Monday, December 29, 2014

Downton Abbey, Season 2, Episode 1

I'm back!

No, I'm really back this time. I promise I can't believe it's been almost A YEAR since I posted, which is appalling. I have all sorts of lame-o excuses for the intervening months, like new jobs and visitors and a baby and vacation and a month-long parental visit and a move, but I'm still embarrassed. But I'm back, darlings, and I promise to be much better about keeping up. After all, I have 3 whole seasons to review in less than a week before Season 5 goes up! CAN she do it? Stay tuned!

**Disclaimer: Baby is due three days after the season 5 premiere. I cannot promise that I'll be able to stay on top of my Quibbling after that, or that if I do, it will make any sense at all and won't just be a slee-deprived-2AM-stream-of-consciousness typed with two fingers while nursing. Wish me luck!**

Ok, let's get to it!

No dog butt for us this time! Instead we’re in the muddy hell of the Somme, 1916, an aerial shot closing in on a khaki figure sprawled on the ground, who turns out to be Matthew. Someone is dying unpleasantly next to him, and he scoots over to help him, which probably just means watching blood gush out of his neck. Oh wait, no, he’s got him slung over his back and tosses him into the waiting arms of the trench medics. He hops down himself, gives an order to a sergeant (so we know he’s an officer), then heads into his bunk, where his batman (kind of a valet to an officer, like Bates was for Robert in the Boer War) asks him about his plans for leave and then philosophizes about life outside the war. Shut up, Batman (hee), I want to hear more about this girl Matthew wants to see! Here’s hoping it’s Mary. Not much to report about the costumes here, as it’s all mud-encrusted uniforms. 

And then we cut to the dog butt. Whew. 

Downton appears, outwardly serene and tranquil in the early morning, but inside it’s all hustle and bustle because of some benefit for Our Boys At the Front. NinjAnna is trying to explain how the house works to a new housemaid (red hair, therefore a Gwen replacement), who mouths off almost before Anna’s finished talking. Not a good idea, new meat!

Poor William is trying to dress Robert in his military uniform (because Bates is away in London, apparently for a funeral, probably his mother’s), and keeps screwing up. Robert reminds him he’ll be in uniform a lot these days, even though he’s not really in the Army and is all bummed about that. But as soon as he goes down to breakfast with Sybil and Cora (uncharacteristically for the latter, but she doesn't want Isobel or Lady V to catch her in bed today), he hears that General Haig (yes, that General Haig) recommended he be put in command of some local regiment. He’s all pleased. Cora is not. Sybil barely stifles a sob and runs out after some bad news in a letter. Probably one of her friends is dead at the front. Again.

The ladies are dressed simply, as for breakfast but also in keeping with the austerity imposed by two years of war: both in white blouses and dark skirts, Sybil with a cardigan in her trademark blue.

Also a quick shot of Guy Fawkes having a smoke, just to let you know she’s still around.
Look out, citizens of Downton, Edith’s behind the wheel! Insert lady-driver joke here. Poor Branson has to walk the very fine line between giving her actual instruction so they don’t get killed or the car destroyed, and not insulting his employers’ daughter. He’s in his green chauffeur suit. Edith’s coat is a rich apricot pink, as usual for her. She makes a pretty mean comment about the draft, which Branson deflects nicely. Shut up, Edith.

Downstairs in the kitchens, Mrs. Patmore reminds us that not only is there a war on (and therefore food shortages, even for a place like Downton with its own gardens and livestock), the money for the benefit tonight is for the hospital, so the guests won’t be expecting haute cuisine. Daisy offers to make cheese straws. Oh, joy, she’s being trusted with food again! William is sulking because his father won’t let his only child enlist. Mrs. P doesn’t blame dear old Dad a bit and tries to make William see that, but he’s all “king and country!” By 1916 the patriotic bloom was definitely off the rose, and everyone knew how awful the war was, but William can be pretty thick at times.

No one’s costumes here are any different from last season’s.

