What Happens in Downton Abbey Season (Series) 3 Plots, Storylines and Spoilers
Downton DVD and Blu-ray
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Season 3: Brilliant but Sometimes Gloomy! Whatever happened to the Charleston and the Roaring 20s?
Downton Abbey is an award winning British TV Drama written by Julian Fellowes, the chap who wrote the screenplay for the movie Gosford Park.
Here you'll find out what really happens and what might have happened in Season 3. This includes the 2012 Christmas Special (100 minutes). Note that this Christmas Special isn't set at Christmas, just screened on Christmas day in the UK.
So When did Season 3 start? Episode 1 (90 minutes long) was screened Sunday 16th September 2012 in the UK and will be shown on Sunday January 6th 2013 on PBS in the USA. This series is set in the 1920s with the first episode being set in 1920 and covering a period of about 18 months.
Endless rumours have done the rounds. For example that Maggie Smith wants out after season 3 and may be 'written out' at some point. That Matthew and Mary would marry in season 3 (they did). Also that there would be a funeral - now we know who it is. Excuse me while I grab a hankie - the memory of Sybil's passing still haunts me (oh what a giveaway!). Finally there is a shock ending to the Christmas Special - another key character meets a sudden death.
The problem is some of the younger stars are keen to start a career in the USA, and are therefore not prepared to sign up for Season 4 or 5. Hence the need to suddenly kill off Matthew right at the end of the Christmas Special. More on this later.
Downton is sumptuously filmed and scripted in the best traditions of British costume drama with an all star cast that includes Dame Maggie Smith, Ellie the dog and, for season 3, Shirley MacLaine.
Downton has been sold to 100 countries and has won several UK BAFTA and US Emmy awards. This years Emmy nominations included no less than 16 for Downton Abbey.
The second series (season) set in the first World War, finished its run in the UK at the end of last year. This was followed by the 2 hour Christmas Special (not surprisingly screened on Christmas Day!).
For fans who can’t wait, then here is what really happens next!
(Be warned that there are plenty of spoilers ahead)
The Real Plot and a Synopsis of Series 3
Lady Sybil Crawley, the youngest daughter of the Earl of Grantham, the one who dressed as a nurse throughout the Great War, has confounded her family by marrying the Crawley family Irish chauffeur, Tom Branson. The Christmas special reveals that they are living in Ireland and Lady Sybil is pregnant.
Episode 1 sees Tom and Sybil return to Downton for Mary's wedding. Cue awkward encounters between Tom and the rest of the family.
We also find out that Violet, of all people, paid the fare for the couple to attend Mary's wedding while Matthew is so supportive of Tom that he invites him to be Best Man at his wedding to Mary. However, the person most hostile to Tom is Downton's greatest snob, Carson.
Episode 2 finds Mary and Matthew returning from their honeymoon in France. The pace of the show is incredibly fast. Subplots, like Edith's on/off relationship Sir Anthony, begin and end in minutes.
This season, 'bad' Lady Mary has returned, thankfully with her fabulous eyebrows and gorgeous 1920s clothes. The Mary obsessed with keeping Dowton going at all costs and giving Matthew (and his principles) a tough time. Lets hope they bring back 'nice' Mary soon who is kind to servants and loaded with oodles of compassion (not to mention passion)!
Episode 3 Gave us Edith jilted at the altar and Episode 4 was mostly gloomy with grim prison scenes, a persecuted prostitute (Ethel), Tom on the run from Ireland leaving poor Sybil behind.
On a lighter note we did have a handsome new footman and a new kitchen maid and Mrs Hughes scandalised poor Carson with her electric toaster (No, I'm not making this up). Letters were a positive theme. Bates and Anna suddenly got a sack full (from each other) and Edith got one published in a newspaper demanding votes for women. Carson and Lord Grantham not pleased!
Tom, with a chip on his shoulder against the British, the size of a large potato, will decide to buy up the local pub in Downton, live their with his Catholic daughter and turn it into a music hall in order to humiliate the Crawley clan.
When she hears the scandalous news of the music hall over dinner, The Rt Hon The Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley murmurs,
“A music hall! Dear God tell me its not true. Lets be thankful poor Sybil didn't live to find herself performing on the stage!”
Carson the Butler, normally implacable, visibly winces and stumbles, nearly dropping the port, at the painful thought of the lovely aristocratic Sybil disporting herself on a stage in front of the local proletariat.
