Downton Abbey PBS Season 4 Episode 2 Recap/Review: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

After all that happened in U.S. premiere of Downtown Abbey I didn’t think I’d be thrown into such turmoil so quickly!  I must have forgotten the show is written by Julian Fellows.  While there are a few bright moments, overall this is an upsetting and infuriating episode.  Not a badly written one by any means – just make sure there’s nothing breakable around to throw!

Downton Abbey 4x2 Violet and Isobel

Enthralled by the Music…

 SPOILER ALERT – for episode 4×2 of Downton Abbey!

I know this isn’t Upstairs, Downstairs, but with all that’s occurring it’s a good way to sort out the activities!


Lord Robert Grantham ( Hugh Bonneville) is having a grand weekend party at the Abbey.  Why, I’m still not sure. other than Countess Cora Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) saying to her husband it was good to have young men in the house for the sake of Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery)

Robert:  You do realize she’s a long way from getting over it? Cora:       I don’t think she’ll every get over it.  But she will get past it one day and I want to help her try.

Poor Tom Branson (Allen Leech) feels completely out of his element at these soirees.  He looks the part, but has no idea what to say to most people.  He is somewhat out of his element.  A fact that only The Dowager Countess Violet Crawley  (Maggie Smith) seems willing to acknowledge.  She  remarks to Lord Grantham that Branson’s small talk is “very small,”  but Lord Grantham defends him.  He insists that Tom is one of them – even when Tom goes to him with his concerns. However, in her own way, the Dowager more than just aware – she is sympathetic to Tom’s plight. When the Dowager Countess overhears Tom call  the Duchess  “Your Grace,” she gently takes him aside and corrects him.  “Your Grace” is what a servant would say – or it’s used by officials in formal ceremony.  He should be calling the woman “Duchess.”    It makes no sense to him since he doesn’t call Violet “Countess.”   Well, he’s right about that – Violet does not want him calling her Countess!  It leaves Tom frustrated:

Tom:  There’s no logic in it. Violet:  Oh, no. If I were to search for logic, I should not look for it among the English upper class.

Here’s my question.  I’m not sure if it’s really as complicated as Violet says – or she just doesn’t want Tom calling her “Countess.”   (As an American I have no idea about the protocol here!) In either case, it’s still the funniest line of the night! It’s unfortunate that neither Lord nor Countess seem to take his being out-of-place that seriously.  Lady Cora jokes that when he is stuck with the Duchess “He looked like he was going under for the third time.”  It’s his feeling out-of-place and alone which sets up a situation that can’t lead to anything good.  However, that’s a downstairs matter. Ironically, the person who you’d expect to be having the worst time is not.  Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) is far from being joyous, but she ends up finding a friend in new Lord  Anthony Gillingham (Tom Cullen).  His father has recently died giving him the title.  Mary agrees to go riding with him.  He’s a relatively safe person to be with since he’s close to being engaged to “the heiress of the season.” Mary advises him that a marriage of convenience can in fact turn into one of  real love, wryly noting that if anything, the fact that everyone wanted her Mathew to get together worked against them acknowledging their feelings. He in turn suggests to her that she’s lucky to have known a real love at all.  He also gives her some good advice about dealing with the death duties and her stubborn father. Does this connection hold the seed of a new romance? Take a look: Mary appears to have found an ally in Lord Gillingham. As for him, he may be talking about the heiress of the season, but it does seem like he’s becoming interested in Mary, because hey, there’s just something about Mary….(Yes, that’s intentional, circa 1998) Lord Grantham needs to just stay away from anything involving money!  This time the gullible man invites a man he barely knows from “the club” to his home!  Mr. Sampson (Patrick Kennedy) is a card shark who ends up taking everyone’s money.  Everyone but the beau of Lady Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael)! Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards) gets taken in by him the first night, but realizes he’s cheating – and how he’s doing it. The next night Gregson goes in and wipes Sampson out, demands to be paid in all the I.O.U.’s he’d won from everyone, plus Sampson has to give him an I.O.U. for the rest of it.  Sampson is sulky about Gregson working on behalf of the rich, but there’s nothing he can do.  As the party is winding up for  Grayson gives all the men who lost against Sampson their I.O.U.’s back.  From the way Lord Grantham had been acting he very well could have lost his share of Downton Abbey, so he was very grateful.  Being that Lord Grantham had been avoiding Gregson for all of the party Lady Edith is very happy to see her father seems to now approve of him!  Or maybe that’s just the glow of love?  It really is nice to Edith happy for a change!

