This week’s episode was actually pretty dark. We dealt more with the horrors of war, not so much on the front itself, but back home with the survivors. While life at the Abbey goes on—more or less as usual—the world is clearly changing, and this episode focused on a lot of serious issues.
The episode opens with a peek at Lord G.’s new valet, a Mr. Lang, who’s an injured war veteran. He has a pretty haunted look about him, poor guy. Meanwhile, O’Brien informs Lady G. that Thomas is convalescing and wouldn’t it be grand if he could come back and maybe be put to work at the village hospital? Typical O’Brien style, she hints, coaxes, and cajoles until Cora agrees to speak to Doctor Clarkson about bringing Thomas back closer to home.
Lady G. asks the doctor about transferring Thomas to help out at the hospital and he tells her in no uncertain terms that it’s not possible because the army doesn’t work that way. What! The nerve! So, of course, Cora goes over his head and asks Lord G. to do something and before you know it, the good doctor is overruled and Thomas is now happily ensconced at the hospital. It seems that all Lord G. had to do was remind the doctor of who’s footing the bill for his hospital and voila! Thomas pays a visit to the Abbey and surprise, surprise, he’s his old snarky self.
Meanwhile, Edith decides to go help out a local farmer drive his tractor around and while the family (especially the Dowager) is appalled at the idea, she insists. I honestly love how strong and independent Edith’s become. Maybe having been dumped by Sir Boring was a good thing. She shows up at the farm to the delight (and perhaps cautious trepidation?) of the Yateses. One thing I am confused about here: It’s not clear to me whether Mr. Yates is married to Mrs. Yates or if he’s her brother, etc., because…ahem…well, Edith enjoys her work at the farm a little too much and ends up smooching Mr. Yates. So I’m hoping that even if she is trying out a guy well below her social station (don’t roll your eyes! These things matter), she’s at least not getting it on with a married man right where his wife can see. At any rate, the next day, Lord G. gets a very polite letter from Mrs. Yates thanking Edith for her help and letting them know that they’re going to hire a field hand to help out. Poor Edith looks positively devastated!
Downstairs, William has been called in to serve and he’s simply thrilled. Mrs. Patmore and Daisy are not necessarily too happy about it, but there really is nothing he can do. He asks Daisy for a photograph to take with him to the front (awww). When he shows up a few days later in his uniform and asks Daisy to give him a kiss, Daisy ends up confiding to Mrs. Patmore that even though William might think so, they’re really not sweethearts. Mrs. Patmore tells Daisy that she has to act her part until he’s shipped off because you really can’t send someone to war with a broken heart! Personally, I don’t like that Daisy is leading William on. I mean, she’s the one who kissed him in the first place. But Daisy’s so young and naïve that I’m thinking she probably didn’t realize the consequences of her just being nice to him, you know?
In the meantime, sneaky Mr. Moseley is taking advantage of Bates’s absence and is trying to put the moves on Anna. Wait a minute there, Moseley! Don’t you go messing with Anna and Bates! Her heart belongs to him and you don’t stand a chance. Grrr. When all his “subtle” attempts at getting together with Anna don’t work, he bluntly asks her out and she politely turns him down, telling him that she can’t ever replace Bates with anyone. Go Anna!
Back at the front, Matthew’s been asked to accompany the general on a tour of England to help with the recruitment efforts which means he’ll be back around DA for a bit. He comes over to the Abbey with Levinia and his mom in tow and of course, spends a good deal of the evening staring at Mary, who stares right back. Oh, the angst!
Speaking of the dinner, it’s an interesting affair. Mary’s invited the mysterious (and presumably skanky) Sir Richard Carlisle over for a visit. To make it look innocent, the family decides to invite lovely Aunt Rosamund (remember her? The “practical” aunt who talked Mary into stringing Matthew along last season?) to accompany Sir Richard. Well, it turns out that Sir Richard knows Levinia. The introduction is awkward and stilted and I just know there’s some deep, dark mystery there. Hmm.
It seems that most of the able-bodied men have been called to the front, so Carson has taken on a lot more work around the house. He’s flustered and clearly exhausted. Being short a footman, Carson asks Mr. Lang to help out, and chaos ensues. Lang inadvertently dumps sauce on Edith, which shocks Carson into having some sort of a seizure. “You’ll find there’s never a dull moment in this house,” quips the Dowager. I love her and her capacity for dry humor in any situation.
Carson’s ordered to stay in his room to rest. Mary stops by for a visit and he tells her that she has to be honest with Matthew and tell him how she feels. He assures her that if Matthew knows about her feelings, he would give up Levinia. Poor Carson feels so useless! When Mrs. Hughes interrupts Mary’s visit with his medicine, all he talks about is running the house and arranging the dinner.
Mrs. Hughes, “The world does not turn on the style of a dinner!”
Carson, “My world does!”
Turns out that Lang is suffering from shell shock, poor guy. And guess who figures it out? O’Brien! Apparently, she had a brother who suffered from the same condition so she picks up on the signs. She’s super sympathetic to poor Lang and offers—in her own way—her support. Who knew O’Brien had a soft spot?
