Credit: © Copyright ITV plc 2013

Obviously, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) is near the top of our ever-expanding list of reasons we love Downton Abbey — right above “standing up every time someone enters the room” and just below “love triangles over tea.” The Dowager is in particularly fine form in a new clip from the January 19 episode, firing off several priceless one-liners in the course of 90 seconds.

“Why is Lord Gillingham back so soon?” the curious grandmother asks of her son, Robert (Hugh Bonneville). Tony (Tom Cullen), of course, rode in on a white stallion a.k.a. in the front of a fancy car during the January 12 episode to attend a party hosted by the Crawleys. He and the widowed Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) quickly sized each other up and liked what they saw.


In the next episode, Robert answers his mother’s question with about as much approval as he can typically muster: “That is the question, but we’re very glad he is.”

The Dowager nods knowingly, seemingly in favor of her beloved granddaughter moving on after the tragic death of husband Matthew (Dan Stevens). Fits right in with her whole “choose light” talk from the Season 4 premiere.

One person not as pleased to see Lord Gillingham back is Matthew’s mother, Isobel (Penelope Wilton). However, as is frequently the case with the meddlesome do-gooder this season, Isobel surprises us (and the Dowager) when she graciously tells Tony “I hope we see you up here again before too long.”

“That was nobly done,” remarks Robert to his mother.

“She is a good woman and while the phrase is enough to set one’s teeth on edge, there are moments when her virtue demands admiration.” A little salty, a little sweet. It’s the perfect backhand compliment from the Dowager Countess.

SourcePBS on YouTube

Elisabeth Kramer is an Assistant Editor at Wetpaint Entertainment and our resident Downton Abbey expert. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!