Downton Abbey Recap: No Money, Mo Problems

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By Dickens, it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times in the third season premiere of Downton Abbey! Though Matthew and Mary finally become husband and wife, Robert learns that he’s lost so much of Cora’s money that the family may be forced to — gasp! — downsize!

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BRIDE AND GLOOM | Much ado is made of the arrival of wedding guests expected — Cora’s mother, Mrs. Levinson (Shirley MacLaine) — and unexpected — Sybil and Tom. As you’d expect, Violet and Miss America… er, Mrs. Levinson clash. But, when the Dowager Countess learns from Lady Mary that Robert’s blown Cora’s inheritance — and they could lose Downton as a result! — she’s forced to kiss up to her new nemesis in hopes of procuring a bailout. (She even puts up with Mrs. Levinson’s indoor picnic and performance of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”!) Meanwhile, Tom endears himself to no one by talking about nothing but Irish politics until Matthew reaches out to him — going so far as making him his best man — and it’s revealed that Violet, of all people, is the mystery benefactor who paid his and Sybil’s way to the nuptials.

NEXT STOP: MELROSE PLACE? | Though Cora takes her family’s reversal of fortune in stride, Robert is horrified by the prospect of going down in history as “the earl who dropped the torch” and doomed Downton. Lady Mary thinks she may have a solution to their financial problems when Matthew finds out that, through a Byzantine series of events, he’s been left approximately jillions by the father of his late fiancée, Lavinia. The only problem? Being the stand-up chap that he is, he won’t accept the money — not even to preserve the Crawley legacy!

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THE BEST OF FRENEMIES | After Mrs. O’Brien connives to get her nephew, Alfred, hired as a footman, Thomas earns his “pal’s” wrath by sabotaging her attempt to get the lad promoted to the position of Matthew’s valet (and gets Molesley the gig instead). Caught in the middle, the newby is “comforted” by Mrs. Levinson’s maid, Reed — a fact that doesn’t go unnoticed by Daisy.

THIS ’N’ THAT | Anna goes all Murder, She Wrote in hopes of getting Bates sprung from prison. Mrs. Hughes keeps Carson in the dark about the possibility that she may have cancer. Ethel shows up at Isobel’s new home for fallen women. Thomas suggests that Daisy quit (since she’s gotten the title of Mrs. Patmore’s assistant but not the perks). And, in spite of Robert and Violet’s best efforts to bust them up, Lady Edith and Sir Anthony (secretly) get engaged.

Okay, your turn. What did you think of the season premiere? Did you like MacLaine’s turn as Auntie Mame… er, Mrs. Levinson? Was Lady Mary out of line, pressuring Matthew to use his ex’s money to save Downton? Who are you rooting for in the O’Brien/Thomas war? Sound off below.

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47 Comments
  1. Alichat says:

    Oh poor Edith……when will anyone treat her like she’s an intelligent human being??? It’s one of the few things I hate about this show.

    • Tony says:

      At what point has she shown herself to be intelligent?

      • Alichat says:

        She does it quite often actually, and yet pretty much every time she speaks, they look at her like she has lobsters coming out of her ears. And they comment on her looks like she’s some hideously deformed creature. It’s absurd. She deserves more kindness and respect than they show her.

        • Tenney says:

          I agree with you about Lady Edith. She is one my favorites on the show and they treat her so bad. I don’t understand the big deal regarding the age difference between her and Sir Anthony. He seems nice and kind and would treat Lady Edith well, plus he is wealthy and may be able to help save Downton. Lady Mary was engaged to Sir Richard who was considerable older than her (at least he looked it) and no one made a big deal over it, instead they were almost encouraging it despite the fact that Sir Richard was a tool. I was wishing he would print her indiscretion with Mr. Pamuk just to knock her off her high horse just a little bit.

          • The Beach says:

            I was under the impression that it was not an uncommon thing at all during those times to marry one of the young daughters off to an older, wealthier man.

        • Snsetblaze says:

          Your image of lobsters coming out of her ears is now in my mind’s eye.

          • madMaddy says:

            Visualizing your mind’s eye…now with lobsters coming out of its ears. Visualizing the lobster’s eyes…each one containing an image of Shirley MacLaine.

        • Plum says:

          May I remind you that Lady Edith sabotaged her own sister by scribbling a tell all to the Turkish Embassy, was rolling around in the hay with a married farmer and tried to run off with a con man burn victim she foolishly believed was her cousin. Lady Edith has been a rip roaring beeyotch for most of the seasons one and two. Smart she aint.

