Time for Downton Abbey! Have you your tea sandwiches ready? As this week’s episode was a single one, compared to the double dose we got last week, there were no obvious cuts. The running time is nearly exactly the same for the British and American airings.
This week’s episode begins in a flurry of activity, as it seems that yes, indeed, Downton Abbey is being converted into a convalescent home for wounded officers. Cousin Isobel and Cora are already locking horns over how much of the house will be left to the Crawleys once everything’s set up, and the Dowager Countess is concerned that mixing officer ranks will upset people.
Downstairs, Anna’s going into the village later, and no one’s sure who will be in charge once the convalescence home is operational.
Granny and Mary debate the meaning of the heated conversation between Sir Richard and Lavinia that Rosamund overheard last week ““ Granny doesn’t know of many people who would threaten her behind the laurels! I have no trouble believing this.
In Daisy’s plotline, William will be coming to Downton before he heads overseas. Daisy is worried this means that he’s “got plans,” and that they involve her.
MISTAH BATES SIGHTING! MISTAH BATES SIGHTING! IN THE VILLAGE, BEHIND A TREE! And then he was gone! Anna runs after him, but to no avail. Either our dear Anna has begun to see things, or Mr. Bates moves pretty quickly for a man with a war wound.
Back at Downton, the ladies upstairs are wondering who’s going to be in charge as well. Edith feels useless. BECAUSE SHE IS. O’Brien, crafty as ever, convinces Cora that Thomas ought to be put in charge of running the convalescent home. (Note: It is really hard to spell “convalescent,” if you are me.)
In Mary’s room, Anna’s ostensibly curling Mary’s hair with a curling iron, though the size of Mary’s curls as compared to diameter of the barrel of the curling iron suggests that this is not at all what’s happening. Oh well.
Ooh, now we’re at tea with the Dowager Countess, Rosamund, and Lavinia. Poor girl. She explains that Sir Richard was a friend of her father and uncle, who was a Liberal Minister.
Sybil has gone to visit Branson, who tells her of his plans to become a conscientious objector to the war.
Poor Mr. Lang. He’s still a bundle of nerves, and resentful of the fact that life at Downton seems to continue as if there wasn’t a war at all. Mrs. Padmore confides in Mr. Lang that her nephew was shot for cowardice.
Oh, interesting – I’d assumed that O’Brien was trying to get Thomas in charge of Downton on Thomas’ orders. Now, as they talk, O’Brien needs to convince Thomas that he ought to come back to Downton. O’Brien’s motivation was apparently protecting Cora from Isobel, as she wants to protect Cora. Quite a change from last season, eh? Guilt can do wonders.
And now, for a complicated meeting – Dr. Clarkson and Isobel are presenting to Lord and Lady Grantham, and the Dowager Countess, their final plans for the convalescent home. Robert takes this very badly. However, it seems Thomas is indeed going to be in charge, with a promotion to boot! Isobel takes this very badly.
Downstairs, Branson has news from Russia! Lenin is demanding a people’s revolution! And the royal family has been imprisoned, but don’t worry, they’d never kill them! Oh Branson. Lang points out that no one knows who’s going to get killed, and then tells everyone how poor Archie Filpotts (Mrs. Padmore’s nephew) was shot for cowardice. Real smooth, Lang.
Speaking of smooth, Thomas comes in through the front door! Unacceptable! There is an entrance for servants, but Thomas is not a servant anymore! Carson and Thomas get into it a bit. Remember how we found out last season that Carson was an actor? There are times where that comes through fantastically.
Robert and Cora look around for awhile in desperation, and then we’ve got wounded soldiers arriving.
Ethel, always upwardly mobile, likes the looks of an officer named Bryant. Anna points out that officers aren’t men, at least where they’re concerned, but Ethel disagrees.
MATTHEW! What are you doing here? Isn’t there a war you ought to be fighting? Ah, right, the “promotional tour.” Matthew and Mary chat as old friends AND THEY ARE ADORABLE.
