Title: Downton Abbey S3.E05 “Episode Five”
Released: 2012
Series:  Downton Abbey

There is a problem with being a person who watches British television In Real Time (or at least on ITV’s I-player the day after) . . . beyond the smug superiority of already knowing what will happen on epic shows like Downton Abbey or, you know, Take Me Out. (Hint: they’ll never pick Sad Lucy.) It’s that you already know all the bad things that are going to happen and, in an effort not to spoil your Stateside friends, you have to sit silently and let them see the tragedies unfold themselves.

It’s not unlike parenting, in that way. Not that Lady Sybil will ever get the chance to learn.

What Happened Upstairs

Let’s talk about the unimportant, less gruesomely sad parts first, shall we? 

Edith is offered a steady gig, writing articles about problems facing the modern lady. I’m not quite sure what problems the Modern Edith has to face, but they probably amount to the fact that her dad’s a total dickhead. I can’t wait for her to write an entire article titled “My Dickhead Dad Thinks I Only Get Published Because of My Name.” Only Matthew is particularly supportive, which is only because we are supposed to pretend that we still like Matthew.

Except, bleh, we sort of don’t, because Matthew is all about modernizing Downton and kicking old people off their farms and shizz because they aren’t making any money. I mean, technically he’s right, but they don’t write great costume dramas about uptight penny pinchers, COUSIN MATTHEW. Matthew even goes so far as to discuss his changes with Mr Murray the lawyer while everyone’s in mourning, because Matthew is middle class and doesn’t know anything about anything, ever.

But about that mourning, we’ve put it off long enough. Sigh. So, as we all know, Sybil’s great with child, and Lord Grantham hires a fancy doctor named Sir Philip Tapsell, who has personally attended to the finest fannies in all the land. Cora wants Dr Clarkson to attend to Sybil, because of how he knows her fanny from the inside out. Well, no, I guess only Tom knows it that personally. But I digress. Lord Grantham and Sir Philip are way too fancy for poor old Scottish doctors, and he’s mostly shunted to the side during the whole labor and delivery thing.

Except! Because Dr Clarkson knows Sybil so well, he can tell that she’s suffering from eclampsia. Her ankles are swollen and her head hurts and she’s confused and out of it! He cautions that they should drive Sybil down to the hospital so that he can perform a C-section, but Sir Philip and Lord Grantham overrule him. So, you know, Sybil dies, shortly after giving birth to a healthy baby girl. And it is SAD, y’all. And it is GRAPHIC. She starts seizing and can’t breathe and everyone starts yelling and Branson is crying and the doctors are just shrugging their shoulders, all, “well, fuck it, our job’s done” and I promised myself I’d never, ever watch this episode again, but I did, and I cried just as much as I did last year. And so do Mary, and Edith, and Branson, but no one cries more than Cora, who has to bury her baby girl. (And Maggie Smith cries and it’s SPECTACULAR.) Farewell, Lady Sybil! I’ll always remember your awful harem pants!

What Happened Downstairs

Everyone is gutted at the news of Lady Sybil’s death, obviously, none more so than Thomas who counts Sybil as a friend. Oh, Thomas. I don’t hate you at all anymore, mostly.

But even death cannot stop the ridiculous dealings of the Downstairs staff. Thomas is flirting with James, which makes new footman James uncomfortable. Mrs. O’Brien, because she’s a stone-cold bish, throws James into Thomas’s swarthy gay path, just waiting for the shit to hit the fan.

Meanwhile, Daisy still has it in for Ivy, because Ivy’s a slattern who will flirt with anyone in sight. I mean, give it a rest, Ivy; you just got hired on. You’re like the Taylor Swift of Highclere Castle. Try being single for a while.

Cousin Isobel has decided to hire Ethel on as a maid, because Cousin Isobel hates joy. And us. Mrs. Bird, Isobel’s cook, quits in disgust, leaving Ethel to be both maid and cook to Isobel. Ethel’s about as good at cooking as she is at whoring or mothering, which is to say: not good at all. I can’t believe we have to continue to watch Ethel’s redemption. NO ONE CARES ABOUT ETHEL, Julian Fellowes. NO ONE CARES.

Also, Mr. Bates figures out that Vera poisoned herself by baking a pie, and he commands Anna to convince Vera’s friend to tell the truth. Also, the conspiracy with Mr. Bates’ cellie and the guard continues unabated, and I continue to not care.

Upstairs Winner: Dr. Clarkson

Dr Clarkson was the only person who knew what the hell was actually going on with Lady Sybil, and no one would listen to him! Technically, Cora listened, so she could have been awarded the winner, but her daughter also died, so I’m not engraving that on a trophy.

Upstairs Loser: Lord Grantham

YOU SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO DR CLARKSON! But no, you didn’t, because you are SOOO important and fancy, aren’t you, Lord Grantham? And now your daughter is dead! DEAD!

Also, I guess, Honorable Mention to Sybil, for dying so violently. Well done, Syb.

Downstairs Winner: Ivy

Ivy has James and Alfred in the palm of her hand, and Alfred even taught her how to save hollandaise sauce that has curdled. It’s an important life skill to have!

Downstairs Loser: Daisy

Daisy’s ugly jealousy of Ivy makes me hate her almost as much now as I did when she was whining about her dying husband.

Best Maggie Smith Line:

Concerning Edith’s new job offer:

Dowager: “And when may she expect an offer to appear on the London stage?”

But Honorable Mention goes to her two seconds of grieving she allows herself for Sybil – another reminder why Maggie Smith is the shit. Why hasn’t this woman been granted an OBE yet?

Best Outfit

Lady Mary’s coat and cloche was my favorite outfit of the week, because that cloche is darling and that coat looks warm enough to wrap around Matthew’s head and smother him while he speaks. Functional and lovely!

Burning Questions

  • Will the baby be baptized Catholic like Lady Sybil wanted?

  • Will Bates be freed from prison? And will anyone care? I can answer both of those questions for you, if you’d like?

  • When is Thomas going to totally misread James’ signs and stick his tongue down his throat?

  • Which man will Ivy go for next? Mr. Carson? Because that’d be HILAR.

Alright, Lords and Ladies, talk it up in the comments! And remember, those of you who hold the eternal knowledge of Downton‘s Series 3, keep your mouths shut about spoilers. Definitely DON’T tell anyone about the giant squid who attacks Lady Mary in the next episode!


Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink.