Downton Abbey: Love is in the Air

Is anyone else starting to find these intros by Laura Linney to be strange and kind of pointless? The one tonight was bizarre—she started out talking about bras and clothing and then finished up with a line that made no sense whatsoever. Just me? Ok, then.

It’s a bright sunny May day in the village of Downton, and workmen scurry about setting up a fair as Mary watches. Bates, Anna, and Gwen are strolling through the setup, talking about getting up a group to go a’fairing. Anna spots Mary and sends the others ahead so she can have a chat about the Dead Body Affair.

Anna asks Mary if Cora’s recovered from having to help cart the corpse of the man who sullied her daughter from one end of the house to the other, and gets a pretty firm no. So, Anna kindly asks if Mary’s feeling better about it. Mary answers that she’s all good, because she’s heartless. Well, at least she’s aware of the fact. Anna, because she’s the nicest person on the planet, tells Mary she doesn’t believe that at all.

At Crawley House, Matthew’s chatting with Molesley (not Moseley, as I originally thought—sorry about that) about the coming fair. I will say that I sort of got the creeps the first time I saw this episode, because the actor who plays Molesley played a violent rapist/murderer in last week’s Law and Order: UK. One of the downsides to the 30 British Actors Rule: you’re bound to see the same faces again and again, sometimes in highly dislikeable roles.

Isobel notices that Molseley’s got a nasty rash on his hand and asks what’s up. He tries to brush it off as nothing, but she goes immediately into Nurse Overdrive, diagnoses it as erysipelas (a bacterial skin infection) and says they’ll pay a visit to the hospital for treatment. She ignores the fact that erysipelas is usually accompanied by symptoms that include chills, fever, headaches, and vomiting, none of which Molesley is presenting right now, but I guess she’s the expert, right?

SSH. Anna, who’s developed a cold overnight, walks sniffling into the kitchen and is immediately scolded by Mrs. Patmore for spreading germs around their food. Mrs. Hughes interrupts to remind Anna that she’s taking the night off, and she doesn’t want to come home to any surprises. Anna takes the opening to ask for permission, on behalf of the staff, to visit the fair, and asks if Daisy can come too. Patmore tells Daisy she should go, because it might cheer her up. Apparently, Daisy’s been a little down since Pamouk’s death. Anna sneezes loudly and Hughes sends her up to bed immediately.

Isobel and Molesley arrive at the hospital, where they learn the doctor’s out delivering a baby. Isobel smilingly tells the nurse that she can find what she needs in the store cupboard, throwing around her Chairman of the Board title for good measure. The nurse obligingly unlocks the cupboard and Isobel sifts through and hands Molesley some tinctures to use on his hand. She also tells him he’ll have to wear gloves, though he’s aghast at the idea of looking like a footman while waiting at table. Isobel no-nonsense-ly tells him there’s nothing else to be done about it.

Matthew’s hard at work in his cute office in Ripon. One of his co-workers comes in and tells him that the Countess of Grantham is there to see him. Matthew hurries to put on his jacket, prematurely calling out greetings to Cora, but it’s Violet who sweeps in, drily telling him that she hopes she’s not a disappointment.

SSH. Mrs. Hughes is talking about dressing up a hat with O’Brien, who’s her usual delightful self. She generously offers to scare up a veil for Hughes, but then bitchily says she hopes Hughes isn’t expecting her to do the work on the hat. Because putting on a veil takes hours, I guess. Mrs. Hughes patiently says she doesn’t, but then informs O’Brien that Anna’s out of commission, so O’Brien’ll have to look after the three daughters that evening. Heh. I think she rather enjoys telling O’Brien that. O’Brien, of course, raises a huge fuss, like she’s been asked to relieve Sisyphus or something, but Hughes just tells her to suck it up and do her damn job.

Back in Matthew’s office, Violet’s asking him—in between nearly falling off the swivel chair she’s sitting in—to look into the entail, because she’s sure he’s decent enough to not want to inherit everything simply because the matter hadn’t been thoroughly looked into. Matthew agrees to look into the matter.

The servants, minus Anna, are relaxing in their dining room with tea. William comes in and asks Bates if Daisy’s planning on going to the fair that night with everyone else. Bates answers in the affirmative. A moment later, Daisy herself comes in, and William starts to screw up his courage to ask her out, but before he can fully get the question out, Thomas busts in and asks Daisy if she’d like to go to the fair with him that evening. Daisy, of course, looks like she just won the lottery, whereas poor William looks utterly crushed. Everyone else stares in horror. Patmore calls Daisy away, and after she scurries off, William follows, sadly. Bates turns to glare at Thomas and calls him a bastard, which at the moment is about the nicest word I can think of to describe Thomas. What’s his appeal, anyway? He’s a vindictive, petty jerk who looks mean, which means he doesn’t even look that attractive. The more I see him, the more he makes my skin crawl. Daisy’s been in this house a few years now, how has she not seen the crappy things this guy does to people?

Cora, Sybil, and Edith are in the village, talking about a new dress Sybil’s going to be ordering from their dressmaker in Ripon. Sybil complains, as they climb into the car, that the woman always makes the same frock, and she wants something new and exciting. Cora bemoans how late they’re running, which’ll make dinner late and means Violet will have to wait for them. Sybil tosses her head a bit and says she can just jolly well sit tight, then. Cora smiles fondly and observes that Sybil thinks women’s rights begin at home as the driver gets in the front and they set off.

Carson’s in his office, balancing the wine book and frowning at it a bit. Mrs. Hughes enters, dressed to go out, and he tells her that the wine book and the wine stores aren’t equaling up—there are several dozen bottles missing. Uh, yeah, that’s a bit of a problem. She warns him to double check before he jumps to any conclusions, then offers to put off her trip to the fair. Carson tells her to go; that everything will be just fine.

Down in the village, Mary comes across Matthew, who’s trying his hand at the coconut toss and failing miserably. Because she’s apparently buddies with him now, despite hating him only a few weeks ago, she greets him and takes him up on his offer of a turn at the game. As she takes a toss, Matthew asks her what Robert’s doing that night. She shrugs and says it’s just dinner with the family, so Matthew invites himself over afterwards to have a word with Robert about Violet’s visit. Mary immediately realizes this is all about the entail, though Matthew’s not talking. He gives up his game and goes to collect his bicycle. Mary conversationally asks him how he’s enjoying his new life, and he says he likes it just fine, though he’s sure she thinks his work is trivial. She says she doesn’t, that she actually envies him having somewhere to go everymorning. Yes, yes, the grass is always greener, isn’t it? He reminds her of one of her past jibes at him, and she tells him to forget what she says, because she does. Mary? Maybe you should consider thinking about what you say before you say it, like most grownups do. It’s much easier and less likely to get you a reputation as a thoughtless bitch than going around telling everyone you’ve ever spoken to to disregard what you’ve said. Just a thought. Mary complains that her life is dull, because all she does is sit around and go to parties and dress up until they get married. She groans that her life makes her angry, even though she’s never complained or seemed all that upset by it before. She’s another character I feel was really poorly developed—she goes all over the place at a moment’s notice, and because she says things like, “oh, I hate my life,” we’re supposed to think it was always that way, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Later, up at the house, Carson’s freaking out about having forgotten to put one of the wines on ice, and Thomas takes that inopportune time to ask permission to go to the fair later. Despite his lousy timing, Carson agrees. Thomas asks William and Daisy where they think Mrs. Hughes has gone and William tells him it’s none of his business.

Mary and Robert are heading down to dinner, and Mary’s telling him that Matthew was planning on swinging by later. Robert asks her to try and keep Violet in the drawing room while Matthew’s there.

Later still, Matthew lets himself in through the front door, just as the ladies are going into the drawing room after dinner. Only Mary notices him there, and she gestures for him to wait until the others have cleared the area before scurrying over to tell him to wait in the library while she fetches her father.

Mrs. Hughes is at the fair, watching a firebreather in amazement. A middle-aged man in a tweedy suit rolls up and greets her familiarly as “Elsie.” She’s clearly been waiting for him and greets him back as Joe Burns. They shake hands and smile cutely at each other.

Carson brings brandy into the library for Matthew and Robert, and Robert tells him he should go down to the fair himself. Carson’s not the fairgoing type and quickly clears out. As soon as he’s gone, Robert asks what his mother wanted. Matthew tells him she wanted information on the entail, and he’s looked into the matter (very quickly, apparently) and there’s no way to break it. No easy and reasonable way, anyhow. Of course, Robert already knew that and apologizes on his mother’s behalf for having put him on the spot. Matthew’s worried Violet will think he failed because he didn’t want to succeed, and he expresses sympathy for Mary’s position.

Mrs. Hughes and Joe have moved to the village pub, where they’re just finishing a meal and catching up. We learn, in short order, that Joe’s wife is deceased, that he’s a farmer, and his only son has joined the army. He’s really going to regret that decision in a little more than a year. Joe asks how life has treated Mrs. Hughes and she says she’s pretty content. He observes that she now calls herself “Mrs” and she tells him that housekeepers and cooks are always Mrs, even if they’ve never been married. With a coy smile, she says he knows well enough she never changed her name, so now we know he’s a friend from way back. He teasingly says he knows she wouldn’t change her name to Burns when she had the chance. Ahh, there we have it.

SSH. O’Brien, Bates, and Branson the chauffeur are sitting around the table in the servants’ dining room. Because five minutes can’t pass without O’Brien being nasty to someone, and Bates isn’t doing anything more objectionable than existing, she gives Branson crap for having the gall to eat with them. Geez, lady. You know, I kind of want more of her story—why is she so mean and bitter? She has a good, secure job in a nice house with pretty nice employers and fairly affable co-workers. What’s her problem? Also, I note Bates decided, ultimately, not to go to the fair. I’m guessing it’s more because Anna didn’t go than the fact he didn’t want to spend an evening around Thomas, though either of those would be valid reasons for staying home. Anway, it’s good he’s there, because he tells O’Brien to back off poor Branson, already.

Branson observes that Bates is sifting through some collars and asks him what he’s up to. Bates explains he’s sorting Robert’s collars so they can get rid of the ones that are wearing out. Branson innocently asks what happens to Robert’s old clothes, and O’Brien pounces all over him, like he just asked if he could have them and that personally offends her. Bates wearily tells Branson that the valet gets some of htem, but most get donated. Branson snorts that he can think of better ways to help the poor than by sending starched collars to the equator. Bates chuckles and changes the subject, musing that he thought Anna would come down for dinner. O’Brien sniffs that doing so would only prove Anna was ready to start working again. Yeah, because Anna’s shown herself to be so damn lazy. O’Brien whines that she’s being made to sit around sewing away like a cursed princess in a fairy tale while the others get to party at the fair. Oh, poor you! I’m sure Daisy would be delighted to trade places with you for a day or two, O’Brien.

Topside, the ladies are still hanging out in the drawing room. Carson comes in to ask Violet if she wants the car brought around, and she asks him where Robert’s been this whole time. Carson accidentally spills that Robert’s in the library with Matthew, even though Mary’s frantically signaling with her eyes for him to be quiet.

In the library, Matthew asks Robert what he should say to Violet. Robert tells him not to worry about it, because he can handle his mother. At this moment, Violet speaks up from the doorway that he must have learned that particular skill rather recently. Mary’s hovering behind her, looking apologetic.

Way upstairs, Anna’s still in bed, reading a book. She looks up when she hears someone knocking at the door that separates the men’s quarters from the women’s (remember, it’s locked from the women’s side). She goes out into the hall to investigate and recognizes Bates’s voice whispering for her to open the door. She hesitates, terrified that Hughes has an alarm or a nannycam or something on the door, but then she grabs the key, unlocks it, and swings it open. Bates is standing on the other side with a smile and a dinner tray for her. Adorably, he’s even added a vase and a bouquet of flowers to it. Awww, these two warm the very cockles of my cold heart.

On her way out to the car, Violet rails at Robert for failing to take a firm stand and fight the entail. He tiredly tells her there’s no way to do so, but she’s not hearing it. As she drives away, Robert tells Carson to tell Mary and Matthew he’s gone to bed. Carson asks if he should tell them right away, but Robert hesitates and tells him to wait until they ring.

