'Downton Abbey': Let's Discuss Series 4, Episode 2

I'm not sure Mary and Robert are prepared for this episode either. (Photo: Courtesy of ©Nick Briggs/Carnival Film and Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE)
I'm not sure Mary and Robert are prepared for this episode either. (Photo: Courtesy of ©Nick Briggs/Carnival Film and Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE)
Previously, on Downton Abbey: Six months have passed since Matthew’s death. Mary is sad and everyone in the house spends an enormous amount of time arguing about how to make her life better. Isobel is sad, but perks up once given the project of minding Carson’s incredibly boring and uninteresting friend from His Theater Life Long Ago. Poor Molesley is sad because doesn’t have a job now. O’Brien quits, the Team Downstairs Love Quadrangle of Doom is still going on even though none of us care about it, Rose dresses up like the help, Cora manages to re-hire Horrible Edna as her new ladies’ maid, and the Dowager Countess is even more awesome than normal.

This episode is only an hour, but it's also like a punch in the face. Let's talk about it. 

Houseguests Ahoy! The Crawleys are having a house party, featuring a whole bunch of characters we don’t know. A new man, Lord Gillingham, arrives and he directs his valet to see Mrs. Hughes. His valet, named Green, stops to flirt with Anna on the way to sorting out his boss’s lodgings and honestly he seems a bit creepy. We learn that Cora’s invited Lord Gillingham – whose given name appears to be Anthony – on purpose because she wants to throw him at her daughter. Ah, romance.  Apparently young Anthony used to visit Downton long ago when they were all kids, which is kind of a story we did already with Fake!Patrick, but whatever. Edith has invited her Mr. Rochester-esque boyfriend Michael Gregson, in the hopes that she can get her father to actually talk to him for more than five minutes. Branson awkwardly makes small talk with the old ladies of the county and it’s all sorts of adorable. The best bit is when the Dowager tries to explain various correct forms of address to him after he addresses a duchess wrongly, and it’s just hilarious, because the whole system really makes no sense. Tom gives up and begs a drink off Thomas.

Ugh. Enda is the Worst. Edna – after being totally rude to Mrs. Hughes, hateful – manages to corral Tom in the hallway and comment on how the family’s finally gotten him to wear black tie. Tom says he feels dumb wearing it and Edna takes this opportunity to ask why he hasn’t talked to her since she’s come back. She says she hopes they can still be friends, and I vomit in my mouth a little bit when Tom says yes. Tom is so dumb, y’all. Edna gets all sad because she knows that this means they still can’t have lunch down the village pub (duh??). Tom looks constipated sort of and says he’s trying to walk a fine line in his life at the moment, but hopes things go well for her. Great! I know that I was really worried that we wouldn’t have Tom and Edna involved in some pointless vomit-inducing storyline this season because they can’t think of anything else to do with Tom without Sybil. Hurray!

Mary and Gillingham Reminisce. Mary takes Lord Gillingham (I suppose calling him Anthony would be less to type? But I fear I’d confuse him with Edith’s ex-fiancee? We’ll see.) on a tour around the house and they stroll down the depressing memory lane of Life Before the War.  Mary looks sort of sad and remote still, but seriously gorgeous. Grief seems to agree with Michelle Dockery and purple is absolutely her color. Gillingham explains that he’s close to getting married and Mary explains about her own son and what happened to Matthew. Because apparently Gillingham doesn’t have Twitter. Or, you know, a newspaper. Awkward.  

Later that night, Mary arranges for Gillingham to be able to go riding the next day, all while wearing a dress that I would seriously mug a close family member for. Gillingham manages to convince her to come out riding with him and it’s going to be just the two of them once everyone else says no. 

Isobel and Dr. Clarkson Still Have Scenes For Some Reason. Dr. Clarkson pops by to see Isobel and see how she’s getting on. They talk about how actual events are happening up at Downton again now, and Isobel is torn about it. She says she doesn’t want the Crawleys to spend all their days wailing and pulling their hair out in despair or anything, but on the other hand it’s hard to watch life go on because it feels disloyal to Matthew. Penelope Wilton is just slaying this sort of confused portrayal of grief, and I cannot give her enough kudos. 

Molesley’s New Job. The next day, good old Molesley shows up at Downton with a delivery from the grocer’s. Turns out he’s making ends meet as a delivery man now, which he is clearly less than pleased about. But, he has to do something while waiting for better work, so here he is. Mrs. Patmore bracingly tells him that there’s no shame in hard work, but you can kind of tell that Molesley doesn’t’ necessarily agree with that.  

