Jan 29 2012 9:00pm

Downton Abbey Season 2 (Series 2), Episode 4: The Veil of Shadow

The dowager countess of Grantham in Downton AbbeyThis week’s episode had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, my stomach tied in knots and my heart thumping. Lots of intrigue and plotting, lots of innuendo and even a few, you know, actual declarations of love!

(Need to catch up? Check out our recaps of the Season 2 premiereepisode 2, and episode 3.)

*******SPOILERS BELOW*******


The Abbey is now almost completely taken over by the convalescing soldiers and the episodes starts with Mrs. Crawley showing up to start her managerial duties, only to be met by a very much in charge Cora. Seems like everything’s being handled with great efficiency by the lady of the house and Isobel is not too happy about her reduced authority. It appears that she’s not needed upstairs, so she storms downstairs, only to be told by a harried Mrs. Patmore that Lady G. has changed the luncheon schedule (and consequently the nurses’ shift schedules). The nerve! How dare Cora change Isobel’s arrangements! Of course, she confronts Cora and threatens to leave. I have to tell you, I thought Mrs. Crawley’s arguments with the Dowager were entertaining, but they’re nothing compared to the showdown with Cora!

Lady G. basically tells Isobel that Downton is her house and she knows how to manage it, thank you very much. Mrs. Crawley leaves in a huff and goes off tattling to Dr. Clarkson who coolly informs her that if Lady G. wants to run her household, she has every right to do so. Well! That comes as a great surprise to Isobel, who then promptly decides to really leave and go to France to volunteer for the Red Cross, leaving Mr. Molesley and Mrs. Bird to manage an empty Crawley House.

Mary and the dowager countess in Downton Abbey Series 2 episode 4In the meantime, Mary has to, once again, assure the Dowager that Lavinia did not have an affair with Sir Richard. The Dowager has her doubts, of course, and questions Mary on her choice of her possible fiancé, “And this is your beau, is it? A man who lends money and then uses it to blackmail the recipient?” Well, she has a point. I mean, we’ve hardly gotten to know Sir Richard, but I honestly think Mary can do better. She deserves better! Mary defends him, but you can see that the Dowager is clearly not convinced.

Their conversation then turns to Sybil, and the Dowager wonders whether or not she has formed and “attachment” to “some man she doesn’t care to mention.” Wait. How does Violet know these things? Did she spy on Sybil and Branson talking? It’s scary how she figures these things out. I don’t think she knows about Sybil & Branson per se, but I think she just knows that Sybil is in a position to fall in love with the wrong sort, given her daily proximity to soldiers, etc. Mary tells her that she doesn’t think Sybil’s involved with anyone and then...uh oh! She runs into Sybil and Branson having a cozy little chat out by the car park. Mary doesn’t really hear the actual conversation, but she’s pretty smart and can tell by their body language (they are standing a little too close) that something’s up.

Have I mentioned how much I just LOVE Sybil and Branson? I do! I honestly think they’re made for each other, class distinctions be damned! They are both idealistic and committed to their beliefs, they are young, beautiful and oh my god, the chemistry! What’s not to love? They’re having one of their ideological arguments and Sybil’s wondering why Branson won’t leave to stage more protests against the war and she questions whether or not he’s planning on staying at Downton forever, instead of “fighting for freedom.”

Branson: “Truth is, I’ll stay in Downton until you want to run away with me."

Sybil: “Don’t be ridiculous!”

Branson: “You’re too scared to admit it, but you’re in love with me.”

Well! Now he’s gone and put the idea in her head. I mean, we know that she loves him but now he’s said it out loud and that’s all she’s going to be thinking about. Hee. Go Branson!

Anyway, Mary decides to head things off at the pass and asks Sybil for an explanation. Sybil gets upset and denies having any feelings for Branson. Methinks the lady doth protest too much! Mary sees through it, of course, and warns her not to do anything stupid. She makes Sybil swear to stay away from “the chauffeur,” and in turn, Sybil asks Mary to promise not to say anything to Lord G. She then goes down to tell Branson that Mary knows and that she has to stay away from him. Branson assumes the worst and thinks he’s going to be fired.