At the fair, Joe and Mrs. Hughes step up to a ring toss booth. She makes “I should go home now” noises but he urges her to stay and wins her a little scarecrow looking doll to “remember him by”. She flirtily tells him she doesn’t need help remembering him. They move away, arm in arm, observed by the other Downton servants. Thomas cattily remarks that Hughes has her Romeo now. Gwen thinks the guy could be Mrs. Hughes’s brother, but Thomas proves he’s a bit too into his coworkers’ lives by revealing she doesn’t have a brother, just a sister. He goes to try the ring toss, and William tries to warn Daisy that Thomas is a giant jerk. Like most young teenage girls, Daisy won’t hear a mean word said about her crush, and she cruelly tells William to go home if he’s going to be such a spoilsport. Wounded, William stomps off, despite Gwen’s attempts to stop him. I’m kind of surprised Gwen didn’t round on Daisy and tell her to stop being so mean to William, because he obviously likes her. Daisy isn’t seeing it, so maybe it would help if someone said something.

Elsewhere, Joe’s gotten his courage up to sort of propose to Mrs. Hughes. He urges her to take her time answering; he’ll wait a few days at the pub. She promises to think good and hard about it, then slowly makes her way back toward the house.

At Downton, Matthew’s shared his findings with Mary, who’s shocked to hear that breaking the entail would require a private bill in parliament, and it would only pass if the estate were in danger. Damn, that was a pretty tightly sewn up entail, wasn’t it? Bravo to the lawyer that managed that. Mary’s pissed that she means nothing in all this, and I have to wonder, was she so upset by the entail when Patrick was set to inherit? Or is this still just her issues with Matthew’s middle-class background? Or is she just mad that, for once in her life, something hasn’t just been handed to her and she hasn’t been set on a throne and worshipped? Anyhow, Matthew tells her that, on the contrary, she means a great deal. Uh, ok, so…why does he like her again? At best she’s only been barely civil to him, and yet he’s developed this infatuation? Even back when she was totally treating him like dirt? She’s pretty, but I feel like he’s smarter than that, and has a little more self-respect than to fall for some shallow nasty piece of work like Mary just because she’s attractive in her early 20’s, which is when pretty much everyone’s attractive. Looks fade, but a bitchy attitude is pretty much forever.

Matthew tells her this troubles him, and he doesn’t like upsetting her. She bids him goodnight, holding his hand just a little too long. And she suddenly likes him because…? This relationship was really badly done. Give me more Bates and Anna—them, I can root for. Hell, give me more Joe and Mrs. Hughes, they made more sense and were more convincing than these two. Sometimes, opposites simply do not attract, folks. In fact, most of the time they don’t.

Mrs. Hughes arrives back at SSH just in time to see Bates find William in the dining room. William hurries off to bed, but Bates stops him and gently asks what happened. William says it was nothing and heads upstairs. Bates spots Mrs. Hughes standing there and politely asks her how her evening was. She tells him it was very enjoyable and that the others are right behind her. As she heads to her room, the others come in, and Thomas tells Daisy he was right when he said Mrs. Hughes was looking sparkly. Carson overhears and scolds him mildly, so Thomas drops his voice and tells Daisy and O’Brien that Mrs. Hughes has a “fancy man.” Daisy giggles and repeats the “fancy man” comment, and Bates tells her not to be so nasty, because it doesn’t suit her. I’m glad someone’s sort of sticking up for William.

Bates makes his way to William’s room, where William’s kneeling and praying. Bates knocks on the door and William, without turning around, asks Bates to leave him alone, although he knows the man means well. Bates obliges, closing the door, and meets up with Thomas in the hall. Thomas, as usual, can’t resist just being a little more of a dick, and sneers that William didn’t stand a chance against “a champion.” Come again? What is he, a boxer now? A champion what? Douchebag? What an asshole. Bates loses it, grabs Thomas by the lapels, and slams him against the wall. God, I wish I had an animated gif of that moment—I’d watch it over and over again. Bates warns Thomas that, if he doesn’t lay off and start attempting to be a human being, he’ll smash his teeth right through the back of his skull. You know, I think he could really do it. Thomas sneers that he’s not scared and heads to bed. Oh, Thomas, I’m really looking forward to you becoming trenchfoot-ridden cannon fodder in series 2.

Early the following morning, a brightly smiling Mrs. Hughes sits in her room with the doll Joe won for her the day before.

In the kitchen, William’s collecting tea trays when Thomas strolls in to humiliate him in front of Daisy, just because he can. He calls William a slob for not having his waistcoat buttons done up correctly, and Daisy meanly gets in on the hazing a little bit. William sadly does up the buttons as Gwen watches, looking like she feels sorry for him. William grabs a tray and hastens out of there, watched pityingly by Mrs. Hughes through a kitchen window. Thomas smirks hatefully at Daisy, and she gets a look on her face like maybe she’s not finding him quite so cute anymore.

Gwen hastens to Sybil’s room with a letter from the company that was looking for a secretary last episode. They want to meet her for an interview. Sybil’s delighted, but Gwen’s scared to death and doesn’t know how she’ll manage it. Sybil tells her to fake being sick, because then nobody will notice if she slips away for a couple of hours.

Mary and her father are strolling out in the park with the dog, giving us the obligatory beauty shot of the house. Mary observes that the only person not supporting her claim to the estate is Robert. He tells her he loves her dearly, and that if he’d made his own fortune and just bought the house, he’d give it to her without any hesitation, but Downton and the fortune were built up by others (well, Downton was. The fortune was Cora’s, wasn’t it?) Anyway, he can’t, in good conscience, let Downton and the fortune be pulled apart because then the house would crumble from neglect. He’s a custodian whose job it is to pass the estate along when he dies, in a manner that will allow it to be kept up. None of this seems to touch Mary at all, which just convinces me she shouldn’t inherit any of this, because she clearly doesn’t get it. She whines that she’s just supposed to find a husband and get out of everyone’s way. Well, yeah, that’s pretty much what girls in your position did. Unless you want to be a spinster and live in the dower house forever. Sorry, that’s just how it went. She’s acting like this is news to her, but it couldn’t possibly be.

