Recapping ‘Mr. Selfridge’: Series 2, Episode 3

The ladies of "Mr. Selfridge". (Photo: ITV for Masterpiece)
The ladies of "Mr. Selfridge". (Photo: ITV for Masterpiece)
Previously, on Mr. Selfridge: Harry continues his campaign to convince Rose he’s a changed man. Mr. Grove finally gets into a spot of trouble for being late all the time.  Loxley uses Selfridge to find out information he can use to help his political aspirations; Mae gets the lock on her bedroom changed. Edwards and Kitty go on a date, because this show hates me. Selfridge and Henri get their bromance back on track, and Henri comes back to the store to help Agnes stage the big display of national pride that is the Empire Exhibition. However, the store celebrations are called off when news arrives that Germany has declared war on France, and England finds itself at war soon after. 

Time for another week of drama! Let's get right into it. 

Everyone’s Thinking About Going Off to War. News of a terrible massacre in Belgium hits the papers and the reality of war is made clearer to many. This inspires many of the young men who work at Selfridges to talk about joining the army – particularly George Towler, who is exceptionally outspoken about his desire to do his bit for King and country, and honor and on and on.

Crabb and Grove discuss the looming threat of war. (And apparently Mrs. Crabb is encouraging her husband to sign up; he’s concerned she sees it as a way to get him out of her hair. Not cool, Mrs. Crabb.) They are both worried about problem that faces the store – a large portion of their male staff wants to enlist. There’s a line of eligible young men about six deep all basically queuing up to quit outside Grove’s office already. (And the show lets us know it’s really serious by quietly playing TAPS in the background of this scene. Just in case you didn’t get that war is a big deal and half these boys won’t come back.)

Grove tells Selfridge that they’re about to be down a significant number of employees and that, while they can’t forbid them from going, he can’t see how they will be able to keep their positions open for them until they come home. Selfridge is insistent, and says that his store has always prided itself on being different, so this is how it’s going to be. Grove complains that temporary positions will be impossible to fill, but Selfridge responds with some platitudes about hoping for the best while preparing for the worst blah blah. He tasks Grove and Crabb with exploring all options to keep the store running – including hiring older workers if necessary – because he won’t let his men down no matter what.  (Sidebar: Selfridge also seems to be subscribing to the popular view that the war will be over in three months, which means things are going to get a lot worse this season.)

Dreamy Henri Is Doing Something Shady.  Henri’s having tea with a mysterious individual at what must surely be the only tea shop in London, given that it’s right across the street from Selfridges and it’s the only one that any of these characters ever seem to go to. Way to work on keeping your shady personal life on the DL, Henri! Mysterious unnamed individual harasses Henri about some unnamed amount of money that Henri owes him for some unmentioned reason, and Henri promises that he’ll get paid. Since we have no idea what any of this means, it seems pretty safe to assume that whatever it is, it’s bad, and that we’ll definitely be hearing about it again. 

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves.  Rose, Mae and Delphine are all at the Selfridges’ house to plan a charity event to sell Belgian chocolates for the benefit of Belgian refugees. Mae and Delphine are at odds over whether or not the store display for the event is too old fashioned, but Rose manages to avoid getting in the middle of it by dumping the decision on Harry, who, because he is Harry, sides with Delphine and the “modern” option. Selfridge also takes a minute to helpfully mansplain to the ladies that it’s just sooo much harder than they think it is to keep costumers happy and sell things at the same time. Delphine, particularly, takes offense to this and says that sounds like a challenge. The ladies decide that they now have a point to prove when it comes to raising money, so, basically it’s on, now. But at least it’s for a good cause. 

That Plot About Victor’s Family That No One Cares About Continues. Victor and his Uncle Joe are arguing about the future, because someone behind the scenes at this show thinks we care about Victor’s home life. Anyway, Uncle Joe wants to know whether Victor has decided to join the army or not and is busily making the case that his nephew has to stay at home in England. He uses every possible argument to convince him – doing everything from claiming that he’s sick and dying because his heart’s weak, to arguing that he can’t keep the restaurant open with only Victor’s random pseudo-love interest Gabriella around to help because she’s just a girl and the restaurant business is man’s work. Man, there is sure a lot of sexism in this episode!

