Feb 082012
 

Mary wheels Matthew along the verdant grounds of the Downton estate. When he complains that he is strong enough to wheel himself, she responds: “I’ll be the judge of that!” Leave it to her to find a way to further castrate a man with erectile dysfunction. Yes, Mary’s in top form.

SPOILERS AFTER THE CUT!

From afar, this little scene must look very romantic. If you’re insane. Which is what Sir Richard appears to be when he asks Lord Grantham if he should be jealous of Matthew. The Earl is clearly wondering the same thing as me, since he shoots him his best “Whatchoo talkin’ bout, Willis?” look. At the lack of response, Sir Richard tells him that he’s thinking of buying the Haxby Estate next door. Lord Grantham is horrified when he hears of Sir Richard’s plan to know more about Fleck water softeners and renovate the estate and install central heating and indoor plumbing. Wait till he hears about the trained pet monkey Sir Richard’s bought just so that it can crank the projector in the home cinema, and that he hired a former brothel pianist to supply live musical accompaniment.

Downstairs, Ethel tries to convince Daisy to claim her veteran’s widow pension. She refuses: “How long was I married? Six hours, seven?” Well, that’s longer than Britney Spears. At least an Elvis impersonator didn’t officiate at your wedding, Daisyleh. Mrs. Patmore tells Daisy that William wanted her to be looked after, but Daisy yells that he made her a liar. Oh, dear. This is what happens when you get married during puberty.

Isobel is back and more insufferable than ever. At tea, she asks Cora and Lady Vi what will happen to Downton once the war is over. When Cora answers that they’ll go back to the way things were, Isobel blubbers: “That life of changing clothes and killing things and eating them—!” Isobel’s a hippie now!! She might even be a fregan, maybe even a fregan vegan! Well, just as long as she doesn’t open a nudist colony at Downton. That might just finish off Lady Vi.

The Earl, Lady Vi, and Cora discuss Sir Richard. Lady Vi explains how she feels about Mary’s beau: “I don’t dislike him, I just don’t like him, which is quite different.” Exactly! This is what I keep trying to convey to well-meaning souls who set me up on blind dates. For the record, just because a man walks on two legs and has opposable thumbs does not mean we’re a match made in heaven. Granted, it helps. I’m just complicated. When the Earl blabs about Sir Richard’s renovation plans, he and Lady Vi tsk-tsk, but Cora says, “I’m an American. I don’t share your English hatred for comfort.” Or for egregious culinary creations, Cora’s too polite to add. The Earl’s clear preference for outhouses and chamberpots is my first clue that he and I may not be compatible. I resolve to include this in my online dating profile going forward.

Oh, my God, Sir Richard’s been swallowed up by a giant vulv—Oh, no, sorry. That’s just a room with shiny pink wallpaper. Hmm, I’m beginning to understand Lord Grantham’s trepidation about Sir Richard’s renovation plans. Sir Richard would like to hire Carson for the new place. You can tell Carson’s hoping Sir Richard finds a better interior decorator. One whose inspiration is not the female reproductive system.

In other horrible news, Bates’ wife refuses to divorce him. She’s told the judge that he bribed her and now the divorce has been thrown out of court. Anna says that doesn’t matter, she’ll be with him always. Anna must have the libido of a lake trout. And off to London Bates goes to get it all straightened out.

Dr. Clarkson mentions that a young, badly burned Canadian officer has asked for permission to convalesce at Downton. The young Canadian claims to be related to the Crawleys. The Earl grants him permission and vaguely wonders about the long-lost relative who goes by the name of P. Gordon. Am I the only one who keeps reading this as P. Diddy? Oh, how I’d love to see the Earl’s reaction were he to discover he’s related to the man formerly known as Puff Daddy!

