Ah, we’re finally watching Downton Abbey! Right as everyone else is just slightly past caring about whether or not their friends actually start watching it. Are many of you guys joining me in seeing this series for the first time? Boy I hope so because, I have to tell you, I just finished the first episode and THERE ARE SO MANY NAMES TO KNOW! I’m already so embarrassed. I’m happy that none of you can see the notes I wrote down during the episode because they were all along the lines of, “Youngish guy is mad about not being the guy to main guy.” “Lady and older lady are talking about the money thing.” Like that, but MORE embarrassing. “Old maid is talking to young maid about breakfast?” But because the first episode was about fourteen hours long, I think I got a handle on (most of) the names and things that were happening by the end of it. Thank goodness. (Definitely not all of them, though.) (And I would just go onto IMDB or Wikipedia and look them up, but I DO NOT want any spoilers.) (Very serious about that.) (This is very serious.) I’m excited to go on this adventure with you guys! I hear this show is pretty good! Let’s get into it!

As the episode opens, we learn that it is 1902 1912. Some of us may think to ourselves, “the year Columbus sailed the ocean blue?” Only to quickly realize, with much shame, just how wrong we are about that. But it is the year that someone got a telegram and then said “oh my god” within the context of this show! The maids are all waking up and hustling and bustling to get everything clean and ready before the Ladyship and Lordship and Little Ladyships wake up. Daisy, the world’s cutest maid, is building a fire in the fireplace while some other maid ladies talk to her about electricity. “It’s electricity,” they say. “We’re going to have to get used to it sooner or later.” “[Someplace] [Ed. Note: Skeleton farms? Is that what they said?] has it in the kitchen already.” To which Daisy replies, “WAT FAH?!?”

Uhh I don’t know “wat fah,” Daisy, maybe TO SEE AND DO STUFF? You’re being a little bitchy about electricity for someone who looks like she’s not having a lot of fun building that fire, I gotta say. Embrace it, lady!

The little guy who brings the newspapers is late with them but says “you’ll see” about why, then he drives away on his bicycle. If only we could all pedal away from jobs we did poorly. “Your Downton Abbey recap is not great, Kelly.” “YOU’LL SEE WHY GABE GOODBYE!” Once Thomas (I think?) gets the papers, he begins to iron them for Lord Crawley. And I think to myself, “Why are the papers ironed?” And then on the show Daisy asks, “Why are the papers ironed?” And I think, “WHOA, THIS SHOW IS GOOD!” Then it is revealed that the papers are ironed in order to dry the ink. Wowowow. Fantastic. Great reveal. See you next week!

Just kidding. There is AN INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF SHOW LEFT. So Lord Crawley walks down the staircase, looking very nice, and asks Carson if what they’re saying is true. Carson he says yes, and then you know both that Crawley is a reasonable man and that it is the Titanic that sunk because he says, “God help the poor devils on the lower tracks, on their way to a better life. What a tragedy.” Aww, LORD! You really care about all the Leos. Later, after one of the daughters says something about how she thought it was supposed to be unsinkable, he says, “Every mountain is unclimbable until someone climbs it, every ship is unsinkable until it sinks.” Which is I guess true? Listen I’m not trying to poke holes in it because it does sound nice, but what if it’s a mountain that’s pretty small but just no one has climbed it yet? Or a ship that is pretty poorly made and is definitely going to sink, but it’s just moments before it does? Think about THAT for a sec.

Lord Crawley needs to tell the Ladyship (what am I supposed to call her? Countess Cora? I’m just going to call her Cora) about the Titanic because they knew some people on it, and he asks if he can come into her room WHILE he’s opening the door. HOW RUDE! What if she was naked? But she is not naked, in fact she has a million pounds of clothes on and she’s in bed waiting for her breakfast to be brought to her. “Living the life,” basically. “The gross life that actually only seems pretty gross, who wants to eat breakfast lying down every day.” She already knew about the Titanic because she has already read the newspaper, but she DIDN’T know that James and Patrick, Lord Crawley’s only cousins, were on the ship but weren’t picked up! AH! Oh no! This is complicated both because Lady Mary, one of the little Ladyships, was supposed to marry Patrick, and one of those guys was supposed to be heir to Lord Crawley’s title. Now he doesn’t have any relatives to be the heir! And it has to be a male and he has only daughters!