Branson: “Well, that’s me finished then. Without a reference.”

Sybil: “No she’s not like that! You don’t know her, she wouldn’t give us away.”

Branson: “But she won’t encourage us.”

Sybil: “No … why are you smiling? I thought you’d be angry.”

Branson: “Because that’s the first time you’ve ever spoken about ‘us.’ … Look, it comes down to whether or not you love me. That’s all. That’s it. The rest is detail.”

Go Branson (again)!

In the Mary/Matthew angst fest, it seems that the Dowager is not the only one worried about Sir Richard as Mary’s possible intended. Lord G. tells her that he’s had a letter from Sir Richard officially asking for Mary’s hand. Mary assures Lord G. that she hasn’t given him an answer yet and Lord G. insists that she write to Matthew and tell him about it.

Back at the front, Matthew gets Mary’s letter and immediately decides that he needs to go out on patrol with William in tow. Hm. Interesting that he decides to put his life in danger the minute he hears of Mary’s possible engagement. Any way, they go off on their own and oh my god! They are ambushed by the Germans! Eep!

Daisy in Downton AbbeyWe’re left in suspense as gradually everyone finds out that Matthew and William never showed up at Downton for their scheduled leave. Daisy’s pretty worried and in a breach of decorum, actually approaches and asks Edith to try and find out if there’s any news. Edith takes it directly to Lord G., who confirms that yes: Matthew and William are indeed listed as missing in action. He makes Edith promise not to tell Mary and in fact, not to tell anyone else about it because he believes that they will turn up. Did I say eep? Eep!

Meanwhile, things are pretty hectic below stairs. There’s a veritable army (no pun intended) of helpers in the kitchen, but no one’s really helping the actual household staff. Mr. Molesley, who’s bored out of his mind, comes over and offers to help. Both Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes are thrilled and they hint at his possibly coming back to act as Lord G.’s valet. Molesley is over the moon about it because well, being the valet to an Earl is quite a step up for him.

O’Brien and Thomas in Downton Abbey Series 2 episode 4Thomas and O’Brien are back to their old devious selves and it seems that Thomas has found out about Bates working at a pub from a friend. They’re discussing it outside during one of their infamous smoke breaks (where, you know, they plot all their plots) and Daisy overhears them. She casually mentions Bates’ whereabouts to Mrs. Hughes and it cascades up to Mr. Carson and of course Lord G., who after confirming the exact location with Anna, decides to go down and pay Bates a visit. Everyone’s a bit shocked that Anna has known about Bates all this time and hasn’t said anything, but she declares that it wasn’t her “secret to tell.”

Mr. Bates and Lord G. have a great reunion and Lord G. apologizes for having been so rude to Bates when he left. He asks Bates to tell him about his plans for divorcing Vera and tries to get him to spill the big secret that Vera has threatened to share. Of course, Bates dismisses it as just a bit of nonsense, but gah! We know better! This is going to get super ugly. Any way, Lord G. tells Bates about Matthew being MIA and how he feels like he’s losing his son (aww!) and asks Bates to come back to the Abbey and “help [him] through the veil of shadow.”

Yay! Bates is back! Everyone is thrilled of course, but the look on Anna’s face is just...pure joy. My heart! The only people who’re not happy to see him back are Thomas and O’Brien. Shocker. Oh, and poor Mr. Molesley! He rushes in to help dress Lord G. and runs right into Bates. There go his dreams of becoming an Earl’s valet! Back to being bored at Crawley House for him, I guess.

Speaking of Crawley House, Molesley and Mrs. Bird are sitting around wondering what to do next when an errant soldier walks in the kitchen asking for food. Mrs. Bird resists at first, but finally gives in and feeds the poor man, and before you know it, she’s taken on the task of feeding a whole bunch of them once a week. And she’s paying for the food out of her own pocket!