Sir Richard takes Mary on a jaunt to the Haxby estate, their new home. It is beautiful. Let us hope Sir Richard has the decency to leave the place unscathed by his vulgarian touch. Lady Mary asks what will they do about furniture. Sir Richard says they’ll buy it, of course. Mary says, haughtily: “Your lot buys it. My lot inherits it.” Well, Mary, if it’s any consolation, my lot assembles it from an Ikea kit, after much cussing and fumbling.

Luckily for P. Gordon, the first Crawley to make his acquaintance is Lady Edith. He immediately asks if she recognizes him. If you’re swathed in bandages from head to toe, this is a very awkward position to put a well-brought up young lady in. Unless he went as the Invisible Man every Halloween as a kid. Come to think of it, this is a very cheap costume, especially for homely kids. Or even for me if, say, Halloween falls during an acne breakout this year. There is a split second of an awkward moment, but Edith, being British, recovers nicely and runs away. The British have an unerring gift for the polite and hasty retreat, no? I must take notes and deploy this on my next date.

The new maid Jane, who is NOT a redhead, seems to be developing “the feelings” for Lord Grantham. Not that I blame her, since he gives me “the feelings” myself whenever he shows up in tailcoats. Carson carelessly scheduled a wine delivery at the same time as lunch and now Jane must serve the Earl instead. Lord Grantham asks after her son and she tells him about the kid’s education prospects. He is angling for a scholarship. Lord Grantham offers to put in a good word. Oh, Robert, you are such a tease. Poor Jane is a goner.

Carson catches Mrs. Hughes stealing food for Ethel and her child. I gotta say, it would chill my blood if Carson gave me that look he just gave her. When he’s stern, he looks just like Grandpa Munster. Next thing you know, he and Mrs. Hughes stand before Cora. Tattletales, man. The MI4 or the M80 — or whatever the British secret service is called – should recruit the entire household. Mrs. Hughes tells Cora about Ethel’s predicament. Cora plans to invite Major Bryant to Downton. Maybe Lord Grantham can prevail upon him to take responsibility. Oh, yeah. Like he won’t see that coming from a mile away, Cora.

The burned Canadian soldier is worming his way into Edith’s heart. He has an improbable explanation for every reasonable question she asks. For instance, why didn’t he come forward sooner, preferably before he replaced his dashing British accent for a Canadian one, eh? Oh, because, you see, he had amnesia! Let me tell you something, my memory is shot to the point that I forget a man’s name even after six months of courtship, but I’d remember if I had misplaced an estate, a fortune, and a houseload of servants eager to wait on me hand and foot. What about your name, asks Edith. He got it from a bottle of gin. Oh, yes. That’s not the slightest bit suspicious, getting a moniker from an alcoholic beverage. If he’d chosen Tom Collins as his monicker, at least he’d show more sophisticated taste in cocktails. Edith being Edith, she finds all this irrefutable proof that P. Gordon is indeed the late cousin Patrick, heir to the Grantham estate.

She brings this up to her father, who gathers everyone in the library to discuss. I half expected him to propose a game of Clue. Or to reveal who the real killer is. Except there’s been no murder. Or at least not yet. But more on that later. Anyway, what he reveals instead is the presence of a pretender in their midst. You can tell Sir Richard is about to flip his lid with jealousy. Matthew has a full-on tantrum. Mary poo-poos the whole notion. Really, no one but Edith believes that it’s plausible.

Sir Richard does not like how Mary wheels Matthew about. It’s unseemly. Tongues will wag. Ah, Sir Richard, if you only knew about Mary’s propensity for kicking a man in the metaphorical cojones, you’d jump on the first Zeppelin out of town. He threatens Mary that she has given him enough material to destroy her, so she better behave. Then he kisses her. Mary, did you not get that handout at the local high school? The one with that handy dandy list of telltale signs your boyfriend might be abusive? Gaudy taste in decor, creepy strong-arm tactics, I wonder if Sir Richard is part of the Russian mob.

