As Matthew and Mary get ready to walk down the aisle, Robert receives some devastating news for the estate

By Denise Warner
January 07, 2013 at 04:01 AM EST
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It’s the spring of 1920, and both the upstairs and downstairs factions of Downton are finally preparing for Matthew and Mary’s wedding. (Seriously, how long have we waited for this?)

Amongst the upstairs contingent, the talk of the Crawleys is Sybil’s absence. Mary, Cora, Violet and Isobel all want to see the Earl’s youngest daughter at her sister’s nuptials, but Robert doesn’t want Sybil’s husband, the house’s former chauffeur Tom Branson, anywhere near the village. That would be too embarrassing for the Earl, because people would talk about it.

At Downton, Robert takes a mysterious phone call that doesn’t sound good. “But it can’t be as bad … look, I’ll come and see you tomorrow … No, I insist.” He later informs Cora that he must travel to London for the day, and refuses to tell her why. He’s such a great husband, isn’t he?

On a stroll through the Abbey’s grounds, Matthew and Mary discuss where they will live after the honeymoon. More importantly, they have what must have been a scandalous exchange in the ’20s. “I doubt I’ll get used to taking you to bed with your father watching,” Matthew says. “He’s so relieved we’re getting married, he wouldn’t mind if you carried me up naked,” she responds. “Careful, I might try it,” he smirks. Oh please do, Matthew. I can’t be the only one who’d want to see that.

When Robert travels to London, he meets with Mr. Murray, who is not only his lawyer, but his financial advisor and estate trustee. (What kind of degree does one study for to be all of these things?) Murray tells him that the railway investment Robert made wasn’t the best idea ever and there is no more money left. So basically, Robert not only runs around kissing maids, but he loses all of Cora’s money, too.

Now, we can’t forget about Edith, as much as we’d want to. She runs into Sir Anthony Strallan — the man she hoped to marry, but he says he’s too old for her — in the road, and barges into his car. She laments the fact that all she talks about anymore is the wedding plans. And Sir Anthony tries to offer his thoughts. “Yes, weddings can be reminders of one’s loneliness, can’t they?” Ouch. Even her ex-boyfriend is commenting on Edith’s probable descent into spinsterhood.

NEXT: There’s talk of sex and talk of dead fiancée’s dead fathers

Then we have another one of Matthew and Mary’s sexy back and forths. “You looking forward to the wedding?” Matthew asks his bride to be. “What do you think?” Mary says. “I’m looking forward to all sorts of things.” Matthew coos. “Don’t make me blush,” she adds. Am I the only one who thinks this is really hot?

The following morning, Sybil arrives with Tom and no one is happy to see him. At least he’s very good-looking.

News from the estate of Reggie Swire, the late father of Matthew’s deceased fiancée Lavinia, makes Matthew uneasy. Reggie’s will names Matthew as the third heir. But, the first heir died, and the second heir is missing. According to Matthew, Swire left a great deal of money after his death. (He must have made his fortune after being so broke that Sir Richard Carlisle blackmailed Lavinia to get her father out of debt. Right?)

At dinner, everyone teases Tom in their veiled British way for not dressing for dinner and are appalled to hear he won’t be wearing a morning coat for the wedding. “I’m sorry, I can’t turn into someone else just to please you,” Tom explains. The discussion turns to Irish politics, and Tom gets heated, causing Cora to change the subject to Irish gardens. Nice going, Lady Grantham.

Tom tries to visit his old comrades downstairs, but they receive him stiffly. And when Sybil suggests that he go to town to buy some tails to wear, and maybe he could stop talking about Ireland so much, he tells her not to disappoint him. See Sybil, it’s fine for him to ask you to change your entire life for him, but don’t even think about asking him to put on a nicer jacket.

And we break for a third “can Matthew and Mary just do it already” exchange.

Mary: “Shall I order the car?”

Matthew: “I don’t think I can refuse a lift with mother then make the poor man go out again. I’ll walk.”

Mary: “It might rain.”

Matthew: “Then I’ll get wet. Now come and kiss me.”

But Mary ruins the moment by inquiring about Reggie’s money, and Matthew tells her that even if he does end up inheriting, he “can’t keep it.”

