Downton Abbey recap! Season 3, episode 5.

Previously on Downton Abbey: Isobel hired a hooker (to work as her maid/cook). Bates and Anna grokked Vera’s Evil Suicide Pie plan. Sybil had a baby girl. Sybil died. Violet sobbed raggedly. Cora blamed LG for Sybil’s death.

Dog butt.

Black-clad people depart from Downton Abbey. Matthew tells Tom that he and Mary want to help in any way they can. Tom, looking glazed and robotic (and, frankly, this is the first time I’ve noticed that he’s a Rather Handsome Man [TM]), says, “My wife is dead. I’m past help.” Weep weep weep. LG enters and tells Cora that some of their guests had been looking for her to say goodbye. Cora responds in a perfect blend of sweet curtness, “I was here,” then looks away. Isobel takes this as her cue to GTFO, as does Violet. LG offers that they stay for dinner, but Violet declines, saying, “Grief makes one so terribly tired.” (TRUTH. When my mom died, I slept forever. About a week after her funeral, I remember waking up one day long after Matt went to work, realizing it was noon and thinking, ah, fuck it and slept for another three hours.)

Violet advises Cora to try to get some rest, “now that it’s over.” “Is it over? When one loses a child, is it ever really over?” says Cora.

This calls for some Jeff Buckley.

Downstairs, Alfred mentions that grief seems to have given the upstairs folks a hearty appetite. “Tee hee,” titter some New Maids. “Ex-squeeze me?” says Carson, outraged at their cheek. Anna, ever the kind soul, explains to the New Maids that even the downstairs folk loved Sybil, so even though they’re the help, they’re sad too. Carson barks, “if you want to do well here, you should understand that without being told.” These kids today and their unwillingness to feel blind obeisance to their masters!

Actually, the conversation between Hughesy and Carson here is interesting. Carson: In the old days, their mothers would train them in the basics before they came to the Big House. Hughesy: Maybe their mothers don’t want them to go into service anymore. Carson: What are they supposed to become, bankers and lawyers? Hughesy: Why not? THE TIMES, THEY ARE A CHANGIN’. I think it’s cute that Hughesy thinks that the class system in Britain can be transcended; this moment is mostly meant to demonstrate that Carson remains an old fuddy duddy, while Hughes is optimistic and willing to change her attitudes with the times.

Thomas haz a sad. Jimmy says that Thomas’ sadness speaks well of him. Thomas gets touchy feely in response.


Isobel tells Ethel, who identifies with Cora in her loss of a child, that she wants to have Cora and “the girls” over for a luncheon to help them with their grief. Ethel says she can cook something special, giving Isobel a start. “Well, we don’t have to decide that just now,” she says, panicked.

Mary and Anna talk about Bates and I don’t care.

Cora reads in bed. LG comes in and asks to move back in. Nope, says Cora. LG defends his choice to listen to Tapsell, who has a reputation as an expert. Cora counters with the fact that Dr. Clarkson knew Sybil’s history and, as such, was an expert on Sybil. “You believed Tapsell because he is knighted and fashionable. … You let all that nonsense weigh against saving our daughter’s life, which is what I find so very hard to forgive.” Cora makes it clear in no uncertain terms that the blame for Sybil’s death lies solely on LG. LG peaces out.

At breakfast, Edith asks after Cora. LG has no reply. Tom enters, Carson hands him a plate, rather than making him fetch it himself. Mighty big of you, Carson. Tom envies the baby because she has no idea what’s going on. Tom says he’s not staying, he’ll look for a job. Edith and Matthew wonder what’s the rush, LG says that Tom needs to think of making a life for himself. Edith says it’s time to think of a christening and asks what Tom would like to call the baby. “Sybil,” is his response. NOT MAUDLIN AT ALL, DUDE. (Side note: isn’t Edith being so sweet and lovely?) Tom also announces that because the baby is Irish, she will be Catholic. LG throws up in his mouth a little [I’m sorry; I know that phrase is so tired, but I think it applies here] and peaces out.

