The Crawley family and their devoted staff are back in Downton Abbey Series 4,
now airing in the U.K. (U.S. viewers, stick with us! We'll be re-posting Naz's recaps when Season 4 airs on PBS beginning in January.) We're sure you're just as eager as we are to get to it, so without further ado...
Note for U.S. Viewers: Tonight's episode of Downton Abbey was aired as “Episode 2” on PBS but originally aired as “Episode 3” in the U.K. in September, when this recap was first posted.
Also, before you go, be sure to enter our Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Sweepstakes!
Note: This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of Downton Abbey, including last night's episode. Enjoy!
The episode starts with a bevy of guests arriving for the house party. There’s an Anthony Foyle…er…now Lord Gillingham who Robert refers to as “the pirate.” Oh look! Gregson’s there. He seems a bit overwhelmed with all the “old money” folks at the house. Tom’s cornered by some tiresome old lady who asks him about Sybil, and of course, Violet overhears and comments that “Tom’s small talk is very small indeed.” Robert actually defends Tom and says that, “not everyone can be Oscar Wilde.” And of course, Violet doesn’t miss a step and quips back, “that’s a relief!” Oh Violet! When are you going to accept Tom as part of the family? I’m suspecting never!
Well, downstairs is a bevy of activity. Mr. Carson is worried that the ten guests don’t have enough staff with them (only three maids and two valets! Imagine that! Snicker) They’re gossiping about all the guests, and it turns out that Lady Raven has fallen on bad times and lost her fortune. She’s now living in “some dingy little house, north of the Park.”
Well, Lord Gillingham puts his foot in it, so to speak. Chatting with Mary, he tells her that he’s been close to getting married a couple of times (and is close again), and has no children, and then asks her about her situation. When she reminds him of Matthew, he gets embarrassed and tries to stammer his way out of an awkward situation. My first impression of the guy? Meh.
Downstairs, Mrs. Patmore is in a tizzy, wanting to make sure all the dishes are perfect. Of course, it’s been a while since the Granthams have had such a large house party, so it’s understandable. Lord Gillingham’s valet (who Mr. Carson insists they all call “Gillingham,” but whose real name is Green) is being cute with Anna. He seems like a fun chap, but he better watch out! I don’t think our Mr. Bates is going to take too kindly to someone flirting with his wife.
Aha! Finally, Edna makes her move on Tom. Well, sort of. She approaches him as he’s going down to dinner and wants to make sure that they can remain “friends.” Oh goodness. This isn’t going to go well. Tom tells her that he’s “walking a tightrope here” and that they can be friends. He tries to be gently dismissive, but it doesn’t look like Edna’s ready to give up.
Dinner is a grand affair with everyone dressed to the nines. Afterwards, Tom’s cornered by the same old lady, who actually turns out to be the Duchess of Yeovil. Violet is standing nearby and listening to their exchange (something about barley beer!). As soon as she leaves, Violet approaches Tom and gives him a little lesson in addressing the nobility at a social gathering.
Violet: “Don’t call her ‘Your Grace.’”
Tom: “I thought it was correct.”
Violet: “For a servant, or an official at a ceremony. But in a social situation, call her ‘Duchess.’”
Tom: “But why? I don’t call you Countess!”
Violet: “Certainly not!”
Tom: “There’s no logic in it.”
Violet: “Oh no. If I were to search for logic, I should not look for it among the English upperclass!”
Mary and Lord Gillingham plan on going riding together, and Mary tries to avoid it just being the two of them, but no one else seems interested. Meanwhile, Rose is flirting with another guest, a Sir John Bullock (good looking man!). The men decide to play cards, but Robert excuses himself, and Gregson decides to spend his time with Edith instead. We find out in the morning that Mr. Sampson (one of the guests) is apparently a very “skilled” player, meaning that he’s pretty much fleeced everyone else.
