Downton Abbey: Season 3, Episode 2 Recap

Deborah Gilbert | January 14, 2013

According to Anna, all God’s creatures have their troubles, and we have to agree with our Pollyanna. They certainly do – that’s all part of the fun!…

Goin’ to the Chapel of Love: On Second Thought…
Former tractor driver Lady Edith is excited to be finally getting her Cinderella moment: A moment when everything isn’t all about Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. But this is Edith we’re talking about here so we’re just waiting for the anvil to drop out of the sky. But before it does, we get this touching moment between sisters, ‘I know we haven’t always got along…’ — We haven’t always got along? Excuse me, sorry to interrupt, but the Turkish Ambassador is on line two wanting to talk about the understatement of the year! Ironic that of the two sisters, Edith had the best wedding dress. Even though she didn’t go to Patou like Granny wanted, it was stunning and stylish – as opposed to Mary’s wedding dress, which was kind-of sack-like. But in the end it didn’t matter. As Sir Anthony faces the guillotine, the sisters take too long to get their picture taken – giving the groom too much time to rethink. Let that be a lesson to you brides out there! And there goes the runaway groom (if Robert and Violet had seen he could move that fast, they might have rethought that whole infirmed argument) and everything dissolves into tears. THIS is the reason why we didn’t see the actual wedding ceremony between Matthew and Mary. Don’t let the posh accents and great production values fool you: Downton Abbey is, and has always been, a soap. A lush, well written, gorgeously filmed and acted soap, but a soap all the same. And what is the first rule of a soap? Whenever there is a wedding ceremony, something always goes wrong. The second rule of a soap? Anytime someone says how happy they are, something always goes wrong. Of course, after this public trauma, we’ve got to allow Edith her self-pitying moments, but when she says to Anna, ‘get me a different life’, one sees the limitations in her thinking. It’s the same limitation they all (but Sybil) have. She doesn’t get that, despite the heartbreak, her life is still worlds better than that of the person picking up after her. Edith is now resigned to her life as a spinster (and ladies, aren’t we glad that word has been retired from the lexicon?). When Isobel says they could help Edith by finding her something to do, you could see by Mary’s face it had sunk in. Maybe she’ll fire Anna and hire Edith to be her Ladies Maid. You know it’s crossed her mind. But hey, she’ll bounce back. I’ll bet that by next week Edith will be talking about her new gentleman caller, George Glass.

Miss O’Brien if You’re Nasty: Be Careful What You Wish For
Poor Molesley; he is truly the male, downstairs version of Lady Edith. Nothing he ever does comes right. Since we have known him, all he’s ever wanted is to work in the Big House, not realizing all the plots and traps and politics within its pretty walls. He thought that dodging the draft meant he was safe; little did he know that his long dreamt of ambition would be more treacherous than facing the Huns, and now he is unwittingly caught in the War of the Roses. Turns out it’s a good thing he didn’t get sent to the front because all it took was one withering stare from O’Brien for him to dissolve into a withering heap. We still don’t know why Thomas and O’Brien have turned on each other so viciously, but Thomas seems to be getting ahead of himself. He forgets that O’Brien was always the brains of their little operation. When he had to come up with ideas on his own, the best he could do was getting himself shot and being scammed out of his life savings. Could he have seriously thought that starting a rumor about O’Brien leaving would work (and the source not get back to her?). But it was that dig at O’Brien, at the dinner table, about her ‘never being asked’, that drew blood. And for a second we actually saw some humanity beneath O’Brien’s cartoon bitterness. True, she’s been doing less moustache twirling now that she’s got some family nearby, but this is (maybe) the first we’ve seen of her that made us wonder about how she turned out this way. When Lord Grantham said he’d have ‘mixed feelings’ about O’Brien leaving, Mary said she wouldn’t, which leaves us to wonder how much has Mary heard from Anna? We know that Mary confides in Anna but can Anna confide in Mary? Has Anna told her about what’s gone on with O’Brien and Thomas? And does Anna know more about O’Brien than we know she knows? One wonders. In any event, it didn’t take too long for O’Brien to flip the table back with an ominous remark, and now it’s Thomas’ turn to dissolve into a withering heap. This ain’t over.

