Downton Abbey: Hope and Heartbreak

Dear PBS: Fire the person who was responsible for editing the original British version of Downton Abbey into the 90-minute episodes that aired here. That person is an idiot. I was annoyed with some of the scene switching that went on in earlier episodes, but tonight’s episode was a total hack job. Scenes never showed up (which made some later scenes confusing), we had at least one scene that started with a character in mid-sentence yet again, and a whole subplot got dropped. All so we could get this thing done with plenty of time for yet another annoying, overlong commercial for Antiques Roadshow. Thanks, PBS, you did a great job here. You’re on notice.

Anyway, for anyone who was confused, seek out the original version of the show. I’ll try to explain things as well as I can.

We open at what appears to be a political rally. A man safely perched on an upper-floor balcony brays about the suffering of the suffragettes, as a mixed crowd below alternately cheers and boos him. Sybil’s there, listening in awe, unafraid even as the crowd starts to get ugly and throws things at the speaker, who proves to be rather spry when it comes to ducking objects. I guess he’s been getting a lot of practice lately. Branson the chauffeur catches up with Sybil and asks if she’s ok. She’s mostly focused on how exciting the whole thing is. Branson recognizes the difference between “exciting” and “potentially dangerous” and hustles her out of there and back to the car, as she talks suffrage with him. On the drive home, she encourages him to go into politics and they share a cute moment. This scene was much longer in the original version, and made more sense and included Branson’s views on the current social order, which was interesting. But we don’t get any of that. Instead, the chyron finally arrives to tell us it’s May 1914.

Sybil goes in through SSH to avoid her father and almost crashes right into William, who’s wandering around with a silver candelabra. As she passes, she asks him to tell Anna that she’s back. He goes into the servants’ dining room and bumps Thomas’s arm as he opens the door, because Thomas is standing right in front of the door. Thomas, of course, yells at William for making him slosh his tea, and poor William apologizes all over the place. Bates tells Thomas to lay off as Anna scurries out to attend to Sybil. O’Brien sniffs over Sybil wasting her time with politics, and Thomas agrees that it’s stupid. What should she spend her time on? Embroidering and whining, like her mother and sister? Bates asks if Thomas doesn’t believe in rights for women, which gets Thomas’s hackles up. Bates adds that he knows Thomas doesn’t believe in rights of property, and this was the first instance of PBS screwing things up. See, they’d have us believe that Bates is referring to the stolen wine, but he’s not. There was a whole subplot somewhere in here where one of Robert’s antique snuffboxes disappeared, stolen by Thomas, who then tried to frame Bates for it in a bid to have him fired. Again. Except Bates isn’t totally stupid, and he knew it was Thomas who did it, so he searched Thomas’s room while Anna searched O’Brien’s, and then when all the servants were gathered for dinner he suggested a room-by-room search, conducted by Carson and Mrs. Hughes. They agreed and headed off, and Thomas and O’Brien went tearing upstairs to rip apart their rooms to…I don’t know, re-hide the thing? Make sure whichever one had it didn’t plant it on the other? It was never made entirely clear, but that’s how the two of them were found, ransacking their own rooms in the most incredibly guilty way possible. And yet, they weren’t questioned or fired or reprimanded or anything, as far as we could see. The snuffbox was returned, and Bates had Thomas clearly in his sights. This will come up later, so now at least you know about it.

Anyway, Bates says that he thinks some people would be interested to know about Thomas’s loose definition of personal property, and Thomas asks if he plans to tell, while O’Brien looks increasingly tense.

Later, Bates is upstairs helping Robert dress for dinner. They chat a bit about the upcoming by-election, and Robert mentions that Isobel was at the rally earlier and reported that it got a bit…lively. During the conversation, Bates slips up a little and indicates Branson was at the rally (which took place in Ripon) with someone else. Robert picks up on that immediately, and he finally pries it out of a reluctant Bates that Sybil was at the rally too. He’s not happy to hear it.

At dinner, Robert brings up the rally, and Sybil tells him that there were several speakers; the Liberal who got the crowd all worked up was just one of them. Robert quickly devolves into scolding her for attending without his permission. He immediately blames Branson for taking her, but Cora steps in and tells her husband that she told Branson to take Sybil, in case there was trouble. This draws Robert’s wrath down on her, and then Sybil just fans the flames by perkily mentioning a plan to do a bit of canvassing. Violet’s shocked at the notion. Mary actually sticks up for her sibling and says that Sybil is entitled to her opinions. Violet objects and says Sybil is not entitled to her own opinions until she’s married, and then her husband will tell her what those opinions are. So, really, she’s not entitled to her own opinions ever, is what you’re saying.

Thomas, who’s had a front-row seat to the show, heads into the nearby pantry for the next course, and he comments to Daisy that Sybil will be in for a spanking if she’s not careful. He asks Daisy if she’d fetch a sauce for him, and she girlishly tells him she’d do anything for him. Oh, Daisy! He rewards her with a creepy smile.

Back in the arena, Violet asks Sybil if she’s still planning on being presented that Season, which actually started several weeks ago, so what are they all doing at Downton? The British Social Season typically ran from just after Easter to the beginning of August, so they should all be in London right now, if it’s May. Sorry, just a little historical point. Sybil totally plans on being presented, but Violet says she could hardly expect to be if she gets herself arrested. Cora tells her to take it down a notch, since there was no arrest, and Robert snippily says Sybil had better not be planning to attend anything like this again.

In SSH, Anna reports that Cora’s not pleased at being told off in public by her husband. Bates feels bad for starting the whole thing, but Branson says it’s not his fault. He’s surprisingly at ease, considering the whole thing could be dumped on his head (and very nearly was), but maybe he’s not aware of that fact. Thomas comes in to tell Branson that Violet’s ready to leave, so Branson takes off to drive her home. Thomas takes a moment to glare at Bates and ask him if he’s pleased with himself, and then when he’s gone, Anna smiles comfortingly at her (non) boyfriend and calls Thomas a chump. Bates comments that Thomas is nervous that Bates will tell Carson about the wine. It seems a little late for that, doesn’t it? How would he explain the time lapse? Anna breezily says that Thomas shouldn’t have stolen it in the first place, and Bates agrees but says he doesn’t want anyone to lose their job because of him. Uh, Bates? Why not? Thomas has no one to blame but himself for this, and all he does is cause problems for you and William. This guy has repeatedly tried to get you fired for no reason whatsoever, and he’s a thief! They took that sort of thing really seriously in those houses, and they should have, because there was a lot of expensive stuff just lying around. Also, the first footman was often in charge of the safe, where everyone kept their super-expensive jewelry. Carson should know about this! If Bates doesn’t think Thomas is going to try and use this against him in some way, or turn it around on him, he’s a fool.

Topside, Carson approaches Cora with a letter he’s received from a friend of his who works for the Marquess of Flintshire. Apparently the Marquess, who works in the foreign office and has dealings with the Turkish Ambassador, has heard a rumor about Mary and Pamouk. Cora asks to see the letter, and after she reads it, tells Carson not to do anything about it, and not to tell Robert.

Belowstairs, Thomas and O’Brien are discussing the best way to get rid of Bates. Right there in the corridor, where anyone can pass by and overhear them. These two aren’t even trying to be discreet about this, are they? O’Brien says that the only sure way to get rid of a servant is to have them accused of theft. Except in this house, as we’ll soon see. Thomas says that they tried that (and there’s the dropped subplot coming back) and it didn’t work. She says they have to do a bit better and accuse Bates of stealing the wine. Doing so would make it impossible for Bates to counter-accuse Thomas, the actual thief.

Topside, Robert and Cora are getting into bed, and he apologizes for scolding her at dinner. She pissily asks him not to treat her like a child in front of the servants next time, and he apologizes again.

Talk turns to the girls—Cora tells Robert they really need to focus on Mary, even though this will be Sybil’s first Season and Robert doesn’t like the idea of Mary overshadowing her younger sister. Cora beseechingly says that it’s time for Mary to be married off, and at that point Robert seems to remember that they have a third daughter whom they never seem to pay any attention to at all. Cora horribly giggles that Edith will be the one who’ll take care of them in their old age. Man, poor Edith, she got such a raw deal in this family. Even her parents can’t be bothered to give a crap about her. It’s like Cora doesn’t even think she’s worth the effort at all. No wonder she turned out a little bitter.

Thomas is in Carson’s office to give testimony against Bates. According to Thomas, Bates was in the office one day and Thomas thought the cellar key was swinging on its hook. Oh, he’s a clever one, all right.

The next day (I guess), Mary sweeps into the drawing room to find her mother and Sir Anthony Strallen waiting for her. Strallen’s come to invite Mary for a drive in his new car, which he’s rather cutely excited about. She blows him off a little rudely, embarrassing Cora in the process and leaving a giant cloud of awkward in her wake as she leaves. Edith, who’s been sitting on a sofa this whole time, steps in once again to save the day with this guy and asks him if he’d be willing to take her for a drive instead? Cora, maddeningly, gives her this awful condescending look, like, “as if, honey,” but Strallen’s happy to take Edith. She smiles really sweetly, clearly pleased and excited. Aww, poor Edith, I really want her to be happy now!

Bates has been called to Carson’s office to answer the theft charge. Carson’s not outright accusing him; he just wants to know if there’s an innocent reason why Bates might be handling the key to the cellar. Bates foolishly mentions knowing about the missing wine, which really just makes him look guilty.

Edith and Strallen are out on their drive; Strallen, who’s just gotten back from a trip to Germany and Austria, is talking about the Kaiser, and some joke his late wife cracked about him. Edith plays her part well, asking about the late Lady Strallen, whom Strallen then starts to chat about.

Thomas, O’Brien, and Daisy (!!) are now in Carson’s office, to give evidence supporting Thomas’s story. O’Brien claims she’s seen Bates with a bottle from time to time, but she didn’t think to mention it because she thought he was helping Carson. Carson calls on Daisy, and she hesitantly (prodded by Thomas) says she may have seen Bates coming out of the cellar. It’s so obvious she’s lying that I’m amazed Carson doesn’t just toss her out of the office right then and there. O’Brien tries to cover by saying that Daisy’s nervous, so Carson, practically rolling his eyes, sends them all away. I’m glad to see he’s a bit skeptical about all this nonsense, because I was starting to think he was really bad at the portion of his job that includes overseeing the male servants. Come on, he knows that Thomas has had it in for Bates from day one, and that O’Brien’s his crony and Daisy has a huge crush on the guy. Plus, Bates has been in this house for over two years now, and not once have we seen him drink, so why would he suddenly start pilfering wine now?

Topside, Sybil hesitantly approaches Robert in the library and asks for permission to go into Ripon for a meeting of one of her charities. He refuses at first, but she manages to persuade him, and even gets him to back off on his insistence she take one of her sisters. I think Sybil might be Robert’s favorite, what do you think?

Outside, Robert comes across Mary, reading in the park. He tells her he’s there to see Robert, but when she tells him Robert’s in the library, he doesn’t scurry away, so she closes her book and he approaches her, settling down next to her on the bench and asking what’s up. She tells him Sybil’s discovered politics, and he says he admires Sybil’s passion. Please, please, please have Matthew make a play for Sybil in series two! I think they’d be really good together! Mary agrees with him and then tries to bring the spotlight back onto herself by saying she likes a good argument, unlike her father. Instead of ditching her self-centered ass right there, Matthew says that, if she likes a good argument, they should see more of each other. Why, because they tend to bicker a lot?

Cora’s been summoned to the dower house to read a letter Violet received from Lady Flintshire (who’s a cousin of Robert’s) that repeats the same Mary/Pamouk rumor. Violet asks point blank if there’s any truth to this. Cora looks up at her with “totally guilty” stamped on her forehead. The only reason Violet doesn’t immediately clutch her pearls is because she isn’t wearing any. She understandably freaks out, and freaks out further when she hears that Cora helped with the body removal. Cora tries to explain herself, but Violet cuts her off, still trying to get hold of herself. Cora quietly tells her there was no way she was going to let her daughter swing, and that’s all there is to it.

At night, Bates is sitting in the dark courtyard, brooding. Anna comes out and plops down next to him, urging him to explain about Thomas and the wine. Bates says it would just seem like a retaliatory accusation at this point, although in view of Thomas’s crazy behavior during the room search, I think such an accusation might be taken a bit more seriously than Bates thinks. Anna tells him he can’t take this lying down, because he’s innocent, and before this is all over she’s going to tell everyone who’ll listen that he is.

William comes wandering into the kitchen and asks Daisy for a few ingredients so he can make a poultice for one of the horses who, in a scene we didn’t get to see, was brought back to the stables by Mary, having gone lame during her ride. And for what it’s worth, she was walking the horse, so I guess she is willing to get down and walk when necessary. Anway, when she brought the horse in, she ran into William in the stableyard, and we learned he’s got a way with horses. He loved working with them on his father’s farm, but his mother wanted him to go into service so he could better himself. It’s too bad we lost that scene, because it was one of those rare times where Mary was actually nice to someone without any ulterior motive. Thomas makes up the poultice and talks about his family with Daisy. In an interesting momentary glimpse of her past, she reveals that she never had anyone in her life she could trust. William shrugs that he trusts his family, and they trust him, and there are no lies in his house. Do you think this might end up being a learning moment for her?

Branson drives Sybil into Ripon, still foolishly believing that she’s there for a charity meeting, but she’s actually there for the counting for the votes. Branson tries to tell her not to go, because he knows Robert would be pissed, but she insists and hurries off as he desperately looks for a place to park. Some things never change.

Strallen swings by Downton, where he finds the whole family (minus Sybil, who’s still in Ripon) gathered in the drawing room. He starts to tell them about these concert tickets he’s managed to score, and because the world revolves around her, Mary immediately assumes he’s there to ask her to go, and she launches into a blow off, but no! Strallen’s there to ask Edith. Ha! Haaaaaaa! Yes, that’s right, Mary, typically, when you keep giving someone the brush off and acting like a total brat with no manners at all, they stop liking you. Unless they’re Matthew. My husband and I were so gleeful that someone was finally treating Mary the way she deserved, that we rewound and rewatched this moment several times. Ahh, the glories of TiVo. Edith, of course, happily accepts, and it does sound like a nice date—concert and dinner afterwards. Strallen leaves, and Mary gives Edith a total look of death, which is so, so undeserved. You don’t even like this man, Mary, what is your problem? Edith’s too smiley and happy to even notice.

"Oh, it's on, bitch!"

In the kitchen, a subdued Daisy helps unmold a gelatin and tells Mrs. Patmore that she thinks she let herself down. When William comes in to take the gelatin away, she gives him a long, lingering (and non-romantic, poor guy) look.

In Ripon, Matthew emerges from his office, which, conveniently, is very near the square where they’re announcing the votes. And arriving in that square is a gaggle of men who are looking to make some trouble because they don’t like the Tory party, or something like that.

