DA S1E6: Roadblocks to Progress

Posted on January 03, 2012

This episode was the first time we had real issues with the plotting on the show. Up to this point it’s been fairly well done, but when you have two characters causing drama for no better reason than because drama is needed, the stories start to falter for us a bit. In both instances – Lady Mary and Mr. Bates – we suppose the point could be made that people are their own worst enemies and that they’re often self-sabotaging. In fact, these points have been made about both of these characters, to a certain extent; Mary driving Matthew away by getting caught up in childish sibling bullshit with Edith (not to mention the way she acted with Pamuk) and Bates keeping too many things to himself to the extent he will cripple himself with pain and attempt to shrug it off. But oddly, it didn’t seem like these points were being made in the writing this time around. It’s as if the writers felt that, since they’d established the natures of these two characters, then the audience should be ready to accept either of them acting in totally stupid, almost nonsensical ways. People often make bad choices for themselves, yes. But that doesn’t mean we all run straight off a cliff every time we encounter one.

Mary’s attraction to Matthew is growing, to the point that she’s not really trying to hide it anymore. After Edith lands Sir Anthony and Sybil demonstrates rather obviously that she has a crush on Matthew, it perhaps doesn’t speak well of her that she chooses this particular moment to make her move. Not that we doubt her attraction to him, but it sure looks to us like she panicked when it looked like either of her sisters could wind up paired off before her; especially if one of them winds up with Matthew. Whatever her motivations, she sent up the flag and he saluted on command. After this, Mary makes a rather passionate and breathless declaration of her love for Matthew and that he proposed to her. She has come to this moment independently, on her own terms. The acceptance of Matthew’s proposal would settle virtual everything that’s troubling the character. She will have a form of autonomy because Matthew clearly wouldn’t dream of controlling her, she will remain the Lady of Downton, and she will have rehabilitated her quickly dissolving reputation among society. The fact that she actually does love him is the cherry on the sundae. Her answer to his proposal? She hasn’t given one yet. She’s not sure.

This is why we couldn’t be in service. This would be the moment when we’d burst through the door having eavesdropped on the whole conversation, put our hands on our hips, and said, “Pardon me, my lady, but are you fucking nuts?

You think Thomas is an evil queen? You have NO IDEA.

Even if we can somehow buy that Mary is THAT self-sabotaging, we find it more and more difficult that Cora would be so laissez-faire about it. She knows even more than Mary how bad things have gotten on the rumor-mongering front. That she would sigh and wait patiently for Mary to make up her mind doesn’t ring remotely true to us, especially in light of the little airhead’s insistence on telling him about her Turkish slip-up. Cora and Violet would threaten to take away everything that’s within their power to take away from her if she doesn’t snap the hell out of it and recognize a good thing when she sees it. We realize Cora and Robert are unusually permissive parents for this time and place, but come on. You can’t keep telling the viewer that the stakes are high (“My life is ruined! This scandal will live on long after I’m dead!”)  and then have the characters linger over the very best solution to all their problems. Not without making them all look either stupid or impotent.

We haven’t forgotten that this is serialized drama and requited love is the most boring thing in the world. We’re not arguing that Mary should be marrying Matthew right now. We’re arguing that the proposal shouldn’t have been written in at this point. Sure, have them carry on a snogging session over sandwiches in the dining room, but don’t go right to the marriage proposal after that. There could have been a dozen little roadblocks to put in their relationship and add drama without making Mary look truly idiotic.

Downstairs, Mr. Bates is handed an equally made-to-order solution to all his problems and, like Mary, rejects it. Just because. At least with Mary’s drama we can write it off as matters of the heart to a certain extent. No one’s completely rational when it comes to love. But Bates will not accuse a man of crime, even though the accusation is true and he hates the man in question; even though the man in question has tried repeatedly to ruin him and may yet find a way to do so.  Why? No idea, really. “I don’t want a man to lose his job because of me.” To make matters worse, after he unequivocally clears his own name (thanks to some help from Daisy), he then gently shuts the door and admits to a whole host of crimes no one’s accused him of or had any reason to know about. When you’re writing a noble and tortured character, you have to be aware that there’s a very fine line between “noble” and “moron.” This makes ZERO sense and it’s only here because it’s a way of putting an obstacle in the path of the Bates and Anna romance. It’s frustrating and stupid from a narrative sense. Give us a reason why Bates would do something like this. “You’re going to find out some day” doesn’t quite cut it. And besides, we find it a little hard to believe that he’d be cut loose that easily considering his past with Lord Grantham. We can handle roadblocks. In a serial drama, we even expect them. But good serial dramas know how to set them up and bad ones take lazy shortcuts. What makes this so disappointing to us is that everything up till now has been so smoothly done.

In other news, Sybil is becoming more radical by the second. We criticized the scene a few episodes back when she showed up for dinner in a shocking pair of pantaloons and everyone just smiled indulgently. Seeing an actual family argument play out over Sibyl’s growing political awareness felt far more true to us. It was interesting to see how the fight shook up. Violet, for all her bitchiness, does tend to refrain from direct confrontation in front of other family members, but she couldn’t help herself here. Robert played the stern father part and for the most part, it suited him. And finally, Lady Edith jumped in to support her father’s anger and get a couple digs in at Sibyl herself. On the other side of the table, it’s Cora and Mary defending Sibyl. This is pretty much exactly how family arguments shake out. People take sides based on the sides other people are taking.

We thought there was a point rather deftly and subtly made about aristocrats like Sibyl who get involved in politics. Her zeal for reform did not extend to treating her chauffeur with respect. “Really Branson. I thought I gave the orders,” she says condescendingly when he begs her to get back in the car, knowing full well how much her own actions are putting him at risk. Sibyl is easily the most likeable among the 3 sisters, but even she has issues with snobbery and entitlement. Another moment came when Sibyl tried to bolster Gwen’s confidence over her job prospects. “You’re brought up to think it’s all in your grasp,” Gwen tells her wearily. “We’re not like that. We don’t think our dreams are bound to come true because they almost never do.” That’s a rather succinct and well-spoken illustration of privilege and how it can’t grasp the perspective of those who don’t have it.

Mary had a somewhat better outcome in her dealings with the servants. At first, she was shown to be just as blindly privileged as anyone else in her family when she rudely laughed at William’s recounting of how his mother has wanted him to better himself. “As a second footman?” To her credit, she at least recognized how snotty she was coming across and in the end, did right by William. We thought their scenes together were quite sweet. We like when the show pairs family and staff off in unusual ways. It allows for commentary on both characters. There was a wonderful moment last episode when Sibyl ushered O’Brien out of her room and then muttered “Odious woman.” It’s something no other member of the family would say, just like what Mary did for William here is something only Mary would have done for him, because she “doesn’t give a fig about rules.”

And finally, Cora and Violet have a real face-off and Cora comes out the winner. We thought everything about this development played out exactly as it should have. You got a real sense from both women how pained and shocked they were by Mary’s actions; Cora especially. But you also understood why they would both support her and forgive her. “Mary has the trump card, ” says Violet. “Mary is family.”

We wonder if they’ll feel the same way about Edith should her part in this scandal ever come out.


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  • MilaXX

    I think it was around this episode that Mary truly began to work my nerves.  Perhaps it’s the thing in me that always roots for the underdog, but I still like Bates even if he is a bit of an Eoyore. 

  • Anonymous

    TLo  — Are you going to write about the costumes?  I understand some are true, falling-apart vintage.

    • The general rule of thumb is, if it’s black it’s probably old. A load of the costumes went up in smoke when arsonists torched a  warehouse- it’s a huge setback not only to Downton Abbey but a lot of other period dramas. These are quite cheap to produce in the UK because the settings and costumes are available (often reused again and again) and fairly cheap to rent. If they have to make new clothes for future seasons the costs will skyrocket.

      • Anonymous

        That’s tragic.  What a horrible loss.

    • Anonymous

      They did one about a year ago, but it was mostly pictures, not a write-up. You may have seen that already and are looking for more background and information. Anyway, here is the link:

      • Anonymous

        Thanks!  I had missed it.  More words would be nice, but the pics are luscious!

        • That’s why you should buy the companion book! It has all of the details about the costumes (and then some).

  • Anonymous

    I agree that the script plays its high card way too soon — why wouldn’t Mary accept Matthew straight away?  She thinks she can do better, of course, and that strikes me as true to her character, but it is hard to believe that she wouldn’t seriously be bullied into marrying him.  Even without the scandal marrying him makes all kinds of sense.

    • Anonymous

      I think TLo missed the to the point that’s being made about Mary character.  Yes, she is a young women of the time with the desire to shape her life independently…the primary way such declarations of independence were made for a woman of that time…as it was for the Virgin Queen Elizabeth…was the choice to marry whom they chose, when they chose or to not marry at all.  Mary’s the 1st daughter of a Lord who needed a male heir. Therefore her emotional upbringing surely has always been that of a stand-in, quasi tomboy…notice she’s the only one of the sisters who thrills for hunting and loves a vigorous horseback ride.  She’s been raised with all access to privilage and expectations bestowed upon an [male] heir but, even without the entail, she is hobbled by her sex and class to solely pursue marriage and the production of heirs as her life’s ambition.   Sure she thinks she loves Matthew, she knows intellectually that all would be solved but was that…Marriage…ever what she truly wanted at this point in her life? The answer is no and,in my opinion, the writers have been consistently driving home that narrative for her leading up to this scene…she says to and about Matthew, “I envy you”…”I hate my life”…”He’s always wanted a son! Now it’s, Matthew this , Matthew that…”, etc.  

