Recapping Mr. Selfridge: Episode 6

Previously, on Mr. Selfridge: To the shock of no one who knows history, Selfridge spends most of the episode unconscious, but survives his run-in with Chekov’s Motorcar. Mr. Grove’s invalid wife passes away and we’re reminded that his relationship with Miss Mardle is more than a bit creepy. Ellen Love is also not dead, somehow still on this show and contemplating career rebirth as serious actress. Henri and Agnes talk about their feelings through the Worst Metaphor Ever, Mr. Crab awesomely saves the store from the wrath of militant suffragettes and Victor is sleeping with Lady Mae. Oh, and Selfridge has a daughter named Violette that you forgot about and she’s awesome.

So, this show’s gotten extra dramatic the past couple weeks, yeah? Onward and let’s talk about it. 

The Selfridges Seem to Be Over Their Fight.  Our episode opens with Selfridge obsessively resetting all the clocks in the house in the middle of the night. Rose comes downstairs and asks what he’s doing and clearly has no idea why pretending its five minutes ahead of actual time is of any benefit to anyone. She is worried that he’s still having hallucinations from his accident and encourages him to come back to bed. They’re all kissy and flirty and Rose says that she had a moment where she wondered how she’d ever live without him and just..ick. They kiss some more and head back up to bed and their lovey dovey attitude is just this side of I can’t even handle this right now. Clearly, everyone’s over the whole infidelity debacle and we really are never getting any fallout from the Awesome Hallway Argument from a couple of weeks ago and we should all probably get used to that now. 

What’s Up Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Acclaimed author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is latest in Selfridge’s long line of celebrity guest appearances at the store, and everybody is excited at the chance to get to meet him. (Pause here for a moment to allow all the Sherlockians to get their initial shrieks of happiness out of their systems. We all okay? Good.)  Though, really, does anyone actually believe that Kitty (aka Mean Accessories Girl) reads Sherlock Holmes mysteries?  Conan Doyle appears actually at the store to read from The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard and sign some books. He seems to end up signing mostly Holmes related novels though (and since someone gets Hound of the Baskervilles signed, we know this is taking place after his whole “Oops I Tried to Kill Off My Most Famous Character then Regretted It” period.) 

Agnes gets a book signed and tells Conan Doyle that his work scared the life out of her. Selfridge and Rose appear from upstairs and totally jump in front of everyone waiting in line to see the author so Rose can meet him. He says he’s enchanted and Rose gushes for a bit about what a big fan she is of his novels and gets him to sign a few books for her. He gets her name wrong at first and it’s kind of hilarious. Anyway, Doyle introduces the Selfridges to his American friend Rex Grinnell who is apparently a very highly regarded “spiritualist sensitive”.  Rose asks if he’s a medium and Conan Doyle says yes, looking surprised that she’s aware of this phenomenon. Rose explains that the spiritualism movement is very popular in America and everyone looks intrigued. 

Kitty Gets a Secret Admirer. Mr. Edwards stops by the Accessories counter to buy some ivory topped pencils so that he can better record his important journalism notes and spends a long time flirting awkwardly with Kitty, because it would appear that they can’t actually force him to only be in scenes with Ellen Love for the rest of the show. Kitty explains that she’s a huge Conan Doyle fan, like anyone actually believes that, and Edwards praises her obvious intellect and exceptionally ginger hair. Mr. Edwards is gross. So, you can see why when Kitty gets a mysterious package of chocolates addressed to her with no name on the card she immediately assumes that they’re from him and she gets over the moon excited at the prospect. She says she’s always wanted a mystery admirer and convinces herself that it’s Edwards because it’s written in pencil and he bought some.

But, because you’ve seen at a television program before, you’ve probably already guessed that her secret admirer is George Towler, because he had that anvilicious conversation with his sister earlier about how he’ll never find anyone special and Agnes tells him to put his patented British stoicism on and just go for the girl of his dreams. Poor George, this seems unlikely to end well. 

Agnes Switches Departments Because She Likes Fashion Now Apparently. Selfridge takes Miss Ravilious aside after his triumphant return-to-the-store management meeting to personally thank her for how the Suffragette Parade situation was handled while he was indisposed. (Where is the praise for Mr. Crab’s general awesomeness I wonder?) He offers her whatever she wants as a thank you and she says that she’d like Agnes Towler, actually. Because, hey, objectification. Selfridge says Agnes is one of their most talented employees and Miss Ravililous agrees, pointing out that she will therefore improve the Fashion Department by just being there.

