VOTY Honoree

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Downton Abbey

(Click here to see the new Season Three Graphic – How to tell if you’re at risk of dying unexpectedly on Downton Abbey.)

How to tell if you're going to die on Downton Abbey

Chris and I are in full mourning this week.

Not just half mourning, as one would do for, say, a cousin, but full mourning, as one would do for a cousin that one was also engaged to.

We have been living in a dream world for the last three weeks, spending our every evening reveling in the utopia that is Downton Abbey.  And now it’s gone.

We were late to jump on the trendwagon, but when we did, we went all the way.  We have not been so engrossed in a parallel reality since Harry Potter.

…When we’ve not been watching Downton, we’ve been pining after what might happen next.

…When we have been watching Downton, we’ve been wishing there was more of it.

…We’ve even considered moving to England so that Season Three will come around quicker.  After all, we could still live in Birmingham – just the original one.

Clearly, we have a disease.

Now, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Downton Abbey is British show that just finished airing on PBS.  The abridged American version of Season One is available on Instant Netflix, and the full UK versions of Seasons One and Two are available at Amazon.  Season Three, tragically, won’t be out in the UK until September, and most likely not make it to the US until… (sob) … next January, at which time our full mourning will end.

The show is a period drama set in the early 1900’s that portrays the life of an aristocratic family and all of their servants.  And by the fact that it shows both realities of the goings on in a castle, it is astoundingly fascinating.

Downton constantly leaves us wondering about important issues, such as…

Why don’t I have a Lady’s Maid?  How have I lived this long without someone to dress and undress me on a daily basis?

And if it’s so shameful to have a maid serving in the dining room, then serving my kid’s dinner off of paper towels certainly must be worthy of hanging.

And wow, a Valet would come in so handy in my daily life!

(Which, by the way, it is important to note that this sort of valet is pronounced in such a way as to rhyme with “mallet”, not “ballet”.  It’s so much more delightfully British that way, after all.)

Downton has also given us much to talk about, thereby deepening our understanding of ourselves and our marriage.

After an episode last week, our pillow talk went as follows:

Chris: “Babe, if you ever realize that you have a thing for my Valet and find yourself inescapably attracted to him to the point of needing to fire him, just fire him and don’t tell me why.  I don’t need to know.  Okay?”

Me: “Are you KIDDING?? You would make me live with that guilt for the rest of my life without allowing me the opportunity for release and forgiveness??  That’s so awful and uncaring of you!!”

Chris: “Well YOU’RE the one contemplating messing around with my Valet.  And yet you still want ME to have to carry that burden too?!  The least you could do was carry the guilt by yourself and not involve me in it.”

Me: “I completely disagree.  It would totally put up a barrier in our marriage!!  I would never feel close to you again!”

Chris: “Well, OBVIOUSLY, there would already be a barrier up.  I don’t want to know, okay?”

Me: “Well, if you ever find yourself needing to fire one of my Lady’s Maids because of your attraction, I DO WANT TO KNOW.  I need to know if there are issues that we need to work on!! Geez.”

Chris: “Fine.  If I’m ever attracted to your Lady’s Maid, I promise to confess.  After I fire her.”

Thank goodness we have that cleared up.

However, I concede to the fact that Downton Abbey itself can be quite unclear and daunting if you’re not paying attention.  With that in mind, I made this handy reference guide for all of you – feel free to print it out and carry it with you at all times – or at least while watching Downton.

(Click it to enlarge, right click it to save or print.)

Downton Abbey

So much simpler now, don’t you agree?

For a printable version, click here.

For 2013’s installment of Downton Abbey Graphics, click here and here:

How to tell if you're going to die on Downton Abbey

86 thoughts on “Downton Abbey, Explained.

  1. Love the diagram! My husband and I just watched the season finale last night, and so, obviously, I started watching from the pilot again today. Every day needs a little Downton.

  2. I got sucked into this show too. Love it! I don’t want a lady’s maid though. I can dress myself thanks to our current “fashion.” But…a scullery maid. I could really use one of those. I haven’t seen the season finale. I’m saving it. It’s going to be a long hiatus.

  3. Loved the flow chart!! I got completely sucked into this show a few months ago (without having seen the first season), so I was sort of hazy on a few of the details/relationships between people. Just watched the finale the other night and can’t wait for the next season!

  4. Now that I see the Magic of Downton in print, I realize I of course: a. need a Lady’s Maid, b: need to start over with the pilot episode and c: must buy the UK version ASAP!! Where did you buy your version?

    1. I put a link in to the specific UK versions at Amazon – where it says “Seasons One and Two” – I have these exact copies, so I know they work in American DVD players. I’ve heard some don’t, and that the Blu-Rays don’t.