      So while yes, we all know how much Matthew’s proposal would solve everything for the estate…it’s still Mary’s life that’s to be sacrificed or at least whatever dreams, ambitions or curiosities of a self-determined, independent life that men take for granted…that she must set aside permanently because a male 3rd cousin, default heir to all of HER money decided to pop the question. At the very least I give her character CREDIT for doubting her own feelings/motivations. I don’t think the writers are being deliberately obtuse. I think they’re being consistent and true to her character.

      • Allison Drury

        I thought this plot development served to underline the fact that Mary is a tortured soul. She consistently shoots herself in the foot and has the presence of mind to know it. She initially whole heartedly rejected Matthew because of his middle class status but has grown to love him. She always said she would marry for love, but when presented with that opportunity she still second guesses herself. She is the perpetually single girl who manages to eff up any opportunity that comes her way. This is all a game she is forced to play, and that’s why she indulges in cat and mouse with her sister and goes running toward whomever is suddenly getting attention from another woman. It’s a competition and she knows she holds more power than her sisters. Plus she’s beyond immature: if she can’t be happy, no one will.

        I agree that Cora’s reaction was ridiculous. No way would she be so cavalier about it all. The fact that she’s an evil American who went to college and lived in a wigwam (according to Violet) is not reason enough for me to believe that she would indulge Mary’s indecisiveness. Puhlease. But then again, Cora is the least realistic and thought out character on the show. Don’t even get me started on how awful Elizabeth McGovern is in this role IMHO. Her breathy lines and perpetual scowl drive me crazy.

        • dlmerril

          “Don’t even get me started on how awful Elizabeth McGovern is in this role IMHO. Her breathy lines and perpetual scowl drive me crazy.” – Thank goodness someone else shares my feelings about Ms. McGovern as an actress.  For many years I’ve been amazed that she continues to get roles because she seems to have only one expression on her face at all times. 

      • “At the very least I give her character CREDIT for doubting her own feelings/motivatons”

        Definitely this. I think that knowing Matthew is the best logical option for her is making her doubt her emotions and second-guess her motives. His new status and her desperation aren’t really romantic reasons to get together. I kind of respect her doubt about the matter.

        As for Cora’s reaction being unbelievable… eh. The only faster way to get Mary to flat out run away from Matthew than her mother to badgering her into accepting him, is if the entire family were to gang up on her and get in on it. Mary hasn’t ever struck me as someone who does well when cornered, and would more likely rebel than submit, so I found it pretty believable that they’d act the way they did.

      • Anonymous

        It must be me, but I thought she only went after Matthew because her sister wanted him. I did not think she was really falling for him (at least not yet…)

      • We don’t think we missed the point of her character at all. It’s just that you don’t believe the character when she says she’s loved Matthew for a long time and we do.

        • Anonymous

          I didn’t mean to give offense, TLo. =)  It’s not that I don’t believe her feelings for him.  He’s intelligent, headstrong, English…sure, maybe she’s always thought he was cute and, given the time and proximity, that feeling has grown…but it’s the permanence of “The Marriage” thing  that seems to have always stuck in her craw. Even when it was supposed to be to her father’s first cousin. Mary just strikes me as a modern young woman born in the wrong time. What is she 23-24yrs old? Sure it may have been “mature” for then but it doesn’t negate her internal dilemma. She’s in the prime of her youth…it’s not that she’s against the institution of matrimony…just immediacy at which it’s being thrust at her and the narrowness of the options available to her sex at large.

          • Anonymous

            In 1914 May was 22 years of age.

    • Libby Rhoman

      That was exactly my reaction, and why I just can’t find a way to like her anymore- she’s worried she can do better.  Tortured soul or not, it’s “the answer to [the family’s] prayers,” as Cora says, and as TLo point out, the best case scenario for Mary to preserve her independence and her reputation, the two things she’s most protective of.

      The only logical reason I can think of for why she’s not being strong armed into accepting by her family is that she’s been spoiled so rotten her whole life, they know that’s impossible.  Not to mention if Matthew found out he would be horrified and devastated.  Frankly, I’m surprised Matthew proposed so soon.  He doesn’t generally seem to be so impulsive.

