Downton Abbey Season 2 Episode 9 Recap- 'Christmas Special'
While the last episode left us off in several gloomy places, the “Downton Abbey” Christmas special did what the holidays do best: bring people together. Sure, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the upstairs and downstairs residents of Downton. On the way to a happy ending there was a murder trial, a really lame fistfight, dog-napping and some communing with the spirits in the great beyond. Just standard holiday fare, only with Maggie Smith staring daggers at a nutcracker.
More importantly, the will-they-won’t-they courtship of Mary and Matthew has finally been answered: they will! If you’ve gotten this far into the soapy, high-brow telenovela that is “Downton Abbey” and didn’t get excited to see Matthew down on one knee proposing you might not be human. I for one squealed and fist-pumped but that could just be because I’m from New Jersey. With all the ridiculous obstacles that have been thrown in their way all season, it was great to see Mary and Matthew finally rise above. Indeed, true love always finds a way on “Downton Abbey”. Anna and Bates have stuck by each other through everything and their love is all the stronger for it. And I think we can trust that the Dowager Countess and her true love, witty one liners, will always be together.
You’d think the servants at Downton would be a little more excited to have two WHOLE days off around the holidays. And by days off I mean that they didn’t have to serve dinner and got to hang out downstairs popping champagne and getting crazy like they were in an old timey Ke$ha song. It was nuts! On New Year’s Eve they had their own toast! Around a table! With wine that they didn’t have to serve! I’m pretty sure that’s Carson’s version of swinging from the chandeliers.
Despite their long, unearned vacation things aren’t at all peaceful below decks. Thomas is angling for the job of valet now that Mr. Bates is in jail for those pesky murder charges. Carson and Lord Grantham, however, haven’t forgotten his stealing. So Thomas wants to figure out some way to get on his lordship’s good side. Talking to his bestie O’Brien he comes up with the not-at-all smart plan to steal Lord Grantham’s dog and then miraculously find the dog. It’s a terrible idea and initially goes about as well as you’d expect. Outside the next day, he falls all over the place in the woods trying to find the dog to no avail. Just as he’s imagining that he will be in a cell next to Bates for dog-icide, however, he bumps into Lord Grantham and dog Isis taking a nice stroll. Lord Grantham is touched that Thomas was out early trying to find the dog that was returned by local villagers and decides to give him a chance despite Carson’s misgivings. Isis the dog glares at Thomas and plots her revenge. If Thomas gets mauled next season we will know why.
The big story, however, is the murder trial of Mr. Bates. It casts a continual shadow over Downton and all its residents. When the trial finally happens, half the house at least is either there for support or to be cross-examined. Somehow, the prosecutor knows about every conversation that went on in Downton that would make Mr. Bates look guilty. I don’t know how the prosecutor knew about all this so I’m just going to assume he’s either psychic or has his own really effective Ouija board. Mr. Bates is found guilty and sentenced to death, which has Anna super bummed. Visiting Mr. Bates she tells him that she’s still glad that they are married and she wouldn’t change anything. They’re so cute and touching that even the guard turns the other way so that they can kiss. There was no sexy bare shoulder action going on for them this week though.
Anna starts thinking of contingency plans in case the worst happens and Mr. Bates hangs for murder. While she tries to leave Downton to keep it from scandal, Mrs. Hughes won’t hear of it. Thankfully, Anna doesn’t have to leave because Mr. Bates’ sentence is commuted. He has life imprisonment but Lord Grantham will assemble a crack legal team to clear his name. They should just have the Dowager Countess go and break Mr. Bates out of jail with her new nut cracker. Wait, isn’t Matthew a lawyer? What has he been doing this whole time?
Meanwhile, Daisy is at her most annoying this episode. Listen, I get it. She kissed William one time on the cheek and ended up getting forced to marry him. But you’d think she’d be over it by now. But no, still whining about it. The Dowager Countess starts to talk some sense into her when she finds her crying in one of the sitting rooms but sadly Lord Grantham appears before she can uncork too many of her great pearls of wisdom. Lord Grantham is confused because the only time he ever talks to the maid is when he wants to sleep with them. Violet is like “simmer down son! Putting out fires is what I do. Now where are Matthew and Mary?”
Later Daisy goes to visit William’s dad at the farm on the advice of Mrs. Patmore’s obvious Oujia intervention. William’s father tells Daisy that she’s all he has left in the world and asks her if he can think of her as his daughter. She makes a whole bunch of stuttering noises but then realizes that she likes the idea of being special to someone. After he feeds her a biscuit he drives her home in his carriage and gives her some good career advice. I imagine a spin-off where William’s dad and Violet host their own advice show where they doll out wisdom and tough love.
Upstairs everyone’s love lives get more complicated. First we find out from a letter to Cora that Sybil is pregnant. So next season we might see little baby chauffeurs! Lord Grantham is a lot less happy about this turn of events than Cora is. It turns out that only Mary and Edith even went to the marriage of Sybil and Branson. In my mind, Anna also went and they all drove together because the ‘Downton Abbey Ladies’ Justice League’ will live on in my heart forever.
