By James Hibberd
November 27, 2013 at 05:05 PM EST

Finally, some much-needed relief for the S.H.I.E.L.D. gang!

This has been a rough fall for this ambitious and crucial Marvel and ABC drama, which had a huge launch in late September (rating a 4.7 among adults 18-49). Then its rating dropped for the second episode (3.3). And dropped (2.9). And dropped (2.8). And dropped (2.7). And dropped (2.5). And dropped (2.2).

Writers pondered how to improve the show. Readers pondered too. With its average in decline, SHIELD grudgingly surrendered its “No. 1 new fall show!” claim to NBC’s The Blacklist.

Whatever course corrections were made along the way, they may be working (or perhaps the show just found its natural level). After hitting that season low a few weeks ago, SHIELD‘s rating bounced last week to a 2.4. Which was fine, but one bounce off a low number doesn’t necessarily mean a show’s performance is leveling off, right? Then last night had a 2.5. Two consecutive weeks of having roughly the same rating is firmly considered a positive sign, especially when the latter is during the Thanksgiving holiday week when viewership often drops, and both better were definitely better than where SHIELD was a couple weeks ago. ABC would be quite content if SHIELD ends up here for the rest of the season.

UPDATE: In Nielsen’s afternoon nationals, which are more accurate than the morning numbers, SHIELD actually went up another tenth to settle at a 2.6 — even better.

SHIELD might have been helped this week by not facing an original NCIS, but instead the jet-setting crime stoppers went up against CBS’ equally formidable Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This is no snark, see the chart below; that repeat of a 1964 animated special had the same rating as last week’s NCIS and it kicked everybody’s ass last night in the demo, including barely edging out NBC’s usual victor The Voice. You don’t mess with nostalgic holiday cartoon specials.

Meanwhile, ABC’s Dancing with the Stars finale was down 20 percent from last fall’s closer to mark its lowest ever. CBS’ crime dramas were roughly steady. NBC’s Voice was down 9 percent, but Chicago Fire climbed 11 percent. Fox’s 8 p.m. comedies were steady, while its 9 p.m. comedies were up slightly. The CW was on par.

FOX 8:00P DADS- 1.2 3,185
8:30P BRKLYN 9-9- 1.5 3,713
9:00P NEW GIRL- 1.9 3,511
9:30P MNDY PRJCT- 1.4 2,647
ABC 8-9P MARVL-SHIELD 2.5 9,304
9-11P DANCING-STR- S 2.4 14,603
CBS 8-9P RUDOLPH- RS 3.0 11,387
9-10P NCIS:LA- 2.4 12,193
10-11P PERSON-INT- 2.1 11,695
NBC 8-9P BIGST LR15- 2.0 6,555
9-10P VOICE-TUE 2.9 10,026
10-11P CHCGO FIRE- 2.1 6,962
CW 8-9P ORIGINALS- 1.1 2,315
9-10P SUPRNATURAL- 1.0 2,393