Episode 2, is the second episode of the Third season of the UK-US period drama, Downton Abbey. This episode, written by Julian Fellowes and directed by Brian Percival, continues the visit of Cora Crawley's mother, Martha Levinson and an incident with an oven that nearly torpedoes a vital dinner.
Lady Mary Crawley and her husband, Matthew Crawley had returned from their honeymoon in the South of France in a new car that they bought. They joke that both Mary's father and grandmother will howl at the moon in unison. However, Robert Crawley surprises them both by liking the car. Meanwhile, at dinner, Mary and Matthew hold forth about their honeymoon, which had been in the South of France.
During the dinner, Martha, Mary's maternal grandmother, pipes up that she loves the sun. Violet makes a barbed comment about how she could tell.
Meanwhile, below stairs, Sarah O'Brien, Cora's lady's maid; and Thomas Barrow, Robert's temporary valet (his regular valet, John Bates, was in prison for a murder he did not commit) are fighting and arguing, trying to outdo one another. Thomas is aggravated that his enemy Alfred Nugent was named Matthew's valet. What made it even more aggravating is that O'Brien is Alfred's aunt.
Plotting, hoping to get him into trouble, he gives Alfred something to get rid of a mark on Matthew's tails, but he gives him the wrong solution and it burns a hole in the tails. Matthew is compelled to come down to dinner in black tie (at that time, dinner was very formal). Alfred is removed from being Matthew's valet and his former valet Joseph Molesley comes up from the village to be his former master's valet.
O'Brien knew that Alfred's demotion was the work of Thomas and that she would see to it that he would pay and suffer for what he had done. A saddened Alfred sits in the hall, and he received a kiss from visiting lady's maid, Miss Reed, who seems to like him.
Again, upstairs, Matthew explains to Robert about him being the beneficiary of Reginald Swire's money. Although he does understand, Robert wonders why Matthew wouldn't take the money, as he had done nothing wrong. Matthew again explains that he felt that he had broken Lavinia's heart when he threw her over to marry Mary.
Mary and her grandmother, Violet Crawley, plot and scheme to get Downton back on its financial feet again. They see Martha as a means to that end, and they scheme to get her to put more of her family money into Downton. (Cora's huge dowry was used to help shore up Downton, when she married Robert)
Things get scary for Elsie Hughes when she discovers that she has a lump that needs to be biopsied. She is scared, but she gains the support and help of Mrs. Beryl Patmore, Downton's cook. This situation puts aside the animosity that they had in previous seasons over the keys to the storehouses. This also helps the two women to bond as friends.
However, Mrs. Patmore has her own share of troubles when the stove breaks down, just before a very important dinner.
This imperils the dinner, but Martha comes up with a radical idea. She immediately tells Charles Carson to clear the table and bring anything that was edible up and they were going to have an indoor picnic. According to Martha, they were going to eat whatever they want, wherever they want, all over the house.
The idea is met with resistance from Violet, Mary, Robert and Carson, but Isobel, Cora and Martha find it to be something that could well be fun. As Martha prepared the picnic, Mary complains that this was not what was supposed to happen, but Cora scolds her daughter and mother in-law by saying that if the picnic was to stop their undignified campaign to fleece Martha, she would not be sorry that it happened.
During said picnic (where Martha serenades Violet with the old standard, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart"), Mrs. Levinson finally realizes that Mary and Violet were asking her for help.
While she would be able to entertain them in Newport and New York, and increase Cora's dress allowance, she could not release the rest of the money to bail out Downton, as her late husband, Isidore, had tied up the money, in a similar manner as Violet's husband tied up Cora's fortune into the estate. Also she felt that she couldn't rob her son, Harold Levinson of his share of his father's money.
Before said dinner, O'Brien, to get even with Thomas for humiliating her nephew, takes some of Robert's evening shirts. This leaves Thomas in trouble, as Cora had already been dressed, and Thomas had no shirt for Robert to wear. He was forced to wear Black tie; as had Matthew, since his tails had not come back from London in time.
Later, Alfred finds that Ms. Reed had found the shirts and gave them to Alfred to return. Thomas is aggravated that they had been returned (he had been scolded by Robert for them missing in the first place), and asks who brought them back. O'Brien tells him to quit his threatening like Tom Mix and to go and lay out the Earl's pajamas!
Meanwhile, Isobel finds out that Ethel Parks, a former Downton housemaid, is now fallen on hard times as a prostitute and she begins to try to help her out.
After the indoor picnic, which, despite its unorthodox nature, proved to be rather successful, Martha and Robert share one more drink together, before she prepares to return to America, as she was starting to feel homesick.
She tries to explain to Robert what Mary and Violet were trying to pull. While Martha said that it was sorry that it would perhaps have to go (which it didn't, thanks to Matthew, as was shown in the next episode), they should look to the bright side, that Robert's father and his father in-law, were of the same mind, that they tied the money up very tightly.