Downton Abbey: Backstairs Bitchery

I must have been insane when I decided to recap this. Yes, of course, it fits perfectly with this site and is a totally obvious choice, but the number of characters alone is slightly mind boggling, and trying to keep all the (similarly dressed) servants in order is likely to drive me slightly batty. Maybe a chart would help. I mentioned in the Gosford Park recap that GP and Downton Abbey have a few things in common, and this is one of them. You know how many times I had to watch GP before I could readily identify everyone? And to be honest, I still can’t remember the actual name of Lady Lavinia Meredith’s maid. I promise, everyone, I’ll try my best, but if I slip up, I do apologize. Please be kind in your comments.

We start with a close up on a wireless being tapped frantically, then move right to a steam train rolling through some beautiful countryside. The camera lingers lovingly on the train that probably cost them a fortune to rent and run for this one little scene, and eventually it comes to rest on a window, where a man with a round face, probably in his early to mid-forties, sits, looking out. The wireless chimes in again, and I was briefly tempted to really outdo myself and try to translate what was being said via the wireless, but admittedly, I don’t have the energy, and it was probably gibberish anyway. We learn what’s being said soon enough.

The wireless message travels along the wires to a post office in a village, where the message is spelled out onto a ticker tape and read by a middle-aged woman with a northern accent (I believe), who reacts in shock to what it says. She shows it to her husband, who says he’ll take it up to the house right away, but she tells him nobody at the manor will be up at this hour, so they may as well wait for their message boy to come in and deliver it at the usual time.

Obligatory beauty shot of the titular Downton Abbey, a beautiful, golden-colored home in a style I hear is known as “High Elizabethan.” The house is actually Highclere Castle, and because of this miniseries being shot there, it got a much needed multi-million-pound refurbishment. Costume dramas—always giving back.

Inside, an eager young girl knocks on the doors of servants’ rooms, waking them, because it’s 6 a.m., time to get rolling. A chyron tells us it’s April 1912, and if you can’t guess right away what the news coming over the wireless was, you haven’t been paying a whole lot of attention to major pre-war historical or pop-culture events of the past fifteen years or so.

A maid hauls herself into a sitting position, thanks the girl (Daisy) for waking them, and then sleepily wakes her roommate, Anna, who complains about the hours.

In the kitchen, everyone’s already hard at work, including little Daisy, who’s our eager beaver youngster/clueless audience stand-in who can ask the obvious questions so we can learn a little more about the Edwardian way of doing things. The cook, Mrs. Patmore, asks Daisy about the bedroom fires, and she reports they’re all lit, so Patmore sends her off to light the fires on the ground floor. Daisy grabs a coal scuttle and drop cloth and hurries through the bowels of the house, past scurrying servants, and upstairs to the quieter, grander rich-people section of the house. The camera follows her for a little while, then trades off to a footman, who’s going around collecting glasses from the night before. He asks someone where “William” is, and finds him in the dining room, laying the tablecloth for breakfast. He asks William where he’s been, and Will points out he’s not late. The glass collector bitches that William’s late when he says he’s late. Oh, he’s going to be a joy, I can tell already.

Maids open shutters and drapes and straighten up. Anna and Daisy have a brief back and forth about Daisy’s apparent fear of this strange new invention, electricity.

Belowstairs (I need some kind of shorthand for the servants’ areas and the masters’ areas of the house, don’t I? Calling them upstairs and downstairs just gets confusing. Subterranean Servants’ Hall (SSH?) Command Central? I’m open to suggestions) the butler’s shining some candlesticks in the silver pantry when William pokes his head in to say that breakfast is ready. The butler asks where the papers are and hears they’re late. I’m willing to bet quite a few morning editions were pulled and reprinted at the last moment that morning.

The housekeeper strides into the drawing room, where the maids are finishing clearing up and Daisy’s still lighting the fire. Housekeeper fires off some instructions and scolds Daisy for taking so long. She tells Daisy to hurry up and get back downstairs before anyone sees her. God forbid.

A young man on a bicycle rolls towards the house, observed briefly by a pretty, dark-haired young woman, clearly one of the daughters of the house. She turns away from the window and rings the bell beside her bed, interrupting the servants’ breakfast. Anna comments that it’s Lady Mary’s bell, and she goes to take up Mary’s tea-tray, asking an older woman if she can help, but the older woman stuffily says she has “her ladyship’s” tray to get. The bell for the back door rings and the butler sends William to fetch the papers that have evidently arrived.

Our young bicyclist stands outside, reading the headlines when William comes out. William scolds the kid for being late and the kid tells him he’ll see why in a minute.

We cut back to the silver pantry where, I swear to God, William is now ironing the newspaper. That is hysterical, I’m sorry. Were creases considered too common or something? Oh, no, we learn right away, thanks to Daisy’s questioning the practice, that it’s done to dry the ink. The bitchy older maid—ok, this is just going to get confusing if I don’t give her a name. She’s O’Brien, the countess’s lady’s maid—sneers that they wouldn’t want his lordship’s hands to be as black as Daisy’s. What a peach. I’ll bet she gets along great with the obnoxious glass-gathering footman, doesn’t she?  Bells start ringing all over, and then William comes dashing into the staff dining room to hand the paper to the butler, Carson, telling him there’s something he should see.

In the kitchen, the staff is exclaiming over the news as they prepare breakfast. We still don’t know what the news is. Patmore shakes her head and says that nothing’s certain. Well, that’s not entirely true. It’s certain that ships made of iron can sink no matter how many safety measures there are on board. Patmore yells at William for talking to Daisy for a few seconds and sends him topside with the kedgeree.

Topside, that’s what I’m calling the masters’ portion of the house. Anyway, topside his lordship magisterially makes his way down the stairs, accompanied by an impeccably groomed yellow lab. He arrives in the dining room and, as he starts helping himself to some breakfast, asks Carson if it’s true, what they’re saying? As if Carson knows more than the newspapers, magically. Carson says it looks like it, and his lordship mildly observes that they probably knew some people on board and wonders if there are any lists of survivors yet? The butler comments that it seems most of the ladies made it off in time. His lordship guesses that he means the ladies in first class, so we know he’s progressive and caring and not your usual snotty rich earl. He shakes his head, pitying the poor devils belowdecks, just trying to get to a better life in the slums of New York, and then sits down, opening the paper to a large photo of the Titanic leaving Southampton for the last time. So there you are—that’s the big news. The unsinkable ship went down. And at this point, having received confirmation that this is the big event everyone’s been gossiping about, my brain went into a sort of trivia overdrive. Lo, many years ago, I was really into the Titanic. Like, really into it. I could tell you how many rivets there were in the hull and what stateroom Thomas Andrews was staying in and why. And then the movie Titanic came out, with its horrible script and terrible acting, and it made a billion dollars or whatever, and suddenly everyone was crazy about the Titanic. That’s about when I lost interest, but some of those random facts stuck, and I can’t eradicate them no matter how hard I try.

