See our Magnum Photos gallery on the English countryside.
Seth, you got misty when Mary touched Matthew’s sleeve. Myself, I had to swallow a lump in my throat when Mrs. Patmore made an impassioned speech after discovering Mrs. Burns’ soup kitchen. It was all the more moving for being a bit awkward: “If we can’t feed a few soldiers in our own village—them as ’ave taken the bullet, or worse, for king and country—then I don’t know what.” I love the idea of the servants of many masters working together to nourish the starving ex-soldiers rather than cleaning rooms that aren’t dirty and preparing food that nobody wants to eat.
I also enjoyed that extended pause as everyone waited for Lady Cora to rule on whether they could continue their charity work. It’s a good reminder that there was no appeal once the lady of the manor had made up her mind about her servants’ behavior. The Granthams are surprisingly considerate and forbearing, but there were surely many more aristocrats who ruled their little fiefdoms arbitrarily (or cruelly).
Lady Cora made the right decision and joined the line, but she was there only because O’Brien had tattled on the soup-kitchen plotters. In fact, this episode was a regular Snitcherama—in addition to O’Brien and her mistress, we had Daisy sharing the Bates news she learned from eavesdropping on Thomas and O’Brien, Molesley telling Mrs. Hughes about the mustachioed major creeping around the servants’ back stairs, and Sibyl assuming that Mary had told their grandmother that she had been talking with the chauffeur about something other than planning journeys by road. It’s almost enough to make me sympathetic to the Stop Snitchin’ campaign.
I feel so bad for poor put-upon Daisy. Not only is she at the bottom of the house’s totem pole—now Mrs. Patmore, the woman who rules over her like a (mostly) benevolent dictator, has guilted her into becoming William’s girl. Daisy obviously cares about William, but as a friend and a fellow downstairsian, rather than as a man who makes her heart leap when he walks into the room. She doesn’t see William as “a romantic type,” as she does Mr. Bates. Still, I like her honesty about her feelings—when people ask if they’re an item, she always takes the time to explain that all the servants are fond of William. She’s sticking up for herself without dissing anyone else.
Two final, random thoughts: First, did Matthew seem gaunt when he walked into the concert and made beautiful music with Mary? It looked to me that he’d pulled a Reverse De Niro and dropped a stone or so since the last time we saw him. Second, why did Edith stop playing the piano when Matthew entered the room? She had her back to the door.
Your affectionate cousin,
Note: Out of consideration for viewers in the U.S., please do not post Season 2 spoilers in the comments.