Lady Edith and the Canadian are growing closer. You know Edith, always falling for the inappropriate male. It’s like she and Mary have a competition to see who can win the “Fall for the Unavailable and Untrustworthy Man” Award. When she tells young P. Gordon that her family does not believe his tale, he too has a tantrum. I cannot abide an ill-tempered, ill-behaved man, and am more than a little miffed that Mary and Edith have not put their foot down at these shenanigans. As well-connected as the Crawleys are, do they not know of a good analyst to send their daughters to?

Talking about unavailable men with bad manners, Sybil all of a sudden exhibits an interest in motors. She asks Branson to teach her to fix an engine. This must be her way of saying, “You do rev my motor after all. Can I touch your tool?” That would be more awkward than that Jamie’s lap dance for Ben on the last episode of The Bachelor. Anyway, just as Branson brightens up, she runs away, saying that is Edith’s department. Why, Sybil, don’t you know it’s wrong to tease?

Bates returns from London with a rather suspicious gash on his forehead and a smug smirk. Well. I am no expert in forensics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bates finally took matters into his own hands and fixed Vera Bates. No, I mean, kill her. Not have her tubes tied. But would Bates debase himself this way? I sure hope so. God invented TV so that we could all enjoy the vicarious thrill of seeing good people kill evil people. Anyway, while the downstairs denizens arch their brows in suspicion at Bates’ self-satisfied grin, who should show up but the Earl? He has wonderful news! The war is over. Announcing the beginning and end of wars is the Earl’s only responsibility. You wouldn’t think he’d shirk it, would you?

When Edith goes to find her Canadian soldier, she finds that he’s gone. Abandoned by yet another man! Oh, Edith, at this point, maybe you should hire a matchmaker. I hear there’s a faboo one out in Flushing, whose every match leads to marriage. Unfortunately for you and me, she only caters to native Chinese. Now that the war is over, you have all the time in the world to learn Mandarin.

Everyone is gathered at the entrance, the Crawleys, the servants, the convalescent soldiers too bland to merit a storyline. As the camera pans over them, I wonder why, pray tell, could Lady Edith not find a nice prospect among this fine lot. Or Mary. Or Sybil. Or Anna, for that matter. Anyway, Lord Grantham makes a moving speech about how this is the dawn of a new era. For a second there, I thought he was going to kick up his heels and belt out, “This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius, AQUARIUS!” But, alas, he represses the urge in time for everyone to observe a minute of silence. I’m glad at least one male member of the cast can behave with decorum.

Talking about decorum, apparently there’s something about the way Bates wheels Matthew, for I do believe that the latter had had “stirrings.” Okay, one stirring in a very particular place, if you catch my drift. Yes, I think this is Matthew’s “it moved” moment, as George Constanza would say. I may be reading way too much into this, though. On the one hand, this would be such good news for he and Mary. On the other hand, if Bates has the magic touch, that’s all veering off into a rather tangled plotline.

Carson hands Bates a telegram. His wife’s dead! And then we cut to the welcome sight of Vera Bates splayed out on the floor, looking every bit the victim of foul play. Apparently she was tempted by a very enticing scaffold.

I bid you adieu, dear hearts. Until next week! I am off to learn Chinese!

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  52 Responses to “Downton Abbey: Season 2, Episode 5 – Who Was That Masked Man?”

  1. I found this episode to be particularly soap opera-ish. Burned beyond recognition! Amnesia! Stolen identity! Miraculous recovery from paralysis! Muurrrrdeeerrrrrr! I rolled my eyes more than once. I still enjoy the series, but it’s sometimes hard to take it too seriously. God I miss “Mad Men.”

    Hilarious recap as usual, MarlyK! I loved the line about your lot building your furniture at Ikea. I do have one question – you knock Sir Richard a few times for his poor taste in decor, but wasn’t he getting ready at Downton? Otherwise why was Carson helping him? I think the putrid pink room is inside Downton, right?