Speaking of Edith, she of so little screen time this season, her former old-guy flame returns. Sir Anthony is back and as socially awkward as ever. Even granny Violet is like “Girl, you can do better.” Of course, Violet wasn’t aware that Edith’s other options from this season were a gap-toothed married farmer and Phantom of the Really Obvious Lie. So when Sir Anthony tries to turn Edith away due to his age and his injured arm, she is not taking no for an answer. Seriously. She’s just like “you called me hot and I am never, ever leaving” and then she sips her tea. I’m pretty sure she’s still in Sir Anthony’s sitting room right now, drinking tea until he gives in and marries her.
Lord Grantham is much more concerned about another old dude trying to get with one of his daughters though: the increasingly slimy Sir Richard. Sir Richard is all kinds of horrible this episode, yelling at Mary during the hunt and telling Matthew Lavinia knew he was in love with Mary. But his worst crime is ragging on charades. The Dowager Countess looks like she wants to throw him out of Downton right then and there when he starts complaining about their holiday charades tradition. As if buying things with money he earned wasn’t enough, now he doesn’t even like their favorite parlor games! He’s a monster!
Lord Grantham agrees and even after hearing the story of how Mary sexed poor Mr. Pamuk to death, he still doesn’t want Mary to get hitched to Sir Richard. He advises Mary to go to America to weather out the scandal once she’s called off her engagement to Sir Richard and marry a cowboy. I like that Lord Grantham hates Branson so much that Mary picking up random men in the Wild West would be preferable to Sybil marrying the chauffer. Mary finally wises up and calls off the engagement to Sir Richard who does not, as you might imagine, take it well. It seems like Mary’s story of sexy death might be hitting the papers soon, along with the tale of Mr. Bates that he’d been keeping quiet. So things at Dowton are about to get a lot more notorious.
There was also a whole storyline with Lady Rosamund, Lord Grantham’s sister, and a gentleman gold digger in love with Rosamund’s maid. It wasn’t that interesting. That last sentence pretty much summed it up.
The Mary and Matthew of it All
OH HAPPY DAY! Mary and Matthew are finally together, although only in the last few minutes of the episode because this is still “Downton Abbey” after all. They spend all episode flirting with each other and it’s adorable. They flirt with each other about Matthew’s terrible shooting and how Sir Richard is getting on Mary’s nerves. They flirt with each other during dinner. They dance. Matthew gets in a fight with Sir Richard after Mary throws him over. They share a moment at Lavinia’s gravesite. The whole episode is all Matthew and Mary, being in love 24/7. After the rough season our favorite love-birds have had, it was about time.
There were a lot of Matthew and Mary-related things to love this week but here are a few of my favorites:
-When Matthew’s mother was like “You are so stupid I can’t even look at your beautiful, stupid face right now. I don’t even like Mary because I think she’s a stuck up snob and even I think you should be tapping that.”
- When Lavinia, from beyond the grave courtesy of the Oujia board, was like “Just. Do. It!” You know your will-they-won’t-they relationship has hit the breaking point when even dead people can’t take the sexual tension anymore.
- Matthew’s reaction to finding out about Mr. Pamuk was very well done. A particular favorite is when he asked Mary if she loved Mr. Pamuk and she was like “Nah! I just wanted a little strange!” Also great was his reaction when Mary asked if he had forgiven her. He said he hadn’t because there was nothing to forgive. It was a great moment because the show could have easily, especially within the framework of the time period, had Matthew act superior. But he rightly realized that her sexing people to death before they even had a relationship was basically none of his business. Bravo!
- The proposal! Oh Matthew and Mary yes, a thousand times yes! Besides being long, LONG overdue, I loved that Mary still made him work for it. Even after everything they had been through to get to that point, Mary Crawley is still Mary Crawley. There is no way she’s agreeing to a marriage proposal unless it’s done properly on one knee. And how beautiful and happy did they both look in the snow?
Best Maggie Smith Lines
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 are her best gems from episode nine:
- “Sir Richard, life is a game in which the player must appear ridiculous.” – Violet to Sir Richard when he dissed charades. Never diss charades at Downton.
- “No fortune? He’s lucky not to be playing violins in Lester Square!” –Violet being understanding of poverty, as usual, when talking about Lady Rosamund’s beau.
- “I doubt we’ll meet again,” Sir Richard tells Violet after his altercation with Matthew.
“Do you promise?” Violet replies. Point: granny!
- “Sorry about the vase,” Matthew says after breaking it in his fight with Sir Richard.
“Oh don’t be, don’t be. It was a wedding present from a frightful aunt. I have hated it for half a century.”
Next season on “Downton Abbey”: Violet, Cora and Cousin Isobel will fight over planning Mary and Matthew’s wedding, each getting bigger and more elaborate hats until one of them just falls over backwards from the weight. The spirits unleashed by playing with the Ouija board will come calling at Downton like in all those “Paranormal Activity” movies only no one will realize because crappy camcorders haven’t been invented yet. Anna and Mr. Bates will discover more bare shouldered bliss during conjugal visits. Sybil and Branson’s baby will drive himself cross-country to visit his grandparents and then yell at them for being rich. Finally, Matthew and Mary will be happy for at least one episode before a piano falls out of the sky and one of them gets amnesia.
What did you think of the Christmas special? Happy Matthew and Mary are finally together at last? But what about poor Anna and Mr. Bates? And what are your predictions for the season to come? Sound off in the comments!