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This Is The Least Realistic Storyline In Downton Abbey

With its historical setting, prime-time airing, and award-winning performances, it is easy to forget that ITV's "Downton Abbey" is a soap opera. For six seasons, the Crawley family and their staff dealt with a near endless cavalcade of tragedy, scandal, and intrigue. And much like many prime-time soaps that preceded it (think "Dallas" and "Knots Landing"), "Downton Abbey" had a few storylines that strained viewers' willing suspension of disbelief. One such "jump the shark" episode occurred early in the series' inaugural season.

The first two episodes of Season 1 serve mostly to introduce viewers to the residents and staff of Downton, as well as set the tone of the upstairs-downstairs dynamic of an early 20th-century English estate. By the third episode, with its core characters fairly well-established, the show dives into a scandal, albeit with some humor, that left many viewers scratching their heads due to its strained plausibility and absence of explanation. 

A late night visit with Lady Mary

The episode begins with the family and staff preparing for the imminent arrival of a Turkish diplomat, Mr. Kemal Pamuk (Theo James). The debonair gentlemen immediately catches the eye of Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) and closeted footman Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier). After Pamuk rejects Thomas' overtures, he agrees to tell no one of the footman's indiscretion if Thomas agrees to bring him to Lady Mary's room after the household has retired for the night.

After Thomas brings Pamuk to Mary's room, the diplomat and the lady engage in some indiscretions of their own. The scene then immediately shifts to a distraught Lady Mary waking maid Anna (Joanne Froggatt) with the news that Pamuk is dead... in Mary's bed. Yes, that's right. The young man, who appeared in perfect health for the first half of the episode, dropped dead during his "visit" with Mary.

When questioned by her mother, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), who Mary and Anna enlist in transporting the body back to Pamuk's room to avoid a scandal, as to the "how" of Pamuk's sudden demise, Mary theorizes that he may have had a heart attack or stroke. And that is the only explanation the show provides the viewers.

Even by soap opera standards, which tend to be pretty loose with maintaining a veneer of practicality, the mostly inexplicable death of an otherwise healthy young character left viewers a bit miffed. The entire situation came off as overly contrived. "Downton Abbey" viewers, however, were apparently willing to overlook the jumped shark and stay with the fledgling show to propel it into international fame.