Two of his daughters join him—the dark haired one we now know is Mary, and a blonde who looks just a little too bird-like to be really pretty. Bird comments that when the maid told her about it she thought she’d dreamt it, and Mary asks if they know anyone on board. Her father answers that her mother knows the Astors, and they dined with Lucy Rothes the month before. Lucy Rothes was actually Lucy Leslie, the wife of the 19th Earl of Rothes, who was traveling to New York with her cousin, Gladys Cherry. Both ladies survived, escaping the ship in lifeboat 8, and Lucy received particular attention for taking charge of some of the ladies in the boat and taking the tiller for most of the night. The able seaman in charge of the boat gave her the brass number from the lifeboat as a token of his esteem. The Astors were John Jacob Astor IV, one of the richest men in the world. He caused a scandal by divorcing his first wife, Ava (who, from what I hear, was a horrible piece of work who did a number on their son, Vincent) in 1909 and then marrying 18-year-old Madeline Talmage Force in 1911. At the time of the marriage, he was 47. They went on an extended honeymoon in Europe and Egypt, but when Madeline became pregnant, they headed home. Madeline survived the sinking and gave birth to a son four months later. JJ Astor’s body was later recovered by the cable steamer Mackay Bennett, which was sent to the wreck site to retrieve victims. I’d guess the family would have known Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon as well, but they don’t mention them. You see what I mean about the trivia overload? I’m sorry, I’ll stop.

The third daughter, also quite pretty, like Mary, arrives in the dining room and hands her father a recently arrived telegram. He reads it, blanches, and immediately leaves. He goes right upstairs, where he runs into O’Brien and asks if his wife’s awake. Once he gets an affirmative, he knocks and goes into her room. The wife, who’s played by Gibson Girl-esque Elizabeth McGovern, is reclining in bed, reading a newspaper of her own and commenting on how awful the whole thing is. Her husband breaks the news that he’s just received word that “James and Patrick” may have been on board. His wife can’t believe it, since they weren’t supposed to go over until May, but she’s ignoring the fact that sailing on the maiden voyage of the Titanic was a big deal, so it makes sense they’d change their plans so they could go early. Her husband tells her that they were definitely on the passenger list. The countess is sure they would have been picked up (few knew the extent of the disaster at this point, so she’s not being completely clueless). Her husband gently says it doesn’t look like it. The countess sets her breakfast tray aside in horror and clasps her hands together, telling the earl that he has to tell Mary, so she doesn’t hear about it from someone else. He nods, sadly.

In SSH, a man walks along the corridor, aided by a walking stick.

Topside, O’Brien is reporting the more personal family tragedy to Anna and her red-headed roommate. Redhead says it’s a shame if it’s true, and O’Brien says it’s more than a shame, it’s a complication. They follow her downstairs to SSH and she explains what she means: James Crawley was the earl’s first cousin and the heir to the title, the house, and the fortune, and Patrick was his son. With both dead, who knows who the whole part and parcel will go to? Redhead weirdly says that she thought Mary was the heir, although she would have known better. Seems more like something Daisy would say. O’Brien informs her that Mary, as a girl, can’t inherit. Not strictly true, but changing inheritance to recognize a female heir was super rare and quite difficult. I think the king had to get involved and it was a huge hassle and really only happened if the male line died out completely.

The three women finally reach SSH and stop short when they see the man from the train earlier standing in the hall, just waiting. He greets them in a quiet but polite voice and says he’s John Bates, the new valet for the earl. O’Brien pointedly looks at the walking stick in his hand and says he’s early by a day. He says he hoped to take the day to get to know the layout of the house and start his duties that night. Seems reasonable. O’Brien isn’t exactly rolling out the welcome mat, so Anna fills the uncomfortable silence by introducing herself as the head housemaid. O’Brien introduces herself as well, but without shaking his hand as Anna did. Redhead still has no name. O’Brien invites Bates to follow them to the housekeeper.

The housekeeper takes one look at the stick, just as O’Brien did, and asks how he can manage. He promises he can, and Patmore busts in to unnecessarily say that they all have plenty of work to do without carrying part of his load too. Man these people have some serious attitude. It’s nice to see that it’s not just upstairs people who are narrow-minded, snobbish, and mean, though. Bates, smiling, repeats that he can manage just fine. Carson comes in and makes some more introductions, including the first footman, Thomas, the asshat from earlier. Thomas had been acting as valet to his lordship (his lordship’s name is Robert, and his wife’s Cora, I’m just going to use those from now on. Easier and shorter.). Carson says he’s sure everyone will be happy to get back to normal now, and Thomas responds to that with the thinnest, briefest smile on record. Oh, dear, looks like someone had been gunning for a promotion. Patmore once again speaks up unnecessarily and wonders how Bates will deal with all the stairs in the house. Starting to sound the tiniest bit testy, he said once more that he’s fine and he can manage. Back off, lady! Anna pipes up briefly in his defense and he rewards her with a kind smile, relieved to have found an ally. She smiles shyly back. Carson sends Thomas off to show Bates his room, and once Bates is gone, O’Brien nastily sighs that she can’t see this lasting long. Can someone poison her, please? She’s just endlessly hateful.

The camera looks down through a long spiral staircase at Bates and Thomas, standing at the bottom. Bates does indeed manage, and gets up to the top, where he takes a look at the rather sparsely furnished room, smiles genuinely, and says he’ll be comfortable here. Thomas, who seems like the type who dreams of and simply expects better things, looks a bit confused by that.

Robert’s given Mary the bad news, and her response is pretty horrible and selfish: “does this mean I’ll have to go into full mourning?” Yick. Her father reminds her that two close relatives are now tragically dead, so they’ll all be in mourning. She has the grace to look slightly ashamed and asks if she’ll be expected to mourn Patrick as her fiancé, since the engagement wasn’t known outside the family. She just gets better and better, doesn’t she? Her father says it’s up to her whether she wants to mourn Patrick as a fiancé. She horribly says that that’s a relief, and he gets this wonderful look on his face, like he can’t imagine where this monster of a daughter came from. Honestly, what an unfeeling little troll. It’s not like these were people she didn’t know, she and Patrick grew up together and the families were close-knit. Even if you weren’t in love with him, usually you’d feel a little bad that he’d just died under terrible circumstances. Robert dismisses her and Mary leaves, as her father goes to sit at a desk, staring out the window sadly.

“Who are you?”

Bates and Thomas are now in Robert’s rooms, where Thomas is filling Bates in on how Robert likes things. Bates asks a few questions, which Thomas answers like he’s doing Bates a big favor. Bates cheerfully enough says he’ll get the hang of things, and Thomas snipply says he’ll have to. Can we have a poison party for him, O’Brien, and Mary? I think the world will be better off without these three. Bates ignores the attitude and notices some snuffboxes in a glass-topped table-style case. Robert collects them. Bates admires them and then comments how strange it is, the way the servants live, with a fortune in art and fine things surrounding them all the time, but none of it’s theirs.

