Downton Abbey series three, episode six: preview pictures and predictions

We take a look at Sunday's shocking episode of Downton, and make some guesses about what happens next...

Well, what can we say?

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Last week’s Downton came as a bit of a shock… We’d heard rumours that an important member of the Downton clan would be taking their final breath this series, but we certainly weren’t expecting that tear-inducing, emotionally-draning episode. 

What started off as excited chatter about the Abbey’s new arrival soon got more serious when Dr Clarkson and visiting doctor Sir Philip started to disagree about Sybil’s condition. While Sir Philip thought the youngest Crawley sister was merely in the early stages of a normal labour, Dr Clarkson – the family doctor – was concerned that she was suffering from pre-eclampsia and needed to get to a hospital.

Drama ensued and the debate soon turned into a family affair, with a frantic Cora siding with Dr Clarkson while Robert agreed with Sir Philip. 

Moments later – much to our (momentary) relief – calm was restored when Sybil gave birth to a healthy baby girl and all seemed to be well.  But the Crawley’s happiness was not to last. Lady Sybil died later that night while her family helplessly stood around her. 

Heartbreaking good-byes from the members of the Crawley family followed before Violet arrived at the house, unsure on her feet and shrouded in black to tip those dry-eyed Downton viewers over the edge. 

As the episode came to a close Cora declared that she thought Robert was to blame for the death of Sybil – and so ended an hour of tense drama that left lovely Lady Sybil dead, poor Branson all alone and the newest member of the Crawley family without a mother… 

Though somewhat overshadowed by the tragedy, the episode planted the seeds for plenty of other story lines too: Daisy and Ivy sparred in the kitchen; while Thomas dabbled in a spot of flirty clock winding with new footman, O’Brian urged Jimmy to allow his advances; Matthew put his foot in it by discussing management changes with a solicitor house after Sybil’s death; and Cousin Isobel bade farewell to Mrs Bird and employed Ethel as her new housekeeper.

So what’s next? We’ve got pictures of the drama to come this Sunday, so as usual we’ve made some spurious predictions… 

In the aftermath of Sybil’s death, Robert is likely to face some conflict after refusing to listen to Dr Clarkson’s warnings. 

Cora asked him not to sleep in their room at the end of Sunday’s episode and we think we can assume the Earl is still sleeping on the sofa (or the Downton equivalent). He may be feeling a little bit at fault himself, but Cora seems set on making sure he feels wholly responsible for his youngest daughter’s death. 

And while relations between Cora and Robert certainly look strained in this picture, Robert is likely to face opposition from other members of the family in episode six too. With Matthew determined to make some management changes and Branson set on a Catholic christening for his and Sybil’s daughter, the next episode is bound to be a bumpy ride for the Earl of Grantham…

While the Crawley family – and a host of Downton fans – continue to mourn the loss of Lady Sybil, the fight to free Bates carries on…

But who is this shadowy character visiting Mr Murray in his dingy drawing room? 

Perhaps getting Bates out from behind bars is off the agenda and this is actually Mary come to give the solicitor a piece of her mind. This way she can cut out the bumbling middle man (Matthew) and make sure any plans to change Downton come to nothing..?

Or perhaps Downton is sticking with darker plot twists and this imposing figure is the first Mrs Bates risen from the dead? (Now that would be a shock and a half, wouldn’t it?) 

Whoever it is, we’re sensing something a bit suspicious is going on in this dimly lit room. Just how far is Anna willing to go to get Mrs Bartlett to spill the beans about Bates? 

While we are on the subject, Bates (yet again) appears to be doing himself few favours. If you ask us he’s acting a bit like a murderer… Could Anna be going to all this length to free a man who is actually guilty? 

Whether he killed the first Mrs Bates or not, he’s definitely been airing a darker more violent side to his personality of late and we’re not sure we like it.

The Mr Bates we used to know and love would never have been caught in this rather compromising position. Granted, his throat-slitting weapon of choice appears to be a bit of sharpened pencil, but one has to be resourceful behind bars… 

Meanwhile, back at the Abbey – with Alfred hankering after Ivy and staying blind to Daisy’s advances (for the time being, eh, Fellowes?) – it seems an alternative below-stairs romance is on the cards. 

Fingers crossed for a repeat of last week’s rather touchy-feely clock-winding session – maybe Jimmy can be the man to thaw Thomas’s icy exterior?

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that the new footman is that way inclined and Thomas should be wary of his new found friendship. O’Brien promised that something bad would be coming his way… 

With all this death, drama and impending doom, we reckon Downton owes us a little light relief… And fingers crossed Ethel’s escapades will be just the thing to provide it. 

Last episode, kindly old Isobel employed ex-prostitue and awful cook Ethel. But she didn’t consider how hungry she might get once Mrs Bird jumped ship… 

After she burnt and dropped a Kidney Souffle (we think she probably did you a favour, Isobel…) it transpired that Ethel couldn’t even make a proper cup of coffee.  

Irritable looking Isobel is probably ravenous by now and by the looks of things Ethel’s dinner-dropping ways are set to continue this week. Wonder what she’s done this time? Burned the beef, overcooked the offal, spilt the soup… Oh the disastrous culinary possibilities are endless!

Ah… so it appears Ethel’s wisely called for reinforcements.

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It looks as though frosty faced Mrs Patmore has come to her rescue armed with Downton’s best recipes and her well-guarded tricks of the trade – and the fact that Downton’s cook has even stepped foot inside Isobel’s house will be sure to ruffle Carson’s feathers and cause a delightful bit of friction in the kitchen…