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

Daniel Hautzinger
James and Siegfried stand in brown coats in a stable
James worries that he has put his wife and unborn child in danger. 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.
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Helen and James haven’t told anyone yet that they are expecting, but they are beginning to consider names. James wants Helen to start resting more, but she laughs at the suggestion – farms don’t stop for babies. She hasn’t told her family about the coming baby yet because their farm is too busy and she doesn’t want them to try to do everything without her.

Mrs. Hall soon guesses that Helen is pregnant: Helen keeps pleading indigestion in the mornings to skip breakfast, but Mrs. Hall’s pickled eggs are mysteriously disappearing. Mrs. Hall catches Helen sneaking one in the pantry and asks when she’s due.

Siegfried wants to separate Richard, the new veterinary assistant, from the scholarly books he’s always carrying around, and so sends him out into the field with James, who finds Richard to be both a know-it-all and clueless at the same time.

They’re off to visit the Crabtrees, a family that has just moved to the area to take up farming. They’re novices, and think all their neighbors are judging them. Worse, a cow has just given birth to a calf prematurely and it’s not doing well. Richard quickly diagnoses it as brucellosis, an infection that is very serious and highly contagious, with no treatment. They could lose any calves born this season if it has spread. All they can do is quarantine the infected cow and disinfect the farm.

Unfortunately, they allowed the infected cow to graze with their others right after they bought it – a rookie mistake, Richard points out, to James’ horror and the Crabtrees’ shame. Richard quickly gets his comeuppance for his lack of tact when he falls into a pile of manure. He had rejected James’ suggestion to wear protective clothing; now he pays the price.

Siegfried lectures Richard when he returns: he needs to put aside his medical jargon and bluntness to work on his people skills. Siegfried has Mrs. Hall pose as a difficult client and offers advice as Richard interacts with her. Siegfried decides to “confiscate” Richard’s books and make him treat patients without them for a bit – and he has a patient ready for him.

Ned Clough’s turtle, Bernard, has been itching and moving less than normal. As Siegfried translates some of Ned’s dialect for Richard, Richard guesses that Bernard is simply shedding his skin and also needs more calcium. He sends Ned away with a cuttlefish to provide the nutrient.

Meanwhile, James returns to the Crabtree farm and is convinced by Helen to take her instead of Richard: the Crabtrees need practical advice from another farmer, not dismissive arcana from a student. Helen assures the Crabtrees that if their neighbors are offering criticism, it’s because they have accepted the new family.

While there, James has to deliver another calf prematurely and it dies. It seems that the brucellosis has spread through the Crabtrees’ herd. They just have to wait it out, mourn the dead calves, and then start again – their adult cows, at least, will survive, even if they won’t produce the milk the Crabtrees need to sell for their livelihood.

When James returns, Richard approaches and says that he’s been reading up on brucellosis. He found a fascinating study that suggests brucellosis can jump to humans and lead to fetus loss. It’s just a theory, but has some evidence behind it. James begins to berate and blame Richard; everyone else in the house hears and wonders why. Helen admits it’s because of her: she’s pregnant, and she was exposed to brucellosis.

James begins monitoring Helen obsessively for symptoms, as there’s no test to see if she is infected. She tries to pretend everything will be all right, but James insists that she rest in case she does get sick.

But she hates doing nothing, leaving her thoughts only on possible infection, so Mrs. Hall makes her bake with her. Helen also calls farmers to rally them to help the Crabtrees, and they descend on the farm with Siegfried, James, and Richard to thoroughly disinfect it. The Crabtrees befriend their neighbors in the process and begin learning from them.

Sid Crabtree takes a job from Grace Chapman to work on her farm for a bit, in order to tide the Crabtrees over as they get through this first difficult season. And, after a few days, it seems that three pregnant cows remain uninfected – that will also help make them some money.

Another bit of good news comes for Mrs. Hall: her husband is not contesting her divorce.

Bernard the turtle is still scratching, so Richard asks Ned to leave him at Skeldale for observation. Richard is stumped until Ned visits again for an update, and Richard notices that Ned is also scratching. Richard puts Bernard in a bath, and fleas float out from under his shell. While coldblooded animals typically don’t get fleas, if they live near an infestation – like the one on Ned – they might catch a few hardy ones. Richard sends Ned and Bernard home with treatment.

As James worries about Helen and his unborn child, he talks to Siegfried, who lost his wife to illness. They agree that the worst part is not being able to do anything – and then Siegfried has a suggestion for something they can do. He assigns everyone in the house to pore through books for any helpful information about brucellosis.

Together, they realize that they can use a different test to see if Helen is infected, and that they can get her blood tested at the lab by simply labeling it as a cow’s.

But when James receives the results and brings them to Helen to open them together, she is suddenly afraid to know. He admits that he’s terrified, too, and they decide to look after all. Helen is not infected. She still doesn’t want to slow down much, but she will at least avoid being around sick animals while she’s pregnant.

Having shown that book learning can indeed be useful, Siegfried returns Richard’s books to him. Despite all his knowledge, Richard remains a bit clueless, however: Siegfried has to heavily hint that Richard’s sudden bout of scratching might be related to the fleas he recently identified on Ned and Bernard before Richard realizes that he, too, has caught fleas.

Covered in ointment, Richard later sits down to the dinner table with everyone else, and James apologizes to him for blaming him for Helen’s near-miss with brucellosis. Richard’s warning was actually helpful in the end. And James would be happy to go to the pub with him sometime to discuss the latest research.