Sunday, January 6, 2013

Episode 1 Season 2 – Downton Abbey Episode Summary 2.1

Matthew Crawley presents Lavinia Swire
Synopsis: Lieutenant Matthew Crawley uses his leave to return to Downton Abbey to introduce his fiancée Lavinia Swire to his mother and the Granthams much to Lady Mary’s dismay.  Mr. Bates returns from London following his mother’s death with good news for Anna unaware that something ominous is looming.  Meanwhile, the war makes something of everyone including Lady Sybil who in her determination to help the war effort has decided to become a nurse.

Episode Summary: In 1916 Matthew Crawley left Downton Abbey for the Somme, covered in mud he lies prostrate on the ground, beside him a badly wounded soldier squirms as he clings for life.  Amidst explosions, Matthew carries the injured soldier back to the fort, and informs his men to rescue the many more left on the battlefield.  He returns to his office, and receives a telegram that bears some good news the Devons are to relieve him and his men.  Matthew looks forward to his leave with plans to drop by London before finally returning to Downton, a life so strangely different from the battlefield or any other place essentially.  Moreover, there is a girl he is keen to see. Continue reading...

With Mr. Bates in London, Lord Grantham has to make do with William, which is slightly unfortunate for the man has resumed his title of Lord Lieutenant, and has opted to dress in military garb, a uniform Mr. Bates knows very well how to put together.  Lord Grantham wears his uniform with a tinge of disappointment for though dressed like an army man, he has not been officially called back to duty.  An invitation from General Robertson for Lord Grantham to be Colonel of the North Riding Volunteers brought cheer to the man who has been feeling a bit lame for not being in the battlefield.  Learning that the idea came from General Haig convinced him that his return to the army is official.  Unlike him, his wife Lady Grantham is the least bit pleased at hearing that her husband has been called back to active duty after initially being told the opposite.  In spite of the fuss from the invitation both husband and wife could not help but notice the change in Sybil’s expression as she finished reading the letter she received, but the reticent young woman says nothing about it and just excuses herself from breakfast.  Edith is nowhere to be found for she is in the village getting driving lessons from Branson, and is becoming good at it.

William mopes around the busy kitchen about his father prohibiting him from enlisting to the army.  William is overcome with guilt knowing that many of the men have done their duty and gone to war where they are needed the most, and he longs for the day that he is called up for service.  Mrs. Patmore hopes that that day would never come.  The reason for the commotion at the Downton House comes from Isobel Crawley who had convinced the Granthams to host the fundraising for the hospital.  The arrival of Lady Violet only added to the already tense household, and Gwen’s stubborn replacement is proving to be a headache among the servants especially Anna.  Ethel is hesitant to take orders from Anna claiming that she was once a head housemaid and is quite knowledgeable of her job, but Mrs. Hughes puts her in her place knowing that the young woman was merely a senior housemaid out of two in an obviously much smaller house.  She, however, is quick to notice that Mr. Bates has made quite a name for himself at Downton with everyone speaking fondly of him and wishing his return from London where he had gone to attend to his mother’s funeral.

Isobel’s visit was not only to help with the preparations for the concert aimed to raise money for the hospital, but also to deliver some news about Matthew to the Granthams.  Her hope to speak to Lord and Lady Grantham privately was dashed when Lady Violet refused to leave the library where they are to talk, and so Isobel contented herself with informing them that Matthew is well, and had come down to Downton, a fact they already knew, several times without paying a visit to the Granthams.  However, her news does not stop there, Isobel regretfully informs them that Matthew has informed her that he is now engaged to a Miss Lavinia Swire, a young woman he met when he was in England during his leave.  The news was not a complete shock to the Granthams, but it is nevertheless a disappointing one no matter how accepting they are of Matthew’s decision.  To add insult to injury, Matthew is returning to Downton that night bringing with him Lavinia, and to complicate matters even more, Isobel asks them if they will be willing to allow her son and his fiancée to attend the concert.  It will undoubtedly prove to be an uncomfortable evening for everyone with the heir having another woman in his arms as he presents his fiancée to the family of the woman he not long ago also proposed to not to mention the rightful heiress of Downton Abbey whose inheritance he is posed to receive, but it is a meeting that is bound to happen anyway.  Lord Grantham, perpetually civil and polite, agrees to receive Matthew and his fiancée in his house.  Moreover, he sees the engagement as a new beginning for all of them.

