. Anna reminds her officers are off limits. Foreshadowing an affair? Sure enough, Mrs. Hughes catches Ethel flirting with an officer. I’m sure we’ll see more about that in future episodes.

Tasha: *gasp!* I think I just saw Bates! He was lurking around like a lurker! Anna saw him, too. But she didn’t chase after him with her arms flailing and screaming, “Mr. Baaaaaates!”, which I know is what you were thinking happened. Instead he disappeared and she went back to work.

Lynn: Throughout the whole episode Lady Cora and Isabelle really butt heads about who is in charge at Downton, even after Thomas arrives. Isabelle is one pushy dame but Cora shouldn’t be underestimated. She has a shaming look that would make a nun drop her ruler and she uses it a lot this week. When Matthew brings his General around to see how Downton is contributing to the war effort they both are trying so hard to be the clear leader of the house that they nearly lose their dignity. Really the general is most impressed with Lady Edith, who seems to have finally found something appropriate to do. As it surprisingly turns out she is a kind and compassionate person who selflessly, efficiently and quietly helps the soldiers with the little things that mean a lot like remembering their names, helping them write to their families and getting them little treats from the village. When she is recognized for her efforts by the General, at dinner, Cora and Isobel are as surprised as everyone else.

Tasha: Lady Grantham and Matthew’s mom are fighting for control of Downton, Carson and Thomas are fighting for control of Downton, and O’Brien’s helping the former in one case and the latter in the other. She convinces Lady Grantham to let Thomas be the army guy in charge of things for the hospital, and then they both conspire to knock Mrs. Crawley down a peg or two. Or three. O’Brien clearly feels guilty about the whole Soap Incident last season that resulted in Lady Grantham losing the next heir of Downton. Quick poll: how many steps away do you think O’Brien is from turning into Mrs. Danvers? I vote three.

The servant's hall

Lynn: Branson’s story takes a nice unexpected turn this week. He gets called up and tells Lady Sybil that he plans to be a conscientious objector. He is not just going to run away and hide either. He’s going to march in front of everyone and announce his objections to the world. Will Sybil think he’s a coward? Doesn’t seem so. Mostly she just doesn’t want him to go to prison. Well guess what? Our handsome strapping young chauffeur fails his physical and is turned down by the army. Sybil is thrilled because at least now he won’t go to jail but she wants to know why he is so angry anyway?

Turns out Branson has a cousin killed by an English soldier who was doing the early 20thC version of racial profiling – assuming he was a rebel because he was Irish. Ahh now it all adds up. Branson tells Sybil not to count him out of prison yet. What is he up to? Later in the episode, when the General is coming for dinner Carson is having another cow about how to have a fancy dinner without footmen. Branson volunteers to serve at the General’s dinner. Uh-oh this is going to end badly, isn’ it?

Tasha: Not much happened relationship-wise for the three sisters in this episode. Mary finds out Lavinia stole evidence that resulted in a scandal and was possibly illegal? I didn’t quite get the 411 on that one, but I did get that she was sleeping with Sir Richard, Mary’s current beau, at the time and he printed the evidence in his paper. Did I call that one or did I call that one? So not only does Lavinia have HORRIBLE fashion sense (that white dress was just plain ugly), she’s also a spineless, sneaky little snake! Lady Violet wants Mary to tell Matthew, but while being rather suspiciously forthcoming about the whole incident, Lavinia tells Mary she did it to save her dad. *EYE.ROLL* Seriously, Mary, you’re going to fall for that? Naturally, she does. She doesn’t tell Matthew and the engagement’s still on. If Lady Violet was smart she would have told Matthew’s mom about Lavinia; that would have settled the whole thing before the hour was up.

Lynn: The whole Lavinia’s secret plot wraps up a little too quickly and neatly for me. I think we may find out much later that we didn’t get the whole truth this week. Rosamund and Violet play with Lavinia (and hence with us) like a cat with a dead baby bird over this thing. They have her over for tea and ask how she knows Sir Richard. Lavinia will only say that he was a friend of her uncle and of her father but that they’ve fallen out. Later, Violet assures Mary that Rosamund can find out what Lavinia’s secret is. OH HURRY UP.

