Monday, January 28, 2013



I think we need a group hug, my fellow Downtonites! I am supposed to be writing a recap of this week’s episode (the fourth of series three), but I’m too busy drying my tears and blowing my nose (Apologies to Lord Grantham who gets very squeamish when bodily functions are mentioned.) to focus on the task at hand. I shall endeavor to compose myself and carry on. Stiff upper lip and all that. Downton really was at its soapy best this week. There was drama, tragedy, love, loss, new beginnings, and sorrowful endings. Here are my impressions of all the sudsy storylines:

The Young and the Lifeless – The birth of Lady Sybil and Tom’s daughter is center stage this episode. When the hour starts, Sybil is being attended by Dr. Clarkson who assures the fretful family that the mother-to-be is just experiencing some false labor pains, nothing to be concerned about. <cue ominous music> Robert has doubts about Clarkson’s doctoring abilities (Lavinia died on his watch, after all, and he, also, declared Matthew permanently paralyzed and we all know how that turned out.) So, Lord G calls for Sir Philip Tapsell, a fancy London physician who’s helped other aristocratic ladies deliver healthy babies. Sir Philip has a very blasé attitude about Sybil’s condition once she goes into labor. Her ankles are swollen, and she’s babbling nonsense? Perfectly normal! You know how delicate women are! Dr. Clarkson thinks Sybil has eclampsia, which could be fatal to both mother and child, so he urges the family to transfer her to the hospital, where an emergency Caesarean can be performed. Cora is in favor of this, but Robert is on Sir Philip’s side (He doesn’t think Sybil has eclampsia and she’ll be fine delivering the baby at home.) Unfortunately, this is the one time that Dr. Clarkson makes a proper diagnosis. Although Sybil does deliver a healthy baby girl and seems to be fine afterwards, she starts screaming in pain and having seizures a few hours later.

I have to say that Sybil’s death scene is one of the most harrowing things I’ve ever seen on TV. It was truly upsetting, and everyone involved acted their butts off, especially Elizabeth McGovern. While the two doctors stand helplessly by, Cora screams for someone, anyone, to help Sybil. She tells Sybil to hold on, she’s going to be fine, and then after Sybil gasps her last breath, Cora collapses, sobbing on top of her daughter’s dead body. Absolutely heartbreaking, and an Emmy-worthy performance from Elizabeth. I should probably also mention that there are a lot of histrionics from Branson while his beloved shuffles off her mortal coil, but for some reason I wasn’t as affected by his lamentations. A mother’s grief trumps a husband’s, I guess.

If anything good came out of the youngest Crawley’s demise, it was that the loss  bonded her combative sisters, Mary and Edith. The anguished ladies hug it out and vow that they will try to be nicer to each other for Sybil’s sake. A really touching moment that was lovely to see. Sadly, this tragedy seems to have driven a wedge between Cora and Robert. She blames him for their daughter’s death because he wouldn’t heed Dr. Clarkson’s warning, and Robert doesn’t disagree with her. I think he’ll be carrying around some major guilt for the rest of his life over this (as he should.)

All My Footmen – Poor Man’s Simon Baker aka new footman, James, has caught Thomas’ eye, and O’Brien keeps encouraging James to ask Thomas for help. This results in Thomas giving James a very handsy demonstration of how to wind a clock. I haven’t seen a scene with that much slashy goodness since Queer as Folk was on the air! But Poor Man’s Simon Baker isn’t feeling Thomas, in fact he’s getting a little creeped out by the valet’s “familiarity” and he makes a comment to Mrs. O about it. She just smiles evilly and encourages him to stay on Thomas’ good side so that Thomas will talk him up to Lord G.

New kitchen maid Ivy, also, has hot pants for James, but he seems to be oblivious to her flirting while she ignores Alfred’s obvious crush on her. Daisy’s pining for Alfred, and she’s mean to Ivy because she sees that Alfred is smitten with the other girl. It’s a love quadrangle (or pentagon if you want to include Thomas) worthy of Melrose Place circa 1993.

