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5 things we learned from 'Downton Abbey' cast's royal visit

Stand aside, Prince William and Duchess Kate! Sure, those real royals are making headlines with their U.S. visit, but on TODAY Monday our eyes were on a different kind of British aristocracy — the cast of "Downton Abbey," who stopped by to tease the upcoming fifth season of the uber-popular series.

And with stars Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham), Rob James-Collier (Thomas), Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore), Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes) and Laura Carmichael (Edith) in the studio, there was a lot to discover! 

Here are five key things we learned:

George Clooney is not appearing in the Christmas special/season finale
OK, we kind of suspected, but it was confirmed by Bonneville that Clooney merely made a tiny promotional appearance in support of a charity. "He's in a sketch for a fundraiser," said the actor. Joked Nicol, "We didn't all get to meet him, and we're not bitter." 

The truth behind that anachronistic water bottle
Remember that "Downton Abbey" publicity photo that included an unexpected cameo by a water bottle? Not intentional, but it worked out nicely: "That photo was cropped originally, and then suddenly it was uncropped," said Bonneville. "[It made us able] to get behind the charity Water Aid in the UK."

Isis the dog's fate is not tied to any current headlines
Rumor had it that Grantham's dog Isis (the one Thomas once locked in a shed overnight!) was going to be killed off because the terror group ISIS had started using the name of the legendary Egyptian goddess. "Any story line involving the dog has nothing to do with horrible international events," said Bonneville.

No time period-inappropriate touching or hugging on the show 
"Off set, you can't stop us hugging each other," quipped James-Collier. "It's ridiculous."

Speaking of Clooney, he and Maggie Smith (the Dowager Countess) smooched!
When asked if that pair made out, the whole cast agreed: "They did." We think they were kidding, but perhaps not: There are a lot of secrets hidden behind the doors of Downton Abbey!

"Downton Abbey" returns to PBS stations on Jan. 4, 2015 at 9 p.m.

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