NEXT: Cora is much too good to Robert

Fighting back tears, Robert informs his wife that they are broke. She takes it surprisingly well. “Don’t worry about me, I’m an American. ‘Have gun, will travel.'” He really doesn’t deserve her. But curiously, they seem to have enough money to throw a very expensive wedding and many more fancy dinners.

The next one of those fancy dinners features Sybil’s ex-boyfriend Larry, who mocks Tom’s clothes and asks him if his suitcase arrived. “Along with my manners,” Tom quips back. Nice zinger for a lowly chauffeur. At the table, Tom starts yelling and slurring his words, making a fool out of himself. But he’s not drunk. Nope. Larry put something in Tom’s drink, Sir Anthony revealed quite dramatically. Then Larry’s father stands up and starts shouting at his son, and Matthew decides to ask Tom to be his best man. Because”if we’re mad enough to take on the Crawley girls, we have to stick together,” he proclaims. This makes total sense.

Robert then picks a great moment to tell Mary that they aren’t rich anymore — as she is trying on her very expensive going away outfit. Poor little rich girl.

As part of their “let’s make Branson more presentable” campaign, Cousin Isobel and the Dowager Countess force him into one of Matthew’s old suits for the wedding. He’s a little too reluctant for me, here. It’s not a “uniform of oppression,” it’s a suit to wear to a wedding.

After the ladies play dress up with Tom, we get the big entrance of the season as Cora’s American mother Martha Levinson arrives at the household. “Come war and peace, Downton still stands and the Crawleys are still in it,” she says as she enters. (If you hadn’t memorized that line from all the promos before the season aired …) Unfortunately Violet is not there to welcome her, so we don’t get the great Maggie Smith versus Shirley MacLaine showdown quite yet. Oh but you know it’s coming.

What we do get before that, however, is the question we’ve been dying to know the answer to. “Do explain again how exactly you are related to all of us, Mr. Crawley,” Martha asks Matthew. “Rather distantly, I’m afraid. My great-great-grandfather was the younger son of the third earl,” Matthew says to our relief. (That is distant enough for it not to be gross, right?)

Matthew is then turned out of the house since it’s the day before the wedding . But not fast enough. Mary tries to pressure him into keeping the Swire fortune if he is to receive it in order to save Downton. He balks because he doesn’t want to “profit” from Lavinia’s death, which doesn’t please Mary.

“Don’t you see what this means? Don’t you see what a difference this makes. It means that you’re not on our side, Matthew. It means that deep down you’re not on our side,” Mary yells before storming off. And of course, Edith is there to witness this outburst.

NEXT: The first meeting of MacLaine and Smith 

Before another fancy dinner — really, how are they affording all of this — Martha and Violet meet in the hall. And I will just let them do the talking.

Martha: Oh dear, I’m afraid the war has made old women of us both.

Violet: Oh I wouldn’t say that, but then I always keep out of the sun. How did you find Downton on your return?

Martha: Much the same, really. Probably too much the same. But I don’t want to cast a pall over all that and this.

Violet: How could you ever do that?

Martha: Tell me, what do you think of young Lochinvar who has so ably carried off our granddaughter and our money. Do you approve of him?

Violet: Not as much as you will, once you get to know him.

Martha: Hmm. Has he gone home to change?

Violet: Oh no. We won’t see him again tonight. The groom never sees the bride the night before the wedding.

Martha: Nothing ever alters for you people, does it? Revolutions erupt, and monarchies crash to the ground, and the groom cannot still see the bride before the wedding.

Violet: You Americans never understand the importance of tradition.

Martha: Yes, we do. We just don’t give it power over us. History and tradition took Europe into a world war. Maybe you should think about letting go of its hand.

(Martha got the best of Violet here, don’t you think?)

During dinner, Mary leaves the table in distress and Edith informs the family of the fight. (I was actually expecting Edith to be a bit nastier here, but she surprised me. Who knew?) And there might not be a wedding after all.

NEXT: Branson to the rescue!

Tom offers to talk to Matthew to see why he and Mary are fighting, while Anna tries to convince Mary to forgive Matthew. (Anna spouts a Dowager worthy-line here. “What I see is a good man m’lady. And they’re not like buses. There won’t be another one ’round in ten minutes time.”)

To Mary’s credit, she says it’s not about the money — rather Matthew’s reluctance to help the family if he could.

