Downton Abbey S2E3: The Only Boy

Posted on January 23, 2012

This was the hour of Series 2 where everything seemed to come together. Not that the first 2 hours were a mess or anything, but there was an awful lot of catching up and setting up to do before we could get to the meat of the story. With this hour, we felt like we could see the shape of the story coming into view; what the major plotlines were going to be; how the characters would interact under the stress of the war; and what that would all mean once the war was over.  In other words: Series 1: Inheritance drama with a soupcon of romance; Series 2: Wartime drama with a TON of romance. The thought made us a little giddy, because that was one of the great things about Series 1; that moment when you realized that the story was bigger than you thought and the possibilities for what might happen seemed deliciously endless.

But then THAT happened.

If you don’t know what we’re referring to, then you may stand with the legions of other people on twitter last night who said “So what? It’s romantic!” If you do know what we’re referring to, then come stand by us and let’s all roll our eyes together.

Look, the very second Robert told Mary and Cora to put aside their fears because they had a concert to put on, we knew Matthew and William were going to walk in in mid-song, saving us all from Mary’s trilling. It’s a bit of a cliche, but it was nicely set up because the episode opened with a discussion about the importance of the concert. Tight scripting allows you to get away with the occasional cliche. The buildup and pacing was (for once) well done and all in service to that one moment.

Except it wasn’t the moment we thought it was going to be.

We thought she was going to run into his arms. Of course we did. We all did. That was the whole point to that long setup. Instead, fresh from the battlefield, Matthew breaks into song.

We almost wish there were cameras on us, recording our reactions. Rapturous (if slightly amused) at the return of Matthew and the impending moment when the two cousins realize they’re right for each other, which then quickly turned to looks of horror and utterings of “OH MY GOD.” and “NO! Stop this right now! Both of you! Stop this!” And then we just laughed. We couldn’t help it. It was so godawful cheesy. Later, we marveled at the actors, who, given their talent and the level of writing up until this moment, must have been at least a little embarrassed by the whole thing but really gave it their all.

We struggled for a while, trying to find a way to put that silly moment in context. “English music hall culture…?” we offered. “Wartime makes people melodramatic…?” But no, it was a moment that could have come from any of a hundred MGM musicals. It really doesn’t bother us as much as we might be indicating, but our initial reactions were overwhelmingly (and vocally) negative. Credit where it’s due: we think a lot of people thought, like us, that Mary was going to run into his arms and at least they managed to avoid going that far with the scene, which might have tipped it over into ridiculous and besides, Mary and Matthew aren’t getting together. Not at the moment, anyway. In the light of morning, we think that MGM moment was funny and harmless, although we fear the coming episodes will be chock full of similarly cheesy cliches. And hey, who knew you could get an earworm from a century-old song? It’s been stuck in our heads for half a day now.

Ethel’s story was another one that didn’t take a Sherlock to figure out where it was going. Cliche? Maybe, but not as bad as breaking into song. Besides, like so many of the plotlines, characters, and settings, it’s not about showing us something we haven’t seen before. It’s very much about picking and choosing tropes from an array of stories in literature, plays, films, and TV shows with very similar settings and themes and then giving them only the slightest of twists. Really, when you get right down to it, Downton Abbey is about re-shooting Upstairs, Downstairs in Hi-Def. In fact, we always assumed the name of the estate (DOWNton) was a slight tip of the hat to the earlier show. We realize that’s a bit reductive, but that’s how we see it.  DA is a slickly produced period melodrama that rarely does anything approaching groundbreaking, but does what it does so smoothly and so well, that the viewer is willing to forgive a lot of it and allow themselves to get sucked into the story.

Anyway, yes. We all saw where Ethel’s story was going, but now we have no idea where it’s going to go. That officer didn’t seem like the type to marry a servant girl he knocked up and Mrs. Hughes’ willingness to help the girl is not at all a sure thing. That was some SERIOUS Housekeeper fury on display when she found them together – and with good reason. A housemaid sleeping with a houseguest is something that Mrs. Hughes would have seen as the very worst of taboos being shattered. And, given what we know about her life and the choices she made, we found Mrs. Hughes’ fury to be a bit revealing. “I may not be a woman of the world…” she says to the Major and there’s the heart of it. Mrs. Hughes gave up any chance of romance, family, or a life outside of service and she’s mostly okay with that, but seeing this young girl break every rule she’s spent her adult life upholding was an offense so grand that she kicked her out before breakfast. Knocked-up housemaids might be a cliche, but the show’s done its job in setting up the character relationships that led to this moment and now we’re fascinated because we want to see what Mrs. Hughes is going to do.

Meanwhile, Bates and Anna blahblahblah. Sorry, we loved these two last season, but they’re getting a bit tedious now. Bates is so ridiculously weighed down with baggage and Anna is getting to be a bit ridiculous with her constant attempts to wave it away. She always struck us as the most intelligent and sensible of the servants, but she’s acting like a silly schoolgirl here. Whenever the two of them start talking about how THIS time, everything’s okay and happiness is just around the corner, you just know someone’s going to lose an eye or something. If these two ever get married, they’re going to be covered in battle scars by the time they get to their wedding day. Like we said in an earlier recap, there comes a time when the problems they’re facing are so insurmountable as to be ridiculous. We know a lot of people love these two characters – and we do too – but we almost wish Anna would say “Look, you get your shit worked out and come to me when it’s all behind you.” Instead it’s all “Oh, we can finally be happy together” when anyone with a brain can see things aren’t settled for them. They’re always standing in quicksand and singing love songs to each other.

And how ridiculous was it that Robert asked Bates point blank about the scandal his wife threatened to reveal and Bates answered with “Just some silly nonsense, my lord?” Uh, no. If it was just silly nonsense, you wouldn’t have fled Downton practically in the middle of the night with no warning. Robert, perhaps  because of generations of cousin-marrying, doesn’t seem to have the mental capabilities to put this together and just accepts Bates’ answer. Come ON. Why on earth would he let that go? And how does he not know about Mary’s reputation by now, anyway? We’re supposed to believe it’s a rumor that’s bounced around the aristocracy for a couple of years now and yet somehow, Robert’s never heard a word of it? The entire Turkish government knows and Robert is still completely clueless?

Cora got a couple good moments this episode. She’s still a wildly inconsistent character who goes from shrewd to gullible depending upon the scene, but at least she sent a message to O’Brien this episode in the only way an upper-class lady would send a message: with great subtlety. When she pitched in at the soup kitchen, that was, in part, a way of saying to O’Brien, “You may have my ear, but I have the final say.” Her interactions with Isobel were a bit less positive, however. The thing is, Cora’s absolutely in the right to put her foot down and remind Isobel that this is her house. However, Isobel is on the board of the hospital and is supposed to share the authority with Cora. She’s not wrong to point out that Cora’s shutting her out. But the aristocrats must always come out on top in this story, so Isobel didn’t just say “Cora, you’re supposed to be sharing responsibilities and authority with me and you’re shutting me out.” No, she got wild-eyed and shouty, cutting Cora off and being totally unreasonable. So Cora gets to tell her off without looking imperious about it, even though Isobel actually had a right to be upset. We think it’s a shame what they’ve done to Isobel this season. Several readers have pointed out that she was always pushy and always trying to change things, and that’s true. But these activities, in S1, took place outside of Downton itself. Her pushiness was reserved for the hospital and the flower show for the most part. When we look at the Isobel of S1 we simply can’t picture her running around the house, barking orders at both the staff AND the family, and getting into shouting matches with Cora. It simply doesn’t ring true in any way to us. And now she’s off to France and we fear she might meet her end there. We hope not. And if people think we’re being hard on Julian Fellowes by always making the aristocrats look the most reasonable in every situation, we have only the script to fall back on to prove our point.  “Or are you like everyone else in thinking that, because she’s a countess, she has acquired universal knowledge by divine intervention?” Isobel asks Dr. Clarkson. What was classist in its subtext is now spoken of directly in the dialogue. This isn’t just about control of Downton. It’s about class warfare.

In other news, Edith is growing up. We thought her moments with Mary, especially when she told her about Matthew, were nicely written and well-acted. It’s nice to see a little growth that makes some sense.

Sybil, on the other hand, is getting hot for chauffeur and awfully defensive about it. Worse, she’s told Mary, who got the absolute best line of the episode: “Oh darling, darling. Don’t be such a baby. This isn’t fairy land. What did you think, you would marry the chauffeur and we’d all come for tea?”  That’s a line worthy of the Dowager Countess (who also got a couple good ones in this episode: “It’s like living in a second-rate hotel where the guests keep arriving and no one seems to leave,” and
“I’m a woman, Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose”). With his promise to stay at Downton until Sybil is ready to run away with him, shit, as they say, just got real. This doesn’t look like lust or flirtation to us anymore and the real likelihood of Sybil running away seems imminent for the first time. It’s going to kill Robert – especially if he ever finds out about Mary’s story. Wouldn’t it be funny if, in the end, all the family’s hopes for a good marriage fall on Edith? How would she handle that kind of pressure?

And finally, poor old Molesly gets the shaft once again. We don’t really understand why he would want Bates’ job so bad. All he has to do is be patient and someday he’ll be the Earl of Grantham’s valet when Matthew inherits the title. Granted, Matthew might not make it through the war and besides, Robert will likely live at least another couple of decades, so we guess we just answered our own question. Poor Molesly. He’s like the Charlie Brown of servants, always destined to have that football yanked away and his kite caught in a tree.

So, a couple of weak – or just plain cheesy – moments, but overall, the story is getting more and more engrossing. And while time seems to move fairly rapidly in this world (we’re 6 years past the first episode), it allows for character growth that wouldn’t be possible if the timeline was less compressed. Granted, no one’s aged a day, and this is particularly noticeable with characters like Violet and Daisy, but it allows for moments like Lord Grantham admitting he loves Matthew like a son, which at first jumped out at us until we realized how long Matthew’s been the heir apparent.

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

      Yeah, lots of eye-rolling for me last night…concert scene; Countess in the soup kitchen; O’Brien and Thomas (who may as well just have handlebar mustaches that they twist evilly between their fingers)…

      Re: Mosley, I got the impression that, after seeing the soldier show up asking for food, he felt guilty about not going to war and just sitting around in an empty house. So he went over to Downton and tried to get involved there as much as possible (while hoping to eventually become valet).

      • Anonymous

        I also think they’re setting up Mosley to do something underhanded. I get the feeling he’s going to go postal on Bates…in an Edwardian, British Valet kind of way.

        • Jessica Rowe

          “Poor Molesly”?  Ugh I hate the sneak!  He’s utterly creepy, not to mention an underhanded coward. Julian Fellows did a perfect job naming him.  No one named Molesly could be a dashing hero.  I actually cringe whenever he’s on screen.

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

          Yes me too!  We know he’s a coward who lied to avoid fighting so I don’t feel bad for him. I think he is going to crack.

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

            I wasn’t sure about that. So, he did pretend to be sickly? What disease does he “have”?

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

              The Dowager Countess lied for him and William but then Isobel undid it. Before the Doctor had a chance to write to the war department, Molesly lied and told the Doctor that he did indeed have a ‘lung condition’ and that the Dowager Countess was only trying to ‘spare him the embarrassment of a medical exam.’ Yeah…right.

            • Anonymous

              Yeah, I’m pretty sure that doctor understood what was actually going on there, too.

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

              Totally agree!

            • Ledasmom

              Yep. The doctor pretty much told Molesly that he had better be busting his ass for the war effort, or he’ll find himself being called up later.

        • Anonymous

          I thought traitor or spy when we wrangled out of service. Perhaps he was recruited to report on the neighborhood officers?

      • https://profiles.google.com/104791269167429064986 Judy S

        In an earlier episode, someone asked Mosely why he hadn’t applied for the job of the Earl’s valet, when Lang was hired, and Mosely said indignantly that he didn’t get a chance to apply. Wasn’t Thomas’s original grudge against Bates the belief that Thomas should have been promoted to valet? That valet job is quite something. I am thinking now as I write that Matthew is going to come home with an established relationship with William, like the Earl’s with Bates, and Mosely will be very easily dispensed with (assuming that by then he has done something nasty). Maybe Mosely should marry Mrs. Bates.

        • Anonymous

          Ohhh, yes, that’s true…

        • Anonymous

          The Matthew-William tie hadn’t occurred to me, but it seems obvious now you’ve stated it. Poor Mosely.

        • Anonymous

          I think it’s more likely that Matthew’s going to dispense with the the valet position altogether once he becomes head of Downton.  He only tolerates Molesley because Robert made him feel guilty but he really doesn’t need or want a valet.  Molesley has every right to feel uncertain in his job. 

          As for William, I’m still not convinced that he’s going to live to see the end of the series.

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

            We think Matthew changed his mind about servants once it was pointed out to him not only that he is responsible for providing them a wage, but that many of them devote their lives to their employers and to wave them off (the way he did originally with Molesly) was quite rude and hurtful to them. Granted, that could all change after the war, but if anything, his time with William will probably make him even more appreciative of servants.

            • Anonymous

              He has grown accustomed to many things he previously scoffed at. Mary, for one. I agree that he sees the point of keeping tradition. As heir he will have to do a lot of things he may find ridiculous. A valet/ladies maid would not be hard to get used to.

          • Anonymous

            When Mathew gets to that stage he really will need a valet. There’s a whole lot of protocol about dressing for  more formal occasions relating to his position. He’d be expected to show his face at state occasions for instance. Mathew hasn’t been brought up to that so he’d need a valet to keep him right. 

