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The Telefile
<i>Downton Abbey</i>: Love Is in the British Air

PBS's sudsy period soap Downton Abbey returned for Season 2 last night and we fell hard for this addictive upstairs/downstairs look at the goings-on in an early 20th century British manor house all over again. Granted, the season premiere was a more somber affair than much of last year, starting, as it did, in the midst of World War I. Downton's heir, Matthew Crawley is on the front lines, dug deep in the trenches at The Somme, as is the estate's former footman, the duplicitous Thomas Barrow. Back home, Matthew's mother Isobel is tending to the wounded soldiers that have been sent back from the continent and welcomes a new nurse into the hospital: the Earl of Grantham's youngest daughter, Sybil. Her sisters are asserting their independence in their own ways -- Edith is learning how to drive, while Mary tries to put her brief romance with Matthew behind her and finds a new man, newspaper magnate Richard Carlisle. As for the Abbey's staff, they're trying to deal with the loss of Lord Grantham's valet, John Bates, whose scheming wife blackmailed him into leaving the manor... and his One True Love Anna Smith. In Bates's absence, the butler Mr. Carson assumes too many responsibilities and overworks himself into exhaustion. Unfortunately for him, things are about to get even busier around the house thanks to Isobel's plan to turn Downton into a convalescence home for the returning veterans.

Based on last night's two-hour episode, it's safe to say there's going to be a lot of juicy stuff coming down the pike. Still, like any soap opera, our favorite storylines involve the various romances (and thwarted romances) that are going on about the house. Here's our heat index guide to Downton Abbey's multiple love stories:

John & Anna
Heat Index: Scorching
Watching the reserved valet and the sweet housemaid fall in love was one of our favorite storylines in Season 1. And as far as we're concerned, they're still Downton's premiere couple. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to swoon a little bit when they discussed their future together, running a small hotel in town and having a gaggle of little 'uns. Unfortunately there's an unmovable obstacle in their way named Mrs. Bates, who scuttles their dreams with an evil smirk. And so, they're forced to part... which, in a way, just makes their passion burn brighter. (Nothing's more romantic than forbidden love after all.) In Bates' absence, poor Molesley tries to capture Anna's attention, but he's no match for even the memory of her departed love. He's gonna be back soon, right? We're not sure we can bear to watch Anna suffer much longer.

Matthew & Mary
Heat Index: Very Hot
Speaking of suffering, Mary is still plagued by sadness over her missed connection with Matthew, especially now that he's engaged to someone else -- the quiet, unassuming Lavinia Swire. (By the way, Matt and Lavinia's heat index? Somewhere between mild and chilled.) It's harder to get an exact read on how Matt feels about Mary; he clearly still values her friendship (look at the smile on his face when she shows up to bid him farewell at the train station), but he seems totally sold on the idea of marrying Lavinia. Still, we're betting that if she decided to put her pride aside and make a big show of her affection, he would likely reciprocate with very little hesitation.

Edith & Mr. Drake
Heat Index: Hot
Say it with us now: Barn hook-up! When she volunteers to help work farmer Drake's land by driving his tractor, Edith dazzles the working-class gent with her pluck and wit. So after quitting time one evening, he can't resist locking lips with the girl in the Drake family barn, a move that she's totally okay with. But Drake's wife, Mrs. Drake, understandably isn't okay with this development and Edith soon learns that her services -- both as a tractor driver and otherwise -- are no longer required. Clearly, kissing another woman's husband was probably not the best idea Edith has ever had, so she should have seen that coming. Still, we get why she gave into passion in the moment: after all, that whole encounter was like a romance novel brought to life.

Mary & Richard
Heat Index: Simmering
As someone that often struggles with forthrightness herself, Mary is understandably drawn to people that are honest and speak their mind. Which is why she's so intrigued by Richard and doesn't banish him from her sight following his business-minded proposal of marriage. Instead of trying to fake the flowery stuff, he tells her that "we'd be a good team" because they're "strong and sharp and can build something worth having." It's not exactly sexy, but his words do hook Mary's attention. Of course, as his confrontation with Lavinia indicates, there's much more to Richard and his intentions than meets the eye. Be careful, Mary.

Robert & Cora
Heat Index: Mild
Like any long-married couple, the Earl and the Countess have become set in their ways, so they aren't given to wild fits of passion as their younger offspring are. At the same time though, theirs is clearly a loving union of equals that's built to last. He regularly seeks her counsel on important household matters and she listens to his fears about not being of use in the war effort. Their bond is the engine that keeps the well-oiled machine that is Downton Abbey running.

William & Daisy and Sybil & Tom
Heat Index: Icy
Poor Will... head over heels in love with a girl that's just not that into him. But having not made her feelings clear, Daisy is now obligated to play the part of the dutiful girlfriend, especially since the house's second footman is headed off to war. At least Sybil makes it clear to Irish chauffeur Tom Branson that she doesn't return his deep affections, despite his insistence that the world around them is changing and would allow for a union such as theirs. Based on her forward-thinking mindset, there's still a chance that Sybil could come around. On the other hand, Will is just cruising for a bruising of the heart.

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