We love the things that help get us through hard times with a love that surpasseth understanding. With that in mind, I think you will understand when I say that this remake of All Creatures Great and Small is among the greatest things bestowed upon humankind in this last year. It is a gentle human drama filled with well-intentioned gentle humans trying their best, and the few times they are not trying their best, they are gently ashamed. I go into every new episode with the relief of “I am about to watch a very nice thing.” In these times, the appeal of that cannot be overestimated.
This entire episode revolves around a Pekingese. Yes, correct, it is the extremely wealthy Mrs. Pumphrey’s dog Tricki Woo, a dog I could not possibly love more, played by Derek. Wonderful dog acting from Derek once again this episode. Tricki is a pile of fluff. A Tribble of a dog. What is the greatest thing about Tricki? Is it his absurd leonine mane? The giant cushions he sleeps on? The fact that he shakes paws (I LITERALLY screamed when this happened)? His little snuffling noises? That Mrs. Pumphrey calls him “my boofums”? OR E, ALL OF THE ABOVE.
But before we get to Tricki, we also have Tristan. Or Tris, as I am forever calling him after last episode. Tris spends the episode asking Siegfried for money so he can go back to school and, presumably, have more fun than answering the phone at the practice and mixing horse medicine. Siegfried is understandably reticent because Tris keeps failing his exams, so Tris must prove himself. This somehow comes down to taking Tricki on walks, making the latter — am I going to say it, yes I am — a perambulating Pekingese (we have fun here). The practice has possession of Tricki because he is dangerously overweight. When asked if Mrs. Pumphrey has been sticking to his diet of dry dog biscuits, she says yes, to the letter, and then charmingly adds, “perhaps not every letter.” I AM STEALING THIS, DIANA RIGG. (RIP.)
She has been feeding Tricki calf’s foot jelly, cod liver oil, Beef Wellington, and “a bowl of Horlicks.” If you are, like I am, an American, you might have said “is that … like … ice cream?” Nope! Think about milk, but it’s hot and also you add malt to it. I know, I don’t get it either. Its slogan in 1961 was “Horlicks — the food drink of the night.” NOPE. It was actually created in the United States and brought on expeditions to the North and South Pole, and then eventually that trickled on down to it being fed to the overly pampered Pekingese set.
James is concerned enough about Tricki that he takes him to stay at the practice so they can feed him appropriately and take him on walks. My notes for his visit at Mrs. Pumphrey’s just say “GIMME THAT DOG,” but we now need to move onto the very important fact that Tricki has a tiny, dog-size chaise longue. Has anyone made a website for Extravagant Pet Furniture, because I will look at that site every single day.
The drama of the episode hinges around the Hamper o’ Snacks, which Tris and Siegfried spend the following days pilfering. Despite Tris taking Tricki on very long walks and feeding him the presumably joyless dry dog food he must now consume for his health, Tricki is gaining rather than losing weight. This is because Siegfried left the hamper open and Tricki has been merrily dragging whole slices of ham out of it with his tiny dog strength. There is a big TO-DO about this, but! Let’s talk about Clive real quick.
D’you remember Clive? The massive bull who looks like one of those 18th-century paintings where you think “that cow’s proportions are off,” but really we just aren’t used to breeds of cow that aren’t Holsteins? Clive belongs to Helen and he has been sired out, i.e. hired to do it with someone else’s cows, but he’s not doing it, so James has to give him a shot of testosterone.
This is an unremarkable plot point, because the testosterone, undramatically, works, but it’s there to (1) let us once again see Clive, who is truly amazing and I love him, (2) show us everyone wearing velvet pants, or what I think are velvet pants, and it makes me want velvet pants, and (3) get James to give Helen a lift home, until they run into Hot Neville, who seems to have forgiven James for killing his horse. James has a “Jessie’s Girl” moment as he looks at the two flirting, but this dynamic remains the least interesting to me, because we know James and Helen are probably going to get married. It’s very, yes, yes, check this off the list, now let’s look at the others.
The relationships that are of true import here are Siegfried/Mrs. Hall and Mrs. Pumphrey/Tricki Woo. I can’t nail down Siegfried and Mrs. Hall’s situation, and it makes me love it all the more. He knows more about her and her difficulties with her son than we’re allowed to know. He clearly feels something more for her, but it’s under enough layers of subtext that it seems he’s not allowed to properly express it. They have this unspoken arrangement in their dynamic that I am all about and it feels like the actors have sat down and had a good discussion about their backstory and IT’S JUST SO GOOD. As for Mrs. Pumphrey and Tricki Woo, that is a love for the ages.
• Will we ever find out What’s Up With Edward?
• Do velvet pants wear well?
• When Helen inevitably dumps Hot Neville, will he find solace in the world of botany?
• Will I descend into the uttermost depths of the All Creatures fandom, and now that we’ve found out the practice’s telephone number, change my WiFi Network to “Darrowby2297”?