Miss Mardle breaks this news to Agnes, pointing out that if she doesn’t want to move to Fashion that she’s happy to make a case on her behalf to Mr. Selfridge. She says she’d be sorry to see Agnes go because she has a dedicated work ethic, unlike some people (and here she gives Kitty and Doris a Look of Death). Agnes is excited and says she would like to switch departments because she says she sees herself in the Fashion Department in the future. That Agnes’ sudden love of fashion is news to everyone is evidenced by the shocked expression on Miss Mardle’s face. Sure, show. Whatever. Miss Mardle says fine and wishes her luck then goes to yell at the other accessories girls for eating candy on the counter. Well, well, I suppose it won’t be weird at all to have Agnes and Henri working in the same department, will it? 

Because We Haven’t Let Selfridge Off the Hook Enough Yet. Rose and Lois are working on final adjustments to Rosalie’s (lovely) dress for some cotillion party type thing that the girl is attending with Lady Mae. Rosalie’s anxious about going to this party without anyone from her family, but Rose insists it’s a great time for her daughter to learn about being an independent lady. Okay, fine, whatever. Rosalie heads off upstairs and Lois and Rose have a quick heart to heart about Selfridge, because of course neither of them can have any conversation that doesn’t’ relvove around him. Lois is depressed about her son generally and wants to know why he takes such risks with himself like driving so fast (and being drunk and stealing a car but whatever). They commiserate about how they just don’t understand what gets into Selfridge and Rose suggests that maybe her husband is just born that way. She suggests that Lois could also blame herself if that would make her feel better, because she does that all the time. The fact that neither of these women suggest that maybe Selfridge ought to be responsible for and held accountable to his own actions is not voiced at this time, and you probably shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for it either. This presentation of his character is so frustrating, precisely because no one seems to ever expect him to be better than he is. Argh.

Poor Miss Bunting. Kitty and Doris (the other accessories girl, in case you too have made it six episodes without having any idea what her name is) go to the café across the street to grab some lunch. Kitty has an awkward encounter with George Towler, where you can practically see the neon lights flashing that he’s got a crush on her and is attempting to chat her up. While they’re in the shop Doris notices Miss Bunting – the shoplifting former Head of Fashion – sitting forlornly in a window seat. Kitty makes a catty comment, but because Doris is the nice one she goes over to talk to her. Miss Bunting looks horrible. The two of them chat for a minute and Doris learns that Miss Bunting’s life has been super hard, since she was fired without a reference. Kitty drags Doris away, but not before she drops some money on the ground and pretends it was Miss Bunting’s coin that she “accidentally” found. (Doris is so much nicer than Kitty!) Kitty is appalled that Doris would just give her money away to that woman who got fired, but Doris points out that it’s obvious Miss Bunting’s hungry. 

So They’re Having a Séance in the Store. The Selfridges have lunch with Conan Doyle and his medium friend and they discuss spiritualism and near-death experiences and there’s even creepy music playing in the background. Rose asks about all the stories you often here about vulnerable people getting exploited by mediums, but Conan Doyle says that he’s run into some quacks but he’s also seen phenomena that even Sherlock Holmes couldn’t explain. Mr. Grinnell says that the Selfridge store building has “the right feel” and offers to hold a séance there. Mr. Selfridge thinks that the customers wouldn’t really like it, but Conan Doyle suggests that maybe they just do one for the staff. Rose wants to, and since Selfridge is being Husband of the Year at the moment, he says yes.

The séance takes place in the Palm Court restaurant that night. It’s packed with staff members, even though several of them had expressed reservations earlier about opening the store up to evil spirits, etc.  There are a billion candles all around the room in giant candelabra and Selfridge makes that speech again about never shying away from being at the forefront of progress or from expanding their minds. Yawn. (Get some new material, dude.) Mr. Grinnel explains a bit about how they’re planning to contact the spirit world and we’re underway.

