Downton Abbey: How to Grieve Fabulously

Posted on January 06, 2014

Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey, on PBS.

When we sat down to twitter our way through last night’s 4th season premiere of Downton Abbey, we asked ourselves (And the twittersphere generally) the big question: Will Lady Mary bear her enormous grief nobly and with character or will she lapse into being the cold bitch with the razor sharp tongue that everyone loved to hate before Matthew put a muzzle ring on her?

We are happy to report that Lady Mary grieves in much the same manner she floats through a dinner party; by being devastating and by cutting off anyone who gets impertinent with her. Never did so many (relatively) plain black frocks look Vogue-cover worthy. We’ll say this about Mary: she definitely knows how to catch the light. Even when that light is early-morning Yorkshire or the glare of an electric lightbulb in the butler’s office, she always looks perfectly poised and posed to show the world how much she’s suffering and how little she thinks of the rest of it for not suffering along with her.  Also: her jawline and cheekbones.

Expectations were not high for Downton’s fourth season; at least not in this house. With the hilariously peevish way show creator Julian Fellowes dispatched lead character Matthew Crawley, who sat at the epicenter of the story from the very beginning of it, we had little hope that there was going to be a story worth watching going forward. And while we’d never accuse Downton Abbey of being anything but a very pretty soap opera, we were pleasantly surprised to see that, for this two-hour opening at least, it’s a fairly well-crafted soap opera. Sure, there were the usual pacing problems that have always plagued this show; the sudden unexplained turnarounds in character or the way it tends to shuffle people in and out of the story but gives them nothing to do otherwise, which tends to render the whole of Downton Abbey like an animatronic funhouse ride in a Disney theme park. Aristocracy Land, where little figures of Mrs. Patmore or Lady Edith buzz, click and whirr their way back to life in the brief moments when the spotlight is upon them and then shut down when it’s someone else’s turn. But the story rolled along nicely last night, taking us with it. We found ourselves genuinely interested in and curious about most of the main characters and where they’re headed under the new status quo.

Mary is, as we noted, the main player in the story, as she always has been. There were times in the past where we felt the show focused way too much on the oldest, arguably prettiest Crawley daughter, but let’s face it: she was the whole reason to tune in this episode. We wanted to see how she was handling both her grief and her motherhood. It turns out, she’s not doing all that great and the main narrative thrust of the premiere wisely focused on this, with her entire family as well as several of the more connected servants concerned mainly with Lady Mary and how to get her out of her massive funk. It’s very interesting to note that the two people most responsible for getting her back on her feet were Carson and Tom Branson. The first is no real surprise, since he’s always been her second, more emotionally available (which is saying something, considering how uptight he is) father. But it’s hard not to notice the sudden rapport she and Tom have with each other. And it’s a credit to Fellowes that it all feels quite natural. Not that there’s a romance on the horizon for these two (although there were a couple scenes there that strongly hinted at it), but the fact of their lives have brought them together. They are both grieving single parents, after all. And they’re bound together by their responsibilities to the estate. But it’s all rather awash in irony, since the ridiculously aristocratic Lady Mary’s closest friends now appear to be servants or former servants and since the former revolutionary terrorist (arguably) is now consumed with running a massive estate. There’s a rich amount of story to mine from this and we’re happy to see that Fellowes seems to realize that.

Of course we laughed long and hard at the silliness of Matthew’s hastily scrawled will, found months after his death and including a tear-inducing final note. It made not the slightest bit of sense that Matthew wouldn’t have a will. In fact, we doubt very much he would have even been allowed not to have one, once he became the heir presumptive of the estate and married the Earl’s daughter. But the fact that it was found shoved in a box long after he was put in the ground was just too much for us to take. “Was it found under Lavinia Swire’s deathbed letter?” we asked the screen. “Or did he scrawl it on the back of Mr. Swire’s will?” At this rate, we fully expect a goofily-acted burn victim to show up on the doorstep claiming to be Matthew.

In other Downton news, Lady Edith has a stunning new wardrobe and no fucks left to give. It’s a true pleasure watching her come into her own, away from her oppressive family and bitchy older sister. It says something that Mary herself, even in the midst of her grief, appears to be at least a little impressed with Edith and the way she’s living her life at the moment. Who wouldn’t be? She’s swanning around 1922 London in a succession of gorgeous outfits, on the arm of a very attractive man (with a BOATLOAD Of red flags and issues, it has to be said).

And we thought we’d hate to admit it, but we find it rather easy to like Lady Rose. We’re going to be pilloried for saying this, but Lady Sybil was a boring character played by a charisma-free actress. Rose is annoying, but she’s a fun annoying. That house desperately needs some lightness and recklessness in it. And how better to portray the coming Jazz Age by plopping a Jazz Baby right smack in the middle of the estate. Give her this: the girl’s got game. She had an adorable little tweedy boy following her around like a puppy from the second she entered that dance hall. We also like how Anna’s becoming something of a mentor to her.

Which brings us to the downstairs portion of the house. Always fun to watch the goings-on, but we can’t tell you how bored we are by the Jimmy/Ivy/Alfred/Daisy love rectangle (which feels very last season) and how coma-inducing the Bateses are. We honestly wish they’d kill Mr. Bates off. The longer he’s on the show, the more everything he does looks creepy and suspicious. We don’t think that’s the intent of the writer; we just think too much darkness has been piled onto this one character and not for the first time we found ourselves wondering if he really did murder his first wife. Kill him off to give Anna something to do besides babysit Lady Rose and fret over Lady Mary.

Surprisingly, we didn’t mind seeing the back of Miss O’Brien. As much as we loved the character, the show needs to keep moving forward in order to remain at least somewhat fresh. We were annoyed with the return of Edna Braithwaite, mainly because it seems so unlikely (even if Cora’s been repeatedly shown to be utterly clueless when it comes to downstairs politics) but also because, along with the return of Cheerful Charlie to vex Mr. Carson, it didn’t feel like the show was moving forward at all. Too much recycling of old characters whose stories had effectively ended. Time for new blood at Downton. Unfortunately, Nanny West didn’t last long enough to do anything but make Thomas look good once again. “Oh Robert, we owe so much to Barrow. Let’s pretend he never stole from us or sexually assaulted a male servant!”

Let’s see… what else? The annual ritual humiliation of Molesly continues. Isobel ripped our hearts out in more than one scene and we loved Mrs. Hughes for effectively taking her under her wing – especially since that cold-as-ice family seemingly couldn’t be bothered. Robert continues to be an insufferable ass, which is almost comforting in its regularity. Cora is, as noted, the Dumbest Countess in England. The Dowager is sui generis and above our feeble attempts to classify her. She is, quite simply, perfection. Although we did love finding out that her butler is a scheming, judgmental bitch. How very appropriate.

It was a solid, fun opening. We can see where Fellowes is likely to fall into some of the same narrative traps again, but for now, we’re fine to just sit on the couch and watch where things go. We thought it was a dead show at the end of last season, but there’s still some life in the old girl.

 

 

 

 

[Photo Credit: Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE]

    • MelVT

      I want to see more of cute dancing guy. Surely the Abbey needs a new under gardener?

      • Kate Andrews

        Under-gardener sounds dirty!

        • ImpertinentVixen

          Wasn’t Lady Chatterley under the gardener???

          • Eric Stott

            under the gameskeeper

            • ImpertinentVixen

              Still, though!

        • MelVT

          Who better to tend to the “special needs” of Rose, not to mention Daisy and Ivy, than a gardener?

    • JenniferA

      Enjoyed the episode, agree with your points above but I must chime in that I missed the opening sequence and theme! We were deprived.

      • lostonpolk

        I loved that the episode opened with the night-time, dark version of the traditional opening. I also noticed that the second hour started with the same shot, but at daytime again. That’s imagry, baby!

      • Marcia

        I’m thinking “dog butt” will return next week.

    • gabbilevy

      I watched season 4 when it aired in the U.K., and it’s refreshing to see you guys felt similarly. Downtown recovered from a truly horrendous 2012 Christmas special to get me genuinely interested in these people again. Enjoy the season — I did :)

    • kanester

      The scene where Mary was talking to Edith about Valentine’s Day was perfection. Michelle Dockery’s face is a painting, and her monotone “Have fun” was great. Loving Edith so far! Her costumes are gorgeous and I’m rooting for her this season.

      • Chris

        It’s sad but so true to character- those two have always had a hard time even attempting to be happy for the other one’s successes. It reminds me of last season when Edith’s editor mentioned how glamorous Mary seemed and Edith responded with something like ” yes people say so.” I too am wishing good things for Edith this season. But then I do every season- and I’m still wishing.

      • rainwood1

        Lady Mary was close to doing a full-on Mrs. Danvers as she came down the stairs. I expected her to go looking for the first Mrs. DeWinter.

        • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

          That is brilliant!

    • jenno1013

      I totally agree about Fellowes’ bad habit of letting the characters be frozen in place until the camera points at them, so that they pick up from their last scene regardless of how much time and action has transpired elsewhere. What the hell was Molesly doing around Downton for the last six months that they didn’t let him go until now?

      Wait, did I just ask for logic in soap opera writing?

      • Kate Andrews

        I got the feeling that they were keeping him around while he looked for a job — a fruitless search, sadly.

        • Eric Stott

          I rather think they kept him around because they respect his father- more than they respect him.

    • heartbot

      I love how they basically spun the death of Matthew to remind us that the entire show is basically about Mary taking over the estate. It was set up in the very first episode of the show, got lost a little in her romance and marriage to Matthew, and is now front and center again. It almost seems like it was intentional, rather than the result of one of the actors deciding to leave the show.

      • Eric Stott

        She’s had a rather cold businesslike aspect to her character from the very beginning (every bit inherited from her Mother’s side) and now we’ll see it come out. She should marry Branson- there would be no pretense that it was anything but a merger of interests.

        • Tally Ho

          Regarding your last sentence, Branson is only an agent, he has no commercial ownership or interest in the estate. Mary wouldn’t gain anything by marrying him.

          • Eric Stott

            She’d might have firmer control of the estate, and she’d have more legal control over the child Sybil. But you’re right, it wouldn’t serve a major point.

            • heartbot

              No, she wouldn’t gain much from it, and I think she and Tom make good business allies, but would be terrible in a relationship together. Too much sass all the way around to make for a happy marriage.

            • Tally Ho

              We’re going to see more examples of Tom’s divided place in the DA world. He’s an Irish revolutionary at heart and will never feel completely at home with the aristocracy, whereas Mary was to the manor born and is determined to never be anything but an aristocrat.

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

              Please keep your comments restricted to the episodes being discussed. In other words, no spoilers.

            • Tally Ho

              It was just a guess!

            • Eric Stott

              I agree- that was pure speculation, though you can sometimes see Fellowes’ plot points a mile off.

        • Shawn EH

          Tom respects her, clearly; but I don’t think he could love her. She’s like the Anti-Sybil.

      • SewingSiren

        Right you are. Lady Mary has been seemingly willing to marry anyone related to her to keep the estate herself, and then arrange for them to die. Although I can’t figure how she sunk the Titanic (maybe that was just luck). I sincerely hope they keep that baby safe from her, cause he’s in real danger.

        • Lilithcat

          But if she arranged to sink the Titanic, then she was hoist by her own petard. It was her fiancé’s death, after all, that started all the trouble in the first place. If she’d waited to off him until they’d married and had a son, she’d have been sitting pretty.

    • Claudia Fernandes

      It was already broadcasted in Portugal, i hope we continue to see it the same way.

    • Frank_821

      Actually I didn’t like that Thomas is almost completely reverted to where he was by the end of season 2. They didn’t even show him having any interaction with Jimmy. And that Edna is a tramp and bore.

