Downton Recaps: Episode Two, Season Two

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.


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4 replies on “Downton Recaps: Episode Two, Season Two”
  1. I’m with heidenkind–I sure hope William doesn’t get killed, because that would make me cry! They wouldn’t let Matthew get hurt, either, would they?

    As always, Maggie Smith gets the best lines in the episode. Love her!

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