Recapping Mr. Selfridge: Episode 4

Previously, on Mr. Selfridge: Miss Bunting gets fired for stealing from the store and is replaced by the very modern Miss Ravilious, whose forward thinking notions upset Miss Mardle. Prima ballerina Anna Pavlova comes to town and everyone falls all over themselves to pretend they love ballet. Agnes’ drunk dad shows up at the store and embarrasses everyone. Rose is forced to tell Edwardian Hipster her true identity as Selfridge’s wife. Ellen Love has a series of increasingly dramatic and elaborate breakdowns over the fact that Selfridge has decided to break up with her by way of simply never calling her back. 

Mr. Selfridge brings some serious drama this week in its fourth episode, complete with illicit kissing, a long-awaited confrontation, personal revelations and fancy motor cars. Click through for a play-by-play and come dish the latest drama in the comments. There’s a lot to talk about (and, let’s be real, mock a little bit). So come chat. 

Oh, Look, It’s Chekov’s Car. Selfridge’s has acquired an automobile to be used  in one of their window displays – the man himself says it was very successful for them at Marshall Fields, this using a real car tactic, and that people will want to come look at it and see all their motoring accessories and then buy other stuff. Okay. Mr. Crab is very anxious about the whole car situation and repeatedly points out that this vehicle is not insured for anyone to drive – not even Selfridge himself – and that’s how you know that at some point in this episode, someone’s taking that car for a spin. It’s the Chekov’s Gun of cars. Henri shows up out of nowhere – looking especially dapper in a purple waistcoat – and they discuss the window for a second. Apropos of nothing, Henri says he misses Agnes Towler’s “keen eye” for window display details and Selfridge says he ought to get Agnes to help him. Henri looks at him like he’s an idiot and has to explain to him that she left her job after that whole business with her dad. Here is where I reiterate my desire to see an entire show of just Henri reacting to things.

Agnes and Victor, Sitting in a Tree. Speaking of Agnes, she and Victor are out for a walk in the park and discussing how unemployment’s been treating her. She says they’re surviving on George’s wages and asks Victor to look out for him at the store. She also says that her father’s come back and she had to let him back in after the landlady threatened to evict them all because her dad wouldn’t stop being a drunken nuisance in the building stairwell. Agnes looks tired and sad. Victor says they’ll think of something and then points out that it’s not all bad, her leaving Selfridge’s, because it means that they can see each other in the open now. He then asks her if he can court her, officially, and Agnes is surprised, because apparently all her brain has fallen out her ears or something as she explains she didn’t know he liked her. Victor says he wants to court her more than anything and kisses her and it’s sort of very adorable, because this is Nice!Victor before becomes Creepy-at-Work!Victor. Agnes smiles and Victor asks if she’s his girl then. She says she must be and tentatively takes his arm as they walk off. Despite the weird on-again/off-again nature of their flirtation, the two of them are very sweet together, and it’s unfortunate that the writers of this show clearly have no idea what to do with poor Victor, whom I expect will be back to creepily flirting with restaurant guests in about ten minutes.

Edwardian Hipster Comes to Visit. Roddy the painter shows up at the Selfridges’ house with the painting he’s done and I’m super chuffed I’ve remembered his name this week. He’s looking especially dashing and starving artist-y this week. Fraser the Awesome Butler (still alive, apparently) doesn’t want to let him in, but Rose appears suddenly to tell him its okay. The adjourn to a not at all private sitting room (so you know this will be a plot point later) and Rose asks what Roddy’s doing there. He says he wants to apologize for being rude to her the other day (and also gaze at her in a distinctly love-starved way). Rose says she’s sorry too, and admits that she shouldn’t have lied about who she was. They decide to be friends and Rose opens up the painting to take a look. He says she inspired him and they stare at each other for a second. Rose says she thinks that her husband will like it and Roddy declares mulishly that he doesn’t want Selfridge to have it.

