Downton Abbey Series 3: finally some good news as Bates gets his name cleared!

by Anna Howell

Last night saw the 6th episode of the current third series of the hit ITV period drama, Downton Abbey, and whilst the house is still deeply in mourning after the sudden and tragic death of Lady Sybil last week, life must carry on both upstairs and downstairs!

Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) still blames her husband, Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) for the death of her youngest child, and refuses to speak to him, or share her bed with him, much to his devastation!

The Dowager Countess (Dame Maggie Smith) decides to get involved, and calls on family physician, Dr Clarkson, to ask him to research thoroughly just what Sybil’s chances would have been if they had listened to him and performed a C-Section as he advised, hinting that an exaggeration or lie to make Lady Cora stop blaming her husband would be utterly acceptable in the circumstances.

However, whilst Dr Clarkson is off doing just that, Isobel (Penelope Wilton) decides in the meantime that she will hold a small lunch for the Crawley ladies in order to try and lift spirits. However, knowing that her new housemaid Ethel (Amy Nuttall) is not a great cook, she advises simply ham and salad for lunch to avoid embarrassment. Ethel, however, decides she wants to make a real effort and surprise her kind employer, and seeks the help of Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol) to help her do so.

Mrs Patmore refuses at first, aware of the strict rule that Mr Carson (Jim Carter) has enforced that no Downton staff are to converse with Ethel, who is a former prostitute, however when she realises that the lunch is for Lady Grantham, she agrees to help her after all.

Ethel seems to have done a great job following Mrs Patmore’s instructions, and the meal is going down a treat, but unfortunately Mr Carson spots Mrs Patmore leaving Isobel’s and confronts her. She tells him why she did it and who the lunch was for, which makes him seek out Lord Grantham and tell him about Ethel’s past. Lord Grantham storms over to Isobel’s and demand that his wife, mother and daughters leave at once, which all of them refuse to do, leaving him even redder in the face.

This isn’t the only time he is met with opposition from his family. Not only has Matthew (Dan Stevens) accused him of mishandling the estate whilst trying to convince him to let him put his own stamp on it, but Tom (Allen Leech) announces that not only is he calling his daughter Sybil, but that he is taking her away to live with him, and having her baptised a catholic!
Lord Grantham pretty much explodes at this, but it seems the entire family is on Tom’s side, especially when Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) tells him that Sybil told her on the day she died that the baby was to be a Catholic and that she had to back her up when this exact fight erupted.

There was some good news, however, as Anna (Joanne Froggatt) gets the delightful news that her beloved husband, Mr Bates (Brendan Coyle) is to be released from prison.

This is a far cry from the situation she found herself in at the beginning of the episode, as after the Crawley’s solicitor finally tracks down Vera’s neighbour to get her statement that she witnessed her friend making the pastry containing the arsenic that killed her, it becomes very apparent that someone has paid or warned her to keep her mouth shut.

Murray and Anna visit Bates in prison to deliver the bad news, and it doesn’t take him long to work out that the people behind this are his cell mate and the corrupt prison guard he is in cahoots with. Just as we were starting to think this story line would never have a happy conclusion, it did! Bates finds an opportunity during exercise to tackle his cell mate and do some warning himself, threatening to expose him and the prison warden which would affect his early parole. And it would seem it worked, as almost the very next scene shows Anna receiving a letter from Murray saying that the witness had given her statement and that Bate’s sentence will be over turned, and scenes from the preview of next week’s episode show Bates arriving back at Downton, proving that happy endings do exist after all!

Elsewhere, downstairs, Daisy (Sophie McShera) gets the surprise of her life when her father-in-law asks her to come and live with him and take over his farm, and Jimmy (Ed Speleers) is growing increasingly tired of Thomas’ (Rob-James Collier) advances!

Finally, the Dowager’s attempt at marriage guidance also pay off, as she summons Lord and Lady Grantham to her house, where Dr Clarkson is waiting to tell them that Sybil would have almost certainly still died even if they had listened to him, which brings the once so loving couple back together, in grief, but also in closure!

Downton Abbey can be seen Sunday nights at 9pm on ITV1/ITV1 HD.