Downton Abbey 4x2 Edith's Beau Wins Approval - GandG

After the party is over and Lord Grantham is alone with his wife, he verbalizes a back-handed approval of Edith’s relationship with Grayson.

Robert:  I’m not sure he’s what we’d want for Edith, but it’s a changing world, and, I must admit, he’s a decent cove. Cora:      Heavens! A damascene conversation! What’s brought this about?  Was it something he said? Robert:  It wasn’t that so much, but he did behave in a way that I thought was, really quite gentlemanly.

Hilarious!  These private talks between Robert and Cora are one of my favorite parts of the show’s structure.  Their relationship dynamic is wonderful – and entertaining.  Especially when Robert is going through yet another clash between his old world and the changing world he’s living in. Cora’s gentle teasing helps him to slowly evolve, but sometimes his choices are so bad that gentle isn’t and option.  For instance, the earlier situation he created with world-famous Australian opera singer Nellie Melba (Kiri Te Kanawa) Countess Cora had arranged for the world-famous Australian opera singer to give a performance for their party guests.  Robert is seen grousing to her about the expense, but clearly he’d gone along with it.  The problem occurs when he and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) decide that the singer Nellie Melba should have dinner in her room rather than eat with the nobility. When the guests are all in the drawing-room waiting for her to come down, Mr. Carson explains to Countess Grantham than he and Lord Grantham had thought it more appropriate for the woman to eat in her room. Cora takes her husband aside and let’s him have it!

Cora: Robert? A world-famous singer is in our house, a great artist honored by th e king, but you felt it beneath your dignity to eat with her? Robert: I don’t re- Cora: Am I the only member of this family who lives in the 20th century? (Cora turns to Carson and has asks him what room she’s in and then turns back to Robert) Cora: You will have her next to you at dinner, and you will like it!

I love how Robert turns to Carson and says, “I blame you.” Of course he does. At dinner he discovers just how foolish he was when she proves to be just as sophisticated as the nobility – by being able to identify the wine just by taste. Robert may have complained about the cost, but it was a real treat for many people (and a disaster for others, but we’re not downstairs yet.)  Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) is still dealing with Matthew’s death. Last week even Cora knew she couldn’t completely understand what Isobel is going through.  Mrs. Hughes had suggested that Cora would be best to understand – because of Lady Sybil’s death, but Cora told her that if Lady Sybil had been an only child she thinks she “would have died.” Isobel’s friends and family are concerned, of course. Her good friend, Dr. Richard Clarkson (David Robb) is the first to ask if she’s going to attend the party at Downton.   She replies yes, on the last night to hear the famous opera singer.

Clarkson:  I envy you. But you don’t sound very glad. Isobel:       I don’t want them to spend their days in stidge and gloom, I really don’t.  They say life must go on and it really must. Clarkson:  But it seems disloyal to Matthew.

Isobel: Not disloyal exactly.

Isobel: Not disloyal exactly.

Another example of a picture being worth a thousand words.  Last season, Dr. Clarkson wanted to express a romantic interest in Isobel, but she shut that down.  I hope at some point she’ll allow herself some happiness that way.  The man truly cares about her. The family member who encourages Isobel to go may seem surprising, but really it’s not.   Isobel and Violet are like oil and water, but over the seasons, Violet has shown that beneath her dry and often caustic wit she has a loving heart and a certain respect for the unorthodox Mrs. Crawley.  Ironically, in getting defensive with Violet, Isobel actually reveals more of her feeling – which she needed to do. I’m glad to see how Julian Fellows is handling Isobel’s story.  A parent losing their only child has to be one of the most devastating things that could happen to a person, and although it’s certainly heartbreaking and tragic for Mary, it’s fair to say Isobel has had the hardest blow.(see: Isobel ends up going to Downton to hear the singer, and despite having to face her grief of Matthew’s absence there and singing Mary laugh at something the handsome Lord Gillingham, she does enjoy the concert. It’s another step on the road of moving forward in her life.


While there’s much learning and healing going on upstairs, downstairs is one disaster after another.  Since the show’s opening is a set up for worse of it, we’ll come back to it at the end.   However, generally downstairs is full of hustle and bustle due to all the guests arriving.  