      • Anonymous

        I  bought Cora in the soup kitchen. It made me recall when she revealed herself as an Alcott reader. I think that kind of Puritan charitable ethic was certainly much stronger among the 19th century New Englanders of various classes than the more elitist, moneyed New Yorkers, but it’s clearly a myth she grew up with and I can see how she’d enjoy inserting herself into it.

        • Anonymous

          I buy Cora supporting/participating in the soup kitchen, but the way it panned out was just annoying cheesy to me, especially with the evil O’Brien standing at her side…

          • Anonymous

            I agree it was a tad melodramtic but still… a wonderful moment for Cora and a believable one as well.  I don’t think she is a blind to O’Brien’s nature as some do.  She just knows the benefits of having a greatly devoted ladies maid and accepts the rest with a grain of salt.

        • lee66132000

          Cora was from Cinncinati, Ohio.

          • Anonymous

            Pobrecita.

          • Tally Ho

            She may have been from Ohio but it wasn’t unsual for American society women of the time to help out in soup kitchens or other charitable causes. Not too often, mind you, but it still was expected as part of one’s duty.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1202234220 Corinna Cornejo

        Mosley has ambition and ego. While he has done better than his father by working in the house and upstairs rather than in the garden, he still feels that he can do better. He’s flattered at the idea of serving Lord Grantham himself, as we saw in the scene where he and the cook speculated on his chances. He covets that high position. He even tried to court Anna, the sweetheart of the former personal valet when Bates appeared to be out of the picture. She rejected him. As he has been rejected (in reality or in his mind) every time he attempts to rise up.

        Mosley is likely to end up collateral damage in the class warfare that’s going on around him.

      • Anonymous

        I’m totally tired of Thomas and O’Brien.  Especially her curly bangs.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F3HKIK7MIJMBDAQBDWEAQDTXUM theneva

          O’Brien’s curly bangs are such a treat.

    • Anonymous

      “No one’s aged a day.” I was thinking the same thing, especially about Daisy. They should’ve hired the kid who played Walt on “lost.”

      • Anonymous

        They really shouldn’t talk about marrying her off until she goes through puberty.  

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

          The actress is actually in her mid-twenties, so they could have certainly aged her a tad. She’s young looking tho.

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

      Concerning -”We thought she was going to run into his arms. Of course we did. We all did. That was the whole point to that long setup. Instead, fresh from the battlefield, Matthew breaks into song.”

      TLo – They aren’t Americans! That’s why they didn’t run into each otherl

      • Anonymous

        Exactly. And especially ramrod backbone aristrocratic Brits. Emotional restraint is the stuff of legend (and sarcasm). Although Matthew’s joining the singing was a bit much (though even that I could see as honorable Matthew pitching in) I thought the scene was excellent – I didn’t find the concert cheesy at all and the walking in by the boys was (to me) a surprise. I credit Michelle Dockery’s acting that Mary wanted to do what we all wanted her to do, but didn’t and couldn’t. The girl was simply bursting and held back by centuries of convention. And what seems to be a very clueless Matthew.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1202234220 Corinna Cornejo

          Mathew isn’t clueless. He’s exhibiting the same aristocratic British emotional restraint as Mary.

          What’s he to do? She’s already told him (in a letter) that she’s to marry another.

          • Anonymous

            Yep, we had Mrs. Patmore telling Daisy she had to agree to be engaged to William so he wouldn’t get killed. Matthew gets the news of Mary’s engagement right before getting trapped behind enemy lines–the implication is, slightly, that he’s been distracted by Mary’s news and, thus, careless.  We also see that he takes Mary’s stuffie with him while leaving Lavina’s picture behind.  Tells you all about his priorities.

            • Anonymous

              Please. Let’s remember (and I say this like they are real people) that it was Matthew who started the whole thing by getting engaged to Lavinia. Maybe it’s that the S2 started after a couple years and we aren’t privvy to the dealings between Matthew and Mary that left them as ‘just friends,’ but he’s the one who sealed their nevertobetogether. But what’s curious to me is that the series (read: Fellowes) is writing it that it’s Mary whose bursting with emotion and Matthew is cold and distant – or rather clueless to Mary’s true affections.

            • Anonymous

              He seemed less cold & distant, to me, than equal parts clueless (or maybe just unsure) and rigidly holding himself within the established boundaries, given that they are both supposed to be marrying other people.

            • Anonymous

              Please. Let’s remember (and I say this like they are real people) that it was Matthew who started the whole thing by getting engaged to Lavinia. Maybe it’s that the S2 started after a couple years and we aren’t privvy to the dealings between Matthew and Mary that left them as ‘just friends,’ but he’s the one who sealed their nevertobetogether. But what’s curious to me is that the series (read: Fellowes) is writing it that it’s Mary whose bursting with emotion and Matthew is cold and distant – or rather clueless to Mary’s true affections.

        • Deborah Wiles

          This scene also gave us a very nice pan around to the soldiers who are convalescing at DA, thereby giving us a feel for what’s been going on there since the place was turned into a convalescent home (complete with various injuries), and showing those soldiers’ faces etched with varying emotions. Well done. I agree with AudreysMom about Matthew and Mary. Also loved that the Earl took a seat further back and on the aisle, with the men, to watch the rest of what happened.

          • Anonymous

            I did appreciate the pan through the audience. At first I thought they were really soft pedaling the injuries, till I realized that so many injuries which are survivable now simply were not at the time.

      • Anonymous

        Besides, this romance needs to be stretched out over as many episodes as possible….

        Just like Anna/Bates–who will probably keep having obstacles in their way.  And Sybil/Branson–who have never really generated much heat.  Did these two couples just do nothing throughout the Two Missing Years?

      • Anonymous

         I’m embarrassed to say that I was kind of cheering in my head for it to happen, but then realized that these people have never even hugged their own siblings/parents. Mary even said it was wrong for her father to share a room with his wife last season. These people do not do physical contact.

        I also remember being very surprised that Mary would dare hug Carson (in public, no less!) last season.

      • Anonymous

        Absolutely!  It is perfectly fitting to the characters and time period that they DID NOT go running into eachothers arms in front of family and complete strangers.  What Mary might do when the lights are out and no one is looking is one thing, but in front of everyone?  No way……

    • Anonymous

      Would the newspapers or anyone else even care about some stale old gossip that may or may not have happened more than 5(? ) years ago between some obscure diplomate and the daughter of a Earl, when the world is at war and about a third of the young men of Europe are being killed of by attrition? That  they are all so worried  over that mess seems like a weak point to me.

      I liked the bit with Ethel getting preggers. We all knew it was coming. She was a striver and the writer needed her to get her comeuppance.
      I also liked Edith’s story arc, poor thing though,  her father still expects the very worst from her.
      Sybil and Branson, I find completely unbelievable. Talk about a match that would be miserable, I think they would be worse together than Mary and…. anybody.
      Thomas is back to being a mustache twirler. For no particular reason.

      • Anonymous

        I wouldn’t call Ethel a “striver.”  She seemed more like a “wanter” to me.  Gwen was a “striver.” She took correspondence courses, went out and applied for jobs, and ultimately was successful in her goal of escaping servitude. Ethel sits around and complains, but isn’t really doing anything to better her situation.

        • Anonymous

          Ethel was trying to take the express route . Fail.

        • Anonymous

          Good point–and I think we’re supposed to see the contrast–two red-haired maids in the same position.  

          I wish Gwen would come back for a couple of episodes.  Want to see how she’s doing as a sec-retary.

    • Ledasmom

      I am wondering, while simultaneously being far too lazy to look it up, whether the expression used frequently in Agatha Christie’s novels, “in trouble”, would be period for “Downton Abbey”. Ethel was so obviously going to end up “in trouble” that I would have bet on it.
      One minor correction: Matthew isn’t the heir apparent, he’s the heir presumptive, since he could still be displaced in the succession by a son born to Robert and Cora. In the same way, the current Queen Elizabeth was never heir apparent to the throne.

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

        We went back and forth on heir apparent and heir presumptive but we’re sticking with apparent, since it seems fairly impossible for Cora to get pregnant now. It’s been 4 years since her miscarriage.

        • Anonymous

          Sorry, but it’s still “heir presumptive”. To paraphrase Viscount St.George in Dorothy L. Sayers’ Gaudy Night, “Cora might peg out and the Earl marry again.”    Anyone for the Spanish flu as a plot point here?

          • Anonymous

            Ohhhhh!  “Nobody expects the Spanish Influenza!!” [to paraphrase].

            Or at least, I had forgotten about it, & it is impending, historically. Good call, Lilithcat.

            It certainly did, in historical fact and could, in Our Story’s near future act as deus ex machina extraordinaire!

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1017585103 Kanani Fong

            I think the Spanish flu will factor in, but not until later. I’m actually surprised the Earl Grantham didn’t dump Cora earlier and marry in order to get an heir (such was the thinking back then that it was the fault of the woman), but then I guess the End Tail might have something to do with that.

            • Anonymous

              Entail, not End Tail! 

              Aside from the fact that he loves her, depending on how good her family’s lawyers were, the marriage settlement (not the entail) probably would make it difficult for him to “dump” her.  He’s not Newt Gingrich, you know.  ;-)

            • Ledasmom

              Wouldn’t he have had to divorce her for cause, back then? Somehow I can’t quite see either Cora or Robert agreeing to the usual expedient of being caught in a hotel room with a “lover” – I seem to remember that the penalties for the “guilty” party in those cases could be significant (it was a concession on Bates’ part to agree to being the one at fault, therefore the whole going to a hotel with a tart line). Among other things, a spouse guilty of adultery might not have been able to marry the person he or she had committed adultery with (the term, if I remember correctly, was “correspondent” – so-and-so being named as a correspondent in such-and-so’s divorce case).
              Part of the reason that Bates might be reluctant to live with Anna prior to divorcing is that, if he were caught at it, he would not be able to obtain a divorce at all – if both spouses were unfaithful, the court wouldn’t grant a divorce. They would have to stay unhappily married.

            • Anonymous

              Yes, Robert could divorce Cora only on the grounds of adultery (with no other factors), whereas she would have to show “adultery +” (desertion, cruelty, bigamy, etc.)  Theoretically, he could have sought a private bill of divorce in Parliament, but that was extremely rare.

            • jessamyn

              A minor quibble, but it’s not “correspondent,” it’s “co-respondent” – as in, the spouse responds to the accusation that she’s been unfaithful, and the person she supposedly did it with responds with her.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1017585103 Kanani Fong

              Sorry, I was…. typing extraordinarily fast…thinking, not spelling!  

          • Libby Rhoman

            Thank you for the Wimsey reference! It made my morning!

        • Anonymous

          I think that Matthew is still Heir Presumptive.  Theoretically, Cora could die & Lord Grantham could marry a younger woman & have a son. Who would inherit the title. Not likely, but the people who made up those rules are really sticklers for details….

          Concerning “in trouble”–Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End has an upper-class character saying, circa 1912: ‘“You don’t seriously say that
          I, a mother, if an indifferent one, with my daughter appearing in trouble, as
          the kitchenmaids say, by a married man—that I should step in and stop a
          marriage that was a Godsend…..”’

          (Tom Stoppard wrote the screenplay based on that excellent tetralogy–coming to HBO/BBC later this year. Hey, what if more than one character had good lines?)

      • Susan Crawford

        I believe that term (“in trouble” as a euphemism for unmarried and pregnant) was current during this era. I recall seeing it in John Galsworthy’s works published during this era, and I am sure it was in the popular vernacular, particularly in the working and servant classes. And yes, if poor Ethel had a neon sign reading “IN TROUBLE” with an arrow pointing to her belly, it could not have been more obvious. It’s always those feisty servant girls who end up with the baby bumps. (Remember Sarah on “Upstairs, Downstairs”?)

    • Anonymous

      I think Mosely has the makings of a serial killer. He gave me the creeps last night and I’m not sure why. At the Cheesy Moment, my husband, daughter and I just looked at each other and groaned. Loudly. More than once. I actually think it would have been more interesting if Mary had played her hand, run into his arms, and put him and herself in a real predicament.

      For the life of me, I cannot see the appeal of Branson who lives in a snit and on top of that, nastily scorns Sybil’s aspirations. He’s okay looking, but I’m sure a local farmer could do just as well if she wants to go slumming. (Worked for Edith.)

      Bates and Anna are getting a wee bit tiresome, aren’t they? And that Major who impregnated Ethel is sure sprightly for a convalescent. 

      I was actually beginning to feel a slight pang of disappointment last night. I hope its temporary.

      • Anonymous

        “For the life of me, I cannot see the appeal of Branson who lives in a snit and on top of that, nastily scorns Sybil’s aspirations. He’s okay looking, but I’m sure a local farmer could do just as well if she wants to go slumming. (Worked for Edith.)”
        His scorn of her aspirations are the only realistic part of the romance. She is a card carrying member of everything he is
        against. They barely know each other aside from a few boss/employee conversations. Why does he think he loves her, it’s
        beyond me

        She became a nurse because all the boys she knew  were dying in a war that he did not serve in.

        So they run away together. How long would it take after the first couple of rolls before they resent the hell out of each
        other? Less than 6 months.

        • Anonymous

          I kind of like the fact that the Branson/Sybil romance isn’t a particularly happy one–Sybil’s got some seriously mixed feelings and Branson has a major chip on his shoulder.  And yet she’s protecting him.