Robert tells her she could marry Matthew and stay at Downton, but she tells her father she’d never marry anyone she was told to, because she’s stubborn.

Branson’s driving Sybil to Ripon for her dress fitting. As they moter along, he strikes up a conversation about women’s rights, which he’s guessed from Cora’s earlier comment are something Sybil’s interested in. He’s even brought along some pamphlets for her to read. She thanks him, surprised, and asks him not to mention any of this to her father or grandmother. She also observes that a revolutionary chauffeur seems rather unlikely. Branson pleasantly informs her he’s a socialist, not a revolutionary, and that he won’t be a chauffeur forever.

Isobel, trailed by Molesley, bursts into the doctor’s office at the hospital, interrupting his meeting with Violet. The doctor greets her politely, though a little warily, and tells Violet that Molesley’s been having problems with his hand. Isobel tells him that the hand’s no better, despite her tinctures and solutions. Violet takes a look, and as she’s doing so, she conversationally asks Molesley how his father’s doing—she noticed he’s been making changes to the garden. She asks Molesley if he’s been helping out, perhaps taking out the old rue hedge? See, the problem with the hand is a garden variety rue allergy, and if Molesley wears gardening gloves, it’ll clear up in a week. She tells Isobel to leave the diagnoses up to the professionals and sweeps out, doing that hysterically funny tittering laugh Maggie Smith does so marvelously well.

Matthew and Robert are inspecting the cottages they’re repairing and talking about the future. Matthew admits he’s glad to hear that Violet may be giving up the entail fight, and Robert’s pleased that he’s starting to see a future at Downton. Matthew guesses he must have seemed like a prig when he first arrived. Prig? No. Insufferable, condescending douchebag is closer. But you’ve grown on me since then, I’m glad to say, Matthew. Robert’s even more generous and forgiving. Matthew goes on to say that he was afraid of having to change, which is silly, because change is necessary in life. Now he sees possibilities at Downton.

In the kitchen at Downton, Mrs. Patmore’s putting her feet up while Daisy waxes rhapsodic about Thomas. I wonder if this was one of those scenes that PBS switched around, because when we last saw Daisy, she didn’t seem all that impressed with Thomas. What changed between then and now? Patmore lets her go on for a little while, smiling fondly, and then gently tells Daisy that Thomas isn’t really the guy for her. Daisy mistakes her meaning and thinks Patmore’s telling her she isn’t good enough for Thomas, but that isn’t it at all. Patmore says he’s “not a ladies’ man” wink, wink, which just confuses Daisy even more. Honestly, even if Mrs. Patmore had said, “look, honey, he likes to kiss and have sex with men,” Daisy still wouldn’t have gotten it. Not because Daisy’s stupid, but because the notion of homosexuality wasn’t a fairly well understood one at the time, particularly among the lower, rural-dwelling classes, and a young girl as sheltered as Daisy almost certainly wouldn’t have had a clue that such a thing even existed. The upper classes, reading Greek history and salacious stories about Oscar Wilde’s trial and imprisonment some years before would have had an idea, but not kitchen maids like Daisy. Patmore gives up and goes to start the ice cream.

Anna’s helping Edith get ready for dinner as Sybil paces and complains about her corset being too tight. Edith hints that Sybil’s getting a little chubby, which leads to a discussion of how unfair corsets are in the first place. Talk then turns to suffragettes, whom Sybil supports, of course, although it doesn’t seem like the other two do. Edith puts Anna on the spot, asking her what she thinks of the suffragettes, and Anna merely says she thinks they’re very brave.

Post-dinner, the family’s gathered cozily in the drawing room. Robert asks Sybil if she found something she liked at the dressmaker’s, and Sybil says she did and it’ll be ready on Friday. Robert talks a bit about the cottages that’re being restored, and every time he mentions Matthew’s name Mary flinches, until finally she gets up and runs out of the room, pleading a headache. Robert looks confused, and Cora hurries after her daughter, catching up with her in her bedroom, where she’s sobbing away.

Cora asks her what the problem is, and Mary makes it seem like all her father does is talk about Matthew, which isn’t true, he was just expressing admiration for Matthew for actually taking an interest in the estate, which is more than Mary does. Mary wails that her father has the son he always wanted now and blah, blah, poor-me-cakes. Then she moves on to attack her mother, for no reason at all, accusing Cora of not taking her side because she no longer thinks Mary’s worthy of Downton, having had a one night stand with a totally worthless jerk. Mary starts to get a little hysterical, as one often does at times like these, but then finally gets it together and tells her mother she can go back down now, because she’ll get over it. Cora warns her not to quarrel with Matthew, because she might need him someday. Mary sneers that she can quarrel with him if she wants, even though, having possibly ruined herself, she may need his protection at some point.

SSH is empty, save for William, playing a sad tune on the piano. Mrs. Hughes interrupts him to say that she should scold him, but she likes to hear him play. She asks him if he has anything else he needs to do, and he hurries off to find some work. On his way past her, she stops him and tells him not to let Thomas get to him, because Thomas is just jealous that everyone likes William better. William sadly says that not everyone does, and Mrs. Hughes informs him that Daisy’s just a silly girl who will realize it someday. William calls her a kind woman and says he’s not sure how the house would run without her. She affectionately sends him on his way.

Late that night, Gwen opens a letter alone in the kitchen, and her face falls as she reads it.

The next day, Sybil happily unwraps her new dress as Gwen stands by, and then goes to the wardrobe and pulls out a suit for Gwen to wear to her interview. Gwen sadly tells her that the interview’s been canceled, because the company found someone else with more experience. Sybil sweetly comforts her and encourages her not to give up.

Later, Carson interrupts Mrs. Hughes in her room, where she’s standing, deep in thought. He apologizes for disturbing her, but she calls him in and tells him a bit of her life story: back in the day, just before she came to Downton as a housemaid, she was dating Joe, who asked her to marry him. She turned him down, so he married somewhere else, but now he’s widowed and back, and still a total sweetheart, but despite that, she couldn’t accept his offer. She just isn’t that farmers’ daughter he used to know, all those years ago. Carson observes that life has altered all of them, because that’s just what life does. I’d wonder if he’d be surprised to know that he’s echoing Matthew’s thoughts from earlier.