Thank goodness for Tom, who becomes the voice of all Matthew and Mary ‘shippers when he speaks to Matthew. “But you’re meant to be together. I’ve known that as long as I’ve been at the house. And at first this kept you apart, then that kept you apart. But please don’t risk it a third time. Because I’ll tell you this. You won’t be happy with anyone else as long as Lady Mary walks the Earth.”

Branson’s speech inspires Matthew to sneak into Downton to see Mary. With the door in between them, he repeats Branson’s words about never being happy with anyone else, and they share a sweet, yet intimate kiss with their eyes closed, although Mary cheats a bit. The wedding is back on.

The morning of the wedding, Robert thanks Tom for fixing everything, and the pair come to somewhat of a truce about their relationship. Meanwhile, Lady Grantham tries to give her daughter some wedding night advice, but Mary says she really doesn’t need it. (Mom, remember the time I had sex with the Turkish gentleman?)

The three Crawley sisters and the mother share a private moment together. Sybil is sweet, “I know mine was a wild runaway marriage, darling. And yours is the one that everyone wanted. What’s so thrilling is that this is every bit as romantic.” Edith is nasty, “Love and position in one handsome package, who could ask for more?” And Cora is motherly. “Never mind, Edith. Well, very, very good luck my beautiful daughter.”

Mary then descends the stairs, wearing a gorgeous dress as Robert and Carson watch admiringly. We get a nice father-daughter moment when Robert tells Mary, “I’m so very very happy, I feel my chest will explode.”

And so, Robert escorts Mary down the aisle, and she teases Matthew about not showing up. But they do tie the knot.

NEXT: Unfortunately, we don’t get to witness the wedding night…

The drama resumes presumably a month later, when Matthew and Mary return from the South of France. The Crawleys are still hosting fancy dinners — if this is what it means to be broke, I don’t think I would mind.

The time apart clearly did nothing to smooth Mary and Edith’s relationship. Mary pushes Edith’s buttons about her romance with Strallan, and Edith fires back. But the Dowager and Lord Grantham are concerned with the thought of Edith pursuing Sir Anthony, and the Dowager tells her son to have Strallan put an end to it.

We learn that Isobel is, in Martha’s words, “helping women who have fallen over.” (Is this fancy speak for “turned to prostitution”?). Martha asks if she’s expected to donate to this cause, and Cora admonishes her. “You don’t have to give money after every conversation.” “No, isn’t that what the English expect of rich Americans,” Martha counters.

Mary and the Dowager over hear this, and are a bit crestfallen, since they hope Martha will use her fortune to save Downton.

While discussing the Swire will with Robert, Matthew explains that he absolutely cannot take the money, and Robert feebly tries to change his mind. Matthew is unmoved and Robert drops the discussion.

All is not lost yet — especially since we get to see Matthew in bed with Mary. Hallelujah.

NEXT: An old face returns

Walking down the street, Isobel encounters Ethel, the disgraced maid who had a baby out-of-wedlock last season. Ethel ducks away before Isobel can confront her.

At the Strallan household, Edith boldly hits on Sir Anthony, despite his protestations. Edith is persistent, however, and she convinces her elder suitor that they should resume a courtship, or whatever they did back in the 1920s.

Continuing the great “Reggie Swire Will” debate, Matthew learns he is definitely Reggie’s heir. Mary complains more to about how he’s letting her father fall into ruin by not taking the money. The argument comes to an end when Matthew tells Mary, “I do love you so terribly much.” Thus, no matter how much they fight over the fortune, at least they do have their cute moments. (And Matthew said something about going back into the office. Is he still a lawyer?)

Mary leaves her husband to have tea with her mother, and her grandmothers, where she and Violet try to elegantly pry money from Martha, to no avail. Later that night at dinner, Mary and Violet continue to exalt the wonders of Downton, while Martha just slurps up her food.

When dinner is finished, the ladies go through, and Robert takes it upon himself to have a chat with Sir Anthony, whom Edith had invited over. Anthony agrees that he shouldn’t be seeing Edith, but tells Robert that she always drops by and he can’t help it. He offers to write to her to put an end to their relationship. Robert says he hopes that everyone can still be friends. Yes, because it’s so friendly to plot against your daughter’s happiness.