Matthew catches sight of Sybil and joins her, asking what she’s doing there. Branson joins them and says he doesn’t like the look of things. One of the thugs starts to make trouble nearby, and when Branson tries to talk him down, he just draws the guy’s ire. A scuffle breaks out, and Sybil is knocked down, smacking her head on a table as she falls. Branson and Matthew carry her out of the square to get her some help.

Branson, for some reason, goes to Downton and fetches Mary, I guess because she’s the only family member who stuck up for Sybil when they were all fighting over the last Ripon visit? He hastily explains that Sybil’s been hurt, and she’s down at Crawley House, being attended by Isobel.

Mary arrives at Crawley House and gets all melodramatic when she sees Sybil lying on the couch, although they’ve never seemed all that close before. Isobel’s cleaning a bit of dried blood off a cut on Sybil’s head, but otherwise Sybil doesn’t seem all the worse for wear. Mary tells Matthew he was right to bring Sybil to Isobel, since her own mother would have fainted if she’d seen Sybil like this. Really? And yet she was able to help carry a corpse across the house without a single major freakout? I don’t think Mary’s giving Cora enough credit, here. Isobel asks Matthew what he was doing there, and he says he was working late, having forgotten it was election night. Sybil weakly says she’s glad he was there, and both Mary and Matthew pile on Branson, blaming him for taking her to Ripon. Sybil insists it wasn’t Branson’s fault, and Mary tells her she’ll have to speak up for him when their father hears what happened.  Matthew asks if Sybil’s ready to go home, and she says yes, earning her a smile from Matthew, which Mary registers with an absolutely horrified look on her face. Oh, dear. We all know how she gets when someone shows one of her sisters a tiny bit of attention. Matthew helps Sybil to her feet, and I swear (and my husband saw it too) the two of them exchange a look and have a moment that’s about 3,000 times more charged than any moment Matthew has with Mary ever on this show. Seriously, I’d buy him getting together with Edith before Mary, she’s just been so hateful to him whereas the others at least made an attempt.

Am I the only one who sees it?

Daisy bursts into Carson’s office and asks him for a minute. Hughes tries to tell her to get lost, but Daisy plows on and tells him that she told him a lie, because a friend asked her to, but now she knows “it was wrong of him to ask it of” her. You know now? How did you not know at the time that it was totally wrong to lie? Come on, Daisy, you’re not four years old, you know the difference between right and wrong! Eh, ok, whatever, she’s, like, 15 years old and lovestruck. She probably also thinks Romeo and Juliet is incredibly romantic, instead of a story about how utterly stupid teenagers can be when they’re infatuated with someone.

Matthew helps Sybil into Downton, and poor Branson nervously asks Mary if Sybil’s badly hurt. Aww, speaking of people with a crush! Mary reassures him Sybil’s ok and rather gently tells him to prepare for a lot of crap to come his way when Robert hears about this. He’s not so worried about that, he just wants to make sure Sybil’s going to live through the night. Mary promises to keep him updated.

Well, if the head wound doesn’t kill her, Robert might. He’s got Cora and all three girls in Sybil’s room, where he’s screaming at her for disobeying him, despite Cora’s gentle entreaties to let it go until the morning. He’s so loud that Matthew, pacing before a fireplace downstairs, can hear everything. Robert blames Branson, and both Sybil and Mary speak up on his behalf. Sybil delivers a rather childish ultimatum: if Branson goes, she’ll run away. It does the trick, though.

Somewhat calmer, Robert heads downstairs with Mary and thanks Matthew for everything he’s done. Mrs. Hughes emerges to tell them that there are sandwiches for Matthew in the dining room. Robert asks Mary to look after Matthew while he goes upstairs to comfort Cora.

Carson’s now got Bates, Thomas, Daisy, O’Brien, Hughes, and, for some reason, Anna in his office so he can get to the bottom of all the accusations being flung around. He asks Thomas if he still stands by his story, that he saw Bates with the cellar key. But Thomas just shrugs that he may have been wrong. Oh, he’s a slippery one, all right. My husband (who’s getting a PhD in psychology) and I had a discussion about Thomas and O’Brien last night and decided Thomas is a sociopath. He really fits the bill, if you look into it: persistent lying or stealing, poor behavioral controls (as William can attest), lack of remorse or empathy for others (as we’ll see later), tendency to violate the boundaries and rights of others, and manipulation of others. He totally seems like the type who probably tortured animals as a child, doesn’t he? He’s just creepy. We think O’Brien’s got some form of narcissism, but we’ll get to that.

Speaking of O’Brien, Carson next rounds on her and asks if she wants to add or subtract anything from her story. She doesn’t. Anna’s shocked to hear that O’Brien would tell such a lie, although she should really know better by now, shouldn’t she? Bates speaks up for himself, reminding them that, in the two years he’s been at Downton, he’s never touched a drop of alcohol, so they should know he didn’t steal the wine because he has no need of it. Carson gives everyone the benefit of the doubt and assumes they were all “mistaken,” but he does, reasonably, ask Bates how he knew the wine had been stolen. Bates refuses to answer. Sigh.

Topside, Mary and Matthew are having a cozy little dinner together. Matthew offers a toast to Sybil’s safe return, eschewing her offer of ringing for a second wineglass and instead pouring his portion into a water glass. Mary observes that he’s not very fastidious about doing things properly, which is kind of smack, isn’t it? Matthew doesn’t seem to see it that way, and asks if she is? “Less than you might think,” Mary responds. I’ll say.

In SSH, Bates asks for a few more moments of Carson’s, Anna’s, and Hughes’s time. It’s confession time! He tells them that he definitely didn’t steal the wine, but he’s got a mucky past that includes a bout with alcoholism and a stint in jail for—wait for it!—theft. Hughes is savvy enough to know there’s got to be more of a story here. Bates won’t tell it, and instead offers his resignation. Carson does the “hang on here” hand raise and tells Bates that he (Carson) and Robert both have a say in this, and he wants to do a bit more digging before a decision’s made. In the meantime, he hopes Bates will continue in his post. Bates agrees and glances at Anna, who’s looking pretty crushed.

Back in the dining room, Mary praises Matthew’s bravery, and he’s pretty modest about the whole thing, because it’s not like he got into a mosh pit and had a knife fight with some guy or something. He says he hopes he played his part, and she asks him if he’s conforming to the way he thinks he ought to behave. He gives her a strange look that could be either “heavily sedated” or “infatuated.” I’m going to go with sedated, because why would he be infatuated with this woman? This relationship frustrates me so very much, because it just doesn’t make sense. The most that can be said of the interactions between these two is that they’re civil. She’s shown no real interest in him, his life, or anything that he’s into, like the estate she seems to want so badly. She manages to insult him even when she’s trying to be nice; she’s proven herself to be flighty, self-centered, and cruel. So what if she’s pretty? And why does she suddenly like him? All the things that bothered her about him in the beginning are still true: he’s still not all that into the upper-class world (at least, not the social side of it), and he’s still clinging to his middle-class roots.

Mary now goes for the throat, telling Matthew he must be careful not to break Sybil’s heart, because she thinks Sybil has a crush on him. So, she’s kind of forcing his hand here, because he either tosses Sybil aside and tells Mary he thinks she’s awesome, or likes the idea of going after Sybil, which will no doubt make Mary’s claws come out. He tells her not to toy with him (yes! Thank you!) and she, playing with a necklace flirtily, tells him to have more faith. He leans forward and offers to remind her of some of the choice remarks she’s made about him in the past. Yes, Matthew, do it! Mary reminds him that he’s not supposed to be paying attention to what she says or does. Then why should he be paying attention to what you say or do now? Instead of considering that, Matthew just moves in for a kiss. Whatever.

