All Creatures Great and Small
Who would’ve thought the Ministry of Agriculture could be so terrifying? We got some typically great moments this week, but our cozy Yorkshire veterinary family was so separated! Everyone off, doing their own thing. I know this is based on real life, but people need to stop growing in this series in ways that take them away from all eating breakfast together in the kitchen.
James is off visiting every cow in town as he leads the practice’s TB testing, which is something that he had been super excited about and lobbied Siegfried to do. Only problem is that the farmers hated it, mainly because it meant they could lose a bunch of their cows, and therefore their livelihood. And people tend to like having a livelihood. But, James insisted it would generate money for the practice and also keep people from dying. Boy, does he have egg on his face now. Not because those two points aren’t true; more because he is tired and everyone is mad at him. RELATABLE.
The imposing Ministry of Agriculture summons James to its towering stone headquarters. Once there, James is roundly abused by divisional inspector Charles Harcourt, who looks a lot like Herbert Hoover. Harcourt shouts at everyone, all the time, and James is in trouble because he is terrible at paperwork. He has sent the wrong form to the wrong people, and so the ministry showed up at a farm to put down a cow that died two years ago. How did this happen? Who knows? Certainly not James. Exasperated, Harcourt walks James through the very simple process of five forms, with a potential additional four forms, depending on the situation. “Damnit, a child could understand that,” says Mr. Harcourt.
Poor James. He’s just a helpless little starfish sometimes, and when faced with people raging at him, he goes all wide-eyed and says “meep” (or whatever starfish do; I think I’m actually describing Beaker from The Muppets). The big issue here is that the Ministry of Agriculture, which Siegfried calls “the MAG,” which is very funny for some reason, can shut the whole practice down if James keeps messing up. A lot is on his shoulders! And he keeps feeling bad about not enlisting, especially now that conscription’s started. That would be hard, but also, no, James, bad. Take care of the cows. They’ve been dying on this show at an alarming rate.
The time James spends getting yelled at is time that he’s not spending with the rest of the All Creatures Great and Small Gang, which is really unfortunate for me. There’s James off on his own, with shouty Herbert Hoover. Tristan is tootling around in his new old car, Siegfried is obsessed with Tricki Woo, and Mrs. Hall is out here misunderstanding what is and is not a date. I guess we can account for Helen too, now that she lives in Skeldale House. Helen’s in the attic filling out forms for James. She is literally his attic wife. That’s the most Northanger Abbey–type attic wife reveal. Can you imagine if Jane Eyre crept into the attic, and there’s Bertha Mason doing Mr. Rochester’s taxes?
But yes, Tristan has saved up and bought a car. This car is essentially Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Its horn even makes an “aoooo-gah” sound, along with its many other grumbles and bangs. Tristan loves it. He’s so excited. Siegfried is coping with his brother growing up by becoming intensely solicitous of Tricki, who keeps stealing Jess’s bed and food. Jess politely barks at Tricki to get him to move, but to no avail. Tricki is a rock, unless someone has snacks, in which case Tricki is a speeding bullet. Siegfried’s descent into Mrs. Pumphrey levels of care is at its lowest when he’s on his stomach in the parlor, offering Tricki Battenberg cake if he’ll come out from under the furniture. This while calling him “Tricki darling.” Oh, Siegfried.
Tristan even asks Florence Pandhi out on a date, which she accepts. It goes very well, unlike Mrs. Hall’s date with Gerald. (Do you remember Gerald? I’ve been ignoring him because Mrs. Hall is married to Siegfried and why should I talk about her dog-walking friend? In this very episode, Siegfried asks, “Has anyone seen my— ” and Mrs. Hall puts his pipe IN his mouth. Everything they do together is the most married thing of all time. But right, Gerald, yes. Okay.) Gerald and Mrs. Hall are on one of their dog walks, and he asks if she would like to go to the Elgar concert. When she tells Siegfried she’s going, he is very sure it’s a date, which worries her. I am delighted that the idea of this being a date was so far removed from Mrs. Hall’s brain. Gerald is fine, but fine is not good enough for Mrs. Hall! And also Skeldale House is her home, and Tristan, James, Siegfried, and Helen are her family, and they will all stay together forever, so say we all.
When she shows up at the concert, Gerald is wearing a suit and a bow tie, and holding some flowers. She is wearing a decidedly “this is a friendship concert outing” ensemble. They skip the concert and take a walk to talk things over, which is very mature of both of them! One would expect no less from such upstanding people. Mrs. Hall very kindly tells Gerald that she “feels safe” with how things are, which is an interesting way of putting it. But she likes her life in Darrowby. I’m so glad we got this out of the way so that she and Siegfried can move on and talk about their son Tristan (don’t be weird about it; you know that’s the vibe).
Oh right, so what happened with James and the cows? He finds a cow with TB, and of course it’s at the extremely nice farmer’s place. It looks like it didn’t affect the whole herd, though, so only the one cow needs to be put down, because apparently it wouldn’t be season three of All Creatures Great and Small without cow death. However! Even though Helen ensured that all the proper forms were filled out and sent to their proper places, the butcher still came and collected the wrong cow. So James shows up at the farm, and the TB cow is there, and Jeff the Butcher (remember Jeff?) took the best milking cow. Of course he did. James jumps in his car and speeds after the truck, breaking down on the road, getting picked up soon after by Tristan and Florence, who continue the chase. Only once they flag down the truck, they discover it’s the wrong truck. I can say with confidence that this is the most high stakes car chase we’ve ever seen on All Creatures Great and Small.
They make it to Jeff’s and find out the milking cow is still alive. HURRAY. Jeff has to sign a form regarding the cow, and he leaves a bloody handprint and pork pie stain on the paper. Classic Jeff. Jeff thinks the cow mix-up is hilarious. “HAHAHA WRONG COW” he shouts. I wonder, what do you do in your free time, Jeff?
Florence loved her car chase date with Tristan, Mrs. Hall has cleared the air with Gerald, and shouty Mr. Harcourt comes to visit the practice, where he tells James that he didn’t realize James was doing all the TB testing by himself. He calls James a credit to his profession. James feels less exhausted and sad now! And he is saving lives and people aren’t mad at him! Great job, James.
Siegfried, Mrs. Hall, and Tristan go for a ride in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Jess steals Tricki’s chaise longue. How the tables have turned, my tiny, treat-loving friend.