Recapping ‘Mr. Selfridge’: Series 2, Episode 4

Everyone on "Mr. Selfridge" just loves to gamble (Photo: ITV for Masterpiece)

Previously on Mr. Selfridge: A massacre in Belgium has all the Selfridge’s boys itching to enlist, and Harry promises that their jobs will be there for them when they com home. Rose, Delphine and Mae join forces to co-chair a successful chocolate sale for the benefit of Belgian refugees and we learn that Miss Mardle apparently needs a twelve-step group for her chocolate-related feelings.  Henri agrees to come back to work for Harry for six months, but definitely has something weird going on on the side.  George Towler excitedly enlists in a burst of national pride; Victor tries to do the same, only to have his plans derail when his Uncle Joe dies. Lord Loxley is a vile criminal, to the surprise of no one. Harry and Rose work on fixing their marriage, and are oddly adorable together, possibly for the first time in the show’s history. 

Another week, another episode. Let's get to it! 

Wartime Living Means Changes for Everyone. With war officially under way, life is looking a bit different for those left behind in London. Agnes receives a letter from George, but a large portion of it has been blacked out, becaust that's a thing that's happening now. Selfridge has darkened all his signature display windows at the store for the first time since it opened, as a result of the Defense of the Realm Act.  Everyone is anxious, but trying to put a brave face on it.

Welcome to Miss Mardle’s Island of Misfit Toys. Miss Mardle, who is rather lonely in the giant six-bedroom house she inherited from her brother, has invited Agnes to come and stay with her while George is at the front.  She’s also opened the house up to Belgian refuges since she got the idea from chocolate wizard Jean Neauhaus last week. She’s telling Agnes that she’s really hoping that this young girl Florian who’s supposed to come stay with them speaks English because won’t it just be so awkward if she doesn’t. Well, that might be a challenge, I guess, but what really turns out to be awkward is the fact that, as Miss Mardle learns upon answering the door, Florian is actually a man. A young, very attractive man. She looks flustered and he gushes something about how great it is that she’s such a generous person and kind enough to let him stay with her.  Agnes is equally surprised, but recovers quickly and manages to make decent enough small talk over the breakfast table. He talks a bit about the destruction of his village and how his family is missing, and you can basically watch Miss Mardle melt. 

However, no matter how much Miss Mardle may melt, she later insists to Agnes that having a single young man living in a house with two single women is unseemly. She firmly insists that they’re going to have to ask Florian to find more appropriate accommodations, once she finds some way to soften the blow of kicking him out. 

Gordon is the Worst. Harry puts his son Gordon, who is feeling rather irritated that he’s not busily fighting the Germans with his friends on the continent, to work in a different department at the store so he can learn new skills beyond unloading trucks. Gordon, because “ungrateful” and “petulant” are his default states, is deeply unhappy about the fact that he’s been reassigned to the tea emporium. Random New Accessories Girl Whose Name I Still Have Not Bothered to Learn is also deeply unhappy about being sent back to the tea shop to supervise Gordon’s training because she sees it as a demotion from her current position.  

Dogs and Cats Living Together; Women Working Everywhere in Selfridges.  Harry goes down to see Grove, who is currently overseeing the latest crazy Selfridges experiment: staffing the store with women.  Yes, the store has opened up every position – even labor intensive spots in the loading dock – to female applicants, and loads of ladies are now official employees.  Grove says the women are willing and enthusiastic enough, Crabb deploys some disappointing sexist commentary about the likely success of women in the loading bay and the trio of men have a rather awkward conversation about the women’s uniforms, which are basically men’s overalls thrown over their regular clothes which do not work at all. Selfridge encourages Grove to talk to the women about what they can do to help them adjust.

Thackeray is the Woooooorst. The Worst Head of Fashion Ever is in Henri’s office, arguing about new displays. Thackeray insists that particular dresses are works of art and ladies need glamour more than ever in difficult times. However, Henri’s insistent that their fashion department can’t be obsessed with dresses alone and must reflect the women of the city. And those women are volunteering for the Red Cross and learning to drive in support of the war effort, so Selfridges’ displays must reflect that. Thackeray is basically apoplectic that anyone dare criticize his department and says it’s rich that Henri is lecturing him about war when he’s not even in France fighting for his own country. Henri gets really (attractively) ragey at this and threateningly gets in Thackeray’s face, stating that if he ever questions his patriotism again they’re going to be exchanging more than words. Henri stalks off and Thackeray looks furious.

