The relationship between Lady Mary and Matthew seemed to improve until sibling rivalry got in the way. When Lady Mary's sister, Edith, encouraged her to compete for the affections of an older man, Mary rose to the challenge hurting Matthew's feelings in the process.
The vengeful ladies' maid, Miss O'Brien, purposely promotes the bad feelings among the sisters for her own wicked gains. She is a master manipulator pulling the strings. She found out Daisy's secret - Lady Mary and her mother dragging the dead Mr. Pamouk's body from Lady Mary's bedroom in the middle of the night - and exploited it by getting her to tell Edith. Edith then wrote a letter to Mr. Pamouk's Turkish embassy.
The servants of Downton Abbey have the best story lines and are the more likable characters. The valet, Mr. Bates, confessed his feelings to the dutiful maid, Anna, but said that he could not act on them because of a mysterious wife in his past. With Lady Sybil's help, the maid who wants to be a secretary, Gwen, tried to go on a job interview that ended in disastrous turn of events when Lady Sybil's horse threw a shoe and they had to walk back to Downton Abbey through the mud. Lady Sybil spread her wings and wore a flapper-style pantaloons outfit to dinner while talking to their chauffeur about women's rights and the socialist movement. While Thomas pushed his fellow footman, William, aside in order to play with Daisy's affections when he really has no interest in her. Daisy also took the brunt of Mrs. Patmore's abuse when the cook admitted to going blind after seasoning the dessert with salt instead of sugar. The head housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, went on a date to the local fair with a farmer who proposed to her in her youth. He asked her to marry him again, but she turned him down feeling her loyalty was to her place of employment and not her heart.
The February 2011 issue of Vogue features a piece on Downton Abbey entitled "House Proud: Joan Juliet Buck Delights in the Drama and Deceit of Downton Abbey":
The irresistible new PBS Masterpiece series Downton Abbey politely welcomes us into a great house that's somewhere between Brideshead and Gosford Park, and then hits us with a stack of surprises. Imagined and written by Julian Fellowes - who wrote Gosford Park, is married to a descendant of Lord Kitchener, and had just been given a seat in the House of Lords - it's great storytelling with perfect details. There's no complacency in the saga of the Grantham family, their relatives, and their servants, despite the familiar upstairs/downstairs setup. The lawns are green and the trees are even greener, the maids wear caps, the footmen iron the newspapers, but the first bit of news is the sinking of the Titanic. It's April 1912, and the Earl of Grantham's heir has gone down with the ship, leaving his eldest daughter, Lady Mary Crawley, heir to the estate but not to the title. Then it turns out that the legal heir is a young lawyer from Manchester, and all manner of forces come into play; material, genetic, social, and emotional. Hugh Bonneville is the liberal but soft Earl of Grantham, and Elizabeth McGovern his American heiress wife. His cold daughter Mary is Michelle Dockerey; Dan Stevens is the new heir, Matthew Crawley; and a magnetic new actor named Theo James plays a Turkish visitor who gives the plot its sexy central twist. Downstairs is a treasure house of actors: Phyllis Logan as the housekeeper, Siobhan Finneran as the main ladies' maid, the wonderful Brendan Coyle as the gimpy new valet Bates, and Sophie McShera as the shrill little kitchen maid Daisy. Lording it over them all as Violet, dowager Countess of Grantham, is Maggie Smith at her imperious best, who utters the impossible phrase, "I'm tougher than I look."