All Creatures Great and Small
Grab your Misty of Chincoteague commemorative sweatshirt and put your hair in a French braid, because this is a horse-girl episode. Or it would be if it didn’t involve a horse being traumatically killed. My emotions were all over the place during this episode. Does this remain a profoundly comforting show, redolent with pastoral vistas and low-key shenanigans? Yes! Absolutely. But also our mild-mannered hero pulls out a device called (I am not joking) “Horse Killer” and puts down a majestic and beautiful animal.
How did we get here? And what happens to James after he kills Hot Neville’s horse (thank God it wasn’t Trevor; can you imagine)? This whole episode is really about Siegfried and his moral compass, which is the Greenwich Mean Time of moral compasses. Siegfried, you barely had even a TUSSLE with deciding whether to stifle your hopes and dreams in order to do the right thing. All he wants is to work with horses. Not just horses, but really remarkable horses. Horses that you might find at a racecourse, for instance, and what job comes up, but the veterinarian position at the Darrowby Racecourse.
He puts on a bowler hat. He smokes a pipe. He wears a little badge thing that I don’t understand, but assume that if you’re a woman, you can’t have one. Of course, the moment he’s there for his interview a horse goes DOWN. Anyone who has seen previous episodes where Siegfried tells cow parents that their baby is going to be okay knows that Siegfried genuinely loves animals and will make the right decision for them, job interview be damned. Siegfried’s strength of character is a life raft in these times when the idea of a leader sacrificing their personal interests for the good of others feels like a distant memory. Who’s going to do the right thing? Siegfried is. He puts the collapsed horse first and impresses his snobby interviewer, whose opinion we shouldn’t care about, because that guy’s a poop.
The drama of the episode comes when James is summoned to Hot Neville’s home to see Andante, the champion racehorse, who is bucking in his stall and seems to be in extreme discomfort. In no time at all, James has his shirt off, which you want to be all “it’s the Yorkshire veterinarian version of Mr. Darcy emerging from that pond” about, only he’s also got his entire arm up a horse, so it’s not quite the stuff of bodice-heaving fantasy. Unless you can overlook the horse part, in which case, I salute you.
Andante has torsion of the bowel, which, according to James, has progressed too far and the only thing to do is to put the extremely expensive horse down. He does it. Everyone is upset. Hugh (oh right, Hot Neville’s real name is Hugh) threatens to sue, and Siegfried says he’ll do a post mortem to verify the diagnosis. James was, of course, correct. We have a bunch more episodes! He can’t be fired in episode three! He hasn’t kissed Helen even once yet.
Side note: When Hot Neville refers to the horse being worth a lot, you might wonder, well how much? So I looked up “how much is a racehorse” and this article from money.com says the annual cost of just maintaining the horse was $60,000 as of 2015, and the 2019 average cost of a yearling was around $77,000. But that’s a yearling, which is basically an early adolescent horse. Andante was an extremely talented adult racehorse, who Hot Neville also clearly had emotional attachment to, so his anger is well understood from both a feelings and a money perspective. We get it, Hot Neville. We get it.
I know I spent this whole recap talking about how much I love Siegfried and his integrity (my notes: “THE INTEGRITY. THE COMMITMENT. THE FIDELITY.”) and also how much horses cost, but some other things also happened this episode! I am 100 percent on board with the show’s continued throwing together of Mrs. Hall and Siegfried. They are v v cute, and I would like more scenes of her helping him to fasten his cufflinks.
In non-Siegfried events, there was a whole plotline with Tristan, who several people called “Tris” this episode, and so he shall be to me from now on, vis-a-vis the collection of vet debt from local farmers. Tris is very bad at holding onto money. He collects the debt and then buys everyone drinks, thereby immediately spending it all, save for one leftover bank note. He bets it on the horse he knows is not dead (James tells him about Andante) and the money is recouped. Is insider gambling frowned upon in 1930s Yorkshire? Also, I looked up insider gambling, and apparently that phrase is not a thing, but you probably got what I meant, so we’re sticking with it.
James saves TWO COWS, and if there’s one more thing I admire about this show, it’s the apparent commitment to showing us multiple cows every single episode. He saves a baby cow (I will not call it a calf) from heat exhaustion, and another one from lead paint, because even though he diagnoses animals way too quickly, he is still a good vet.
Love Siegfried. Love Mrs. Hall. Love James. Tolerating Tris. This show continues to be a brief and beloved oasis in a beleaguered and stormy time.
Items For Pondering
• Will Siegfried and Mrs. Hall finally make out in the last episode of the season? Or, in the likely parlance of this show, will they share a meaningful and steady look after Siegfried makes some sidelong comment about how he likes having her around?
• If Helen is sporting Leia-on-Hoth-in-Empire-Strikes-Back hair in this episode, can we rightfully demand other Leia hairstyles in future episodes? (I say yes.)
• When will Siegfried inevitably fall from the towering pedestal upon which I have set him? Haha jk Siegfried will never do anything wrong.