Crabb Gets a Project. Selfridge finds out that Crabb’s feeling rather blue about his impending birthday, and is worried that he’s going to get fired for getting older.  Consequently Harry, displaying that he can, occasionally, be an awesome person, invents a project for Crabb to make him feel valued. Selfridge tells him that he’s seen how hard being left behind during war is on the staff members in the store and his own family, so he thinks the store should institute a training scheme to teach those folks something practical and make them feel useful. Crabb suggests that maybe they can teach everyone to shoot in a special class, since those who aren’t at the front would surely appreciate learning how to defend themselves should the need arise.  He is seriously excited about this rifle idea, which is a bit on the creepy side, but at least it’s better than seeing him mope around like a kicked puppy.  Selfridge secretly looks proud of himself for his plan. 

Harry Gets Invited to a Card Game. Delphine Day comes by to see Harry and reminds him of his request from last week to be more involved in the war effort. She says she’s heard someone’s about to retire from the Military Procurement Committee so there could be an opening for him there. She offers to set up a card game the next day so that Selfridge can meet all the important people and convince them to give him a chance.  Unfortunately, Harry’s already offered to take Rose on a special date that night, which means he has to break his plans with her. Rose is remarkably understanding but maybe Harry’s new Husband of the Year routine has won him some sympathy.  That, or she’s distracted by the fact that Delphine, who she ran into in the street, basically blew her off in the most awkward and obvious way possible. Something’s certainly up there. 

Grove is Awkward with the Ladies. Grove has an awkward interview with one of the new loading bay girls about the utter impossibility of performing physical labor in their current uniforms. Head Loading Bay Girl explains that it’s very difficult to do their jobs in skirts that are too long, and to pick up boxes when they’re penned in by corsets and uncomfortable undergarments. Grove’s expression during all this is amazing, as he clearly considers this the most scandalous conversation he’s ever had in public.  He takes this information to Selfridge to try to explain the problems, but can’ t even get the words about it out. Luckily, Rose happens to be in Harry’s office at the time, and takes things in hand.

Rose, because she is awesome, goes down to see the loading bay girls and agrees that corsets have to be replaced with belts, skirts have to be shortened, and heavy jackets and overalls jettisoned in favor lighter versions. She’s really effortless at this, and promises to speak to the seamstresses herself while Grove kind of refuses to look at anyone at all. The girls instantly love her, and ask her to intercede for them about adding mirrors to the bathrooms in their area. Rose says of course and seems to be getting quite the kick out of Grove’s embarrassment. 

Meanwhile, at Domestic Abuse Manor. Over at the Loxleys, Mae and her vile husband are having breakfast. Loxley suddenly seems to have a lot of cash to throw around to cover household bills, which makes Mae suspicious. Loxley tells her that they need to raise their profile around town and says she should do more charity work to help with that. He says she can buy a new wardrobe and jewelry to match, because being Lord and Lady Loxley is good for business now that he’s busy in the world of commerce.  Mae clearly doesn’t trust any of this, but also, it’s Mae, so she’s going to go shopping so quickly it seems like she teleported to the store.  

When Mae arrives at Selfridges she tells Thackeray to dazzle her. The Worst Head of Fashion Ever shows her a standard array of tea dresses and evening gowns, but Mae looks dejected and says she’s just not feeling any of them. Thackeray tells her to imagine herself somewhere on Lord Loxley’s arm in a gown like one he’s just shown her and how she’ll look entering some grand soiree. Mae sniffs and says Thackeray’s not listening to her, and complains that she feels like she’s seen all these things before. She departs Fashion without buying a single thing, and we see Henri’s been watching this whole scene in the background.  Henri’s furious that Thackeray sucks at life and snaps meanly at Agnes when she tries to ask him what’s wrong. 

Miss Mardle Buys a Guilt Gift. Grove runs into Miss Mardle in the elevator, who’s carrying a large music case. He asks about it and she says it’s a gift, and Grove gets really weird for a moment about wishing he could be on the receiving end of such generosity (ugh I hate him).  It’s obvious that Miss Mardle’s used some of her newfound independent cash to go buy a new violin for Florian the refugee who had to leave his instrument behind when he fled to England.

She takes it up to Florian’s room, ostensibly to use as a tool to help soften the blow before she tells him he has to find someplace new to live. Florian is overcome at seeing it, and says he can’t accept it. Miss Mardle insists, and he admits he’s afraid to play it because it will make him think of home. Miss Mardle offers some Selfridge-style platitudes in response, which seems to work a treat on Florian who sits and looks at her like she’s hung the moon, calling her the kindest person he’s ever met in his whole life. Maybe they don’t have an equivalent of the Patented Pep Talk in Belgium? Florian’s puppy dog eyes, however, have ensured that Miss Mardle is not going to kick him out, and she and Agnes resolve themselves to living in an unconventional arrangement during wartime. 

