All Creatures Great and Small
I go almost this whole series waiting for an opportunity to call an episode “Love Among the Cows,” and what happens? James is sticking his bare hand into a cow’s neck abscess, romantically lit by the blaring headlamps of a car. Oh well. Maybe next season. Unless the final episode decides to go all-in on cows (which, to be fair, I’m hoping for regardless).
Remember last episode, when it was a lovely time at the fair, except for the exposure of the deep wells of deceit and treachery on display from the entrants to the pony show? And then Clive, the bull of our hearts, turned out to be lame? I can scarcely bring myself to relive the opening of this episode, but it begins with beautiful and green rolling hills and a somber-looking James, and you’re like, well, why is James somber? And then he turns right at an abattoir truck and in that truck is CLIVE.
To quote my notes: “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”
Then you think, well, maybe James will realize that Clive can be saved. But that does not happen, and he tries to console Helen’s sister Jenny with a kitten, as if a kitten could replace the most majestic bull on God’s own earth. Yes, the kitten is called Poppy and that is extremely cute, but still. I am inconsolable until I see Stubborn Sick Siegfried: Mustard Cardigan Edition. He and Mrs. Hall are continuing to act exactly like they are married, and I am continuing to watch them do it with the same level of interest as Tina Belcher watching Jimmy Junior do calisthenics. She tries to make him take his medicine, and he responds by calling it witch’s brew, which I think we can all agree that after the great Scottish witch hunt of 1649-50, it is too soon.
This episode is 98 percent tragedy for James. It’s his birthday. The bull he was going to vouch for is being murdered. The cow he recommended has an abscess that will likely choke it. Helen is engaged. And he keeps sneezing. Just a lot going on. I kept imagining him ironically singing “Happy birthday to me” inside his head as one horrible thing after another happened. BUT. He saves Strawberry. The cow’s name is Strawberry! Ahhhh!! The cow’s name being Strawberry makes its potential death unacceptable. This is why I could never be a vet. I mean. There are many reasons. But one of them is that if someone said “here is my sick cow, its name is Strawberry,” I would grasp their face in my hands and say “I WILL SAVE YOUR COW,” instead of the responsible thing, which is probably something like “Well, let’s see what’s going on here.”
Strawberry has a “post-pharyngeal abscess,” which I feel gross even thinking about, but basically it’s a sac of pus (OMG ew ew I hate it) that’s in the cow’s throat making it hard to breathe. As you can imagine. James is very “not today” about Strawberry dying, but he can’t find a solution.
Meanwhile, Tristan rises about 5 percent in my estimation this week because after he stops drawing pictures of Greta Garbo (one percent boost), he puts his (sporadic) studies to use and treats some animals very competently (and there’s the other four percent). Which leads us to a highlight of this episode, a woman whom I shall call Chicken Lady. Chicken Lady has a real commitment to chicken-esque facial expressions, which I didn’t know was possible, but she found a way. Chicken Lady is concerned about her chicken (makes sense), which has bumblefoot, a very Seussian-sounding condition. Tristan uses books to diagnose it (!), which leads him to the cunning plan later on of making James’s birthday slightly less horrible by looking up book ideas to save the cow.
Siegfried is wearing the scarf of a cartoon pilot that somehow also evokes Mark from Rent. I love almost everything Siegfried wears, but I cannot get past his sickness wardrobe. It feels very much like before the start of this episode, he and Mrs. Hall said to each other, “What if we put together the worst outfits we can possibly find and see if James or Tristan says anything?” And they DON’T. Astonishing.
I guess now is as good a time as any to state that James and Helen have the chemistry of two disinterested strangers apologizing for ordering at the same time at a McDonald’s. I don’t find it a failing of the show, particularly, because again, this show is marked on the map as Here Be Gentleness, and we have our extremely low-burn pairing of Siegfried and Mrs. Hall to supply any romantic deficiencies.
The lack of investment in this pairing makes Helen’s engagement announcement less than devastating. James will be fine. Especially because it still seems clear he and Helen will end up together anyway, but also because I am still feeling emotional about the episode’s end. Is there anything more low-key emotion-inducing during COVID than seeing a group of chosen family leaving a cozy bar and walking home together? This show. I can’t. I love it so much.
Items For Pondering
• Can someone write a Li’l Sebastian–style song for Clive the Bull? Maybe “50,000 Candles in the Wind” this time?
• Is it possible for someone to sadly say “She’s our Strawberry” without the other party dissolving into tears?
• What are we going to do without this show? Should we start a support group where we all just watch pastoral video footage of farmers feeding their sheep together?