|Series 2, Episode 1|
|Air date||18th September 2011|
|Written by||Julian Fellowes|
|Directed by||Ashley Pearce|
Episode 1 of the second series of Downton Abbey which premiered on the 18th September.
Feeling left out of the war effort, Robert Crawley is delighted when he receives a letter suggesting he is to be given the Colonelcy of the local volunteers and is excited about the prospect of finally being able to fight for his country. However, after attending a regimental dinner his appointment is not all it first seemed.
Isobel informs Robert and Cora Crawley that Matthew Crawley is back from the front on leave and plans to visit Downton in time for the concert. On hearing the news of his visit Lady Edith Crawley wastes no time in telling Lady Mary Crawley that Matthew is not coming alone.
Lady Sybil Crawley, shocked at the death of so many young men at the front, decides to become an auxiliary nurse and enrols for training in York. Determined to have a role in the war effort Edith learns to drive and hopes it isn’t long before her new skill can be put to good use.
At the benefit concert to raise money for the hospital Mary meets Matthew for the first time since he left for the war and the family is introduced to Lavinia Swire. A string sextet play Elgar's Salut d'Amour. Two young women hand out white feathers to young men who have not signed up for the war effort: one is given to William who is mortified and another is given to Branson, who cares not a jot.
Meanwhile, down in the servant’s hall Mr. Carson is trying to compensate for having only one footman and Mrs Hughes fears for his health. William is desperate to do his bit but doesn’t want to upset his father by signing up. Mrs. Patmore and Daisy are surprised when asked to teach one of the young ladies how to bake a cake and O’Brien is drawn closer to Lady Cora in a bid to ease her guilty conscience. Anna is in for a surprise when Lord Grantham’s valet, John Bates, returns from London. Will his news mean Anna’s dreams are about to come true?
Mrs. Hughes overhears some disturbing news when an unexpected visitor turns up at Downton – news that could threaten the future of the family and have devastating consequences for two of the staff.
Branson believes he has only one chance to tell Sybil how he feels before she leaves to be a nurse. He wants her to run away with him, but she cannot make a decsion there and then, not knowing if she even feels the same way about him, but she does promise not to get him fired by telling anyone else about what he said.
Above stairs, Mary informs the family that she has met Sir Richard Carlisle, (Iain Glen) the owner of scurrilous newspapers and a war profiteer and would like him to visit Downton. However, will Mary ever be able to escape the scandal of her past?
Having seen her son’s staff struggling with only one footman the Dowager Countess, Violet Crawley makes every effort to prevent Isobel’s butler Mr. Molesley and Robert’s footman William from being called up for service – by whatever surreptitious means she can. However, her meddling threatens to backfire on those she tries, however misguidedly, to protect?
When Matthew returns to the front he forms an unlikely alliance with former Downton footman, Thomas whom he is surprised to see in the medical corps in the trenches, but how will the two cope with the horrors that lie ahead?