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Downton Dish – Episode 1

Downton Abbey Season 2, Episode 1 (Aired Sunday, January 8 )

5. Float like a Butterfly: Dowager Grantham wrestles large floral arrangement into submission

One would think that all it would take is one withering stare to make the offending flora pop out of the vase and bolt across the floor (I know I would.) But no, Dowager Countess circled the table like a ninja, and quite rightly too! Those cowtails could have poked someone’s eye out. You know, all this floral arranging has left me feeling quite parched. I think I’ll have the footman bring me some tea.

4. Shell Shock: The smirk is wiped off Thomas’ face

And it only took the trench warfare and exploding shells that he was trying to avoid, by volunteering as a medical corpsman, to do it. Admit it; you loved seeing fear replace the self-satisfaction on Thomas’ face, didn’t you? But even in the face of unimaginable carnage, Thomas manages to worm his way out – with the help of O’Brien, a cigarette lighter, a German sniper – and the bit of information he pulls out of Matthew after he (small world) runs into him in the trenches. And what’s the deal between him and O’Brien anyway? Is she hoping for romance? Even Mrs. Patmore knows he’s ‘not a ladies man’. Are they just two miserable people bonded by their gossipy misanthropy? Or does he have something to hold over her? Does he know about the soap slip? Will he eventually turn on her too to get what he wants? As evil as they are, it was interesting to see Thomas and O’Brien fleshed out a little more in this episode. A little less Boris and Natasha, and a little more human. I can’t say I have any more sympathy for them because it is a simple reality that every character in this show, from the richest to the poorest, is living under the weight of the repressive social constraints of the day, so these two get no special dispensation from me.

3. Little Deuce Coupe: Lady Edith learns to drive

Lady Edith, the Edwardian Jan Brady, is desperate for someone, anyone, to notice her and if that requires her to drive a tractor, then so be it. Maybe I’ve been watching EastEnders too long, but when I saw Lady Edith taking driving lessons, I thought the inevitable end to this subplot would be a traffic fatality. I never dreamed she’d end up driving a tractor or rolling in the hay with a married farmer. Though to be quite fair, all we saw was a kiss — as did the farmer’s wife — and she had already treated the farmer’s wife with the same entitled disregard she usually aims at her sister. But that priceless look on Edith’s face, when Lord Grantham said they’d written to say she was dismissed, made me wonder; Was there more than a kiss? Was it the hopes of another love cruelly dashed, or was it something else? Because, just how delicious would it be for Lady Mary if it turned out that little Miss Edith Crawley (Miss Edith ‘His countryman deserved to know how he died: In the arms of a slut’ Crawley) turned out to be the sister who ended up up the duff without a paddle?

2. We’ll Always Have Ripon: Lady Mary and Matthew say goodbye at the train station

Sigh. The longing, the promises, the steam! Am I the only person who thinks Amtrak needs to bring back the steam locomotive (if only for the cinematic possibilities)? As Lady Mary and Matthew stood face to face, we could almost see her heart beating through her coat, and the gesture of giving him her beloved good luck toy was achingly sweet and innocent. But why didn’t she tell him she loved him!?! We know that’s why she went there. But then, Lady Mary expresses her true feelings only to the servants. Why is that? I don’t know, and being that it is 1917, and almost 70 years before Oprah, I don’t suppose we’ll explore the answer to that. In the meantime, why is she hanging around with that sleazy tabloid baron? Why was he threatening Matthew’s new fiance, Lavinia? Does he know about Mr. Pamuk? He may have heard the rumors, but again, it’s 1917 and with no cell phones to hack into, what’s a sleazy tabloid baron to do other than pretend to be a suitor. I hope I’m wrong. (But why doesn’t her Mother warn Mary about the dangers of the tabloids? Afterall, she should know: She used to be Evelyn Nesbit!) Poor Carson: This is going to kill him for sure. And what about Matthew? He must still love Mary – why else would he make sure he kept her good luck charm in his pocket? Will it help him return to England – and to her? All this speculating is exhausting. Where is that footman with my tea?

