Downton Abbey Season 3, Episode 4 Recap: Saddest Episode Ever

Oh, Sybil.
Publish date:
January 28, 2013
british tv, recaps, Downton Abbey

Even though I write these recaps for the LOLs, I don’t know how I can make any jokes about this episode. Sybil has passed on, dying in childbirth of eclampsia and even Maggie Smith is heartbroken.

There is little comic relief in this episode. How could there be? Our pure and good Lady Sybil had died. Oh how I long for a joke about a toaster right now.

But we must go on. We must be strong for Sybil and the new baby that she so bravely brought into this world. Oh, Sybil would have been such a wonderful mother! This is too sad to bear. Not enough frowny faces in the world can convey my sadness right now. But let us soldier on and recap, ladies, in Sybil’s memory.

Our episode starts with country bumpkin doctor Dr. Clarkson diagnosing Sybil’s labor pains as perfectly normal and good. Everyone is relived and excited. Even so, Lord Grantham has decided that a fancy city doctor will come to Downton while Sybil is in labor since Bumpkin Dr. Clarkson told the fam that Matthew’s legs and penis were paralyzed last season which turned out to be totally wrong. Dr. Clarkson is hurt by this, and Cora can tell, but Grantham doesn’t care. Only the fanciest and best for his daughters!

By the way, here Cora is having breakfast in bed while they talk about this:

Downstairs O’Brien is encouraging the new cutie footman James to ask Thomas for help with things. This must be part of some sort of revenge scheme but I’m not exactly sure what. I think she knows that Thomas won’t be able to resist hitting on the new cutie and this will lead him to getting fired or something like that. If we didn’t know O’Brien we’d just think she was being a normal human being. But we know O’Brien, so something must be rotten in Downton.

Upstairs, Sybil and Mary are bonding while Sybil is still in normal shitty labor, but not dying labor. She tells Mary that they have decided to christen the baby Catholic. To which Mary says, “Blimey!” Lord G. will once again not be pleased, I am sure. But what can you do? Whatever Branson wants, Branson gets, as we all know. But you can tell in this scene that Sybil’s love for Branson is pure and true, no matter what we, the xoJane readers all see in him. And to that I shall do another frowny face, because we all know what is coming.

Uh…GULPS. Sexy clock winding is officially happening.

And…it looks like James is not into it. I had a feeling he was straight, but I was holding out hope that he was at least bi or something, because even though he is evil, I want Thomas to find love. Just as I would want O’Brien to find love too. (Hahaha, can you imagine? First O’Brien diss of the recap, y’all!)

Finally, we get a prison scene that actually portends something good for Bates! From talking to Vera’s friend, Anna and Bates have figured out that they can prove that Vera poisoned herself since the poison was in the piecrust and the friend saw her making the piecrust herself. So, yay, I guess Bates really is innocent after all! For the first time evs, Anna is furious as she realizes the pure craziness in Vera’s suicide revenge plot and says she hopes she’s burning in hell! And of course, Bates, our perfect martyr tells her not to “go down that road.” As he is sitting in jail due to his ex-wife’s suicide revenge plot! Um, Bates, I think even Jesus would have her burning in hell.

Next we have Cousin Crawley about to offer Prostitute Ethel a job. Hurray! That’s what you should have done last week, Cousin Crawley! Apparently hiring a onetime prostitute to come back to being a maid is a really humungous deal in 1920. But Cousin Crawley doesn’t care about such things. What a trailblazer and freethinker she is! Even though she’s just annoying by nature, we have to give her some credit for saying, “then we shall have to face those complications together, shan’t we?” Question though: Why are they having this conversation standing like 5 feet apart? Awkward.

It’s dinner time at Downton again and the richie rich city doctor has arrived! He says that Lady Sybil is a perfect model of health and beauty and that we shouldn’t worry about complications. How can you be so confident and so wrong, stupid rich doctor? I hate you!

Also, here we have Tom wearing tails again like he didn’t just burn down a castle in Ireland, one episode ago! WTF.

