Now that Mary has found time to go upstairs to take off her hat, "Downton Abbey" -- and Mary's love life -- moves forward in an interesting second episode of the season.
And yes, societial changes still abound. Could you imagine even last season seeing Mary go on what amounts to a hook-up weekend? Or think about the possibility of Robert listening to a radio? Or Daisy learning math!?!
Or, you know, Thomas somewhat implying that he feels bad about, well, how bad he behaves?
What is happening in 1924?!
Sex, lies and Lady Mary
Lady Mary does not back out of her planned sexual rendezvous liaison thing with Lord Gillingham. In fact, she's planning ahead. To ensure that George doesn't have an accidental little brother or sister, Mary awkwardly asks Anna to help make sure that's there's no "consequences" to the trip.
It takes Anna sometime to catch on.
"You know..." Mary says.
"No I don't..." Anna replies.
"Oh my God..." Anna finally utters.
Turns out Mary has a sex book to assist her planning -- Marie Stopes' "Married Love or Love in Marriage" (Choose Your Own Sex Manual Book Title!). She points to a section in the book and asks Anna to get it for her (we're assuming it's a diaphragm) since Mary would have been spotted doing so and then Downton would be burned to the ground by angry villagers. Consequences!
(By the way, this is a real book and Marie Stopes is extremely fascinating. She was a pioneer of birth control, a paleobotanist and female rights activist. Unfortunately, she was also a fervent proponent of eugenics.)
Anna does her duty and super-awkwardly picks up the goods from a tiny shop in the village, but only after the female shopkeeper gives her grief about it (she basically only lets her buy the thing when Anna says she's married and worried that another pregnancy would but her health in danger).
Bonus points for Anna: She's so upset about the transaction that she later tells Mary she would like to go back and buy a baker's dozen of them. Good for you, Anna. You buy all the diaphragms you want!
Mary has told her family that she's taking a weekend off to go on a "sketching trip" with a friend, which sounds like a road trip where the pair will stop and just draw whenever the spirit moves them. Thrilling.
Before she leaves to "sketch," Charles Blake arrives at the house with an art historian acquaintance who wants to look at a particular painting at the house. Blake uses the time to prod and tease Mary about how he "lost" the battle for her affections and that the clear winner is Gillingham's "lithe and supple body."
Those are his words.
Blake also tells her that she's "cleverer" than Gillingham. True. The audience is continued to be left with the feeling that Mary would be way better off with Blake.
But until then ... sexy weekend in Liverpool! That's a thing, right? Mary and Gillingham check into the hotel separately, though Gillingham does manage to get them adjoining rooms.
Gillingham lays it on thick. The plan? Dinner, then back to the room for lots of sex.
Seriously, this is 1924. I think if Gillingham was overheard he would have been arrested for gross indecency and sentenced to seven years of hard labor in some sort of gloomy English prison.
Mary, for her part, eagerly accepts the sex-plan with a long, romantic kiss.
Edith's plan moves forward
Everything about Edith's situation with the Drewes seems doomed to failure. Mr. Drewe's it-could-work-but not-really plan to make Edith an informal godmother of sorts to Marigold is met with suspicion by a (justifiably) angry Mrs. Drewe.
It basically amounts to Mr. Drewe implying that Marigold doesn't have a real family. Mrs. Drewe is all, "Um, we are her family" and Edith just kind of sulks in the Drewes' kitchen.
Yeah, this is going to end badly.
But we still feel bad for Edith, especially when Anna discovers Marigold's photograph under her pillow. We also feel bad for Edith since Mary is still so mean to her, even after the fire.
"I do feel like such an idiot," Edith says when talking about the fire.
"Maybe because you behaved like an idiot," Mary says.
The great wireless battle
Robert, king of all things familiar and old-fashioned, balks at Rose's idea of getting a wireless (a radio) for the house. Robert is downright dismissive of the whole concept, even after Cora says she wouldn't mind one.
