Time to brew the tea and pop the popcorn — it’s Season 2 of Britain’s beloved Downton Abbey! The men (well, except for the rich ones) are fighting, the women are pining (and becoming independent), and much of the show’s relentless intra-Downton intrigue has given way to the human drama of life during wartime. But that doesn’t mean that everyone’s pulling together for the common good. So, in the spirit of class-conscious competition and self-interested jockeying for position, we’re declaring winners and losers for each episode of Downton Abbey. In last night’s riveting hour — the best of the season so far, in our humble opinion — all of our favorite characters seemed to come out on top, while the villains and other irritating presences got what was coming to them. We’re sure the tables will turn at least a few more times before the series is through, but for now, let’s all rejoice over who came out on top (Bates and Anna! Mary and Matthew!) this week.
Lady Grantham: Downton’s American mama was a force to be reckoned with this week, booting annoying Isobel Crawley from the estate and — to O’Brien’s surprise and horror — pitching in with Mrs. Patmore and the kitchen ladies to help feed homeless veterans.
Lord Grantham: Apparently released from his guilt about not fighting in the war and growing accustomed to having officers in the house, Grantham had a decent week. He humbled himself and went to visit Bates, convincing his friend to resume his valet post.
Bates: He’s ba-aaack — with a plan to get his ex-wife out of his hair once and for all!
Anna: Bates is back!
Matthew: Missing for much of the episode, he makes a dramatic entrance towards the end of the episode — and shares a duet with Mary.
William: MIA along with Matthew, William is welcomed with open arms by the servants when he accompanies Matthew home. And are we dreaming, or does Daisy look surprisingly happy to see him?
Mary: With Matthew missing and her sisters full of worrisome confessions, Mary was having a pretty terrible week. But things were looking up by the episode’s final scenes, which found her making beautiful music with a returned, and very much intact, Captain Crawley. As if there were any doubt, something tells us this romance is soon to be back on.
Branson: We’re not going to call Lady Sybil a winner or a loser this week — it’s too soon to tell what her entanglement with Branson will mean for her. But for the time being, she seems to be seriously considering his overtures, which places the chauffeur firmly in the “winners” category.
Dowager Countess: Do we need to go over this again? Unless she drops dead or stops being hilarious, Violet wins every week. Plus, she’s predicted Sybil’s forbidden romance with incredible foresight.
Ethel: Easily this week’s biggest loser, Ethel is not only discovered in flagrante delicto, causing her to be immediately dismissed from Downton, but the soldier she’s been shacking up with has gotten her pregnant.
Mrs. Hughes: Meanwhile, the poor housekeeper is the one who’s horrified to catch Ethel and her soldier in bed — and for some reason, she’s the one who now has to deal with the maid’s predicament.
Isobel: Tired of having headstrong, meddlesome Mrs. Crawley underfoot, Lady Grantham calls her bluff on a threat to leave Downton to work in France.
Molesley: Things seem to be looking up for this crafty valet, who’s using Matthew’s absence to ingratiate himself to Lord Grantham in hopes of landing Bates’ old job. But then Bates has to go and ruin it by returning in a blaze of vindication, spoiling Molesley’s designs on both the prestigious valet gig and Anna.
O’Brien: How gratifying was it to see nasty O’Brien have a miserable week? Every single one of her sneaky machinations failed, especially her plot to expose Mrs. Patmore and co.’s secret soup kitchen, which resulted in the maid and her boss working the bread line. Plus, Bates is back. And while O’Brien might rejoice in Ethel’s downfall, we bet she wishes she’d caused it herself.
Thomas: He didn’t have too much going on this week — in fact, we’re starting to miss the dastardly schemes of Season 1’s best villain — but he did get scolded from on high for abusing his power over the servants.