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Monday, January 30, 2012

Downton Abbey Recap: Season 2, Episode 4

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 8:30 AM


Welcome back to Downton Abbey, a house now touched by tragedy. In this episode we lost one and a half men, were blown away by the Dowager Countess' formidableness, and met Ethel's obese baby. Did anyone do a cry count? These ladies and gentlemen did some serious weeping this week. Don't be sad, it's just your husband/reputation/use of your legs!


Lord Grantham reports on a wounded Matthew to the staff and they're like, "Uh yeah, we don't really care about him, what about William?" Get with it, Lord G. He benevolently (?) approves of hiring Jane the widowed mother housemaid, and immediately afterward gets into a snit about Lady Grantham's lack of attention to his needs, because it's not Downton Abbey without Lord Grantham pouting about a personal slight.

Lady Grantham is too busy with running Downton Civilian and Downton Army to be bothered with the hiring of maids and the visiting of friends, nor does she give one fuck about how Lord Grantham feels about it. Hope she gives an amazing beej because she's one terrible wife!

Lady Mary is totally psychic, you guys: when Matthew is wounded, she feels suddenly "cold." She's forced to confess her affair with the Turkish gentleman to Sir Richard Carlisle, to prevent Evil Mrs. Bates from exposing it to king and country. Back at Downton, she's all, "I will watch over Matthew every second of every day," and then Lord Grantham is like, "Your mom wrote Lavinia," and Mary's like, "Great, I was just about to do that." Sure, Mary. Ends the episode holding a basin for Matthew to vomit into while she tells him not to break his engagement with Miss Swire over a little thing like being physically nonfunctional from the waist down.

Lady Edith nurses William through his final days. The more Edith works and the less she meddles, the less shame she brings to the family. Keep up the good work, girl.

Lady Sybil reveals that her hospital work has included washing unconscious soldiers! Bloody naked men high on morphine! No wonder she's ready to chuck it all to live with an Irish socialist; nothing can shock her now.

The Dowager Countess kicks stodgy white English dude ass up and down this episode. In the greatest scene this season (thus far!), she takes on the "instrument of torture" we know as the telephone to ensure William can convalesce at Downton. Convinces the creepy old vicar to allow poor William his dying wish, marrying Daisy, because the DC is a flawless human being. The richer and more grandiose you are, the better person you become! A lesson to us all.

Shrimpy? Is that you, Shrimpy?
  • Shrimpy? Is that you, Shrimpy?

Cousin Matthew leads soldiers up over the trenches at Amiens, where they were still using bayonets. He is rewarded with a transected spine, a useless wang, and a dead batman. Has a very Anna/Bates scene with Lavinia, in which Matthew's like, "Leave! I'm not to be loved! I'm too complicated and have messed-up legs!" and Lavinia's like, "I don't care if you don't have a wang! I want to die a virgin!"

Cousin Isobel spends nearly the entire episode MIA. She is missed exclusively by Matthew. Returns at the end to cry over her son's useless lower body.

Miss Lavinia Swire is a brave, sad, naive little toaster about Matthew and his spine damage. Insists she doesn't mind marrying a man she can never have penis-vagina sex with, because love. Oh, honey.

Oh, sex. Right.
  • Oh, sex. Right.

Sir Richard Carlisle spends his time in the episode sneering. We get it, show, we all hate him because he is the worst. He is Snidely Whiplash in a nice suit. Not even saving Mary's good name from the scandal sheet endears him to us. Surprises the world by announcing his and Mary's engagement in the papers without getting anyone's permission first. Marriage rape?


Bates can't escape his wicked wife. Evil Mrs. Bates continues to be the Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes of the cast: If she can't have her Batsey, she's gonna burn the whole damn house to the ground. The worst, the two of them.

O'Brien has written a letter to the Evil Mrs. Bates that draws her back to Downton to make trouble, but feels guilty about it. Needles Thomas about the very second time in his life he's every shown sympathy, when he says he feels bad that William is barred from the Downton hospital for not being an officer. It's like the two of them exist just to cow the other when they try to act human. Nasty old spinsters and nasty little gays, am I right?

Mrs. Hughes rides an adorable red bus to bring food to poor old Ethel and her big fat bastard baby. Tries to reunite Ethel with Major Mustache, but to no avail. He's a dick!

