The Downton Dish – Downton Abbey Season 2 Episode Recap
British television maven and blogger Deborah Gilbert keeps you in the know with entertaining recaps of each episode of Downton Abbey Season 2. Count down the top 5 moments of each episode, including the Dowager Countess’ best zingers.
This week, it was brought home to us again how sharp a contrast there is between our world and the Edwardian one, in the lack of options for women. It is that lack of options that drives the stories of so many of our friends at Downton. It doesn’t really matter where on the social food chain a woman is in this Edwardian culture; Her status or worth is determined by whether a man (and which one) chooses to marry her or use her (or both). In many ways, Lady Mary and Ethel are in the same boat: They are just a means to an end for these men whose true motives were initially camouflaged by their early charm. Sir Richard is using Lady Mary to get the one thing all his money cannot buy, and Major Bryant just used Ethel for sex. They are both imprisoned by everyone’s adherence to a society that doesn’t allow women to breathe (and in those corsets, that means literally). Can either one of them escape?
5. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer: Mrs. Bates is Dead
Well, we don’t know if it was a hammer. All we know is that she was found face down on the floor after Bates went to see her and came back looking like she’d hit him in the head with a frying pan. Convenient, innit? Then again, she did have the kind of personality that would lead to a long list of suspects, didn’t she? Even Sir Richard, I should think. And by the way, when she told the judge that her Batesy had paid her for the divorce, why didn’t anyone pipe up and mention that she was trying to blackmail him? Must I think of everything? But when the police (or Bates) go through Mrs. Bates’ belongings, will they find the letter that O’Brien wrote her, telling her of Bates’ return to Downton? And what will that mean for O’Brien? She did look worried, but then it’s been hard trying to read her face and figure out what plans that Jane Withers head might be hatching under those Shirley Temple curls. And I’m thinking that Thomas is just about to turn on her. When she dismissed his black market scheme by saying ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’, the smirk on Thomas’ face hinted he might have other plans, didn’t it? Might he blackmail her for the money for his scheme? Even Anna smacked her down this week with her, ‘the secret of business is to mind your own.’ Oh snap! Score one for Sweet Polly Purebred.
4. Proud Mary: Sir Richard Takes It Up a Notch
Well, I think we now know why Mary stays with Sir Rupert: When Matthew said, “If you weren’t engaged, I wouldn’t let you anywhere near me”, that pretty much spelled it out. She is staying with that vulgarian just so Matthew won’t leave Downton; so she can have the odd moment near him. She is living for those platonic scraps of time. For his part, this was the week when Sir Richard officially became an industrial strength creep. Such a creep, in fact, that he could not have been any more creepy if he’d ordered dinner with fava beans and nice cianti. That threat/kiss/threat was totally freaky, wasn’t it? And when you think that her other (infamous) sexual experience (with Pamuk) was questionable, you have to wonder why does she think that is acceptable treatment? It seems that beneath that serene, unflappable exterior, she lives a life that is ruled by fear. And who is going to save her from Richard, and from herself? The big irony in all this is that poor Lady Mary’s biggest sin is only that she was born a hundred years too soon: Nowadays, a dead Pamuk in her bed wouldn’t be the ruin of her – it would be the launch of a reality show, a book deal and her own line of ‘designer’ handbags (coming to a department store near you). And you thought it was Sybil who was the trailblazer.
3. I Just Can’t Quit You: The Bromance of Carson and Lord Grantham
That picture of them standing side by side in the doorway, as Lord Grantham told him he could never be replaced, was quite a sight, wasn’t it? A man and his servant: Standing there, kings of all they survey. Just as it should be. And quite right that Carson cannot be replaced. Carson is the moral compass of Downton, and in a way, he is also our window into the house. The expressions on his face say more than pages of written dialogue and mirror what we’re thinking. It’s as if he’s looking out at us, across the century, saying, ‘I’m not crazy. You saw that, didn’t you?’ If anyone downstairs crosses the great divide, it is Carson. He is so a part of this family that when Lady Mary said, “Carson brought me up”, her father didn’t flinch. Not a millimeter – because it was true. There is a reason Carson is the one she goes to for advice (that she doesn’t heed). When she said sweetly, “If anyone can keep me out of trouble, you can,” you could see what he was thinking, but she is the only person he doesn’t seem to judge. And did you see the look of shock and fear on Mary’s face when Carson said it would be hard to leave Downton? I suspect that Carson is the only person who has ever shown Mary any unconditional love and support, and the thought of being imprisoned in that new manor, her loveless husband’s, with no one there on her side terrifies her. She wants Carson there. The innocence of her giving Matthew that little good luck charm as he went off to war comes from the same childlike place as her thinking that Carson can make a life with that horrible Sir Richard alright. And by the way, did you notice Carson and Mrs. Hughes have a little moment there? She gave him that knowing glance and he kinda, sorta winked. Or smiled. Or something resembling affection crossed his face, didn’t it? It is that face, Carson’s Easter Island statue of a face, that is the true facade of this grand country house. And yes, quite right: He can never be replaced.
