RECAP: A Tragic End to DOWNTON ABBEY's Season 3
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Through the misty valleys and across the glimmering lochs, the earnest wail of the bagpipe pierces the morning air. "Welcome to the Highlands," Cora teases as Robert rolls over miserably in bed and pulls a pillow tightly over his ears.
The finale of Downton Abbey Season 3 picks up a year later and finds the Crawley family in Scotland at Duneagle Castle, the home of Shrimpy and Susan MacClare and their daughter Rose. This annual trip had been put off for a number of years but the family finally reunites for hunting, fishing, picnicking, and of course reeling at the ghillies' ball.
Just as Dr. Ryder had predicted, Mary and Matthew were finally able to conceive and now she is eight months into her pregnancy. All of the men in her life, Matthew, Robert, and Carson, are concerned that the trip might be trying for her, but Mary, being her irrepressible self, insists on joining the family in all of their activities.
As we get acquainted with the hosts of the house, it becomes apparent why Rose has an inclination toward the rebellious. Surrounded by animosity, it is no wonder she is constantly in search of a way out. Shrimpy and Susan's marriage is in a shambles. At the root of their marital problems is the fact that the two simply "don't like each other", compounded now by their disagreements on how to raise their daughter. His wife's incessant nagging drives Shrimpy to exasperation and his daughter to tears. Rose escapes dinner one evening to calm herself with a cigarette and is startled to run into Anna and Bates (or as they're called in Scotland, Mr. Grantham and Miss Crawley), and asks that they don't giver her away. The couple rubs some of their delirious happiness off on the distraught teenager and cheers her with abetment and a mint. To thank her for her kindness, Rose agrees to give Anna reeling lessons to prepare for the forthcoming ghillies' ball, a secret the two keep from the rest of the family and the servants.
In the end, the MacClares decide that Rose would do best living with the Crawleys. With Shrimpy taking a post in Bombay, they believe that the time away from her mother and the influence of the Crawleys would do her good. However, if last week's episode serves as a preview of what is to come next season, we can be sure Rose's antics will bring a new wave of torment for Robert and Cora. It may be especially difficult for them as Rose's rebellious spirit stirs up memories of Sybil in Cora. But Rose also has a softness to her, and her eagerness to bulldoze into the future should breath new life into Downton.
As miserably unhappy as they are, no one can accuse the Marquess and Marchioness of Flintshire of being ungracious hosts. They are even good enough to welcome Edith's editor, Michael Gregson, into their home. Far less willing to accept the man is Mary, who is unconvinced of his motives. She sees through his cover of a "sketching holiday", suspecting that the true purpose for his visit to Scotland is to meet the family and perhaps to propose to Edith. She sets her husband on the case. While fly-fishing, Matthew uncovers Michael's knotty past and much to the editor's dismay, encourages him to abandon his quest for Edith's heart. But it is too late. He has already confessed his love to her and she now seems determined to keep him in her life.
Robert's time at Duneagle is enjoyable, but more importantly, it puts his life into perspective. Seeing the tension between Shrimpy and Susan gives him a newfound respect for his marriage to Cora. He also finally realizes that his decision to modernize truly saved his estate. At first he is jealous of Shrimpy and revels in the tradition of the house- the ghillie speak, the stalking, even the kilted bagpiper impresses him when he's not piping him awake. But when he learns that Duneagle is on its last legs, he is stricken by the fact that Downton may have met a similar fate had it not been for Matthew. In the end, he finds himself more grateful than ever for his heir, his wife, his family, and for Downton, and he longs to return.
At Downton, Carson has the remaining staff working as hard as ever. The footmen set to work polishing the family's silver while the maids take the opportunity of an empty house to do an extensive cleaning of each room. The staff longs for at least a brief respite from their duties, so when they are all invited to a fair in Thirsk, they plead with Carson for an afternoon off to attend. They are invited by Jos Tufton, a new supplier to the Downton kitchen. Tufton is mainly after the attention of Mrs. Patmore and asks for "the honor of squiring [her] through the day". Dr. Clarkson also seems to have "squiring" on his mind. When he learns about the fair from Mrs. Hughes, he asks Isobel to accompany him and she accepts.
Branson also agrees to go to the fair, though he struggles with the decision. Having been left behind as the only member of the family in the house, he grapples with his new identity more than ever. The arrival of a new maid, Edna, in particular makes him question his position. Edna finds herself attracted to Tom and knowing his history as a chauffeur, feels that she is his equal. Determined to make him feel the same, she constantly pressures him to return to his roots. Tom wishes to prove he is "still the same man inside" (perhaps more to himself than anyone else) and agrees to drive the staff to Thirsk for the fair.
On the day of the fair all is well at first. The staff lets loose and enjoys the games and attractions of the event. It seems that the year has mended fences between Daisy and Ivy and the two are inseparable as they walk the fairgrounds. Mrs. Patmore arrives in a new frock and looks for her "fancy man" at his stall. When she finds him, she is charmed by Mr. Tufton's larger than life personality and his declaration that "he loves to be in love".
But Mrs. Hughes is wary of the man's advances. Throughout the day, she sees him flirting with, groping and kissing various other women while Mrs. Patmore isn't watching. She also has her eye on Edna and Branson. Her suspicions were peaked by Edna's behavior back at the house. She refused to stand when he entered a room and spoke to him as an equal. At the fair she latches on to him to walk arm in arm and grabs him to steady herself on the carousel. Mrs. Hughes recognizes in her the same flaws that once led Ethel to her demise.