Anna once again finds Bates out in the courtyard and, a little tearfully, asks him if he’ll really leave. He urges her to go to sleep and “dream of a better man,” but she tells him she’ can’t, because there is no better man. Awww! You see, this is a good relationship. This one, I believe. He takes her hand, and they both start to lean in for a kiss, but then a noise disturbs them and they spring apart and Anna runs back inside. Urgh! High school!

Mary swings by Cora’s room before bed, and Cora says she hopes Mary “thanked Matthew properly.” Uh, ok, I’m just going to let that one go. Out of nowhere, Mary informs Cora that Matthew proposed to her that night. The who in the what now? Why didn’t we see that? The hell? And WHY? Cora’s gobsmacked and asks what Mary said. Mary didn’t give him an answer, which is pretty telling. She tells her mother that, if she did accept, she’d have to tell him the whole sordid story of Pamouk. Otherwise, she’d feel like she caught him with a lie. What, like flirting with him just because you were jealous of your younger sister, that kind of a lie?

Girl talk’s interrupted by the arrival of Robert, and because Mary’s Mary, she can’t resist being a bitch for a little while, and she gives her parents crap for being so bourgeois and sleeping in the same bed. God, what does Matthew see in her?

In SSH, Thomas and O’Brien are having a late-night pow-wow that basically boils down to this: Thomas isn’t done with Bates and will get him yet. Ok, then.

Mary arrives at the stables for her ride the following day and is surprised to see William there, checking her horse to make sure it’s sound. Mary chats with him for a little, and then asks William if he’s been home recently. Ok, this was another problem moment. If you didn’t see the British version, this was totally random. In that version, there was a whole scene where Isobel came to see Cora and Mary because she had a dilemma: William’s mother had come to the hospital with some pretty bad heart trouble. She insisted they keep it a secret from William, but Isobel wasn’t sure it was such a good idea, since the woman was pretty much at death’s door. Cora was on the side of keeping the secret, since it’s what the woman wants, but Mary was fairly indignant and said that William should know. She actually grappled with it for quite a while, and then we got this scene. Anyhow, she tells him that he should go home for a visit, because she’d heard in the village that his mother was unwell. She offers to get him a day off and he thanks her sweetly, as is his way.

In the house, Violet is ushered into the sitting room, where Cora’s writing letters. Violet immediately says that she “comes in peace.” Heh. They sit down together and Violet sort of apologizes for her reaction and says it’s time to move on and try to minimize the damage. She’s already written to friends and said the story was made up by Pamouk’s enemies. There’s nothing they can do about the Turkish ambassador, though, because “we can’t have him assassinated. I suppose.” HA! She really does get all the best lines, and she has the best delivery. Maggie Smith, my hat is always off to you. Violet says they’ll have to get Mary settled down quickly, and Cora excitedly tells her about Matthew’s random proposal. Cora’s a little worried about Mary’s insistence on telling him about Pamouk, and Violet doesn’t get why Mary has to say anything, since “one way or another, everyone goes down the aisle with half the story hidden.” Hee! She’s on a roll today. Violet suggests they give Mary until the start of the grouse season (mid-August, also the end of the Social Season) to make up her mind, and if she hasn’t by then, they’ll go abroad and find an Italian who isn’t too picky.

"Maybe assassination's not off the table..."

We skip ahead to July; William’s going about his business, looking sad because, as Carson and Hughes soon reveal, his mother has, indeed, passed away, but he was able to get home and see her before it happened. Topside, servants are getting the house back into shape as the family returns from London, where they apparently enjoyed the shortest Season in history. Robert helpfully exposits that Mary’s staying on with his sister in London for a couple more weeks, and there’s a brief mention of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, just to let a little history creep in.

In London, Mary’s strolling in St. James’s Park with her aunt, complaining about the weather. I’ll bet her aunt’s really starting to regret inviting her to stay. What a miserable cow. Aunt Rosalind asks Mary if there’s any truth to the rumors about her, and Mary says no, so Rosalind moves on to Matthew’s proposal and asks if Mary’s made up her mind yet. Hang on—Mary hasn’t given him an answer yet? She’s been stringing him along for months now? What the hell? If you can’t make up your mind about that in a few days, the answer is “no.” Matthew, stop being such a chump! Stop playing her games! Mary says that she’s told Matthew she’d give him an answer the day she gets back.

At Downton, Robert comes across the doctor coming down the stairs after having paid a visit to Cora. Robert asks what the problem is, and the doctor gets evasive and tells Robert to ask Cora what the deal is. Robert asks the doctor to wait in the library and runs upstairs, where he learns that Cora is unexpectedly pregnant. He’s understandably shocked, but pleased.

Downstairs, the doctor explains that such a late pregnancy is unusual, but not unheard of. He guesses Cora’s about four months along and expects the baby to be completely healthy.

Mrs. Hughes comes in as the doctor’s leaving and tells Robert that it’s time for them to make a decision about Mrs. Patmore (in a deleted scene, we learned that she’d been officially diagnosed with cataracts). Robert doesn’t look too happy about this.

London. Mary’s sitting around her aunt’s house, thinking, I guess, when a servant announces Evelyn Napier. Yay! I wasn’t expecting to see him again. Mary greets him civilly and asks him how his wedding plans are going. He tells her they’ve called it off. Wow, that was kind of a big deal back then. I’m surprised Mary didn’t know about it.

He sits down with Mary and says he has something to tell her. She clearly thinks this is going to be a proposal, but she’s so, so wrong. He’s there about the gossip about her and Pamouk, which will never, ever go away, it seems. He wants her to know that he wasn’t behind the story getting out, but he happens to know who was: Edith. Mary’s surprised, but not shocked, presumably because even she knows that if you kick a dog enough times, at some point, it’ll bite back.

SSH. Carson and Hughes talk about how sad it is that Matthew now has a 50% chance of losing the inheritance. Yes, that’s right, Carson’s Team Matthew now. Hughes figures this means Mary will never marry Matthew, but Carson can’t believe his precious Mary would be so shallow. Has he ever met Mary?

Robert and Matthew are strolling the grounds together. Robert regrets that he can’t make any provision for Matthew if the baby’s a boy, but he does offer him Crawley House for life. Matthew asks Robert if he’s heard from Mary, because he hasn’t. Wait, she’s not even writing to him? Matthew, how do you not see the writing on this wall? This is ridiculous, what reasonable person would put up with this crap? Why would you want to marry someone who treats you like this?

Robert quickly changes the subject and asks after Matthew’s cook, Mrs. Bird. He needs to ask her a favor.

At Crawley House, Isobel snipes that it’s so generous of Robert to give them the house for life. Matthew tells her that it is generous, actually, because he doesn’t have to do so. Geez, Isobel, the guy’s giving you a free house for life. It’s a good deal—take it. Matthew goes on to say that he’s been thinking about going back to Manchester. Isobel tells him the baby might not be a boy, and Matthew snaps that she wasn’t keen on all this in the first place (she wasn’t? I don’t recall that, she seemed pretty content back when they first arrived.) and if it is a boy, she should see it as a release for him. She asks him what Mary has to say, and Matthew tells her he has no idea. Before they can move the discussion further, Molesley arrives with Mrs. Bird, who’s surprised to learn that Robert even knows she exists.

