Recapping Mr. Selfridge: Episode 7

Apologies that this recap is just a bit late – apparently my conviction I could get this up before I got on a plane yesterday was incorrect! So, go forth, read and enjoy!

Previously, on Mr. Selfridge: The Selfridges are back to being lovey-dovey in the wake of Harry’s accident, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visits the shop and makes everyone have a séance, Kitty gets a secret admirer, Agnes gets a new job in Fashion *and* gets to kiss Henri, Doris the Accessories Girl Whose Name You Didn’t Know tries to help the previously fired Miss Bunting, and maybe Miss Mardle should think about whether Mr. Grove was worth waiting around a decade for. (Doubtful?) Oh, and I think I’m Team Henri and Agnes now, just so you know.

Loads more drama happening this week that I am just itching to chat about – leave your thoughts and/or favorite moments and/or general snark in the comments! 

Oh, Look, Another Obnoxious American. Our episode opens with Selfridge nervously getting dressed and giving some last minute instructions to Fraser the Awesome Butler, who we seriously haven’t seen in way too long. It turns out that F.W. Woolworth, another rich American entrepreneur who runs a store you may have heard of, is coming to see the Selfridges for dinner that night. Rosalie regales them all at the table with stories from her first soiree with Lady Mae last week, but Woolworth – who you can tell immediately is kind of a jerk – immediately has to one up the Selfridges by saying that his daughter just got engaged to a mega-rich Wall Street tycoon of some type. His wife basically tells him to shut up, but Woolworth says there’s nothing wrong with bragging a bit, because he and Selfridge both came up the hard way and view their kids as their legacy. Ugh, already quite ready for Mr. Woolworth to head back to America please. 

After dinner, the genders split up to spend some time together and chat. The wives commiserate over being married to men who “never stop” and we learn that Woolworth is planning to expand his stores all over England. The men are in the sitting room having cigars when Woolworth tells Selfridge that he’s looking to expand his business there in London. And by “there”, we mean literally down Oxford Street from Selfridges. Selfridge is NOT happy about the prospect of another store competing with his own, particularly when it has lower prices. But, Woolworth says it doesn’t really matter, since Selfridges is so expensive that average people can’t shop there, so they can come to Woolworths down the road instead and, boom, there’s business for everyone. Selfridge looks mortally offended at the idea that thrifty people don’t or can’t shop at his store (though judging just by the outfits of most of the Selfridges customers, it’s a bit hard to see how he’s surprised…)

Woolworth is about as horrifying as you’d expect, too. Brash, boorish, rude and completely self-interested. (Hopefully, he’s only around for this episode?) Sigh, British writers, I love you. I do. You know this. But can we have an American character on something who isn’t embarrassingly boorish and tacky? Please? 

Selfridge Discovers Sales. Still fuming from his dinner with Woolworth the night before, Selfridge arrives at the store and issues his employees a challenge. He wants to know what he can buy from their departments with a threepenny bit. Miss Mardle looks at him like he is crazy and says nothing, but points out that if he had sixpence he could get a handkerchief maybe. Everyone is stumped, because nothing in their departments is that cheap.

Selfridge decides that he wants to try discounting certain items around the store to see what happens, because Selfridge’s is supposed to be for anyone and everyone. He says that the point is not just to push product, but to get people through the doors. (Though how this will really help overall sales if some of those people can only buy certain items is unclear, but okay.) Mr. Crab is skeptical, but Miss Mardle is really into it, saying that they can have event sales at various times instead of just the new year. He charges all the department heads with figuring out items from their sections to discount. 

The Rosalie Dating Game. Rose goes to visit Lady Mae and the two of them go through Mae’s old school Rolodex of eligible young men in town. She suggests several titled, well-off gentlemen as potential options, but Rose insists that Rosalie will be marrying for love, not for money or a title. Mae says Rosalie’s lucky then, because most mothers use their daughters to make a mark on the world – and it’s what she herself would have done. She then assumes that Rose doesn’t want her stewarding her daughter around anymore and looks a weird combination of sad/vaguely offended, but Rose says that it probably couldn’t hurt to introduce Rosalie to some eligible young men anyway, so it’s okay. They make plans for Rose to bring her daughter with her to Mae’s soiree the next day so they can get started. 