Ethel runs into Mrs. P on the street and asks for help with the menu for the lunch party. Mrs. P explains that Carson has forbidden folks from the Big House to consort with her. Ethel says surely Mrs. P doesn’t think she will be corrupted. “Of course not!” declares Mrs. P. “Then why not show a little kindness?” says Ethel. Side note: it was made clear to me this week that calling Ethel an unnecessary plot device is not fair or accurate. Rather, she is a depiction of the invisible casualties of war in the early 20th century, women whose lives were ruined by dalliances with itinerant soldiers. So, I now sort of like this storyline, which maybe recuperates some of these women’s fates and gives their communities a chance to redeem themselves, too.

Bates walks in circles and I don’t care.

Mary tells LG that he needs to unclench on the Catholic thing; also, she disagrees that it’s ghoulish to call the baby Sybil.

Isobel tells Ethel to just get some ham in town and make a light salad for the ladies’ luncheon. Ethel wants to make an effort to show their sympathies; Isobel wants to play it safe.

Violet wants to know what LG’s plan is for baby Sybil, and also what’s up with Cora and warns him that “people like us are never unhappily married.” Then what, wonders LG. “In such a circumstances, the couple is unable to see each other as much as they’d like,” says Violet. “Or she could go to New York and visit That Woman.” LG can’t make sense of any of it. Violet puts on her mom hat: “My dearest boy, I seldom speak of the heart because it is rarely useful to do so, but I know well enough how painful it is when it is broken.”

Alfred and Ivy and Daisy enact their little love triangle. Mrs P busts up the party. Jimmy says that Ivy isn’t his type. O’Brien will probably use this statement to her advantage in trying to convince Thomas to make a real move on him; if Thomas makes a pass and Jimmy calls the cops, O’Brien is shot of Thomas AND has her revenge for starting the rumor that she was leaving Downton.

Mrs. P brings some recipes for Ethel and a shopping list. Ethel is dubious about making salmon mousse. “Anyone who has use of their limbs can make a salmon mousse,” says Mrs. P haughtily. God, I love her. Mrs. P, c’est moi.


Isobel invites Cora and “the girls” for luncheon. “Do I count as one of the girls,” asks Violet, previously unseen. Cora doesn’t want to come, fearing she’d bring her troubles with her. Mary and Matthew enter and Mary accepts the invitation.

Downstairs, we learn that Daisy is going to go visit Mr. Mason at the farm.

Upstairs, the youngsters grill Mr. Travis, who reckons there’s something “un-English about the Roman Church.” Tom’s response, being Irish: “and that’s a problem because …?” Travis has a problem with bells ‘n smells, and reckons it displeases God. Tom: So he’s displeased with the population of France and Italy? [And, uh, parts of England?] Edit: South America, Portugal? Mary: The Russians? The Spanish? Matthew: The non-Christians? The entire Indian subcontinent? Isobel: How about the British empire? [Some really fascinating troubling of British-Anglican national identity here, y’all.]

LG doesn’t think baby Sybil should be baptized into the wrong tribe. Mary reveals that Sybil wanted the baby to be Catholic. LG is flabbergasted. Cora says, “Not everyone chooses their religion to satisfy Debrett’s [a lifestyle guide for the peerage].” ZING!!!!

Downstairs, the staff discuss religion. Anna doesn’t want to talk about it.

Upstairs, Mary and Matthew discuss facing death and not taking things for granted. Matthew wants LG to see that he shouldn’t take Downton for granted. Mary says, “we should never take us for granted. Who knows what’s coming?” A giant anvil falls through the ceiling and lands at the foot of their bed. Matthew: “One thing I will take for granted, that I will love you until the last breath leaves my body.” Another anvil lands on top of the first one. Mary: “OMG, me too, darling. Totes.”

Boring stuff about Bates.

Ivy Alfred Jimmy love triangle + foxtrot.

Daisy arrives at Chez Mason. Mr. Mason wants to bequeath the farm to Daisy, who is dubious because she’s a cook and a woman and always thought she’d spend her life in service. Jaysus, Daisy, can you think outside the box for once? Do you want no good things to happen to you? Financial independence? Sheesh, I just want to shake her.

Violet tries to convince Clarkson to communicate to LG and Cora that there really was nothing to be done for Sybil, in the interest of their marriage.