1. If You Wanna Know If He Loves You So: Anna & Mr. Bates kiss!

And about damn time! It only took him four years to plant one on her – and propose. And then Anna had to commit the Cardinal Sin of soap characters everywhere: She declared herself to be happy! Why Anna, WHY? As soon as she said, ‘In my whole life, I never thought I could be as happy as at this moment’, I thought, ‘Oh crap, here comes the other shoe’ – and right on cue, enter the evil almost ex-wife. Of course, when Mrs. Bates first arrived at Downton, I have to admit I was distracted trying to place her face until I quickly remembered that the actress starred in The Tudors, playing Queen Catherine of Aragon, the wife King Henry VIII tossed aside for Anne Boleyn. Hopefully our Anna will fare better than that Anne. But right now, while her head is intact, her heart is broken as Mr. Bates seeks to protect her and the House of Grantham from scandal without explanation. Good thing Mrs. Hughes has her eavesdropping priorities straight. But why doesn’t Mr. Bates ever fully defend himself against false accusations and malice? What is this ‘I am nothing’ stuff about? Being the bigger person is one thing but this is getting ridiculous, because there’s noble, and then there’s noble to the point where I just want to smack you, Mr. Bates.

Oh dear. I just remembered I haven’t got a footman. Or any tea. Note to self: Write to Thirteen & WLIW and suggest they offer Footman Services as a Pledge Premium Gift. That should do the trick. Til then…

The Dowager Countessdown in Five

Dame Maggie Smith does get some of the best lines in the show, but what takes them from good to great is the delivery of The Master. It is also a testament to the creative judgment of the scriptwriter & director that he understands the line the Dowager Countess Grantham walks with both the story and the audience: They never send her over that line into wacky sitcom neighbor territory. Just when you start to think Violet’s middle name might be Shecky, they pull her back and allow her serious and vulnerable sides to show through. But let’s forget about the serious and vulnerable right now, and instead serve up some lovely snark, Edwardian-style, from episode 1:

1. ‘My, my, you’re very well-placed if you’re ever in trouble with the law.’

2. ‘The truth is neither here nor there. It’s the look of the thing that matters.’

3. ‘Do you think she’s mad, ill, or working for the Russians?’

4. ‘That’s a relief. I hate Greek drama, when everything happens off stage.’

5. ‘Cora’s flowers always look more suited to a First Holy Communion…in southern Italy.’

6. ‘So that’s Mary’s replacement. Well, I suppose looks aren’t everything.’

OK, I do watch Sesame Street, so yes I know that’s six lines, not five. But I couldn’t decide between them, can you? And by the way, I’m thinking that we should start a Facebook campaign to put Maggie Smith’s face on Mount Rushmore. Who’s with me?

Downton Dish is written by Deborah Gilbert, a British television maven and editor of the E20 Chronicles, a free, weekly Eastenders e-newsletter, and an Eastenders column in the Union Jack Newspaper.

For more on the world of Downton Abbey, visit PBS Masterpiece online.

  • Carol

    It would useful to publish recaps of the first season so that those of who missed it will be
    ready to follow the story in the second season.

  • Debs

    @Carol: If you click on the Video tab, on the menu bar at the top of the page, you can find all of last season’s episodes right there, and you can watch them in full. Have yourself a marathon tonight to get caught up!

  • Nancy

    That’s what I did, watched on line, even though I have the latest re-airing of the series on my DVR! I can’t get enough!

  • Louis

    DA minus 5! What a great idea, to have a blog for us Downtonites! Thanks, PBS and Debbie!

  • Lynn

    I’m addicted, charmed and intrigued.
    Love Downton, and grateful for my DVR.

  • Tania

    Downton and “The Dowager” are back and absolutely brilliant! Well worth the wait.
    Cheers Deborah-looking foward to the Dish on episode 2…

  • Sharon

    Dont forget “Edith, you are a lady, not Toad of Toad Hall!” for great Maggie Smith lines. Definitely have my backing on the Mt. Rushmore plan.

  • Linda (in NC)

    Great job, Debbie! You made me laugh even harder than Maggie Smith. My favorite line: “because there’s noble, and then there’s noble to the point where I just want to smack you, Mr. Bates.” LOL

    I was genuinely shocked by Edith. A married man, a farmer who couldn’t even figure out how to drive a tractor! What was she thinking?

  • Eva

    So happy I saw your comments. I just can’t wait for the next episode. Thank you for your comments!

  • Joann Lublin

    Your observations would be more insightful if you learned how to spell.
    You meant to say XX the throes of World War I XX and instead you wrote
    XX the throws of World War I XX

    XX From Laura Linney’s introduction and the opening notes of the orchestral theme score, to the final close-up and the end credits, the highly anticipated second season of Downton Abbey, which returns us to the Crawley Family and their servants in the throws of World War I, is chock full of moment after memorable moments. XXX

  • Colette

    Thank you for all the interesting comments. The characers in the seres really have become members of our family. I have a question, and I hope I do not annoy any of the people reading this comment I thught that Mary became pregnant, after being with the Turk. Did I miss something? Or was I mistaken ? Please could someone give an answer. Enjoy the Show.

  • Bernadette

    Downton Abbey is so engrossing and captivating. It is a look back into Edwardian history. I just loved every episode and can’t wait for the upcoming programs. Masterpiece is simply fantastic!

  • PAMELA CAMERON GRAFF

    MY MOTHER WAS A MASTERPIECE FAN FOR YEARS, SO I OWE IT ALL TO HER TO INTRODUCE ME TO THE BEST OF THE BEST. I’VE GOT TO SAY, THIS MINI SERIES IS MOST HIGH ON MY LIST. JUST LOOOVVVEEE MAGGIE SMITH. MY BEST FRIEND & I ARE GLUED TO THIS. WE EVEN RECAPTURED THE FIRST SEASON, WITH EXCITEMENT !!!!!! I LOVE ALL FROM THE GREAT BRITISH ACTORS. IT’S THE ERA I LOVE SO MUCH !!!!

  • Lis

    Great summary! Regarding Edith, I was very surprised to see her fall for the farmer, but then…I think she’s just so desperate to be loved, and to be found lovable by someone…anyone. She’s envious of Mary’s many suitors and wishes to be found just as desirable as her sister, I think.

    Okay, enough psychoanalyzing for one day. Can’t wait for next week’s episode!!

  • TG Page

    Loving Downton Abbey. It was great that Ch 13 ran the marathon of the first season as I had only seen bits and pieces before that. The continuity was great and really gave a feel for all the characters. For those Eastenders fans, don’t you think that Mr. Bates reminds you of Derrick (Ian Lavender)–darker hair, perhaps a pound or two heavier, but many of the same facial expressions. Looking forward to more.

  • Debs/E20Launderette

    @Colette: Hi, it wasn’t Mary who became pregnant, it was her Mother who ‘fell pregnant’ (as they say in the UK), but then had a miscarriage after dastardly O’Brien put the bar of soap where she’d slip on it getting out of the bath.

  • Mandy O’Neill

    Brilliant. Thanks for posting.

  • Cindy

    Actually, it is in the throes, not the throws. Thanks!

  • J. Patrick Curley

    Already watched all of season 2 online…. bring on season 3!!!

  • Lorac

    thanks for the blogs!! I must of missed an episode because I couldn’t figure out what happened to the baby!

  • Ange

    I cannot fully express how Much I Love. Love, Love This Series!!!!! I am sad when the show is over — don’t want to wait another week). Wouldn’t it be great to have 2-hour showings each week? I would like this show to continue for another 20 years.

  • Ange

    Forgot to mention: I want to see Mary and Matthew get together. Hope they don’t “kill him off”. It would be great to see how his character, together with Mary, evolves through the years.

  • ellen

    It’s becoming more and more of a soap opera. Apparently some viewers (none that I know) are taken with Bates — it’s lost on me. I do like Anna, Mrs. Patmore, Carson, and Mrs. Hughes.

    I am glad that the upstairs daughters — especially Sybil — are showing some spunk. It’s ard to believe that even Mary is so untouched by the war that she thinks they should still have the shoot at Downton.

  • Elizabeth

    Thank goodness for my dvr so I don’t miss an episode.