Daisy and Mrs. Patmore in Downton Abbey Season 2Taking a much needed break from the kitchens, Mrs. Patmore and Daisy are walking along when they see the line of soldiers being led into Crawley House and go in to investigate. Once they see what’s going on, they jump in and start to help. When Mrs. P. finds out that Mrs. Bird has been paying for the food herself, she takes matters into her own hands and starts storing some extra food back at the Abbey and takes it down to the House once a week. And this folks, is where some of the intrigue starts. The ever present, ever nosy and every malicious O’Brien catches Mrs. P. dropping off food at the House and tells Cora that the cooks must be in cahoots with each other and are selling off the food to make a little money on the side. Seriously, O’Brien? Is there no end to your scheming? What the heck have Mrs. P. and Daisy ever done to you? Grrr.

Anyway, Cora insists on going down to Crawley House and catching the “thieves” herself. Mrs. P. stands up to Cora and tells her that they haven’t been taking any food that was paid for by the Abbey, but have been using the army provisions for their little soup kitchen. In a truly great moment, Cora tells them that they should take the food from the Abbey’s stores and then rolls up her sleeves and offers to help with the soldiers! And oh look! She even drags O’Brien into it! Hah. So much for trying to stir up trouble, O’Brien!

Guess what else is happening down below! Remember Ethel? The rebellious maid who’s looking for a better life and was totally flirting with Major Bryant last week? Well, she’s clearly not given up and is actually being pretty blatant with the Major. How blatant, you might ask? What would you say if I told you that Mrs. Hughes actually catches her and the good Major in compromising (yes, I mean naked) position?! She does and of course, fires Ethel on the spot. Ethel packs up and leaves, but doesn’t tell anyone why she’s been sacked. Anna goes to plead her case with Mrs. Hughes, but of course, there’s no way Mrs. H. would budge. A few nights later, Ethel shows up at the Abbey and begs Mrs. Hughes to help her because—oh no! She’s pregnant!

Meanwhile, there’s still no word about Matthew and William. In a rare instance of sisterly love, Edith decides that Mary really should know what’s going on. Poor Mary is just devastated. Lord G. ends up telling Cora and everyone’s in a pretty somber mood as they head down to a concert that Edith’s organized for the soldiers. The concert’s intended to boost morale and Mary’s agreed to sing. She has a beautiful voice. She starts singing about a boy and a girl wondering “what if,” when … OH. MY. GOD!!! It’s Matthew!!! And William!!!

Matthew and Mary in Downton Abbey Series 2I swear I thought Mary was going to just run down and jump in Matthew’s arms! She stops singing and stares at him and then just exhales a relieved “thank god.” See? This is what I meant when I said my heart was thumping. Matthew stares right back at her for a little while and then starts singing the song. Mary joins in and they perform a gorgeous (and heartbreaking) duet.

Matthew (singing): “I would say such wonderful things to you...”

Mary (singing): “There would be such wonderful things to do …”

Everyone sings along: “If you were the only girl in the world, and I were the only boy.”


Okay, so it turns out that Matthew and William had gotten lost and were trapped behind the Germans, but were never actually caught. They managed to find their way back to a medic station and since there was nothing really wrong with them (i.e. they hadn’t been injured), no one had reported back to their unit.

Oh, as an aside, Thomas, who’s been particularly mean to Daisy and is basically being a pompous ass telling everyone that he’s in charge and doesn’t work for Lord G. any more, etc., is chastised by Dr. Clarkson, who is in fact, his superior officer. Of course, Thomas immediately assumes that Bates is the one who sold him out and of course, O’Brien agrees with him. What is it with these two? I honestly don’t even understand what their motives are any more. Any way, it turns out that Mrs. Hughes is actually the one who complained about Thomas. I’m sure there’s going to be some fall out from all of this in the coming weeks.

Next week looks pretty intense too. Vera’s back and is clearly not interested in Bates’ deal to take the money and keep quiet about what she knows. It looks like Sir Richard is now refusing to marry Mary. Ugh. Can’t wait to see how this all plays out!


If you liked this Downton Abbey recap, you might also enjoy these related posts:

Or, carry on to the episode 5 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.

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1. Deec
Oh, wow. Once again, fabulous recap. I really have to take time to absorb all of this. It's too much! The thing with Cora, Patmore and Bird and the clandestine soup kitchen! Sounded wonderful to me. And Matthew and William walking back in during the song fest! Intensive!

