Down with Downton: Part V, Season Three Recap

It’s the Spring of 1920, and Mary and Matthew are busy with wedding preparations. Everyone is excited about the wedding except Sybil and Branson, who can’t attend because they can’t afford the trip from Ireland. And except for Mr. Bates, who is still rotting in prison, accused of murdering his late wife. Oh, and except for Robert, who is distracted by the news that he frittered all their money away on a bad investment – note to self, buying railroads only works in Monopoly. And except for Sir Anthony Strallen, Edith’s ancient on-again-off-again boyfriend, who says weddings remind him of how lonely he is (what a sap, he’s so perfect for Edith). And except for Alfred, the new, tall, footman, who doesn’t even KNOW Mary and Matthew. But other than that, the whole town is a-twitter!

In typical Thomas fashion, he immediately hates Tall Alfred for no reason other than that Alfred is new, and Thomas outranks him as his lordship’s valet. Unfortunately for Thomas, Alfred is O’Brien’s nephew and this means that the devilish duo has been turned against each other! Dun dun DUN!

Sybil and Branson show up unexpectedly in time for the wedding (Granny sent them the money pretty much the second she heard that Robert was against them coming), followed by Cora’s rich American mother, Martha Levinson (played by the inimitable Shirley MacLaine). Violet and Martha engage in some witty repartee, yadda yadda.

In other news, Lavinia Swire’s father has died, and left Matthew his sizeable fortune. Matthew is immediately guilt-stricken, and says he’ll refuse it, but Mary is like “let’s not do anything rash, dear.” Which turns out to be good advice, when Robert confesses that he lost everything, and they’ll need the Swire fortune to survive. Matthew still holds out, though, insisting he doesn’t want to gain anything from breaking Lavinia’s heart. It’s the night before the wedding, so of course they have a huge fight. Tom and Anna convince them to make nice, so the danger passes almost immediately.

And then it’s the wedding day! Cora tries to give Mary sex advice, and Mary basically laughs in her face and says “um, I’m a huge slut, remember season one?” And then Carson gets all misty when he sees Mary in her wedding dress. Carson is totally the new Mr. Bates, we love him. Cora tells Edith that she’s next which is a little hilarious because she’s the LAST one, and also because Sybil’s unborn child probably has a decent chance of beating Edith down the aisle.

The wedding goes off without a hitch, and soon everyone goes back to fighting over money. That is, until Isobel announces that she has started a halfway house for prostitutes, which now gives them two things to fight over. Especially once Ethel, the slutty redheaded former housemaid with the illegitimate son turns up as one of Isobel’s ladies of the night. Eventually Ethel turns over her boy to his grandparents in a heart-wrenching scene and to smooth things over, Isobel hires Ethel to be her new maid. Where was that solution BEFORE she sold her son to the highest bidder?! This causes an uprising at Downton and the village, and spurs Isobel’s crabby old cook to quit, lest people think she’s a prostitute too. Ha!

In a very convenient turn of events, Matthew gets a letter from the late Mr. Swire that basically says, “Lavinia told me that you made out with Mary while she was on her deathbed, but I still want you to have my money just in case you need it to save a big manor house… or something…” So Matthew is reluctantly absolved of his guilt and Downton is saved! Hurray!

This whole time, Anna has been running back and forth between Downton and the prison, trying to find something that will prove Bates’s innocence. She finds a friend of Vera’s who might know more than she’s letting on, but who also won’t speak to the “trollop” whom Mr. Bates left Vera for. So that’s an uphill battle, even with bribes. Anna better hurry, as prison is beginning to harden her precious Mr. Bates, making him way less sympathetic than past seasons.

Meanwhile Robert takes Sir Anthony Strallen aside and tells him to stop making Edith believe that she has a chance at happiness in this life. Or something to that effect. Anthony is like, “dude, she’s basically stalking me,” but Robert insists that he tell her once and for all that they can’t be together. Anthony agrees, and poor Edith gets her heart broken again, for no reason. Seeing her so upset, Martha tells Robert to butt the hell out of it, and Robert finally agrees to let the love birds have their own way. Sir Anthony proposes to Edith by asking if she’s sure she wants to marry a “crippled old man” and she responds “let’s do it fast before you change your mind.” How romantic.

