My word! Last night’s episode of Downton Abbey was chockfull of happy and sad moments, niceness and nastiness, and even amateur detectives! Following is a recap.
If you haven’t seen Episode 2, it’s available online at PBS Video.
Edith was thrilled to bits. Preparations were under way for her nuptials and, for once, activity at the house was about her.
Violet, on the other hand, was rationing her excitement, since she was in despair over her granddaughter “beginning her life as an old man’s drudge.” And Robert had resigned himself to Edith being a nurse “wheeling around a one-armed, old man” by the time she’s 50.
In money matters, Robert continued with the particulars for the sale of Downton Abbey, and had essentially settled on the family moving to one of their smaller (but still pretty) houses in the north, which they could name Downton Place. (Given how he and the rest of the Crawleys felt about their moving and downsizing, at least he didn’t call it Downton Mews.)
Enter Molesley, who was either ignorant of Thomas’ conniving ways or just plain stupid when he asked Cora if he might offer a candidate as Miss O’Brien’s replacement. Regardless, Cora was gobsmacked but played off the surprise news of O’Brien’s supposed departure, and we found out what some of the Crawleys really think of her lady’s maid.
We also got to see some sides of Mr. Carson heretofore unseen. He had eavesdropped on Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore, and went to see Dr. Clarkson to learn more about Mrs. Hughes’ condition. In being told that he could help her by lessening her duties, his tried on several occasions to persuade her to take it easy, only to raise her suspicions and ultimately be found out for the crap liar he was. (Also crap was the bit he pulled on Mrs. Patmore. Utterly disappointing of him.)
Reluctant heir Matthew, ill-humored as ever, told Mary that the death certificate of the other potential heir had arrived from India and that he’d arranged for Mr. Swire’s lawyer to bring it by the next day. This put Mary in a snit because, besides the family having planned a picnic at their future home for that day, he was going to give away a fortune that could save Downton. Instead of getting where she was coming from, Matthew pulled a Molesley and asked Mary if she would choose where the money should go. (Really. He did.)
Meanwhile, Daisy wanted to know if she should be more outspoken and say what she really thinks, especially in the area of romance, and ostensibly to let Alfred know that she fancied him. (Wait. Is this the same person who had kissed William just to cheer him up?)
Anna continued her sleuthing and went to see Mrs. Bartlett, a churlish woman who seemed straight out of a Dickens novel. (Note to Anna: Hand over the money after you’ve gotten information.) According to Bartlett, Vera had been scared of Bates after he left her for a trollop (oh no she didn’t!), had the look of a halo about her when walking in the rain to post her letter (seriously?), and had been scrubbing her hands raw after making pastry the day she died (the plot thickens).
Bates couldn’t catch a break. A good samaritan inmate told him to check his bunk, as Bates’ creepy cellmate apparently had planted something to frame him. He found it in the nick of time, so the guards’ search turned up nothing. However, the surprised reaction of one guard hinted that the cellmate wasn’t the only one in on the frame-up.
And Ethel went to see Isobel again, but before she again changed her mind and ran out the door, Isobel asked her to stay and start rebuilding her life, as all of the other (gasp!) prostitutes in the room were doing. Isobel later went to Ethel’s place, where she bumped into a punter on his way out and pleaded with Ethel to let her help. From the sounds of a child in the background, we can assume that Ethel wanted help for her son, Charlie, since she stated she didn’t want it for herself. (Oh please, let this not mean the return of that tosser of a grandfather.)
Over an after-dinner cordial, Strallan told Robert that he understood why he, Robert, was against his and Edith’s relationship, and that he intended to do his level best to make her happy. He should have left it at that, but instead pressed the matter and asked Robert if he was happy about the marriage. Robert’s reply could not have been more obvious, despite the niceties of his words.
Speaking of, the creepy-comment-of-the-episode award went to Edith, who told Strallan that she wanted to marry him, not in spite of his age and future infirmity, but because of them. She wanted him to be her “life’s work.”
On picnic day, Matthew got both the death certificate and a letter from the late Mr. Swire. He didn’t want to read it, as he thought it would be a “paean of praise” that he didn’t deserve. (Really. He did.) Also, Carson divulged to Cora that Mrs. Hughes was ill, and asked that some of her duties be diverted to him. This prompted her to ask him how he’d manage without both Mrs. Hughes and Miss O’Brien, but she got called to leave before she could elaborate on what Molesley had told her.