  5. Ok so this is priceless!! I love it, I linked it to my facebook because my friends NEED to see this. I got a good chuckle out of it. Only one person is missing, Patrick, the guy with his face burned off. He was a strange one. Even by Downton Abbey standards. BTW, ive been lurking for about a month. found you from Abbie! Love what you’ve got to say!

    1. Thank you so much! And welcome to my blog!!

      My theory on Patrick is that he basically admitted he was a fake to Edith – I’m pretty sure he was that other dude pretending to be Patrick. However, I also think that desperate Edith won’t let him go that easily — she’ll hunt him down at some point and try to make him Patrick. Especially if Mary-And-Matthew-Wedding Jealousy gets ahold of her!

  6. Great diagram, Rachel! I should have known she was trouble the moment I saw her curly bangs! I’m behind on my viewing, so I still have to watch Sunday’s episode. Do you think I can string it out until next January?

    1. In a shocking admission, PBS bashfully admitted that they cut out a lot because “American viewers desire a different pace of television” and because they thought we wouldn’t understand a lot of the inheritance nuances. I think at least an hour or more got cut in the first season. We watched the first season via Netflix, and are going to rewatch the full version. I’m anxious to see how much and what we missed.

      1. Thanks for posting this. I have been an AVID DA fan since it first aired on PBS. I did not know there was a difference. You said you are able to find the UK versions off of amazon??

  7. Loving this post! My husband and I started watching during the first season and have been hooked since. I was happy with the ending Sunday but was of course sad to see the season end. It has so much drama, but I love it. Anxiously waiting for the next season, I’m a big Matthew fan :) thanks for the diagram, love it. Every Monday morning, I wake up and wonder why the maid hasn’t cleaned up my living room!?!?!

  8. oh. my. goodness. you guys are too funny. i will have to show this to my MOM. perhaps she’s seen the show. they’re into pbs british stuff ;p

    1. here is what my mom said: Yes, your dad and I are thoroughly engrossed in that show. At least it didn’t leave us hanging like last season. Loved the blog and her diagram!

  9. Everyone has been talking about this show and I actually watched it for the first time yesterday (before I even saw this post!). I must confess I don’t see what all the hype is about. I watched the first three and T watched one with me. He didn’t care for it all that much. To be fair I DO NOT like British shows so for a British show it’s great! I’m just not that sophisticated I guess. :)

    1. I understand. We’re especially fans of period pieces and British TV, so it jived with us quite naturally. And it gets much better as the characters develop and the episodes go on.

  10. I LOVE Downton Abbey! I was also late in coming to the game. As in, by the time I finished Season 1 on Netflix, Season 2 was in full swing and because I don’t believe in watching anything out of order I am waiting for it to come available on Netflix. Although now that you tell me they are abridged, I may break down and order both from Amazon. Love. Love. Love. that show. I will say reading “Maid to Match” prior also helped me understand the ins and outs of all the inner workings of such a massive manor. Excuse me now, I am off to interview a ladies maid so I no longer have to brush my own hair or button a button.

  11. Oh my GOSH you are now officially the 708th person I’ve heard mention the amazingness of Downton Abbey in the past week. How do I always miss these things?? I am dying to watch it but want to start at the beginning. Maybe by the time the next season starts I’ll be caught up and carrying around that diagram for reference. ;)

    1. It is bizarre how it all of a sudden went crazy viral. I had never heard of it until a couple of months ago, then my Facebook feed blew up with Downton Abbey!

  12. Hahahaha, that’s hilarious! I love Downton Abbey too :) I heard a funny line from NPR the other day when they referred to the Super Bowl as, “that other show that was on while all of us were watching Dowton Abbey”.

  13. Thank you for the lovely, and hilarious, character map. Hope you will flesh it out in future editions.

    After reading dozens of articles and reviews on Downton, it seems that many critics revel in disparaging Downton as a soap opera, but it does strike me as much more in the tradition of a Dickens-like serialization, especially given the multiple interacting layers of society depicted and the incredibly memorable characters, relationships and settings in both.

    Back in the day, Dickens readers were similarly absorbed in his weekly or monthly episodic stories, making them the talk of town and countryside alike while waiting for the next installment.

    So I hope you will use your soapbox to correct self-important reviewers and critics who seem to believe that their attempts to cut “Downton Abbey” down to size somehow confirms their exalted taste and clarity of vision. It really doesn’t, at all. It merely confirms how small-minded (and, perhaps, incapable of joy?) they are.

  14. Would you please grant me permission to translate this characters’ map into Russian and publish it on some russian site or blog?