Rosamund finds out what Lavinia’s secret is. Apparently, she outed a bunch of corrupt politicians (including her own Uncle) to Sir Richard who blew the story out in his papers and created a scandal. Mary thinks there is nothing wrong with this because the politicians broke the law. Violet looks incredulous at Mary. Why is she defending Lavinia?! Then they key question comes up.- why on earth would Lavinia do such a thing to her own family? Why because Lavinia and Sir Richard were LOVERS of course! What?! Mary confronts Lavinia about her secret. Lavinia admits to stealing the evidence for Sir Richard to print. They get interrupted before she can admit or deny being Sir Richard’s lover. ARGH. Rosamund is really pushing Mary to get the truth about Lavinia from her own lips. Ease up Rosamund – jeez.

Before the General’s dinner. Lavinia finally fesses up. She and Sir Richard were not lovers. Turns out her father owed Sir Richard a lot of money – enough to bankrupt him. She did it to save her Dad from ruin. Mary can’t help but admire Lavinia now and seems resigned to her marrying Matthew. Honestly she seems to even like Lavinia. As I said, too fast and too neat. More of this will come I can feel it in my bones.

Tasha: Meanwhile, Sybil and Branson’s relationship isn’t going too well. Shockingly (considering he proposed and she made a meh face). He’s been drafted, but declares he’ll refuse to fight, which means he’ll probably be arrested. Sybil isn’t happy about either of these potential outcomes. Then it turns out he can’t fight because of a heart murmur, and he’s EVEN MORE PISSED. Dude, you didn’t want to fight in the first place! Naturally Sybil doesn’t point this out, and he throws some classist bs in her face to make her feel bad. Branson’s spiraling, I tells ye.

Mary, Lavinia, and Sybil greet Matthew on his return

Lynn: We lose Mr. Lang this week, which is good and bad. Good because it means there’s an opening for Bates to come back and bad because it gives a way too obvious opening for Bates to come back. Poor Lang’s shell shock is really starting to effect his work and the other servants are getting a little sick of it (except O’Brien of course as she’s taken him on as another pet project in memory of her dead brother). He thinks no one at Downton understands what is going on and how scared people are. They all assure him that the war is hitting them all hard. In particular, Mrs. Patmore confesses about her nephew getting shot for cowardice. Her vulnerability doesn’t seem to do much for him – he truly can’t seem to see anyone’s pain but is own.

Later he outs Mrs. Patmore’s nephew being shot for cowardice to the whole staff. Dear Mrs. Patmore is mortified. Lang just can’t help himself and he really needs to be somewhere where he can get help. That night, he has a nightmare and wakes the whole house with his screaming. O’Brien defends him but can he really work at Downton? Later Lang seals his fate by having a total break down on the line to see the General off. All the soldiers around is just too much for him. Lang decides to leave.

Tasha: On to the relationship everyone cares about… Bates and Anna! Anna tells Lady Mary about the Unconfirmed Bates Sighting and somehow Mary finds out Bates is working in a pub. Bates in a pub? I’m having trouble picturing this. So is Anna, so she goes down to the pub in question to check this sitch out. They see each other! Bates really does look out of place in a pub. He says, “I don’t know if I’ve dreaded this moment or longed for it.” Both? I melt into puddle of goo. Anna’s like, “Whichever it was I’m here now, so man up and tell me what the hell you’re doing here.” HER EXACT WORDS. Maybe.

Table time! Not THAT kind of table time, get your mind out of the gutter. They sit down in the pub to talk. I hope these two each have a pint for this conversation, because they’re going to need it. Where is Mrs. Bates? Who knows. You’d think she’d be stuck to Bates like barnacle, but she’s wandered off again, giving Bates the chance to chase the illusive dream of divorce once more. It turns out she cheated on him! Gasps of non-surprise all-around. That means he has grounds for divorce. Info dump time: did you know it was harder for a woman to divorce a man during the Edwardian era than vice versa? Yes, it’s true. *pause to contemplate unfairness of life, except of course in cases where it works in our favor, re: this situation specifically* Now all he has to do is chase her down and get her to agree, or something. Why chase her down? Just pretend to be rich for two or three days and she’ll show up. Then you can hog-tie her and mail her to France.

Anna’s getting impatient (who can blame her). “We don’t have to wait, you know… It’s not against the law to take a mistress, Mr. Bates.” OOOOH LA LA, ANNA! Rawr! You know, Mary could learn a thing or two from Anna. Naturally Mr. Bates politely refuses, BUT FOR HOW LONG?

