Recapping ‘Mr Selfridge’: Series 2, Episode 5

Rose is totally my new favorite this season. (Photo: ITV for MASTERPIECE)
Rose is totally my new favorite this season. (Photo: ITV for MASTERPIECE)

Previously on Mr. Selfridge: Women come to work physical labor jobs at Selfridges and everyone (read: Grove) freaks out about it. Rose, who is fast becoming the most awesome person on this show, steps in to handle everyone’s wardrobe difficulties as the men seem to become vaguely faint at the mention of corsets. Oh, and also she’s apparently a crack shot, who knew. Miss Mardle’s plan to take in Belgian refuges in her massive new house seems to mean take in one random Belgian refugee who accidentally turns out to be a young attractive man. Thackeray gets suspicious about Henri’s national pride because he hates him and subsequently stalks him all over the place. Victor decides to take over his recently deceased uncle’s restaurant and finally gets the nerve to ask Agnes out. Oh, and Harry gets invited to a posh card game staffed by government employees and has an awkward public spat with Vile Loxley.  But that doesn’t matter because he’s gotten the attention of a mysterious government minister we’ve never seen before.

Fingers crossed something interesting actually happens in this episode, huh? Onward. 

No More German Stuff, Period.  Our episode opens with the sobering news that it’s become Selfridges store policy not to stock any German goods at all while there’s a war on.  Accessories Counter Girl Whose Name I’ve Yet to Learn is lamenting the fate of all those poor German toys that are being thrown out or packed away, especially when her younger sister loves dolls so much. Gordon Selfridge is busily flirting with/mooning over her because absolutely zero people care about Gordon or this girl whose name I am not sure that we’ve ever been told. Kitty tells her staff to push British made products and Other Accessories Girl Whose Name I Don’t Know But Who Has Dark Hair refuses a trip to Greenwich with Franco because her dad’s made her promise not to date foreign boys. We also see a shot of Worst Employee on Earth Thackeray actively stalking Henri into work. Xenophobia, yay! (Uggh.)

Meanwhile, Selfridge is busily pontificating to Frank Edwards about how the American government shouldn’t be trading with both Germany and Britain because they’re profiting from war. Rose laments that another of her friends has abandoned England to flee back to America, and she wonders how they can’t see how that looks. 

Meanwhile, at Domestic Abuse Manor. Vile Loxley strolls into Mae’s room while she’s getting dressed one morning, because apparently she’s forgotten how that lock she so gleefully purchased a couple of weeks ago actually works. Loxley deduces from a pair of cufflinks on her dresser that Mae’s been keeping company of the gentleman variety and looks disapproving. He says that since he’s now a man of standing, he can’t have other men getting with his wife. He also manages to steal the key to her new bedroom lock (because it is cunningly hidden on top of her dressing table) and says since a husband has legal rights to his wife, she won’t be needing things like locks anymore. He then kisses her cheek while Mae looks utterly miserable. Loxley is seriously so gross. Can someone just hurry up and kill him already please? That has to be what we’re building to with this storyline, right? Watching Mae sit there and suffer various shades of abuse week after week is just not entertaining television. 

Hello Again Bill Summertime. Bill Summertime, the mysterious gentleman we met at Delphine’s card game last week, strolls into Selfridge’s office with no appointment and announces that he’s an employee of His Majesty’s government (like we hadn’t already spotted that). Selfridge looks slightly taken aback but asks if the Procurement Committee sent him, since Selfridge is apparently obsessed with somehow obtaining that particularly group of people’s approval.  Summertime says no, not exactly, demurring that he’s interested in procuring something entirely different: information. Summertime basically offers Selfridge a job as a spy, claiming that he, as an American and a businessman, could take a trip around Europe “for work” and find out what the enemy is up to for him. He also promises that he (and the British government) have the resources to keep Selfridge’s trip to the continent and the Fatherland secret, and that no one ever need know about them. Harry looks torn, but Summertime insists he could be a great help to them and, thereby, THE COUNTRY. 