    • Good point, Great8. I gasped when I saw that room. The impact was such that I wasn’t thinking properly. My deepest apologies to Sir Richard for my unfair depiction of his taste.

    • I’m not sure if it is “miraculous recovery from paralysis.” I’m guessing it’s a variation of phantom limb. I do agree that the amnesia bit is pure soap-opera, with a dash of cheesy sitcoms (one blow causes amnesia, and the second blow to the head restores memory.)

      • Oh, that method hasn’t been scientifically proven? It always used to work so well, back in the days when TVs had rabbit ears.

        • I think phantom limb and miraculous recovery from paralysis are both equally possible at this point. “Downton Abbey” isn’t usually soapy enough to try something like miraculous recovery, which isn’t to say they won’t, but it didn’t seem like their usual thing. In trying to come up with an alternate explanation, phantom limb seemed likely.

      • I’ll eat my fascinator if Matthew doesn’t walk again!

        • OMG! That would be beyond the beyonds, but it is a staple of those old-timey movies and of soaps.

  2. Bates’ scar is easily explained; Vera set her highly trained attack weasels upon him. I knew that wasn’t a stole.

  3. You left out the part where Sir Richard brought back Lavinia! I was looking forward to reading your take on that whole encounter and Cora’s involvement in it.

    • My God!! I totally forgot about Lavinia! You are so right. That did seem improbably, especially given that Sir Richard and Lavi are not exactly on friendly terms. Even if Cora did summon her, they were still rather too chummy to be believable.

  4. Part of me would love to see Mary leading a more glamorous life with Sir richard, but I know it’s not gonna happen. Also that “Patrick” was a complete phony, but poor Edith! She is so desperate to be loved…it’s a shame no one will go for her.

    • As Our Intrepid Recapper pointed out, there was a whole roomful of officers too bland to rate a line of dialog. (I think you need to pay actors more for talking.) Many not all that badly injured & most of decentish social class. Well, perhaps a few attended red brick universities–but surely some were Younger Sons who went to Sandhurst or Oxbridge.

      Edith had been interacting with them for (oh, heck, who knows how time flows in The Downton Triangle?) a while. Why no interest?

      Just so The Homely One can appear more pathetic….

      (And what the heck happened to Isobel? She was spirited but polite last series. Now she’s more militant than Branson.)

      • All three girls are still very conscious of social class. Even though Isobel is flirting with Branson, she’s very aware of the huge violation of social structure it is. (And what happened to her? The war. Nursing. Growing up–she was about 15 at the beginning of S1.) So, flirting with officers who are not titled would not be such an easy thing. Edith believes that Patrick is titled, and in fact, is someone she was once in love with (go back to the beginning of S1 Ep1 and watch her reaction to the news of his death).

        • I thought, for some reason, that all the officers WERE titled. In fact, I thought that only titled men were allowed to be officers.

          Edith also had that little flirtation with the farmer, so if there were ever one sister who was more liberal in that department, I’d imagine it’d be her.

          • “I thought, for some reason, that all the officers WERE titled. In fact, I thought that only titled men were allowed to be officers.”

            No. A lot of younger aristocratic sons–like Winston Churchill–went into the Army. The prewar and postwar army did not pay officers enough to live, and a private income was necessary to live on, but where it came from was not that important.

            In wartime officer ranks were soon filled by grammar school graduates and similar middle-class types. As the war went on, the lower classes won commissions based on merit, without regard to background–men Violet would probably call “temporary gentlemen”.

            Not to mention the Air Force. These are two legendary figures of that time:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Mannock
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_McCudden

            Imagine the reaction if one the Earl’s daughters brought one of them home.

        • Excuse me, but Isobel is the mother. The younger sister flirting with Branson is named Sybil.

          Mind you, “Cousin Isobel” has become a royal pain this series.

          A parody called the sisters “Hot”, “Hotter” and “The Other One”. Personally I find Edith lovely. If I were age appropriate Edith would be my choice.