Lynn: There was an interesting introduction of a new technology this week – the curling iron. I was so surprised to see Anna doing Mary’s hair this new thing. I had no idea they had curling irons back then. The use of a curling iron is probably the only thing Lady Mary and I have in common, it some how made me feel close to her. Later on, Anna uses the curling iron on herself. Good thing too because she needs to practice. Those curls look a little wonky. She’d better get all dolled up because she discovers that none other than her own Mr. Bates is working in a pub nearby. How can this be and why? Of course she goes to find out.

She walks into his pub like Lauren Bacall walking into Sam’s and orders a glass of cider. They steal a moment to talk and Bates tells Anna that Vera has been unfaithful to him so he can divorce her. In those days, adultery was enough for a husband to divorce – even if a wife needed something more against her husband. Anna says it’s unfair but who cares?! Bates still has to get Vera to agree to divorce so she doesn’t go to the papers with Lady Mary’s scandal. Anna offers herself as a mistress. Oh my. Always the good guy, Bates says it’s beneath her and he’ll wait. Awww.

Tasha: The biggest twist of this episode was Branson becoming a political protestor. The record-it-and-post-it-on-youtube-then-get-arrested kind. He is really going off the deep end with this whole political thing! Is this the same Branson we saw in previous episodes? He seemed much more normal before; maybe Sybil refusing him has pushed him over the edge into crazy town. I was sure he was going to murder the general (major? major general?). He didn’t, thank heavens, but what a tense scene that was!

Lynn: During the General’s dinner, where Branson is indeed serving, Anna finds a letter labeled “forgive me” in Lady Sybil’s room. She reads it and runs down to the kitchen. It looks like Branson is going to assassinate the General in the dining room at dinner! Carson runs (well sort of) upstairs and interrupts just as it looks like Branson is about to pull a gun from a silver tureen and shoot the General. WOW. Branson is dragged downstairs and can’t understand why he is being treated so roughly. As it turns out, he wasn’t going to kill the General, just dump bucket of foul-smelling slop on him. Whew. William volunteers to take his place. What a saint. My goodness. I feel like I should make a Clue joke here. “It was the chauffeur in the dining room with the bucket of slop.”

Tasha: Edith! Edith is doing… well, I’m not entirely sure what she’s doing, to be honest. At the beginning of the episode she tells Sybil she envies her (as if there’s someone she doesn’t envy?) and Sybil advises her to find something she’s good at and put it to use. Hey, you know what Edith’s really good at? Writing gossipy letters! Whatever she’s doing, the general major major general whatever he is commends her for helping the officers. Good job, Edith, see what happens when you don’t try to bag every guy you see? Or maybe you are and that’s why they like you.

Daisy, Mrs. Patmore, and William

Lynn: William’s story continues to be heartbreaking and I fear that it will just get more so as the season goes on. He comes to see Daisy before going off to war. Mrs. Patmore tells Daisy that she must agree to be his girl no matter what until the war is over. Matthew promises to take William as his soldier servant so he (and we) can keep an eye on him. Of course (we can see it coming a mile away) William asks Daisy to marry him. Daisy isn’t sure but Mrs. Patmore says yes for her to save William’s heart before he leaves. Oh poor William when will Daisy break his heart and tell him the truth? Not before William announces his engagement to Daisy to the whole house staff. Daisy looks like a deer in headlights. And she’ll keep that look till next week at least.

Lynn’s favorite lines of the week: Maggie Smith continues to have the best lines in the show. Friends of mine call Downton Abbey, “The Maggie Smith Crazy Hour.” Well it is a little true but her little musings are so amusing.

Violet: I don’t know many people who would threaten me behind the laurels.

Mary [referring to Lavinia]: You sound as if you’re going to gobble her up.
Violet: If only we could.

Violet: He’s not a rough diamond, Just mined and polished very recently.

Isobel [referring to Lord Grantham’s dog Isis]: What will we do to keep Isis from getting into the patient’s rooms? Lord Grantham: I know precisely.
Isobel: What is that?
Lord Grantham: Absolutely nothing.

Bates [when Anna walks into his pub]: I don’t know if I’ve dreaded this moment or longed for it.
Anna: Either way, it’s happened.

Violet: [referring to Rosamund]: she is never more righteous than when she is in the wrong.

Mrs. Hughes [re: Daisy wondering if she should go upstairs]: No Daisy not you. The war hasn’t changed everything.

Mary [referring to Lavinia]: The truth is we are very much alike so of course I think she is perfect.

