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 enrolls for training in York. Determined to have a role in the war effort as well, 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, Matthew's fiance. 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. Robert is outraged and ejects them from the concert. 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.
John Bates returns from his mother's funeral in London. He found out that he was left a good deal of money from his mother and might be able to get a divorce from his estranged wife. He tells this to Anna, proposes to her, and they kiss. Through a turn of events, however, their future together looks shattered.
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 can't hold in his feelings for Sybil any longer and musters up everything he's got to tell her how he feels before she leaves to be a nurse. He wants her to bet on him and trust that the world is changing and he will make something of himself. She can't accept him on the spot, not knowing if she even feels the same way about him. When he fears that he might lose his job over what he said to her, she assures him that no one will hear about it from her.
Above stairs, Mary informs the family that she has met Sir Richard Carlisle, 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. Matthew and Thomas discuss matters, and Thomas realizes that the only way to get out of the war is to get himself injured, and allows himself to get shot in the hand.