And…We’re Going Riding. Mary and Gillingham go out riding and I get distracted by just how gorgeous the Downton estate is. Uggh. SO pretty! The two of them chat some more, and Gillingham reveals that he’s engaged to a particularly eligible heiress named Mabel Lane Fox. He says that the two of them actually like each other, despite the fact that it’s a match being pushed for by everyone they know. Mary says that sometimes even matches that are desired by everyone can turn out to be quite happy, because that’s what happened with her and Matthew. She says they were wonderfully happy, despite having been flung at one another from the moment they met. Gillingham says Mary’s very lucky, because she’s known a great love in her life. She says she isn’t sure, because loving Matthew changed her and she wonders if she’d be happier now if she was still as tough as she’d been before knowing him. This is oddly quite introspective for Mary, and feels like one of the first really genuine things she’s said this season. It’s also terribly sad, but I suppose we must remember that all the loss is still incredibly fresh for her. 

The two of them come up on some vast vista of farmland  - which, admittedly, is just beautiful – and Gillingham remarks that it’s just wonderful to see an estate that’s still all in one piece. Mary takes this opportunity to explain her conundrum over the death taxes they owe on Downton – she says Robert wants to sell land to cover it, but she’d like to avoid that and Robert won’t listen to her. Gillingham is quick to offer advice: He says that she should convince her father to let her meet with the tax people, in order to bring back the best deal they can give her, so she’ll have a real case to argue when putting it to Robert. Mary says it’s nice to know that others are facing the same trials, and that she’s not alone in having to deal with these decisions, since Gillingham’s family went through something similar.

Green is Totally Creeping on Anna. Creepy valet Green, when he’s not busy telling everyone how totally awesome his boss is, seems to spend a lot of time basically stalking Anna. His flirting is not subtle. Anna mostly handles it well, though it’s pretty clear that she’s enjoying it – not in a do anything about it sort of way, but just in the sense that it’s always nice for one’s ego when someone’s totally into you. Bates is not so into it though, and snaps at King Creeper frequently. He says it’s something about Green that he just doesn’t like, but it’s also kind of clear that he’s weirdly jealous, which is oddly sweet and simultaneously kind of annoying, so I don’t even know where I stand with this emotionally, clearly. 

Gambling Comes to Downton. A couple of the Downton guests are super into playing cards, so what appears to be an amateur gambling establishment is set up in the smoking room and the gentlemen play well into the night. One particular guest – Sampson – turns out to be something of an excellent player and basically takes everyone’s money. Green, the creepy valet, is regaling Team Downstairs with stories of the men’s gambling table and boasts about how his employer wasn’t taken in by all of it. Thomas snorts and says that’s not what he heard and the two glare at each other. Oooh, I’d be totally approving of Thomas making this guy his enemy, immediately. He’s entirely too smarmy and fake for me.

Anyway, the gambling appears to be something of a running thing, as everyone seems quite keen to carry on with it the next night. This time Robert joins in, as does Edith’s Rochesteresque boyfriend. Gillingham warns them to watch out for Sampson because he’s a sharp player. Robert snots back that he can look after himself, thank you. So, you know right away this is going to go super well for the House of Crawley. 

Team Downstairs is a Drag. Seriously does someone owe Ed Speelers money. I just cannot understand why Jimmy is even needed on this show because he doesn’t seem to do anything. After his ill-fated drunken pub trip with Ivy last week, this time out he seems to have even less to do. There’s seriously an actual plot point about him breaking a jar of preserves. For real. 

Anyway, thanks to him falling over and breaking said jar of preserves, Jimmy has managed to sprain his wrist, which means that he can’t carry a tray to serve at dinner. Thomas gets forced into being footman for the night because of this and he is not pleased. 

Tom’s Awkward Social Skills Lead Us All to A Bad Place. Tom has been stuck with the Duchess of Inappropriate Flirtation Town for most of the night, being forced to answer questions about Ireland and whether he knows some random socialite or other. It’s painful to watch. He finally escapes from the Frightening Duchess and flees upstairs, where he runs into an even worse horror: Edna. She asks if he’s been having a good time at the party. Tom says he looks like a fool and talks like a fool and hates everything. He says that he’s a fish out of water, even dressed up in his fancy clothes.  Edna tells him to not be so hard on himself and Tom wanders off, deep in his personal existential crisis. 

