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B*tch Ranking "Downton Abbey": "Why, God, Why?!" Edition

By Joanna Robinson | TV Reviews | January 28, 2013 | Comments ()


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In lieu of a standard recap, we'll be doing a Monday morning b*tchcap for the rest "Downton Abbey"'s run on PBS. Although many of you have somehow seen the rest of Season 3 already, I'll ask that you refrain from spoiling any Americans in the comments section below. So please feel free to discuss everything up to and including Season 3, Episode 4 of the PBS version of "Downton Abbey." But, before you do, here are this week's b*tch rankings.

Due to the tragic nature of last night's episode, Dustin suggested I do a grief-cap. But my heart is blacker than his. So b*tchcap it is. Nonetheless, I hope you have your tissues ready.-JR

5. Daisy: Daisy's being fairly harsh on the pretty new kitchen maid. All for the love of Edwardian Landry. While her bitchiness is somewhat understandable, she forgot the first rule of Downton: Kitchen Hos over Footmen Bros.
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4. Mrs. Bird: Cousin Isobel's cook didn't show much sisterly love either in refusing to work with Prostitute Ethel. It's almost as if she'd never heard of the "Heart Of Gold" trope. The upshot? Her bitchiness allowed for some classic Cousin Isobel zingers.
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3. Vera Bates From Beyond The Grave: I know, I know, we've all lost interest in Inmate Bates, but it's worth noting that his ex-wife was so evil, she committed suicide to frame him for murder. Emily Thorn take note, that's commitment to revenge.
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2. Eclampsia: Were you shocked? Did any of you manage to make it all the way into this episode unspoiled? If so, did the Death Puddy by Max Factor they slathered on Sybil's face at the start of the episode tip you off that all might not go well? If not, and you were caught completely off-guard, then my condolences. This must have been rough. P.S. Matthew's face is a perfect study of emasculated helplessness.
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1. Lord Grantham/Sir Phillip:
After a refreshing morning of quashing his middle daughter's hopes and dreams...
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Lord Grantham and Sr Phillip teamed up to, well, let's just say murder the youngest, cutest, sweetest Lady in the household. You can chalk their actions up to medical ignorance of the time, or poor Dr. Clarkson's spotty track record, but I'm going to attribute it to snobbish, old-fashioned patriarchal bullsh*t. Well done, gents. Well done. Lord Grantham, I shouldn't be surprised if you were sleeping in the doghouse for a long time.
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Best Line:
"If there's one thing I'm quite indifferent to, it's Sir Philip Tapsell's feelings."

Most Heartbreaking Moment:
It's a tie between this:
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And this:
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Best Dressed: Lady Mary, I guess. It was interesting that the Crawley family kept it formal, even as they were keeping vigil in the birthing room.
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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Kathleen Allen

    sometimes spoilers are a blessing. watched this over thanksgiving with my cousin who had just lost his wife the year before to an infection resulting from surgery. by the time it registered in my brain that sybil was dying, it was too late. sitting on that couch watching that gut wrenching scene play out; we all just sat there in shock. didn't help that his wife and sybil look very similar. true to our english heritage we said not a word for the entire episode. just me damning mr fellowes under my breath.

  • Midwest55

    I'm loving the creepy, "oh sh*t" peeping Lord G is doing in the background during the 4th frame of Sybil's Exorcist audition. What a turd.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    The Bates prison conspiracy confuses me. Who are the prison guard and his roommate in all this, why do they care?

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I'm also wondering why they've turned Lord Grantham into an unlikeable asshole. Hugh Bonneville comes across as a very warm and sympathetic character in everything I've seen him in but his character has made an abrupt personality change from caring lord of the manor to haughty knows-best-and-won't-listen-to-anyone-else pompous prick that's always in a high dudgeon about things he perceives as improprieties. I'm getting tired of his histrionics.

  • SeaKat Stabler

    While we're still talking about this:

    "Every minute, at least one woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth – that means 529 000 women a year. In addition, for every woman who dies in childbirth, around 20 more suffer injury, infection or disease – approximately 10 million women each year." --World Health Organization

    One woman. Every minute.

    It's horrifying.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Pregnancy is horrifying, it's a parasitic growth that sucks the vitality from your ever increasingly tired and weak body. Not that I'm neurotic about it or anything. But yeah, it's surprising that child bearing is still so deadly. Maybe marsupials have it right, birth it tiny and then let it develop in your pouch.

  • John W

    Wait who died.....?

  • mswas

    "The upshot? Her bitchiness allowed for some classic Cousin Isobel zingers. "

    Isobel was in rare form in that scene. Excellent!

  • Kala

    The second Dr. Clarkson said that Sybil had problems, I knew that was the end of her. Part of me feels that the death is cheap manipulation courtesy of the writers. Then damn Thomas had to break down and start crying, which is when my tears started flowing. But oh my gosh, when the Dowager Countess walked away from Carson and faltered, I broke. Fucking broke. For the first time on the show, all of her years looked like they caught up with her, and she looked truly elderly for the first time.

    Yeah, it's manipulation, but there were too many amazing moments for me to keep a grudge for long.

  • chanohack

    I can't abide the grieving elderly. Especially men, for some reason (which is why Doctor Who's Wilf fucking destroys me every single time), so a teary-eyed Carson was heart wrenching, and add to that a frail-seeming Violet, who, as you said, has never once seemed vulnerable before. Maybe it is a tactic, but goddamn is it effective. We're lucky Carson and Granny aren't usually emotional.

  • ceejeemcbeegee

    The ONLY time I felt bad for Thomas. I call that a successful ep.

  • KatSings

    http://primetime.unrealitytv.c...

    THIS killed me. Cause it wasn't enough that I had cried at everything else people have listed here. They ended on THAT and I died a little inside. Sybil was my favorite. I didn't have this spoiled, and while I think I knew from the ep's opening, I was in such a state of denial about it, that up until her seizures I was yelling "NO, NO THAT IS NOT WHERE THIS IS GOING DAMMIT" and praying for a better outcome.

  • E-Money

    Agreed. This moment was a killer. Poor Branson surrounded by these uppity bitches without even his lovely wife to be a buffer. Sybil and Tom were pretty much the last characters I liked on this show. Everyone is getting shit on this season. That's all, just shit on!

  • chanohack

    Carson's conversation with Violet was what finally did me in. So sad. She was my favorite. But I'm also angry, for a totally selfish reason; since I am not interested in Cousin Matthew and Jimmy the new footman, I looked to Lady Sybil and Tom as eye candy, and that's spoiled. SIGH.

    Best line: "The decision lies with the chauffeur."

    Who wants to bet O'Brian will make this list next week? Because it is so going down.

  • mswas

    Quite effective to have the staff in the kitchen all standing around in their robes, etc. just silent, having heard the news.

  • Kballs

    Mrs. Kballs got pre-eclampsia with the twins and she was completely fucking miserable. Now no more little 'balls will be birthed in this lifetime . . .

  • prairiegirl

    That is sad to hear. I'm assuming (and hoping) everyone was OK in the end. My friend had pre-eclampsia, which turned to HELPP and she almost died. Terrifying what can go wrong. . .

  • Kballs

    She's fine. The c-section was a bastard as she started hyperventilating and losing her shit, forcing me to hold her down and say absolutely anything to calm her. That was scarier than the pre-eclampsia.

  • Return of Santitas

    I managed to go into this unspoiled; I was barely even paying attention to the actual episode and didn't even register all the eclampsia arguments at the beginning. So I was totally shocked when Sybil started screaming and convulsing and her neck did THAT THING. God, poor Sybil. Why, Fellowes, why?????

  • I’m going to attribute it to snobbish, old-fashioned patriarchal bullsh*t.

    Yeah me too. Sumbitches. HAAAAAATE. Grrwarrrrrrr! *frowny face*

    Also, that death scene wasn't the least bit 'genteel lady dies genteely'. It was brutal. Gahh. *cries again*

  • katy

    I managed to watch this last week, and it took everything I had not to say a word about it until now. The only consolation I could find was reading news bits from the UK written the day after this episode was aired for them. It helped a little. I was completely blind going into it so it was a Huge Shock. I can't remember the last time I cried so much to a TV show or movie, like, full on tissue box on one side of me, pile of used tissues on the other. This post just made me tear up again too. Why Downton, why??

  • E-Money

    Same. I watched the whole season as it premiered in the UK. And it is NOT fun to watch people go through the same emotional journey/death march I took 3 months ago. Ugh it's just like reliving it. My mom new something shitty was up last night when I refused to watch the episode with her.

  • bonnie

    The one bright moment while watching came when my husband shouted, "It's not YOUR vagina!" at Lord Grantham. Otherwise, I was curled up in anger, and then fits of sobbing.

  • BWeaves

    1. Will somebody please knife Bates and put us out of his misery?

    2. I'm beginning to really love Thomas.

    3. I was perplexed how Sybil could wear that gorgeous blue silk nightie and not get a drop of sweat, collostum, milk, blood, spit or vomit on it, all the while with sweaty wet hair and face and thrashing around.

    4. Apparently Matthew's spine still hasn't healed as he still can't stand up to Lady Mary.

    5. I don't understand how Cora could smile while talking to her dead daughter.

    6. What is the deal with Ethel's mouth? Does she have some huge cold sore that they keep covering up?

    7. And I can't believe Lady Mary shot down Lady Edith's attempt at making up at their dead sister's bedside. At least Lady Edith is growing. Lady Mary braked at "married the heir, bitch wins."

    8. Did Fellowes get the Eclampsia idea from watching "Call the Midwife?"

  • Ren

    Eclampsia could be very common back then. It wasn't caught often. It was the midwifery initiative that really led to being able to catch preeclampsia early (all of the regular blood tests and urine samples helped significantly).

    Preeclampsia nowadays, if left untreated can develop into Eclampsia. It can affect 1 in 10 women. I have known five women recently who gave birth, two had preeclampsia and it damn near killed them.

    Birth was and still is very difficult.

  • Kala

    That smile made chills go down my spine. I think that moment was Cora's mind dancing on the edge of madness. Sybil was certainly everyone's baby, but out of Cora's children, she was her favorite. Breeding is what's keeping Cora in the realm of sanity, but man, I actually shrank back in my chair when Mary was about to shut the door and Cora says, "Tell your father he can sleep in the drawing room."

  • SeaKat Stabler

    I agree. Did you notice the eye twitch? She was teetering on the verge of madness. It was REALLY effective.

    And yeah. Lord Grantham is going to get frozen out for a LONG time. I'm vindictively glad.

  • ceegeemcbeegee

    I don't think that was a smile of happiness but one that finally understood that Sybil knew she was going to die, and a smile that said she agreed to have Tom and the baby's back at all times.

  • katy

    I wondered the same about Cora when she was talking to dead Sybil. But I thought she did a great job showing just how rigidly their lives are governed by strict social rules and etiquette, even in times of tragedy and sorrow. It was awful to see how little control she had over every part of the situation, except being able to shut her husband out of their bed in the aftermath. The show has mentioned a few times before that divorce is out of the question for people of their standing, and this is surely going to put that to the test.

  • SeaKat Stabler

    I just have to say Sybil's neck during the convulsions looked crazy. CRAZY. Like, not human anymore.

  • Patty O'Green

    I KNOW! I was literally screeching, and I started to worry that the actress was actually dying.

