All Creatures Great & Small Season 3 returns for its second episode with James and Helen back from the official honeymoon, but never fear; they are blissfully happy. James, full of anticipation, drives home from a night call and dashes into Skeldale House and up the stairs to the attic lovenest. He’s hoping to catch Helen in bed, but she’s up and busy burning his breakfast. It turns out the partner getting cold feet about a new relationship is none other than Siegfried Farnon, who regrets his generous wedding gift of a partnership with James. The household is adjusting to the new living arrangements.
As proud as he is of making a partner, James is in for a rude shock. It’s payday, and he discovers his earnings have miraculously shrunk since he now receives 40% of the profits, and according to Siegfried, it’s been a slow period. He’s even making less money than Tristan. Following Helen and James’s departure (she’s going to help out on her farm, and he has a visit to a cattle farmer), Mrs. Hall, ever the voice of reason, suggests that Siegfried might want to engage James in the business since he is a partner, and share the delicate inner workings of the practice.
James has been summoned to look at some young calves owned by brusque, unfriendly Kate Billings (Lynda Rooke). He discovers the very young calves are in trouble, their stomachs upset for no obvious reason, and he prescribes morphine and charcoal. He returns to Skeldale House to find an equally appalling mess spread over the dining room table, a heap of crumpled, stained papers, bills, and receipts. Siegfried blithely requests that he produce a profit/loss statement for the last twelve months and sort out any outstanding bills. James is totally bewildered. Siegfried, who is enjoying a very active social life, leaves for a date.
Siegfried's cunning plan to scare James off and delegate unpleasant and long-neglected tasks backfires. Helen offers to take a look at the accounts, having done the books for the family farm for years. Siegfried becomes uncomfortable and then outright hostile at her questions about his business methods and illegible ledger entries. To his further embarrassment, she has also discovered several uncashed checks. (He was about to deposit them any day now!)
James goes back to Kate’s farm to find one of the calves has died and another is failing. He offers to do a post-mortem on the dead calf and send samples to be tested for lead poisoning, knowing that cattle will frequently lick peeling paint, although their barn seems to be in good shape. Kate is distraught, and James gently asks if she has family who can help out. He’s noticed the shrine Kate assembled, featuring a photograph of her sister Annie and the rosettes their cattle have won at local shows. Kate admits her sister is married and lives close by, but they are estranged.
Tristan finds himself dispatched on a house call to Florence (Sophie Khan Levy) and her dalmatian, Daisy. She turns out to be the daughter of Skeldale’s main rival, George Pandhi (Kriss Dosanjh); Daisy started experiencing what looked like seizures while he was out on a farm visit. Florence mistakes Siegfried for Tristan’s dad, causing him to declare he can’t find anything wrong with her pup. (This is possibly the only time Tristan has not flirted with an attractive woman.) There is mutual dislike, and it’s not the stuff of romantic comedy.
James, discouraged by the condition of Kate’s calves, comes back to Skeldale House to find the surgery needing cleaning and tells Tristan off, reminding him that James is technically his supervisor. Tristan retaliates by telling him Siegfried never wanted a partner. Over a delicious burned dinner in the attic, James shares his worry over Kate’s calves. Then he’s struck by an item in the accounts –– the reimbursement the practice receives for TB testing of cattle and the opportunity to increase income by leading the way with testing in the area. Helen warns him that since testing is so unpopular with farmers, he should be careful.
James calls the Agricultural Ministry, and in due time, a large box arrives addressed to Herriot Veterinarian Practice. Siegfried has, um, a cow, ranting that testing is more trouble than it’s worth and is offended by James taking the lead. James is equally offended Siegfried went to visit Kate’s calves (although Siegfried did say he would do precisely as James had).
Mrs. Hall escapes the toxic atmosphere of Skeldale House for a dog walk with Gerald Hammon, a friendship that bumps up against romance from time to time, and runs off screaming. She’s had a rocky marriage, he’s been emotionally damaged by the war, and neither feels they are candidates for happiness. When they return to the house for a nice cup of tea, Tristan emerges from the surgery and has a man-to-man chat with Gerald while Mrs. Hall goes to fix refills. The Farnons’ dog Jesse is very fond of Gerald’s dog, and Tristan wouldn’t like to see Jesse get hurt. Of course not, Gerald says, but he knows, as we do, that this isn’t about the dogs’ feelings. Still, it’s good to see Tristan standing up for Mrs. Hall, even if he has to resort to unsubtle metaphors.
Florence arrives at Skeldale; things have escalated to an emergency. Tristan determines Daisy the Dalmation is not having a seizure –– she’s choking. George is out again, so Florence has no choice but to trust Tristan, although she is appalled at the state of the surgery, which is littered with dirty equipment. Their dislike for each other is forgotten as they work together to save the dog. Tristan discovers Daisy has a small pebble stuck in her larynx and creates an incision in her throat to remove it, with Florence acting as his assistant. It’s a flawless procedure (and, warning, quite graphic).
On her way out, Florence meets Siegfried and praises Tristan’s skill. Tristan is pleased and surprised. (Has he met his match?) However, Tristan’s fortunes rise as James’ day gets worse with bad news for Kate. The test results are back and negative, and Kate is distraught. She has lost two beloved calves, her only companions and family, and has no idea why.
Worse, Siegfried is furious that James has signed the surgery up for testing, and James is angry about his interference with his case. Mrs. Hall declares they need their heads banged together, and goes to talk to the only other rational being in the house, Helen. Helen admits she’s used to being busy, and she’s still trying to establish her place in the household. Mrs. Hall likes to cook and feed people and encourages her and James to join them for meals, and then uses dinner to defuse the tense atmosphere at the table by suggesting James and Siegfried go to Kate’s farm together.
James goes outside with Kate to see if there’s anything that could have been trodden into the calves’ barn. Touchingly, Kate thanks him for his kindness. Siegfried gives the barn a final inspection and notices something in a calf’s bucket of milk. He plucks out a rather revolting dark item, which has fallen off the calf’s head. Kate tells them she had responded to a salesman’s pitch for a new product to help heal the wound left after horn removal. The problem is she can’t read, and one of the ingredients is antimony, a deadly poison. Her sister, had she been there, would have read the label. James suggests Kate heal the rift, and Kate sets off up the hill with a bunch of flowers as a peace offering.
Back at Skeldale House, Tristan has cleaned the surgery, and Siegfried graciously concedes that the practice leading the area in TB testing is the right thing to do, although it will all be James’s responsibility. Mrs. Hall smiles; she will have her flock gathered around the table again.