Downhearted Sybil returns to the house just as Isobel was on her way out, and finds in her a confidant.  She tells the woman of the dreadful news of having lost another one of her friends to the war, and shares with her that she is overcome with futility for not having done enough for the troops.  Isobel makes a recommendation for Sybil to become an auxiliary nurse, and offers to help her get on to a training course in York, but warns the young woman that her life at nursing school will be a long way from what she is used to at Downton.  Sybil is more than willing to take on this new life, and wastes no time to know what skills she will need to prepare her for the training.  O’Brien having heard their conversation misinforms Lady Cora of what Isobel had suggested, and paints a rather ugly picture of what her plans are for Sybil.  She deliberately describes the profession as a maid of all work at a hospital tending disfigured patients instead of a nurse providing comfort to those in dire need to make it sound even more disagreeable.

Isobel made a mistake of accepting a ride from the Grantham women unaware that O’Brien has shared her recommendation to Lady Cora who is struggling to contain her rage at the woman who has nothing to offer to the Granthams but bad news.  Interestingly, Isobel finds an unlikely defendant in Lady Violet who does not see Sybil’s choice to become a nurse disagreeable, and finds it even respectable having seen photographs of queens and princesses doing charitable work for the less fortunate.  Lady Violet believes that Sybil must do her share if she is willing, and she is.  Lady Sybil following Isobel’s suggestion, asks Mrs. Patmore to teach her the basics of cooking eliciting giggles that she welcomed from the kitchen maids after informing them that she does not even know how to make tea.

Mr. Bates finally returns to Downton surprising Lady Mary who was unaware that they were on the same train, in fact no one knew that he was coming back for even Mr. Bates only found out that day.  Anna was pleasantly surprised at the sight of him, and at the man’s cheerful disposition.  Moreover, gone is the man who once tried his best to distance himself from her.  Meanwhile, William has gone beyond moping, and moved on to being angry at his father who used guilt as a weapon of choice to dissuade him from enlisting with the army.

For Lady Mary, seeing Mr. Bates at the train station was not the last surprise she’d get for that day.  Edith was happy to be the one to break the news that Matthew has returned to Downton, and will be attending the concert.  Moreover, he is bringing with him his fiancée.  As one would expect, this was a shock to Lady Mary, but her acceptance and understanding was more astonishing.  Lady Mary masks her disappointment with a slightly exaggerated declaration of happiness for Matthew, and moves on quickly to introduce what she feels is a fitting suitor for her, Sir Richard Carlisle.  Sir Carlisle is a lurid newspaper magnate, and is several years Lady Mary’s senior.  He is not suitable for Lady Mary, even Edith who once fancied an older man knows that, and is quite sure that their father would not approve of him.  Having bravely put on a face as she listened to the awful news of Matthew being engaged to be married Lady Mary breaks down to tears soon after her mother and sisters left her room leaving only Anna to console her.

Lieutenant Crawley arrives at Downton with his fiancée, Miss Lavinia Swire.  Although the young woman is not lovely, she is no doubt a sweet young lady that even Lady Cora admits this to be true.  A sensible young woman unused to a life of extravagance, Lavinia could not help but be intimidated by the Downton House, but she carried herself well until Lady Mary introduces herself.  Lavinia is knowledgeable of who Lady Mary was in Matthew’s life, which is why she slightly lost her composure in spite of the warm welcome Lady Mary gave her.  She is unaware that Lady Mary too is ill at ease that she has lost her usual air of confidence when left with Matthew unsure how the young man will receive her, but she is relieved that he has made peace with it all.  She, however, struggles to accept that the young man has moved on, and found herself staring longingly at him.  Lady Mary is mortified when Lavinia catches her gaze, but the young woman who has replaced her just smiles at the sight of her staring.

