Downton Abbey: Aristocrats on the Verge

Posted on February 04, 2013

Oh, Julian Fellowes, you hack.

We have to laugh, because this seems to be the pattern with Downton’s creator and writer. He’ll give us a moment of      DAS3E5+5sublime melodrama, like last week’s emotionally brutal death scene, in which the morals and mores of the aristocratic class were put under a fairly harsh light. We will then praise the writing and the episode. Then, he follows it up with pure tripe and backs quickly away from any damning accusations against the upper class. Then we call him a hack and storm off in a huff. It was ever thus.

But really, this episode was just silly and it’s exactly the type of episode that turns Downton from a period melodrama into a low-grade soap opera. The goal for this episode seems to have been to ensure that the audience detests Robert every time he opens his mouth and then to have all of his bad behavior and outmoded ideas swept under the rug and forgiven just before the credits roll, thanks to the Dowager strong-arming a good man into violating his professional principles and outright lying to make an aristocrat feel a little better about himself. If Fellowes had a little more courage, these events could have been an even more damning indictment of the aristocratic DAS3E5+2class than last week’s death scene, but instead it’s played for weepy melodrama and we doubt very much what was brought up in these last two episodes will be dealt with later on. It seems every once in a while, Fellowes has to have Robert act like a total dick and then profusely forgive him for it.

And dammit,  we started off so well, with Cora sending waves of ice cold disdain at him; a very well-deserved disdain. When he tried to make nice, she shut him down with several stinging rebukes. “You’re always flabbergasted by the unconventional,” and the coldly bitchy, “I should think you miss her more.” When even Mary has to take him aside and tell him he’s acting like a jackass, you can be pretty sure he’s gone over a line. To paraphrase the Dowager: a more devoted daddy’s girl never drew breath. By the time he stormed into Crawley house and made an utter ass of himself at Isobel’s luncheon, we figured it was pretty much over between him and Cora. But Violet, who suddenly seems very tender toward Cora (with good reason, granted) implored Dr. DAS3E5+11Clarkson to effectively lie about his diagnosis – the diagnosis that had him defensive and sputtering the night of Sybil’s death, because Robert and Sir Phillip treated him like a middle-class moron – just to ease an aristocrat’s marriage problems. It was revolting – and the worst part of it is, Fellowes seems to have no idea that it comes across that way. To him, it seems, The Dowager Countess saved the day and saved the Grantham marriage. All’s well that ends well.


Oh, well. We can’t storm the castle so we may as well offer up the rest of our random thoughts on the episode.

  • The downstairs staff is cavorting with prostitutes and DANCING. Mr Carson’s whole world is falling apart.
  • Batezzzz seems to have pretty much threatened his way out of jail, which doesn’t exactly inspire strong feelings about his supposed innocence. Also: when did he stop needing a cane? A lot of walking in that jail yard, without so much as a limp.
  • Everyone in the kitchen is in love with everyone else in the kitchen. The problem? Mrs Patmore put it best: “You’re all in love with the wrong people.”
  • Speaking of which, Mrs. Patmore gets the award for most random succession of words in a sentence: “Anyone with DAS3E5+6use of their limbs can make a salmon mousse.”
  • We love how Mrs. Hughes has become Ethel’s second-biggest defender (behind Isobel). “Well. I’ll tell Ethel she’s in for a treat!”
  • Baby Sybil is Johnny Foreigner now.
  • Mary and Matthew have the most doom-laden, foreboding foreplay session ever. “Let us never stop loving each other!” “Until my DYING BREATH, darling!”
  • O’Brien is one hardcore bitch, but we have to sit back in awe at her ability to mastermind an outcome without ever putting her fingerprints on it. Thomas is screwed – and to be honest, he’s kind of an idiot for listening to O’Brien.
  • Daisy is going to inherit Bag End from her father-in-law, Bilbo. She should thank the hell out of Mrs. Patmore for shoving her into that marriage against her will.
  • “Lie is so unmusical a word.”





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  • Daisy should jump at the chance, and obviously Carson will give her a lecture calling her “Ungrateful” and “Disappointing”.

    • Sobaika

      Daisy always gets the shaft. I’m rooting for her!!

    •  I can imagine a scenario set in the 30’s when Daisy is running the Mason farm and doing so well selling her prepared food products that she takes on Ivy and Alfred as her employees after Downton is broken up into smaller apartments and doesn’t need a large staff. Maybe all the aristocrats will have to learn to cook for themselves!

      • Tally Ho

        Well, if we’re going to idly speculate about the future of DA and its character (which I do too often) my take on it, based on history and what I’ve observed of the people, is that Mary will end up in a nice place somewhere, either the Abbey or the Dower House or someplace else nice, in the post world war II years reduced to merely a foreign couple imported from Spain or Portugal to be her butler/cook and a daily or two from the village. She’s hungry for her wealth and position so I don’t see her succumbing without a fight.  

        The younger staff members all have very different futures ahead of them compared to what they’re doing now (as William’s father kindly pointed out) but the older staff tended to remain with the family in service even in less grand quarters. It’s hard to change careers in midlife. 

    • From the way things are going, by the end of the show (ie; last episode of season 5) Daisy will be the only one left with any money and will be running the whole shebang.


      • formerlyAnon

        I’m finding it surprisingly easy to imagine her reigning energetically over all, making pithy, irritated pronouncements like a blend of Mrs. Patmore and the Dowager Countess.

      • Carla_Charlton

        And doesn’t there seem to be some foreshadowing that Daisy and the new footman, James, might end up together?

        • siriuslover

          Argh, I should have scrolled down and read your reply, because I said the same thing above. I don’t know his name, honestly. 🙁

        • I’d still be willing to bet that Jimmy is gay (not that that means he won’t marry a beard).


      • siriuslover

        and who knows, she might marry Alfred (is that his name? The guy Thomas has the hots for).  He seems to like her, or at least finds her interesting.

        • PaulaBerman

          Yes, he is.

  • Stubenville

    “Is that a Charlotte Russe? How delicious!” 

    •  “It would be a shame to miss such a nice pudding.”

      • siriuslover

        That was the best line of the night for me! I laughed out loud.

    • “Seems a pity to miss such a good pudding…”

      All I could think of was Maggie Smith in Gosford Park–“Oooooh, yummy.  Yummy yummy yummy!”

    • “Charlotte Russe” is my new drag name.

      • Just FYI, I adore all your posts.

      • Coco Cornejo

        Silly me, I thought Charlotte Russe was a juniors wear shop.

        • Karen Maslowski

           Yes, but it’s named after a dessert with raspberries.

          •  trivia note: At one point in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, starring Maggie Smith as Jean, her four favorite students are describing the weekends they spend with Jean and her lover Mr. Lauther, and mention the dessert “Charlotte Russe” — however, the one girl describes it as “Harlot Russe”!   Just fun to point out that Jean Brodie and The Dowager Countess both love that dessert!

      • Tom Shea

         I think you’ll need to get in lne behind thousands of queens who already use it. “Missy Goodpudding” might be open. You mauy use it with my compliments.

      • Stubenville

        I think I’ll adopt “Beverly Chandelier” if I ever need a drag name. 

  • Robert’s weepily saved marriage really just had me wondering– is he so useless because Dowager Countess Mummy has always stepped in and solved his problems?  He looked even more useless than before. 

    • TRSTL

      EXCELLENT point!  Really, Mr. Fellowes has alomost pushed it too far with the “Robert is an ass” routine’ a bit heavy handed.

      • Little_Olive

        Yes, I find it more fun when the characters are not completely made of one trait -especially without others to compensate. A person cannot be just stupid and nothing else, even if it does taint everything they do.  It’s what we reproach to Revenge (except for Declan, he seems to be fine as full-on-idiot material). 

      • Jennifer Coleman

        And the way that Fellows has to mirror Robert’s assiness with Carson’s is too heavy-handed. Let Robert stand alone as a jerk. Carson was made to go out of his way to be overbearing when most of the time he is somewhat judicious in showing his distrust of ‘modern ways’. contrasting the upstairs/downstairs boorish men and the women who don’t listen to them seemed so pedestrian.

        • jeeplibby02

          A man in Carson’s position was likely to be even more rigid in his morality and sense of order than his master, as his authority and security was also entirely dependent upon his own place in the hierarchy.  When this lifestyle can no longer be sustained, Lord Grantham will take up residence in a “modest” house with a lovely garden, and 12 bedrooms instead of 50; and will always have the dignity of his title, and the social and political cachet it affords him. 

          With the once-hoped-for retirement cottage on the estate no longer an option, Carson might end up working as porter in a middle-class hotel until he is too old or infirm to work, then live out his days in the care of a widowed sister or niece he barely knows in a place where no one will care that he was once butler to an earl. On the other hand, he could marry Mrs. Hughes for companionship, pool their savings, and buy a small inn that they could operate together…

          • Jennifer Coleman

            I agree with ya, but the writers are inconsistent in applying that moral code. With Bates, with his somewhat chequered past and jailbird status, everyone is convinced of his innocence and eager to welcome him back to the Abbey. Plus Carson himself has skeletons in the closet. Up to this point, he has shown a bit of flexibility in applying the moral code indiscriminately. He seemed a bit out of character in his extreme reaction (although he seems in general more extreme this season, just like Robert). There could be gender bias in play here, but the storyline is too ham-fisted for my taste.

          • And they’ll take Ivy with them, who’ll be counting the days  until they die. 😀

          • Little_Olive

            Oh no…. The Remains of the Day flashback. I am always saddened by the final days of people who lived someone else’s life.  

    • Am I the only one who finds this story line believable? TLo seemed to hate it. It makes perfect sense to me that the DC would do ANYTHING to restore her son’s marriage, and yes, the implication being that she’s stepped in every time he hits a snag and “fixes” things for him. That’s why he sucks at managing DA. He has never been told he is wrong.

      • Marcella

        I felt the same way.  Seemed like a realistic reaction by the Dowager to fix the problem in her own way.  I also didn’t have as huge a problem with the doctor stating that the odds of a successful outcome with a c-section were slim to none – the odds were very slim back then.  He went a bit overboard insisting on that, but he was just trying to be helpful and given class issues it didn’t seem so unbelievable to me.

  • jonnyf8

    For Daisy’s storyline to be the most interesting in the episode, just means the rest of it was pretty dull.

  • Girl_With_a_Pearl

    “Do I look like a frolicker?”

    •  I loved that line. It made me giggle.

    •  I know right? Why yes, Mrs. Patmore, you do.

      • YousmelllikeAnnaWintour

        I’ll bet she was in her youth!

    • librarygrrl64

      Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes are KILLING IT this season. 🙂

    •  I wonder if Mrs. Patmore has ever frolicked….

      • CozyCat

        Well, presumably there WAS a MR Patmore at some point…

        • Tally Ho

          The Mrs. is simply a honorific given to all cooks regardless of their married status. We have no clue if Mrs. Patmore was actually married at one point. 

    • PeaceBang

      Mrs. Pattmore rocked this episode.

    • eileen wood

      My favorite line this episode! And I love how TLo pointed out that Baby Sybil is Johnny Foreigner now. Love it!


    “It seems a shame to miss such a good pudding…”  I can totally relate.

  • AZU403

    Remind me why O’Brien has become Thomas’s enemy? I almost feel sorry for him.

    • formerlyAnon

       Thomas sabotaged her attempts to have her nephew promoted.

    • Margaret Riggs

      AND almost got her dismissed from Downton by having Mosely tell Cora that OBrien wanted out of Downton. I LOVE this storyline–the plotting and scheming…

      • siriuslover

        I can’t believe Thomas could be so stupid as to believe anything O’Brien has to say to him given their history. I mean, to quote Ron Weasley, “how thick can you get?”

        • LANDRU3000

           That’s why it was so great.  She just told him what he wanted to hear.

  • The one moment I did like was when Bilbo Baggins tells Daisy to think ahead 40 years, pointing out that lifetime employment at a place like Downton Abbey is, for her, likely a thing of the past.  And I noticed that the was she was costumed made her look a little older.  I hope she takes the place.

    One pet peeve I particularly have about period gay characters is when they behave as if they weren’t painfully aware of the limitations society imposes on them.  I suppose I want to have my cake and eat it too, as I’d love to see Thomas hook up, but it strains the limits of credibility for him to be so openly flirty with the new handsome footman.  These are people who can barely bring themselves to hug when Beloved Sybil died, living in a time when “buggery” was still punishable by prison time — as reckless as he is, I cannot really believe Thomas would be groping this guy at the table.  (And in true soap opera style, of course, he seems to have forgotten that the last time he gambled and made a pass at a guy, that guy wound up dead in Lady Mary’s bed.  OMG!  I just figured out how Matthew dies!)

    •  I must admit that Thomas’ continual obvious pawing is way over the top, from a historical perspective. Besides, we have been given to understand how canny he is, with regard to not overplaying his hand; so it doesn’t really play honestly.  And Mr Carson would certainly not allow his staff to be touching each other randomly in such ways.

      • And are we to believe that he’s out to O’Brien such that she can speak openly about another man having a crush on him?

        • formerlyAnon

          SO this. They may have been allies in plotting, but even a tacit acknowledgement between them of his sexuality (not that I saw any evidence of it) is a far cry from her open almost-matchmaking in this episode. And that he would take what she says at face value is even more dubious (given that they are now openly at odds), though it does make the watcher pity his hopeful infatuation. Which is possibly part of why he’s written thus, to engage our emotions before smashing poor Thomas (see! I hated him forever 2 weeks ago and now it’s “poor Thomas”) flat in some humiliating way.

        •  Exactly! That’s the part that bothered me too. He’s an idiot, so I get that he goes back and forth with his trust for her. But since when did she accept that he was gay and encourage it?

          •  I think she has surmised it all along even though they have not openly spoken about it.

          • Spicytomato1

            Not just O’Brien but maybe most of the staff. Remember when Daisy, I think, had a crush on him and Mrs. Patmore said something to effect of “don’t waste your time, he’s not a ladies’ man.” ?

          • siriuslover

            You know, I can’t recall a specific moment, but my memory keeps going to one of their old smoking sessions, and it seems that she knew.  Mrs. Patmore mentioned this to Daisy in Season 1 (I think) when Daisy was infatuated with him and she said basically he played for the other team and Daisy didn’t get it at all. So some of the downstairs crew certainly know. Man, I wish I could remember where I think I saw that scene

        •  Though being out to someone truly close was not completely unknown, I’m sure, there has never been any love lost between these two characters, regardless of their occasionally scheming together.  So I do find it hard to fathom that O’Brien would be his confidant in such a case.  Though I can easily imagine, with her observational skills, that she sussed it out on her own.

