Downton Abbey Season 3, Episode 1 Recap: Many Things May Change, But Mary's Eyebrows Never Will

The Crawleys losing their money? O'Brien losing her bangs? At least there's still pretty dresses to look at.
Publish date:
January 7, 2013
television, Downton Abbey

M’ladies, it’s back. Season three of Downton Abbey finally aired on PBS last night and there was no shortage of mystery, drama, humor and tragedy during the big two-hour premiere episode.

Even so, it seems like Downton Abbey is going to get real this season. As in, it might get poor. Are we going to be watching poor people in nice dresses for season three? If so, please, please, please do not take away the pretty clothes! If everyone starts dressing like Sybil and Branson (I mean Tom), I’m going to say something inappropriate in my best Dowager Countess voice, I’m just warning you.

But I’m getting ahead of myself now, aren’t I? I hope, just like Cousin Crawley, “not for the first time, I’m supposing wrongly.” So, let’s pick apart all 120 minutes of the season three premiere, just like the Crawleys tried to pick apart Branson (I mean Tom’s) soul over dinner.

First things first: one of the best characters of the show is gone. And that character is O’Brien’s Bangs. WTF. Yes, I’m an American, but I do not handle change as elegantly as Shirley MacLaine apparently does.

Season one and two bangs:

Season three bangs:

A lot less curl, people! I feel faint. Show me a beautiful dress so I can recover.

Thank you. 

Can I just comment how telephone communication is really moving things along here? Here’s the plot so far: while the Crawley family gets ready for the wedding of the century, Sybil isn’t coming because she is too poor and Lord Grantham won’t part with his money strictly on principle. Because in case you forgot, she married a chauffeur named Branson (I mean Tom), which is the most scandalous thing anyone could ever do. Everyone is mad about Lord Grantham not sending them money in a very reserved way.

Meanwhile, Anna is visiting Bates in jail, trying to get him off for a murder he didn’t commit (or did he?), and downstairs, Carson needs a new footman. O’Brien gets her nephew the job in a typical weasely O’Brien fashion even though “no footman should be over 6-foot-1!” Duh. Everyone knows that.

After keeping us hanging for a bit, we finally figure out why Lord Grantham has to suddenly go to London. It’s because he’s flat broke. I have one thing to say to you, your Lordship, arguing is not going to bring that money back.

*gulps* This family is screwed. Quick, I need an awesome dress shot so I can recover.

Oh, no, instead I get Edith. If only she was as charming and smart as her outfit right now. Zing!

Ugh, here we go with Edith and Olds (I mean Sir Anthony). Eleven minutes into the episode and about a year since I’ve seen Edith and let’s just say I did not miss her. Lord Anthony says something awkward, and then says, “Sorry I don’t know why I said that,” and then we all move on like nothing happened.

Okay, Lord Grantham is still the only person who knows about the money thing. Could you just communicate with your wife for one second?

And here we have our first evidence that no footman should be over 6-foot-1:

Yay, Sybil and Branson (I mean Tom) have arrived! And Lord Grantham didn’t send them the money! I wonder who did? I’ll tell you one thing: it wasn’t Carson.

It looks like Downton’s money problems might get solved because Matthew might be inheriting a great deal of money from dead Lavinia’s dead father! Please, please, please! Here is what Matthew looks like when he inherits money. Way to be a wet blanket Matthew. Sheesh.

Side note: Downton Abbey apparently has a “library “and a “small library.” I love this family.

Yay, it’s Mrs. Patmore! Daisy is protesting the fact that she didn’t get a raise because conniving Thomas gave her the idea to do so. That’s kind of cool, I guess. But you’re still annoying me, Daisy. I’m on Mrs. Patmore’s side here. Seriously. “Have you swallowed a dictionary?” Coolest diss ever.

Upstairs the Granthams are getting along by not talking about money, and, out in the real world, Anna’s visiting Bates in prison again. Let’s just say that a wedding is much more interesting than prison. Snoozers, Anna and Bates, bring me back to Downton Abbey please.

O’Brien and Thomas have a classic O’Brien and Thomas conversation in the hallway. For some reason, O’Brien really wants her nephew to do well and climb the servant’s ladder at Downton. If this were a reality show, this is the part where Thomas would tell the camera, “I’m not here to make friends!”

Back upstairs, this line comes out of Mary’s mouth: “He should will himself not to be ill and then collapse the next day.” Mary’s turning into a real Dowager Countess this season with that line! I love you and your salty ways, Mary, and have definitely had that thought about illness before -- you’re just the only one who’s brave enough to say it out loud.

While Edith is throwing herself at Olds, he notices something mysterious happening. “I say, what the Devil!” OMG, Larry the visiting family member drugged Branson (I mean Tom) as a prank! What the hell? Thank god Olds called him out. Edith is right; he did save the night, but, yay, Matthew for making Branson his best man in his moment of weakness. This family is something, isn’t it?

 Can we please stop cutting to jail scenes just when the drama is getting good?

Huzzah, Shirley MacLaine has arrived!