When when when will the Crawleys (Lord and Lady G) wake up about O'Brien and Thomas? Do you think those two are mother and son by the way? (O/b and Thomas!)

Ok, I've just got to sign off and re read this and think about this some more. One last thing about Bates....look, something's not right. If he's going on about paying Vera off and getting his divorce, why isn't he down in London doing that? What's he doing? How's this all going to work? Poor Anna!
2. Hannah B.P.
It was a great episode! The moment with the song was heartbreakingly good. I thought Mary would collapse in his arms and declare her love for him right there. But after that conversation with Lavinia awhile back, she won't. Mary knows how much Lavinia loves Matthew and she believes Matthew loves her. Speaking of that, since there will be a funeral, and Lavinia said she would die if anything happened to Matthew... seems like a long shot that she would kill herself when he went missing but who knows? I think this was the first time we've seen Daisy out of that one kitchen dress. Oh no, I guess at the fair in S1. She was so cute in her little tam. I liked the subplot of the soup kitchen. Good for Cora! I was a little angry with her for the way she treated Isobel at the beginning but she sort of redeemed herself. I hope we'll see Isobel again soon. I did feel badly for Molesly. That man is a fabulous actor. His expressions when he's devastated make me want to cry. O'Brien is back to being downright evil. I wonder if Mary will think the letter she or Vera write to Richard about Pamuk is from Edith and that it will sour their relationship again. Of course, I just hope Mary doesn't marry him. Richard seems like a real nasty guy. I'm afraid he's going to blackmail her. And I wonder when the stuff about Edith and the farmer will come out. That's not just going to go away either. I did think Branson's statements to Sybil sounded a lot like Matthew's to Mary in S1. The whole "the only question is do you love me?" I think Mary is sympathetic to them but is afraid that Sybil will run away with him, since it would be the only way she could really be with him. That would be sad in some ways. She'd be cut off from everyone else in her life. And like she said, what would his family think of her? His run away with me stuff made Sybil question whether she's really in love with him. She started to look as confused as Daisy is about her feelings for William. It does seem like Daisy's more sure of that now that they thought William was dead. We'll see though. She could always meet some dashing guy while he's fighting and not be so sure anymore. Oh poor Ethel, she's in a pickle now. I guess Mrs. Hughes forgot to lock the door to the maid's quarters! I suddenly thought was she must have been knitting something for her baby all this time, but of course, she didn't know yet until the end of the episode. We've moved really fast through the years this series. Not even half way through and it's already 1918. The fighting ends in Nov. that year. The Christmas Special takes place Christmas 1918 and New Year's 1919, as I understand it.
3. Rosamund Powell
Have I mentioned how much I just LOVE Sybil and Branson? I do! I honestly think they’re made for each other, class distinctions be damned!

I don't. I have nothing against mixed-classes romances. But the Sybil and Branson relationship is terribly cliched. Sybil is a ridiculously noble character. And I could have sworn that Sybil IS NOT attracted to Branson.
4. Lilly
Thank you, thank you, thank you! You have made my rainy Monday:)
5. Deec
If its 1918 then we have the Spanish Flu to go through...someone's gonna get it and die! Maybe Vera???
6. Hannah B.P.
Yes, the Spanish Flu! I think someone mentioned that that would come up on the show this series. It could be Vera or it could be Ethel while she's pregnant. She's not going to be in S3, but of course, that doesn't have to be because she dies. Anyone could die from it. Maybe Aunt Rosamunde will. She's a nasty piece of work that I wouldn't miss much. That preview of O'Brien running into Robert and Cora's room to wake them seems like it could be related to someone dying. I think it's hard to show much romantic feeling between Sybil and Branson because they can't be too close or touch or anything. Much more so than any of the other couples they have to keep their distance. But I do think it's there, simmering under the surface.
7. Beebs
It was a brilliant episode and from the trailers, next week looks set to be even better.

I'm all for Vera getting the Spanish flu, she's EEEEVILL and she's getting in the way of Bates and Anna's HEA and we need some HEA.

I love the angst but I think it's time for some happy.
8. Hannah B.P.
Have you all seen this site? Pretty fun and I agree with her thoughts on Branson and Sybil.