In London, Rosalind advises Mary to hold off on giving Matthew an answer until after the baby’s born. Are you kidding me, lady? Wait five months, when he’s already waited at least one? This is insane! Matthew, gather the few shreds of self-respect you have left and RUN! Mary says she’s not sure she wants to put him off, because they get along so well. Excuse me? Oh, whatever, I’m too tired for this, and this recap’s already 11 pages long as it is. Rosalind tells her there’s no way she’d be happy as the wife of some country solicitor, and I think she’s probably right about that.

At Downton, Robert’s explaining the many uses of a telephone to Carson. Seems they’re having one installed at the house. He uses this as a way to segue into talk about the impending war. Somehow, the subject of Bates comes up—Robert’s been brought into the loop, and he thinks the story sounds pretty strange. Apparently Bates went to jail for stealing regimental silver, which I’m guessing would be fairly difficult to fence and is therefore a pretty stupid thing to steal. Both Robert and Carson think there’s something odd about this whole affair.

Mary’s home, hanging out with her mother, sisters, and grandmother in the drawing room. Violet asks if she’s thought about Matthew, and Mary says she has (but not enough to write to him…). She starts to parrot Rosalind’s advice but Violet breaks in and tells her to ignore everything Rosalind has ever said. Edith tries to point out that it’s not unreasonable for Mary to reconsider, in these circumstances, but Mary nastily cuts her off. Violet says that Mary can always say yes, and change her mind later, if the baby’s a boy, but Mary insists she can’t do that to Matthew, because that’s not how they are together. Sooo tired…

The girls clear out, leaving Violet and Cora alone so they can refer to yet another cut scene, in which Violet told Cora she suspected her ladies’ maid was going to leave. Violet now confirms it—the girl is selfishly leaving to get married, so Violet will have to find a new maid, which is such a pain! Cora offers to place an ad in The Lady, although why Violet couldn’t do that I don’t know.

Belowstairs, talk is all baby gifts and the coming war. William says that, if war’s coming, they’ll all have to face it bravely. Oh, William. You are so going to die in series two, and I’m so sorry about that. You know he’ll be the first to go. Thomas calls him “cannon fodder” and says he’s got plans to avoid getting himself killed. “You never disappoint,” says Bates. Heh.

Topside, Mrs. Patmore and Anna are shown into the library to meet with Robert. Patmore starts babbling about how she’ll be fine and she’ll do better, but Robert finally manages to quiet her and tells her she’s not being sacked. He’s sending her to London for an operation at an eye hospital. Anna will accompany her, and they’ll stay at Rosalind’s house. Mrs. Bird will take over the cooking at Downton while Patmore’s gone, and the Crawley household will eat there.

"What do I see in you again?"

Matthew has finally gotten Mary off by herself and is demanding an answer, which she won’t give, despite having promised to earlier. Ok, it’s pretty clear now that her interest in Matthew is really shallow, right? If she’s taking Rosalind’s advice, which she appears to be doing, that means she knows she wouldn’t be interested in Matthew if he were just himself: an ordinary country solicitor, rather than a grand earl. So, why is he still hanging around? How much could he possibly like her at this point? Because I’d be pretty disgusted, and my husband reassures me he thinks she’s pretty dreadful too, so it’s not just me. Mary wonders why they need to rush into things (Mary: having a month or two to decide is not rushing anything.) Matthew correctly guesses that her mother’s pregnancy is what’s done this. She tries to say that’s not true, so he asks her point-blank if she loves him enough to marry him. She refuses to really answer, telling him instead about Violet’s advice to say yes now and then withdraw it later. He’s as disgusted by that as any reasonable person would be.

In SSH, Anna’s informing Bates that she doesn’t believe he’s a thief, and she’s going to prove it. She cutely asks him if he’ll miss her, and he smiles and urges her not to miss him.

We join Patmore, Daisy, and Hughes in the kitchen, where the scene starts awkwardly in mid-conversation (another editing gaffe). Bird’s harshly judging the kitchen’s cleanliness, much to Patmore’s consternation, and also commenting on the luxurious size of the kitchen staff. Molesley and Anna watch from the hallway, amused at the scene.

Topside, Robert and Cora are getting ready for dinner and talking about the Bates situation. Robert says there’s something funny about it, and Cora agrees—in this version. In the actual show, what she was agreeing with was the idea that having a thief in the house was a bad idea. Robert ignores that and says Carson also thinks there’s something they don’t know. Normally Carson comes down hard on this sort of thing, but this time he’s aware that there’s something fishy going on belowstairs with Thomas and O’Brien. Nice to get some true acknowledgement that Carson has been aware of their Bates vendetta from the beginning. O’Brien comes to the door just as Cora jokingly asks Robert if she should sack O’Brien instead of Bates. Robert seriously says he wishes she would.

Later, O’Brien is bitching to Thomas about her assumed impending sacking. She figures they’ll tell her once they find a replacement, so Cora won’t have to go a single day without someone to brush her hair. God forbid.

No good can come of this

Strallen arrives, asking for Edith (yay!) who promptly appears and accepts his invitation to go for a drive. There’s a pudgy man in a black suit poking around the entryway; he’s the telephone guy. Sybil arrives on the scene and she and Strallen chat with the guy while Edith gets her coat. The man just happens to mention that he needs a secretary, and Sybil’s on that like the Roadrunner on an ACME product. She tells him she knows just the woman and that he’ll have her application that day.

In London, Anna helps Patmore into Moorfields Eye Hospital, which does actually exist. Patmore’s terrified at the idea of an operation, but Anna helps to comfort her. A doctor comes in, tells Patmore that she’ll be in a week, and Anna can come collect her the following Friday. Anna promises to visit every day. Oh, but what will Anna do with a whole week to herself in London? A bit of shopping? See a show?

No, of course not. She immediately takes herself to some official army-type place to get to the bottom of this Bates situation. There, she asks one of the soldiers to look him up, claiming to be a cousin who wants to get in touch with him.

At Downton, Mrs. Bird’s got Daisy on soup and sauce duty. She checks on her progress, and as soon as she moves away, Daisy snatches up a bar of soap from the nearby sink and grates some into the soup. Now, thanks to PBS’s crack editing, this just makes Daisy look insane. We lost a scene where Patmore told her to meddle with the food just a little so that everyone would be glad when she came back. I guess salty pudding is better than soapy soup any day.

Back in London, the soldier returns to where Anna is waiting with the info she wanted. He comments that the theft was a strange business but refuses to elaborate. He tells her that he has no address for Bates or his wife, but he has one for Bates’s mother that should still be good. Anna accepts it and thanks him.

Mary intercepts Edith on her way down to dinner and demands to know if she was the one who wrote to the Turkish ambassador. Edith says she did, because he had a right to know how his countryman died. She sweeps off, leaving Mary looking ill. While I think what Edith did might have been a poor idea overall, I do think it’s about time Mary learned that actions tend to have consequences. Sometimes bad ones. Welcome to the real world, dear.

After dinner, Violet asks Cora if she’s heard anything about the ad for the new maid, and Cora tells her it’s only just come out. Thomas, by the way, is right there and takes note of all this. Cora turns to Carson and asks him to tell Mrs. Bird that the dinner was delicious. Hmmmm.

Once that’s done, Cora gets up and goes to actually spend a little time with Edith, who for some reason is sitting near a rather sulky Mary. Cora asks Edith how her drive with Strallen was, and Edith adorably brightens up and says it was wonderful, and Strallen said he had a question for her, and that he’d ask it at the garden party and he hoped she’d say yes. Aww. Mary rolls her eyes hugely, which makes me want to slap her harder than anyone else I’ve ever met. You know she’d be acting like this whether Edith had written that letter or not. Cora councils Edith to think very carefully about her answer, and Mary busts in and says Edith should think very carefully about a lot of things. That’s pretty rich, coming from someone who can’t even be bothered to think about her words before they come out of her mouth.

Isobel’s chatting with Robert and Matthew about the new telephone at Downton. Robert takes Matthew to see where they’re going to put it, and Violet bemoans all the technology springing up around them. She immediately notes Isobel’s chilly response and asks what she’s done now. Isobel dumps Mary’s sudden reluctance on Violet’s doorstep, and Violet immediately informs Isobel that this is none of her doing, she advised Mary to take him. “Your quarrel is with my daughter Rosalind, not me, so put that in your pipe and smoke it,” she tells Isobel. Hee! Even Carson chuckles.

SSH. Molesley pokes his head into Carson’s office, looking for the butler, and finds Thomas there with Carson’s wallet in his hands. Compulsive stealing? Check. Molesley asks him what he’s doing and Thomas lies easily that he found Carson’s wallet in the hallway and was returning it, Yeah, right. Persistent lying? Check.

The servants have gathered for dinner; Carson invites Mrs. Bird to join them and she accepts, even though Daisy objects, saying Mrs. Patmore wouldn’t like it. As he takes his seat, Thomas tells O’Brien that they’ve already advertised for her replacement. Instead of brushing off her resume and looking for a new position like a reasonable person would do, O’Brien just gets mad and nasty. Carson passes along Cora’s compliment on the dinner, and Daisy gives herself away by saying Cora couldn’t have liked it. Everyone digs into the soup and, as one, makes an “ewwww!” face. Mrs. Bird actually spits hers back into the bowl and asks Daisy what the hell she did to it. Daisy falls to pieces and tells them all she added water and soap, because Mrs. Patmore asked her to. She wrecked the fish sauce too. Daisy starts to cry and apologizes, so Mrs. Bird gets up and goes to comfort her. She gently asks her to go get the beef stew they were making for the next day, guessing she hasn’t had a chance to ruin that yet. Daisy helpfully offers that she was planning to add syrup of figs to it, but she hadn’t done it yet. Gwen starts to crack up, and so do I. Man, when she starts to be honest, it’s like an avalanche, isn’t it?

Mr. Telephone is back, and he’s been caught by Sybil, who has apparently asked about Gwen’s application. He says they got it, but it didn’t show any evidence of her having really worked, since all she did was list Sybil as a reference, without actually saying what she did at Downton. Sybil tells him Gwen’s a very hard worker and tells one of the other maids to fetch Gwen immediately. She informs Mr. Telephone that Gwen’s a housemaid, which they didn’t think he’d go for. She begs the man to test Gwen’s skills, and he says he will, just as Gwen appears. He tells her his mother was a housemaid, and he has nothing against them, since they definitely know about hard work and long hours, He asks if there’s somewhere they can talk, and Sybil sends them to the library, Almost as soon as they’re gone, Robert heads in that direction, only to be told by his daughter that it’s being used. “I cannot use my library because one of the housemaids is in there applying for another job?” he says. “That’s about the size of it,” says Sybil. Robert sighs and heads off.

Anna has made it to Bates’s mother’s home and asks the woman what the whole theft story really is. The woman correctly guesses that Anna knows Bates wasn’t guilty and tells her the guilty party was actually Bates’s wife, Vera, who helped out in the kitchens sometimes when they had big regimental parties.

Back at Downton, William, Gwen, and Daisy are gathered around the telephone in Carson’s office, staring at it like it’s Gwen’s typewriter. Carson appears and shoos them all away, refusing to provide them with a demonstration.

Back with Mrs. Bates, she tells Anna that everyone knew Vera was guilty—someone even saw her carrying around a big sack of stuff that night. Anna asks why Bates confessed, then, and the man’s mother admits that he wasn’t quite the same man in those days. The Boer War affected him pretty badly, and he drank more than he should have and had a short temper and a sharp tongue. Wow, really? Talk about a turnaround. He thought he’d ruined Vera’s life, so he took the fall for her. God, this guy is really all about falling on his sword, isn’t he? There’s such a thing as being too noble.

The doctor’s at Downton, presumably giving Cora a checkup. Thomas shows him to the door, but before he goes, Thomas starts talking to him about getting some medical training, in case a war comes. I hate to say it, but this is a pretty smart move on his part. He’d definitely have been serious cannon fodder, and joining in on the medical side of things might keep him at least somewhat out of harm’s way. Dammit.

Molesley has apparently reported Thomas’s attempted wallet theft to Carson, who’s now reporting it to Robert. Both men agree that Thomas has to go, though Robert says he hates this sort of thing. He asks Carson to wait until after the garden party. Uh, why? Why are you so reluctant to get rid of a guy who’s been nothing but a problem? This is completely absurd. Maybe I’m heartless, but I’d have no problem firing someone who repeatedly stole from me and the other people in my household.

Patmore’s back, wearing some dark shades inside which she’ll have to keep on for a few days, but otherwise all better. Hughes is happy to hear it and steers the talk to the upcoming garden party, which will be run by Patmore and Mrs. Bird. Patmore’s not happy to hear it, but she doesn’t have much choice. Hughes says she’s already checked the stores and ordered what they’ll need, but Bird breaks in and says that she and Patmore should check the stores and tell her what they’ll need, which makes a lot more sense. After all, they’ll be the ones doing the cooking and baking, right? Hughes informs Bird that she controls the store cupboard and Bird says that’s totally stupid, which it is. And Patmore’s been caterwauling about it for ages, so now she’s all ready to be BFFs with Bird and tranquility reigns again in the kitchen.

Carson sits at his desk, eyeing the telephone, which he eventually lifts, so he can practice answering it. On the second try, he accidentally gets the operator, who scolds him for making a fake call.

Oh boy. This part’s a bit rough to watch. Here goes. O’Brien enters Cora’s room with a HUGE towel and tells Cora she’ll go run the bath. Violet’s there visiting, and as O’Brien goes towards the bathroom, Violet asks if there are any responses to the ad. As O’Brien listens, they talk about one particularly promising candidate. Now, I have to wonder, does O’Brien really think they would be talking about this right in front of her, if Cora was planning on replacing her? This is one of the reasons I think she might be a total narcissist (though not nearly as much of one as Mary, who may actually have a personality disorder). O’Brien has also exhibited other narcissistic traits during the series, including hypersensitivity to sleights or imagined insults, difficulty with empathy, and problems sustaining satisfying relationships. She also has clearly considered herself to be a superior person to many others (remember how she reacted to the Crawleys’ arrival?)

Later, Cora’s in the bath, soaping up and asking O’Brien how long it takes a lady’s maid to settle in. She drops the soap, which hits the floor and breaks in half. O’Brien goes to get it, handing one half to Cora and telling her the other half’s under the bath. But it’s not, because she’s just nudged it out with her foot, putting it right about where Cora’s about to step. Christ, lock this woman up.

O’Brien returns to the bedroom, where she catches sight of herself in a mirror and says, aloud, “Sarah O’Brien, this is not who you are.” It isn’t? I seem to recall someone kicking Bates in his bad leg the day the Duke arrived for his visit. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Anna. This is exactly who you are, O’Brien—a petty, vindictive bitch who has now actually set a trap for a pregnant woman. A really dangerous one, too. She has no way of knowing how Cora would fall—the woman could have broken her neck.

