Welcome to the saddest episode of Downton Abbey ever.
Sad dog butt.
Dr. Clarkson is checking on Sybil while Cora, Mary, and Ethel look on. He gives her the all clear, all are relieved. Dr. Clarkson explains to the menfolk, all standing in the hall with rumpled hair and clad in shiny robes, that the pains were simply “the womb preparing itself for birth.” LG, because he is apparently not a GROWN ASS MAN, turns a little greenish, prompting Cora to interject: “Dr. Clarkson, Lord Grantham doesn’t enjoy medical detail. Can we go back to bed?” Yes, all can go back to bed. LG informs Dr. C that Sir Philip Tapsell will be around in the morning. (My memory for details like this is not so great; Dr. C looks irritated by this information, which leads me to believe that there is a tension there. Anyone?)
Tom needs reassurance that nothing is wrong with Sybil. He narrowly misses being struck by the anvil that falls out of the sky and lands on the floor behind him. “Pshaw, Paddy,” says Dr. C. “She’s perfectly healthy and everything is PERFECTLY NORMAL I MEAN IT.”
Downstairs, baby talk. Or, rather, don’t talk about having babies at the dinner table. Oh That Thomas smirks lasciviously at
The Mentalist Jimmy, while O’Brien looks on. Carson declares that Sybil is in a delicate condition, so everyone use your inside voices on the gallery. Meanwhile, Daisy is being a total bitch to Ivy, the new kitchen maid. U mad, Daisy?
Matthew kvetches about when to talk to LG about the mismanagement of the estate, and tells Mary that in order for them to enjoy Downton and for their kids to enjoy it, they have to be good stewards of it, which is not currently happening. Mary takes breakfast in bed; cut to Cora receiving breakfast in bed. Someone explain this breakfast in bed thing to me. Once you are a married woman, your legs stop working and you don’t have to shift your arse out of bed to lift some tea and toast to your exalted lips? Sitting in bed like a passive lump, waiting for a jangly tray filled with hot liquids and sticky things just waiting for me to spill them all over my skin and my sheets, just does not sound all that awesome. I mean, they didn’t even have Morning Joe back then, so what would they do? Just sit there alone and eat? How about a crossword puzzle? Words With Friends? You have to eat breakfast in isolation in your nightie while everyone else gets to go downstairs and have adult conversation? YO NO LO COMPRENDO.
Anyhoo. LG wants Sir Philip because he has doctored His ‘n Her Highnesses; Cora worries that Dr. C will be offended, and not to discount his expertise just because he misdiagnosed Matthew’s war injury. Oh, and he also totally missed the warning signs that Lavinia’s flu would take a turn for the deathy. Whatevs. The dead can’t sue for malpractice, and Matthew’s weiner works again, so everyone wins! (Well, except Lavinia, of course.)
The Mentalist has been asked by Carson to wind the clocks, which O’ Brien says is a good sign that he will ascend to first footman rapidly. The Mentalist doesn’t know the first thing about clocks (really? Nothing? Don’t they just have a key that you turn until it gets really hard to turn and then makes this really horrific clicking noise and then you walk away really fast?). O’Brien, ever the schemer, suggests that The Mentalist enlist the help of Oh That Thomas, because he used to wind the clocks. In fact, The Mentalist would do well to keep in with OTT, since he has LG’s ear. I see what you did there, O’Brien.
Upstairs, Sybil explains to Mary that her back hurts, her ankles are swelling, and her head aches. “Honestly, I can’t recommend this to anyone,” she says. Mary’s all, “Whatevs! I can’t wait to get knocked up, myself! I know I will just KILL being pregnant!” Sybil goes on to tell Mary that she wants Baby Branson to be christened a Catholic per Tom’s wishes, since she doesn’t really believe in God but she super loves Tom and wants what he wants.
Oh That Thomas gives The Mentalist an incredibly creepy lesson in clock winding. Meanwhile, in prison, Anna and Bates FINALLY suss out (two episodes after the rest of us have) that Vera deliberately poisoned herself in order to set up Bates. At Crawley House, Ethel explains to Isobel that she’s had a hard time finding a jeorb because of her history as a prostitute. Isobel offers her a job helping out Mrs. Bird. Back at prison, Bad Guard and Evil Ex-Cellmate scheme against Bates some more, because that worked out so well for them before.
Mary and Matthew stroll the estate, Matthew explaining beep boop boop boop there’s been no investment blergh. Matthew reckons LG doesn’t give a good gosh-darn about the way Downton is being managed because it’s so very middle class. But because Matthew is middle class, he will SAVE DOWNTON. Starting with setting up a Kickstarter and a Cafepress t-shirt shop.
At dinner, Sir Philip turns out to be a total blowhard who thinks that it’s not necessary to have the local doctor present at the birth of Baby Branson, as he is an Expert at Birthin’ Babies. I WONDER HOW THIS WILL TURN OUT. After dinner, Matthew pulls Sir Blowhard aside and asks whether he may have any residual fertility issues from his war injury (a bruised spine); he is concerned because he and Mary have been knockin’ da boots for a few months and nothing seems to stick. Sir Philip says that if they would just relax already they would get pregnant. ORLY? says every infertile couple everywhere.
Anna tells LG that they’ve figured out Vera’s plot; I assume that he’ll pull whatever strings the gentry pull in order to free their valets from prison. Edith gets a letter offering her a column, LG says hell to the no, Matthew says unclench already, LG says “when you’re a father, you’ll understand the urge to protect your children from making a fool of
So, as an aside, I think the major theme of this episode is parenting.
Mrs. Bird is quitting because she feels that working with a prostitute is beneath her, and that she may be thought of as also being a prostitute. Lie down with dogs, fleas, etc. “No one could look at you and think that,” says Isobel. Snerk. Isobel tells Mrs. B that she’ll get a month’s wages in lieu of notice (bounced!); Mrs. B says she’ll go to Manchester to be near her sister, and that there is plenty of work for a plain cook there. “And they will find one in you,” says Isobel. OH DAMN!!!!!
Meanwhile, Alfred and The Mentalist flirt with Ivy. Love triangle, y’all! Daisy comes in, bitches at Ivy, and leaves again. During dinner prep, Alfred – who has grokked that Ivy fancies The Mentalist instead of him — deliberately curdles the hollandaise sauce in order to give Ivy the chance to look good in front of Daisy and Mrs. P (who gently advises Daisy that Alfred won’t like her more for bullying Ivy).
Upstairs, the family is unimpressed with Edith’s new career prospects. (Damn those women and their typewriters! I blame Mina Harker.) “When should we expect her debut on the London stage?” snarks Violet. Poor Edith. And, true to form, one of the other sisters takes precedence as we learn that Sybil is Officially In Labor.
Dr. Clarkson is concerned because Sybil’s ankles are swollen and she seems … muddled. Sir Philip asks Dr. Clarkson to step out into the hall. The Granthams talk about the tension between the doctors. LG is in Sir Blowhard’s corner, while everyone else wants to be respectful of Dr. Clarkson. Meanwhile, Sir Blowhard and Dr. C have a medical pissing contest in the hall. Sir Philip tells Dr. C to bakdefukup.
Sybil is in labor, going back and forth between lucidity and hallucinations. Everyone in the room is deeply concerned, apart from Sir Blowhard. Naturally. Dr. Clarkson, suspecting a problem, wants to test Sybil’s urine. He reports to LG that there are too many warning signs: the swelling, the small size of the baby, the confusion, and a high amount of protein in her urine. He wants to transfer her to hospital and deliver the baby by C-section. Sir Blowhard says that this is all malarkey, that pre/eclampsia is very rare, yadda yadda. Mary’s all, “Shouldn’t the decision be up to Tom?” Word.
When presented with the options, Tom – who is an idiot, at the end of it all – is frozen with indecision. He wants to keep Sybil safe and is confused by the conflicting reports from the doctors. Sybil cries out, and they all rush to her. It’s too late – baby’s coming.