      I did like Thomas sticking it to the Nanny. Some critics keep claiming he was lucky it turned out she was a real menace to little Miss Sybie as Thomas calls her. Clearly he suspected there was something not right about her in regards to Sybil’s child. It was more than her being a bossy old broad trying to lord over her position over him. At least that’s something they carried over from last season

      • SewingSiren

        Yes. That was my feeling too. Thomas’s action regarding the nanny wasn’t entirely self serving.

        • BayTampaBay

          True, but I think Thomas DOES care for that child in a special way due to the friendship/relationship he had with Lady Sybil.

        • Frank_821

          Oh for sure he took pleasure in taking her down for kicks. But she definitely got on his bad when she dismissed his relationship with Lady Sybil. I loved how his tone in his reply was “bitch please!”

      • Wool Worth

        One thing that bugged me about Thomas was his helping Edna to blame Anna for the ripped clothing. If this was season 1, than that would be expected. However, Mr. Bates saved Thomas from being fired over the kissing the other servant thinking he was gay episode. Even Thomas has been shown to be grateful when someone has been kind to him. It was a very big thing that Mr. Bates helped Thomas (O.K., Bates was trying to get Thomas a reference, not keep Thomas on), but no one else was coming to Thomas’s aid. Anna too was kind to him when he was crying when Sybil died. So my point is, his character should not have gone after Anna at this point, but found some other scheme.

        However, I did like that Thomas helped get rid of the bad nanny. It would have been fun to know if Thomas was just lucky or did he suspect her from the first.

        • Wool Worth

          I just read TLO’s discussion about this below. Interesting.

        • siriuslover

          It especially bugged me because he really did notice that the nanny was treating Sybbie poorly (remember he asked how come Sybbie couldn’t have her eggs or something like that), so he’s got a good streak and we’ve seen it. There was no reason for this interfering except to give himself some entertainment and escape from his boring life (and the actor who plays him said that was Thomas’ motivation for much of his antics).

          • Judy_S

            Thanks for pointing that out about the egg. I thought that Thomas’s interfering re. the Nanny was pure vengeance for her treating him “like a servant.” In a sense the problem is that Nanny West was treating poor Sibbie like a servant, so there was a vague thread of coherence. I was disappointed that we didn’t get a new nanny, though. Mary and Branson ought to be discussing that as well as death duties.

        • annieanne

          He didn’t just help Edna blame Anna, it was his idea. I feel like I’m back in Season 1 – Thomas in cahoots with Cora’s lady’s maid to make life miserable for Bates – only this time its the Mrs. Unlike TLo who want to see Bates killed off, I’d like to see Fellowes give the poor guy – and his wife – a break.

    • Carla_Charlton

      Let’s talk about the clothes — for instance, the gorgeous jacket Edith has on when she gets off the train in London and her editor boyfriend is waiting for her.

      • Kate Andrews

        Yes — and her dress at the restaurant. That was sexy!

        • AnguaVonUberwald

          Oh, that dress was amazing. I cheered her on, out loud, when she walked in with that on. Fantastic!

          • Shawn EH

            What’d she say “I thought I’d put in some effort.” She looked amazing, and she’s actually prolonging this flirtation with the editor masterfully.

        • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

          When I saw that dress, I remembered reading a description in some book from the 20s set in London talking about a dress in a “soft shade of emerald” and immediately understood what that meant. That color is so beautiful!

        • Paula Pertile

          In “Behind the Scenes at DA” they talk about that dress. It was a fabulous French period piece that they fixed up and added chiffon to. Also, how they had to keep coming in to fix a stitch here and there in between takes to keep it all together, as it was so fragile.

        • Carla_Charlton

          I was shocked at how bare that dress was — I imagine in the 20s it would have been scandalous.

          • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

            I don’t think so, not at that restaurant. This is the time of the Bright Young Things and they were doing all sorts of new, modern, and up-to-date trendsetting. I’m sure she would not have shown up in the royal enclosure at Ascot dressed like that, however.

          • greenwich_matron

            I was surprised that she started sucking face with a married man in the middle of a restaurant. That type of stuff would still make the the tabloids. It was a gorgeous dress, though.

      • Eric Stott

        Agreed! – that may be the most chic ensemble to appear on the show yet.

      • Introspective

        watched the whole season on line. will not spoil, I promise Uncles and fellow BKs.

        But having seen the whole run, Ima tell yall: Lady Edith is KILLLLLLLLING it this season. so happy for her wardrobe upgrade for real.

        even if her plotlines remain sucky/sidelined to that of the more important Crawley sister, bitch looked sickening throughout.

      • Call me Bee

        Oh that jacket! Planning a knock-off even as we speak!

    • Kate Andrews

      I was mostly shouting at the screen about stupid old Lord Grantham. Gaaah!

    • SewingSiren

      I think Lady Mary is forging all those long lost letters, that curiously all seem to increase her fortune.

      • Eric Stott

        I do sincerely love you right now

      • cmb92191

        Not Mary; but Bates! Remember how well he signed Mosely’s signature?

        • SewingSiren

          Ah, yes, but Bates only forges to give money away (massive eye roll).

          • Tally Ho

            30 quid was a serious lump of money in those days. Many of the servants at the Abbey made that much money in a year.

            • siriuslover

              But he got the 30 pounds from the Dowager. It wasn’t really his money, just part of a ruse to help Mosely out with his debts.

            • Lilithcat

              Right, but it’s hard to believe that any of the downstairs staff would find it at all credible that Mosely would a) ever have that kind of money to loan, or b) ever forget loaning that kind of money! Mosely might not say anything, realizing it’s just Bates helping him save face, but that none of the other staff reacted with shock at the amount is surprising.

            • Snailstsichr

              I assumed the staff was in on the deception. Maybe I need to re-watch this scene.

            • siriuslover

              True enough, but I don’t believe that was what I was responding to. The comment I replied to seemed to suggest the money came directly from Bates, not from Violet via Bates. I agree that it was a large sum of money for the time. I am pretty sure most of the servants would think that Bates was capable of saving / acquiring that kind of money. But that’s a completely different discussion.

        • Anna Bergman

          I don’t remember, when did he do that?

          • Lilithcat

            In this episode, when he faked the “loan” from Mosely to himself.

      • Aurumgirl

        Let’s hope so.

    • JenJW

      I see Mary depending more and more on Tom. After last night I can believe that there will be a Mary/Tom romance (even though show-runners have denied it).

      • BayTampaBay

        Mary is not Tom’s type.

        • Chris

          I don’t know about that. We know he likes the beautiful, brunette, aristocratic type. I am sure he must have been able to find plenty of attractive ladies of his own “station” interested in politics and far more radical than Lady Sybil. Perhaps he is the type who prefers his lady on a “pedestal.” His short lived “romance” with Edna last season was driven mostly by her. For all his revolutionary ideas he originally took a job working for an aristocratic family, romanced and married one, and chose a job (wisely) as their estate manager rather than go in on his brother’s garage. From the beginning he is shown to be better spoken, dressed and mannered than his brother (who embarrassed him more than a little with his offensive behavior).

          • BayTampaBay

            We will have to watch and see; Anything is possible with Sir Julian Fellowes! LOL! LOL!

        • Qitkat

          I so agree, and vice versa. It would be lovely to see their friendship continue, but please, no romance. I suppose it would be rare for a man and a woman to have a genuine platonic friendship in those days, but they have much in common, and along with the new freedom between the sexes, a complete unromantic alliance would be an interesting plot line to explore.

          • marlie

            I would love to see them become genuine friends, and have the ability to lean on each other, *without* the pressure of there also being a romantic element. We’ll see…

          • Everard Santamarina

            I disagree. I think platonic relationships were potentially the norm, especially across classes where the friendship would blossom but class or caste boundaries were too ingrained to cross. Of course, just opining from popular culture and what passes as historical fiction. Mrs Brown comes to mind.

            • Qitkat

              I don’t think I have ever seen the film, although I have heard of the story. Not having studied the history of the period, I really don’t know how common platonic friendships were, so I was making an assumption from my general memory. Your point about friendships across classes does make sense to me.

          • Tally Ho

            I remember reading an interview with Prince Philip in which he said it was once perfectly normal for well-to-do men and women to enjoy close friendships without everyone assuming they were having an affair (this was clearly referring to those pesky claims from various tabloids about his “illicit” affairs just because he happened to be seen in the company of another woman more than once or twice). I suppose there’s some truth to this, in today’s celebrity obsessed world we seem to assume that whenever a pair of famous actors or celebs are seen together they’re also rolling around in bed too.

          • scoobynacks

            Agreed. He’s basically the brother she never had and an ally. If he comes to her with advice, she takes it, and she considers him family. It’s no small thing that when Matthew came to her to smooth things over and do that closed eyes kiss (still *thud* over that) that she heard Tom was right there, getting Matthew to make up as well as making the comment he quoted where Tom said Matthew would never be happy as long as Lady Mary walked the Earth. He’s on the inside of the Matthew/Mary romance really. Matthew knew her softness and Sybil saw the good in everybody, but they’re both gone. She’s stood up for Branson, he’s stood up for her, and they both knew the other’s relationship situation at its most intimate level for someone who wasn’t actually the other’s spouse. They don’t need to fall for one another. Besides I just don’t need Branson sleeping with more than one Crawley sister. Ew.

    • Lattis

      Robert is a horse’s ass. Every time a character mused whether he could be trusted to capably manage the family’s vast fortune, we were snorting.. And he’s such a mope.

      And boy am I in agreement with you guys on Bates. He seems sinister as hell now.

      • marlie

        YES about Robert. I can’t believe that no one is willing to remind him of his disastrous estate/financial management thus far. And he thinks that they’ll just turn over control to him again??

        • BayTampaBay

          But Robert is an Earl and Earls can do no wrong. This is one of the aristocratic stereotypes that will change in the next 10 years and be done away with by the end of WWII.

        • Laughingworld

          Not to mention his handling of Sybil’s delivery.

      • Chris

        Yes, remember when Bates could barely hobble around and was the epitome of humble sadness? Now he just seems like he should be running some underworld gang or something. It’s hard to remember him as the gentle man with the tray for Anna. I guess we are to assume the time in prison hardened him?

        • Qitkat

          Bates even referenced ‘things he had learned in prison’ to Anna, with the forging of Moseley’s signature, on the fake promissory note that he owed Moseley money from years ago. I thought it was a lovely way to help him while allowing him to save face. And to think the Dowager Countess was the money-giver and a party to this kind deception! All my favorite scenes featured any with the DC, or Edith, or Matthew’s grieving mother. I can’t wait to see what happens with Edith next, not so much with Rose, who annoyed me no end, or even with Mary.

          • Call me Bee

            Be my BFF, ok? I agree with all your said.

            • AnotherJulie

              Me too! Maggie Smith never fails to take every great line she is given and hit it out of the park, show after show. Imagine how fun it must be writing her lines!! But this episode allowed Penelope Wilton to be much more than the efficient nurse/ manager… her facial expressions, her inflection – wow. She was simply fabulous.

          • rainwood1

            I agree with you too. When Isobel said her piece about no longer being a mother, it was heartbreaking. Penelope Wilton gives Maggie Smith a run for her money as far as acting chops go. The Dowager gets the best lines, but Mrs. Crawley makes the most of the scraps she’s usually given.

    • Scimommy

      Downton Abbey is now the perfect primetime soap for snarky livetweeting. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t know that I’d stay interested enough to watch.

      • MilaXX

        It was fun live tweeting last night I was surprised at how much the show has gained in popularity here in the US.

        • Scimommy

          Ah, I thought your moniker looked familiar! You’re a bitter kitten!

    • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ foodycatAlicia

      I don’t watch the show but I love that picture of Michelle Dockery. She does *brittle* so well!

