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"Downton Abbey" As Explained By Londoners Who Have Never Seen It

"I know there's a rapist on the show, and I feel like it might be him."

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There is no denying that Downton Abbey is a phenomenon — in the United States. But when I visited BuzzFeed's London bureau, I was rather shocked to discover that pretty much every single staffer could barely give a rip about the ongoing early 20th century saga of the Earl of Grantham's vast English estate and the lives of those who live and work there. They all recognized that the show was popular in their native country — but among their parents, not them.

So, I decided to pull a handful of BuzzFeed U.K. staffers into a room, show them a series of photos of the Downton Abbey cast, and ask them to describe who they thought these characters were, and how they fit into the show. Two of them, Scott and Ailbhe, admitted they had, on rare occasion, watched the show (although their answers seemed to prove otherwise). The rest had not seen a single episode. Here are their responses.

Robert, The Earl of Grantham

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Scott: He looks like Paul Burrell, the disgraced former butler of Diana, so I can't get that out of my mind whenever I see him. He runs the whole of Downton. He's like the dude in terms of making sure everything goes like clockwork. He's a bit well to do, and he's posh. He's got great hair.

Ailbhe: I think that's the butler, from what I've seen. Does he have the leg thing? I think he's got a leg thing. Maybe he doesn't. He looks very worried. But he's sitting at the table. He can't be the butler. He must be the man of the house, and he's eating dinner. And he looks worried. For financial reasons?

Tabatha: Someone's dad. He also looks like he's a P.C. from The Bill, a TV show here.

Robin: He's dressed like a butler, but he's eating… I'm going to say steak. So he's probably not the butler. He's lord of the manor, Mr. Downton. That would be a good name.

Cate: He is a horrible house guest, and is clearly an asshole. He just does not look like a nice person at all. Maybe he's a mean teddy bear. Like, maybe he just seems really horrible, but on the inside, he's just a nice guy. Maybe.

Richard: I know the actor is Hugh Bonneville. I think he is the head of the household. He looks pretty smart, pretty dapper. He looks pretty angry as well. He's got a violent past, perhaps. Quite stern and authoritative.

Tom: That is Lord Something-or-other. He's very self-important. He's the patriarch of the whole thing. He is prone to grumpiness and probably has had an affair with a servant girl.

Lady Mary Crawley

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Scott: She's the wife of Paul Burrell. She always has that facial expression. She never really seems to show any emotion in terms of excitement, happiness, joy. She always seems to be in, like, an emotional paroxysm of some sort. She has been involved in some sort of love triangle. Probably Paul Burrell knows or is involved. I'm really good at this!

Ailbhe: That is the daughter of that man [Robert]. She was in a car crash. Was she pregnant? She was! Then lost the baby.

Robin: This woman is troubled. She has recently lost her husband who was the son of the non-butler guy eating steak. He fell off his horse. She just sits in the corner, occasionally wiping away a solitary tear. She doesn't say much.

Tom: That is the daughter of the previous character. She's been groomed to be a young heiress debutante kind of thing, but she doesn't want to, because she's a fiercely independent woman who actually has ambitions to be a writer. She feels very oppressed by the patriarchal society in which she's living.

Lady Edith Crawley

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Ailbhe: She looks like she's a fun one. She's the fun sister or cousin visiting from somewhere. She's got a flapper air. Is it too early for flappers? No, it's after World War I, so it's not. It's flapper time. Yeah, she's a flapper.

Robin: She also looks troubled. Maybe women of this time were just very troubled. But this woman was led to drink through the pain. She's never done anything successful with her life. But she's done something scandalous — being impregnated by a stable boy? — to try and rebel because her parents do not like her as much as her siblings.

Richard: A young niece or something who's visiting, who doesn't necessarily live in Downton Abbey — if you can live in Downton, I have no idea if that's even possible. She may be American. I like her hair.

Tom: That is [Mary's] best friend, who is the niece of another lord. She is a little bit ditzy and slightly neurotic, but she had a tragic love affair with an army major, who died. You can see the sadness of that in her eyes.

Matthew Crawley

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Tabatha: Oh my god: sexy gardener. He's inexplicably quite well-dressed.

Robin: That's a rather fancy suit. This man has spent some time abroad. He's come along to mix things up. He's "a bad sort," as we would say. But I reckon he might have taken advantage of the dowdy, drinking woman [Edith]. But he did it for his own agenda — he doesn't like her.

Cate: I know there's a rapist on the show, and I feel like it might be him. (Laughing) I don't like him at all. I feel like he is shady, mainly because of that stupid hat that he's wearing. He does not seem like a trustworthy person.

