All Creatures Great and Small
The thing about All Creatures Great and Small is that it creates a cozy, insular world filled with kind people. That is why, when it’s not on next Sunday because this is the last episode of this season, I will be swaddled in a blanket and possibly ordering myself some sweater vests to fill the hole in my heart. This episode didn’t help things by being extremely heartwarming.
We slow-zoom into Skeldale House from the outside like we’re Scrooge at the window. Going in, everything is decorated for Christmas, but no one is around because it’s very early. There are garlands everywhere! And a sign for the North Pole! It’s Christmas Eve morning, and James gets a call from Mr. Kitson, who has a sick cow. The main thing you need to know about Mr. Kitson is he is very grumpy, mainly about paying vets to take care of sick animals. Makes total sense, Mr. Kitson! (It does not.) James is a dedicated little muffin man, so he came out in his pajamas because he was told it was urgent. In the next stall at Kitson’s farm, he sees a sheep in pain due to a bad birthing process. Kitson legit says he’s not going to pay James just to ease her pain before she dies. Cool job human-ing, Kitson. James is going to leave, but because of the aforementioned muffin-man status, he goes back and gives the sheep a shot. He also picks up a small crooked log while looking very pleased with himself. This relates to a Scottish tradition we’ll get into later!
There are two Christmas events at Skeldale House over the next 24 hours: the Christmas Eve party they hold for people in the village and the Christmas lunch for the inner circle. You’ve really gotta be in to get into the Christmas luncheon. Or you would, but then they start throwing invitations around all willy-nilly. Invite Diana, Mrs. Hall says to Siegfried! Invite Gerald, Siegfried says to Mrs. Hall! Booooo, I say to everyone!
Diana specifically tells Mrs. Hall that she is excited about having an empty house. Sure, Gerald would probably appreciate an invite, but is anyone a Gerald fan? If you are, don’t tell me unless you’ve made an elaborate Gerald/Mrs. Hall collage, because I respect that kind of effort. That, or a fanvid of them set to a Nickelback song. That would be funny.
Okay, I know I cannot be alone in being upset that there were two potential dog fatalities in two sequential episodes. I mean, one was an actual fatality, but they really played it fast and loose with Tricki’s life here. I had to keep reassuring myself that SURELY they would not kill him in a Christmas special. SURELY. But they killed Clive the Bull, so you never know.
Mrs. Pumphrey calls because there is something wrong with Tricki. He is listless. He is not eating. He’s just lying in a chair, being depressed. Siegfried diagnoses it as gastroenteritis, which is an intestinal infection that can be very dangerous. Mrs. Pumphrey is all by herself in a giant house with sheets covering all the furniture, which I assume is because the staff isn’t there to dust them, but it’s Christmas! Can’t you wait until after the holiday to make your home look like Miss Havisham’s? Just have some dust on your chairs, it’s fine. Siegfried takes Tricki with him for treatment, promising he’ll try to have him back by Christmas tomorrow.
James goes to the Aldersons’ to pick up Helen, who looks very pretty in her dress! I am determined to shower Helen with compliments whenever I can now that their dynamic has improved so much. Her sister Jenny is cooking for Christmas lunch tomorrow and has been soaking a pudding in brandy every week for a month. What?? A month?? I looked this up, and yes, apparently, you’re supposed to start four to six weeks ahead. Look. I know it’s traditional and a little hackneyed to make fun of British food, and it’s not like this isn’t what my ancestors were eating, but I thought we’d all agree fruit cake was bad and no one eats it. It looks like chocolate, but it is not. It’s a bunch of fruit and brandy — you know, the alcohol that old misogynists with cigars drink in the drawing room.
Maybe Christmas pudding is amazing. I’ve eaten Yorkshire pudding that my dad made, which is eggs and rendered animal fat (no one wanted to call it Animal-Fat Pudding for some reason), and it was pretty good. But all that aside, the main point here is that James didn’t realize the Aldersons were expecting him for lunch because Mrs. Hall is definitely expecting James and Helen at Skeldale. They determine to figure this out later because, in the meantime, Helen has some questions about the log in the backseat of James’s car that he’s carved a face into. It’s the Cailleach! James also calls it Old Woman Winter. His dad carves one every year, and then they put it in the fire on Christmas Day to banish the past and bring in the new year. This is lovely! Gaelic mythology! I am also a sucker for keeping traditions going if they are meaningful (get outta here, fruit cake), so good job, James, carving that face into that log.