          • Sorry, C Carroll, but I believe you misread notBridget’s post. She’s not confusing Isobel with Sybil, she’s merely saying that Isobel has BECOME more militant than Branson.

            I saw the parody you mentioned. It was hilarious!!

          • Sorry, sorry, I absolutely mixed up “Isobel” with “Sybil” phonetically.

        • Marly,
          I was referring to a post by Deborh L about “Isobel” flirting with Branson and training as a nurse for this war. “Isobel” was hardly 15 when the series started so she did not “grow up”

          Matthew’s mom Isobel was married to a doctor and trained as a nurse during the Boer War of 1899 to 1902.

          notBridget was writing about something else.

          To me Mary, Edith and Sybil are all beautiful. I consider Mary to be more than a handful and without a potential to be fun. Sybil might have her heart in the right place but she is written as an insufferable brat. I consider Edith to have protected herself using any means available. Perhaps not sisterly, but human.

          Where I will always have a major problem with Downton Abbey and Julian Fellows is that using the UK system of nobles in 1912 and today, there is no way the unmarried daughters of an earl would be titled “Lady” Correctly they would be titled “Honorable” but would be addressed as “Miss” with respect. Julian Fellows and the “expert” providing technical advice as mentioned endlessly in the promotional material either know all about the titles and do not care, or they need to learn how to do basic research.

          For “Gosford Park” Julian Fellows used a different technical advisor and they got this sort of thing correct.

          • Oh, I love Sybil. I don’t find her an insufferable brat at all! She’s by far my favorite sister.

          • C. Carroll,

            Wikipedia says otherwise: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peerage

            See under “Styles and titles”:

            “Individuals who use the style Lord or Lady are not necessarily peers. Children of peers use special titles called courtesy titles….

            “Younger sons of dukes and marquesses prefix Lord to their first names as courtesy titles while daughters of dukes, marquesses and earls use Lady. Younger sons of earls and children of viscounts, barons and lords of Parliament use The Honourable.”

            The link to “Courtesy titles” article states:

            “In the context of nobility, a courtesy title is a title that is not a substantive title but rather is used through custom or courtesy.”

            This is echoed in the linked article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forms_of_address_in_the_United_Kingdom, in the first row of the chart “Daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters of peers”.

            It agrees with you that a Duke’s daughter is addressed as Lady by right, but confirms the same courtesy title of Lady for Marquesses’ and Earls’ daughters:

            On envelopes:
            (The) Lady Mary Smith (if unmarried),
            (The) Lady Mary Brown (Husband Surname, if Married)

            Salutation in letter: Madam or Dear Lady Mary

            Oral address: My Lady or Lady Mary

            So – in practice, the daughters of Lord Grantham may all be addressed by the courtesy title “Lady”. The courtesy title might well not be used at court if they are ever presented there or in a court circular, but by their servants at least it appears to have been quite the done thing.

        • If that was the real Patrick (which I doubt), he wouldn’t be titled yet; he’d have to wait for Lord Grantham’s death; alas, she really seemed to care for him, as she may have really cared for her cousin Patrick.

          Last series, she was interested in Sir Anthony Strallan–a landowner of good family but “only” a knight. I’m sure she would have found other non-titled members of the gentry quite suitable.

          Lady Mary was the one interested in making a brilliant marriage. After all, she was the oldest & considered the most beautiful. She’d gone along with the unofficial engagement to Patrick but would have dumped him for somebody better. She certainly tried to impress the Duke who visited early in the first series–but he was interested in “her” fortune. Once he realized the entail would not be broken & a decent marriage settlement was all she had to offer, he ran away. However, he was able to burn his letters to Thomas, so the trip was not a waste.

          This series, Mary seems ready to settle for Ser Richard. A self made man but rich, rich, rich. After all–her reputation is shadowed & the supply of young men has been severely reduced by the War….

          • No one is mentioning the gesture that P. Gordon made. Lord Grantham recognized it. I suspect he’s not an impostor at all.