In what seems to be the growing power struggle of this episode, if not the season, Cora finds Isobel in the servant’s hall, assigning responsiblities to the staff, and, well, if looks could kill, Isobel would have gone the way of Mr. Pamouk.
Upstairs, it’s Robert and Cora against Dr. Clarkson and Isobel. It’s still the Crawley’s house, after all, and Robert puts his foot down. If Dr. Clarkson and Isobel won’t listen to them, then they can quite literally take their things and GTFO.
And now, Mary’s got news! Mistah Bates could indeed have been seen in the village, as he’s working in a pub.
And Branson’s got news too! He has a heart murmur, so he’s been turned down for military service. Branson’s quite frustrated that he’s no longer able to make a grand statement against the British government. Branson then informs Sybil that his cousin was killed by British soldiers in the Easter Rising last year, because he was “probably a rebel” – though he was just walking down the street.
Oh, look, Edith’s bustling around getting books for people. Great. Outside, Ethel’s flirting with Major Bryant, talking about how good she is at tucking. (Tucking, as in tucking in blankets. Clever.) Later that night, Ethel confides to Anna that she apparently really likes Major Bryant, as Anna curls her hair.
The next day, hair delightfully curled, Anna goes to see Mistah Bates, who is indeed tending bar (bestill my beating heart.) Bates doesn’t know if he’s been dreading this moment, or longing for it, which wins for favorite non-Dowager Countess line of the episode.
Speaking of Her Ladyship, she, Rosamund, and Mary are at tea, discussing Lavinia. It seems Lavinia was responsible for the Marconi scandal, which exposed a great deal of corruption in the British government. Lavinia, it seems, stole secrets from her uncle, a politician, and gave them to Sir Richard. Rosamund is convinced that the only reason Lavinia would do such a thing is if she and Sir Richard were sleeping together. Then again, Rosamund is truly one of the villains in this series, worse even perhaps than Edith, so who knows what Lavinia’s motivations are.
Mary, for what it’s worth, shows a fantastic amount of respect and friendship for Lavinia, and defends her to Granny and Aunt Rosamund. I know there are those of you out there who are Team Mary in a major way, and, well, my feelings are the tiniest bit mixed about her. Her treatment of Lavinia, however, earns her major points in my book.
YAY, MISTAH BATES AND ANNA SCENE! It seems that Mr. Bates has proof that Vera has been unfaithful, so he can get a divorce if he leaves the house, to prove that Vera’s infidelity has broken the marriage. We’re treated to a brief summation of early 20th century British divorce law, and Anna, despite all the other things going on at the moment, still manages to point out that the legal code isn’t very fair to women. Yay, Anna. Bates mentions that he’s going to have to pay Vera off, but he’s more than willing to do so to keep her quiet. Anna then offers to become his mistress, but Bates says that he wouldn’t ask that of her.
Branson and O’Brien have a friendly, which is to say abrasive, conversation. O’Brien confirms that Captain Crawley is bringing a famous general to dinner, and you can see the wheels turning in Branson’s head.
And now, another awkward conversation between Isobel and Cora, this time about who will be showing said famous general around. Isobel doesn’t even go here!
That night, Edith is asked by a wounded soldier to help him write a letter to his mother ““ he’s lost his hand. The other soldiers apparently recommended Edith to them, as she’s been seeing to their errands and needs (not in an Ethel sort of way, I’m assuming, but who knows.) Good for Edith. I’d be happy for you, except you’re horrible.
Branson has volunteered to help serve at the fancy dinner, and Carson’s quietly overjoyed.
And then it was late and night and there was screaming. Turns out it it’s Mr. Lang, who’s having a nightmare about being forced to go back. O’Brien, in the continuing “O’Brien develops emotions” plotline, is again defensive and protective of Mr. Lang.
The important general has arrived! Isobel won’t stop putting herself in charge of things, it’s a bit embarrassing.
Daisy’s now being bullied by Mrs. Padmore about William. According to Mrs. Padmore, if William proposes, Daisy better accept, whether she loves him or not, because if you send him off to war with a broken heart, he won’t come back. No pressure, Daisy!
