All Creatures Great and Small
I admire when British shows completely neglect their American audience and go all in on something like a cricket-themed episode as we stare, blank-faced, at our screens, wondering what a wicket is and why isn’t the person who hits the ball running and WHY ARE THERE TWO BATTERS?
You don’t necessarily need to know the ins and outs of cricket to appreciate this episode, but watching multiple YouTube videos certainly helped me, and I shall impart the crucial information to you, the cricket novice, at appropriate points in this recap.
But first! James has to attach a ring to a bull’s nose. Apparently this makes bulls safer? I know I’m not the one having to deal with a dangerous and very large animal, but I hate it. Who is having James do this task? It’s HUGH. Remember Hugh a.k.a. Neville Longbottom? He’s back from France, and he’s looking pretty good. The bull’s name is Monty! Hugh is going to give him to Helen, but James doesn’t know that when he trips over a bucket while backing up from Monty and gets mud all over himself. Poor James. Poor Monty. I guess poor Hugh too, but he specifically asked for James, which is not exactly cricket, Hugh (see what I did there?).
The cricket game is the annual Darrowby match at Pumphrey Manor, where local farmers and vets (weird addition) play against the local gentlemen. Tristan is their best player, but he’s refusing to play because he is still mad at Siegfried for lying to him about his livelihood for months. Which is fair. Everyone is very excited about the match, including Mrs. Hall, who will be keeping score. Siegfried will be playing in a very fun hat.
Elsewhere, Helen is concerned because Hugh wants to talk to the Aldersons about their farm lease. She asks her dad what if he wants to break it, and he says then she was right not to marry him. Which is so nice! Good job, Mr. Alderson! I love when people I love put things in context like that, whether it is about a job or a jilted fiancé who fled to France.
Hugh is, in fact, very kind and renews the lease for 20 years and adds Helen’s and Jenny’s names to it. He also tries to gift them Monty the Bull, but Helen decides she cannot accept it because they want to earn their own way. Respectable. I’d probably take the bull, but I get it.
Before the match gets under way, Mrs. Pumphrey calls the practice and asks Siegfried to visit the manor for something that demands the utmost discretion. (Side note: We find out the Farnon residence’s number is “Darrowby 2297,” so if you want to change your WiFi network name to that, I support you.) It turns out Tricki the Pekingese has been increasingly amorous toward objects (“I had to take his cushion away”) and a particular terrier named Bella. Mrs. Pumphrey doesn’t want to let Tricki get neutered, so she asks for a calming draught, but this is apparently not an option. She finally decides to allow the operation, but with extreme reluctance.
James volunteers to join the farmer and vet cricket team because of JEALOUSY (Hugh is captain of the opposing team). The tiny flaw in this plan is that James has never played actual cricket and he is, therefore, bad at it. Tristan tells him that in Yorkshire, it goes king, God, cricket. Siegfried practices with James indoors, which is terrifying? There are glass lamps! Mrs. Hall just accepts this, which shows how serious the people of Darrowby are about their cricket.
Okay, now we should take a sec to go over the (possibly incorrect) cricket info I have gleaned. Basically, the pitcher (bowler) is trying to knock over those two little spools (bails) on top of the three sticks (the wicket) with the ball, and the batter (batsman) is protecting the spools and trying to hit the ball. If they hit the ball very far, they get six runs. If they hit it less far, they get four runs. As in baseball, if an outfielder catches it, the batsman is out. And beyond that, we don’t need to worry about it.
Tristan and Siegfried argue about cricket, but it’s not about cricket, y’know? Mrs. Hall tells Siegfried that Tristan still feels Siegfried owes him an apology, which Siegfried thinks is silly. Siegfried! Listen to other people’s opinions about your behavior! Tristan and Siegfried do have a nice bonding moment about their dad.
It is finally the cricket match! I say “finally” like I had any idea what was happening the first time I watched it. After I watched all my educational videos, I rewatched it and it made slightly more sense. Hugh’s team bats first and they get 138 runs and call it for their side, meaning they don’t think there’s any chance the other team can win. Which is probably true! James is just standing in the outfield like a goober while Hugh hits ball after ball to him. James is like one of those children who sits in the outfield looking at a dandelion as a baseball flies past them. Those children frequently go on to do fulfilling things that aren’t baseball! You’re a very good vet, James.
After Hugh’s team calls it, they all pause for tea in a tent. Mrs. Pumphrey calls Siegfried over and asks if Tricki will be the same after he has been “emasculated.” She wants him to be able to experience life to the fullest, so she lets him off his leash, and there is a DELIGHTFUL shot of a Pekingese bounding across the cricket pitch. I watched it four times.
Tristan tells James that Hugh winning would probably restore his dignity in his own eyes. “What will happen in my kind, kind show?” I say in my notes. But come on, you know what’s going to happen. Because everyone is so kind!!
This pivotal final part of the match goes completely over my head. They have 78 runs, but if James hits the ball, it’ll be a draw?? They are SIXTY runs down! How can it end with a draw? Tristan tells James to protect his wicket and guard his stumps, and … I don’t even know anymore. James clearly steps back to leave the wicket open, and Hugh hits it, ending the game. Helen tells James she loves him for doing the nice thing for Hugh. They kiss on a bench.
Siegfried and Tristan finally have a real chat, and Siegfried apologizes (!!!) for not telling him the truth and says he may have been wrong. Siegfried says this! GROWTH. He tells Tristan that he can decide on his own whether he wants to return to school. Did Siegfried learn this valuable lesson from watching Tricki bound joyfully across the field? One can only hope.
Items for Pondering
• How … what are stumps?
• Would unknown-type-of-terrier/Pekingese puppies look cute, and can I have one?
• What will we do without this lovely show once a week?