Out in the hallway, Thomas spots O’Brien, and it quickly becomes clear that, as I expected, these two are cronies. He says he can’t believe he was passed over for “Long John Silver” and O’Brien tells him he should have spoken up when he had the chance. She warns him not to make the same mistake next time, but before they can continue the conversation, the housekeeper shows up and shoos them away.

Outside, Robert and Cora are taking a walk with the dog, and Robert’s filling Cora in on his audience with their atrocious daughter. Cora points out that this tragedy alters everything, re: the inheritance of the estate. She urges him to challenge the entail, and says she can’t understand why the estate has to go to whomever inherits the earldom. Really? You can’t? How long have you been in England, Cora? That’s how things went. A title went with the estate (which, historically, was not just a big house and large yard, it was an immense stretch of property that included farms and whole towns and villages). A title is meaningless and senseless without an estate attached to it. Carson approaches to tell them that the dowager countess (that would be Robert’s mother) is waiting in the drawing room for Cora. Cora wonders, with a bemused smile, what she’s done wrong this time.

I should point out that Cora is clearly an American, which means she was one of the so-called “dollar princesses” who came over in droves in the late 19th century. A number of factors during the 19th century decimated the wealth of the British aristocracy, and towards the end of it, many of its sons headed to America to find heiresses with large bank accounts and a yearning for a title (and the social cachet said title brought). One of the most famous of these was Consuelo Vanderbilt, who married the Duke of Marlborough and had a pretty miserable marriage. For all they saved many of the country’s great estates, most of these girls were looked down on by native-born Englishmen and women of the upper classes, who thought them gauche. In some cases, they really couldn’t seem to do anything right. Edith Wharton explored this theme in her last novel, The Buccaneers, which follows a group of American friends who marry dukes, marquesses, and lords, with varying degrees of success.

Carson also mentions that the new valet has arrived, and then unnecessarily says that he’s not sure the man will be equal to the task, but that’s a matter for his lordship to decide. Doubt planted before Robert even sees the guy, Carson sweeps off. Question: who hired Bates? Wasn’t there an interview process? Was he actually hired sight unseen?

As Cora moves towards the house, Robert tells her to tell his mother the news about James and Patrick, since she probably wouldn’t have heard.

The Dowager Countess, Violet, who is played by GP’s Maggie Smith, has heard, of course, because she hears everything. Why else would she be there? Cora just says Robert didn’t want his mother reading about it in the paper and getting upset. Violet says she’s tougher than she looks, but she’s sorry about Patrick, since he was a nice boy. I guess James wasn’t? No, according to Violet he was too like his mother, who was a class A bitch. Cora doesn’t know what to say to that, so she invites her mother-in-law to stay for lunch. Violet accepts, says she’s already told Carson she’ll be staying (heh), and invites Cora to sit with her. Violet’s come on a mission: the new heir simply won’t do, since he’s only a third cousin once removed, whom she’s never set eyes on. Cora bemoans having been forced by the late earl (Violet’s husband) to sign legal papers that tied her fortune to the entire estate but Violet says her husband wanted to protect the estate, and everyone thought Cora would have a son to inherit all anyway. Cora, sounding annoyed, points out that she didn’t, and I’m guessing she’s been getting crap for this for years. Violet ignores that and says it all would have been fine if Patrick had married Mary and their son had become the heir, but clearly that’s not going to happen, and this unknown heir will pocket all of Cora’s money, along with the house and everything therein. Violet wants the entail broken and Mary recognized as heiress to the money and the estate. The title won’t be hers, but everything else will be. Violet’s not about to see the estate she held together for 30 years get handed off to some nobody. Cora, with a conspiratorial smile, asks if they’re going to be friends now, and Violet says they’ll be allies, which is much more important and effective.

SSH. The servants are at lunch and Carson is telling Bates that the Crawleys are a great family and awesome all around, and he’ll have to get used to that. Just as they start to tuck in, Robert arrives and warmly greets Bates as his comrade in arms. He shakes Bates’s hand and welcomes him to Downton as everyone else looks awkward and uncomfortable. Once Robert leaves, everyone turns to stare at Bates, who just shrugs and says, “you never asked.” Ha! I like him. O’Brien looks like she just swallowed a bug.

The topside lunch is going up, so the kitchen’s busy and Patmore’s in fine form, yelling at Daisy to move some poisonous salt of sorrel out of the way. Daisy comments that they’re sending up a lot of food for a family in mourning, but Patmore says nothing makes you hungrier than grief. Then she sends the girl off to find a footman and have him sprinkle some chopped egg on a chicken that’s already gone topside.

The family’s not even home yet—they’re attending a memorial for James and Patrick in the village, having already done a memorial in London, so I guess it’s a few weeks later and the deaths are official. Robert talks with his lawyer about the Titanic memorial in Halifax that’s going up, then asks about the new heir, also a Mr. Crawley. Matthew Crawley, to be exact. The lawyer says that the young man’s a lawyer himself, in Manchester, and he lives with his mother. His father was a doctor. Robert thinks it’s odd that a third cousin of his should be a doctor. Why is that odd? The guy has to make a living somehow, and medicine was generally viewed as a decent profession. For heaven’s sake, Robert, he was your third cousin, he wasn’t your brother or anything, and not everyone’s cut out for the clergy or the armed forces, which were the two professions favored by the aristocracy.

Back at the house, Daisy catches William and hands off the chopped egg.

As the family walks back toward the house, the lawyer tells Robert it doesn’t look like the entail can be broken. Trailing behind are the three daughters, and the bird-like one, Edith, is crying quietly into a handkerchief. Mary wearily asks if she has to put on such an exhibition. Bitch. She, of course, is dry-eyed. The youngest daughter, Sybil, defends Edith, and Edith tells Mary she should be ashamed of herself for not showing any emotion at all. Amen, Edith.

Kitchens. Patmore scolds Daisy for not having sent up the egg, and Daisy realizes she sent up the salt of sorrel instead. Uh, is Daisy a little…slow? Because how else could you confuse a salt-like substance with chopped egg?

Daisy freaks, grabs the egg, and goes tearing off to find William, freaking out that she’s about to murder the whole family. Thankfully, William comes back down with the salt, asking if she wanted it sprinkled on the chicken in sauce, or the other one, and Daisy shrilly celebrates. She’s going to get very annoying very fast.

Out front, Cora greets the lawyer and is distressed to learn he’s leaving right away, evidently having nothing more to discuss with Robert.

Later, Carson is decanting wine when the housekeeper comes in for a little gossip. She learns about the cousin in Manchester and seems far less distressed by it than Carson, who hates to think that “their family” will be taken over by some nobody. The housekeeper points out that the Crawleys aren’t their family, but he shoots back that they’re all he has. There’s a heavy silence, which suggests some loss on her side, and Carson quickly apologizes. She asks if he ever wishes he’d chosen some other profession and had a real family. Instead of answering, he asks her if she has, and she says she doesn’t know.

Redhead arrives to tell them that tea’s been set out in the library but Cora hasn’t come down. The housekeeper sends her up with a tray, and Carson asks if Thomas, who asked to go into the village for a little while, has returned. He hasn’t, because he’s just coming out of the post office, as we now see.

Robert’s in the library, staring into the fire. Sybil joins him and asks if he’s all right. He says he is, but very sad. Tearfully, she says she feels the same, and he hugs her and says that they both loved Patrick, didn’t they? I think she might have loved him a little more than she was supposed to.

Upstairs, Cora’s relaxing with a book while O’Brien serves her tea and gives her unsolicited opinion that it’s terrible to see Cora’s money and the whole estate go to a third cousin. Wow, this woman’s got some serious gall to go talking like that. What makes her so bold? Cora asks how Bates is working out, and oh, God, Cora, this is the second-worst person in the house you could ask this question. O’Brien pretends to be reluctant to say, but ultimately claims that Bates sucks, because he’s got a bum leg and is basically useless.

Except he isn’t. Bates is in with Robert, who’s asking how he’s settling in. Bates says he’s doing just fine, and if he had any complaints, he’d take them to the butler, not Robert, which is appropriate. The man does know how things work, he’s not clueless. Robert gently asks what happened with the leg and Bates explains that his old wound started acting up, and then about a year ago his knee got in on the act. He reassures Robert that it’s not a problem, but Robert insists that Bates let him know if it’s all too much for him. Bates promises to do so, but tells him it won’t be, for about the eightieth time.

O’Brien’s out for a smoke when Thomas comes wandering into the courtyard and tells her he was just off sending a telegram. She says the lawyer, Murray, didn’t stay long, and Cora doesn’t know what was decided. Thomas grouses that if he was still Robert’s valet he’d get it out of him. That might be why you’re not his valet anymore, Tom. I get the feeling Robert wouldn’t take kindly to being pressed for gossip in that manner. O’Brien bitterly says that Bates won’t say a word. Thomas thinks Bates is some kind of spy, which is stupid, and O’Brien encourages him to get Bates fired somehow.

An official meeting of the bitch brigade

Later, Anna’s helping Mary get ready for dinner, and Mary’s telling her how O’Brien said that Bates can’t do his job. She wonders how he got hired at all, and Anna says that Bates was Robert’s batman in the Boer War. A batman, aside from being a caped crusader, was a lower-level soldier who was assigned to be a sort of army valet to a higher ranking one, who was usually a member of the upper classes, like Robert. Sybil thinks it’s great, but of course Mary disapproves, since she can’t see how a valet can do his work if he’s lame. She checks herself out in the mirror and bitches about how much she hates black and that it seems like a lot of bother for a cousin. Edith reminds her sister that Patrick was a little more than just that, but Mary earns another horrible stripe by saying that Patrick wasn’t really a fiancé, he was just filler, and she was only going to marry him if nothing better came along. Hate! I’ve never even met this guy and I hate her on his behalf! Edith somehow manages not to stab her sister to death right then and there, and shows supreme restraint when Mary pushes a little further and sneers that Edith would have taken him anyway. Edith admits she would have, if Mary had given her the chance.

SSH. Thomas goes to Carson and tells him Bates isn’t up to the job, because he can’t carry heavy things, like luggage. I find it hard to believe that Carson wouldn’t have realized the game Thomas was playing (and the fact that this guy has probably had an attitude problem for quite some time), but then, Carson seemed to take against Bates from day one too, so maybe he’s just ignoring it. Thomas says the magic words by telling Carson it would be a shame if the house fell below standards because of one limping valet who can’t carry cases or wait at the table when needed. Carson indignantly says he certainly would not.

Mary’s alone in her room, contemplatively staring at herself in the mirror, her sisters having cleared out. Sybil pokes her head in and says it’s dinnertime. Mary says she’ll be along, but Sybil recognizes some sadness (at last!) and comes in, saying she knows Mary feels badly about Patrick dying. Mary says the problem is she doesn’t feel as bad as she should, and that’s what’s making her sad. What a totally selfish little bint.

Bates is putting the finishing touches on Robert, and when Robert drops something, Bates refuses to let him get it and instead bends down himself. Robert once again asks if things are going ok, and naturally Bates says it’s fine. Robert tells him that he wouldn’t be doing Bates a favor in the long run by keeping him on if it’s too much for him. Would everyone just get off this guy’s back already? He’s shown no sign of strain that we’ve seen, and seems friendly, cheerful, and competent. Ease up!

Robert changes the subject and asks Bates if he misses the army. Bates responds that he misses a lot of things, but you have to keep moving forward. I really like this guy. I’d want to be friends with him in real life, he’s got a good outlook on life. No wonder Anna clearly has a crush on him (I didn’t mention this earlier, but it appears Daisy has a crush on Thomas the Terrible too. Poor girl.) Bates promises not to let Robert down.

Robert heads to Cora’s room, where O’Brien’s helping her get ready. Once O’Brien goes, Cora mentions that she heard Bates is causing awkwardness downstairs. Robert says she’s always making trouble and he can’t imagine why Cora listens to her. Cora says it’s eccentric to have a crippled valet, and I’m starting to see how Mary turned out the way she did. Robert asks her not to use that word. Cora says she totally understands what it must have been like to have fought alongside someone during a war. Robert scoffs, rightly, because come on, lady. She says she understands the sort of bond forged between people in a life-or-death situation, even with servants. Robert calls her on her snobbery and says he just wants to give Bates a chance. Seems reasonable.

Violet’s waiting downstairs for the family, and as soon as Robert comes in she complains about the glare of the electric lights. There’s some talk about putting it in her dower house, but she’s not interested. She asks what Murray said about the entail and is disappointed to learn it’s unbreakable, and Robert’s not interested in pursuing this further. She’s aghast at the idea of losing Cora’s fortune along with everything else. She reminds him that he married Cora for her money against Violet’s advice, and if he gives the money away, what was the point of the “peculiar marriage.” Robert says that Cora has made him very happy, and judging from the way they’ve been with each other, I’d believe it. Robert admits he’s ashamed of his motives for chasing Cora. His mother pulls out the big guns and asks if he doesn’t care about Downton and he firmly tells her that he cares very, very much about this place that’s been a third parent and fourth child to him. Just as things get heated, his wife and daughters come in to diffuse the situation. Sybil, especially, is intent on easing everyone. Then Carson comes in to announce dinner.

SSH. Daisy plaintively asks if anyone else keeps dreaming about all the people on the Titanic freezing to death. Redhead comments that Bates probably saw worse during the war, and he says he didn’t see worse, but he saw plenty of bad. Redhead asks him to hand her a tray, but when he rises to take it, his knee gives out and he sends the tray and its contents clattering to the floor. Anna scurries to pick it all up and Bates looks embarrassed.