Lavinia seems a bit frail. She could get Spanish Influenza, too. I like her but Matthew and Mary belong together. Maybe Mary can hook Lavinia up with Evelyn Napier when she's in London. He's a nice guy.
Naz Keynejad
9. nazkey
@Dee I'm glad you're liking the recaps! I cracked up over your comment that O'Brien and Thomas are mother & son. LOL. I don't think she's old enough for that, but there has to be some sort of history between them. And I still honestly don't understand why they're so mean all the time!

@Hannah I like your theory about Lavinia possibly dying from the Spanish flu. There has to be a way to get rid of her without it being something mean/underhanded. I'm worried about Mary though. I mean, clearly, she's going to get found out this week and I'm worried about Matthew's reaction.

@Lilly You're welcome! :-)

@Beebs I agree that we need some HEA. Enough with all the set up already!

@Rosamund :-( I really think that Sybil needs someone who challenges her and I don't think she "fits" the norm of finding some rich man and getting married off. Not that Lord & Lady G. are necessarily forcing any of their daughters to compromise, but Sybil certainly pushes the boundaries and I feel that her relationship with Branson is just another way for her to assert her independence. Other than that? They are so cute together! I guess I just get mushy about them ;-)
10. Louise321
I wish I could watch this but I don't know whether it is playing in SoCal. I've enjoyed the recaps, Naz. Thank you. Spent a long time on YouTube watching snippets. Did find this from Red Nose Day in GB -- apparently a day that comics poke fun at all things BBC?

Anyway, if you are interested, here is the link --
11. Hannah B.P.
Yeah, I'm worried about Matthew's reaction to it getting out about Pamuk, too. He just may not believe it though and get mad at Carlisle for spreading rumors about her. He did say if Carlisle treated Mary badly, he'd have to answer to him. Or Carlisle may not publish the story if he can get something else out of Mary that he wants. In any case, I hope it comes out that a major part of Mary's stalling about Matthew's proposal was due to her fears about him finding out about Pamuk. That it wasn't because she didn't care for Matthew. Robert and Cora did try to force Mary to marry a few times but fortunately she wasn't going to so they backed off. By now she's got to be 28, which was ancient to not be married back then. I'm surprised they haven't all given up hope completely but she does still get suitors. I do wonder if we don't know the whole story about Lavinia. It does seem like there could be more to uncover. Carlisle got his money so why would he be threatening to reveal her secret to Matthew's family? There might be something else. I have a feeling Branson and Sybil will end up this series somewhat like Mary and Matthew did at the end of S1. Somehow they'll quarrel and not be together and both be broken hearted. I doubt their relationship will be resolved before S3. But I'm sure they'll have a passionate moment this series. Louise it will air in the U.S. in Jan.
12. DeeC
Hannah, what is a tumblr site? I took a look -- and I'm definitely do you "read" it do you click on each thing there....??? Looks interesting? Thanks! Deec
13. DeeC
All -- there is this fabulous person (almost as fantastic as Naz) who mashes up any (I guess any, not being able to watch it yet) scene with Anna and Bates from each episode of Season 2. Her channel is LittleGuinea and here's a link to her latest Anna Bates from episode 4. Enjoy!
14. Hannah B.P.
Yeah, tumblr is new to me, too. I think it's mostly pictures. You do have to click on the photos to open them and they will often bring up a gallery, too. You have to play around with it a little. But when I opened one it had a long post about Branson and Sybil.
Naz Keynejad
15. nazkey
@DeeC ... Ooooohhhh!!!! Thank you for that link! I love it!!!

