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Getting to Know Them
The SAG Awards' annual opener, in which a handful of actors share an anecdote about their journeys to the ceremony, is notoriously hit-or-miss. This year's selection (Jane Krakowski, Chris Tucker, Helen Hunt, Hal Holbrook, Alfre Woodard, Darren Criss, and Sofia Vergara) was no less eclectically curated than any other year, but there were a few standout moments, including when Tucker's Silver Linings Playbook costar Jacki Weaver intro-bombed him and when Holbrook called actors ''a bunch of weirdos.'' Extra credit: We learned that Vergara's boyfriend Nick Loeb moves his lips while reading — a rather unfortunate habit when he's on camera behind Vergara as she reads lines about looking like a hooker.
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Two weeks after nailing her gig hosting the Golden Globes with fellow funnywoman Amy Poehler, Tina Fey won SAG's Outstanding Female Actor in a Comedy Series. Of course, she knew better than to leave out her long-time partner in crime (who just happened to be Ken Tucker's pick to take home the award). Said Fey, ''I share this with my sweet friend Amy Poehler.... Amy, I've known you since you were pregnant with Lena Dunham.'' (Fey also couldn't resist throwing in an 11th-hour plug for 30 Rock: ''Our finale is on Thursday at 8 — up against The Big Bang Theory. So please tape The Big Bang Theory this one time for cryin' out loud!'')
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After winning for the past two years, it was hardly a surprise that Modern Family won the Best Television Comedy Ensemble trophy. But it was a nice touch when star Jesse Tyler Ferguson made a point of giving credit to two of Family's fellow nominees. ''I think we'd be doing the evening a great disservice if we didn't mention the brilliant departing casts of 30 Rock and The Office,'' he said in a gracious acceptance speech. ''You all have set the comedy bar so high, and if we can just be half as brilliant and smart and wonderful as you are, then we've succeeded.''
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Here's Lookin' at You, Dick
Accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award, 87-year-old Dick Van Dyke hopped up on the stage with the same spring in his step as the day audiences came to know and love him more than 50 years ago. ''Aren't we lucky to have found a line of work that doesn't require growing up?'' he appropriately asked the audience, then assured, ''I'm still singin' and dancin'.'' And we'll be with you for every ''Step in Time,'' Dick.
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NPH + AP = MVPs
In the hands-down funniest bit of the night, Poehler and Neil Patrick Harris took the stage to present the awards for Outstanding Male Television Actor, Drama. As such, they committed themselves to a dramatic reading of a series of words with built-in gravitas... well, most of them anyway. Judge for yourself.
Poehler: Family. Honor. Sacrifice.
Harris: Tension. Deception. Courage.
Harris: To some, these words describe the work of our next nominees.
Poehler: But to us, they're just a bunch of words that sound dramatic when said loudly.
Harris: Betrayal. Secrets.
Poehler: Swordplay. Midnight.
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''Shut the French windows!'' No one was more surprised by Downton Abbey's upset in the Outstanding TV Drama Ensemble category than the cast itself. Phyllis Logan (significantly va-va-voomed up from Mrs. Hughes' wardrobe) led a shocked and scrappy cohort to the podium where she delivered a breathless speech. Even if the show's win over the likes of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Homeland, and Boardwalk Empire doubtlessly rubbed many viewers the wrong way, the Downtonians' surprise at taking top honors was refreshing. Coupled with some saucy side boob from Michelle Dockery (in a sleek Chado Ralph Rucci number), the unexpected moment justified Abbey obsessives' tough decision to tune in for the SAGs instead of watching last night's harrowing ep in real time.
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A Winsome Winner
Who said MTV never gave us anything? In her acceptance speech for Outstanding Female Movie Actor, Jennifer Lawrence revealed she earned her SAG card by starring in a My Super Sweet Sixteen promo. (Watch it here!) And that was after she tripped and ripped her dress on the way up to collect ''this naked statue.'' (Ed. note: A rep from Dior told EW that Lawrence's dress did not, in fact, rip — but was designed with a tiered construction that slightly exposed Lawrence's leg when she pulled it up to climb the stairs.) Lawrence then poignantly credited director-writer David O. Russell, whose own son struggles with bipolar disorder, with ''[helping] so many sons and daughters, husbands, wives, everybody.'' The cherry on top of yet another remarkably fresh, spontaneous speech? When J.Law called Harvey Weinstein ''a rascal.'' Note to Hollywood: Never. Stop. Giving. Her. Awards.
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Daniel Day-Lewis Makes a Funny!
Generally known for his seriousness, the newly crowned Outstanding Male Movie Actor received a standing ovation for his uncannily authentic portrayal of America's 16th president. And yet, in his thank-you speech, Day-Lewis executed a sweet set-up in recalling his trepidation in taking on the role. ''When I was prowling around the idea and wondering whether I would take the risk of doing it, for some reason, the guiding principle of the Hippocratic Oath keep nagging at me: 'First do no harm.' With that modest but important ambition, I set out,'' he said, taking a beat and adding, ''And then it occurred to me that it was an actor that murdered Abraham Lincoln.'' Of course, this is DDL, so that portion of the speech did end on a poetic note: ''And therefore somehow it's only fitting that every now and then an actor tries to bring him back to life again.'' (Semi-related note: Day-Lewis name-checked a very strange trifecta of actors in his speech: Joaquin Phoenix, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Liam Neeson. Raise your hand if you want to go to that boys' night out.)
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Argo Has Eyes on Oscar
With a Golden Globe, a Producer's Guild Award, and now a SAG statuette for Outstanding Motion Picture Ensemble, Ben Affleck may be Hollywood's winningest snubbee. As Prize Fighter's Anthony Breznican pointed out in the wake of Saturday's PGA win, Argo is gaining serious momentum on its way to the Dolby Theatre. The support of the media and the unions bodes well for Affleck as he tries to secure his place on the big stage come Feb. 24.
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Bonus: Pun and Done
For anyone who missed — or, more likely, skipped — the awkward banter during E!'s red carpet broadcast, SAG producers packed two hours of hilarity into a pre-show package chockablock with ham-fisted plays on the nominated actors and projects. My top three:
3. ''Hey, Ben Affleck, Argo find your seat!''
2. ''Les Misérables stars Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman look anything but miserable.''
1. ''Zero Dark Thirty's Jessica Chastain looks Zero Dark Flirty!''