Skip to main content

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

Daniel Hautzinger
Two goats run down a hallway
Skeldale House is a bit of a mess. Credit: Playground Entertainment and Masterpiece

All Creatures Great and Small airs Sundays at 8:00 pm on WTTW is available to stream. Recap the previous and following episodes.
Keep up with your favorite dramas and mysteries by signing up for our newsletter, Dramalogue. 

Siegfried can’t find anything in Skeldale House, least of all the suture kit he needs at this moment. He opens the door to the surgery to ask James where it is and startles the two goats inside. They dash out, with James in pursuit, and wreak havoc throughout the house, eating food and knocking things over. James finally catches them and then gets into an argument with Siegfried over their very presence in the surgery. The yelling of the vets – and the chaos of the house – is impossible to ignore by a smartly dressed woman who is waiting to see Siegfried.

She is Miss Harbottle, and she and Siegfried met a dance the previous week. She’s a bookkeeper, and he offered her a job organizing the veterinary practice. They even agreed to terms, not that he remembers, and she’s starting today. She’s horrified by the state of the books – and the practice.

James isn’t quite horrified, but is upset that Siegfried hired someone without asking him. They need another vet, not a bookkeeper. But they keep forgetting to send out invoices, or to pay them; Miss Harbottle’s presence will simply free them from paperwork and allow them to be vets, Siegfried argues.

Then he sets off to old Dakin’s dairy farm, where Dakin’s Blossom has had her udder torn by another cow’s careless hoof. It’s the third time this has happened. Blossom is aging, and Siegfried suggests that she may have outlived her utility. Dakin reluctantly agrees, and sadly says he’ll have her taken to the slaughterhouse. Siegfried stitches her udder so she’s not in pain in the meantime.

When he returns to Skeldale, Miss Harbottle asks him for the money Dakin owes for the appointment. Siegfried won’t admit that he didn’t charge the farmer, and so goes to the house’s money jug to hand over some cash – except that Miss Harbottle has turned the jug into a cashbox, where she can keep track of in- and outflow.

She also insists that the practice no longer accept food or other gifts as payment, and suggests instituting a booking fee, since they so infrequently receive payment from their clients. Siegfried reluctantly agrees to a trial run.

Miss Harbottle has moved herself into Siegfried’s office, to his chagrin, and also requests that he move his rat from the desk. So he puts the rat on a ledge behind her instead. She also tells Mrs. Hall that she will take over answering the phone for appointments.

She has already upset Mrs. Hall, by assuming that Gerald was her husband when he brought her flowers. Now Mrs. Hall worries that Miss Harbottle thinks she’s carrying on outside her marriage. Mrs. Hall reveals to Helen that she has filed for divorce, and that she hasn’t told Gerald yet, fearing that he’ll think she’s doing it solely for him. She might intend to eventually marry him, but he’s not the only reason for the divorce. She later apologizes to Gerald for her awkward reaction to Miss Harbottle, as they go see a movie together.

James has his own run-in with Miss Harbottle. While at the pub, he noticed a lump on Joe Coney’s ferret – Joe makes money off “ferret roulette,” in which he puts the ferret in a coat and has people bet which hole it will come out of. James asked Joe to bring the ferret to the practice for an examination.

But when Joe arrives, Miss Harbottle insists on a deposit, and is shocked by his offer of a dead rabbit. James doesn’t know about the new booking fee and tries to intervene, but Miss Harbottle won’t let him see the ferret without a deposit. James goes to complain to Siegfried, arguing that the animal always comes first, and that Miss Harbottle doesn’t even seem to like animals. Whatever you’re trying to fix – perhaps the hole left by Tristan – Miss Harbottle is not the answer, James tells Siegfried.

Siegfried then sets off back to Dakin’s farm, to treat a different cow. Blossom is due to be picked up that day. Siegfried notices that Dakin has empty stalls and suggests that he get some calves, but Dakin says they’re too much work at his age; plus, he sells all his cows’ milk and so they couldn’t suckle. As Blossom is brought to the slaughterhouse truck, Dakin recalls fond memories of the cow, noting that even today she still produces plenty of milk. Siegfried has an idea: she can stay in the barn and feed the calves, saving her from the stomping feet of other cows, and therefore allowing her to remain useful and safe.

Dakin likes the idea, and stops the slaughterhouse man from taking her.

Back at Skeldale, Siegfried finds that Miss Harbottle has moved his rat to the unheated animal house, over Mrs. Hall’s objections. He realizes that he has made a mistake hiring Miss Harbottle, but worries to Mrs. Hall that she will never admit she’s wrong and thus will be difficult to fire.  Mrs. Hall gives Siegfried advice – but he fails in his attempt to fire the woman in the face of her domineering personality.

James still wants to treat Joe’s ferret, so Siegfried suggests that they do it after Miss Harbottle has left for the night.

She takes her time doing it, however. When she’s finally gone, James, waiting in the pub, ushers Joe to Skeldale. Joe’s friends join him; to apologize to Joe for his treatment at the hands of Miss Harbottle, James allowed them to come, on the promise of a drink at Skeldale.

Everyone watches while Siegfried explains the procedure. Joe faints at the thought of it.

Siegfried and James remove the lump successfully, and find that Miss Harbottle has returned to Skeldale just as they are finishing up – she forgot the mail. She realizes what has happened, and Siegfried works up the courage to fire her, kindly. We put animals before profits, he says. She resigns instead.

Joe’s friends all pay for the operation – they got to see him faint, after all. Siegfried takes the money and offers to buy everyone a drink as an apology for inflicting Miss Harbottle on them.

James and Helen decide that time is short and they should seize the day: they’re going to try to start a family.