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'All Creatures Great and Small' Recap: Season 4 Episode 5

Daniel Hautzinger
James hugs Mrs. Hall while Siegfried stands by in front of a grassy lawn and stone house
James finally has to leave for the air force. 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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James has finally received his enlistment papers for the air force. He has only two more nights left in Darrowby – but he’s still constantly busy, unable to find much time to spend with Helen. They’re both trying to occupy themselves to keep their minds off the departure.

For instance, James is trying to prepare Skeldale for his absence by teaching Richard to drive, so that he can go out on calls on his own. But Richard is struggling, and endlessly frustrated by his failures.

It doesn’t help that some clients aren’t happy that James will be replaced by Richard, notably Mrs. Pumphrey. She and Tricki are both skeptical of Richard, who disparages Mrs. Pumphrey’s penchant for conversing with Tricki. Richard suspects a skin irritation on the dog is a result of an allergy.

Mrs. Pumphrey tells James that Tricki will only be seeing “Uncle Farnon” until “Uncle Herriot” returns. James begs Richard to make more of an effort with the clients; Siegfried needs him.

Siegfried is annoyed with the slow pace of Richard’s driving education and insists on giving him a lesson himself, despite everyone’s reservations. In his fancy car, he urges Richard to go faster and assert himself in the face of a car coming straight at them on a single-lane road. Richard finally swerves off at the last minute.

The other car is Mrs. Pumphrey’s; she’s unsurprised to see that Richard was the driver who nearly hit her. Her valet notices a bleeding cat on the side of the road. Richard is horrified – he has hurt an animal. He and Siegfried rush back to Skeldale with the injured cat.

It’s James’ last day, and he and Helen have a picnic planned. But their departure is interrupted by the arrival of the cat and Siegfried’s blustery declaration that Richard shouldn’t drive. In the exam room, however, the vets notice that the cat’s claws are fine, which means it didn’t dig in to brace for impact – it was hurt by something other than Richard’s car. But the animal is still in bad shape, with a risky operation and difficult recovery ahead, so the vets decide to put it down – and Richard will take charge.

Helen asks them to try to save it, and James agrees to try. She’ll hand-feed and nurse it as it recovers. As James and Siegfried prep the operation, Siegfried tells James that Richard can’t replace him – but James asks him what will happen next time, when James isn’t there to help. Siegfried sends James away to be with his wife and calls Richard in to help him with the operation.

Helen is making a bed out of a cardboard box for the cat, and doesn’t want to leave until he is safe. The operation is difficult but successful, but there’s still a long recovery, and Helen and James decide to stay with the cat she has named Oscar until he wakes, instead of going on their picnic.

So James sets up the picnic in their bedsit, and Helen asks him to share his emotions with her – he’s acting like he’s not leaving the next day. As Oscar rouses, James admits that he had no doubt about his choice when he enlisted – but now so many things have changed. I’m so sorry for abandoning you, he tells Helen, but she insists that he’s not. She’s proud of him.

Mrs. Hall and Gerald also have a difficult conversation. Gerald invites her to dinner at his house for the first time, but is nervous throughout the meal. When they finish, he makes a speech: his time with Mrs. Hall has been the happiest of his life – but his sister’s health is failing, and he’s leaving Darrowby to take care of her. He can’t ask Mrs. Hall to come with him, knowing that her life is here, even if he would love it if she did. He might never come back.  

Mrs. Hall admits to Helen that she doesn’t want to lose Gerald, especially now that her divorce is going through. So she goes to him and tells him that she will move with him. Does that make us engaged, he asks. I suppose it does, she replies, and they kiss.

When Mrs. Pumphrey calls again about Tricki, Siegfried drives Richard to her so that James doesn’t lose any more time with Helen. Mrs. Pumphrey refuses to be left with Richard even though Siegfried has another call to make, but Siegfried tells her privately that Richard has talent, and that without Tristan and James he needs Richard. She understands, and tries her best with Richard.

Richard realizes in conversation with Mrs. Pumphrey that Tricki’s skin irritation is likely being caused by the new shampoo she’s using on him. She thanks Richard – and then insists on giving him a driving lesson, in her expensive car. He needs to help Siegfried, and so he needs to be able to drive.

She and her valet sit in the back while Tricki sits on the seat next to Richard. She insists that Richard talk to Tricki as he drives, to put the dog at ease – when really she’s allowing Richard to put himself at ease, by distracting him from his fear of driving. As he leaves after a successful drive, she calls him “Uncle Carmody.”

That night, James can’t sleep and so goes downstairs, where he finds Siegfried also awake. They share a nightcap, and reminisce about James’ arrival at Skeldale years ago. Siegfried promises James that he and Mrs. Hall will look after Helen and the coming baby.

The next day, Siegfried asks Richard to stay on longer than initially planned – Mrs. Pumphrey put in a good word for him. Richard accepts – and gets the keys to the car to go attend to a call.

Siegfried has to see James off, along with Mrs. Hall. Helen can’t bear walking him to the bus stop, so they say goodbye at Skeldale. She cries after he leaves, then finds a box under the bed with the help of the dog: it’s a carved wooden airplane for the baby from James.

After saying goodbye to Siegfried and Mrs. Hall, James boards his bus. As it pulls away, he looks at a wedding photo of him and Helen.