          • Alichat says:

            No, you don’t need to remind me because that’s the one thing everyone throws up as the reason Edith should be treated like a nobody. Many seem to forget that she wrote that letter 8 years ago. And I think if she had not been treated as a nobody, and hadn’t grown up seeing Mary, with all of her cruel, selfish, and arrogant ways, being put on a pedestal, she probably would have never written that letter. And let’s not forget that Edith was the one who was truly in love with Patrick, the original heir. Then she had to sit by as her family dismissed her feelings, and was forced to watch them push Mary to become engaged to him. Then had to sit around and listen to Mary say derogatory things about Patrick because she didn’t like him at all. So, her trying “to run off with a con man burn victim” (although I don’t remember her trying to run off with him, just that she believed him) wasn’t far fetched or ignorant because she loved Patrick, and truly felt it was him. Plus, it was never fully resolved that he was a con man and not Patrick. All we know is there was really no way to confirm or deny the man’s story, and he willingly left. And as for the roll in the hay with the married farmer, it was a kiss. And Edith was helping that farmer because she was the first of anyone in that house to learn how to drive. She wanted to be of use, to have a purpose. And I still maintain, if she had not been treated as a nobody growing up, or as the ugly child who will be a spinster, she probably would have spurned that kiss from the married farmer. And speaking of being a spinster, Edith would probably be married now if Mary had not gotten her revenge by lying to Strallen saying Edith wasn’t really interested in him. It’s interesting that everything Mary has done is so easily forgiven. Also, Mary is two years older than Edith, and was never called old or believed that she would be a spinster, yet was unmarried until the age of 27 or 28. Mary was engaged to Carlisle, who was clearly older than her, untitled, and a complete douche, but no one tried to forcibly end that relationship. Edith is in love with an older gentleman, titled, and apparently of some import in government, and they forcibly end the relationship. He’s not the perfect choice for Edith, but he is someone she cares for. It’s just aggravating and tiring to see Mary, and Sybill for that matter, treated with respect, and she’s just “silly old Edith who will be a spinster.”

          • Templar says:

            Fair enough, but Edith is just one of those characters who is off putting as is Matthew’s mother Isobel. So needy of recognition and approval. And the middle child card is so overplayed. Sybil found her direction and followed it. Edith just can’t get past feeling sorry for herself.

    • shanghaiedinlalaland says:

      By the end of the season, Edith’s storyline will have the most potential for happiness of all the Crawley sisters. Not the kind of happiness you probably want for her, but more than the others. Downton is undergoing a paradigm shift. That’s all I’ll say for now.

  2. Leslie says:

    Is PBS going to combine eps 3 & 4 next week? Since there’s no commercials?

    I liked the first ep better than the second mostly because the second one lacked any of Tom and Sybil! It’s boring without them.

    • shanghaiedinlalaland says:

      You won’t like this season.

    • Yeah, I missed Tom and Sybil – they’re my favorites. They were written out for that second episode with little fanfare. And, I don’t understand the blogger saying Tom talked about nothing but Irish politics – he was goaded into it the first time, and the second time the poor man was roofied and THEN goaded in to it.

      • Laura says:

        But the fact remains the majority of his scenes were him talking about Irish politics. Doesn’t matter the reason. “The blogger” is correct.

    • JJ says:

      Really? I find Tom and Sybil to be boring. All their scenes are very one note and there is absolutly no spark between them.

  3. Corie says:

    How dare he not take the money?? You messed up! You will look bad either way take the money and make things right!

  4. uh huh says:

    Shirley MacLaine added nothing. Back to America with you! And I, too, miss Tom and Sybil. I especially enjoyed the budding alliance between Tom and Matthew. Hope something happens to bring them back permanently.

    • Stormy says:

      I agree about Shirley not bringing much to the party. She over acted, hung her head as though she’d been drinking on the set and looks awful. Very disappointing. I’m glad Edith is finally getting married, if only to get her to shut up and stop being so needy. Why is Daisy so concerned about Alfred? Does she want him?

  5. lacy says:

    What about bates? Does anyone else feel like there is definitely more to him than meets the eye. Matthew take the money and save the future. I just want little Edith happy!

  6. Tony says:

    I gave this one a ‘B.’ They’ve built to Matthew and Mary’s wedding for the better part of two seasons, and we only get a moment from it? I would’ve gladly traded the coat and shirt drama or Isobel’s new hobby for a bit more of the pomp and ceremony. It’s not every show that can feature a 1920s English manor wedding.

  7. Leah says:

    I loved all the exchanges between Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine. I don’t know who I agree with more, Mathew or Mary. They both have valid points… But more than anything, I’m just so freaking glad Downton is back!!!