Mary talks to Lavinia about Sir Richard, and it turns out that, yup, Lavinia was behind the Marconi scandal. Mary asks whether Lavinia stole the information because she and Sir Richard were lovers, and Lavinia neither confirms nor denies.
The important famous general is inspecting the wounded troops, and Edith knows more about the soldiers than anyone else. Good for Edith.
William’s back for his goodbye, and Mrs. Padmore’s in tears, thinking of her Archie.
Upstairs, Rosamund’s being brutal about Lavinia. Let us please never forget for a second that, if it wasn’t for Rosamund’s horrible advice last season, Mary would’ve accepted Matthew.
As Branson carries a soup tureen upstairs with disproportionate purpose and ominous music, Anna finds a note in Sybil’s bed, which says “forgive me.” Anna takes up running as Branson carries the tureen into the dining room. We realize again how huge Downton is as Anna makes it to Mrs. Hughes, who reads the rest of the note out loud – “They’ll have arrested me by now but I’m not sorry, the bastard had it coming to him.” Oh dear. Mrs. Hughes takes the note to Carson, who rushes to the dining room and stops Branson just as he’s about to take the lid off the incredibly ominous-by-now tureen, which Anna carries out of the room. Carson and Anna accuse Branson of attempting to kill the general, but no, in fact, he was just going to dump the contents of the soup tureen on him. The tureen, for the record, was filled with “oil and ink and a bit of a cowpie, mixed with sour milk” rather than, I’m assuming, a gun. William volunteers to serve the rest of the dinner.
The Dowager Countess makes sounds at dinner about wanting to find out more about Lavinia. Dr. Clarkson announces that Mrs. Crawley and Lady Grantham will oversee Downton together, as intermediaries between him and Thomas. Everyone seems satisfied with this, except, of course, Isobel.
The famous general is impressed by Downton overall, but, according to the soldiers, Edith is the best (they are, of course, wrong, but they don’t know that). Cora seems shocked at the news that her middle daughter is not useless, and they all drink to her health.
Lavinia explains to Mary that she and Sir Richard were not, in fact, lovers. Lavinia’s father owed a great deal of money to Sir Richard, and would forgive the debt if Lavinia got the information about the scandal to him.
Downstairs, Daisy gives William the least flattering photo I’ve ever seen, and William proposes. Mrs. Padmore says yes, of course, this is totally what Daisy wants. Daisy manages a “go on then” and a hug. This, for the record, is probably why most engagements should happen in private, away from mother-like bosses who are still mourning the loss of their nephews.
Matthew asks Mary if there was some information about Lavinia that she had found out, as Cousin Violet had hinted. Mary says there’s not a thing, and that she finds Lavinia to be charming. Well played, Mary.
Oh, William’s going to become Matthew’s servant on the field! How convenient! And then Lang has a massive breakdown in front of absolutely everyone, sobbing into Lord Grantham’s chest, scared he’s going to be sent back to the front. Carson steps in front of Lang, masking him from view.
Carson and Mrs. Hughes have a glass of wine and decide to not punish Branson. William announces his engagement to Daisy to everyone, against Daisy’s wishes.
Poor Mr. Lang is packing, and Carson sends him off with two month’s pay and a good recommendation.
In bed, Cora and Robert discuss how well Matthew and Mary got on, but Cora does admit that Lavinia’s a nice girl.
And that’s it for this week!
“No, he was just cut and polished comparatively recently.” (The Dowager Countess, re: whether Marmaduke was a diamond in the rough)
“I cannot have him working here, because he is a thief.” (Carson, re: Thomas)
“This is a new age of government! No one wants to start it with the murder of a bunch of young girls!” (Branson, re: the Russian Revolution)
“The truth is, we’re very much alike, so naturally I think she’s perfect.” (Mary, re: Lavinia)
Any other fantastic lines that I’ve forgotten? Let me know in the comments!