Carson and Mrs. Hughes start talking about the big finale to the party, which is Dame Nellie Melba’s performance. Mrs. Hughes wants to know where Dame Nellie and her pianist will eat, and when she asks if it would be alright for Dame Nellie to eat with the guests, Mr. Carson loses it. “An Australian singer? Eating with her ladyship, never mind the Duchess?” LOL. Carson cracks me up! The next morning, the kitchen is busy as usual and Molesley turns up delivering the groceries. Apparently, that’s what he’s had to do until something else shows up. The servants are all discussing the previous evening’s poker game, and Mr. Sampson’s skills.
Meanwhile, Mary and Gillingham are off on their ride, and we learn that Gillingham is courting the most eligible heiress of the season. He says that everyone wants them to marry, and they are fond of each other, but you can tell that his heart isn’t in it. Mary tells him not to dismiss these types of matches, and talks about how they threw her and Matthew together from the minute he arrived, and that in the end, they were “wonderfully happy.” Gillingham tells her that she’s very lucky to have had such a great love.
Mary: “I’m not sure. Matthew changed me. I loved him, but he changed me. If I were as tough as I was before I met him, I bet I’d be happier now.”
You know? She has a point. The old Mary wouldn’t have been so completely and utterly devastated. But, personally, I like this new Mary better. Any way, Mary confides in Gillingham about the death taxes, and how Robert won’t listen to her ideas, and he recommends that she meet with the tax people and negotiate with them, then bring the deal to Robert. His reasoning is that if she does this, then Robert is faced with something tangible that she brought to the table. Apparently, Gillingham faced the same challenges when his father passed, and they decided to rent out the mansion (which is now a girls’ school), and kept the land intact, while the family moved into the Dower house.
Downstairs, Green continues to flirt with Anna and compliments her skills. Bates walks in, and you can see that he’s not happy. Anna’s wondering what the problem is (can she really not tell that the guy is flirting with her?) and Bates tells her that something about Green just sets him off. I can feel something brewing here. Uh oh. In our little love quadrangle, Jimmy tries to show off, and juggles a jar of jam, which of course, shatters on the ground, followed by him falling on his back. Mrs. Patmore gets really upset with him, and rightly so! I have to be honest, I have a real hard time liking Jimmy. Or Ivy, for that matter. I just don’t really care about them. Any way, Jimmy’s really hurt his wrist with his little stunt, and can’t serve at dinner. Carson asks Thomas to step in and be the footman, which of course, doesn’t sit well with Thomas.
Cora’s really excited about having Dame Nellie Melba’s upcoming private concert at the Abbey, even thought it’s outrageously expensive. Meanwhile, Edith keeps trying to get Gregson and Robert to spend some time together, but Robert dodges every opportunity. It’s clear that he’s not interested in this new relationship of Edith’s at all.
In fact, Robert goes out of his way to avoid Gregson, going so far as to personally oversee the luncheon arrangements with Carson, under the auspices of confirming the wines for dinner. It turns out that Cora’s invited the entire downstairs staff to come see Dame Nellie’s concert, and while Carson agrees with Robert that it’s a rare opportunity, he doesn’t understand why the kitchen staff need attend. It’s fun to see the two of them try to navigate all the “new ways.”
That night, after dinner, Sampson arranges another card game and this time, Robert and Gregson join in. Gregson tells Edith that he hopes sitting at the card table will force Robert to actually talk to him. Meanwhile, Mary approaches Robert with her ideas, and while he listens to her, he tells her that he’s not going to change his mind.
Rose brings down a gramophone and starts dancing with Sir Bullock. The Duchess of Yeovil hints that she loves to dance, and Cora nudges Tom to partner with her. The look on Tom’s face is priceless! Clearly, the Duchess has no idea who Tom is, and keeps asking him about all these upper class Irish families, and whether or not he’s met any of them. Gillingham asks Mary to dance, and Violet gets her to accept. I have to be honest, it’s weird to see Mary dance with someone other than Matthew. While they’re dancing, Mary spots the gramophone and realizes it’s Matthew’s. Apparently, Rose found it in the attic and had Alfred bring it down. Mary’s completely disconcerted, and leaves the party.