          • Tally Ho

            O’Brien wasn’t the only one who knew of Thomas’s homosexuality. In the first season Mrs. Patmore warned Daisy that Thomas wasn’t the guy for her and that warning came with all the underlying implication that Thomas was gay even if she didn’t state it outright. She even said something like “Thomas isn’t a ladies’ man.” We don’t know what Thomas’s history was before coming to Downton Abbey/pre Season 1 but his gay nature was clearly known by Mrs. Patmore and O’Brien. (Wracking my brain even more I seem to remember a close admission by Thomas to O’Brien over a trip to London and letters he had written to the duke who visited the house). 

          • I had forgotten about Mrs. Patmore’s statements to Daisy.  And now I think on it, hasn’t Mr Carson said a few eyebrow raising things that imply he’s aware?

          •  Yes, of course.  The long term household staff are aware of Thomas’ homosexuality but dare not speak it’s name.

          • momjamin

            Oh jeez. That makes me think Isobel’s going to be the one who openly “speaks its name” all over the place. And that won’t be awkward at all.

          • formerlyAnon

             I had forgotten those earlier comments.

          • siriuslover

            ARGH! Yet again I mention almost the same thing and scroll down and see your comment. Sorry! But I’m glad my memory is close to yours here.

          • Little_Olive

            My guess as well. As it is clear that Thomas’ inclination toward her is at least to some degree nourished by fear -for he is the only one who knows, or thinks he knows, what she is capable of- and a weird admiration of her ‘coldbloodedness’. 

            As assuming he must feel quite alone and confused, for him to believe (wishfully think) that he may trust her, she with whom he has shared many an hour of badmouthing the others, his partner in crime, is not uncanny. 

          •  I can understand , I suppose, his attraction to O’Brien’s machiavellian character. I suspect he looks at her as something of a role model.

      • Ms_Flyover

        I would argue that degree of pawing is over the top in any perspective.  If anyone touched me that much at work, I’d file a complaint (ok, in 2013, I would ask them to quit first, and if repeated requests didn’t work, then file a complaint.) Nonetheless, it seems idiotic that in a downstairs that “proper” that anyone would be that handsy.

      • mrspeel2

        Perhaps, if or when O’Brien’s plot finds the conclusion she’s hoping for, the revelation will pave the way for Mr Bates getting his job back?

    • Exactly, Thomas being so handsy with the cute guy seems anachronistic and contrived.

      • And not to get all Stonewall Riots up in here, but it’s very much of a piece with a common stereotype about gay men generally: a good-looking guy walks in, and suddenly we lose all self-control.  Granted, characters in soap operas have to do stupid things, or there isn’t much to talk about.  But the way Thomas is going after this guy full-throttle is a little offensive, and in keeping with the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am narrative style of Upside Downton Abbey.  A “real” gay man, good-looking and horny but also aware of the precariousness of his position (you can bet one hint of homosexuality and he’s out as Lord Grantham’s valet), would take it a little more slowly, to suss out the possibilities.

        (Though we did get a few anvils dropped when the New Handsome Footman said things that could be interpreted as his coming from a sympathetic perspective.)

        •  Actually, I think Lord Grantham knows that Thomas is gay. Mr. Bates made an off-hand remark about it to the Lord last season – or 100 years ago before he was incarcerated. I actually wondered about Robert taking him on as valet for that reason. But, in the end, Fellowes really likes the Thomas character and does what it takes to keep him going, regardless of inconsistencies in the storyline. Robb James Collier said in an interview that his character was meant to be killed off by the end of season 1, but they kept him on.

        • Maybe because straight guys lose their shit when they see a beautiful woman?  A nice-looking girl can’t walk down the street without being harassed by some horny asshole.  Or a bunch of horny assholes.

    • Judy_S

       It’s possible that the very fact that sexual desire was unthinkable in an all-male context made it easier to accept as just friendly, if sometimes emotional, hugs or “massages” or grasping of hands. Clearly Thomas is trying hard to limit himself to that, anyway, so far. Re. O’Brien & Thomas, I recall on this very blog a comment, when the two of them were smoking a happy cigarette after some downfall of Bates, that she was probably a lesbian herself and that’s why she could accept Thomas. Aside from that, it seems to be her nature to keep tabs on anything that could be used against any other person, just in case she needs a spot of blackmail or whatever. Anyway, my assumption from Day 1 is that she knows about Thomas’s emotional life, whether or not he knows she knows it.

      • Adriana_Paula

        I agree; the idea of having a “crush” on a person of the same sex probably comes from a very different place in a culture where a lot of activity, e.g. schools, clubs etc, was very segregated by sex.  There must have been lots of same sex crushes, especially on the part of young people, that didn’t necessarily mean they were gay.  I took O’Brien’s comment in that spirit: she’s being malicious, but it could come across as innocent, as “how cute!”  In that spirit it’s not necessarily even an open comment on Thomas’ sexuality.

    • MissMariRose

       I’m also perplexed at how James can tell O’Brien repeatedly that he doesn’t like Thomas touching him, to the extent that he’s willing to tell Carson and/or the police, but he won’t say a word to Thomas. Ridiculous.

      • formerlyAnon

         Exaggerated, maybe. But it doesn’t seem to me that uncommon for someone to complain *about* a behavior in someone which they are not yet ready to confront that person over. James is still the new guy and may not be sure enough of his ground to have an open confrontation with Thomas.

      • Little_Olive

        Maybe he is gay too and this is his way of stating his “honor” while maintaining the possibility of romance. 

        Or maybe he is very straight and fears the gays like chinese eunuchs. 

        • Imogen_Jericho

          Wait, what’s this about Chinese eunuchs? I wish Fellowes would work *that* into his plotline!

          • Little_Olive

            (After reading a few books on the last Empress of China) my image of a person viewed by others as treacherous, fearsome and all of this rolled into a devilishly deviated sexuality.

          • Lauren Hall

            omg the dowager empress Cixi???

          • Little_Olive

            There are many ways to spell it but Tzu-Hsi is the one I’ve seen most repeated. Pearl was her name as a concubine.  

      • Wellworn

        Remember that O’Brien warned James that Thomas is very influential in the house because he’s Lord Grantham’s personal servant, so James is probably worried that if he goes against Thomas it could turn bad for him.

      • Coco Cornejo

        O’Brian warned James to stay on Thomas’ good side because “he has his lordship’s ear.” The implication being that if he doesn’t like you, he can get you fired. 

      • momjamin

        O’Brien told James that as Thomas is Lord Grantham’s valet and thus has the ear of the head of house (implying more trust/intimacy than Robert has ever felt for Thomas), that he doesn’t want to get on Thomas’ bad side or he’ll lose his job.

        • That should be interesting when Bates returns and displaces Thomas! I’m sure Bates will take kindly to someone who’s been sexually harrassed by him!

        • Lisa_Cop


      • O’Brien encouraged James to be friendly with Thomas because he has the ear of the  Lord, which would be good for James. Also, Thomas is his superior, so he’d be less likely to confront him directly, vs. confiding his concerns in a 3rd party.

  • Don’t forget…this is the 1920’s.  Eclampsia often meant death for both the mother and the child.  Clarkson’s advice was correct, because that was the best chance to save both.  They were lucky that baby Sybill survived, and that was where the Sir Philip was wrong.   He could have said everything as he said and still have Cora not forgive Robert, because he ignored her longtime doctor in favor of some blustering twit that was knighted.   That was the lazy part of last night’s episode, Cora’s reaction…not Clarkson’s admission.
    I’m a veterinarian, and once all is said and done, it does my client’s no good to make them feel worse about the bad decisions which they made which may have led to their dog getting sick, and possibly dying.  If anything, I just say “In the future….” with some helpful advice.   That’s part of the deal.  I don’t sugarcoat it either.  You have to walk a fine line and Clarkson walked that line.

    • formerlyAnon

       I tend to agree. I think he was pressured into it, but in context it made sense.

    • LCTerrill

      That’s what I was thinking last night too. I didn’t get the sense that Clarkson was being dishonest, like TLo did; I think he felt the need to be accurate in what Sybil’s chances of survival really were (which, as he said, were pretty terrible, even if they’d operated as soon as he noticed any preeclampsia symptoms).

      •  “I didn’t get the sense that Clarkson was being dishonest, like TLo did;”
        We’re going by Clarkson’s own words and reaction. He called it a lie.

        • Isadora Paiva

          But wasn’t that before going over the actual chances of survival, like the Dowager Countess asked him to do?  I got a sense that the cases of survival, even with the C-section, were fewer than he thought at first. So what was to him a “lie” at first was less than that (though still not completely truthful) after his research. Mind you, I watched this episode a while ago, maybe I’m remembering a rosier version. Either way, I hate Robert.

          • As we’ve said, his performance in that scene makes it very clear he doesn’t believe what he’s saying.

          • Well he was right, and Sir Philip was wrong AND lucky that the baby didn’t die too.  SO in that sense it was a lie.

          • siriuslover

            Especially when Lord Grantham says, “then Sir Philip was right” and Clarkson said, “I certainly wouldn’t go that far.”  He played a bit fast and loose with the facts here to make it appear that he wasn’t lying when it was clear he was. I agree with TLo that Clarkson’s performance, and his quick exit, make it clear he was violating every ethical principle in his body.
            I do think that this detente between Cora and Robert will be very short lived. The rift has been open, and it won’t be so easy to sew together. 

          • 3hares

            I think the only disagreement comes from the facts of real life eclampsia–iow, we know that Clarkson’s been strong-armed into taking back a diagnosis he still knows was right for the good of the marriage. But is he doing it by outright lying or nudging the interpretation? 

            I think it’s the latter. Clarkson himself, after all, was always clear that the C-section wasn’t a guarantee of saving Sybil. I think he may have even said that it only gave her a chance, plus he always acknowledged the danger inherent in the operation. Clarkson’s own diagnosis was realistic. I don’t know if Clarkson would have been able to bring himself to, for instance, claim that there was *no* chance it would have helped. He’s just coming as close as possible to saying that without outright choking on it. 

            I agree with T&Lo you can see his conflict throughout. He’s far more passionate complaining about the arrogance of Sir Phillip than pretending he’s had any real change of mind. That’s where he’s having to lie. And while he doesn’t mind assuring Cora that really, the C-section was no guarantee so she shouldn’t blame herself for not insisting on it he HATES what he’s really doing here, which is making peace by telling Cora her husband was right. And Robert’s all too eager to see it that way, hence his “then Sir Phillip was right.”

      • Mende Mendelius

        I Agree. Clarkson didn’t lie. With eclampsia Sybill would have probably died even in the hospital. The problem here is that Fellowes doesn’t puit it right. Wich is a shame for Clarkson because it was his chance to bright as a fair man (who admits that there was nothing he could do) and not as a liar.  

        • That’s the thing that bothers me. Clarkson has been such a bad doctor up until now, and this is just more of the same. Everything he said was totally right, but he believed that it was a lie. There really was very little chance that Sybil would have survived. It’s a miracle that she was able to deliver the baby. They probably would not have been able to save her at the hospital, and only would have exposed her to more pain. This was a chance for Clarkson to stop being such a quack, but he didn’t know that everything he said was completely accurate. Is that irony?

    • A woman who lived down the street from my parents had a sudden attack of eclampsia that happened when she was home alone.  Her husband came home to find her blacked out on the floor of the bathroom.  They got her to the hospital, but the baby died. She was full term.  This was in the mid-1970’s.

      • luciaphile

        I don’t think it’s the eclampsia that’s the issue. This was a problem that was probably going to have a bad outcome regardless. However, the London pompous doctor a)totally ignored the symptoms ad never made the patient or the patient’s family aware of any potential issues and b)did nothing for the patient’s comfort when it became clear that there was a problem. Maybe they couldn’t have saved Sybil, but she was pretty much writhing in agony while Sir Twit did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING (no morphine, nothing). No one really did anything. And that is the problem. I had no issue with Robert going to another doctor; Dr. Oops-I-Messed-Up-Again Clarkson does not inspire confidence. But he chose his healthcare provider based on the man’s title and client list and despite increasing evidence to the contrary, stuck by this man because of his prominence. That’s why he’s in the wrong.

    • My mother was absolutely wrecked by this scene, because when my father died suddenly of a heart attack, the coroner told her there was absolutely no way she could have saved him, even if she had gotten to him sooner, and hearing that gave her such relief she could barely describe it. Cora wasn’t just forgiving Robert, she was forgiving herself. The scene worked because of Clarkson and his decision to help a grieving mother.

    • Stephanie Atwood

      That’s what I was thinking. Did the doctor really lie? At the beginning of the episode, Sybil was already looking sickly and pathetic (showing signs of preeclampsia) but it wasn’t until she started getting really delusional and “mottled” as the doctor put it, the NEXT NIGHT that he became worried. And even then, he didn’t recommend a C-section until he took a urine sample. It really could have been too late by the time he figured out what was wrong with her, when you consider having to drag her out of the country all the way into the hospital for the surgery. The C-section wasn’t a miracle cure. I think if anything he exaggerated by saying her chance of survival was “infinitismal.”

      • not_Bridget

        Yeah, it was only a “little” lie.  But it was a lie.

  • I don’t care what lines they feed her, Maggie Smith make the entire thing worth watching. Brilliant actress.

  • Girl_With_a_Pearl

    I’m on a mission today to find recipes for charlotte russe and salmon mousse.

    • PeaceBang

      My mom gave me her salmon mousse recipe when I moved out of the house and it still impresses people. Easy as pie, and I have a cute salmon mold, too. 

      • When I think mousse, I think dessert. So salmon mousse doesn’t sound all that great, but since my limbs are functioning, I should probably give it a try.

        • It is delicious … Think lox and cream cheese, just all whooshed together, served on watercress.

    • Buffy

      Sorry but the words salmon mousse always make me think of Monty Python and the Grim Reaper.  NEVER eat the salmon mousse!

  • Frank_821

    Yes they should have dragged that conflict out until the end of the season instead of the Batezzzz one

    what’s sad is that scene where Mary is begging him to Robert to open and honest with Cora and make things right. You really see what an obsolete man he has become. even sadder is Mary of all people who says what the real problem is

    • formerlyAnon

       Yes. Mary redeemed at least two episodes worth of entitled ass-ery with her attempts to get through to her father.