      • Shawn EH

        She was a sepulchral vampire for most of the episode. I kept expecting her to just start drinking blood, maybe from Carson. Epic mourning, and then all shattered when her father lashed out at her over the farm. He’s almost as dumb as Cora, is the Earl.

        • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ foodycatAlicia

          I’d start watching if that happened.

    • nannypoo

      I have missed my friends at Downton and I thought it was a great episode. Robert is such a fool and I was happy to see Mary and Tom teaming up against him. Between Robert and Cora it’s a miracle the estate hasn’t collapsed around the family long ago. I don’t like Rose or Edna. I understand they’re there to provide new perspectives and opportunities for new story lines, hijinks and shenanigans and all that crap, but I don’t find Rose likable and Edna is just nasty. I was glad we got a little report about Gwen. I loved her character and I hope she comes to visit. The high point of the show for me was Edith’s coat, the one with the pattern on the sleeves and around the hem. I want that coat.

      • BayTampaBay

        I think Fellowes screwed up on the maid for Cora writing. He should have made O’Briens’ replacement an American who had actually studied cosmetology & hair dressing in NYC & Pairs, demanded a whopping salary as a trained professional and shook things up downstairs with the continued theme of “change you cannot stop” from a professional employee NOT servant perspective.

        • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

          That would be about 50 years too early, I think, astonishing gay rights scenes involving cricket notwithstanding.

          • BayTampaBay

            Why? It was about this time (1920’s) that Helena Rubenstein became one of the wealthiest women in the world and one of the first “self-made” women.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ foodycatAlicia

              Elizabeth Arden too. I’m sure the Red Door salons were already a thing by then.

            • BayTampaBay

              Elizabeth Arden was 10 years behind Ms. Rubinstein and Estee Lauder was 10 years behind Ms. Arden. Check out Wikipedia for a great read!

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ foodycatAlicia

              Oh I know she was – the fact that Helena Rubinstein started up in Australia is one of our national points of pride. I was just offering another example of getting your hair done by a professional salon as an established thing for the era.

            • BayTampaBay

              I think wealthy titled women still had beauty technicians in their private employ in the country but would have done the salon in London.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ foodycatAlicia

              Yes, and the fashionable young things with their marcel waves and shingles and such would have been going into London to get their hair done.

            • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

              Right. I didn’t mean that such a woman wouldn’t be available. In Sayers’ “Whose Body?” (1923) there is a famous and stylish salon owner (a woman whose name I can’t quite remember) who refers to the deceased’s proclivity for manicures.

              I was more thinking that such a person would not be hired at a manor house.

            • Lilithcat

              I think you mean the unnamed “beauty specialist in Bond Street” who says “[Cathcart] came in regularly every week while he was in England”. No mention of manicures. You may be thinking of the manicurist in “Strong Poison”, who collects Urquhart’s fingernail clippings for Wimsey.

              (May I say, by the way, how delightful it is to chat with another Sayers’ fanatic here?)

            • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

              Quite right! I am thinking of the beauty specialist and not the manicurist. But it seems like there is a reference to the way Cathcart kept his nails trimmed. Maybe that’s in Parker’s survey of the Paris flat?

              In my own defense, may I say that I am on the road and don’t have any of my books with me. Are you a litigation attorney perhaps? :-)

              (Yes, it is!)

            • Lilithcat

              I used to be! Criminal defense, specifically. Now I am retired, and enjoying every minute of it.

            • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

              I have a sneaking suspicion that the prosecuting attorneys in your area are as happy as you are on the occasion of your retirement!

            • Anne

              SAYERS!

        • Tally Ho

          Yep. I like your thinking.

          Ladies’ maid was a very senior servant position and grand aristocratic women usually had the best as appearances – hair and dress – were still important in the aristocratic circle. Surely Cora, with her fashionable New York background + English title wouldn’t have stooped to hiring a local Yorkshire woman with little previous training or background. She’d have gone for a maid who’d already worked in London or Paris or New York. I like that Cora has a good heart, but if so it’s odd they couldn’t find a role for Moleslely around the Abbey.

          • BayTampaBay

            As time went on (and make-up became fashionable) for the truly few remaining rich females, the ladies maid disappeared and was replaced with an individual dresser for each female and one hair/make-up professional served for the household unless you were royalty. The Empress Elizabeth of Austria (Sissi) made the career of Romania born Erno Laszlo and his trainees.

          • Lilithcat

            As someone used to having the best of everything her entire life she’d have gone for a maid who’d already worked in London or Paris or New York.

            Then how do you explain O’Brien?

            • BayTampaBay

              O’Brien had been with her for 15 years and was probably originally hired by Violet or maybe she came with the Abbey?

            • BayTampaBay

              Wrong Place

            • Tally Ho

              O’Brien was Irish so she wasn’t local, like Edna and most likely the other lower servants. Senior servants frequently got their positions by moving from one big house to another, using their training and experience to open new doors elsewhere. You’ll notice that Carson, Bates and Mrs. Hughes came from outside Yorkshire (and probably Mrs. Patmore too given that we know she has a sister with a family but they don’t seem to live locally), while Anna, Gwen, Daisy and the first footman whose name I’ve forgotten were hired locally.

              O’Brien would have come to Cora after building up experience working for another slightly less grand lady in a big house elsewhere or in London. Fashionable titled women like Cora expected their maids to know the latest fashion for hair styles and how to clean and mend very expensive, high end couture, something that a minor maid in rural Yorkshire wouldn’t normally be exposed to. Likewise newly hired butlers and other senior servants at grand houses were expected to have levels of competence and understanding of etiquette and service that would have been based on years of experience in other grand houses. By the way, you’ll notice that when O’Brien left, she was moving from serving a countess to serving marchioness, and not just a marchioness but the wife of the viceroy to India, which is a major step up in the social hierarchy and an outright promotion for her.

              It’s sort of similar to how major corporations work. The senior management and officers are often recruited from other similarly major corporations rather than smaller outfits. CEOs are recruited from other big companies. A COO of a big company often becomes CEO of a slightly smaller company, just as a first footman in a grand country house would move on to become butler in a slightly grand country house.

            • BayTampaBay

              Per Tally Ho: “and the first footman whose name I’ve forgotten were hired locally”

              Alfred was hired locally and Jimmy or “James” came from a town house in London where the Mistress moved to France and he did not want to with her.

            • Chris

              I think maybe Tally Ho meant William who married Daisy and died from war injuries. His Dad is the local farmer who wanted to set Daisy up on the farm.

            • Tally Ho

              Yeah, that’s who I was referring to. My mistake for the confusion over “first” footman, as William was the second footman under Thomas. By the way Thomas is also an import from elsewhere, not a local boy.

            • Jackie4g

              Minor quibble – Shrimpy isn’t Viceroy yet………………..and O’Brien had an awareness that her days were numbered once Thomas was promoted to Under Butler.

            • Tally Ho

              Just curious, why do you assume that O’Brien thought her days were numbered? I thought they were companions in crime, unless I’m forgetting a development in the third season?

            • Jackie4g

              Putting aside the showbiz interviews and commentary over the autumn where I had read that the actress who plays OBrien wasn’t returning, I think she was written out in a way that insured she could never come back. Strangely, only the character Gwen has ever departed and been mentioned again. She was the one who bought a typewriter and learned how to type, in order to become a secretary, back in the first season. They spoke of her in this Season 4 premiere episode. Anyhow, as to O’Brien…I think the relationship between Thomas and O’Brien became adversarial during season three, and O’Brien was the instigator in footman Jimmy’s demand that Thomas not get a proper reference. When O’Brien realized she had gone too far, and persuaded Jimmy to step back from his demands, in effect, Thomas won that round. That’s when I think she began to reconsider her situation. Lady Felcher’s offer came in the nick of time. OBrien will never be easy with Cora, especially now that Thomas and The Bates know about the soap induced miscarriage. It was simply time to go.

          • not_Bridget

            When Violet needed a new labies’ maid, she had Cora place an advertisement in a publication that served posh ladies. (Which O’Brien misunderstood; thinking she would be replaced, she deployed The Fatal Bar of Soap.)

            More informal hiring methods would do well enough for kitchen help & housemaids. But Fellowes loves to recycle actors & plot lines!

            • BayTampaBay

              The posh ladies publication is “The Lady”.

      • PhillyDeb

        What about Mary’s purple coat? Loved that too!!

    • Eric Stott

      That editor might possibly be in love with Edith, but he’s using her.

      • BayTampaBay

        I really did not that feeling; very much the opposite. We will have to watch & see!

      • SewingSiren

        I think he is just looking for an excuse to go German.

        • BayTampaBay

          For the Octoberfest? LOL! LOL!

          • Tally Ho

            Speaking of Octoberfest, Hitler’s Munich beer hall putsch is coming up soon, in 1923.

            Maybe there’s another reason for wanting to move to Germany. Only just sayin….

            That aside, the early 20s is a fascinating period in European history. The collapse of half the monarchies combined with the Communist overthrow in Russia along with the birth of fascism in parts of Europe jostling with the equally growing socialists/communists movements. People really thought times were a changing, not just because of the invention of the electric beater.

      • Spicytomato1

        I’m not sure we’ve had an indication that he’s using her but I understand being suspicious of him. His wife situation is a massive red flag, although exactly what it indicates I’m not sure. Edith tends to lose in love every time, doesn’t she?

        • BayTampaBay

          I think he just needs to die or get lost and leave the magazine to Edith for her to run. Edith could hang out with her Aunt Rosmund in that beautiful house in Belgravia!

          • Spicytomato1

            Lol at “get lost.” I love the idea of Edith running the show and hanging out with Rosamund. Although it would be nice to see her successful in the romance department, too, especially after her ghastly jilting at the altar.

            • BayTampaBay

              I think Edith should run the magazine for 10 years then sell it to Conde Nast and go to NYC and buy herself the perfect husband…sorta like the Buccaneers in reverse! LOL! LOL!

      • marlie

        I don’t think he’s using her, but I also don’t think that his “brilliant” plan is going to work. I bet that ultimately, Edith is going to give him his walking papers, because she’s tired of waiting around for his to get his sh!t together.

        • Eric Stott

          or just possibly she may visit the “insane” wife and find her to be nothing of the kind – characters on this series tend to be quite nosy.

          • DeniseSchipani

            I can absolutely see that happening. Given the medical community’s definition of “madness” at the time, the poor woman may be locked up against her will.

            • Eric Stott

              Or she could be raving and violent – but Edith would pity her

          • MRC210

            I am deeply suspicious of the whole “mad wife” story and suspect that we’ll find out that she’s not mad at all. She’s off partying somewhere else and will turn up at the worst possible moment, just like the first Mrs. Bates.

        • BayTampaBay

          You would think that being British one would go to Switzerland rather Germany this being 1922.

          • marlie

            Was Switzerland one of the places that one could go to get a quickie, discreet divorce?

            • Lilithcat

              It’s not so much a “quickie, discreet” divorce he needed, as a jurisdiction that allowed one to divorce on the grounds of insanity of the spouse. It does appear, from a bit of Googling, that Switzerland have incurable insanity as a ground, but it also appears that you’d have to be a habitual resident or citizen of Switzerland to divorce there. The Swiss seem to be very picky about naturalization; currently, you must have lived there twelve years before you can apply.

            • BayTampaBay

              Only mentioned Switzerland as I meant to imply that the last place a British Subject would want to be in 1922 was Germany.

            • MRC210

              I know … I’m thinking “Germany in 1922? Isn’t that when their currency collapsed and you needed a wheelbarrow full of marks to buy a loaf of bread?” And it was. Inflation was so bad that prices in the stores rose by the hour. So, not a good time to become a German. On the other hand, if they could work in a flash-forward to 1941 when the boyfriend is arrested as an enemy alien and Inspector Foyle sticks up for him, I’d watch that.

