Downton Abbey: In Which Edith Needs Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Jan 14, 2013

Downton Abbey S03E03: "Episode 3" (or S03E02/"Episode 2," according to PBS)

“Something happening in this house is actually about me!”

...and with those words, Lady Edith dared to stick her tongue out at the fate that seems doggedly determined to make her life as sad and unfortunate as possible. Honestly, I’m surprised it was only the veil that got thrown over the balcony when Sir Anthony changed his mind at the freaking altar. (Procrastinate much?) It’s okay, I’m sure the dress can be returned. Then again, maybe not. That looked like a custom job. I mean, a cape? Really?

Evocations of Elvis-in-Las-Vegas aside, it was a lovely dress and Edith was a lovely bride for all of thirty seconds before sassy Grandma Dowager being sassy at a time when it would have probably been more appropriate to STFU, Daddy Robert backing down from chasing Strallan away with a shotgun but still making clear that he wasn’t thrilled with the arrangement, and Strallan’s own guilt trip over being substantially older than his bride all conspired to send Edith right back to the kitchen where she belongs. Except that reference doesn’t even work because the Crawleys have servants for that. You see what I mean about Edith desperately needing something to do? Maybe she can start selling T-shirts? “Spinsters get up for breakfast” totally works as a sort of sardonic rallying cry. Give the girl an Etsy shop and let's see where her cynical humor takes her!

Or not, since it’s 1920 and none of that has been invented yet. Wow, the '20s sucked.

So Edith didn't get married after all, but she only wallowed in her misery for about twelve hours or so before getting out of bed. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Downstairs, while noshing on the goodies left over from Edith’s not-a-wedding, the prank warfare between O’Brien and Thomas continued. Remember when those two used to be conniving besties? I miss those days. However, they both make formidable enemies to one another, which elevates their shenanigans into something more hostile than mere mischief. Daisy warned Alfred the New Guy not to get on O’Brien’s bad side, and I have to agree. Between the two of them, I’d much rather piss off Thomas. Everything that Thomas does is meant to somehow benefit Thomas. He’s territorial and he likes to be held in the highest esteem; so many of his antics are meant to make himself look good, often at the cost of someone else, but not always. O’Brien, though—she can hold a grudge and she often takes things very personally. She’s also prone to overreacting (does the Soap Incident of 1914 ring a bell?) and not quite skilled at knowing when to knock it off. The woman is terrifying, and I would never want to be on her bad side.

Thomas was the instigator this week, though. He started the worst game of telephone ever with Moseley, hinting that O’Brien was planning to leave, and counting on the news to reach Cora and Robert before O’Brien could begin damage control. It did, and Cora put on the most dignified of pouts because she thought they were buddies and it hurt her wittle feels that O’Brien would consider leaving Downton without giving her notice. It was sweet, I guess, if a little eyebrow-raising. There was a lot of sugary sweet Cora rubbing elbows with the staff this week. Carson fumbled his way through keeping Mrs. Hughes’ health on the DL while still blabbing about it every chance he got. Eventually, Cora was brought into the Cancer Scare of the Week Club, and she pulled Mrs. Hughes aside to tell her that whatever the news was, Mrs. Hughes wouldn’t have to worry, the family would take care of her. I thought that was an incredibly generous gesture from someone who was working through her own set of crises and really, at the end of the day, isn’t obligated to be much more than a paycheck provider. Why you so nice, Cora? Why you so nice and Mary such a brat?

To quote Mrs. Patmore, Mrs. Hughes’ cancer scare was just a scare and her lump was only “a benign something or other.” Finally, some good news for these people!

There was more to follow, though. See, Mary couldn’t leave well enough alone and the picnic to the smaller, but still totally swank, Downton Place only motivated her to ramp up her snarking at Matthew every ten seconds in an attempt to sniff out any possible way to get ALL THE MONEY. A letter from Reggie Swire came attached to his pile of money but emo Matthew didn’t want to read it because he didn’t want to hear about what a good person the Swires thought he was. At this point, I honestly can’t tell who was the bigger drama queen between the two of them, but I’m leaning toward Matthew because holy self-loathing, Batman.

Mary went ahead and read the letter because she wasn’t told “no” enough as a child and Matthew was being a dumbass anyway. It turns out that Reggie knew all about Matthew breaking Lavinia’s heart on her deathbed, but Lavinia wrote that she really respected Matthew for having no self respect and by extension, so did Reggie, so he was going to give the money to Matthew regardless. Okay. These people have the most amazing luck ever. Except Edith. Sorry, Edith. (Maybe she was adopted?)

Matthew, in turn, accused Mary of forging the letter. This is what true love looks like.

But, in the end, Daisy came forward and revealed that she had posted a letter from Lavinia on the day she died, clearing Mary’s guilt and Matthew’s conscience and the Crawleys got to keep Downton. Then the Earl made Matthew a partial owner of the estate. I’m sure this decision will lead to no drama, tantrums, or awkward family dinners whatsoever. I can’t wait!


– Awkward family dinner count: Just one, and it wasn’t even the fun kind of awkward family dinner, it was just kind of sad because I suspect everyone was expecting Edith to fling herself off the balcony at any moment.