      • How fascinating that Wikipedia is considered the do all, end all of accurate research.

        I have done the same search and could not find any information about the author or source of the Wiki entry.

        What I shared is my personal knowledge of birth right and courtesy titles in the UK, as well as having read many books about noble homes prior to the end of WWI.

        In her first Lord Peter Wimsey novel, which was not used on a TV mini-series and in the parts of some of those novels not used in the series “Clouds of Witness” and “The Unpleasantness at the Ballona Club” author Dorothy L. Sayers goes to great length to explain why the elder son of an earl is called “The Honorable Freddy Arbutnot” and not “Lord Freddy” simply because in 1922 when this is first mentioned that was the rule.

        Largely the same rules are explained in many pre-WWI books published in England.

        Even if the current Wiki material is correct with respect to modern times, does it apply to the WWI era?

        I am not the one who decided Mary, Edith and Sybil were to be called “Lady” by everyone in the show, except Thomas when he called her “Nurse Crowley” You can be sure that had I decided to use titles it would have been Robert, The Duke of Granham.

        But, what the heck would I know. I have only been interested in the subject for over 70 years and have been involved in production of several projects similar to “Upstairs Downstairs” over the past 55 years.

        • CCA, dial back on the prickly, please.

        • “Even if the current Wiki material is correct with respect to modern times, does it apply to the WWI era? ”

          That’s a good point. There’s no information I’ve yet found on when these courtesy titles came into effect or received general acceptance (if they have). I have no idea. I just noted that they agreed with Downton Abbey usage. It’s possible, even likely, that similar “courtesy” usage began sporadically, here and there, until it eventually achieved more-or-less general acceptance and Wikipedia memorialization. When, or if, that general acceptance might have been achieved, I have no idea. But i suspect that Julian Fellowes did not invent its usage whole cloth. He may have found it convenient to bring it forward in time or in place, however,

          • Berkowit28,

            There are comprehensive search engines used in linguistic research. That gets mentioned by the folks concerned at anachronisms, I am fortunately to have an account on several such research services. I have run searches going backward from 2010 looking for use of courtesy titles in literature. Mind you I started doing this when I saw a character list of DA.

            As of a few minutes ago the oldest reference was from 1946 in an English regional newspaper. At the same time I sent a message to PBS as well as to Julian Fellows asking for their rational basis for use of such titles in 1912. If those answers had been forthcoming I would not have posted about the topic.

  5. Yes, the return of Lavinia was pretty awkward — I guess Cora is in a big hurry for those grandchildren and wouldn’t care if Mary got hitched to Attila the Hun — not far off, actually — as long as he could reproduce. I loved Cora’s “take Matthew into the library” directive to Lavinia, as if he were a doll Lavinia had left lying around and Cora was telling her to put him back in the toy box. And Matthew’s frustration at having no control of the situation was obvious — he must have thought he was well rid of Lavinia’s bland and clingy self, but NOOOOO, apparently others got to decide these things! During that scene in the library and her determined “just TRY to get rid of me now, honey!” speech, Matthew looked like he was chewing on tinfoil. I also enjoyed Mary’s and her father’s stone-faced “time to call the exterminator!” reactions to her unexpected arrival. (I too wonder what Lavinia and Sir Richard found to talk about during that long trip from London — I’m not sure they had backseat bingo yet in those days.)

    Hasn’t Lavinia figured out that she’s just an obstacle in the Mary-Matthew juggernaut? Why can’t she just take the hint and get lost already?

    Don’t get me started on the Patrick-or-Peter plot line and Edith’s pathetic eagerness to buy the guy’s story. I hoped he was an imposter mostly because his whiny “nails-on-a-blackboard” voice made me hit the mute button every time his ugly visage showed up on the screen. And amnesia? Really? Poor Julian Fellowes sure must’ve been desperate for ideas that week. I hope Peter-not-Patrick is gone for good.

