Recapping Mr. Selfridge: Episode 3

Previously, on Mr. Selfridge: Selfridge and Ellen’s affair continues apace, sparking gossip around town and forcing us to suffer through another horrible “musical” bit. There’s an inter-staff debate about whether it’s appropriate to sell Sekrit Ladies Items such as perfume on the ground floor of the store. Henri Leclair and his amazing reactions to things are maybe the best part of this show. Mrs. Selfridge finds out some specifics about her husband’s affair with Ellen and decides maybe she does want to be friends with Edwardian Hipster the painter after all. Henri sets Ellen up with a scandalous photoshoot, which somehow seems to make Selfridge like her less, though it’s not really clear why. Agnes gets punched in the face by her dad and gets to flirt with Henri.

Mr. Selfridge rolls on this week with its third episode, complete with an appearance by a prima ballerina, an emotional meltdown, some eavesdropping, an embarrassing public scene and more. Click through for a play-by-play and come dish the latest drama in the comments. It’ll be fun. Promise. 

Scandal in the Fashion Department. Our episode opens with the men of Selfridge’s – Mr. Crab, Mr. Grove, Henri Leclair in an amazing jacket, and Selfridge himself – storming through the ground floor of the store to the sound of dramatic music. The Dude Brigade asks to see Fashion Department head Miss Bunting, whose name I have literally never known until this moment, because it turns out she’s been stealing from the store. She’s weepy and apologetic once discovered, but still totally fired. Selfridge yells some more and says she’s betrayed her work family and OMG, he hates everything. All the employees are staring, but fortuitously there are no customers to be found in Selfridge’s at all at this moment so mercifully we avoid a messy public scene.

Selfridge’s Weird About Face About Women. Selfridge’s assistant – who’s name is Ms. Blakensop, so there’s another character whose identity I have only just learned – informs him that yet another card has arrived from Ellen. Selfridge doesn’t even acknowledge this, because apparently he’s just done with her now, even though we’ve never really explored how we went from obsessed to friend zoned so quickly – I assume we’re meant to blame the slightly scandalous photoshoot with Henri from last week for completely altering his mindset about her, but the fact that this complete 180 hasn’t been explained (oh, okay, now he wants to see his wife, show?) irks. Or possibly this is just because I enjoyed Ellen and this is shoddy treatment for any character to receive.

Anyway, later on Selfridge is all dressed up and ready to take Rose and Rosealie out for a surprise fancy evening. He spends some time telling his daughter how pretty she is, and basically acts as though he’s having a heart attack when Rose comes down the stares. To be fair, she does look quite lovely, but Selfridge’s sudden and immediate transference of his affection back to his wife is jarring – and the tiniest bit arrogant, as though to say that now he’s done cavorting all over town with his theater crush, he’s got time to remember he’s married. Ugh, whatever. (Team Rose!)

So Selfridge takes the Selfridge ladies to a special posh party where prima ballerina Anna Pavlova performs for them. She does Swan Lake and of course it’s beautiful because she’s Pavlova and the ladies look enraptured while Selfridge stares kind of creepily at Rose, looking all enraptured and as though he weren’t throwing himself at another woman like the day before. Pavlova finishes her performance and everyone applauds, but of course it’s only our Americans who yell “Bravo” at her, because we haven’t had a reminder that Americans are tacky in a while. Rose is just overcome by how awesome all this was and thanks her husband for bringing her. Selfridge just kisses her cheek and has this expression like he’d do anything for her, which probably wouldn’t be so annoying if that list included, oh, not cheating on her.

Ellen is Having a Meltdown. Ellen’s wrapping up yet another (inevitably terrible) theatrical production – no idea what this one is but her costume seems some sort of cross between Annie and Charles Dickens – when she learns that Mr. Edwards the newspaperman is waiting for her backstage. Ellen is sort of twitchy and tense and immediately starts asking Edwards to find out what’s up with Selfridge, who won’t take her calls or answer her letters. He says Selfridge is his own man and Ellen sort of creepily insists he’s her man and starts going through a list of all the things Selfridge has bought her since their affair began and chugging wine.

She then basically says she’s waiting for Selfridge to put down some roots and leave his wife for her – citing Lady Mae as evidence that this sort of thing can happen to chorus girls. Edwards has this completely disbelieving and totally amazing expression on his face, like he’s terrified and can’t wait to run away, but is afraid if he moves she’ll attack him, like a T-Rex from Jurassic Park. He’s all OMG, Ellen, GIRL PLEASE.

