Catch up on what has happened in the sprawling world of Downton Abbey. Watch a short video recap for episode 2 or read the full synopsis below.
As a convalescent home for wounded officers, Downton Abbey offers respite from the front. But Cora and Isobel, locked in a power struggle over running the home, wage domestic war, and Thomas in his new rank as acting-Sergeant is not one to broker peace.
Mary rejects Rosamund's dubious advice while Daisy reluctantly accepts Mrs. Patmore's — in both cases, new bonds are irreversibly forged. Meanwhile, Anna dares to hope when she spies a familiar figure in the village.
When Matthew accompanies a visiting General to Downton, a dinner party brings much of the war's painful demands into sharp relief, claiming one victim and very nearly several others. Branson's ambitions are revealed and William's aspirations are fulfilled. And Edith, finally, catches someone's eye.
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
As the grand rooms of Downton Abbey are converted into dormitories for wounded officers, Isobel has taken charge, ordering both the family and the bemused servants around like a general. Her overbearing presence creates an unlikely alliance in Violet and Cora, who feels displaced in her own home. When Dr. Clarkson delegates the running of the home to both Cora and Isobel, much to Isobel's chagrin, O'Brien subtly suggests to Cora that Thomas might look after the day-to-day management of the home. Ignorant of Thomas's thieving ways, Cora arranges this with Clarkson and Thomas returns to Downton in as acting Sergeant. In theory, he is Carson's boss. But only in theory.
As Branson shares his plans to become a conscientious objector to the war with a concerned Sybil, Lang continues to suffer from worsening shell-shock, and word arrives that William will visit for the night on his way to active duty in France. But the first to arrive are the convalescing officers, one of whom, Major Bryant, catches housemaid Ethel's eye. To everyone's surprise and delight, Matthew also arrives, on leave from his tour with General Sir Herbert Strutt. Impressed with Downton's transformation, he suggests that the General visit to inspect the home. But all is not smooth in the hospital, as Isobel's power play extends from the staff to the family to even Isis the dog! The war on the home front is heating up.
In the village, Anna has an infusion of hope when she catches a glimpse of Bates. Through Sir Richard Carlisle's connections, Mary learns that Bates isn't living in London with Vera but has been working in a Yorkshire pub. When Anna tracks him down, he reveals that with new proof in hand of Vera's unfaithfulness, he has grounds for divorce. Anna begs him to return to Downton but Bates is unwilling at present; he wants the situation with Vera to be resolved, and reassures Anna that it won't be long now. Meanwhile, Branson's hopes to humiliate the British Army with a public stunt are dashed when he learns that the army turned him down due to a heart murmur. Sybil is relieved that he won't be going to war or prison, but he is determined to find another way to avenge his cousin killed by the British.
Edith has a natural ease and warmth with the wounded men, whom she begins to assist selflessly. Ethel has fixed her attention on one in particular, and flirts with Major Bryant in defiance of Mrs. Hughes's adamant warnings to keep her distance and place. Meanwhile, Violet and Rosamund return from visiting with Lavinia in London with a salacious story about Matthew's fiancée. They discovered the source of Lavinia and Sir Richard Carlisle's argument: Lavinia stole secrets from her uncle and gave them to Carlisle, who then published them, precipitating the huge Marconi Scandal of 1912. As her pièce de résistance, Rosamund gleefully claims that Lavinia would never have done this...if she were not Carlisle's mistress.
With General Strutt's impending arrival, Carson worries that a dinner with no footman would reflect badly on the house until Branson volunteers to act the part. Lavinia, arriving to join Matthew, is subjected to a strange reception from Rosamund and begs Mary to tell her why. Reluctantly, Mary explains what they know and Lavinia in turn confides in Mary. She explains that her father had owed Carlisle enough money to bankrupt him, and Carlisle offered to waive the debt if she gave him stolen evidence implicating the Minister in the scandal. Lavinia regrets what she did, but she had to save her father from ruin — a choice that resonates with Mary, leading her to sacrifice her opportunity to push Matthew and Lavinia apart, and instead sing her rival's praises to Matthew.
Daisy expresses her worry to Mrs. Patmore that when William visits he might propose. But fresh from her grief and humiliation about her nephew's desertion and death, Mrs. Patmore pressures Daisy to accept, stressing that William needs hope to survive, and should he survive, Daisy can always break off the engagement after the war.
Both Cora and Isobel greet the General, competing for recognition as head of the home, and Strutt congratulates Cora — much to her gratification and Isobel's chagrin — on her good work. Just as dinner is being served, Anna finds a note from Branson to Sybil asking forgiveness and explaining that by the time she reads it he will have been arrested for attacking the General. In the nick of time, Anna and Carson grab a tureen from Branson. Branson is forced out of the dining room and William offers to stand in as footman in his army uniform, the dinner continuing as though nothing has happened. Branson informs the horrified staff that he was never going to murder the General; he was just going to drench him in a repulsive concoction. The only surprise at dinner is a happy one when the General recognizes Edith for humble and excellent work with the officers and the home.
Just as Daisy worried, William proposes, and put on the spot, Daisy reluctantly accepts. Robert, eager to keep William safe, arranges for Matthew to take on William as his servant. As the visitors all depart, so too does Lang; the shell-shocked man is suffering too much to work or to remain at Downton. Robert observes to Cora that all has truly changed.