Downton Abbey S2E1: Love and Honor

Posted on January 09, 2012

Say what you will about Downton Abbey creator and lead writer Julian Fellowes, he doesn’t waste time. Not only did this first episode plunge us right in the war by sending us straight to the front lines, it checked in on every single character and introduced storylines for all of them, two years after we last saw them. It was more than a bit dizzying by the end, but when you’ve got a cast this size and you’re having them face one of the biggest events of the 20th Century, then it’s perhaps to be expected that the pacing is breakneck at times. The themes were not the most original in the world – love and honor – but Downton Abbey is all about taking well-worn tropes and settings and making them fun and fresh again.

The big news is that Matthew Crawley is engaged to the simpering Lavinia Swire (like “Betty Draper,” a name that could only have come from a certain period of time; it instantly places you there). The family puts a brave face on for the soldier briefly returning home with his new fiancee, but they’re all deeply disappointed. No one wants this marriage and everyone is forced to act thrilled by the prospect of it. Mary, ever aware of both her social obligations as well as the fact that all eyes are on her, is as gracious as she could hope to be, but she’s dying inside. We’ll give Michelle Dockery a lot of credit. It’s a bit hard to sympathize with Mary all that much in this situation (since it’s entirely the creation of her own shortsightedness), but her scenes were heartbreaking, especially the one at the train station when she all but begged him to come back to her. Matthew, sadly, seems a bit unaware of the depth of Mary’s feelings, which surprises us a bit. Looks are probably deceiving here, but he seems to have gotten over quite well and also seems devoted to the new girl in his life. But come on, who really believes that?Mary, for her part, has turned to the crude and ungentlemanly Sir Richard Carlyle. Hey Mare, he’s sleazy and he doesn’t know which tweeds to wear, but you could do a lot worse than that, girl. Of course, the fact that she’s turning to someone like Carlyle gives us some inkling of how bad her marriage prospects are among her own kind.

Romance is in the air all over Downton Abbey, both upstairs and down. Mr. Bates returns from his mother’s funeral with big plans and a proposal for Anna. You can bet whenever characters on this show start making long-term plans that life (and the writers) will have other ideas. Enter the supremely eeeeeeeevil Mrs. Bates. She’s pretty much a stock soap opera character (the scheming ex or soon-to-be-ex wife character probably reached its zenith with the introduction of Alexis Colby Carrington on Dynasty) and if we were applying real world (or even literary) standards to her, we’d wind up with migraines from so much eye-rolling, but she was fun and delicious, even if her character motivations don’t make a lot of sense. He was willing to set her up with money and he clearly detests her, so what is she getting out of this blackmail situation? Is this another instance – like most of O’Brien’s shenanigans last year – of a character being evil simply because the show needs another evil character? Either way, a roadblock needed to be put in front of Anna and Bates’ happiness and the cackling Mrs. Bates will do nicely, we suppose. Anna had no trouble handling O’Brien and in that case, she was hampered by job expectations. No such rules will be holding her back should she ever get the chance to take out her frustrations on Mrs. Bates, and we do so dearly hope that happens before this is all over. Anna’s as sweet as can be, but our favorite thing about her is that she takes no shit.

Also downstairs, Daisy is now William’s girl, much against her will. Okay, she seemed pretty smitten with him by the end of the last series, so we’re a bit surprised to see her admitting to Mrs. Patmore that the sweet footman just doesn’t crank her engine. It seems fair to say that not every character who goes to the front line will return, so there’s quite a bit of tension and sadness when you see someone like William so eager to go off to war.

Not surprisingly, the feelings of the male characters were given a lot of spotlight this episode; more so than normal. With the war on, it would be a mistake not to check in on all the men to see where they stand. William is dying to go; Molesly is dying to get out of it; Lord Grantham is (somewhat vainly and foolishly) trying to grab some glory for himself; Thomas will do just about anything to get off the front lines; Lang, the new footman with shellshock, is dealing with the aftermath, and as such, serves as a reminder of what these men could become – in the best case scenario.

And it’s that last character, Lang, who may have provided the biggest shock of the episode: O’Brien is capable of flirting. Because yes, the romance theme was so thick it even extended to the ladies maid with the knitting for hair. This is welcome in a lot of ways. O’Brien’s a ton of fun as a villain, but they never gave her any reason to be so, leaving her as one of the show’s flattest characters even though it’s also one of the show’s finest performances. Seeing a softer side of O’Brien is interesting, especially since (and this is a quite brilliant acting choice) her softer side is virtually indistinguishable from her harder side. She delivers her lines in the exact same slightly defensive posture that defines all her interactions. With O’Brien, you have to get past all the walls she puts up and actually listen to what she’s saying to get an idea of her.

In even more romance news, Sibyl and Edith prove that the Crawley girls go weak in the knees for rough trade. Edith snogged the farmer whom Isobel saved from dropsy last season and we just want to slap the poor, confused girl. What could she possibly have been thinking? Something like that could get out so easily and if Mary ever got a hold of the news, Edith will have to lift her skirts and kiss her ass goodbye.

Sibyl, bless her, is still the smartest of the three. She’s got a gorgeous man pledging his love to her (however inappropriate it may be) and she all but shrugs it off with, “Better things to do. Sorry.” Obviously, the potential romance with Branson hasn’t ended, but it’s to her great credit that, unlike Mary, who talks a good game but is mostly spoiled and shallow, she’s actually getting on with her life and seeking a role for herself.

In other estate news, Cora is still all too eager to do O’Brien’s bidding for her. We’re not at all sure why she was so keen on getting Thomas a position at the hospital, since we’re not sure she’s ever even acknowledged the footman before. Was she so eager to do it just because O’Brien wanted it? The relationship between the two of them has some creepy undertones, especially in light of O’Brien’s way with a bar of soap. We liked seeing Thomas looking a hot mess on the front lines. If ever a character needed to be punished a little on camera, it was him. But because he’s Thomas, and thus wily in a superhuman sort of way, he manages to pretty much come out on top. The question of whether or not he’s gay (as opposed to just being a user) seems to have been fully answered with his rather short romance with a gorgeous soldier boy. We suspect this incident will have long-term repercussions for Thomas and since he’s got a history of making himself more important in the scheme of things than he actually is, we suspect these repercussions will be felt by a great deal of the characters down the line.

As with all of these Downton Abbey posts, we ask that you refrain from any spoilers in the comments section if you’ve seen this season. That includes vague comments like “If you think things are bad for X and Y now, wait till you see what happens!” Just talk about this episode or any episodes that preceded it, thank you.

 

[Photo Credit: Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE]

    • Anonymous

      DH and I both wondered if Anna and the Evil Mrs. Bates would have a knock-down-drag-out at some point in a fountain in London. Alexis Carrington indeed! I thoroughly enjoyed last night’s ep and I can’t wait to see how things progress.

    • Anonymous

      It was a bit break-neck in space

      BTW 1 thing in regards to O’Brien went off in my head. When she mentioned her brother, I wonder if Thomas reminds her of her late sibling. It could explain why she helps and allies herself with Thomas to the degree she does.

      and Edith? OY! No sense what so ever and she was so remorseless after the kiss. She was likable and sympathetic up to that point

    • charlotte

      I don’t agree with you calling Lavinia simpering. She is a nice girl and the whole Mary/Matthew thing isn’t exactly her fault.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1084733830 Kate Andrews

        And I can’t wait to find out what Sir Richard has on her. 

        • Anonymous

          I think it’s her father on whom he has something.

          • http://asskickingadviser.com/ Ass Kicking Adviser

            You guys, don’t you think that possibly – and this is not a spoiler, I haven’t seen past last night, just me and my Mother talking this morning and theorizing – don’t you think that possibly Lavinia was ‘set-up’ to snare Matthew and now has fallen in love with him and she was put up to this task by Carlisle? Come on – it”s Dangerous Liaisons 101. Carlisle is scheming to get the Downton millions. He sets up Lavinia – who he is blackmailing? prostituting?- to snare Matt and then he’ll get his claws in Mary and then they’ll get the $? But the plan goes awry when Lavinia actually falls for the noble Matt?  You heard it here first. Do I get a cookie if I guess right?

            • Andrea

              that’s exactly what I was thinking too

      • http://twitter.com/cornekopia Shawn EH

        But something is, and Carlysle knows it! We’ve just got to find out before Matthew does!

      • Anonymous

        I don’t know…weeping in the middle of a very public garden in broad daylight to your fiancé’s exgirlfriend is a bit simpering to me.

        • Anonymous

          You might want to go look up the definition of “simpering”, then.  It means coy, affected, coquettish.  Not “upset because your fiancé will shortly return to the front lines where he may be killed”.

          • Anonymous

            You’re quite right! I did need to look it up. I was thinking more in the fashion of the phrase “whimpering, simpering idiot”, which does seem about right to me. She’s a nice girl, but not a particularly sturdy or interesting one.

            • Anonymous

               She’s a nice girl, but not a particularly sturdy or interesting one.

              I think there’s more to her than meets the eye.  Remember, we are not seeing her in her own milieu, and she wasn’t given much to do in this episode. 

            • Anonymous

              I expect, though, that she won’t be too likable since we’re supposed to root for Mary and Matthew.

            • Anonymous

              I have to say that I am not rooting for a Mary/Matthew match.  I think she’s a bitch and a snob, and that they are ill-suited to one another.

            • Anonymous

              I’m with you on this. While I sometimes feel a bit sympathetic toward Mary it doesn’t last long. She really is a selfish bitch.

            • Anonymous

              I think she will be very likable making the Mary-Matthew romance even more twisted and heatbreaking. 

            • Anonymous

              Well, I was thinking she might kick in the great flu epidemic, but Upstairs, Downstairs got rid of James’ wife that way, so that might be a little of too much the same for DA.  

              I like Mary, though–she was supposed to be spoiled and immature last season, but she’s already improved from that.  So if she gets the goods on Lavinia, will she destroy Matthew’s engagement or not?  

            • Anonymous

              I’m interested to hear what kind of potential you see in her. As much as I wish she had something to offer, all I can see is a black hole where interesting goes to die. But then I would much rather watch a character who makes poor choices and who is selfish and possibly a bad person, but is still a multifaceted and complex character (i.e. Mary, who doesn’t get much love around these parts, presumably because she’s a bitch sometimes and not because she’s poorly written, which I think is an argument to be leveled at Lavinia), to a character who settles for being nice. 

            • Anonymous

              I’m interested to hear what kind of potential you see in her.

              When a young lady of her age and upbringing snipes at the most powerful man in the room, she’s got potential.

            • Anonymous

              That’s a great point, but I think that moment of assertiveness is overshadowed by the rest of her scenes in the episode in which she demonstrates none of the nerve of that one interaction. In her introduction to Downton, in the dinner with the Crawleys, in her garden scene with Mary…really in every other scene she has in the episode she shows herself to be both genuinely sweet and completely intimidated. Unpretentious and unassuming, she is sweet, but there’s a whiff of what you see is what you get about her. 

              Even the choice of the actress, Zoe Boyle, seems to reinforce that idea. She is very pretty, but her features are decidedly cute rather than beautiful, and the actress plays her with a halting, almost apologetic innocence. There is a line that Matthew that demonstrates all that we need to know about her character. He justifies her to Mary by saying “she will be a lawyer’s wife far longer than she will be a countess.” And he is right. She is the perfect lawyer’s wife. But she is no countess, and the more we see of Matthew, the more clear it seems that he is an earl at heart.

            • Anonymous

              My sense is that after getting knocked around by Mary, Matthew chose someone safe who wouldn’t ever feel that he was beneath her.  She’s of his own kind to the point of having a father in the same profession as he is in.  

              But yes, I think Matthew is supposed to be earl material–Downton Abbey seems much more Tory in spirit than Upstairs, Downstairs–James, the heir in that show, was selfish and weak.  

        • http://twitter.com/Dorhora Ivy DeShield

          That was all an act put on specifically to deter Mary from her intended task (revealing her heart’s true feelings to Matthew). All I’m saying is that women’s intuition is stronger than most believe. Her entire demeanor seems rather affected; and yes, I’m sure there’s more than meets the eye as another pointed out (but I doubt it’s for the better). Looking forward to how this plays out and knowing Lavinia’s true role and feelings for Matthew.