Isobel is thanking Robert and Cora very graciously for letting her hold the hospital benefit at Downton, but in swoops the Dowager Countess, swathed in furs and full of piss and vinegar, as always. I can’t imagine what she means by her dig about Cora’s flower arranging (a First Communion in Southern Italy? Mediterranean/Catholic excess?), but she’s savvy enough to know that Isobel is hoping the benefit will bring more money by being held at the great house.

Maids, in the library, with the seat cushions. New Meat is still sulking at Anna’s direction when in comes Mrs. Hughes. New Meat—Ethel, right—grumbles that she was head housemaid at her last job, but Mrs. H reminds her that she was only the senior of two, so she can jolly well hush up and let Anna give her some guidance. Mrs. Hughes’ dress is a little more up-to-date now that it’s 1916, with an odd front panel and less embellishment, but her keys are still jingling at her waist.

We get a little exposition from Anna about Bates at Ethel’s prompting, but then in sweeps Lady V to “do battle” with the flower arrangement, which she says “looks like a creature from the Lost World.” I didn’t figure the Dowager Countess for a Jules Verne fan, but one must never presume. Her dark teal dress looks almost modern—for 1910, perhaps. Still, she’s getting there.

Carson is bustling about in his pantry with the silver, and Mrs. Hughes thinks he’s headed for a heart attack. Carson’s replies that if he doesn’t do it, the terrorists win. Mrs. H rolls her eyes and heads out. Don’t think we won’t hear more about that later.

Isobel drops a bomb on Robert, Cora, and the DC that Matthew is engaged to a Miss Lavinia Swire, whom no one has heard of (which means she isn’t an aristocrat) and wants to bring her down to meet everyone. She acknowledges that it’s sudden, and that they’d all hoped he and Mary would work things out (oh yeah, we haven’t seen her yet!), but life goes on and there’s a war. Robert is noble and gracious. Violet puts on her best stiff upper lip. Cora funnels her distress through Mary, saying she’ll be back that evening and maybe they should warn her off. But Robert reminds her that life goes on and there’s a war.

Isobel's stiff upper lip.
Lady Violet's stiff upper lip. Who wins?
Sybil is having an existential crisis because all the men she ever danced with are dead. She tells Isobel about the latest casualty, Tom Bessessmaassess (she’s mumbling and I can’t hear it right, but he’s dead so it doesn’t matter), and after Isobel gets over her blank who’s-that-why-do-I-care look, she suggests that Sybil become a nurse. Guy Fawkes is listening in, but Isobel sees her, and it turns out GF really does have a message to convey, not that the eavesdropping would be out of character anyway. Isobel tells Sybil it might be tough, becoming a nurse, and gets a few digs in at her about not even making her own bed (oh please, Isobel, when was the last time you made your own bed?), then suggests she learn to cook, then insults her again. But she chucks her on the chin and Sybil grins, so it’s ok? Whatever. Cooking at nursing school? I mean, yeah, knowing how to make cocoa and maybe boil an egg or make some toast would be helpful, but they did feed you there.

Guy Fawkes is dressing Cora and reporting on Sybil’s new idea, giving it a much more negative spin. What does she care if Sybil becomes a nurse? Cora’s coat is baggy and shapeless, as was the fashion at the time, making her and GF look rather ominous.

Ethel is still at it, asking Mrs. Patmore to save her some of the delicacies she’s making for the gala, complaining that she hates sharing a room, etc. Everyone looks around warily, waiting for Mrs. P to blow, which she almost does. When she leaves, Ethel has a go at Guy Fawkes. OH NO YOU DIDN’T. This will not end well.
The carriage is taking Cora, Isobel and the DC to the village, and they’re all in there arguing about Sybil becoming a nurse. Surprisingly, Isobel and Violet are all for it, smacking down each of Cora’s arguments, even though Cora and Violet are dressed virtually alike (black coats, fur collars, big-ass hats), and Isobel’s the odd one out in her plain charcoal walking suit. Cora bothers Molesley (ugh, Molesley) about his service and he says he’s been turned down as unfit. No surprise there. Lady V mutters some scripture about God’s mysterious ways, which, upon this second watching, makes me awfully suspicious. But did people really talk about it so casually? It must have been a sore point with the men who couldn’t enlist, and here we’ve already had three examples of women needling their male subordinates about it.
A train pulls up to Downton station, and who descends like a ninja but NinjaBates! He limps off the third-class carriage and past a first-class one just as Mary steps out in a nice cranberry-colored traveling suit and offers him a ride back to the house. Anna’s waiting for her there, and she’s all excited when she sees her Ninja Twin. Aww. Side note: look at the amount of trunks piled on the back of the car. We don’t know how long Mary was in London, but to modern eyes, that is a LOT of luggage for anything less than a move to college or a 3-month trip to the Riviera. Even in the war, ladies were still expected to change clothes every few hours. Plus everyone knows you go to London to go shopping…