MEANWHILE, Bates arrives! The new valet! Yay Bates! I love you, Bates! Right off the bat, everyone is super mad that he has a cane. It’s basically this scene, except without the somersault at the end. He is greeted by three maids and they’re ALL annoyed by it, except for the nice light-haired one who always says “I’m sure it’s fine” about everything. They take him to the kitchen and when he gets in the kitchen all of THOSE people are annoyed by it too. “We all have our own work to do,” one says. And then everyone else just looks at it, like they’ve never seen a cane before and REALLY have to inspect this one.

While he is being shown to his room, Old Lady O’Brien says she can’t see Bates lasting long, because Old Lady O’Brien is a nasty bitch. And then those are the two things about this episode, basically! Everybody Hates Bates, and dealing with the heir/heiress of Lord Crawley’s title and money and all of that. OOoook, so now we’re REALLY into it!

Speaking of nasty bitches, after Lord Crawley tells Lady Mary about the death of her fiance she says, like a terrible teenager, “Does this mean I have to go into full mourning?” UGH YOU ARE TERRIBLE. (Though, TBH, “full mourning” sounds like the worst. You have to wear black for MONTHS? Not that I super care about wearing different colors, but I could certainly seeing all black getting tiresome. Still, DO WHAT YOUR DAD SAYS AND SHOW SOME RESPECT FOR THE DEAD, MARY.) Anyway, Lord Crawley responds, “My first cousin and his son are almost certainly dead. We will all be in mourning.” EEEEEP! That’s very sad and very honest, and he gives her the choice whether or not to mourn Patrick as a fiance. She chooses not to, no doy, because she is a terrible B, and he makes this face:

You’re the worst, Lady Mary! I only like Lord Crawley and Bates and Daisy!

Meanwhile, Thomas, ANOTHER terrible bitch, is showing Bates around and explaining his duties as the new valet. “Basically you have to do jumping jacks, climb mountains, tapdance, carry watermelons, and get around only by hopping on whatever leg it is you have that doesn’t work.” JK, kind of. He kind of just shows him different cufflinks, but is very mean about it, and then when Bates says he’ll get the hang of it, Thomas says, “You’ll have to.” UH YEAH, THOMAS, HE JUST SAID HE WILL, IT’S JUST CUFFLINKS, I’M SURE HE’LL START TO GET IT AFTER SOME TIME. Then Thomas goes out into the hall and talks to awful O’Brien about how he wants Bates’s job and blah blah blah. Basically they’re in a terrible person’s alliance.

While the king and queen (correct?) are going for a walk, Cora is notified that Old Lady Meany, Lord Crawley’s mom, wants to have a talk with her. EEEEP! Unlike all the other bitches, this old bitch is great and I love her.

Although she is CERTAINLY intimidating, it seems like this time she comes in peace-ish. Basically she doesn’t want the house, land, title, and all of Cora’s money to go to some mail heir that none of them have ever even met. Cora’s like, “No doy.” The old Countess is like, “Great, let’s try to do this.”

Back with the servants, Carson is giving some speech about how Bates should handle himself around the Lord. He thinks Bates is going to be super intimidated, but then the Lord comes in and says to Bates, “My old comrade in arms, welcome to Downton.” HA-HA, YOU JERKS! THEY’RE FRIENDS, KIND OF! Then these jerks are like this to each other:

Afterwards there’s some cute dumb stuff with Daisy almost poisoning everyone, and it makes all of us fall in love with Daisy even more, but the BIG thing that’s happening is that the whole family is at the memorial for the guys who died in the Titanic, and some guy is telling Lord Crawley to basically forget getting Cora’s money back, or being able to give the title to anyone else. Oops. That dream died pretty quickly! (Elsewhere, Mary is being a bitch again, telling her sisters they shouldn’t be acting so upset about the guys’ deaths and they should have hearts of stone like she does and ugh, MARY YOU ARE THE WORST.)