Rose the Rebel. During an after-dinner gathering, Rose starts up some fun, jazzy music in the foyer and asks if anyone would like to dance. The guy that’s been crushing on her all weekend is all about it, and several of the older ladies are also surprisingly eager to get down. Random Duchess from earlier in particular loudly laments her lack of partner until Tom is basically forced to dance with her by Cora. He is so awkward. So much so that it basically feels like a regression from last season, when Tom was belligerent but at least self-possessed. 

Edith wants Gregson to dance with her, but nope, he’s got to go play cards. Gillingham asks Mary to dance and she tries to get out of it by saying she has to keep Violet company. The Dowager says Mary shouldn’t use her as an excuse, and if she doesn’t want to dance with him, she should say so. Of course, Mary ends up dancing with Gillingham and thanks him for his advice about her conflict with Robert about the estate. Sadly, before they can actually have any fun, Mary spots that Rose has brought down the gramophone from the attic, the one that used to belong to Matthew (I think the one they danced to in Series 2?) and gets upset. She says she can’t dance after all and runs off. 

Robert is Terrible at Cards. Meanwhile, to the surprise of no one, Robert loses a bunch of money to Lord Sampson during their smoking room card game. He is all sorts of upset about it and fills Bates in on the situation. He says he feels stupid for getting involved in a game with “someone who clearly knew what he was doing”, which makes me really question how Robert manages to exist in the world on a daily basis. I mean, Gillingham warned him after all – and really, what would he think was going to happen? There are always more losers than winners at poker!

Later, Robert tells Cora about the whole gambling thing and how he doesn’t want Sampson invited back in future. He says that Edith’s boyfriend lost a bunch of money, but neglects to mention that he also lost a bunch of money, particular after Cora goes on a rant about how stupid and wasteful men throwing away piles of cash on gambling is. Robert’s awkwardness is sort of hilarious here, particularly as he deserves all of it and more.

Special Guest Australian Opera Stars! Cora is so psyched that Dame Nellie Melba  is coming to perform at their house party, because every gathering like this needs a special moment to really put it over the top. Robert is mostly annoyed that the Australian opera singer is so expensive and doesn’t seem to understand why everyone can’t just have a special moment by just going and looking at the lake. There are also concerns over where she’s sleeping, what set of the house she’s to eat dinner with, whether the kitchen servants are allowed to stop what they’re doing and hear her sing. I love Carson – I expect most of you do too – but moments like this when he is at his most stodgy and old-fashioned are hard to endure. But, apparently the arrival of Dame Melba actually is a Big Deal, because everyone’s super excited about it. 

Violet +Isobel Are BFFs at Last. The Dowager Countess stops in the village to see Isobel and ask her to please come up to the house and hear the Apparently Magical Australian Diva. Isobel waffles, and Violet says that she doesn’t want to be unkind, but points out that Isobel sitting by herself at home alone night after night being sad isn’t going to bring Matthew back. Isobel says she knows that, but still feels as though when she laughs or has fun or anything that it’s as though she’s forgotten her son and she can’t bear it. Violet quotes Christina Rossetti at her, and implores her to come. Isobel looks torn. 

Oh, Molesley! We cut to a scene of poor Molesley running at quite a clip up to Downton. He bursts into the downstairs area, panting, and tells Carson he came as quick as he got the message. Carson – who is being ridiculously snotty toward Molesley when him leaving service at Downton in the first place wasn’t exactly his fault – tells him that since Useless Jimmy has sprained his wrist, so he can’t serve, and that since Thomas is a waste of humanity who feels like being a footman is beneath him. Carson admits they need some help with 16 guests in the house.  Molesley looks wildly offended and Carson says that he knows it’s beneath his skills, but since he’s only working at the grocer’s at the moment, he thought Molesley might do them the favor of helping them out.  Carson’s both trying to do a good thing here and being kind of rude, so this is really weird. Molesley looks defeated. He accepts becauses he knows he has come down in the world and that beggars can’t be choosers. He looks rather miserable about it though. 

He gets more miserable later though, when Carson tells him that not only is he to be a footman, he’s to be second footman to Alfred. And he also has to wear a pair of gloves, which is a footman thing. Molesley is not happy.