            • Call me Bee

              Ye–and you have to be very well “set-up” in order to be allowed to live there!

    • Angela_the_Librarian

      I was really excited for the return of Downton Abby, but I actually found myself rather bored by the midway point. Maybe it was a mistake to air two episodes?

      The Good: The Dowager’s cutting remarks to her son (I especially loved when she said that he would have to go to bed without his supper), Edith’s adventures in London, the new electric mixer, watching Mary slowly coming out of her funk and standing up to her father about the estate issues

      The Bad: The kitchen love-rectangle, Cora’s new lady servant (seriously, how stupid can she be??), Lord Grantham continuing to be an enormous ass, the whole storyline with Charlie and Isobel (Couldn’t they have thought of a more interesting way to get Isobel back involved with helping others? I really hope they do something worthwhile with her character this season (like maybe establish a free clinic))

      Oh, and whenever Mosley is in a scene now I think of sad clown horns (like the Debby Downer music)

      • not_Bridget

        Since Downton began on PBS, two episodes from the ITV run have been combined to make one episode of Masterpiece. It’s always been that way.

        If you get bored, just look at the pretty. Or snark….

        • Angela_the_Librarian

          Last night there was 2 hours worth on (they are usually shown in one hour episodes), so is that the equivalent of 4 episodes on ITV?

    • BayTampaBay

      Could someone explain about the taxes vs. entail and Downton Estate vs. Matthew Crawley personal/private estate?

      If the Downton Estate & Title go to George on Robert’s death (and Robert is not dead yet), why does the “Downton Estate” have to pay taxes on Matthew Crawley’s personal/private estate?

      • Tally Ho

        I was wondering about that.

        Robert couldn’t leave the estate to Mary because of the entail. But he somehow could sell a 50% share to Matthew Crawley? Wouldn’t the entail prevent something like that? Otherwise Robert could have just “sold” the estate to, say, Cora (using Cora’s money when they still had it) and thus Mary would inherit the property.

        Given how important the issue of the entail was in Season 1 it’s frustrating that Fellowes has been vague on the modern day estate ownership structure. Something about it doesn’t smell right but I doubt we’ll ever get an answer. I had assumed in Season 3 that Matthew more or less “donated” his inheritance to Robert and Robert was taking him on as a “silent” partner rather than anything contractually legal.

        • BayTampaBay

          In season 1 when Matthew investigating breaking up the estate to release “Cora’s Fortune” he was told it would take an act of Parliament
          to sell and slice up the estate. I have no problem if Sir Julian makes it up as he goes along but things have to “jive” or I get put-off with the sloppiness and expectation that I am a dummy and will not remember.

      • http://evangelineholland.com Evangeline Holland

        Death duties

    • cmb92191

      I was expecting the drawn out will to be thrown in the raging fireplace.

      • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

        Me too! Mainly because EVERY TIME anyone had hold of it, they were standing right in front of a fireplace. Similarly — there was a whole lot of water sloshing around the new DEATH mixer. I so hate electricity in the 20s — so many people getting electrocuted for the silliest of reasons.

        • SewingSiren

          I am going to try to find away to work DEATH mixer into a conversation today.

    • Fanny_Trollope

      Totally agree with the Uncles’ point about the will. There would have been all kinds of legal documents signed at the time of Matthew and Mary’s wedding, spelling out exactly what was entailed, what was real property, and what the arrangements for all future children and contingencies would be. It’s absurd to think that Matthew would have been allowed to put off making a will and just scribble off a little letter about his intentions. Mr. Fellowes, we are not stupid.

      I have to say that I started looking at my watch before the two hours was half over. The absurdity of some of these storylines is straining all credibility. The dresses are still gorgeous, though.

      • not_Bridget

        Matthew was a lawyer, wasn’t he? Of course he would have made a will. However, a “secret” will is far more dramatic….

        • Lilithcat

          Well, this lawyer didn’t have a will until she was a lot older than Matthew. You know what they say about the shoemaker’s children!

          But it is totally absurd that he didn’t have one after he got married. I can’t believe that Murray was so asleep at the switch that he’d let that happen. There would have been reams of documents relating to marriage settlements, etc.

          Compare this from Dorothy L. Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon regarding the Wimsey-Vane marriage: “Love’s dream troubled by solemn interview with Murbles [Wimsey family lawyer] about Settlements — appalling long document providing for every conceivable and inconceivable situation and opening up ramifications into everybody’s death and remarriage, “covered,” as Murbles observes, “by THE WILL”. And Peter was only a second son.

          • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

            Well…. as a Sayers FANATIC, I have to drop a bit of a note about that… I think the plot-driven reason that love’s dream is troubled is to show off the problem with Helen, Duchess of Denver, and to resolve the outstanding issue that Harriet’s problem with falling in love with Lord Peter was always about the money. This just ties up those loose ends. And… to compare Matthew to the venerable Murbles… well, nothing is lost to Murbles and it is all to Matthew’s gain to do so!

            • Lilithcat

              I wasn’t comparing Matthew to Murbles. I was comparing Murray, the Granthams’ lawyer, to Murbles. And the point is that marriages in that class never happened without a ton of paperwork.

            • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

              You’re right. I missed that. Any opportunity to discuss Sayers in this context always blinds me a bit…

            • Lilithcat

              Any opportunity to discuss Sayers in this context always blinds me a bit…

              Oh, how I can relate to that!

          • Judy_S

            Oh, I was thinking of that too, while watching and then while reading these comments. And Harriet asking if the property was entailed, and Peter admitting it was. I thought the whole insanity of the DA situation in Season 1 was the entail. Season 3 just stopped making sense to me in retrospect.

        • Isabel

          I thought he was a solicitor. This is from the Free Dictionary: “3. Chiefly British An attorney who advises clients on legal matters, represents clients in certain lower courts, and prepares cases for barristers to present in the higher courts.”

          So, do solicitors draw up wills or do they leave that to the barristers?

          • not_Bridget

            I’m not sure about the British terminology. But Matthew made his living in the law & would not have ignored such a vital responsibility. Even if he had wanted to, it would not have been allowed.

            • BayTampaBay

              In the first season when he took the job in Ripon he talked about working in Estate Law and how boring it was.

          • Lilithcat

            Solicitors would draw up wills, barristers would not.

          • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ foodycatAlicia

            Solicitors do your wills. Barristers represent you in court, should you have the misfortune to get caught forging a will.

      • Tally Ho

        Yeah, the letter was unnecessary. They could have started episode one with the will’s terms and Mary and Robert getting into arguments over the estate management and how to pay the death duties, not dribble on for two hours about some amazing discovery of the letter. The letter, as with some of the other subplots, felt like a poorly orchestrated waste of time which Fellowes could have devoted to, say, explaining Cora’s stupidity when it comes to hiring ladies’ maids or giving Nanny West and Thomas more opportunity to go at each other with knives.

        • formerlyAnon

          I like your plot revision. Extremely.

        • BayTampaBay

          Again I ask; What death Duties? Why is the Estate paying death duties on Matthew’s private money?

          Mathew die did not “buy” into the estate because the estate could not be sold piece meal. He only invested..i.e…loaned the estate money for capitalization.

          • Tally Ho

            Wouldn’t that be a story? Mary, forced with death duties on Matthew’s weath, is forced to call in the “loan” he made to Robert. But Robert can’t pay back the loan and Mary forecloses on him and takes full ownership of DA.

            • BayTampaBay

              Great Plot idea. I like the way you think!

          • siriuslover

            The death duties as I understand Robert, when he said that they would be paid twice before George received the estate are: Robert’s death –> estate tax. Now, with Mary inheriting Mary’s death –> estate tax. Robert wanted to skip Mary entirely to avoid paying “twice” for George.

            • Lilithcat

              What’s weird about this is that there should be no death duties on the Downton estate following Matthew’s death, because he was only the heir presumptive. He never actually held title to it, wouldn’t unless he were alive at Robert’s death. No death duties on that until Robert dies.

              So the death duties they’re talking about are those on Matthew’s personal property, the fortune he was bequeathed by Lavinia’s father. That will now be taxed twice – on Matthew’s death and then on Mary’s. (Currently, monies inherited by a surviving spouse are exempt from estate duty; however, it appears that that was not the case in 1922.) Robert doesn’t enter the picture.

            • siriuslover

              As I interpreted the discussion, it was the estate, not the personal property. If it’s the estate, then Robert does enter the picture since he “owns” the estate and would own it until he died and Matthew took over. But since Matthew died there was no longer the hurdle of Matthew with regard to the estate. On Robert’s death, the estate would go directly to George. But now, Mary would inherit his I would assume that had Matthew lived he may very well have made Mary his sole heir just as he did here since that was his intent with the will, right? But I will watch the episode again and see if there is clarity in the larger discussion (estate / personal property). I thought that Matthew poured Lavinia’s money directly into Downton which is why he co-ran it with Robert.

            • Lilithcat

              But now, Mary would inherit his I would assume that had Matthew lived he may very well have made Mary his sole heir just as he did here since that was his intent with the will, right?

              Matthew didn’t have the power to leave the estate to Mary. First, it wasn’t his to leave (Robert still being alive). Secondly, it’s entailed in the male line, and so even if he lived to inherit from Robert, he wouldn’t have the ability to bequeath it away from George.

            • siriuslover

              Ah, yes, I forgot about the entail! But maybe that’s why the women were in such an uproar this episode? It was a way (in the post WWI world) for women to fight this? However, given the recent case in Britain where three surviving women lost their estate after the death of their father, I highly doubt that. Thanks for working through the clarification, Lilithcat.

            • Tally Ho

              I suppose a good analogy would be if you’d inherited a million dollars and invested it in GE stock. Technically speaking you may be a fractional owner of General Electric but you’re still just an investor. When you die it’s your heirs who have to pay the death duties on the stock, not GE. So you’re right, the idea that Robert or the Downton Abbey estate has to pay death duties on Matthew’s personal estate makes no sense given that the entail should have prevented any kind of co-ownership of the estate. The entail couldn’t have prevented part of the estate being sold off under financial duress (as almost happened in Season 3, when Matthew stepped in and saved the day with the Swires’ fortune) but Matthew then would have become the sole owner of a large plot of land formerly part of the Downton estate. Under that arrangement the family could have assumed that the two parts of the estate, owned separately, could continue to be managed as a sole unit under a gentleman’s agreement to do so, and Matthew would eventually inherit Robert’s remaining half as per the entail and legally reunite the two parts. But even with this scenario Robert wouldn’t have been under any obligation to pay death duties on lands owned by Matthew.

              Sigh. I doubt we’ll ever get a lucid explanation for the DA ownership structure. I just know there’s no need for all this vagueness when we have a perfectly valid scenario for the split estate ownership as described above and the tensions emerging between Robert and Mary/Branson could still exist as Robert would still have a proprietary sense of ownership over the whole estate and would also want to give fatherly advice out of step with reality and in his own interest and would resent any challenge to his once dominant position. This a great and plausible storyline, not the crap Fellowes expects us to swallow (and he’s the one who should know better given how knowledgeable he is about the history of the British aristocracy).

              I will have to say this, you’re right as is Robert, for in the long run it’s in the estate’s interest for as much of it to pass directly to baby George in order to avoid even more death duties. I think in 1922 the death duty rate was only 20%, by the late 1940s it was 80%. But baby George born in 1922 could still be kicking it alive today! After all he has the genes as per his great-grandmother Violet.

      • BayTampaBay

        You are right! Even though Mary was marrying her cousin, she still would have had a dowry to provide for her as a dowager. This would have been in writing as part of the marriage contract.

    • Jecca2244

      i was way more impressed with the first episode than i thought i was going to be. i think they will add some characters in and that will help. and at the end of the day I am just so excited that we are talking about a public programming channel that has done so much for the quality of tv and is consistently an awesome part of the Massachusetts community (PBS).

      oh and Bates is super creepy.