Sybil is in the kitchens trying to convince Mrs. Patmore she’s not insane for wanting to learn how to make tea and boil eggs. Ok, good, they’re going to start with things she might actually need. Mrs. P is startled and kind of hedges about helping, so it’s Daisy who assures Sybil they’ll do it. Hopefully someone smacks those two giggling kitchenmaids. Pretty sure we never see them again, so maybe they get sacked AND smacked.

Sybil is in her dark blue skirt and flowered blouse again (the one she was wearing when she got knocked around at the riot in town last season), and since everyone else is in skirts and blouses as well, she almost looks like one of them. Of course, the kitchen staff is also wearing aprons and caps, but the similarities do democratize the scene a little. Sybil tries to fill a kettle and the faucet goes all Old Faithful on her. Either she turned it on too hard or someone needs to get a plumber in there!

Quick shot of Carson in his evening dress grunting and minutely adjusting chairs for the concert, then it’s back down to the servants’ hall with the Ninja Twins. They make a date to chat, then poor old William tries to be sweet with Daisy and she doesn’t even notice. Then he whines about not being allowed to die in the mud in France again and stomps off again. Not a lot of interesting costumes here, but I got a shot of the portraits of the King and Queen over the fireplace, which was a common sight in servants’ halls.

Anna is finishing Mary’s hair while her sisters and mother hang out in her room. I’m sort of surprised that Mary gets her hair done after Sybil and Edith (who are already dressed, coiffed, bejeweled, and just sitting around), because she’s the oldest, but maybe the other girls’ hair doesn’t take as long. Mary snarks that she would have come down a day later in order to miss the “ghastly concert,” but Edith, all but sings, “But then you would have missed Matthew.” So we're still bitter about what went down at the garden party, huh, Edith? Cora covers by saying she was going to tell her, but it sounds like no one’s really gotten over the breakup if she’s talking about mending fences. Matthew must have enlisted or been called up right away after war was declared, and hasn’t been around much since, because they didn’t even know about Lavinia. Mary looks genuinely shocked when Edith mentions her, and Cora sighs that she’s not being helpful. “Helpful” (or not) is really the only thing Edith is known for, isn’t it?

Mary recovers admirably (there are some advantages to being haughty and overbred) and goes about getting her gloves on as though nothing is amiss, dropping a bomb of her own: she wants to introduce them to Richard Carlyle, a newspaper magnate she met at Cliveden (the home of the Astors and the site of some truly lavish parties and gatherings ( Edith tries to get in a few digs about him but doesn’t really succeed, and Mary holds it together until everyone leaves, then she breaks down and only Anna is there to comfort her. Poor Mary. She can’t show even a hint of weakness when Edith is around, which leaves her with no one in her own family to support her.

So, dresses! They’re all in black of one kind or another. Probably to convey a sense of gravitas and solemnity to the concert, and also because black was becoming fashionable rather than exclusive to mourning. Sybil and Cora have some white satin elements to theirs, but Mary and Edith are still at war and therefore still all in black while they snipe at each other.