It’s super dramatic. Someone drops a glass and people scream. There’s creepy chanting and suddenly Mr. Grinnell starts yelling about how he feels a presence in the room. He goes through several “potential spirits” – a twin, an old man in the country, an Aunt Flo – before finally settling on a woman that’s “recently passed over”. The spirit indicates that its name begins with an H on the Ouija board and of course everyone assumes that it’s Mr. Grove’s dead wife Harriett. Miss Mardle is basically about to faint at this point. Mr. Grinnell says the spirit wants to pass on a message to the living, to “him” in particular -  a thank you for all the years of care it received and to remind him that it’s totally cool if he gets married again, because the spirit of H is fine with it. Grove storms from the room and Miss Mardle is basically shaking and crying with joy at this revelation, or she is until she looks up and realizes that Grove is gone. I want to send Miss Mardle links to all the Sassy Gay Friend videos, because seriously girl. Look at your life. Look at your choices.

Back at the table of spiritual progress, suddenly another spirit shows up who is really mean and aggressive and has some kind of mental fight with Mr. Grinnell, who says he’s not passing on any hostile messages from beyond the grave. Aggressive spirit persists, and Mr. Grinnell dramatically ends the séance by shouting and banging his hand on the table. Dra-ma. Turns out that this spirit was apparently most likely Selfridge’s father – who we’ve previously learned was a huge jerk – and both Selfridge and his mother are very shaken. Mr. Grinell wants to do a private session with Selfridge to deal with this spirit but he’s not interested because he says that smacks of dwelling in the past. 

Miss Mardle Tries Again. After the séance, Miss Mardle goes to see Mr. Grove in his office. She’s totally bubbly and excited about what the supposed spirit said. Grove thinks it’s all crap and doesn’t believe any of it. He says he knows spiritualists do research before holding an event and it wouldn’t have been hard to find out that his wife had died and what her name was. Miss Mardle insists that it could totally still be true and says that his dead wife is telling him it’s okay for him to marry again. Grove says that his current non-married status is a whole new way of life he’s still coming to terms with, seems like vaguely well-bred speak for “I’m just not that into you,” but it’s hard to tell. Miss Mardle deflates visibly. He says that she just has to bear with him while he like goes through his manpain or midlife crisis or whatever. Miss Mardle replies that she gave up the best years of her life – and her chance to have children – to wait for him. He says she’s been wonderful to him, but she says she waited year after year after year and is still waiting.

For such an ostensibly smart woman, Miss Mardle is kind of an idiot. She can obviously do better than this. And Grove is a serious jerk for dragging her along like this when it seems apparent that he’s not quite sure he actually wants to be with her for real. Sure, it was convenient when he had a wife and didn’t actually have to make a choice or anything, but now that it’s come down to it, his love doesn't seem to be worth much.

Henri and Agnes and Mannequins Oh My. Miss Ravilious gives Agnes the honor of dressing the new mannequins on her first day in Fashion. Agnes tells Henri about her new job in the Fashion department and it’s sort of sweetly adorable how happy she is to fill him in. Henri is sort of quietly proud and is convinced that she’ll do well for herself in her new position.

Some time later, Agnes is in the back room somewhere doing something fiddly with the new mannequins when Henri shows up randomly. They say hello and then he leans forward to pick a stray bit of packing fuzz out of her hair and it’s so so so obvious that Agnes thinks he’s going to kiss her. They are really adorably awkward together and are (okay, I admit it) growing on me. 

Doris Tries to Do the Right Thing. Doris runs into Miss Bunting again – who apparently is spending all her free time hanging out in the café across the street – who tells her that she’s just spent all her last money on the cup of tea she’s drinking and laments that she just can’t find a job without a reference. She also reveals that her ill mother – the reason she stole from the store to start with was to pay for her medicine – has passed away and starts to cry. Doris looks heartbroken for her and offers to treat her to supper that night. Miss Bunting looks deeply grateful and says she’d like that very much.