      • Allison Drury

        The only logical reason I can think of for why she’s not being strong
        armed into accepting by her family is that she’s been spoiled so rotten
        her whole life…

        Or because the writers need to drag out this relationship volley for a couple more seasons.

        I totally agree that she thinks she can do better. Then again if the love of my life came along when I was 18 I would have turned him down too thinking that I don’t know what else is out there. What if something better is awaiting me?

        • dlmerril

          But if Mary is indeed 23-24 like someone speculated, in that day she was practically an old maid if she was still single.

  • Anonymous

    Tut-tut on Lady Mary. Matthew suddenly looks good to her when she sees him through Sibyl’s starry eyes or rather when she sees Matthew looking back at Sibyl with starry eyes too. Just like with her other suitors she doesn’t really want him but she doesn’t want anyone else to have him either.
    Sibyl still reminds me of Richard Wright’s character “Mary”. I do not like.

  • Does Lady M have to be the first to be married? Can Lady E or Lady S marry first?

    • Anonymous

      That’s surely the way lady Mary wants it, but I think if any of the girls would marry Matthew it would solve the family’s problem.

      • With most entailments the eldest son must marry to keep the estate- I don’t know if the same is required for daughters. BTW- the old tradition was: First son gets the estate, Second Son goes into the military, Third Son goes to the Clergy (especially if the estate controls the local parish)

        • Anonymous

          With most entailments the eldest son must marry to keep the estate-

          I’m not sure why you think that.   When property is held in fee tail that simply means that the tenant in tail cannot alienate or devise the property, but that its passage is by operation of law.   If the tenant in tail wasn’t married, or was married but had no legitimate child, it would pass to the next heir on his death.  There’s no requirement that the tenant in tail be married on taking possession (what would happen with minor heirs?) or that he marry within a specified period of time.   

          • Ali

            Oh god, I’m having flashbacks to first year property. Yes, I have law school PTSD.

          • Anonymous

            Me, too.  Despite the fact that I have just retired, I can still remember “No interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, within a life in being at the creation of the interest plus twenty-one years”!

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think Mary has to marry first but there’s an urgency to her situation so everyone’s focused on that. And I’m guessing they don’t look at Edith as very promising to snag a suitable husband and Sybil may be considered too young.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t know if Lady Mary is thinking this (or if it’s even necessarily true), but I get the impression that it looks bad for a younger sister to marry before the older sister.  In this case, with reputation-threatening gossip looming, it might look quite bad indeed for one of Lady Mary’s younger sisters to marry ahead of her, especially if the younger sister married Matthew (since he would be the obvious choice for Mary to marry).

    • Anonymous

      I think it’s just typical (for the times) pressure to get married in general combined with the gossip. I think Mary (and her family) sees her opportunities slipping away. To quote the lovely Aunt Rosamund “But the, after four Seasons, one is less a debutante than a survivor.”

  • Anonymous

    I thought the Bates dilemma was a bit overplayed, but am more forgiving about Matthew’s proposal.  Maybe I’m just willing to go with the flow of the story, but if you consider that a year has passed since Matthew first came to Downton, it’s probably high time they either get engaged or find a match elsewhere.  And Mary is such a contrarian, that letting her mull over the proposal is far more likely to lead to a yes than if they push her into a yes.  She’d say no just to let them know she can.  Her parents probably know that by now.  But I still don’t like Mary.  I’d much rather have Matthew fall in love with and propose to Sybil.

    I like that most of the characters have moments that are different than their usual nature.  Mary can be thoughtful, Sybil can be thoughtless, the Dowager Countess can be loyal, Lord Grantham can get impatient and lose his temper.  It’s those complications that form us all, and it’s nice to see writing that shows the various shades of gray we all possess.     

    • Anonymous

      I do think that Sybil and Matthew would be a better match. She could be the social minded mistress of the Abbey or a fine middle class lawyers wife. But petulant Mary wants all the toys.
      This of course would also allow our socialist reformer chauffeur Tom, less time babysitting a lady and more time planning a revolution.

      • Maybe they should “cut cards for him”, like in Gosford Park.

        • Anonymous

          I love it!  As long as Matthew isn’t murdered in his study – twice.

      • Anonymous

        I believe that Matthew enjoys the challenge that Mary brings, whereas Sybil and Edith are just not his type. Edith is way too obvious and fawning, Sybil is naive but sweet, Mary may be petulant, but she matches him intellectually and brings out the side of him he didn’t know he possessed til he met her, gamesmanship.