And speaking of clothes, I am in love with Mary’s sleeves here:

Before going to the drawing room, Matthew has an embarrassing private conversation about his past peen situation with Sir Phillip Richie Dumb Dumb Doctor. He’s worried that it’s taking him and Mary too long to get pregnant and maybe it’s because there is a problem. Sir Phillip Richie Dumb Dumb tells him not to worry and that stress is a couple’s worst enemy when trying to conceive. Which, okay, I know that is true advice, but since we all know what happens to Sybil in just a few hours, (RIP!) we know that we can’t trust anything this Richie Dumb Dumb says! Therefore, I predict that Mary and Matthew won’t be able to have a child and will end up raising Sybil’s daughter as their own!

I also predict that Branson won’t be able to handle living with the Crawley’s without Sybil and will abandon his baby and run away to join the revolution properly, his tails burning in a trail of protest and heartbreak behind him!

Moving on, Anna, looking particularly tiny in this scene, tells Lord Grantham about her new evidence towards Bates’s case and he promises to get his lawyer to help them.

During breakfast with the men, Spinster Edith finds out that the editor of the newspaper would like her to do a weekly column. She’s supes excited but once again Lord G. does not approve, and Edith storms out of breakfast in a very babyish way saying for like the millionth time that she’s “always a failure in this family.” Boo hoo, Edith, it’s time to stop being the victim already. Just roll your eyes and do whatever the hell you want like Mary does!

Cut to Cousin Crawley’s house where Mrs. Bird is giving her notice because she can’t work with a “woman who has chosen that way of life.” She thinks that Mrs. Crawley will say, “you’re right, don’t go, I won’t hire Ethel.” But she doesn’t! And Mrs. Bird is forced to quit.

It is true though, that people would probably judge her just for working in the same house as Ethel. It’s little fucked up moments like these that make me think, “Okay, maybe I’m actually glad that I don’t live in Downton times.” But then I see Mary’s beautiful sleeves and sigh with jealousy.

Downstairs at Downton we have Alfred (who I now hate) flirting with the new kitchen maid and Daisy being super bitchy to her. Later Mrs. Patmore tells her that being mean to her will not make Alfred like her more, which is true. Poor Daisy, she hasn’t got a friend in the world. (I will not give her a frowny face though, because those are reserved for Sybil and Sybil only in this grim recap.)

Hooray, Granny is here because she hates “to get news second hand.” Cora insists that Doctor Clarkson comes after dinner even though Sir Phillip Richie Dumb Dumb Doctor and Lord Grantham don’t want him there. I guess they might think it’s a case of too many cooks, but I just think Lord Grantham is being mean and wants to suck up to the fancy doctor. Luckily, Cora insists because she gave him her word earlier; however, we all know that having him there will not make any difference.

Ok, here we go, the bad stuff has begun. Dr. Clarkson is concerned because Sybil seems “muddled” and on top of acting confused has very swollen ankles. Sir Phillip Richie Dumb Dumb Doctor disagrees with him immediately for no apparent reason other than hating Dr. Clarkson just because he is a country bumpkin! Why can’t he just agree with him!?!? So infuriating.

Matthew points out that we need to listen to what Dr. Clarkson has to say, and Cora says that Sir Phillip Richie Dumb Dumb Doctor can’t bully him into silence, but for another unexplained stupid reason, Lord Grantham is stubbornly on Sir Phillip Richie Dumb Dumb Doctor’s side and doesn’t want to hurt his feelings! Why is he not the tiniest bit concerned for Sybil? And why couldn’t he listen to his own mother who says, “If there’s one thing that I’m quite indifferent to, it’s Sir Phillip [Richie Dumb Dumb Doctor] Tapsells’s feelings.” Here, here!

Lord Grantham is acting sexist, classist and stubborn once again, and this time his daughter is going to die because of it.

Everyone thinks Sybil is acting loopy and Cora barges in with Dr. Clarkson insisting that her urine gets tested. He tells the family that he’s worried that she might be at risk of eclampsia and Sir Phillip Richie Dumb Dumb Doctor disagrees for no reason once again.