  • PeaceBang

    I actually loved this episode, while the Sybil’s death episode left me rolling my eyes with the predictability of it from the soap opera standpoint. Last night felt like real people again and I was able to really love the characters even in their tragic flaws.  In private life, people almost never see themselves in historical context, they see themselves as being important to certain other people and within a very small sphere of influence. This episode showed  the tremendous relief that suffering and grieving people feel when they are given an opportunity to experience harmony and “rightness” in their own family systems, often at the expense of actual truth or justice. I see this in ministry all the time and that’s why the writing here felt so poignant to me. Mary and Matthew WANT to feel that their every moment together is precious even though they’ll spend so many hours of their married life bored and bickering. Cora WANTS to be able to sob in her husband’s arms, that’s why she literally sags with relief at the chance to believe that the good old country doctor couldn’t have saved her baby. I loved seeing how all of these characters physically bear the burden of being who they feel they MUST be all the time, and what it was like for a few of them to be able to let down that burden for a moment. It was my favorite episode of the season. It was very, very real for me. 

    • Wonderfully said. I could not agree more. This week affected me much more than last and I feared I was quite alone in that. It would be nice if the rest of the season stayed this way – studies of the close, difficult, fully human interactions that make the show great and less High Crisis and Over Simplification every few moments. 

      (This may be just me, but it would also be *quite* nice if this week marked the end of, every time it rains at Downton, everyone (but Mary) turning on Robert and yelling, “This is all your fault!” It seems like RobertHate is now an entrenched part of the fandom and it disappoints me when it comes from the brilliant TLo. They are usually so insightful (their recap of last year’s Christmas Special is one of my favorite Downton essays) – it is too easy to just angrily dismiss him after everything else we have learned over the last two and an half years. He always tries to do what is right and good, even if it doesn’t work out in the end. He isn’t perfect, but he isn’t dastardly either. I’ll stop before I launch into a full defense but, after all we’ve been through together His Lordship and I, I owe him my loyalty.)

      • not_Bridget

        Robert is not so much dastardly as thick. And it seems his rather distant mother has been preventing him from feeling the results of his actions for most of his life….

        • I’m not sure I agree about thick (he’s characterized in the lovely Jessica Fellowes’ book as clever – and handsome for what that’s worth) but rigid, definitely. Even more so this season than before, when he was shown apologizing when he learned new information (about Bates’ departure) or had time to reflect (realizing he should keep disagreements with Cora as private, not dinner, conversations). I think the increased rigidity is an understandable response to the world, his family and his power pulling away. Add to that the pain of multiple losses and we have reason for less than Wise&Kind behavior, as unpleasant as it may be to watch.  

          The writing is almost comical at this point with how wrongly all his decision go, even when things could have easily turned out the other way. I said dastardly because some people seem to think he is motivated by bad intent whereas I still see the motivation by good that has marked the character all along. The recappers at Slate labeled him a Super Villain, which is a little amusing but, even in jest, is flippant in light of the character development before this season’s bum’s rush. And even this season, some of things that are easily dismissed as RobertJerk! have some explanation to them. Edith, for example – he phrased his discouragement to her rather harshly but explained to Matthew that he wanted to protect her from being taken advantage of by the editor, which seemed a reasonable concern. 

          I think you bring up a really relevant and interesting point – how can/ would someone raised in that environment, at that time, with that Mum react to all these things? For all we joke about anachronisms popping up in the script, we have to remember how different that place and time were and the unusual and monumental effort it would take to see what we easily see from today’s vantage point. Maybe the prequel Lord Fellowes is supposedly concocting will explore more of the influence his upbringing and family had on him. I hope we also get to see Cora in America and more of her family along with her initial adjustment in moving to Downton, which must have been incredibly difficult. 

          Wow, that got really long and serious. Anywho, just my two cents. (And I like your username.)

      • PaulaBerman

        I don’t know… he ruined Downton’s finances, requiring Matthew to bail them out, and promises Matthew a partnership in the estate. Then he refuses to hear and criticism of how he runs the estate. That’s being an ass. He also believed the knighted doctor over Clarkson, who was right. His buffoonery at Isobel’s house was also pretty embarrassing, not to mention is continuously condescending, infantilizing, ruinous attitude towards Edith. If Robert is being written to be hated, then why is it disappointing when we do just that? He’s not  real person, he’s a TV show character, so we can only go on what is being presented.

        • Hey Paula (sorry I couldn’t resist). 

          Hate is such an unmusical word 😉 I just wrote a mini-dissert above that covers some of your thoughts but also wanted to note that there is an interesting and articulate discussion (especially by “NOMI”) about this over at Vulture.I’m not sure he is being written to be hated, though I don’t think the writing this season is doing anyone any favors. I think we’re not getting enough of an explicit background on his actions (we do get some explanations but they’re usually ignored and we do have the two previous seasons to go on) and that he (and Carson) have had to become caricatures for the “TheFuture!No!ThePast!” theme that the grandmas started off the season with.Matthew has handled the “Hey let’s reevaluate everything” discussion a little poorly and I think he was right when he said to Mary that Robert is used to funds being plentiful and would equate more active management with meanness toward say, the older tenants. I think he views his position as caretaker (or custodian as he told Mary) not manager. At Isobel’s, I think we got a striking look at how, for all their privilege, the family and those like them also live in something of a glass jail. They have to be constantly worried about their associations and the many ways in which word of any of their activities could be leaked out. I saw Robert being more genuinely panicked for the Ladies’ reputations and angry at Isobel for endangering them versus just buffoonery.I wrote about Edith above so won’t repeat only to say that he did not discourage her from taking a more active role during the War, including *pearl clutch* driving (it was Granny who had a big problem with that and its associations with Toad of Toad Hall). I think in light of feeling broken after so many losses, a lot of his behavior makes sense – it’s a realistic, if unpleasant, reaction. TLo wrote brilliantly in their later recaps of last season that a lot of his actions mirrored symptoms of depression and Hugh Bonneville has noted many times that the character became haunted by Churchill’s Black Dog (even though we only see Isis at his heels) because on some level he knows that their way of life is coming to an end. 
          Wow again – help, I’m finally commenting and I can’t stop!

          As you can see from here, and the rest of the Internet, a lot of us take our TV shows and characters very (too?) seriously. I think it’s a testament to the show, even in its less-than-fine hours, and TLo that we can have such in depth discussions and care so much. Again, just my two cents, which will not get you on the bus.

          • PaulaBerman

            I don’t think *Matthew* has handled that discussion poorly at all. He is half owner of the estate, and he bailed Grantham out. Rather than show gratitude, and admit to fiscal ineptitude, which has been more that adequately demonstrated by his squandering of not one but two fortunes, he gets all huffy at the mere suggestion that he can’t manage money. Manifestly he cannot. Matthew, who has practical world experience, does, and has a vested financial interest in the success of the estate. Yet both Mary and Robert bridle at the very de classe idea of running the estate so it doesn’t hemorrhage money. It’s so priggish and irresponsible it makes me want to scream. “He is used to funds being plentiful”???? I mean, really, after losing the second fortune, can he not grasp that it is not plentiful, especially when you mismanage it? If you are too depressed to handle an estate that dozens of people rely on for their livelihood, then the very least you could do is gracefully step aside so your far more competent son-in-law can discretely assist you.

            Perhaps Robert’s concern over the ladies’ reputations was not buffoonery, but he did come off as a blowhard buffoon, so that was either the writers’ intentions or bad writing. Cora deliberately thwarted him, and his daughters and mother sided with her. As for Isobel “endangering” them, well, they weren’t ever really in danger. Imagine someone accusing the Dowager Countess of frolicking with prostitutes. I pity the fool.

            I really started to hate him in his handling of Edith. That was just terrible writing. Sir Anthony was good enough to save Mary’s fat from the fire, but not good enough for Edith, who clearly LOVED him and wanted nothing more than to run his house. He interfered with that, and then, when an editor expressed interest in her writing, he couldn’t believe it was sincere. He actually said he thought he editor was making fun of her! How little faith he has in her.

            Bottom line: Robert is so hung up on his noblesse oblige that he cannot see that he is hurting people until after he has hurt them. I hope he wises up soon.

          • CozyCat

            Am I the only one who saw a potential tie-up-everyone’s-problems-with-a neat-bow plotline when Branson SUDDENLY ADMITTED KNOWING SOMETHING ABOUT SHEEP FARMING?  Any bets that in the season finale Branson will take over the farm.  Robert will be emotionally bribed into accepting the reforms by the prospect the prospect of having his grandchild close by.

          • PaulaBerman

            I would hate it if that happened, because Branson has been ALL ABOUT IRELAND the entire show. If he caves in and becomes a gentleman farmer on his father-in-law’s proper British estate, then that character has no integrity whatsoever. I thought that scene was just to show Matthew and Branson bonding, but hey, you could be right. The writing this season has been so crappy that anything could happen.

          • I thought EXACTLY the same thing, CozyCat! I actually said to the hubby, “well, that’s tied up neatly then. *weary eye roll*”

          • Tally Ho

            I must thank LauraMarie for succinctly putting together an analysis that I attempted to write a few times but failed because I couldn’t put the right words together without seeming to offend some people.

            I have been puzzled by some of the RobertHate that seems popular these days. What Fellowes is attempting to do is to show a person who is used to a certain type of respect and position struggling to react in a rapidly changing world. Robert is someone who would
            have been raised to occupy a certain paterfamilias position as the head of the family, the head of the house of Grantham and a leading aristocrat in Britain with all the responsibilities it entails. It was living in a glass jar as the general populace looked up to the aristocracy just as the modern populace looks up to celebrities or politicians. Robert is a Victorian who has now suddenly been plunged into the 20th century with all its implied modernity. He’s tried to approach the issues in what would be for him a time tested and proven approach but has failed because the world has suddenly changed beyond recognition.

            But Fellowes’ failure is that his poor writing and plotting has resulted in too much implausible changes going on than would have actually happened in real life (the changing mores happened over decades, even half a century, not a year), and he moves too quickly from one plot device to another and ignoring the long term implications. Fellowes rarely
            shows how people outside Downton Abbey but contemporary to the time perceive the family and their problems, so we aren’t getting a broader perspective of the situations that would be accurate for the time.

            To compound it we viewers are watching Downton Abbey with all the perspectives of people who grew up in the late 20th and 21st century and apply our own set of moral judgment to a cast of people who were all products of a different time.

            Just to take one particular example is Sybil’s elopement with Branson. From the modern day perspective this isn’t a “bad” turn of events because we don’t have the same hang-ups about social disparity and the couple were clearly in love and Branson is a decent guy. But
            that elopement would have been a major scandal in Britain, even after WWI. It would have been written up in the scandal mongering tabloids. I can just see the headlines: EARL’S DAUGHTER RUNS OFF WITH CHAUFFEUR! Robert’s contemporaries – the other aristocrats in the neighborhood, his peers in the house of Lords and smart London society would have gossiped about the elopement for years. And the local population – the normal, regular people, would also have gossiped about it. Overall, it would have been seen, fairly or not, as a big failure on Robert’s part and Robert (and Mary and Cora and Edith) certainly would have felt the stigma very keenly. A good comparison to today would be if you were an upstanding parent and citizen and suddenly your child is busted for dealing drugs among his friends. It would be a huge blow to you and people would remember this for a long time.

            And Sybil’s elopement is not the only scandal. Robert’s had to face Mary’s indiscretion becoming known in London (remember all the doors that were closed to Mary once the rumor got out?). So it’s understandable why he’s very concerned with how his family behaves and is now viewed in public. Bursting into Mrs. Crawley’s house made Robert look like a buffoon but the fear of the stigma was real.

            This urging that Robert needs to “learn” his lessons ignores that what the appropriate lessons to learn at the time could be and indeed that the mores of 1920 were quite different than in our modern, 21st century world.

            What I had most trouble trying to write earlier was to suggest that perhaps why some people are too eager to beat up Robert is due to an inherit distrust of anyone having an
            aristocratic/rich/privileged background. So when Robert the aristocrat exhibits a flaw some people quickly condemn him – calling him a buffoon, idiot, obsolete whatever you have it, but when other characters lower on the social scale exhibit flaws they’re not as vocal. Branson attempted to do a few really stupid things, like throwing oil on a visiting general, but people didn’t howl for his blood. Thomas and O’Brien have been genuinely vindictive in the past but they never evoked the hatred some people now have for Robert.

          • PaulaBerman

            What may be “offending” people (I doubt anyone is actually offended by a difference of opinion about a TV character; irritated, maybe) is the idea that, if we just watched the show the “right” way, we wouldn’t have the feelings that we have about Robert. I feel that my view and interpretation of the character is perfectly adequate, accurate, and works for me. I don’t hate him because he is not a real person, but I do dislike him. Part of the reason is that he is written to make a ton of mistakes, some of which are excusable by the mores of his time, some of which are just priggish pomposity on his part. However, he is never held accountable for any of them. Squander a fortune? Get another, and another. Etc. Supposed to care about daughters’ happiness, thwart Edith at every turn. Etc.

            The difference between Robert and Thomas and O’Brien is that I feel we are supposed to like Robert and think he is a good person. T and O are supposed to be scheming, mean, nasty pieces of work, and they always deliver. There is no cognitive dissonance there for me. Robert, OTOH, is written in a contradictory manner: to be an ass who is always screwed up AND the good guy we are all rooting for. It doesn’t work for me.

    •  Yes. I’m happy to read your post and agree with you on all points. Your experience in the ministry gives you insights about people that most of us don’t think about often. Thanks.

    • I agree with you also.  Cora and Robert needed to grieve the loss of their daughter but they couldn’t because she couldn’t let go of blaming him for her death and I think in a way he blamed himself too.  Dr. Clarkson allowed them to grieve together. And I think it allowed Violet to grieve too because I think she had been worrying about the state of their marriage too much to grieve for her granddaughter.  Yes, there was probably an element of keeping up appearances but at the end of the day Robert and Cora truly love each other and Violet knows that and didn’t want to see them break apart.

  • Tally Ho

    I can’t agree with the claim that the dowager forced Dr. Clarkson to lie against his better professional judgment. Last week’s comment section was revealing in all the details about the history of preeclampsia and made clear that Sybil still had little chance of surviving had she been moved to the hospital. The show did make it look like that Clarkson was strong armed by the dowager but when he confessed that the chance of survival was tiny, he was speaking the truth.

    Otherwise there really doesn’t seem to be much to be said about the episode other than a few observations: 

    1. What is the big deal with the prison guard and prisoner? What do they have against Bates to begin with? How do they know Mrs. Barrett and are able to get her to change her mind (or scare her into doing so). Their dislike is never explained which makes that entire plotline weak and boring. 

    2. It’s interesting Fellowes is suddenly giving Daisy options in life other than service. Making the transition from cook to running a farm, even as a tenant if not an owner. Still a step up. I wonder where this will lead. Millions of acres were sold off by estates in the 1920s in the largest land transfer since the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII so will William’s father buy the farm outright from whoever owns it and pass it along to Daisy someday? 

    3. The overall theme of this season does seem to be “things are changing, almighty god,” but it seems too forced between challenging the father/paterfamilias figure that Robert and Carson represent and the whole Ethel sideshow. Things did change but not overnight and the changes were spread over a few decades. The real changes that badly hit places like Downton Abbey happened just after WWII. The grandest country houses still had a staff of as many as 100 right up till 1939. 4. I have to say I liked Ethel’s cooking. As a serious cook I’m genuinely impressed she was able to turn out a spiffy looking charlotte russe overnight without much previous experience. 5. Presumably Bates comes back to Downton in next week’s episode so will Thomas be demoted to footman again? There will be three footmen now, or will one be sent packing? Or will Thomas conveniently do something to get dismissed thus solving the surplus footman problem (boy, I wish I had a surplus footman problem). I see too easily Thomas making the final wrong move on Jimmy and getting sacked for it, poor kid.

    • LCTerrill

      Yep, I agree with all of this. Although, I did catch a tiny line in the Bates-cellmate scene that sounded like Bates had discovered a drug-trafficking operation involving the cellmate and the guard (and I’m guessing that’s what the mysterious burlap thing was).

    •  “I can’t agree with the claim that the dowager forced Dr. Clarkson to lie against his better professional judgment.”

      That’s exactly what Clarkson said he was asking her to do.

      • Tally Ho

        Clarkson agreed to do research into the subject. His final statement was that there *was* a chance of survival but that it was also incredibly small. Which was the historically accurate truth and he didn’t lie. 

        • He came right out – twice – and called it a lie. His final statement was clearly given reluctantly and he clearly didn’t entirely believe it. Whether or not it was the “historically accurate” truth, the Dowager openly asked him to lie and he clearly felt deeply uncomfortable doing so, after initially telling her that he wouldn’t be able to do so.

          • Joshau Norton

            Totally agree. It was obvious that Clarkson was there to mainly soothe the Dowager who happens to be one of the hospitals biggest supporters. He didn’t truly believe what he was saying. The totally unsubtle camera shots of the eye contact between the Dr. and Violet before he answered their questions was meant to confirm this.

          • Judy_S

             I think this was the bit of bad writing. I think Fellowes wanted to give the DD the drama of pushing Clarkson too hard. But in the end what he said was true, though maybe slightly exaggerated (from “a small chance” to “infinitesimal” or something like that).
            As I mentally edited the scene, Clarkson was in the position of having been right about the pre-eclampsia (and Cora was right to trust him on that), and justified by Sybil’s death. Sir Fancy Pants was wrong–he denied the pre-eclampsia until it was basically too late to do anything, and then took credit for things supposedly turning out fine.
            The truth was though that it was likely the outcome would have been similar if the cesarean had been done; the baby had a better chance of survival, but she did in fact survive, and Sybil had a terrible chance of survival either way.
            So what the DD was asking Clarkson to do was in a sense to admit that Cora’s interpretation of his advice was wrong–that his advice was not about how to save Sybil, but how best to save the baby. I think that’s what made it hard for him, particularly as he actually WAS right and Sir F.P. WAS wrong. But the thing about lying was in this interpretation a total red herring, or Fellowes dozing.

          • “I think this was the bit of bad writing.”

            Our point. Fellowes seems to think the scene went one way, without considering the implications of what he was asking of certain characters.

          • Girl_With_a_Pearl

            I think what bothered the good doctor most was being forced to say that there was no chance that Sybil could have survived.  The chances were slim, but there was still a possibility that she could have survived.  Dr. Clarkson would have taken that chance.  So, yes, he did lie to Robert and Cora.

        • His “final statement” was quite clearly given reluctantly and he quite clearly didn’t fully believe it. There’s more to a story than just the words that come out of the character’s mouths. Sometimes characters say things they don’t mean or say things they don’t realize are incorrect. Regardless of whether we think Clarkson was right or wrong, HE felt he was right and HE considered it a lie to say otherwise. The pauses and sideways glances made it clear that he didn’t fully believe what he was being asked to say to Cora and Robert.

          • Tally Ho

            There’s truth to what you say but whatever the whole story is did the doctor do a good service for Cora and Robert by lying or admitting that chances of survival were minimal? Sybil is dead and never coming back and the “lie” has allowed people who survive her to live more easily with their consciences. This isn’t a right/wrong scenario but a large gray area and the dowager recognized the importance of this. I’m not going to beat up anyone, Robert, the doctor or the dowager, over what was essentially an act of mercy to the living. 

          • Lattis

            the “lie” has allowed people who survive her to live more easily with their consciences

            Yes, but, Tally Ho, the lie also denies Robert the chance to face up to his mistake. Or to put it another way (as my dear Mr. Lattis said) it also would have been a really powerful scene for Robert to realize that he was wrong, admit it and be devastated by his mistake.

          • Tally Ho

            I imagine most of us are commenting over the morality of the possibly lying doctor without having been in a situation where we had to make a rushed, panicked decision that may or may not allow a child (or a parent or spouse) survive a medical emergency. If I were ever in a situation and the result was still death the guilt would certainly haunt me for the rest of my life, but knowing that the alternative decision would likely still lead to death would allow me to live more easily. 

            Did Robert make a mistake regarding Sybil? To an extent he may have, but did it likely make a difference in whether she would survive? Probably not. Should he be condemned for it for the rest of his life? No. 

          • 3hares

            I think where people have trouble with it it’s not so much that they want Robert to be condemned for it but that they want him to learn from it and worry that he’ll take the doctor’s new assurance as validation of his highborn decision making.

          • Lattis

            like x 1000

          • Imogen_Jericho

            He called it a lie at first but then revised his position after doing more research, no? Saying her chances of survival were much slimmer than he’d originally thought? I believed he was sincere when he said that. Though the family may have bullied him into saying she’d had essentially no chance at the end of that conversation — that’s the part I’m not clear on. If that happened, he would finally have caved in to lying. I may have to watch that scene again to check.

          • Polka_Dotty

            Did he actually do “the research” he claimed that caused him to change his mind? I thought he just threw that in there to justify his change of mind. Cora’s belief that Clarkson should have had precedence as the lead doctor was based on the belief that he knew her daughter best. And that was underlined in the exchange regarding her ankles, where Sir Pompous said, “some women just have fat ankles” and Dr. C. said, “Not Sybil.” That shows that he knew her pre-pregnancy and throughout her pregnancy. He could have gotten her to the hospital sooner — rather than reach the point of no return.

          • Doctors talk to Doctors one way and talk to their patients another way which is as it should be.   

        • jeeplibby02

          Dr. Clarkson was clear at the time, and again to Violet, that he could not assure Sybil’s survival, but he would not have argued so forcefully for a  caesarian (dangerous in its own right) if he believed that it offered her no chance.  The lie was in telling Robert and Cora at the dower house that he had given them false hope because Sybil’s death was always inevitable.  He did not believe that to be the case, and was obviously vexed at with Violet for forcing him to say it.

      • not_Bridget

        Clarkson is a decent fellow but needed to keep his job.  Didn’t he falsify somebody’s medical condition in the previous series to keep him out of the Army?  Because his betters demanded it? Of course, it wasn’t all that evil to keep somebody out of That War….

    • Lilithcat

      will William’s father buy the farm outright from whoever owns it and pass it along to Daisy someday?

      No, he said he’s leaving her the tenancy.

      • Tally Ho

        I’m aware that the farm is only rented. I’m also aware that the 1920s was a period that saw the sale of millions of acres from estates to the farmers. The concept of widespread family-owned farms is mostly a North American concept and up till WWI as much as 90% of the land in Britain was owned by the aristocracy and landed gentry and rented out to tenant farmers (who often passed along the tenancy to their children). The unequal nature of land ownership was a minor topic throughout the late 19th century and the Liberal Party at the time attempted to pass several land reform acts that would have encouraged the breakups of the large estates (which could exceed 100,000 acres), but never went anywhere partly due to opposition from the all powerful Conservative Party, and partly because many members of the Liberal party were landowners themselves, but also largely because the transition of Britain from rural to urban society meant that rural issues became less an issue as time went on. The rising Labour Party that ultimately split and caused the death of the old Liberal Party was firmly urban based and never took up rural landownership issues. 

        Nonetheless, changing economic circumstances, death duties and other expenses saw estates sell off the aforementioned millions of acres, mostly to the tenant farmers. This move started before WWI but accelerated in the 1920s. William’s father would be well aware of this trend so I was merely speculating that he might have an eye on buying his farm outright if the opportunity presented itself. He seems to have a lot of savings, as he implied. 

        A side note, the one place that did see land reform was Ireland. Several Land Acts around 1900 were passed by the British parliament to encourage Irish estate owners to sell most of their lands to their Irish tenants by providing a hefty financial incentive called the “bonus” to the landowners, and this happened as an attempt to placate the increasing demands of Irish nationalists for greater self-governance. By the time of Irish Independence most of Ireland’s lands were now owned by the Irish themselves, although this meant little during the Troubles when many of Ireland’s country houses were burned by the revolutionaries even though most of them had already sold off most of the estates to the tenants and had little economic power left. 

        Also interestingly enough, despite the changes of the past century it’s still estimated that a third of the land in Britain is owned by the aristocracy and landed gentry. 

    •  Does ANYONE understand the Bates prison storyline? What’s the prison guard and cellmate’s relationship to Vera’s neighbor? I have a hard time understanding their dialogue so I think I’m missing something here. In any case, I’ll be glad to say goodbye to the scenes set in that prison.

      • They don’t have a relationship to the neighbor, per se.  They just have it in for Bates and the guard overheard Mr. Murray and Bates talking and deduced that the neighbor could potentially clear him.  They either bribed or threatened her into changing her story. 

        •  OK, but even if the guard and cellmate had overheard Murray and Bates talking, how did they find the name and address (!) of Vera’s neighbor in order to threaten her into changing her story?? A lot of this is very vague to me. So Vera committed suicide after all and the neighbor’s story is able to prove that? All of this is based on Vera’s baking an arsenic pie?
          And WHY do the cellmate and the guard have such hatred for Bates?

          • According to the neighbor, Vera was baking the pie in the evening for her dinner.  Mr. Bates had left on the train back to Downton that afternoon. Anna wrote down that she had said the street lamps were lit and that it had been drizzling and there was a halo effect around Vera.

            However when Mr. Murray spoke to her, the neighbor suddenly claimed that she meant Vera was baking the pie for her midday dinner and she blatantly denied saying anything about the street lamps, etc.

            Bates discovered that the cellmate and the guard are selling drugs. They tried to have some planted in his bunk but another prisoner alerted him and he outsmarted them.

          • lamireille

            I really like the idea of “dinner” being a clue here–for the lower classes, the word “dinner” was used for the lunchtime meal, and “supper” was at night, whereas for the upper classes “dinner” was at night. I hadn’t noticed that when she was speaking to Anna Vera’s neighbor had referred to the pie being made for dinner, but she probably would have meant the midday meal. And that distinction would not have been lost on Julian Fellowes. Of course, that doesn’t explain the lamplight and the halo… unless it was a foggy day…. I wonder whether Bates is really going to be okay after all.

          • The neighbor says she went to see Vera after she finished her (the neighbor) evening meal. That’s what she tells Anna.  But she tells Murray she meant dinner at midday.

          • It’s possible that the guard could have found out the information from court records. 

          • downtonfan_ma

             I believe the guard asked the cellmate where Bates kept his letters, leading us to believe that one or both of them read Bates’ mail and found out about the neighbor.

      • Dot

         That storyline is so convoluted. I feel like I zone out when they cut to the prison scenes — the relationships don’t make much sense.

  • formerlyAnon

    It was a bad week to be an aging white (not that there are any other colors about) male at Downton. Carson & the Duke were each stressed beyond reason and the poor doctor pushed to shade the truth excessively (“lie” being unmusical a word). The Dowager Master Manipulator Violet remains good at achieving her ends, though the world is changing around her (remember when she nearly fell into the vapors over electric lighting?).

    Though a worse damn week to be Thomas. He is toast. He should have just groveled and begged for mercy when her realized that O’Brien was gunning for him. I am very, very afraid that when he does come to grief, Carson is going to make an example of him, having been thwarted over Ethel.  And somehow I don’t think the rather oddly assorted feminine solidarity that met Robert at Isobel’s luncheon and continued in Carson’s domain is going to coalesce in his defense.

    LOVED Mrs.Hughes’ interaction with Carson – especially that he is confident that she will continue to have his back even though they are disagreeing on a fundamental level.

    Go Daisy.

    So help me, if Bates is just smoothly released and resumes life at the Abbey, I am going to sue for Gratuitous Waste of Ominous Events Forshadowed.

    • Polka_Dotty

      Would my darling Thomas be able to sue for wrongful termination, as well?

  • The staff were definitely given the more interesting story line this week. I do like how the women are standing up Mr. Carson – not that he was a tyrant, exactly, but he’s like the staff version of Robert; unwilling to change with the times. It’s a nice, if not-so-subtle, parallel.

    I have to say, this is the first time I’ve been really disappointed by the Dowager Countess.

    • Spicytomato1

      I was also disappointed in Violet when she intervened at Edith’s almost-wedding. She basically ensured Strallan wouldn’t go through with it when he clearly was conflicted.

      • PaulaBerman

        I was SOOOO disappointed in how she bullied Strallan out of marrying Edith. So disappointed.

  • mysteriousalias

    While I agree that Fellows needs to cool it with the repeated destruction and rehabilitation of Roberts character…..I don’t think Violet made Dr Clarkson LIE, she made him tell the TRUTH. In 1920 there is no way that Clarkson KNEW that he could deliver Baby Sybil AND save Mama Sybil or even that that outcome was likely. He was just being obstinate because he was right about the eclampsia diagnosis and resented that Robert did not trust him. But what he had been advocating was extremely high risk. They could have both died. Sybil was in major risk either way (even today women die of eclampsia), and maybe Robert sided with Dr Douche for the wrong reasons…but he did not “kill” Sybil. The Dr he trusted was a famous obstetrician who was wrong (just like Dr Carson was wrong last season about Matthew – medicine is not a perfected science).

    •  Clarkson considered it a lie and said so.

      • Tally Ho

        Can you actually point out to me where Clarkson confessed that he lied to Robert/Cora after he had done his research into the subject as he promised to the dowager countess? 

        • I’m going by the script, the directing, and the performances, all of which were very clear on the matter. Clarkson clearly was deeply uncomfortable saying what he said (which he characterized as a lie) and his annoyed glance at the Dowager during that scene made it clear he was saying things he didn’t believe.

          There is no scene of Clarkson doing any research, nor is there any scene of him “confessing that he lied,” as you well know. There is a scene of him saying “I can’t lie like that,” followed up with a scene of him saying exactly what he was told to in a reluctant and slightly annoyed manner.

          • Zippypie

            We don’t know whether Clarkson actually did the “research” as he says he did at the top of the scene.  Since he’s being forced into this position by the Dowager and he is a man of principal, I’m going to believe that yes, he did research and yes, he does know that the procedure was very risky and didn’t have a high success rate.  However, he was right about the procedure giving Sybil a chance and he said so and only backpedaled to “infinitesimal” after getting a warning eye shot from the Dowager during that scene when Cora said again “But there was a chance?”  That’s what pissed me off completely.

          •  I feel for you guys.  Watching you defend your perfectly reasonable interpretation of the scene is like teaching my community college students how to read beyond the text. 

          • Lattis

            I do wonder, though, reading all these comments about whether Clarkson lied or not if at the heart of it we’re conflicted about lying. We say lying is bad, but we all want to be lied to sometimes and we all lie. 

            If I’d been in the Dowager, Robert and Cora’s shoes, I probably would have wanted Clarkson to lie to me about it – or fudge it – because grief is so horrible even without excessive guilt. 

          • Tally Ho

            “Reasonable interpretation” is exactly what it is – an interpretation. We only know for sure what was exactly said. Implications and interpretations based on people’s glances at one another is pure speculation and probably says just as much about the observer as it does about what is being observed. 

            Perhaps Clarkson was hesitant because he hated to admit that he could have been wrong at Sybil’s deathbed and that for all his passion she would probably still die. Not everyone likes to admit to a potential professional error and the dowager was looking at him to remind him of his “duty.” Or perhaps it was a lie after all. We will never know.  

          • Dot

            How would he have been “wrong”? Tom flat out asked him, “Do you swear you can save her if he do this?” and he said, “Of course I can’t swear it.” Few things in medicine are an absolutely certainty and between the two doctors, he was the only one acting with a semblance of realism. The point was that he was acting in a manner to at least *try* to save Sybil, whereas Sir Phillip was an obstinate ass who insisted nothing was wrong. In fact, who knows what could have happened had Clarkson been permitted to openly voice his suspected diagnosis sooner than he was. I think it was quite obvious that Violet strong-armed him into overstating his “research” in order to mend fences between Cora and Robert.

          • siriuslover

            have I lived that scenario in my head too many times. I think I love you.

          • Lisa_Cop

            I agree with TLo’s interpretation but didn’t quite get there on my first viewing, partially because my UK Blu-ray is much more washed out than the PBS TV picture. All the sidelong glances are much clearer now than they were when I watched the blu-ray. I think the fact the Dr. Clarkson is lying becomes especially clear when looking at Maggie Smith’s face; she knows exactly what is going to come out of his mouth. Also, when the Dowager initially approaches the doctor she concludes by saying “have we nothing in common” meaning the hospital and it’s funding (I think she is making a veiled threat to withdraw her financial support). And Dr. Clarkson exits hurriedly after telling the Granthams the changed conclusion. So yes, the doctor has decided to change his story (or lie) in order to make sure his hospital stays open.

          • He didn’t need to do more research. What he said at the Dowager House was basically the same as what he said at the time, just with a lot more adverbs and prefaced by that baloney *about* the research.

      • mysteriousalias

        I think Clarkson’s pride considered it to be a lie (he was confident in his own abilities and his confidence was bolstered by the fact that he was right about the diagnosis), but it was the objective truth. so maybe the doctor was strong-armed into saying what he said, but it was still the right thing to do since he probably could not have saved them anyway, and letting Cora continue to believe that he would have been successful was just exacerbating her pain and making Robert suffer for a decision that he made in a high stress situation (in which there really was no *right* decision). Maybe the bigger issue is not class but chauvinism – since Cora’s pleas to Robert fell on deaf ears, and that is what she should be mad about – that her husband didn’t listen to her (and that she didnt have the power to bundle up her daughter and take her to the hospital).

    • Here, here! I’ve been saying much the same, to little avail, to friends all week. What a strange world we’re in this season where Dr. Spaceman is right about *anything* (seriously though it just shows how desperate for more of “the repeated destruction and rehabilitation of Robert’s character”  Lord Fellowes was for some reason. Why is a happy aristocrat writing a depressing series where the formerly kind and upstanding aristocrat is always wrong? Should we be worried about him? Has he been reading the nasty British papers and given over to self-loathing? I propose a field trip to Britain to investigate). Now I’m off to have some Cinnamon Milk to ward off pesky flu strands. 

      • PaulaBerman

        The aristocrat is always wrong, but never, ever has to suffer any real consequences. Someone always bails him out. There is a metaphor there…

    • The_English_Teacher

      If Dr. Clarkson had been attending Sybil (making regular visits to see how she was doing), I think he would have recognized the symptoms of pre-eclampsia right away and done the Caesarean while Sybil still had a good chance of surviving.

  • BayTampaBay

    Love Branson this episode especially the bond forming between him and Mathew and the line…”My wife is dead.  I’m past help.” It shows how much he really loved Sybil and how Sybil was the true “tent pole” of their marriage.  

    The line also mimics Robert and Cora’s marriage and Robert’s emotional need for Cora as the “tent pole” of their marriage.  Has anyone else ever noticed how Robert becomes a true jackhole when his and Cora’s marriage is going through a rough time or on the skids?I have not seen anything past what PBS has aired but I feel/predict Branson is being developed into a major character for Season 4.

    • Tally Ho

      Branson is developing into a more well-rounded character but it’ll be interesting to see how he balances his Irish nationalism with being at Downton Abbey and the baby. I liked your comments last week that he may be an Irish revolutionary yet he’s also not a liberal progressive. His comment that “I’m Irish therefore my daughter is Irish” was revealing because….err…her mother was English so the baby is only half Irish and he may want to compromise a bit on her upbringing. In his own way he’s just as narrow and unyielding as Robert is. 

    • Imogen_Jericho

      Branson and Matthew strolling in the farm with their cute hats talking about sheep was the best.

      I feel like Fellowes has been including a lot of expository lines in recent episodes to drive home that Branson and Sybil actually loved each other, after the whole “you’re my ticket” confusion disaster of last season.

      • Tally Ho

        Ya know…

        The irony is that Sybil said  “you’re my ticket out of here” to Branson but it seems to be turning out Sybil was Branson’s one-way ticket to a life stuck at Downton Abbey.

        • Imogen_Jericho

          So true!

      •  Sybil’s response to Branson when she told him she’d leave Downton with him was very peculiar.  “I’m ready to travel and you’re my ticket out of here” was not what I’d call an answer to his many declarations of love for her. But Branson seemed pleased anyway. I was not convinced that Sybil loved Branson but he was her way of leaving her family’s life and values behind. 
        Since their story developed this season, it’s clear Sybil and Branson did love each other.  Branson seems bereft now that she’s gone.

  • TheDivineMissAnn

    I think Daisy’s falling for her father-in-law.  Just a hunch.

    • I said this back when William died. The father wants her and he’s the best option she has to have a real life.

      • Imogen_Jericho

        Ha ha, this is awesome and hilarious.

      • PaulaBerman

        How much of pearl-clutching scandal would it be if this happened?

    • PeaceBang

      Yep. I see a major May-December romance brewing there.

    • Spicytomato1

      The same thought occurred to me, too!

    •  I thought I caught a little bit of that the other way around. A little “glint ‘o the eye” towards Daisy.

  • Unkempt

    Wasn’t Carson in a vaudeville act before he went into service?  He must have known a rather raunchy life as one of the Cheerful Charlies.  Why is he so gobsmacked that a reformed Prrrrrosti-tyoooot made a salmon mousse for the Dowager?  He’s seen His Lordship in his undies!

    • Lilithcat

      Don’t they say that converts are the most orthodox of all?

  • Rachel Council


  • Tuneful54

    Call me sick, but I picked up a vibe that Bilbo could have a bit of a gleam in his eye for his son’s former wife.  Has Daisy picked it up too, and is that one reason she seems a bit incomfortable at the prospect of getting more involved with him and his farm?
    The “All’s Well that Ends Well” plot tying-up was ridiculous.  Mommy still wipes Baby’s [nose] and is an enabler.  How does Cora stand it?  I was disappointed that Dr. Clarkson caved.  I do feel if they had followed his recommendations and taken Sybil in at the first signs he marked of her symptoms, she would have had more than an “infinitesimal” chance.
    Matthew: “I will love you til the last breath I breathe.” Mary: “Me, too.”  How does he stand it?  
    On a positive note, I liked how more and more of them are now telling the dinosaurs, Robert and Carson, to stick it, e.g., Mrs. Patmore.  I’m such a big Isobel fan, even if she goes overboard at times, it’s always from a good heart. And I liked all the ripostes against the anti-Catholicism.  

    • jw_ny

       I picked up on that vibe prior to last night’s episode…even more so now from last night’s.  The inheritance is his way to keep her in his life now.  I don’t think Daisy is aware of it yet…she’s too busy vying for the attention of that tall footman…I forget his name.  I’m kind of hoping that she falls for Bilbo tho…he seems like a good man and they seem well suited, despite the age difference. 

    • Judy_S

       To be frank, I think the dialogue in which Bilbo encourages Daisy to go for the footman is there to discourage us dirty-minded folk from supposing Bilbo has designs on her himself.

      • jeeplibby02

        Why are we calling Daisy’s father-in-law, Bilbo? I don’t get it.

        • Lilithcat

          If you find out, let me know!  I don’t get it, either.

          • 3hares

            I assume it’s because the idyllic farm reminds everyone of The Shire in Tolkien. If Daisy stands to inherit a house there it would naturally be Bag End, which makes William’s father Bilbo.

          • Lilithcat

            That’s quite a stretch!

          • H3ff

            It’s true, though! Read a few posts back for TLo’s first usage. It made immediate sense to me.

          • Lilithcat

            Oh, I don’t doubt that they said it.  I just fail to see any resemblance, well, other than that they’re both farm(er)s.  “Idyllic” is not the word I would apply to father-in-law’s work.

          • Sobaika

            Also Daisy kind of looks like a hobbit.

          •  Yeah. We’re not sure where the confusion is coming from. Tolkien based the Shire on English country living and there’s Mr. Mason, in his cap and his vest, puttering around his charming country kitchen… I mean, from where I’m sitting, it’s a stretch to say you DON’T see it.

    • formerlyAnon

      ” Matthew: “I will love you til the last breath I breathe.” Mary: “Me, too.”  How does he stand it?  ”

      Hahaha! Though he stands it – doesn’t even notice it – because (we are meant to believe though their lack of chemistry makes it hard) he thinks she’s hot and wants to have sex. Mama Nature says two healthy young people should be making babies and that covers worse incompatibilities than these two display.

    •  I don’t see any glints in the eye or sparks between Daisy or Mr. Mason. I think he sees her as a daughter, pure and simple. He lost his wife and son, Daisy has no family. They fill a void in one another’s life. Being kind is not the same as flirting.

  • Joshau Norton

    Mary and Matthew have the most doom-laden, foreboding foreplay session ever

    Ain’t that the truth. Fellowes is about as subtle as a brass band. Anytime there’s even the slightest display of joy or happiness it’s a signal that there’s a horrible tragedy lurking not too far in the future.

    • Also, their foreplay is completely devoid of chemistry. Remind me again why I was pining for their coupling back in Season 1? Memories.

      •  Their sad right now. I thought it was kind of epic, really. Mary’s always been a drama queen.

  • Oh my god you guys, I have tears rolling down my face. ‘Baby Sybil is Johnny Foreigner.’ You are funny, funny men.

  • Notice how Julian Fellowes drags out the boring Bates story but too quickly resolves other plot lines that still have dramatic potential like the cancer scare or the the Crawley’s marriage crumbling. Fellowes really doesn’t know how to tell a story, does he?

    • jeeplibby02

      Although I am quite bored with the Bates-in-prison storyline, dragging it out does seem realistic, as the wrongly-convicted are never exonerated overnight.  When it happens, it takes years.

      •  Right. I am mystified by the Bates story resolution.

      • Girl_With_a_Pearl

        In this particular case, I don’t mind if Fellowes takes a little dramatic license.  In fact, I wouldn’t have minded if he had wrapped the whole thing up in one episode.  

        I really liked Mr. Bates in the first season, but his story got progressively more boring as soon as the first Mrs. Bates showed up.  Much more interesting when Thomas and O’Brien were his enemies.

        • not_Bridget

          Perhaps Fellowes kept Bates away from Downton (in part) so the downstairs conflicts could get good & conflicty.  He was always a stabilizing influence. 

          Carson is too busy being extra-pompous, in order to atone for his shameful past as a Cheerful Charlie.  Molesly (sp?) is too busy being a nebbish. And those too were the ringleaders (along with the departed Mrs Bird) in The Ethel Shaming.  Neither one pays much attention to the dynamics of the downstairs power struggle….

      • Could it be that Brendan Coyle was unavailable for the primary shooting schedule this season and his scenes had to be shot before or after, and on a different set? The jail scenes could easily all have been filmed in a few days, with Anna or the solicitor dropping in. It would explain why his storyline is so slow and unrelated to anything else going on. I don’t know why he can walk so well without the cane, though. The cane was my second-favorite character.

  • Angela_the_Librarian

    Even though Robert and Cora reconciled at the end of the episode, I hope it’s not the end of her (rightful) criticism of his behavior. He did not literally kill Sybil, but he bull-headed stubbornness will lead to nothing but bad things. One would hope that his character would grow from this experience, but the shouting matches (between him and Matthew) in the scenes from next week’s episode aren’t promising in that direction.  
    The luncheon scene at Isabel’s was one of my favorites of this season. It was great to see solidarity among the women of the family and the dialogue was especially lively. 

  • Funkykatt

    Your first paragraph is why I gave up the show.

  • Girl_With_a_Pearl

    I also liked the scene where the women were all ganging up on Robert and the Minister about their anti-Catholic views, but I’m wondering if that was a bit anachronistic.  Would they have been so open minded about the baby being raised Catholic in England at that time, especially among the upper classes? 

    • Sobaika

      I think at least a portion of that was just them trying to side with Tom against Daddy. Cora’s not the only one who blames him, at least on some level.

      • formerlyAnon

        Yes, and I think they are all inclined to be more sympathetic (to Branson) in their grief. (I think Ethel benefited here as well.) Sometimes we cling to tradition after a loss, but sometimes formerly significant things just look like ridiculously small potatoes.

    • not_Bridget

      There were a few upper class Catholic families, still.  (Violet mentioned one of them.) 