    • No, I don’t think Lavinia is astute enough to see that she’s an obstacle. She’s one of those women seemingly born without feminine intuition. They do exist, you know, bless their hearts. Matthew has a bit more fire in him than to let himself be manipulated like that. I was going to say, why doesn’t he put his foot down, but that too is an unfortunate pun.

      I totally agree about P. Gordon’s voice. Also, a friend pointed out that Fellowes wraps up his storylines too quickly, sometimes within the same episode. True, innit? This is why TV shows are written with a team. Story is hard. It really is.

  6. I Am the real Patrick; just check me foot size.

    • Courtships were far more decorous in those days. Even as his unofficial fiancee, I’m sure Mary had never seen Patrick’s, umm, foot….

  7. Nice recap as usual. I enjoyed the show as always but it’s true, the soap opera element was more noticeable. The Edith and P. Gordon scenes were cringe-worthy.
    And I agree, all those dashing/needy officers in the house for several years, and not a single match was made? Preposterous.
    A digression — there’s an excellent American novel called Testing the Current by William McPherson (1987) that takes place in 1930s Duluth, MN. It’s about the family and community of a wealthy steel-mill owner. One of the minor characters is a WWI vet who was severely injured. Much is made of his wife who, with no guidance or training, devised a rehab plan for her husband which is widely credited with restoring his health and saving his legs/ability to walk. I have also read that physical therapy, a new field, really took off as a result of all the injuries of WWI. We did see a few glimpses of what looked like PT in a few scenes, but I’d love to see Matthew being shoved around by a tough PT type. I think they call it “physio” in the UK. Mary’s babying is so not what he needs and it annoyed me.

    • Wasn’t WWI when Pilates invented his method? Or was it even later? Anyway, yes. Mary babying Matthew is annoying. Why does he not stand up for himself? Hmm. That’s a most unfortunate pun. My apologies. You know what I mean though…

  8. As always, your recap is hilarious. I giggled out loud throughout. Unfortunately, I did the same thing while watching the episode, which I doubt was Sir Julian’s intention. What an idiotic series of reversals this week. The false heir guy was just annoying and ridiculous. I could see every plot development coming from miles away, like a lumbering train slowly approaching. Happy for Matthew, though.

    • Thanks, Elizabeth! Yes, I know. If Fellowes keeps this up, I’ll be out of a job. How is one supposed to skewer someone who does it all himself?

  9. What I particularly enjoyed was that Lord Grantham’s idea of the “new era” dawning post-WW I that he announces to the staff on Armistice Day chiefly seems to consist of the daring new option – but only privately with Lady Grantham, and only sometimes – he now has of wearing his new dinner jacket (tuxedo) and black tie rather than full dress white tie with tails when dressing for dinner.

    • I once commented to a symphony musician of my acquaintance that if they stopped wearing black tie to perform that might help to attract a younger audience. He was aghast. “But it’s the tradition!” And many men love the way they look in a tux and it’s true, it is figure-enhancing to nearly everyone. But what an, er, stuffed shirt he is.

      Also his criticism of Cora (for being rather unfeeling) is a problem of his not knowing about the Incident of the Turkish Gentleman In the Night. If someone would just TELL him already, many things would become clear. And perhaps he would find a way to protect Mary from marrying that blackguard.

      • Actually, symphony musicians wear white tie and tails, too, except in summer when they can wear black tie with white tux jacket.

        • Listen, I’m of the opinion that we should all wear white tie and tails to dinner. I’m sick and tired of seeing people’s skivvies when I least expect it.