Before that discussion can go further, Anna sticks her head in to say Mrs. Patmore needs the keys to the store cupboard, which only Mrs. Hughes has.

Pre-dinner, the family’s waiting in the drawing room for Sybil, who’s getting dressed in her new outfit with Anna in attendance. Both girls are giggling and looking excited, and not to sound smug, but right about now is when I guessed what, exactly, Sybil’s new “frock” looked like. Matthew and Isobel are there for dinner as well, and after Violet makes a crack about Patmore’s food, Isobel naturally sticks up for the cook, which just gets her a dose of patented Violet Attitude™. Sybil finally arrives in the drawing room, and we get a bunch of shocked reaction shots to her outfit, which isn’t a gown at all but a pair of harem pants in two shades of bright blue. Paul Poiret would be so proud. Only Matthew smiles in delight at the sight of her. Branson peeks into the drawing room through the window and grins too. Hey, can Matthew and Sybil get together? Because those two I’d believe, they both have similar social concerns and actually care about the welfare of the people who live on and near the estate. I’d buy that pairing over a relationship between Matthew and Mary.

Why, that brazen little hussy!

Instead of finding out what the fallout from Sybil’s unconventional fashion choice was, we fast forward to August 1913. Gwen and Anna are making up Mary’s room while Daisy cleans the grate. Daisy drops the fireplace tools, startling the other two girls. Gwen asks what’s bothering her and Daisy says she hates this room, flashing back to the night she saw Anna, Mary, and Cora moving Pamouk’s body back to his room. Gwen asks her why she has a problem with that room in particular, but Daisy refuses to answer.

The family’s at breakfast, and Robert’s reading a letter from his sister. Sybil expresses sympathy for her aunt, living all alone in her large house in London, and Mary heartlessly sniffs that living in a giant house with tons of money and no husband to bother with sounds awesome to her. Robert snaps at her to think before she speaks, lest someone take her seriously someday. Mary seems surprised to be called out on her bad behavior, which would explain a lot about her character. I think she’s one of those girls who was praised and worshipped and spoiled too much throughout her life, and she ended up buying into her own hype and turning into an Edwardian Regina George. Problem is, at some point, your attitude and BS stop being cute or even tolerable, and eventually you find yourself friendless and almost certainly husbandless, because who wants to live with that all the time?

Letter in hand, Sybil finds Gwen. The letter’s another interview request, for the following day at 10 a.m. Sybil promises to drive Gwen over in the governess cart, and just advises Gwen to pretend to be sick, as she did the last time.

Crawley house. Isobel mentions to Matthew that she was planning to write to Edith and propose a date for the second church outing, which Isobel will be accompanying them on. Isobel feels sorry for Edith, and honestly, I do too. She’s clearly suffering from the worst sort of middle child syndrome, having been shunted aside in favor of her glorified older sister, who has obviously picked on her and made her life hell forever. Moleseley interrupts to ask for a little time off that afternoon to help set up the annual flower show. Isobel willingly gives him leave to do so.

Back at Downton, Thomas emerges from the wine cellar, bottle in hand, only to be met by Bates, who asks pointedly if Carson’s around. Thomas hides the bottle in one hand and says he was just looking for Carson himself. Bates nods and backs away. Woah. Stealing was a big deal in those houses, and Thomas has been stealing pretty stupidly, and regularly, but the sound of it. Please, please let him be thrown in jail or something!

Cora’s sitting on the bench out in the park, sorting through papers relating to the flower show. Robert interrupts and tells her that his sister’s letter contained a pretty salacious little tidbit: Evelyn Napier’s given up any plans to marry Mary (which I thought was settled months ago, but ok, whatever) and the word is he gave up because her character been found “wanting” in some way. Cora acts all surprised and asks Robert to urge Mary to get married already. Robert snorts that she won’t listen to him on the matter. Cora throws out the suggestion of Sir Anthony Strallen, but Robert points out that Strallen’s too old and too dull for wonderful, glittering Mary. Cora frets that Mary has to marry someone soon, especially if there are rumors going around London that she’s an easy lay.

SSH. Most of the servants are chatting and attending to little chores in the dining room. Anna asks Daisy if she’s recovered from her jumpiness in Mary’s room. Thomas asks if she saw a ghost, and when Daisy doesn’t answer, he presses her to tell them all what the issue is. She looks up and sees everyone staring at her and freaks out a bit, babbling about the Titanic and Pamouk and how it seems like there’s a lot of death in the house. William asks what all that has to do with Mary’s bedroom and Daisy says nothing.

No pressure!

At the town hall, Molesely’s helping to hang a banner. Isobel arrives and strikes up a conversation about a particularly nice prize cup she noticed the previous year. Molesley tells her that was the Grantham Cup, donated by the late earl and awarded for the best bloom in the village. Isobel asks who won it, even though she just said she was there, so she should know. From behind her, Violet pipes up that she was the winner. We quickly realize that she wins it every year, despite the fact that she’s almost certainly never held a spade or a pair of gardening shears in her life. Molesley quickly introduces Isobel to his elderly, white-haired father, who, according to Molesley, grows beautiful roses. Violet comments that it’s a marvelous area for roses, and then she leaves.

In a really bizarre cut, we suddenly join Thomas in mid-sentence, talking to O’Brien. He comments that he’s in enough trouble as it is, which confused me so much I figured PBS had had its hand on the editing machines again, and I looked up the ITV version of the program to see what I missed. The first part of this scene had Thomas confessing to O’Brien that he told a manservant in another house about showing Pamouk to Mary’s room, so now we know how that rumor got out. Anyhow, O’Brien asks what’s eating him, and he admits Bates saw him stealing a bottle of wine and he’s afraid Bates will tell Carson. O’Brien tells him to find a way to get rid of Bates before he does so.

Topside, Robert runs into Sybil, who tells him she’ll be taking the governess cart to the next town the following day.

