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'Downton Abbey' recap: A wedding and changing times (+video)

'Downton Abbey' returned for its third season, and things were – of course – not all well in the world of the aristocrats and the servants. The new season of 'Downton Abbey' kicked off with a super-sized two-hour episode.

By Staff Writer / January 7, 2013

'Downton Abbey' stars Maggie Smith (l.) and Shirley MacLaine (r.).

Nick Briggs/PBS/AP

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Did you remember that “Downton Abbey” is now taking place in the 1920s? Because if not, the characters saw fit to mention it at least half a dozen times. It’s the 1920s and women’s hairstyles have changed (middle Crawley sister Edith fixed her hair a different way to try to catch the attention of neighbor Sir Anthony Strallan), etiquette is loosened (Mary’s fiancé – now husband – Matthew pointed out that it didn’t matter as much as it did before the war if he didn’t go down to dinner in the right shirt), and morals are looser (one American maid used the new decade as an excuse to kiss the valet she had a crush on).

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Staff writer

Molly Driscoll is a Books and the Culture staff writer.

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Behind the scenes at Downton Abbey

“Downton Abbey” returned for a third season with a super-sized two-hour episode, which opened with will-they-or-won’t-they couple Matthew and Mary, who became engaged in the season two finale, standing in a church. Don’t get too excited yet – this was just a rehearsal. It was the spring after the Christmas celebration at which we’d left the “Downton” masters and servants, and the wedding was coming soon, but Mary was disappointed because her sister Sybil, living in Ireland and married to their former chauffeur Tom, had written to say she couldn’t afford to come for the wedding. Mary and Sybil’s father Robert, the Earl of Grantham, was still getting used to the idea of a chauffeur as a son-in-law and didn’t seem to entirely mind that the newly married couple would have to stay away for the festivities.

Matthew’s mother Isobel felt that the entire thing was silly and seemed to be on the verge of sending Sybil the money herself. “I suppose you agree with Robert,” she commented to Robert’s mother Violet. “Then not for the first time, you suppose wrongly,” Violet snapped. Yay for Maggie Smith being back as the sharp-tongued Dowager Countess!

But soon, pregnant Sybil and her husband Tom arrived. "Please tell me you sent the money," Sybil says to her father, Robert, but he was nonplussed; he’d done no such thing. (In a truly touching later development, it was revealed that Violet had sent the money to enable them to make the trip.)

But not everyone was happy Tom was there, and during one dinner, a snobby neighbor named Larry Grey slipped something into Tom’s drink that made the Irishman act drunk and start loudly spouting his politics. When caught, Larry couldn’t see what the fuss was all about. “He’s only a grubby little chauffeur,” he remarked. Robert, Larry’s father, Lord Merton, and Matthew all stood simultaneously, ready to defend Tom, but it was Matthew who went over to Tom and announced that his future brother-in-law would be his best man as well.

And even more drama was brewing before the actual wedding between Matthew and Mary could take place. Robert went up to London to look into financial matters and discovered that railway investments he’d made before the war had gone badly and wiped out most of his wife Cora’s fortune. If something didn’t happen to save them, the Crawley family would have to give up Downton Abbey.

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