Speaking of the worst, after the memorial, while Ms. O’Brien is taking Cora her tea or whatever, Cora asks her how she thinks Bates is doing. She is, of course, terrible about it, saying that she “doesn’t want to criticize someone for their affliction, even if it means they can’t do their job.” It reminds me of a time I had an internship somewhere and overheard another intern telling the boss, “Is [so and so] supposed to be coming in late? Haha — oh. I just thought it was an arrangement.” WHAT A JERK. YOU ARE BOTH JERKS. BOTH MS. O’BRIEN AND THAT INTERN I MENTIONED. The following scene is the first of 45,000 of people asking Bates if he was sure he could do his job and Bates saying yes.

Ugh, everyone can’t stop talking about how Bates can’t do his job. First the Little Ladyships are talking about it, then Thomas is trying to convince Carson of it, and then Bates is helping the Lord get ready and he STILL won’t stop hounding him about it. Then the Lord goes into Cora’s room where they continue to talk about whether or not Bates can do his job, though the Lord thinks he is perfectly adequate. WE GET IT, THE REST OF YOU! YOU DON’T THINK BATES CAN DO HIS JOB! Get a life, you guys! Get out of that big old dumb house and GET A LIFE! I’M SO SICK OF YOU!

FINALLY, after everybody talks about Bates for their whole lives, the Old Lady Mom comes back to talk to Lord Crawley about the money stuff. Lord lays down the law, “Thanks to Papa, Cora’s fortune is not Cora’s, it is part of the estate. And the estate goes to the heir.” Mom points out that Lord Crawley married Cora for her money, and isn’t that funny how it all worked out? That now she doesn’t have any money? LOL? And Lord Crawley is like, “Yes, LOL.” Then they all have dinner. Ugh. All these people do is talk about poor Bates and have dinner.

Then in the kitchen, the red-head maid asks if Bates can hand her a tray and he falls! Oh no, Bates! Just when everyone would not stop talking about how you can’t do your job!

You poor baby. Just as I’m thinking, “You poor baby,” he says not to feel sorry for him and I think, AW YOU POOR BABY I PROMISE I WON’T! Then we see stupid O’Brien talking to stupid Thomas about how Cora wants to fire beautiful Bates. Ugh, you guys are the worst! Who are you, JENNY AND VANESSA? Anyway, whatever, a Duke is coming over now.

So the Duke comes and says he left his male servant or whatever at home by accident or something, and can he please have another male servant? “Certainly you can have another male servant, have our oldest one, Carson.” They say, basically. The Duke says, “No thank you, I would like your best looking one, Thomas.” And he gets Thomas as his male servant. Hooray for the Duke. Just as the family and the duke are walking inside, O’BRIEN KICKS BATES AND HE FALLS DOWN! I cannot believe it! What a horrible monster!

Speaking of horrible monsters, Mary is given the task of showing around the Duke, who says he wants to see “secret passageways and attics,” but he doesn’t want anyone to know that that’s what they’re doing because they’ll want to come along and he wants to be alone with Mary. BARF, DUKE. I’m barfing everywhere and it’s your fault. So Mary takes him to the attic, where the servants have their rooms. “Oooh, lala.” The Duke wants to sneak around and look in the rooms because he is a gross jerk, and Mary makes a worried face but ultimately does not stop him. He begins to look through Thomas’s drawers, CREEP, and that’s when Bates, perfect old Bates, shows up and sees what they’re doing. Mary is embarrassed, and her embarrassment is heightened when Bates asks if she’d like to explore HIS room. EEEEEEP. So she apologizes and they make a quick exit. “Why did you apologize to that man?” the Duke asks. “I always apologize when I’m in the wrong; it’s a habit of mine,” says Mary, which SOUNDS great, but uh THAT IS NOT TRUE AT ALL! You’ve been terrible this whole time and you haven’t apologized for any of it!

