'Downton Abbey' Season 2, Episode 3 Recap
“We dreamed a dream my dear but now it’s over,” Lord Grantham tells Cora at the end of “Downton Abbey”’s third installment. Indeed the old life of dinner parties and social hierarchies has been shaken, if not entirely shattered, by the continuing war. Carson’s not the only one bridling under the new order though. All the Crawleys are adjusting to their new post-war roles with various levels of success. With the majestic Downton Abbey now a soldier’s convalescent home Lord Grantham can look forward to far less peaceful reading time, but his daughters are beginning to find purpose outside marriage prospects and bickering.
That doesn’t mean all’s placid at Downton though. It wouldn’t be our favorite period soap if there wasn’t some scheming and maneuvering going on. This time O’Brien and Thomas aren’t the only culprits. The real throw down looks to be happening soon between Cousin Isobel and Cora, who seems to have the Dowager Countess on her side for the first time ever. You know what they say, war makes strange bedfellows.
The polite, vicious sitting room battle between Cora and Cousin Isobel begins as Dowton Abbey is converted into a convalescent home for soldiers. So far, props to Cora who uses her squeaky Minnie Mouse voice and giant Precious Moments eyes to good effect this week. She maneuvers slimy footman Thomas into a role managing Downton with the help of O’Brien. Dr. Clarkson splits the difference by making both Isobel and Cora his intermediaries between himself and Thomas. If Isobel’s face was any indication, this is not at all how she was hoping that decision would go. If she wants to get ahead, she’s going to need to work a little harder. So far Cora’s got this on lock.
Meanwhile, Sybil is working hard as a nurse while also trying to convince Branson not to go to jail for conscientious objection to the war. Sybil should probably just steer clear of her favorite broody driver this week though, because he is in a mood all episode.
Edith wins the upstairs MVP award this episode, which is just as shocking as you think. How Edith found time in her busy schedule of being a horrible person, ratting out her sister and making out with gap-toothed farmers to be decent is a mystery. At loose ends in the house, Edith seems to be the only one who talks to the soldiers. When a famous sergeant comes to visit, she’s the only one who actually knows anything about the personalities of half of the men staying at Downton. As the sergeant calls her out as house MVP at dinner everyone looks shocked, but none more than the Dowager Countess. Maggie Smith’s “wtf” face should be a national treasure. Cora, meanwhile, beams from ear to ear at Isobel. If it was possible to spike a football at the dinner table, Cora would have done that and then performed one of those touchdown dances.
Downstairs things are just as tense. That’s because downstairs there are a lot more wildcards. There’s Lang, the new footman who is becoming increasingly unstable. After outing the story of Mrs. Patmore’s nephew, he wakes up in a sweat screaming. O’Brien continues to freak everyone out by displaying empathy for another human being. It’s weird. Almost as weird as the doily on her head she sleeps in. Finally after a breakdown around the sergeant Mr. Lang leaves Downton.
Another wildcard is Ethel, the new maid that dreams of a bigger life for herself outside Downton’s walls. Currently her dreams are centered on a new handsome solider who sports some untrustworthy facial hair. I’m just saying. Ethel, girl, no good can come from a guy who asks you to “adjust his blanket” with that look on his face. His blanket is not what he’s looking to have adjusted, that’s all I’m saying.
Then of course there’s Branson, who finds out his heart murmur makes him unable to do something stupid in the military. But all that stupid self-righteousness can’t stay bottled up under his driver’s cap and fetch little goggles. So instead he literally bottles all his bad ideas into a serving tray and tries to pour it over the sergeant’s head. Thankfully, Carson and Anna intervene in time and save the day. Carson thinks it’s unwise to tell anyone, not because he’s overly concerned with Branson but because he doesn’t want to bring any undue attention to Downton. Mrs. Hughes tepidly agrees. Meanwhile I wish Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes would hook up and then host a musical variety show like Sonny and Cher.
All is not smooth in the love lives downstairs either. Anna finally finds Mr. Bates with the help of Mary’s network of spies. (No literally, Mary has a network of spies. Mary is such a boss.) Mr. Bates is working as a sexy bartender in town, only without being sexy. He tells Anna he can finally get rid of Vera once he proves adultery and then they can finally make sweet, pasty love. Anna’s psyched. Daisy is not so psyched after she gets guilted into getting engaged to William by Mrs. Patmore.
The Mary and Matthew of it All
Aunt Rosamund, after giving Mary the worst love advice ever in season one, is trying to redeem herself. She’s doing it by trying her best to take Lavinia down. She’s found out that Lavinia was instrumental in feeding Sir Richard (of the terrible proposals) information which led to a huge government scandal. Violet is all over this because whenever there is the word scandal uttered in Downton Abbey, Violet feels it in her bones the way some people know when it’s going to rain. She has a sixth sense for when things are about to go down. Both Rosamund and Violet are practically giddy at the idea that Lavinia and Sir Richard were once lovers, thus getting rid of two annoying birds with one stone.
Mary is more conflicted about ruining Lavinia for no good reason. I don’t know why Mary always grows a conscience when it comes to Lavinia, but this seems like neither the time nor the place. She does, however, have some truly cute moments with Matthew where they joke about how their moms are going to kill each other. Could you imagine both Isobel and Cora planning a Matthew-Mary wedding? It would be hilarious. There would be bloodshed and Violet would be in a corner eating popcorn.
Lavinia finally tells Mary the whole sordid story of the scandal which…is not sordid at all. Turns out her father owed a debt to Sir Richard and Lavinia passed along the information to keep him from ruin. The nicer Lavinia turns out to be, the more annoying she is. Why don’t’ you make it easy to hate you Lavinia? Everyone is pretty pissed Lavinia isn’t secretly a giant trollop.
Best Maggie Smith Line
Watch even a few seconds of “Downton Abbey”, and it’s pretty clear that Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess gets all the best lines. Here’s her best gem from episode three:
“Why? Are you planning on dividing his loyalties?” Isobel asks after Violet is happy Thomas will be managing Downton.
“I wouldn’t say I was planning it.”
What did you think of the episode? Who do you think will win in the Isobel vs Cora showdown? And will Matthew and Mary ever get it together? Sound off in the comments!