Last Thoughts:

Lynn: Another thing I really liked this week was that when the soldiers first arrive, they use a long take to introduce them to the house very much like the first shot of the house we ever saw in episode one of season one. So, the soldiers were introduced to the house the same way we were. Nice bookending.

Tasha: Matthew wasn’t in this episode very much, but whenever I see him I just want to hug him. Like tackle-hug and then force him to stay at Downton forever.

Downton Recaps: Episode One, Season Two

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I love recaps but decided to give the stage to some very excellent and funny Downton fans this season. I hope you enjoy! 😉

Tasha: It’s two years after the end of season one, 1916, and Matthew is in a battlefield trench. He’s ordering people around LIKE A BOSS. He appears to be some sort of bossy order type person. And thus concludes the entire extent of my military knowledge.

Oh, Matthew’s going back to Downton! Is it wise to shuffle people back and forth between home and battle like that? Who would go back the battlefield?

Downton! The “Abbey’s” in an uproar with furniture moving for a war fundraiser. Sybil’s sobbing at breakfast, Lord Grantham is dressed in a uniform all the time–I don’t know why–and Mr. Bates is in London. I want my Bates!

Lynn: As we were sitting around my house waiting for 9 o’clock to arrive, I couldn’t help but feel the excitement rise at the idea of being able to catch up with my friends at Downton and even see those we love to hate (yes Thomas). Before it even started we were all worried for them in the war

As to what I hope will happen in the next episode, I simply must know what the secret is that Sir Richard is holding over Lavinia’s head like the sword of Damocles. And I really want Mary to tell Matthew how she feels about him but of course she won’t so soon.

As I expected, episode 1 started with a bang as a shell exploded in the trenches on the front. The gritty “Saving Private Ryan” style shooting of the opening war scene was a stark contrast to the polite, quiet and elegant splendor we lived vicariously through in season 1 – and a very nice touch. Matthew looks commanding at the front and also scared. By the time the familiar Downton theme music comes up, we’ve been properly prepared that this year will be very different than the last.

I was surprised to see Lord Grantham not there – as was Lord Grantham. Although he was not happy to not be at the front, I was relieved not to have to worry about him too.

Tasha: So, somehow, while fighting in a war, Matthew managed to become engaged! What. The. Hell. And joy, he’s bringing his fiancee to Downton with him to meet the family. Everyone’s bummed he’s not making mad love to Mary like we all know he wants to–everyone except Mary, who is of course happy. Happy happy happy. Like a Stepford wife, our Mary.

Matthew’s fiancee is not a looker. As Lady Violet put it, “That’s Mary’s replacement? Well, I suppose looks aren’t everything.” Lavinia (or whatever her name is) does indeed bear a striking resemblance to Edith, and the fashion sense of season one. But Mary’s found a beau of her own! Oh yes, Mary has so many prospects. So many. This time it’s a balding executive who runs a tabloid. As Lord Grantham so rightly put it, “A hawker of newspaper scandal–ironic, that!” And he doesn’t even know about the dead Turk.

Clearly Mary’s desperate. Maybe Lavinia and Sir Richard the newspaper guy can get together.

Sybil and Branson’s relationship, meanwhile, seems to be on the rocks, although he eloquently proposed, begging her to “Bet on him,” and is just really hot. I don’t know what’s up with her, but apparently she wants to test her wings before shacking up with the chauffeur. I’m also confused as to why Branson thinks Sybil would tell her family about him coming on to her. Who does he think she is, Edith?

Speaking of Edith, she continues to be an idiot, lip-locking with a married farmer. Slumming it, eh, Edith? Classy as always! I think she likes to play dress-up with other people’s lives.

Meanwhile, below stairs… Team Bates! I LOVE BATES, LOVE HIM LOVE HIM!!!!! Oh my gosh, I think I forgot exactly how much I loved him, I wasn’t sure that was possible. He found his wife, which means he can now be divorced and marry Anna! Yay!!!! Oh, I’m so happy (and jealous of Anna). They’re planning to open an inn and name it The Bates Motel. Uh… they might want to rethink that one.

Vera Bates

BUT THEN, just when you think Anna and Bates will live happily ever after, Bates’ wife, the vampy Vera, shows up. This woman’s a Man Eater, yo. You can tell by the way Bates edges into the room sideways so as to make the smallest possible target and flinches when she talks. She pours the most ominous cup of tea ever and tells him that if he doesn’t come with her, she’s going to say Lady Mary slept with the Turkish diplomat. OLD NEWS, beyotch. But Bates, being Bates, agrees to her terms. Everyone is so disappointed in him when he says he’s going to leave, especially Lord Grantham; and poor Anna! She begs him to stay, saying, “The only ruin I recognize is to be without you!” But he tells her, “I am nothing,” and leaves.