Whatever, anyway, the next scene is old Grumpface Carson talking to Lord Crawley about Bates again. SO BORING. SO GRUMPY. Hahah but Carson says a funny thing, “As it is right now, we might have to have a MAID in the DINING ROOM.” Like it’s the worst thing in the world. Lord Crawley says “there are worse things going on in the world” and silly Carson says, “Not worse than a maid serving a Duke!” Touché.

Then, let’s just pull the bandage off, in the next scene Lord Crawley fires poor old Bates, even though Bates gives him a VERY hard/sad sell on why he should keep Bates. NOT OUR BATES! HE’S THE ONLY ONE WE LIKE, BASICALLY! BAAAAAAAAAAATES!

The next scene they’re eating dinner again, oh boy, and Little Lady Edith asks why Mary was being a weirdo in the attic with the Duke before. But everybody keeps changing the subject, and Grandma has a REAL gross that’s-what-she-said moment when she asks the Duke to “come and inspect [her] little cottage.” Yuck, grandma. So everybody barfs and then dinner is over.

EXCEPT the Duke asks Lord Crawley to stay behind for a moment because he has something to ask him. What he has to ask him amounts to, “If I marry your daughter, will I get all your stuff?” And the answer is, “No, but you will get some stuff, and also I don’t like you and I don’t like that you asked me that question.” And then, “Oh, that’s not the question I asked you. I FORGET what the question I was going to ask you was.” Uh, you forgot, Duke? GOOD ONE. You couldn’t have made anything up, Duke? “Where did you get your suit?” How about that question? “What kind of wine were we drinking?” “What day is it?” What about those questions, DUKE? Then the Duke leaves the room and tells Mary that he’s leaving tomorrow morning. Edith says, “So he slipped the hook.” And Mary says,”At least I’m not fishing with no bate.” Hahah. You’re definitely a bitch, Mary, but that was PRETTY CLEVER!

In the kitchen, the servants are talking about how Bates is leaving. Thomas, awful Thomas, offers to take care of the Lordship but Carson says that he’s gonna. TAKE THAT, THOMAS! And the nice light-haired girl decides to take some dinner up to Bates in his room. :( It is very sad and sweet and when she approaches his room, she sees him crying.

Baaaates! Nooooooooo! YOU POOR BABY! The nice girl tells Bates she’s sorry he’s going, but “There’s always a place for a man like you.” It’s very sweet and sad and it makes me hate everyone else on this show even more.

In the final scenes, THANK GOODNESS, not because I don’t like this show but just because GOOD GRIEF this has been a long recap, the Duke is talking to Thomas about how the Lord isn’t going to fight to get their inheritance back. “You did the right thing to telegraph me,” the Duke says. WHAWHAWHAAAAAAT? These dudes know each other! The Duke says he has to mary an heiress, EVEN if it means going to New York to find one. Whatever, Duke. Go to New York, no one cares. Oh, except for Thomas! Because he wants you to find him a job. And then:

THOMAS AND THE DUKE ARE IN LOVE! Just kidding! But they do have a history, which Thomas planned to use to blackmail the Duke into finding him a better job, which is why the Duke when into Thomas’s room before and TOOK ALL OF HIS OLD SEXTS BACK!

Then he throws them in the fire and we’re all like, “Daaaaang,” because we hate the Duke, but also we’re all like, “haha,” because we also hate stupid Thomas.

The next morning, the Duke and Bates are leaving together. It is very sad and we’re all very sad about it, UNTIL LORD CRAWLEY STOPS THE BUGGY AND TELLS BATES TO COME BACK BECAUSE HE CAN NEVER LIVE WITHOUT HIM AND NEITHER CAN THE VIEWERS!!!!!!!!!!! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 And ugh, thank goodness. Downton Abbey without Bates would be like Gossip Girl without Chuck Bass. (Stupid.)

And then, in the final scene, the nobody heir gets a letter and tells his mom their lives are about to be changed. He seems nice! I hope he’s nice!

