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House Party Tragedy: Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 2 Recap

January 13, 2014

It was, shall we say, a positive episode upstairs and decidely not downstairs. Let’s take a deep breath and recap Episode 2 with KCTS 9's Downton Abbey blogger Amie Simon.

I don’t know how you feel Downton fans, by my heart is absolutely in pieces after episode two—which started out almost cheerful and then disintegrated into tragedy for poor Anna Bates.

There’s a large party of people arriving at Downton complete with an Australian Opera Singer for dinner and entertainment! Among the arriving guests are handsome Lord Gillingham and his valet, Mr. Green, who immediately strikes up a flirtation with Anna. Why do I think Bates isn’t going to like this?

While Gillingham and Mary are reminiscing over childhood fun times, Edith sneaks Gregson in, already scheming about how he and her papa can become BFFs, and poor Branson gets stuck talking to the Duchess of Yeovil. Cue the Dowager’s first snark of the episode: “I’m afraid Tom’s small talk is very small indeed.” True, Violet. So true.

Down in the kitchen, Mrs. Patmore is whipping herself into a frenzy (even without the help of the evil mixer), and both Ivy and Daisy are convinced she’s going to have a heart attack. Foreshadowing! Kind of. Later, Patmore does have an anxiety attack mid-dinner prep, and Alfred fills in to make the sauces and help the girls out while she recovers. The guests practically lick their plates because he’s such a good chef. Bravo, Alfred!

And sneaky Edna Braithwaite is at it again! Pursuing Branson with no shame whatsoever. First she tries the whole, “I hope we can still be friends!” ploy, then ups the ante by approaching him with a whiskey after he’s flustered about not being able to fit in with the party guests and about not knowing all the rules, re: titles. Auuuugh! Why can’t Tom see through her completely obvious ladder-climbing strategy?

During one of the lighter moments in the episode, Jimmy and his coif try to impress Ivy by opening a sticky jar of cherries once Alfred can’t—which results in total disaster: he slips, spraining his wrist and dropping the cherry jar on the floor and making a huge mess. I love that the state of his hair is always in tandem with his mood! It ends up looking all floppy and embarrassed about his failure. Carson has to bring Molesley in for dinner service, since “James” can no longer serve. Lucky Molesley, second footman.

Lady Mary and Lord Gillingham appear to be growing closer, but it’s clear that though he’s falling for her, she’s not quite ready to give her heart to someone else. Especially since silly Rose hauls Matthew’s gramophone down from the attic to play records and sends Mary running from the dance floor near tears. Nice job, Rose! Way to ruin the mood.

The Dowager confronts Isobel about her grief, again, and begs her to come to the second night of the dinner party. Wait, what? Violet seems to be really into hanging out with Mrs. Crawley this season, doesn’t she? She must need someone to trade barbs with in order to have fun. But poor Isobel, just when she’s starting to enjoy herself, she notices Mary laughing with Gillingham and gets upset again. Bummer. (“It’s the first time I’ve heard her laugh since Matthew died,” says Tom. “Mm,” says Isobel

Of course Lord Grantham manages to get himself in trouble again, first by agreeing with Carson that the “entertainer” shouldn’t mix with the upper crust at dinner, and a second time by losing a bunch of money while playing poker with smarmy Terrance Sampson. Oh, Robert! Have you learned nothing? Do not gamble. Ever. Just stop. Luckily, Gregson realizes Sampson has been cheating all along, and saves the day by winning back everyone’s money and suavely returning it to all the players who lost at the end of the night, including his lordship. Whew! But even though Robert appreciates his generosity, he’s still not sure Gregson is good enough for Edith.

Mr. Green organizes a rowdy card game of “slaps” for the servants during dinner and conveniently places himself next to Anna, which sets Bates’ jealousy alarm off to the point of him yelling at his wife to stop making such an inappropriate racket. Yikes! Prison Bates has returned—but hopefully only for a moment.

And now comes the devastation: while the opera singer goes on upstairs, Anna leaves to sooth her jealous-Bates-stress headache and is confronted by Green in the kitchen, where he casts aside his friendly demeanor and shows his true intentions. Once she declines his amorous offers, he forces her to give him what he wants in a very brutal way. Oh, Anna! I was sobbing through this entire scene. Everybody upstairs, totally unaware of what’s going on downstairs. It was just so hard! In addition to her trauma, there’s NO WAY she can tell Bates about what happened, because he’ll definitely kill Green … which is exactly what she tells Mrs. Hughes when she asks for help covering it up. 

Later, when Bates asks what happened to Anna’s poor bruised and cut-up face, she tries to tell him she “slipped and fell,” but you can tell he’s not buying it. This is just SO devastating! And I’m sure even if she did tell Bates, or anyone else; her options for recourse are minimal. CURSE YOU, Mr. Green! Curse you. Or maybe I should be saying CURSE YOU, JULIAN FELLOWES.

I don’t even know what to say about next week’s episode. I can’t imagine any of it will be good in the aftermath of Green’s assault on Anna. Maybe we can hope for some comic relief from the kitchen? Please let Daisy order another new-fangled kitchen gadget!


Best snark from The Dowager, re: the opera singer:

“I thought she was going to sing after dinner. Well then why would we want to see her before?”

Most shocking line, from Mr. Green to Anna:
“You’re not telling me that sad old cripple actually makes you happy?”

Most brazen behavior: Edna bringing Tom a glass of whiskey:
Tom: “You understand me, don’t you?”
Edna: “I like to think so.”

Best line all episode, from Cora to Robert, re: the opera singer:
Cora: “You will have her next to you at dinner. And you WILL like it.”

Editor’s addendum:

The UK producers of Downton Abbey, Carnival Films, has stated that “The complex and loving journey of Anna and Bates has been central to the narrative of the show. The events in this episode were, we believe, acted and directed with great sensitivity. Viewers will see in the forthcoming episodes how Anna and Bates struggle to come to terms with what has happened.”

This BBC article includes a video interview with the actress who plays Anna, Joanne Froggatt, as well as comments from writer Julian Fellowes: