Do you suffer from Downton Syndrome -- that empty feeling brought on by the lack of new episodes of "Downton Abbey?" Take heart -- the show's third season is in production now. Here's how I see key plot lines playing out in Season Three:
Lady Mary's insistence that Matthew Crawley propose on one knee at the end of Season Two has unforeseen consequences when the spinal injury he sustained in the Great War asserts itself and he becomes frozen in that position. This becomes a major impediment to their happiness, especially when Matthew insists on doing his Jolson impersonation at every opportunity. He becomes embittered when the village children take to calling him "Creepy" Crawley, but the addition of Shirley MacLaine to the cast holds out the possibility of another miracle cure for Matthew, this one involving some mumbo jumbo about crystals.
New evidence proves conclusively that Lord Grantham's valet, Mr. Bates, really did murder his first wife, and several other women too, but he escapes the hangman's noose and flees to America. There he marries a deeply unstable woman and opens a small hostelry called the Bates Motel, where his legacy of horror will fester and grow.
Sir Richard Carlisle, the self-made newspaper magnate, finds himself embroiled in a phone scandal: his reporters have been calling up Buckingham Palace and asking if they have Prince Albert in a can. Pilloried by rival newspapers, his position severely weakened, he is unable to produce the sensational headlines he promised exposing the Lady Mary-Mr. Pamuk affair. The best he can manage is a single panel in the Katzenjammer Kids comic strip.
Living in Dublin, Lord Grantham's son-in-law and former driver Branson joins the Irish Republican Army. Because of his experience as a chauffeur, his role is limited to driving and maintaining the IRA's extensive fleet of getaway cars. Worse, while on a job his compatriots expect him to get out and hold the car door open for them when they come running out to make their escape. Eventually the IRA expels him for honking the bulb horn too much while evading the authorities. Desperate to provide for his wife and child, he turns to dealing in black market hood ornaments, and is ultimately arrested by the Royal Irish Constabulary for stealing hubcaps.
Mr. Carson, the butler, experiments with the ouija board in the servants' quarters and is astonished to receive messages from Harry Houdini, an acquaintance from his days as a music hall performer. This otherworldly contact is particularly uncanny because at the time Carson receives the messages, Houdini isn't dead -- in fact, he is at the peak of good health and enjoying a sold-out European tour. Nevertheless, through the planchette the great Houdini shares the secret of the classic Milk Can Escape, which enables Carson to avert a tragedy at a local dairy farm later in the season.
In his probationary period as Lord Grantham's new valet, the shiftless footman Thomas continues his sneak-thief ways by systematically pilfering the silverware. Eventually it dawns on Lord Grantham that the family has been eating meals with their fingers for weeks because there isn't a single piece of cutlery to be found. The matter is cleared up when Isis, Lord Grantham's faithful Yellow Lab, leads her master to the guilty party. Always one to reward loyalty, Lord Grantham dismisses Thomas and makes Isis his new valet instead.
The family grows concerned when the Dowager Countess, Violet Crawley, complains of headaches and dizzy spells, but Dr. Clarkson attributes her symptoms to severe eyestrain brought on by seven decades of looking down her nose at everyone.
The wounded soldier from Season Two who claimed to be Patrick Crawley, the rightful heir to the Grantham estate, returns to throw the succession into doubt. The family believes that Patrick was lost when the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, but the soldier insists that he is Patrick and that he survived the disaster. This time his claim is give more credence when he produces a chunk of ice to corroborate his story. He is ultimately exposed as a fraud -- he is, in fact, the coward who escaped the Titanic dressed as a woman. This comes to light when Lord Grantham chances upon the soldier voguing in the gown the Dowager Countess wore for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee -- something the real Patrick only did on Boxing Day.
The simmering hostility between Lady Grantham and Isobel Crawley finally erupts at an elegant St. Swithin's Day garden party, where a disagreement over a flower arrangement leads to cross words, then bitch-slapping, and finally a hair-pulling eye-scratching full-on cat fight in a manure pile.
On a visit to Falmouth Harbour, Lord Grantham accepts a dare to jump over the foredeck of the famous clipper ship Cutty Sark on water skis. This outrageous plot development will come to be known as "jumping the Sark."
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