Whyyy Bates whyyyyy didn’t you poison that femme fatale wife of yours when you had the chance? No one knew she was at Downton! DON’T GOOOOOOO, Bates!

Anna is sad. Who can blame her. Moseley, Matthew’s former valet, tries to get her to go out with him by giving her a book! That’s sweet, but he’s no Bates. NO ONE IS BATES EXCEPT BATES!

In other news, Daisy is toying with William’s affections, the idiot, and Thomas is back but not as a footman. He’s in the clinic, which now hosts war vets, and is doing… something. He’s like, in a uniform? Anyway, he gloms onto this one soldier who’s lost his sight, and I’m pretty sure he’s playing an angle, but I can’t tell what it is. And then the soldier gets depressed and kills himself! Meanwhile, O’Brien’s made friends with Lord Grantham’s new valet, Lang, who’s a former soldier. Lang is a German name, by the way, so I’m pretty sure he’s a German spy. He looks way too Teutonic.

Lynn: With loads of new characters in season 2, there are clearly a lot of new paths we are going to be led down in this season’s journeyings. And with the war on, even our old favorites will have to learn a new way of life. But let’s start with some of the new folks. The new housemaid Ethel has spirit but O’Brien is bent on bringing her down a notch. By the time O’Brien makes a fool out of her a few times she is a little less boastful. However, it isn’t until Ethel and Anna can share their pain and have a good cry together that Ethel becomes more likeable (more on Anna’s trouble later).

In order to get to the new valet, Mr. Lang, I guess we should first talk about my favorite poor dear sad sack – Mr. Bates. At the start, bates is off in London attending his mother’s funeral. Guess who shows up at his mother’s? Why it’s Veera – his wife – of course. Upon his return to Downton, Bates tells Anna about Veera’s return and says he is thrilled. Anna is shocked (as am I). What?! Anna is relieved (as am I) that he is happy because it means that he can buy a divorce from her and he Anna can start their life together. Good plan Mr. Bates (except for maybe the part about starting a hotel together – The Bates Hotel – seriously?). The happiness doesn’t last long. Veera shows up at Downton and blackmails poor Bates into leaving and being her husband again.

It seems she has come into knowledge about what happened between Mary and Mr. Pamouk and will give the story to the papers if he doesn’t agree to be her loving husband again. BITCH – as Bates so aptly said. Like the honorable pouty face that he is, Bates quits without saying why to Lord Grantham or Anna, both of whom are furious. Luckily for them, Mrs. Hughes heard the whole thing between Bates and Veera and she tells Carson. Carson in turn saves Bates’ reputation with Lord Grantham by telling him Bates fell on his sword to protect the family’s reputation. Grantham is touched and relieved.

His lordship’s new valet, Mr. Lang is a veteran who suffers from Shell Shock or what we now call PTSD. The usually prickly O’Brien goes soft on Lang and we’re left wondering why at first. Did her actions with Lady Cora really make her look in the mirror and change her ways? Well, no of course not. As it turns out, O’Brien had a brother with shell shock who died when he was sent back out to fight again. Seems like Lang is O’Brien’s new project now that Thomas is off fighting the war.

With Bates gone, Mosely tries for Anna again but he is squarely refused as Anna says she will never love again. Oh Anna. Sigh.

Tasha: I don’t do too good with plots. I think it’s mainly just about how the war is affecting all their lives and pushing them to do things they wouldn’t normally do. You can tell this by the fact that everyone is spouting all this “War is…” blahity blah blah nonsense all through the episode. “War has a way of distinguishing between the things that matter and the things that don’t.” (Matthew, who obviously has not learned this.) “War makes early risers of us all.” (Lady Violet) None of the guys feel like men unless they participate in the war somehow. Even Lord Grantham–how old is he, like sixty? He wears uniforms all the time as if he’s about to go into battle and whines about how no one will give him a commission. It’s ridiculous! Who’s going to send an aging earl into a battlefield? A general who wants to ruin his own career, that’s who. I really wish his wife would tell him to grow the hell up.