OMG, Cora Did Something Awesome! Before dinner on the night of Australian Divafest, Cora is concerned that Dame Melba hasn’t come down to join the gang yet. Carson sniffs and says she’s up in her room and that he was just getting ready to send her up a tray. Cora’s appalled that they’ve basically corralled their performing guest in a separate room, but Carson says he didn’t think he was appropriate for her to be, you know, mingling with the posh guests and stuff. He also points out that Robert agreed with him. Cora is livid and it is awesome. She storms over to Robert and goes off on a tear about how she can’t believe she’s the only person in their family living in the twentieth century. She points out that they have a world famous singer, a great artist, in their home and they’re acting like she’s not good enough to eat with them. Robert splutters something, the basic gist of which is that he has no idea what’s going on and he doesn’t know what he’s going to talk to a singer about, but Cora spits that he’s going to sit next to Dame Melba and like it, before storming off to fetch her. Cora so infrequently does anything truly awesome that this may feel more amazing than it actually is – that said, I was basically cheering. 

Alfred Gets His Top Chef On. Meanwhile, down in the kitchen, Mrs. Patmore is basically so strung out from the stress of having to cook dinner for a billion posh people that she’s having some kind of heart attack. Daisy and Alfred get her to a chair, while Mrs. Patmore gasps for breath and shouts something about the dinner not being finished. Alfred says that he’s going to handle making the sauces or whatever needs to be done, while Daisy finishes her own tasks.  

The Diva Dinner of Drama. Dame Melba arrives downstairs and dinner is served and the Festival of Divaness does not disappoint. Molesley makes snarky comments to Violet about the wretchedness of his situation and Carson glares. Robert and Dame Melba bond about claret. Gillingham asks Mary if he can take her out to dinner in London, and she says she doesn’t think his almost fiancée would like that very much.  (Burrrrrrn.) But she says it’s nice to know that he’d like to.  

Isobel, who is watching Mary, looks depressed. Tom asks what’s wrong – and Isobel says that she really doesn’t want Mary to spend her life in sorrow, but she herself just finds it hard to join in the merriment with everyone. She says what it comes down to is that everyone else – including all these nice young men flirting with Mary – is alive, and her son is dead. Penelope Wilton is really doing a marvelous job of conveying the way that grief stays with you – the way it infiltrates every crack of your life and changes the way you see the world around you even if you don’t want it to. Isobel is so visibly hurting, so vulnerable, it’s hard to remember why exactly she was one of my most hated characters once upon a time.  Violet looks at her with a knowing expression, and suddenly we all remember that the Dowager Countess also had a son that she lost, once upon a time.

Everybody is Obsessed with Cards. Gillingham’s creepy butler Green teaches Team Downstairs a new card game called Racing Demon, the object of which appears to be throwing various cards onto a table and shouting as loudly as possible. Everyone on Team Downstairs is super into it, especially Anna for some reason, and Bates is not happy about that.  He continues to act weirdly bitter and jealous at the prospect of Anna enjoying herself and drops a massive guilt trip on her for being so obsessed with playing cards that she doesn’t even know that Mrs. Patmore’s been taken ill in the kitchen. Anna looks stunned. Bates says she’s ill enough that the racket of their game is inappropriate and stalks off. Anna wants to know why Bates hates fun, and Bates sulks.

Tom’s Existential Crisis Continues. Robert nips into the lounge to buck up with some liquid courage before the whole Dame Diva Extravaganza, and he comes upon Tom, who is also drowning his sorrows in the bottom of a glass. He asks if Tom is all right, and his son-in-law says no. Tom waxes on about how he’s so sorry that he’s let the Crawleys down. He says that they’ve allowed him to believe that he’s one of them since Sybil died, and that’s just not true. He says he doesn’t fit in with them when they’re “among their own people”. Robert advises that if the Duchess of Disaster has upset him, he should just let it go, because she’s hopeless. Tom insists that that’s not it, it’s just that he’s realized he doesn’t belong at Downton, with posh people like this. Robert says he doesn’t accept what he’s telling him, and he knows that Cora certainly won’t. He says it’s time go to listen to Dame Nellie, so they should roll out. Oh, Robert. So keenly aware of others emotional traumas. 

Diva Time! Dame Nellie regales the Crawleys, their guests, staff, and several random hangers-on such as Doctor Clarkson with a musical performance in the foyer. Her voice is beautiful and almost everyone is visibly moved. The Gambling Crew – including Sampson and Gregson – sneak out in the middle of the performance to go play cards. Anna decides that she’s got a headache and is going to go downstairs to get some medicine. Violet and Isobel discuss opera and are adorable.  Mrs. Patmore tells Alfred that everyone loves his sauces and he admits he wants to be a chef more than anything. 