SO WHAT DID YOU GUYS THINK? Off to a good start? If Bates ever dies I’m going to be very upset, and that is FOR REAL.

Next week: Hopefully they’ll stop talking about Bates so much! But who knows! Probably not!

Comments (97)
  1. Not talking about Season 2 during these recaps will probably be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

  2. speaking of the lady asshole genre, lady mary is a prime example.

    • I know Mary’s an asshole sometimes, but is she really that bad? Or at least, isn’t some of it understandable? I’d be an insufferable jerk, too, if I had to marry some dude I didn’t love so that I could get the money that would be mine already if inheritance laws weren’t so grossly sexist.

      • sure! and she gets better. but initially her character struck me as the worst combination of liberated and unliberated behavior, especially for women- like, she’s “liberated” enough to want to be entitled to her family’s money, but still obviously very conservative in other ways. so her brash opinions really only apply to her own privilege- she wants what she thinks she deserves, but she also upholds a super inequitable system in general. she’s a fun character to argue about over the duration of the show.

        • Yeah. I also hadn’t yet read the Lady Asshole post when I commented on this. And my comment was really more of a reaction to Kelly’s extreme aversion to her in this first episode. I think Mary’s one of the more interesting characters over the course of the show… so many of the others are drawn so sharply with a good guy/bad guy stencil set.

        • I love Mary as a character and hate her as a person but not so much for her snobbery/entitlement as for her cruel treatment of Edith! Edith is terrible too, but something tells me Edith’s terribleness is more reactionary.

  3. The abbey hardly looks downtown at all, I mean my god, it’s like, in the forest! Boy oh boy, I mean, hoo hah that is one not-downtown abbey am i right?

    Good joke right? Good original joke that nobody’s made before. “it’s a good joke, djfreshie and you should be proud, keep at it you’re really getting it” – everyone “Aw thanks everyone” – me “We weren’t kidding about what we said.” – everyone “You guys, come on, shucks thats so sweet” – me “Hey let’s all go out for smoothies and crackerjacks, right” – everyone “The fuck…you CAN’T MIX SMOOTHIES AND CRACKERJACKS YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES, THE FLAVOUR PROFILES DON’T MATCH, YOU NEED TO PAIR CRACKERJACKS WITH A FUCKING MERLOT OR PEPSI OR SOMETHING” – me “You’re totally right djfreshie. We can’t believe we don’t listen to you more often” – everyone

  4. This recap is a miracle of science and culture.

  5. I don’t get this show at all. It’s like Steampunk without the gadgets or something?

  6. A usual, Kelly’s jpeg file names are right on point and a delight. ‘downton_batesfallhead’ is a classic.

  7. I know so many things, I too feel like I can’t comment except to say Well Done Lady Kelly. Also, your Dad has decided that two hours of Downton is too much for him. After we watched the season finale Sunday night, it kept working its way into his dreams.

  8. The Titanic sank in 1912. They made a movie about it. -Lady Rara, Asshole Dowager Countess of Jerkshire

    • Thanks for pointing it out. After my Lord Grantham correction I figured I should shut up lest I cross over from helpful commenter into know-it-all.

  9. I actually just finished S01E01 too! So glad I can keep pace with you. Small Ed. it’s 1912, not 02, right?

  10. I am watching it for the first time, and I have to go ahead and confess that I watched the first 3 episodes last night. At first I shared in Kelly’s fear that I was going to be really too confused by all the characters, but I don’t know, somehow I just got completely hooked and couldn’t stop watching. I think it’s something to do with the simple and brilliant writing, that makes a highly subtle and complicated and nuanced story accessible? Or maybe it’s just the gorgeous costumes. idk. At any rate, my husband tried to make fun of me by telling me I was basically watching “The Remains of the Day: The Show,” to which I replied, “You’re damn RIGHT! And it is AWESOME!!!!” (I mean, doesn’t he even know what my avatar is, for God’s sake?)

  11. i think i’ll start rewatching along with this, just for kicks.