Matthew greets Sir Richard Carlisle, while Lavinia looks on

Lynn: Then there is Matthew’s fiance, Lavinia Swire. UGH is all I can say. She is a sweet solicitor’s daughter and just perfect for him – except that she is not Mary, which makes her absolutely imperfect in every way possible. Matthew gets a small break from the front and brings her Downton. Lavinia meting the family is very uncomfortable as was I when I watched it. Mary puts on a brave front but she is so obviously head over heels in love with him. I wanted to smack her for not telling him. Throughout the whole episode, as Mary struggles whether or not to tell Matthew of her feelings, Matthew keeps saying how happy he is with Lavinia but you can see it is not true. He still loves Mary as much as she still loves him. Oh you just want to smack them both and say, “Wake up! There is a war on and Matthew could die. Just stop being so proud and get together already!”

Not to be outdone, Mary brings home a potential suitor, Sir Richard Carlisle a newspaper magnate. He is a self-made man and uncomfortable with the old-fashioned ways of Downton. Lord Grantham hates home and Violet is loathe to admit that he may be Mary’s last best match. Sir Richard meet Lavinia at Downton and we learn that he knows her uncle and has some secret about her or her family that he can unleash at any time. OOOOO I want to know what that is. Maybe it’ll help get rid of her and allow an opening for Mary.

Tasha: Aside from Matthew having a fiancee and Bates leaving with his wife, I was shocked the housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, was such a busy body! She listens in on Bates’ and Vera’s conversation and then gossips about it with Mr. Carson, the butler, who gossips about it with Lord Grantham. Gossip all over the place!

Lynn: William is dying to go to war but at first is denied. Turns out Violet has lied to Dr. Clarkson to disqualify a few men she didn’t think should go to war – including William. William corrects the error and ships out for training but not before garnering a kiss from Daisy, who is braver this season than last. William thinks this means that Daisy is now “his girl” and is even more excited to go to war with his girl waiting for him at home. Daisy goes along at first but breaks our hearts when she admits to Mrs. Patmore that she doesn’t love William. Ever wise, Mrs. Patmore advises Daisy to lie to William and say she is his girl – otherwise he might die out there with a broken heart. Let’s hope she does just that – we can’t lose sweet William!

Thomas is – to his dismay and sheer terror – on the front. Life in war is definitely not what he thought it would be. Does the crisis bring out the best in him or the worst? Well it seems the worst wins out. Thomas wants to go home (Don’t they all I bet?!) so he gets his hand shot up on purpose to get sent from the front. After that, he writes to O’Brien and has her manipulate Lady Cora into using her influence with Dr. Clarkson (now Major Clarkson) and Lord Grantham to have Thomas reassigned to Crawley Hospital so he can be close to home.

He's blind

You get to see the worst and best of Thomas when he returns to Downton. He visits Downton Abbey and says nothing but nastiness to everyone. Slagging William and Bates and whoever else he can think of. However, at the hospital, he befriends an officer who has been blinded by mustard gas. Thomas is very giving and warm with this soldier and helps him find the courage to go on. Thomas along with Lady Sybil, who is now a nurse, give this officer the hope and encouragement to get out of bed and try to cope with his new life. In one of the saddest moments of the opener, the officer kills himself when Major Clarkson tells him he’ll have to move to a convalescent home since he is so much better. he just can’t face life without Thomas and Sybil. Thomas cries and shows there is still a bit of heart left in him.

With all the footmen gone, Carson is working himself to death – literally. Always the stickler for tradition and decorum, Carson’s contribution to the war effort is making sure that Germans don’t force any changes at Downton. So, no maids in the dining room no matter what. When Carson collapses in the middle of a dinner service, with both Sir Richard and Matthew in attendance, we think it is a heart attack but thankfully turns out to be exhaustion. Even at home, the war is taking its toll.

Lady Sybil becomes a nurse and really comes into her own. Even her mother has to admit that she is a grown and capable woman now. Branson admits his feelings for her but she can’t reciprocate at least now. She does’t love her new work but she can’t imagine doing any less or going back to the way things were. The suicide of the blind officer convinces Sybil to help try to turn Downton into a convalescent home. Maybe if they had done that earlier, this man would still be alive. Violet, Cora and Edith object at first but relent soon enough.