When she gets back to work, Doris goes to see Mr. Grove. She tells him that she ran into Miss Bunting at the tea room and of the dire straits the woman has found herself in. She asks him if there’s any way he could see fit to give her a reference so she could find a job. Mr. Grove says he can’t really help but Doris begs and says that she can’t help but think about what if she were her own mother and how awful she’d feel. Grove appears to reconsider in light of Doris’ pleas. He gives her some money to pass it along to Miss Bunting, and to ask her to return to the tea shop in a week. He says he’ll talk to Selfridge about the situation, though he can’t promise that anything will actually happen. Doris is thrilled and thanks him profusely. Grove tells her she has a kind heart and gets that vague look that men his age often get when realizing that some girl that they’d previously overlooked is sort of adorable and awesome. Go, Doris. (But please avoid Mr. Grove?) Doris leaves and does this super cute self congratulatory cheer in the hallway at her success and seriously, show, why did you keep the fact that Doris is actually kind of fantastic a secret this long? 

Kitty and George Get Coffee. Kitty discovers that George is actually her secret admirer. She’s upset when she finds out and acts horribly. George tells her it makes his day when he sees her and calls her pretty and says all sorts of flattering things about how she’s so much better than him and his dream woman. Kitty, being Kitty, eats up this flattery and it’s actually sort of cute when she takes his arm and they go off for a coffee (or whatever) together. Strangely…they are actually not awful together, though it’s obvious that George is in way over his head here. But, it’s fun to imagine Agnes’ reaction to this news which will hopefully happen immediately

Okay, Fine, You Win Team Henri. That night, Agnes stalls Henri from leaving the store by asking for his help getting Her First Mannequins dressed for the next day.  They tinker with a scarf for a minute standing super close together while the tinkly romantic music swells and then Agnes – because she is fabulous and apparently fearless – just leans over and kisses him. Henri looks awkward for a second while Agnes gets embarrassed and says she wasn’t sure how to do that. She asks if maybe she did it all wrong – she’s seriously so cute here – and Henri stares at her and says he thinks she handled it just right. Then says he supposes they ought to make sure, though, just in case, and kisses her again. Okay, fine, show, you win. They’re adorable. They kiss some more as the music swells. 

Time for a Mother-Son Heart to Heart. Lois finds Selfridge to talk about her feelings and the olden days, because she’s still upset about the séance. She says she made a bad decision when he was little and they need to talk about it. Selfridge says that’s nonsense, that she did everything right for him and he’s sorry that the séance upset her. Lois says that her experience with communicating with the dead has taught her that the past haunts people until they confront it. Selfridge – who clearly doesn’t want to be talking about this – says that whatever happened, it’s history and that’s all the past is. Lois confesses that Selfridge’s father didn’t’ die in the war like she’d told him all those years ago and that he wasn’t a hero. Selfridge says that he already knows the truth, that his father had left them to starve basically while he shacked up with another woman (i.e. this is the bit we saw in all those flashbacks a couple weeks ago). Selfridge says that he even went to see his father at some point and he doesn’t want to end up like him.

Lois laments that she made her son live a lie, but Selfridge is surprisingly reassuring, saying that he understood that his mother needed to believe in a hero. Lois says she was really just ashamed – that so many women were widows after the war, but her husband just left her and she didn’t want to burden her son with that knowledge too.  Selfridge smiles at her and says that everything good he’s ever done in his life is because of her, and they should just forget about his father.

It’s worth saying that Jeremy Piven does his best, most human acting opposite Kika Marham. This is a great scene not because of the content – the saga of the elder Selfridge is a bit cliché in a lot of ways – but because the two of them are just really great together, and there’s something deeply emotionally true about their performances. A lot of the complaints one could level against Piven’s acting in this series aren’t really present in his scenes with Marham and seriously they should let them do this more often. 

Oh and There’s Also a Plot About Banking. There’s also a subplot involving Selfridge and major investor Mr. Musker about getting banks to cooperate in giving them more money faster or something during this episode (so they can release stock shares publically, maybe?) but it’s so tremendously boring that it’s not even worth recapping. There are some more cracks about pushy Americans and Selfridge’s accident and the real work is left to Mr. Crab, as per usual. Lady Mae and her particular brand of persuasion is also featured and just zzzzzzzz. Anybody want to take a crack at explaining this subplot in five sentences or less? The only thing that seems somewhat memorable is Mae’s fabulous hat. It appears that the store got the extra money it needed so everything’s cool and all, but man, that was such a waste of time that could have been better devoted to other characters.

Lots to discuss this week! What’d you think? Am presently dying to hear some comments on the Agnes/Henri developments, as well as the Miss Mardle/Mr. Grove situation.