Carson is particularly sensitive to the humilation of being a music hall performer as in series 1 we find out Carson himself walked the boards in a double act known as the 'Cheerful Charlies'.
Carson's ex stage partner comes to Dowton to blackmail Carson but Lord Grantham sends him packing. (Please note I didn't make this up, it really happened!).
Latest news: More Gloom! Once again Julian Fellowes missed an opportunity for a great plot. In Julian's Episode 5 he bolsters the idea that people die young at Downton by slaughtering the lovely Sybil.
First it was that good looking young Turkish Diplomat (Mary killed him with her passionate nature), Lavina (Spanish Flu and a broken heart) and now Sybil (Chlamydia or was it Eclampsia?). Lets not forget young William, I almost did, the footman who died at Downton (war wounds).
Interestingly the below stairs mortality rate is much better in spite of lots of hard 'graft' and lack of sophisticated medical care. I still think Tom will open his music hall and maybe get Edith on the stage (Violet hinted this when she heard that Edith had been invited to write a regular column in a national newspaper, 'The Sketch'.)
Episode 6 is still gloomy (because of Sybil) but it appears Bates is finally to be freed and Ethel (former maid then hooker) cooks a nice lunch for the Downton Ladies (including Violet) at Isabel's house.
Poor old Robert (permenently in a bad mood) urges the ladies to withdraw at once in order to avoid a scandal but Violet remarks that Ethel's gateau looks far to nice to leave uneaten (Maggie Smith still gets all the best lines!)
Episode 7 sees Bates out (of prison) hurray! And Thomas also out (not hurray) but outed as gay. He kisses the sleeping Jimmy who is not pleased when he wakes up. Carson is even less pleased. Edith meanwhile spreads her wings, against her father's wishes, and flies to London to meet her editor. He invites her out to dinner (nice!)
Episode 8 is a full 90 minutes
This episode drags on a bit but we finally see the naughty side of the 1920s through the eyes of Rose, an 18 year old relative of the family who sneeks off to London, has an affair with a married man and is discovered in a Jazz club with her lover by Matthew, Mary and friends.
Bates surprisingly tries to save Thomas from jail and the whole season ends with a Cricket Match. Cricket is not easy for an international audience to understand. What with 'Silly Mid Off' and 'Bowling a Maiden Over' cricket is not at all accessible to most English people let alone to those from North America!
Christmas Special 2012
There's a lot to cover. Please try to keep up. NOT set at Christmas (ie no engagements in the snow or Mrs Patmore's mince pies and plum duff). The family head for the Highlands - deer hunting, fishing, bagpipes galore and a gillies' ball. Anna learns to dance a reel, naughty Lady Rose is to live at Downton and Mary is heavily pregnant. Thomas rescues Jimmy from being beaten up by some Yorkshire thugs at the local fair but gets a good beating himself. (most of the staff are left behind at Downton).
As a result Jimmy and Thomas are now good friends (but not lovers) and Thomas shows he is made of the 'right stuff'. Mrs Patmore nearly gets engaged as do the good doctor and Matthew's mother. Edith's editor 'bumps into her' in Scotland and although he is warned off by Matthew, Edith decides to keep him (good for her!).
Mary returns to Yorkshire and has the baby - everything is set for a perfect ending. Matthew leaves the hospital in his fast sportscar and drives in a blissful daze along narrow country roads at high speed.
Cue violet who remarks that you never know in life what might be around the next corner.
Meanwhile we see a Trademan's van heading in the opposite direction along the twisty road towards Matthew.
"No, No," we cry, "Not another young Downton life snuffed out!". But the script has been written and we find poor Matthew obviously dead next to the twisted wreckage of his sportcar.
If only he had signed up for season 4 all would be well and poor Mary would have had a life of contentment and wedded bliss.
Ode to Kemal Pamuk
Mary had a little lamb She also had a Turk Sadly he passed away Before they got to work or, if you prefer: Mary had a big surprise A visitor in the night Sadly Kemal passed away So no more Turkish Delight Anon
Lady Mary and Matthew and what might have been
Lady Mary Crawley, the Earl’s oldest daughter listens in shocked silence to the dreadful news about her sister and the music hall. But Mary's thoughts are really elsewhere.
Mary’s alabaster face betrays no clue as to her inner turmoil. Only her moist eyes and the slight quiver of her lips betray her true feelings.
If you remember, Lavinia, Matthew’s fiancé died tragically and unexpectedly of Spanish Flu at the end of series 2. We were supposed think Cora, the Earl’s wife, would be the one to perish, opening the way for the Earl’s affair with one of the maids. You know, the pretty widow who’s name you don’t remember.