  • As I get it, Mary doesn’t want to marry Matthew straight away just because it was a solution from the start. She has her own principles and rules, and despite coming to like and maybe even love him, she cannot change her decision right away. It would mean giving up. So even when it’s for her own good, she wouldn’t budge. Also her own code of honor allows for bed adventures with foreign strangers but forbids marrying Mathew without telling him. When Grandma and Cora are sure that Mary is stalling because she’s thinking she can do better they don’t understand that she cannot say yes without confession. So, rather childishly she’s hoping it would all go away and turn for the better by itself. Which is clearly demonstrated by later tears and ‘I’ve ruined everything’ part.

  • The whole point of Mary’s waffling over Matthew is that her mother is pregnant and may have a boy to inherit, leaving Matthew newly “middle class.” In that sense it isn’t needless drama because she has to decide if she loves him more than being rich.

    • Indeed but the pregnancy is ended now due to Cora’s fall from the tub so the argument is moot.

    • Anonymous

      Exactly right.  If Matthew is not longer the heir, she not only doesn’t need to marry him, she can’t marry him if she wants to maintain any semblance of the lifestyle she’s used to.

    • She doesn’t know that at this point.  All of that takes place next episode.  I think her main reason for hesitating is that she’s resisted Matthew for so long and has such definite ideas about how her life should go.

  • Anonymous

    Not to be a pain of a bitter kitten, but they “WTF” writing is why everyone is whining about the utter sudsiness of next season.  Still lots of fun.  

    When you’re writing a noble and tortured character, you have to be aware that there’s a very fine line between “noble” and “moron.”
    made my day 🙂  Thanks for that.

  • Anonymous

    I assumed Bates confessed to some of his past deeds because he figured Carson might have started digging around, based on Thomas’s accusations. He would rather quit in a (misguided) noble gesture than be fired for a scandalous reason. I agree that the scenario is overwrought, but it doesn’t ring completely false to me.

  • I’m probably alone in this thought process, but I think Matthew’s being myopic too. Yeah, I understand why he’s hurt, but Mary’s hesitation over marriage when she could potentially drop to middle-class is a serious one for a lady of her standing. To him it just seems a simple matter of loves-me-or-loves-me-not, and since she didn’t say yes right away it simply must be loves-me-not; no other factors to consider. Not saying he’s not justified in some hurt feelings, but he doesn’t seem to have made any effort to look at things from Mary’s point of view.

  • Re: even she has issues with snobbery and entitlement. Another moment came when Sibyl tried to bolster Gwen’s confidence over her job prospects. “You’re brought up to think it’s all in your grasp,” Gwen tells her wearily. “We’re not like that. We don’t think our dreams are bound to come true because they almost never do.” That’s a rather succinct and well-spoken illustration of privilege and how it can’t grasp the perspective of those who don’t have it.

    I don’t think Sybil is snobby, just unaware. She just hasn’t been really exposed to life outside DA and a few weeks in London. I assume that she hasn’t been to a regular school, rarely deals with shopkeepers, since someone else does the shopping for her, and doesn’t do volunteer work.

    Now, coming from the other side of the issue, some of Gwen’s frustrations still exists today. 10 years ago, I worked for an international telecommunications firm in the Dallas area. One of the British guys was worried that he wouldn’t be able to attract any girls because he was a graduate of a university in Newcastle. (I guess it’s not a top tier university). I told him that no one over here in the US really knows about the tiers of universities and that besides his accent would be enough and to be a bit more confident!

    Another guy and I became friends. (I miss him so much; he was my gay! He’s back home in the UK) He thought that I wouldn’t want to be his friend because he is the son of a butcher. I told him that I thought he was a lovely person and that his background didn’t matter to me.

    Most recently, the rise of Cathy Cambridge did not sit well with others in the upper crust. Even though she was not poor like Gwen, it was just too short (time-wise) for the coal miner’s great-granddaughter to become be the future Queen of England. Lots of the people in the Prince’s set made nasty remarks about her. I hope that he told them to respect his wife or lose my friendship and patronage.

    • Anonymous

      “Isabel said: Most recently, the rise of Cathy Cambridge did not sit well with others in the upper crust. Even though she was not poor like Gwen, it was just too short (time-wise) for the coal miner’s great-granddaughter to become be the future Queen of England. Lots of the people in the Prince’s set made nasty remarks about her. I hope that he told them to respect his wife or lose my friendship and patronage.”

      I think that is AT LEAST as much anti-semitism as class snobbery. While Cathy Cambridge (apparently) isn’t Jewish by practice, she is Jewish by lineage – both her Mother and maternal grandmother, (the ones the press kept – stereotypically – referring to as grasping and materialistic, etc) are Jewish, which means, so is she.