Richard: Nice! I really like his outfit. That is strong. That's Dan Stevens, isn't it? So I think he is dead. I remember Dan Stevens being popular and then dying. He went away to war. I think it's set during wartime. He was a son or maybe the heir to the whole thing, and he went away, and he's now dead.

Tom: That is an American diplomat who has been staying with them — a bit of a bounder, to be perfectly honest. I think he's had love affairs with possibly both of those previous women, and, I think, at least one serving boy. Ultimately, he has a good heart.

Violet, The Dowager Countess of Grantham

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Scott: She's the one everyone is really surprised is still alive, because they keep going forward in time. She was supposed to be, like, 70 in the first series, which was in, like, 1900. And now it's, like, 1950 or something, and she's still there because she just won't die and everyone loves her.

Tabatha: The grandma. All I can think of is Professor McGonagall, because it's the same person.

Cate: I mean, I love her. I've seen sassy GIFs of her. She's amazing, simply because of the casting. She's a fierce, fierce lady. Just look at the shade she's throwing. That side-eye!

Tom: That's, well, it's Dame Maggie Smith. She is, basically, waspish. She has a waspish sense of humor. She disapproves of everything. She has a sordid past that is never quite explained.

Lady Sybil Branson

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Tabatha: Oh, she's pretty! She's a nearby neighbor, who is trying to seduce the sexy gardener. It's a good hat!

Robin: This is the daughter they actually like. She's got a nice tan. She spends time outside. Fancy hat. That color really works. She sleeps with her sister's husband.

Cate: She seems irritating. Like, [Edith] seemed miserable, but she seemed, like, miserable on her own account — like, Shit's fucked up for me, but I'm just going to deal with it. She seems like things keep happening to her, and she's like, Why? Why me?! I think it's her hat.

Richard: (Long pause) Sister or something? She was married and is now divorced. Again, no one's smiling in this thing. It looks fucking depressing.

Tom: That is (long pause) the sister of the first woman. She is much more at ease with the society in which she lives. She has had numerous affairs with many, many people. She is a sexually liberated woman, but she also now has a drinking problem.

Isobel Crawley

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Robin: Every family has that one that doesn't really know what's going on, the kind of anti-Maggie Smith. This is her. Her husband is fooling around with a maid. There's all kinds of crap going on that this woman doesn't know and she will never know, because she's clueless.

Cate: She's like your sassy Aunt Betty. Like, she'll say horrible things at the dinner table, but funny things. She'll say what everyone else is thinking.

Richard: That is one of the staff dressed up, whatever the head female position is in the house. She is very loyal to the household and doesn't take any shit from the staff. She's been there since forever. She knows a lot of secrets, but keeps them to herself. She's a trusted confidant of the staff and the house. (Pause) That's probably completely wrong.

Tom: That is, um (longer pause) that is the (longest pause) widow of the local vicar, who died in tragic and mysterious circumstances.

Tom Branson

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Ailbhe: Oh, there's so many of them! A nephew. He's part of the family because he's wearing a tux. Is he the gay one? Maybe that's him. He looks worried, like he's hiding a deep, dark secret. But I guess they all are.

Tabatha: He's the son, and he competes with the sexy gardener for the women's attention. He's also quite fit, but not as good as the gardener.

Richard: He looks very dashing. I like him a lot. He's taken over the Dan Stevens role. He's the new heartthrob. He is going out with one of the girls we've just seen, if not two of them. He's got multiple partners. He may now be the heir to the household after Dan Stevens died. He looks quite smooth, quite suave, maybe a bit calculating. That's the closest to a smile I've seen on anyone's face.

Tom: He served in the army with the major who died who was having the relationship with the sad-eyed woman earlier [Edith]. He is not quite as aristocratic as the rest of them, but still from a fairly well-off family. And he's hiding the fact that he is riddled with sexually transmitted diseases.

Cora, The Countess of Grantham

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Scott: She is the wife of Paul Burrell, not the other one [Mary]. Maybe the other girl is her sister? She's the lady in charge. Not the other lady in charge. She's not in charge. Although I did say she was in charge.

Robin: Not a local. She's probably American. No offense — she's just got that look. I think she's probably the kind of woman who would have survived the Titanic — a wealthy American woman who would have clamored over some poor people to survive, for sure.

Cate: She's a character that you're not meant to like, and that you think is really horrible, but then it turns out she's [good]. She's like Snape. You'll get to the end, and you'll be like, Oh, all this time, she knew this, and she was just a good person, but seemed horrible at the time!

Richard: She's visiting, a distant cousin from America who's come over to cause all kinds of trouble, maybe flirting or hooking up with the previous guy [Tom]. All the other women hate her completely, but she's got the ear of Hugh Bonneville.

