Who will we love to hate now that 1) O'Brien is gone, and 2) Thomas is softening up a bit on Downton Abbey?

Siobhan Finneran (O'Brien) announced she was leaving the Abbey after Season 3, and we're not expecting to see her on Season 4, which is now filming and will premiere in the U.S. in January 2014. Rob James-Collier (Thomas) talked to TV Guide about the Thomas/O'Brien dynamic, which won "Favorite Feud" in the Fan Favorites list. "Our fans are obviously highly intelligent people. We thank them," Rob told TV Guide in the interview (via Downton Abbey Addicts). "There are just too many nice people in the Abbey," he added, laughing. "We're the complete antithesis."

Credit: via IMDB Photo: Thomas Barrow, Downton Abbey

As Rob noted, Thomas and O'Brien spent the first two seasons "smoking and plotting evil together" before they started their feud over her nephew Alfred. "You don't want to piss off O'Brien," Rob said. "She's an evil genius! Thomas was too arrogant and thought he could outwit her. He couldn't."

O'Brien fed Thomas's crush on the new footman Jimmy, and it resulted in Thomas being outed as gay. Jimmy and Thomas ended the season as friends but that relationship, plus Thomas’s tears over the death of Lady Sybil, showed a more sympathetic, vulnerable side to his character. Still, Thomas is such a fun "villain" and we have to imagine he'll go back to his manipulative ways pretty soon.

Did you like Thomas and O'Brien more as evil allies or as feuding rivals? We miss when they were on the same dark side, as kind of the anti-Bates and Anna. It's possible O'Brien will return to the Abbey someday; Rob said "the doors are open for her return." It's not like O'Brien died, the assumption is just that she got a new job.

Even without O'Brien on Season 4, Rob hinted to good things for the rest of the crew. "Fans won't be disappointed next season," he said. "I'm pretty sure Thomas will find someone else to fall in line with him and start sniping. But no one could ever replace O'Brien. Never!" Agreed.

Source: Downton Abbey Addicts