  • Mindy

    I also loved the the MS line “You are a lady, not Toad of Toad Hall.”
    Sidebar: Was the married farmer the same guy who was dying last season and got the”Pulp Fiction”injection of adrenaline in the heart?

  • Jane

    Two oddities hit every time I re watch season 1. Daisy was down the hall watching as they carried Pamuk away from her. They could not have been leaving Mary’s room. Or did I miss something?
    and 2. When Daisy upends the dessert mold onto the table in the kitchen, it is not as tall as the mold itself. There is a layer missing?
    I will watch yet again. But if anyone has an explanation I would be delighted to hear it.

  • Debra E Marvin

    your post was a delightful recall of last night (I watched twice).
    I will add the dowager’s serious line about love…something about the heart being for more than just pumping blood? Whoa. Deep.

    I agree I just sort of wanted to slap Bates (and not just because John and Anna forgot that no one would want to stay at the Bates Hotel) when he gave that I am Nothing speech. He has guilt issues, eh?

    Have you all noticed that the music starting and Matthew showing up are always tied together?

  • Celine Dupuis

    I have been watching Masterpiece Theatre since I was 24 and back in 1972, the talk of Thirteen was I CLAUDIUS!

  • Celine Dupuis

    Sorry about the continued post. I must have accidentally touched something and it was posted.
    As I was saying, I was first introduced to Masterpiece Theatre back in 1972 and anyone who did not watch I CLAUDIUS should make it a point to get their hands on the DVD.

    I am thoroughly enjoying Downton Abbey and I love all of the characters: the good, the bad, and the evil.
    So happy there is something substantial to watch on television these days.

    Love Maggie Smith! Anyone remember her in the film THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODY? As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been around a long time. LOL

    Downton Abbey feels as if I am watching theatre and not television.

    To answer Collette’s question, Lady Mary did not get pregnant after her tryst with the Turkish Ambassador. “Ruined” also means, a scandolus reputation. I wonder if that will come back to haunt Lady Mary and her mother this season.

    I am also enjoying Elizabeth MacGovern. Haven’t seen her in a long time.

    Channel 13, YOU ROCK!

  • judi

    I missed the 1st episode of series 2….will it be on any other night or on WLIW21?

  • Eileen

    My VERY fav line of Maggie Smith in Season 1 is “What IS a week end?”

  • Ed in CT

    I wonder if the changing times means that the problem with Mary and Mr. Pamuk will not e as serious as it would’ve been previously. I like the thought that maybe Lady Edith hooked up with the farmer. Also agree that she just wants so badly to be loved and is jealous of her sister.

    Also agree that I want to slap Mr. Bates. What the heck is he thinking?

  • Debs/E20Launderette

    @Judi: Episode 1 of season 2 will be rerun on 13 tonight at 1AM, and it looks like season 2 will be starting up on WLIW in a couple of weeks. It will also show up in the video section above – but I’m not sure when.

    @Mindy: Yes, that is the same farmer that was saved last season.

    @Debra: I haven’t noticed the timing of the music, but I probably will now! I do know that after watching the Season 1 marathon on New Year’s Day, I had the music stuck in my head for quite a while.

  • bziporah

    @ellen I too was pleased to see Edith and Sybil contributing to the war effort.As for” Mary and Matthew” the music that surrounds them would have you forget that up to now she is a flirt .If memory serves.twice last season she took individual visiting men off into secluded areas alone.

  • Laurie

    Thanks for a great wrap up, Debbie. But my absolutely favorite Dowager Countess line was when Matthew ‘s annoying mother said (last season, at the flower show) ” I shall take that as a compliment” and Violet said ” oh, then I must have said it incorrectly”. Snarky!!

  • Laurie

    Ps– different farmer got the heart injection, I think.. Much younger wife.

  • Kathleen

    Thank you Deb for giving me something to look forward to as much as new episodes of DA! There’s nothing worse than that morning-after feeling, the emptiness of knowing that you have to wait 6 more days for a new episode. Your posts are just what I need to keep the buzz alive! Can I also get a shout-out for poor William and Daisy? Both of them so young and naive. They both appear to have noble intentions that will lead to disaster, literally and figuratively. Can we hope that this means they will both have a happy ending somewhere down the line?

