'Downton Abbey' Season 3 Recap: Unbearable Tragedy Strikes (VIDEO)

Heartbreaking 9

downton abbey season 3 episode 4To quote the Dowager Countess, "Nothing is as bad as this." It was her most memorable line of the episode. But this line was uttered out of agony, and I'd take a million of her barbs over that. Did you ever think you would see Violet crumple in tears? That was one of the most heartbreaking moments in this episode.

If you haven't seen this one yet, stop right here. MAJOR SPOILER ALERT. Oh my God, this episode was almost too much. So horribly tragic -- and so infuriating.


You saw this coming with Sybil, right? From the moment Sir Philip arrives on the scene, with his title and all that toff brotherhood between him and Grantham. Sybil was pretty much sacrificed on the altar of England's dysfunctional class system. Sir Philip breezes in, and Grantham immediately prefers him over the family physician, Dr. Clarkson. Oh sure, Clarkson's been wrong before -- but he knows his patients, and his vision isn't clouded with smug arrogance.

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Grantham and Sir Philip are infuriating. But the misery over Sybil's death by eclampsia shortly after the birth of her daughter runs even deeper for the family. And what a horrible death it was -- from the scary labor down to the convulsions at the end. The kindest, most loving person in the Crawley family had an unjustly wretched end.

She was mourned upstairs and downstairs -- even scheming Thomas weeps for her! Even he was touched by her egalitarian love for her fellow beings. Sybil leaves such a legacy behind. I hope it's honored by her family.

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I have hope that it will be through Cora. Just before Sybil dies, she begs Cora to fight for Tom and the baby. After she passes, Cora passionately but quietly pledges to her daughter, "We'll look after them both, don't you worry about that." And then she calls Sybil her baby and I completely lose it.

Well, Grantham is in for it. He began the episode by insulting Edith's intelligence. She's offered a column and he dismisses the offer, saying the paper just wants her title. Matthew has discovered that he's mismanaged the estate and suspects Grantham considers being businesslike is too "mean" and "middle-class" for the Lord. And then Grantham takes the authority of an aristocratic doctor over his own family doctors -- to the peril of his daughter. Cora kicks him out of bed and I think it'll take a lot for him to work his way back into their bedroom. He knows he was wrong. I think he's horrified, too, and feels guilty at his mistake.

Meanwhile, a few other things happened in this episode. Anna's found proof of Bates' innocence and is working with the lawyer. But will Bates be too corrupted by prison by the time they get him out?

Poor Ethel, newly rescued from prostitution by Isobel Crawley and hired as maid and cook, is struggling. Did you see last week's episode, when she gave up her baby to the father's family? Poor Ethel! I see why she did it, but it still pained me to see her send her baby off like that. Now no one else wants to work under the same roof with a fallen woman, so she's doubly screwed. She's a terrible cook. Who knows how long Isobel charity will wear. (An aside: Somehow I got it into my head that Matthew's mother is named Colleen. Don't know where the hell that came from!)

Oh yeah -- and did you catch Matthew asking the doctor if he thinks that bruised spine he suffered might, er, you know, affect his ffffertility? I see a plot point coming: Matthew and Mary cannot have a baby. Will they fight Branson to take in Sybil's as their own? What happens when Branson insists on baptizing the baby as a (shudder!) Catholic? Will Cora fight for that -- and will it widen the rift between her and Grantham?

Watch Downton Abbey, Season 3: Episode 4 Preview on PBS. See more from Masterpiece.

Do you think Sybil's death has irreparably damaged Grantham and Cora's relationship?


Image via ITV.com

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kelti... kelticmom

I'm still bawling. Stupid Lord Grantham and his pride! Thomas crying and Lady Violet hobbling down the hall after had me a wreck.

nonmember avatar tracie

Just reading the recap had me in tears.. even tho I watched it over a month ago on the UK stream.. I wish everybody did, so I can go into detail of what I liked coming up, but im not a spoiled sport and will just say, this season has its MAJOR ups and downs and is goooood!

nonmember avatar DA_fan

Good synopsis-- need to clarify 2 points:
1) Ethyl is an organic side-chain; I think you mean Ethel.
2) Who is Colleen?

nonmember avatar Adrienne

I think you mean Isabel, not Colleen.

nonmember avatar Debbie

Didn't see it coming because I was so involved in the story. I see Tom taking the baby back to Ireland and Matthew and Mary are going to develop a big riff over starting a family. She is always Daddysngirl and Matthew annoyed her by discussing the estate with the lawyer so soon after Sybil died. I see splitsville I think!

lasombrs lasombrs

I cried my heart out!!! :( And I totally think it will be MAry who can't have a baby and not Matthew, like they needed more trouble. But I am on edge for next week for sure!

Mamma... MammaSweetpea

It was painful!! Sybil was the sweetest one, and I think she had so much potential to do something with her life....I dont see how Lord and Lady Grantham will get over this.crying mini

Journ... Journey311

If you thought last night's episode tugged on the heart strings, wait until they air what was known as the Christmas special in the UK.

nonmember avatar Ellie Paul

I am so disappointed with Downton Abbey this season. What purpose does it serve to kill off a major character - how terribly depressing Sybil's death was to watch - just miserable! There's enough drama and misery to go around Downton on a regular basis - what happened to the lightness and humor that was evident in seasons 1 and 2? I understand the show's creator wants to make the series "realistic" and reflective of life in the 20's; however, I don't think most fans want to watch a show that is becoming increasingly dark and morbid. If it continues in this vein, I will not watch it any longer. Lighten up!

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