I Am My Beloved’s and My Beloved Is Mine: Carson the Crooner
It’s getting all Remains of the Day up in here. Just as we suspected, Carson is sweet on Mrs. Hughes – and forget what I said about Lord Grantham and Carson being the cutest couple on TV – if this goes further it will be these two. The unveiling of the deeper feelings between Carson and Mrs. Hughes (that we always suspected were there) is one of the things that British Telly does so well – and American commercial TV ignores. In the UK, it’s not the rarity it is here to have a romantic relationship between two older characters that takes center stage – a relationship that is real and breathes, and isn’t just a punch line. This relationship has been on slow simmer for ages. We get the best look at their feelings yet when Carson hears that his beloved got a clean bill of health, he sings, ‘Dashing away the smoothing iron she stole my heart away…’ (a 19th Century English folk song about a man who beholds his darling while she’s doing laundry), and standing in the hallway she looks like she’s about to cry happy tears. Now if we can just get them in a room together expressing this to each other. Will there be another wedding this season? Baby steps…

Working on the Chain Gang: Breaking Worse
So I’m not the only one who finds the cryptic pious thing annoying. It seems like he’s made more than one enemy by accident. What were they planting on him and who was in on it? It looked like the guard was, and that’s not good. And now we know why Mr. Bates discouraged Anna from talking to Mrs. Bartlett. She was rather nasty, wasn’t she? But was what she said true? She said he’d changed but why wouldn’t he change after he’d gone to jail for Vera? Did Mrs. Bartlett know that? The timeline she gave sounds bad for Bates. There must be something else we don’t know, but what? All we know is, Anna won’t give up, and Bates is looking shaken.

Be it Ever So Humble?: Now You’re Just Showing Off
Being a true New Yorker I’m obsessed by real estate, so allow me to get this straight: At first, when we heard that Lord Grantham bet the farm and lost on Choo-Choo Charlie’s latest venture, we (maybe) felt a little sorry for the family for possibly losing their home. Now we come to find out that in addition to the often referred to house in London, they’ve also got an economical starter castle up north that poor Lady Mary fears will be a bit cramped (that’s Mary all over, isn’t it? Just when you start to like her, suddenly you want to give her a slap.). Honey, the Duggars wouldn’t be cramped in that thing (and maybe Anna could do something with their hair). And oh yeah, on top of that, Lord Grantham mentions that he still owns ‘most of the village’! So somehow I don’t think we’ll be holding a telethon for the homeless Grantham family anytime soon. But why was there an issue in the first place? Why did Lord Grantham think he had to turn Downton into a time share? Why couldn’t he have just sold the castle and the village properties to fund the estate? (I mean, aside from the fact that he’s a really bad businessman whose only smart business move was marrying Cora.) Don’t you kinda wish that when they were talking about money and fortunes won and lost they mentioned actual numbers once in a while? Yeah, I know it might mess with the fantasy, but still. The only specific numbers we’ve heard mentioned are Daisy’s seven shilling raise (a shilling is about a quarter). A fortune! That’s why that little castle is so economical – they’d only need eight servants. Such a deal! They’d have it so much easier than me, living in my NYC apartment – my eight servants would have to sleep stacked up in the closet. So inconvenient. And by the way, Downton Place? Don’t you just know that some real estate developer somewhere heard that and is now planning to build a Downton Place, full of cramped little apartments. But if the doorman is named Carson, I’m in!

Going Postal: Deliver De-letter De-sooner De-better
As Edith’s wedding approaches, the honeymoon is over for Matthew and Mary as they bicker about the money he won’t accept from Reggie Swire. We thought last week was bad when he said, ‘I do love you so terribly much’ and she just replied, ‘I know.’ Ouch. But now he accuses her of forgery (while saying he isn’t) and she fantasizes about beating him about the head – and he thought his eyes were opened before. I suppose that’s what living with your in-laws will do for you. But then again, truly, who is luckier than Matthew? This is the second ‘fortune’ he has inherited! I swear, whether it is a boy or a girl, they have got to name their first child Yolanda Vega. But he doesn’t believe his luck and also doesn’t believe that Lavinia wrote to Reggie before she died. The fate of Downton lies in the balance and it all hinges on letters from the great beyond. These Brits are so much more literate than we Yanks are. They don’t need the Long Island Medium: Their dead people write letters! Matthew has morals: He only accepts money from people who think poorly of him. Matthew won’t accept Reggie’s money unless he knows for sure that Reggie knew he was a putz before he made out the will. And now, thanks to Daisy, he does! Daisy saves the day! Again! I hope they toss her a few more shillings for this.

Dowager Countessdown

5. "At my age one must ration one’s excitement."

4. "Vulgarity is no substitute for wit."

3. "No bride wants to look tired at her wedding. It either means she’s anxious or up to no good."

2. "If the poor don’t want it, you can bring it over to me."

1. "Aren’t you a wild thing!"

BTW, how did you Downtonians do on your homework assignment (to use the word Hobbledehoy)? I have to admit I didn’t get around to it. But I did do something jolly with my hair and that’s got to count for something, doesn’t it?

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.

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