Matthew consults with Tom about how best to make Downton more efficient, because “there’s a country boy inside the revolutionary.” These two are the future of Downton, I reckon, and it hinges on convincing Tom to stay there with the baby.

Ethel is grateful to Mrs. P for helping her with the luncheon. Carson sees Mrs. P leaving Crawley House.

Bates is boring.

Luncheon. Isobel is stressed because Ethel made real food, not ham and salad.


Carson confronts Mrs. P about her helping Ethel, against his strict instructions to give the place a wide berth. Hughesy takes up Mrs. P’s case. Carson is outraged and speechless that Mrs. P would allow a woman of the streets to wait on members of our family! Hughesy reckons he won’t be speechless for long.

Matthew: bad management! LG: fiddle dee dee, we’ll think about that tomorrow. Carson: LG, we need to talk, now.

At the luncheon, the ladies are pleasantly surprised by how tasty the food is. Edith reckons she should learn to cook, which brings up the topic of the column, which gives Cora the opportunity to state her position that LG makes decisions based on archaic values. Mary says that she and Matthew support Edith in her writing career. LG bursts in and, underscoring Cora’s point, insists that the ladies leave, because Ethel is a filthy whore and they are being exposed to scandal. Just then, Ethel brings in dessert and Cora says, “Oh, is that a Charlotte Russe? How delicious.” Ethel explains that Mrs. P helped her with it. “I’m glad to know that Mrs. Patmore has a good heart and does not judge,” says Cora, glaring at LG. LG really must insist that they leave at once, but Cora resists, and Violet wants some of that Charlotte Russe.


LG peaces out.

Bates walks in circles, boringly, then yanks his former cellmate out of the circle walking, holds a shiv to his neck and says, “don’t interfere in them finding me innocent or I’ll murderize ya, see?” Then he gets back in the circle and walks, boringly.

Carson and Hughesy discuss the luncheon scandal; Carson is miffed that none of the women left, while Hughesy sees it as a sign that the world is becoming a kinder place. Carson reckons it’s weakness and a lack of discipline. “Well, if the Dowager and Her Ladyship can visit Crawley House, I reckon you won’t mind if I do,” says Hughesy. Carson won’t forbid it, but he won’t like it. “But you disappoint me,” he says. “I didn’t think of you as a woman with no standards.” She shoots him a “ninja, please” look and departs.

Mary visits LG and asks how productive it was for him to throw a tantrum about Ethel at Crawley House; she reckons he’s just pissed because the world isn’t going his way. He’s also pissed that Matthew is taking over Downton, and also the christening. “I’m never against you, but you’ve lost on this one,” Mary says. She reminds LG that Sybil loved Tom very much and that they should honor her wishes as far as the baby goes. “I keep forgetting she’s gone,” says LG. “I’ll read something in the paper that would make her laugh. I come inside to tell her that her favorite rose is in bloom, and then suddenly…” Mary implores him to tell Cora that, but he doesn’t think she wants to hear it from him.

Mary and Matthew visit Tom and the baby in a totally stilted and awkward scene.


Poor Molesley is shocked that the ladies stayed at Crawley House after they learned that Ethel had cooked their lunch. “Even Jesus ate with Mary Magdalene,” Hughesy reminds him gently. “We’re not sure of that, but we know she washed his feet,” replies Poor Molesley. “Well, we’ll have to tell Ethel she’s in for a treat, then,” Hughesy shoots back.

Jimmy plays piano, Ivy gets busted for wearing rouge (Mrs. P calls her “Miss Hussy”!), Thomas gropes Jimmy some more. “He’s always touching me,” Jimmy complains to O’Brien. “I’m going to tell Carson. I’d tell the police if it got him to stop.” O’Brien excuses herself to fetch some linen … and to scheme. Daisy tells Jimmy that the music is nice, but it makes her sad because it makes her think of William.

O’Brien runs into Thomas in the hall and tells him that she thinks Jimmy has a crush on him. “Well, he’s got good taste,” says Thomas.

Alfred asks Daisy to teach him the foxtrot. Oh, Daisy. Don’t give your heart – or dance lessons – away.

Anna runs across the grounds to Mary and Edith (really?) to let them know that Mr. Bates will be released and will be home in a couple of weeks. Mary encourages Anna to let LG know to raise his spirits.