Waiting, talking, Mary announces that the men and Violet can come up, that the baby is a girl. Sybil is sweaty, the baby gurgles, Tom loves them, Sybil is tired. Cora is glowing. Sir Blowhard declares that everyone should go to bed. Downstairs, Carson declares that everyone can go to bed. Oh That Thomas is chuffed, which surprises The Mentalist. Thomas explains that he and Sybil worked together in the hospital and that she is a lovely person. He then manhandles TM in a creepy way, then leaves. TM tells O’Brien that Thomas is awfully familiar. She says that it’s a good thing, but she hopes he’s not suggesting something unseemly is going on. The Mentalist, knowing what’s good for him, and also knowing that he is now between a rock and a hard place (tee hee), says, nope, G’nite!
Later that night, Mary bursts into Cora and LG’s room and says something’s wrong with Sybil. She is in distress, hallucinating and crying out in agony with pains in her head. Dr. Clarkson explains that this is eclampsia. Sybil starts seizing. Sir Blowhard tries to save face. Dr. Clarkson says nothing can be done. Tom and Cora are begging Sybil to breathe. This part kills me, they’re both so desperate. Sybil goes still. Everyone else just stands there, stricken. Dr. Clarkson checks Sybil’s pulse; when he turns away, we can’t see his face, but Edith can, and that tells us everything we need to know. The baby cries in another room.
The people downstairs are heartbroken. Thomas in particular is gutted. Nice of the writers to endow him with some humanity. “The sweetest spirit under this roof is gone,” says Mrs. Hughes. Weep.
Cora sits alone with her youngest daughter, promising her that they will take care of Tom and the baby. To me, this is the purest expression of the bond between mother and daughter, and I don’t even care that they ripped it off from Steel Magnolias. Mary pops in and tells Cora that she should go to bed. Without taking her eyes from Sybil, Cora tells Mary that she’s not done saying goodbye and also that LG should sleep in the dressing room.
LG’s lawyer (?) arrives to talk to Anna about the Bates situation. Matthew wants to talk to him later. Totally appropriate.
Mary and Edith say goodbye to Sybil before the funeral home people take her away. I have to admit that the “let’s love each other now, as sisters should” exchange between M & E clunks a little here, but I get the idea behind it. Sybil was who made those two beasts human, and now she’s gone. Tom says goodbye to Sybil, too heartbreaking to even dwell upon. Ugh, I can’t.
Mary walks in on Matthew discussing the issue of the management of the estate with the lawyer and flame broils him for it, rightly so.
Mrs. Hughes reports to Carson and Mrs. P that a woman in the village will nurse the baby, and the Mrs. P will feed the baby according to the percentage method. Everyone is so desperately sad. Especially when Violet arrives. “Carson, we’ve seen some troubles in our time,” she says. “But nothing could be worse than this.” “Nothing could be worse, m’lady,” he replies. And then Maggie Smith gets her big Acting Moment: she walks slowly, black-clad, across the foyer (and because I am Southern, I want to spell that the way it sounds in my head, “foy-yay”), stopping to brace herself on the wall while she sobs, her cane tapping softly on the rug. She lifts her black veil before entering the sitting room.
Stuff about the baby nurse, stuff about Tom, who “wants his wife back, which is the one thing he can’t have.” Mild-mannered Cora is on the warpath, mild-manneredly. She gets up to go write a letter of apology to Dr. Clarkson, because if they had listened to him, Sybil might still be alive, but Sir Blowhard and LG knew better and as a result, Sybil is dead. LG is almost suitably chastened. Violet tells him not to blame himself (HE SHOULD TOTALLY BLAME HIS PATRIARCHAL SELF), that Sybil has died in childbirth like too many women before her and all they can do is cherish her memory and her child.
Shot of Tom in the window, holding the baby, looking out the window mournfully.
That is all. I am throatsore and tear-drenched. But maybe you might be interested in reading this. See you next week. Weep, weep, weep.