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'All Creatures Great and Small' Recap: Season 3 Episode 1

Daniel Hautzinger
James and Helen at their wedding in All Creatures Great and Small
James and Helen are finally getting married, even if several obstacles appear along the way. Photo: Playground Entertainment and Masterpiece

All Creatures Great and Small airs Sundays at 8:00 pm and is available to stream. Recap the previous and following episodes.
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War is coming—but so is joy. The day before his wedding to Helen, James pulls over to admire a military plane swooping over the green hills of the dales. When he sees his parents off the bus, his father is limping due to all the extra work at the docks as England prepares for war. 

Outside Skeldale House, James and Tristan are approached by an army recruitment officer. James is more interested in the Royal Air Force, but Siegfried quickly interrupts to tell the officer that both men are veterinarians, which is a reserved occupation that keeps them from conscription—farms and agriculture need to be kept up to feed the nation. 

Siegfried takes duty very seriously, and has some sour words for James about leaving the practice for a week to take a honeymoon with Helen. Siegfried has Tristan for help, but he still doesn’t quite trust him—in fact, everyone is a bit nervous that Tristan is in charge of the ring for the wedding. A night of heavy drinking for the bachelor party doesn’t bode well.

Indeed, Tristan wakes up on the couch the next morning, and the ring box is missing. Luckily, Siegfried had relieved Tristan of the box, not that he will tell his brother that—he’d rather make him sweat. Siegfried himself remembers little of the evening: Mrs. Hall found his muddy clothes in the pantry, and he has a rat that he apparently won in a drinking contest. 

What about James? He wakes up in a barn. The farmer William Henry mentioned at the pub that he feared his cows had tuberculosis, and James insisted on testing them right away, given that the disease could be transmitted to humans via their milk; Henry’s son died years ago of it. James slept in Henry’s barn so that he could start work first thing in the morning, despite Henry’s objections.

Helen is also spending the morning of her wedding working: making breakfast, doing farm chores. She teases her father by pretending to have doubts about the wedding—again. She assures Jenny that things won’t change; she’ll be back everyday, even though she’s moving with James into the attic bedsit in Skeldale House. 

In preparing the attic, Mrs. Hall has found dusty boxes of old photos and documents from Siegfried’s past. Both she and Siegfried recall their weddings, hastily undergone while the men were on leave during the war. Mrs. Hall used a piece of twine tied with a knot for a ring.

Speaking of rings, Siegfried has lost James’. He left the box on the sideboard and a dog being kept overnight at the surgery ate it—the box was next to a breakfast plate waiting for James. Siegfried tries to induce vomiting in the dog while Mrs. Hall blames him for interfering with Tristan. She also chides him that his speech to James about duty is the reason the young man went off to work on the morning of his wedding. 

Tristan has arrived at the Henry farm to whisk James home, but James insists on testing the whole herd. None have tuberculosis, but one is missing—and it is found injured just as James is finally about to leave. There’s nothing the vets can do, and the animal is in pain. Henry calls for his gun, but his son Wilfred accuses James and Tristan of not trying hard enough.

The outburst cuts keenly, given that Wilfred has enlisted in the military. In James’ view, Wilfred is doing his duty while James himself is not. James offers to try something on the cow that probably won’t work, to Tristan’s frustration. 

Siegfried soon arrives and confirms that nothing can be done. Wilfred hands James the gun, but Tristan offers to take the unpleasant task instead. After everyone leaves, he hesitates, and Wilfred shoots the animal for him. 

James changes into his suit while Siegfried drives him to church, with the dog that has eaten the ring box in the back seat. James doesn’t have his shoes, so he has to quickly trade his Wellies to his father when he arrives at the church, just before Helen herself. 

Mrs. Hall has helped Helen get ready, and consoled her over the absence of her mother. They rode to church in the car of Mrs. Pumphrey, who has sent her regrets and Tricki-Woo in her place. 

The dog did finally vomit in the back seat, so Siegfried has a ring box for Tristan—but the ring itself is missing. When it is called for in the ceremony, James admits that he pocketed it for safekeeping before the bachelor party—except it’s in his other coat. Siegfried brings him a knotted circle of twine, and Helen pronounces it perfect. 

There might end up being other similarities to Mrs. Hall’s marriage: James is considering enlisting, having learned from Wilfred that young men can leave a reserved occupation for the military if they want. Tristan ominously says that James’ sense of duty will be the death of him. 

But for now, James has a honeymoon to enjoy. Helen has him stop the car at the point marking the farthest she has ever been from home.

When they return to Skeldale, James starts to approach a recruiter before being called away by Helen: there’s a new plaque on the veterinary practice marking James as a partner. It’s Siegfried’s wedding present—and James deserves it, he makes sure to say. 

Helen rushes James upstairs to their new home. The bed collapses when they tumble onto it, and there’s a new phone on the bedside table. James promises to find a place of their own soon, but they’re still in the blissful days of early marriage and don’t care for now. 

The phone rings. James ignores it, hoping someone else will answer it. No one does, so he picks it up. Duty calls.