Tom: She is the long lost younger sister of the first bloke [Robert]. She went to travel the world and wasn't heard from for about 12 years, and then mysteriously reappeared one day. There's something that she's still not telling them about what she did. It's possible that she's a spy.

Mr. Carson

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Scott: Oh, he's the butler who always seems to be in a monotone. He was in a war once, and they allowed him to become the head butler, even though he has, like, war experiences and post traumatic stress disorder. He takes himself very seriously. The upstairs people like him, and the downstairs people are scared of him.

Ailbhe: That's the butler, the head of staff. He doesn't have the leg thing. We've yet to meet leg thing man, I think.

Cate: (Laughing) I don't know why he makes me laugh. I can't tell if he's super-important and just seems awful and grumpy, or if he's, like, the fun butler. I hope he's the fun butler. Like, he would make jokes to the lady in the burgundy outfit [Isobel].

Tom: He's been the butler there for approximately 50 years. He knows everything about all the secrets everybody's got, and he disapproves of every single thing every other character does.

Mrs. Hughes

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Scott: She's the one who keeps looking at her watch and tries to ensure that the house is all respectable and well-oiled. A bit annoying, but she dies and everyone misses her.

Robin: The guy who was wearing a suit before, who looked like he wasn't used to wearing a suit and is a really nice guy [Tom]? That's her illegitimate child. He doesn't know, but she knows, and she's got a job in this house to watch over him. And then one day, it will be revealed.

Richard: Maybe that's [Bates'] sister, actually. She's taken on the duties after he went to prison.

Tom: That's the housekeeper. She also knows all of their secrets. Unlike [Carson], she may disapprove of them somewhat, but she's more concerned about their lives, tries to keep the peace. She quietly works behind the scenes to try to smooth over all the drama whilst struggling with her own internal dilemmas about being a lesbian.

Anna Bates

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Scott: She is from the downstairs bit, who ends up having an affair with somebody from upstairs, and it goes against 1920s fashions. She becomes very politicized and a woman of the suffragette movement and tries to be very political because Downton is a very political show.

Tabatha: Oh, she's the wife of the sexy gardener, who can't afford nice clothes. She's jealous of those other women, but secretly, she's the best one.

Cate: She had an affair with that other guy at the dinner table [Tom]. That's the storyline. She's someone's sister that's come over to live in this house, and she had an affair with that guy. Maybe she's pregnant. She's carrying his baby! That's what's happened.

Tom: That is the daughter of the local doctor who had an affair with the army bloke who's riddled with STDs [Tom]. She's now concerned that she may have contracted them as well and can't go to the local doctor to ask about this because it's her dad, who would disapprove. He's a very strict Presbyterian.

Sarah O'Brien

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Ailbhe: She's a governess. She's teaching the kids French and stuff. She's very prim and proper. She also has a dark past. She looks very stern, but that's probably the look she's going for. She's actually quite a nice person.

Richard: I'm going to take a wild punt and reckon she was central in the first couple series, but now she's dead or left. Some kind of scandal. Maybe she was caught stealing money or, I don't know, spoons.

Tom: She's been a servant there for a long time. She was, at one point, made pregnant by the lord of the manor, and was forced into having an abortion. She still stays on there because she still has a huge amount of affection for the place, and can't quite bring herself to tear herself away. But she's haunted by these memories, constantly.

Mrs. Patmore

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Scott: She's involved with some sort of scandal. The one that everyone's like, "Oh, Doris!" So I'm going to call her Doris.

Robin: This is the comic relief in the kitchen. She is a mothering figure to all of the people on her staff, but also the dowdy-looking scared woman who was drinking wine [Edith]. I think she would be a real mother to that girl, whereas her genuine mother is probably a bitch to her.

Richard: A chef. Well, she's got red hair, so I'm immediately thinking of Orange Is the New Black. Maybe she has that kind of role, like she's really keen on her kitchen. Every plotline involving her is making a new meal or chasing a chicken around the yard.

Tom: That's the cook. She is an alcoholic, but she's also very jolly, and has a bawdy sense of humor, which sometimes oversteps the mark. She sometimes says things she shouldn't do to Dame Maggie Smith, and there are disapproving looks. But she's a very good cook, so they keep her on.

Mr. Bates

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Scott: Oh, he's the one who's come back from war! He's the assistant butler who looks like the other butler. He keeps becoming ill, and everyone's like, Oh, he's a liability. But everyone looks after him because they love him.

Ailbhe: Leg man! It's him, with the leg! I knew it! Because he's got the cane! He looks sad. He's leaving. His bag's packed. He's unhappy about it. Maybe he's just worried about the stairs and his cane. If you have a bad leg, why would you work in an Abbey? I think he's in love with someone.