    • BB.

      Um. The person we owe a thank you to for getting Lady Mary on her feet was the Dowager in a very heartfelt scene after that dreadful dinner. Branson and Carson pushed her but the Dowager sealed it.

      • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

        You know, it takes a village…

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

        Obviously, we disagree on that one.

        Starting posts off with “Um” is obnoxious. Please try not to do that here.

        • BayTampaBay

          I agree with you TLo! The Dowager pushed then Branson & Carson convinced Mary the estate needed her.

    • Judy_J

      I know Thomas is conniving, but I don’t understand why he is trying to sabotage the Bates’, especially since they were the ones who helped him keep his employment at Downton by thwarting O’Brien’s character assassination of him at the end of last season. You’d think he’d have a tiny bit of gratitude, at least enough to leave them alone.

      • Blair Sylvester

        I think he doesn’t like feeling obligations towards people so the fact that they helped him makes them dangerous in his eyes

        • Judy_J

          I hadn’t thought of that, but it does make sense.

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

        He did it because Anna went to Edna and told her to keep him at arm’s length.

        • marlie

          But do you think that’s enough to warrant him wanting to ruin Anna’s career? Though I did forget about that warning…

          • SewingSiren

            Thomas is doing tossing the Bates a favor and trying to spice up their boring storyline.

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

            But I don’t think he wants to ruin Anna’s career. She got a very mild reprimand, filtered from the Earl through her husband, as he likely knew would happen. He’s just being the conniver he’s always been, letting Anna know he doesn’t like her going around and telling other servants to stay away from him. To be honest, it wasn’t a very bright thing for her to do, knowing what he’s like.

            • Wellworn

              I thought about that too. Anna should have known better than to warn Edna. You don’t mess with the Barrow. And it seems, you don’t mess with Edna either.

            • Judy_J

              I guess Thomas needs a new cohort now that O’Brien is gone. Edna is no O’Brien, but she’ll have to do in a pinch.

            • Tally Ho

              But how would Thomas know that Anna wouldn’t go to Cora and deny ruining the dress? Anna isn’t Cora’s maid and wouldn’t normally have had access to her clothes, no? It was a big gamble for Thomas to assume that Anna wouldn’t deny it, after all she’s the experienced maid who’s known the family (and their darkest secrets, remember Pamuk) for decades. It implies a level of gullibility and naiveness from both upstairs and downstairs.

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

              “It implies a level of gullibility and naiveness from both upstairs and downstairs.”

              Which means Thomas knew exactly what he was doing.

            • Tally Ho

              If he’s genuinely that smart then what’s he doing as underbutler at DA instead of running his own London crime syndicate? Or making a fortune bootlegging booze in the US (after all, he’s already displayed an affection for illicit alcohol).

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

              ?

              I’m not sure what you’re arguing about. Thomas has always played people against each other in that house. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but his actions in this episode were very true to character for him, and the fact that people like Cora & Robert were naive about it is very true to character for them.

            • marlie

              He tried back in Season 2 (?) to start up his own little business selling black-market goods to homes like DA, and that failed miserably. So he’s resorted back to what he knows, which is backstabbing and pitting people against each other.

            • Fanny_Trollope

              And he’s not just randomly pitting people against each other — now he’s done the evil Edna a favor and she owes him. He’ll take advantage of that at some point. That’s what manipulative people do. Tit for tat, as it were.

            • marlie

              Certainly… everything he does is with the intention of somehow benefiting from it, even in the long term. It was fun to watch the first couple of seasons, but I’m rather tired of it now.

            • BayTampaBay

              Because he is from the underclass. He had no opportunity. This is changing rapidly as society rapidly changes which is really what Downton Abbey is all about. This is the over-arc of the story arc aka: The Decline (so regroup or fall) of the British Landed Aristocracy

            • Chris

              I don’t know that anyone is arguing that Thomas is a genius (we have seen him bamboozled by the shady food seller and by O’Brien) just that he knows how that house and all the people in it tick. He’s also willing to take gambles, and by now has gotten away with enough shady behavior (even when he is caught) that he knew what the risk and the probable outcome would be.

            • Tally Ho

              He does behave like someone who has confidence that he’ll never, ever be fired.

              Which isn’t surprising given how many times he’s been forgiven despite the overwhelming evidence against him and even when caught red-handed.

              He’s certainly missed out on a great career as a politician.

      • Frank_821

        I don’t think the act was intended to do them harm since he’s never really had any beef with Anna. It was a question of collateral damage and Anna was not in any serious trouble.
        It seems more like Thomas wanted to save Edna in order to an ally to help increase his influence over Cora. In order to do that he had to carefully insinuate blame elsewhere. The only person who that might be was Anna. There is a pecking order in the house. Under normal circumstances they would have offered the position to Anna since it would be perceived as a promotion. They would have at least discussed it.

        I know people keep call Cora the dumbest countess around but honestly people have kept her in the dark about a lot of stuff in the name of avoiding scandal and hurting feelings. When you think about it it’s pretty silly considering she’s been a party to the biggest scandal associated with Downtown

    • MilaXX

      One of my favorite scenes was the dinner table scene where everyone is giving Robert the stink eye. He really is quite an idiot. I like Rose & I’l grant you that the actress playing her is a much better actress than the one who played Lady Sybil, but she’s really just the replacement for Sybil so that Fellowes has a character to fill the young/modern/outrageous/bold slot left because he married off Sybil then kilt her. All in all I enjoyed the show & had a blast live tweeting it last night.

    • teensmom99

      Upstairs Downstairs did the same thing of bringing in a young cousin (Georgeanna) to represent the roaring 20s youth–just like Rose.

      • Tally Ho

        And she was an irritating moron who caused unnecessary drama. Just like what Rose will do, I suppose.

    • cocohall

      It’s not a good to feel like the writing staff of Glee has beetled over to Downton Abbey. The characters on Glee (especially Sue and Mr. Shue) are always in service to some plot point and you find yourself saying “why would he/she act that way?” While watching DA last night, I kept thinking “who are these people?” The silly bit about the will, idiot Robert, the re-hiring of the maid without consulting the staff, etc. Still, it must be said that Edith’s clothes were fabulous. And anything that showcases the truly delicious Maggie Smith is not to be missed. And yes, I missed the opening with the labrador. Still, Allen Leech. Of course I’ll keep watching. Just with a stiff drink to keep the logical thoughts at bay.

    • kategs

      You won’t get any flack from me about Lady Sybil. She bored me to tears. Best thing about this episode is the Dowager Duchess and those clothes. Oh that embroidery work!

      • Lilithcat

        The Dowager Duchess and the clothes are the best things about the entire series. I’d watch it for those alone.

        • Lattis

          And the interiors. I’d watch if for the clothes and the interiors alone.

    • jeneria

      I hate that they’re bringing Edna back. I don’t want to watch Branson canoodle with yet another bitchy ladies’ maid. And certainly not her.

    • Tally Ho

      Hmm. I had mixed feelings about the episodes. There was a lot of potential for long lasting story lines that never quite emerged or were suddenly written off. Nanny West/Kathy Bates is a perfect example. We could have had a brilliant replacement for O’Brien with another two-faced manipulative bitch in the house, who’s not quite a servant, with all the tensions that could arise over her exact status and who could give orders to her, and she and Thomas promised to have a rivalry over who could be the bitchiness bitch around. This could have been a nice, entertaining subplot to last us a few more seasons. But no, Fellowes abruptly writes her off at the end of the show and off she goes. And we’re stuck with that stupid Edna as O’Brien’s replacement. Sorry Fellowes, the evil Nanny is a much better than a vapid, seductive housemaid.

      Speaking of Edna, is Cora so clueless to completely ignore the very obvious, stunned, deer frozen in headlights, hesitation on her highly experienced and loyal housekeeper of decades over Edna?

      Mary’s bitchslapping Carson was a great moment if only it served to remind us of the real life divide between employers and their servants in those days. For many masters/mistresses, a servant speaking back like that would be as shocking as if the microwave had told us not to heat up the frozen Stouffer’s pizza because there’s too many calories. Having said that it was perhaps a bit overdone. Still, I enjoyed the moment as a dose of reality.

      I had to agree with other comments that the Charlie Grigg sideshow was both unnecessary and boring. Didn’t Mrs. Hughes remember that Grigg tried to blackmail Carson back in Season 1? Surely there could have been a better way to bring Mrs. Crawley back from the dead? Why couldn’t have Molesley been her pet cause? I suppose the upshot to the Charlie irritation is that it revealed a bit more about Carson’s past life, but since Alice is dead it couldn’t have enlarged into a longer story line about Carson looking for his childhood sweetheart and marrying her as he prepares for a contented retirement, which could have been mildly entertaining.

      As for Molesley, I did have to pity him. I’ve been unemployed. It was the worst and scariest five months of my life and I never want to have to repeat it again. The lunch organized by the dowager Countess didn’t make sense for surely she would have told her butler what her motivations were and why Molesley was helping with the meal, but my guess is that Fellowes wants an unemployed Molesley around as a token reminder of hard times and why servants could feel lucky to have their jobs.

      The Edith and Michael Gregson affair is not going to end well. Mark my words on it. I’ll still never understand why Anthony Strallan wasn’t good enough for her when he was flung at Mary in Season 1 and the Edith we were introduced to in Seasons 1-2 had been born with “slightly small-minded, socially minded future wife of a country baronet” stamped across her forehead. All that talk about Germany is ridiculous, 1922 was the year of the great Germany hyperinflation when the price of a basic loaf of bread went from one mark to something like a billion marks (no kidding).

      My other comment which refers to all the seasons is that the interior of the house, while glorious, is strangely impersonal, especially the bedrooms. They look like grand hotel bedrooms whereas the real life inhabitants would have had scores of family photographs, drawings, favorite paintings and momentos and even old dolls around. I’ve seen too many photographs of country house interiors in the early 1920s and the downstairs rooms would have had many more furniture and potted plants, even if things had streamlined somewhat since the peak of Victorian clutter.

      • not_Bridget

        The large public rooms of Highclere Castle are used as locations. Bedrooms & “downstairs” scenes are all shot in studio sets. Yes, I’ve found them lacking in design detail…..

        • Eric Stott

          Maugham wrote of how to tell a genuinely lived in house from a carefully furnished one- he spoke of things like an ugly chair that great grandmother bought and no one has thought of discarding, watercolors kept only because a relative did them, souvenirs, Etc. Most of the sets are just too good.

          • not_Bridget

            When Sir Richard bought a neighborhood pile as the home for Lady Mary, he discussed buying furniture. Mary said (to ensure he knew his place) that her sort of people didn’t buy furniture–they inherited it.

            Rosamond, born to wealth but married to money, probably decorated her London house by herself. I remember it looking rather stylish & dramatic….

            • BayTampaBay

              More Rosmund please!

            • Eric Stott

              Mary should reconsider marrying Sir Richard- he’s something of a scoundrel but he’s wealthy and far from stupid. As a business proposition it would work.

            • BayTampaBay

              I always like Sir Richard-the character and the actor. However, the actor is now on Game of Thrones (I think) so we probably won’t see him around Downton Abbey any time soon.

      • Spicytomato1

        I hear you, absolutely, but those particular details (or lack thereof) don’t interfere with my appreciation of the visuals. Somehow the impeccably appointed rooms match the amazingly beautiful costumes for me and create one beautifully wrapped package.

        • BayTampaBay

          Re-watch the episode and note Rose’s bedroom…it was pretty neat!