      Also, that particular vicar was a fool.  Since Robert probably had his living–that is, appointed him–he probably picked a guy who would not show up his own intellectual failings.  

      Baby Sybil is the daughter of a former chauffeur. That will be more of an impediment than her religion.  An impediment to being bored, useless marriage bait, that is. Given an education, she might do OK.

      • Tally Ho

        Baby Sybil is what would have been said a product of a mesalliance. Such children were often quickly packed away to boarding school so she would have received the education bit. Her big advantage here is that she has a loaded American great-grandmother who might take more kindly to her. 

        I never cared for the Martha Levinson character but oddly enough I missed her in the last two episodes. We keep forgetting/ignoring there’s an entire American set of relatives who are loaded to the hilt and don’t have the historical hangups that Robert and the dowager do. Surely their influence on not only Mary/Edith but baby Sybil would be much more pronounced in real life than is shown on DA. 

        • Eh….but the patriarchy and everything. Cora and her children are Lord Grantham’s problem, not her mother’s, just like Baby Sybil is Tom’s problem, not Sybil’s family’s.

    • Adriana_Paula

      Well, as Violet said, she knew the Duchess of Norfolk, who was more Catholic than the Pope. 

  • janierainie

    Maybe we can watch Cora dole out punishment to Robert in dribs and drabs instead of just ignoring him. I was really disapointed that Cora bought that tripe the good doctor was handing out. We have to remember the times I guess. Doctors were never questioned (unless there were 2 doctors and one was knighted)

  • Judy_J

    I thought last night’s episode was hilarious.  Maybe that was not the intent, but that was my impression nonetheless.  Maggie Smith had all the great lines, and the luncheon scene was my favorite part of the evening. 

    • Lilithcat

      Of course, Maggie Smith can take a not-so-great line and deliver it in a way that everyone thinks it’s great.  Fellowes should thank his stars she signed on.

  • Little_Olive

    I am not a religious watcher so I may have missed something, but I think they fail to give a reason for O’Brien (and Thomas) to be there still.

    • Lilithcat

      Why wouldn’t they be?  Upstairs doesn’t know of any reason to fire either of them.

      • Little_Olive

        But things usually escalate a bit. Plus Carson would have been more than able to put in a bad word for them by now- even he is not such a pushover and he clearly dislikes them.

        • Lilithcat

          Carson would have little, if any, say over the hiring/firing of the Countess’ ladies’ maid.

        • Sweetbetty

           The household has been short on servants and Carson was more than pleased to hire on an additional footman.  Cora seems to be pleased with O’Brien as her maid.  After the war fewer young people were going into service and they weren’t so easy to replace so unless one of the help does something really unforgivable Carson isn’t going to try to get rid of any of them.

      • Thomas tried to frame Bates for theft in the first season and Lord Grantham knows all about that.

  • The_English_Teacher

    I know it’s fiction, but it’s still tempting to ask what if Isobel had been in the room when everyone was debating what to do about Sybil. I believe she would have supported Dr. Clarkson AND have the spine to tell Sir Dr. Quack to go back to medical school to learn how to diagnose pre-eclampsia. She’s no doctor, but she’s no idiot either, and confronting an arrogant aristocrat has never been a problem for her.

    • MissMariRose

       That’s a good point. Last season, she was teaching Dr. Clarkson a thing or two about modern medicine. She definitely would have taken his side over Sir Quack.

    • Imogen_Jericho

      You’re right. She would have stepped in like she did with the dropsy farmer way back in Season One. If there’s one thing Isobel is not afraid of, it’s butting in!

    • The_English_Teacher

      P.S. The assumption behind my thinking that Sybil could have been saved by an early delivery was that Dr. Clarkson would have been checking Sybil almost daily during the last two weeks of her pregnancy. He would have been running the urine tests and noticing the other symptoms of PRE-eclampsia, like her swollen ankles. Yes, I have read that a pregnant woman in those days who had full-blown eclampsia would have been a goner, but I don’t think Clarkson would have let it get that far. HOWEVER, it appeared that Sir Doctor arrived just in time to deliver the baby, and at that point, Sybil was beyond the point of no return. Was Clarkson in charge of her care until the noble doctor showed up? If so, then he missed the early symptoms and failed to take steps that might have saved Sybil’s life.

  • lilibetp

    I used to think Thomas and O’Brien were relative equals in the scheming department.  But, oh, my goodness, was I ever wrong!

    •  Yes, O’Brien was certainly the brains of the scheming department.

      •  Thomas isn’t using his brain right at the moment.

  • Girl_With_a_Pearl

    For Downton Abbey and Sesame Street Fans (if the Dads allow a it):

  • SassieCassy

    robert and carson looked so stupid this episode. all puffed up and blustering.

  • LCTerrill

    Quite a divided bunch here today! I see both sides…

    I think the Dowager was wrong to orchestrate all of that, and I agree that the result was too contrived and tied everything up waaaaay too neatly. I still think Clarkson was swayed a bit by his research—and that Sybil was beyond help—but it was definitely morally questionable.

  • This episode was terribly daft, agree wholeheartedly. But I can assure you all we will be rewarded with the last two. 

  • Zippypie

    I actually liked this episode because of its ham-fisted entertainment value after the devistating episode last week.  Yes, it was over the top beyond top and your analysis of Fellowes’ writing is spot on, boys.  He just can’t leave well enough alone, can he?  So I’ve decided to just enjoy that bad soap opera tendency for what it is and in those scenes do some frock/hair/set admiring.

    Yes, Robert and Carson are DINOSAURS!  Did you get that?  Oh, if you didn’t, here’s another scene!  And another!  And let’s have Robert STORM the luncheon, guns blazing!  I often wonder how much contempt Fellowes has for his fellow MEN since he tends to have them behave like complete brainless and spineless jackasses, upstairs or down.  Just look at that scene.  The women are completely adult, reasonable and composed while Robert carries on like a three year old being dragged out of WalMart without a toy.  The writing for the women this season has been so much stronger than for the men, with the except of Tom’s and Thomas’ grief scenes.

    I am not happy about Dr. Clarkson and the Dowager.  That was underhanded and a very wrong thing for her to do and, as the patron of the hospital, she put the Dr. in an impossible position.  While I do think it was a good idea for Clarkson to clarify to Cora that chances were that Sybil very likely would have died even with the cesarean, he was right, she did have a chance and Robert’s meddling pompous bs delayed the decision to take that chance beyond its viability point.  All that crap about Sybil being in terror and pain from the surgery was crap.  Sybil was already in terror and pain.  The bottom line is a chance at life is a chance at life.  Robert fucked up and this excused him.  Plus, I loved Cora on a rampage.  And now she goes back to being happily drugged, I suppose.

    The Batezzzzzzzz story. God, what a anti-climatic drag.  Just get him out of jail already and get on with it.  I would have loved it more if he had taken the pie and shoved it down her throat screaming “Eat this, bitch!”

    Daisy and her Hobbit – yeah, I’m wondering if there are more than “fatherly” intentions there but it is pretty adorable and I’d like to see Daisy get out of service.  She’s got gumption and could do well running the farm.

  • Wellworn

    This does bring back similar memories for me too.  My father died at 49 of a heart attack.  He had been under doctor’s care because of a previous heart attack and was advised to have a bypass, which he was afraid of and chose not to have.  I spent years thinking only if he had the surgery…  But I found out much later that in those days open heart bypass surgery was pretty risky.  In this case I do think that Clarkson lied because he minimized Sybil’s chances for survival.  When there is at least a chance (as with my father as well) then you should take it.   

  • Wellworn

    I’m not sure that TLo has jumped on a hate bandwagon for any character.  It’s more about how Robert is being portrayed right now.  Suddenly the emperor is without clothes, the grand Lord of the Manor is being exposed to be inept and behind the times.  This part of the story is actually a good, if heavyhanded depiction of the problem with the aristocracy and what caused their downfall.  As he is being portrayed, he is the only bastion of aristocracy in the family.  It seems that only he and Carson want to cling to the way it was.

    • I don’t think his flaws are being displayed all that suddenly.

  • SewingSiren

    The power outage at the Superbowl was more interesting than the Bates story line.

    Here’s what I think about Dr. Clarkson. I think he made his confession to the Grantham’s against his will, but if he had done the research that he claimed he did, he would have found it to be true. Sybil would have had only a fraction of a chance of survival of the emergency c-section when eclampsia had already set in. Plus she was already in labor. So there was no chance of the “early delivery” that he had only read about. No doubt Sir Philip was a blustering fool. But Dr. Clarkson also did not diagnose the pre-eclampsia condition  in time to treat it in a more effective and safe way.

    • WhiteOprah

      Maybe he did the research and discovered that he should have acted much more quickly than he did so he went along with the Dowager’s scheme to save his own reputation?  If he was complicit in the Dowager’s scheme, then no one would have to know about his own ineptitude?  

      • Dot

        To be fair, Clarkson wasn’t permitted to openly diagnose Sybil sooner.
        Before she was in full blown labor, he expressed his observations on her
        condition to Sir Phillip, who told him to shut up or get out.

        • WhiteOprah

          Ah yes- you are right.  I guess I was trying to find another angle to it.  He was talking about her swollen ankles to Sir Philip.  

  • Coco Cornejo

    I sense some heavy duty sexism coming down at DA. 

    His lordship and Carson are all in a snit over that Cousin Isobel has employed a fallen woman in her kitchen. And yet when the news of jailbird Bates’ is about to get sprung it’s all sunshine and rainbows. 

    Perhaps Bates (and loyal wife Anna) should be banished to Cousin Isobel’s home for wayward servants and staff. Thomas can go there too once O’Brien’s handiwork comes to its logical conclusion.

    What will the papers say?

    And speaking of the papers, Edith should defy her father and take that writing job. It is the 20th century after all.

    • SewingSiren

      I agree that the characters Carson and Lord Grantham would not re-hire Bates under any circumstances , and Lord Grantham would have possibly let Anna go too after she married Bates.

      • Polka_Dotty

        I think prostitutes were considered lower than murderers.

        • jeeplibby02

          Thousands of convicted murderers sent to the gallows over the centuries would probably beg to differ.

    • formerlyAnon

       Carson might or might not re-hire Bates, but Bates and Lord Grantham have a relationship going back to their military service – it’s why a man with a crippling limp (which seems to be mysteriously intermittent lately) was hired to be the Duke’s valet in the first place. Given that he’s been exonerated I think Lord G. might insist he be re-hired whatever Carson thinks.

    • PeaceBang

      Has anyone else noticed how pretty Edith is looking lately? The 1920’s really suit her.

      •  And she and the subdued Mary seem to be tolerating each other more gracefully since they’ve donned the black gowns, too.

    •  The family openly stood by Bate’s and proclaimed his innocence through-out the trial and paid for his legal defense. Why would they not take him back?

    • jeeplibby02

      Let’s not forget that Bates didn’t murder anyone. He is a victim of a miscarriage of justice; whereas, Ethel is the author of her own misfortune. Apples and oranges.

  • Wellworn

    LOL I put on the closed captions mostly for those 2 prison characters and for Batezzzz’ mumbled under the breath threats.  The guard overheard Batezzz and Anna’s conversations and found out that they needed that neighbor’s testimony, so he did some investigating to find out who she was and coerced her.  This was for the benefit of Batezzz cellmate, and I don’t remember or care why they are out to get Batezzz, and I don’t know or care how they were able to find the neighbor and coerce her.  And according to the previews for next week he finally gets out but now I no longer care about that either zzzzz.

  • GrFace

    Did anyone see the size of Baby Sybil head in that one scene?  

    With a cranium like that she could rule Metr-ah-city!  

    She needs only a binkie and a minion.

    • YousmelllikeAnnaWintour

      LOL, you’re right — that cute baby was a bit big to be only a few weeks old. 

    • Imogen_Jericho

      Get her together with Ethel’s giant baby and they will rule the world.

    • Toto Maya

       I thought it was weird how last week the doctor kept talking about how small the baby was, but when she was born she was HUGE.

  • Inspector_Gidget

    These characters are all becoming so unlikable. Mary browbeating her husband into using someone else’s fortune to fix Robert’s screwup.  Robert being pissed that he isn’t being trusted with a THIRD fortune to lose. Violet coercing the doctor.  Chauffeur Boy simultaneously burning English estates and trying to be loved and accepted by them.  Ugh ugh ugh.  You know things have upended when Edith is the only halfway appealing person.

    I really wish they’d have the nerve to reveal that Bates actually DID kill his wife. Surely they won’t, but it’s about the only thing I can think of that might give back some needed depth. If you’re going to go for ugly, go all the way!

  • formerlyAnon

    Since it’s such a point of interpretation, here’s my take on the Dr. and the Dowager: I think that *by her lights* she was absolutely correct in what she did.  It was manipulative and took unfair advantage of her position vis a vis Dr. Clarkson – thus completely consistent with her adult life as we’ve been able to see it. 

    I think Dr. Clarkson felt he was lying – exaggerating the risk to Sybil of a C-section – given his delivery and body language during the scene. But I also think that if he removed his ego from the matter, her chances of living through the delivery were objectively small. Particularly given the times, when it was commonly considered *good practice* for doctors to withhold knowledge from patients if they thought the patient was better off without it (the true seriousness of a terminal illness for which there was no treatment, for instance), I think he should have been more comfortable shading the truth for the emotional benefit of the Crawleys than he was shown.

    I admit I am influenced by the fact that I suspect the friends who were with my father when he died lied to my mother, to a man, about how much suffering he endured. I’ll never know the truth, but if they did it was an act of mercy and the only thing in the world anyone have done to make a difficult time easier for her.

    • 3hares

      Yes, I got the impression that as he said, he wouldn’t have outright lied. So he wasn’t actually lying–the chances for Sybil’s survival were small and the C-section wasn’t a guaranteed save. But he still felt like he was misrepresenting himself by suggesting that there wasn’t a real difference between his diagnosis and Sir Doctor’s and he really resented having to pretend that there wasn’t. In fact, he was practically having to pretend to agree with the other diagnosis by saying the surgery would have been hard on Sybil.

      Iow, I thought he didn’t mind admitting that her chances for survival were small even if they’d acted correctly. But he very much hated covering up the other doctor’s wrongness even a little–and this was more than a little.

      • formerlyAnon

         Yes. Exactly.

        I don’t think whether he “lied” or not and was right or wrong about the medical facts matter. What matters is that he *clearly* through body language and delivery of the dialogue felt he was misrepresenting things to the Crawleys, under pressure, and he resented it. That’s the emotional truth of his situation, as I read that scene.