In the meantime, Lady Rosamund has been trying to convince the Dowager that Sir Richard is a good match for Mary, considering her having “blotted her copy book” (i.e. her incident with Mr. Pamuk) The Dowager is not happy with the idea because Sir Richard is a “nobody” as far as real society is concerned, and well, Mary’s not really in love with him. Rosamund contends that Sir Richard is powerful and rich and Mary needs to marry well and that she can “smooth out his rough edges” in time. The Dowager is still not convinced and wonders yet again, why in the world Matthew chose Levinia over Mary. Hah. Don’t we all?
A little while later, while taking a walk in the gardens, Lady Rosamund inadvertently overhears Sir Richard and Levinia in the middle of a heated argument. Levinia’s clearly scared because Sir Richard is threatening her, but we don’t know with what. This has to be pretty bad. I can’t wait to find out what’s going on here. I wonder what Rosamund is going to do with this little bit of information.
Thomas is helping out at the hospital and befriends a junior officer (Courtney) who’s suffering from gas blindness (this was a common ailment during WW1. It was the result of being blinded—often temporarily—by poisonous gasses like mustard gas, etc.) and in a beautifully heartfelt moment, tells Courtney not to lose heart. Courtney begins to rely on both Thomas and Sybil (who’s also working full time at the hospital) to teach him how to adjust to his new sightless life. Just as he’s making some improvements, the doctor informs him that he is to be moved to a convalescent home. Courtney doesn’t take it well at all and begs to be let to stay. Thomas and Sybil fight for him, but the doctor basically order them both to shut up about it because they need the beds in the hospital for the injured, not for people who’re just convalescing. The decision is made to send Courtney away in the morning and oh, my god—Courtney commits suicide during the night!
Poor Thomas is devastated and is left crying in a corner. I never thought I’d say this, but it feels that no matter how sneaky and conniving Thomas is, something bad always happens to him. Wait. Maybe something bad happens to him because he IS sneaky and conniving. This time though, my heart really went out to him because he genuinely cared for Courtney.
Courtney’s suicide spurs the idea that maybe they need a convalescence home closer to the hospital and Mrs. Crawley suggests using Downton Abbey. The Dowager is shocked and appalled, “I forbid it! To have strange men prodding and prying around the house. To say nothing of pocketing the spoons! It’s out of the question!” Lady G., in a rarely seen fit, angrily informs her that Downton Abbey is HER house and as the lady of the house, she’ll make the decision with her husband. Ouch!!! So now the Abbey is going to be used as a convalescence home.
Back to the…er…romance side of things, Mary sees Sir Richard off at the train station, where he proposes. Well, not so much proposes as tells Mary that he wants to marry her because they’d make a great team, etc. Wow. Talk about sweeping a girl off her feet. Yes, feel free to roll your eyes here. Mary tells him she’ll think about it and then goes off to find Matthew. Instead, she runs into a teary-eyed Levinia, who says she will die if anything happens to Matthew at the front. He shows up right as Mary’s trying to comfort Levinia and of course, Mary chickens out and doesn’t tell him why she’d stopped by to talk to him in the first place. She says she’s just there to make sure they’re all coming over for dinner!
Matthew, “Of course we will. Why? Don’t you want me?”
Mary, “Of course I want you! Very much.”
I supposed that’s as close as Mary’s going to get admitting her feelings for Matthew. Gah! The angst!!!!
Later that night, Mary confides in Anna about Carson’s advice and asks her for her opinion. Anna basically says that she couldn’t be with a man she didn’t truly and deeply love. Mary thinks maybe one can just find another person and make a life with them, even if it’s not the love of their life, but Anna steadfastly and adamantly denies that. Mary tells Anna that she’s going to accept Sir Richard’s proposal. NO!!!!! I bet if she hadn’t walked in on Levinia bawling earlier in the day, she wouldn’t make that decision.
In a minor story line, Mrs. Patmore’s gotten a letter about her nephew who’s been missing and she asks Lord G. to look into it and find out if he was actually killed at the front. Turns out that her nephew was shot for cowardice. I know this sounds pretty cruel to us, but you have to remember, honor means everything to these folks and the fact that her nephew is shot for cowardice is appalling. Even though it’s a minor plot line, I felt it conveyed a very significant point about the society’s views/beliefs at the time. Poor Mrs. Patmore!
Like I said, it was a pretty dark episode, but it established quite a bit. I can’t wait to see what happens when the soldiers arrive at the Abbey. We didn’t see too much of Sybil and Branson this time around (except for a couple of quick scenes, the most important of which was when Branson asked Sybil if she was going to go back to her “old way of life” once the war was over and seemed thrilled when she said no), but I’m sure we’ll get back to their storyline soon. Next week’s episode has Anna finding Bates in London and… gasp!…offering to be his mistress!!! What?? Can’t wait to see what happens next!
A/N: Thanks to Julie P. for correcting my mistake from last week’s recap. Cora & Robert are the Earl & Duchess of Grantham (not Crawley...that’s just their last name. Oops!). I’m going to be referring to them as Lord & Lady G. from now on. Thanks, Julie!
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Or, carry on to the episode 3 recap...
Naz Keynejad is an avid reader, wanna-be writer, editor and self-professed geek. She has a “thing” for period dramas and will watch anything as long as it’s filled with suppressed sexual tension, angst and of course, period costumes. Oh, and there has to be tea. Lots of tea.