          • Anonymous

            It is my suspicion that Lavinia’s heart breaking sobs are more related to her fears of Mary’s newspaperman exposing her or her family and ruining her marriage prospects than Matthew’s impending departure.  She is quite young to truly consider anything truly bad will happen to him when her own devastation was impending just the day before.  After all, she is a teenager.

      • Anonymous

        If she’s so nice, what were she and the newspaper guy so secretive about?  Hmmm….

        • charlotte

          I already know, but my lips/keys are sealed ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=558631967 Ivona Foster

      Edith is despicable, that line about her dress while Carson is bending over the table presumably dying showed her true nature as far as I’m concerned. Mary can be a shallow bitch on occasion but more than anything she is confused and pissed off about the whole -must marry- bit. 

      Edith just can’t seem to get over the fact that Mary is the first born and therefore would be a priority to marry off even if it wasn’t for the entail. It’s not even the whole -this could get out easily- part of the situation, what really miffed me was the fact that this guy was one of the estate’s tenants and married to a woman who Edith had no problem putting down when it suited her. We don’t know how much education the girl got about managing the estate (likely, not much) but common sense should tell you flirting with a married tenant is a no no

      • Anonymous

        I agree with you.  The Edith story line is being handles poorly.  She 9or any other female from the middle class or above) would never go after a tenant farmer on the Grantham Estate.  I hope her development as a character gets better.  I have already thought up a million plot lines for her that are much better than what Julian Fellows has served up thus far.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=558631967 Ivona Foster

          I agree. I kept thinking: there has to be something better written for this girl.

          • Anonymous

            I wholeheartedly that Edith’s true colors are coming more to the fore and from sisterly social sabotage, to snogging the married farmer, to not giving a fig for Carson’s well-being when her evening dress was in duress …well, you’re right; she’s quite the despicable creature! But in a way I’m happy for it. At first i wasn’t sure that Edith wasn’t going to be that poor pathetic middle child that we always route for by default because she’s so trod upon. But this Edith…while horrid…at least hints at a complexity that we’ve been waiting to see in O’Brien or Thomas. We at least can assume WE know why Edith is the way she is…but does SHE know she’s as bad as all that and will her character become more of a villian or seek redemption?

            • Anonymous

              I think Edith truly expected the family to be concerned for her as she felt she was the hurt party at the dinner– having hot food thrown on her dress and at any other time, she certainly would be fussed over.  She understands in the hierarchy of things she is below Mary (unfairly) but expects her well-being would be above a servant’s, even as Carson is like one of the family.  She is so starved for that attention, she does not see above her own perceived needs, not even to notice that Carson might be having a heart attack.  Of course, when if ever was she ever exposed to someone collapsing of a heart attack?  Her life is so sheltered.  None of the women in the room ever consider the actual work required of their servants to even wake them up– the ironing of papers, invisible setting of fires, the hot chocolate or tea prepared before they even think to ring the handy bell a their bedside.  This has much to do with how she has been brought up.  

              The farming– I think Edith is outside of herself when working on the farm, driving (and not doing much else).  The farmer was extremely bold in kissing her.  I don’t think she ever expected that.  I don’t think she had ever had chemistry or physical attraction to a man before, certainly not one that sweats.  I don’t imagine the swells she meets have any great muscle development borne of hard work.  

          • Anonymous

            Edith needs to hook up with an American.  Either one of the recovering soliders who is an American or find an American through Cora’s Mother. 

        • Anonymous

          The whole plot of Lady Chatterley’s Lover is about an affair between an upper class lady and a gamekeeper.  I’m not saying it would definitely happen in real life, but in fiction it’s not a new idea.

          • Anonymous

            I was also thinking that there was a bit of a Lady Chatterly tribute/acknowledgment going on there.  I think,  though, that this isn’t simply about Edith’s liking for rough trade, but the fact that Edith has always been classified and felt like the plain one.  The farmer tells her how lovely she is and Edith never-ever hears that.  So, she’s susceptible to a bit of inappropriate romance for that reason.  

            We’ve never seen any sign that she’s very aware of her sexuality.  Last season, she just kept trying to make a good match, but she didn’t really seem to care much whether she had any chemistry with the suitor or even liked him.

        • Anonymous

          And the thing is, he’s not even all that hot.  Going after Branson — now that I can understand.

          Anyway, he’s got a heart condition.  The last thing this family needs is for another daughter to have a lover drop dead in bed with her (though it would, presumably, make her more sympathetic to Mary’s situation).

        • Anonymous

          Yes, THIS!

      • http://twitter.com/VicksieDo VicksieDo

        I saw her as simply desperate for any male who would show her a bit of feminine attention.  She’s pathetic when she’s not being mean.

        • Anonymous

          This, I think, really sums up Edith’s entire character and her motivations. 

        • Anonymous

          I agree about her need for attention, and after all she’s no more experienced with men than Mary, who certainly made some questionable decisions last season.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, Edith is confounding. I don’t understand why she didn’t rectify things with that guy from last season. Of course she knew Mary had something to do with his running off. Perhaps it is unseemly for a woman to initiate that kind of conversation with a suitor, but she was so happy for his proposal and desperate for it, you’d think she’d have spoken with him about it. I mean, she’s willing to snog a married farmer in a barn for chrissakes.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=558631967 Ivona Foster

          It would be unseemly but then again Edith doesn’t seem to care much about what’s unseemly. I may not agree with how Mary is treating her but if I were Mary I would be rolling my eyes at her as well. She has pretty much thrown herself at every man intended for Mary from the dead cousin we never saw to the suitor from last season.

          • Anonymous

            Spot on. We are on the same page there. Funny, as you were replying to me, I was replying to someone else that Edith’s taste in men runs toward those who notice her.

        • http://twitter.com/susanpcollier Susan Collier

          Yes. She’s good at putting herself out there (like getting a job driving a tractor), so why not put out the olive branch to that dude? I totally expected her to be married to one of Mary’s castaways for this season.

    • Anonymous

      “Tlo said: In other estate news, Cora is still all too eager to do O’Brien’s bidding for her.”

      Yes, I can’t figure that one out either.Amazing talent O’Brien has, to be able to hypnotize Cora without actually swinging a watch in front of her face. But why would Lord Grantham go along with it since he knows Thomas was stealing?

      As for silly Edith, last night in one sentence, ‘What about my dress!?!’, she went from Jan Brady to Nellie Olsen.

      –GothamTomato

      • http://twitter.com/cornekopia Shawn EH

        Well, he’s not working for them directly anymore. Maybe they think he found his calling in medicine?

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1344922354 Eric Scheirer Stott

          He has a war wound (at least it’s a wound gotten during war) and that will get him some sympathy. He’s also shows a little humanity- and might be a decent person if he has the attitude knocked out of him. (I think it would take a large facial scar to do that)

          • lilibetp

            Or maybe he’ll end up like Jake Barnes in “The Sun Also Rises.”

      • Anonymous

        Thomas made it clear he not working for the Grantham estate but Dr. Clarkson.  On another note, Dr Clarkson looks quite a bit hotter in Season II that he did in the first season.

        • Anonymous

          I noticed that as well! But I guess as the saying goes, some men get better-looking with age (either that or the war increased his hotness!). I found myself eagerly anticipating his next scene just to get another fleeting glimpse of his hotness.

      • http://www.lindamerrill.com Linda Merrill

        I don’t think Grantham knew that it was Thomas that Cora was championing.  Maybe it was in the coming attractions (hope that’s not a spoiler since they aired with the show), or Ep 1 itself, but when Grantham hears that Thomas is at the hospital, he said something about “how did he manage that, must have had help”.

        • Anonymous

          Yes, and also, when Lord Grantham was asking Carson what the scandal was about, I wondered if he knew about Pamuk. He let it drop pretty quickly though – much like last season when he didn’t want to hear what the doctor had to say about his wife’s cycle.

          –GothamTomato

          • http://www.lindamerrill.com Linda Merrill

            I wasn’t sure if even Carson knew the details of the Pamuk scandal. He has such blind fatherly love for Mary and honor is so important to him, it’s hard to imagine him getting over that. His excuse for not sharing the details with Lord Grantham was oddly put, although I forget the line.

            • Toto Maya

              In season 1 he said, “I meant to show the letter to Lord Grantham, but I never found the right moment” and left it at that.

            • http://www.lindamerrill.com Linda Merrill

              yup, I realized that from another comment after I wrote this.

        • Anonymous

          I was confused by this, when Grantham hears that the Thomas is at the hospital he seems surprised. And Cora was refused by the Dr., so how did Thomas get to the hospital? If Grantham didn’t write on his behalf? When he mentions to Cora (and O’Brien is listening) he says he’s going to write the letter, but I thought this was on behalf of Mrs. Patmore. Did I miss something?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=558631967 Ivona Foster

        The Season line from Cora “..but she is so fond of me” when discussing the dowager countess lady’s maid situation is very telling. I could see her saying “I am very fond of her” but to be so delusional to believe your maid is fond of you, like you are best friends?! Come on lady, it’s her JOB!

        • Anonymous

          Two points: First, people who spend a lot of time together at work often do become friends, of a sort – and being a lady’s maid is a very time-intensive and intimate job. They even can become fond of each other.  Even if the hierarchy of the relationship should impose boundaries. [There would not need to be corporate rules against dating one's subordinates, otherwise.]

          Second: Human nature is human nature.  Especially when one is the “boss” it is very easy to forget the real hierarchical forces that exist, and that might lead an employee to feign more of an attachment than they actually feel.  Oral histories of former slaves and slave owners show that even there, there were emotional attachments. And, not surprisingly, slave owners were prone to believe there was reciprocal affection between themselves and their long-time house or body servants (as they called them).

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=558631967 Ivona Foster

            Looking at their relationship in the constraints of period and society it is much more likely Cora would assume they are friends (she said as much in her visit downstairs) then it is for O’Brien to think so. O’Brien also seems to have a very nonchalant attitude about everything; saying this only in terms of – it’s not very likely to mistake O’Briens attitude and behavior for friendship. 

            Absolutely agree with you on the second point and that is kind of what my comment was going towards. Cora forgets herself and is quite unrealistic about the relationship. Also, as I said, that comment from her to me sounded quite selfish. After all, she did not say she was fond of O’Brien. 

            That whole conversation about the maids between Cora and the countess was pure high society with a very limited view of life beyond their privileges. In the same conversation they also commented the maid was selfish to leave for marriage.

          • Anonymous

            I agree.  And Ladies maid to the Lady of the house carries a fair amount of prestige–just below housekeeper among the women servants.  As far as Cora’s concerned, O’Brien’s shown her loyalty over the years, by passing on gossip and cluing Cora into what’s going on.  I think Cora, as an American, is always meant to be seen as an outsider.  She’s always a bit isolated, a bit different.  So her relationship with O’Brien is important to her and one of her more intimate ones.  O’Brien, in return, whatever else you can say about her values her job.  It’s all she’s got and is likely to have.  And FWIW, she usually doesn’t gossip a great deal about Lady Grantham below stairs.  Thomas is her one confidante.  

            You can see a more positive version of the lady and lady’s maid relationship with Mary and Anna.  If Mary married, it’s possible that she would take Anna with her as *her* ladies maid.  For that matter, we don’t know that Cora didn’t bring O’Brien with her when she married Lord Grantham.  O’Brien is the one servant who’s expected to be more loyal to Lady Grantham than anyone else in the family.

            • Anonymous

              I think the Lady’s maid position is actually higher.  If Cora went to Italy, New York or Paris, she would take O’Brien with her.  Hughes would get to stay a Downton Abbey and supervise the washing down of walls and polishing of the special holiday silver.  I would rather be the lady’s maid. 

            • Anonymous

              It may be preferable, but I think Housekeeper ranks higher–Hughes can tell O’Brien what to do in some circumstances, but never vice-versa.  Also, you could be an impoverished gentlewoman and serve as a housekeeper, but ladies maids were never from the higher classes.  Impoverished gentlewomen could be companions, governesses and housekeepers. A couple of other things as well, but I’m not recalling them as my memory is shot. 

              I think it’s partly that a housekeeper would often need to be literate and handle the household stores and such.  Mrs. Hughes, though, has clearly worked her way up from housemaid.   

      • Anonymous

        I’m guessing Lord Grantham never told his wife about Thomas’ thievery, and Cora still on some level looks upon Thomas as “our” Thomas. Plus there’s a general yearning in the air for the way things were before the war, so having Thomas back in Downton – in at least the town if not the Abbey proper – would make her feel like things were back to normal. It doesn’t ring false that Cora would do O’Brien’s bidding in this case given it makes Cora feel better too.

        What I do have trouble swallowing is why Cora loves O’Brien so dearly. Surely she has seen through her by now, or at least witnessed O’Brien being the sharp-tongued shrew she is to the rest of the staff or overheard the staff talking about O’Brien. Cora may be sheltered and pampered, but she is no dullard. I can’t believe she honestly thinks O’Brien is a saint. It’s just not credible to me and I wish the writers would stop writing her like that.

        • Anonymous

          I agree the writing for Cora is off.  Most of the time she is pretty savvy–I mean, I have been pretty impressed with her character as a woman in that time period–but then she falls for anything from O’Brien and allows herself to be manipulated.  It doesn’t compute for me.

          • Anonymous

            Could it be that if O’Brien has ben Cora’s lady’s maid since she first got married, she may have helped guide Cora through the rough waters of being a young inexperienced American thrust into the aristocracy with no family around her?  A maid can help give a lot of subtle cues on how things should be done while helping you get dressed before going down to dinner, help you pack the correct clothes for trips (so you don’t end up wearing the wrong tweed) etc.  Cora’s gratitude could have blossomed into unthinking dependence over time. 

            • Toto Maya

              O’Brien said at the end of season 1 when she thought she was being fired that she had worked for Cora for 10 years, so definitely not that long.

            • http://twitter.com/edwardian_era Evangeline Holland

              O’Brien could have been the lady’s maid Cora chose. Edith Wharton’s The Buccaneers was based on real-life American heiresses, and there was a point in the book where Annabel, the new Duchess of Tintagel, discovered that her mother in law had chosen her lady’s maid for her. Chances are, knowing Violet, she chose some disloyal lady’s maid for Cora during the early years of her marriage, and now Cora prizes O’Brien because she is her ally in the house.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=558631967 Ivona Foster

              O’Brien commented in Season1 when she thought she was being sacked that she gave Cora 10 years of her life so that can’t be it.

            • Anonymous

              O’brien has only been Cora’s Lady maid for 1o years as on 1914.  This is stated by O’Brien in the UK uncut directors version of Downton Abbey Season I.

            • mrspeel2

              Yes I think you may be right! I’ve also been thinking that some happenstance in their earlier lives must have created a common bond between them.

      • Anonymous

        Maybe this is Cora’s way of feeling as if she’s doing something somewhat useful? I know I’m grasping for straws but it’s the one thing about the episode that was crazy ridiculous. And Lord Grantham going along with it was completely unbelievable.

    • Anonymous

      I can’t remember the last time I swooned that hard as when Matthew walked into Downton in his royal red. Probably a Jane Austen flick…haha. That Lavinia is intolerable! They did a perfect job of making her pretty and proper….but not Mary.

      • Anonymous

        Oh those intensely blue eyes…

    • Anonymous

      What an episode! I definitely need to watch it again to be clear in the multiple story lines… but I was confused about the young blind soldier…. Thomas was not involved at all in his ending, right? was it too ambiguous or was it just me?

      • suzq

        The blind soldier killed himself.  That was very clear when the camera panned back on the body in bed.  I didn’t pick up on the romance part, unless T&Lo read something into the other soldier putting his hand on Thomas’ knee.  I missed that nuance completely.  The encounter spooked both Thomas and Sibyl and has thrown Downton Abbey into an entirely different role.

        • Anonymous

          I read romance into it on Thomas’ part. He seem to genuinely connect with this guy and behaved sincerely for once. He likely was developing feelings for him. A platonic romance made have come about or even a non-platonic one. who knows?

        • Anonymous

          for a moment when Thomas was crying I thought he did the unthinkable… but I can see it was just that he was devastated…. anyways… I still cannot like him, although (like what they did with O’Brien) they are showing that he is not a one-dimensional character, and that is always good for the story… 

          • Anonymous

            I think that line from Thomas “they didnt like me because i was different” was a bit too much soap-operish… Heavy-handed writing here.

    • Anonymous

      Violet: “You’re not Toad of Toad Hall”.  Hilarious.

      • http://onebluetree.blogspot.com/ Sara L.

        My favorite line too!

    • Jen Kearney

      You two have won my undying love (not that you didn’t already have it) for the following: “And it’s that last character, Lang, who may have provided the biggest shock of the episode: O’Brien is capable of flirting. Because yes, the romance theme was so thick it even extended to the ladies maid with the knitting for hair.”

      No truly stellar Dowager lines this episode, but she still got her knocks in all the same. And I have to say I did like her and Isobel teaming up in support of Sibyll. They make quite a duo.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IASQWYFVERULGY55MCRSJWRFHY Erica Lindstrom

        I don’t know, I laughed out loud at the one about her not liking greek theater, because all the drama happens off stage, when referencing the impending Matthew and Mary reunion…

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1344922354 Eric Scheirer Stott

        I knew a huge change had come when the words “Cousin Sybil” came out of the Dowager’s mouth.

        • Anonymous

          Did you mean “Cousin Isobel”?

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1344922354 Eric Scheirer Stott

            Perhaps- the accent is sometimes a cultured mumble

    • Anonymous

      Matthew Crawley is engaged to the simpering Lavinia Swire

      I don’t agree that she is “simpering”.  Out of her depth, yes.  Nervous about meeting her fiancé’s ex, sure.  But I don’t see “simpering”.  

      I’m also very curious about her family’s connection with Sir Richard.  When he says he and her father are “friends”, and she responds “acquaintances”, boy, do you know something is up there!

       so what is she getting out of this blackmail situation?
      Status.  Whatever your class, it wasn’t easy being a divorcée in those days.

       Lord Grantham is (somewhat vainly and foolishly) trying to grab some glory for himself;

      I completely disagree with this take on Lord G.  He’s not trying to grab glory.  He’s trying to do the honorable thing: to serve his country.  He’s served her before, and she needs him now.  He agrees with Lord Nelson that “England expects that every man will do his duty”, and he wants to do his.

      • Anonymous

        I think  simpering Lavinia Swire
         is just young.
        I think she is probably (in the story line) 17-19 years of age. 

        Matthew commented on her young age an innocence.

      • Anonymous

        wait she was divorced???? that wasnt in the episode last night

        • Anonymous

          No, Bates wanted a divorce.  She wouldn’t agree to it.

      • Anonymous

        I believe Lord Grantham truly wants to be of service.  His vanity lies in deluding himself about is youth and vigor.  Although I personally have a HUGE crush on him, Lord G. is simply too old for cannon fodder.

        • Anonymous

          He is charming, intelligent, thoughtful and hot!  What’s not to have a crush on?

          • Anonymous

            SO hot!

    • Anonymous

      Oooo..I didn’t get that it was the Dropsy guy. I have a hard time believing that Edith would get down with a farmer. She has seen first hand what that did to her sisters marriage prospects.

      • Anonymous

        I do think its funny that the girls have such established types in suitors: Mary=handsome, rich men; Sybil=handsome, poor men; Edith=old feeble men. 

      • Anonymous

        I dunno…I kissed some INCREDIBLY wrong people when I was a teenager, just because I needed affection and my head was full of romantic notions.  I really do think it’s about inexperience around men and feeling unloved.  And we know Edith is prone to impulsive bad decisions.

    • Anonymous

      Michelle Dockery’s sad eyes are sadder than ASPCA commercials, yet still not as sad as that hiddy green dress Lavinia was sporting upon arrival. To quote Maggie Smith in another Julian Fellowes creation: difficult color green.

    • MilaXX

      Evil!MrsBates all but rode in on her bicycle screaming, “and your dog Toto too”, but she was deliciously evil. You knew Anna & Mr. Bates couldn’t be happy for more than a minute.

      • Anonymous

        And how hilarious was it that the veddy proper Mrs Hughes eavesdropped?!  Thanks goodness she and Carson know the score.

        • Anonymous

          I figure Mrs. Hughes didn’t get to be housekeeper by not finding her ways to know what’s going on.

    • Anonymous

      I am glad to see the softer side of O’Brien and to know she isn’t just a one-dimensional evil character. I like the addition of the new mouthy maid. She adds some spark without being completely evil. So, we got the hint that Lavinia has some dark secret.I suspect she isn’t fully in love with Matthew and is using for his position as Grantham’s heir. I also think her display in the garden with Mary was to guilt Mary into keeping her mitts off Matthew.

      I know it speaks to the kind of life these characters lead, but I couldn’t believe Anna and Bates were in a two-year holding pattern, as was William in speaking his feelings to Daisy. And Mary must be getting desperate if she and Matthew split two years ago and she hasn’t landed a suitable man yet.

      On an embarrassingly immature note, I laughed like an 11-year-old boy when Matthew told Lord Grantham to touch wood and Grantham said, “Yes, I touch it often.”

      • Anonymous

        It’s a little strange, but keep in mind that the two years have involved going to war in a way that involved everyone–England’s a small country–everyone does, indeed, do their part  Also, WWI was one of those wars with huge fatalities–marriages were put off, fiances died in the trenches, or there were quickie marriages and the husband went back to war and died at the front.  

        DA’s showing bits of all of those things.  Matthew’s engaged, probably, because he doesn’t know if he’ll survive and wants to have someone/something.  Mary’s older suitor doesn’t simply reflect her poor reputation, but also the sort of men who would still be available when the younger men were all off to war.  

        The one thing that puzzles me is why is the chauffeur still around?  Is he a pacifist?  No one seems to be twitting him either about his not being in military uniform.  It would seem to me that the military would want a physically fit driver for something.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IASQWYFVERULGY55MCRSJWRFHY Erica Lindstrom

          He’s Irish.  The Republic of Ireland declared its independence from Great Britain in April of 1916 (officially established as a separate country 1919), so I’m not sure how the politics of it all will figure into the series, if at all.  There were several regiments of Irish and Northern Irish soldiers in WWI, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say people aren’t giving him that hard of a time because he’s not really considered a British citizen (or by some of that period, human at all).    

          • Anonymous

            Ah, thank you.  Of course.  (Wikipedia-ing)  Says here that Irishmen did enlist and there was a conscription act in 1918.

            So is Branson Catholic?  That would be another issue between him and his marrying Lady Sibyl?  

            Since the Germans helped the Irish separatists during the Easter 1916 uprising–I assume we’re going to see some of this play out some way with Branson.  

          • Anonymous

            The Republic of Ireland declared its independence from Great Britain in
            April of 1916 (officially established as a separate country 1919),

            Not quite.

            You are thinking of the Easter Proclamation, which proclaimed a “Republic of Ireland”, but it had no force.  The Easter Rising failed.  A couple of years later, Sinn Féin won the majority of Irish seats in Parliament, but its members declined to sit there, and set up the Daíl, which also issued a proclamation of Irish independence.  That “Republic of Ireland” was not recognized by anyone except the USSR.

            The Irish Free State did not come into existence until 1922.

            So in 1916-17, Branson was still a citizen of the UK.

      • Anonymous

        Maria Doyle Kennedy was also (wasted) in Season 5 of DEXTER as Harrison’s “practically perfect” Irish nanny, Sonya.  It was nice to see her, but the role didn’t give her much to do.

        • Anonymous

          I agree. I LOVE her (she was one of the three best things about The Tudors, which I stopped watching a few episodes into season 2), and I wish better for her.

    • Anonymous

      I just love how the same handful of British actors jump from series to series and movie to movie.  British film and television seems to be a small and incestuous pool. Maria Doyle Kennedy = Queen Catherine of Aragon in The Tudors = Mrs. Bates. Love her!

      • Anonymous

        It is nice, isn’t it? Sort of like seeing an old friend you’ve lost touch with. It can get horribly confusing, though. Try watching “Cranford”, “Lark Rise to Candleford” and “Downton Abbey” all in one weekend. My middle-aged memory nearly imploded trying to keep the actors and characters in the correct series!

        • Anonymous

          One of my favorite lines in the Red Nose parody is re: Bates:

          Don’t I know you from [Lark Rise to Candleford]?
          Aye, Ma’am.
          Same character?
          I’ve added a bit of a limp this time.

      • Anonymous

        Aha!  I knew she looked familiar, but couldn’t place her.  Love her too!