Mae and Selfridge Have a Chat. Harry has a chat with Mae on the shop floor in order to ask her a favor. He wants her to invite her vile husband to the card game he’s attending at Delphine’s. Mae looks pained and says she feels she ought to warn Harry that Loxley prides himself on always winning. Selfridge, himself no slouch in the aggressive gambling department, is nonplussed by this warning.  He then asks how her shopping experience was that day, and Mae takes the time to complain about Thackeray being the worst salesman ever. She laments the fact that he thinks a woman is nothing more than a bauble to dangle off the arm of a man and generally expresses an air of complete dislike. Selfridge looks unhappy to hear all of this. 

The next day, Thackeray gets called to Selfridge’s office, who is not at all happy with him. He says that Henri tells him that Thackeray won’t listen to instructions and relays how unhappy Mae was with her store experience the day before. Selfridge points out that she’s one of their most influential customers, but Thackeray insists that he showed her many beautiful things that just didn’t suit her mood. Selfridge immediately responds with a lecture about how the customer is always right and it’s Thackeray’s job to suit Mae’s mood and not the other way around. It’s pretty awesome to watch, because Thackeray is awful. Selfridge orders him to sit down with Henri and go over the new Fashion samples ASAP. 

Thackeray the Stalker. After leaving Harry’s office, Thackeray, who is shaking with rage, happens to run into the Random Mysterious Guy from last week who’s been having secret shady deals with Henri. Thackeray recognizes him because he is seriously and deeply obsessed with every aspect of Henri’s personal life and asks if he’s looking for Mr. Leclair, informing him that his office is on the next floor up. Mysterious Guy says thanks, but declines Thackeray’s offer to pass a message along for him. So, naturally, Thackeray decides to follow Mysterious Guy and eavesdrop outside Henri’s door because literally no one on any Masterpiece show ever closes any door for any reason. Eavesdropping is the best!

Henri  isn’t happy to see Mysterious Guy and says he told him not to come to the store. Mysterious Guy says this sort of information is best exchanged in person and appears to give Henri a map of some type. He says “the rest is up to you now” all ominous-like and it’s clear that we’re supposed to be worried that Henri is some kind of spy or something. I sincerely doubt that’s true – in fact, I have a feeling this is going to turn out to be some kind of long-lost child or love interest or something, but we’ll have to see.

Anyway, Henri immediately heads off on a mission with a purposeful look on his face. Thackeray, who clearly will not be the next James Bond, heads off on a stalker’s mission after him. He trails Henri at a distance, but he is definitely not being recruited for MI-5 anytime soon because he is a terrible spy. Luckily for him, Henri’s so oblivious he could be trailing a balloon with HEY I’M FOLLOWING YOU printed on it and not get caught. Thackeray follows Henri all the way to a nondescript townhouse, where he speaks with a woman at the door for a few minutes and leaves. Thackeray hides behind a car (yes, really) before running up to the same house and interrogating the woman himself. He says he wants to know what the gentleman who was just there wanted, and bribes the woman at the door to find out. (He’s such a winner.) Turns out that Henri was looking for a woman, who’d as it happens had already left the house a few days prior. Thackeray wants to know where the woman went but the housekeeper just snorts that she probably back to Germany since that’s where Henri said he saw her last. Of course Thackeray freaks right out at the mention of Germany,  and dashes away, looking oddly anxious and pleased with himself at the same time.

Back at the store, Thackeray immediately tells Agnes that he suspects Henri of hiding something, because he is the worst at espionage ever.  Agnes looks verryyy doubtful, but as Thackeray’s expression has now taken on something of a fanatic fervor whenever he mentions Henri’s name, this is definitely a plot that we’re going to be stuck with for a while. 

The Rifle Range is Fun for the Whole Family. The Selfridges crew are all out enjoying their day at the gun range, which has attracted many participants, from the loading dock girls to members of the Selfridge family. Gordon’s predictably terrible it, but insists that it’s really just harder than it looks. Rose, who’s standing behind him, advises that it’s best if he just looks right down the sights, keeps still and slowly squeezes the trigger. She offers to demonstrate, explaining that she used to shoot all the time when she was a girl in Chicago. She hits the bullseye on the first try, because Rose is the best thing ever.