The next morning, Thomas and O’Brien corner Daisy as she’s heading upstairs to clear the grate in Sybil’s room. O’Brien asks her what the connection is between Pamouk and Mary’s room. Daisy gibbers for a moment, then runs upstairs.

Mary, meanwhile, is walking into the village to send a telegram. Matthew bikes up to her and says hi. After some idle chatter, Mary asks if he plans on visiting any more churches with Edith. She warns him to watch out, because Edith has plans for him, as if she wasn’t the one who encouraged those plans in the first place. See?  You know this is how their relationship has always been—Mary constantly undermining and cutting the legs out from under her sister, who was never really able to effectively compete. Matthew tells Mary that Edith is in for a big disappointment.

At the house, Daisy races up to Sybil’s room, where Anna and Gwen are already making up the bed. Daisy apologizes for running so late. Gwen suddenly clutches her forehead and plops down on the bed, just in time for Carson to walk by and see her. He asks what’s up and she says she just had a turn. Carson and Anna agree that she should go rest and Gwen scurries away.

Cora’s descended to SSH to ask Mrs. Patmore to make an apple Charlotte for the dinner they’re giving for Sir Anthony Strallen later that week. Patmore’s putting up enough of a fight to bring in Mrs. Hughes, who asks what the problem is. Patmore insists they can’t change the menu at such a late date, since all the food has been ordered and arranged. Daisy offers to read the recipe out to her if she needs it, and Patmore starts to lay into her, so Cora retreats and says they’ll stick with the raspberry meringue they’d planned on. As Cora and Mrs. Hughes move away from the kitchen, Cora urges her to keep an eye out for Daisy, who’s getting a serious tongue lashing from Patmore in the background.

Sybil drives through the park gates in the lovely little governess cart, stopping to pick up Gwen, who’s hiding alongside the road. Sybil wonders what’ll happen if one of the maids notices Gwen’s gone, but Gwen says the only person who would notice is Anna, and she’s the nicest person on earth, so no problems there.

At the house, Anna’s working on Edith’s room. Bates pokes his head in and offers to give her a hand. She accepts gratefully and he helps her make up the bed. He comments he feels sorry for Edith and Anna says she does too. She mentions that Edith was in love with Patrick, but she never got a chance with him because he was all set up to marry Mary. Bates cracks that Patrick was a “braver man then I am, Gunga Din.” Heh. Good to see that not everyone’s bowled over by Mary. Bates quietly says that it’s sad to think about, and Anna agrees that it’s always sad when you love someone who doesn’t love you back. He actually meant that it’s sad the guy died. Anna thanks him for his help, gathers up the linens, and goes to leave. When she’s at the door, he stops her by saying that, maybe Patrick did love Edith back, he just couldn’t say, because sometimes you’re not at liberty to speak of such things. Oh, for heaven’s sake, you two, just kiss already! It’s like watching a pair of high schoolers stumbling around sometimes.

Gwen arrives safely at her interview five minutes early and is asked by the secretary to take a seat. While she waits, another woman emerges from her own interview. In less than ten minutes, Gwen’s done and hurrying out of there.

Isobel has arrived at the dower house to discuss the flower show with Violet, who thought she was in for another ribbing about the hospital. Isobel tells her that Elder Molesley has some awesome roses, and she’s worried he won’t win because it seems like the committee feels obligated to award the cup to Violet every year. Violet insists that she wins every year because her gardener grows the best bloom. Isobel tightly talks about how proud EM is of his roses, and Violet indignantly asks Isobel to consider her gardener’s pride. Yes, Violet, let’s consider that. Your gardener doesn’t win the cup, does he? You do. So how is his pride being serviced at all? Are you giving him the cup after it’s awarded? I daresay you’re not. Isobel just asks her to release the committee from any obligation to award her, and to tell them to simply recognize the best bloom. Violet stands her ground and says that that’s exactly what they do, every single year. I do love the scenes between these two—they always have this rather amusing layering of exasperation and seriously tried patience and fake politeness. Well done by both actresses.

Sybil and Gwen are on the road, but now walking, with Sybil leading the horse. They meet up with a young man with a dog and ask if there’s a smithy nearby, because the horse has thrown a shoe. He directs them to a nearby blacksmith and the girls set off, Gwen fretting about being found out, now that she’s been gone so long.

Back at the house, Anna asks O’Brien if she’s seen Sybil, because she needs to get dressed for dinner. O’Brien hasn’t, and William, passing on the stairs, says Carson’s planning on calling the police if she’s not back soon.

The girls have arrived at the blacksmith’s, only to hear the smith is away and won’t be back until the following day. Resigned, they get back on the road, only to end up mired in a muddy patch. The horse decides to take a break right then and snack on some grass as the girls try to get the cart’s wheels unstuck. Sybil threatens to have the horse boiled for glue, and the horse bolts, sending both girls flying face-first into the mud.

O’Brien’s helping Cora dress for dinner, and Cora’s worrying about where Sybil is. She frets about how hard it is to raise daughters, because you think it’ll be like Little Women, but they end up at each others’ throats all the time. To be fair, Cora, you are no Marmee. O’Brien clearly takes what Cora says to heart, and starts to formulate a diabolical plan, from the look on her face.

Anna arrives back at her and Gwen’s room, where Gwen’s now tucked up in bed, still pretending to be sick. Anna asks Gwen where she was, and swears she didn’t give her away. Of course she didn’t. Gwen starts to fill her in on the details and how freaked out she was that they wouldn’t make it back in time. Anna smiles nicely as she listens and asks if she got the job. Gwen doesn’t know yet.

O’Brien goes into Edith’s room to tell her that Sybil’s back, so dinner won’t be held up, as everyone thought. Edith nods, but O’Brien continues to hover, so she asks what else is on her mind. O’Brien tells her that Daisy’s been acting strange and talking about Pamouk and Mary’s room, and she’s worried about the girl. She thinks Daisy knows something about Mary. Edith asks O’Brien to bring Daisy to see her the next day. Can someone explain why O’Brien is doing this? What purpose does it serve for her to set Edith and Mary against each other? Is she just one of those people that needs lots of drama or something? I don’t get it. It seems like a needlessly hurtful, stupid, pointless move.