Later, when Anna checks on her, Mary admits that she is sad, but she wonders if she’s sad about Matthew, or the person she used to be when she was with him. Anna tells her that she will be fine, and that she’s still a strong person.
At the card table, Sampson’s winning big, and both Robert and Gregson are worried about how much they’re losing. But they continue playing. I guess Robert doesn’t even really know this Sampson character, and was a bit put on to invite him to the party when they were at their club in London. Interesting.
Tom runs into Edna again on his way back to his room, and admits that he feels like a fool at the party.
Edna: “Alfred said you were dancing.”
Tom: “With an old bat who can be my granny, and who thinks I grew up in a cave. My clothes deceive no one.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Clarkson visits Isobel, and she’s as somber as ever, poor thing. She’s been invited to the house to hear Dame Nellie, but she doesn’t feel like going. Violet sees her in the village a few days later and tells her that sitting at home alone is not going to bring Matthew back, but Isobel feels that if she lets go of her grief, even for one night, it means that she’s forgotten him. Violet finally convinces her to come, and we see her out of her mourning dress at the Abbey that night. I really love the deep friendship between these two.
Carson asks Mr. Molesley to step in for the injured Jimmy, and Molesley is a little offended that they want him as a footman. He agrees to do it only after Carson points out that it’s better than being the grocer’s delivery boy. Poor Molesley! I wish they could find him a permanent job at the Abbey.
Well, the final night has arrived. Dame Nellie’s shown up (a little late for tea, but at least she’s there) and Cora and Robert are taking a few minutes to chat before dinner. Robert doesn’t want to invite Sampson again. He’s realized that the guy is really a swindler. Cora asks him about Gregson, and Robert lies and tells her that while Gregson was caught up in the card game and lost to Sampson, he was “more of a spectator.” Oy. You know it’s going to get ugly when Cora finds out the truth!
Meanwhile, Cora finds out that Robert and Carson had made the decision that Dame Nellie couldn’t eat with everyone else and she’s livid.
Cora: “Robert, a world famous singer is in our house. A great artist, honored by the King. But you felt it beneath your dignity to eat with her? Am I the only member of this family who lives in the 20th Century? You will have her next to you at dinner, and you will like it!”
Robert: “But what do I say to her? What does one say to a singer?”
During dinner, Robert finds out that Dame Nellie is actually a wine connoisseur. Violet is delighted to see Molesley serving, and Mary tells Gillingham that she’s made an appointment with the tax people and will be going up to London with Tom to talk to them. Gillingham takes the opportunity to ask her to have dinner with him while she’s in town. Isobel looks really uncomfortable at this exchange. Mary refuses, but is delighted with the offer. Tom tells Isobel that it’s the first time he’s heard Mary laugh since Matthew’s death.
Isobel: “I know. And I don’t want her to spend her life in sorrow, she’s not the Lady of Shalott. It’s just I find it hard to join in the merry-making.”
Tom: “We haven’t all been making merry.”
Isobel: “But you see what it comes down to in the end is this nice Lord Gillingham and Sir John over there, and him and him and you…you’re all alive. My son’s dead.”
Oh, my heart! Tom reaches out to her, and Violet nods approvingly from across the table. May I just say, that’s a bit of amazing acting on the part of Penelope Wilton. Brilliant. Brought tears to my eyes.
After dinner, Robert runs into Tom in the library, and Tom tells him that he’s really not one of “them,” even though everyone’s tried their best to make him feel welcome after Sybil’s death. Tom’s really feeling the difference between his social status and the rest of the family’s, and of course, Robert doesn’t understand what he’s saying.
