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Death strikes Downton Abbey this week, and the result is devastating. There are other plot developments to discuss, though admittedly they feel much less important. Anna continues to look into Bates’s case, putting the pieces together to determine that his ex-wife baked poison into her own pie to frame Bates for her suicide. The key now is to get the neighbor to testify without her finding out it would free Bates. Mrs. Crawley hires Ethel to help her around the house, which causes Mrs. Bird to quit for fear of contaminating her image. The kitchen is full of unrequited love - Daisy likes Alfred, Alfred likes Ivy, and both Ivy and Thomas like Jimmy. Who knows how that will all play out.
Now, for the more important and much more depressing developments of the episode. Though the family has always received medical care from Dr. Clarkson, Lord Grantham expresses his doubts in Dr. Clarkson’s capabilities, and decides to bring in a doctor named Sir Philip for a second opinion. Sir Philip specializes in childbirth and quickly achieves authority on Sybil’s pregnancy and impending birth, and Lord Grantham puts complete faith in his opinion. Many others in the family, including Cora and Lady Mary, express their concern for leaving Dr. Clarkson in the dark and not allowing him to make any decisions about the process – he has known the girls their whole lives, after all.
Tom is ultimately the one who has to decide whether to take Sybil to the hospital for a C-section, as advised by Dr. Clarkson, or allow the birth to continue naturally, per Sir Philip’s suggestion. Lord Grantham bullies Tom into following Lord Philip’s advice, while Cora continues to express her concern. For a moment, all appears to be well as the baby is delivered and Sybil is left to rest.
Shortly after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, Sybil begins to have fits and seizures, eventually goes into shock, and dies. The scene is heart wrenching as the whole family gathers around Sybil’s bed and realizes nothing can be done to save her. The episode ends with an equally depressing shot of Tom, looking out a window while cradling his newborn child.
Cora blames her husband for his poor decision-making, and says that Sybil would still be alive were it not for him. Violet, just as devastated as the rest of the family, has sage advice for her son. She tells him that everyone looks for a person to blame in a tragedy, and Cora has chosen him. Lord Grantham says this may be true, but there is a reason for Cora’s anger. As an audience, we are used to dramatic tension week after week, but this episode has a particularly lasting effect. We could not feel more sad for Sybil, Tom, her family, and the baby she will never know.