Senior Assistant Death Match: Kitty vs. Doris. Mr. Grove tells Kitty and Doris that the decision about who will be taking Agnes’ place as Senior Accessories Assistant will be made that week. Grove also goes to see Selfridge to plead the case of fired former Fashion head Miss Bunting, whom Doris found hungry and broke in a tea shop last week. Mr. Selfridge insists that he won’t write references for someone who is dishonest and that’s that. Grove doesn’t argue with him.

Interviews for the Senior Assistant begin and Doris is sitting outside Grove’s office waiting for her turn. Kitty comes out and does some great psychological manipulation, saying that Grove was just ever so nice to her and practically offered her the job right there, blah blah blah. Doris looks anxious. She goes into Grove’s office and tries to explain why she’d be a good Senior Assistant. She says she’s good with people, claiming both store customers and staff like her and that’s important. She’s quiet and not at all pushy like you just know Kitty would be. Grove asks her what her five year plan is, basically, and Doris hesitates. She says she wanted to be Head of Department once, but doesn’t think she knows anymore now. She says she doesn’t want to end up alone like Miss Bunting and would like to have a family some day. She laments that she probably just talked herself out of the job and Grove says that’s not necessarily true. He then breaks the news about Selfridge’s refusal to give Miss Bunting a reference. Grove says he did try to convince Selfridge and Doris is sure he did his best, but obviously she would be wrong about that considering that Grove “tried” about as hard as I “try” to not have five Hobnobs with my coffee every morning. (Which is to say, not very hard.)

Also – does anyone else get the feeling that Grove seems kind of smitten with Doris and her old-fashioned, kind-hearted ways? Watch your back, Miss Mardle. 

Ellen Love is Back with a New (Boring) Boyfriend. Ellen Love arrives at the Palm Court restaurant with Lady Mae’s former boy toy Vile Tony in tow. Ominous music plays, so you know that neither of them is welcome. Mr. Perez (thank you to the commenter who finally clued me into his name!) tells Victor to put the two of them somewhere discreet, but Ellen’s not having it. She says she’d like to have her old regular table, smack in the middle of the room. Victor tries to talk his way out of it, claiming that Selfridge usually sits there, but Ellen doesn’t care and says that they can move when and if Selfridge gets there. Why she is with Vile Tony is unclear, but he still looks vile, if that helps at all.

After a while, Selfridge appears to discuss special sale menu items for the restaurant, because every department has to offer something for people with less money in their pockets. Mr. Perez is not into this, but Victor suggests a new menu. He then strolls into the restaurant proper and – of course – runs straight into Ellen. They shake hands awkwardly. Ellen says Vile Tony has brought her shopping and even though she’s no longer the Spirit of the Store, she hopes she’s still welcome. He says of course she is and then asks how she’s been doing, only managing to miss mentioning her whole overdose situation by a couple of words and turning into a comment about her decision to leave the Gaiety. It turns out she’s taking a major role in Vile Tony’s new play because apparently Vile Tony is a playwright now, okay, sure.

Vile Tony says she’s brilliant in it and Ellen kisses him in thanks. She literally could not be dangling Vile Tony and their relationship in front of Selfridge any more obviously, but he doesn’t seem to care, other than looking confused. Vile Tony says Selfridge should come along and see the play once it opens and he says he’s sure he’d enjoy it. They leave and Selfridge pulls Mr. Perez aside and says he wants to be told immediately if Ellen and Vile Tony come to the store again because he doesn’t want to run into them. 

Does Anyone Care About Victor’s Chef Plot? Victor makes ice cream desserts for Lady Mae and tries to convince her to distribute them at her soiree that evening. He says it could help them find a backer for their new restaurant and tells her about an available restaurant space he found. Mae’s reaction – that she’s certainly not going to Soho – should tell you everything you need to know about how seriously she’s considering this “Set Victor Up with a Restaurant” plan. Obviously, she’s just dangling it in front of him so he’ll keep sleeping with her, and it’s really kind of gross. In addition to being boring, because it’s hard to imagine anyone being really emotionally invested in whether Victor gets his own restaurant or not. We’ve only ever seen him in scenes with Mae or Agnes and know almost nothing about him so it seems hard to imagine that many people are invested in whether or not his culinary dreams come true. Try Top Chef, kiddo. Yawn. 