Downton Abbey 4x2 -WM

Mr. Carson thinks: so much change.  Mrs. Hughes thinks: so much work!

The relationship between Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan),  really mimics that of The Lord and Countess of Grantham – even though Mr. Carson and Mrs Hughes aren’t romantically involved  – for now….

Downton Abbey 4x2 Mrs. Hughes gazes at Carson

Someone has a crush….

Mr. Carson lammets the days before the war and wonders why the Lord and Countess still invite Lady Raven to the house since she’s lost her fortune and now lived in “a dingy little house north of the park.”

Downton Abbey Mrs Hughes North of the Park

Yes, Mrs. Hughes, he did really just say that.

Mrs. Hughes , quickly points out that perhaps the Countess isn’t going to turn her back on an old friend because they now live “North of the park.”   Carson takes the admonishment, but tries to make justify his comment by implying he was just feeling sorry for Lady Raven – and not being an antiquated snob! I’d mentioned earlier that Tom Branson is having an awful time with the snob factor upstairs – with some downstairs consequences. Lady’s Maid Edna Braithwaite (MyAnna Buring) only purpose in coming back to Downton is to pursue the man (evidenced by her “I’m not sure if I’ve got time” reaction to Mrs. Hughes asking her to look in on lady Raven.)  Here’s why she didn’t have time! That’s the next time we Edna!  She’s pretending to be Tom’s friend, while subtly shaming him for being out of his class.  She does it a few times – the last time she gives him a potent liquor that gets him very drunk.  After sending him to bed to “sleep it off”  she sneaks into his room –  talk about a conniving witch! The kitchen is through all of the episode is one hot mess – but it has less to do with the guests than the personalities.   First footman Jimmy Kent (Ed Speleers) has decided he likes Ivy after all.  In showing off for her he hurts his wrist so badly he can’t serve.   Mr. Thomas Barrows (Rob James-Collier) feels it beneath him to work as a footman so  Mr. Carson sends for Mr. Mosley (Kevin Doyle), who has been working at all sorts of odd jobs he’s not really suited for – the latest is as the grocery boy for the village store.  Mosley, rather than seeing this as a step in the right direction sees this as the ultimate insult.   Mosley’s always been a bit strange….  I’m worried he’s going to end up throwing himself off a bridge at some point. Meanwhile,  Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) has been running on overdrive since the episode opened. Between her fears of becoming obsolete and sheer work it takes to pull off a weekend party, she’s rushing around and snapping at everyone way more than usual.  The result isn’t good. The good news is Dr. Clarkson is called in and declares she’s not having a heart attack. Here’s his diagnosis:

Clarkson: I think it was brought on by anxiety. A sort of panic over all the things that have to be done.

The term “panic attack” hadn’t been invented yet. She’s even well enough to go hear the opera singer’s performance – which Countess Cora has allowed all of the staff to come and hear. Since he’s already there, Dr. Clarkson gets to stay and listen as well. Now he won’t have to envy Isobel Crawley! I saved the worst for last. It’s a horrible event and the lead-up to it is methodical. At the top of episode we meet Lord Gillian’s valet, Mr. Green (Nigel Harman) He seems charming enough, but he fixates on Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) immediately. Because everything he does seems benign, although a bit flirtatious, Anna thinks nothing of it. Mr. Bates does though, and it causes some friction in their relationship. Bates instinctively dislikes the man, and as the story progresses the feeling is that Mr. Green and Mr. Bates could end up coming to blows at some point. Especially after Bates finds her and some of the other servants shouting and screaming while playing a card game the valet had introduced and organized. That’s the kind of trouble in paradise the audience is expecting, a rift caused by jealousy and disagreement. At the concert Anna and Mr. Bates have basically made up, but Anna has developed a headache (likely from all the antics at the card game.)