Uh, Oh, Delphine. Well, I think a lot of you are going to get to say I told you so – because it looks like Ms. Delphine Day may have a secret, life-ruining agenda herself. (Ugh, I hate this – I loved Rose having a friend who didn’t want anything except to be her friend!) Anyway, Delphine gets a delivery of a literal truck full of wine at her club, and obviously it’s all from Harry because he doesn’t do anything by halves. Her Unnamed Manfriend says she ought to send it all back because Selfridge is trying to buy her, but Delphine’s a pragmatist who says that he can go right ahead and pony up some cash because she’s had enough independence for one lifetime. She says Selfridge is a catch, and the kind of man who will always give you more the less you ask for. Unnamed Manfriend points out that Selfridge is, in fact, married to Delphine’s BFF,  but she shrugs and says that Harry makes Rose unhappy because she doesn’t understand him. Delphine insists that she knows what makes a man like Selfridge tick, and there’s a deeply gross undertone here that implies that she’s going to try and sleep with him soon and she is literally the worst friend ever. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t generally think that Harry’s any better than he has to be, but I actually like Rose getting to not suffer terrible public humiliation for a bit and I want to believe that he’s really trying to not be the worst husband on earth. Ugh, Delphine noooo.  

Later, Delphine slinks into Selfridge’s office to say hello and thank him for the veritable river of wine that he sent to her bar. He ends up telling her all about Bill Summertime’s visit and his offer to let Harry help the government out. Delphine reassures Harry that Bill is legit and can be trusted, all the while making the biggest, most ridiculous cow eyes at him. She encourages him not to be rash and lays it on kind of thick about how even though he thinks he’s not doing his bit for England, that’s just not true blah blah blah Selfridges is an oasis of joy in a dark time. She even grabs his hand at the end of it and it’s so over the top, but of course Harry doesn’t notice anything because he’s an idiot.  To make matters even more uncomfortable, of course  Rose shows up right as Delphine is leaving and they do the whole oh, we’re such good friends who haven’t seen each other in ages isn’t that horrible schtick. Rose tells her all about her new role at the store helping the staff navigate the scary water of having female employees in male roles, and Delphine makes some appropriate impressed noises before rushing off. Worst. Friend. Ever. 

Thackeray’s Obsession with Henri Intensifies. Selfridge is surveying the new and improved fashion department after the debacle with Lady Mae last week, and is pleased by how Henry and Thackeray have put the area together, particularly that they’ve dressed the mannequins in clothes made of British fabric.  After Harry leaves to go inspire someone else with his awesomeness, Thackeray snidely remarks that maybe Henri should stop promoting German clothing labels himself since he wore a German hat into work and has shoes that are made by a German manufacturer, which clearly means he hates King and Country and hopes England falls.  Henri is clearly infuriated by the implied slur against his patriotism, as well as the fact that Thackeray also dressed a mannequin wrong.  Can these guys just take it outside and fight it out yet.  Jeez.

A bit later, the Worst Head of Fashion in the World goes to see Mr. Grove to lay out his suspicions about Henri being some kind of German plant. He argues that Henri’s behaving strangely and keeping secrets and insists that no one can really explain where he’s been for the past five years. He also fesses up to his spying and discovery that Henri knew someone who was German and meeting mysterious men. Grove looks rather taken aback, particularly when Thackeray starts ranting about how these are the kinds of questions good citizens are supposed to be asking and CONSTANT VIGILANCE and whatnot. Grove clearly thinks he’s crazy but offhandedly says he’ll look into it but that Thackeray should keep his big mouth shut concerning his opinions about Henri. Because clearly that’s going to happen. 

Agnes and Victor Go On a Date. Whilst loitering outside the store, Agnes tells Henri that she’s going out with Victor that night to see a variety show. Henri sniffs that she could do better and looks generally disdainful in that perfect French way he has. Agnes says that Victor’s a good and honest man which is usually code for “boring” on these kinds of shows, but I guess we’ll see.  She also informs Henri that people are gossiping about him and are suspicious that he’s hiding something. He disdainfully sneers that England’s gone mad. Agnes says that it’s clear he is hiding something and seems pretty offended that he won’t tell her whatever it is. Henri looks like he’s about to say something but of course that’s right when Victor arrives to collect her, and it’s clear we’re never escaping this romantic triangle ever.