Agnes and Henri Have Date Night! Look, we finally get to see Henri’s flat! It is tasteful and posh and well-decorated, just like we all knew it would be. Agnes has come over for date  night and judging from her comments they had dinner and Henri has further burnished his perfect man credentials by cooking. He turns on the phonograph and plays La Boheme for her and it’s all adorable and romantic. They talk about design for a bit and Agnes says that one day she wants a job like Henri’s. They flirtily discuss whether Agnes is only pretending to like him to try and steal his job and then there’s some more kissing and Henri unpins her hair and tells her she’s beautiful. Okay, fine, they’re really cute together. (Though really, it’s hard not to compare this show and its treatment of romance to, say, Downton Abbey and just boggle a bit at how much more progressive attitudes toward dating had become (or possibly just are in the city? Or not among the super upper class? Or maybe that’s just me.) Henri asks Agnes if she’s sure that this is something she wants. She says yes, they go back to kissing and the opera music swells in the background. 

Mae Throws a Party and Drama Ensues. The Selfridges take Rosalie to Mae’s fancy evening soiree. (Shallow: Rose’s dress is so gorgeous!) Mae drags the young girl over to meet some handsome, eligible young brothers who both want to fetch her a drink and suddenly Rosalie seems a lot less anxious. Turns out that Selfridge’s new nemesis Woolworth is also at the party and Selfridge is not pleased. He informs Woolworth that he might not be able to come to his big grand opening because the sale at Selfridges is opening the day before. Woolworth is incredulous that such a sale is really happening and the two have an awkward and increasingly combative conversation about how businessmen should keep prices low.

A bit later, Rose goes looking for her daughter, only to find her off talking to a gentleman in a corner. It turns out that this gentleman is none other than Roderick Temple, the painter that did Rose’s portrait, kissed her and was generally in love with her. Rose looks terribly shocked to see him and it’s probably a good thing that the room the three of them are in is otherwise empty because anybody with more relationship experience than Rosalie would have been able to tell instantly that she’d been involved with this guy. Rosalie gets distracted by someone else who wants to talk to her and Roddy and Rose are left alone. They make awkward small talk for a minute, until Roddy admits he came to the party to try and see her. Rose insists she’s a married woman and nothing happened between them and nothing is going to happen. She says she’s pleased for his success and runs away.

The Next Day. Agnes wakes up at Henri’s and smiles. The two of them then go off on a day date to the Spitalfields market, because Agnes thinks it might give Henri some insight and inspiration regarding about how real people shop.  Henri gets mock offended that Agnes doesn’t think he’s “real people”, but it’s so obviously true that he isn’t at all, that it’s sweet. She says she thinks he’s like a prince from a fairy childhood. They talk about their childhoods briefly and we learn Henri grew up in a chateau. He spots a seller’s cart full of brightly colored apples and gets a look on his face that is clearly meant to convey that he is being inspired by whatever he is seeing, but is actually kind of creepy. Clearly, Henri has found his inspiration.

Henri and Agnes go their separate ways at some point in the market, because when she arrives home she’s alone. Which is a rather lucky development, as she immediately runs into Victor, who is lurking on the steps outside her house. He says he thought that he might look her up, so here he is. The two of them chat for a bit and she so obviously pretends the gorgeous flowers she’s carrying aren’t from Henri, so yet again it’s kind of unclear as to when the two of them had the Break-Up Talk beyond Agnes getting annoyed at Victor that one time. Anyway. She says that her landlady’s not at home and invites Victor in for a cup of coffee. Agnes asks after his restaurant investment plan and Victor admits that he thinks that his mystery investor was never really that into helping him open his own place and he feels a fool for having been taken in. But he vows that he’s going to get his own restaurant sooner or later and Agnes smiles encouragingly and it would appear that we’re meant to assume the two of them are friends now (again?). 