Rose explains that because he brought the painting into her house she has to give it to Harry – though why she couldn’t just keep it for herself is unclear, unless it’s too narcissistic to have a painting of oneself in your foyer. Roddy says that Rose’s husband neglects her; she tries to deny it as he totally crams all up into her personal space and does that face-grabby thing from every romantic movie ever, and of course they end up kissing. Let’s just say that Rose does not seem uninterested in these proceedings - and the kissing goes on for some time, until the two of them are interrupted by the arrival of Rose’s younger daughter Beatrice. Awkward. She asks who Roddy is and the two of them try to explain what’s going on and that the painting is a present for her father. She also asks Beatrice not to tell anyone about what she saw, because that’s ever worked in the history of time. Beatrice toddles off and Rose tells Roddy he has to leave. He grabs her and kisses her again, but Rose breaks it off and says she can’t do this. Roddy does his best dramatic pause while actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen gets backlit rather amazingly by the production team, then promises that Rose will see him again. (The backlighting actually made me look him up; hello dishy!) Rose still looks shaken as he leaves. 

Dun Dunnn: Selfridge Finds Out About the Painting. As expected, Beatrice’s promise to not mention the whole painting situation lasts approximately three minutes, so she’s basically the worst secret-keeper in history. Selfridge spends a long time staring at the painting, then more time creepily staring at Rose while she sleeps. He is unhappy. Rose wakes up and takes stock of the situation. He says he didn’t know that she missed painting and Rose admits she didn’t think she knew how much she still missed it either. He wants to know about the artist, and Rose tells him a bit about Roddy. Selfridge keeps asking a bunch of questions about how they met and where the painting happened and he’s vaguely menacing and very weird. He basically comes off like a Lifetime movie waiting to happen. He tells Rose he hopes she knows he values her more than anything. (What bits of his behavior recently are meant to serve as evidence of this declaration are unclear.) Rose says she knows that and Selfridge at least starts looking a bit less like an axe murderer.

Dealing with the Agnes Situation. Selfridge then heads out to Agnes’ house, uninvited and unannounced. He throws some change to the local kids and asks the landlady where he might find Miss Towler. Agnes is currently upstairs watching her father cough and clearly hoping that he drops dead soon, so that at least he’ll have to stop destroying her self esteem. She’s surprised to find Selfridge in the downstairs sitting room and even more surprised when he tells her that he wants her to come back to work at the store. He says – fairly crazily – that Agnes reminds him of himself, because she’s grasping and wants to improve her life and just loves customers and selling things. Well, I was certainly unaware that Agnes possessed some of those traits, but okay. Agnes – now apparently a well of heretofore undiscovered shopping passions – says she loves the store and selling more than anything. Selfridge tells her that if she doesn’t care what happened with her father, no one else will either, and that she’s not the same as her dad. Agnes starts sniffling and says that the problem is her father always finds them, no matter how much she tries to get out from under her past. Selfridge says he’ll go talk to her father.

By “talk to her father,” Selfridge means bribe him. Or, well, beat him up and then bribe him. He literally throws him on a table and starts bellowing in his face about how he won’t let him ruin Agnes’ life. I hope the neighbors are enjoying the show. Agnes dad, clearly afraid now, says okay and takes the pile of money.  Selfridge heads back downstairs to Agnes, but then has something of a panic attack on the stairwell where he starts having flashbacks about what a huge jerk his own father happen to be. Child!Selfridge gets beat up by some neighbor kids and then discovers that his father’s abandoned him and his mother, all to a voiceover of doom intoning that blood is blood and blah blah blah. Get thee to a therapist, Harry.

 Hot Mess Theater, Round 2. Because we didn’t character assassinate Ellen Love enough last week by turning her from a calculating, self-serving mostly interesting social climber into a weepy, man-obsessed crazy drunk, here’s a lower place.  Ellen shows up at the Selfridge residence to see Rose and drop the bomb on her that she’s been sleeping with her husband. Rose is completely nonplussed, saying that this news isn’t exactly a shock to her and the fact that Ellen’s telling her about it probably means they’re through. She says Selfridge has terrible taste and that Ellen’s just the latest in just a long line of chorus girls. Um, Rose is amazing. Ellen leaves, but not before telling Rose to tell Harry that she came by and that she won’t be gotten rid of that easily. Oh, honey, really?

As soon as the door closes behind Ellen, Rose sits down on the sofa and starts sobbing, because her husband really does suck. 