    • Spicytomato1

      “…the sudden unexplained turnarounds in character or the way it tends to shuffle people in and out of the story but gives them nothing to do otherwise, which tends to render the whole of Downton Abbey like an animatronic funhouse ride in a Disney theme park. Aristocracy Land, where little figures of Mrs. Patmore or Lady Edith buzz, click and whirr their way back to life in the brief moments when the spotlight is upon them and then shut down when it’s someone else’s turn.”

      Wow, this might be the most perfect characterization of the show that I’ve ever read. I love it. I was frankly a bit bored last night, but I attribute it to coming down from a recent Breaking Bad binge. I think almost everything might seem boring now in comparison! Although I did find the costumes and scenery to be as enthralling as ever…more than reason enough to tune in, especially as our Chicago weather turned everything into a frigid hellscape outside.

      Anyway, the chemistry between Mary and Branson was evident to me too. I found myself wishing they’d get together down the line. Robert was more insufferable than ever — and I even found myself worrying that he might not even share Matthew’s Miraculous Letter with Mary or anyone — did anyone notice that he was standing next to a fireplace each of the first two times he read it? I found myself waiting for him to fling it into the fire so I was relieved when he ended up doing right by Mary, however reluctantly.

      As much as I’m suspicious of Edna, I’m not sure if she can match Thomas the way O’Brien did. Speaking of which, I feel like I missed something with him throwing the nanny under the bus. Did he really catch her at something or did he just luck into his sabotage actually being the right thing to do?

    • marlie

      The one thing that bugged me, was the way that Thomas was setting Anna up to take the fall for Edna’s mistakes. I can see why he wanted to get rid of the Nanny, but I don’t get why he’s suddenly set his sights on taking Anna down. Plus, all I see happening is that in the end, Anna will be vindicated, and Edna will be sent away in shame, and Thomas will get off with a slap on the wrist.

      • Spicytomato1

        I didn’t get it either. Anna was one of the few who showed him compassion when he was broken up over Sybil.

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

        I don’t think he’s trying to take Anna down. He knows that he couldn’t even if he wanted to. He’s just giving her a little bitchslap for warning Edna to stay away from him.

        • marlie

          I just saw your response upthread. Disregard my question. :P

          • Shawn EH

            Also, Edna is clearly the new O’Brien in more ways than one. I loved when Bates and Anna noticed how thick Barrow and Edna had become. He’s nothing without his faghag, clearly.

      • Eric Stott

        and maybe his prosthetic fingers will fall off.

    • Lilithcat

      I just have to add that I always have the irresistible urge to have a cup of tea while I read TLo’s recap of Downton Abbey. Unfortunately, I’m out of crumpets, so must have biscotti instead.

      • greenwich_matron

        Pretend the biscotti are stale crumpets. It’s so hard to find capable help nowadays.

    • Stubenville

      Can someone let me in on the secret? I keep trying to get into this and end up bored about a half-hour in by the largely unlikable plummy toffs and all the little, seemingly meaningless and barely related sub plots. For example, the rescue of Mr.Carson’s old vaudeville partner, and days later dispatching the old hoofer off to a job in Belfast.

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

        There’s no secret. It’s just not for you.

        • Stubenville

          Ah well, I did try. Perhaps I’ll tune in when Shirley MacLaine or Paul Giamatti appear in future episodes.

      • BayTampaBay

        The secret…great actors, great period costumes & vintage clothes, great vintage cars, Highclere Castle, Inverness Castle, palatial London town homes, Maggie Smith & Shirley Maclaine, antique crystal & china, a great yellow lab doggie with a cute wagging swishy butt plus the two hotties for all ages-Clarkson & Branson.

        What else do you want?

        • MsMajestyk

          Dr. Clarkson FTW! I’m glad someone else sees the hotness that is Dr. Clarkson. I’ve had a crush on him from day one, that voice!

      • Eric Stott

        I’m getting tired of each and every character, but there’s still a lot of eye candy for the historian in me. Nice details: Edith’s editor had a decent tailcoat but the vest wasn’t fitted properly and his shirt front threatened to dislodge- either he hasn’t got a tailor used to such things or be bought everything in a hurry (a real gentleman would already have one – or several)

      • not_Bridget

        The first season was a posh soap opera & great fun. But not everybody enjoys soap operas, posh or not.

        I think the writing, plots & characterization went downhill fast, beginning in season 2. But I’ve stayed to snark–and enjoy high production values & some of the performances. If you aren’t interesting in that sort of “trimming”–hey, Sherlock will be back soon!

    • Shawn EH

      I’m so glad that Isobel is still involved; I was worried she would really fade away without Matthew. I also can’t believe she allowed the Nanny to keep her from her grandson. It’s funny that she seems to have no relation at all with Mary. But at least she still knows a cause when she has one hand-delivered to her!

      • Isabel

        The other Granny would have put Nanny in her place and barged right in!

        • MelVT

          The other granny is Cora.

        • Shawn EH

          Without even trying! It’d be like shooing away a fly to her.

        • Lilithcat

          I’m not so sure. Cora seems to cave in to staff a good deal of the time.

          • Shawn EH

            We’re airheads, I think we’re thinking about the Dowager, the Great-granny!

            Though Cora did act pretty quickly when she witnessed the servant’s snobbery.

            • BayTampaBay

              It is Cora’s house and in the chain of command she is second to Robert and Robert only!

            • Lilithcat

              True, but at times she seems astonishingly trusting and naïve. Her character seems to swing wildly from Iron Lady to limp noodle.

            • rainwood1

              I’ve noticed that too. Just when she seems to have become one, she swings to the other. Cora as the Countess of Plot Device apparently.

            • Isabel

              My bad. I was thinking about Cora’s mom, the American! She would have pushed Nanny out of the way!

            • Tally Ho

              It does say a lot about social class. The arrogant confidence of the rich versus the obligingly politeness of the middle class. Sometimes the former isn’t always bad and the latter isn’t always good.

      • Tally Ho

        I thought her acting was superb, even better than Mary as a grieving widow. It must have been devastating after spending four years of a horrific war waiting for that too common letter from your son’s commanding officer to appear in the letter box saying how he’d gloriously served his country by getting blown into bits by cannonballs, to see him actually survive against the odds, and yet suddenly die in a random car crash. Penelope Wilton carried off the challenge remarkably realistically, more so than Mary who came across as somewhat spoiled.

        • Shawn EH

          Mary is a lot spoiled, as witness her affront taken at Carson’s familiarity — but then her apology later was very well-delivered when she broke down. But, yes, hard to match those wide blank eyes of Wilton’s as she tried to carry on, listlessly.

    • MsALVA

      The reason the storylines seemed a bit jarring last night is because PBS edited together the first two episodes of the UK version into one last night. As soon as the box containing Matthew’s things arrived, it was the 2nd episode.

    • Winter_White

      I began to enjoy Lady Mary — after loathing her for most of the first season — when I realized that her snottiest lines could’ve been written for Megan Mullally to deliver as Karen Walker. So now Lady Mary’s imperious self-absorbtion is hilarious to me…

      (Random example: Last season when her dear husband was telling the guests about his day at the big hunt, she cut him off: “Matthew, it’s boring enough listening to you talk about your successes.” Can’t you just hear that in Karen’s voice, especially if it started with “oh, honey”?)

      When she begins calling the male servants “Poodle” I’ll be so happy.

      • MikeW_Vegas

        LOL This makes DA MUCH more fun!!!!!!

    • traceyishere

      Could they have packed more into two hours? Far too much going on in such a short period of time….the redic is starting to set in.

    • lsuttell

      I must know: who plays Sam Thorley, the handsome lad who danced with Rose? Checks at the PBS web site haven’t turned up any information yet, but I won’t give up my quest.

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

        His name is Jonathan Howard. You can see his IMDb page here: http://is.gd/qNup2s

      • CeeQ

        Hot under-gardener was hot. I’d dress up in a maid’s outfit for him too!
        Oh my.

      • Spicytomato1

        Handsome, yes. I got a vague Eddie Redmayne vibe from him. A good thing, imo, I know others here may disagree!

    • lsuttell

      Sam Thawley (please excuse my previous misspelling) is played by Jonathan Howard. Yummy.

    • Winter_White

      I love the way the lighting for the whole series has changed. Brighter, flatter; new jazz-era colors… Just a great job in giving the show a fresh look as the characters move into a new era. (And the better to show off Edith’s fabulous new wardrobe!)

    • CeeQ

      I blew up my friend’s phone with texts thru out the 2 hours. Here’s a sample which pretty much sums up my reactions.

      (I could have done without the high school drama in the kitchen on V Day. Cousin Rose is annoying but yes, in a fun, uptown girl looking for hot under-gardener to play with kinda way. Overall good episode for me.)

      “Ms O’Brian left?!?!? She’s off to India! Now Cora will have to dress herself! The indignities.”

      “Lord Grantham, ever the tactful man, says to the guy whose wife died tragically in childbirth – great love means great misery when one of you dies. Sometimes you just want to slap him!”

      “Branson is still hot. Edith is still angsty about her bf. Lord Grantham rolls his eyes about it like the diva he is. Commoners marrying into his family again.”

      “Moseley is desperate to dress someone. Anyone.”

      “Dowager Countess: Just because you’re an old widow, I see no necessity to eat off a tray.” LOVE.

      “Edith wants the sexy time but only as lawful husband and wife. But she’s dressed head to toe in scarlet! Saucy minx.”

      “Edith’s wardrobe has vastly improved now that it’s the 20’s! She’s giddy at being out in public eating and drinking with a boy!”

      “Mrs. Hughes tells cousin Violet to get a grip. Branson does the smart thing and enlists Carson to tell Mary to get a grip. Moseley’s dad tells him to get a grip. This episode should be titled Downton Abbey Gets A Grip.”

      “Thomas and Nanny West escalate their war. He’s about to go all bitchy queen on her and it is going to be so delicious!”

      “It’s all Beverly Hills 90210 in the kitchen! LOL”

      “Branson’s stalker is back on staff!”

      “Dowager Countess’ butler squares off with Moseley. It’s high noon. And Moseley strikes out.”

      “Mrs. Hughes knows Edna is a hussy and therefore unsuitable to dress Cora. They have the weirdest problems.”

      “Mary comes out of black and jumps into asking the tenants about their sheep! Hooray!”

      “Edith bf is all new renaissance man! He makes his own tea! And the plan to become German continues apace. This will not go awry at all! Let’s hope Edith gets some play before he heads off to Germany!”

      “Anna is scandalised at being among riff raff and having to babysit annoying cousin Rose.”

      “Everyone is late for dinner! Especially Edith. Who was probably getting laid.”

      • decormaven

        “This episode should be titled Downton Abbey Gets A Grip.” FTW!

      • Isabel

        Did Lady E sneak pseudo-Mr. Rochester into the house before the dinner?

        • CeeQ

          I dunno! She was all kinds of guilty as she ran in late for dinner with her cockamamie story about a traffic jam. Come on Edith, we’ve all been in that same “traffic jam” which is also I Slept In Cuz of Hot Sex…..or, as is the more usual for me,…..I Slept In Cuz of Chocolate Bingeing and Bad Late Night TV.

    • Alexis Boucher

      I spent the last two weeks binge watching the previous seasons. It’s silly and soapy, but it is absolutely gorgeous to look at.
      I like Matthew, but so much of the story has been about him and Mary so far it will be interesting to see how they evolve from there. Really hope they don’t try and fix her up with Branson. Even if it means Branson gets more screen time. I love him.
      Dare I say it… but the show needs more men. I managed to avoid spoilers from the UK broadcast, but it does seem like a few new actors were added to the cast. Who knows how long they’ll stick around?

    • Wool Worth

      Overall, I enjoyed this episode and was so glad to see these characters and the house again.

    • Wool Worth

      Question about Mr. Carson’s former partner, didn’t he try to blackmail Carson in Season 1? Mrs. Hughes knew about that incident I believe. So it felt off that this man was now an object of pity and that Mrs. Hughes was helping him.

