All Creatures Great and Small
May we all live to experience the glory of a Daffodil Ball. As we near the two-year anniversary of this Time That Shall Not Be Named, the escapism of All Creatures Great and Small becomes crystal clear as never before. Our found family all go to a town dance together, and everyone just has fun without worrying one atom about global disease. Until James mucks it up, but we’ll get to that. Also, even that turns out all right because it’s All Creatures! Why wouldn’t it! Everyone is fine! Hurray!
The episode centers around the Daffodil Ball, a magnificent cow, and a cantankerous pig. I would also be cantankerous if veterinarians who hadn’t even passed their exams were chasing me around with a scalpel.
We are introduced to Mrs. Brompton, a.k.a. Diana, who is selling tickets for the Daffodil Ball, with the proceeds to go towards the restoration of the steeple. If you are me, you immediately recognize Diana exclusively from the film Topsy-Turvy, a movie that came out over 20 years ago, despite her IMDb page proving she has been working steadily since. Look, I want to watch more of Harlots, but I have been distracted by the endless seasons of Drag Race.
Mrs. Hall declines a ticket, so Tristan picks up four: one for him, one for James, one for an unknown woman Tristan is planning to pick up, and one for Helen. Before any James/Helen fans come for me, I will have you know that I enjoyed them this episode. Yes! Enjoyed! I know I suggested replacing her with a coat rack last time, but I readily admit that having a human person there makes it much better in this episode.
Siegfried runs into Diana, who flirts with him intensely. It goes completely over Siegfried’s head, as he thinks she is married (she is divorced!). I will continue to upend your expectations by saying that I don’t hate the idea of Siegfried and Diana, primarily because Dorothy Atkinson, who plays her, is a delight. Also, I really loved Topsy-Turvy as a teenager.
I do, however, hate the idea of Mrs. Hall getting with Gerald, the man whose dog’s foot got caught in a trap. Go away, Gerald. All I will say about their storyline is the dog turned out fine, and it was weird they were being dramatic about him maybe losing his leg. There are loads of three-legged dogs! I’ve seen them running all over the internet! Living their joyful lives! Anyway, the dog retains his leg, and Gerald leaves.
Onward, to the magnificent cow! I know why you read these recaps, and it’s for Cow Facts. The magnificent cow in question is a Belted Galloway (also called a Beltie, which is v cute), and it comes from the Scottish Highlands. They typically live up to twenty years, and this one is factually adorable. But also sick! Due to a mix-up at the practice, Siegfried is a day late, and the colonel who owns the Beltie has called in Siegfried’s archnemesis George. George is not as good at being a vet as Siegfried, which is very satisfying. In this rivalry, we are on the winning side.
Siegfried mentions something about the cow possibly having ingested some wire, and a distant voice in my head replied with something about birds and turtles and plastic. I firmly shushed the voice because, in this world, plastic was only invented thirty years ago and surely was not a problem yet. No need to worry about THAT dilemma, for it does not exist! Not for the blessed hour that we watch this show.
After the cow visit comes the cantankerous pig. Her name is Buttercup, and she is amazing. Buttercup has an engorged hematoma on her head, which apparently is something like a very large boil. Siegfried assigns Tristan to lance the hematoma as Siegfried sings “I’m Called Little Buttercup” from Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore (two G&S references in one recap!). The farmer advises Tristan to play dead if Buttercup attacks him. Unless it seems like she’s going to kill him, in which case he should not do that. This does not inspire Tristan with confidence. Buttercup charges him, and he leaps back over the sty wall. I would also run from this pig. She is terrifyingly huge.
Siegfried threatens that they’ll simply return tonight and finish the job, but Tristan will not lose so precious an event as the Daffodil Ball, so he goes once more into the breach, gets chased again, and Buttercup destroys her own hematoma by banging into the wall in her quest to presumably eat Tristan.
IT’S DAFFODIL TIME. James invites Helen, and she accepts, despite being leery of being judged by the whole town, for whom would not attend the Daffodil Ball? Well. Mrs. Hall wouldn’t because she is sitting in her cozy parlor with its cozy lamps and its cozy fire and the book she’s reading and the dog sitting by her feet. I think we’re supposed to be like, “no, Mrs. Hall, rejoin the human race!” But speaking as someone whose Christmas consisted of 90% “you seem like someone who likes being warm and not going outside” gifts, I am on Mrs. Hall’s side here. To be fair to the show and the lesson I am ascribing to it, Mrs. Hall does seem immensely happy to have some alone time.
The Daffodil Ball has a 1930s band and fun dancing and some kind of punch or bar situation. Everyone looks like they are having an amazing time, and I don’t know if I’ve made this clear, but I am unutterably envious of them, despite not being a person who dances. James also does not really dance, but he shrugs that off to dance with Helen, which yes! Is cute! It’s a cute thing. Maybe they just needed to get off the farm for me to like them. Or I am just so charmed by convivial atmospheres nowadays that they have tricked me. Also, Helen looks very nice in red.
She hugs James at the end of their dance as he apologizes about stepping all over her toes (also cute) when an old acquaintance of hers steps up and James says they’re not together. Helen looks visibly disappointed at this, and before you call James an idiot, he calls himself one, so no need.
Tristan makes out with his date (Annabelle? I think?), and Siegfried takes Diana out in his car. The next morning, they’re both very smug and it nauseates Mrs. Hall.
You might think enough events have happened for one episode, but they have not! We are back to the cow to teach the colonel a lesson. The lesson is: do not hire another vet and also stop trying to step all over Siegfried. James, Siegfried, and Tristan all attend to the mending of the magnificent cow, which apparently means they have to make a big cut in its side?? The cow seems unbothered by this, which I do not understand at all, but they seem to have cut right at the point of one of its four stomachs (animals are weird). To truly get back at the colonel, Siegfried has him stand directly in front of the stomach, Siegfried punctures it, and … cow shit goes everywhere. Most particularly all over the colonel. And they find the wire! The wire Siegfried said all along was in there! The cow is saved.
They return to the practice, and Helen stops by asking for James. They hold hands! She kisses him on the cheek! We end with our chosen family reading and sitting in the parlor, as a shit-covered veterinarian coat falls on the floor. Magical.
Items for Pondering
• Could I fit a Belted Galloway cow in the alley behind my Chicago apartment, and would it thrive there? (Probably.)
• How are there so many good sweater vests on this show? Should we all buy sweater vests?
• Speaking of Topsy-Turvy, can we all agree that the music for The Mikado should be retained and an entirely new book should be written, except for the songs that somehow aren’t racist?