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'All Creatures Great and Small' Recap: Season 4 Episode 7

Daniel Hautzinger
Helen and James smile and hold their heads to each other as James holds their newborn
James tries to make his way home to welcome his new son at Christmas. 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 episode.
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Skeldale is feeling a bit empty as Christmas approaches, so Siegfried has invited Richard Carmody to stay there for the holiday – just in case he needs a hand, of course. Siegfried also doesn’t want to be Santa for the local kids at the party he always throws for the village and Richard could easily be forced into the role, even though his family are atheists who don’t celebrate Christmas.

Mrs. Hall is surely correct in her guess that Siegfried actually invited Richard to stay because he misses Tristan, a hypothesis borne out when Siegfried automatically gives Richard sherry – Tristan’s drink – for a Christmas toast, even though Richard barely drinks.

The house will soon have another member: Helen is very pregnant. She’s meant to drive 30 miles to visit James at his RAF training camp for a Christmas Eve dinner, but Siegfried and Mrs. Hall think it’s a bad idea, especially since snow might be on the way. But Helen is desperate to see James, and a bit scared. Nevertheless, she capitulates, and her precious phone call with James is subsequently cut off.

Part of the reason that Helen is nervous is that James will be transferring to another camp to train in bombers, and then will start flying dangerous missions over the continent. James recognizes Helen’s need and asks his commanding officer for a day or two of leave to visit her, but is refused.

Instead, the officer asks James to treat a kestrel that lives on the base and is its unofficial mascot. A wing feather has been broken, so it can’t fly. The officer wants it flying again as soon as possible because a plane just went down in training, killing the men onboard; the bird’s flight would be good for morale. But the only solution James can see is time.

James surreptitiously hops into the back of a truck leaving base. He then hitchhikes a ride to Darrowby with farmer Michael Collins, who’s out looking for his daughter’s cat, which disappeared a few months ago; he doesn’t have much to give her for Christmas this year. Michael says he’d enlist if he didn’t have ailments, and lauds James’ courage. James admits he’s AWOL, but says he’s planning to return to base after seeing Helen.

Only a mile from Darrowby, his officer finds him before he has the chance to return of his own accord. The officer makes James muck out the kestrel’s cage as punishment. James explains that the crash of the plane and the death of another Scot on it who was James’ age and a father scared James. The officer says he trained all of the men who died, and that he himself has eight-month-old twins whom he’s seen twice. They’re fighting for them: the kids and wives who remain behind.

Mrs. Hall is determined to have a warm Christmas, despite the war, and sends Richard and Siegfried off to get a duck – in part to keep them from bothering Helen. Richard receives a nasty dog bite on the rear while getting the duck from a farmer.

Thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Pumphrey, Mrs. Hall and Siegfried are hosting their annual holiday feast and party at the pub. Mrs. Pumphrey is a bit skeptical of the setting, but decides to stay after finding the perfect place for Tricki in front of the fire: Helen’s old crib, which Richard Alderson has fixed up and brought to her for her coming baby.

Helen does her own bit of woodwork, carving a face into a piece of wood to be burned later, per James’ family tradition. After Richard opens his gift of a bowtie from Mrs. Hall, Helen goes into labor, and Mrs. Hall rushes Richard and Siegfried over to the pub with food for the party to clear them out of the house.

The roads are difficult due to the snow, so the midwife will be a while in getting to Helen. Jenny sits with Helen while her father Richard worries quietly in the pub. Mrs. Pumphrey persuades Richard to stay for the party even though he doesn’t celebrate the holiday, and Siegfried gets him to play Santa – and also receives an admission that Richard does actually enjoy Christmas. Siegfried offers to extend Richard’s time working for him, and to let him board in Tristan’s old room in Skeldale.

After the party, Richard drunkenly tells Mrs. Hall that the bowtie is his first Christmas gift. Siegfried sends him off to bed after he hugs Mrs. Hall, then steps in to wash up in the kitchen so that Mrs. Hall can attend to Helen. He’s happy to see Mrs. Hall has finally taken off her wedding ring and the burden of her marriage now that her divorce is finalized.

The midwife finally arrives.

James learns from the other men on base that his officer has been praising him. They’re all eager to see the hawk fly, so James sets to it and realizes he can use a toothpick to set the wing until it heals. After the kestrel successfully flies, the officer drives James to Darrowby and gives him two days of leave. Exuberantly, James runs to Skeldale, shouting “Merry Christmas” to everyone.

He rushes upstairs to his bedsit and finds Helen in bed – and their son resting in his crib. He cries.

Helen wants to name the baby James. Adult James promises that he will come back, no matter what he faces in the war. They then descend to the rest of the house and family, where the Aldersons and Mrs. Hall all hold the baby and Siegfried eagerly waits his turn.

James sees Oscar, the cat Helen has been nursing back to health, drink from a mug of stout. Recalling that Michael Collins said his daughter’s cat liked stout, James calls the farmer, who arrives with his daughter. But Michael says Oscar is not their cat. James and Helen give it to him anyway.