    Also, everyone go watch Gosford Park if you really want to be confused by the amount of characters. (plus I think it’s the same writer?)

  12. “Unlike all the other bitches, this old bitch is great and I love her.” — Kelly basically summarized why EVERYONE kept watching this show, even when we had no idea who was what in the here now.

  13. Ahhh I am so excited for you to get to watch this whole show! And for the recaps!

  14. So has Abbey not shown up yet? What’s her deal?

    I guess we’ll find out. Must be patient…

  15. Daisy is the best. More Daisy! More Sand!

  16. “Who are you, Jenny and Vanessa,” is one of the greatest lines in VG recap history. Yeah I said it.
    P.S. Lady Mary is awesome.

    • O’Brien and Thomas are almost worse than Jenny and Vanessa, Kelly. ALMOST.

      I’m sad to find the opinion on Lady Mary so divided. I have so much empathy for her situation. I don’t find her terrible at all.

      • This was not meant to be a reply, but I’m impressed on how well it works anyway. We happened to both be fans of the shout out to Gossip Girl’s worst characters. The magic of hating jerk characters brought our comments together..!

      • O’Brien actually tried to better this last season, but if she shows up with raccoon eyes in season 3 she’ll have gone past the point of no return.

      • She is the best, it’s true, but reading this reminded me of the very beginning when I too thought she was a total B. Her character has really come a long way.

  17. OH NO! I was so excited about this and then I totally forgot to watch it. Everybody stop talking about it until I’m finished!

  18. AAAH so *this* is where I know Boardwalk Empire’s Hot Irish Mouth from. The Duke! (This has been driving me nuts)

  19. Fine, I won’t talk about season 2, but can we at least discuss the prequel?

    • You mean the 1887 version of the Bachelor, when thirty penniless British men with titles competed to win the heart of a rich and beautiful American heiress? It was a huge hit when serialized in Godey’s Lady’s Book. HUGE.

  20. Finally! An outlet for all of my Downton gifs!

  21. Also, I remember laughing involuntarily when Bates fell over? Sorry. He fell over quite strangely?

    Also, Lord Grantham I do not like at all. I am always ughing at him and yelling ‘Lord Grantham shut up! Go away Lord Grantham! And also shut up!’

    Also, Lady Mary is super great.

  22. I really wish the Duke would’ve asked Lord Grantham “What day is it?”

  23. For the first 20 minutes I was all, “OMG, Elizabeth McGovern, your accent sucks! You don’t even sound British! You just sound like a rich American!” And then she WAS a rich American! “And then the veil was lifted, and I saw that it was good.”

  24. AHHHHHHH I’M SO IN LOVE WITH THIS POST! Kelly, I want you to watch the rest of them NOW so I can know what you think about the other stuff that’s going to happen!

  25. This makes me happy. I’m looking forward to your review of DOWNTON TABBY.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=clJK3KBqdlE#!

  26. My mom and I argue about the name of this show. She insists it’s DownTOWN Abbey and even proved it by pointing to the screen that read Downton.

  27. Seriously, I love this show. My favortie part of this episode was how the earl was eventually forced to do the right after he thought he was just doing a friend a favor. Also, the way 3 larger story points meet around the simple scene of snooping on a footman’s quarters is just neat beans. Neat neat beans. Well done, you Downton Abbey guys, you have won the respect of an anonymous Internet commentator.

  28. I JUST blew threw seasons 1 and 2 this past long weekend. Reading this recap was great.

    Please do this for all of the episodes. Very funny.

  29. I think this recap is way, way, way too quick to judge Mary. She’s a lovely, complex character who, yes, is sometimes also a bitch, but in an apprentice-to-the-Dowager type of way. She is super clever and vulnerable and brassy and great.

  30. I think I watched almost all of season 1 before I realized that it is not called DOWNTOWN Abbey.

  31. Maybe getting ahead of myself, but PRESSING ISSUE NONETHELESS: where am I supposed to watch season 2 once we get into that??? Only S1 is on Netflix instant!

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