The only person who is true to his feelings is Mr. Carson.  Matthew once again lost his favor after he broke his favorite mistress’ heart.  Mrs. Hughes sees it the other way and blames Lady Mary for refusing him when she thought he’d have nothing, and wanting him when he’d have everything.  The governess hopes that Miss Swire is a much gentler person knowing full well that she is to be her mistress when the time comes, but Mr. Carson is suspicious of the young woman, and sees her as someone only after Matthew’s inheritance.

The concert has progressed in a rather lovely way until two women got up from their seats to hand the young men including William a white feather as a symbol of cowardice.  Lord Grantham bears witness to this act of protest, and is beside himself that he rises from his chair and throws the two women out of the concert.  Poor William already having a heavy conscience for not enlisting returns heavy hearted to his seat with the white feather in his hand.  Edith once again is of no help to the young man when she comes in defense of the women, and rubs it in that there are young men dying in battle while some healthy lads choose to do nothing.  This proved to be a good segue for Mrs. Crawley who announced that Lady Sybil is expected to start her training that Friday taking the place of one of the students who dropped out.  This was the first Lord Grantham has heard of Lady Sybil’s plan to attend a nursing course in York, and he once again finds himself in a quandary.

At last, Mr. Bates and Anna have found time to speak privately, but what Anna heard is far from what she would have guessed.  The reason for Mr. Bates’ happy disposition is due to his belief that his marriage can finally be dissolved given that Mrs. Bates has unexpectedly resurfaced.  He believes that the woman would agree to the divorce in exchange for a share in Mr. Bates’ inheritance.  Anna receives a proposal from Mr. Bates, and John as she is now to call him has already spoken to Lord Grantham who promised him a cottage for the couple near the house.  The much-delayed kiss finally arrived as Anna accepts John’s proposal.

Because the dining table filled with guests is not the place to argue about Lady Sybil’s decision to become a nurse, Lord Grantham turns his attention to Miss Swire, and asks her how she and Matthew met, and learns that they did so in London where she lived.  Miss Swire adds that her father is a solicitor just like Matthew thinking that the two men sharing the same profession would make her background agreeable, but it did not do anything to Lady Violet.  Meanwhile, Lord Grantham has turned to Matthew to proudly inform him that he has been made Colonel in the North Riding Volunteers making his return to the army official.  This worried Matthew and asks Lady Mary if her father will be asked to return to the front with his new position, but the young woman believes that her father will not have to go into battle even though Lord Grantham is sure of it.  With Lavinia so far away at the table, Matthew is left to converse with his seatmate Lady Mary who at his prompting informs him that she is glad to see him happy.  Moreover, she tells him that she believes that she is about to be happy.

Ethel is not so different from Gwen for the two women do share the same goal of leaving a life of service; the distinction lies in their attitude while Gwen took it upon herself to learn a new skill, Ethel just sits and dreams of a better life.  Moreover, Ethel has delusions of grandeur and she acts as though she is better than the rest of the servants.  O’Brien has had enough of the young woman’s attitude that she sends her to the drawing room relaying a request from Lady Cora who insists on personally thanking Ethel for her service.  The people in the drawing room, masters and servants alike, were startled to see the housemaid burst into the drawing room to thank Lady Cora for her appreciation.  All are silent at the intrusion that they soon quickly learned was a terrible prank from O’Brien.  All found the incident quite funny except for mortified Mr. Carson who wants everything done properly.

Dr. Clarkson pays a visit to Isobel informing her that the cottage hospital has been ordered to admit a hundred wounded men.  Because this is above the hospital’s capacity, Isobel’s suggestion is for them to convert the Second Day Room, which means that there will no longer be a place for convalescent patients.  In his visit, the doctor could not help but be concerned about Molesley who is actively doing the duties of a butler.  Isobel is surprised to learn that Lady Grantham had told the doctor that Molesley has a lung condition, one that prompted Dr. Clarkson to write to the War Office to spare the man the humiliation of being refused to join the war due to his medical condition.  Isobel knows exactly what Lady Grantham has done, and asks who else the old lady had asked to spare from the war, and learns that William Mason was one of them.  Lady Grantham had informed Dr. Clarkson that William has a skin condition that he is embarrassed to reveal.