Except I guess it wasn’t fast enough, because before the minister can get two words out, Sir Anthony says he can’t go through with it. Edith begs him not to do this and says “but we’re so terribly happy!!!” trying to convince both of them, but Anthony won’t give in. A little late there, where was that resolve the last twelve times they broke up? Robert is outraged, but Violet steps up and tells Anthony he’s doing the right thing, and tells Edith to let him go. The entire church watches with dropped jaws. This is the juiciest thing that has happened in the village since Mary killed the Turkish man with her you-know-what. Anthony leaves, and poor Edith runs all the way home, tosses her veil off the second story landing, and flounces onto her bed, sobbing.


It’s not all bad news though – the influx of money from Dead Lavinia’s Dead Father has allowed Carson and Mrs. Patmore to hire the help they need, and the staff is treated to a super hot footman, Jimmy, and an only slightly less hot kitchen maid, Ivy. Three guesses as to which one Thomas takes an immediate liking to! And Tall Alfred likes the looks of Ivy, much to Daisy’s consternation. She was just getting up the nerve to have a little crush on Alfred herself! Looks like she doesn’t have to worry too much though, as Cute Ivy appears to have eyes for Hot Jimmy. Sheesh, it’s a regular love pentacle up in here.

In a bid to seem interesting, Edith takes a job writing for a newspaper, which Robert is inexplicably angry about, but she doesn’t get to keep the focus long because Sybil is ready to pop. Robert calls a Fancy Doctor to take care of Sybil, but Cora already promised the Local Doctor that he could be the one to look at her daughter’s vagina. The two of them have a pissing contest in which Fancy Doctor says Sybil is doing fine, and Local Doctor says her ankles are swollen and it could be a sign of pre-eclampsia. But because pre-eclampsia sounds scary, and Robert hates anything scary, Fancy Doctor wins. Sybil delivers a baby girl and Fancy Doctor is like “TOLD YOU SO. LET’S ALL GO TO BED NOW BECAUSE NOTHING ELSE IS GOING TO HAPPEN.”

And then the unthinkable happens. Sybil takes a turn for the worse, and there is nothing anyone can do for her. She dies in her bed, surrounded by family and doctors. Cora and Branson are beside themselves. Mary and Edith are horrified. Robert is too shaken to even register that this is all his fault. It’s a terrible moment. Poor Lady Sybil. So young, so beautiful. A moment of silence, please.

The next day, Branson announces that he’s decided to name his daughter Sybil. Robert is like “TOO SOON” to which Cora is like “says the man who killed the other Sybil!” so he’s shamed into grudging silence (which is sort of the theme of this episode). Branson also insists that the daughter be baptized Catholic, which Robert opposes, but Mary says that Sybil wanted it that way, so again Robert is just left stewing. Then all the ladies go to Isobel’s house to see what lunch served by a prostitute tastes like, and Robert is all “NOT ON MY WATCH” and goes storming over there to stop this travesty. But Cora and Violet quietly ignore his protests and go on eating, so Robert leaves with his tail between his legs. So much for being the man of the house Robert, check under Cora’s pillow tonight for your testicles. Not that you’ll be sleeping in the same bed.

Violet eventually tires of seeing Robert slowly tortured to death, so she decides to make Local Doctor tell Cora and Robert that the likelihood of Sybil surviving under his care was a tiny percentage, and she was probably going to die no matter what. Cora is like “THIS IS GREAT NEWS!” and immediately hugs Robert. Ooookay then.

And after six episodes of Mr. Bates in prison, he’s finally sprung when he threatens his cellmate into forcing Vera’s friend to tell the truth about Vera’s suicide. At least, we think it’s the truth. I’m not going to lie, this part of the plot is a little hurried and unclear. Something about pastry crust under her fingernails? All you need to know is, there is still a slim chance that Bates is a murderer.

Until now, O’Brien has been biding her time, waiting for the right opportunity to thoroughly screw Thomas over. Unfortunately, Thomas is crushing so hard on Jimmy that he doesn’t see O’Brien’s schemey face, and believes her when she suggests that Jimmy likes Thomas back. In perhaps the most ill-advised move EVER, Thomas sneaks into Jimmy’s room when he’s asleep and plants a loving kiss right on his lips. Jimmy wakes up and is like “WTF DUDE?!?!” which wakes Alfred, who rushes in and sees the two of them in this compromising state. O’Brien further manipulates the situation by telling Alfred that if he doesn’t tell Carson what he saw, then it basically makes him a big old homo.