And fall she does. O’Brien starts to call out to her, to tell her to wait to get out of the tub, but before she can get the words out Cora shrieks and falls heavily.

Robert stands by the window in his bedroom, looking out. Bates comes in and quietly tells him that the doctor’s gone but plans to return later, and Mary’s with her mother now. I’m sure she’ll be a huge comfort. Robert turns, and it’s clear he’s been crying. He says that the baby was a boy after all. He starts to cry again and apologizes to Bates, who tells him he only wishes he could have been spared this. Robert has the presence of mind to tell Bates that Anna’s reported what she learned in London, so the good news is, Bates won’t be leaving. “I need some good news today,” says Robert.

The subdued servants are gathered in SSH. O’Brien looks fairly wrecked, and her obvious remorse is pretty much the only thing that keeps me from declaring her a complete monster. Still too late for me to feel anything but hate for her, though. Thomas comes wandering in just then to be completely and utterly hateful. He observes that they’re a long-faced lot and says that Cora will get over it. Bates and Hughes both tell him to shut the hell up, and Thomas just grabs a cookie and says it’s no big deal, since it’s not like these people are their family or anything. Trouble with empathy? Oh, God, yes. Either this guy is a sociopath, or Julian Fellowes is trying waaay too hard to sell us on the idea that he’s the bad guy and we’re not supposed to like him. Yes, we get that, thanks.

William, who’s probably just had it up to here with Thomas at this point, tightly asks him if there’s nothing left on earth that Thomas respects. Thomas takes this opportunity to make a seriously cruel remark about William’s dead mother, and with that WIlliam just loses it and launches himself on Thomas, punching him in a very satisfying manner and sending plates flying while Carson kind of uselessly tells the boys to stop it now. Nobody intervenes until Thomas starts to get some punches of his own in, and then Branson steps forward to drag William off. Carson, can you please tell Thomas to hit the road, now? I guess not, but he does pat William on the shoulder.

Garden party! A string quartet plays while Thomas circulates with tea sandwiches. He’s waylaid by the doctor, who tells him he’s made some inquiries and found a place for him with a company that’s being started up nearby. The doctor himself is being drafted back in and promises to keep an eye out for Thomas.

In the staging tents, William hands off a tray of glasses to Daisy, who apologizes profusely for being such an idiot and not seeing that Thomas was a complete and total douche. William’s kind of busy, so he accepts her apology in a hurry and agrees to be friends.

Things are busy in the kitchen, but everyone stops when Carson’s telephone starts to ring. Branson asks if anyone plans to answer it, but the cooks refuse to touch the thing, so he answers instead.

Soon, he’s dashing through the party to find Sybil, who’s chatting with a few ladies. He whispers something in her ear, and she gasps excitedly, grabs his hand, and runs off to find Gwen. She got the job! The girls hug excitedly, until Mrs. Hughes show s up to break up the party and tell Gwen to get back to work and Sybil to go find her mother. Once Sybil’s gone, Hughes gently warns Branson to have a care he doesn’t get his heart broken and his ass fired.

Oh, dear God. Mary is wandering through the party with Strallen, who’s wondering where Edith is. Mary boredly tells him Edith probably got cornered by “some old bore she’s trying to dodge.” Strallen asks her who that might be, and Mary claims not to know, but she says that Edith thought he was completely ridiculous and was making fun of him for days. You heartless BITCH!

Now, I know there are some people out there who will say Edith deserved this for writing that letter, but just consider this for a minute: Edith wrote that letter when she was angry, right after having been outdone and humiliated by her sister at the first Strallen dinner for no other reason than just because Mary could do it. She got mad, and she struck back. It was probably a foolish thing to do, but we do stupid things when we’re mad. Mary, on the other hand, had days to plan this out. She knew exactly how to strike, and she hit her sister where it hurt the most. She’d already taken Patrick away from Edith, apparently without caring for him at all, embarrassed her with Matthew, and has now destroyed one of the very few last chances Edith had to get married and be happy (and she really did seem very happy about this whole Strallen relationship) out of spite. I want Mary to die miserable and alone, I really, really do. Even better, I want it to be like in the Dangerous Liaisons novel, where the horrible villainess catches smallpox, loses her looks, and realizes she has no friends and nobody to love her. That’s what I want for Mary.

And while we’re on the subject, I really think Mary has some sort of narcissistic personality disorder. She’s certainly a narcissist. She’s arrogant, envious of others, entitled, selfish, haughty, has issues with empathy, is easily bored and changes directions frequently, and can’t stand to have someone other than herself be the center of anyone’s attention. And like O’Brien, she clearly has problems sustaining meaningful relationships.

Thomas tells Carson that he’s giving notice to go off and join this company or regiment or whatever and I hope to God he gets sent to Loos early next season. My husband expressed a wish to see Thomas lose a leg or end up crippled in some way, and I think that would be some spectacular karmic retribution, don’t you? Julian Fellowes, I hope you’re reading this!

Strallen’s managed to find Edith, but just to say goodbye. She blusters that he can’t be leaving yet, but he says he is and asks, without even looking at her, for her to make his excuses to her mother. Bewildered, she watches him go, then she catches sight of Mary, who smiles smugly and raises a glass of champagne. BITCH! Yeah, no empathy at all, and clear problems with remorse.

Cora’s reclining under one of the tents, looking pale but putting on a brave face. O’Brien brings her a shawl and asks if she needs anything else. Cora thanks her sweetly, which makes O’Brien feel worse (as she should!) She moves away and is quickly grabbed by Violet, who tells her that Cora’s been helping her find a new maid, and she needs to see the letters, so can O’Brien find them and bring them to the dower house? O’Brien’s surprised to hear that the new maid position wasn’t for Cora. Yes, O’Brien, that’s right—you set a trap for a pregnant woman for no reason at all. Enjoy that gnawing sense of guilt; you’re going to be living with it for quite a while.

Bates is standing off to the side, observing the party. Anna takes the opportunity to sort of apologize for having gone to his mother. Bates has no issue with it and tells her that his mother likes her. Of course she does. Anna’s an awesome (non) girlfriend. Most women would have heard the words “wife” “drinker” and “I was in prison” and would have hit the road immediately, but she stuck with it. That’s just the way it is when you love someone—you don’t care about the person they were, or the person they might have been once, you care about the person they are now, the one you know. Anna finally asks him about this wife, but he doesn’t know where Vera is. Well, damn. Anna nods bravely and returns to work. Molesley rolls up to Bates and asks if he knows if Anna has anyone special in her life. Bates says he wishes she didn’t, but yes, she does, and he’s very keen. Yay!

Oh, yes. Matthew has finally dragged Mary aside for the ripping she’s so richly deserved for ages now. She protests that nothing’s changed, but Matthew’s a grownup and realizes that plenty of things have changed, despite the fact that he’s still the heir. She argues that he can’t be sure she would have turned him down if the baby had been a boy, but he says that’s kind of the point—he can’t be sure of her at all, nor can he be sure of anything else in the world. He’s planning to leave Downton, which I think is a bit of an overreaction. She asks what he plans to tell Robert, and he says the experiment has failed. Pardon? Experiment? This wasn’t a theory that was being tested, Matthew, you’re still the heir, and you’ll still inherit this place when Robert dies (and hopefully kick Mary out on her stupid, ungrateful ass). Mary asks him if he would have stayed if she’d accepted him, and he says yes, of course he would. “So I’ve ruined everything?” Mary realizes. Well, yes, Mary, that’s what you do. You ruin things. Constantly. It’s pretty much your only real skill. Matthew wishes her well, which is pretty damn generous, and leaves. Mary dissolves into tears while I cheer.

