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If the BBC asks me to write an epilogue to the 3rd season of Downton Abbey, I’m ready. In this 2-hour post-finale episode, the ghost of Lady Sybil will be hugely prominent. Dressed in the same night gown she wore when she perished in a fit of seizures, she sneaks back to retrieve part of her ample wardrobe and abscond with it into the afterlife, but accidently runs into her husband, the Irish republican chauffer Branson, on the stairs. Branson has been secretly going into town clad in tatters to down pints anonymously at local pubs, returning home later to raid the sherry and eventually stumble and belch his way up to bed. Coming upon his beloved (and sheet-white!) Sybil on the stairs really freaks him out, but he keeps telling himself it’s the alcohol talking, it’s the alcohol talking while she explains (unprompted) that she’s come back to snag ball gowns for some parties they are throwing in the afterlife, and no William isn’t involved! Before leaving, she plants a wet one on Branson. She’s real! So he starts making out with her just as Robert comes to the stairs to see what the hell the ruckus is. What does Robert see? Branson making out with the air! “Get hold of yourself, man!” says Robert.
Sybil has evaporated, and Branson jerks his head around and sees what would apparently be the trail of her nightgown disappearing around a corner. And you know what? Cora sees it too! But Robert doesn’t (metaphor? he’s blind!). Cora’s all, “Who was that?” and Branson pushes past her mumbling about needing to barf. Robert gives Cora a hopeful look, and I swear the glare she shoots back just about knocks him on his ass and down the stairs.
In his bedroom, Branson finds a note from the ghost of Sybil saying that she’s going to be coming back now and again to retrieve stuff like tiaras and pretty things, and please try not to be freaked out. The next night Branson gets himself tangled up with half a bottle of Irish whiskey and comes to the dinner table weaving. There are two empty chairs beside him because Matthew and Lady Mary are “under the weather” (yeah, right, wink-wink!) and can’t make it. Sybil materializes in one of the chairs and this time has brought William with her. Robert is speaking but notices Branson staring at an empty space at the table, his eyes wide and jaw slack, and looks over at Edith, who shrugs, and then at Cora, who’s all, “Sybil!” Branson says, “You see her!” She does! But a close up of Cora reveals: she’s out of her mind! During the ensuing silence, where Robert, Edith, The Dowager Countess, and Mr. Carson all look at each other like “What the...?”, Sybil suddenly demands that Branson release her so she can move on with her afterlife, which includes marrying William. Branson’s thinking, You're taking up with the dead second footman?, but he can’t say anything because: a) he’s hammered; and b) he’s speaking to an empty chair.
The rest of this episode pretty much writes itself.