Seriously, this is just sad. Plus, Ellen’s freakout doesn’t entirely jive with the presentation of her character we’ve seen to this point – in the past two episodes she’s been a woman who was completely aware of what she was doing. She never came off as a woman desperately in love with Selfridge, but rather desperately in love with the idea of what he could do for her. She loved the fur coats and new flat and job as Spirit of Selfridge’s; she wanted her own perfume and a window display featuring her picture. Selfridge himself seemed almost secondary to all of that. All of her behavior around him was certainly calculated in a way that it would seem this suddenly emotionally overwrought woman would not ever be capable of managing. It’s disappointing, because there’s not a lot of interesting story in Ellen suddenly becoming clingy, tearful and crazy.

The Continuing Adventures of Agnes and Her Deadbeat Dad. Agnes is calmly serving dinner for her brother, when their father comes home and starts banging on the door. It turns out Agnes is all kinds of awesome and has had the locks on their flat changed without telling anyone. Her father is stuck outside ranting about how she’s the worst daughter ever and George looks scared. Agnes calmly tells him to carry on eating his dinner, and that they’ll be alright. Yay, Agnes! Of course, her father then starts creepily stalking them on the way to and from work, and you just know something terrible is going to happen because, well, we’ve seen television shows before ever.

Introducing the Pavlova Moment. At the post ballet reception, Lady Mae is hanging out with the Selfridges and complimenting Rosalie on how lovely she looks. She asks Selfridge if he’s now a convert to the charms of the ballet and he waxes poetic about how the look on Rose’s face was so enchanting it would have won him over to anything and I am suddenly very busy with trying not to barf. Rose also rapturously goes on about the beauty of ballet for a bit and says she wishes everyone could enjoy this the way they have tonight. Mae sniffs and says Rose is an idealist because only the very elite can enjoy such a precious gift because….reasons. Rose disagrees and says she wishes that every woman could have a Pavolova moment. Selfridge gets that look on his face like he is having AN IDEA, which is clearly going to involve selling something.

Pretty Sure This Isn’t Store Family Behavior. Miss Bunting’s replacement arrives – a very modern lady named Miss Ravilious who immediately starts throwing her weight around the store and doing crazy things like borrowing items from the accessories department without asking and talking back to Selfridge during a management meeting. Miss Ravilious is a proponent of a lot of very forward-thinking ideas – the sort that make Mr. Crab look like he might be on the verge of passing out. She thinks Fashion can be as big a department as Accessories and is a proponent of off-the-rack/ready-to-wear clothing for ladies, which scandalizes everyone.

Miss Mardle – who has spent the first half of the episode quietly being depressed about being alone and getting older – instantly hates this woman because she feels like her job/position in the store is being threatened. She doesn’t care for Miss Ravilious’ modern ideas about dress and health – her status as a member of the Rational Dress Movement, which means she doesn’t wear a corset or skirts long enough to interfere with her bicycling –particularly freaks her out because that’s just not the way things are done at the store. The two ladies have a quick spat, and then Miss Mardle tells the Mean Girls of Accessories that they’re not to help that woman with any product without talking to her first. It’s on now.

Selfridge’s Latest Stunt. Over breakfast the day after the ballet recital, Selfridge smugly tells his famly that Pavlova herself is going to be doing an appearance at the store. He says that Rose will get to have afternoon tea with her, and that the whole Selfridge gang will get to meet her. He’s also come up with a brilliant marketing idea thanks to the new head of Fashion – they’ll make replicas of Pavolova’s famous cloak and sell them during her visit. (This is apparently an attempt at giving everyone a “Pavlova Moment” though it sort of seems he may have invented cosplay at the same time.)

Did Anybody Really Want a Victor/Agnes/Henri Triangle? Victor and Agnes spend much of the episode trying to surreptitiously stare at one another as they pass by – which is weird, considering Agnes couldn’t have seemed less interested in him last week, but is also okay because they’re still kind of cute.  Victor has discovered that Agnes’ brother may be unwittingly helping some of the guys in the loading bay steal product from the store, and he tells her George had better watch himself. Before Agnes can say anything in reply, Henri shows up to ask her a question about some sort of artistic staging nonsense and Victor looks upset and leaves. Henri then borrows Agnes from her department for the day to help with setup and they bond some more. The other Mean Girls are jealous of Henri’s attention to Agnes, too and Miss Mardle looks none too pleased at the further encroachment on what she considers her domain within the store.