Tabatha: This is a passing traveler who's got caught in a storm, and he's turned up with this large bag. And, because it's a large house, and they're all very hospitable, they've all allowed him in.

Richard: Oh, maybe that's Bates. No. Maybe it's not. He is the new head butler after Bates went away. Bates was a well-liked character by everyone on staff and the family. He is a bit more ruthless, a bit more calculating and horrible. He's trampled over all the young staff and is just out for his own good. With a nice bowler hat.

Tom: That's the local doctor who's the father of the one who's got the STDs from the army bloke [Anna and Tom]. As you can see, he's a very strict Presbyterian.

Daisy Mason

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Tabatha: A young maid, who has a crush on the sexy gardener. [She's] cheeky.

Richard: One of the young members of staff who works under Red. She is quite fun as well. She's got a young child, which she is hiding, with one of the members of the family. Red is a surrogate mother who looks after her.

Tom: She's the maid who the lord of the manor turned his affections to following the regrettable incident with the pregnancy of the other one [O'Brien]. So there's a lot of resentment there.

Thomas Barrow

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Ailbhe: He's not staff because he's wearing a white bow tie. He hurt his hand from punching someone. He's a secret fighter. Another cousin, or a boyfriend, or fiancé. And he's wealthy — or he's trying to marry into the family for wealth.

Tabatha: Oh, are these people all related? Because so far, they all kind of are. He's an uncle. And he comes by to, like, feed the horses. Very brave. Fearless.

Robin: Recently, he had a bit of an injury to his left hand, so this is a bit of a rowdy butler. I think he punched someone for disrespecting his woman.

Cate: He's the main person you would have an affair in the house with. Maybe he's the rapist. You're meant to like him, and he's the main handsome lead character, the man of the house. But he's not a nice person at all.

Richard: God, this is a big cast. He's in the army. He is either a visiting American soldier, or a British soldier who's gone away to war. I don't think anyone cares about him. He's quite sweet. He's the one who fathered [Daisy's] child, and he's just looking after the two of them.

Tom: That's a footman who has had sex with every single member of the cast.

Mr. Molesley

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Robin: This was one of the first professional mime artists in Britain. You can tell from his gloves and his gormless face, which is the characteristic that all mime artists share. He was employed by the house to entertain, because they really liked mime at the time. At that point, they hadn't realized it was a ridiculous art form.

Cate: (Laughs) These people are all so ridiculous! He's a butler. He's no Alfred from Batman, but he's generally a nice guy. I think. And he has a thing for the main older lady who was in Harry Potter [the Dowager Countess]. He fancies her.

Tom: (Laughing) I don't know, who the fuck is that?! He's being trained up to replace the previous grumpy butler, who feels he has to retire soon. He's very supercilious and camp, and doesn't put up with any of their shit in the way that the old butler did.

Martha Levinson

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Scott: Maggie Smith's best friend. They go out and they play Scrabble once a week, and she doesn't die either, because she lives forever, because they all do.

Robin: This woman has sass, that's for sure. That hat screams sass. She will tell you exactly what she thinks of you. She's like a great aunt or something who just comes along to tell people that they're dicks, and then leaves again.

Richard: Shirley Someone. She's American. Her and Maggie Smith hate each other because they're fighting for who can be the bitchy old queen. Hugh Bonneville has got a soft spot for her, which pisses off Maggie Smith. She's scheming her way into taking over Downton. She hasn't got that much money, but she's pretending she has. She's trying to scheme all the money out of Downton.

Tom: I don't know whose aunt she is, but she's just a very disapproving aunt.

Kemal Pamuk

Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Ailbhe: The horse looks equally shifty. He's a cad and a bounder. He's just bad news.

Tabatha: I think he's quite a silent figure, and he just rides around the area on that horse and women are just, like, Whoa.

Robin: Definitely evil. But as evil as his eyes are, the horse's eye is infinitely more evil. He's a stable boy, although that's a smart hat for a stable boy. He will be up to no good, but he'll look pretty sharp while doing it.

Cate: Why is he dirty? What has been happening?! He's not a good person. At all. Look at the way the horse is even looking at him. The horse is unsure.

Richard: He's some kind of local scoundrel in the village. He fancies himself as a bit of Lothario. He's tried to break up most of the relationships in the series. He's got a deep, dark past, like he killed someone or something, and only some of the people know about it. He looks very dashing in that hat. He's probably the main enemy.

Tom: I don't know who he is, but he's evil. He's just pure evil. I think he's probably to blame for most of the bad things that have happened on the show.

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