As expected, she’s basically the American version of the Dowager Countess, so naturally, they hate each other. Did Shirley MacLaine just say, “You people,” to Maggie Smith?! Yes, I think she did.

Now, the money situation is out in the open, and Mary finally tells Matthew about it. Matthew refuses to give his fortune (that he does not yet definitely have) to save the family! I’m shocked! How can you be so great and yet so awful, Matthew? How? Apparently since it is money from dead Lavinia’s dead father he feels he needs to give it all away because he broke dead Lavinia’s heart. Um, Matthew, that doesn’t make any sense.

Mary and Matthew fight, and now the wedding might be off. Mary dramatically leaves the dinner table crying and Edith smugly tells everyone what is going on because, of course, she overheard their fight. Sybil would never have done that. I hate you, Edith.

Surprisingly though, Branson (I mean Tom) is the one who convinces Matthew to go to Mary and make up. Although, Matthew still won’t agree to give her family the money.

 At least we get this adorably romantic scene where superstitious Mary refuses to see Matthew before the wedding while they talk and then they kiss with their eyes closed.

Of course Mary opens her eyes! Oh, Mary! I do love you and your beautiful eyebrows!

As the ladies wish Mary luck and love before saying goodbye to go to the wedding, Edith has to be smug. What else is new? I hate you, Edith.

The town is cheery and so was I as Lord Grantham walked Lady Mary down the aisle. Yay, Matthew and Mary! You’re married now, please don’t fuck this up.

Post wedding and we’re back to “normal” life at Downton Abbey, and by normal I mean fancy -- I hope!

Mary and Matthew pull up in a new post honeymoon car (I guess they’re not that broke yet), and we see tension both downstairs and upstairs when Shirley MacLaine talks with her mouth full in the dining room! I’m not sure I like the over the top-ness of her character. Why would sweet, perfect Cora’s mother be so rude? There are a lot of sideways glances going on right now:

Holy moly, during “post dinner gentleman time,” Matthew tells Lord Grantham the truth about dead Lavinia’s money! There really are no secrets in this family. Meanwhile we learn that Cousin Crowley is working with prostitutes and that Mrs. Hughes has found a lump in her breast. Oh, dear! Not Mrs. Hughes! Also, the 1920s medicine scenes are making me nervous. This doctor again. I remember hating him in the last two seasons.

Back downstairs, why do I think that Thomas’s tip to Alfred is going to be a trick? Classic evil villain Thomas behavior right there, I’m calling it.

Upstairs Mary and the Dowager Countess decided that they’re going to nice it up for Shirley MacLaine to get her to give them the money to save Downton. I don’t know if this is going to work, but what I do know is that the fashion magazine Mary is reading looks awesome.

So here’s the big question: Should Matthew “I do love you so terribly much” Crawley get over himself or should Lady “I have perfect eyebrows” Mary get over herself? I love Downton and don’t want it to change, but I think mouth-full-talking Shirley “American” MacLaine has made some extremely valid points. You know, about it being 1920 and change and stuff like that. At least we know exactly how Maggie Smith feels about America.

Watching the Dowager trying to be nice is confusing and hilarious. Moving on, Lord Grantham, yes we hate Edith and Olds too but haven’t you learned that you can’t control who your daughters marry?

We’re back to downstairs drama with occasional prison scenes just when the interest starts to pick up. I’m so over Bates and Anna you guys!

Uh, oh, O’Brein’s going to “make Thomas sorry” for tricking Alfred into burning a hole into Matthew’s jacket. Hide the soap! Also, how rude is it to expect less staff to accomplish the same level of fanciness? Mrs. Hughes was right; she of all people does not need this added stress right now. I love how a hole in your tux jacket is the biggest tragedy in the world. Here’s Matthew in his “play clothes.”

Seems like foreshadowing of how the Granthams are going to have to get with the program about it being 1920 soon.

Now that they’re married, Mary and Matthew have this weird fighting and then making out thing going on now. “Now, stop talking and kiss me before I get cross.” Not sure how I feel about it.

So after tattling on her father to Shirley MacLaine, Edith gets him to change his mind about Olds, although all of her points were extremely valid. Go, Edith, I guess, for standing up for yourself or whatever. Inside however, the party preparations are disastrous! Even with this perfectly set table. “Never mistake a wish for a certainty!”

Everything is going wrong culminating in a broken oven, and then Shirley MacLaine saves the day by suggesting sandwiches and cheese for dinner! The audacity! But good thinking there, Shirley. As Cora put it, “we’ll all pull together and it will be great fun!” Not for everyone though! When the Dowager mistook Lord Grantham for a waiter, because he, too, is wearing “play clothes,” I almost died.

As Shirley MacLaine’s maid reminds Alfred that it’s time to “live a little,” I wonder, how do we feel, m’ladies? Are we quite sure we want to continue with the bother of Downton Abbey? Perhaps people are tired of style and show? I don’t know the answer! I’m resisting the change but know it’s going to have to happen.

How will we take it all? Let’s discuss. I’ll meet you in the comments, right after I change into my ball gown for dinner.