    • Susan Crawford

      All in all, this was an episode that sent out a lot of messages about where we will be travelling this season. The Cora/Isobel plotline is delicious. Frankly, I like the angry, uppity Isobel, and if she survives her time in France, I see her returning covered in glory and with at least a medal or two – maybe an OBE! Then we’ll see some fur flying.

      I’m also loving Edith more and more. Mary – I ask myself whether wounded men need to be entertained by the wobbly voice of a pretty girl, or whether she’d do better simply standing there and posing gracefully for them. Sibyl – I have a hard time picturing her serving a dish of tea by a peat fire, especially to Violet.

      As for Bates, I want to shake him! Enough with the noble suffering, the secrecy, the hopeless dreaming, man. Spit it all out and get on with life – Anna is worth whatever it might cost you, buster. And as for the clueless Earl? Kindly remove your noble head from your aristocratic bum and confront this thing that “could destroy the family”.

      But – - – if any of these pieces of advice were taken, the story would end, and we don’t want that. Still so many plots to hatch, mistakes to be made, loves to be lost and won, social mores to be toppled and rebuilt – and MANY more amazing costumes and interiors to be ogled. Oh – and Dame Maggie. MUCH more of Dame Maggie, if you please. If you can’t get enough from DA, check out “The Last September” on NetFlix Streaming. Same time frame, and she turns in an incredible performance. As always.

    • http://twitter.com/Unityo30 Unity O

      O’Brien is really getting to me.  Why on earth is she holding such a grudge against Bates?  It makes no sense at all.  It that much time has passed…why keep holding on? 

      • Anonymous

        I asked my SO that last night. His response: “She’s Irish.”

        *shrugs* That’s as good a reason as any offered in this show, I suppose.

        • http://twitter.com/Unityo30 Unity O

          Ha!  Well, my hope is that something is revealed as to the “Why” she is holding one.  Her character & her motivations do not seem to make sense.

        • Pennymac

          As the”Mac” in my name hints, the Irish isn’t far from me. You’re SO is spot on. I should have thought of it first!

      • Anonymous

        Because she’s bored.  O’Brien doesn’t have a life outside her job, so she obsesses about every little thing.  You can see that in the difference between her and Thomas.  Thomas no longer cares about the whole valet thing because he’s got his own non-servant job now and he cares about his fellow servicemen.  

        • Anonymous

          I’m really curious to see where this is going to take their relationship. His gender has always allowed Thomas more opportunities  and now the war does as well. O’Brien is still pretty well stuck at the top of her game despite hating her job, and that’s pretty depressing. 

    • Anonymous

      Agreed about the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland MGM musical moment with Mary and Matthew. I hope Julian Fellows didn’t dumb down the script because America has fallen in love with Downton Abbey. That whole moment just seemed to be taken straight out of a Hollywood backlot circa 1950.

      • Anonymous

        That doesn’t even make sense.  This series already aired in Britain
        months ago; are you saying they added this scene simply for American
        audiences?  Or that Americans are so “dumb” that they can only like a
        show if it has an MGM musical moment? Or that if Americans had already
        “fallen in love with Downton Abbey,” that the showrunners would decided to dumb it down
        for them . . . even though Americans had already “fallen in love” with it?  And, most remarkably, that this show
        wasn’t pretty dumb already?  At any rate, I have a hard time believing a basically silly show like this would need to be dumbed down for the country that
        created Mad Men and the Wire and Deadwood and so on.

      • Anonymous

        That doesn’t even make sense.  This series already aired in Britain
        months ago; are you saying they added this scene simply for American
        audiences?  Or that Americans are so “dumb” that they can only like a
        show if it has an MGM musical moment? Or that if Americans had already
        “fallen in love with Downton Abbey,” that the showrunners would decided to dumb it down
        for them . . . even though Americans had already “fallen in love” with it?  And, most remarkably, that this show
        wasn’t pretty dumb already?  At any rate, I have a hard time believing a basically silly show like this would need to be dumbed down for the country that
        created Mad Men and the Wire and Deadwood and so on.

    • Pennymac

      “The Moment” Hahaha. I was sooo expecting a run down the isle by Mary that when Mathew broke into song I snorted, rolled my eyes, and thought of every Busby Berkeley musical my grandmother had ever inflicted upon me. And as a former soap opera junkie, when characters in love ever say “Now we can finally be happy” re:  Anna and Mr Bates, you can bet that there’s a shit storm on the horizon.

      Too bad Thomas doesn’t have a pencil thin mustache to twirl like Snidely Whiplash.

      LOVED IT!!!!

      • Anonymous

        I must be the only one who loved “the moment”, because if they had run into each others arms (in front of all those people) both being engaged and all, I was going to barf.

        • Anonymous

          I was wondering if there would be a brief, abortive mutual hand clasp (and hoping not, as it seemed even that would be awfully demonstrative, in the circumstances.)

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CNDPMVO4W23R5TVC2QMTJ5BZE Heather

        Re Thomas and the Snidely Whiplash mustache: doesn’t his makeup also look weirdly vampirish this season? Super-pale face and red lips? Combined with that super-fakey-looking wounded hand (was expecting better for a million pounds per episode!), he kind of looks like a low-budget vampire/Frankenstein.

      • Anonymous

        “Dowton Abbey: The Musical!” You’re a genius, Pennymac! Maybe it should be the next Red Nose spoof…

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

          There is a spoof already called Uptown Downstairs and was made as a fundraiser by the BBC at Highclere Castle with a spoof cast – including Kim Cattral as Cora. It’s hysterical – look for it on You Tube

          • Anonymous

            Yup, it was a fundraiser for Red Nose (whatever that is). I’ve watched it so much lines from the spoof start floating into my head as I watch DA now. I keep hoping Kim Cattrall shows up in the real DA somehow. If I ruled the world she’d be Cora’s sister – an American counterpart to Robert’s catty sister, and they’d compete madly to be the best dressed and have the bitchiest lines.

            • Anonymous

              Red Nose Day is the telethon event for Comic Relief, similar to Live Aid but focused on comedy rather than music. It was started in the mid 80s by Lenny Henry (comedian) and Richard Curtis (writer/director – Four Weddings and a Funeral etc) to raise money for famine relief. Red Nose Day is every two years, and people dress up, wear red noses and do various stupid things to raise money :)

            • Anonymous

              Thanks for the info, Corsetmaker. I kept wondering what charity would call itself Red Nose. A home for orphaned reindeer? A cure for allergy sufferers? Clowns never crossed my mind.

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

      Yeah, I didn’t expect Mary to run into his arms. I actually fully expected him to step around from behind the screen she was singing in front of, which would have been even cheesier. They set it up earlier with that “The song needs a male voice.” As soon as Mary said that I knew Matthew was going to show up to sing it with her. I was actually really disappointed with this episode, after loving the first two.

    • E. R. Truitt

      I think that it does make sense for Cousin Isobel to be overstepping herself. It’s been four or five years since she’s come to Downton, and I imagine that she’s become more comfortable with her role as the mother of the future earl of Grantham and also a little bored in a small village. The way she leapt at the idea of the convalescent hospital seemed self-serving (in the sense that she clearly saw it as a project for her to take over) and in line with her bossiness. And I think the disagreement between Isobel and Cora also made Cora seem so capable, but also emphasized that Isobel is just as snobby (not thinking about the servants’ needs and when they eat) and also unsuited to run a large household.

      • http://twitter.com/Selkiechick Selkiechick

        I did wish that when Cousin Isobel was lecturing Cora about having no profession, Cora would have pointed out to her that running that house is a  serious profession. Housekeeper and butler or no, running a place that size is no mean task, and it is a serious skill set that Cora has learned over years.

    • https://profiles.google.com/104791269167429064986 Judy S

      I like Isobel, and I kind of like the plotline that has her trying to take over Downton; she is after all the mother of the heir designate and when Robert dies it will be HER house–we get a preview of what she would be like as a mother-in-law. However, the whole plot line where she goes to France makes no sense tome. She was running a hospital before, and presumably the hospital is still there–it has not been replaced by the Downton facility, but supplemented by it. I was surprised in the last episode that she thought she could be spared from the hospital to supervise at Downton. If she wants to be useful to the war effort, she can go right back to the hospital.
      I loved Matthew’s singing entrance and especially the fact that he evidently did NOT realize that Mary was the only girl in the world for him, but carefully adjusted his demeanor to cousinliness. And she did the same. I guess I am enjoying the quality of lovelorn restraint and repression in these characters, as well as in Bates and Anna. It’s pretty soupy, but in a story in which Mary is secretly praying to God to preserve Matthew, the esthetic clearly has to do with a peculiar kind of high-minded purifying erotic suffering. A crock, but a standard in a lot of literature of the time. The alternative is that little book that Margaret in Boardwalk Empire keeps tucked up behind the toilet.

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

        The house will never be Isobel’s house. She has no role as the mother of the Earl of Grantham since she herself is not a Lady or a member of the aristocracy. She knows this, which is what makes her actions so puzzling to us.

        • https://profiles.google.com/104791269167429064986 Judy S

          You are right that she will never be de jure the lady of the house, never be the Dowager Countess in title. But if she lives with Matthew and his wife, she will run the house because she loves running things. Mary or Lavinia would not have a chance.

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

            If she tries to run the house after Matthew marries, she’d be even more inappropriate than she is now. The staff would never listen to a word she says, anyway.

            • Anonymous

              I for one don’t buy that she would. I think she’d find it tedious and boring. Whatever they’ve done to this character recently, they’ve never remotely indicated is that Isobel has any kind of upper crust envy. She seems firmly and proudly middle class, and the one place that her overstepping of bounds at Downton Abbey makes any sense is that it’s in relationship to her work, not some frustrated desire to be the lady of a grand house. Isobel has always clearly been someone frustrated by her time and sex at not being able to acquire Dr. Clarkson’s position, not frustrated by birth at not being able to acquire Cora’s.

            • https://profiles.google.com/104791269167429064986 Judy S

              I certainly agree with that. But I think that if she had a chance to run the house, she would. She might not bother with a housekeeper….

            • Anonymous

              I’m not buying it. I don’t see what kind of appeal that would possibly hold for her, nor that she’s insert herself into the role of housekeeper and dispense with a pro. What in the world does that kind of position offer to a woman with her kind of aspirations and interests?

              No, I think we’d see her using her new position and social standing to more firmly assert her managerial desires of the local hospital and community organizations. I don’t see that micromanaging domestic is anywhere in her character make-up.

          • Anonymous

            I could see her being successful in bullying Lavinia, but not Mary.

          • Anonymous

            I agree on Lavinia, but I think you underestimate Mary (or at least, Mary’s ability to make life hell for everyone if she’s not getting what she wants). And she’d have the butler on her side!

        • http://profiles.google.com/misslauraschultz Laura Schultz

          but the hospital responsibility IS her turf. 

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

            Yes, we know. We stated that in the review.

            • Anonymous

              I think Isobel’s pushiness is spot on. From the very first, she has been anxious to demonstrate that SHE, at least, knows how to behave in an aristocratic household, even if her son thought it was all rubbish. And she has been pushy from the get-go at the hospital (she was right about the farmer and his dropsy, and wrong about Moesley’s rash). It makes sense that she would become insufferable at this point.

              Besides, if she and Cora got along beautifully, where would the tension come from when M&M finally get together?

      • Ledasmom

        We were laughing at Isobel’s prolonged exit – “I’m really going now – I mean it – I’m opening the door – I’m really going and I’m not coming back – ” etc. Way to maintain your dignity there, Isobel.

    • http://annequichante.wordpress.com/ Anne

      Was that the episode with “You are a lady, not Toad of Toad Hall”?  Because that was one of my favorite Violet lines of the whole series. :)

    • Anonymous

      I didn’t have a big problem with “the moment,” I thought it was kind of sweet, even with the singing.  Isn’t that what people used to do before tv?  Sing and recite poetry after dinner?  I thought Mary touching Matthew’s arm while telling him to be safe was probably as close as to running into each other’s arms as they could get.  And now I have a bad feeling about Matthew going back to the front…

      • Anonymous

        I’m guessing that Matthew gets out of his engagement by coming back with shell shock (foreshadowed as he admitted dreading returning to the front to Mary) and/or physical disabilities. The current fiancee can’t handle it but Mary will.  Only question in my mind is if she’ll have to jilt – or even divorce – her current intended or if she’ll be allowed to lose him as a war casualty or through mutual disaffectation.

        • Anonymous

          Don’t think Richard would take well to jilting, do you?  He’s a blackmailer and Mary’s scandal is probably known to him.

          • Anonymous

            Yes. The next three or four years in the land of Downton Abbey could fuel a decade of a daily soap opera.

            I feel as if DA has reached a delightful critical mass of plots, sub-plots and flat out potential Acts of God. It’s going to be a balancing act between delicious, soapy (melo)drama and tipping right over into mechanistic and joyless stuff that happens, while meanwhile more stuff happens, mostly to cardboard characters we don’t care about and most requiring too much suspension of disbelief.  Some viewers obviously think the handcart is already over-balancing, but I’m still o.k. with the trajectory.

      • Anonymous

        Absolutely right! Think of Emma and Frank Churchill!

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

      Absolutely spot on, as per usual :) I was cheering in my head for Mary to go get that hug, but time period wise Mary has too much “properness” and control to allow herself an outburst like that. This is a woman who managed to walk around the corner before she allowed herself to break down, and even then she still had enough sense about her to muffle the crying (when Edith told her). If she’s not the Dowager Countess in the making I don’t know who is. 

      Our PBS station had a great documentary prior to this episode about the downstairs/upstairs relations. The separation of the two worlds  was so complete, down to separate staircases, underground tunnels so the maids don’t walk across the lawn  and even double padded door to prevent sound, smells and so on form the servants’ quarters.  

