February 12, 2023
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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Germany has invaded Poland; World War II has begun. Everyone is holding their breath to see how England will respond.
Helen’s father tells James he shouldn’t feel guilty for not enlisting: the country needs farms, and farms need veterinarians. He would know, having barely scraped by during the last war, when the government didn’t have protected jobs and allowed anyone to enlist, decimating the labor force for farms. The Aldersons worried every day about whether they would have enough food for a young Helen.
Needless to say, Helen’s father doesn’t think the government knows anything about how to run a farm. So when one of his cows tests positive for tuberculosis and he learns that the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG) will shut down his farm for as long as a month while they ensure that the rest of the herd is healthy, he asks James not to report the case. He can kill the diseased cow himself; no one has to know.
James won’t lie, but he will at least run the test one more time at his lab before reporting the case to the MAG. He doesn’t tell Helen, who’s already in bed when he finally arrives home.
Helen lets the harried James sleep in the next morning and fills out forms certifying that the Alderson farm is TB-free, leaving them in an envelope on the table. When she sees James in the lab later, he reveals the positive case, confirmed by lab results. He and Helen will go break the news to her father, and then redo the paperwork.
They see the abattoir’s truck as they pull up to the farm and realize that Alderson has gone ahead and shot his TB cow—an illegal act. James could lose his license if the MAG finds out—and, with the country on the brink of war, he’d be forced to enlist if he was no longer a veterinarian. Realizing the consequences of his actions, Alderson goes to call the MAG and admit his transgression.
Mrs. Hall fears another animal will be killed in the name of the common good. A springer spaniel named Dash has been left at the door of Skeldale House with a note asking to take him in. Dash and Mrs. Hall immediately take to each other; she even lets him sit in Siegfried’s chair, a privilege denied to Jess.
Siegfried says they must track down the owner to take Dash back. Mrs. Hall finds a government pamphlet in the trash advising people to put down any animal they cannot take care of or find a home for. Siegfried tells her they can’t keep Dash when she confronts him; what will happen the next time, and the following time, and so on, that people leave animals with them? But he doesn’t want to put the dog down, so they set off to post notices around town—and Mrs. Hall grabs the Alderson TB forms, posting them while she’s out.
The notices are a bust, but Tristan suggests that Mrs. Pumphrey might take Dash. He has recently visited her manor, where she’s putting in a victory garden, to check on a stray cat that she’s hoping to eventually take in permanently, once it trusts her. Tristan is perplexed by her seriousness about the war, but she wants to make her home a sanctuary for whomever needs it. Hold your loved ones close, she advises Tristan; you don’t know what will happen.
Tristan takes this to heart. He and Florence are becoming serious: he has enjoyed a warm, wine-fueled dinner with her parents, and wants to invite her to Skeldale for a reciprocal luncheon. With war looming, he decides to propose to Florence with his key ring standing in for an engagement ring.
She’s agog at the idea. Now’s not the time, she tells him. He needs to find out who he is, and marriage to her isn’t the answer. Later, James echoes the sentiment, reassuring Tristan that he is a good man as Tristan thanks James for being like a brother to him.
When Tristan shares news of his rejection with Siegfried and Mrs. Hall, he gets into an argument with his brother. You prefer James, he accuses Siegfried; nothing I do will ever be good enough for you. I’ll always look after you, Siegfried replies. But that’s the problem.
Helen is worried that James will leave her to fend for herself and enlist. But he explains that he wants to fight in order to protect her. Seeing children evacuated from England’s cities arriving in Darrowby only makes the call of duty louder. Even Tristan is starting to feel it: he asks James what he’ll do if war does come, because James always does the right thing.
James may not have a choice. With the incorrect TB forms posted to MAG, he could be accused of fraud on behalf of his wife’s farm, and stripped of his license. Siegfried offers to take the fall, but James insists on handling it: he will go explain everything to the MAG official Harcourt directly—and Helen insists on going with.
Harcourt is furious, but allows James a chance to explain. In the process, James realizes he never signed the forms, but that’s not enough for Harcourt. Helen has to fight to get the sexist, dismissive Harcourt to allow her to speak, but then she defends James as a great man—he’s even willing to give up money he had been saving for a home to her father to support him while the farm is shut down. More pertinently, James convinced the Dales farmers to sign up for TB testing; if he’s gone, they won’t do it. Harcourt begrudgingly agrees, and lets James off.
Then the news comes: Britain has declared war on Germany.
Helen sees Mrs. Hall avoiding eye contact with Gerald as he walks past, and tells her that things between them don’t need to be complicated. Gerald and Mrs. Hall go on a walk together, and she tells him that she and Edward are now writing to each other. She always feared her son would turn out like his father, but she was wrong. Gerald wants to hear about the relationship someday; but only when Mrs. Hall is ready.
She’s not ready to lose Dash, nor is the dog ready to leave her. When Mrs. Pumphrey arrives to collect Dash, he goes to Mrs. Hall, who’s trying to hide her disappointment. Siegfried observes it and apologizes to Mrs. Pumphrey. Dash’s home is at Skeldale.
Helen can’t ignore James’ preoccupation with enlisting, and tells him that she understands his call to duty. He explains that he could never forgive himself if he didn’t at least try, and she lets him.
Tristan walks with James to wait in line at the recruitment booth. Mrs. Hall and Siegfried watch. I will try to be kinder to my brother, Siegfried tells Mrs. Hall while they grasp each other’s hands. Tristan stands with James even after James tells him to leave if he doesn’t want to enlist.
Helen sits inside, crying on the stairs.