  • Judy

    I could not understand Bates “wife” when she was telling him what awful thing she would do if he did not come away with her. Her articulation was poor, so I knew it was pretty bad but would like to know exactly what could have been so awful that Bates felt he had to leave.

  • Karen

    Deb– you forgot a few others of Lady Violet’s other great lines from ep. 1: “Edith, you’re a Lady, not ‘Toad’ of ‘Toad Hall!”, and when she was talking about contributing to the war effort, “Don’t forget, Great Aunt Roberta loaded the guns at Lucknow.”, and of course, when she’s indignantly objecting to the idea of Downton Abbey being used as a convalescent hospital, she exclaims, “I suppose there will be amputations in the dining hall!”, not to mention the inevitability of “spoons being pocketed”! That Lady Violet is priceless! My favorite haughty-but-loveable Dowager Countess!

  • janice

    I missed the first eposide of the second season. Will it be shown again?

  • Yvonne

    Janice, you still have a chance to catch it on WLIW on Monday, January 23rd at 9pm!

  • Joanne Theodorou

    I think you need something stronger then tea…. how ’bout some Pims?!
    Agree, agree, and then agree again…Maggie Smith is delicious. Mt. Rushmore…. not….but how about Trafalgar Square? Or at least a prominent place in the Portrait Gallery?

  • AVA

    Without a doubt one of the best Masterpiece shows in a long time. My husband and I are completely devoted – and this is a man who would rise out of his coffin for a sporting event.

  • Vicky Ficco-Panzer

    Delightful,wonderful,riveting…I feel the same way I felt about Ballykissangel of sainted memory;Downton is even better!

  • Ben@thirteen.org

    @Janice: You can also watch online at http://watch.thirteen.org/video/2183945925/ .

  • Elaine Low

    Great comments Debbie. Also agree with Laurie’s favorite lines from
    Mathew’s mother to Violet: ” I shall take that as a compliment”
    Violet to Mathew’s mother: ” oh, then I must have said it incorrectly”
    There really is an art to “insult” The Housewives of this, that or the other should watch this show and take lessons

  • Linda (in NC)

    Debbie, I forgot to mention how tickled I was with your comment regarding Cora (“She used to be Evelyn Nesbit!”). Love your clever allusions and references (EastEnders among them!).

  • Debs/E20Launderette

    @Linda: Thanks!

    @Laurie: It is the same farmer & wife, looking a bit different because of the circumstances probably.

    It IS hard to choose the best of Violet’s lines, mostly because of her delivery, I think. People used to say about Richard Burton, that he could do a dramatic reading of the phone book. I think Maggie Smith might be the same way with one liners – she could get laughs from the phone book.

  • Stephanie LG

    Would also love if people who watched the original “Upstairs, Downstairs” would like to make comparisons (and contrasts) to DA. I can’t say I like one better than the other, but I can’t help watching DA and remembering how USDS handled certain scenes. I loved Lady Georgina, as well as Daisy and Rose.

  • Terry

    One of my favorite DC lines is after she sits in the swivel chair and Matthew offers to fetch her another one – “No no… I’m a good sailor!”

  • Louis

    Debbie, great recap of the 2.1! Thoroughly enjoyed it, and am looking forward to the next recap as much as the next ep!

    Re: Thomas: Isn’t he looking extraordinarily “well-fed” for someone who’s been up at the front?!?! Not really buying this newer Thomas 100%. Also, it seems like a scene might have been edited out, either from the script or from the tape, because we “suddenly” see Thomas all emotional about that soldier.

    Re: Edith: Don’t really buy that whole new storyline either. DID love the bit where Carson has his medical emergency during dinner, and Edith complains, “But what my dress?!” (Sorry for the poor paraphrase.) By the way, the “Edwardian Jan Brady,” YES!!!! Bulls-eye, Debbie!

    Finally, echoing Celine, love the “return” of Elizabeth McGovern, and loved PBS getting a quick segment with her in before the start of the episode. Will she and/or any of the other cast members be making more introductory segments? (HINT, HINT, H I N T !!!!)