      It made certain things on DA just even more ridiculous, and one thing that was pointed out was that the female and male servants even had separate staircases to their quarters and even being caught on the wrong staircase  was cause for dismissal on the spot. If Mrs. Hughes didn’t fire Ethel right then and there, for being so blatant with a “house guest” that would have been on ridiculous thing too many for me. That said, Mrs. Hughes will help her because she blames the officer more then the girl. She may not be a woman of the world but she is quite capable of spotting the weasel this guy is. 

      • Anonymous

        “If she’s not the Dowager Countess in the making I don’t know who is. ”

        Yes.

      • Anonymous

        Oh totally, I’ve said before that Mary is very much Violet’s granddaughter. I can imagine Violet being very like Mary in her youth. 

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

      I started watching Upstairs Downstairs last week, and now I have all my plot points confused.

    • http://smalldog.wordpress.com/ C.

      Sue me, I’m rooting for the Irish bolshevik and the Lady.  To be fair though, I think that Sybil recognizes that her world is crumbling (the very curling irons herald the end of the lady’s maid, the telephone the fall of men of land and rise of men of business, and electricity the downfall of the armies of servants once required to run a Great House).  She’s still a bit naive but deep down she seems to know that the Edwardian era of ridiculous opulence and horrific class division is coming to an end – and she’s right.  An entire generation of men would be virtually wiped out and the for the first time the gentry would suffer the same losses as the common men.  Her chances of marrying whatever inbred, titled bachelor stumbles her way are already gutted and she is realizing that may that life isn’t what she wants anyway.  So maybe a man of the coming times (Irish bolshevik though he may be) is the way to go.

      Of course, Fellowes has an annoying tendancy to not let any of his characters be really and permanently happy, so I’m still nervous that even if they do get together, they’d be unhappy somehow.  That the sacrifice would be too great.  But let me hope!

      • Anonymous

        Cogent summation of why Sybil’s post war happiness does not lie where she’s been raised to think it does. BUT, I don’t think it lies with the chauffeur either, Sewing Siren seems to me spot on as to why not.

        The ‘surplus woman’ problem was a post war cliche because it covered a lot of reality: too many marriageable women for the marriageable men left, too many women who’d learned to do a job left with no job, too many grown women left in their parents’ homes, or sharing living arrangements with other women, discontent and looking for their path.

        • http://smalldog.wordpress.com/ C.

          Oh don’t worry, I think you’re both probably right.  Don’t mind my sentimentality ;)

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

      Does it look as if several of the men have gained weight between seasons?

    • Anonymous

      Honestly, I couldn’t agree less. But then, I was brought up on MGM musicals, and I love a good musical number, cheese and wobbly voice and all. Plus it would have been completely out of character for Mary to run at Matthew; her entire character is built on her need to be in control of every situation handed to her. Upon rewatching the scene, its clear that what makes it effective is not the surprise of song, not even Matthew’s walk down the aisle, but watching Mary’s face as she tries to process his return. In the maybe minute long sequence from Matthew’s entry until the end of the scene, Mary struggles with her joy at seeing Matthew, her panic at the thought of him dying, her despair that he is no longer hers to embrace in the middle of the aisle, and her absolute need to look normal in front of everyone in the room. Beautiful acting by Michelle Dockery, who has got to be the MVP of this season.

      As for the rest of the episode, I think the writers have overestimated the audience’s interest in Ethel. Not only was her “twist” predictable, but I have literally zero interest in seeing where her story goes. Unless it turns out the baby is Branson’s, I really just don’t see how she’s going to hold enough interest from the audience to warrant having her own plotline.

      Speaking of Branson, WOAH buddy! Maybe next time you’re trying to impress your social advocate girlfriend, try not to insult her job. As pretty as they both are, it’s becoming more and more difficult to root for them as a couple, considering what seems like Branson’s total disregard for things that are clearly very important to Sybil. It’s nice to think that love can override everything and that its all just a matter of “if you love me enough” but in reality things just don’t work that way. What I do appreciate though is that Sybil does seem to understand that about the situation, and that whatever decision she makes will be thought out completely, regardless of Branson’s opinions.

      As for Isobel, count me among those who are unconvinced of her turn in character, but I have to admit, I was totally engrossed by her comeuppance. That said, I thought that her scenes with Mrs. Bird and Molesley (who are definitely my favorite of the ancillary characters) were lovely and completely character appropriate. Her concern for Matthew and her camaraderie with her staff made this viewer feel that there is still hope for her character, and that the writing staff hasn’t completely lost sight of who she is, they’ve just gotten a bit carried away with looking at the extremes. 

      Bates and Anna are hemorrhaging interest every time they’re onscreen. Judging by Anna’s professions of joy for years to come, they’re in for another big twist, I’m assuming for the worst. But I just can’t seem to make myself care. The appeal of their romance was its quiet consistency. She loved him, he loved her, and they’d keep trucking along until they could be together. These are not characters that are made for big twists and huge obstacles, and the more they are forced into these heightened situations, the less I am interested in their storyline. Bates quietly responding to Anna’s professions of love? Yes please! Bates’s evil wife wreaking havoc on the entire household and tearing Bates and Anna apart? Um…what?

      • Anonymous


        Plus it would have been completely out of character for Mary to run at Matthew; her entire character is built on her need to be in control of every situation handed to her. Upon rewatching the scene, its clear that what makes it effective is not the surprise of song, not even Matthew’s walk down the aisle, but watching Mary’s face as she tries to process his return. In the maybe minute long sequence from Matthew’s entry until the end of the scene, Mary struggles with her joy at seeing Matthew, her panic at the thought of him dying, her despair that he is no longer hers to embrace in the middle of the aisle, and her absolute need to look normal in front of everyone in the room. ”

        I totally agree!  I was very moved by the whole scene.

    • Anonymous

      Mosley’s been giving me the creeps all season, is he named after the fascist Oswald Mosely?

      • Anonymous

        Don’t think so – the correct spelling seems to be Molesley. But I do wonder if they gave him a name noone really knows how to spell (every Downton Abbey reviewer I read has his or her or their own version of it) because he is such an hapless character bound to be peripheral forever.

    • Anonymous

      Patton Oswalt DA tweet “That long-handled shoehorn was the iPhone 4S of 1916″

    • Anne Coburn

      It’s a cheesy moment from our perspective, but for the time, singing in public wasn’t cheesy–it was totally normal. Pre-recorded music, playing and singing was just what you did. The MGM musicals didn’t come out of nowhere–they’re the end result of decades of people acculturated to singing in mixed groups.

      • Anonymous

        I liked that Mary had a rather ordinary singing voice – in tune, but not exceptional. I thought it was a nice touch and reflective of the era. 

        • Anonymous

          That surprised me as I’ve heard Michelle Dockery is a jazz singer.  I expected her to be better, but perhaps she purposely sang in an ordinary way to fit the character.

          • Anonymous

            She has sung with a band started by – wait for it – Elizabeth McGovern!  http://www.sadieandthehotheads.com/

      • Anonymous

        For me, it wasn’t the singing that was cheesy, but the absolutely meticulously timed entrance of the Lost Warrior Arriving to Join the Lovelorn Maiden in song that brought it way into the arena of fromage for me. IMO, the singing was totally normal; the heavy-handed plot device was just that – thuddingly clunky.

        (This coming from someone who, after a billion viewings, still cries when they all break out in the Marseillaise in Casablanca.)

      • Anonymous

        Yes, there’s a wonderful book called “How The Beatles Destroyed Rock and Roll” which discusses changes in the music industry from the late 19th century through the 1970s – the author explains how music in those days wasn’t associated with just one musician.  Instead, songs were meant to be played and sung at home, making the composers more popular than the artists who interpreted them.

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

          Agreed – sheet music was hugely popular at the time, which is how songs became well known pre-radio days.

      • Ledasmom

        I loved that scene, at least up to Matthew and William’s entrance. When the convalescent soldiers join in singing, and everybody is trying for a bit of normality, a bit of how things would be if it weren’t for the war – tearjerker, right there. And these are the soldiers who came back alive. If anything, I think this show downplays the degree of disruption the war caused – there were villages that pretty much ended the war with no adult males left alive, because (at least early on) men from the same village were allowed to sign up together and serve together, and, quite often, die together.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t find Robert’s obtuseness over what scandal Mrs. Bates would spread at all unbelievable. He bridges the class gap [almost unbelievably] with Bates, but realistically his world is run so that are many things he doesn’t have any reason to know about personally, especially among the lower orders. He’s like a paternalistic CEO of the family, not a guy who started the business/family  from naught and built it up doing every job himself.

      Also, I find it absolutely believable, especially given that the man-to-man old-buddies network is probably entirely enmeshed in the war & its home front consequences, that the one person no-one gossips with, or even hints to, about his daughter’s supposed reputation is her father.

      Came away with three thoughts:

      Lots of opportunity to admire the actor’s craft here. In the clunkier plot points as much as the smooth.

      STILL finding the dastardly plotting of O’Brien and Thomas a tad under-motivated, but whatever.

      Is Cora ever going to figure out that O’Brien’s repetitive striking of ‘off notes’ (re: what Cora wants to happen in a situation, or how one should be handled, or in the nuance O’Brien gives the news/gossips she repeats) is not just random, but a fundamental indication of who O’Brien is & how she thinks?  [Probably not. Because, however chummy Cora thinks they are, O'Brien is the help & Cora, at heart, doesn't recognize the importance of O'Brien's opinions in the machinations of the household.]

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

        Our point wasn’t that Robert’s obtuse for not knowing about it (although it strains credibility), but that he knows Bates left Downton to spare them from a scandal and doesn’t press him on exactly what that scandal was. If it was just silly nonsense, Bates wouldn’t have left, clearly.

        • Anonymous

          I can see that, that it would have been more believable for him to press Bates harder about it.

        • http://profiles.google.com/misslauraschultz Laura Schultz

          I agree with that…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1017585103 Kanani Fong

      Yes, the song bit was very cheesy, and well, I’m wondering when Erica Kane from Pine Valley will come strolling through, or perhaps they’ll throw it all in and Dr. Who will show up in the Tardis. 
      Again, Maggie Smith stole the scene with her looks during the concert. And her line about who the next Earl Grantham could be if Matthew were to be dead was priceless.

    • Diane Bouchard

      Downton Abbey is in Yorkshire, right?  Which is in the NORTH of England. So why does Matthew always “pop in” before heading to London?  Wouldn’t he have had to pass by or through London to get there from France?

      • Anonymous

        He also said something about going “up to London” (from Yorkshire) to see Lavinia.

        • Anonymous

          That’s right. It was an old fashioned way of putting it (some still use it). Partly because of the capital status (think uptown) and partly because the railways lines going to London were the ‘up’ lines and the lines out, the ‘down’ lines.

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

            Ripon, where they all run to do their shopping, is NORTH of London. Either Matthew did not say his lines correctly or Sir Fellowes wrote it in wrong.The BBC satire mentions that they film in Ealing, which is SW of London. So, to go to London, you do have to go NORTH.

            Just read Corsetmaker’s comments. This also makes sense to me.Maybe reality is confusing everyone.

            • Anonymous

              Yup, I know it’s confusing but it has nothing to do with geography. And to confuse it more it isn’t even restricted to London. I’ve heard people from the highlands saying they’re going up to Glasgow when it is of course south. 

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

              And in New England we always say we’re going down to Maine, or Down East, or Down Maine, even tho is clearly north of everything here. Just local idiomatic expressions.

            • Anonymous

              Exactly! Example twins ;).

            • Anonymous

              Neither “up” nor “down” refer to any compass direction on a map. North is north, not “up,” and while I don’t pretend to know the colloquialisms of that part of England well at all (certainly not better than the several dozen English writers, cast, and crew who work on this show), it would be far from the first time that people commonly referred to an area to the north as “down.” They do it in New England all the time when they call Maine “down east” or Mainers “down-easters.” I don’t think it stems from anyone in Massachusetts or New Hampshire being confused about the “reality” that Maine is to the north. 

    • Anonymous

      I agree with so much of what you said, T Lo, although the Mary and Matthew at the concert didn’t bother me so much even though it was the height of coincidental timing and cheese.  The way Isobel is written does bother me and really detracts from what was such an interesting character.  

      I also think Sybil is ping-ponging a bit too much. She seemed quite convincing to me when she told Mary she wasn’t sure she had romantic feelings for Branson, and she doesn’t display much passion for him when they’re together so I’m not convinced this should be set up as some big romance.  It would be far more interesting if Sybil does NOT end up being  the “run off with the chauffeur” cliche and instead goes her own way, not because she wants to toe the classist line but because she doesn’t love him.  That would be something new. 

      I’m still having trouble with O’Brien as a character.  Her motivations to evilly meddle now seem odd because even Thomas doesn’t seem to care to do it much. O’Brien doesn’t seem to be the tender feeling for Thomas she had for Lang yet she keeps on making trouble or avenging his wrongs for no reason other than as a plot device.  I know her hair’s just knitting but I still wonder why O’Brien is so mean.  It doesn’t make her character nearly as interesting as it is could be. 

