It's 1923 at 'Downton Abbey', and Rose is to be 'outed', in the London 1920s fashion - the opportunity for Julian Fellowes to pick up his pen with a particularly jovial flourish, and put together all the usual suspects, together with some royalty, a conniving schemer and - most disturbingly of all - Americans.
The Americans come calling.. and cause ripples for the Downton regulars
That these New World interlopers came in the high-pedigree form of Shirley MacLaine and Paul Giamatti only added to the fun. As brother Harold, Giamatti especially added an understated but effective presence to proceedings, as a playboy not easily persuaded to give up his hedonistic ways.
A right royal 'outing' for Lady Rose, in the arms of the Prince of Wales
Fellowes has form in pitting the family narrative against both social history and real-life luminaries - Downton has already played host to legendary diva Dame Nellie Melba - and this 2-hour special saw him expand his canvas to include the pleasure-seeking Prince of Wales.
The Crawleys got involved in a strange escapade, helping him to avoid a scandal with his real-life ladyfriend Mrs Dudley-Ward, courtesy of a completely invented card game and Mr Bates' 'street' skills, i.e. forgery and pocket-picking. This provided the double bonus of some neat in-jokes - 'when that Bertie gets himself into trouble next time, it won't be the Crawley's fault, tee hee' - and reminding us that Mr Bates was once an interesting fella, and could be again.
Less fun was Lady Mary's interminable dilemma over which earnest-browed bore she should encourage, Mr Blake or Mr Gillingham. Guess what? In the end, neither. Well, there is Series 5 to think about, after all. Which something tells me will include some reference to Mr Blake's sizeable holding in Ulster...
Romance a-brewing for Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes - FINALLY!
Back in Yorkshire, it was all a bit quiet by contrast. It was pretty obvious Branson had plans a-foot, which turned out to be eating at the pub, bumping into Miss Bunting and taking her on a tour of the house, which was pretty awkward BEFORE they bumped, inevitably, into a lurking Mr Barrow - a vindictive valet sorely underused in this series, Christmas special included.
Home turf still afforded the best laugh of the night, however, when Lord Merton paid a visit to Mrs Crawley. Not only did he tell her, with a straight face - "I'm on my way to dine with the Scroops" - WHO? - but then, out of the blue, Mrs Crawley went all continental on him - "I'm much more serieuse," she told him, with an equally straight face. Obviously a match made in heaven. Dear me, Lord Fellowes must have had fun writing that bit.
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more