The hour has come for Matthew to return to the war, and he is pleasantly surprised to see Mary waiting for him by the train platform.  Mary had risen very early in the morning to catch Matthew before he leaves in order to give him her lucky charm, a small stuffed toy she’s had forever.  Mary tells him to promise to bring it back on his return from the war without a scratch.  Mary has heard Matthew’s worries the night of the concert, and wants him not to be a hero that he may come back to Downton safe and sound.  Matthew takes the opportunity in case he fails to return to tell Mary how happy he is that they are once again friends.  Moreover, he asks her to look after his mother and Lavinia if anything happens to him to which Mary, though she does not want to think the worst to happen to Matthew, agrees to his wishes.

Seeing a clear path to their life together, John and Anna plan their future.  John having inherited his mother’s house plans on selling it that they may buy a small hotel that they can manage together, and where their family will live.  Anna is overjoyed with the prospect of having a comfortable life with John.  Unfortunately, this is short-lived for Vera, Mr. Bates’ wife, has come to Downton.  The woman speaks to Mr. Bates’ privately to inform him of her reluctance to grant him a divorce, and threatens him of dragging the Granthams into a messy scandal if he refuses to come back to her.  Vera having used Mr. Bates’ name to get a job with Lady Flintshire learned from the woman’s maid that the Turkish diplomat died in the bed of Lady Mary, and had to ask Anna to help her carry his corpse back to his bedroom.  Mr. Bates loses his temper at hearing his wife’s fowl plan and grabs her wrist ready to give her a beating, but manages to control himself not wanting to make a scandal of his own.  In the mercy of his vicious wife, Mr. Bates is left with nothing else to do but agree to resign from his post to join his wife in London.  Mr. Bates tenders his resignation that very day taking a tongue lashing from Lord Grantham who has become livid at his decision to leave with very short notice.  Lord Grantham found Mr. Bates to be disloyal especially after putting so much faith in him despite the numerous adversities they faced.  John also says goodbye to Anna, and tells her to forget about him and to move on with her life.   The young woman knowing very well that John must have once again sacrificed himself for a greater good begs the man not to leave, or to at least tell her the real reason for his leaving, but John is adamant at keeping the reason to himself.

Seeing Lady Sybil taking cooking lessons from Mrs. Patmore without the knowledge of Lady Cora has made Mr. Carson uneasy that he, in spite of the young mistress’ request to keep it a secret from her family, decides to tattle on her to Lady Cora.  This surprised her Ladyship that she and Mr. Carson go down to the kitchen to secretly observe her daughter as she takes out from the oven the cake she baked for her mother.  Hearing that the cake is a surprise for her and seeing her child filled with joy as she takes out the well-baked cake, Lady Cora becomes teary eyed and approves Lady Sybil’s tutelage under Mrs. Patmore.  Moreover, she requests Mr. Carson to keep her knowledge of what Lady Sybil was up to a secret that they may not spoil the young woman’s surprise.

Daisy finds a downtrodden William sitting in the dark brooding over him being called a coward.  Hating to see the young man miserable, Daisy gives him a kiss on the lips to cheer him up.  The man is caught by surprise, but then realizes that the girl was merely feeling sorry for him, but Daisy intent on making William happy tells him to relish her kiss, the one he so wanted to get from her for quite some time now.  This, however, prompted the young man to ask her to be his girlfriend, and Daisy is now the one that is surprised.  Meanwhile, Matthew has returned to the battlefield and is shocked to see that it has gotten worse.  Moreover, he has learned that Thomas is now a corporal in his army.

Mr. Bates and Vera leave Downton Abbey as Lady Sybil prepares to leave for nursing school.  Her family bids her goodbye with the blessing of her grandmother as she starts a life outside of Downton.  Soon after, Lady Violet meets with Isobel and Dr. Clarkson only to learn that she has been summoned to be scolded after being caught providing false medical conditions in order to spare Molesley and William from the draft.  Lady Violet uses the men’s family as an excuse, but Isobel argues that there should not be special treatment in times of war for all men are special cases to someone including her only son Matthew.  Although Dr. Clarkson is not critical of Lady Violet’s actions, learning the truth has required him to correct the misinformation much to Molesley’s dismay.