I have to give a shout-out to Rob-James Collier for his performance this week. He did such a great job in the scene where Thomas broke down over Lady Sybil’s death, claiming that Sybil was one of the few people in his life who’d ever been kind to him. Nice to see a character, who’s usually stuck in one gear (self-serving) show vulnerability and grief. Anna proved herself to be incredibly kindhearted by offering Thomas comfort in his time of need.

One Prison Term to ServeYes, the Bates in jail storyline is still going on. Altogether now . . . GROAN Anna thinks that if Vera’s friend and neighbor, Mrs. Bartlett, will give a sworn statement that she saw Vera making the pie that later killed her, it will prove once and for all that Vera poisoned herself and Bates will be exonerated. Problem is they don’t think Mrs. Bartlett will give a statement if she thinks it will help Bates out as she’s still Team Vera. Whatever. Just resolve this painfully boring storyline off-screen and don’t take up any more air time with it, I beg you, writers. Oh, and Bates’ ex-cellmate and one of the guards are still conspiring against him. Why? Who knows? Who cares? 

As the Prostitute TurnsA newly child-free Ethel accepts an offer of employment from Isobel, but there’s some major fallout when Mrs. Bird, Isobel’s cook, quits in protest (She has to protect her good name and refuses to be associated with a former ho.) Mrs. Bird doesn’t go quietly either. She sends a letter to Mrs. Hughes and Carson, warning them about the corrupting influence who now resides at Crawley House. Carson is outraged, appalled, and adamant that no one on the Downton staff is allowed to step foot in Crawley House while Ethel is there. Mrs. Hughes thinks that’s a bit harsh, but she agrees that Isobel probably didn’t do the right thing in hiring someone with Edith’s checkered past. Isobel seems to be regretting her decision, as well, since Ethel is a disaster in the kitchen and is doing crazy things, like putting honey in Isobel’s tea (GASP!)

The Cold and the Beautiful – Guess how Lady Mary reacts to her sister’s death? She becomes even bitchier and more judgmental than usual! When she walks into the parlor and finds Matthew talking with the family solicitor about plans to change the way Downton’s run, Mary flips her lid and by “flips her lid” I mean, she gets all pinch-faced and icily reprimands the two men, invites their guest to leave, and accuses her husband of trying to take Downton away from her father while he’s still reeling from the loss of Sybil. Properly chastened, Matthew stumbles over an apology and looks like a kicked puppy (He’s just trying to save your family home, Mary!) If Matthew was too anxious to impregnate Mary before (This was Sir Philip’s diagnosis of why they weren’t having any luck in the fertility department.), then I’m sure that Mary’s tongue-lashing won’t help matters. Of course, they may want to reconsider the whole procreation thing after what happened to poor Sybil.     

Days of our Column-Writing Spinsters – Remember way back in the first series when Edith penned that letter to the Turkish embassy telling them about Mary’s involvement in the death of Pamuk? Well, that was foreshadowing, Downtonites! Turns out that our Edith has mad writing skillz. That letter she wrote to The Times about women’s rights last week impressed an editor at some publication called “The Sketch.” That name makes me think this paper is some kind of tabloid, but for now let’s just be happy that someone appreciates Edith and wants to offer her a job as columnist. Way to make a comeback from getting dumped at the altar, Edith! Matthew is thrilled for his sis-in-law, but Robert has to ruin it by saying something negative and more or less forbidding Edith to do it. Such a party pooper! The Dowager Countess is similarly disparaging when she hears about the column. “When may she expect an offer to appear on the London stage?” Come on, Vi, you told Edith to find an occupation. Be supportive! I am really looking forward to seeing how this storyline pans out. It’s about time Edith spread her wings and did something with her life.

I will end this recap with one of Lady Violet’s zingers (Yes, she still managed to lob a few despite the dramatic mood of the episode.)