Agnes is Back! After beating up her father, Selfridge gives Agnes a ride back to the store, because apparently she’s just supposed to go back to work right then. It would appear this is also Agnes’ first trip in an actual car, because she’s impressed beyond all reckoning by the experience. Selfridge reminds her not to apologize or explain for her absence to her coworkers, because that’s a tactic that’s always worked for him. And is clearly why he has so many friends. Sheesh.

Agnes rolls back into the store and all the Accessories Ladies are shocked to see her. She tells Miss Mardle she’s back to work and that since she never officially resigned that’s cool right? Mardle looks shocked and says she’ll have to double check with Mr. Grove but sends her off to unpack motoring laprobes. Henri happens to be over in that area and is pleased to see Agnes again. He’s also sporting a really awesome cream jacket, just for the record. 

Victor Saves the Day. Victor manages to report the guys in the loading bay who are stealing from the store and also manages to keep Agnes’ brother from getting caught and thrown out in the melee. (Does anyone care about this shoplifting plot? Yawn.) Victor is totally a good friend. George thanks Victor by telling him that Agnes got her job back, and Victor’s surprised.

Agnes, meanwhile, is busy doing window design things with Henri, because I guess that’s really expressing her love of selling things or whatever and not her appreciation of how nice Henri looks in that jacket. They’re coming up with ideas and costumes for how to do the Magical Motorcar Window and are getting really into it. Henri tells her that he’s glad she’s back and he’s wearing a really awesome waistcoat and also makes a very bizarre speech about how the world is opening up to Agnes because I don’t know why. Apparently Henri flirts in weird ways.

Later, Victor corners Agnes and asks about her returning to work at the store. She tells him that Mr. Selfridge came to ask her back personally so she had to say yes. Victor says they’ll just have to keep their relationship on the DL and invites her to go out later. Agnes says she can’t go because she’s got to help Henri out with the Magical Motoring Window Display. Victor’s annoyed that Agnes jumps whenever Henri snaps his fingers and says he just wants to be with her. Agnes says she wants that to but she can’t let down Henri or Mr. Selfridge. Victor wonders why its so easy for her to let him down, but Agnes says she’s sick of being told what to do and stomps off. Allrighty then.

Time for Lady Mae’s Obligatory Appearance. Lady Mae shows up at the store, because we haven’t seen Katherine Kelly yet this episode, observes that all the photos of Ellen Love have been removed and smirks a bit. She buys a new muff for motoring, catches Mr. Grove and Miss Mardle having a moment, and makes pointed comments about Selfridge’s relationship with Rose. Lame Boyfriend Tony also gets in on the act, informing Selfridge about the fact that he saw Rose having a grand old time at the Hipster Artiste’s Club last week. Mae’s angry that Tony dropped that bombshell on Selfridge without telling her first and then sort of maybe breaks up with him over lunch.

After Tony storms off, Mae returns to her awkward flirting with Victor, who has become, yet again, creepy Posh Pod Person. He tells Mae he wants to open his own restaurant in Soho and she says she’s got connections and influence and she’ll tell him all about those things if he’ll come make her dinner at her house. 

Hey, We’ve Not Had a Patented Pep Talk in a While. Since we haven’t had a Patented Selfridge Pep Talk in the past couple episodes, it’s time for one now. Selfridge gathers the whole staff together to do some speechifying about the fact that people are stealing from them and also that Agnes is back. As far as his Patented Pep Talks go, this is a bit of a let down.

Selfridge goes on about honesty and upfront behavior and says that if people steal from the store they’re stealing from themselves. But we do finally get a look into Selfridge’s – admittedly, very interesting – background and the fact that he started out his career as a errand boy at Marshall Fields. Apparently he rose up through the ranks because of TRUST, which he says they have to have at their store too. He says that he wants people to come to him if they’re in trouble and basically tells everyone what happened with Agnes without mentioning her by name. Awkward. He finally really gets into it properly at t end, talking about honesty and trust and togetherness is the REAL Spirit of Selfridge’s, which is kind of hysterically ironic, but okay. 

Shut Up, Selfridge. Selfridge comes home from his speechifying pleased with himself and then proceeds to preen some more about the massive bouquet of roses he sent his wife. He says he meant every word he wrote on the card, then kisses Rose on the cheek while I roll my eyes. Beatrice – who is literally the worst kid – proceeds to announce that her mother’s blushing, but not as much as she blushed that time the painter guy was over and kissed her. WOMP.