  • nannypoo

    Robert was willing to forgive Mary for doing the Big Nasty with Pamuk, and he almost did it himself with Housemaid Jane, so his refusal to get over Ethel attempting to earn a living the only way she could to support her child after being fired from his house is really pissing me off. Ethel and Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes standing up to Carson, the women refusing to leave the luncheon, Daisy having an opportunity to leave service, Anna cracking the case against Bates, Edith getting a job offer – this show is becoming more of an examination of feminism and the developing roles of women than a portrayal of the loss of the great estates. The men are all becoming weaker and more irrelevant while the women are finding their voices.

    • jeeplibby02

      There’s a big difference between a daughter of the house engaging in private indiscretion that never would have come to light but for a very unlikely set of circumstances, and employing a servant who was quite recently openly whoring in the village. I think the attitudes of Robert, Carson, and Isobel’s former cook toward Ethel are spot-on, and not as antiquated as we might imagine.  The Crawley women would not have been too keen on being served by a woman with Ethel’s history. The others took their cues from Cora, who was in no mood to bend to Robert’s will at that moment, but that incident was in no way a united feminist front in defense of Ethel.  Aside from Isobel, they all think she’s no better than she should be, and doesn’t belong in the presence of respectable people.

      • nannypoo

         Oh, I don’t think their refusal to leave the table was a defense of Ethel. But it was a defiance of Robert, and I was glad to see it.

  • snich11

    Regarding the Dr. Clarkson/eclampsia debate–how common were c-sections in the 1920’s, and how risky for mother and baby, esp. emergency/middle of the night ones in a little village hospital? Not to defend Dr. Pompous but I suspect the outcome might have been the same or worse had they followed Dr. Clarkson’s advice…

    •  I liked the Dowager’s exasperated “Do we really have NOTHING in common?” when trying to reason with him. I think what he wanted was in Sybil’s best interest, but he couldn’t be assured it would work. It was just a treatment, which was better than inaction.

    • Lilithcat

      Not terribly common, although the present Queen was born by C-section in 1929.  But as I understand it, that was not an emergency situation, and the Queen Mum would have had the best of care!

  • rloliveira

    As a nurse, I have to say that Dr. Clarkson’s statement to the Granthams that Sybil would have most likely died was correct. She was already into eclampsia during labor: her fuzzy-headedness revealed brain swelling. She would have had to have been delivered two weeks earlier in order to have been saved. Nowadays women’s blood pressure is monitored carefully prior to delivery; any sign of raised blood pressure (one of the early signs) of preeclamsia and the woman is put on bedrest; if the BP keeps rising she is treated with an infusion of Magnesium Sulfate, a drug they did not have in the twenties. It keeps most patients from progressing into eclampsia. Eclampsia itself is deadly. Sybil already had it during delivery; she just hadn’t seized yet.

    Perhaps Fellowes didn’t make it clear to viewers, but he did have Clarkson say “after a great deal of research…” He wasn’t lying.

    • Imogen_Jericho

      Thanks for the informed post. This makes much more sense than the idea that Clarkson was simply lying. 

      • not_Bridget

        He was lying in a complex & subtle manner, to soothe the family that supports his hospital. 

    • The_English_Teacher

      Thanks for the clarification!

    • jeeplibby02

      I took that as being preferable to saying, “I changed my mind about my initial prognosis for no apparent reason.” He was lying.

      • rloliveira

         They knew very little about eclampsia and preeclampsia back then. I agree that Fellowes could have fleshed it out a bit more, but I think that Clarkson did have to do more research in order to understand it better. The truest answer is that medicine is an art and a science, and when the science is not well understood, then the doctors have to rely on gut and art. Clarkson was more correct than the other doctor, but he didn’t know enough. Besides, unless he’d been checking her BP every day, he had no way of preempting the catastrophe. I doubt any doctor took such care with pregnant women  back then. The real surprise was that the other doctor, whose specialty was Obstetrics, did not know more than a country physician. But there are plenty of arrogant doctors in the world, more so then, who did not like to be corrected in front of a family, esp. by another physician. The medical fact is that Sybil was going to die unless Dr. Clarkson had preternatural knowledge and had been vigilant in seeing her every day before hand. ANd remember, she was in Ireland before, and the narrative timing is a bit shaky, so it’s hard to know. He wasn’t lying. She already had eclampsia. And there is no way to save a woman from eclampsia once it has begun.

        •  And how much worse would Cora have felt had her daughter had surgery and still died? The baby lives, that’s what Branson is focusing on.

  • My doctor father-in-law said “she’d have died anyway” while watching last week’s episode, so maybe it wasn’t such a lie.

  • girliecue

    What I want to know is when is anyone going to America?? I don’t even care who or why at this point. I just want to see the Levinson Newport “cottage” and what everyone is wearing in New York. Why isn’t anyone going to America? Doesn’t it make sense that someone would? Tom and the baby? Edith? Cora? Anyone? Anyone?

    • AuntieAnonny

      If anything, I think it would be Edith, she’s gotta be close to being over the whole thing, and I think if anyone is going to make a change it’s her.

    • not_Bridget

      Travel means more locations or new sets.  Plus hiring more actors. And writing–which is not that easy for Lord Fellowes.  I doubt we’ll see America…

    • Polka_Dotty

      As someone who lives in America, I’d rather spend my Sunday nights in Yorkshire than in Yorkville.

  • chatenoeuf

    Robert was taken aback to see Ethel when he crashed the lady’s luncheon. Since they made-out last season, do you think there will be any plot twists as a result?

    • Wrong maid, dear chatenoeuf. His Lordship smooched *Jane,* the war widow turned maid who looked creepily like a younger version of the wife who was “neglecting” him for the War and modernity, a few times last season (and we’ll never hear the end of it). He likely only saw Ethel previously when she stormed into the dining room with her giant baby Cholly during the Grantham’s luncheon for the Bryants. That memory probably contributed to his taken abackedness (along with the fact that he now knows, thanks to Carson, that she was previously working as a Lady of the Evening, hence his whole reason for being there and trying to bust up the luncheon and get the real Ladies home before the pudding with a side of scandal commenced). 

      If they brought Jane back (please God no) or someone found out about the smooching or his payoff to her, then I could see plot twists. But if they’re going to bring back another former maid, I vote Gwen (adored her). My friend noted she could be his secretary and I hope she would end up saving Downton by stopping an investment scheme with a Nigerian prince. 

      •  Gwen of the secretarial course! I really liked Gwen too. I wish we could be brought up-to-date on her life. 

        • Me too! How are things in the telephone installation business? Inquiring minds want to know, Gwen! (I could make a joke about her being busy annoying Jon Snow Beyond the Wall but it’s been done. Same with Sir Richard/Jorah.)

        • deathandthestrawberry

          She’s north of the Wall, keeping company with Jon Snow.

      • chatenoeuf

        Oh, you are totally right! Wrong maid. I have Lady Edith’s lonely breakfast buffet scrambled eggs all over my face. 

      • The_English_Teacher

        Gwen was adorable and had such a charming accent; I loved hearing her talk! Her storyline is a good example of Sybil’s kindness. Sybil took an interest in Gwen’s ambition to become a secretary and didn’t stop until Gwen got a job. I nominate Sybil for sainthood.

    •  Robert’s flirtation was with a different maid, Jane.

    • The_English_Teacher

      Robert made out with a different maid. I can’t remember her name, but she was a war widow and had a son, whom Robert paid tuition for to some fancy school. (Was this a bribe to keep her from blabbing about Lord Grantham’s indiscretion?) The father of Ethel’s child was a wounded officer who came to DA to recuperate. Ethel flirted with him right under Mrs. Hughes’s nose, and he took her up on her offer. Of course, the aristocrat officer claimed the baby wasn’t his problem and told Ethel to get lost. Becoming pregnant while single translated into an immediate sacking from service in a noble household. She was doomed from that moment on.

      • jeeplibby02

        I don’t think it was a bribe, because nothing happened between them for which Robert would have been held accountable.  If their flirtation had been discovered, it is Jane who would have paid the price. I think Robert felt guilty that he compromised her so that she thought it necessary to resign her position before things went further than a kiss, and she risked being dismissed without a reference.  Financing her son’s education also made him feel useful during a time when he was struggling with the reality that neither his wife, his daughters, the army, nor the war effort being carried out in his home seemed to have any need of him. I really felt sorry for Robert back then.

        • The_English_Teacher

          As I wrote the post, I had this thought that maybe the tuition thing was to buy her silence. But I think you’re right. He felt bad that Jane had to give up a good job, which she badly needed, because of his mid-life crisis. Robert was being such a jerk during all that. It was ludicrous!

    • Lilithcat

      Robert was taken aback to see Ethel when he crashed the lady’s luncheon.

      Far from being “taken aback”, he went there specifically because he knew Ethel was working there.  Carson had just told him, and he was there to rescue his womenfolk from the taint of it.

  • So frustrating.  You just want to say, “Guys, come on.  Pay attention to tone and motivation of the characters…” That and there was a whole conversation about constructing the ruse to save hurt feelings.  Add it up!  Jeez Louise. 

  • pottymouth_princess

    Nice PR reference in your intro.  I think Fellowes was trying to tie together the theme of nourishment, body and soul, and other than Tom’s stand regarding Baby Sybil, left me pretty cold (other than wanting a “nice pudding”).

  • SapphoPoet

    My favorite line:

    “You’re a disgrace to your livery!”

    I’m going to try to use that this week. 

    • DeTrop

      Hard one that. Let us know how you make out.:)

      • formerlyAnon

         Finding someone in livery is hard enough. Finding someone who would know what you meant by the term (especially if one sprung it on them unawares) boggles the mind.

  • Rebecca Welch

    I get a feeling that Mrs. Hughes must have had some shady past.

    • not_Bridget

      We learned in previous seasons that she lived in the country & was courted by a farmer.  But she preferred a life of service. (He showed up again after being widowed & offered to marry her; she refused.) 

      She is quite balanced and does not worship The Family like Carson does….

      • Corsetmaker

        That’s a Scottish thing 😉 We never have liked anyone getting above themselves or thinking they were better than us LOL!

      • Rebecca Welch

        There is something about how willing to help Ethel as if she knew what it was to give up a child and escape a bad life.     I just wonder.

    • imakeart

      And the “Mrs.” Hughes…is that title used for respect?  I recall her being close to married, but not actually married.  Same for Mrs. Patmore.  Whereas, O’Brien is usually just O’Brien.

      • jeeplibby02

        Yes, cooks and housekeepers are “Mrs.” out of respect. Oddly enough, O’Brien’s missing honorific is also a mark of respect for her elevated position relative to the housemaids and such who are all called by their first names alone. (She is Miss O’Brien among the servants, however). You might recall that when Anna became Mary’s maid full-time, O’Brien voiced her disapproval that Anna was not called “Bates” by the family (to avoid confusion with her husband), because she thought it demeaning to a ladies’ maid to be called by her Christian name.  A similar discussion took place in Gosford Park, involving the inexperienced young maid of Lady Trentham (Maggie Smith), who was called “Mary” by her mistress for the simple reason that the old countess couldn’t be bothered to learn to pronounce the girl’s surname, Maceachran.

  • Lilak

    Well, this show is prettier and better lit than ‘The Killing,’ I’ll give it that.  
    Sorry quality of writing and editing, but I’m not ‘disappointed’ or ‘frustrated’ — we’ve known to expect paperdolls and mere strings of plot points since the middle of Season 1, surely. 
    Yet I’m sticking with it (1) because it’s lovely to look at, and (2) so I can enjoy the half-dozen or so recappers (and their commenters) I read on Monday.  (Hm…I guess that means I’m wasting twice the time.  sigh.)

    • Lattis

      prettier and better lit than ‘The Killing

      hahaha and a lot less drenched

    • YousmelllikeAnnaWintour

      ANY show is prettier and better lit than “The Killing”.

  • Stupid discus putting my posts in the wrong place.

    •  It sorts them out later: I think they have to be “newest” first, then they track where they belong.

  • Because TLo refers to Daisy’s FILs farm as Bag End and have said he’s like a hobbit, Bilbo specifically.  They referenced it in today’s post but mostly they say it during the live tweet on Sundays.

    Okay, it happened again. This is in response to Lilithcat’s question about Bilbo.

    • jw_ny

      thanks for clearing that up…I don’t twwet and didn’t get the reference to Mr. Mason being called Bilbo either.  I thought I had just missed his first name being spoken. 

      Disquis has done the same thing to me in the past too…grrr.  😉

    • Lilithcat

      Ah.  I don’t go near Twitter.  But, having read the Tolkien, I fail to see any resemblance.

      • formerlyAnon

         When Daisy first went out to the farm, I remember it being filmed as quite green and lovely, and she was welcomed, fed and treated kindly during a time when she was feeling stressed and misunderstood below stairs. It wasn’t much of a stretch, as I recall, to feel it was being presented as Shire-like in its well-tended agricultural cosiness.

      •  Well that’s odd, since Tolkien based the Shire on English country living and Bilbo Baggins on English country gentlemen.

        • Lilithcat

          Exactly my point.  Daisy’s father-in-law is in no way a “country gentleman”.  He is a hard-working farmer.

          • It’s a joking nickname, based entirely on appearance and mannerisms.

  • Lattis

    Why is support/condemnation for Ethel divided so cleanly along gender lines in this story? 

  • Batezzzzzz – how I wish he had been hanged in Season 2 to spare us his storyline!  In addition to the miraculous cure of the leg, he also manages to be pretty darn chubby on between-war British prison food.

  • mskgb

    “Not everyone chooses their religion to satisfy Debrett’s.” Oh, acid Cora, we barely had time to know you.

  • mrspeel2

    I was also disappointed with the “all is forgiven” ending but I’d like to think Robert learned a least a small lesson about how society is changing around him and that going forward, things will never be the same.

    “Also: when did he stop needing a cane? A lot of walking in that jail yard, without so much as a limp.” I wondered the same thing! Isn’t a Best Boy supposed to ensure continuity between scenes?

  • Polka_Dotty

    Forget Dr. Folksy’s lie, what about Mary’s lie that Sybil, on her deathbed, insisted that the baby be baptized Catholic? That was a real lie, wasn’t it? I think Mary did that for Tom. She and Matthew seem to have enormous (and well-placed) affection for the young widower.

    • Buffy

      Sybil did say that to Mary, before she went into labor, when they were visiting in her bedroom.  She was lamenting that the baby had to be born at Downton because if they were still in Ireland the baptism would have been done “out of sight, out of mind” without the family having any say beforehand.  Mary promised her that she’d take her part with Travis if it came to that.

      • Polka_Dotty

        Ok, thanks. I’d like to think that Mary did lie, sticking up for Tom, and sticking it to dear old dad.

    • Lilithcat

      That wasn’t a lie at all.  Sybil said it.