  • Louis

    Great article in today’s NY Times re: “Downton Abbey.” Interestingly, was at Barnes and Noble’s last night, and bought one of the books (“Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle”) just mentioned in this article today. Lots and lots of photos of my humble little cottage, which I’ve graciously been allowing the producers to use.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/business/media/mad-for-downton-publishers-have-a-reading-list.html?hpw

  • Donna

    This to Vicky…thanks for mentioning Ballykissangel….loved that series!!! Very young and newly
    starting out Colin Farrell made his appearance on this!
    I am loving Downton and enjoying every second! Maggie Smith is superb and I so look forward to
    her witty dialogue!! The best! Can’t wait for each episode.

  • Jane

    Loved last week show. Can someone tell me who actually wrote the book and where can I find it?

  • Louis

    Jane, don’t know if you’re asking about the book I mentioned above, or some other one mentioned elsewhere in the posts. If the one I mentioned, the book is by the present Countess of Carnavon, and I found it at Barnes and Noble.

  • Mike

    In regard to Linda’s comment “why a farmer, Lady Edith?” it’s obvious that Lady Edith read, and you did not, “Lady Chatterly’s Lover.” nuff said.

  • Robert Abels

    Our town in Ct had no electricity last Sunday and Monday evenings, so we could not see the first part of DA.
    Your Thirteen magazine says (Page 13) it will be shown at 3:00 on Sundays. What does that mean? The schedule you have on TV today and the NY Times do not agree.

    Can it be seen on our computer? before we see part 2 tonight at 9?

  • Debs/E20Launderette

    Robert: You can watch episode 1 here: http://watch.thirteen.org/video/2183945925/

    If that link doesn’t work, just click o the “VIDEO” button on the menu bar at the top of this page & you’ll be able to find it there.

  • Alfred

    Bravo to Deborah! Totally charming, witty and well written column! I’m completely captivated and will look forward to future columns. Do hope you get your tea–or footman!! I’m a huge fan of the series. I believe I read that a season 3 is in the offing. Certainly hope THAT’S true!!

  • Jerzgurl55 (US NJ)

    Love all the British dramas and the interchanging actors that star in them. Love Brendon Coyle (Bates) from Lark Rise to Candleford series. Also Carson, Dame Maggie S., Eliz McGovern (from Ragtime) and her many other roles. Can’t stand Thomas or O’Brien and hope they both get theres. Funny I was under the impression O’Brien was Thomas’ mother. I will have to re-visit Part I to see why I thought that. Keep up the good work, looking for to tonight’s episode and your next blog.

  • Lee Hipius

    Have selectively enjoyed many English productions. Did not see last season’s DA, but can catch up via computer–hurray! Superb acting, costumes, hairdo artistry, dialogue, scenery, sets both indoors and out. It seems sort-of like a present-day soap opera but each character has some facet to enjoy, admire, or secret, to divulge. Artfully portrays English before and during WW2; I’ve just completed reading “American Heiress” by Daisy Goodwin for glimpses of the world of Lords, Ladies, Dukes, Duchesses, Kings, Queens, Princes, etc. — fascinating. Looking forward to more and more of “Downton Abbey!”

  • Edward

    I am very confused about who was the gentleman who came to visit DA & burned Thomas’ love letters in early Season One?

  • Edward

    Fav Dowager line: “Your Mrs. Crawley and I am Lady Grantham.”

  • joan

    Loved the spunk of housemaid Gwen in Season 1…will she be returning
    for a visit?

  • Christine A

    I must say I have not been disappointed by season two as feared I might. I had been counting the days. Season two so far, has been riveting-filled with drama and humor. Go Maggie! Her zingers provided a much-needed reprieve from the underlying sense of heaviness and tragedy of wartime and unrequited love. She has honed her craft. Love the character-love her!

    To the spelling police: Go ahead. Have a ball!

  • Jen

    I’m enjoying the Downton Dish almost as much as the actual program. Your writing is hilarious!

  • Millie Rockwell

    We are enjoying the original DVD of season 1. Love the setting, the architecture of the Abby, the costuming and the outstanding cast, led of course by Dame Maggie! Delighted to know that there will be a season 3!