Credit: © Copyright ITV plc 2013

Before you continue reading this article, we suggest you make yourself a nice cup of tea, turn on some soothing music, and settle in. Comfortable? Okay good because we’re about to discuss something very important: the lifespan of the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith).

We don’t want to talk about this — we want her to live forever — but the February 9 episode has us worried the Dowager’s days may be numbered.

When we watched the show as it aired in the U.K. last fall, we saw the characteristically hearty Violet take to her bed with a sudden illness. “I really don’t feel well at all,” she tells a concerned Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton), before breaking into a bad fit of coughing that sets our Dowager-loving hearts a-flutter.

Seeing as Jim Carter (aka the very trustworthy Mr. Carsonsaid “there are going to be no funerals this year” when it comes to Season 4, we’re holding out hope the Dowager’s illness is just nerves over the departure of her son Robert (Hugh Bonneville), who must head to the U.S. to take care of some difficulties Cora’s brother has gotten himself into. After all, the Dowager has a well-known aversion to everything American.

We can tell you what ends up happening in the episode but, be warned, spoilers ahead.

What do you think? Is the Dowager Countess on her last legs or is this simply a passing fit of nerves? Oh Downton, please don’t play with our hearts.

Elisabeth Kramer is an Assistant Editor at Wetpaint Entertainment and our resident Downton Abbey expert. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!