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'All Creatures Great and Small' Recap: Season 2 Episode 4

Daniel Hautzinger
Tristan and James share a drink on Tristan's birthday in All Creatures Great and Small. Photo: Playground Television
Tristan wants to impress everyone by having a dinner party for his birthday instead of going to drink at the pub. Photo: Playground Television

All Creatures Great and Small airs Sundays at 8:00 pm and is available to stream. Recap the previous and following episodes.

It’s Tristan’s birthday, and Siegfried has quite the gifts for his younger brother: first, the monogrammed leather bag Mrs. Hall bought on behalf of Siegfried; second, the chance to lead house calls on his own—with James accompanying just in case, of course. And Siegfried will help Tristan pack his bag, too. Can’t leave him too unsupervised.

To everyone’s surprise, Tristan seems to be fully inhabiting his new, grown-up role: he asks Mrs. Hall for a dinner party in lieu of drinking at the pub for his birthday. James will bring Helen, Siegfried Dorothy, and Tristan himself will find a date. Siegfried asks Mrs. Hall if she wants to invite someone to make it an even eight, but she demurs. She also encourages James to speak to Helen about his possible job in Glasgow, and he says he’ll discuss it later that day when he goes to check on the Alderson mare.

Not only has Siegfried sent Tristan out on his own, he gave him a plum assignment: rasping the teeth of horses on a grand estate. Tristan thinks Siegfried is just waiting for him to mess up, and indeed, the manager there is skeptical of him. But Tristan does well enough, even if he does get kicked by a spirited stallion. James encourages him to ask the estate’s attractive resident Margot on a date—Tristan is a professional now, on an even playing field with moneyed women. But Tristan is nervous and awkward around her.

As he and James leave the estate, Siegfried pulls in: he’s found a spare rasp and thought Tristan might need it, or at least that’s the excuse. He has spent his morning excising a tumor from a dog and then looking for ways to occupy himself as the dog whines—Siegfried insists that the dog just doesn’t like being alone. When he sits down to lunch back at home, he mentions that he chatted with the estate manager but doesn’t offer any other comment.

Siegfried also asks to sit down with James to go over possible modernizations of the practice, as promised. He then sends Tristan—alone this time—to oversee the calving of a cow. And he lets him drive the nice car, since James needs the other one to check on the Aldersons.

Now it’s Mrs. Hall who’s worried about Tristan. She asks James to check on him after he’s done at the Aldersons. While he’s on the farm, James tries to casually bring up Glasgow with Helen but she just laughs off his mention, joking that it’s a good thing he didn’t stay there. He leaves disappointed.

Tristan has had better luck. On the way to his appointment, he spotted Margot out riding and pulled over in his fancy car to ask her to dinner. When he mentioned that Helen would be there, she agreed.

The calf presents more difficulty, with Tristan working hard and through pain to deliver it successfully—except that it’s all a show. Realizing that Margot’s estate manager was impressed by a little pain on Tristan’s part—it made him feel he got his money’s worth—Tristan exaggerates the effort involved in the birthing. The farmer will now give Siegfried a glowing review of Tristan’s exertions.

Siegfried seems to be correct in his thought that, if Tristan believes he is a qualified veterinarian, he’ll act the part and take on the responsibility. But Siegfried still withholds any praise after hearing from the farmer with the new calf, to Tristan’s disappointment.

Helen arrives early to help Mrs. Hall set up for the dinner party, and Mrs. Hall accidentally reveals James’s job prospect in Glasgow. Mrs. Hall’s first interaction with Margot is also awkward, given that the young woman assumes she is Siegfried’s wife. Things only get worse from there, as Margot continually brings up Helen’s ex-fiance Hugh—he is a family friend, a fact Tristan neglected to mention. She side-eyes Helen and James throughout the meal, but Helen stands her ground.

A bright moment comes when Siegfried toasts Tristan. To my surprise and delight, he says, reports on Tristan’s work today have been uniformly excellent. But things cloud up again quickly when the newly tumor-free dog begins howling and a glowing Tristan pushes his brother too far. Siegfried lets slip that Tristan didn’t pass his exams, and thus isn’t a qualified vet.

Mrs. Hall quickly brings the rest of the party into the kitchen, leaving the Farnons to talk it out. Tristan is humiliated and angry at his brother’s lie: he’s a laughingstock, and Siegfried won’t admit he’s in the wrong.

Margot at least has improved somewhat: she apologizes to Helen, sincerely telling her and James that she hopes they will be happy. Diana takes her home, and James leaves to bring Helen back to the farm. Mrs. Hall tries to comfort a crying Tristan in the kitchen, but he’s inconsolable, especially when he learns that she knew about the exams. (He also guesses that Siegfried didn’t even get the bag for him.) She leaves him to be alone after telling him she is truly sorry.

James has tea with Helen at her farm and brings up Glasgow again, surprised that she already knows. I’m letting people down no matter what I do, he tells her of his agonizing over the decision. He didn’t tell her earlier because he didn’t want to pressure her—but he wants to stay with her, either way. We’ll have to work something out then, she says with a smile, and they kiss.

Back at home, Tristan is drinking Siegfried’s special bottle of whiskey by himself. James tells him qualifications don’t matter; Tristan knows that he can do the work. Slightly consoled, Tristan decides to continue celebrating his birthday with James. The pub is still open, after all.