  15. For the moment, I’m watching the first serie (and think I will work on the 1st episod with my pupils) but when I watch the second, I’ll use your document!

  16. Wait!! The UK version is different?? In what way? I’m going to die until January! If I can get a fix by watching a modified version (which is probably what the US version is…so it would be like watching the original) then that may ease my withdrawls!! FREE BATES!!

  17. I love it! You left out the bandage-wrapped weirdo though! I hope they decided he is out of the show for good, but I’m afraid they’ll bring him back… Did you think he was real or a fake?

  18. Hilarious! I found Season 1 of Downton (which for the longest time I actually read as “Downtown Abbey” which confused me) on Netflix, but didn’t realize it was a series, and as I started the last episode I had the sinking feeling that all would not be neatly resolved at the end of 45 minutes. I can’t wait for Season 3!!

    I found you via your Gap/ON jeans expose post that someone pinned on Pinterest.

  19. I needed this laugh as I am on bed rest until st least Monday, when they will decide if I am miscarrying or not…anyway, I am a huge DA fan. The flow chart is fab. I think I might go re-watch now….

  20. Greetings from Seattle (home to Starbucks as your daughter knows)…love your blog! Can relate on so many levels…Downton Abbey obsession, home schooling, “mommy is not your servant”…your kids are adorable.

  21. That diagram is awesome! I LOVE Downton Abbey! And your website is hilarious – I love your writing. Keep up the good work! :)

  22. Hey Rachel…Just wanted to let you know that I loved your post. I started watching after a friend told me about it and then got my husband & daughter hooked. So ready for the next season. I love your diagram of all the characters!!!
    I saw a post where you mentioned liking period dramas and British TV and was wondering if you have ever seen “Good Neighbors”? My husband & I started watching it on PBS when we were dating in the early ’80’s. He was able to find all episodes on DVD thru Amazon several years back. It is wonderful simple comedy. Check it out if you ever get the chance!!! Love your blog!!!

  23. So I’m new to the whole Downton Abbey scene, I watched what I believe to be all of season 1 on Netflix, but where and how can I find season 2 and I’m guessing season 3 is out? Help me please. I am desperate for some more nostalgia!

    1. I bought Season 2 on DVD through Amazon – but you have to be careful and buy the right one (the full version US edition, not the PBS version US or the full version UK). Here’s the one I bought (incidentally it’s free on instant if you have Amazon Prime). Season 3 is available if you watch it through a service like Tunnelbear – here’s how I figured out how to watch: http://www.graspingforobjectivity.com/2012/09/downton-abbey-season-three.html


  24. FYI…a quick internet search will find series three for you. Much better than what PBS shows, they cut so much out.

  25. Your Downton diagram is “dead solid perfect!” LOL at the diagram and your “Share and Enjoy” (a la The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). Thanks!

  26. This is so great! I *just* watched Downton Abbey for the first time Sunday night and I am in love! I’m fantasizing of a lazy weekend spent watching several of the earlier episodes. Hope my husband will be as into it as yours.

  27. So I finally caved to the Downton Abbey pressure when I saw a DVD street seller selling it at $1.25 total— for 3 seasons! =) Not that there’s anything unlawful going on over here with copyright infringement or anything… ha! We’ve really enjoyed getting into the first few episodes; I’m sure more of your chart will be clear the further into it we get. I’m sure the three seasons won’t last long on our vacation next week…!

    1. That’s awesome!! You’ll have to report back to me after you’ve watched them all. In fairness, all of my strong recommendations came BEFORE season 3. ;-)

  28. Just ran across this today from the picture somoene else posted on Facebook. I just started watching about a month ago, mainly because of all I’d heard you say about it, and I LOVE it!! And I love your character map – especially the “hag tag” on O’Brien and the multiple “out to get” arrows on “Spawn of Satan”
    And I thought you’d like to know that you are so connected with the show that when I Google “Grasping for Objectivity Dow…”, Google auto-finishes with Downton Abbey! :-)

  29. Hi, I’m from Algeria. I love this show, I started watching it on January 2012 and I finished the 3rd season last December with the Christmas Special 2012.
    All the caracters are well made and the events are well written. The Dowager Countess Violet (Maggie Smith) is my favourite with her quotes :)

    I found your website by searching images from the show and so I found your “Simple Explanation” :p I love it ! There’s many funny notes haha ;)

    Thank you :) and good luck.

  30. I know I’m late to comment on this but simplyjune.org has all the British versions before the American versions come out. I got to watch season 3 this year before it was over on PBS. And, wait for it…. it’s free!!
    Maybe Season 4 will post soon!!!

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