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Marriage, money and more: 'Downton Abbey' stars tease what's to come

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The stars of "Downton Abbey" deliver hints of what's to come in season three of the Masterpiece hit.

Well shut your mouth and pass the crumpets: PBS revealed a spoiler-packed trailer for season three of “Downton Abbey” at the Television Critics Association summer tour on Saturday. 

The session wrapped with a cheeky Hugh Bonneville, the man behind patriarch Robert Crawley, doing a mock strip tease that revealed a T-shirt proclaiming “Free Bates!”

Oh, we’re all in for a wicked good time when the Emmy-nominated series returns in early January.

(Spoiler alert! If you don’t want any hints about the season three, stop here.)

The upcoming season is set in the roaring ‘20s, and the frocks rock. But there are plenty of rough times ahead for the Crawleys and crew.

Bates may have escaped a death sentence last season, but he and Anna will be fighting for his freedom after he was unjustly found guilty of murder. Brendan Coyle, who plays the beleaguered valet, told TODAY.com he should have cashed in on the merchandizing of the Free Bates shirts, since much of this coming seasons' storyline will be about getting him out.

And there’s trouble to come once again in the rocky romance between Matthew and Michelle Dockery's Lady Mary.

“Did you really think it would go smoothly for them?” a smiling and laughing Dockery said to TODAY.com.

No, indeed.  But will there be a wedding between them?

“Oh, you’ll have to wait and see on that,” she teased. “But there will be a wedding.”

Love does not run smoothly on “Downton Abbey.” While a wedding is promised, perhaps it will be glum sister Edith and her older suitor who tie the knot.

But the big ripple on the way is that Downton is once again in dire financial straits after Robert’s bad investments. As the exclusive TCA sneak peek revealed, an undaunted Cora taps into her Yankee roots and says, “I’m an American. Have gun, will travel.”

But does that mean that the servants are to be dismissed and Lady Mary left to mop the floors?

Not bloody likely.

“There seems to be no end to Cora’s family money,” Elizabeth McGovern told TODAY.com at the post panel soiree. “They are noveau riche, and still very riche.”

Cora’s fortune bought her family’s way into royalty, and that might be lost. But her parents are still minting money back in the good ol’ USA, and they aren’t about to lose their purchased stature.

Cora’s mom, played by Shirley MacLaine, has arrived on the British shores, ready to take on Violet (Maggie Smith). MacLaine is only in two episodes, although the door is open for her to return for subsequent seasons.

Also, it seems the rumor about Smith’s departure from the series after the next season has been greatly exaggerated.

“Oh, that’s just Maggie,” said producer Julian Fellowes of the star not yet signed on past the third season. “I’m sure she’ll be back.”

If not, MacLaine could be tapped for the resident saucy elder -- if only the producers can figure out a way to get her beloved 12-year-old rat terrier, Terry, through the usual transatlantic quarantine quicker.

“I can’t be away from Terry that long,” MacLaine told TODAY.com. “He’s old and I don’t like leaving him for that long. But if we could work that out, I don’t mind doing more.”

Fans still have a long wait ahead of them before they learn what else "Downton Abbey" has in store. The Masterpiece series is set to return to PBS in January of 2013.

What plot points and twists are you most looking forward in the third season of "Downton Abbey"? Tell us on our Facebook page.


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