As O’Brien leaves, Mary comes in. She’s heard about Sybil being back and the horse throwing the shoe and comments that she wouldn’t have gotten down an dwalked no matter how lame the horse was. Of course not, you heartless creature. What’s an animal’s suffering when compared with your comfort?

The next day, Daisy’s in Edith’s room with Edith and O’Brien, insisiting she doesn’t know anything. Edith sends O’Brien away and starts to talk Daisy around. She’s being rather nice, actually, so either she’s a really good actress or Sybil’s not the only daughter in the family with feelings and empathy. Daisy bursts into tears and finally starts talking.

Meanwhile, at the town hall, everyone’s putting the finishing touches on setup for the flower show. Isobel waves the other Crawleys over to admire the amazing roses Elder Molesley has set out. Violet sees right through the gambit and tells Cora that Isobel thinks she’s being unfairly awarded every year. Matthew comments that that’s a bit ungallant of his mother, and he sucks up to Violet a little by saying he’s sure her roses will be spectacular. Isobel makes another dig at Violet, who gives her a steely look and tells her she’s remarkable for her ability to see room for improvement wherever she looks. Isobel stiffly says she takes that as a compliment and takes off, and Violet giggles that she must have said it wrong. Heh. Mary rolls her eyes behind her grandmother’s back.

As Cora and Violet move away, Mary comments to Matthew that Violet’s not used to being challenged. He suggests they let the ladies settle the matter between them. Mary asks him if he’s interested in flowers. I guess they’re friends again, despite her jealousy just a few scenes ago over her father’s relationship with Matthew. Whatever. Matthew says he’s interested in the village and the goings-on there. In fact, he’s heading up to the cottages that’re being refurbished. Rather than making any attempt to care about the place where she lives, Mary suggests he’s working too much and is in danger of becoming a dull boy. Matthew says he plays too, and in fact he’ll be up for dinner that night. Mary says it’s just a few dreary neighbors coming. Way to make it sound like a fun meal, Mary. Matthew brightsides that he may shine by comparison. Mary says he might and goes to catch up with her mother and grandmother.

That night, Mary’s getting ready for dinner and fussing over a brooch. Cora joins her and asks her to look after Sir Anthony. Mary whines about it and wonders how many times she’s going to be ordered to marry the man sitting next to her at dinner. “As many times as it takes,” Cora answers. Ha! Mary points out it’s unlikely she’d turn down Matthew but then accept Strallen. Cora takes that as an indication Mary’s come to think more highly of Matthew.  Cora then prepares to play hardball, reminding Mary that she’s damaged goods, and she needs to get married before she becomes unmarriagable. Mary groans and moans, so Cora tells her about the rumor circulating in London. Mary panics a bit because, as Cora reminds her, if this rumor were ever proven she’d be a social outcast. Mary tries to play it off, saying the world’s changing, but Cora says it’s not changing that quickly. Mary says she realizes Cora means well, but she’s just not cut out for 40 years of boredom and duty with a husband she doesn’t love. I suppose 60 years of boredom and duty as an old maid who never gets invited anywhere is fine with her. Mary nastily tells Cora to focus on Edith, because Edith needs all the help she can get. At this point, we see Edith’s reflection in the glass of a picture on the wall—she’s been listening to the conversation, and she certainly heard at least the last part. Wounded, she moves away from the door and heads downstairs.

In the kitchen, Patmore takes a roasting pan out of the oven and promptly drops it, sending the chickens in it flying. She freaks out, screaming and everything, and immediately blames Daisy, then drops into a chair, wailing. It’s up to Anna and Gwen to save things—they grab the chickens, brush them off, and put them on the waiting platter just in time for the footmen to come down to take them upstairs.

In the dining room, Strallen’s talking about mechanization in farming while Mary looks suicidally bored. She’s so clearly not paying attention to him at all that it’s up to Edith to rescue things by actually making a meaningful comment about what he’s been saying. Everyone seems shocked to actually hear her speak, but Strallen’s just relieved he hasn’t been blathering on to the air for the last 20 minutes or so. Edith charms him, something Mary notices and certainly seems to resent. Selfish creature—she’s not even interested in him, but God forbid Edith should have anything. Does Mary have any redeeming qualities at all?

What's this? Someone showing an interest in Edith? Well, we can't have that, can we?

The footmen return to the kitchen for the dessert, pausing just long enough for Patmore to sprinkle it with sugar.

Topside, Cora takes over talking to Strallen, and Mary turns to Matthew and tells him how relieved she is, because Strallen’s so very boring with his talk of farming and his apparent care of his estate. She asks him about the cottages and Matthew gets all excited, offering to show her how well they’re coming along. I’m pretty sure she’s not in the least interested in seeing htem, but thankfully she doesn’t have to answer, because just then, Strallen takes a bite of his dessert and almost spits it across the table. He apologizes and explains he just got a mouthful of salt. Cora tries her own dessert and immediately asks Carson to take the dessert away and bring fruit or cheese or something. Looks like Patmore’s mixed up her seasonings this time. Cora apologizes to Strallen as Matthew and Mary giggle like little kids behind their napkins.

Belowstairs, Patmore sobs into a hanky and blames Daisy for the mix-up, as she does. Daisy starts to protest, but Carson tells her not to sweat it, they know this isn’t her problem. Patmore wails that she knows the recipe inside and out and she can’t see how it went wrong. Mrs. Hughes quickly realizes that this is the reason she didn’t want to do the new recipe: she didn’t know it by heart. Bates takes charge and hustles everyone out, leaving Patmore alone with Carson, who stokes up the fire and gently draws out Patmore’s secret: she’s going blind.

Topside, the ladies repair to the drawing room, wehre Mary promptly starts to make fun of Strallen, which incites Edith to call Mary out for her childish behavior. Mary tells Edith she’s sorry that Matthew was a non-starter in the romance department. This is news to Edith, because Matthew’s only shared this news with his mother and, horribly, Mary, who now throws it right in her sister’s face. Low blow, Mary, and totally unnecessary. Cora steps in and throws Edith a bone, thanking her for talking to Strallen like an intelligent person at dinner. Edith perks up a little and says she enjoyed it, because they seemed to have a good deal to talk about.