“If there’s one thing I’m quite indifferent to, it’s Sir Philip Tapsell’s feelings.”

The #DowntonGala party will continue next week with a recap written by Canadian Chick Lit author, Cat Lavoie. If you’d like to check out some fabulous and clever recaps from previous weeks, click on the links below. And please share your thoughts and feelings about episode four below. Thanks for stopping by!

Episode 1 - Laura Chapman

Episode 1 - Elizabeth Marx 

Episode 2 - Tracey Livesay 

Episode 3 - Meredith Schorr

Episode 4 -  Me!

Episode 5 - Cat Lavoie (Coming on Feb. 4th) 

Episode 6 - Jen Coffeen (Coming on Feb. 11th) 

Episode 7 - Jenny Gardiner (Coming on Feb. 18th)

Episode 7 - Jen Tucker (Coming on Feb. 18th)



  1. Great recap -- love the soap opera references, which is really the direction this show seems to be taking!

    1. Glad you liked my recap, Laura! Downton has definitely turned into a big soap, which suits me just fine since I was addicted to daytime serials back in the day.

  2. Great job, Tracie! And I agree with Laura that the soap opera references were a very clever touch. Speaking of touched, I was also touched when Thomas broke down over Sybil's death. Although I agree that Elizabeth McGovern showed stellar acting chops, I was hoping to see a little more hysteria from the sisters. Perhaps because my sister is my BFF and if anything happened to her, I'd need to be committed...

    1. Thanks, Meredith! Agree with you on the sisters, especially Mary who didn't have much reaction to Sybil's death at all. Of course, she's a robot, so why should she? :) Edith did look panicked and helpless, so that was something.

  3. I love it! Great job, Tracie!! :) This episode definitely deserves the soap opera shout-outs. When Cora and Tom were screaming at Sybil to wake up, I was (cofession time) crying like a baby... and I was so angry at smug Sir Philip who was just standing there, doing nothing. Urgh. I'm totally on Team Cora right now and I`m glad she's giving him the cold shoulder. I think that my undying love for Mr Bates is making me blind to the fact that the prison storyline is boring. Get him out of jail and let him and Anna be happy for half a second! See you all next week when I take a shot at this... Hope to have 'mad writing skillz' like Edith! :)

    1. Thanks so much, Cat! I still can't get over both of the doctors standing there, doing nothing! From what I understand about eclampsia, there really is nothing they could have done to save her at that point, but you would think they would have at least tried to ease her suffering. Surely, they had pain meds or anti-spasmodics back then?

      I was wondering how you felt about the Bates in prison storyline since he's your favorite character. It just depresses me that he's been out of the action all season, stuck in that darn jail.

      Looking forward to your recap next week! I hope that Ep 5 is a little less traumatic!

  4. Great post- you managed to make me laugh through my tears! I agree with Cat- it's team Cora all the way. I hope Lord Grantham has to sleep in the dressing room for a long time.

    1. Thanks, Jen! Glad I could add a little levity to the tragedy this week. Team Cora all the way. If I were her, I'd pack my bags and go home to Mother in America. Lord G has just been screwing up left and right this season!

  5. I cried when I watched it last night. I cried when I read your post, Tracie. That was truly one of the most gut-wrenching scenes I've ever seen. You know if I cry during the movie, Beaches, that there was no way Jen was going to remain tear-free last night.

    Cat, I'm ready for there to be resolution with Bates story line as well. Meredith, that scene with the sisterly love moment made me sad that I'm an only child. I have friends who are sister-like, yet it's not the same.

    Great job, Tracie XOXO

    1. Aw, Jen. {{{HUGS}}} We'll get through this. While watching Sybil's death, I just kept reminding myself that the actress wanted to leave Downton because she's getting tons of movie offers. So, her character's death was necessary, and it certainly did ratchet up the drama!