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

      What a spot on review. Yes, I rolled my eyes at the concert too and, like you, I wanted Mary to rush into his arms but knew it would be cheesy. And like you, I found the Anna & Bates ‘now we can finally be happy talk’ ominously premature in a All My Children kinda’ way. And like you I don’t get how Isobel went from her subtle suggestions re: the flower show to barking orders. Are they going to kill her off in France? Just a guess. I also get the idea from the PBS preview they gave us last night that we might be coming up on Daddy finding out about the ‘scandal.’ But again, like you, I was dumbfounded that he didn’t insist that Bates tell him the whole story.
      I’m also enjoying the change in the gals styles – there was quite a bit of evolution last night. I also have to say that I think they are doing a good job of helping us understand just how WW I changed – and devastated – England. That the fighting was so close and that they were so wholly unprepared for it and that it so immediately changed things forever. For the first time last night, seeing the family dressed up for dinner just seemed odd.

      • http://twitter.com/carelessriver Cassie (C.M.W.)

        The preview screamed “Anyone Can Die” to me, actually, for one big honkin’ historical reason: the Spanish flu. If Mrs. Hughes is interrupting her master and mistress’ slumber for anything less than the modern-day plague, she is cracked in the head. It’s also the only thing that would bring everyone together for a chat with Lord Grantham–he won’t be standing Ethel up on a podium as an object lesson for the nurses. (“Don’t get knocked up! These men will not marry you!”)

        I am oddly excited for this. Given how many people just dropped dead from Spanish flu, the plot is bound to take off in all kinds of strange directions. Or not. I mean, flu would be a really convenient way to dispose of Isobel (I view anyone on the continent as fair game at this point). Domestically, I could see Branson coughing his way to an early grave, and poor Daisy cut down in her prime, especially given the preponderance of young, healthy people dying. Google the subject for a more comprehensive overview, but yeah, shit is about to go DOWN.

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

          You people are marvelous – I didn’t even think of the flu! Of course! That’s what’s going to ruin Bates & Anna’s happiness!

          • Ledasmom

            I wonder if that’s going to be used to resolve any of the romantic plots – I suppose if it wiped out Mrs. Bates, Lavinia and Mary’s fiance, that would be a bit too convenient.

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

      I’m starting to feel like I’m watching last season of project runway. Just too much predictability and disappointment in the storylines. I’ll keep watching though, because I keep hoping for the best. 

      • Ledasmom

        Besides, you know Anna is going to absolutely kill it on the unconventional materials challenge.

    • Anonymous

      The concert’s cheesiness would make Wisconsin proud!  As they were singing, I was picturing them with cheeseheads on.  Though I didn’t expect Mary to run into Matthew’s arms (it would end this endless “will they or won’t they?” story and what would be the point of that?! *cough* BatesAnna *cough*) I didn’t think Matthew would suddenly become Harry Connick Jr. either.  Cheese.

      Speaking of Bates, he is so written into a corner I actually admire Brendan Coyle for all he’s managed to do with him acting-wise.  Both he and Anna are being such starry-eyed mooners that I can see the Evil Vera lurking behind them cackling madly with anticipation.

      I can’t agree more about Isobel.  Her character has been truly shafted this season and I hope she hasn’t been shuffled off to be blown apart or to never return.

      On the other hand, I did like Thomas getting bitch-slapped by the doctor.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he and O’Brien team up with Evil Vera to take Bates down.

      The Ethel knocked up story was predictable and Mrs. Hughes’ reaction priceless.  I really don’t care about Ethel – she hasn’t made much impression – but like you boys I’m wanting to see what Mrs. Hughes chooses to do.

      I just want to see Branson without his shirt again – c’mon, Sybil.  Go Irish.

      I really liked Edith’s scenes, both with Robert and with Mary, this episode.  Very well done.

      Now Robert – WTF? He’s being written like he lives in a cave and comes out only to dress for dinner.  Surely he’s heard rumors of Mary’s lost virtue since everyone and their mother has (and makes the whole scandal Vera threatens to “reveal” quite pointless since everyone knows already).  As it was silly in the prior ep when Bates left, it’s silly now that Robert doesn’t demand to know what the hell is going on, even so he can just say “Oh, I heard about that and it’s got to be completely false.”  I don’t buy that again he wouldn’t pressure the speaker into telling him the truth – he’s had no problems in the past doing that and it really seems like a poor plotting convention to have him so clueless.

      Moseley = Charlie Brown. Ahahahaha!  However, I think Moseley has ulterior motives that Charlie Brown never had and it made him kind of slimy.  I wasn’t feeling too much sympathy for the dude.

      • Anonymous

        As a Wisconsinite, I approve this comment.

        • Anonymous

          “Eat cheese or die!”

    • Anonymous

      I like how everyone, including Mary and Edith themselves, spent this ep basically saying, “lol, the Grantham Girls be bitches.”

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

        They are the Crawley girls.

    • http://profiles.google.com/misslauraschultz Laura Schultz

      Well I think if she had run into his arms it would have been completely cheesy and out of character and cliche. Completely disagree. I think she gave it all away on her face and because she stopped singing, and that was a big enough moment for the room. Anything else would have been ridiculous for the storyline and completely out of character for the times and the characters. 

      Also with Isabel – I think she was set up to be exactly this way about her authority and I find it completely in character. Her turf was brought to Downton and that was bound to bring out conflict in her as it overlapped with Cora’s turf, who is also bound to extend beyond her usual demure self to assert her own authority. 

      However, I DO agree with you on the Thomas point you made from last week. That bugs me. 

      • Anonymous

        I thought it odd/funny that when Mary stopped singing, everyone else stopped singing too.  I imagined those soldiers thinking “What’s wrong with her? Why has she stopped singing?  We must stop also.”  I thought maybe Edith would be singing along and continue, not knowing that Matthew and William had entered the room. 

        Enjoyed that scene even though I LOLed when Matthew did his best Disney prince imitation.  He just needed that red formal uniform to complete the fantasy.

    • Anonymous

      I agree that Isobel’s character has changed in a less-than-believable way. She was bossy, but not to the degree they have her going to now. I do hope she comes back from France soon – her verbal duels with the Dowager Countess are a scream.

      Even if the plot goes all the way to Pine Valley, it’s just such a pleasure to look at this show. The sets are so rich with detail – even the bread in the soup kitchen looked like it was baked in a hurry. The girls’ dresses and jewelry are gorgeous; every time they sit down to dinner I wish I could get all dolled up like that. And the clothing fits each person. Anna is always neat as a pin, but Ethel always had something off a little – her hair was bunched up in a messy way or her apron was just a tiny bit askew. I also loved Daisy’s going-to-the-village hat.

      I haven’t gotten creepy from Moseley, he just feels needy and insecure to me.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1017585103 Kanani Fong

        I liked the interplay between Mosely and the Crawley’s chef. Yes, he really is the Charlie Brown of servants. 

    • MilaXX

      I thought it was bad enough that the sisters were singing, but have Mathew walk in and join in was corny and sappy. yet I found myself liking it. I guess that’s my long winded way of saying, it worked for me. I do find myself getting worn down by the constant black cloud hanging over Anna/Bates relationship. I find myself wanting them to get together just to resolve the whole thing already.

      • Anonymous

        It did make me think– did people really do that back then–a big group of adults singing a pop tune instead of listening to records/victrola?  But then, today we have flash mobs….

        • Anonymous

          Definitely. My grandmother and her sisters and brothers were just a smidge younger than the DA lot (and considerably less affluent) and they all could sing, play piano etc. That was how they spent their evenings, and they bought sheet music rather than records. So it was certainly common amongst ordinary people but I don’t think the upper classes would be strangers to it either.

        • Anonymous

          Yep, I actually grew singing with my grandmother while she played the piano–it was kind of a hangover from an earlier period where that was your evening entertainment.  Being able to play an instrument or sing was considered a basic skill for a governess and young ladies.  It still is for many people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1017585103 Kanani Fong

      Last night, Isobel Crawley entered the well stocked car, not realizing she would emerge from a Blue Tardis on the other side of Paris as Harriet Jones MP. Matthew would be replaced by Dr. Who, and the Germans by Daleks.

    • http://twitter.com/TerraIncognita Terra Walker Mrkulić

      I still can’t accept Thomas’s position of authority in the house.  Is it really feasible that Mr. Carson and the Earl would allow his presence? And what is he supposed to be doing precisely? He never seems to have actual responsibilities other than sit around scheming and ordering poor Daisy around. It doesn’t make sense that Cora and Edith are so busy running things but Thomas just sits around looking smug.

    • Anonymous

      A run-into-his-arms moment would have been just as eyeroll-inducing and far less believable, but this was just…crap. It was melodrama with no pay-off, and now they’re just making Mary look like she really is no more than “fond” of Matthew and making Matthew look as dumb as a post. This was a prime opportunity to have the shock of the moment cause Mary show more emotion than is prudent and have her come off her pedestal a bit (sans maudlin public embrace, please, Baby Jesus) and have Matthew take notice and start to face some internal conflict. Wasted for a cheesy little musical bit that takes the plot and the characters absolutely nowhere.

      I had a hard time feeling bad for Molesly because I find him to be unlikable and there’s something about him I don’t trust. Between Anna’s refusal and having the valet position pulled out from under him, I wonder if they’re setting him up to betray Bates somehow. O’Brien certainly took notice of his poorly concealed disappointment. 

      As for the Sybil/Branson story, I don’t buy that she’s in love with him and they seem to be setting her up as too smart and self-assured to fall for his arrogant insistance that she is. His dismissal of her work clearly advanced his cause not at all. It was something of an Abe and Peggy moment; Mr. Social Justice is just as ignorant and dismissive of the plight of the women all around him as any right wing “capitalist pig” that he views himself as so very far above. I think we’re an episode or two from her blowing him off, not running away with him. 

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

      Excellent recap essay, as always! Thanks.
      I may be the only one who didn’t see Matthew and William walking in on the concert. I expected Mary to break down in sobs halfway through the song and go stumbling out of the room (as she still feared Matthew had been lost). Then they walked in and I thought well OK, I didn’t see that coming.I was SO sure the boys had been captured by the Germans. How on earth could they have escaped – they seemed surrounded! I wanted to see just a wee bit more there to explain how they managed to come out unscathed. It felt implausible when they walked in without even a band-aid or scratch (that we could see). 

      My, but Thomas’ hair be BLACK. Is it getting blacker? And slicker? Something in his styling is making him more – cartoonish.

      Ethel is a very slow knitter (watch her at the table). She’d better speed up if she’s going to be knitting booties and whatnot. 

      When Isobel climbed into the car to go off to France, I said to the cats “Well, that’s the last we’ll see of her!”

      I loved that scene with Molesley and Mrs. Bird at their table where they were imagining him being the new valet over at Downton. It was sweet but also just a little creepy, his giggling, and you just knew it was never going to happen. He IS a little on the squeemy side, isn’t he?

      Sybil and Branson – yawn.

      Anna and Bates – she’s STILL calling him “Mr. Bates”?

       

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

        It went by very fast, but the explanation was that they weren’t captured at all. They were stuck in a field hospital (presumably surrounded or something) and couldn’t get word out about their whereabouts.

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

          Thank, yes, I did catch that explanation. I’m just saying it felt ‘smoothed over’ or too easy to me. Like (with a hand wave) “oh, we just ran and hid and it was bloody scary! but here were are all safe and sound and the show goes on.” I don’t want to see blood and guts, but I don’t know, that whole part of the show felt too Hollywoody. Just ignore me.

      • Ledasmom

        Ha, yes! I don’t think the actress who plays Ethel is a knitter – she’s throwing the yarn slowly, not as if she’s been doing it for long. Which reminds me that I don’t think we’ve seen anyone knitting for the troops, have we?

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

          And no one is worried whether poor Ethel has a beau or not. Granny is worried about Mary and Sybil.

        • Anonymous

          I was wondering about the knitting too. Didn’t the Queen Mum knit socks for the troops, subsequently causing royal ladies to pick up the needles too?

          Paula Pertile, I would have done a spit take while reading “Ethel is a slow knitter…” if I were drinking something. Instead I literally choked with laughter. 

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

            I knit, so I notice these things. I couldn’t tell what she was making, but I actually thought the actress probably can’t knit and is just faking it  (like when people fake play the piano).

            • Ledasmom

              I believe mechanical sock-knitters (you turned a crank to knit) were produced in quantity for the very purpose of knitting more socks for the soldiers during World War I. Subsequently, many of them disappeared into the scrap-metal drives of World War II.

          • Anonymous

            It’s hard to believe a maid in Yorkshire wouldn’t be able to knit.  A friend of mine from the north of England was taught to knit in school.  That there is serious wool country.

            But, yes, the aristocratic ladies knit–so, for that matter, did various men.  I have a book with a pix from Britsh Vogue during WWI of the Duchess of Wellington knitting a sock–and looking as aristocratic as they come–pearls, lace, haughty expression.

      • Anonymous

        I think we’ll see Isobel again.  She is, after all, Matthew’s mother and Penelope Wilton’s a wonderful and established actress.  They’re not going to waste her.  Not when she’s such a good foil for Maggie Smith.

        • Anonymous

          I fantasize she comes home from France having performed miracles of organization and management (and – it’s fantasy, why  not? – maybe learned some life-saving nursing skills at the elbows of the nursing staff and possibly a Great Surgeon) and turns into a powerful force to undermine gender norms, post war.  Putting herself at odds with her son, but, less at odds with Cora and once again, sometimes allying with the Dowager. (Who, I’m betting, survives well into the 20′s).

          The Dowager’s day and the ways she’s upheld are passing, but when push comes to shove there’s a streak of unsentimental practicality in her that will break out, at need.