Carson frets over hiring a housemaid who has a son and a dead husband. It's not customary!

Anna and Bates pray instead of doing it, which pretty much sums up their relationship. Pulling a classic O'Brien, Anna convinces Lady Mary to get Sir Richard to buy Evil Mrs. Bates' tale of scandal and get her off everyone's back. You're clever, Anna, why are you still stuck on that jowly Eeyore? His wife is a straight psycho, and apparently 1918 divorce laws were designed to make divorce practically impossible; you'll never get him! Hope never put a ring on a housemaid's finger.

Branson furrows his butt-chin a lot and bullies Sybil into loving him. Invoking the assassination of the Romanov family and Sylvia Pankhurst in the same conversation as "reasons Sybil should elope with me" isn't the least bit romantic. We're not convinced, B.

Daisy has also become psychic? Simple minds have the most room for miracles! She cannot deal with having allowed poor dying William to believe she loves him, and so spends the entire episode insufferably dithering about lying to a dying man. At least she sucks it up enough to marry poor William before he dies, though the look on her face says she's attending her own funeral. Mrs. Patmore basically sticks her hand up Daisy's ass and does a ventriloquist act for the wedding.

Daisy's big day!
  • Daisy's big day!

Mrs. Patmore really ought to literally smack some sense into Daisy. Just take an encyclopedia and whack her until she stops whining.

William protects Matthew from an explosion and ends up spending most of the episode wheezing into death. it's all fine and good being a batman when you're running around playing hide-and-seek in the woods with Germans, but when you actually have to protect that person from bodily harm, you end up sustaining fatal injuries like a sucker. Has the cutest, saddest old dad in the world.

Ethel cannot catch a break. Jane, her replacement, seems like a well-meaning bumbler. Don't make eye contact with Lord Grantham on your first day!

Catch up with our recaps of earlier episodes (one, two, three). What did you all think of this week's episode? The season so far?

Notable Quotes

"The main thing is, he's not dead. Not yet, anyway." -- The ever-optimistic Lord Grantham.

"Dr. Clarkson, I am no Jacobin revolutionary, nor do I seek to overthrow the civilized world. We just need one bed for a young man from this village." -- The Dowager Countess, insisting on her way, like a boss.

"It always happens. When you give these little people power it goes to their heads like strong drink." -- The DC, frustrated.

"Don't worry, the old lady'll sort something out now she's got the bit between her teeth." -- Mrs. Patmore, on her faith in the power of the DC.

"I say, is this an instrument of communication or torture?" -- The DC attempts the telephone.

Sir Richard, giving us chills: "As my future wife, you're entitled to be in my debt."

Cousin Matthew: "We can never be properly married."

Miss Swire: "What? Of course we can be married."

Cousin Matthew: "Not ... properly."

Miss Swire: "Oh. I ... see."

And that's how we talked about sex to our future spouses in 1918.

"Sometimes a higher sacrifice must be made for a future that's worth having. That's all I'm saying." Branson parlays the assassination of teenagers into sexy talk.

the DC, a Flawless Human Being, to a vicar who bears an uncanny resemblance to Palpatine: "Mr. Travis, can I remind you, William Mason has served our family well. At the last he saved the life, if not the health, of my son's heir. Now, he wishes, before he died, to marry his sweetheart. You cannot imagine that we would allow you to prevent this happening, in case his widow claimed her dole? I have had an interest in this boy. I tried, and failed, to save him from conscription, but I will certainly attend his wedding. Is that an argument in its favor? Finally, I would point out your living is in Lord Grantham's gift. Your house is on Lord Grantham's land. And the very flowers in your church are from Lord Grantham's garden. I hope it's not vulgar in me to suggest that you find some way to overcome your scruples."

"I was just thinking it seems such a short time ago since I turned you down, and now look at me: an impotent cripple stinking of sick. What a reversal! You have to admit it's quite funny." -- Cousin Matthew, who understands irony about as well as Alanis Morissette, after vomiting into the basin in Mary's arms.

Laura Beck and Meave Gallagher are ladies and writers living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow Laura on Twitter at mrpenguino, follow @ExhibitionistSF on Twitter and like The Exhibitionist on Facebook.

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