Topside. Anna, Redhead, and the footmen are clearing up after dinner. O’Brien wanders up to stick her nose in where it doesn’t belong, and pulls Thomas aside to tell him that Cora’s expressed reservations about Bates to Robert and wishes Robert had kept Thomas on. As they’re talking, Anna walks by, asks O’Brien what she’s doing there, then tells them they can stay where they are, plotting. I like Anna.

Cora has presented herself at the lovely dower house to show her mother-in-law a letter from the young Duke of Croborough, who’s offering to visit their house. How nice of him. Both ladies realize that he’s fortune hunting: he thinks Mary will now be the heiress of Downton. Cora knows Robert won’t challenge the entail, so Violet says she’ll write to the lawyer herself and try to get the ball rolling. Meanwhile, she urges Cora to write back to the duke and give him a date for when Mary’s out of mourning.

As the household prepares for Croborough’s visit, Sybil helps Mary get ready, tucking a gardenia into her hair. Edith sneers at the attempt, but Mary mostly ignores her. Cora comes in and sends the girls downstairs to prepare to greet the duke. As Mary passes her, she yanks the flower out of her hair and tells her not to “gild the lily.” Heh.

SSH. Carson checks out the upstairs staff and prepares to lead them outside to welcome the duke. He suggests Bates stay behind, but Bates says he wants to go. As they head up, Thomas bitches to William about all the extra work and luggage lugging they’ll have to do. Bates overhears and offers to give them a hand, but Thomas tells him he shouldn’t “in his condition.” Ass. As he passes Carson, Thomas asks him how long they have to put up with this. What, put up with a guy nicely offering to help you out? Hopefully not long, Thomas. If my prayers are answered, you’ll be out on the street soon enough. Carry the damn luggage yourself, you whiney baby.

The staff and family are all gathered in front of the house as the car pulls up and the duke and Robert step out. Cora greets the duke and introduces her daughters before inviting him in. The duke mentions that his valet was taken ill just before he left, so he doesn’t have a servant with him. He turns to the servants and, a little too readily, picks out Thomas, whom he recognizes from a dinner party in London. Uh huh. I think we all know what the deal is here.

The family heads toward the door, and as they pass, O’Brien viciously kicks Bates in his bad leg, sending him sprawling onto the ground. What a horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE woman! Who does that? Why does she hate this guy so much? Does she have the hots for Thomas or something? Because I’ve never been so close to a friend that I’ve been willing to physically abuse another person on their behalf for no reason whatsoever. Please tell me she dies horribly or something.

Seriously, who does that?

The family and duke stop and stare, and Robert leaps forward, asking Bates if he’s all right. Bates, still face-down on the ground, calmly responds that he’s fine and apologizes. The upstairs folk go in, and Anna helps Bates to his feet. He asks her not to feel sorry for him and walks off with as much dignity as he can muster.

Inside, Mary asks the duke what he’d like to do. He suggests exploring the hidden nooks and crannies of the place, and she’s game.

In the drawing room, Cora’s working on an immense piece of embroidery. She tells Robert that Mary’s settling the duke in. He asks her not to let Mary make a fool of herself, then switches topics and tells her he has to go to London for a day or two. She asks him if things are progressing, presumably with the entail, but he tells her it’s just a regimental dinner.

Mary and the duke are wandering around in the servants’ quarters. Mary remarks that this is the first time they’ve been alone together. He flirtily asks if she likes being alone with him, and she plays her part perfectly by saying yes without actually saying yes. He goes to open one of the servants’ bedroom girls and she starts to get uncomfortable, saying she doesn’t think they should pry. The duke’s all about prying, so he moves into the men’s quarters and starts opening doors and pawing around in dresser drawers. Mary looks more and more tense and uncomfortable, and really panics when she hears someone coming. The duke closes the door of the room he’s in, stranding her in the hallway. Bates comes up and is surprised to see her there. She hesitantly tells him they were just exploring, and the duke comes out and joins her. Bates opens the door to his room and invites them to explore that as well. Mary, flustered, says they won’t and apologizes for being there. As they hurry back down the hall from whence they came, the duke asks her why she bothered to apologize to that man. Mary answers that she tends to apologize when she’s in the wrong. And yet we haven’t seen her do it once before, even though she’s been in the wrong a lot.

Carson has taken the staff complaints about Bates to Robert and claims the man can’t handle the extra duties expected of a valet, like waiting at table during a big night. As it is, they might—gasp!—need to have a maid on the table to wait on the duke. Robert’s blasé about this, but Carson’s mind is made up: Bates has to go. Carson says the honor of the house is at stake, and that it was a hard decision to make. Robert sighs that he knows all about hard decisions made for the honor of Downton.

Elsewhere, William’s carting the duke’s luggage to a storage room. The housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, sees him and tells him not to let Thomas take advantage, since he’s only a footman, same as William. William, who I’m guessing is a little afraid of Thomas, says it’s no big deal, because he likes to stay busy to keep his mind off things. She realizes “things” means “homesickness” and tells him there’s nothing wrong with being a little homesick, because it means he comes from a happy home, something most people there would envy.

That night, Bates is finishing helping Robert get ready for dinner. Robert, looking nervous, says they have to discuss something. From the look on his face, Bates knows what’s coming. Robert begins by asking if he’s recovered from his fall. Bates says he has, that he’s very sorry, and he doesn’t know what happened. Wow, talk about the noble type. I would have thrown O’Brien under the bus so hard she’d have come out the other side. Robert finally says that they agreed to a trial, and that trial is over. “If it were only up to me…” Robert says lamely. Uh, Robert, it is totally up to you! Don’t you pay these people’s wages? Carson and all the others are your employees, tell them to suck it up, and while you’re at it, tell O’Brien to get stuffed! You know she’s trouble, and she was standing right next to Bates when he fell, which is more than a little suspicious. Man up!

Robert uses the “extra duties” excuse that everyone keeps throwing around. Bates politely suggests that, when an extra footman is required, the cost could come out of his wages. That sounds reasonable. Robert says he couldn’t possibly do that. Why not? Stop being such a chump, Robert. Bates tells Robert that he’s very eager to stay, because to be honest, he’s really unlikely to find another job elsewhere, in his condition. For the first time, the smile slowly vanishes from his face and he starts to look a little sad and anxious, knowing this is useless. Robert naively says Bates should be able to find something in a smaller house, but Bates knows better. Robert offers to help until Bates finds something else, but Bates is a proud military man and won’t take a handout. Robert responds to this with silence, so Bates concedes the battle and says he’ll be on his way at once. Robert says he can take the morning train and that he’ll give Bates a month’s wages. Bates accepts this and slowly moves toward the door. Robert calls after him that this is a bloody business but he can’t see any way around it. Lame, Robert. Bates, bless him, nods and says he quite understands. Then he goes on a shooting rampage and kills Thomas, O’Brien, and Mary. The end.