        • Anonymous

          I fantasize she comes home from France having performed miracles of organization and management (and – it’s fantasy, why  not? – maybe learned some life-saving nursing skills at the elbows of the nursing staff and possibly a Great Surgeon) and turns into a powerful force to undermine gender norms, post war.  Putting herself at odds with her son, but, less at odds with Cora and once again, sometimes allying with the Dowager. (Who, I’m betting, survives well into the 20′s).

          The Dowager’s day and the ways she’s upheld are passing, but when push comes to shove there’s a streak of unsentimental practicality in her that will break out, at need.

    • http://contemporarycontempt.wordpress.com/ Rachel

      This episode’s writing was atrocious. I expect more from this show (maybe I shouldn’t) and the sheer number of cliche’s and random happenings were extremely disappointing. Come on, DA, step it up! You’re better than this.

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

      Call me a died in the wool romantic, but I liked the Matthew/Mary singing moment. It wasn’t a random “break out into song” Hollywood musical moment because she was already singing. It was a house party and the daughters of the house have long been put on display for the gathered assemblage (Jane Austen anyone) to sing and play piano. Her singing was not spectacular, but she gave the soldiers a pretty face to look at while singing a popular romantic song of the day and giving them a “Stand-In” girlfriend/mother/sister to sing along with. That Matthew joined in was simply him motivating the room to get back to what they were doing  – having a good old-fashioned sing along. It also showed Michelle Dockery to be a fine actress as every muscle and bone in her body was clearly straining to run to him, something that would have been cheesy because it would have been so wrong in the situation.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, I thought they both got to Act in this scene and the subsequent brief exchange (where she actually touches! his wrist), and that she came off with the honors.

      • http://twitter.com/VicksieDo VicksieDo

        I agree!  Great post. 

        That is how things were back then, cheesy.  They had no MTV or Project Runway to make them as cynical as we are ;-)

    • Anonymous

      I really had no problem with the singing bit. Downton Abbey isn’t Regency, granted, but I think it’s still within the period when accomplished upper-crust people would do things like sing for and with each other as evening entertainment. Thus it doesn’t strike me as implausible that both Mary and Matthew would have the ability or the inclination to sing a song together.

      Sure, it makes Matthew come across as a tad fatuous and melodramatic for him to jump in like that, but I think that’s sort of the point: he sees Mary and his first impulse is a bit fatuous and melodramatic, because he’s still nursing a crush on her. Ah, young love.

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

        We must have been unclear in our writing because people keep confusing “it’s cheesy” with “it’s implausible” or “it’s historically inaccurate.” We don’t have an issue with public singing; we just felt that writing Matthew’s homecoming that way was a very old cliche – lots and lots of singing soldiers in the WWII MGM days – and one that looks a bit silly to certain modern eyes.

        • Anonymous

          Fair enough! I’m not sure the two are completely separable, though. The kind of “we’ll just not talk, thus drawing out the romantic tension” method of prolonging the romance plotlines they use in Downton Abbey would strike me as really bad, cliched writing in a modern day rom-com. To some extent, because it fits the historical setting, it doesn’t strike me that way here, so I’m willing to give it a pass. (To some extent! Not completely!) Similarly, because I think it’s a plausible reaction from Matthew in his historical context (if a bit foolish-looking), it doesn’t bother me as much. Sure, if Fred Astaire or Frank Sinatra burst into song and dance in the middle of a WWII sailor movie, it pings as a cliche, because it sticks out – it’s not really something that sailors actually do much (sadly) so the fact that it’s a movie convention is obvious. Not so much for Matthew (at least for me) because dueting with a young lady is something upper crust young men of his time might actually DO, particularly if they were a bit foolishly in love.

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

            Ethel getting pregnant is a cliche, but that’s not the same thing as saying it’s implausible or historically accurate. So it is with Matthew singing. Really, our point had absolutely nothing to do with historical accuracy or plausibility. It’s about what the writing accomplishes now, in 2012 and what kind of references its drawing from. In this case, whether it intends to or not, it’s drawing from a whole lot of old movie musicals.

            • Anonymous

              It’s got to be intentional–I think Julian Fellowes is far too savvy and historically knowledgeable for it not to be an intentional reference.  I just keep thinking of how tongue-in-cheek about the 30s, including Hollywood, Gosford Park was.

            • Anonymous

              Yes, but that’s what I’m disagreeing on – for me, the reference to those didn’t get triggered, *because* the scene seemed appropriate to its context. In a different show with a different context, it would have stuck out and triggered that association and read as a cliche to me; in this context, it didn’t. (That said, from the other comments, clearly for yourselves and some people it did trigger that association, in spite of the context. So… there we are. For some people, the context here makes a difference; for some it doesn’t. :) )

            • Anonymous

              I agree with you. It’s context, both the show’s and your own. I thought it was cheesy, but it didn’t recall movie musicals as such, for me anyway.

    • http://toodles.yelp.com AWStevens

      First, I adore Ana and Bates so… I don’t agree with your assessments.  I’m not bored with them and if we only see them sharing a quick hug in the outside cold at night while trying to stay positive, so be it.

      Second, I totally bought Robert not knowing the whole story of Mary and the Turk because he DOES NOT WANT to know…  A war and a lad he considers a son in the thick of it is enough for him to blow off something that may have happened two years ago.

      Third, Isobel and Cora ARE complex characters who cannot be summed up in one word each.  They both let power go to their heads.  And it’s alllllllllllllllllll under the guise of “doing good for the boys coming home”.  HA!  We have two Alpha Females who don’t want to share power.  To be honest, if I never see Cora again I won’t be sorry.  She’s Mrs Hughes but with social standing.  Snore.

      Fourth, really?  REALLY TLo?  You are going to let that c*nt Lady Mary talk to Edith like that and not comment on it??  Mary was dismissive, ungrateful and totally self-absorbed when she said to Ana how she wished Edith had waited until morning because now she won’t sleep well.  Well wahwahwah…  Get out the violins…  I am liking Mary less and less each ep and loving Edith and Sybil much more.

      I agree with you on Molesly being the Charlie Browniest of servants.  And yes, the Dowager Countess always gets the best lines in any ep. 

      • Anonymous

        I think the slept-better line was Mary trying to pull herself together–kind of gallows humor.  She *didn’t* say it to Edith.  Mary made it clear she was trying not to fall apart, but was afraid she would.  

        I think, maybe, there’s a point being made about both Isobel and Cora having a tiff about power sharing because it’s the first time either one of them has really  had the chance to be in charge of something–to step outside their more traditional subserviant roles as women.  Isobel trained as a nurse, but served under her doctor husband.  Cora was wealthy, but doesn’t even have control of the dispersal of her own fortune.  

        There’s a *lot* going on about the changing role of women here–upstairs/downstairs and across generations.  It’s going to affect everyone except Lady Violet.

    • Anonymous

      You two are not being hard on Julian Fellowes at all! The entire episode my mind kept flashing to Simon Callow’s impersonation of him in the Red Nose spoof: “I don’t know how I come up with such wonderful ideas! They just seem to pop into my head! Oscar, Oscar, Oscar…”. His propensity for cliches abounds in both dialogue and story lines. Yet, I sit spellbound in front of the TV every Sunday night. What a sap I am.

      And, as with I’ve done with all soap operas, if they drag out the romance too long I eventually lose interest and stop watching. Mary and Matthew, move it along already! Bates and Anna, if you can’t be together as man and wife, at least have sex. NO, I don’t need to actually SEE it, I just want you two to quit stagnating in your ridiculously bilious stew of a situation.

      And the Ethel plot, WTF made Julian Fellowes think it necessary? I yawned every time she appeared, even “unexpectedly” at the end of the episode. Unless she dies in childbirth and the increasingly featherbrained Cora decides to adopt the newly-orphaned infant, putting the entail into a tailspin. Which would annoy me even further.  Geez, I just want one, just one story line to work out or at least end!

      • Anonymous

        I think Ethel is meant to be a counter narrative to both Gwen last season and Anna’s celibate affair with Bates.  Ethel’s saga is about the cost of breaking the sexual norms of the time.  Illegitimate births happened–particularly during wartime–so it will be curious to see what they do with it.  I doubt we’ll see Ethel getting married to the captain.

      • Anonymous

        I think Ethel’s pregnancy may just be thrown in as elaborate scene setting – the plot equivalent of shell bursts in a battle scene. Soldiers got girls pregnant during wartime and (even if they weren’t officers) couldn’t be held to the standards of accountability that might be enforced had the pregnancies occurred in the more stable communities of peace time.

    • Anonymous

      “Robert, perhaps  because of generations of cousin-marrying, doesn’t seem to have the mental capabilities to put this together and just accepts Bates’ answer. ” OMG, thank you for that! I find this series more and more frustrating, rather than more and more engrossing. It’s become a “background show” for me, something that’s on in the background that I only pay close attention to at certain times, while doing other things. I think the inconsistency of the writing as regards the characters has finally done me in. I realized last night that I don’t rerally care about 80% of these characters, and that’s going to end up being the kiss of death. At the end of last season, I was rooting for Mrs. Hughes, Isobel, Bates/Anna, and Sybil/Branson, but they’re messing with Isobel, Bates/Anna are getting tedious (as you pointed out), and Branson is getting kind of creepy. All that “what career?” business to Sybil. Ugh. It’s undoubtedly correct for the period, but it shows zero understanding of her as a woman and calls his street cred as a rebel into question as well. Run, Sybil, run!

    • Anonymous

      For an alternative version of the Mary/Matthew singing scene (what we wished would happen), try this;
      http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7459303/1/Such_bWonderful_b_bThings_b
      Its beautifully written by two fantastic authors, and is great wish-fulfilment!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MCYPN5CLDIJV7ZUSNS4AR2RSUE Coll

      Trying to get my timing right here – how long is it until the Influenza epidemic hits Downton? Is it too soon?

    • Anonymous

      Language anachronism alert! Dr Clarkson to Mrs Hughes after chiding Thomas: “I think he’s on board.” Ex-scoooooze me? “On board”?!!? Whoa … there’s one way to pull you right out of the waking dream. 
      And on another topic: You two are brilliant. You rival the best critics out there. 

      • Anonymous

        Why do you think that is an anachronism?

        • Anonymous

          According to the OED, to use “on board” in that way is an Americanism circa 1970. To be honest, however, I didn’t look it up until you asked. I was operating purely on instinct, purely on my very good ear.

      • Anonymous

        What makes you think “on board” is of recent vintage?  It refers to being on a ship.  

        • Anonymous

          Yes, but it wasn’t used as a metaphor at that time.

          • Anonymous

            Why are you certain of that?  This was a period when there was an increase in slang/military metaphors.  

            • Anonymous

              See my response to Lilithcat, above

          • Anonymous

            Why are you certain of that?  This was a period when there was an increase in slang/military metaphors.  

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think he said “he’s on board.”  I think the doctor said “I think he’s taken it on board,” meaning the doctor’s corrective instruction.  That seems like a different usage.

        • Anonymous

          According to the OED, to use “take on board” is an Americanism circa 1970.

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

      No matter what, the scene of Matthew and William appearing during Mary’s song was touching and I went with it. Although I understand the value of stretching the arc of the story endlessly, I said, “Jump him now, Mary, or I will!” I wish a tear would have rolled down her cheek (on the side of her face opposite Matthew, of course). As for Isobel, I’m sorry they’ve made her so selfish. She is intelligent and complex enough that we should be allowed to see what is underneath it all.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think she’s selfish.  I think she is a war horse called to battle– and she has tunnel vision as a result.  

    • Anonymous

      I believe you made an error in calling Matthew the “heir apparent”. I think he is the “heir presumptive”. That is, he is currently the heir, but if Lady Grantham gave birth to a son, Matthew’s place in the line of succession would be usurped. The heir apparent is an heir (like an oldest son) who is unquestionably first in line and can’t be moved further down the list by a change in circumstance. Sorry to be a stickler, but I’ve always thought that distinction was kind of interesting!

      • Ledasmom

        An heir apparent can be displaced by a change in circumstance, but a rather more spectacular one than the birth of a son. The monarchy being abolished would do it, and then of course there is the case of Carl Philip of Sweden. Interestingly enough, there was once a female heir apparent to the throne of England and Scotland.

      • Anonymous

        Correct.  And, as I noted earlier, if Cora were to die, Robert might well re-marry a woman of child-bearing years.

        • Ledasmom

          I’m not even sure biological probability factors into it – in the case of a queen regnant in a male-preference primogeniture system who had no sons, I believe the eldest daughter would be heir presumptive right up to the death of her mother.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F3HKIK7MIJMBDAQBDWEAQDTXUM theneva

            That’s exactly right. Such a silly system, male primogeniture is.

    • Anonymous

      I really took the concert scene as a tribute to those old wartime musicals.  It was kind of a wishful thinking moment–where the good things happen in just the perfect way. Not even WWII musicals–WWI and 1920s musicals. Deliberately theatrical and unreal. I’m expecting, though, for matters to take a darker twist, however.  Well, they already did–Matthew’s not staying around and Lady Mary looks like she’s about to be engaged to a blackmailer.  And you know that William and Daisy aren’t going to be happy together.

      And, no, the characters don’t seem to be aging, but they are doing a lovely job of changing the clothes–love the hats.  I want them to never-ever kill off the Dowager Countess.  Violet needs to be immortal. 

      As for Cora, I think Julian Fellowes goes back and forth on how to write an American woman.  Among other things, Cora’s sense of class distinctions seems to veer between trying to be very aware of and adhering to class distinctions and then embracing meaningful hands-on work. It’s not consistent, but it actually makes a bit of sense since we can assume Cora’s family, at some point, worked and made their fortune, but, at the same time, she’s spent 25 years trying to behave as an English noblewoman would. 