  • All it took was a threat to wrap up Bates’ predicament?  Why did it take so long?  Yet another swift conclusion to a character’s obstacle.  And jeez, Mary goes from lukewarm to bitch so fast it’d give you whiplash!  One minute she’s chewing Matthew out for trying to get additional business finished while the lawyer was there-when she barely teared up while her little sister died in front of her-and the next she’s lying on his chest proclaiming her eternal love for him.  Maybe she’s got a split personality…  The doctor should’ve refused to lie & let Robert take his punishment.

  • Buffy

    Robert really is an ass.  Probably because he’s out of his depth intellectually and people seem to be catching on.  What will he do when Mummy can’t bail him out anymore?  (And I *like* Robert for the most part!)  Can’t get too worked up over Dr. Clarkson’s lie.  Sybil is dead and what purpose does it serve to keep rehashing it?  Except to keep the Robert & Cora stalemate going, that ended a little too soon for my taste.  Cora was finally interesting.  But way has to be made for the Robert & Matthew & Mr. Murray stalemate, I suppose.  Did anyone else get a horrible sense that as soon as Anna got the letter saying Mr. Bates would be freed that he would die in some horrible prison riot engineered by his roomie and the creepy guard?  But since I see him in the preview of next week’s episode I guess not.  What on earth are they going to do with he & Anna now, they can’t possibly let them live happily ever?  For a smart guy, Thomas is losing it, there is no way he would be so touchy-feely with James out in the open, even if he did think the feelings were returned.  Loved Mrs. Hughes rolling her eyes at Mr. Carson and just directing Ethel and her flowers into the kitchen over his objections.  And the luncheon scene, fabulous.  Even if it was more against Robert than for Ethel, who cares?  I hope Tom stays on to help Matthew whip the estate into shape, they both could use a friend in their corner.  I’ll just bet Mrs. Patmore is a secret frolicker…

  • Dot

    Ugh. I went through the whole episode loving how things were going, until the closing scene with Clarkson. REALLY?! What a travesty of an ending. Cora had finally become an interesting character and Robert was getting his comeuppance — and everything came crashing down with that final scene. I would love to see the BateZZZ story line get dropped and replaced with Daisy’s adventures on the farm.

  • StillGary

    WHy would Thomas trust anything coming from O’Brien? He knows his former ally — and knows she’s gunning for him? It doesn’t make any sense for him to be so clueless. 

    • mmc2315

      Hormones have gotten the best of him.  He’s not thinking clearly.

  • 4JJ

    I loved angry Cora! And while I think the dowager was on the side of the angels by trying to mend the fences between Robert and Cora, I felt Dr. Clarkson’s pain when he had to minimize the chances that Sybil could have been saved by a C-section. At that time, her chances of surviving really weren’t good, but “infinitesimal” is going too far.

    My shrieking-with-laughter moment was when even the Dowager Countess stayed to be served Charlotte Russe by the fallen woman, because, after all, “it seems such a pity to miss a good pudding.” I don’t think I can work “you are a disgrace to your livery” into any conversations this week, but I am determined to use the pudding line.

    • Lilithcat

       I don’t think I can work “you are a disgrace to your livery” into any conversations this week

      Any lousy car services in your area you could call?

      • 4JJ

        Haha! Excellent idea.

      • Or someone who didn’t groom their horse properly. 🙂 

  • LittleKarnak

    “Robert, people like us are NEVER unhappily married.” Fav line of the night.

  • “Tlo said: By the time he stormed into Crawley house and made an utter ass of himself at Isobel’s luncheon, we figured it was pretty much over between him and Cora.”

    Yes, it was, ‘Girls, Shante, you stay. Lord Grantham, sashay away!’


    • I’m wondering if we might get to see a trip to America for Cora… I was thinking that even before it was mentioned in the episode…

  • My friend Kim said, “No one spoke about a steep learning curve” in those days! Where’s the historian? He should be checking the script for slang of the future.

    • 4JJ

      A very good point. I missed that.

    • Dot

       I kind of thought the same when Jimmy said, “She’s not my type” at one point. Didn’t seem like the most period appropriate vernacular.

  • Rebecca Damsen

    Former jailbirds allowed in the house – OK!  Yahoo!  Best news ever, will help save a marriage!   Former prostitutes – Never!  We will be shamed and humiliated!  Oh, the scandal!  “People” will find out!

  • 4JJ

     I see so much criticism of Mary on this and other sites that I wonder if she is as universally disliked as it seems. My niece and I were talking about that recently (she lives in Europe and has seen all of seasons 1-3) and we agreed that we – still – really, really like Mary. We are fine with her reserve, her pride, her restraint and her sometimes uncomfortable honesty. Just wondering if there are other Mary fans out there, or if my niece and I are a two-woman fan base….

    • Me, me, me! I like Mary, bitchiness & all. But I like Scarlett O’Hara too ;-> 

    • You are not alone. I’d love to have tea with Lady Mary, though I would fear she would arch her remarkable eyebrows at me in perfect disdain.

    • mmc2315

      Team Mary! Team Mary!  🙂

    • Iveline

       Another fan of Lady Mary here.  She is my absolute favorite.  I’ve loved her from the very first moment I saw her sitting on the edge of the bed in the opening minutes of the Series. I think she is misunderstood by a great many people. 

      Team Lady Mary all the way!!

  • Mexxoo

    To be fair to Robert, I looked up pre-eclempsia after last week’s episode.  Yes, early termination of the pregnancy *can* help save the life of the mother (and possibly of the infant, too).  However, by early termination, they mean MUCH earlier than an hour or two before the baby is born.  So, while it may look like the good doctor caved to Violet, at that late stage, with the diagnosis of pre-eclempsia coming so late in her pregnancy (a day before she went into labor), Sybil really was unlikely to survive.  There is no cure for eclempsia, even today.  Once the organs have been damaged that much, there’s no help. 

  • susu11

    I’ve been marathoning Downton Abbey like crazy recently and have finally caught up to Season 3. I just realized that I only got to enjoy the giddyness of a new, well-made, beautifully cast show to obsess over for like 5 minutes before the crushing disappointment and bitterness took over as I rolled through Season 2. Its as though Fellowes has no awareness that he was such rich material to build from. He could make such insightful commentary and critiques about class and gender, while still providing great human melodrama, but instead the show feels like it just keeps going in the same damn circles over and over again. The character development for Lord Robert has been horrible. Even if Dr. Clarkson hadn’t been completely lying, it doesn’t change the fact that Robert’s conventional, status-seeking, male-centric ego is making him make really poor decisions lately (as well as just making him act like a gigantic dick) I was hoping for some realization on Robert’s part that his stubbornness and narrow-mindedness might be detrimental to his family’s well-being, but that didn’t happen. Where is the Lord who told Mary she should go to the Mid-West and find a cowboy to bring back and shake things up? 

    I’m still wrecked over Sybill’s death (She was one of my faves) so maybe I just can’t be that forgiving yet…

  • susu11

    Same here. Reading this thread is the first time I actually thought about the how and why regarding the prison guard/cellmate’s interference with the neighbor’s statement, but it still makes it impossible to care about this plot. I can’t wait for this storyline to end, but I’m sure Fellowes will still find some way to continue Bate’s perpetual martyrdom. 

    (OoPs I don’t know why this comment got stuck here! I was replying to a commenter – sorry about that!)

  • After last week I speculated about whether Sybil really would have gotten any benefit from a c-section, and talked with my friend who is studying midwifery as well as another nurse…they were basically like “Yeah, actually, she was basically screwed.” You see women come back hours, days, even weeks postpartum needing mag sulfate to control their pre-eclampsia-related blood pressures. Without medication, whether she had a section or not, her blood pressure was probably not going to drop soon enough to prevent a seizure. Clarkson is right…there IS a small chance she would have been saved. But it is – as he says – pretty darn small. So I saw it more as the Dowager leaning on him to come ruthlessly clear with them about how yes, the possibility exists that things could have turned out differently, but their daughter was basically doomed.

    • mmc2315

      I agree.  I didn’t see it as Violet strong arming him to lie and compromise himself.  

      • UglyTalents

         I can see how Dr. Clarkson’s explanation would have made Cora feel slightly better … but even if there was only a minute chance of saving Sybil, that doesn’t excuse Lord Grantham’s horrid behavior through the whole tragedy. I really hope all is not forgiven and forgotten.

  • Oh and my friend picked up from somewhere called Lord Grantham “Lord Asshat” which we did a few times last night…I also coined a new one, “Carson the Butthead” (<—super mature).

    • I believe that charming moniker was coined by the recapper over at Vulture. She’s good but I preferred Amanda from last year. 

  • BayTampaBay

    Disqus is posting my comments via wormholes so this comment will not be in the correct place.

    However, I was surfing the net for Downton Abbey tidbits yesterday and came upon a UK Telegraph article interviewing Julian Fellowes.  Mr. Fellowes straight out said that Shirley MacClaine (Martha Levinson) will be back next season.  He also acknowledged all the “critics” negative reviews of how he wrote the character and more or less promised to make tp up to the viewers.

    I wonder how Shirley MacClaine felt about the character development of Martha Levinson.  I feel her best scene was when she was in the library alone with Robert, ask for a whiskey with no water and stated it was time for her to go home; Pure Shirley MacClaine.

    Do not know if Downton is going to Newport or Newport is coming back to Downton.

  • BayTampaBay

    Direct quote from 25 January 2013 Telegraph UK:

    Lord Fellowes also made it clear that he intends to bring back Shirley MacLaine, the Hollywood star whose performance as the Countess of Grantham’s outspoken American mother, Martha Levinson, irritated some critics.Asked if the Oscar-winning actress would make another appearance on the show, he said: “She will come back, I’m sure.”

    • not_Bridget

      I thought her performance was OK.  Ms MacLaine did as well as she could with that writing…..

      • BayTampaBay

        I think Sir Julian wants to make up for this as the criticism of the Martha Levinson is about the only criticism of Downton Abbey that he has acknowledged. 

  •  Thank you! Between the accents and the mumbling during porridge time and circle walk hour, I’ve understood like 10% of what they were talking about. I haven’t bothered to put on the closed captioning because, Batezzzzz is boring. Don’t mind a swift recap though! If anyone can tell me why the hell anybody is conspiring against Batezzzz, well, I might be able to muster some interest.

  •  Aren’t you a bit puzzled though, by the fact that we see Clarkson taking her BP in the first scene where she’s feeling poorly, and he says she’s fine? Most of the pre-e’s I’ve seen have had climbing BP for days to weeks before they start to show other symptoms. Not that it changes anything, I just thought it was strange to show him actually taking her BP and then saying she was fine – and also for them never to take or refer to her pressures again…did they not understand that component of pre-e at the time?

  • But Clarkson was checking her out before Sir Philip ever got on the case, when she was already complaining of headaches and swelling, no? Anyway, as several people have said elsewhere on this thread, any time after the active discussion of her symptoms began was probably already too late for Sybil…if Dr. Clarkson had done a c-section when she first started complaining of headaches and swelling, she would have had a better chance, but she also had to survive the surgery (and I was also already thinking when they were suggesting surgery “ruh-roh Sybil, a section for your first baby? I do not give you good odds of surviving the rest of your reproductive career.”)

  •  I am not-especially torn between wanting the Batezzz storyline to have a payoff, and wanting to NEVER hear about it again. I’m coming pretty firmly down on the side of never hearing about it again. Let us all forget it ever happened – maybe it was a bad dream of Lord Grantham’s one night after too much kidney souffle.

  • Has anyone seen these?  Downton Abbey if it played out on Facebook.  They’re pretty funny.

  • The Anna-Bates story was the heart and soul of the first two seasons for me. So much so that when I adopted a portly older gentleman cat last year I named him Mr. Bates. It was suggested that I adopt a kitten for his friend and name it Cane (Caine?), but one cat with a joke TV name is enough. I take that back … I did adopt two kittens years ago, now gone to The Litterbox in The Sky, and named them Nip and Tuck, but that was long before that series.

    • Why won’t my replies post where I put them? They didn’t sound nearly as drippy and cat lady in the proper pla ce. Trust me on this.

  • Not Mr. Bates!!! I can be cynical about any other character, but even if he turns out to have killed not only Vera but the Princes in the Tower and drowns kittens for fun I will love him 4 evah. Plus, I named my cat Mr. Bates, so I’m kind of stuck with him. My Mr. Bates is a total love monkey.

  • Has anyone noticed that the outrage with Ethel’s prostitution comes mostly from the male characters, while the female characters seem to be more easily forgiving? In every instance: Her baby’s misogynistic grandpa (contrasted by sympathetic grandma), to Carson to Robert. When the female characters all stood together against Robert in acceptance of Ethel, it almost seemed matriarchal.

    And about Thomas – He revealed a major motivation when he told us that Cybil was one of the few people who had been kind to him: People have been cruel to him so he’s grown into a bitter, hateful person who looks for opportunities to hurt others. Gay men go through all sorts of horrible things during their formative years. And I think that by humanizing him (by showing his grief and therefore his vulnerability) we will be made to feel a bit sorry when the hammer finally falls on him.

    • UglyTalents

       I think I seem to remember reading an interview with the actor (who’s not gay), where he said something to that effect — that is, a repressive society is part of what twisted Thomas into such a sneaky schemer, and he (the actor) enjoyed exploring that. Really, Thomas just wants love and respect — and there’s no way he can get it by being his true self, so he has learned to be conniving and selfish. I feel sorry for the character and think it’s an interesting one.

  • ZnSD

    Without reading even one comment, I suppose I’ll play devil’s advocate and say that instead of “sweeping it all under the rug” it was about the Dowager saving their marriage. But then, I’m just a romantic fool, and when they wept together in each other’s arms at the end I shed a few tears myself. Just another perspective.

    •  I agree with you ZnSD.  The medical decisions that were or were not made were over. Nothing could bring Sybil back from the dead. Even if Dr. Clarkson had “lied” just a bit, he stretched the truth for the greater good, that is saving Cora and Robert’s marriage, allowing them to grieve together.  I’m probably a romantic fool too.

  • Anyone miss William?  He was so sweet.  This Alfred is not adding anything to Downton for me.

  • UglyTalents

    “Is that a Charlotte Russe? How delicious.” (I loved Cora in that scene — rewound and rewatched it several times.) 

  • I don’t understand how Lord Grantham is so disgusted by Ethel having been a prostitute in order to feed her hungry child, yet laughing off the fact that Thomas is gay and made unwanted advances toward Jimmy.  Is that typical of the time?  Neither can help their circumstances, yet Thomas is like some good ole boys LG went to school with and Ethel has brought disgrace on them all.  Ugh!