That sad shot of Mary weeping at her dressing table fades to the concert, but the melancholy lingers as the camera pans over the chamber group and the guests. An interesting directing choice, because the next big thing is Isobel, Matthew, and Lavinia arriving to whispers and glances. Isobel’s dress looks a lot like Cora’s but is brown velvet instead of black. Matthew (and Robert) is in his mess dress, which will hold my interest for a few scenes and then go back to being background noise (I know men’s suiting is just as involved and complex as women’s clothing, but it’s also very repetitive). But it’s Lavinia—and her costume—who steals this scene. She is dressed unlike any female character we have seen so far, highlighting her otherness and her removal from the world of Downton (also marked in her lines by her intimidation and reluctance to think of it as “home”). Let’s break it down:
First off, her dress is made of emerald-green velvet. This is not a color we have seen before on any character. Of all the Crawley women (including Isobel), only Edith wears green, and she prefers darker tones with more olive or brown in them. Velvet, too, is rare on anyone except the Dowager Countess, and she’s so out of date it doesn’t really count.
Second, the cut of the dress and its embellishments are up-to-the-minute fashionable and much more modern-looking than any of the Sisters Three or the older generations. If we cut her out and put her against a blank background, you might even think it’s 1926 instead of 1916, or at least 1920. Very fashion-forward, very un-Downton. It’s looser, for one thing, without much of a shape, and the waist is set somewhat lower than its natural position on the body. The skirt, too, is shaped differently, and her sparkly (but not jeweled) headpiece sits fashionably low on her forehead rather than higher in her hair like a tiara, which she couldn’t wear anyway, because she’s a) not nobility and b) not married nobility. Yet. Her hair’s a little different too, although not noticeably more modern; just a different style to once again heighten her Otherness.

So why does she look so different, in the context of the story? No one has heard of her, remember, which means she’s probably “new money” and not a peeress. So she’s free of the conventions of the Quality, and free to adopt the newer fashions without gossip or censure from other ladies.
The concert proceeds, with Lavinia catching Mary looking at her. Oops.
Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson discuss Mary and Matthew (and “this Miss Swire,” who isn’t listed in any of the aristocratic stud books, according to Carson) while Carson decants wine through some cheesecloth to get rid of sediment and other impurities. Their loyalties are still firmly established. No surprise there.
Two scowly middle-class women (as evidenced by their plainer coats and hats) get up in the middle of the concert and start handing out white feathers for cowardice, beginning with William. Robert is justifiably outraged and throws them out, gives William an “I got you, bro” look, and then asks the leader to continue the music. Guy Fawkes gives William a look, but William’s too busy staring at his feather to notice. On the way out the women (they are NOT ladies, ladies don’t shame people publicly) give Branson a feather too, but he’s got a better sense of humor about it.

Cora comforts William at dinner (NO, you don’t address servants at table, ugh), but Edith starts in about “healthy young men doing nothing.” We would think it’s a faux pas to mention it with William right goddamn there, but it’s accurate for her to converse as if the footmen were no more sentient than the furniture. Just don’t talk TO the furniture. Isobel changes the subject and tells Sybil she can start her nursing course on Friday. No one told Robert, it seems, because Cora tries to head it off and everyone looks sort of warily around, because we all remember what happened last time Sybil got all activist at the dinner table (if you don’t, here’s the short version: Robert had a tantrum).
The Ninja Twins discuss Bates’ trip to London. NinjaWife showed up at the funeral, hoping to collect a portion of Bates’ larger-than-expected inheritance in exchange for divorcing him. Which NinjAnna interprets as a marriage proposal. For once they’re not interrupted and they get in a very sweet kiss. Awww.

Back at the table, Edith tries to claim she’s a good driver (Papa is having none of it), the Dowager Countess, in her usual stuffy, outdated finery hazes Lavinia a little when she finds out her father is a solicitor like Matthew, and Robert brags about his military promotion from General Haig. For some reason Mary and Matthew have been seated next to each other, which I find hard to believe Cora would countenance, but they get to have a little heart-to heart. Lavinia catches them and tries to pretend she doesn’t care.

Ethel is parked in a chair reading the 1916 British equivalent of People while everyone else is working. Guy Fawkes comes looming in and sends her upstairs to see the Countess in the drawing room. This, of course, is bogus, and Ethel should know better but she hasn’t worked in a great house before so she falls for it after a only moment of skepticism. Up she jumps, interrupting the ladies at their coffee.