After they put Beatrice to bed, Rose and Selfridge have an enormous row. This is literally the first time I’ve yelled at the television enough to miss the famous Downton Abbey SHUT UP, [CHARACTER] jars, but well, here we are. The two of them finally have it out about his affair with Ellen and her flirtation with Roddy and it is awesome.

Selfridge lights into Beatrice about kissing Hipster Painter and gets all extra-judgey about how she did it in front of their daughter and then lied about it. Rose fumes silently for a second before informing her husband that Ellen Love paid her a visit earlier that day. Selfridge tries to pretend like he didn’t know what she was doing there, but Rose wants to know why she has to live by one set of rules when he gets to live by another. Selfridge tries to deny his involvement with Ellen before finally taking refuge in that retort of cheating husbands everywhere – “But it’s over!” Rose starts crying and Selfridge throws Roddy in her face again. She says that if she had had an affair with the painter, she’d only have been following Selfridge’s example. Then – in the part that made me the angriest – Selfridge snottily asks her if she thinks he wants to be this way, or that his behavior makes him happy. Rose, awesomely, asks whether she’s supposed to feel sorry for him (for not being able to resist having an affair) and tells him that he can just go to hell.  Selfridge pushes past her and out into the night.

I’m completely Team Rose in this argument, largely because of Selfridge’s completely unapologetic attitude and apparent insistence that he’s just a jerk to his wife because of biology and his innate nature just forcing him to run around on her Shut up, Harry. Since you get the feeling that this is just the latest in a string of affairs, it’s hard to see that he’s making any effort to change or really cares at all about what Rose is feeling on the subject. It’s exceptionally difficult to feel any sympathy for a character who not only can’t muster up an apology for his actions, but doesn’t seem to feel the slightest bit of remorse about them either. 

Everything Always Happens in the Last Five Minutes. Victor actually goes and makes Mae dinner, now that he’s annoyed with Agnes. Henri gives Agnes a posh scarf as a thank you for helping with the motoring window display. She swishes around her flat in it for a bit with a dreamy expression on her face.

Selfridge retreats to his gambling establishment where he proceeds to break all his personal rules about drinking and gambles a whole lot. He gets smashed with Mr. Edwards, who looks only too pleased to help run up the Selfridge bar tab. Of course, Ellen shows up precisely at this moment, for yet another OMG WE BROKE UP talk. She says she told Rose this, so she’ll tell him, that she won’t be cast off like she’s nothing. Selfridge says she’s high and tells her to go home. Ellen cries that the flat’s not the same without him and begs him to come spend one more night with her, because we haven’t seen the poor girl debase herself enough about this. Selfridge says he’s sorry if he led her on but he’s got a family and the two of them are just over. Edwards drags Ellen out, who’s crying harder and insisting she loves Selfridge.

Then the Weekly Ending Montage kicks in. It’s especially dramatic this week. Selfridge has some more flashbacks about his father who was a jerk, and thinks about Rose being with Roddy. Edwards goes by Ellen’s flat to check on her and finds her unconscious in the bedroom, having overdosed on a bunch of pills. (Seriously, show??)

Then, oh, look, suddenly Chekov’s Car is back! Selfridge drunkenly staggers into the store to admire it and then takes it out for a spin. The CGI during the driving sequence as Selfridge struggles with more flashbacks and bangs on the steering wheel in frustration is hilariously awful; at least the scene is pretty brief, because Selfridge drives the car straight into oncoming traffic and has a massive accident, which you know Mr. Crab is going to be upset about because that thing is not insured.

Selfridge is pinned under the overturned vehicle and we’re left to speculate on his fate until next week, but given that this is history, I think we can all be fairly safe in the assumption he’s going to be okay. I’d probably be more pleased about that, if I hadn’t disliked Selfridge so strongly in this episode. I wish the writers were a bit more clear on how we’re meant to be reading his character – I am completely on Rose’s side in the cheating argument and all the flashbacks in the world showcasing his awful father aren’t going to make what he’s done to her okay. Ugh, it’s so difficult when a main character is this unsympathetic because it’s impossible to know how we’re meant to be feeling about them.

Would love to hear some thoughts on this – Harry Gordon Selfridge: misunderstood or self-absorbed? Sympathetic or no? I’m struggling with it.