Victor then proceeds to get stuck in a boring subplot that involves sort of flirting with Lady Mae and also doctoring her chicken dish at lunch and it’s just snoozeville. Is he a cook now? Poor Victor; he’s not had anything to do in ages and it’s a shame he keeps getting shunted into these weird “flirt with posh ladies in the restaurant” sub-storylines because they’re terribly awkward.

Edwardian Hipster Adventures. Rose is back at Edwardian Hipster’s flat and he’s still painting her. He’s all cute and sweet and tells Rose he likes how comfortable she is in her own skin. Rose breaks the moment by asking when the painting will be done because she wants to buy it as a gift for her husband. (Awkward.) Rather than answer or acknowledge the husband comment, Edwardian Hipster decides that Rose ought to come to his Club of Hipster Artistes with him to look at the great paintings and talk about art and the meaning of life. Rose says she really can’t but Edwardian Hipster is persistent.

The Club of Hipster Artistses is full of a lot of stereotypical characters – free spirited women and emo men and everyone just loves them some art and oh how beautiful it all is. They flirt and debate the merits of various types o painting and Rose tries her best to fit in with everyone. She also keeps trying to leave, but the Hipster Crew won’t let her, because it turns out that they’re all heading down to Selfridge’s to see Pavlova and want her to come with them. Rose panics as soon as she hears their destination, and freaks out a bit, grabbing at Edwardian Hipster. Surprise, his name is actually Roddy (who knew?), and Rose is forced to confess her real identity as the reason she can’t go with them. Roddy looks like someone just stole his puppy and says that he’s been an idiot.

Rose claims she just wanted something in her life that was hers, without being tainted or influenced by the Selfridge name. She says that she’s enjoyed their time together and wants to still be friends and Roddy looks at her like she’s crazy. He says Rose knew he was falling in love with her and asks if he’s just being used as some kind of revenge for what her husband has been getting up to with Ellen Love (Ugh, this is the only scene where these two have ever been likeable together and it’s of course their breakup!) Rose defends Selfridge, saying that it’s his nature to risk the things he loves and that she’s in love with him still. But she admits that she was tempted by Roddy, and says she owes him the honest truth about that.

Rose turns to go, and we see that her confession and their entire conversation has been  overheard by an eavesdropper – who appears to be Lady Mae’s lame (ex?) boyfriend Tony. Dun dun dunnn.

Ellen Crashes Selfridge’s Pavlova Party.  Meanwhile, back at the store – Pavlova arrives at Selfridge’s, where she gets showered with free jewelry, poses for photos and even does a little dance for the assembled crowd. Everyone seems super excited to see the famous ballerina and the Patented Pavlova Cosplay Capes are flying off the shelves. So, you knew the whole situation had to be too good to last.

Ellen finds out from Mr. Edwards that Pavlova is appearing at the store and is shocked and angry that she hasn’t been asked to attend, as the Spirit of Selfridge’s. She’s also kind of drunk and on drugs or whatever again and is just basically a hot mess. Edwards advises her to leave well enough alone, but Ellen just starts shouting about how she has to be at the store to meet Pavlova. After Ellen goes through every item of clothing in her closet and selects what appears to be a totally inappropriate for daytime dress, she shows up at Selfridge’s in the middle of the Pavlova event and starts mugging for the photographers. It is super awkward. She forces herself into pictures with Pavlova and is generally loud and obnoxious and very, very embarrassing. Selfridge is clearly horrified and no one on the staff seems to know what to do.

This entire sequence is incredibly entertaining – in a dramatic, secondary embarrassment way – and very fun to watch. However, as mentioned previously, it’s a bit difficult to reconcile this Ellen with the woman we’ve seen in the previous two episodes. Maybe we’re meant to be shocked that underneath her calculating, perfectionist façade is a typical hysterical woman who’s actually obsessed with a man and not her own career or reputation, but it’s a bit tiresome at the same time. I feel like I’ve seen this before.