      • Anonymous

        Your post surprised me as I hadn’t seen anything regarding that here, although granted I don’t read that much about her. I did some googling and there doesn’t seem to be anything conclusive either way, in fact the Jewish Chronicle states that it’s ‘unlikely’ and dismissed it as a web rumour.
        Now I wouldn’t put it past the likes of the Daily Mail (who have a rather questionable history regarding past connections!) But generally there’s a tendency to have a go at anyone who is seen as being overtly social climbing which I think is the more likely root of it. Her mother is seen as the pushy one, a bit Hyacinth Bucket-ish, whereas her dad seems a fairly quiet man. I’d say sexism is definitely a fair charge. But generally that habit of knocking anyone down who is seen as ‘getting above themselves’ is pretty typical, often rather unpleasant, and very much fed by the tabloids. To link back to Downton. Interesting having the Pamuk scandal hovering there, just when the Levenson enquiry and the whole nature of privacy laws are so much in the news. I don’t think Julian Fellowes will be able to resist drawing some parallels. And that is pure speculation on my part, not based in anything I’ve seen yet, in case anyone misinterprets that.

  • Anonymous

    “Tlo said: We wonder if they’ll feel the same way about Edith should her part in this scandal ever come out.”

    I don’t think they should. What Edith did was a betrayal to the family. What Mary did was in private and never meant to go any further than the privacy of her own bedroom. Edith acted with malice and intention, even though she doesn’t even know the full truth of what happened.


    • Who would tell on Edith?

      • Anonymous

        I suppose Mary could tell their Mother. Or remember, when whatshisname told Mary about it, he said it came from Edith. That means others know (and who knows how many others). Remember they have that trouble-maker aunt in London.


        • GT, thanks for reminding me of the aunt! If Everly (whatshisname) found out, yes, who else would know?

          Just think how quickly gossip could spread if the internet, Facebook and texting had existed in those days. 

          Mary could have found out about Bates by checking on line public records. She was clever to the military place and to seek out Bates’ mom.

          • Rebekah Evans

            I totally agree, Mary’s mistake was impulsive and stupid (and like some one else said in an earlier post, ‘she was pretty much screwed the moment he walked in, even if she screamed, everyone had seen the flirting all evening and a scandal could not have been avoided’) and could ruin the family, but Edith’s “mistake” was anything but.  She is being intentionally nasty and malicious with no benefit to herself (really she could be greatly damaged by her sister’s scandal). 

  • “You think Thomas is an evil queen? You have NO IDEA.”

    Ha!  And this is why we love love LOVE you boys!  

  • Anonymous

    I found the scene between Lady Mary and William confusing.  Lady Mary’s never seemed so in tune with events downstairs that she would have heard that William’s mother was under the weather.  Except for Thomas and O’Brien, everyone’s so nice that you would sooner expect Lord G. or the butler or Mrs. H. to take William aside and let him know that his mother was ill and he was getting time off to see her than for this to come from Lady Mary.  As for Bates, everything TLo said, plus I don’t get Anna’s attraction to him.  That storyline seems forced.

    • There aren’t enough men in Anna’s world, so that’s why she likes Bates.

      BTW, if a servant got married in those days, didn’t they have to quit work?

      • Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates) has been the romantic breakout star of the series both in England and the States – you should see the online fights that break out over him. He’s a quiet John Wayne type of character, tortured yet honorable, relatively well-educated and refined, yet won’t hesitate to take a man down if he needs to. Anna could do worse, despite the age difference.

        • Anonymous

          Also, marrying an older man wasn’t uncommon then, and Anna isn’t the type for someone young and immature. I like Brendan Coyle, I liked him in Lark Rise too.

      • Anonymous

        I think she’d have to quit; if Bates kept his job, where would they live?  I think he has to be onsite…

        Perhaps there were older couples in service.  But you couldn’t have the maid requesting maternity leave!

        • dlmerril

          I raised a question about the sex lives of the servents in an earlier post and I think that marrying another member of the help is about the only way they could have one.  I’ve read many books and seen plenty of movies and TV where among the servents are a married couple.  Whether they came to the house that way or got married after they met there, I’m not sure.  And I think they’d find a way to work around a servant’s pregnancy; they’d eventually be getting another staff member when the child was old enough to be a stable boy or a kitchen helper.

