WITF Talks

WITF Talks is our weekly programming discussion featuring commentary and insights about recent episodes of your favorite shows. Follow along each week as members of our staff are joined by local experts and enthusiasts to share thoughts, opinions, and favorite moments.

Please feel free to submit questions and feedback via email to witftalks "at" witf "dot" org.

Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 1

Written by witf | Jan 6, 2014 1:16 PM

Photo by Nick Briggs/Carnival Film and Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE

Charles Edwards as Michael Gregson and Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith

Celebrate the return of Downton Abbey and dish about the latest episode with witf Talkswitf's new podcast series. Find out what all the buzz is about each Monday with entertaining recap and commentary from witf’s Fred Vigeant and Mark Duncan. Plus, take a deep dive into the intriguing world of Edwardian era history with Dr. Jennifer Nesbitt, Associate Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University - York campus. We’ll break down the latest plot twists, one liners and cliff hangers.

The international hit series, written by Julian Fellowes, features an all-star cast including Dame Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, and Hugh Bonneville. Who will capture the heart of Lady Mary? Will Anna and Bates sink or swim in rough waters ahead? Production and costume design continues to stun. The Crawleys, the staff, and life at Highclere Castle. There’s LOTS to talk about!

Downton fans-- share your reactions, predictions and submit questions for next week's podcast. To participate, leave a comment or question below and we'll talk about during the next aftershow.

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  • Rita Hunt Smith img 2014-01-06 16:50

    This is a great idea! Do you have plans to make it available via iTunes or through your app? It would be great to make downloading it for playback in the car easier.

    • Fred Vigeant img 2014-01-06 20:46


      Thanks for listening and for the suggestion. I'll talk to our tech people to see if we can make it happen.

  • Janna W img 2014-01-07 00:04

    Hi everyone. This is a great idea for those of us who really don't have anyone to watch or discuss Downton Abbey with. I enjoyed listening to the discussion about the first episode. A number of comments come to mind.
    When it comes to Agnes, I agree that she was lying about the aunt so that she didn't have to come to Downton to interview. She never would have gotten in the door! I don't think she is particularly evil or malicious however she does have the attitude that got her fired in the first place: "I am as good as anyone else, titled, moneyed or other." I don't think she has it in for anyone but she certainly does not hold anyone there in very high regard because all the downstairs folks have accepted their "lower" place and she doesn't agree with this attitude. Sort of like a previous housemaid (can't remember name). Unfortunately I think Mrs. Hughes is right and that she may not have the right disposition for service and that will come back time and time again. For example, she burned the scarf while "daydreaming." Unfortunately for her she is probably going to become a tool of Thomas' spite because they both have "airs" about being better than everyone else. She doesn't have it in for Anna but Thomas does and he'll use Agnes for his purposes. She'll be willing because he strokes her ego and feeds into her view of herself. I predict a renewal of the underhanded activities between Thomas and the Bates'.
    I think Lord Grantham definitely has conflicting feelings about women and how their lives should be lived and very little sense of reality. This comes out in his coddling and condescendence of Mary during this grieving period. Besides he also does not want another involved in the running of the estate as others have said. He didn't want Edith to marry a man she loved because he thought she would be "wasting" her life as a nursemaid. However he got frustrated when Lady Grantham got so involved with her own activities before and during the war because she wasn't readily available to be the lady on his arm. What does he think the ladies do all day? Obviously he feels it isn't very substantial per his cutting comments to Mary at their dinner in this episode. He certainly can be cruel at times. I loved when his mother said she would like to call the nanny and send him to bed without supper!!
    Lord Grantham also puts a different value on his grandson's future versus his granddaughter's. The work on the estate is all about keeping it profitable for his grandson's future but nothing about the future of his granddaughter, when it is dependent on the same (since her father, Tom, is dependent on it for his livelihood now). And he is much more acknowledging of Mary's grief than he is of Tom's. He has repeatedly downplayed Tom's loss as he did in this episode when he explained to Tom about Mary's situation. Tom just said "I know" and at least Lord Grantham remembered and admitted his faux pas. Maybe he feels that men don't have the same depth of feeling that women do, or shouldn't.
    It is sweet how the dowager duchess has taken on Molesley like a project. She sometimes has pity for those in the world that are not as endowed with sense and skill as others. Sort of like Mrs. Crawley. However the dowager countess should have made it more clear to her butler what the situation was with the luncheon so that her butler did not feel threatened. It was sad to see Molesley taken down again. But then he is sort of that pathetic character, but he has a good heart. It seems as if the upstairs folks in general just can't imagine that there are machinations that go on downstairs between their servants that may be devious or untruthful. Like with the dowager and her butler, even though she didn't explain the situation to him, she expected that he would act with the greatest decorum and respect toward the intruder of his territory. Maybe that was typical of the attitudes of the upstairs people toward the downstairs people. The above and below. It is the same with Cora. She never suspects that something she is told by the staff may be a fabrication.
    I wonder if Carson is going to be able to maintain control of this household. He is much less stern and seems to be more and more swayed by Mrs. Hughes especially. And he isn't so on top of all that happens in the house. And what is it that Thomas does? Where is the friction between Thomas and Carson that I would assume to be there after their history?
    And the idea of Gregson becoming a German citizen in order to get a divorce just rings all kinds of bells in my head. The characters don't know it but we know about WWII coming. That could make all sorts of complications in their relationship if he and Edith were to work it out. What happens to them when WWII breaks out?
    And are they going to let the footman Alfred ever become a cook? Will Daisy inherit the farm from Mr. Mason when he dies? Will Thomas ever get his comeuppance? All questions I ask myself. (Sorry for the great length.)

    • jnesbitt img 2014-01-08 09:45


      What great ideas! No apologies required. I agree with you about the Dowager and Mosley and about the motives of Edna. I was thinking that Edna does resemble Ethel, the maid who romanced with the officer in season 2, in her claim to be the equal of the upstairs Downtonites. Will her fate resemble that of Ethel, who was certainly punished for her transgressions, or ....?

      We really didn't get to talk much about goings-on downstairs with Alfred-Daisy-Ivy-Jimmy, and we should definitely talk about how the opportunities for young people were changing after the war. In my dreams I have Daisy and Mrs. Patmore going off to the farm to start a locavore farmhouse restaurant, but I guess that would be a bit before the times! :)

      I want to hear more about Gwen--she's mentioned as married in Season 4, Episode 1--and her typewriter.

      I look forward to hearing more about what you think of coming episodes--thanks for the comments and the suggestions for the conversation going forward.

  • Jim Foster img 2014-01-08 19:37

    This is a great idea. One suggestion. Have you ever considered putting things like this up as an mp4 file rather than an mp3. That way, when you play it on an ipod it is treated as an audiobook rather than a song. The significance of that is that if you stop listening and then come back, the file will pick up where you left off rather than starting from the beginning. This feature is handy for longer pieces like this.

    • Jim Foster img 2014-01-08 20:11

      Obviously, my comment is moot if you post it as a podcast.

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