Lucky for us, we get another shot of the newlyweds between the sheets, during which Matthew and Mary discuss her attempt to extract money from Martha. This time, it’s Mary who changes their subject with a sweet nothing. “Now stop talking and kiss me before I get cross,” she tells him.

In the morning at breakfast, Edith receives the letter from Sir Anthony, and she knows that her papa said something to him. She goes crying into Martha’s arms, who scolds Robert for pulling the lovers apart. Edith whines until Robert agrees to ask Sir Anthony back to Downton.

NEXT: More money, more problems

Cora hopes that Mary won’t ask Martha for the money, telling her eldest daughter that they only really have to move to a smaller estate. Mary is unmoved and still plans to throw a lavish dinner party to convince Martha that Downton is worth saving.

The lavish dinner party comes, but everything goes wrong. Robert and Matthew don’t have the right clothes to wear. The oven breaks, so they can’t cook the food. Both Mary and Violet practically have a stroke. However, Martha comes to the rescue and directs everyone at the party into an indoor picnic, much to the Dowager’s consternation. We’re even treated to MacLaine’s vocal stylings.

For Edith, though, the informal dinner allows her a few moments alone with Strallan. “You’ve given me back my life,” he tells her. In this moment, I find myself rooting for the middle Crawley daughter. They speak of “getting it organized in a month.” Is this “it” a wedding?

In the end, Martha can’t give the Crawleys any more money — it’s all been tied up in her late husband’s will.

Over one last whiskey with Robert, Martha apologizes for not being able to save Downton. “Some animals adapt to new surroundings. It seems a better choice than extinction,” she says. So will Robert adapt? Or will he go extinct?

NEXT: What’s happening below stairs

Thomas: He’s still being Thomas, bitter and condescending to everyone. He even tries to sabotage other members of the staff — namely Daisy and the new footman, Alfred.

Anna and Bates: With Bates in prison, Anna visits him often, and brings his ex-wife’s diary so he can make notes and she can play Sherlock Holmes and try to figure out how Vera really died. Bates also has a new cell mate, and the two come to blows. Things don’t look good for Mr. Bates.

O’Brien: She schemes to have her nephew Alfred brought on at Downton as a footman. And she and Thomas aren’t on good terms anymore. Did something happen there that I missed? Over the course of the episode, the pair, who were once thick as thieves, bicker, fight and try to one-up each other.

Alfred: He’s very tall, a bit clumsy, once worked in a hotel, and gets to make out with Martha’s American maid.

Mrs. Patmore and Daisy: Daisy goes on strike when she still hasn’t received her promotion, leaving Mrs. Patmore to do all the work. But much like the end of last season, when Daisy stops being a brat and actually talks to Mrs. Patmore, the two resolve their differences.

Carson: He doesn’t have much to do, except be stuffy, exasperated and fawn over Mary.

Mrs. Hughes: She discovers a lump in her breast and Mrs. Patmore encourages her to go to the doctor. The tests come back inconclusive and she has to wait another two months for a new test. In the meantime, she doesn’t want anyone besides the cook knowing.

Mr. Moseley: He really, really wants to be Matthew’s valet when Matthew moves into “the big house.” (He means Downton, not jail.) But Matthew doesn’t want a valet — he wants to live a simpler life. However, Moseley gets his wish, and ends up moving into Downton with his master.

NEXT: Now we know how useless an aristocrat with no servants is

And here are the Dowager Countess’ best lines …

“Family must never be a topic of conversation.”

“An aristocrat with no servants is as much use to the county as a glass hammer.”

“Tomorrow, let’s ask the servants to dine with us to make things easier.”

“Forgive? Perhaps. Forget? Never.”

“She is like a homing pigeon. She finds our underbelly every time. ” — on Martha

“I am a woman of many parts.”

“No guest should be admitted without the date of their departure settled.”

“Never mistake a wish for a certainty.”

“Do you think I might have a drink? Oh I’m so sorry, I thought you were a waiter.” — to Robert, when he’s wearing the wrong suit for dinner.

What did you think of the season premiere of Downton? Was it hard to watch knowing the big news about a certain cast member on the show?

Follow @DeniseMarie13

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The war is over, but intrigue, crisis, romance, and change still grip the beloved estate.
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