Later, at the store, Victor also has to field questions about his future military service plans from the guys in the loading dock – lead primarily by George Towler, who is still loudly sharing his national pride and desire to defend England’s honor with anyone in earshot. Some of the loading dock guys lament not being able to sign up themselves because they’re not sixteen, and ask Victor and Franco when they’re planning to enlist. Victor manages to – rather deftly actually – dodge the question, but it’s clear that George and the National Pride Police don’t approve. 

Victory: Mae’s Maid is Named PIMBLE. Success! Someone finally said the name of Lady Mae’s Awesome Ladies’ Maid! Her name is Pimble, and she is still awesome. Anyway, Pimble and Mae are deciding on a dress for her to wear to the chocolate charity soiree in her bedroom. Mae tells her maid that her vile husband Loxley will likely be seeing more leather manufactures that day, since Selfridge so helpfully gave him a list of options last week.  She instructs Pimble that her job is basically to spy on all these meetings and report back. Pimble nods and smiles, because she is awesome. 

Heri Comes Back to the Store Selfridge enthusiastically restarts Get Henri To Stay campaign from last week. Harry tells him that he wants him to be his “Deputy” (who even knows what that means) because in these uncertain times he needs a man with Henri’s experience and talent next to him. Henri tries to refuse again, but Selfridge insists that everyone needs their lucky charm with them, even a man like himself. Which, if you think about it too hard, is kind of vaguely insulting, but luckily Harry just swoops right along, begging Henri to please please be his right-hand man again. Maybe he should have got him some flowers or something I don’t know.

Harry says he wants to keep his friends close by nowadays, and says that money’s no object to getting him back. He literally pulls out a stack of money and starts throwing it into a pile on his desk, telling Henri to just tell him when the pile’s big enough. Henri finally gives up and says that yes, fine, sure he’ll stay, but just for six months, because that seems like a totally arbitrary number I guess. Selfridge, being a good negotiator and also crazy, uses this moment to press his advantage, insisting that Henri also has to come live in his house as part of this deal, because it’s too big and empty now the girls are back in America, and apparently by “keeping his friends close” he actually meant “literally with me at all times.” Wow. Henri gives in again; I guess because it’s wise sometimes to simply know when you are beaten.

Henri apparently has nothing else he needs to do besides come back to work at that exact second, because next time we see him he’s downstairs breaking up a dispute between Agnes and the uber-smarmy Head of Fashion Mr. Thackeray. Thackeray doesn’t like Agnes’ decision to put chocolates and donation jars throughout his department. However, Henri backs up Agnes, and says that if Thackeray doesn’t like it he can take it up with Selfridge himself, since he’s been given charge of all creative decisions. Thackeray is demonstrably unhappy about this. Henri also makes a secret-style phone call to the someone who is ostensibly the mysterious guy from earlier, saying that he’s got his money. 

Agnes and George Fight About His Future. Victor tells Agnes about her brother’s plans to join the army and she’s quite upset. She asks Victor if maybe he could talk to George about not doing it, because he won’t listen to her. Victor refuses because he’s fighting his own battle with his uncle about whether to stay home or go fight. Victor is kind of a useless friend.

Agnes tries to talk to George about his decision – she wants to know why he didn’t discuss it with her at all. He says that Agnes only would have tried to change his mind, so he didn’t bother. Agnes insists that of course she would have, he’s her brother, but George snaps back that this is his country, and what he wants to do. Agnes says sadly that everyone has a choice. George insists that he’s made his and storms out. Some of George’s jerky friends from the loading dock are clearly mocking him behind Agnes’ back, so it’s worth considering how much of George’s choice was based on his actual wanting to go, versus him showing off for these guys he works with, but who knows if we’re going to come back to that. 

Shout Out for Ageist Hiring Practices. Grove and Crabb are interviewing potential candidates to take temporary jobs in the store while the younger men are going off to fight. These candidates are a bit on the older side, so Grove decides to test one by making him pick up a packing crate and move it around the office. Said candidate collapses from the exertion almost immediately and Crabb is forced to run to Selfridge’s secretary in search of smelling salts. Awkward. 

Hey: Chocolate is Awesome! The chocolate charity extravaganza gets underway with a sort of lecture by Belgian chocolate expert Jean Neauhaus, who goes on at some length about how amazing chocolate is in general, and its fabulous sensual properties as a vehicle for pleasure. As Mr. Neauhaus is kind of dishy, all the ladies in the crowd are pretty impressed. Neauhaus thanks them all for coming to support the struggle of his country and its citizens and then fashions a beautiful rose out of chocolate, which he gives to Rose Selfridge as a gesture of his gratitude. He also has the flirtatiousness turned up to about fifty here, so Rose has no chance when she tries to demur, saying the treats look too beautiful to eat. She finally has one and is suitably impressed, describing for the crowd how delicious it is. After that kind of glowing display, the ladies don’t seem to have a lot of problems selling chocolates to the masses and collecting donations for the refugees. 

