Downton Abbey Season 3, Episode 4: Review

SYBIL. DIES.

Those two words, in all caps, with that punctuation, encapsulate everything I feel about this week’s Downton Abbey episode. If there were ever such a thing as a two-word recap/review, this would be the time for it. However, since that is not possible because (a) other events in the episode did happen (sorta) and (b) I would get a stern talking to by my editor if I turned in a 2-word review, read below for the rest. But if you too are still shell shocked and grieving over the latest turn of events, if you too are not sure whether you can go on with the series, I say break open a pint of chocolate fudge whip and weep while reading below…trust me, it will help. It will. I think.

At the start of the episode, everyone at Downton is excited because it seems that Lady Sybil’s baby bulge is close to popping out and turning from a bulge into a real, live baby. Because Lord Grantham doesn’t trust Dr. Clarkson (who was wrong about Matthew’s paralysis and couldn’t save Lavinia), he brings in an esteemed London society doctor, a Sir Philip Tapsell. He’s a knight! And a doctor! As soon as I realized this, I went starry eyed, picturing a handsome, brave Sir Philip, riding in on a white horse, swinging Excalibur, rescuing patients from Death’s black grip with chivalry and good teeth! Then Sir Philip Tapsell shows up and proves to be yet another old, stuffy aristocrat and it’s clear Lord Grantham likes Tapsell not so much for his expertise, but for the fact he oozes his membership in the “old boy’s club” with every high society reference he makes at the dinner table. And Tapsell makes a lot of them.

Cora isn’t all that comfortable with Tapsell because (a) she’s been through childbirth and knows that you should have a doctor who you’re familiar with and can trust, (b) she’s American and not as impressed with snooty city doctors and (c) she has sense. She insists Robert keep Dr. Clarkson on, if only as a formality. He agrees, just to keep the peace. Dr. Clarkson shows up, all uncomfortable and country doctor-ish, cringing as Tapsell drones on. It’s so, sooo awkward.

Meanwhile, Sybil has been confined to her room, because apparently impending childbirth means no one should see you. She and Branson have a brief argument about where they should raise the baby. He wants to move to his brother’s garage in Liverpool. She wants to remain at Downton. Then she gets all weird and starts talking about stars (stars? stars?) in the bedroom. Did you hear that? Did you catch it? It’s the first, faint sound of the bell of doom ringing….

Ad – content continues below

In other places where good intentions go awry, Mrs. Crawley hires Ethel as a kitchen maid in an attempt to save the latter from a life on the streets. Mrs. Bird, Mrs. Crawlye’s cook, isn’t happy about working with a former lady of the night. She quits, especially after Mrs. Crawley assures her that ”no one would mistake her as a prostitute” (best compliment smackdown ever). Ethel takes over the cooking and makes a mess out of it. Mrs. Crawley grins and bears it, and Ethel promises to get better. Yeah. And pigs will fly out of the blood sausage you just burned, girlie. 

Downstairs at Downton, Jimmy is promoted to the important duty of winding the clocks. He grins, beams,and sparkles with wavy blond haired handsomeness and then realizes he has no idea how to wind anything, let alone a clock. Suddenly, poof! At his side, is a hunched black crinoline clad devil, whispering a devious plot….oh wait. It’s just Mrs. O’Brien, who tells Jimmy to ask Thomas for help. Thomas does help, and shows Jimmy how the wind the clock, all the while clearly wanting to SHOW Jimmy how to…wind his clock (heh heh heh). Jimmy picks up on the not so subtle sexual vibes and looks distinctly uncomfortable. Uh-oh. And I was so sure Jimmy’s pendulum swung both ways (yes, I will continue with the clock euphemisms).

In an attempt to show everyone (including himself, I suspect, I mean c’mon—Thomas may be a bad, mad boy but well, that’s hot) that he is a virile example of manhood, Jimmy quickly asserts his heterosexuality by madly flirting with the new kitchen maid, Ivy.  Albert pouts. Daisy gives death glares to everyone. Another tired love triangle is set up, courtesy of Mr. Fellowes who just can’t seem to let people fall in love and be happy. Well. I suppose it’s more of a love square than a triangle, if you count Thomas. And everyone knows a square is even less conducive than a triangle to love. I mean, think of all those right angles… 