@Hannah & DeeC re. Tumblr ... watch out ladies! That's another internet black hole. I didn't really 'get" it at first either and now I'm totally hooked. You can spend hours and hours on there and find all sorts of good stuff!
Cristina P
16. krissapl
@Rosamund - I completely agree with you about Sybil & Branson. I don't like them together, there seems to be no chemistry. And I don't like him, he seem quite arrogant. Also, I believe that Sybil doesn't feel much for him, even if he keeps pushing her, she's just being nice to him. I saw a look of hers when he was yelling at her, talking about how she's taking care of the soldiers and how that's useless (or something of the sort). I think she was furious with him for disrespecting her job.
17. Hannah B.P.
I think Branson's comment about Sybil's job was a little unfair but he's frustrated and probably even a bit worried that if she is willing to consider him, she might be responding to some of those "randy soldiers." And Sybil probably has a slightly inflated idea of what she's doing, thinking it's more medical than it is. Dr. Clarkson did say to Isobel that the convalescence home was less about nursing than providing the comforts of home. That's what Sybil has been doing for most of the time. I doubt she was every fully trained as a nurse though I'm sure she did learn quite a bit by being thrown into it at the hospitalc. What Branson said was in a heated moment and he probably regretted it afterward. It shows he isn't perfect and that he carries some of the prejudices about women that prevailed in this era. Just like her hesitation at giving up her posh life shows she's not perfect. She's sent him mixed signals because she said she could never go back to "that life" but now she has somewhat. He feels her slipping away from him. He told her over a year ago now that he loves her and he's tired of being patient. Esp since he feels that she does love him back but has gotten scared. I think she is, too, but she's unsure because her heart is fighting with her head. It's going to be a rough road for them because they would both have to give up a lot to be together. Probably both their families would be very upset and at least some of them would cut themselves off from them. That's romantic and all but in reality, it would be very painful to lose everyone you love except your lover. And if she ran away with him instead of trying to tell her family, they would be very upset. The count in Ripon times ten! It's going to be very interesting to see it play out.
18. beckymmoe
Last season I liked Branson and Sybil together, but this year their relationship seems to have played itself out. He isn't being fair to her, and it really does seem as if she's just trying to be nice (not get him in trouble with his job) and friendly (trying to encourage him to not do things that will get him in trouble with authorities/Army) and he's going way too far with it. I'm really not seeing the chemistry that I thought had been starting between them last season--Sybil, at least, seems to have outgrown it. I really hope she doesn't end up caving under his pressure, because I don't think that's what she wants (or needs) anymore.

O'Brien and Thomas--grrrrrrrr. Seriously, why are they so bitter and mean?

Please tell me Matthew and Mary end up together. PLEASE. I can't take it if they don't! The agony!!! Even though I cheated and read your synopsis first (I couldn't make it through the episode not knowing if he was okay), I still got all teary when he showed up at the concert. And then when Mary asked him to please be careful and grabbed his wrist...sigh....Livinia who? ;-)

Thanks for the recaps!
Naz Keynejad
19. nazkey
@beckymmoe: The whole Sybil/Branson 'ship is a bit anti-climactic this season, I think. You'll see what happens with them, but suffice it to say for those of us who were rooting for some sort of an explosive romance, it doesn't necessarily deliver the bang. I'm not going to give anything away, you're just going to have to watch and see ;-) - and no cheating and skipping ahead to read the other recaps, okay? LOL. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
Charli Mac
20. CharliMac
I used to love Daisy but now she's getting on my nerves. Ms. O'Brien, too. I can't stand that flip flopper. Thomas makes me laugh, he really does. I cannot wait for the day he finds out about O'Brien's little secret and sticks it to her.

It may be the Irish in this wee lass but I just adore Branson and pray Sybil takes that hunk of a driver asap. She's willing to what she wants, feck the consequences, but not with her heart it seems.
21. Dayton
I just love your recaps because there is such detail and no spoliers. I am resisting the temptation to read about the series because I understand that the entire 2nd season has already aired across the pond. My PBS station airs the show from the previous week from 8 to 9 pm and then the new show from 9 to 10 pm. I chase my husband out of the room because I love to re-watch the previous weeks episode to pick up on things that I have missed. I too thought that when Matthew walked in that Mary was going to run down the aisle and at least hug him and give him a pinch just to be sure that he was real. I do so love the Mr.Bates and Anna story line. Anna offering to become his mistress and him declining and wanting to marry her properly. Ahhhh. . . Heard the great news about a 3rd season which makes the actors happy I am sure but makes me ecstatic.
22. gapeach
I still fail to see the chemistry with Mary and Matthew. Mary had more chemistry with Evelyn Napier. Matthew and Sybil would be hot!!! Branson is trying to force feelings that are just not there.
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