A Journey to the Highlands is the final episode of the Third series (season) of the UK-US period drama, Downton Abbey.
This episode focuses on the Crawley's visit to Duneagle in Scotland for a house party, one year after the death of Lady Sybil.
Also, troubles at the abbey include Tom Branson being the object of affection of a scheming housemaid whose object is to make him feel bad about marrying into the gentry, plus a trip to a fair in the nearby town of Thirsk.
This episode would introduce Lily James in the role of Lady Rose MacClare. She was introduced in the previous episode, but she would become a series regular for series four and five. She would also make appearances in the final season.
Also introduced in this episode were Rose's continually battling parents Hugh, Lord Flintshire (Peter Egan), who had been spoken of before, and his wife, Violet's niece, Susan MacClare (Phoebe Nicholls). On the staff side, MyAnna Buring makes her debut as the troublemaking maid, Edna Braithwaite.
This episode also marks the final appearance of Dan Stevens after three seasons in the pivotal role of Matthew Crawley. He would leave the series to move on to other projects. Sadly, in this episode, Matthew is killed in a car accident, not long after the birth of his son, George. Matthew's death would come on the heels of the death of Lady Sybil Branson from Eclampsia. He would be the second major character (after Lady Sybil) to die in the course of Downton Abbey's six series run.
It has been a year since Lady Sybil Branson had died of eclampsia. And due to the loss of Sybil, a usual family trip was put off. This year, the family goes to their yearly trek to Duneagle in Invernesshire, of Scotland, for a ten day visit.
Duneagle is the home of Susan MacClare, her husband, Hugh MacClare, Lord Flintshire, called "Shrimpie", a diplomat for the Foreign office in London; and their only child still at home, Rose MacClare. Rose has two older siblings, James, the new Earl of Newtonmore, and Annabelle. Both James and Annabelle are grown and moved out, with Annabelle married.
The name Shrimpie became affixed to Hugh as he was smaller and as a part of a nursery game with his two older sisters. Agatha was known as a shark (which was understandable, as she could be quite formidable), and Louisa was known as a lobster.
Robert Crawley; Cora Crawley, Lady Mary Crawley; Lady Edith Pelham and Mary's husband, Matthew Crawley, as well as the Dowager Countess, Violet Crawley, go up to Duneagle (Susan is Violet's niece, and Robert's first cousin). However, Tom Branson wasn't invited, for whatever reason, it is not sure. It was presumed that he had work to do as he had been named the new land agent.
Also, appearing is Edith's new publisher and her boss, Michael Gregson, who is staying at a nearby lodging. The usual maids and valets, Anna Smith Bates; her husband, John Bates; lady's maid, Sarah O'Brien; and Matthew's valet, Joseph Molesley are the members of staff who also go to Scotland.
Meanwhile, back at the Abbey, the staff is taking some time to do some extra work. A new maid was recently hired at the Abbey. She is Edna Braithwaite, and she was the replacement of Ethel Parks, who had been sacked after having an affair (and becoming pregnant and having a baby) with a soldier.
Edna, who was clearly one of the most conniving maids that ever slithered through Downton Abbey's doors, has a raging crush on Tom and is doing her best to make him regret his new life and position.
Edna tried to seduce Tom and this caused him to really begin to question his life.
At one point, Tom was so devastated about what had happened that he had to speak to Elsie Hughes, the head housekeeper. So upset was he about what was going on that he started to cry. He was upset about what had happened with Edna, and also because he still missed Sybil so dreadfully. Mrs. Hughes, who had always had a bond with Tom, did her best to comfort him.
Edna had left the abbey, but with a good reference. She would return in the next season as a lady's maid, and when she tried to seduce Tom again, she would again run afoul of Mrs. Hughes. She revealed that Edna was not pregnant, and that she would have gotten pregnant by someone else and tried to pass the baby off as Tom's!
As such, Mrs Hughes told her that if she wanted a reference, or another job during her life, she would not say word one to Cora. Edna agreed albeit grudgingly and she would storm out with her copy of the controversial book, MARRIED LOVE by Marie Stopes.
She would hand in her notice, for good this time, and never come back, stating that she had family troubles. However, she would get some satisfaction by telling off Thomas Barrow by calling him sly, oily and smug. He would retaliate by calling her a manipulative little witch and if her schemes came to nothing then he was delighted.
She would be replaced by Phyllis Baxter, an old friend of Thomas' sister, who would serve as Cora's lady's maid all the way through the remainder of the series' run.
Carson bonds with Sybbie
While Mrs. Hughes, Tom and the rest of the staff are away at the Thirsk Market fair, Charles Carson, the butler, stays behind. While patrolling the gallery, he hears the sound of a baby crying.
He goes into the nursery and hears Tom's daughter, Sybbie Branson, at that time, a one year old infant, crying in her crib and her nanny wasn't anywhere around. He picks up the crying baby and she calms down in an instant. He takes the baby down to the library and she is entranced by the books.
When Mrs. Hughes returns from the fair (which was quite adventuresome, since Thomas was attacked by some nasty townspeople, bravely taking the attack from Jimmy Kent, whom the town toughs would want to attack), she notices how Mr. Carson spent his day more productively by calming and taking care of Sybbie.
Hiding behind his crust, Carson tells her not to be so sentimental. However, he himself couldn't help but feel that way, as he was remembering when her mother, Lady Sybil, was that very age, and he did the same thing, or something similar to it. Mrs. Hughes stated that all they could do now is cherish Sybbie, as it would be a good remembrance of Lady Sybil.
Rose and Shrimpie vs. Susan!
Meanwhile, back at Duneagle, Rose is still having issues with her mother. She and Susan have no liking for one another, and the latter is often criticizing her for her dress, her conduct or mainly anything else (it is presumed that Susan favors her older children over Rose).
At one point, Bates and Anna talk to her, when they see her outside smoking. Rose tells the servants how hard it is with her mother. Her father, Shrimpie, on the other hand, isn't as tough as Susan, and doesn't criticize Rose as much as his wife does.
However, he and Susan have their own issues.
There is talk of divorce, and they don't want Rose to be exposed to the ugliness that they know would occur, due to his high-profile position.
Shrimpie and Susan would eventually convince Robert and Cora to have Rose move in with them at Downton Abbey for a while, as they are planning on moving to Bombay (today called Mumbai), India, where he is to take a job (this would help bring again three girls in the mix, with Rose taking Sybil's place as she was similar in temperament to her youngest cousin).
Meanwhile, back at Downton, Mrs. Beryl Patmore, the cook, meets a man named Jess Tufton, the new grocery distributor. However, he was always flirting with every woman nearby. All he was interested in was her cooking. At first appalled that he would treat her so cavalierly (it had been Mrs. Hughes who had seen him behaving the way he had) she would share a laugh about that with her after they returned. Also attending the fair was Isobel Crawley Grey and Dr. Clarkson, the town's leading physician.
Clarkson wanted to propose marriage, but she felt that she wasn't ready for it. That was made moot however, when Clarkson was called to help Barrow, who had been viciously attacked, protecting Jimmy from assault.
Meanwhlie, back in Duneagle, at the Ghillie's Ball, Molesley gets a drink, a drink which was spiked and he is becoming very uninhibited. He is dancing and having a blast, until he is out of it and is totally asleep. It was revealed that the drink had been spiked by Wilkins, Susan's soon-to-be ex-lady's maid. to get even with O'Brien for taking the favor of Susan away from her.
After Susan criticizes Rose's dress, she is remonstrated against by Shrimpie, who tells her to quit making everyone so bloody unhappy. Shrimpie has Rose go with Violet to get her out of the line of fire.
Violet helps Rose to forget her troubles with her mother by telling her an amusing story about her first ghillies ball that she had ever attended. It had the desired effect of making Rose smile, especially when Violet quipped that every man there was almost a hundred years old!
Unfortunately for Shrimpie, Robert overheard him yelling at Susan. Rose is drinking enough of the punch to kill the most disagreeable of tastes. If it hadn't been clear that Rose and her mother absolutely despise one another, it certainly was evident now!
Meanwhile, during a reel, Mary's begins to go into labor, and she is taken back to Downton. She insists Matthew stays until Molesley is once again able to travel (since he had been passed out)! Once she is admitted into hospital, Isobel sits with her, as the labor is about to begin.
Carson is told that the birth was successful (as he had been worried about a repeat of what could have happened with Sybil happening to Mary). When he passed the message on to Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore, he failed to ask what gender the baby was, to their dismay!
She gives birth to a baby boy who is eventually called George Matthew Crawley. Matthew is thrilled to meet his son, and as such, he goes to his car to drive towards the abbey. After he leaves, Anna comes to see the baby of her mistress. However, unbeknownst to Mary and Anna, while en route to the Abbey, he is quite distracted and he is run off the road by a lorry driver and he flips the car. He is instantly killed.
As such, with Matthew's death, and due to the entailment, baby George becomes the new heir presumptive of the Downton estate.