"That's because you're an American," Robert says. (Uh, OK.).
He also calls the wireless a "kind of thief of life" and bemoans what it will be like for people to waste hours huddled around a wooden box.
Oh, Robert. Just wait until TV.
Robert later agrees to the wireless when he learns that King George V is going to use it to speak to the English people during the opening of the British Empire Exhibition (which would mean that this episode is taking place in late April). By the way, King George V is the father of King George VI, played by Colin Firth in "The King's Speech."
It was amusing watching the family (and servants) gather around all formal-like to listen to the broadcast. The dowager even stood when the king was speaking.
Patmore: "I suppose he can't hear us?"
No, Patmore, the king can't hear you.
And a war memorial battle
Carson and Robert are still at odds over where the World War I memorial should be placed. The committee (and Carson) want it in the open field where cricket is played (but, but ... sports!!), while Robert thinks a better place for it would be in the middle of the village.
Mrs. Hughes agrees with Lord Grantham, which leads Carson to tell her how disappointed he is in her. Rather harsh there, Carson.
Later, Carson and Robert are convinced that the center of the village is a better place for the memorial when they meet a villager who says she takes her son to the graveyard in the village so he can pay his respects to his father who was killed in the war. They realize that the village, the center of activity for the town, would be the best place.
Which all leads to the cutest Carson-Hughes interaction in the history of "Downton."
Carson tells Mrs. Hughes that they have decided on the village location and that the bonus of it is that "it puts us back in agreement. I don't like it when you and I are not in agreement."
Mrs. Hughes says he's flattering and that talk like that makes her want to "check the looking glass to make sure her hair is tidy."
"Get away with you," Carson says with a smile.
These two need to marry already.
Finally, at the end of the episode, a police officer shows up to ask some questions about Mr. Greene. Reminder (although you probably don't need one): Mr. Greene was Lord Gillingham's valet who raped Anna and was later mysteriously killed.
The officer dramatically says that suddenly "a witness" has turn up. What will this mean for Bates and Anna?
MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM EPISODE 2
New character: We're introduced briefly to art historian/dealer Simon Bricker (Richard E. Grant of "Withnail and I"!!!) who arrives at Downton to check out a painting. So, of course, the family plans a dinner around a man looking at one work of art. But he seems to be more interested in Cora.
Robert is oblivious. "Tell your friend Bricker to stop flirting with Isis," he tells Cora. "There's nothing more ill-bred than trying to steal the affections of one's dog." Cora sort of rolls her eyes and says, "I'll tell him to stop flirting." Oh, snap.
Bests decription of Bricker: "He's very brown, lucky chap," Mary notices, referring to Bricker's tan. He IS the the most-tan art historian of 1924, I'm guessing.
Poor Thomas?: Jimmy leaves Downton and Thomas alternates between being particularly mean (Daisy even asks him, "Why do you have to make everything sound so nasty all the time?" which is basically a question everyone has asked of Thomas since the beginning of the show). But he does show a more human side when he tells Anna how he wishes he could be more liked. Interesting. Layers.
Baxter's still around: Cora still hasn't dismissed her (she's still thinking about what to do), but urges Baxter to tell her exactly why she stole from her former employer. Thomas also tells Molesley what she did, and Molesley has the same question: There has to be some reason or some pressure Baxter had to do what she did, right?
Worst dinner conversation ever: Fight over the consequences of the Russian Revolution? Pass the peas!
What will Branson do?: Will Sarah Bunting -- who is now busy teaching Daisy math -- steal him away from Downton? Will Sybbie be "raised by some harpie in an American sewer!" as Robert fears? I would hate to see Branson leave, but it's funny that Robert sees that as the only alternative life for his son-in-law.
Most devious advice: "Always make a lie as truthful as possible" -- Gillingham
Most unfortunate way to say goodbye: "If someone had told me I'd be friends with ... someone like you ... I wouldn't have believed them" -- Jimmy to Thomas