Just when we thought the Downton Abbey Christmas special would be nothing more than a light-hearted highland fling, ITV have gone and done it again with a cracker of a festive episode. Warning- spoilers and tears ahead...
It's all go at Downton as the ep opens straight into the hustle and bustle of the house with the family preparing to depart for their annual trip to Scotland.
In amongst all the preparations, we are suddenly given a glimpse of Lady Mary who shock horror is pregnant! It’s soon revealed that Mary is eight months on and despite the protestations of Matthew and her father fully intends to enjoy her hols in Inverness.
As the Crawley family arrive at Duneagle Castle it becomes clear that their hosts, the Flintshires have a far from happy marriage whilst below stairs Anna and Bates are not impressed with their straight-laced Scottish counterparts, finding a friend instead in the flighty Lady Rose.
Meanwhile, Edith discovers her editor Mr Gregson is a mere hop skip and a jump from their Scottish retreat, leaving her mother to insist she invite him for dinner. Mary (back in bitchy sister mode) isn’t convinced that Edith’s boss is simply in town with his “rods and pencils” for a fishing and sketching trip- is it too much of a coincidence? All becomes clear at dinner when the newspaper man declares his love for Edith but she isn’t happy to be a mistress instead of a wife to the already-married man.
Back down at Downton, love is in the air as Mrs Patmore and her cooking attract a suitor AND Mrs Crawley and Doctor Clarkson get closer, is there something in the sherry?
The whole gang take a trip to the town fair where after getting a tad too merry on the local ale Jimmy finds himself cornered by some local trouble-makers only for Thomas to come to his rescue.
Whilst the others have fun at the fair, the award for the most heart-warming scene of the night has to go to Carson in surrogate grandpa mode with the seriously cute baby Sybil.
Back up in the highlands and it’s time for the eagerly awaited ball where O’Brien meets her match in her Scottish doppelganger, Anna has a surprise for Bates on the dancefloor and Edith changes her mind about a future with Gregson. It’s not all fun and games though as Lady Mary begins to feel the effects of her pregnancy and after one too many flings at the ball decides to cut short her holiday.
As Mary and Anna arrive back home, things take a turn for the dramatic and her Ladyship is rushed to hospital leaving Matthew and the family to make a mad dash down south in time for the new arrival. But just when we thought the new baby boy (and heir) would mark a happy conclusion to the Christmas special, that dastardly Dowager tempts fate with the immortal words "we don't always get our just desserts" and new dad Matthew is seen hurtling headlong into a shocking car crash.
With actor Dan Stevens heavily hinting that he won't be back for series four it looks like another tragic end for a member of the Crawley family. But what will single mum Mary do without Matthew? How will the family cope with ANOTHER death? Will Lady Edith finally find love and will Carson and Mrs Hughes ever get it on? We'll have to wait until 2013 to find out, meanwhile we're off to drown our sorrows in a family sized tin of Quality Street...