“Downton Abbey” is in full swing as a convalescent home in this fourth episode. Just to clear something up – this is the fourth episode. The Season 2 premiere broadcast in the U.S. was two hours and it was episodes one and two. They aired separately in Britain and will be two separate episodes on the DVD set. Also, since some of you may have seen past what is new in the U.S., please keep spoilers out of the comments. Thank you.
The Granthams put on a concert for the men to keep their spirits raised. In fact, Edith and Mary team up for a double act, which is nice to see. Theirs is one of the most complicated relationships on the show and while it would be boring and out of character if they were suddenly best friends, it’s wonderful to see them working together. We also really enjoyed the scene where Edith tells Mary the news about Matthew – just another nice instance of the ice thawing.
Speaking of the news – William and Matthew went out on patrol and are missing. It puts the whole house on edge and while we never thought they’d kill Matthew off, we were a little worried they’d kill off William.
When the men return at the end of the episode amidst all the singing, we were a little torn on that scene. Part of us wanted to gag at the cheesiness (we expect better from “Downton” and also, where were they coming from? They told no one they were safe, they just showed up?), but the other part of us couldn’t help but tear up at Mary’s palpable relief at seeing Matthew come home.
Plus, Maggie Smith steals another scene by her hilarious reaction to everyone singing and then her reluctantly joining in.
In other Upstairs news, Cousin Isobel tries to bluff her way into taking over more responsibilities from Lady Grantham, but she should know better than to try that with Cora. Cora calls her bluff and Isobel leaves for a place where she will feel needed. We had to feel a bit sorry for Isobel, but why couldn’t she just go on managing the village hospital and leave Cora in charge of Downton?
As for romantic entanglements, Mary has to keep insisting to Lady Violet that Lavinia did not have an affair with Sir Richard, though Lady Violet astutely observes that this man still lent Lavinia’s father money and then used the debt to blackmail her – is that the kind of man Mary wants to be with? But Richard asks for her hand officially and she tells Lord Grantham she thinks she should take him. Robert is visibly disappointed, but lets Mary make up her own mind, only telling her that she must tell Matthew herself.
And Branson finally gets Sybil to refer to them as an “us” and we could not be more delighted. They’re a wonderful couple. We also love it that Lady Violet is once again so astute – she zeroes right in on the heart of the matter with Sybil not mentioning a beau because perhaps he’s not one she can mention. Lady Violet’s comments get Mary’s radar humming and she reveals to Sybil she knows, but insists she’s on Sybil’s side.
In the wake of Isobel’s departure and Matthew being at the front, Mrs. Bird and Molesley have nothing to do at Crawley house. When a poor enlisted officer comes looking for food, it snowballs into a once-a-week soup kitchen for enlisted men. Mrs. Patmore and Daisy start helping out and of course nosy O’Brien thinks they’re all up to no good, so she rats on them to Lady Cora.
But in a wonderful turn of events, Lady Cora discovers them and she not only insists they use Downton’s food for the men, but she rolls up her sleeves and helps. Maybe we’re just a sucker, but that got us a lil’ misty too. Probably our favorite Cora moment of the series so far.
Meanwhile, Thomas gets a report from a friend that Mr. Bates is working in a pub nearby. Daisy overhears him telling O’Brien and she tells Mrs. Hughes and Carson, who goes straight to Lord Grantham. He turns around to tell Anna, but she already knows. She tells Robert why Bates hasn’t returned, one of which is that he parted with Robert on bad terms.
But Lord Grantham takes full responsibility for that parting and goes to get Bates from the pub. Theirs is another relationship we really like on this show (among, you know, many, many relationships that are also wonderful).
So Bates is back and he is going to give Vera everything so she’ll divorce him. And he and Anna are finally reunited, which is lovely.
Finally, Ethel gets caught in flagrante with Major Mustache, so Mrs. Hughes fires her. Until she turns up at the end of the episode pregnant and looking for help. *sigh*
Thoughts & Tidbits
- We thought for sure Ethel was headed for a rape storyline – that she’d flirt and flirt and it would get her in real danger, especially after O’Brien warned her to be careful what she wished for. We’re glad to see that’s not the case, though the pregnancy storyline is pretty bad. Ethel is no Gwen from Season 1, that’s for darn sure.
- We really enjoy that O’Brien and Thomas have gone from one-dimensional villains twirling their mustaches to well-developed characters. O’Brien’s affection for Lang is particularly nice and we also like her and Lady Cora after last year’s horrible miscarriage.
- “O’Brien, you can manage the bread.” Heeee.
- “I’m not asking you to give them up forever. When they come around, I will welcome them with open arms … look, it comes down to whether or not you love me. That’s all. That’s it. The rest is detail.” – Branson. *swoon*
- Poor Molesley, getting his hopes up about being Lord Grantham’s valet only to be thwarted by Bates’ return.
- Like we said earlier, this episode got a little cheesy. It’s definitely not the strongest of Season 2 so far (we still love the show, we’re just saying). After you see the next episode, we’ll have more to say on the main storyline of this episode. But we’re mum for now until we’re all caught up.
What did you think, “Downton Abbey” fans? And don’t forget to check out our wonderful gallery of Lady Violet quotes – she gets the best one-liners.