Someone Flirts with Miss Mardle! Chocolate guru Jean Neauhaus then turns his charms on Miss Mardle, who has already spent all her spare change on donations because she seems to be mildly obsessed with the Belgian treats. Or maybe more than mildly, if we’re judging by all the various noises of delight she’s made over the course of the last few minutes. Neauhaus tries to get her to try another, but she demures, saying that she really shouldn’t be down in the party room anyway. Neauhaus insists, however, and then launches into an extremely awkward and uncomfortable explanation of how much more sensual the general chocolate experience is for a woman because their body temperatures are higher than a man’s. Miss Mardle, who’s only male attention over the past five years has come from the vile Grove,  has no chance against this kind of flirtation game, and it’s all just really awkward. Belgium must be a strange country, is all I’m saying.

Later, after we’ve all revived ourselves from our second-hand embarrassment comas, we return to find Miss Mardle and Neuhaus discussing the state of Belgium and how sad it is for the refugees who’ve come to England and left everything behind.  Neuhaus mentions that he’s very lucky because he has family in England, but notes that many of his countrymen don’t. This conversation is enough of a downer to actually make Miss Mardle stop eating chocolates, as she says it seems a bit wrong when so many have lost so much. 

A Fight Breaks Out in the Loading Bay and Victor Makes a Decision. Victor sends Franco down to the loading bay to fetch more champagne, since the chocolate party has depleted all their stocks in the restaurant. After Franco’s gone for an inordinately long time, Victor goes to look for him, only to discover that he’s in the middle of a huge fistfight with the loading dock guys. Victor breaks it up and yells at everyone and Agnes appears from out of nowhere to take care of Franco’s split lip. We learn that the fight started because the loading dock crew called Franco and Victor cowards because they haven’t signed up for the army yet. Franco is furious, insisting that he doesn’t want to go fight for a country that hates him anyway.

For some reason, instead of making Victor angry, it makes him decide that he can’t live with himself if he doesn’t sign up to fight the Germans. He says that maybe the loading dock gang was right, and claims that he couldn’t face himself if he got up every morning to put on his suit while George was over there lacing up his boots. Agnes says he doesn’t have to go, and calls his feelings some kind of bout of male pride. Victor insists that’s not true, that there are just some things that are worth fighting for. Because there’s a weird vibe going on her, Agnes insists that she doesn’t want him doing something like this for her, and says that if he wants to do something for her, he’ll stay in England because she doesn’t want him to go. Victor says every soldier needs something – dramatic pause - or someone to come home to, and looks at Agnes all kinds of meaningfully. I’m not sure in what world this technique is an effective plan to attract the ladies, but Victor certainly seems to be going all in on it. Agnes says she’ll just have to worry about both of them then, and asks him to look after George. 

The Chocolate Sale is a Massive Success. Judging by the empty trays all around the Palm Court, the ladies’ chocolate fest for charity has been a resounding success. Rose looks incredibly happy and pleased with everything, and even Harry has to admit that the sexism of his earlier low expectations was misplaced. Rose beams and says that really, it’s all due to Delphine, who she says could give her husband some tips on being a salesman.

Delphine, however, says that they’re not done yet, and suggests they auction the giant chocolate floral sculpture that served as the centerpiece for their event. After an awkward moment where Delphine pretends that anyone in the room (Edwards, really?) can afford to buy this humongous thing besides Selfridge, she uses the crowd to peer pressure him into coughing it up a chunk of cash for it to impress Rose. He easily complies when he sees how happy the gesture will make his wife, and it’s actually quite sweet. What a weird feeling to actually sort of be hoping these two crazy kids work it out.

Later, Delphine apologizes to Harry for putting him on the spot like that, but says that if anyone deserves the chocolates – and the success of the day – it’s Rose. Selfridge gets all philosophical, saying that it’s all well and good to raise money for refugees and support the war effort through his business contacts, but he just knows he could do so much more. He says that since he’s an American, he could be doing so much more than providing supplies because he’s still allowed to travel everywhere. Delphine looks thoughtful, and says maybe Harry’s just not talking to the right people. She promises to help. 