Downton Abbey 4x2 Anna Bates and Hughes

She excuses herself to the kitchen to get “something for it.” Mr. Green sees her leave and follows her.  He blocks her path when she tries to leave, talking about having some fun that her crippled husband can’t provide.  Anna is now angry and says her husband makes her “very happy” and demands to be let by.  Instead, Mr. Green tries to kiss her.  Anna resists and struggles to get away, which is when Mr. Green punches her in the face.  The scene goes back and forth between the crowd enjoying the beautiful music upstairs and Mr. Green pulling a screaming, kicking, crying Anna off down the hall into a dark room where he brutally rapes her. (The actual rape is not on-screen, but it’s clear that’s what happened.)  Mr. Bates mentions to Mrs. Hughes he thinks Anna went off to sleep.   Just as the concert is ending, Mr. Green slips back into the concert room as if nothing has occurred – only Mrs. Hughes sees him . This was a shocking scene and emotionally upsetting scene.   Joanne Froggatt’s performance is honest and raw, so even though you’re watching it happen, you feel as if you’re right there, powerless to stop it. It’s Mrs. Hughes who finds Anna huddled in the corner of  her office…

Downton Abbey Anna - aftermath

and knows immediately what has happened.   Mrs. Hughes wants to call the police, and when Anna refuses, Hughes suggests a doctor.  Anna, sobbing hysterically, is clear.  No one must know, especially Mr. Bates.  If he finds out, Anna knows Bates would murder the man – and as a convicted felon he’d be hung.

Downton Abbey 4x2 Anna begs Mrs Hughes not to tell

Anna begs Mrs. Hughes to tell no one.

 Mrs. Hughes can’t really argue that point and reluctantly agrees.  She leaves to get Anna some new clothes.

When Mr. Bates returns to the servants quarters to head back to the cottage he shares with Anna, he runs into her coming out of Mrs. Hughes room. She’s changed and pulled her hair back, but Bates is immediately concerned about the bruises on her face, and notices she’s changed her dress.  Anna tells him she fainted and hit her head against the sink.  At that moment Mr. Green is walking down the other hall to his room and says: “Goodnight Mr. Bates, Mrs. Bates.  And thank you for looking after me while I’ve been here.”  Bates says goodnight at once, but the bastard waits until Anna is forced to say it also.  Mr. Bates goes to take his wife’s arm to walk back home together and Anna jerks back.  She says she just wants to walk home on her own and leaves.  Mr. Bates is hurt and puzzled.

Like I said in the beginning, this was an upsetting and disturbing episode.  I wish I could say it felt unrealistic or contrived but such things have been going on since there’s been recorded history.  In a large house with many people and lots of dark corners and rooms, women servants likely had to deal with the possibility often.

Anna’s desire to keep this from her husband seems unlikely, so I’m expecting some major fallout from this.  Hopefully someone other than Mr. Bates will beat the crap out of Mr. Green.   Even better would be that he is  the one who hangs!

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  1. I know Downton Abbey is an evening soap, but I have enjoyed it up until now. The episode when the author felt she should have a rape scene to prove there are vial people in the world, left me very disappointed in his judgement. And why, if you are going to have a rape taking place would the scene be cut several times to show the lovely aria from an opera that was so beautifully sung. I think the author and director are wrong to make us so uncomfortable and at the same time wanting to hear the aria uncut by brutalism. You went to far Mr. Fellows with your sensationalism. This has left a lasting dislike for your program. Once an author or director has made his audience want to leave the theater, he or she has failed as an artist. You may want to discount my remarks as one who does not understand the theater or the writing of a novel, but I can assure you as an actor, and author, I do.

    • Joy D'Angelo says:

      Hi Stuart, thanks for commenting. While I did find the rape scene disturbing, it also seemed like something that would have been a hazard of being a member of staff – Downton Abbey is a very cleansed version of that period of time.

      In film and television the intercutting of something beautiful occurring at the same time as something horrid is used to highlight the just how heinous that act is as well as showing two sides of a singular person, place or thing. One of more famous cinematic examples of this are the baptism murders in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” (It’s also an extremely violent and graphic scene – viewer discretion is advised: ).

      In the case of the Downton Abbey rape scene, the beauty of the aria upstairs and the peacefulness of those upstairs hides the brutality occurring below. Both are aspects of the time period Downton Abbey represents. I didn’t expect Downton Abbey to go where it did, but I can’t fault how it was done or the historical appropriateness of what occurred.

  2. This series is so so British upper class that nothing they say or do will come as a surprise. The writer Mr.Fellows really knows his stuff. The cast is superb, as is the crew,getting every little detail right.
    There has been several series like this in the past,and I know that they had a big audience,as indeed Downton Abby has.
    It will be exiting to follow the story further on.

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