      • http://neverthatway.wordpress.com/ Maggie

        It took me a few minutes of wondering, “Who is that?” but finally I said with delight, “It’s Queen Catherine of Aragon!”  Once again, a married woman refusing to grant her husband a divorce . . . 

      • Anonymous

        I’m so old that I also remember her as one of the backup singers from the film, The Commitments! Now that’s going back aways!

        • Anonymous

          THANK YOU!  It’s been bugging me since the Tudors where I’ve seen her before, but never enough to look up her CV.  One of my favorite movies – can’t believe I didn’t make that connection.   (And hasn’t she aged well, too!)

          • Anonymous

            Oh, I love that movie too!  Do you have the CD of the music?  I do–it’s really wonderful!

      • Anonymous

        Maria Doyle Kennedy was also (wasted) in Season 5 of DEXTER as Harrison’s “practically perfect” Irish nanny, Sonya.  It was nice to see her, but the role didn’t give her much to do.

    • Anonymous

      A few things: I didn’t feel that O’Brien was actually flirting with Lang, especially since she referenced her brother. Obviously, she is concerned for him, which is unlike her – but I guess I missed the subtleties. And I didn’t get that Thomas’ relationship with the soldier ( assume  TLo is referencing the guy in the hospital) was gay in nature – I just think both Thomas and he found someone they could talk to. And I didn’t infer anything from the hand on the knee. It was nice to see a different side of both O’Brien and Thomas.

      And oh, Edith. Tsk, tsk. You are a very unlikeable young woman at so any levels…

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1344922354 Eric Scheirer Stott

        Thomas was being quite sincerely nice, and there was more than a touch of unrequited love in the air

        • Anonymous

          In his conversation with the blinded young soldier, Thomas did refer to himself as “different” (homosexual?).  He refused to explain.

          • Anonymous

            Thomas’s comment about being different was, to me, the key to his character (and yes, I believe he meant homosexual).  He’s so nasty because he rejects people before they can reject him — he’s nasty before they get a chance to be nasty.  Underneath all that bravado, he’s incredibly insecure. 

            Also I thought it was just the teeniest bit cliched that Thomas connected (on whatever level) with a blind man.  Trusting/confiding in the blind or the deaf because they’re “safe” is a bit of a literary conceit.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, “being interested in” is different from “flirting with.” I don’t see O’Brien as a flirt. ;-)

    • Anonymous

      They did go out of their way to vilify Edith this episode, didn’t they (although they stepped up the lighting and glamour on all of the characters. She looked great). Much more cartoony than last season, which is fine, but, like the characters, the show is much more forgiving of Mary. I hope the actress gets a chance to do a bit more with it; she seems capable.

      Got a strong “Rilla of Ingleside” vibe off this ep.

      Though this show was never realistic, it struck me as a false note that Mary and Anna would be talking about Mr. Bates, even though

    • Brad and Anne White

      I am dying to know what haunts Lavinia Swire’s past….I hope that she isn’t so transparent of just wanting Matthew for his money. I hope it’s much more sinister than that. :) 

    • http://twitter.com/herong Heron

      Eeeeeeeeevil Mrs. Bates was so evil!! That laugh!  Delicious.  I am in total agreement that there is NO WAY Edith would ever snog a married farmer.  She’s too worried about her own prospects to waste them on a nobody. 

    • Anonymous

      It was in service of a “compare attitudes about love speech.

      Anna is a much better “Betty” than Krystle. I would love an Anna/Alexis fight.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OSYAJATXUH3QX7ZDDF52GXG4PU Janie R

      I enjoy the character of O’Brien, she’s so unreadable she’s scary. I can understand why she wants to be villainous. She doesn’t like her job. She’s pushed the power of it as far as she can and she’s a frustrated unfullfilled human. There is no joy in her life. (unless you count having fun at the expense of others) Woe be unto Lang if she fancies a romance and the feelings are not returned. I hope they’re not  leading up to a Rebecca/Mrs Danver’s thing with Cora. That would be too much. 

    • http://twitter.com/chelwi Christine

      The Edith storyline just felt so out of character. After what she did to Mary and how snotty she is about her dress, it seems really unlikely she’d work on a farm and fall for the tenant farmer. The only way it makes sense to me is maybe she’s just so starved for attention from a man she’ll take it from anywhere.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think what Edith did was out of character. The Farmer flattered her – he may have been the first guy to tell her he thought she was pretty — and she fell for it hook, line & sinker.

        –GothamTomato

        • Anonymous

          True.  And it must be intoxicating to finally feel useful as well; Sibyl clearly shows that, though she’s making better decisions than Edith.

          • Anonymous

            And speaking of intoxicating, weren’t Edith and her farmer drinking out of a jug prior to the kiss?   (I’ll need to re-watch that part).  I agree, Edith is ripe for a little flattery, but perhaps the strong drink may have had a little bit to do with the lowering of her social inhibitions.  (It wouldn’t be the first time drink has had an effect on inhibitions, social or otherwise for many of us, present company included!)  At least it would provide an excuse to her conscience.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Lavinia except that they are setting her up as The Wrong Girl for Matthew. I feel sorry for her because it is being clearly telegraphed there’s trouble ahead. I think she’s young, genuinely in love with a man who could die any day, and out of her league with this bunch.

      In spite of Michelle Dockery’s wonderful acting, I can’t find much to love about Mary, still. She seems to be the only sister not even trying to do something meaningful with her life, except find a husband or moon over Matthew. The Granthams seem remarkably relaxed about their daughters pushing the limits of their class–Edith driving a tractor, Sybil dealing with blood & guts–you’d think if there was anything to Mary, she would have come up with some scheme for self-fulfillment by now. 

      Lord Grantham’s reaction to Carson’s explanation of Bates’ departure strained credulity. Carson announces that Bates has saved the family from a scandal that would rock its very foundations–and the head of that family just calmly accepts the explanation without insisting for more information? I do not agree, however, he was striving for glory with the whole military service thing. I think he came across as genuinely frustrated at being powerless to contribute to the war effort in the manner that counts the most to a soldier–on the battlefield.

      Speaking of Edith–I found the whole tractor-driving, snogging the not-even-very-appealing-farmer storyline, really, really hard to swallow. It did not fit with the character as portrayed thus far and it didn’t even make sense in the context of the situation.

      I also don’t get the relationship between Thomas and O’Brien–why the heck is she willing to bend over backwards to help him out always? Is it just because she wants another partner in crime nearby?

      I think it’s probably best not to over-analyze this one and go with the flow. It’s still delicious and beautiful fun and I am a sucker for period dramas, so I’m going with it whatever it may bring. I wish you guys would do some posts on the costumes because they are just scrumptious. It’s like textile porn.

      • Anonymous

        I think Edith’s taste in men runs toward those who notice her. I agree that falling for the farmer is straining credulity. But, like you, I am happy to sit back and let it all wash over me.

        And all kinds of YES! to Grantham’s glossing over the scandal. I can’t believe that has been kept from him for two years now, especially now that he knows the staff knows about it? WTF? This has to come to a head soon. I’m thinking the newspaper dude will have something to do with it, especially if Mary spurns his proposal and declares her love for Matthew. Say she and Matthew do get together but then the Pamuk thing comes up and complicates matters.

        I think O’Brien and Thomas were friends and allies. Also, given what we now know about her brother, maybe she feels that securing a safe/happier post for him in some way makes up for inability to do anything for her brother.

        • Anonymous

          I have not seen any of the future episodes, but I agree the “scandal-newsrag” publisher bit is too convenient.  I predict Mary will drag her feet (why should she change now?) and some reason, likely big $$, will propel evil Mrs Bates to go to Sir Richard, who doesn’t “love” Mary and whose “duty is to the shareholders” so if it comes down to it, he’d rather sell lots of papers than marry into the Granthams.  But Lavinia will get out of the picture and Matthew and Mary will finally get together!

          • Anonymous

            In thinking about it more, the Pamuk scandal is a ticking time bomb. Lord Grantham has to find out, and when he does, he’ll learn that members of his staff, his daughter, his wife, and his mother where either involved or knew about it. It is going to cause a lot more trouble before this season is up, I think. Especially considering it happened more than 2 years ago at this point in the timeline.

      • Anonymous

        The Dowager Countess was all for Sybil’s’ becoming a train nurse because the Russian Imperial Grand Duchesses (daughter’s of His Imperial Majesty Tsar Nicholas II ) and The Princess Royal, Her Royal Highness Princess Mary (daughter of His Royal Highness George V King of England) all trained as Red Cross nurses.

        • Anonymous

          I know that, but driving a tractor for the local farmer is a whole ‘nother thing and demands a pretty relaxed attitude on the part of upper crust parentals, IMO. And Mary is contributing nothing, not even in a role deemed “acceptable” in light of royal initiative.

          • Anonymous

            driving a tractor for the local farmer is a whole ‘nother thing

            Not all that other:  the Women’s Land Army was created during World War 1: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/womens_land_army.htm  Though Edith doesn’t seem to have been doing her work through the WLA, for her to be doing farm work to help the war effort wouldn’t have been that unusual.

            • Anonymous

              But how many (and it would be interesting to know) came from Edith’s class and social standing? Even the reference you cite says “Those who actually worked on the farms, tended to be from the cities or industrial areas of England and Wales” and those who were running the WLA came largely from middle-class rural backgrounds. 

            • Anonymous

              Well, there are never that many aristocrats, but in both world wars you had aristocratic women get fairly down and dirty doing their bit.  If you think about it, it’s only more affluent women who would have had access to cars and know how to drive.  Elizabeth II was a mechanic and driver during World War II.  England had a relatively small population and it really did send a huge chunk of its male population to the front, so the women really did do nontraditional jobs.  And this happened in earlier wars as well–Florence Nightingale came from an aristocratic background and invented modern nursing during a war.  

      • Anonymous

        ” The Granthams seem remarkably relaxed about their daughters pushing the
        limits of their class–Edith driving a tractor, Sybil dealing with
        blood & guts”

        That isn’t necessarily being relaxed, but allowing their daughters to step up to their responsibilities to the war effort.  The responsibility to serve one’s country was part of the upper class ethos (Though not limited to the upper classes). It CERTAINLY would not have extended to a significant change, yet, to their ideas of their daughters’ place in society.

        It was notable in this war that women were, of necessity, stepping into traditionally  male roles, as well as outside some of the peace time class strictures that limited and defined the kind of exposure the different classes had to each other.  While it was not, perhaps, as pronounced as in WW II, the boundaries of male/female roles were stretched to an extent that it changed permanently what a woman could and could not do with her life. (Though the appalling loss of life among more than a generation of young men, who did not live to fill their usual roles in society nor to marry & give their wives their expected role probably had at least as much to do with the changes.)

        As a corollary (and again less so than after the Second World War), the acceptance of class boundaries was permanently weakened by the roles into which individual were thrust during the war.

        • Anonymous

          I think that Sybil (and the royals) owed as much to the pioneering work of Florence Nightingale for their ability to step into the nursing role, as much as any wartime weakening of social boundaries. Nightingale, herself the daughter of a wealthy, upper crust British family, almost singlehandedly redefined  the role of women in nursing and the profession itself, long before WWI. 

          By “relaxed” I did not mean to imply unrealistic–just that the two other sisters were able to step into dramatically different roles and fairly quickly without too much fuss from the family. There’s not much excuse for Mary.

      • Anonymous

        Carson knows all about the Pamuk and Mary incident because he received a letter of inquiry about the rumor from a servant in the household of the Marquis of Fincher.  The Marquis of Fincher is married to the Dowager Countess’ niece (Robert’s cousin).  Lady Fincher was the person who sent the letter to Violet, Dowager Countess Grantham detailing the rumors of Pamuk and Mary as she is friends with the wife of the Turkish Ambassador. 

        • Anonymous

          We know Carson knows all about it–what strained credulity was Lord Grantham’s mild reaction when faced with the announcement that, through his departure, Bates apparently saved the family from devastating scandal. It seems incredible that Grantham would not have pressed Carson immediately for more information.

          • Anonymous

            Carson said “as a gentleman I choose not to discuss it”.  This was enough for Grantham to drop it because Carson has in the past dramatically over played things such being part of the “Cheerful Charlies” when Grantham reminded him that he was being overly dramatic and that he was not playing Shakespere.

            • Anonymous

              Sorry; don’t buy it. If someone of Lord Grantham’s position hears about a potentially serious and disastrous scandal affecting his family, I don’t care how prone to hyperbole the source might be, realistically, I do not believe Grantham would ignore it so easily. 