Matthew, he who was totally paralysed in the war but was mysteriously restored to health, danced with then snogged the delicious Mary; a lady with oodles of passion hidden beneath her cold exterior and pale complexion.
Mary is a dormant volcano ready to erupt should the right man, for example a Turkish Diplomat, pass her room at the wrong moment (see poem above, right).
Unfortunately, the passionate kiss was observed by poor Lavinia, as she walked down the stairs, who then died of a broken heart (plus the Spanish flu).
Mary was so mortified about her part in Lavinia’s death she once again ignores her true feelings and vows to marry her grasping, manipulative fiancé Sir Richard Carlisle, whom Violet detests because he is middle class and owns newspapers and in her view, is no more than a superior tradesman.
Matthew and Mary Poll
What Do You Think Will Happen?
- 54% They marry early on in season 3 and live happily ever after
- 26% They marry but are separated by the end of season 3
- 13% The engagement is called off and Mary is forced to marry Sir Richard
- 7% Mary marries Carson and Matthew settles for Edith!
This poll is now closed to voting.
I've closed the poll as, at the end of Season 3 we find that the second option, that Matthew and Mary separate at the end of season 3 is the correct one. (Death being a form of separation). 26% of you got this right - well done!
What Michelle and Dan revealed to the press
Michelle Dockery is quoted as saying: “What’s different for us now is we’ve been playing those scenes when so much is unsaid, and it’s all stolen moments. Now they’re finally settled.”
But that doesn’t mean life will be perfect. Michelle adds: “Lady Mary is very happy but they have their teething problems at the start.”
One new twist for the characters, who have been an on-off couple since the start of the first series in 2010, is that they have bedroom scenes. “It doesn’t get pornographic but there’s a newly-wed undercurrent,” Dan Stevens teases.
Matthew and Mary - Christmas 2011
The Christmas special reveals Sir Richard and Mary’s relationship crumbling. Richard demands she sets a date or else he will reveal her ‘Turkish delight’ scandal to the world via his newspaper empire.
Meanwhile, Mary tells her Father the dreadful truth. Mary and Lord Grantham decide she should not marry Sir Richard but move to America to escape the worst of the scandal. Matthew and Richard have a punch up and Richard is sent packing. Mary now only has eyes for Matthew and they dance together at the servant’s ball.
Outside, in the snow, Mary confesses all to Matthew. Matthew says there is nothing to forgive and proposes to Mary, kneeling in the snow.
Their passionate kiss makes a perfect end to the Christmas Special that and knowing that Mary and Matthew are finally engaged (if only life and costume dramas were that simple!).
Matthew and Mary - Season 3
This is where it gets tricky. Two alternative plot lines for Matthew/Mary were discussed and scripted. The first is the more interesting but appears to have been abandoned because it is 'too soapy and not true to the costume drama genre.'
Plot 1: Series 3, episode 1 will find the dastardly Sir Richard visiting Downton once more to talk to Mary. He is still madly in love with her and he has some shocking pictures taken at the British Embassy in Paris 2 years ago.
Mary is distressed. She recalls a game of sardines that went horribly wrong. It began innocently enough with several people squeezing with Mary into the wardrobe of her guest room at the Embassy.
Mary had no idea pictures were taken. Those present appear in the pictures to be in various states of undress and Mary in one appears to be being pleasured by the Dutch ambassador.
Another appears to shows Mary performing an intimate act with the wife of a Brazilian diplomat. The whole thing is being avidly observed by the French Minister for Sport and Recreation.
Mary is shocked as she doesn’t remember the game being half so lewd. However Sir Richard assures her that photographic experts have checked to make sure the pictures are not a fakes.
The upshot is that Richard is still in love with Mary and can’t let her go. He threatens to publish all the Downton scandals in his papers including the shocking photographs.
Mary therefore breaks off her engagement to Matthew knowing that this latest scandal, together with the photos, would be too much for her parents or Matthew to live with (you knew the Christmas episode was too good to be true!)
Matthew, thwarted once more in his quest for Mary, has turned his attentions to a series of bland Lavinia lookalikes. The latest being Lady Silvia, whom he has bought home for the weekend.
Carson the Butler, who has a distinctly over-fond affection for Lady Mary, glares subtly and icely alternately at Lady Silvia and then at Sir Richard, seated next to Mary.
But at this moment, Matthew is daydreaming and recalling the day he and Mary first met. They shared a picnic on the lawn at Downton and Mary had got cream from the strawberries in her hair. Mary laughed as she wiped the cream away, Matthew turned to his Mother and whispered,
"There's Something About Mary"
Plot 2: Is much more conventional. This is where Matthew and Mary are married by the beginning of Episode 2 of the 3rd Series. This plotline had been hinted at by the actors before episode 1 was screened.
During episode 1, Mary and Matthew have a blazing row about money. Matthew makes it clear that should he inherit a fortune via Lavinia (that seems likely) then he won't accept it. Mary points out that Downton may have to be sold (Cora's fortune having been badly invested in railways) unless Matthew accepts the inheritance. It was touch and go if the wedding would go ahead but episode 1 ends with everyone gathering at the church for the wedding.
Later that evening, we see a shadowy dark figure full of menace, stealing into the back entrance leading to the servant’s area.
It is none other than the sinister (but essentially good) John Bates, Lord Grantham's Valet, who was charged with murdering his first wife in the last series. In the The Christmas Special he is found guilty and facing the death penalty, later commuted to life in prison.
Bates, unable to control his feelings for Anna, has escaped from prison. He sneaks into Anna Bates's bedroom (his new wife) for a secret night of passion. This is not entirely true as in Episode 7 Anna collects him from prison in the Gratham chauffeur-driven automobile (I prefer my version).
Meanwhile, Lady Edith (the middle Crawley daughter) finds herself strangely drawn to the new housemaid, Janet Egge.
Season 3 finds Edith still trying to seduce dull but nice Sir Anthony Strallan but it is an uphill struggle. Old Tony has about as much passion as one of Mrs Patmore's dumplings. This lack of enthusiasm for matrimony comes to a head in Episode 3, when old Sir Tony chickens out and leaves Edith standing at the altar!
Poor Edith! She is generally disappointed in love and feels inferior to her prettier sister (remember Sybil is no more!). Meanwhile, Janet is strikingly attractive with strong features and a masterful manner, unusual in housemaids.
She has a way with Edith’s hair and always chooses the right gown to make Edith look her best. Janet also has firm hands and as she dresses Edith she often caresses Edith’s neck and other parts of her anatomy.
Tonight Edith has a slight headache from all the political letters she has been writing to newspapers and Janet kindly massages the back of her neck and her temples in order relieve the discomfort. “You’re very pretty” said the maid, casually.
“No, No I’m so plain compared to my sisters.”
“That’s just the way you’re made to look, said Janet, straying dangerously from the script. “They make you up to look plain but you’re not. To me you’re much more beautiful than your ‘sisters’ and you have fabulous legs!”
Edith is confused by such strange talk by a maid but at the same time deeply flattered. As she rises from the bed, Janet kisses her warmly on the cheek. Without knowing what she is doing Edith returns the kiss, hungrily finding Janet’s sensuous lips.
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Cora and Isabel
Meanwhile downstairs, Isabel Crawley, Mother of Matthew (he who married Mary) is sharing with Cora the Countess, wife to the Earl, how she wishes to start a school at Downton for the wayward village children.
“We’ll teach them in the drawing room, they can dine with family and sleep in the guest bedrooms..”
Cora is having none of it. After all, she spent the entire war with a house full of injured soldiers. She grasps poor Isabel firmly by her collar and, With her Mother Martha Levinson's help (played by Shirley MacLaine), drags Isabel from her chair and propels here to the front door.
Carson opens the door and Isabel is unceremoniously ejected from Downton Abbey. Isabel dusts herself off and decides to help prostitutes instead.
In episode 5 we find Isabel taking in Ethel (ex house maid, not to be confused with posh Edith) as a cook and general help in her own house.
However, Ethel (who has only recently given up prostitution) can't cook. I wonder if Mrs Patmore would make a good hooker? Probably not. Stick to what you are good at, I say.
Edith wakes up in bed. She is very drowsy, naked and recalls a strange, sensuous dream about Janet her maid. She remembers the phrase ’Tipping the Velvet’ then becomes aware of something or someone warm beside her, under the covers.
Later, as Janet dresses Edith, Janet tells her that soon everything will be different. In the 1920’s they will be able to wear short skirts and kiss in public. She talks of the Jazz age and the Charleston and how women will soon have the vote and one day girls will be able to marry each other. How the shortage of men, due to the carnage of the Great War, makes it inevitable that the status of women must change.
These cultural and historical references, whilst helpful to the viewer, confuse poor Edith. However, Edith emerges into the dining room at dinner with a 'cat that got the cream' smile. She is looking forward to an early bedtime and being tucked in by Janet.
Robert, the Earl of Grantham
Meanwhile, Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham (husband to Cora) is returning from London on the train, having saved Downton via Matthew's legacy from Lavinia's Father (I know its all so complicated).
His joy at saving the family pile (thank goodness Mary opened Matthew's letter without his permission!) is multiplied ten-fold when he finds his first class carriage invaded by a noisy party of gorgeous and flirty young women.
Whilst suspecting they don’t have first class tickets, their vivacious personalities and good looks make him decide not to summon the guard.
He soon finds that his fellow travellers are all actresses and are on the way to the village music hall at Downton run by his new son in law, Tom, to perform in the Christmas Pantomime.
The girls produce a bottle of gin that is passed around. The Earl quickly learns the pantomime is Dick Whittington and in turn passes round a bag of acid drops.
“So which one of you girls takes Dick?” he asks innocently, trying to deduce which actress will don thigh boots and cross dress to play Whittington (all part of the weird British theatrical tradition of the 'pantomine' that persists to the present day).
“We all do dearie says the busty blond in the corner,” with a naughty wink, “but not for acid drops!”
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The next day is Mary’s wedding to Sir Richard (plot 1 version). With a heavy heart and accompanied by her Father, Mary is driven to the village church to Marry Sir Richard.
Everyone who is anyone is there but, for Mary, the service passes by like a bad dream. The couple say their ‘I dos’ and the Archdeacon declares Richard and Mary man and wife.
Mary gives Sir Richard a cursory peck on the lips and they walk slowly down the aisle to the muted applause of the congregation.
Suddenly there is the sound of a violent struggle in the porch and a dishevelled, breathless Matthew appears at the church door.
“I object!” he rages angrily, striding down the aisle in riding boots towards the altar.
"Too late!" shouts Sir Richard Carlisle, "we're already married!"
Matthew runs towards Sir Richard, who pushes his new wife aside and draws a 9mm pistol from his pocket. Carlisle strides towards Matthew, his face blazing with anger, aiming the pistol. Suddenly, Carson sticks his leg into the aisle bringing Carlisle crashing down.
Two plain clothes policemen fall on top of Sir Richard, (they were there hoping to apprehend Bates) and lead Sir Richard from the church in handcuffs.
Mary looks lost and confused as Matthew takes her in his arms in front of the altar. There is rising buzz of conversation and exclamations from the scandalised congregation.
Carson moves swiftly to the front of the church and guides Matthew and Mary out through the vestry. He then hands Matthew a handful of coins and points out an Omnibus, due to leave the Post Office in 5 minutes.
Matthew grabs Mary's hand, she hitches her wedding gown above her knees and they sprint for the bus.
Violet and The Earl emerge, running, from the church just in time to see the couple board the bus.
"An Omnibus!" Remarked Violet, dryly. "They could at least have run off in an automobile. I warned you, Robert not to marry an American. See what her Yankee blood has done to your daughters? And why could they not have run away before the wedding?"
"Oh well," she added with a sigh, "at least Edith is free of any scandal."
As the bus draws away, all the passengers turn and stare, open mouthed at the somewhat dishevelled Matthew and the beautiful bride in her ornate wedding dress sitting next to him on the back seat.
The couple grin back like naughty children. Matthew waves through the window in the direction of Violet as the Omnibus picks up speed.
Well that's how the season 3 should have begun. Yes, I know that ending seemed familiar but even writers as good as Julian Fellowes sometimes adapt other writer's plots. By the way, do you know which movie the ending came from?
The Christmas Special was truly gloomy. I had hoped that Julian might somehow bring back poor Sybil but the slaughter of the innocents continues with the untimely death of Matthew. Still we do have a male heir at Downton (Mary's baby). Lets hope there will be at least a few of our favorite characters left by the end of Season 4.
Finally, here is a Downton Abbey Series 3 Trailer I found on YouTube that confirmed my predictions but was not to be).
Season 3 - The Wedding
Downton Abbey, Trailer for Series Three
Downton Series 3 Trailer - Violet discusses Martha during Dinner
Downton Series 3 Trailer - featuring Violet (Maggie Smith) and Martha (Shirley MacLaine)
The Downton Cast Ladies Let Their Hair Down!
Downton Quiz - Spot who plays who in the picture above
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