Lady Edith and John Drake

What the heck is going on with Edith? At the beginning she is learning to drive (in case all the young men who drive them around are called to the war) and by the end, she is driving a tractor and kissing a married farmer?! The farmer’s wife saw the whole thing and put a quick end to Edith “helping” on the farm. But I must say I am still left wondering where the heck that storyline came from. And wasn’t that the very same farmer that Mrs. Crawley saved from death last season by convincing Dr. Clarkson to drain the fluid from his heart sac? [Evangeline-Yep!]

Poor Lord Grantham wants to show he is still a valuable soldier but the army won’t let him be more than a mascot. He feels emasculated and no one can make him feel better. It will be interesting to see how he deals with that but I’m happy he is not getting shot at.

Lynn:Last reactions: The gowns are really amazing this episode.

Love the shot of Matthew walking through the steam on the train platform. Like a noir film.

Elizabeth McGovern’s accent still bothers me.

The writing is really gorgeous. Some of my favorite lines:

“Sometimes it feels as if all of the men I’ve danced with are dead.” – Sybil
“There is room for sentiment but not sentimentality.” – Edith
“Really? It is chaotic around here enough already.” – Cora’s reaction to the idea that Downton be turned into a convalescent home.
“What about my dress?!” Edith when Carson collapses from exhaustion in the middle of a dinner party.
“Bitch!” – Bates to Mrs. Bates.

Tasha: Matthew is SO DASHING in this episode, it’s disgusting. I have to admit I was kinda psyched to see him uniform, and wow. rawr. It’s nice that he’s tortured by war now, so he can stare broodingly off into the distance while the camera pans over his noble visage. I liked how Mary gave him her “good luck charm” before he left on the train (what the heck was that thing, anyway? It looked like a pink dog key chain). It was like a fair maiden giving her hair ribbon to a noble knight before he rode into a jousting match to fight in her name. WHY AREN’T THESE TWO TOGETHER ALREADY? Put on your lady pants and tell idiot how you feel Mary, jeeze.

So what did you all think about episode one? PBS has created a great way to chart the course of your love and loathing of each character on their website. Personally, I was very annoyed by Matthew and Robert last night, and had a few good laughs over Thomas’s nastiness now that he’s not really a servant at Downton. And everyone will rue their comments about Edith!

Countdown to Downton Abbey

by

Mary and Matthew (from Downton Online)

Today marks the final countdown to Downton Abbey, which will air on exactly this day next week! To prepare for the second season, I point you to my post on Heroes and Heartbreakers, where I provide the historical context of Downton during wartime (I wrote this before S2 aired, so my observations are from that perspective).

If you are on Twitter, don’t forget to follow and participate in the party by using the #DowntonPBS hashtag, and check back at EP after the West Coast airing and on Monday for discussions and recaps, and the historical background for each episode! For more information (and a bit of spoilers, so beware!), visit the page on this site devoted to Downton Abbey news!

Schedule

Episode 1 – January 8, 2012 (8:59 – 11:00 PM)
Two years into World War I, Downton Abbey is in turmoil, as Matthew and other young men go to war — or avoid it. The women also pitch in, and many couples see their romantic dreams dashed.

Episode 2 – January 15, 2012 (9:00 – 10:00 PM)
Downton is turned into a convalescent home with Thomas in charge. Meanwhile, Lavinia and Sir Richard’s secret comes out, Anna tracks down Bates and Branson seizes his chance to strike a blow for Ireland.

Episode 3 – January 22, 2012 (9:00 – 10:00 PM)
Isobel and Cora lock horns over control of Downton’s medical role. Mrs. Bird starts a soup kitchen. And Matthew and William embark on a perilous patrol behind German lines.

Episode 4 – January 29, 2012 (9:00 – 10:00 PM)
In the climactic battle of the war, Matthew and William go over the top to an uncertain fate. Vera plays a cruel endgame with Bates and Anna. And Daisy faces the severest test of her life.

Episode 5 – February 5, 2012 (9:00 – 10:00 PM)
Lord Grantham receives some terrible news from the front line which will impact on everyone at Downton. It looks as though the future of the entire family could be under threat as the greedy Vera Bates threatens to expose all the secrets that she knows about the Crawley family.

Episode 6 – February 12, 2012 (9:00 – 11:00 PM)
The Spanish flu strikes Downton, disrupting one match, hastening another and transforming the fortunes of all. Mary, Sybil and Robert each confront a moment of truth. Anna and Bates know a moment of happiness.

Episode 7 – February 19, 2012 (9:00 – 11:00 PM ET)
In the finale, the family gathers at Downton Abbey for Christmas.