Meanwhile, Green arranges a fun card game downstairs, and Anna is thoroughly enjoying herself while Bates sits in a corner and mopes. Mrs. Patmore’s still frantically running around the kitchen when she gets a sharp pain in her chest. Oh no! Alfred jumps in to make the sauces for the rest of the dinner. Bates comes back to the servants’ hall to tell Anna, but she’s still pretty involved in the game, and it takes him a few tries to get her attention. He tells her (in front of everyone) that their “racket is inappropriate” considering how ill Mrs. Patmore is.
Any way, it turns out that Mrs. Patmore just had an anxiety attack, and she’s fine, as long as she relaxes and doesn’t let herself get too worked up. During the concert, Alfred tells Mrs. Patmore that he really wants to cook. Anna has a bit of a headache and goes back downstairs to get something for it, and Green follows her. He traps her in the kitchen and won’t let her go upstairs.
Green: “You look to me like you could use a bit of real fun for once. Is that what you want?”
Anna: “What I want, is to go back upstairs.”
Green: “You’re not telling me that sad old cripple keeps you happy.”
Anna: “If you must know, yes. He keeps me very happy. Now let me by, please.”
Green: “Perhaps you’ve forgotten what you’re missing.”
And then he kisses her! Anna struggles, and he hits her. He starts dragging her into a side room off the kitchen, and oh my god! He rapes her! No!!!! Nobody seems to realize what’s happened. The party ends and everyone goes about their business. When the staff finally makes their way downstairs, Mrs. Hughes walks into her office to see a bruised and battered Anna huddled in a corner. Anna is frantic, and doesn’t want to tell anyone, especially Bates. She says that he’s a convicted felon, and if he finds out about this, he’d kill Green and would definitely get hanged for it. She makes Mrs. Hughes promise not to tell anyone, ever. She gets herself cleaned up and as she’s leaving Mrs. Hughes’ office, she runs into Bates. She makes up a story about how she fainted and hit her head on the sink, and ruined her dress. When Bates reaches out to her, she flinches and back away, but tells him there’s nothing wrong. Oh, Anna. This is absolutely horrific!
Gregson approaches Sampson and asks for another game that night. I think he hopes to win back what he’d lost the night before. Edith is a bit concerned, but Gregson, Gillingham, and Bullock sneak off during Dame Nellie’s performance and start their game. And look! They’re winning! Sampson’s confused by the turn of events. Gregson basically cleans up, and asks Sampson to return all the IOUs he’s collected, and to send him a check for the remainder. When Sampson demurs, Gregson tells him that if he doesn’t comply, he’ll tell Robert that Sampson’s been cheating the entire time, and would be banished from every club in London. Go Gregson! He tells Edith that he felt a need to revive some of his “dubious talents from [his] mis-spent youth.” Hah! Well, he certainly made a good impression on Robert! He admits to Cora that while he’s not exactly what he might’ve wanted for Edith, “it’s a changing world,” and he’ll learn to accept Gregson. I wonder if they know Gregson’s situation.
Oh great! Edna sneaks Tom some whiskey, and then sneaks into his room. It’s exactly like we thought: she’s there to seduce Tom. Next week’s preview shows Tom trying to back pedal his way out of whatever happened between the two of them. We also see Mary and Rose in London, being paid a surprise visit by Gillingham and Bullock and taken to a night club. And, it appears that Anna is pushing Bates away. Gah! I can’t wait to see what happens next week!
Editor's note: Downton Abbey fans, take note! The book Behind the Scenes of Downton Abbey may well be relevant to your interests—it's full of Season 4 goodness.
But wait, there's more! H&H is hosting a Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Sweepstakes! Learn more here and enter while there's still time.
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Naz Keynejad is an avid reader, copy/story editor, and is currently working on her Masters degree in English literature. She’s a self-professed literary nerd and has a “thing” for period dramas. She will watch anything as long as it’s filled with British accents, suppressed sexual tension, angst, and of course, period costumes. Oh, and there has to be tea. Lots of tea.