            • Anonymous

              BayTampaBay has a point, but I agree with you, serenitynow02, that since Lord G well knows what an upstanding guy Bates is, if Bates felt he had to leave to prevent disclosure of a scandal, Lord G would want to find out the particulars.

        • http://www.lindamerrill.com Linda Merrill

          Thanks for this – I’d forgotten all about that letter. I was thinking Carson still didn’t know about the incident.

      • http://twitter.com/edwardian_era Evangeline Holland

        I don’t see why not. She was shown learning to drive right at the beginning of the episode–a skill that would be handy as an ambulance driver or a chauffeur or a taxi driver. Edith was trying to find something to do to get out of the house and contribute to the war effort (remember, it’s 1916, not 1914, and women had slowly but surely moved into war work beyond nursing).

    • Anonymous

      Did Thomas make a comment about “being beat up on because you different” when talking with the gas blinded soldier or is my mind playing tricks and re-writing Julian Fellows’ script.

      • http://www.tomandorenzo.com Tom and Lorenzo

        He did make mention of “being different” to the soldier boy, which is a big part of the reason (along with the hand on the knee) why we read that scene as being slightly romantic on Thomas’ part (if not the soldier boy).

        • Anonymous

          I very much think that Thomas had romantic feelings for the blinded solider.  

          • http://www.tomandorenzo.com Tom and Lorenzo

            We didn’t even think it was arguable until we saw the comments here. We’ve noticed a tendency for a lot of people to not believe Thomas is actually gay, all evidence to the contrary. There were many comments to that effect when we recapped Season 1.

            • Anonymous

              Oh, I think Thomas is gay (or, as they would have said then, “an invert”).  But I also think, in this instance, the feeling went one way.  One of the things that caused the soldier’s depression was the letter that suggested his brother was cutting him out with his intended.  While being engaged certainly doesn’t (particularly then!) mean that someone isn’t gay, there simply wasn’t enough of this plot line to suggest taking that at anything other than face value.

            • Anonymous

              Thomas had romantic feelings for the blinded solider, but the blinded solider may not have be aware of the depth of the feelings. 

            • http://www.tomandorenzo.com Tom and Lorenzo

              Exactly. Or the soldier may not have been aware of them at all. But clearly, from Thomas’ perspective, there was a bit of a romantic connection there. If every one of their scenes and lines had been depicted between a male and female character, there would be no question that one of them had romantic feelings for the other.

            • Anonymous

              I didn’t realize that Thomas’ being gay was in doubt.  He may be opportunistic, but he makes the pass at Pamuk and it’s pretty clear he was hurt by the duke’s rejection.  And, in terms of story arc, Thomas makes no sense as a character unless he’s gay.  That’s his struggle–and a huge point is being made about how the views toward homosexuality form and warp Thomas’ character.

              But I actually felt for Thomas in this episode.  What came across was that he wants to be loved for who he is and feels that he can’t be.  All sorts of symbolism in his only being able to reveal himself and only to a limited extent to a blind man.  It was nice to see more to his character without his being stripped of his usual wiliness and nastiness.

              I sort of hope Thomas ends up with Noel Coward and living life upon the wicked stage after the war.

            • Anonymous

              I think Thomas is gay and that he fell in love with the soldier he was taking care of.  It is a different play on the “nurse falls in love with patient” plot.  It was an insight of how incredibly tender Thomas is capable of being; he is not one dimensional.  I also think the story/show gives us a glimpse at how the house/estate as a character limits the people living in it being both a symbol of the social construct and physical entity.   That now the role of the estate will change, it is not a mystery why this would frighten the two most dependent on those social conventions — the countesses and why they would have that reaction.  I think that Cora, realizing she was sounding exactly like Violet changed her mind, realizing there is no stopping change/progress (I imagine once upon a time, she was a change that Violet was not eager for– an untitled American girl marrying her son lol).

        • Jessica Goldstein

          So interesting to realize how we can all watch the same show and see such different things. You may well be right about Thomas and the soldier, but what I saw was Thomas realizing that he might make human connections and even enjoy helping people along his relentless quest to climb up. I enjoyed Thomas much more this episode than last season. I especially thought his act of self-sabotage on the line was powerful: Here’s a man so desperate to escape the war that he will intentionally draw fire, but who is realistically portrayed as being scared you-know-what-less at the same time.

          • Marta Lilly

            I agree that this episode was about Thomas feeling tenderness for the first time and that he was not just pursuing romantic feelings. Also, I think his connection with the blind soldier may have been the first time he felt useful in the war effort-he obviously was a lousy medic, dropping the wounded soldier on the stretcher for a smoke break. But he must have felt like he was helping the blind soldier with his depression and he really put himself out there with the Doctor to keep him under his care.

      • Anonymous

        no, you are right, he did say that….. 

    • Anonymous

      Yes!  I wondered why her parents didn’t try to have a word with the suitor from last season.  They seem to feel that of all their daughters, Edith was the least likely to get married and you’d think they would have have tried to facilitate any opportunity that came her way.  The whole misunderstanding happened just after the miscarriage and the war starting, but there should have been some opportunity to have a word with the man.

      • Anonymous

        Especially as they acknowledged it would be “ghastly” to have Edith nurse them in their dotage!

        • Anonymous

          I assumed they meant ghastly for her…

      • Anonymous

        Did Edith’s parents realize what, exactly, went on?  Did they know that Mary lied to Edith’s suitor out of meanness?  Did Edith herself even know the details?  (Yes, I can understand Mary’s anger at the letter to the Turkish embassy; but she was ensuring that her sister would remain at home–with her–just as most of the men of their generation went off to be killed.)

        (Wonder where this will show up–replies seem to drift here.)

        • Anonymous

          Good point.  Maybe they didn’t try to smooth things over since they didn’t know why he didn’t end up proposing.  Maybe they just assumed he changed his mind.

        • http://twitter.com/edwardian_era Evangeline Holland

          I don’t think so. After all, Cora and Robert only saw Sir Anthony pay attention to Edith after Mary brushed him off, so they probably didn’t think it was a serious attachment.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1468295759 Connie B. Verzak

      I find it hard to hate Mrs. Bates seeing as I spent so much time feeling bad for that actress when she played Catharine of Aragon. Damn you, Maria Doyle!

      • Anonymous

        I love Maria Doyle! It was fun watching her be the meanie after all her troubles with Henry VIII.

    • http://twitter.com/keyplayer123 Steve McMillen

      If I date a hunk like Matthew and then take up with his grandfather, please slap me upside the head. Sir Dick is kinda long in the tooth, even if he does have money.

      • Anonymous

        I agree with Annette Bening’s character in the movie Valmont….”Marry Sir Richard for the money and Take Matthew as a Lover”!  LOL! LOL!

      • Anonymous

        I’d take either or both. Iain Glen is hot! And seeing him relieved a little of my Game of Thrones jonesing too.

    • http://twitter.com/keyplayer123 Steve McMillen

      I know it’s a drama, even a melodrama, but once we saw that Thomas had a heart, in his connecting with the blind soldier, did they have to finish off the boyfriend and fortify Thomas’s bitterness right away? I was hoping they would transfer off together and we could imagine Thomas finding a purpose outside of himself.

      • Anonymous

        I rather wish they’d shown some of what happened in the two years after the end of the last series.  Was everybody just in a holding pattern, except for that Going Off To War thing?  Now everything is a bit rushed…..

        • Anonymous

          ETA: This was in reply to a message in another thread…. Not sure why it’s here.

          Because Disqus sucks as a commenting system?

    • Anonymous

      Could Thomas be O’Brien’s son?

      • Anonymous

        I’ve wondered that too.  But maybe they’re just natural allies since they both have smoking and bitterness in common.  

        I know that their smoking outside gives them a chance to hatch their evil plans, but during WWI would servants who smoked have gone outside to smoke or would they have just smoked downstairs?        

    • Susie Pamudji

      Carson: I saw him. 

      *dies laughing*

    • http://www.lindamerrill.com Linda Merrill

      Edith – I think she swoons for any man who tells her she’s pretty and pays attention to her, which the farmer did. But, I didn’t realize it was dropsy farmer.
      Lavinia – I don’t think she’s simpering at at, just a sweet, young girl overwhelmed by the life Matthew is introducing her to. Plus, she knows full well he’s still in love with Mary and has just seen that Mary is obviously still in love with him. 
      Matthew – is clearly not over Mary, but is putting on a brave face while trying to move forward with his life. Mary rejected him and he found someone completely opposite and “of his own class”. And it is a quick wartime romance as Mama Isobel hadn’t met Lavinia yet either. 
      O’Brien – I don’t think she was flirting with the new valet, but she felt connected due to her lost brother. I agree with whoever said that the brother aspect may have something to do with her relationship to Thomas as well.
      Thomas and cute soldier – I don’t think there was a romance. Thomas was being kind and supportive to a frightened, blind man (for selfish or selfless reasons) and the man reached out to him in thanks. They had a momentary “connection” that had no time to develop.
      Ethel – the new housemaid is annoying and it feels like she’s just there to replace Thomas’s penchant for nasty commentary.
      Cora – what happened to her character – there’s nothing left! She just simpers.
      Lord Grantham – honorable men went to war and the WW1 war time propaganda and patriotism, particularly from writers like  Rudyard Kipling, made it clear that able bodied men were expected to fight. Robert feels he can’t due his duty, it’s not a vain grab for glory.
      Sir Richard Carlyle – Edwardian Rupert Murdoch?

      • Anonymous

        I agree about Cora’s portrayal this episode: a lot of vacuous smiling.  And it was odd that she turned on a dime about the house being used as a convalescent hospital; she went from “it would turn everything upside down” to “this is my house dammit” as soon as Violet said one thing.  I know Violet was being imperious and overstepping her bounds, but that bit of dialogue felt really rushed and undercooked.

        • Anonymous

          When she snapped at Violet, I assumed she had just reached her breaking point with all the changes going on: Sibyl leaving home to train and then work as a nurse; Edith driving a tractor (!); Matthew’s engagement; Mary’s possible engagement; and of course, all the horrible news pouring in every day about the war and those killed or wounded.

          • Anonymous

            I bet you’re right; I just don’t think the writers/editors handled it very gracefully.

            • Anonymous

              It was empathy on my part. I’m a harried mom always ready to snap! (My avatar here reads: “It isn’t my job to blow sunshine up your ass.”)

      • Anonymous

        Sir Richard Carlyle – Edwardian Rupert Murdoch?

        Probably a combination of Northcliffe,  Rothermere and Beaverbrook.

        • Anonymous

          And I think a couple of those guys did, indeed, marry substantially younger female aristocrats.  

        • Anonymous

          I thought his saying his loyalty was to his investors didn’t sound like something they would say then.

    • Anonymous

      I throughly enjoyed this episode, although the one I watched went even further. Mary’s character brightened up some, but still she is far less into the world than her two more “conventional” sisters. She  waits and stews over the right man.
      I liked the dimension that they added to O’Brien .
      And if poor Thomas has been in the trenches for 3 years he as vastly over paid his debt for being a petty thief and nasty gossip.

    • Anonymous

      In regards to Edith and the farmer. I feel like if the poor girl could just get out of that house with all the people that under rate and berate her,  she could be a decent  and happy person. With just about anyone from a farmer to a duke.

    • Anonymous

      Boys, I love you, but her name is Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan. Get it right.

      It’s fitting that you mention her though, because I’ve been calling DA “highbrow Dynasty”. It has all the same elements — sex scandals, blackmail, thwarted love, fights over the family business. Not to mention the delicious costumes.

    • Jessie Bielicki

      So many things that were cut in the PBS version!

      -the scene where Isobel tells the Crawleys that Matthew is engaged was shortened. The beginning of the conversation was cut, where we learn Matthew has been back to visit his mother a few times, but hasn’t seen the Crawleys, and that he had been planning on returning to Manchester after the war was over, but he doesn’t talk about the future to his mother in his letters.

      -cute scene of Anna and Bates in the kitchen before he proposes, where he asks when he can talk to her.

      -Branson is handed a white feather as those two girls are leaving the concert and hilariously dismisses it. “I’m in a uniform.”
      I actually think this scene was an important character moment for Branson, as well as funny, and shouldn’t have been cut, but whatever.