In the world of undying, faithful and requited love, Anna and Bates are able to meet again. He tells her he’s found a clue! (woo-hoo, way to make all Anna’s work seem semi-useless). He tells her she missed vital information in her interview with Vera’s neighbor/friend: there was PATSRY SHELL under Vera’s fingers before she died. Therefore, Vera baked and ate the poisoned pie herself, committing suicide and framing Bates in one fell swoop! Anna rejoices and wishes she were a better detective (ok, she doesn’t, but if I were her, I’d be pissed at missing that). Bates and Anna happily start planning his release. Bates’s guard and cellmate notice this joy and start planning to mess with them. Arrrgrrgrhgrh. If Bates spends the rest of the season stuck behind bars, I will throw my own kidney pie at my television set and then write to PBS about their apparent endorsement of innocent people being sent to prison.

But all this drama is eclipsed (if you can believe that) by the unfolding baby mess that is going on in Sybil’s belly. Because she is raving madly and has swollen ankles, Dr. Clarkson insists she has a dangerous pregnancy condition called eclampsia which can lead to toxemia and death! Cora and everyone else sees the sense in this since Sybil is clearly off the rails and back Dr. Clarkson in wanting to take Sybil to the hospital for a C-section. Sir Tapsell pish poshes and insists all is well. Lord Grantham is impressed by the way Sir Tapsell pish poshes and insists Dr. Clarkson is just being an unprofessional, jealous loony and refuses to have Sybil moved. Everyone else looks at him like he’s crazy. He perseveres with a stiff upper lip and Sir Tapsell smirks. Ugh. Tapsell. You have single handedly ruined my fantasy about healer knights in shining armor.

It briefly looks like Tapsell is right when Sybil is delivered of a small, but healthy baby girl. She seems to come back to herself and then weakly makes her mother promise, no, PROMISE to look after Branson and help him find his way and NOT let him work in a garage again. Cora, confused but happy all danger is past, assures her she will. Everyone goes to bed, content.

Ad – content continues below

Then everyone wakes up not so content as Branson runs out screaming for help. Everyone rushes back to Sybil’s side—she’s seizing! She can’t breathe! What’s going on???!!!! Sir Tapsell, looking as if a plebian just gave him a swift kick to the nuts, mutely nods as Dr. Clarkson gravely and sadly says this is what he feared: toxemia. And no, no one can help. Everyone looks on in horror and watches SYBIL. DIE.

I need to take a moment here.

Ok.

Let’s go on.

No one can believe that Sybil is dead, least of all Lord Grantham who backed Sir Tapsell’s erroneous diagnosis. People start crying, some of them in Downton Abbey, some of them in New York City on a couch, clutching their puppies for comfort. Everyone sort of forgets about the baby and then Mary remembers and finds a wet nurse for her. Cora sits with Sybil’s body all night and promises dead Sybil she’ll look after Branson. Robert comes in, looking for his wife for comfort. Said wife turns on him in pissed off grief and blames him for his daughter’s death. Robert slinks out, and Cora continues her vigil.

Ad – content continues below

Down with Carson and company, more crying ensues at the news of Sybil’s death. Thomas, in one of his flashes of humanity, completely breaks down. It seems he and Sybil grew close during the war. Oh Thomas. If only you had Jimmy to comfort you with his golden hair and sparkling blue eyes. Unfortunately, you get Anna, who while also blond, is so not your type, being of the female persuasion. 

Anna and Bates have another reason to be upset, because it seems that the evil guard and his evil cellmate have somehow scared and bribed Vera’s neighbor into silence. WILL YOU GIVE US NO COMFORT JULIAN FELLOWES, IN THIS TIME OF GRIEF???

The next day dawns and Sybil’s body is taken away as the house goes into mourning. Unfortunately, Matthew does not think this an inappropriate time to talk to Mr. Murray about certain estate matters (i.e. Lord Grantham sucks at running his properties). More unfortunately, Mary catches him at it and yells at him. Seriously. No one in this show can ever have a good relationship. 

But wait? Can it be? Do I hear the stirrings of…happiness? Branson holds his baby and looks down at her with love. Will all be healed by this new scion of Downton? Babies bring everyone together, right?

Yeah. And the pigs that flew out of Ethel’s blood sausage will write and star in a hit Broadway show that completely eclipses the Book of Mormon as the most expensive thing to see du jour.

 

Ad – content continues below