      • not_Bridget

        The “blackmail” was Carson’s past as an entertainer–one of The Cheerful Charlies. He was ashamed but everybody who heard the “truth” found it rather endearing. It wasn’t as if he had a real shameful secret….

        • Wool Worth

          True, but even if the “truth” wasn’t awful, does one go out of their way to help a former blackmailer?

          • Isabel

            Mrs. Hughes might not have known about the blackmail. Weren’t Edith, Lady Dowager, Mr. Bates, and maybe Lord G confronting the blackmailer?

            • Wool Worth

              Thanks! You’re right, Mrs. Hughes wasn’t there. So that makes sense. I looked up the episode’s summary and I had forgotten that Carson was actually going to steal food for him, so the ex-partner was not a nice guy back in Episode 1. Oh, and I found out that it was Sybil, not Edith that was there, along with Anna, Bates and Lord G, so that’s why no one else knew about this. Interesting.

    • decormaven

      Love that Lady Edith is truly coming into her own, both fashion-wise and relationship-wise. That dress she wore in the hotel scene was gorgeous. And TLo speak the truth about Lady Mary’s mourning looks- such style! Looking forward to Rose’s flapper looks- will it be too early for cloches in this season?

    • ThaliaMenninger

      I’d put up with a lot of whipping poor puppy Molesly and crap being piled upon Anna (even though I haaaate both those things) to get to see Mary’s plum coat and that adorable hat. I have very serious doubts about Matthew’s deus ex machina will (and didn’t we learn in season 1, I mean, wasn’t it pounded over our heads, that some dire ancestor had bound the estate and all its land holdings up in fee tail and There Was Nothing to Be Done about ever possibly leaving it to a female? Plus, of course, there is the small fact that Robert is still alive, which means Matthew hadn’t inherited yet, anyway, so he really had nothing to leave dear Mary except whatever that drip Lavinia and her dad left him, right?)

      I do know that fee tail arrangements get abolished in a few years (like 1925) so that old toff Robert should enjoy his snit while he can. They’ve just now put through a law so that the females can inherit the title, too. Jolly, what?

    • Fanny_Trollope

      Let’s talk about mourning. Anyone else surprised that Mary went into half-mourning (mauve, lavender, grays) at six months? I know that standards relaxed somewhat after super-widow Queen Victoria departed, but I thought that was a bit early, even for 1922. I would have thought that a widow would wear solid black for at least a year. However, on second thought, Downton is out in the country, in the wilds of Yorkshire, and it’s not as if Mary had many — or any — social engagements outside the house. She was all ready to roll with the stunning mauves and lilacs, though, wasn’t she? *Somebody* was keeping her dressmaker busy after Beloved Husband kicked the bucket. And black does get boring after a while.

      • Lilithcat

        I think standards has loosened up a bit by the ’20s. I found this quote from a dressmaking book of the time: The period of mourning is divided in two. That is, if a person is going to wear deep for a year, the first six months deep mourning is worn and the second six months, second mourning. First mourning is mostly black; second mourning black and white. The old time third mourning, lavender and gray, isn’t necessary now. When a person leaves off black and white, which is second mourning, they may wear any inconspicuous shade they fancy. Lady Mary appears to have gone from first mourning directly to third. http://www.antiquepatternlibrary.org/html/warm/B-SW007.htm

        • not_Bridget

          Perhaps the Great War eased the customs of mourning dress a bit. So many died that black would have been all too common. In a few years, Coco Chanel will introduce the little black dress & sophisticated women will choose to wear black…….

          • BayTampaBay

            I believe the tag line under the Vogue illustration was “A Ford called Chanel”. This illustration is very famous as fashion illustrations go. Uncle Karl recreated the whole thing in a photograph that registers about 7.5 on the fashion photo Richter Scale.

        • Saturnine

          God, I love learning about this stuff; thanks for finding it.

      • Snailstsichr

        Mary looks so lovely in the lavenders and mauves – I hope she wears then for a while. I loved the lavendar outfit she wore to go out looking over the land.

    • Rachel Sawyer

      What about the entail? Didn’t this whole series start because a man had to inherit the estate and all the Downtons were turning their noses up at the middle class Crawleys?

      • Chris

        Yes, which is why when Mary had the baby boy in the last Christmas special Matthew says something to her about “securing” the estate or the heir or something (I forget the wording). If Mary had given birth to a girl, she wouldn’t be quite so sought after now.

      • Lilithcat

        Don’t confuse the land and title with Matthew’s personal fortune (the one he was left by Lavinia’s father). That’s not part of the entail, so he could leave it to anyone he pleased.

        • BayTampaBay

          Thank you Lilithcat! This is what I have been getting out all morning! Tell me why the estate would be responsible for paying inheritance tax on Matthew’s personal fortune. This whole “selling land” to the pay the death duties smells like an old Quark worm hole scam from Deep Space Nine.

          • Lattis

            old Quark worm hole scam from Deep Space Nine.

            I deeply appreciate any reference to the Star Trek universe. :)

    • siriuslover

      Exactly! And the costuming on this show is exemplary. Remember when Lady Sybil ordered her new dress (I think it was for her coming out, but I can’t remember) and it was based on their Orientalist styling?

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/divine_aphasia/ Constant Cat

      Boys…last season, upon Lady Sybil’s death, wasn’t there some mention of her being the lightest, sweetest character? When did you radically alter your opinions?? I didn’t mind Lady Rose either, but no need to trash on Sybil who had a good character arch, with turning to nursing to wedding the chauffeur, to mother and dying viddy viddy young. Also, I like Bates and Anna so keep them death wishes a secret. Your voodoo power is growing around the internets and I don’t want JF and co. getting any (monstrously bad) ideas! :):):) Love your reviews! – CC

      • kerryev

        “Sweetest” definitely does not mean “not boring.”

        • jjtxgrrl

          I thought I recalled a tad bit of mourning from TLO over Sybil’s death as well….and how sweet she was. I agree with other commenters that her storyline was not boring and added an interesting element.

          Must everyone on Downton be evil? I know it makes for good drama….but I liked Sybil….and I concur about the Bates. I like them. Helping people isn’t boring, its nice, especially amongst so many overbearingly evil unhappy people. Ahem. Mary. Ahem.

          There has to be SOME level of balance….or it just becomes redundant.

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

            Again: finding the episode where she died sad doesn’t mean we didn’t think she was boring and the actress wasn’t very good.

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

        I don’t know… was there? You’ll have to show us a quote. Even so, “light” and “sweet” don’t actually contradict the idea that she’s also boring and that the actress who played her had no game.

        TV reviews don’t have magical powers. The show’s written and shot already. Nothing we say here can affect that.

        • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

          I beg to differ. TV reviews by mere mortals may not have magical powers, but you two are definitely in a class of your own and bring magic to everything you touch.

        • Shawn EH

          She may have had little game, but she traded on her beauty; wonderfully cast as “the pretty sister eveyrone loves.” And she got a little better after her gloomy sojourn in Ireland.

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/divine_aphasia/ Constant Cat

          Oh ho! A genuine TLo response. I suppose I COULD go and dig up old quotes, but I was simply stating my own opinion and having fun with a contradiction I seemed to recall round these parts. Of course, we’re all free to change our minds, and I just happened to like Sybil, in retrospect. Though I can admit, her romance with Branson was interminable and the weirdly boring courtship was made hilarious by their first physical contact, when he randomly grabbed her…by the hips??? (I call that a “Bransoning”. As in, “He just Bransoned her hips. How odd.”) Still, overall I found her sweet character interesting, and I suppose we’re just differing in preferences of storyline and actress. Ah well.

          TV reviews don’t have magical powers? Hmm. You might take the compliment I dished your way with a bit more panache. You represent a growing collective consciousness around here (and I happily show up for your thoughtful critiques.) This season is already in the can, yes. But. Public outcry DOES have an opinion on future seasons. How often have we wanted dreadful characters removed from a show or even, a series of films – and like “magic”, seen them carefully disappear or lessen their appearances later on? I hate to give this as example but I’m finding it hard not to contain myself: Jar-Jar Binks. Thank GOD for public outcry on that one. And soap opera characters are known for their easy kill-off-ability, and as this has been dubbed a ‘very pretty soap opera’ ….well. I don’t think my leap was off. The death count is high on this show. Take care, Bates. He better Barrow it up.

          Opine away. Insult away! I shall still tune in, as your writing is top notch.

    • Isabel

      I don’t like how O’Brien excited the show. I wanted more drama

    • leeann

      Boo to trashing Lady Sybil and JBF. Both are sorely missed on this show. Rose is fun but she’s no substitute.

      But ITA that when Mary suffers everyone must suffer with her. Nothing like good old-fashioned narcissism. She has a way of sucking people into her black hole, be it one of despair, self-pity or plain crabbiness. Or death.

      Her corpse bride act was very amusing though. She reminded me of Wednesday Adams.

    • Paula Pertile

      Loved Violet’s butler – he (the actor) was a servant in Gosford Park.
      Edna, bleah. She doesn’t have the gravitas of O’Brien, she’s a lightweight. I hope she gets sent packing in some delicious way.
      Loved the evil nanny, and wish she’d been kept around a bit longer.

      p.s. thank got you’re back!

      • rainwood1

        Thank you! I knew I’d seen the Dowager’s butler somewhere before.

      • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

        A ha! That’s where he came from! He was the one who was hot to valet Mr. Novello.

        • Paula Pertile

          Also, Lady (forget her name – the guest) was the wonderfully awful Fanny Dashwood in Sense & Sensibility.

          • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

            That’s the marvelous Harriet Walter who was in the UK Law & Order as the supervising detective and is always fabulous in any role, but particularly awesome as Harriet Vane in the dramatizations of three of the Lord Peter novels done in the late 80s.

            • Paula Pertile

              You really know your stuff Frank – I’m impressed! I’ve missed those other shows – they must be British, not aired in the US?

            • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

              The Law & Order I saw on BBC America a few years ago. And the Lord Peter novels were shown on Mystery! on PBS in the spring and summer of 1989. Both are available on DVD and I think the L&O episodes (which are actually DARKER than the US version) are on Netflix right now.

            • Paula Pertile

              Thanks Frank. I’ve never seen the Brit L&O, but probably did see the PBS thing and am not remembering. I know I’ve seen her in other things over the years, but haven’t dug through google to figure it out. She’s brilliant!

    • Call me Bee

      I guess I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid because I love everything about this program. It seemed to tie up a bit of loose ends, and set up a few little situations for the future. So sorry you dislike the Bates’. They are the cutest things. But then again, I am the perfect demographic for this fancy soap: Middle-aged white ladies.

      • not_Bridget

        Middleaged white lady here. Who remembers the original Upstairs/Downstairs (now streaming on Netflix)–a long-running show with a much smaller budget that really made me care about the toffs & their servants. Downton–not so much. Pretty to look at but Fellowes can get on my last nerve.

        What I’m loving this year: Sleepy Hollow’s last episodes for the season coming up soon. And beautiful Sherlock returning…..

    • TigerLaverada

      Agree with all your points, Uncles. I did enjoy the episode more than I expected, as I’d read tepid reviews that basically called it boring.

      Edna can disappear anytime as far as I’m concerned. Robert’s bullying-with-love method of reinstating the Olde Ways was necessary for his character, I guess, but it mainly seemed to serve as the timeworn rock that Lady Mary needed to push off from to get her life going again. Script issues aside, the acting and costuming in this series make it a delight to watch, as long as one suspends the natural “oh, come ON!” reaction when such a clunky deus ex machina as Matthew’s letter appears.