  10. Thanks for the recap Marly! Watching this show just wouldn’t be complete without your recap. I got to admit, I can see where the storylines are going for many of the main characters, but I can’t figure out why Julian treats the character of Lady Edith so badly. Will she ever get a guy of her own that won’t disappear before the episode is over? Over time, she has become the one character I am rooting for the most, if only because her creator (Julian Fellows) seems to enjoy humiliating Edith in various ways. I too thought for sure she would find one of the injured soldiers to have a true romance with, but I guess not.
    What I loved most about this show last year was the beauty of the setting, the clothes, that wonderful English accent, and how a big manor house operated. It was the small details of how the downstairs worked and interacted with the upstairs that was so fascinating. The last thing Downton Abbey needs is retreaded soap opera story lines that have all but killed American soaps. Some of the best storylines is just watching how people interact with each other over time.
    In spite of it all, I still love the show and how they realize that we dont’ need outlandish storylines. Just knowing how many of the aristocracy died in WWI and how they recovered from this tragedy would provide years of story lines.
    I’ll be curious to see how season 3 unfolds.

    By the way, for those that are interested in the writer of this series, Julian Fellows, he is also an actor and played a supporting role on a recurring series called ‘Monach of the Glen’. They showed the first few seasons on local PBS stations a few years ago and it was a great show. Fellows played a titlled gentleman named Sir Killwillie and was very funny on the show.

    • Thank you for the compliment, Sarah! That’s so sweet. I had read somewhere that Fellowes was an actor first, then turned to writing. He struggled for years before finally getting success as the screenwriter on Gosford Park. As a late-bloomer myself, I love Fellowes’ story. With a little research, he can come up with more plausible storylines, though. Truth is stranger than fiction.

  11. Check out Series One, Episode Three: the sad tale of Kamal Pamuk.

    Look closely at his very, very red bedroom, which has its curtains tied back. Notice the wallpaper pattern, bedspread, etc. when he’s dealing with Thomas.

    Now, watch as Sir Richard Carlisle is dressing for dinner and talking with Carson. Except for a few alterations, and the very red curtains being closed, it appears that he’s been put in the very best male guest bedroom — which also once housed the late Mr. Pamuk.

  12. With reference to the use of “Lady” for the daughter(s) of an Earl. On “Upstairs, Downstairs,” Marjorie Bellamy was the daughter of the Earl of Southwold. She was always referred to as “Lady Marjorie.” If she had been wife of an Earl, she would have been “Lady Southwold,” as Cora, as the wife of an Earl, is “Lady Grantham.” As the daughter of an Earl, the title “Lady” was attached to her first name. Thus, as the daughters of an Earl, Lady Mary, Lady Edith, and Lady Sybil are in the same category as Lady Marjorie.

    From “British Titles and Orders of Precedence” (published in 1910): “Earl: In Latin, “Comes” in French “Comte” or “Count.” Before 1337, the highest, and now the third degree of rank and dignity in the British peerage. An earl is “Right Honorable”; he is styled “My Lord”, the eldest son bears his father’s “second title,” generally that of Viscount; his other sons are “Honorable” but all his daughters are “Ladies.” The circlet of an Earl’s coronet has eight lofty rays of gold rising from the circlet, each of which supports a large pearl, while between each pair of these rays is a golden strawberry leaf.”

  13. Glad I’m not the only one who cringed at P. Gordon’s voice. Was this actor chosen precisely because his voice was like nails on the chalkboard? He’s obviously a fraud but I get the feeling we haven’t seen the last of him and that he will be brought back in a later episode.

    I agree that Julian Fellowes may need to hire a writing team to more thoroughly develop each character’s storyline. Some of the situations are being resolved too quickly. For instance, I’m not happy that Mrs. Bates may be dead, I think she could have been a great bad guy to root against for several episodes. And Ethel seems like a throw-away character, she could have been a good foil for Miss O’Brien.

    I feel for Edith, she is really pathetic in that house. She needs to get away from the shadows of her two beautiful sisters and make her own way in the city or perhaps live in another country for a while, like America.

  14. Branson & Matthew wish you a happy Valentine on Twitter
    http://twitter.com/#!/thatdanstevens/status/169505917237338112/photo/1

  15. Thank you, Bluey! I can always use a kiss.

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