      -Sybil is struggling to cook something in the kitchen, with Mrs. Patmore and Daisy being horrified by it. “WHAT IN WONDERLAND D’YOU CALL THAT!? I mean, I do not fully understand what you’re trying to do, milady.”

      -When the Crawley women are all together getting Sybil packed to leave, Mary and Edith jab a little at their emotional American mother, Sybil makes a comment about Mary being friends with Matthew again, and Mary deflects with a “stop treading on eggshells, I’ve got bigger fish to fry”, which Edith silently scoffs at.

      -Also, this is a cut I fully support. When Vera laughs at Bates when he asks her to stay silent, she says, “As if!” in the UK version. Truly. She actually says “as if”. That one got a lot of criticism.

      This was all in the first half of the PBS episode, which was a long premiere episode in the UK. The second half that started after Thomas was shot was the shorter second UK episode, and there were far less cuts in that part.

      • Anonymous

        When Vera laughs at Bates when he asks her to stay silent, she says, “As if!” in the UK version. Truly. She actually says “as if”. That one got a lot of criticism.

        Why wouldn’t she use it?  Is this another one of those situations where people criticize because they don’t know the history of a word or phrase?  Let me guess.  They think it’s modern.  It’s not.  It was in use at least from the beginning of the 1900′s.  See page 7 of Frank Norris’ The Pit (1903) here:  http://tinyurl.com/NorrisAsIf

        • Jessie Bielicki

          my mistake! That is very interesting actually. I just assumed it was invented by “Clueless”. I take back my raised eyebrow when I first heard it.

          • Anonymous

            I find it very interesting to discover how much of our language, and the way it’s used, is much older than we often believe.  On another forum where we were discussing the elections, someone was wondering about the use of “caucus” as a verb.  On checking, I found it’s been used that way since the mid-1700′s, just a bit after the word’s first use in English.

            • Anonymous

              From what I can see, a lot of the little quirks of the show are quite accurate–the costuming, the introduction of various new-fangled things–there are some modern touches to the characters–Lord Grantham seems awfully tolerant and open-minded and you don’t hear the casual racism and anti-semitism that was prevalent at the time–but factual stuff tends to be on.

              And, oh my, the look of the aristocratic characters–Edith, in particular, looks like she walked out of an old photo.  Matthew and Mary as well.  The one thing I question is Anna’s side part.  It reads a little modern to me for a servant.  Seems like center or straight pulled back would be more accurate.

            • Anonymous

              From what I can see, a lot of the little quirks of the show are quite accurate–the costuming, the introduction of various new-fangled things–there are some modern touches to the characters–Lord Grantham seems awfully tolerant and open-minded and you don’t hear the casual racism and anti-semitism that was prevalent at the time–but factual stuff tends to be on.

              And, oh my, the look of the aristocratic characters–Edith, in particular, looks like she walked out of an old photo.  Matthew and Mary as well.  The one thing I question is Anna’s side part.  It reads a little modern to me for a servant.  Seems like center or straight pulled back would be more accurate.

      • Anonymous

        On February 7, 2012 (the American release date) you can lof onto http://www.pbs.org and order the UK uncut directors version of Downton Abbey.  FYI, according to video blogging board, Masterpiece Theatre cut about 17 minutes out for US broadcast to fit allotted running time.  I do not know if this is or is not true.  The Season One UK uncut directors version of Downton Abbey I ordered from PBS was different from the PBS broadcast version of Season One.

        I hope Cora’s mother shows up in Saeson III and she is a brassy American in the Joan Collins mode who socially runs Cincinnati with an iron fist.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for noting these differences for us. Many of the scenes would have felt more complete had they been unedited.

        • Anonymous

          I agree.  It seemed choppy because it was chopped!

    • Anonymous

      What a treat to have DA back!  While there’s a lot of great television floating around there’s nothing else quite like this.

      It all did feel a little breakneck but given we’ve got two years to catch up on it’s understandable.  I like that we got to see a more sympathetic side to both Thomas and O’Brien.  Thomas especially may come out of the war a much more decent human being.  There was no doubt in my mind that he and the blind soldier had a real connection and that Thomas was shattered by his death.  When Thomas (along with Sybil) tried to make the case for keeping Blind Soldier at the hospital I thought that it was the first time Thomas had done something nice for someone else, with no thought of personal gain.     

      I don’t see Lavinia as simpering but as someone a bit overwhelmed by both the upstairs and downstairs Grantham clan.  I do suspect that any hidden scandal involves her father.  I’m interested in seeing how Sir Richard plays this.  And speaking of Sir Richard, I think he’s a great match for Mary.  They’d be a formidable pair.  It’s people like him who represent the future, the self-made men of business, not the landed gentry.   Yes, he’s not of her class, he’s older and a bit of a boor, and he clearly isn’t in love with her.  Marriage to a very rich, powerful, unconventional man might liberate Mary in all sorts of interesting ways.  I could see the two of them ruling post-war London.                     

    • Anonymous

      I’m happy it’s back on.  Loved last night’s ep.  I couldn’t even take a bathroom break or have a beverage. 

    • Anonymous

      BUT WHAT ABOUT GWEN???  Is she still a sec-retary?

      • Anonymous

        I hope we hear about how she’s doing.  I want her to be a big success.

    • Anonymous

      Matthew definitely had an Ashley Wilkes vibe going on.  His intended– I don’t believe she was crying about Matthew going off to war in the garden.

    • Anonymous

      I Love Ethel!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jane-Morris/1076502799 Jane Morris

      I’m new to this show and I have a question.  How come everyone made a fuss about able bodied William not being on the front and no one said peep about the handsome driver of Sybil?

      And…I did not notice that Thomas was gay. I just thought he had become involved in helping someone, and was devastated by the man’s tragic suicide and his own inability (once again because of rank) to do anything to to prevent it.  Have there been other hints that he’s gay?  I just didn’t think gay for a second here.   But then I am new to this show.

      • Anonymous

        More than hints.  In the first season, he slept with a guest in the house, a man with whom he had had a previous relationship.  Thomas tried to blackmail him with letters the man had written.

        And then he made a pass at Mr. Kamal, who later slept with Lady Mary.

        I highly recommend watching the first season.  It will really help you catch the nuances.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jane-Morris/1076502799 Jane Morris

          thanks!  I’ll try to catch up. I was lucky to catch the final episode of season 1 or I would have been in the soup.

          But what about the driver guy?  why isn’t anyone asking him why he’s not in a military uniform?

          • Jessie Bielicki

            If PBS hadn’t edited down that scene, you would have seen it. The white feather girls at the concert handed Branson a feather on their way out, and he took it, smirked, and said, “I’m in a uniform.”, referring to his chauffeur’s uniform. Other than that, I think the family and staff just assume he’ll be conscripted eventually. Edith has mentioned it a couple of times. She asked him when he was teaching her to drive, “Won’t the call-up put you all out of your jobs?” and then later, when her grandmother asks her why she wants to drive, she says, “They won’t let a healthy man drive us around forever.”

      • Anonymous

        Jane Morris asked: I’m new to this show and I have a question. How come everyone made a fuss about able bodied William not being on the front and no one said peep about the handsome driver of Sybil?

        Historically, it has something to do with him being Irish but I need to review the history (thank Mary, Jesus and Oprah for Wikipedia) to get the specifics.  I think the Irish could and did volunteer but could not get “called up” or “drafted”.  I may be wrong.

      • Anonymous

        Jane Morris asked: I’m new to this show and I have a question. How come everyone made a fuss about able bodied William not being on the front and no one said peep about the handsome driver of Sybil?

        Historically, it has something to do with him being Irish but I need to review the history (thank Mary, Jesus and Oprah for Wikipedia) to get the specifics.  I think the Irish could and did volunteer but could not get “called up” or “drafted”.  I may be wrong.

      • Anonymous

        Branson’s an Irish socialist; there was no conscription for the Irish, so he didn’t have to join, and it’s highly unlikely given his politics that he’d volunteer of his own accord.

        • Anonymous

          Right.  But the fact that he wouldn’t volunteer of his own accord doesn’t mean that the ladies with the white feathers wouldn’t think that he should do so.

    • http://twitter.com/rgmx Mercy

      I too just thought O’Brien was just being kinder than normal with the new valet, rather than flirtatious.  But it was indeed nice to see a different side to her.  Finally someone who is already hitting rock bottom and doesn’t need to be taken down a peg!  Will be interesting to see how that connection develops over the season.  I thought the new valet was the most interesting character introduced in some time.

      And Richard Carlyle is awful, just awful.  He looks vaguely unkempt, as if he has bad breath.

      • Anonymous

        “And Richard Carlyle is awful, just awful.  He looks vaguely unkempt, as if he has bad breath.”

        You’re hilarious!  I got the same vibe.

    • http://asskickingadviser.com/ Ass Kicking Adviser

      I agree that Michelle Dockery’s performance in the train station was heart-wrenching. Matt doesn’t quite ‘get it’ because he was spurned. He had no notion of Mary’s affections – he never really did. He started getting over her the minute he left Downton – he had no choice. Mary hasn’t even begun to get over him because she knows she made a mistake.
      And Anna was exceptional last night also.

      • http://twitter.com/cornekopia Shawn EH

        I rewatched the last S1 episode so I could recall their “feud,” and Michelle always played it as Mary just not being able to sort out all the (contradictory) advice coming her way. Whether she should have known better or not (to insult Matthew by delaying her answer), she at least tried to make it clear that Mary was more confused than calculating.

    • Anonymous

      I defended the last series as not a soap opera, but I sure can’t do that now. The difference for me is that every character (except maybe Sybil) was doing something which either seemed out of character or just plain stupid.  It really felt like Julian Fellowes slapped this together in a short time (which he probably did but you don’t want to be able to tell he did).  Here were some of the instances where things just didn’t add up for me:  

      1.  I can see Edith learning to drive and making herself useful like that (a nod to Princess Elizabeth’s being an ambulance driver in WWII).  The farm equipment was stretching it, the farmwork was really out of character and falling in love with a married farmer was nuts.  And if she had so changed, why would she leap up and yell “What about my dress?” when it got a slight spill of gravy at dinner.  None of this made sense to me.

      2.  Everything involving Bates and Vera.  Vera knows about Pamuk because she got a job with Lady Fincher?  How convenient.  Is she even qualified to work there?  And how does anyone know Anna was involved?  Daisy never saw anyone but Mary.  And wouldn’t this be old news by now (and wouldn’t Carlyle know since he owns tabloid papers)?  It’s been all over London for years. And why didn’t Lord Grantham insist Carson tell him what the scurrilous news was that forced Bates to leave?  He pressured Bates into telling him about Sybil’s trip into Ripon for the counting of the votes, and he handled Carson’s blackmailing ex-dance partner.  Nothing about Lord Grantham would suggest he’d let Carson keep the secret and just let Bates ‘fall on his sword’ for the family without getting to the bottom of the situation. 

      3.  Lord Grantham isn’t in the army even though he has combat experience from the Boer War, seems competent, and he’s not nearly as old as the other “mascots” at that dinner.  At this point in the war, they’d be needing substantial reinforcements because of the heavy casualties.  This doesn’t add up except as a reason for keeping him in the “at home” storyline.

      4.  Wouldn’t there be shortages of a lot of things by now?  It’s two years into the war, and everyone has new frocks and crepes Suzette for dessert.  Where are they getting the sugar and the salt?  You can’t grow that on the farms, which would also be underproducing because of the conscription of all the young farmers so food should be hard to come by.  Did none of this happen in WWI like it did in WWII?  

      5.  If Sir Richard Carlyle is not part of the nobility, how did he become a sir?  Did the king give him an OBE?  Would they have done that for someone who owns a bunch of tabloid papers?  

      6.  The Dowager Countess is okay with Sybil becoming a nurse, but not the abbey becoming a hospital?  I’d think she’d be against both, and she totally rolled over on Edith being a farmhand. She cared more about family than Downton based on the last series, but she seems to have flipped the other way now.  Inexplicable. 

      7.  Cora seems to just be a cypher at this point.  She was the most virulently against the convalescent home, she’s turned kind of bitchy and mean, and she didn’t become okay with Sybil being a nurse until she baked her a birthday cake?  I sort of get where the scene was supposed to go – a mother seeing her daughter finally feeling useful – but it didn’t come out as well as it should have.