      I suppose in some ways, the war allows Cora’s American side to come out a bit.  I wonder how they’ll play with this when the U.S. enters the war.  Presumably we’ll see some Americans.

      • Anonymous

        I’m betting Violet’s good until well into the 20s. At least long enough to get the next generation born. (Assuming DA continues to that  point.)

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F3HKIK7MIJMBDAQBDWEAQDTXUM theneva

        Maggie Smith needs to be immortal.  :D

      • Anonymous

        I LOVED the concert scene.  Yes it was corny, but it was played so differently than in a musical– she didn’t fall into his arms, they didn’t sing to each other– it was a moment of happiness for the whole room– every single person knew Matthew was missing (believe me, the soldiers all knew) and they got to ALL sing a song together in a very happy moment– it wasn’t a performance, but a sing-along.  I didn’t get the MGM thing so much, but more the happy moment at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life– bittersweet, knowing that things are going to get worse before they get better, but that in the moment it’s all o.k.    

      • Anonymous

        I LOVED the concert scene.  Yes it was corny, but it was played so differently than in a musical– she didn’t fall into his arms, they didn’t sing to each other– it was a moment of happiness for the whole room– every single person knew Matthew was missing (believe me, the soldiers all knew) and they got to ALL sing a song together in a very happy moment– it wasn’t a performance, but a sing-along.  I didn’t get the MGM thing so much, but more the happy moment at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life– bittersweet, knowing that things are going to get worse before they get better, but that in the moment it’s all o.k.    

    • Anonymous

      Listen Darlings, I’ve followed you two for years as your blog and commercial success has grown, so I mean this sincerely as a fan of yours, but you two need to stick to writing about fashion.

      This show (Downton Abbey)  is fabulous and your dissecting of every episode is killing it for me.   I know the saga’s are predictable, and the characters inconsistent, but it’s my bowl of candy, damn it, and if I get a stomach ache from eating it – so be it.   Lighten up on the criticism of the writers – or go write your own damn show.   We aren’t unthinking viewers, but we  love the visuals, the costume and homes and countryside, and we hang on every word that adorable Maggie Smith utters.  We come to your fattened blog to re live the fun and enjoyment, and be enlightened.  We don’t need the heavy lamenting about character development, and endless blabbering about inconsistencies from episodes prior – its an escape for us so please try to enjoy it a little more….

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

        Lincoln, This site belongs to TLo, and they can do what they please.

        If you don’t want to read about DA, you are allowed to skip this entry.

      • Anonymous

        Speak for yourself.  I enjoy TL’s “lamenting” and “blabbering” about shows that I follow.  I liked their dissections of Mad Men and I like their dissections of this show. 

        If you don’t, don’t read these posts.

      • Jessica Goldstein

        I’ve been reading since the early days, too, and I whole-heartedly enjoy and agree with TLo’s review of DA. Just as every blog is not for every reader, neither is every thread. Love TLo but hate these reviews; don’t read them.

        My own view is that if a show is worth watching, it’s worth thinking about. Moreover, this show hasn’t been presented to us a juicy soap in costume; it’s been presented to us as SERIOUS TELEVISION. If you present yourself as a Masterpiece Classic, you should expect–and even welcome–the kind of analysis TLo is offering.

        That doesn’t mean you can’t treat it as fluff. Of course you can. You just shouldn’t publicly complain when others take it as seriously as it takes itself.

        • http://twitter.com/mirrormirrorxx Paola Thomas

          To be fair it’s not presented in the UK as SERIOUS TELEVISION.  It’s not on the BBC but on the most commercial of the network channels and is presented as frothy, escapist, Sunday evening relaxing nonsense. Most people, reviewers and viewers alike, understand that it’s essentially panto in pretty dresses and it is treated accordingly.  The Guardian episode by episode blogs treat it in exactly this spirit and are very funny (also the attendant comments) http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/series/downton-abbey-episode-by-episode 

          • Anonymous

            I soooo want to read this, but I sooo don’t want to be spoiled.  It’s a challenge when millions of English speakers already know what happens in Season Two . . . 

          • Anonymous

            Yes agreed. I don’t think Julian Fellowes takes it very seriously either. It nicely fills that cosy, distract from work tomorrow Sunday slot :)

          • Anonymous

            Yes agreed. I don’t think Julian Fellowes takes it very seriously either. It nicely fills that cosy, distract from work tomorrow Sunday slot :)

          • Jessica Goldstein

            Spoilers or not, I must go read this now. And thanks for letting me know how it’s treated in the UK. That actually makes me feel much better about the whole thing!

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

        We will never, so long as we are bloggers, ever understand this attitude that has people telling bloggers how to write instead of simply seeking out the blogs who write they way they like. It’s all out there and it’s all not costing you a dime to read.

        To be clear: we’re not at all bothered or offended that these reviews are not to your liking, nor are we bothered with anyone who chooses to voice such sentiments. But all of this talk about what “we” want, when it’s clearly what YOU want, is just plain silly. This is- what? Our tenth post on Downton Abbey now? You should have been able to figure out at least 5 posts ago that we’re taking a critical approach to this show – as we do with every other show we write about. There are more Downton Abbey fan blogs and fan message forums than you can shake Bates’ cane at. Why not skip our DA posts and go read those? Why tell us how to write when it should be quite clear from the amount of comments these posts get that your use of “we” is incorrect?

        And as for “sticking to fashion,” we’ll continue to write about all the things that interest us in fashion and pop culture, as we’ve done for many years now. Since PBS has asked us to live-tweet each episode, invited us to a Downton Abbey screening to meet the cast, and sent us screeners for the entire season, it seems to us that PBS itself doesn’t fall under your “we” either. Ditto for the Huffington Post, who asked us to provide posts for their TV section. It’s more than a bit insulting to tell us what to “stick to,” when what you’re really saying is “This is what I like best from you and I wish you would only give me that.”

        And finally, we don’t like pulling this fact out because it smacks of self-aggrandizement, but our monthly blog readership is in the millions and 99% of those readers never once enter the comments sections here. There is not only far more to the audience of this site than just you; there’s far more than the comments section alone would have you believe. We have a big audience and we know exactly what topics work and don’t work for them; which is why, for instance, we stopped blogging about Pan Am and Boardwalk Empire. There was no audience for those posts, either because people didn’t like our writing or the shows themselves aren’t popular enough to warrant it. That’s how you let a site or blogger know that you don’t like what they’re doing: you stop reading it. Believe us, if enough people follow suit, the publishers of the blog or site will learn quite quickly that they’re not connecting, for whatever reasons.

        By all means, tell us you disagree with our take on the show. Point out what you think we got wrong. But don’t tell us what to “stick to” just because this one topic isn’t to your liking. That’s just plain rude.

        • Anonymous

          Guys, I love Downton Abbey and I love your posts on it.  Guess I’m just sort of a “tough love” type because my sense is that you like DA–misteps, costumes, scenery and all.

          So thank you.

          Oh, by the way, did you stop blogging “It’s a Brad, Brad World”?  I couldn’t stay with it, but I thought you would since you seem to like Brad as a character.

          Okay, way off-topic . . . 

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

            Thanks!

            We adore Brad, but we thought his show was terrible.

            • Anonymous

              Ah, it seemed awful to me too, but I thought I was just oversensitive to his channeling RZ expressions in the talking heads.  

              Okay, back to lace, velvet and khaki.

        • Anonymous

          Hi guys – thanks for the quick reply.  Wow -I didn’t mean to cause such strong reactions, and I am sorry if I came across rude. Stand down from your indignation, you sound a bit like Newt Gingrich –  (‘How dare you start a Presidential Debate about my personal life…”) 

          Because you seem to have statistics about your readers, you’ll easily know that’ I’ve never written a comment on the thousands of pages I’ve read on your site over the years, and had to create an ID today just to make a comment.  I’m one of the 99% you refer to, and I appreciate that millions of others read in silence.  ( Perhaps to avoid the barrage of attacks from you and your loyal 1% commenters?)Telling you to stick to Fashion was wrong -a bad choice of words on my part.  I am sorry.  I’ve enjoyed many perspectives you have shared on pop culture, media and all things creative.   I don’t follow Downtown Abbey on any other blogs, because frankly I spend my little bit of internet free time on your site.  So  the defensive stuff about all the publications seeking your view is a little un-necessary-  I understand your place in the glamour heirarchy, you are self important, but we love you for that.  Let’s put away the swords, OK?     It kind of sounds like you don’t care if I read your blog, and I don’t think you really mean that.    Surely you are open to some disagreements about your view on a show, and surely I’ll re-think before I ever write something that seems so strongly like an attactk.   I thought I was charming and even witty – good thing I don’t write for a living, huh?Forgive and forget?    Please reply with something nice and funny – and I’ll remain a loyal fan – albeit even one who doesn’t ever write a comment again. On any blog, ever.  So make your reply to me a good one – I won’t reply, and I will let you have the last word.I’ll slip back into the 99%, and I will just skip over the DA bits on your blog in the future.

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

            Sweetie, you’re not nearly as good at the passive-aggressive insults as you think. Very clumsy. Tsk. But we accept your apology, if it means you’ll go back to not commenting.

          • Anonymous

            Please avoid using the word “we.”  I came here from the Lipp Sisters site–because of Mad Men.  I stay because of the TV coverage, although I’ve learned to enjoy a bunch of the fashion stuff.

            Downton Abbey is a posh soap opera with pretensions.  Lots of money & talent are involved but piss-poor writing has really been bringing it down this year.  Some people think they’re learning history from the show–after all, it’s on PBS!  But the rest of us have fun picking it apart.  (Yes, there are still some good bits.)  

            Really, when PBS could be showing the new Sherlock…..

        • Lattis

          We have a big audience and we know exactly what topics work and don’t work for them; which is why, for instance, we stopped blogging about Pan Am and Boardwalk Empire. There was no audience for those posts, either because people didn’t like our writing or the shows themselves aren’t popular enough to warrant it. 

          Hells bells, I wish you guys would write about every show I watch, every day, up to and including The Newshour with Jim Lehrer. My fondest TV wish is that a science fiction series is in the making that could hold your interest as well as the interest of a sizable chunk of your readership. 

          • Ledasmom

            I have started watching shows just because TLo were blogging about them, and I pretty much jumped up and down like a six-year-old at Disney World when they started on “Downton Abbey”.

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F3HKIK7MIJMBDAQBDWEAQDTXUM theneva

              I’m glad I wasn’t the only one.  I’m bummed they stopped doing Boardwalk Empire, though.

          • Anonymous

            Ah, well, that’s the weird thing for me about TLo–they really seem to share my taste in television–Fashion, well-dressed period dramas and SF.  Where else can I read about zombies *and* China Chow’s clothes?  (still would love a China Chow clothing analysis some time.  Hope there’s another season of the lovely little weirdness that is Work of Art.  

        • Anonymous

          TLo, Just keep doing what your doing and 99.9% of this blogship will be very happy!

        • Anonymous

          I can only speak for myself, but in my case it was totally “PanAm,” not you. I just couldn’t get into it after the first couple of episodes. I think I actually read your posts longer than I watched the show.

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

            Quite a few of us will read Tlo posts on shows we’d never consider watching- such as “The A-List”

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F3HKIK7MIJMBDAQBDWEAQDTXUM theneva

          WHOA WHOA WHOA.  Hold the phone. You’ve  been livetweeting the episodes and somehow I didn’t know this? God damn it, I’m going to have to get a twitter account now. >:(

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

        We will never, so long as we are bloggers, ever understand this attitude that has people telling bloggers how to write instead of simply seeking out the blogs who write they way they like. It’s all out there and it’s all not costing you a dime to read.

        To be clear: we’re not at all bothered or offended that these reviews are not to your liking, nor are we bothered with anyone who chooses to voice such sentiments. But all of this talk about what “we” want, when it’s clearly what YOU want, is just plain silly. This is- what? Our tenth post on Downton Abbey now? You should have been able to figure out at least 5 posts ago that we’re taking a critical approach to this show – as we do with every other show we write about. There are more Downton Abbey fan blogs and fan message forums than you can shake Bates’ cane at. Why not skip our DA posts and go read those? Why tell us how to write when it should be quite clear from the amount of comments these posts get that your use of “we” is incorrect?

        And as for “sticking to fashion,” we’ll continue to write about all the things that interest us in fashion and pop culture, as we’ve done for many years now. Since PBS has asked us to live-tweet each episode, invited us to a Downton Abbey screening to meet the cast, and sent us screeners for the entire season, it seems to us that PBS itself doesn’t fall under your “we” either. Ditto for the Huffington Post, who asked us to provide posts for their TV section. It’s more than a bit insulting to tell us what to “stick to,” when what you’re really saying is “This is what I like best from you and I wish you would only give me that.”

        And finally, we don’t like pulling this fact out because it smacks of self-aggrandizement, but our monthly blog readership is in the millions and 99% of those readers never once enter the comments sections here. There is not only far more to the audience of this site than just you; there’s far more than the comments section alone would have you believe. We have a big audience and we know exactly what topics work and don’t work for them; which is why, for instance, we stopped blogging about Pan Am and Boardwalk Empire. There was no audience for those posts, either because people didn’t like our writing or the shows themselves aren’t popular enough to warrant it. That’s how you let a site or blogger know that you don’t like what they’re doing: you stop reading it. Believe us, if enough people follow suit, the publishers of the blog or site will learn quite quickly that they’re not connecting, for whatever reasons.

