Thank you, thank you, Julian Fellowes, for not taking Downton Abbey down the path of becoming a soap. He hasn't eked out the storyline of Bates discovering what really happened to Anna - nor has she become pregnant by vile Green, a well-worn theme (will husband find out the baby isn't is?) in TV serials. What a relief it was, last night, when Mrs Hughes finally told Bates of the attack. His reaction was moving, as was Anna's when she realized her husband didn't see her as 'spoiled'. Excellent acting. We can rest easy now that one of our favourite couples is back together.
There were shades of dark and light last night - much of the latter provided by Mrs Patmore's reluctance to move with the times. The new sewing machine made her feel dizzy and she was highly suspicious of the new-fangled idea of a fridge, instead of an ice-box. Strong characterisation is one of Fellowes' strengths - I always enjoy Mary's cutting remarks towards her sister Edith and Carson's unsympathetic attitude towards poor Molesley never fails to make me chuckle.
So, no sooner is Lord Gillingham officially engaged, another love interest for Mary, Mr Napier, turns up. And something is going on with Michael Gregson... Will affairs of the heart ever run easily for the Crawley sisters? As usual, plenty of questions were left open for next week's episode. What is the agenda of Napier's boss, Charles Blake, did John Pegg the gardener really steal the paper knife and what exactly is the relationship between Barrow and devious Mrs Baxter?
Of course, some questions are bigger than others, but Fellowes has the knack of making us care about them all. Like I said earlier, strong characterisation is the key, with the different Downton personalities staying true to their intrinsic nature and not being twisted simply to fit in with plot.
The outfits, once again, were fabulous and Maggie Smith's cutting comments now feel as familiar as a favourite bar of chocolate. Roll on next week - but not too quickly as we are now past the half-way mark and I'm not ready to face Sunday nights without this sumptous trip back in time.