    • William helped Mary with the horse in town and told her about his mother being proud of him.  Later, Matthew’s mother (I can’t remember her character’s name I can only think of Harriet Jones from Doctor Who) told Cora and Mary that she had a dilemma as William’s mother was very ill but she didn’t want him to know.  Mary said she was going to tell him right then but was talked out of it.  When he checked on the horse again, she couldn’t keep it to herself any longer.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks, guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

      • I missed all of that too, so thanks for the explanation. I wondered about her knowledge of William’s mother.

        • Anonymous

          Actually, the sub-plot concerning William’s mother was cut from the PBS version.  All that’s left is Mary telling him to go see her.  On the DVDs, you see Isobel telling Cora and Mary about William’s mother.  The woman has heart problems but has given strict orders not to let William know.  Isobel asks Cora and Mary their opinion as to what to do.  Cora says they have to respect her wishes; Mary says screw that–they should tell William.  (I’m paraphrasing.

    • trimellone

      Isn’t this one of the storylines that had cuts in the US? There was a scene that set this up sufficiently, I thought.

      • Anonymous

        This scene was in the PBS version and the unedited UK DVD versioin.

  • mrspeel2

    This is why we couldn’t be in service. This would be the moment when we’d burst through the door having eavesdropped on the whole conversation, put our hands on our hips, and said, “Pardon me, my lady, but are you fucking nuts?” You think Thomas is an evil queen? You have NO IDEA.

    That’s hilarious and if I had any influence with the producers I’d plead with them to give you two cameos!

  • Anonymous

    Good point about how they would feel about Edith if they were to find out the source of the news!!
    I want to root for poor Edith, but then she turns around and sends the letter to the ambassador… grrrrr!!

    • Carol Tompkins

      I guess one of the things that has confused me about the leaking of Edith’s letter to the ambassador is that anyone in the embassy took it seriously. A letter from an unknown woman making accusations about one of the ambassador’s aides being allowed to color the public relations of both countries? I suspect that the ambassador or his staff would have contacted Lord Grantham and had a pretty serious conversation with him before anything got beyond the doors of the embassy, if it ever did.

      • Anonymous

        I’m betting that The Embassy didn’t do anything at all about the letter.  Edith didn’t intimate that a crime had occurred–just that Pamuk died a natural death in embarrassing circumstances. Far more embarrassing for the English than the Turkish.  

        But the story circulated around The Embassy & was repeated at home. Some of the ladies who heard it at home–being sophisticated wives of diplomats–whispered about it over tea with their British lady friends.  Nothing official at all–just a hot rumor in London….

  • Anonymous

    “Pardon me, my lady, but are you fucking nuts?”  LOL! Thanks guys, I needed that. And I totally agree about the Bates story line: made no sense at all to me.

  • Anonymous

    I totally agree about Mary refusing the proposal. That seemed like authorial intrusion to me, like “We need her to turn it down, just when it seems salvation is within her grasp.” It just made me hate Mary for being contrary and a twit. She should’ve been raised to know exactly what her role it — to marry whoever can safeguard Downton Abbey. No ifs, ands or buts. I can believe a certain amoun to rebellion, but since this is her ONE critical role in the family, I just don’t believe her parents would’ve alowed her any leeway whatsoever. Arranged, married off’, done.

    Ive just made it through the book, “The World of Downton Abbey,” btw, and it’s lovely. I now know a bit more about season 2 than I probably should (since it hasn’t aired in the US yet and I am stuck in the middle of the US) but I have always been a spoiler whore, so who cares? That’s a warning to any spoiler-phobes not to look at the book, though, or you will see Characters Introduced Later. But there is interesting costume info throughout, including a picture of the three sisters in which one is wearing a newly made frock, one has vintage and the third is borrowed, illustrating how they put together the costumes. And a really nice photo of Sybil’s Turkish trousers with accompanying text to tell where its bits came from. I want one of everything, thanks. There’s also interesting info on who some of the characters are based on. Oh, and since people were fussing about whether Julian Fellowes was really enough of an aristo to wrote about this, there are some tidbits about that, too, including the fact that Violet Grantham is based on his great-aunt Isie. Cool. To me, at least.

    • Linda Fitzgerald

      i just ordered the book and it should be here soon.  thanks for the spoilerish warning, it seems i have a decision to make.  do i look through it to satisfy my costuming lust, or wait until season 2 is done.  what to do, what to do!

  • Anonymous

    And didn’t it seem odd that Anna was so resourceful that she could do all that amateur detective work? And I thought Cora realized that O’Brien is a bitch, but suddenly she’s fawning all over her at the garden party. And shouldn’t there be some fallout for William or Thomas for fighting in the kitchen and breaking the crockery? And why hasn’t anyone from the Turkish embassy called in at Downton Abbey to check on their responsibility in the death of Pamuck? If we examine this show too closely the whole thing might fall apart.