With Mr. Bates running off with Vera, Mr. Carson is down one man, and a good one too.  His impression of Mr. Bates is now far from what he thought of him when he first arrived at Downton, and the man is at a loss without him, but his leaving struck him curious.  Good thing, Mrs. Hughes had the good sense to let the Bates use her sitting room to chat that she may spy on them through the vent, and she heard everything that was said.

Lady Sybil arrives at the nursing school apprehensive yet full of determination to experience a life far different from what she is used to.  Luckily, Branson is there to send her off, and the young chauffeur seeing that times are changing summons the courage to tell his mistress that he is in love with her.  He promises Lady Sybil that he will make something of himself, and that he will devote his life to making her happy.  To him, the promises are enough for the young woman to face having her family disown her.  Lady Sybil, however, is caught by surprise by the man’s confession, and unfortunately does not appear to share the same feelings Branson has for her.  Branson knowing that he will be let go as soon as the Granthams learn of what he had proposed tells the young woman that he will tender his resignation that very day, but Lady Sybil promises that her family will never know what he has said.

Thomas was dead wrong when he thought that joining the medical corps is much better than remaining a footman.  His mistake he recognized quickly amidst the bombing, the dead bodies, and the wounded he has to take back to safety.  Moreover, the dangers of war are made very clear to him when one of his colleagues takes a bullet in his head mid-sentence in front of him.  Molesley though has never served in a war has a good grasp of what it is like that he speaks to Dr. Clarkson and makes the cowardly act to pretend that he indeed has a lung condition.  Moreover, he makes it clear to him that he does not want to be called to serve, and makes an argument of creating extra work for the War Office with it having already sent him his discharge papers.  He also adds that the ministry has not yet sent a letter to William.  Molesley’s plea is not lost on Dr. Clarkson, and informs the man that he will only correct the misinformation on William, but asks Molesley to help the war effort in other ways.  Meanwhile, Lord Grantham is at the regimental dinner, and the scene there is far from the battlefield with the men dressed in full regalia without a speck on their uniforms enjoying a nice chat before a luxuriously prepared dining table.  However, unlike the old codgers around him, Lord Grantham is excited to return to the front believing that the regiment was formed to help the troops.  He could not be more disappointed to learn that they were only there for show; they are nothing but a bunch of worthless old frauds.

He returns home clearly annoyed at the discovery of what his true role is as Lord Lieutenant, and returns to complaining about Bates’ leaving.  Mr. Carson having heard from Mrs. Hughes the real reason for his departure shares with Lord Grantham Mr. Bates’ selfless act.  Mr. Carson reveals that Mrs. Bates was planning on dragging the Granthams in a scandal the family would most likely not survive, and the price of her silence was Mr. Bates’ return.  Unaware of the scandal, Lord Grantham asks Mr. Carson about it, but the man has vowed not to divulge it not even to his Lordship.  All Mr. Carson could verify is that Mr. Bates sacrificed his own happiness to protect the reputation of the Granthams.

Ethel has finally fallen off her high horse, and Anna finds her crying in their bedroom.  Miss O’Brien has made a fool of her once again having ordered her to check all the plugs and vents for vapors highlighting her ignorance.  Anna’s advice is for her to stop sharing her plans of a life outside service to which the young woman argues that everyone must have dreams including Anna.  She is right about that, but Anna is now certain that hers will not come true.  Meanwhile, Lady Mary though knowing that hers will not either still kneels down in prayer to ask God for Matthew’s safe return.  That night, God was listening, since the attacks ceased long enough for Matthew and Thomas to talk about the old days at Downton.  Thanks to Miss O’Brien, Thomas is kept abreast about the goings on at Downton Abbey, and has learned that the cottage hospital has been taking in wounded men.  This prompts Thomas to ask Matthew what would entail having him transferred to the hospital, and learns that he would need to pull a few strings to get that transfer, but before that he must first be sent home from the front.  Thomas then is struck with an idea, and soon after Matthew leaves he goes to an empty corner of the barricade, nervously lights his lighter, and raises his arm high enough above the wall.  Not long after, an enemy sees the lighter, and shoots his hand.  He grasps his bleeding hand to his chest, and thanks the enemy for his deliverance.

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