– Dowager Countess Sass of the Night: “Don’t stop him from doing the only sensible thing he’s come up with in months!” Ahh, the sound of when tough love and thinly veiled contempt collide.

– Shameless leering at the wardrobe: I liked the embroidery on Cora’s wedding frock. Sybil and Mary’s par-tay clothes reminded me too much of the awful Easter dresses my mom made me wear to church when I was kid, complete with frumpy hats. Gross.

– Friends in Low Places: The servants got to eat like nobility when all of the fancy-pants food for Edith’s wedding ended up going unused. Faced with canapes and lobster, Alfred asked for cheese. CHEESE. Mrs. Patmore’s “Are you kidding me?” face was priceless.

– More Ethel blah blah yawn. Isobel tracked down her address because Downton Abbey is determined to make us give a crap about Ethel-the-Reluctant-Hooker. It’s not working.

– The Adventures of Detective Anna, Super Sleuth: Anna visited the dead Mrs. Bate’s pal, Mrs. Bartlett, who didn’t take kindly to being interrogated by no trollop from Downton, but ended up being helpful anyway, revealing that Vera Bates baked pastries the night she died, posted a letter, and scrubbed her hands raw (that’s not suspicious or anything). Meanwhile, Bates’ roommate continues to suck, and appears to be conspiring with the guards to screw Bates over. Lovely. #FREEBATES

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  • joy9585 Jan 21, 2013

    Is Mrs. Hughes's thing really only "benign"? It sounded like she and Mrs. Pat ore wanted Carson to think that so he'd stop worrying about her...that look she gave at the end made me think that something really is wrong.

  • joy9585 Jan 21, 2013

    Sorry- autocorrect! Mrs. Patmore, not Pat ore...

  • IndianaMom Jan 17, 2013

    Finally got around to watching on Tuesday night. I have to find a time when my husband isn't around. :) Love your article. I agree completely. Is it just me or did Matthew's eyes look bluer than ever? I was happy with the shared Downton conclusion. Matthew is going to inherit anyway, right?

  • joy9585 Jan 21, 2013

    Met him once on Broadway and he has the bluest eyes I have ever seen! I think he is going to inherit.

  • gpgurl50 Jan 15, 2013

    I like your thoughts about the episode. To be fair Matthew said he thought someone forged the letter for the family or to convince him. Who knows how honest that was. It still is kind of a weird thing to say. Dude has a lot of issues.

  • radiumgirl Jan 16, 2013

    "Dude has a lot of issues."

    Lol, Matthew Crawley in a nutshell.

  • angeleys151 Jan 14, 2013

    I'm glad that even though I watched this online before hand, that I watched what aired because there are bits in the PBS version that weren't in the online version, not big bits, just little "Directors cut" bits.

    I definitely got choked up when Cora offered Mrs. Hughes a place to be sick in. But I thought it was a little hypocritical for her to get upset that O'Brien "was leaving" when many of the servants were getting sacked anyway and I'm sure plenty of them would be happy for the promotion to Lady's Maid.

    Mary and Mathew bickering like little children most of the episode got old quick. But that's Mary's personality, and we've known that from the start, I was just surprised to see it from Mathew.

    As sorry as I am for Edith (in that day and age, being left at the alter is the worst thing that can happen to a girl...other than becoming a hooker) I'm glad the Stralin storyline is over, he was such an awful character.

    *SPOILER* I know the Ethel story line is starting off tired and boring, but I think it goes in an interesting direction.

  • gpgurl50 Jan 15, 2013

    That's the thing that bothered me about Cora. I know it's sad to see a good servant go. Still, she was acting so wounded when (if it were true) it meant that O'Brien would have a place to go and they would have to fire one less person when they moved. Of course, they did not have to move anyway but still.

  • angeleys151 Jan 14, 2013

    Oh and this is episode 2, the reason episode 1 is so long is because British shows are typically longer than the 42 minutes allotted for American TV and they probably didn't want to cut the premier down, but I understand it ran for 90 minutes or so in the UK. If this was on any other carrier than PBS episode 1 probably would have been chopped right down (look at Doctor Who and Merlin)

  • noelrk Jan 14, 2013

    Julian Fellowes must really hate Edith. (I'm sure it's not true, but it really seems that way.)

    I'm sort of over Thomas and O'Brien scheming and counter-scheming all the time. I know it's what they do, but it feels like all they do, and it's a tad stale.

    Meanwhile, I was sort of looking forward to a Downton Place spin-off! Ah well.

  • radiumgirl Jan 14, 2013

    I was so torn on Downton Place. On one hand, it would change the show SO MUCH, especially considering they'd have to let some of the help go. On the other hand, how many times can this family conceivably lose their fortune and then oh-so-conveniently land in a pile of money before I stop caring?

    I loved Branson's "You know this looks like a fairy castle to pretty much everyone else ever" when Mary was whining about moving.

  • noelrk Jan 14, 2013

    I think that's the big thing for me. While the inheritance was been dancing about since the season's start (hurrah for that!), it still reminds me of the bandaged soldier from last season that could've upended everything and then he just ran off.

    The series may be about the decline of the aristocracy, but it feels like that decline keeps getting delayed in all-too-easy ways.

  • writertwin Jan 14, 2013

    Nice review! Love this show!

  • radiumgirl Jan 14, 2013

    Thanks! I love this show too!