Lord Loxley Plans to Commit Crime.  Loxley starts interviewing various boot makers, presumably to help stock the war effort. However, to what is surely the surprise of no one, he has an ulterior motive. During his interviews Loxley bold-facedly tells his prospective suppliers that he won’t give them his business (and, thereby, the government’s) unless he himself can get a healthy kickback on the deal. He literally throws a vendor out of his office for stating that he was an honest person – since he needs someone who’s willing to openly help him steal. Loxley is so vile.

He finally manages to interview a similarly vile leather manufacturer who understands his need to commit blatant graft, and isn’t bothered by such things as morality. He agrees to provide the goods – along with the regular deposits into Loxley’s bank account – and all seems well. Loxley takes a minute to threaten Vile Supplier with unknown horrors should he mention anything about their illegal business activity to anyone. Luckily, however, Pimble, Lady Mae’s awesome maid, is however outside Loxley’s office, eavesdropping away. Well done, Pimble! 

The Selfridge’s Regiment. Harry closes out the Belgian refugee charity event with a patented Selfridge’s speech, along with a toast to the “Stalwarts of Selfridges” which is apparently what we’re calling the Awesome Ladies Brigade headed by Rose, Mae and Delphine. He closes out the event by having every young man from the store who’s enlisted march through the main lobby in rank and file lines, complete with a drummer leading the way.  It’s rather a lot of people. (This is all set to some really dramatic trumpet music to underscore the seriousness of the situation for viewers – and while I don’t think there was actually a guy playing a trumpet in the store I sort of wish there had been, because that’s the kind of really over the top Selfridge gesture I love.)

Anyway, Harry dubs the group of enlisted men “The Selfridge’s Brigade” and uses the opportunity to tell them all that they’ll still have jobs waiting for them when they get back from the front. He raises a cheer for the group, and then the mass of young men heads – literally as one – directly over to see the sour-faced man at the enlistment table which seems to have sprung up in the store’s cosmetics department literally overnight. Agnes hovers in the background looking terribly worried. 

Guess Victor’s Not Enlisting After All. Because this is how this show works, Victor’s sometimes girlfriend/houseguest Gabriella shows up just as he’s two people away from the enlistment table. She’s got bad news – apparently his Uncle Joe wasn’t exactly lying all those times he dramatically claimed he was dying and had a weak heart. He’s collapsed and had a heart attack.

Victor rushes home to his bedside, where Uncle Joe uses the opportunity to tell him that until he’s better Victor will stay and take charge of the family and the restaurant. Victor – who is crying – says yes Unfortunately, staying “until he’s better” doesn’t really mean very much, because Uncle Joe passes away in his sleep that night.

Agnes – again deploying her appearing from nowhere power – arrives to comfort Victor, who had decided to deal with his grief through the tried and true method of drinking. He says he can’t enlist now, not when Uncle Joe made him promise to stay as his last wish. Agnes says that his family needs him now, and that someone has to take care of Franco and Gabriella. She takes Victor’s hand, insisting that she knows that this doesn’t make him a coward, because apparently this is a serious concern he is having. They stare at each other intently, and of course Gabriella chooses this moment to walk into the kitchen. Agnes suddenly becomes super awkward and says she has to go, but promises to tell Grove about Victor’s loss. Gabriella – who is still standing creepily in the doorway giving Victor a death glare – simply says that he loves Agnes. Victor doesn’t say anything, and after a long minute Gabriella just walks away. Seriously, is she new?

When Did Harry and Rose Become Cute? Meanwhile, back at the Selfridge’s, both Harry and Rose are looking pretty pleased with themselves. Rose says that she’s exhausted, but had a truly wonderful day, and thanks Harry for making it possible. Harry, deciding to just go all out with the flattery plan, says that no one could have refused the request of such a beautiful woman. Rose calls her husband incorrigible, but says it in such a way that it really doesn’t sound like an insult. Harry says he’s just in love, and they stare at each other for a long minute while the music gets kind of dramatic, and then they kiss. Rose looks very flustered after and Harry looks exceptionally happy, and then she basically just runs away to her bedroom. It’s really actually cute and I don’t know what is even happening to me anymore. Who am I?

What a strange episode – seriously, on the whole hardly anything happened, even though there were a bunch of small moments I really liked. Curious to hear others’ 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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