Oh, if only. The family is at dinner and Cora’s almost being flirty with the duke, which is kind of weird. Edith, who evidently has little filter where her older sister’s involved, asks what Mary and the duke were doing in the servants’ quarters earlier. Sybil tries to excuse their behavior, but Robert’s interested to know what they were doing up there. So’s Carson, by the look on his face. Mary says they were just looking around, and Edith says she can’t imagine what they were looking at, since there are only servants’ rooms up there. She bizarrely won’t let it go, so Mary finally scolds her to shut up already as Cora leads the ladies out so the duke and Robert can have a quiet moment together.

SSH. The servants gather and speculate on the likelihood of the duke’s proposing that night. Patmore notices Anna putting a tray together and asks her what she’s doing. Anna explains that she thought she’d take something up to Bates, since he’s not feeling well. She asks the housekeeper’s leave to do so (women weren’t allowed in the men’s quarters, and vice versa) and receives it. Evidently news of the sacking has gotten out, because Carson goes on to say that Bates is leaving without a stain on his character, and they should all remember that. William, the sweet guy, says he can’t figure out why Bates is leaving, since William doesn’t mind doing a little extra work. Thomas snaps at him to shut up and offers to take over valeting for Robert again. Carson says he won’t be attending to Robert while he’s got the duke to service. Uh, serve.

Anna approaches Bates’s room and is startled to hear quiet sniffling and crying coming from inside. The door’s open just enough for her to be able to see him bent over, head in hand, on the bed. She backs off a few paces, then loudly calls for him, to signal her arrival. Yeah, I definitely like this girl. He has enough time to recover himself before she arrives with his dinner tray. He thanks her for the food and takes the tray. She pauses, then sincerely says she’s very sorry he’s going. He says he’ll be all right, and she forces a smile and says there’s always a place for men like him. Yes, but sometimes, that place was begging on a street corner, tragically enough. She asks him to send word when he’s fixed up somewhere else, otherwise she’ll worry. Aww. “Well, we can’t have that,” he says. Double aww!

Robert and the duke are finishing up their brandy and cigars in the dining room. The duke says there’s something he wants to talk about before they join the ladies. He begins by saying he’s sorry to hear about Robert’s loss and says he supposes this means there’ll be some “adjustments.” Robert refuses to play along and comes right out and says that the entail stands and will stand as long as he breathes, much as it pains him to say it. The duke is amazed that he’s willing to give up his estate and Cora’s money. Robert shrugs it off and says that, despite everything, Mary still has her dowry, which is a nice one. The duke chokes on his cigar, does a 180, and says he has no designs on Mary, and he hopes he hasn’t given the wrong impression. Robert, awesomely, refuses to pander to this odious little scug and accuses him of being a gold-digger. Takes one to know one, I guess. He asks, point-blank, what the duke wanted to discuss so badly, if not marrying Mary? The duke claims not to remember. Sure. Dick. Could you at least hire Thomas before you leave?

The duke laves the dining room and makes for the stairs, but he’s intercepted by Mary on the way. He shortly tells her he’s leaving first thing in the morning and bids her good night. Mary stands there, stunned, and of course who should come along but Edith, to rub salt in the wound. “So he slipped the hook?” she says.

“At least I’m not fishing with no bait,” Mary shoots back, stalking off. Ouch! Although Edith’s been such a childish pain in the ass these past couple of scenes I don’t even feel bad for her there. Edith, rightfully, looks as if she’s just been slapped. Don’t dish it if you can’t take it, honey.

I think we all saw this one coming

In the duke’s room, Thomas has his jacket off and is expressing surprise over Robert’s refusal to break the entail. The duke’s filled him in completely because, as I suspected, he and Thomas have a little something going on. Remember that day Thomas went into the village? He was telegraphing to duke to tell him Robert had been talking to the lawyer and word had it the entail would be broken. Thomas asks what the duke will do now, and he says he’ll move on to another heiress, an American one, if necessary. Thomas reminds the duke of a promise he made to give Tom a job if he wanted to leave. Thomas wants to be a valet, but the duke doesn’t need one. Doesn’t he have a friend who needs one? Anything to get Thomas off my screen! Thomas is fretting that Carson might not let him be Robert’s valet again, now he’s gotten rid of Bates. He sits next to the duke on the bed, brushes his hair back, says he wants to be with him, and moves in for a kiss. The duke doesn’t think a working relationship would work well for them, and anyway, he’s not that into Thomas after all. In his words, “one swallow doesn’t make a summer.” Interesting choice of phrase, that. Thomas gets pissed and offers to blackmail the duke, who really stupidly wrote Thomas a bunch of letters, which Thomas kept. But the duke found them while rummaging around in Thomas’s room earlier, and he holds them up. Before Thomas can make it across the room, the duke casts the letters into the fire and burns them to ash. Thomas calls him a bastard, but the duke is unperturbed and sends him off to bed. Unless he wants another, uh, swallow. Thomas doesn’t. He grabs his jacket and leaves, pausing in the hallway to briefly mourn the loss of the duke and all his dreams. Oh, Thomas, you poor, poor thing. Asshole.

Carson swings by the housekeeper’s office to tell her he’s turning in. She asks if there’s a big announcement, but he says that doesn’t look likely, since the duke’s off first thing in the morning. She can’t believe it and wonders what Mary did wrong. Carson tells her that Mary did nothing wrong, from what Robert says. So I guess Robert’s more gossipy than I thought.

Topside, Cora asks her husband why he put Mary through all this nonsense if he knew he really, really wasn’t going to fight the entail. He tells her he wasn’t sure that was his decision until he had to spend more than five minutes with that dick of a duke. Cora doesn’t understand, and he says she doesn’t because the house isn’t in her bones the way it’s in his. He doubts Mary would have been happy with a fortune hunter, and Cora points out that she was, even though it took her husband a good year to finally fall in love with her. He sweetly and sincerely asks if he really has made her happy and she reassures him he has. As they settle down to bed, she tells him this matter isn’t over; she intends to continue fighting.

Bright and early the following day, Carson finds Robert and asks if it’s ok for Bates to ride to the station in the same car as the duke, since they’re catching the same train. Robert’s fine with it and doesn’t care if the duke has a problem.

Out front, Bates takes one last look at the grand house as Robert, Cora, and the duke come out. The duke disingenuously says it’s been a delightful visit, but Robert rather delightfully observes that it seemed to have been a bit of a disappointment for the duke. The duke climbs into the car and Robert goes to Bates to bid him farewell and wish him luck. Bates smiles and sincerely wishes Robert good luck too. He gets into the car and they start to pull away, but after debating internally for a second, Robert chases the car down, tells them to stop, and pulls Bates out. He tells Bates to go back inside and they’ll say no more about it. Yay! Bates says nothing, but the grateful look on his face speaks volumes. As Bates returns to the house, Robert tells Carson that it wasn’t right. What, sending a wounded veteran to almost certain penury for absolutely no reason at all? You’re right, Robert, it wasn’t right. Better late than never, I suppose.