      8.  Lord Grantham is willing to pull strings to bring Thomas back to Downton when he’s already been shown to be a liar and a thief and they were glad to be rid of him last time?  Why would he do that?  Carson seems to be the only one who remembers.

      9.  There seems to have been little redemption for O’Brien’s character.  I know her hair is just knitting (still love that line!) but I’d have thought she would have changed at least a little, particularly with Thomas gone.  I hope they do allow her to be better (there’s already a hint with Lang).  She’d be more interesting if she had some kind of character arc.  

      10.  Lavinia looks younger than Sybil, which sort of throws everything off for me.  And Carlyle having some kind of negative relationship with her family – based on Lavinia’s first remark to him at dinner and then the scene on the grounds where they’re arguing.  Again, how convenient.

      I now understand the comments of those who complained about the second series.  If the rest of it is as preposterous as these first two hours, it’s not going to nearly the series the first one was. 

      • Anonymous

        The show has all of these problems and more, and there were plenty of discrepancies last season, too, but it’s not meant to be a documentary. I’m choosing to just sit back and enjoy it, with an occasional eye-roll when I can’t help myself. The acting, the sets, the costumes and Violet’s acerbic wit are enough to keep me entertained.

        • Anonymous

          I was able to go with the flow last year, but the difference for me this series is that the characters keep acting out of character.  It doesn’t need to be a documentary, but good writing, even fiction writing, allows the storyline to flow from the characters rather than imposing the storyline on the characters.  

      • Anonymous

        A few answers.

        4.  Compulsory food rationing did not begin until 1918.  We haven’t gotten there yet.  And food was always more readily available in the countryside than in the city, as people could grow and breed their own.

        5.  Heavens, yes, they certainly would knight “someone who owns a bunch of tabloid papers”.  Look at Viscounts Rothermere and Northcliffe, and Lord Beaverbrook.

        6.  I can see that.  Turning Downton Abbey into a convalescent center would be far more disruptive to her way of life.

        • Anonymous

          4.  Your answer made me curious so I did a little research.   Food rationing didn’t start until 1918, but food shortages were a problem before then and are eventually what led to the rationing.  As early as April 1916, there were short supplies of flour and wheat.  By the time of the Battle of the Somme (where we are now in the series), it was a problem for many, but maybe not the rich.  Until the end of 1916, England was able to import much of what it needed from the U.S. and Canada, but once the German subs started patrolling the north Atlantic in 1917, it became dangerous to do so and there were widespread shortages.    Better hang on to some of that sugar, Mrs. Patmore, tough times are coming!  

          5.  I think you’re right that Fellowes probably used that trio as his model for Carlyle.  Beaverbrook’s peerage was presumably for his war efforts (mostly in support of the Canadian army), but that certainly doesn’t explain the other two.

          6.  I’m not sure that having a part of a house turned into a convalescent area would be more disruptive to her life if she’s still living in the dower house and is only a visitor.  Other country homes had done the same and because she seems to care about that (the Russian princesses becoming nurses), I’d think it would be less disturbing to her than Edith becoming a farmhand, but only Dame Maggie Smith knows for sure!

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1344922354 Eric Scheirer Stott

            The abundance of food is probably explained by their means and social position. They have connections. By their standards they are probably economizing. These characters may have some enlightenment and social conscience, but they’re also got a lot of ingrained class snobbery and a sense of entitlement. The servants aren’t immune- the housekeeper gave up an opportunity to marry a very nice man because life on a farm (even a comfortable and prosperous one) would be a step down.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1344922354 Eric Scheirer Stott

            The abundance of food is probably explained by their means and social position. They have connections. By their standards they are probably economizing. These characters may have some enlightenment and social conscience, but they’re also got a lot of ingrained class snobbery and a sense of entitlement. The servants aren’t immune- the housekeeper gave up an opportunity to marry a very nice man because life on a farm (even a comfortable and prosperous one) would be a step down.

      • Anonymous

        To 1. I would say Edith is a relaxed a charming person when she is away from her poisonous family. When she returns to the manor house she reverts to the role that has been assigned to her.

      • Anonymous

        Dear Rainwood:

        THIS IS NOT YOUR SHOW.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1129137319 Paula Pertile

      Is it me, or is there more red (and shades of red) being worn this series? Maybe to symbolize the blood of war, as well as all the affairs of heart? 

      Loved Mrs. Patmore throwing the leftover crepes to the dog, after telling Ethel they were all gone. 

    • Anonymous

      I know it was quite fashionable at the time, but the bejeweled headband didn’t do her any favors either. To me, she looked altogether dreadful.

    • Anonymous

      Sadly, I was watching on PBS last night and 1hr 15 min into it, my station (only) froze with everyone at the dinner table with shocked expressions on their faces. Hope to see the rest tonight on replay. For someone who has ridiculed soaps most of her life, I’m amazed at how many soaps I’m now watching–Once Upon a Time, Revenge and DA. Fun! And I really was amazed at the war footage–not much of a war movie fan but this seemed so accurate. The trenches were really that, weren’t they?

      • Anonymous

        You’re forgetting the best soap ever–Dark Shadows!  ;)  I can’t wait til the movie’s out.  When I was in 3rd grade, my mom entered the room just as someone on the show opened a door and a guillotine slammed down.  The show was thereafter banned, but I managed to sneak it anyway!  It sometimes runs on the SciFi channel, and the early video technology and flimsy sets are hilarious.

        • Anonymous

          There’s a bunch of Dark Shadows on Netflix also. I’ve been watching them from time to time, reliving my favorite after-school activity. Loved that Barnabas Collins.

      • Anonymous

        Mine froze, too.  I thought I was watching a recording, and when it “vanished’ from my playlist, I thought I was going crazy. I don’t think my PBS stations does rebroadcasts on Monday.

    • Anonymous

      I  do agree with some of the comments about Matthew–he was incredibly handsome last night in both his uniform and the regimental red jacket. He had struck me as a bit of a milquetoast last year and a bit washed out  but last night–swoon! Mary was a fool!

      • Anonymous

        I honestly don’t know how Mary didn’t jump him at the concert in that red military coat.  Swoon, indeed.

        Frankly, Matthew’s handsomeness was hidden so well throughout Season 1, that I didn’t really notice that he had gradually gotten better looking during the course of the season until the scene where he and Mary kissed before he proposed to her off-screen.  The looks he gave her in that scene?  So sexy.  Now in this episode, his hotness was practically shoved in our faces. 

        I know I’m probably projecting something that’s not intended by TPTB, but I had a thought that maybe we were seeing Matthew through Mary’s eyes, as she grew to like – and eventually love – him.  I also thought that maybe the change came as Matthew grew more comfortable in and more accepting of his role as heir presumptive.  Or maybe I’m just reading into this way too much and Dan Stevens simply got progressively hotter during Season 1.   But I have seen pieces of a German-language film (Hilde, if I recall correctly – don’t ask, it was a school thing) Dan Stevens did a few years ago (before Downton Abbey), and hot DAMN he was sexy in that movie.  And he spoke German.  Double hot.

      • Anonymous

        In one of the many interviews the DA actors have given, Dan Stevens mentioned that he lost weight for this series because he read some internet comments to the effect that he was looking rather doughy as compared to  some of his earlier roles (I’ve only seen him in one other thing).  He’s still what I think of as “soft-faced”, but he does look leaner and sharper.

        • http://www.lindamerrill.com Linda Merrill

          I would also imagine that knowing he’s been at war for a couple of years instead of being desk bound might account for the character’s weight loss as well.

        • Anonymous

          Sweet Jesus, so sad that even male actors have to deal with this. He is a very handsome man. I thought so when he was in Sense and Sensibility (and FAR too dishy to play Edward, IMO), I thought so in DA season 1, and I still think so. His features are not naturally of the chiseled variety, and that’s fine.

    • Anonymous

      When did Mary have time to fall in love with Matthew? They spent about 10 minutes together. I’m so disappointed in the writing of this show. None of it makes sense, is believable, suspenseful, anything. So far below standard.

      • http://www.tomandorenzo.com Tom and Lorenzo

        They’ve known each other for almost 4 years at this point.

        • Anonymous

          I am very confused about the time line.  It was also said that Thomas had been the the trenches for 3 years.  The Great War was 1914-1918.  If it’s nearly over, why are folk, like William, just going now? 

          • Anonymous

            1916 (when this episode is set) is only the halfway point in the war, and no one knew could possible have known how much longer the war would go on. William’s father (and the dowager countess) kept him out, claiming hardship, as William’s mother died. Huge casualties in that war, so they kept sending men as soon as they were available.

            • Anonymous

              Thank you, Anathema_Device.  Somehow I missed the date. 

          • Anonymous

            This episode begins in 1916 and ends in 1917, When Thomas returns to work in the hospital I’m pretty sure the date 1917 had already flashed across the screen.

    • http://twitter.com/cornekopia Shawn EH

      I love how frightened Matthew looks in the first photo with his mother and fiance. Never mind fighting on the front lines in France; now he’s got to face Mary, Cora and the Dowager!

    • http://twitter.com/Dorhora Ivy DeShield

      I thoroughly admired how the fallacy of the aristocracy having the absolute right to control unfolded so starkly in this particular episode; I could see hints of this last season, but Fellowes has already developed most of the characters so beautifully in this second season that there’s no telling which way the tide will turn. The complicated nature of the Grantham family lies at the heart of Earl Robert Grantham, whose mother referred to last season as “trying to be nicer than the rest of [them]“. I think the family understands that the validity of their position (and entire way of life) is up for scrutiny now that the war effort has taken priority in their household and country and more progressive ideals have surfaced. Some are ready and aching for change (Sybil and Ethel), while others are holding strong to tradition, like Violet and O’Brien. Despite O’Brien’s place of servitude, she is still afraid to dream beyond being a lady’s maid. I believe we’ll see some changes there though. There are so many story lines now that I’m going to have to do all I can to keep up, but I’m looking forward to it! Great synopsis!

    • Marie Drucker

      Guys, I loved your live tweeting last night. It added to the fun. But oddly — and interestingly — to me, your tweets were about 2 minutes ahead of the broadcast here in New York. I wondered if the Philly PBS station started it a bit earlier than the New York one (we had an intro before the Laura Linney intro). 

    • Anonymous

      Okay, this is a teensy bit off topic, but last night’s DA episode had me thinking of this book. (Hopefully our esteemed hosts will allow me this recommendation.) If you DA fans haven’t read “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters, I highly recommend it. It is set post WWII at a Warwickshire estate. It deals a lot with the rise of the middle class and fading wealth and power of the landed gentry. It is a mystery and a maybe ghost story but definitely a well written page turner. I thought of it because the estate in the book was used as a convalescent home for soldiers.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Stranger

      • Marie Drucker

        I tweeted this last night… there is a great set of mysteries by Charles Todd set in Post WWI England… Inspector Rutledge works for Scotland Yard, but suffers from shell shock from his time in the trenches. These are more character-driven mysteries than police procedurals or little cozies. Good stuff.

        • Anonymous

          This is a FANTASTIC series, highly recommended. As is the Maisy Dobbs series, set in the same period.

      • Anonymous

        Loved this book!! Add my recommendation, too!

      • Anonymous

        I loved The Little Stranger; I couldn’t put it down. It was a real departure from Waters’ other novels, though I also find them compelling. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3JSTXMWWVZN2QNP2UEKJMTWD7U Isabel

      Missing from this episode – TRENCH FOOT

      I’ve read fictional accounts of WWI and that disease was a particular problem. But, no one seems to be suffering from it. The trenches seemed too dry to me.

      If anyone knows about the conditions in the trenches, please comment!

      • Anonymous

        What little I do know of the lasting effects of trench warefare comes strictly from family history.  I also thought of the trenches being damp all of the time, whether due to climate, or the fact that they were dug so far into the ground.  My grandfather was a WWI veteran having fought in France, and developed tuberculosis in his later years of life, from lung scarring he received as a combination of pneumonia and exposure to mustard gas.  Or so the family stories say.  All I recall was that he was in very poor health those years of my childhood that I new him, all stemming from his time in the war.