  6. Love the post and great re-cap. I cried like a baby, more than once. Elizabeth McGovern was fabulous. It was interesting to see that even Ms. O'Brien has feelings, I think she shed at tear at the loss of Sybil. I also think you're spot on about the Bates prison drama, I think if we knew why they were out to get Mr. Bates it would be more interested to watch, otherwise I'm over it!
    Until next week!

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! EM really did knock it out of the park in this week's ep. I'll admit that I haven't always been impressed with her performance on DA, but maybe it was just because she hadn't been given any meaty material to sink her teeth into? She sold a mother's grief beautifully in this ep.

  7. Great recap - love the Soap tie-ins!

    I knew that Sybil was going to die... It was one of the spoilers I came across (DAMN SPOILERS!) when writing my Downtown Labby post before S3 started. And, even knowing it was coming, I cried like crazy - thanks to EM's fabulous acting. Damn, that was SO sad.

    I too am so sick of the Bates story. They have to let him out soon (although not before torturing us a wee bit more I suspect...) because they OWE US after killing off dear Sybil.

    I'm beginning to like Edith more and more and Mary less and less! Team Edith! (And I'm on Team Cora as well.)

    Can't wait to see what happens with the All My Footmen storyline. Oh, O'Brien, you wicked, delicious character you!

    1. Thanks, Jackie! I also knew about Sybil's death in advance because I stumbled over a stupid spoiler while trying to look up something about Branson for my pre-premiere Q&A. I was livid at the time, but now I think I'm glad I knew what was coming so that I could be a little bit prepared. My foreknowledge really didn't lessen the impact of Sybil's untimely demise. I still bawled my fool head off when it happened!

      I feel like they've really written themselves into a corner with Bates and I'm not sure where they can go with his character now. Even if he's freed, he can't return to Downton because there's no job for him. I really don't think Lord G would demote Thomas who from all appearances seems to be a pretty good valet. And Anna and Bates wouldn't be allowed to live at Downton as a married couple.

      Team Edith all the way. I hope that Julian Fellowes has big, exciting things in store for her. I just want her to be happy!

  8. I love Downton Abbey!! But I have other news to share...

    Congratulations! I just nominated your blog for the Liebster Award!

    To learn more, go to: the "Chick Lit Chit Chat" blog at for complete details.

    If you choose to claim your Liebster Award by posting your responses on your blog, please link back to my blog in your post and tweet or email me your link so I can read your answers.

    Have fun, and keep up the great blogging!

    Julie Valerie

    TWITTER: @JBValerie
    BLOG: Chick Lit Chit Chat at

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Julie. Nice to know you're a Downton fan!

      I'm so honored by the Liebster Award nomination! I'd like to thank my mother, my fourth-grade English teacher, my acupuncturist . . . :) I will send you an e-mail about this.

  9. May I add another one of her zingers?!

    "The decision now lies with the chauffeur."


    1. Ha! Dina, I had that zinger written down, as well. I was hoping to do a Top Ten List of Dowager Zingers, but the ep ended up being so sad and there wasn't a lot of Violet in it. So, I had to settle for just the one.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Great post, Tracie! You got mad skillz yourself! LOL

    God, what an agonizing episode. When Sybil is having a seizure and it looks like her throat is about to explode... I cried. Team Cora all the way. Apparently, Lord Grantham is only good at being a Lord, not necessarily at doing the job, or remaining faithful (remember the maid last season).
    Mary, Mary, take that stick out and plant it in the garden! Your father wouldn't have Downton if not for Matthew. Seriously, you have got to lighten up!
    I am so loving our Downton gala blog hop!!
    Keep it going, Cat ;-)

    1. LOL Thanks, Tracey! I had fun writing the post. Actually got a bit carried away with myself since the recap was so long!

      Lord Grantham really has turned out to be a huge disappointment. He's so useless! And Mary is following in his footsteps, being uptight, sanctimonious, and wrong 99% of the time. They both need a good smack!