I don't usually use this expression, but everyone's face in these two shots is "LOL wut"

To everyone’s credit, even Carson's, once he finds out that Guy Fawkes is behind it (although he starts swelling like a pufferfish for a moment there), she isn’t disabused of her notion and scampers off happily. Cora snickers into her cup and even Violet is amused. Probably she’s grateful for any diversion after having to eat dinner with her granddaughter’s usurper.

Mary says goodbye to Matthew while Lavinia waits with Carson, who gives her some side eye. It’s interesting that both Lavinia and Carson are in black with white collars, because they couldn’t be more different in age, gender, social position, general worldview, feelings about Mary, everything.

Servant Scene. Ethel has figured out she was had the next morning and she’s not pleased. But she pushes her luck by mouthing off about Lady Sybil's cooking lessons and even makes another move for leftovers, which Mrs. Patmore promptly feeds to the dog (is that still Pharaoh, or have we moved on to Isis now?).
Dr. Clarkson (in uniform, of course) is calling on Isobel to try and figure out where to put 300 wounded soldiers when all the available places (the hospital, someplace called Farley Hall) are at capacity. Isobel’s collar might be a nice soft lavender print, but her dress is…MAROON! So we know she’s going to be pushing someone around soon, and once she gets wind of Violet’s scheming to keep useless old Molesley and na├»ve young William out of the army (you’re in for it if Lady V finds out you squealed, Clarkson), it’s a hop, skip and a limp to (SPOILER) the walking wounded playing ping-pong in the Abbey library.

Quick scene of Sybil botching…something at the stove. Mrs. Patmore is as polite as she can be, but it’s clear she thinks it’s a disaster. Mostly it just looks like lumpy Cream of Wheat to me. Maybe it was supposed to be custard? Who knows. Daisy comes over and suggests they just throw it out (aren’t there shortages and rationing all over?) and start again. Sibyl’s in a kitchen apron and a pink print dress, probably the plainest thing she owns, so she and Daisy look remarkably alike, and Daisy’s conciliatory, not terribly deferent attitude reflects that.

I am so pleased with myself for capturing this expression.
Adorable Ninja Twins scene, ruined by Ethel. Moving on.

Mary surprises Matthew at his very early train to give him a little keepsake, and it’s all very sweet and anguished. Matthew makes Mary promise to take care of his mother if he doesn’t come back, which she readily agrees to, and Lavinia too, which she actually doesn’t, thanks to a lucky train whistle. She’s wearing the same cranberry-colored traveling suit as the last time she stood on a train platform this episode, and he’s in his drabs. She looks pretty forlorn as the train pulls away. Aww.

Ethel is looking something between shocked and indignant as she confronts a mysterious woman we only see from the back. NinjAnna ninjas in, sweeps Ethel out, and scolds her for gossiping with strangers. But she’s not a straehngeh, she’s Mester Baeht’s waaahfe! So of course NinjAnna marches right back in to have a look at this woman, who’s pretty striking. Somehow Mrs. Bates knows this is Anna, and they have a little face-off until they’re joined by Mrs. Hughes, Ethel, and “Batesy.” Hee!

Vera makes the most of her scene, managing to be menacing and cold at the same time with another accent I can’t place. Her suit is dark, just like her…

Carson spills the beans to Cora about Sybil’s cooking lessons, and they watch her successfully de-pan a cake and decorate it, as a surprise for her mother. Cora is all verklempt at her baby girl’s first steps toward self-sufficiency. Carson is not convinced. Love Cora’s peacock blue dress—a color Sybil herself might wear!—and Sybil’s pale lavender-checked blouse with a white collar and dark skirt under another big white apron. Except for the lack of cap, she once again looks so similar to Mrs. Patmore and Daisy she might be a kitchenmaid herself. Very touching, but how do Carson and Cora avoid being seen through the large and bright window they’re peeking through? Everyone must be fixated on the cake.

Oops, the window frame is blocking Mrs. Patmore completely. Sorry, Mrs. P.