The Party Gets Worse. The Pavlova Party descends into further madness when Agnes’ father shows up drunk in the middle of the event. At first he’s only sort of staggering around drunkenly in the background, but once he attracts Agnes’ attention things go from bad to worse. She’s trying to get him to leave when he starts struggling with her – though no one notices this for a bit because Ellen is concurrently shouting at Selfridge that she needs a Pavlova photo – but everyone notices when he falls through a glass display case. Agnes dad is drug out of the store by some dapperly dressed security (which actually turns out to be Victor) all the while shouting abuse and profanity at his daughter. He’s pushed out through the loading docks, with Agnes and George trailing behind.

Agnes says he just needs to leave, and her father gloats at her about having lost her job. He says she’s no better than he is now and declares that he deserves some respect from his flesh and blood. Agnes laughs in his face and says that’ll never happen because she hates him. Her father makes a move to strike her, but Victor gets there first and punches him in the face. It’s a very satisfying moment. Victor tries to comfort Agnes, telling her it’ll be all right, but Agnes says it can’t be, because her father will just keep coming back, and Miss Bunting got fired for a lot less. Victor urges her to go talk to Selfridge, but she says he’d never understand having a father like that and she’ll just have to leave the store. Victor promises to look after her, but Agnes shuts him down, saying he has his own family to deal with, and walks away sadly.

The Fall of Ellen Love. Ellen gets dragged away from Pavlova during the melee following the incident with Agnes’ dad, and Mr. Edwards’ new job appears to be to keeping her corralled at the back of the crowd. Selfridge says he’s got one more surprise for Pavlova, who has clearly made out like a bandit with all the freebies on this visit. He says he’s giving her the most prestigious thing the store can offer – her very own window. Ellen looks stunned. You can actually see the last shreds of sanity in her brain breaking down at this moment and you know that it is about to Get Real. Suddenly we cut to Selfridge literally pushing Ellen from the room as she screams at him about how she can’t believe he gave Pavlova a window. He tells her she’s got to leave and then she starts crying (because Ellen Love has to this point been a woman that cries, okaaaay) and begging Selfridge to come round and see her that night. Instead of answering, Selfridge drops the bomb that her contract with Selfridge’s is over and Ellen looks shocked and clings to his arm, asking why he’d say something like that. Selfridge says she’s crossed the line, because his family’s in the store. (Not to say that I have a dog in this fight, but considering that your whole family was there when Ellen was posing on a plane for you, this argument seems a bit weak, Harry.) He then says it’s really because of her reckless nature, which also seems a bit pot calling the kettle black to me, but let’s go with it. Ellen starts crying again and begging him not to leave her and it’s deeply uncomfortable. Which, obviously, Selfridge also thinks it’s uncomfortable, because he tells Ellen she can keep the apartment and apologizes to her like six times and then runs away. I wonder if I would feel this badly for Ellen if I didn’t think she was getting character assassinated. Will we see her again? It seems likely, but to do what at this point, who knows. Maybe she’ll boil a rabbit in a pot at the Selfridge house?

Ending Montage Time! Time for the end of episode montage! The Selfridges return home after the event – Rose never showed up, so they all tell her about what happened. Rose claims that she came home because she wasn’t feeling well and she is seriously a dreadful liar. For some reason, Rose is even colder to her husband than before, refusing to meet his eyes at all – are we meant to assume she found out something from Roddy about the Ellen affair that she didn’t already know? It’s very strange. Agnes sits in her room in the dark looking depressed. Miss Mardle also sits at home looking depressed, but perks up when Mr. Grove shows up at her flat, since clearly this is evidence that he hasn’t stopped wanting to have an affair with her I guess. He also brought her her favorite chocolates and has arranged to stay the night, so I suppose this means we’re supposed to think he’s awesome. They cuddle. Pavlova’s special window goes on display at the store, which apparently Selfridge forced Henri to create in the span of like an hour, and it’s a Swan Lake theme that’s drawing a huge crowd. (Seriously, is Swan Lake supposed to be some kind of metaphor for this episode or what? It’s everywhere.)  Selfridge retreats to the Nameless Gambling Establishment and starts recklessly betting huge piles of money – YOLO! – which I suppose doesn’t make him feel at all like a hypocrite for the things he said to Ellen, even though I imagine it should. Ellen, meanwhile, goes to stalkerishly stare at the Pavlova Window before walking purposefully off into the night.

Seriously, there was not nearly enough Henri in this episode, just saying. What did you all think of it? Leave your thoughts in the comments and let’s dish! 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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