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‘Downton Abbey': This Week’s Winners and Losers

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.

If you forsook the Grammys for last night’s two-hour episode, well, you probably made the right choice — and came away from the evening somewhat depressed. Having weathered the First World War, Downton was faced with an even deadlier challenge: the Spanish flu, which killed 50-100 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1920. As a result of that and endless other intrigue, what served as Season 2’s finale in Britain (next week’s episode is the 2011 Christmas special) was a fairly devastating affair. Click through to find out who survived, who succumbed, and who’s getting married.

WINNERS

Sybil and Branson: The youngest Crawley daughter has finally made up her mind to elope with Branson. Although she’s thwarted by her older sisters, who form a rare alliance, Sybil is still resolved to marry the chauffeur and move to Dublin to start a life with him. Lord Grantham is, predictably, fairly unhappy about this and threatens to disown her. But by the end of the episode — likely moved by his own close encounter with the help — the couple secures her family’s blessing. (Side note: Downton seems to have something of a timeline problem. Mary mentions this week that Sybil is 21, which would mean that she was only 14 in 1912, when the series kicked off with the sinking of the Titanic. Hmm.)

Lady Grantham: Sure, her husband has begun to hate her and flirts with starting an affair while she’s on the verge of death, but given all the misery on this week’s episode, Cora’s survival is enough to make her a winner.

Dowager Countess: Are we crazy, or is Violet becoming more progressive in her (continued) old age? Not only does she engage in some much needed real talk with Matthew about Mary, but she’s surprisingly unmoved to learn that Sybil plans to marry Branson. She also basically disappears for all the flu-related unpleasantness, which seems like a good call.

LOSERS

Carson: Tons of small defeats for the noble butler this week, from his discovery about Sir Richard and Mary’s dismissive reaction to the news that he won’t be accompanying her post-marriage to his sudden illness and hints that Thomas is angling for his job. And yet, compared to some of this week’s other losers, doesn’t it seem like Carson sort of got off easy?

Lord Grantham: It’s clear that World War I has driven Downton’s patriarch to feelings of alienation and uselessness. Indeed, with the coming changes to British society, he really is something of a relic. This week, he completely bungles an affair with Jane — while his wife is dangerously ill, no less — and battles Sybil and Branson, who remind him that there’s more to life than status. At least Grantham redeems himself slightly at the end of the episode, when he grudgingly gives the couple his blessing.

Jane: Jeez. First, a kiss from Grantham throws her into a tailspin. Then, as soon as she realizes she’s game for the affair, he gets cold feet and rejects her. Jane tenders her resignation, and the money Robert gives her — for her son, he says — is nothing more than cold comfort.

Bates: Despite the fact that it was clear his wife was framing him for her murder, we wanted to call Bates and Anna winners this week. They did, after all, spit in the eye of fate, get married, and have a very sweet wedding night together, thanks to Mary’s thoughtfulness. But then Bates had to get arrested almost immediately after, which overshadows even the consummation of Downton Abbey‘s cutest relationship.

Anna: Not only does the poor maid have to endure the emotional roller coaster above, but she’s also penalized for telling the truth about Sir Richard’s offer to pay her for spying on Mary.

Lavinia: This week’s biggest loser, Lavinia kicks off the episode thrilled at Matthew’s unlikely recovery. But then she comes down with the flu, and then she catches her fiancé waltzing and smooching with Mary, and then she dies in the most passive-aggressive manner possible. RIP Lavinia.

Thomas: Looks like the player got played. Having purchased some black-market goods from smugglers, Thomas learns that the food he’s selling is full of plaster and smashes up his store room, Axl Rose-style. Now he’s broke and beholden to Downton again — although he’s already back to scheming for personal gain.

Ethel: After an embarrassing scene in the Downton dining room, Ethel and Mrs. Hughes finally convince Major Bryant’s parents to meet little Charlie. But when they offer not to support the mother and child but to adopt the baby themselves, our single mom can’t bear to give up the boy and is back to square one.

Molesley: This week in stunning incompetence, Molesley falls ill at the same time as Lavinia, Carson, and Lady Grantham — but it turns out he’s simply sampled too much of his employer’s wine.

O’Brien: Moved to unburden herself by confessing her transgressions to Lady Grantham before the latter’s death, O’Brien may face some questions from her beloved boss, if Cora remembers that the maid had something on her mind.

Sir Richard: The wedding is still on for now, but he’s absolutely beside himself with insecurity about Lavinia’s death and Matthew’s recovery — and for good reason, we’d say.

DISTURBINGLY UNCLEAR

Mary and Matthew: Sure, regaining use of your legs (and, you know, your manhood) is nice. And what’s better than locking lips with your one true love? But we can’t forget that Lavinia’s death has deeply disturbed both Mary and Matthew, who blame themselves. For now, she’s still slated to marry the increasingly repulsive Sir Richard, and he’s throwing out lines like, “We’re cursed, you and I.” We’re still confident they’ll end up together; the question is, will they be shells of themselves by the time it actually happens?

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