The girls at the range are also very grateful to Rose for helping them take part, insisting that they’d never get to do anything like this if it wasn’t for her. It’s really so much fun to watch Rose get to be so involved in helping the new female workforce acclimate to the store, and it’s about time she’s been given some things to do that aren’t directly about Harry or their relationship. These past couple episodes have been something of a drag, but Rose has been a consistently bright spot for me this season. I hope that continues through the back half of episodes. Frances O’Connor is just fantastic. 

Agnes and Victor’s Endless Flirtation Continues.  Victor comes to see Agnes at Miss Mardle’s, a weird pseudo-date they arranged earlier during a brief conversation which was conducted solely to provide the audience with the information that Victor’s Random Sometime Girlfriend Gabriella has caught a clue and gone back to Italy, and that his recently deceased Uncle Joe left him his restaurant in his will. So, it seems as though we’re just going to retread the “Victor Wants to Run His Own Restaurant” plot from Series 1. I guess it’s just lucky that we don’t have to relive Victor sleeping with Mae too.

Agnes gives him the tour of Miss Mardle’s new place – which sports a shocking amount of dead animal heads on the walls.  They sit down to discuss his restaurant plans – and even though Victor is concerned about how much debt is involved and acts like he hasn’t decided what to do yet, he’s obviously over the moon to have the chance to try his hand at running something that’s just his. Agnes is very supportive and tells him he ought to take a chance on his own little pile of bricks and mortar instead of working for someone else. Victor then takes the opportunity to ask Agnes if anything is going on between her and Henri. Agnes awkwardly says no, that there hasn’t been for a long time. 

The Card Game Convenes. All the high powered government types plus Selfridge convene at Delphine’s to play cards. Selfridge asks Lord Edgington if he could help out the Procurement Committee with sourcing product since he’s a businessman and all but he gets brutally shot down by Lord Loxley, who takes the time to get extra classist and rude at the same time. He can really just get run over by a motor car or a horse carriage or a horde of female Selfridges employees giddy over their new success with rifles at any time. He’s not even a villain you can love to hate, since he appears to have zero redeeming qualities.  Selfridge looks shocked, particularly when Loxley disparages the help he’s already provided in hooking him up with leather manufacturers to embezzle from.  A random, last gentlemen shows up to play named Bill Summertime, who sits down at the table with everyone else. He seems to be quite familiar with Delphine, but almost unknown to anyone else.

The card game gets underway, with all the men throwing big piles of money around and betting. In a way that is in no way completely predictable except in every way, the final bid comes down to Loxley and Selfridge, who keep raising each other more and more, until Loxley actually pushes all of his cash onto the table. Selfridge, having an apparently limitless pile of money in his pocket, sees his bet and calls. Happily, he crushes Loxlely’s straight with a full house, and the Face of Evil has to take his toys and go home pouting. It’s fabulous, particularly when Selfridge makes Loxley thank Delphine for the invite.

Harry’s night continues to improve when he gets home after the party and gets to tell Rose that he won. Rose is flirtatiously proud, and they end up kissing and disappearing into her bedroom, so it appears that the two of them have finally worked out their marriage issues at least. Meanwhile, the mysterious Bill Summertime from Delphine’s is shown on the phone in a poorly lit office, explaining to someone that met Harry Selfridge, and that he could be “their man”. Whatever that means. Who’s having the Best Week Ever? 

Finally: Something Happens in the Victor and Agnes Storyline: Agnes walks Victor out later that evening, and he says he’s glad he talked to her. He declares he is going to make a go of his uncle’s restaurant, and we all pretend that he and Agnes actually had a deep conversation in any way about this major life change he’s considering. Agnes wants to know why Victor was asking her about her relationship with Henri earlier. He says (duh) it was because he wants to ask her out, because yet again, our characters appear to have not evolved in any way in five years and he’s still obsessed with her.  Agnes smiles and cheekily says that maybe Victor should just ask her then.  Victor, because this show occasionally has very problematic sexist overtones, says that actually he doesn’t need to – he can see the answer in her eyes. Then he leans over and kisses her, and it’s all very cute I guess, except I don’t understand how or why these characters would still be interested in each other five years on, and Victor’s dating skills are vaguely Cro-Magnon. But okay, at least it’s some sort of forward progress during this season where everything seems to have to stall storyline-wise for three episodes for no reason, that’s a kind of relief.

Another strange episode where a lot of nothing happens. Surely we’re building up to something big in the back half of the season, right? Ideas, thoughts, comments? Let’s hear ‘em! 

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