RECAP: A Tragic End to DOWNTON ABBEY's Season 3
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by Lauren Robbins
Through the misty valleys and across the glimmering lochs, the earnest wail of the bagpipe pierces the morning air. "Welcome to the Highlands," Cora teases as Robert rolls over miserably in bed and pulls a pillow tightly over his ears.
The finale of Downton Abbey Season 3 picks up a year later and finds the Crawley family in Scotland at Duneagle Castle, the home of Shrimpy and Susan MacClare and their daughter Rose. This annual trip had been put off for a number of years but the family finally reunites for hunting, fishing, picnicking, and of course reeling at the ghillies' ball.
Just as Dr. Ryder had predicted, Mary and Matthew were finally able to conceive and now she is eight months into her pregnancy. All of the men in her life, Matthew, Robert, and Carson, are concerned that the trip might be trying for her, but Mary, being her irrepressible self, insists on joining the family in all of their activities.
As we get acquainted with the hosts of the house, it becomes apparent why Rose has an inclination toward the rebellious. Surrounded by animosity, it is no wonder she is constantly in search of a way out. Shrimpy and Susan's marriage is in a shambles. At the root of their marital problems is the fact that the two simply "don't like each other", compounded now by their disagreements on how to raise their daughter. His wife's incessant nagging drives Shrimpy to exasperation and his daughter to tears. Rose escapes dinner one evening to calm herself with a cigarette and is startled to run into Anna and Bates (or as they're called in Scotland, Mr. Grantham and Miss Crawley), and asks that they don't giver her away. The couple rubs some of their delirious happiness off on the distraught teenager and cheers her with abetment and a mint. To thank her for her kindness, Rose agrees to give Anna reeling lessons to prepare for the forthcoming ghillies' ball, a secret the two keep from the rest of the family and the servants.
In the end, the MacClares decide that Rose would do best living with the Crawleys. With Shrimpy taking a post in Bombay, they believe that the time away from her mother and the influence of the Crawleys would do her good. However, if last week's episode serves as a preview of what is to come next season, we can be sure Rose's antics will bring a new wave of torment for Robert and Cora. It may be especially difficult for them as Rose's rebellious spirit stirs up memories of Sybil in Cora. But Rose also has a softness to her, and her eagerness to bulldoze into the future should breath new life into Downton.
As miserably unhappy as they are, no one can accuse the Marquess and Marchioness of Flintshire of being ungracious hosts. They are even good enough to welcome Edith's editor, Michael Gregson, into their home. Far less willing to accept the man is Mary, who is unconvinced of his motives. She sees through his cover of a "sketching holiday", suspecting that the true purpose for his visit to Scotland is to meet the family and perhaps to propose to Edith. She sets her husband on the case. While fly-fishing, Matthew uncovers Michael's knotty past and much to the editor's dismay, encourages him to abandon his quest for Edith's heart. But it is too late. He has already confessed his love to her and she now seems determined to keep him in her life.
Robert's time at Duneagle is enjoyable, but more importantly, it puts his life into perspective. Seeing the tension between Shrimpy and Susan gives him a newfound respect for his marriage to Cora. He also finally realizes that his decision to modernize truly saved his estate. At first he is jealous of Shrimpy and revels in the tradition of the house- the ghillie speak, the stalking, even the kilted bagpiper impresses him when he's not piping him awake. But when he learns that Duneagle is on its last legs, he is stricken by the fact that Downton may have met a similar fate had it not been for Matthew. In the end, he finds himself more grateful than ever for his heir, his wife, his family, and for Downton, and he longs to return.
At Downton, Carson has the remaining staff working as hard as ever. The footmen set to work polishing the family's silver while the maids take the opportunity of an empty house to do an extensive cleaning of each room. The staff longs for at least a brief respite from their duties, so when they are all invited to a fair in Thirsk, they plead with Carson for an afternoon off to attend. They are invited by Jos Tufton, a new supplier to the Downton kitchen. Tufton is mainly after the attention of Mrs. Patmore and asks for "the honor of squiring [her] through the day". Dr. Clarkson also seems to have "squiring" on his mind. When he learns about the fair from Mrs. Hughes, he asks Isobel to accompany him and she accepts.
Branson also agrees to go to the fair, though he struggles with the decision. Having been left behind as the only member of the family in the house, he grapples with his new identity more than ever. The arrival of a new maid, Edna, in particular makes him question his position. Edna finds herself attracted to Tom and knowing his history as a chauffeur, feels that she is his equal. Determined to make him feel the same, she constantly pressures him to return to his roots. Tom wishes to prove he is "still the same man inside" (perhaps more to himself than anyone else) and agrees to drive the staff to Thirsk for the fair.
On the day of the fair all is well at first. The staff lets loose and enjoys the games and attractions of the event. It seems that the year has mended fences between Daisy and Ivy and the two are inseparable as they walk the fairgrounds. Mrs. Patmore arrives in a new frock and looks for her "fancy man" at his stall. When she finds him, she is charmed by Mr. Tufton's larger than life personality and his declaration that "he loves to be in love".
But Mrs. Hughes is wary of the man's advances. Throughout the day, she sees him flirting with, groping and kissing various other women while Mrs. Patmore isn't watching. She also has her eye on Edna and Branson. Her suspicions were peaked by Edna's behavior back at the house. She refused to stand when he entered a room and spoke to him as an equal. At the fair she latches on to him to walk arm in arm and grabs him to steady herself on the carousel. Mrs. Hughes recognizes in her the same flaws that once led Ethel to her demise.
The men of Downton also sign up for a tug-of-war. Jimmy places a BET on his team and then quickly recruits the burly Tufton to anchor the rope for his side. After a lot of strenuous pulling the Downton team finally overcomes their opponents. Jimmy collects his spoils and they all celebrate with a beer. But defeat does not sit well with the other team. When a slightly drunken Jimmy stumbles under a bridge and encounters his rivals, they immediately attack. Luckily, Thomas appears to interfere. They turn their attentions on him and he receives the full brunt of their aggressions while Jimmy escapes to find Dr. Clarkson.
Before he does, the doctor is enjoying the afternoon with Isobel. When they finally sit to have a drink, he works up the courage to ask her to marry him. The match would actually work quite nicely. Isobel was the wife of a doctor once before and they have a mutual respect for and understanding of one another. But Isobel senses his intentions and quickly nips them in the bud. She explains that she is happy in her life and does not want to jeopardize her friendship with Dr. Clarkson. He would later thank her for her consideration and agree this path is for the best. In the meantime, Jimmy finds them and brings them to Thomas who has been badly beaten.
Later at Downton, Jimmy goes to check on Thomas and thank him for his courage. When he discovers that Thomas' appearance that afternoon was not a right-place-right-time coincidence, but rather that he had in fact been following him, Jimmy decides to confront the elephant in the room. He explains that he could never give Thomas what he desires, a fact that Thomas accepts but asks if they can perhaps at least be friends. Jimmy agrees and the two carry on amiably.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Hughes is forced to confront Mrs. Patmore about Mr. Tufton's inappropriate behavior when she finds out that he had asked for her hand. When she hears of his behavior, it seems at first that Mrs. Patmore is crushed. Then the look of shock on her face quickly melts away and she breaks into laughter, telling Mrs. Hughes that she is actually quite relieved. As it turns out, the man had only been interested in her cooking and she was dreading a life of catering to his every whim.
Mrs. Hughes' issues with Edna become more complicated after the fair. The housemaid enters Tom's room while he is changing for bed. She thanks him for a lovely day, kisses him quickly, and asks him to meet her for lunch the next day. Before he can give an answer she leaves the room. When Carson and Mrs. Hughes find out about this plan, they decide her dismissal is unavoidable. She has broken one of the fundamental laws of service and she cannot stay.
Branson is distressed by Edna's termination because he holds himself partially accountable. Mrs. Hughes comforts him. She can see that the episode has left him feeling lost in his new life. She tells him he has nothing to be ashamed of and that Lady Sybil would be proud of what he has become. The thought of his late wife brings him to tears. Mrs. Hughes grasps his hands firmly and assures him that he will find his way through and that one day, with Sybil's blessing, he will meet somebody to help carry the weight. Branson, who has been longing for somebody to speak with him candidly, as they would when he was in service, is boosted by her words.
In Scotland, the rest of the staff and family are enjoying the ghillies' ball, some perhaps more than others. O'Brien settles the score with a new enemy, Susan's lady's maid, Wilkins. Wilkins has been spiteful toward O'Brien ever since she was overshadowed by her in hairdressing skills. Feeling undermined, Wilkins seeks vengeance at the ball by pouring a healthy dash of whiskey into O'Brien's drink. But the queen of conniving cannot be that easily duped; the smallest sip lets her onto Wilkins' plan and she sets the cup aside. An unsuspecting Mr. Molesley picks up the drink and gulps it down in one shot. Soon he is unleashing "the wild man inside" on the dance floor and causing quite a scene. O'Brien gets her Revenge by making suggestions to Susan on how to better Style her hair, nitpicking faults in Wilkins' work.
Anna finally unveils her secret to her husband and Mary and impresses them both with her newfound reeling skills. Soon, everyone joins in the dance. Suddenly, however, Mary is overcome by an uneasy feeling and must sit down. She and Matthew decide that it would best for her to return home early. The next day, she and Anna board a train to Downton.
When she arrives at the station she realizes that she is going into labor and asks Anna to get her to the hospital immediately. The rest of the family is contacted and they all arrange to return the next morning. In the meantime, Mary comes through the birth safely, much to the delight of Carson and his staff. When Matthew finally arrives, both he and Mary are overwhelmed with joy to welcome a son and heir into the world. Back at Downton, Isobel delivers the good news to the family.
Before he leaves his wife and son, Matthew shares a tender moment and expresses his love for them both. In that instant, Mary is perfect in his eyes and she hopes forever to stay that way. With one last kiss, he leaves her to share the joy with his family. As he drives blissfully down the road, back at the house Robert reflects fondly on how positively their lives have changed in the past few months. But reality is cruel, and just when life cannot seem more perfect for Matthew, it is taken away from him. A truck hits his car in a head-on collision and throws him into the wood beside the road, crushed by the weight of his vehicle. Meanwhile, an unknowing Mary sits cradling her newborn child in the hospital, dreaming of the world ahead.
What will go down at Downton Abbey next...season (ugh)? How will the Crawleys possibly cope with the loss of another cherished family member? Will O'Brien take Wilkins' place with Lady Flintshire in Bombay? Will Rose's modern ways raise Mr. Carson's bushy eyebrows? Tune in Sunday...oh sod it! We're all going into Downton withdrawal anyway!