By Dickens, it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times in the third season premiere of Downton Abbey! Though Matthew and Mary finally become husband and wife, Robert learns that he’s lost so much of Cora’s money that the family may be forced to — gasp! — downsize!
BRIDE AND GLOOM | Much ado is made of the arrival of wedding guests expected — Cora’s mother, Mrs. Levinson (Shirley MacLaine) — and unexpected — Sybil and Tom. As you’d expect, Violet and Miss America… er, Mrs. Levinson clash. But, when the Dowager Countess learns from Lady Mary that Robert’s blown Cora’s inheritance — and they could lose Downton as a result! — she’s forced to kiss up to her new nemesis in hopes of procuring a bailout. (She even puts up with Mrs. Levinson’s indoor picnic and performance of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”!) Meanwhile, Tom endears himself to no one by talking about nothing but Irish politics until Matthew reaches out to him — going so far as making him his best man — and it’s revealed that Violet, of all people, is the mystery benefactor who paid his and Sybil’s way to the nuptials.
NEXT STOP: MELROSE PLACE? | Though Cora takes her family’s reversal of fortune in stride, Robert is horrified by the prospect of going down in history as “the earl who dropped the torch” and doomed Downton. Lady Mary thinks she may have a solution to their financial problems when Matthew finds out that, through a Byzantine series of events, he’s been left approximately jillions by the father of his late fiancée, Lavinia. The only problem? Being the stand-up chap that he is, he won’t accept the money — not even to preserve the Crawley legacy!
THE BEST OF FRENEMIES | After Mrs. O’Brien connives to get her nephew, Alfred, hired as a footman, Thomas earns his “pal’s” wrath by sabotaging her attempt to get the lad promoted to the position of Matthew’s valet (and gets Molesley the gig instead). Caught in the middle, the newby is “comforted” by Mrs. Levinson’s maid, Reed — a fact that doesn’t go unnoticed by Daisy.
THIS ’N’ THAT | Anna goes all Murder, She Wrote in hopes of getting Bates sprung from prison. Mrs. Hughes keeps Carson in the dark about the possibility that she may have cancer. Ethel shows up at Isobel’s new home for fallen women. Thomas suggests that Daisy quit (since she’s gotten the title of Mrs. Patmore’s assistant but not the perks). And, in spite of Robert and Violet’s best efforts to bust them up, Lady Edith and Sir Anthony (secretly) get engaged.
Okay, your turn. What did you think of the season premiere? Did you like MacLaine’s turn as Auntie Mame… er, Mrs. Levinson? Was Lady Mary out of line, pressuring Matthew to use his ex’s money to save Downton? Who are you rooting for in the O’Brien/Thomas war? Sound off below.