Added for the tea set. Love the tea set.
NinjaBates is outninja’d by his wife, who was in Lady Flintshire’s service. She’s married to the Marquis of Flintshire and he’s related to the Crawleys (Vera gets it wrong and calls them “the Granthams.” Not sure if this is intentional or not). We heard about the Marquis last season, also in relation to the Pamuk Affair. Vera knows enough about Lady Mary and Mr. Pamuk to get the attention of the papers, which is enough to blackmail her husband into handing in his notice immediately and coming back to London with her. He tries to fight it but she’s pretty much got him…unless Mrs. Hughes was eavesdropping, AND SHE WAS! Too bad poor Bates gets it from both Robert (furious) and Anna (tearful) before he limps off into the night.

Look how she's shot in shadow...

...and so is he, once he capitulates. Cinematography!
Daisy finds William brooding in the servants’ hall after everyone else has gone to bed and cheers him up by kissing him. He’s so excited that she’ll be his girl that he can take on anything and he wouldn’t be afraid. It seems like Daisy realizes this might mean he’ll enlist with his newfound confidence, and she looks a little gobsmacked that her (hastily conceived and executed) plan just backfired. Those crazy kids!

Matthew’s back in the trenches and while he’s crawling through the mud in between pretty serious gunfire, he encounters…Thomas! You just never know who’ll you bump into in a foxhole! “You’ll never guess where I’ve just been,” quips Matthew. And in case we can’t, this is the next shot:

And it pans down to Bates being carted off with Vera. He looks miserable. She looks grimly victorious. Anna watches them from the window. She looks like her Ninja Twin, obviously.

Cora, Edith, Mary, and Lady V are all helping Sybil pack—well, Mrs. Hughes is doing most of the actual work (filling in for Anna, who’s…not feeling well), while the others offer suggestions helpful (Violet reminds them to pick things Sybil can put on and take off without a maid’s help) and not (Edith, continuing her unhelpful streak, proffers a dinner dress on the grounds that she should have “something decent” for the odd dinner party invitation). The Sisters Three are all in rather drab day dresses that we’ve seen before, I think; Cora’s in bright red and Violet’s in a familiar peacock blue suit for her “summoning” to tea with Isobel. As she sweeps out she reminds Sybil to think of her Great-Aunt Roberta, who loaded the guns at the Siege of Lucknow. Yikes. No wonder Violet’s such a battle-axe—it’s in her blood!
Sybil heads off, smiling and waving to her mother and sisters but looking a little apprehensive once she’s out of sight. No comment from Branson at this time.

Sorry the resolution is getting crappy in these later screenshots; we moved to the middle of nowhere and our internet sucks.
Violet’s “summons” to tea with Isobel turns out to be a dressing-down about the strings she pulled to keep Molesley and William out of service. Dr. Clarkson is there to look exasperated but ultimately side with Isobel. Molesley looks super-uncomfortable through the whole thing, but actually alarmed once Clarkson informs them he’ll have the misinformation corrected and Molesley realizes he might actually be drafted. Violet harrumphs out and Isobel has the grace not to look terribly pleased with herself, having just potentially sent two people off to war. She’s simply and democratically dressed in a mauve skirt and cream-colored silk blouse as she advocates for equal treatment of rich and poor in the draft. Contrast that with Violet’s expensive and formal outfit (including matching hat) and the clear shot of her silver-handled cane. Her machinations are completely justified to her, a form of noblesse oblige, but it’s not the same world as it was when she had those clothes made. Dr. Clarkson is not in uniform, presumably because he’s off-duty.
Carson and Mrs. Hughes discuss Carson’s overwork (we get it, he’s spoiling for a heart attack), the loss of Bates and Sybil in one day, the annoyance of having to put Robert into the “full fig” (hee) of his uniform for a regimental dinner, and the surprising indispensability of Bates before getting down to brass tacks: what Mrs. Hughes heard through her grate.

Excellent shot of various things: the weird front panel on Mrs. Hughes' dress, what a butler's pantry looked like, and Carson's critical eye for silver plate.
We know what it is, though, so we cut to Sybil and Branson arriving at the nursing school, where a group of wounded veterans (in their authentic blue suits) are doing some calisthenics as best they can while missing bits of themselves.