2. Maid You Look: The Lord is Having Impure Thoughts
What is it about maids anyway? We can all see this coming a mile away, can’t we? And by the way, let this be a lesson to all you kids out there: You don’t have to go with the ‘slutty maid’ costume – ankle length with starched collar will do just fine, thank you. Now we know why Carson so objects to having housemaids in the dining room. Of course, the obvious conclusion to this will be that Maid Jane falls pregnant and has a baby boy – giving Lord Grantham that son he’s always wanted, but can’t recognize – because he’s illegitimate. Will the story actually take that turn? But what gives? He and Cora seemed to be so happy just a fews weeks ago and suddenly it’s, ‘Sometimes Cora, you can be curiously unfeeling.’ Blah, blah, blah. The question is: How curious is he feeling? Interestingly enough, historians of the period will note that soon after Jane served Lord Grantham his lunch, a letter was published in the London Daily Telegraph that began, ‘I never thought anything like this would ever happen to me…’ Somehow, I don’t think Carson would approve. In other Housemaid news… Ethel looks increasingly like she’s going to do something, but what? She surely isn’t going to just sit there, in the dark, crying for the rest of the season. It seems that she is living with the same fear as Lady Mary: That one mistake will ruin the rest of her life. It seems like she’s steeling herself to take some sort of action over the injustice of her situation, and rightly so (‘and rightly so’ sounds so much better when Mrs. Hughes says it).
1. The Mummy Returns: Seriously?
OK, I gotta say they may have jumped the iceberg with this cockamamie turn of events (Disclaimer: We’ve secretly replaced Lord Grantham’s heir with Folger’s crystals. Let’s see if anyone notices…) Even with all the disfiguring burns, wouldn’t they recognize (or not) Patrick’s eyes or teeth or voice? It’s only been six years. And how could he lose his British accent so quickly? Charo has been here at least fifty years and she still sounds like she just got off the boat. But even if he had lost it now, he would have still had a British accent when his Titanic rescuers plucked him out of the water, so why would they have assumed he was Canadian? And he doesn’t even sound Canadian to me (no funny O’s) – he sounds American. I may be a paranoid conspiracy theorist (the best kind!), but am I the only one who wondered if Sir Richard was behind this as well? Wouldn’t a new Patrick be the perfect way to get rid of his rival for Mary’s affections? Sir Rupert does seem to be more than a bit obsessed, in the manner of another predator, a certain Wile E. Coyote, receiving all sorts of Matthew Stopper Kits from the ACME Company (including the recently discontinued Lavinia Model). Just wait til next week when he throws an anvil off the roof and accidentally turns Lady Edith into a wheezy accordion (who else would the anvil hit but Lady Edith?) But the question is: Have we seen the last of Patrick? Or will he return (with the sheet music for ‘Lady of Spain’?) Hmmm…
Oh, and I almost forgot: The war is over (not that anyone would notice.)
5. “I don’t dislike him. I just don’t like him, which is quite different.”
4. “Would you like to abolish private houses?”
3. “Then we must tempt her with a more enticing scaffold.”
2. “Then I must be the exception that proves the rule.”
1. “I cannot find the words to say how I feel. What do you think, Molsely?”
The Dowager Countess may soon have to sharpen her tongue because Aurora Greenway is coming to tea. Just the other day, the producer of Downton Abbey announced that Shirley MacLaine with be joining the cast, for Season 3, as Cora’s mother, Martha Levinson (cue the prerequisite jokes about MacLaine having lived through the period in a past life). I’m not sure how an American actress who’s had a gravity assist will look Edwardian, though she could be a brilliant foil for Maggie Smith. But forget all that, if you’re like me you heard ‘Levinson’ and thought, ‘Levinson?’ Does that mean a Member of the Tribe will be coming to Downton?
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.