Downton Abbey recap: People Like Us Are Never Unhappily Married

Cora shuts Robert out after Sybil's death, and it's up to the Dowager Countess to bring them back together
Ep. 05 | Aired Feb 3, 2013

CAN THEY HANDLE THE TRUTH? Robert and Cora are at odds following Sybil's untimely demise, and their marriage hangs in the balance.

PBS

When he can't find an ally in Mary, he goes to his mother's, who sets him straight. "If Branson takes her away, to live with him in Liverpool or wherever he comes to rest, presumably it will be his influence that governs her upbringing." You didn't think about that, did you Robert?

But the Dowager Countess also notices the tension between her son and her daughter-in-law. "Robert, people like us are never unhappily married. "What do we do if we are?" he wonders. "Well in those moments, a couple is unable to see as much of each other as they would like," she says. The Dowager is dropping knowledge left and right.

Robert still isn't done trying to mess things up, though. He invites Reverend Travis over for dinner. At the table, Travis lists the many faults (in his mind) of Catholics, while all the Crawleys -- from Edith, Matthew and Mary, to Cora, Isobel and even the Dowager Countess -- attack the Reverend for his prejudiced beliefs. Robert tries to step in with what I'm sure he thinks is the big gun -- how would Sybil feel if her daughter grows up Catholic? Mary quickly shuts him down. "Am I the only one to stand up for Sybil? What about her wishes?" Robert says, presumptuously. "Sybil would be happy for the child to be a Catholic," Mary interrupts. "She said so, to me, on the day she died." Game, set, match, to Team Catholic.

Cora still wants to get in a few jabs at her husband after this revelation. "You are always flabbergasted by the unconventional," and "Not everyone chooses their religion to satisfy Debrett's," she snaps when Robert expresses his disbelief. Game, set, match, Cora.

This exchange does not go unnoticed by the Dowager, who starts scheming to bring them back together. Violet invites Dr. Clarkson over to her home, and asks him to tell Robert and Cora that even he couldn't have saved Sybil. The doctor says he will do his research, but he doesn't want to lie to the couple, "even to ease suffering." "Have we nothing in common?" the Dowager sighs.

Before the Dowager's plan can take hold, Robert gets yet another chance to exhibit his boorish behavior. Isobel invited all the ladies of Downton to her house for lunch. When Robert finds out where they are, he storms into the Crawley house and demands that his wife, daughters and mother leave at once. They are, after all, being served by a prostitute. Cora refuses, and the luncheon continues. He leaves, and slams the door on his way out. That is not childish at all.

Finally, the Dowager asks Cora and Robert to visit her. Dr. Clarkson is there. He says he has come to the conclusion that eclampsia is almost always fatal, and there was little chance that he could have saved Sybil. "When everything was weighed in the balance, I believe that Lady Sybil was going to die," Clarkson says. And with that, Robert takes his wife into his arms, as they both cry. The Dowager, always the face of propriety, politely turns away.

NEXT: An end to the Bates saga


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