Violet observes Matthew’s departure and tells Rosalind, who’s attending the party as well, that her meddling has probably cost Mary the best chance she had at marriage. Rosalind tells her mother that she can’t help but say what she thinks. “Why? Nobody else does,” says Violet.

Carson spots Mary weeping off to the side and asks her if she’s ok. She tells him she is, that he knows she’s never down for long. Yeah, that’s definitely true. Carson embraces her and tells her she has sprit, which is what counts in the end. Carson, a lot more than “spirit” counts in the end. How about a little heart? And sense? I wonder why he likes her so much.

Isobel crows a bit that Mary won’t get her countess’s coronet after all. Violet says she still thinks Mary was foolish not to take Matthew when she could. It’s nice to see these ladies have come to a sort of uneasy rapport. Isobel wonders if Matthew might be making a mistake, Isobel! What is wrong with you? I thought you had more sense!

Robert’s with Cora, making sure she’s warm enough and comfortable. They’re sweet together, which makes their shared tragedy that much sadder. Carson interrupts to deliver a telegram to Robert. Robert reads it, blanches, and tells the quartet to stop playing and for everyone to listen up. He announces that England has declared war on Germany, then looks around at the gathered crowd, probably wondering just how many of them will still be there in a year or two. Party’s over.

Well done, everybody. I really enjoyed this, despite some issues (and you all know what they are). I think there are a lot of interesting things that could happen in series two, which is now in production and is due to arrive sometime next year. I think we’ll definitely lose some people—William for sure—and some will come back very different men. I think Matthew will serve and survive, but will be very much altered by his experience, and I think Branson’s story will get a lot more interesting. Violet and Isobel will butt heads over the hospital (I wish they’d done more with that in this series) but will ultimately come together to make that the best damn hospital for miles around. And Cora and the girls will volunteer there, because that’s what the ladies did, and I’m sure it’ll end up being some kind of life-altering experience for Mary (though I’m still holding out hope that Matthew will make his break with her permanent and go for Sybil). And Sybil will get more awesome, that’s a given. Bates will probably help out with the war in some way (he obviously can’t serve) and will start tracking down that wife of his so he can get a divorce and be with Anna, and Gwen will go into the civil service after working for Mr. Telephone for a while. I think the war could be a big jumping-off point for her. As for the others, it’s hard to say. I hope Strallen comes back for Edith, because I actually do want her to be happy. We can only hope and wait to see what happens.

Thanks for everyone who read the recaps, they have, as always, been fun to write!



16 thoughts on “Downton Abbey: Hope and Heartbreak

  1. Great summary of the episode; I’ve really been enjoying the series.

    But I have one small correction. The Daily Mail had quite the scandal when it claimed that 2 hours had been removed from Downton Abbey as part of a “dumbing down” process to appeal to the Stupid Yanks. Responsible journalists investigated & discovered that the editing was hardly so radical. Small bits were excised & scenes were rearranged to fit the new running time–without commercials. http://www.televisionaryblog.com/2011/01/in-defense-of-downton-abbey-or-dont.html

    The Producers of the show did the editing. Was it as smooth as it could have been? Perhaps not.

    But, please, don’t blame PBS.

  2. The edited scene with Branson and Sybil was so funny. Branson asked if his ideas for politics was a plan or a dream, or something like that. Then Sybil said, “Spoken like a true politician.” It didn’t make any sense, haha. [Still, I will probably always love PBS. I wish they could find a way to air entire shows and make up for it in some other way.]

    I never thought about how Thomas was standing in front of the door when his drink got sloshed. He’s often standing in a doorway, sitting on the stairs, or generally lurking in a place where he could be in the way.

    “And for what it’s worth, she was walking the horse, so I guess she is willing to get down and walk when necessary.” Hah! I didn’t notice that.

    OK, yes. My friend and I both thought Thomas and O’Brien (until the end of the last episode) were sociopaths. I’ve read so many people say that they are unrealistic characters, but unfortunately I’ve met people like that. They may not have been so outwardly evil, but they were just as shockingly mean.

    Oh dear. I’m also worried about William’s survival. I say, I like every character, from the very worst (even though I want to commit violence against them sometimes) to the best.

  3. [“Am I the only one who sees it?”]

    Yes, because I don’t. Sybil had a brief infatuation over Matthew’s “rescue” of her. Not long after that scene, Matthew and Mary kissed in the dining room. Also, Dan Stevens has great screen chemistry with Michelle Dockery. The romance between Matthew and Mary is very complicated. That is why I find the idea of them as a couple very interesting.

  4. Yes Sybil and Branson are awesome i love this couple and hope more will happen then the small parts their airing. I just loved it at the Garden Party how Gwen got the job, but did you notice that Branson and Sybil hold hands! while Ms Hughs is telling Gwen to calm down. OMG i could have died happy then when i spotted it!! I just wished we got to here the end of what he was going to ask her! GRRR Ms Hughs why did you have to interrupt?! haha

  5. [“Talk turns to the girls—Cora tells Robert they really need to focus on Mary, even though this will be Sybil’s first Season and Robert doesn’t like the idea of Mary overshadowing her younger sister. Cora beseechingly says that it’s time for Mary to be married off, and at that point Robert seems to remember that they have a third daughter whom they never seem to pay any attention to at all. Cora horribly giggles that Edith will be the one who’ll take care of them in their old age. Man, poor Edith, she got such a raw deal in this family. Even her parents can’t be bothered to give a crap about her. It’s like Cora doesn’t even think she’s worth the effort at all. No wonder she turned out a little bitter.”]

    Neither does Robert.

  6. [“Bates and Hughes both tell him to shut the hell up, and Thomas just grabs a cookie and says it’s no big deal, since it’s not like these people are their family or anything. Trouble with empathy? Oh, God, yes.”]

    Emily Watson made a similar comment in “GOSFORD PARK”. I wonder if Julian Fellowes was trying to repudiate himself by allowing a villainous character like Thomas make the same remark.

  7. “Thomas and O’Brien went tearing upstairs to rip apart their rooms to…I don’t know, re-hide the thing? ”

    Actually, Anna informs Mr. Bates that she believes she knows where the snuffbox is and that it is in Mr. Bates’ room. She reassures him that she knows he didn’t take it, but that he should go find it so they can hide it in Thomas’ or Mrs. O’Brien’s room. When Anna and Bates are so determined to have a search performed, Thomas and O’Brien realize that the snuffbox has been re-hidden in either his or her room and so are in a panic to find it.

    (Loved the recap on the Christmas ep and wanted to read the rest 🙂 Excellent work!)

  8. You are giving Mary a bit of a hard time there!!! Personaly I think that Edith was just as evil to Mary (spreading rumors all round London!!!) But then I would think that, Mary is my favourite. I’m so glad Mary and Matthew got together at long last.

  9. I know I’m rather late to the party, but in the past weeks, have had a marathon watch of all 4 seasons, the first Christmas episode, and the visit to Scotland.

    But season 5 is about to start in the UK, would like to add a couple of comments.

    I’m a total fan of Mary’s – I get her behavior. Yes, she can be arrogant and self-important, but the oldest also has to live with the parental pressure of living up to expectations.

    Can’t stand Edith. Glad she gets her comeuppance in subsequent seasons. Curious to see how she fares in season 5.

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