Now we get to the fanfic portion of our show. For those unfamiliar with the fanfic world, there is an ever-present trope where one character gets all duded-up, and the other character sees them in a whole new light, which eventually leads to kissing. Not immediately, but it puts them on the path. Mrs. Hall puts on a sparkly dress for the Christmas party and her hair is down, and Siegfried sees her as she is trying to take down some mistletoe. He tells her she looks different (the trope!!), then they stand there awkwardly, and she goes upstairs to change because Mrs. Hall is not a person who likes to be obviously observed. Also, she probably doesn’t want to make her dynamic with Siegfried weird because she has such a nice dynamic in the house with everyone, and what if it went wrong? This is exactly the sort of inner-monologue fic I would have written when I was 17.
James and Siegfried keep checking on Tricki at the party because he is dehydrated despite being on a saline drip (noooooooo). They get Mrs. Pumphrey to sit with him, but it doesn’t do anything. Meanwhile, did you know the ewe that James gave the shot to survived?? It is a saved sheep! Does this relate to Tricki? Yes, it does. After not eating the treat Mrs. Pumphrey tries to give him (NO TRICKIIIIII), Siegfried says there’s very little they can do. But then James thinks if they put Tricki under using the same thing he gave the ewe (the sedative Nembutal), his body might be able to recover. But it could also kill him.
Mrs. Pumphrey whispers in Tricki’s ear before he gets the shot, and I cry. I cry so much. She asks if she can hold his paw while it’s administered. “DAMN YOU, CHRISTMAS EPISODE,” Alice howls while holding her cats close.
When Father Christmas is late, James takes over the role, with Helen’s assistance. They manage to have a chat about where they’re going to live, which James assumes will be at the practice. Yes, my greatest wishes come true. Helen feels like there won’t be anything for her to do, which is fair! James admits he hadn’t thought about that (MEN). Later, when Old Grump Kitson complains about how vets charge money for services, Helen stands up to him with her farming knowledge, proving herself a valuable addition to the practice.
Siegfried tries to invite Diana to Christmas lunch, and she basically tells him they’re friends with benefits. I can get behind this. FOR THE TIME BEING. Mrs. Hall invites Gerald to lunch and he accepts. Bah!
The next morning (Christmas!), James and Tristan both pad down the stairs in their jammies to check on Tricki. Siegfried comes down in his robe. Tricki still isn’t awake, and his heartbeat is slow, so James gives him a shot of adrenaline. It takes a minute, and I was on tenterhooks, but then Tristan offers Tricki a treat, and he takes it! Trickehhhhhhh!! You fluffy mop of a dog! James immediately delivers Tricki to Mrs. Pumphrey for Christmas and comes in for a glass of sherry.
Meanwhile, I have completely ignored the fact that Tristan returned to school and received a letter with his exam results, but has not told anyone the contents. On Christmas Day, Tristan’s present to Siegfried is telling him that he passed. Siegfried then ruins it in his Siegfriedian way by asking to see the results paper since they both lied at least once about those results. Siegfried looks SO PROUD while reading it, and he nods at Mrs. Hall with tears in his eyes. Aghhh. My little Yorkshire familyyyyyyyy.
Everyone becomes even greater when they decide to be all Cindy Lou Who and bring Christmas to Mrs. Pumphrey’s, including a tree. They all sing “Ding Dong Merrily on High” and sound delightfully terrible. Apparently, the “gloria” in that song has 33 syllables, which I believe.
Back home, James calls his parents and tells them that he carved the Cailleach and that he is grateful for their support of his education and career. OMG, it’s all so heartwarming. Later, he burns the log and quotes the Robert Burns poem “Auld Lang Syne.” Mrs. Hall and Siegfried sit in their armchairs by the fire, and she puts her hand on his shoulder and tells him “well done” as he looks at Tristan’s graduation letter again. He reaches up and holds her hand. I am perfectly calm about this entire situation. Mrs. Hall is distracted by the sound of a plane and sees one out the window. She looks over at James, Helen, and Tristan, worried.
The dog knocks over the board game the kids are playing. They’re all laughing and happy. The camera pans back from Skeldale House. I cry because I love this show so much. We see the plane crossing the moon. END OF SEASON.