  8. Tania says:

    Edith is the Jan Brady of this bunch. I was surprised they didn’t show more of the wedding frippery, or at least the pile of gifts and more Daisy Buchanan fabulous outfits. Predict that Edith’s beau helps with their money problems and then does she get to be the lady of the manor? Hope Ethel comes back and we need some Isis in the next ep. Thankee

  9. carol ann brown says:

    so glad it’s back. even glad to see Lady Edith with Sir Anthony age difference or not. my 5 year old grand daughter watches it with me.She was driving me nuts to find out when Wagner’s Ring Cycle would be on again. Something about broadening her horizons. took her to see Cirque du solel 3D today “I wonder if I can do that someday” Nicklelodin to PBS pretty cool makes me laugh. her mom asks me what is she talking about? no british accent yet. could be worse.

  10. shanghaiedinlalaland says:

    I think Season 3 will be the beginning of the end of America’s love affair with the show. My own thoughts are found at shanghaiedinla[dot]livejournal[dot]com. Warning: it contains explicit Season 3 spoilers.

    To all, who like me and many others, adored the show in its (perfect) first and (imperfect) second seasons: Season 3 is heavy, clunky and bleak — totally out of character with the narrative, structure, tone and ethos of the show. By the end of the season, we’re left with a series in existential crisis in terms of where Fellowes will go from here and why we should bother tuning in for more. After watching the first episode tonight — which I assure you will be the best episode of the entire season — you may not believe me. But you will. In the span of a few short winter weeks, you’ll be left with a very bitter taste in your mouth. And if you read and remember this comment, you’ll thank me for warning you ahead of time.

    I just don’t think American fans (well all fans, but especially Americans) have signed up for what Downton is giving them this season. Downton was an oasis in a TV landscape filled with dark, tragic and/or cynical universes — and many of them are excellent viewing. But Downton was our escape from that. No more.

    • Patty Fraser says:

      unfortunately you are right in all that you said.

    • nyguy says:

      I’m open to whatever they want to do. We’ve had lots of whipped cream but I don’t mind the show going a few shades darker for some plots, liked the darker moments of season 2.

      • shanghaiedinlalaland says:

        But the “darker” moments of S2 are nothing like what you’re in for now. Again, you haven’t seen it; I have. The last episode of the season was the episode that went out on CHRISTMAS NIGHT in the UK. Still find THAT baffling. And unfortunately, that’s not the only episode that makes this season bleak. Be prepared …

    • ruggles says:

      I agree that season 3 has lost it’s sparkle. No interest or tension between Mary and Matthew. They bore me. In fact they all bore me. No sustained thread of intrigue or interest. They’re coasting on last years coat tails.

  11. Diane says:

    I was kind of disappointed. 2 seasons worth of Mary trying to hide her scandal and it’s not even referenced (did the ex fiance publish the Turk story? Bates in jail story? Was he an honorable man?) Robert’s trying to avoid acknowledging Tom’s existence and in the mean time there are too more juicy scandals they just forgot about. Then how did Lavina’s dad have kajillions of dollars NOW when Lavina was blackmailed by Sir Richard into the Marconi scandal because he was in ‘significant’ debt to Sir Richard only a few years ago?

    I kind of feel like the writers just ignored key events of the last couple of years to set up a fairly ridiculous situation–Downton Abbey at risk of financial ruin JUST AS Matthew inherits a huge fortune from his dead fiance

    • Shaun says:

      Her scandal was dealt with,the guy took the info from Vera then didn’t publish it I think.

      • dlraetz says:

        Right–but Sir Richard (the ex fiancee) said he was going to publish the story now that he’s no longer engaged to her

    • Alichat says:

      I wondered about that too. The Swire forture made no sense to me either. As you said, how was Lavinia’s father highly in debt to Sir Richard in season 2, yet has oodles of money now? It’s made for an interesting debate between Mary and Matthew though, as both have legitimate points (although Mary doesn’t sell hers as well as Matthew does.) But still, terrible continuity.

  12. susela says:

    Doesn’t look as if this series will ever regain its first-season glory. Matthew turning down the inheritance is completely absurd. No wonder Dan Stevens didn’t want to play this priggish, idiotic character any longer!

    • JJ says:

      My thoughts exactly. At one point during the show he had to say a line of dialogue that was so absurd I remember thinking to myself “no wonder this guy wants to leave.”

  13. Jessi says:

    I enjoyed this episode. Serious question though, does anyone take Bates seriously? Any time he is on I just laugh. I know he is suppose to be a tough and brooding kind of gentleman, but I just can’t! The acting between he and Anna (whom I love) is sooooo overly dramatic and laughable.

  14. Briana says:

    The second they showed Edith and Sir Anthony getting engaged I thought to myself “well, he’s dead.” I hope it isn’t so but the way this show has treated Edith I just don’t see her being happy. I’m waiting for something to happen…

    • shanghaiedinlalaland says:

      Something unhappy does happen to Edith in next week’s episode. But compared to what lies in store for her sisters later in the season, she’s lucky.

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