In a nice house in, presumably, Manchester, a young man with blonde hair is sitting down for breakfast with his mother. Hey, the mom’s played by Penelope Wilton! Excellent, I like her. She was totally adorable in Calendar Girls. A maid brings in the post, which includes a letter for the young man, who’s Matthew Crawley, no need to stretch out the suspense. He opens it up and reveals it’s from Robert. His surprised mother asks what he wants and her son answers he wants to change their lives.

At Downton, Cora’s bitching about the incoming third cousins, despite Robert’s reminders that Matthew is the heir and, as such, should know what the area looks like before he takes over running it. She bleats that nothing’s settled yet, because Violet’s still on the case.

Matthew and his mother, Isobel, are in the Crawleys’ car being driven to a lovely home in the village, which the driver helpfully identifies as Crawley House. As they get out and Isobel looks around happily, Matthew grouses that he can’t understand why he couldn’t just refuse the inheritance. Isobel says there’s no mechanism to do so, he’s going to be the earl someday whether he wants it or not. So suck it up you ungrateful brat.

A middle-aged man comes striding out of the house and identifies himself as Mosely, their new butler/valet. Matthew starts to say something, but mercifully his mother, who seems to have at least the beginning of a clue as to how one should behave, breaks in and introduces herself and her son and thanks him for helping with the cases. Matthew pouts because I guess he loves hauling around luggage. Twit. As he and his mother go into the house, which I’m already coveting like crazy, he bitches that he’s sure Robert will try to turn him into “one of his own kind” but Matthew won’t be changed, oh no! He’s determined to remain an obnoxious, ungrateful, condescending dick no matter how many estates fall into his lap! His mother snaps that, when he met Robert in London he liked him just fine. Regimental dinner, eh Robert?

Inside, Isobel compliments their maid from Manchester, Ellen, on how well she’s set up their furnishings and things. Mosely comes in and Isobel asks if he’s the whole staff. He tells her there’s a girl from the village who will act as a housemaid and kitchen maid. Isobel thanks him and asks for tea. Once he’s gone, Matthew says he can hit the road, since they don’t need a butler or a valet, they’ve always done just fine with a cook and housemaid. His mother, however, is much smarter and knows that the Crawleys will expect these new Crawleys not to know how to behave or treat a real staff, and she’d really like to not confirm those suspicions, thank you very much. Matthew’s a match for Mary in the selfishness department, with plenty of self-righteousness thrown in, and he insists he has to be himself. So, be yourself you jerk! Do you not care about your mother’s peace of mind and comfort? In you come, assuming that everyone’s going to be awful to you, when you haven’t even met them yet. Nobody’s trying to do anything here, so chill out and stop whining!

He wraps up by insisting that, when the time comes, he’ll pick his own wife. He’s already assuming they’ll be shoving one of the daughters at him. Of course, as he says this, Mosely comes in and announces Mary, who sweeps in wearing a riding habit and stiffly welcomes them and invite them to dinner that night. Isobel accepts and invites Mary for tea, but Mary won’t stay, because she assumes they’re busy. Out she goes, followed by Matthew, who catches her up outside, where she’s remounting her horse. He non-apologizes by saying he hopes she didn’t misunderstand him. What’s to misunderstand? You’re clearly a dick. She tells him that she, too, thinks this whole thing is a complete joke and canters off.

“Please present yourself for scrutiny and sneering at 8 o’clock sharp.”

Up at the house, the staff gossip about the new Crawleys. O’Brien thinks they’re crap, because Isobel doesn’t even have a ladies’ maid. Anna tells the footmen they’ll be expecting a full report after dinner. William comes through and asks if they’re to treat Matthew as the heir. Uh, yes? Because he clearly is. O’Brien snits that the low-class Matthew will be lucky to get a civil word out of her (how has she not gotten fired?) and Anna responds that they’re all lucky to get a civil word out of her. HA! I love this girl! That shuts O’Brien up just long enough for Carson to come in to deliver a package for Redhead (whose name is finally revealed as Gwen.) Thomas asks if Carson’s seen the new Crawleys yet but gets a negative.

Topside, Mary’s getting ready and wondering aloud to her mother why the new Crawleys are there at all if the entail is going to be undone? Has it not been made clear that that’s not going to happen? Robert’s pretty firm on this. Oh, but Violet’s still working on it. Whatever. I would think it would be even more difficult to undo without Robert’s help. Cora asks what the new Crawleys are like and her daughter reports that Isobel’s nice enough, but Matthew’s rather full of himself. I didn’t think I’d end up agreeing with Mary, but there we go.

Below, the new Crawleys arrive and are greeted nicely by Robert, who leads them inside to meet Cora and the girls. Cora welcomes them to Downton, and Isobel thanks her for being so kind. Matthew takes in the three girls lined up opposite a clutch of the upstairs servants and comments on what a reception committee it is. Everyone looks uncomfortable, as well they might at such an unnecessary remark. How did this nice lady end up raising such a dreadful son?

Isobel breaks the awkwardness with a nice comment that seems to smooth things over, so Robert moves on to introduce his mother. Isobel approaches her and, in a friendly way, asks what they should call each other. Violet looks horrified for a second, then suggests Mrs. Crawley and Lady Grantham. Heh. Everyone heads into the dining room for what will, I’m sure, be quite a dinner.

Robert asks how they’re settling in down in the village and Isobel says it seems lovely, and she’s sure she’ll find something to do. Cora suggests she get involved with the local hospital, and Isobel, the wife of a doctor, you’ll recall, immediately jumps on that, asking how many beds there are and who pays for it. Violet sneers at them talking about money, like she hasn’t been blathering on about Cora’s cash for months now. Robert explains that his father set up the endowment for the hospital, which Isobel thinks is lovely. Thomas bends down beside Matthew with a tray and tells him how to serve himself, which Matthew knows very well how to do, and he informs Thomas of this fact right quick, in a tight, annoyed voice. Mary says he’ll soon get accustomed to the way things are done at Downton. Matthew acknowledges that he’s used to a very different kind of life.

Sybil avoids the oncoming tension by asking Matthew what he plans to do. He proudly replies that he has a job in Ripon and he plans to start the following day. The Downton crowd reacts to this in shock and horror, as if he announced he was going to work as a sewage mucker or something. Robert tells Matthew that he’d been planning on starting to show him the ropes around the estate. Matthew answers, in the most smug, sneering, dismissive, condescending tone imaginable, that there are plenty of hours in the day, and he’ll have the weekends besides. Am I supposed to like or root for this guy at all? Because I don’t. In an instant, he basically just dismissed all of his relatives’ work, and it actually was work to run these estates, despite the dismissive way we refer to the “idle rich.” Yes, the wealthy had servants to take care of all the day-to-day crap most of us don’t want to do, like cleaning and cooking three square meals, but being the lord of a large estate like Downton was actually a full-time job. A lord would meet regularly with his estate manager to find out how things were going and who needed help and what improvements needed to be made and what crop should go here and whether it would make more sense to turn that land over to pasture, etc., etc. And his wife would be busy in the towns and villages, visiting the poor and sick and making sure people’s needs were being seen to. The point is, they weren’t just spending every single day sitting on their asses and rearranging their stamp collections, they were doing something, and that something took complex management that would take more than a weekend to learn, Matthew.