        By all means, tell us you disagree with our take on the show. Point out what you think we got wrong. But don’t tell us what to “stick to” just because this one topic isn’t to your liking. That’s just plain rude.

      • http://twitter.com/annalizlobo Anna Elizabeth

         Please, speak for yourself. I love this show, I think it’s just as fabulous as you do, and the first thing I do when I get on the internet on Mondays is to check this blog for the Downton review, because I love hearing what Tom and Lorenzo have to say about it. You are not compelled to read the reviews if you don’t like them, but many of us do.

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

      And in the current generation, can we look at a British story without drawing Harry-Potter-esque parallels? ;)

      • Anonymous

        I can, quite easily.

      • Ledasmom

        Don’t know. Can we look at an American story without drawing Twilight parallels?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F3HKIK7MIJMBDAQBDWEAQDTXUM theneva

        Yes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001998855370 Fatima Siddique

      Yes, Ethel’s story line does seem to be going in a predictable route, but I give the writers some credit for shining a light on how divergent her fate is from that of the naughty officer. She’s jobless and pregnant while he’s doing magic tricks for the Lord and Lady. 

      • Anonymous

        The officer has been dubbed ‘Major Pornstache’ on one forum I sometimes visit :D

        • Anonymous

          That is an apt and hilarious name.  He is one smarmy mofo and I hope he gets his comeuppance.

        • Anonymous

          That is an apt and hilarious name.  He is one smarmy mofo and I hope he gets his comeuppance.

    • Anonymous

      I thought for sure Matthew would limp in with only one eye or a huge bandage or something, and poor William would be No More. I am usually pretty good at figuring out the signs and omens, but this time I missed by a mile. So, yes, I saw Matthew parading into the concert, but I thought he’d be fainting and weakly gasp, “William. Dead.” Oh well. Meanwhile, my viewing companion was really indignant about that moment, because she was hoping Matthew would be the one to kick the bucket. I told her, he’s the romantic hero, that ain’t happening. But she was hoping. Not because she dislikes Matthew that much, but because she is tired of the Matthew and Mary Saga.

      I am also sad about Isobel, but my goodness, she was being a snot. And I loved the soup kitchen subplot, and felt bad for Moseley. Bates and Anna are just too swampy for me. I need a break from them. And especially from Bates and his martyr syndrome. Although O’Brien and her “I can hold a grudge longer than you” confused me. Why is she holding a grudge against Bates? I thought she had decided not to be such a beyotch after the whole bar of soap thing, but now she’s worse than ever. She’s all Mrs. Danvers, the first generation, with Thomas as her Rebecca. Her hair continues to crack me up.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1046681022 Paula Berman

      Is it just me, or does Sybil seem like maybe she really isn’t in love with Branson? That she’s more in love with the idea of being a free spirit? He’s so pushy and a little stalkerish/crazy. I wonder how it will go down if she rejects him… will he take it in stride, or will he freak out and not take no for an answer? I’m concerned, frankly.

      I just don’t see how Matthew is going to get out of the Lavinia thing. She seems like a nice person, and he seems in love. Would he really dump her for Mary? It’s not very Matthew-like. That knot is getting knottier and knottier. I wonder if Lavinia would stick by him if Matthew were injured? She doesn’t seem like the type to dump him, but maybe he would become depressed and dump her. I can’t imagine any other way out of it. Thoughts?

      • Anonymous

        “she’s more in love with the idea of being a free spirit?”

        Oh yes, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Plus throw in the fact that it’s awfully risky (see: Ethel) to have sex but Mama Nature wants everyone young & healthy to do it so Sybil (like all the women and most of the men) is just awash with repressed lust looking for an object.

      • Anonymous

        I’m going with Matthew coming back shellshocked and possibly injured and his intended can’t handle it. Missing a limb is one thing, but a mental issue would be even scarier then than it is now – and PTSD isn’t something we’re all that great at handling even today. In the WW I era a lot of people saw it as the result of mental weakness or even ‘poor moral fibre.’  And there was little understanding of how, or if, someone would recover.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1046681022 Paula Berman

          You know that Richard Carlisle won’t take being dumped lightly… I’m sure he’ll publish something nasty in his paper.  Maybe that’s how the Pamuck thing will finally come out. Then it’ll be Matthew or bust, b/c no one else in Britain would marry her. Or maybe (horrors!) an American.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed about Branson being “a little stalkerish/crazy.”  His whole dismissal of her career was crappy and I hope she dumps him.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed about Branson being “a little stalkerish/crazy.”  His whole dismissal of her career was crappy and I hope she dumps him.

      • Anonymous

        I’m with you, I’ve never seen any indication that she’s felt anything but friendship and a sheltered girl’s fascination toward him. If they wrote Sybil as simpering and dangerously forward as Ethel or as insecure and desperate as Edith (though she’s coming into her own more and more every day), I might buy that she’s falling for this. Or if it seemed like class and position was all that was keeping them apart as opposed to a sincere lack of mutual understanding and Sybil not even being sure of liking him romantically, let alone loving him. 

        Sybil and their situation as written, though? I think this one’s a non-starter. 

      • Anonymous

        I wonder if Lavinia would stick by him if Matthew were injured?

        Lavinia stole parliamentary secrets to protect someone she loved.  So I doubt she’d be troubled by a war wound, of whatever severity.

        • Anonymous

          And, yet, she’s really being made to seem out of place as a future countess of Downton Abbey, whereas Matthew is being made out as a sort of natural leader of men.  So I can’t see Lavinia really sticking around.  Not with Julian Fellowes sentimental toryism.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1017585103 Kanani Fong

      It does. Though the uniform and the cut could have something to do with everyone looking a bit bigger. Though I have to say, if you look at old WWI photos, and also know the conditions of the trenches and the shortage of food –both Matthew and William should be a great deal thinner.

      • Anonymous

        As should, on average, the recuperating invalids. That struck me forcibly in the group scenes.

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

        Here are some photos:

        http://firstworldwar.com/photos/medical.htm
        The ones at Blenheim Palace don’t look too good.

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

        Here are some photos:

        http://firstworldwar.com/photos/medical.htm
        The ones at Blenheim Palace don’t look too good.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks for that link.

    • Anonymous

      “Tlo said: “English music hall culture…?””

      The Brits also have panto culture, which is completely absurd.

      The other day I met a British tourist and we started talking about Downton Abbey. I said that the Brits do period drama better than anyone else. And she replied, ‘Well, we own the period.’ 

      Tis true, they do.

      –GothamTomato

    • Anonymous

      At some point someone  needs to break down and tell Matthew about Mary’s true feelings, but I know this story is stretching out over years – so I can’t expect it anytime soon.  I agree that the Bates/Earl  conversation was ridiculous and the Earl seems like he would pursue the issue, but for storytelling reasons he does not.

    • Anonymous

      We’re only five years past the first episode. Sybil says to Branson “I thought you’d join the rising in Dublin last Easter”. Which would make it 1917, the year after the Easter rebellion.
      Why isn’t Isobel stil working in the hospital? Downton was opened as a convalescent hospital; I don’t think that means they closed the acute hospital. Isn’t she still needed there? Major Clarkson as well, for that matter.

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

        The episode opens with a caption that says “1918.”

    • Anonymous

      I’m glad to see that I was not the only one thinking that Matthew and Mary were going to run into their arms…… :-) Such a tease!!!
      But I’m a hopeless romantic: Anna and Mr. Bates make me smile with their longing stares to each other….

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1185123018 Melissa Protzek

      “He’s like the Charlie Brown of servants…..”  HILARIOUS.

    • Anonymous

      Regarding the change in Isobel, in addition to the change in her personality did anyone else think she had a change in her physical appearance?  In the past she was a handsome woman who dressed smartly, if not extravagantly, and had a pleasant face.  In this episode she appeared much plainer and more severe in appearance with barely any color in a noticeably lined face.  True, that could be due to the physical and mental exertion of taking on all the responsibilities that she did, but I also wondered if it was a step taken by the producers to make her seem less likeable that she had been in the past.

      • Anonymous

        That’s quite possible.  In the previous series, Isobel dressed quite nicely.  But Cora is definitely prettier–so she must be “right.”  Just as they do weird things to Edith’s hair–and give Mary lovely, swooping eyebrows that are NOT natural.  

        Poor Lavinia is dressed to look a bit dowdy.  And Mary’s “intended”–Ser Richard–may be older but looks much hotter in Game of Thrones.  Therefore, Mary & Matthew must be destined for each other–because they’re The Prettiest!

        More Fashion Notes: I didn’t recognize Little Daisy in her hat; she looked as though she’d reached the age of consent.  And a hat suited O’Neill–because it hid that dreadful hairdo.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F3HKIK7MIJMBDAQBDWEAQDTXUM theneva

          Ladies have been grooming their eyebrows for, well, basically as long as we’ve had eyebrows. It’s not so crazy that Mary would have hers shaped. 

          And I always liked Edith’s hair, especially in S1. :( 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F3HKIK7MIJMBDAQBDWEAQDTXUM theneva

      When Mrs Hughes said “I may not be a woman of the world” to the major, I thought she meant the World, as in fashionable society. 

    • lee66132000

      Good grief!!! Could that scene with Mary and Matthew BE any more cheesier? I haven’t seen such ham and cheese in a television series in years. Mary and Matthew have gone from an interesting and witty romance, to an over-the-top love story, straight from a Barbara Cartland novel.

    • Anonymous

      I haven’t read all 254 comments (!) but I think I have a slightly dissenting opinion about Isobel.  It has been pointed out that time has passed since Season 1 (witness Lord Grantham’s love for the once-despised Matthew).  Isobel in Season 1 was finding her place, establishing herself as someone who knew how to act– but it was also clear that she was a physician.  (I call her this because many nurses of the era, my own grandmother included, were smart enough to have been doctors– if only they had been allowed.  I think that Isobel falls into this category.)  At any rate, over the intervening time between Season 1 and 2, she has grown comfortable in her role as the mother of the future Earl of Grantham (I don’t understand titles– will she be dowager-something when Matthew inherits?), and that has given her both confidence and status.  With the war, she has returned to her own real calling in life, and get out of the way!  

      The good doctor is (somewhat) right that the house is for convalescence– Isobel’s abrasiveness may in part be due to the under-utilization of her nursing and organizational skills– in a real hospital, she would be saving lives, not arguing with a privileged woman about what time lunch is.  Her dishevelment is a sign of her stress about doing her best at the job at hand– I don’t think it’s an effort to make us not like her, but to emphasize the difference between her complete focus on others and Lady Grantham’s continuing focus on proper deportment.  

      I think she will be back, and I think she will be once again a hero, having found her footing again.  Lastly, if there are any Enneagram folks about, isn’t she just a classic “two”?   Giving, giving, giving, and being bitter when what she is giving is not what is wanted?  

    • Anonymous

      No spoilers, just love – I just finished watching the Christmas special (ordered from UK) which PBS will air at the end of Season 2. I found it more enjoyable than season 2. So glad it is being aired here immediately after season 2 finishes. I think you will all really like it. 

    • butter nut

      i dont care that it’s cheesy.  it’s just a big romantic fantasy.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=818790248 Andrea Grenadier

      Yo, bitches: http://www.gq.com/entertainment/movies-and-tv/201202/downton-abbey-season-two-pbs

    • Anonymous

      The thing that impresses me most about this show is the emotional restraint that everyone shows. In a modern, American show, everyone would be hugging each other every two minutes. In this show, however, we only get fingers brushing to show support, such as when Cora passes Mary on the way to the concert. Which is why I never expected Mary to run down the aisle and fling herself into Matthew’s arms when he shows up. The lack of physical contact between people really heightens the tension nicely. 

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

        Restraint is a very British thing. Just watch both versions of Antiques Roadshow. Tell someone on the US version that their item is worth $10,000.00 and they start gaping and jumping around. On the UK version they’re more likely to say “Oh my……really???”

    • Megan Patterson

      Man, there is no way Mary Crawley was going to run into Mathew’s arms IN PUBLIC even if they did decide to throw away their prospective fiance(e)s and marry each other. She is waaaaay too proud.

    • Tally Ho

      The aristocracy rarely divorced back in those days. You married, you were married for life. It would have caused huge scandals had Robert tried to divorce Cora and he would have been seen as “ungentlemanly.” There were plenty of aristocratic families that didn’t have sons but the married couple simply never divorced in hopes of remarrying to get an heir out of someone else. One just didn’t do that sort of thing.

    • Tally Ho

      Don’t forget that Isobel already has a cook, maid and valet/butler in her own “little” cottage.

      She’s not interested in domestic issues. If she were ever to live at Downton Abbey with Matthew, she’d gladly hand over household management to the servants and simply focus on using the house and whatever social influence she has as the mother of the earl for good social causes.

      People seem to forget that while Isobel and Matthew Crawley weren’t aristocrats but comfortably off professional middle class people, they were still used to having servants and being much higher up the social hierarchy than most normal people in Britain. If the aristocracy & landed gentry consisted of 1% of the population, then the professional middle classes might consist of another 5%. Then you had possibly 10% lower middle class. The rest of the 84% were working class or poor.

    • Anonymous

      It occurs to me that Isobel may be so controlling and bossy because she’s freaking out about her son being at war and she feels like she’s lost control of the thing that matters most to her. Of course, were that the case, they might have her realize it at some point. It’s probably just the way she’s being written that makes her act that way, but certainly in her situation, I might feel and behave similarly, as abhorrent and out-of-character as it seems.