      • Susan Crawford

        My grandfather fought in WWI, and yes, trenchfoot was endemic. There were times when the fighting was so intense that men could not take a moment to remove their shoes and socks for weeks at a time, and lived in freezing muck up to their knees. I leave it to your imagination as to what their feet looked like when they were finally able to see them.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1344922354 Eric Scheirer Stott

          It was quite a remarkable war- if you had luck and the means you could take a trip home.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3JSTXMWWVZN2QNP2UEKJMTWD7U Isabel

      The HAND – will Thomas regain use of his hand? I know that during WWII and the US Civil War, soldiers injured themselves so they could be sent back home.

      • Anonymous

        Isn’t this the type of injury that would have had him executed for cowardice? And why did Grantham feel the need to share that info with his cook. She didn’t need to be burdened with that.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3JSTXMWWVZN2QNP2UEKJMTWD7U Isabel

      ISOBEL 
      1. When/If Matthew becomes Lord G, will Isobel be the Dowager Countess or does that title go to Cora? If Violet is still alive, can there be two or three Dowagers at a time? Where will they all live?

      2. Why in the world does Isobel make decisions about how DA is run? It’s not the first time that she is acting like the real Lady G!! She acts like a socialist, more than Branson!

      • Anonymous

        1. Neither.  A countess whose husband has died becomes a “dowager countess” only if the successor to the title is of her husband’s direct line (son, grandson, etc.).  Since Matthew is not Robert’s son, Cora will not become a “dowager countess” upon Robert’s death; she will continue to be known as Cora, Countess of Grantham (“Lady Grantham” in address).  Violet will be the Dowager Countess of Grantham (also “Lady Grantham”) until her death, and there will not be another dowager until Matthew dies, survived by a widow (another __________, Countess of Grantham) who is also the mother (stepmother, or grandmother) of his heir.  Although there can be more than one “Countess of Grantham” at once, there can only be one “Dowager Countess” at a time, so even if Cora were entitled to use the style (i.e., she had a son who became the next earl), she could not do so until Violet died.     

        Isobel remains “Mrs. Crawley,” in any event.  She does not and will not have a noble title unless she marries one.  Being the mother of an earl does not make her a countess.

        2. That’s just how she rolls.  Isobel has a very strong sense of purpose, and it appears that her marriage to her late husband was one of equals, so she is accustomed to being an outspoken, take-charge kind of gal.

    • Anonymous

      So riddle me this. Grantham is still a relatively young man. He has no sons but his daughters are all of childbearing age. If one of them marries and has a son doesn’t that leave Matthew back at square one?

      • Anonymous

        None of Grantham’s daughters are in the line of succession due to the entail, so their children can’t inherit, even if they are boys.

        • Anonymous

          Not quite.  The entail is about the money from Cora’s dowry, and the fact that it can’t be severed from the land and title; it has nothing to do with the inheritance of the title, per se.  Were it not for the entail, Mary (and her sisters) could inherit the money according to the terms of their father’s will.  The title is separate issue.   Mary can’t inherit the title because of the rule of male primogeniture that governs the inheritance of most titles of nobility in Britain: she isn’t a first-born, or eldest surviving SON. 

          • Anonymous

            Ah. So it has to be male to male to male. I didn’t understand that part. I thought it was like George VI to Elizabeth II to Chuck.

            • Anonymous

              The rules are a bit different for the monarchy which allows daughters to succeed to the throne if there no sons.  Most peerages become extinct if a family runs out of men to inherit them, but women may succeed to the throne when there is no male with a superior claim.  This is to help ensure that the throne is never vacant.  Of course, all that has changed, as Parliament late last year abolished male primogeniture with respect to the monarchy, allowing the first-born child, boy or girl, of William and Kate to one day sit on the throne.  

          • Anonymous

            Thanks for the clarification, jeeplibby02. :)

            • Anonymous

              You are welcome.

      • Anonymous

        Succession cannot past  through a female with regards to the Grantham Title Estate.  This is not true for the Duchy of Marlborough or the Duchy of Fife which can past to and/or through a female if there are NO direct legitimate males to inherit.

    • Anonymous

      This is slightly OT, but the PBS website has a 20% off sale (for $100 purchase or more) that ends 1/9.  I was able to order the unedited UK editions of both series in Blu-Ray, plus the book and with the 20% off essentially got a third DVD (Sense & Sensibility) for no additional cost.  They won’t be shipping Series 2 until February so I won’t be getting much of a jump on seeing it, but I like the good price and supporting PBS.  Thought others should know about the sale.

      • Anonymous

        I agree.  PBS is more expensive than Amazon or Best Buys but all profits are plowed back into PBS. 

    • Anonymous

      He also said he’s a socialist. The anti-war sentiment was very strong among socialists, communists, workers unions, etc.

    • Anonymous

      Megabitch Mrs. Bates is JEALOUS of Anna! She wants the money too, but that’s the real reason why she’s back to get her claws into Mr. Bates and won’t give him up.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.mcada Lisa Huntsman McAda

      This has bothered me since the first episode, and I know I’m supposed to overlook little things like this, but I’d love to see it as a plot point in the future:  Both Lord Grantham and Lady Cora have light blue eyes, yet both Lady Mary and Edith have brown eyes.  Genetically, this cannot be!  Wouldn’t it be juicy if Cora had a long-term affair in the past that produced her first two daughters?

      • Anonymous

        What most of us learned in school was kind of simple – brown eye color is always dominant over blue eye color,
        which means that two blue-eyed parents always have blue-eyed children.  We now understand that eye color is a complex trait that depends on the state of several
        interacting genes. Without going too deeply into the complications, depending on the relative strength of the
        OCA2 gene on chromosome 15, a person will have blue eyes or brown eyes. It gets more complex than that, but the end point is that two blue eyed parents can have brown eyed children.

        Mind you, it’s uncommon.

        • http://twitter.com/SparklyCasanova UglyCasanova

          Correct!  Way more complex than that simple Punnet Sqaure we were taught in school.  Even two brown eyed parents can produce a blue eyed child, or any other color for that matter — depending on their alleles.  

        • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.mcada Lisa Huntsman McAda

          Thank you for your replies.  It’s been a looooonnnnng time since college!  Too bad,actually, it would have been an interesting story arc!

      • http://www.lindamerrill.com Linda Merrill

        My blue eyed brother and his blue eyed wife have a daughter who has hazel eyes.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed with everything you said re: O’Brien, love watching this character develop.

    • Michael Colvin

      One of my favorite lines was Maggie Smith practically giddy when she realized that Mary and Matthew weren’t on the train together, so she could see the fireworks in person. “Greek tragedies with all of the good stuff happening off stage”. Fantastic cheeky line

    • http://twitter.com/wednesdaydreams Natalie

      Lavinia’s not that bad. You go in expecting to hate her for breaking up your One True Pairing that is Matthew/Mary but she’s really a decent girl

    • Anonymous

      Matthew, sadly, seems a bit unaware of the depth of Mary’s feelings, which surprises us a bit. Looks are probably deceiving here, but he seems to have gotten over quite well and also seems devoted to the new girl in his life.
      Really? I don’t think he’s oblivious, just wary and hedging his bets. Seemed to me like he decided that she was a non-starter who didn’t know her own mind and would be messing him around, so he went for the sure thing. She may not be the great love of his life, but she’s socially appropriate (good family, nice manners, nice, good age, etc.). And, let’s face it, wasn’t that what most society marriages were about at that time?

      [H]er character motivations don’t make a lot of sense. He was willing to set her up with money and he clearly detests her, so what is she getting out of this blackmail situation? Is this another instance – like most of O’Brien’s shenanigans last year – of a character being evil simply because the show needs another evil character?

      I agree with that first statement 100%. But I also think that there are some people in this world who get a real charge out of revenge and making life as miserable as possible for those whom they perceive to be their enemies or who they think have wronged them in some way. Unfortunately, I happen to know someone like this in real life. His behavior is puzzling and extremely self-destructive in the long run, but he refuses to change. 

      • Anonymous

        I think Matthew went off to London, tried to forget about 1912 through 1914 and the trouble with Mary.  He meet a nice girl who was the opposite of Mary, who had a father who has a profession (and therefore works for an income) and that profession is the same as his.  Lavina is exactly what Matthew needs (or thinks he needs) at this time; Someone the opposite of Mary with no troble committing. 

        Of course three years and two children later, he will be bored out of his mind.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1129137319 Paula Pertile

      For kindred souls who just can’t enough, here is another blog that explores Downton Abbey and all things related. There are links down along the right hand side where you can read more about the costumes, life downstairs, etc. etc. etc. Enjoy!
      http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3JSTXMWWVZN2QNP2UEKJMTWD7U Isabel

        Thanks for the link. It was slow at work, so I read all the ones about DA

    • Anonymous

      My favorite bit of dialogue from this episode was between Carson and Mrs. Hughes, when she confessed to eavesdropping on Mr. & Mrs. Bates.
      “If I were a gentleman, I wouldn’t want to know.”
      “But you’re not.”
      “Fortunately,” he says, rising to close the door so they can continue their conversation in private.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3JSTXMWWVZN2QNP2UEKJMTWD7U Isabel

      Coming soon – More Dollhouse Abbey YouTube video from Tanvi and Grace. How old do you think they are?
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6bXHsNBA9A&context=C3c80c79ADOEgsToPDskLOxogojIPbUfmqrFystRl1

      If you haven’t seen their Season (Series) 1 spoofs, check them out. They are hilarious.

    • Rachel Auerbach

      Late to the party but I have to put in two cents.

      In Thomas’ plotline with the blinded soldier, Thomas definitely seemed to become infatuated with the soldier.  Whether it was mutual seemed unclear.  I am suspicious, though, of the soldier’s death, and surprised no one brought it up.  It seemed to me that Thomas had killed the soldier…that he couldn’t bear the fact of his suffering, but also that he didn’t want the soldier going on without him, or that he had opened up after they connected and the soldier had threatened to out him.  I wasn’t sure of the motivation, but it really seemed that Thomas had to be involved somehow, even if just as an assistant to the soldier’s suicide.

    • Rachel Auerbach

      Also, I thought that Lavinia’s explanation of her crying jag to Mary was just a cover story for her true source of angst – whatever Carlisle is holding over her.  It was conveniently timed to prevent Mary’s revelation to Matthew, but didn’t seem particularly cunning on Lavinia’s part; more lucky for her than well planned out.

       And, I also thought that Cora’s emotion over Sybil’s cake baking had not only to do with her “making herself useful” but also with her hope that her political leanings would be kosher…although I realize I’ve got some story lines crossed between S! of DA and the 2010 Upstairs Downstairs.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WKSM57KFWUGRMKPDUW4SPL3GDM Kathryn

      I hate to be a spoil sport, but has anyone noticed that this show is almost verbatim “Upstairs, Downstairs”?  the cranky cook, the simple scullery maid, the evil (gay) footman, the liberal lord, the daughter involved with an older, worldly man, the scandal with the government in which Lavinia played a part, the maid who wants more, the republican servant (chauffeur), the caste-conscious family member.  The class divisions.  The introduction of electricity.  The war.  And on and on and on. It’s all been done.  I’m surprised the writer is getting in trouble for plagiarism.  So far the only thing really interesting so far was the fox hunt. 

      But UD was not soap opera-ish.  DA is such a soap opera.  The miscarriage caused by a fall is a tired, old cliche (falls do not normally cause miscarriages).  The evil people, who no matter what they do, still manage to be a part of the household.  Why Thomas’ crimes were kept from Lady Grantham is beyond me.  Is she too “delicate” to be told the truth about people she is supposed to be managing?  Lady Grantham is a silly woman who is easily led and who acts like a child.  This differs from UD, in that the lady of the house was worth respect.  This one isn’t.  Then Mary is a bitch and then she’s not and we’re supposed to be rooting for her.  Lord Grantham is acting very dickish in Season 2, and why they need to make Mrs. Crawley, who just wants to help with the hospital, a bitch is another thing that is beyond me.   I don’t know why we are supposed to be sympathetic to these people.  They are tiresome.

    • Anonymous

      Where are you guys watching this? I couldn’t find it on netflix, and only saw episode 2 of the second season on tv yesterday.

    • Anonymous

      Can we please comment on Mary’s first remark to Matthew when they reunite: “Mr. Crowley it’s been so long, I can only imagine what you must think of me now”. He’s been AT WAR woman. Can you not ask him how HE is? Show a little concern outside of your self worth? What a selfish twit.

    • Andrea Greco

      Pretty please, can someone explain O’Brien’s crack “her hair’s just knitting”? For the life of me I have no idea.