  • Anonymous

    “You’re brought up to think it’s all in your grasp,” Gwen tells her
    wearily. “We’re not like that. We don’t think our dreams are bound to
    come true because they almost never do.” That’s a rather succinct and
    well-spoken illustration of privilege and how it can’t grasp the
    perspective of those who don’t have it.

    Perhaps I’m out of line here, but to me this in a nutshell is one of the great issues of today, the difference between contemporary Haves and Have-Nots. In the Downton Abbey Mega-Post of December 21, the actor who plays Matthew answered an audience question at the screening event (available to watch on youtube and the PBS website) by recounting a trip he had taken to Detroit, where he saw an even greater disparity between the rich and the poor than even found in Edwardian times.

    Politically speaking, forgive me here TLo please, the inability of Congress, whatever the party affiliation, to grasp the true needs of middle and lower class Americans, is the very essence of Privilege and incomprehension of those who are Not Privileged.

  • Anonymous

    But I think when looking at Mary, it’s important to keep in mind that the most important thing to her is control, or more accurately being able to control herself. While love would seem to be a plus for just about any person entering a marriage, it’s probably terrifying for Mary. She after all is the one who described herself as “having no heart”. It might have been a self deprecating joke at the time, but it’s kind of the truth with her; she does not act based on her emotions, she acts based on logic. Time and time again we’ve seen that, I mean you could see it in her first lines in the first episode as she shuts down Edith for crying at Patrick’s funeral. Emotions are private. They are not something Mary understands easily, they are not something she shares easily, and they are certainly not something she acts upon easily. I think that having feelings for Matthew, ironically, is what’s holding her up on marrying him more than anything, because I don’t think Mary trusts her own judgement when her feelings are involved. 

    And I’m pretty sure Mary recognizes that she’s being self sabotaging, but she can’t help herself. She’s not sure, and I think on this topic more than any other, Mary needs to feel sure of herself. With Matthew, Mary is a bundle of confusion. She clearly has feelings for him, and has had feelings for him for a while, if her behavior towards him in prior episodes was any indication. He challenges her, and he is handsome and smart. And if she marries him, she can remain at Downton. All logic points to her saying yes. But marriage means ending the independent period of her life, which she clearly has been trying to hang on to, in favor of becoming a wife. And on top of it, the situation seems like such an obvious yes that I think Mary is caught up in looking for the cracks in the plaster instead of doing what she wants to do. The Pamuk thing for example would be one of the immediate cracks that Mary can see, and I think at least part of her desire to tell Matthew about it comes from her need to be able to control and predict the situations lying ahead of her. No one can tell Matthew about Pamuk unless she is the one to do it, at least that way she doesn’t have to worry about the unpredictability of third parties who are privy to the rumor telling him.

    Well, all that, and Julian Fellowes wanted to prolong the drama between Mary and Matthew. 

    • Kwei-lin Lum

      I like your assessment and agree that the author wanted to prolong the drama between Mary and Matthew because it makes a better story.  He might have prolonged it by slowing down the pace of the relationship or throwing more roadblocks in it, thereby giving Mary better reason to waffle.  This story has to go one for awhile.  I don’t even think that the chemistry between Matthew and Mary is that good or all that well developed so I’m not sure what they really, really see in each other.

  • I haven’t watched season 1 recently, but I thought part of the reason why Mary doesn’t accept Matthew here is her guilt/fears over the Pamuk thing. She’s worried about his reaction. Neither Matthew nor Robert know about the truth about Pamuk at this point in the series.

  • Susan Crawford

    I know a point is being made about the aristocratic “marriage market”, and how girls like Mary chafed against it. And, in Mary’s case, because of the entail, she has both everything to gain and everything to lose. And Mary is a willful, stubborn, passionate and angry young woman. But when she realizes Matthew IS the one she loves, and who loves her, and she STILL does everything to sabotage herself . I wanted to throttle her with a lace jabot!

  • Anonymous

    Did I miss an explanation why O’Brien and Thomas are sympatico? 

  • Oh I am completely with you on Mr. Bates.  Though I can see that one can be a “virtuous” to a fault, yes, even in real life — Bates is exactly that, go figure, stupid people exists or even perhaps people making stupid decisions.  Some of your misgivings about characterization or narrative, seems a bit narrow-minded, in the sense that it-must-follow some narrative paradigm.  

  • Anonymous

    If MARY doesn’t tell MATTHEW, he will find out anyway in their nuptials night. Isn’t that right? It’s strange nobody even considers that in the show.