An extravagant house party at the Abbey gives the Crawleys a chance to reconnect with old friends and culminates in a performance by opera singer Dame Nellie Melba.
Among the guests are the eligible Sir John Bullock, who soon attracts the attention of Lady Rose; Gregson, who is keen to win Robert’s approval if he is to make a future with Edith; and Mr Sampson, a slightly mysterious acquaintance from Robert’s gentleman’s club.
Some guests prove more welcome than others and along with the celebrations come skulduggery and heartache.
Below stairs, with preparations in full swing tensions run high, and Mrs Patmore begins to feel the strain.
Jimmy’s attempts to impress Ivy in front of love-rival Alfred don’t go to plan, and hapless Molesley is made an offer of employment he finds hard to refuse.
Meanwhile, in the elevated circles above Branson finds himself a fish out of water, but the consolation he is offered may come at a high price.
Rose’s attempts to liven up events inadvertently raise painful memories for Mary, and Gregson uses surprising hidden talents to save Robert from a fix and win his respect.
'Downton Abbey' U.K. Ratings Rise for Second Episode of Season Four
The second episode of the fourth season of Downton Abbey on Sunday night drew slightly stronger U.K. overnight ratings than the show's best-ever season debut a week earlier.
The season start had attracted an average audience of 9.5 million for Britain's ITV, but Sunday night topped that with an average of 9.6 million. That was also 1.5 million viewers more than the second episode of last year.
The costume drama created by Julian Fellowes drew an average Sunday night share of 39.4 percent of the British TV audience at the time.
It peaked with 10.5 million viewers just like last Sunday. All figures include viewers for ITV1+1, a catch-up network that re-airs the show with an hour delay.
Downton Abbey had finished its third season on ITV1 with a season-high ratings performance, bringing to an end what the network said was the highest-rated season of the show to-date when including some delayed same-day viewing.
In the U.S., the show, produced by NBCUniversal's Carnival Films, has been airing on PBS since 2011.
The period drama airs in the 9 p.m. time slot right after Simon Cowell's The X Factor. The music competition on Sunday averaged 9.5 million viewers for a share of 38 percent. It peaked with an audience of 10.9 million.
ITV's overall share in Sunday's British primetime of 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. reached 35 percent with an average audience of 8.1 million, more than 3 million ahead of competitors.
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