Miss Mardle Gets a Clue. Miss Mardle goes to visit Mr. Grove bright and early one morning at his house. He seems surprised to see her and says he was sorting through some of his wife’s things. She offers to help and they go inside. She notes that she’s never actually seen the inside of his house before, even after all the years they’ve known each other. (Which really ought to be another warning sign, but whatever.) They pointlessly discuss how he’s trying to give away some of his wife’s old clothes and it’s terribly awkward. Then Grove starts crying about how much he misses his wife (that he spent forever cheating on) and Miss Mardle rushes to his side to give him a hug. The hug turns into kissing, which turns into the two of them sprawled on Grove’s sofa, so you can guess where we go from here.

Some time later, Miss Mardle seems incredibly happy, while Grove sits pensively at the table looking awkward and anxious. Miss Mardle asks if he’s okay and Grove starts going on about how everything is all wrong, that his wife is hardly in her grave and here he is carrying on with someone else amongst all her things. Miss Mardle tells him not to feel guilty. Grove says he broke his marriage vows for twelve years. She says he took care of his wife for twelve years and implies that she wouldn’t have been with him so long if she’d thought he actually loved Harriett.  Grove looks stricken and says he doesn’t know anymore and Miss Mardle suddenly looks like she wants to throw up. She leaps to her feet and starts straightening her dress and Grove says that maybe they shouldn’t see each other for a while until they sort out how they feel. Miss Mardle says she knows how she feels and all Grove can say is to ask her (for what must be the millionth time) to be patient with him. Miss Mardle just says yes, of course in a quiet voice and leaves. Once she’s outside, clutching her coat and bag to her chest, she starts crying and is clearly doing her best not to openly sob on the street.

It’s a bit difficult to know how we’re meant to feel here. Surely, we’re all very sorry for Miss Mardle. It’s hard not to be – you can basically watch her heart break on her face as she realizes that this man she’s thrown away half her life on might not be as eager to actually be with her as she’d always thought.  But, also, on another level, it’s also hard to stomach her character’s decision to maintain a relationship with someone for twelve years that’s entirely based on waiting for someone to die and subsisting on whatever scraps of affection Grove felt like bestowing (it would be hard to argue that a box of chocolates here and there makes up for everything Miss Mardle had to give up). Clearly, Miss Mardle is a smart, capable woman, but it’s hard not to be the tiniest bit furious at her here, because on some level she’s done this to herself, because she accepted Grove’s treatment of her and never asked for better. Why she didn’t ask for better in all that time is a mystery, but it’s also hard not to feel a kind of relief at the thought of her being free of him. She deserves better. 

Rosalie Shares Her Parents Poor Romantic Choices Gene. The Selfridges are all heading out to church, but it turns out that Rosalie says she’s not feeling well, so has asked not to accompany them. As anyone who’s ever been around teenagers probably guessed instantly, Rosalie is lying. Rose comes home to find her daughter happily ensconced in the sitting room, looking the picture of health and getting a drawing lesson from Roddy.  Rose is NOT pleased and calls Rosalie out on her behavior. Rosalie says Roddy’s very busy and this was when he had time to teach her. Rose says that her father will be home soon and will probably question the propriety of this “so-called drawing lesson” and kicks Roddy out.

She walks him to the door and angrily asks what he thinks he’s doing. Roddy is blasé and says Rosalie asked him to come and observes that she’s very sweet. Rose is furious and tells him not to use her daughter to try and get close to her. He replies that he just met a nice girl at a party who asked him to help her draw and there’s nothing wrong with it. Rose insists that Roddy can never come to the Selfridge house again. 

The New Senior Assistant is Revealed. Following her fight/break-up/break/whatever she’s now doing with Mr. Grove, Miss Mardle is in a generally terrible mood. Grove arrives at the Accessories counter to give Doris a bag of clothes for “that charity we talked about”, also known as Miss Bunting. It’s a sweet gesture, but also seems weird, because he’s being kinder to and about literally everyone else on the show then he is to the woman he was supposed to be in love with.

Anyway, Grove tells the Accessories girls to have Miss Mardle come to his office so they can decide which of them is getting the Senior Assistant position. Miss Mardle comes in and is totally standoffish and angry. Grove just thanks her for coming by so quickly because he is either a complete idiot or has totally moved on already. He tells her he interviewed both girls and thought Doris was the best candidate for the job. Miss Mardle’s hackles go up immediately and she says she disagrees with him entirely because Doris has no ambition. It’s unclear whether Miss Mardle actually believes the position should go to Kitty or if she’s just purposefully arguing against Doris because it’s clear that Grove wants her to have it. Grove asks why she feels this way and Miss Mardle says that it’s because Kitty’s sharper and harder and won’t be taken advantage of. (All the while giving him the Glare of Death.)

Grove tries to calm her down and she asks whether he’s given any though to their last conversation. He says, no, that it all still feels too soon for him. (Eyeroll.) She says that she should get to make this decision then, which is a claim that doesn’t quite make sense as it’s hard to see what Grove’s inability to man up about anything has to do with which girl is a senior assistant, but whatever. She says she knows her staff better than he does, and knows her own mind better than he knows his. Duh to that last bit at least. Grove gives in, and Kitty’s the new Senior Accessories Assistant. Kitty’s over the moon with joy, promising that she’s going to be the best Senior Assistant the world has ever seen. 

The Sale is Here at Last. A crowd of people gathers in front of Henri’s display windows the night before the Amazing Selfridges Sale is meant to take place. Everyone seems fascinated by Henri’s display of several hundred pairs of shoes, all lined up like the apples he saw at the market. It’s incredibly unattractive, but all the onlookers seem fascinated by it.

Mr. Selfridge gives the staff a Patented Pep Talk about the new mid-season sale. He goes on about their initiatives and ideas and how great they are and blah blah. He repeats the threepenny bit test from earlier, and this time when he asks who can sell him something for that amount, everyone raises their hands. Since people literally stampede through the doors – one woman is actually running – it would appear that the sale is a success. Seriously, people are acting as though they’ve never seen umbrellas before. The montage of this sale goes on for way too long, but long story short, every department seems to sell a bunch of everything whilst Selfridge sort of gloats and watches the crowd from above.

F.W. Woolworth pops in at the very end of the sale. Selfridge takes the opportunity to rub his day’s success in, saying that he hopes all the ladies of London have money left for the Woolworth’s sale the next day. Woolworth says he’s pushing his sale back because he’s wife’s sick and he needs to take her away. He then goes impart some Life Wisdom on Selfridge, saying that he was paying too much attention to business instead of his wife, that it doesn’t matter what’s going on with his stores if Jenny’s unhappy, and that all their success is wonderful, but it’s not what’s really important in life because you’re nothing without your family. Clearly, Woolworth has been taken over by a pod person. Selfridge stares after him thoughtfully as he leaves and the background slo-mos around him, but if you’ve any realistic hope of him taking any of Woolworth’s Life Wisdom to heart, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you. 

The Roddy Situation Continues. Rose returns home to find that Roddy is once again at the Selfridge house hanging out with Rosalie and the other children. Rose is furious. She drags Roddy in the hallway and starts berating him about showing up at her house again, telling him that he’s not welcome there and that she can’t believe he dared show his face. She threatens to tell her husband, but Roddy interrupts that he knows she won’t tell Selfridge anything. He says that she has a lot more to lose than he does. Rose stares at him angrily. Roddy continues that if she’d just come to his studio he wouldn’t have to come to her house. It looks absolutely like they are two seconds away from kissing. Rose says Roddy is insufferable, but it doesn’t exactly sound like an insult. He says that Rosalie doesn’t find him insufferable and perhaps Rose ought to think about that.

Roddy actually runs into Selfridge on the street outside his house, but since Selfridge doesn’t know who he is they exchange small talk and move along with their days. Dun dun dunn. So, is Roddy crazy now or is this some weird flirting thing or stalking or what? He didn’t seem crazy back when he was Edwardian Hipster guy, but I guess we’re over that now.

Lots going on this week! Thoughts? 

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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