Mr. Rochester to the Rescue! Before the big Opera Singer Dinner, Gregson pops into the smoking lounge to talk to smirky Lord Sampson about whether he’ll be running another card game that night. Gregson says he’s in, because he’s got to do what he can to make up for his abysmal performance from the night before. Sampson smirks and says sure.

During the game, suddenly Gregson starts destroying Sampson at cards. Literally, beating every hand he has, and Sampson is clearly quite upset about it. He manages to bring everyone’s deficits back up, and looks monstrously pleased with himself. Turns out – as we probably all suspected – Sampson’s been cheating at cards, and that is how he’s been cleaning all the gentlemen out of their cash. Gregson, apparently, developed a talent for cheating at cards himself as a youth, and has used it to his advantage here. Takes one to know one, I guess. Gregson makes Sampson pay him with all the IOUs he won during the weekend, and says that if he doesn’t, he’ll tell Robert about how he’s been cheating and Sampson won’t be welcome at a single club in London. Burrrrrrn. Gregson distributes the IOUs back to the gentlemen he took them from, and suddenly Robert thinks Gregson is awesome. Edith is totally pleased about this, and honestly most of us probably still don’t care about Gregson, his personal drama, and whether the Crawleys like him or not. (Personally, I still want to see their faces when they find out about his mad wife!)

Something Awful Happens.  Green creeps up on Anna while she’s in the kitchen getting something for her headache and offers her a drink. They discuss Dame Nellie’s singing for a second, before Green gets all up in Anna’s space and starts getting handsy. He says allll the sorts of things that sexual predators tend to say, about how he can see how Anna must want to have some fun in her life, blah blah, and ignores all her protestations to the contrary. He then says there’s no way that Mr. Bates can keep her happy, what with being a cripple. He then forces her to kiss him, punches her in the face and they start fighting. What happens next is absolutely brutal to watch.

Green drags Anna all over the kitchen, intercut with scenes of the rest of the family upstairs watching Dame Nellie’s performance.  Green pulls Anna by her hair into a back pantry room, with her screaming all the while, and rapes her.  Dame Nellie keeps singing. They keep fighting, until suddenly all you hear are Anna’s screams in the hallway and it’s all awful and sickening and sad. Then we cut to a scene of Bates and Mrs. Hughes talking about Anna, where Bates wonders what she’ s doing, and hopes it’s something sweet like falling asleep. It’s so awful, probably the most horrifying sequence that’s yet aired on this show, and that includes when Sybil died last year.  Dame Nellie’s song stops, and everyone applauds. We see Green lurking in the back of the foyer. 

Later, after the concert has concluded and the guests are leaving, Mrs. Hughes goes into the pantry to fetch something, and finds Anna, looking beaten and bruised with her clothes torn. Anna begs Mrs. Hughes to help her, and to help her cover up her attack. Mrs. Hughes says they have to tell someone what’s happened, especially her husband. Anna gets near hysterical, saying they can’t tell Bates because he’ll probably kill whoever attacked her and then he’ll go to jail and be hanged because he’s already a convicted felon. This logic is not entirely the soundest ever, but since Anna’s just suffered a severe trauma we can probably let it go for a bit. Anna cries and says no one must ever know what happened to her, and insists that Mrs. Hughes promise to keep her secret. Joanne  Frogatt is just devastating here, and it’s awful to have to watch. 

Tom’s Poor Life Choices Continue. Tom is sitting in the great hall, looking sad. Edna sneaks up to him and brings him a (GINORMOUS) whiskey because she “thought he might need it”. Tom, clearly wasted, starts waxing rhapsodic about how Edna understands him, and who he is and where he’s come from, when no one else does. Enda agrees, because of course, Edna is the worst.  Uggggh. Later, after she puts Cora to bed, we see Edna sneak into a downstairs room, hissing “Are you awake?” at it’s unidentified occupant. Three guesses who’s in there, and the first two don’t count.

So much drama this episode! Poor Anna! Ugh, Edna! Stupid Tom! Mr. Gregson is nice but boring. Mary seems to have a new beau of sorts, maybe, but I can’t decide if I like him or not. He’s easy enough on the eyes, but, well, he’s certainly not Matthew, even though I know that’s not fair. Isobel and Violet’s budding friendship makes me so happy! And there was a largely limited amount of the Human Sominex that is the Downstairs Love Quadrangle! 

But oh the Anna storyline. That's going to stay with me a long time. And not in the good way. 

Thoughts? Comments? Screams you just need to get out? Let’s chat in the comments. 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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