Another excellent episode from Julian Fellowes. Dame Maggie Smith was on fine form; I had to re-watch her "thought you were a waiter" comment three times.
Last week's column seemed to get a good reception on Twitter and so here goes with a dissection of pointers I noticed about this week's installment.
Wine by the glass
It would have been the butler's job to supervise all service at table, but especially that of the wine (as it was expensive and he would know how much was available and so could eek it out as appropriate during the course of dinner). However Carson seems to have taken his eye off the ball this week - perhaps due to the staffing shortage - and poured FAR too much red wine into most of the glasses. A wine glass (red or white) should be filled to just under halfway. Not only does this ensure the wine lasts but also that the wine can breathe - especially important in the case of red wine. The custom of pouring wine right up the top of the glass is something only modern (high street) restaurants do. For a moment last night the dining table of Downton looked like Pizza Express.
British dining from the American
It was nice to see Mrs Levinson (Shirley MacLaine) eating 'British' style (or 'Continental' as the Americans insist on calling - FYI, Americans, we Brits are not continental). The difference between British and American dining is that over here we keep the fork in our left hand and the knife in our right, cutting a small bit as we go. In America they cut a bit, then place the knife on the side of the plate, switch fork into right hand (up-turned) and scoop up. And then switch back and repeat. Most tiresome.
Holding a wine glass
The Countess of Grantham, Cora, was observed in the first dining scene to be holding her wine glass from the bowl, rather than the stem. Not only does this not look very elegant (like you think someone's about to take it away from you) but the heat from a person's hand can quite affect the temperature of the liquid. A small point, but the devil's in the detail.
Shut that door!
When Anna the maid delivered the calling tray to Matthew and Mary she walked in and left the door wide open as she went about her duties of opening the curtains. We'll forgive her as she probably was thinking about the Emmy awards.
Alfred, the new footman/valet, clearly has a lot to learn as he should have been transporting Matthew Crawley's tailcoat on a hanger, rather than casually draped over his arm. Such transportation could ruin a jacket in time. That, plus burning an 'ole in it.
Bread and butter mistake
The grand dinner for the gentry was clearly bound to fail as before even the stove had given up the ghost we saw a shot of the beautifully set dining table... except someone had forgotten to set the side plates! It was all downhill from there.
Even though Mrs Levinson had adopted our British style of eating, she has not yet learned not to clink our glassware when toasting with someone. You could see the look of disguised horror from Lord Grantham as, towards the end of the episode, she raised her glass before crashing it into his. Do that too many times and the fine crystal glassware will break!
Follow William Hanson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/williamhanson