'Downton Abbey' Season 2, Episode 4 Recap

'Downton Abbey' Season 2, Episode 4 Recap “In war time we, like everyone, have bigger things to worry about,” Mary says in this week’s episode, explaining why she and Edith are able to be in the same room together without trying to drop a piano on each other. And it does seem to be true. As much as the war fragments all our favorite characters, it also has the singular power to unite.

While the war at home sends Isobel away, it also brings Bates back into the Downton fold. Although Edith may have changed her stripes and Cora might be willing to take off her giant furs and get down to business at a make-shift soup kitchen, the war hasn’t made everyone as magnanimous. As long as O’Brien and Thomas are skulking around in Downton trouble won’t ever be very far behind.


Cousin Isobel finally hits her breaking point when Cora changes the lunch schedule. The horror! The humanity! So she does that thing that five-year-olds do when they say this dramatic thing they don’t really mean and then wait to be persuaded out of it. So Isobel stomps her feet and goes “Fine! I’ll just leave Downton Abbey! That’ll show you! That’ll show you all!” But instead of persuading her how essential she is to the house, Cora just shrugs and goes “Later ho”.  It is rather cold.

Cora has some other stuff on her plate though, literally, because O’Brien finds out that Mrs. Patmore is taking food from Downton to Cousin Isobel’s former house. When no one listens to O’Brien, she takes the problem to Cora. And Cora is excited to follow them the next time they head out like a spy, if spies wore giant, visible-from-space hats. Somehow, even with the hat, no one notices Cora until it’s too late. When she discovers that Mrs. Patmore is just running a soup kitchen for wounded soldiers, not an underground sugar ring or whatever O’Brien was suggesting, she’s all in. But she does let them sweat it out for a few seconds first, because Cora loves watching people have tiny mental strokes. I don’t want to love on Cora too much, but she is kind of winning this season so far. It’s probably all that time spent with the Dowager Countess finally rubbing off.

Speaking of Violet, she’s having a heart to heart with Mary about the Sir Richard versus Matthew debate. When Mary completely shuts her down she switches over to the subject of Sybil’s love life. Notice she doesn’t mention Edith at all? Poor Edith. She’s like the middle sister on The Brady Bunch. Violet, in addition to having a rad taste in hats, is also apparently psychic. It’s a very specific psychic ability to sense when her granddaughters are flirting with sexy, broody dudes below their station.

Mary, meanwhile, finds out how dead-on granny really was when she sees Sybil and Branson talking. Branson is trying to convince Sybil that she loves him using only condescension, his sexy scowl and that very specific look he gets on his face that makes me worry he’s going to drive off with her in the trunk someday. Sybil is unconvinced.  That is, until Mary starts talking about how she can’t be into Branson because he’s the driver. Sybil goes back to talk to Branson and seems at the very least a little more receptive. Until, of course, he refers to her nursing career as bringing tea to randy officers. Nothing says “I love you and your feminist spirit” more than belittling a woman’s career! Sybil gets pissed and Branson gets confused about where it all went wrong.


Downstairs things are in scandalous chaos. First Daisy is freaking out over William being missing and then when he returns goes back to freaking out over being fake-engaged to him. Ethel finally seals the deal with her molester-faced suitor from last episode only to get fired. She returns to reveal to Mrs. Hughes later that she’s pregnant which made me wonder what the length of time this episode is supposed to have occurred over. Weeks? Months? I never know on “Downton Abbey”. Ten minutes could be 15 years on the show.

Meanwhile, Lord Grantham tracks down Bates in the pub he works at after the news makes it’s way, telephone-like, from Thomas to Daisy back to him. He apologizes for the way they had left things and invites him back to work at Downton. This is a real drag for poor Molesley, who was sure that he was finally going to have his chance at the big time as a valet. He even bought a new shoehorn to use on his first day which Bates, in a rare showing of douchery, takes from him. Poor Molesley is having no luck replacing Mr. Bates with Anna or at work.

Speaking of Anna, she’s just pleased as punch to see Bates and the two are exceedingly adorable. Bates thinks that with enough money he’ll finally be able to buy Vera off from publishing the story, he’ll get his divorce and be able to marry Anna. But O’Brien, back to being evil now that Mr. Lang is gone, has other plans. Even Thomas is like, “yea whatever” at this point.

The Mary and Matthew of it All

After talking to her wise, hilarious granny Mary decides to write Matthew to tell him she intends to accept Sir Richard’s horrible marriage proposal. Matthew gets the letter and looks sad, but still takes Mary’s little stuffed animal instead of Lavinia’s picture off with him to battle. Once there he and William get trapped in by the enemy and things look bleak.

Lord Grantham gets a call about Matthew and William being missing-in-action and blurts it out to Edith before deciding it would be best not to tell anyone. Edith can’t keep the secret though and finally tells Mary. Surprisingly enough, it’s not because Edith wants to hurt Mary but because she thinks she should know. Edith becoming a nice person this season is really freaking everyone out. Even her dad initially thought she told Mary just to be horrible. Mary has a tiny breakdown in the hallway and then pulls herself together to sing with Edith’s accompaniment in the show put on for the officers.

In the middle of Mary’s song who should appear but Matthew, alive! Mary stops singing in shock and they look at each other for a long time. I kept waiting for them to run toward each other in slow motion while Edith played something dramatic on the piano. Sadly, that did not happen. But what did happen was almost equally as amazing. Matthew walks up to the front of the room and helps Mary finish the song. They sound very nice singing together.

Musical moment over, those two idiots are right back to talking about their prospective marriages to Lavinia and Sir Richard. They are so dumb.

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 four:

  • “I’m a woman Mary, I can be as contrary as I choose.”
  • “It’s like living in a second-rate hotel where the guests keep arriving and no one seems to leave.” –Said about Downton Abbey’s new situation as a convalescent home.

What did you think of the episode?  What did you think of Sybil and Branson? Were you relieved to see Matthew alive?  Sound off in the comments!