Edith gets up to fetch some coffee, and Mary joins her to make her feel bad about herself some more. Hey Cora, if you don’t want your daughters to be at each others’ throats, do something about this! Tell Mary to back off and mind her own damn business! Edith accuses Mary of being jealous of Strallen’s attentions to Edith and says that Mary can’t have everyone. Mary takes that as a challenge, and Edith’s foolish enough to take her up on it.

As the gentlemen make their way to the drawing room, Robert apologizes for the salty pudding and comments that he’s glad to see Matthew and Mary getting along. He wonders if the two of them might be able to start over, and Matthew says that’s a possibility. Oh, Matthew, don’t be fooled. She’s a selfish harpy, run while you can!

The gentlemen arrive, and Mary pounces right on Strallen, steering him toward some book and blowing off Matthew in the process. Edith tries to join the conversation, but both Strallen and Mary ignore her, so she wanders over to Matthew in an almost certain misery loves company moment. She comments that it looks like they’ve both been thrown over for a bigger prize. Matthew makes a lame excuse and just leaves, rather than be subjected to the apparent horror of having to spend a few minutes politely chatting with Edith. Dick move, Matthew. I was getting to like you—don’t spoil it. As he leaves, Mary glances up and excuses herself. Robert watches this, and then says to Cora that Mary can be such a child. Can be? He explains that she seems to be under the impression that she can put down a toy at any time, and it’ll still be there when she’s ready to play with it again. Don’t you think it’s about time for someone to disabuse her of that notion? Meanwhile, poor Edith just sits in a chair, alone, unnoticed by anyone. Edith, Mary’s gone and Strallen’s alone—now’s your chance!

Out in the hall, Mary learns that Matthew has already left; he didn’t even wait for the car to be brought around. In a rare moment, she actually looks like she’s experiencing regret.

Flower show! Molesley the elder primps his display as the Crawleys come by. Robert and Cora both compliment his beautiful roses. As they wander away, Robert makes it clear he’s of the same mind as Isobel when it comes to the fairness of the show’s judging.

The servants are on their way to the show as well, with Bates and Anna lagging behind. Anna wonders what Mrs. Patmore will do, and Bates figures she’ll muddle through for a while, with Daisy to help. They both hope there’s something the doctor can do, although Bates adds that he also hopes that they tell her if there’s no cure, because there’s nothing harder to live with than false hope. Nope, not loaded dialogue at all. Anna stops and tells him she wishes he’d just come out with whatever it is he’s keeping secret. Bates tells her he can’t, and she hopefully says he doesn’t deny he likes her, then. He says he doesn’t, but then admits that he’s not a free man. Ouch. Anna figures this means he’s married, and he admits he has been married, but there are other things as well. Anna goes right ahead and throws caution to the wind and admits that she loves him. She knows it’s not ladylike to say it, but she’s not a lady, and she loves him. Awwww. “You are a lady to me,” he answers. AWWWWWW!!!!! Man, I love these two together! They’re interrupted by the arrival of a hay cart, the driver of which offers to give one of htem a lift. Anna tells Bates to take it and he accepts, so he doesn’t slow them all down, since he’s done enough of that already. Anna takes a moment to collect herself, then falls into step behind the cart.

At the town hall, Sybil finds Gwen and asks if she’s heard back from the job. Gwen says she has—they were happy to meet her, but she doesn’t quite fit their requirements. Since I’m going through something very similar to this as I shop a novel around, I feel her pain keenly. It’s so hard to be told again and again that you’re just not quite right. Sybil refuses to give in, though, and encourages Gwen to keep trying and keep fighting.

Mary, meanwhile, catches up with Matthew to apologize, sort of, for blowing him off the night before. He only speaks to her as much as he absolutely has to to be polite before shrugging her off and going to join his mother. Good boy, Matthew, give her a taste of her own bitter medicine! Edith, unfortunately, takes the opportunity to needle Mary, although you think she’d know better by now. Mary takes aim at Edith’s outfit, and as much as I hate to agree with her, she kind of has a point. Edith’s dress is really childish and unflattering. Edith starts to boil and sniffs that Mary thinks she’s so above it all. Mary rolls her eyes extravagantly and walks away. Edith exchanges a glance with O’Brien and then bitterly murmurs that she who laughs last laughs longest. Oh, Mary, what have you gotten yourself into?

Violet’s up at the podium, presenting the awards. She glances down at the sheet in front of her and sees that her own name is written down as having won the Grantham Cup again that year. She pauses for just a moment, then announces Molesley the elder’s name instead, to everyone’s shock. Isobel recovers first and leads the applause for him as he steps forward to accept the cup. Violet congratulates him sincerely and he thanks her. And Violet’s heart grew four sizes that day.

Edith is up late, writing a letter. She finishes writing the address, and we see she’s written to the Turkish Ambassador. Ohhh, hey there. Not that Mary doesn’t deserve a huge rain of shit to come down on her, but I almost think the smarter move would have been for Edith to hold what she knows over Mary’s head forever, to get Mary to back off for a while. Telling the ambassador…what, exactly? That some maid told her she saw someone carrying Pamouk back to his room the night he died? Seems like it could have major, disastrous implications for the whole family, not just Mary. But, we’ll see where this goes.

Next week: Sybil gets in over her head at a rally, things heat up between Mary and Matthew (sigh), and Violet susses out the family secret.



6 thoughts on “Downton Abbey: Love is in the Air

  1. I am so hoping Bates & Anna get together & something wonderful happens for them!!! Yes I agree those opening comments are strange for this show.

  2. [“She’s another character I feel was really poorly developed—she goes all over the place at a moment’s notice, and because she says things like, “oh, I hate my life,” we’re supposed to think it was always that way, despite all evidence to the contrary.”]

    Despite all evidence to the contrary? What do you mean by that? Are you criticizing Lady Mary’s character, because she refuses to follow Lady Sybil’s example and make a different life for herself?

  3. I’m watching season one for the first time and loving it. Thanks for these detailed recaps! I’m hoping Mary gets over herself in season two, and that O’Brien gets her comeuppance..

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