When Dr. Clarkson explains that there’s too much protein in her urine, stupid Lord G gets all formal and says that they shouldn’t be saying the word “urine” in front of the Dowager Countess who replies with one of her best lines yet. “Peace. A woman of my age can face reality far better than most men.” Yeah, like you Lord Grantham!

And then she says, “The decision lies with the chauffeur.” And we all love her EVEN more!

While they are arguing over what to do, and Sir Phillip Richie Dumb Dumb Doctor keeps saying that he is certain of things even though no doctor can ever be certain of anything, and Lord Grantham continues to believe him, Sybil ends up having her baby. It’s a girl and she is healthy! Everyone is relieved, but when Sybil says she needs to sleep immediately after delivery, I start to worry once again.

Downstairs, after everyone hears the “good news” about the baby, James confides in O’Brien that he thinks Thomas is being too familiar. O’Brien says it’s good that he likes you because then he’ll put in a good word to Lord Grantham but then she says about the touchy feely stuff: “Why, what are you implying? Nothing unseemly I hope.” And when he walks away and says no, O’Brien gets a look on her face like, “Oh good, my plan is working.”

And now the very worst is about to happen. The family is awoken in the middle of the night. Sybil is delirious and having trouble breathing. Sir Phillip Richie Dumb Dumb Doctor makes the ultimate Oh Shit face right about now.

Sybil goes into a seizure and it is confirmed that she does in fact have eclampsia. WHAT THE FUCK? Grab your tissues, ladies. Nothing can be done. The fear and grief in Tom and Cora’s faces are too much to bear. Cora keeps crying “no,” and Tom keeps saying, “Please don’t leave me, love.” But it is too late, and Lady Sybil dies.

Downstairs, the staff is told and everyone cries. Thomas is surprisingly especially sad, and good, sweet Anna tries to comfort him.

Cora has a heartbreaking moment alone with Sybil and in the morning, the lawyer shows up to talk to Anna about Bates, having not been informed of the tragedy.

Before saying a final goodbye to Sybil, Edith asks Mary if they could get along better in the future. And are you ready for her shocking response? “I doubt it!” Jesus, Mary, do you have to be so honest ALL of the time? “I doubt it, but since this is the last time we three will all be together in this life, let’s love each other now as sisters should.” Jeez Louise. Here is Edith’s response to Mary saying, “I doubt it.”

Mary goes downstairs and finds Matthew talking to the lawyer about changing the mismanagement of money at Downton. She is extremely offended that either of them could even think to talk about such a thing the day after her sister’s death. But then she pulls an amazing rope that I’d never seen before to summon Alfred! Could you even imagine having such a thing?! It is elegantly hidden, of course. Anyway, Mary is really pissed at Matthew.

Side note to the prison nonsense: it appears that the awful cellmate and awful guard that is on his side, noticed Bates is happy about something, so they read his letters. Everyone keeps saying how important it is to contact Vera’s friend and get a statement before she realizes that it might free Bates, but we hear the guard say after the lawyer visits that he’ll have a shock after he contacts the friend. So I guess this prison nonsense isn’t over just yet.

The Dowager Countess arrives at Downton and the family is together. Lady Cora abruptly leaves the room though, saying that she must write an apology letter to Dr. Clarkson because if they’d listened to him, Sybil would still be alive but “Sir Phillip and your father knew better and now she’s dead.” Oh, god. Resentment! But she is right! The Dowager Countess tries to comfort her son telling him no one is to blame. But he does say there is truth in what Cora has said.

And that is the end of the saddest episode of Downton Abbey history.

Previews for next week tell us that Lady Cora is still really upset with Lord Grantham and not ready to let him back in their bedroom. And as predicted, Lord Grantham is pissed about baptizing the baby Catholic. Can he just get over being mad about everything already? Mrs. Patmore was caught visiting Cousin Crawley’s House even though a whore works there now and Anna tells Bates not to do anything stupid but then we see this:

Um, that looks stupid to me.

Let’s celebrate Sybil’s brief, wonderful life in the comments, shall we? Rest in peace, dear, dear Sybil.