      Speaking of said letter, it crossed my mind ever so briefly when Bates was shown forging Molsely’s signature that this might point to similar forgery with Matthew’s miracle epistle. But I can’t see why Bates would do such a thing, he hasn’t been wrapped up in Mary’s storyline at all really…

    • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

      Dorothy Sayers’ second book, “Clouds of Witness” (published in 1926) involves the murder of the fiancee of a Duke’s sister at a hunting lodge. The Duke is indicted for the murder and, being a peer of the realm, is tried by a select committee of the House of Lords.

      The butler/valet (I’ve never been clear as to which he actually was and whether he belonged to the lodge or to the Duke, so to speak) at the lodge is written a bit like Molesley. This book has the most information about the ducal family that appears in the series, but since it takes place at a lodge, there isn’t much downstairs insight.

      I’ve seen bits and pieces of Sayers in Sir Julian’s writing and it would be grand fun if the Earl could be similarly indicted (maybe in the manner of one of Erika Kane’s many indictments for murder) and have to stand trial in front of his peers.

      Anyway, I’m glad the long wait is over and look forward to the next few Sundays to come!

      • shorterstory

        Fabulous book, and one that features a duke who is stupid yet honorable, much like our beloved Earl of G. Frankly I’d love it if the whole Sayers ouevre could get the Fellowes treatment. Isn’t it time for a remake? Some Cumberbatch-level talent could take on the role of Wimsey and by God the ladies would be driving down the door to play Harriet Vane.

        • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

          Excellent notion!

    • shaziz

      Hear hear!~ Excellent review! More of SAM the dancing man! #HAWT

    • greenwich_matron

      I don’t think that Cora is as clueless to downstairs politics as she is indifferent. She has a housekeeper and a butler, and it’s their job to make it appear like they are one big happy family. Her housekeeper messed it up by writing a bad recommendation, and now it’s her job to make it work to avoid stressing and embarrassing her boss. I also suspect that she would have no patience for Anna and Edna bringing her their squabble over who actually did what. She lives in a world where she is BFF’s with her ladies maid and all the under servants were perfectly happy and ever so grateful. She pays a lot of money for that illusion, and she expects her employees to prop it up at all costs.

      • BayTampaBay

        Great Explanation. I never thought of it like that.

    • berkeleygirl

      Allen Leech does not get enough credit for bringing more nuance and heart to Branson than Fellowes puts on the page. Rather than fall into sentimentality, he’s giving the Irishman some spine.

    • Saturnine

      Penelope Wilton owned the show last night; her quiet sorrow was so well done. In contrast, Mary (and I do love her) was wafting around in some Edward Gorey-inspired impression of grief, and Robert and Cora were just obtuse on too many levels. That said, I’m happy it’s back, especially to see Mrs, Hughes, Carson, the Dowager Duchess, Thomas, and Branson, Oh, and Edith too, but I get a bad vibe from her newspaper guy. I thought we were closer to the 1930s, so his enthusiasm for Germany had me ultra-suspicious. As it’s only 1922, I guess it’s way too early to peg him as a sympathizer.

      • Lilithcat

        His “enthusiasm” for Germany is because insanity was a ground for divorce there, while it was not in England.

        • Saturnine

          Well, yes, his stated motive was quite clear. However, I think it’s entirely possible that Fellows could be foreshadowing something ominous with this character.

    • Andy Morris

      I love fabulous 20’s Edith. I’m sure it’s a specific costuming decision as well, but the styles of this period really suit Edith, as opposed to the edwardian glamour which always suited Mary/Sybil more. I’m still waiting for my ‘Fabulous Edith and the Bright Young Things Tear Up London Town’ spin off (working title), I’m just dying for her to have a little bit of fun at long last!

      • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

        I love your idea! Brilliant! Some episode titles could include: “Edith and the Cocaine-Inspired Orgies” and “Edith Takes the Roadster for a Spin to the Coast and Returns With Magic Fairy Dust, Darlings” and “Edith Dons a Red Jumper in Solidarity.” The possibilities are endless!

    • Everard Santamarina

      I have to say, if it weren’t for TLo’s live tweets and reading these comments, this show would be falling off my DVR unwatched. The Dowager Countess is really the only consistent source of engaging perspective and thoughtful action. Others come and go. I don’t think Edith is going to get a happy ending regardless and this relationship although it will be interesting if she’s being duped, or just star crossed again. That said, I do love a lot of non plot things about the show, but if the plot continues going back to similar themes and territory, I’ll have to reconsider, especially when Sherlock and Walking Dead return. (I know, very different shows, but I have limited time to invest in television.) Thanks to all of you for posting, the breadth and depth of knowledge (and snark) of the forum participants is a true joy to read!

    • http://gabyrippling.tumblr.com/ Gaby

      “Lady Sybil was a boring character played by a charisma-free actress” Oh thank god someone else thinks so, and best of all you two. I was so sick of her by the time she died.

    • Wendy Todd

      What I loved even slightly more than Edith’s amazing gown was her hair. With those plaits? And those head scarves? That girl’s got it all going on.

    • BayTampaBay

      Cora’s father was a wealthy Cincinnati Jew. Cora’s mother is an Episcopalian.

      • Tally Ho

        If Cora’s father was modeled after the person I’m thinking of he was a very secular, non-practicing Jew. Cora herself was raised Episcopalian, married a Church of England earl and sent her daughters to the local CoE church in the village, where they were also doubtlessly baptized. The Crawley girls may have Jewish ancestry but for all practical purposes they aren’t Jewish.

        Even if Edith did run off to Germany and the issue of her Jewish ancestry became problematic, she was fortunate enough to be the daughter of a prominent and wealthy English earl and as such she would have been quietly encouraged to leave Germany by her family, the British Foreign Office and Nazi officials well before the war started and the persecution of Jews turned violent. The original Nazi treatment of German Jews was to pressure them to emigrate, it wasn’t till the late 1930s that the final solution was hatched and they decided extermination was better than emigration. By this point the majority of German Jews had already left the country, which ironically meant that German Jews had a higher survival rate than many countries to the east of Germany.

        • BayTampaBay

          Cora was modeled after Mary Lieter( spelling???) daughter of one of Marshall Fields original partners who got rich rich rich in retail trail and invested in Chicago real estate. She married a Lord Curzon later Viceroy of India. Mary Leiter was the 2nd wealthiest heiress to marry an English lord after Consuelo Vanderbilt

    • Lilithcat

      Nothing has been said about anyone moving to Germany, just Edith’s guy getting German citizenship so he can divorce his wife.

      • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

        I do think the first mention was of moving to Germany. Then, in an update, he says that he could get German citizenship.

      • Maria

        No, I thought Edith’s guy asked her if she would move with him to Germany — implying that he would need to relocate in order to get German citizenship. Didn’t he?

    • lostonpolk

      I have to say, I was more than just a little hesitant about returning to Downton Abbey; it is often just a pretty soap opera, and Matthew’s death seemed so arbitrary. But when Mary finally broke down crying, collapsing into Carson’s arms, I actually had a little tear in my eye. Back on board, I guess.

      • Isabel

        Was it her first time crying?

        • lostonpolk

          First time that episode, and (I presume) the first time since getting the bad news.

    • Thundar99

      Alas, I wanted so much more Nanny West than they were willing to give. That turn toward the crib…priceless!

      • Isabel

        What business was it of Nanny to insult Baby Sibby? Did Tom ever find out?

    • FloridaLlamaLover

      A few late thoughts. (1) I didn’t really notice any shared looks between Lady Mary and Bronson that might suggest a future romance. Perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention. (2) I was surprised that Rose wasn’t raked over the coals a bit for being brash enough to place an advertisement for Cora. Given her age, her position as “you’re a member of the family, but you’re not a family member empowered with decision-making privileges,” I thought she’d been fussed at a bit. Were they being indulgent with her or was this Cora being flaky? (3) I agree with the downstairs comments about the love triangle or quadrangle or whatever. Let’s move on. (4) Agree is well that it was improbable that Matthew didn’t have a will. Smacked of typical soap opera silliness. (5) What was the timeline for this episode, did anyone catch it? One month, two months? Seemed to me that Mary went from the deep abyss of depression to grabbing the bull by the horns quite quickly. (5) I LOVE DOWAGER VIOLET! I want to be like her when I’m an elder citizen, but… (6) Why didn’t Violet tell her butler what she was up to when she brought Mosely over to assist with lunch?

    • Caaro3

      Question for bitter kittens who may be in the know. Lady Edith has always had a huge honker, apparently a prosthetic to make Laura Carmichael more of an ugly duckling. In the S4 premier her nose was more refined, narrower and bump-less. Edith was suddenly gorgeous! Was the fake nose removed to make the character more beautiful in her liberated, in-love-with-a-scallywag state? Why would they do that without explanation. Does love make your nose smaller? Am I crazy?

      • martha

        I always thought it was the way her hair was styled that emphasized her nose.

    • Sweetvegan

      Loved the show overall, but the whole Charlie thing was so stupid. Why did Mrs. Hughes butt in? Just so that she and Mrs. Crawley would have something to do? Wouldn’t it make more sense for Mrs. Hughes to try to get Isobel interested in the hospital again?! And then they wrapped up the whole Charlie thing in a pretty red bow at the train station. Blech! That’s the first time I’ve been really disappointed in the show.

      Loved Mary and the Dowager!

      Sick of Thomas’s stupid schemes.

    • Marcia

      This looked like the “set up” episode – setting things in motion. Would have hated to drag out Mary’s mourning. Bring on the suitors!

    • BoredInBelgravia

      “Sure, there were the usual pacing problems that have always plagued this show; the sudden unexplained turnarounds in character or the way it tends to shuffle people in and out of the story but gives them nothing to do otherwise, which tends to render the whole of Downton Abbey like an animatronic funhouse ride in a Disney theme park. Aristocracy Land, where little figures of Mrs. Patmore or Lady Edith buzz, click and whirr their way back to life in the brief moments when the spotlight is upon them and then shut down when it’s someone else’s turn.”

      While I do not disagree completely with your description of “Downtown Abbey,” it does bring to mind the quote attributed to Alfred Hitchcock: “What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.”

      If you feel the need to know what Mrs. Patmore or Lady Edith are doing while not on screen, use your imaginations. The same imaginations that allow you to think of yourselves as “fabulous,” and “that the internet was incomplete without your voices.”

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

        Angry fangurl is angry!

        We’re so sorry, sweetie, but silly people who get offended by TV show reviews and then petulantly lash out at the reviewers by insulting them aren’t allowed here, nor are people who willfully miss a point or people who lack a sense of humor. Since you’ve demonstrated all three in one ridiculous little stamp of your feet, we’re afraid we’re gonna have to say goodbye.

        • minerrva

          Bored in Belgravia’s post was snarky, but–and I mean this sincerely, with all due respect–doesn’t the reaction seem a little disproportionate? It’s your site and for sure your prerogative to handle however you please, but it just comes across as harsh. Anyway, you don’t need back seat drivers, but for what it’s worth, it makes the atmosphere less playful and welcoming. PS: read your blog all the time :)

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

            I get what you’re saying, but from where we’re sitting, it’s commenters who think disagreement should take the form of insults who make this atmosphere less playful and welcoming.

            • minerrva

              thanks for the generous reply! love you guys.

    • Anne

      I appreciate that Fellowes gave Cora a real reason to fire the nanny, even if it was initially based on a tip from Thomas (does ANYONE still trust this guy? Come on!).

      Also, I felt bad for laughing at Mary, but she was in serious robot mode for the whole first half.

    • malarkey

      I swore, after last season’s finale, that I was done with this show. That last episode pissed me off bad! WELL of course, I’m back and sooo relieved that the season opener shows promise. Let’s hope Julian Fellowes doesn’t eff it up. Oh wait, he already did. Let’s hope he pulls a rabbit out of the hat & keeps the story interesting and moving forward. Agree on all points. How can Cora be so clueless?!?