At the Television Critics Association fall previews for the Emmy-nominated Downton Abbey, PBS screened a trailer for Season 3 to a packed room in Beverly Hills Saturday. Judging from the sneak peek, when the show returns, the Crawleys will once again endure broken hearts, social hardship and Lady Violet's clever tongue.
Here are nine spoilers from the upcoming season of Downton Abbey [read at your own risk!]:
1. Count on the Dowager Countess! Lady Violet's wit strikes again as she anticipates the arrival of her daughter-in-law's mother Martha (Shirley MacLaine). "When I'm with her, I'm reminded of the virtues of the English," she tells dinner guests. "But she's American," one says. "Exactly," she responds. More verbal smackdowns ensue between Violet and Martha in the trailer.
2. O'Brien gets maternal. Is the dour lady's maid going soft? O'Brien's towering nephew is the new footman, and we see her acting in a downright nurturing fashion, even defending him to Thomas. Is the dastardly downstairs duo no longer on the same team?
3. Love still isn't easy. Although there's no real update on Bates and Anna (they're in love; he's still in prison), Matthew and Mary are bickering again... about what, it's unclear. "God, Matthew, how can you be so disappointing?" Lady Mary says to her fiancé. "Deep down, you're not on our side." Uh-oh!
4. Trading Downton for the poorhouse? It appears that the Earl of Grantham has made a very bad investment and has lost almost all of the family's fortune... including the money that Cora brought to their marriage. Interestingly, Lady Grantham isn't too bothered. "We have a wedding to celebrate," she says. "Let's make sure it's a great day. If it's to be our last, let's make it a wonderful last."
5. A Crawley wedding. It's not clear if it's Lady Edith or Lady Mary getting hitched on that wonderful day, but we do see that Edith is still seeing her older gentleman friend. Could Mary and Matthew bicker themselves into last place in the race down the aisle?
6. Matthew is randy... and may get a surprise. Despite his arguments with Mary, Matthew very pointedly tells his fiancée that he's looking forward to "all sorts of things" in addition to their wedding. Oh my! "Don't make me blush," Mary says. In other Matthew news, the attorney for the late Mr. Swire (aka Lavinia's father) has contacted him, which may bode well... or ill.
7. Trouble with Branson. Alas, youngest daughter Sibyl isn't experiencing complete marital bliss. Although it's nice to see the Earl soften enough to invite them to Downton for a dinner, Branson takes this opportunity to voice his rather liberal views, which doesn't sit well with the majority, including Sibyl. Also: Mr. Carson isn't too keen on playing valet to Branson, whom he still refers to as "that grubby little chauffeur."
8. That's soooo 1921. The Crawley women are fully embracing the fashions of the 1920s, including loose, flapper-style dresses and finger-wave hairdos.
9. Isis is back! The cast jokes that the animal actor (who is confusingly named Abby, by the way) is getting too big for her canine britches since last season's starring role in the finale. "She demanded a bigger kennel," jokes Hugh Bonneville, who plays Robert, the Earl of Grantham.
Bonus highlights from the panel:
-"I'm Lady Mary," the Emmy-nominated Brendan Coyle (former valet and now convict Bates) declares, admitting that he took the "Which Downton Abbey Character Are You?" quiz on Facebook
-"We were lovers in another life," MacLaine jokes, recalling having met Maggie Smith nearly 40 years before working together on the series.
-In real life, Joanne Froggatt is about to be married. In an email, her vicar wrote, "If Jo could fix it for me and wife to go to the Downton set, she'll go straight to Heaven."
-At the end of the panel, Bonneville removes his tie and rips open his dress shirt, Superman-style, to reveal a "FREE BATES" T-shirt.
Season 3 of Downton Abbey will premiere on January 6, 2013, on PBS.