Edith jaunts off to London to try to Mary Tyler Moore it up in the big city, and meets with her newspaper editor whom she immediately forms an attraction to. Surprisingly, he reciprocates, and Edith is like “totally dodged a bullet not marrying that old crippled guy!” We also get quickly introduced to an Annoying Rose, a distant cousin, who tags along on this trip to London for some cockamamie reason, which turns out to be a lie anyway, when she sneaks off to give a married man a lap dance at a jazz club. Edith is appalled when they find her there, but also seems to be scoping the place out, like “maybe I can try this on for size in season four!”

And now that the novelty of pissing Robert off by employing a prostitute has passed, Violet decides to put an end to Ethel’s employment at Isobel’s house (without asking Isobel, natch). She scores Ethel a sweet gig in the same village as her estranged son, so Ethel leaves to go work that out. Violet apparently begins to consider herself Downton’s HR recruiter, and sets Branson up as manager of the estate, so that he doesn’t drag Baby Sybil off to Liverpool to live a middle-class life above a garage somewhere.

Thanks to O’Brien’s meddling, Tall Alfred and Hot Jimmy tell Carson about The Kiss, and Carson is naturally appalled. Apparently it’s illegal for men to kiss men in 1920s England – who knew? Carson does his best to be fair-minded about this, after all it’s not Thomas’s fault that nature twisted him into “something foul.” Thomas absorbs this, and accepts his termination with references, but doesn’t leave until he’s told Carson that he may be different, but he isn’t foul. Sing it sister!

And then everyone puts their lives on hold for a cricket game! Thomas can’t be dismissed until he’s played for the Downton team, buying Bates a little time to get to the bottom of this situation. Not that he has a personal stake in it, he’s just bored because he has nothing to do now that he’s not shivving people in prison. He pieces together that O’Brien is behind all this somehow, and asks Thomas for some ammunition he can use against her, to make her stop trying to get Thomas fired. Thomas cryptically replies with “her ladyship’s soap.” He doesn’t explain the backstory to Bates, but it’s enough to get O’Brien to tell Jimmy to just forgive and forget. So Thomas keeps his job, Downton wins the cricket match, and everyone gathers on the field for a slo-mo high five. Happy days, at last!


A season ending like that almost makes you dread the Christmas special (which actually takes place in September). The family takes a little jaunt to the Scottish Highlands to visit Annoying Rose’s family, despite the fact that Mary is due to give birth in a couple of weeks. Plenty of time for a 10 day vacation, right? SURE! They all head out, except for Branson, who wasn’t invited. Rude!

Speaking of uninvited guests, who should show up but Edith’s married-to-an-insane-woman newspaper editor! What a coincidence! And he brought his tails! How handy! He quickly ingratiates himself with the family only to ruin it all when he tells Matthew that he loves Edith and plans to make her his mistress. Sadly, this is the best offer Edith has ever received.

Back at Downton, there is a new slutty maid in da house! It’s been so long! This one has her sights set on Branson, who is sort of terrified of her advances, but not enough to stop her from kissing him while shirtless in his bedroom. Mrs. Hughes won’t stand for this of course. So long, Slutty Maid, it was nice knowing ya!

There is also a little fair in town, and the staff takes advantage of the family’s absence by taking the afternoon off to attend. General merriment ensues, of which Hot Jimmy partakes a bit too much. Soon he’s staggering around drunk, flashing his money around, and wandering under bridges. A couple of hooligans start to beat him up, but Thomas shows up just in time to jump in front of their fists and take the pounding for Jimmy, who runs away. Coward Jimmy grabs Local Doctor and everyone else, and they come to Thomas’s rescue, but he’s already been robbed and beaten to a pulp. He doesn’t seem to mind though, at least he saved Jimmy’s pretty face. To his credit, Jimmy is appreciative, and the two form a tenuous friendship.

Cue the bagpipes and cut to Scotland, where we learn why Annoying Rose is so annoying – she has the WORST family life EVER. Her parents are constantly cutting her and each other down. No one likes anyone at that house. Makes for a slightly awkward vacation experience too. Eventually Annoying Rose’s mother asks Cora to take her daughter back to Downton with them for a couple of years while they’re posted with the military in India. Cora agrees, because there is an opening on this show for a sassy young harlot, now that Mary is settled down and Edna has been dismissed.

Speaking of Mary, she’s beginning to feel a little labor-y, and heads home to deliver her son and the heir to the Crawley fortune. Baby Boy Crawley is pink and healthy, and mother’s ankles are normal sized – looks like she’ll live! Matthew is beside himself with joy and says a bunch of sappy things that almost sound like… goodbye? Couldn’t be, right? He’s just driving home on a totally normal sunny day… what’s that delivery truck doing on the road? MATTHEW KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE —

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