At this point, Violet, looking a bit bewildered, pipes up to ask: “What is a weekend?” I know we’re all supposed to say “oh, ha, ha, look at the totally out of touch rich lady,” but in her defense, a weekend as we know it, with two consecutive days off and an actual name, was a fairly new concept, and it was almost exclusively middle class. The rich did their thing every day of the week and the working classes typically only had Sundays off. So, it’s not completely crazy that she didn’t know what Matthew was referring to.

SSH. Daisy wonders what the big deal is with Matthew working and Patmore says that gentlemen don’t work. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. Thomas chimes in that he feels bad for Mosely for having to work for these awful common people. I pity Mosely for having to put up with Matthew, but Isobel’s perfectly charming. Bates, awesomely, asks Thomas why he applied for the job Mosely has now, if he thinks it’s so bad, and Thomas sleezes that he hoped it would get him away from Bates.

After dinner, Cora leads the ladies to the drawing room. Isobel’s excited to learn more about the hospital, which gets some snark from Violet about Isobel’s husband’s profession. Isobel owns it, though, and says her father and brother were also doctors, and she trained as a nurse during the Boer War.

Alone with Robert, Matthew finally starts acting like a little less of a dick. Robert says he brought Matthew there so the people in the town could get to know him, but Matthew points out they probably have years to get to know him before Robert kicks off. He says it a little more nicely than that. He says he has to keep busy, and Downton won’t keep him busy enough. Right back to being a dick, then. Well, it was good while it lasted.

Thomas is heading down to SSH, telling Gwen that Isobel held her own against Violet. Carson scolds him for gossiping, then moves into the servants’ dining room to yell at William for having a splitting seam on his uniform. He lays poor Will out good for failing to reflect the pride and dignity of the Crawley family, then he turns and strides out. Daisy offers to fix the uniform, and says that everyone’s had a smack from Carson at some point. Anna sweetly adds that William will be the butler someday, and then he’ll do the smacking. William guesses Carson was born a butler, but Bates says even Carson wasn’t born standing at attention. “I hope not, for his mother’s sake,” says Thomas. As much as I hate him, I have to admit I chuckled at that one.

The next day, Robert and his mother are taking a stroll, and he’s expressing surprise that she seems to want Mary to marry Matthew, whom he was sure she didn’t like. She says that doesn’t matter, since she’s got plenty of friends she doesn’t like. She also asks Robert why he always has to act like he’s nicer than the rest of them. Because he is?

Later that night, Anna returns to her room to find Gwen hastily folding up a letter. Anna teases Gwen about having an admirer and warns her not to let the housekeeper know about it. Generally, relationships weren’t allowed for those in service. Anna also shares the bit of gossip about Violet wanting to hook up Mary and Matthew, which Thomas overheard earlier. Gwen says it makes sense, all things considered. She was, after all, supposed to marry Patrick. Anna wonders if she really would have gone through with it, though, when it came down to it?

Matthew arrives home after his first day of work and Isobel comes into the hall to greet him and tell him they have guests: Cora and Violet are in the sitting room, having tea. I wonder how many cracks about doctors Violet got in before Matthew got home.

Surprisingly, both Violet and Cora are pretty gracious, and Violet even gently pokes fun at her late mother-in-law. Mosely offers Matthew some tea treats, which Matthew refuses, along with Mosel’s offer to pour him some tea. No, no, Matthew will do that himself, thanks. All three ladies look a bit perturbed. Violet asks Mosely how he likes being back in the village, then politely asks if he would mind taking her teacup. She and Cora excuse themselves. After they leave, Isobel scolds her son for being rude to Mosely, then she sweeps out to go visit the hospital, leaving Matthew looking confused.

“For the love of God, would you please stop being such a douche, Matthew?”

That evening, Mosely stands by while Matthew dresses himself, refusing all offers of help. Matthew says he knows he disappoints Mosely, but he’ll never get used to being dressed up like a doll. Fair enough, but can’t you at least try? Matthew apologizes for ever having offended Mosely, but then ruins all that goodwill by saying the guy must have better things to do. Mosely says this is his job, and Matthew dickishly says that’s a silly sort of job for a grown man to have. Ass! Also, this man is a lawyer? How can someone with no ability to choose his words or think ahead practice law? Isn’t that kind of important? To his credit, he does realize what he said and apologizes again, which does nothing to wipe the devastated look off Mosely’s face.

At Downton, the girls are gathered in Mary’s room, and Mary’s in fine voice, complaining about having to give Matthew and Isobel the time of day. As she talks, Edith goes through one of Mary’s novels and pulls out a letter stashed in the pages, signed Evelyn (which could be a man’s or a woman’s name). Cora comes in and sends the two younger girls away so she can pitch the idea of marrying Matthew to her eldest. Mary goes on and on about how they could surely break the entail, and finally even Cora can’t stand it, and she snaps for Mary to just shut the hell up. Mary, of course, isn’t on board with the marriage idea and wonders if Violet’s on board. She’s shocked to hear it was her idea.

Next week: Mary gets hot and heavy with a visitor and Carson hands in his notice!

16 thoughts on “Downton Abbey: Backstairs Bitchery

  1. I cannot find a good answer from any of my friends who are watching Downton Abbey. It was my impression that Daisy only saw the three women carrying the dead man into his bedroom.
    If so, why was she so upset when cleaning Mary’s room. She had no way of knowing that that is where the gentleman died. Does
    she? One friend insists that Daisy saw them carry the body from one bedroom down the hall to another. I have no such recollection. Does anyway have an answer to this?

  2. I’m a little baffled by this one too, and I think we might be looking at a case of sloppy writing, much as I hate to say it. The characters made a big deal out of the fact that Mary’s and Pamouk’s rooms were really far apart, so I don’t think Daisy saw them coming out of Mary’s room. I can only guess that she saw that Mary was one of the women carrying the guy (even though she was carrying his feet and it was dark) and that Daisy somehow put two and two together and figured they must have been coming from Mary’s room and moving him to avoid a scandal, but the more I think about that, the less likely that seems. To be honest, Daisy doesn’t seem all that bright, and that would be quite a leap to make anyway. They could have found that guy anywhere and were just moving him back. It would have made much more sense for Daisy to be freaked out in the room his body was found in. Like I said, sloppy writing.

  3. I’ve just read this and I think you did a great job!!! Please tell me you will recap the episodes in series 2!!!!

  4. I *love* your recaps. I found your blog when I was looking for South Riding recaps and I was SO happy to find out that someone hated that show as much as I did. Now I’ve read all your South Riding, Upstairs Downstairs, and DA recaps. Looking forward to your posts next series!

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