We've seen this suit and hat before. I think it was at the first rally (the one before she was knocked out).

Sybil looks apprehensive but Branson gives her something else to think about when he tells her (in kind of a roundabout way to 2014 ears) that he loves her and when the war is over and everything is different, they should make a go of it together. Sybil puts him off gently but promises not to tell anyone about it, so Branson can keep his job.

May I just say how much I love the device on his chauffeur's cap? I love it! What's it supposed to be?
Thomas (now that he’s out of Downton I suppose I can’t call him “Guy Fawkes’ Assistant anymore) is having an existential crisis in the trenches, not helped when the plucky other stretcher-bearer gets shot while having a smoke. The only thing I have to say about these trench scenes is that the men are basically the same color as the trenches and the mud, which adds to the horror and degradation of it all. So does the contrasting shot in the next scene of the glittering dining table to which all the officers in the North Riding regiment, including, Robert, are headed. No trench rations for them! We’re there just long enough for Robert to say some stupid things about not feeling like a fraud (what?), then—oh, it’s Molesley. Can we go back to Robert and his stupid things? No? FINE. Molesley is at the hospital waiting for Dr. Clarkson so he can lie about his lungs just like Lady V did for him, and keep himself off the draft lists. Not sure if Dr. Clarkson believes him or not, but he does agree not to correct the original dispensation. He also gets in a little guilt trip about Molesley helping the war effort “in other ways,” but Molesley got what he wanted so he barely responds. You’re such a loser, Molesley.

Robert learns that his position as colonel is purely honorary, meant to liven up the table at the regimental dinners and keep up morale at home. The officer who tells him assures him they’re not as "heartless"[ as to send him off to France, but it’s clear that Robert really does want to fight, which is kind of noble. His wife and daughters will be glad he’s safe in England, though.

O’Brien, not Guy Fawkesing it up for once, helps Cora get ready for bed and mentions she’s heard from Thomas. Carson helps Robert get ready for bed and mentions that Bates left to protect the family from his evil wife’s blackmail, although he neatly sidesteps exactly what the blackmail entailed.

NinjAnna finds Ethel crying in their room after O’Brien pranked her again, this time by exploiting her ignorance about how electricity works. Pro tip, Ethel: there’s no such thing as “electric vapors” that have to be scrubbed away from the grates. Poor Carson, having to deal with the fallout from O’Brien’s revenge. Anna seems to know why Ethel’s crying (it was probably the source of much amusement in the servants’ hall this evening) and tells her to just take it down a notch with the grand ambitions, particularly since her own dreams have just been shattered. Ethel’s in her nightgown with her hair down, but Anna’s still in her uniform dress sans apron, a column of black that’s not only representing her seniority over Ethel (and the fact that they’re not very close, like if they were both in their nightgowns hanging out) and her own sadness.

Meanwhile, Mary, in her diaphanous silk nightgown...

is interrupted at apparently uncharacteristic prayer by Edith, in her fussy dressing gown.

After getting rid of her dreadful sister, she goes back to her prayers for Matthew, which seem truly heartfelt (and also reveal she's agnostic. Interesting).

Wonder when she got that. When they were courting, maybe?
And then we see himself walking the trenches, presumably that same night. He stops in for tea with Thomas, who of course is up on all the news from Downton thanks to O’Brien, and quips that his mother would be thrilled to hear he’d sat down for a cuppa with the future Earl of Grantham, instead of pouring it from a silver pot and standing back.

Matthew says the transfer back to the Downton hospital that Thomas wants would be tough to get without a discharge from active service and some string-pulling (and I don’t see the Dowager Countess helping out with this one), so Thomas does the only other thing he can think of: stick his hand (his left hand, so he’s a righty)  holding a lighter over the edge of the trench for a German sniper to shoot. This kind of wound was known as a “Blighty,” as in, a wound that got you back to England, or Blighty, as long as you could prove it wasn’t intentional or self-inflicted (or no one asked). He thanks God for his deliverance through the pain, and that’s a wrap. 

Quite a way to start the season! Lots of plans and plots in motion. See you for Episode 2!