  • petitesuissesse

    The streaming paused at a weird convulsion moment and her neck looked exactly like a penis. I know it's wrong, but that's what it looked like. It kind of ruined the moment. Poor Lady Sybil and her penis neck.

  • DominaNefret

    Thomas breaking down is what really did me in. I had managed not to cry until that point, but then I lost it.

  • Morgan_LaFai

    Me as well. I was holding it together until then, but damn, that moment hurt.

  • prairiegirl

    I thought for sure you were going to have Lady Mary's exchange with Edith at Sybil's bedside in here. I thought that was the bitchiest moment of the night by far. Poor Edith is trying to express an ounce of compassion to the remaining sister she has left and all Mary can do is say is basically, "No, I think I'll still hate you." You just lost your baby sister and you can't pretend for even a moment contemplate that perhaps this will bring you and your middle sister a tiny bit closer?

    Maggie Smith walking into the house and crossing that room just about killed me. Also, Elizabeth McGovern was amazing at Sybil's bedside. Her very best acting of the series by far. And I know it was a different time and women had their place and all, but don't you think as a mother who gave birth several times herself Lady Grantham would have put her foot down when things started to go badly and tell the men, "You've never given birth. This is not how it goes under normal circumstances. Help my daughter NOW."

    Lastly, the two doctors standing from afar while the poor girl was convulsing, doing absolutely NOTHING made me want to scream and throw things at the television. They could have at least pretended to do something, even if it was hopeless.

  • ceejeemcbeegee

    Yeah, when my dad died two years ago, I asked my sis the same thing, "Maybe we should work on being closer?" Her reply was, "Meh." Bitch.

  • chanohack

    I'm sorry your sis is a bitch. :(

  • birdgal

    I literally said 'Geez, Mary, way to ruin the moment' at my TV screen when she said that to Edith. Come on Fellowes, can't there be SOME character development on this show?

  • KC

    I was spoiled at the beginning of the season. So basically I'm not watching any of the episodes until I can deal with Lady Sybil's death. LOL I just can't watch it until I am desensitized! I'm a weirdo, I know!

  • roodle

    i went in completely unspoiled and it was damn rough to watch. Total shocker.

  • Pretty heavily telegraphed, in a continued illustration of a lack of finesse by the writing talent. It was very sad plot turn, and some of the responses very more effective than the event itself. The Dowager continues to be resistant to bad writing, maybe she is just enough dowager to ignore words that fail. And oh, Thomas, your pending fall has become simultaneously less fun and more tragic by having seen a shred of humanity sneak out of that starched facade.

    I find I must continue my crusade against the bad writing, and I cannot let go the mention of a near-win on the Matthew-Lord Grantham falling out that is looming over their views on managing the estate. Matthew and Murray were leaning into a space that may could have allowed for some gracious, respectful conversation between the patriarchs about how to best utilize the assets, only for Mary to continue to be drawn as a non-human character. Her bludgeoning of Matthew and his complete lack of spine in response makes me want to suggest Shakespeare was only half right and offer a friendly amendment, "First, let's kill all the lawyers and ham-fisted writers."

    Caricature does not enhance this series.

  • PaddyDog

    I totally agree on the writing. JF must have had a lot of help on Gosford Park because it's just impossible that the same person wrote both that and DA. Worst of all I used to like Brendan Coyle but the Bates-Eyeore character has ruined him for me as an actor forever. Everyone was upset with me when I wanted him to hang right after the trial, but I remind you that if he did we wouldn't have to deal with these endless boring prison scenes.

  • mswas

    I didn't know she was going to die but when she told her mother to fight for Tom and the baby, I knew it. Couldn't watch it with the sound on, just too awful.

  • Uncle Mikey

    What. The. Fuck.

  • Tinkerville

    Well thanks a lot for including those gifs. Now I'm crying all over again. Even though I went into this season unspoiled, I knew she was going to die at the beginning of the episode. That didn't stop be from bawling like a baby when it happened though..

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