Cora brings a note from Violet inviting them over, but she hopes that it’s not a lecture on marital harmony. LG chuckles, then realizes that she wasn’t kidding. They’ll go, but not stay long. “You look lovely today,” says LG feebly. “Don’t try and flirt with me, dude,” says Cora. Awkward. Exeunt Cora. Anna bursts in with Mary and Edith to report that Bates is coming home. LG practically squees.

Jimmy interrupts Daisy and Alfred’s dance lesson and calls out Alfred on only trying to learn foxtrot to impress Ivy. He then takes Daisy in his arms to show him how it’s done. (Does Jimmy like Daisy?) Of course, Carson walks in and tears Jimmy a new one.


Cora and LG arrive at the Dowager’s house to find Dr. Clarkson waiting for them. Clarkson tells them that the chance of Sybil’s survival was “infinitesimal,” that eclampsia is almost always fatal, and that even if they’d done a C-section, she would have died and in great pain. LG and Cora embrace and cry, while Violet looks away discreetly. Poor Dr. Clarkson. Poor Cora.

The end.

Smitten Saturdays: Baked Potato Crisps with the Works

Well, hello! I meant to get this up last weekend, but it feels more appropriate to post it this week instead, given that I’d planned these as a good Super Bowl appetizer.


Funny story about these potato crisps (which are delicious, by the way): I made them on Sunday night with the intention of having just a sample before moving on to a more virtuous meal of salmon and steamed broccoli. The best laid plans…

First off, this recipe makes a metric ton of baked potato crisps, and I didn’t even meet the stated yield of 42 pieces (more on that in a minute). My husband was a little overwhelmed when he saw the cookie sheets populated with these babies. And then we started eating them.

And eating them. And eating them. And eating them. Soon, the salmon was being packaged up into portable containers for Monday lunch (more on THAT in a minute!) because we each ate nearly a potato’s worth of crisps in under 20 minutes. (It didn’t help that we were starving. Also, bacon.) Even after our starch-dairy-bacon binge, there were still easily a dozen crisps left, which I also packaged up and put away for later.

Fast forward to noonish on Monday. I’m in my cubicle at the Adjunct Gig (soon to be former!) and I’m ready to eat lunch. I’m preparing myself for the salmon and broccoli I hadn’t eaten the night before, feeling right smug about my choices. Then I open up the tub — it’s the leftover potato crisps! DERP. I picked the bacon off the top of a few of them, but I just can’t bring myself to eat cold potatoes. (I ended up using my faculty discount in the dining hall and indulging in their addictive grilled cheese sandwich + a mountain of veggies from the salad bar.)

And it’s the coldness factor that informs my decision to NOT take these to the Super Bowl party we’re attending tomorrow night. These are absolutely gorge-worthy when they’re hot. But cold? Feh. It’s not the recipe’s fault, it’s the fault of the potato for being disgusting when cold. And you can’t really nuke these unless you want to melt the sour cream. Rest assured that if I were hosting a Super Bowl party, I’d be cranking these out without a second thought. And you should, too, if you’re hosting and are looking for last-minute, ridiculously easy and tasty ideas.

One note: some of your smaller crisps may not like the 25-30 minute baking time:


Baked Potato Crisps with the Works
from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

3 T butter
3 russet potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices (the cookbook says “should yield about 14 slices”; if I had been editor of this cookbook, I would have suggested a clarifying “per potato” to the end of that phrase)
ground black pepper (the cookbook says freshly ground, but whatevs. You do you.)
1/2 cup grated cheddar (I used bagged Mexican blend because that’s what I had on hand)
1 cup sour cream
4-5 slices crispy bacon, chopped
3 T minced fresh chives

Preheat oven to 425. Line two baking sheets with foil (no muss, no fuss!) and butter each sheet. (I used Pam. Again, you do you.) Arrange the potato slices on the sheets and brush with 2 T melted butter. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Roast for 25-30 minutes (keeping an eye on them; see the above image) until the bottom side is golden brown. Flip them over and roast for 10 more minutes.

Sprinkle each slice with a pinch of cheese and bake for 5 more minutes. Top each slice with sour cream, bacon, and chives. Serve and marvel at how quickly they are devoured.