At Downton Place, Mary thought the house would be cramped, but Robert agreed with Sybil that they’d need fewer servants, eight tops, so it would be an economical move. He also mentioned that, after the move, Violet could go to one of their properties in the village. Her response: “Perhaps I can open a shop.” (As if.)
During dinner, Carson asked Miss O’Brien what she had confided to Molesley. She was befuddled, so he clarified; he meant her departure. If O’Brien’s looks and “I’ll deal with you later” could have killed, Molesley would have been dead on the spot. To prevent Molesley from outing him, Thomas reminded Carson it was time for the dressing gong. (Saved by the bell!)
Molesley later apologized to O’Brien and said he was sure Thomas had made an honest mistake. Knowing it was neither, she told him to tell Thomas that she might make some honest mistakes of her own in the future.
There was no mistaking Cora’s intentions when she told Mrs. Hughes that she was welcome to stay at Downton for as long as she wanted, that Sybil would find her a nurse, and that the Crawleys would look after her if the test results confirmed the worst. It was a truly touching moment.
While discussing Edith’s honeymoon and future home (exactly how does Mary know that the bedrooms at Locksley are killers?), Violet suggested that Edith go to bed, lest she look tired on her wedding day, to which Edith replied that she wouldn’t be able to sleep a wink. Thus began an exchange between Sybil and Violet, with the latter chiding the former with one of her “Oh, snap!” lines.
Mary pulled a fast one and read Mr. Swire’s letter behind Matthew’s back. He wrote that he knew of Matthew’s intention to marry Lavinia despite his true feelings, and that he, Matthew, should not feel “grief, guilt, or regret” in accepting the money. Matthew all but accused Mary or someone else of having forged the letter, because there was no way Lavinia could have written it from her deathbed without their knowing about it. Mary later asked the staff if any of them had posted the letter for Lavinia, and it turned out that Daisy had. Now Matthew had no more excuses; he was either going to accept the money or be beat about the head by Mary.
Finally, it was time for Edith to walk down the aisle. She was beautiful. Strallan, on the other hand, looked as if he were “waiting for a beating from the headmaster,” according to Violet. (Spot on, actually.) His whole demeanor had changed, and when Edith arrived at the altar, he was practically… paternal toward her.
No sooner had the vicar spoken “Dearly beloved, we are gathered…” that Strallan blurted out “I can’t do this.” To everyone’s shock and Edith’s horror, Strallan’s sense of rectitude caused him to admit that he knew it was wrong to marry her, despite Edith’s protests about their being “terribly” happy and Robert’s about it being too late to stop things.
Enter Violet, who declared this was “the only sensible thing he’s come up with in months” and told Edith to let Strallan go. She couldn’t, but he did, presumably never to be heard from again. The inconsolable Edith ran to her room, where she sobbed and bemoaned her life as a spinster.
While the wedding decorations were being removed, Robert commented to Matthew about moving forward with selling Downton. That is until Matthew told him they didn’t have to leave, because he was giving Robert Mr. Swire’s money. After declining it at first, Robert finally accepted it on the condition that Matthew invest in Downton and share ownership of it with him. This was as moving a father-son (in-law) moment as there ever was at Downton.
A daughter’s marriage lost, but a family’s home retained.
Much talk happened amongst the staff about Edith and the shame of having been jilted at the altar. Alfred saw things differently, and said Edith “could do much better than that broken-down old crock.” Carson chided the footman for the remark, but Mrs. Hughes added what Alfred didn’t: that Strallan “deserved every bit of that, and worse.” And Carson knew she was right. “Well, maybe just this once.”
The next day, Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore went to see the doctor, and returned to find Carson anxiously awaiting the news. It wasn’t cancer. To Mrs. Hughes’ delight, Carson was as happy as a lark, singing as he cleaned the silver, “… and she stole my heart away…” (So sweet!!!)
What’s in store in Episode 3? We’ll find out when it airs next Sunday, 20 January, at 9PM Eastern on PBS.