Masterpiece’s Downton Abbey: To Serve, in Love

In Recaps on January 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Anna (Joanne Froggatt) confessed her love to Bates (David Coyle) on last night’s “Downton Abbey.” (Screen cap)

In last night’s episode of Downton Abbey, the Edwardian soap opera airing this month under PBS’s Masterpiece banner, Countess Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) paid a surprise visit to lawyer/cousin Matthew (Dan Stevens), asking him to review the legal agreement that prohibits her granddaughter Mary from inheriting the family estate.

Although Matthew is poised to leapfrog Mary in the line of succession, he readily accepted Violet’s request, and she almost fell off her seat – not because she was surprised, but because she was sitting in a swivel chair, which she figured was another “brain wave” of the modern era.

When Matthew ran into Mary (Michelle Dockery) at the village fair, he told her that he was searching for loopholes in the inheritance pact and the two seemed to bond; Mary even confessed her unhappiness, declaring that “women like me don’t have a life.”

Housekeeper Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) also attended the fair, where she was reunited with widower Joe Burns (Bill Fellows), an old flame from her youth.

Also at the fair: Thomas (Rob James-Collier), who escorted Daisy (Sophie McSherato) to annoy fellow footman William (Thomas Howes), whose crush on the naïve scullery maid was obvious to everyone but Daisy herself.

Hughes confided to stiff-lipped butler Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) that Burns proposed marriage after seeing her at the fair, but said she turned him down because she’s no longer a lovesick farm girl.

“You won’t be leaving then?” Carson asked.

“When would I ever find the time?” Hughes responded, rushing away to resolve another crisis involving temperamental cook Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nichol).

Elsewhere, Anna the maid (Joanne Froggatt), bedridden with a cold, was touched when kind valet Mr. Bates (David Coyle) brought her a tray of food, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that he was keeping a secret.

She tearfully pressed for his answers, but he would only say that he wasn’t “a free man.”

ANNA: Are you trying to tell me that you’re married?

BATES: I have been married, yes, but that’s not all of it.

ANNA: Because I love you, Mr. Bates. I know it’s not ladylike to say it, but I’m not a lady and I don’t pretend to be.

BATES: You are a lady to me. And I never knew a finer one.

The youngest Crawley daughter, budding feminist Sybill (Jessica Brown-Findlay), wore pants (!) to dinner and befriended Branson (Allen Leech), the new chauffer, a socialist who shared her political passions.

Sybill also grew closer to Gwen (Rose Leslie), sneaking the maid/aspiring secretary into the village for another job interview – a misadventure that ended with the two women covered in mud when their horse and carriage became stuck.

Gwen learned later that she didn’t get the job, but Sybill told her to not give up.

During pre-dinner drinks, Mary listened to her father Robert (Hugh Bonneville) repeatedly praise Matthew and then fled to her bedroom, where her mother Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) confronted her.

A tearful Mary declared that Matthew had become the son Robert always wanted, but Cora assured Mary that her father still loved her.

Cora also advised Mary to not alienate Matthew.

“I see,” Mary sniffed. “When I’ve ruined myself, I must have a powerful protector to hide behind.”

Mary was on to something: After Matthew told Robert that he could find no flaws in the inheritance agreement, the two men bonded further, and Robert was delighted when Matthew declared he wanted “Downton to be my future.”

Downstairs, Cora’s personal maid, nasty O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran), suspected Daisy knew more about Kemal Pamuk, the Turkish attaché who died mysteriously during his recent visit to Downton Abbey; Daisy played dumb and didn’t reveal that Pamuk died in Mary’s bedroom.

O’Brien also schemed with Thomas, urging him to “turn the tables” on Mr. Bates after he spotted Thomas stealing wine.

Later, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) learned that Mary’s virtue had become grist for the London rumor mill, so she accelerated her scheme to marry off her eldest daughter by inviting local landowner Sir Anthony Strallan (Robert Bathurst) to dinner and urging Mary to be nice to him.

“How many times am I to be ordered to marry the man sitting next to me at dinner?” Mary asked angrily.

“As many times as it takes,” Cora snapped.

Dinner was disastrous: Mrs. Patmore dropped a roasted chicken on the floor (Gwen and Anna dusted it off and put it on a serving platter) and later accidentally coated the dessert with salt instead of sugar.

Upstairs, middle Crawley sister Edith (Laura Carmichael) seemed genuinely interested in Strallan – prompting Mary to lavish attention on him.

Back in the kitchen, as Mrs. Patmore cried over her dessert snafu, a surprisingly tender Carson comforted her and she revealed that the reason she’s made so many mistakes lately is because she’s going blind.

“A blind cook, Mr. Carson,” Mrs. Patmore said pitifully, “What a joke. Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

The next day, at the village’s annual flower show, Robert echoed Matthew’s mother Isobel (Penelope Wilton), who suggested that Violet continually wins the competition’s top award simply because she is a Crawley.

When Violet went to the podium to reveal this year’s winner, she opened the envelope and saw her name – but instead announced the winner was Bill Moseley (Bernard Gallagher), humble father of Mr. Moseley (Kevin Doyle), Matthew’s valet.

Also at the flower show, Mary apologized to Matthew for her ignoring him at dinner, but he essentially ignored her – which Edith eagerly pointed out.

“I suppose you didn’t want him when he wanted you, and now it’s the other way around,” she told Mary. “You have to admit, it’s quite funny.”

“I admit that if I ever wanted to attract a man, I’d steer clear of those clothes and that hat,” Mary hissed.

Mary should’ve been nicer to her sister: O’Brien finally pressured Daisy into confessing the truth about Pamuk’s death to Edith, who – in the episode’s final scene – was shown penning a letter to the Turkish ambassador.

Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and Violet (Maggie Smith) attended the flower show on last night’s “Downton Abbey.” (Screen cap)


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