The two head off to their show – which, truth be told, seems kind of cheesey and weird, even if the main performer is Alfie Boe. Anyway, the two of them seem to enjoy it, even though there’s a group singalong and everyone’s waving Union Jacks everywhere. Victor says he hasn’t seen Agnes this happy in ages and she says it’s nice to stop worrying so much all the time and taking life so seriously. 

Hey Remember When The Fact that Mae Was a Chorus Girl Was a Plot Point. Alfie Boe trots offstage after his performance to find Lady Mae waiting in his dressing room. Turns out the two of them were friends back during Mae’s stage days – in case you’ve forgotten Mae Loxley was once a chorus girl dating rich gentlemen just like Ellen Love did back in Series 1, only she got one to marry her and make her a rich noblewoman in the end. I mean, given who she married it’s hard to say that she got that much of an upgrade since she’s living in Law & Order: SVU, but I guess money helps. She’s there to invite Alfie Boe (whose character’s name is Richard) to perform at a charity concert that Selfridge is putting together. He agrees easily and then sings a sappy song in Mae’s direction, before kissing her hand. 

They have a talk about Mae’s life now, and Richard marvels at how Mae managed to get everything she wanted after all, when landing a rich nobleman is something that’s just a dream to most chorus girls. Mae says she’s beginning to think it was all a mistake (presumably because her husband is vile and abusive), and admits that she only married Loxley for his money and power, while he only married her because she had so many suitors the season they met, and he always liked to get what others wanted. It’s a very sad and drab kind of summation of her life and their relationship, and Mae sounds quite miserable. Alfie Boe says she should just leave him, because even if he is her husband he doesn’t own her. Mae says that he owns everything she has, and that she rather likes her fur coats anyway. Alfie Boe reiterates that Mae’s a clever girl with a good heart and she deserves to be happy. Mae looks sad and says being with him reminds her of the girl she used to be and actually starts crying. Mae, of all people. 

She arrives home later, to find Vile Loxley waiting up for her, intent on checking on her whereabouts and then forcing her into the bedroom with him. His creepiness factor is at about 2000% and Mae looks resigned and sad. There's a distinct "marital rape" vibe going on here, and I'm wondering just how much lower this storyline can sink at this point. Just shoot him, Mae, and spare us all.

Gordon Tries His Skills with the Ladies. Accessories Girl Whose Name I’ve Not Bothered to Learn (Blonde Edition) is restored to her rightful place at the Accessories Counter, now that Gordon’s been judged fit to handle the Tea Emporium on his own. He brings her a present, which is a doll he’s managed to get that’s made of 100% British parts, since she mentioned how much her sister liked them and how she doesn’t have many.  She’s touched, and Gordon looks very pleased with himself as he goes on about how much his own sisters enjoyed their toys. As a flirting strategy, this conversation is a bit weird, but it seems to be successful, since she then calls him both a gentlemen and a friend. Gordon trots off grinning to himself, while semi-romantic music swells in the background and Blond Accessories Girl Whose Name I’ve Not Bothered to Learn looks flustered and messes with her hair. 

Grove Talks to Henri. Grove calls Henri into his office to discuss the wild and crazy accusations Thackeray’s made against him, saying that he just needs the facts so he can say he addressed the issue. He asks where Henri’s been all this time and gets very direct about it, which Henri is not a fan of. Grove insists that he’s not trying to pry into the man’s private life, which Henri says is a good thing because he’s not going to tell him anyway. Henri gets more and more angry the longer that Grove goes on, until he finally says that he’s resigning anyway, because the French government’s decided to accept older men for the army and he wants to enlist. 

Victor and Agnes Fast Track Their Courtship. Victor comes to see Agnes, seven shades of excited because he’s gotten notice from the bank that they’re giving him a loan to get his Uncle Joe’s restaurant going again. He says he’s going to hand in his notice ASAP, and Agnes says Selfridge will miss him and so will she. Victor decides to run with that comment, saying that she could come run the restaurant with him, and then gets down on one knee to propose. That must have been a heckuva date at the variety show. Agnes looks shocked, but Victor starts going on about how Agnes needs someone and isn’t fine on her own at all and insists that he wants to take care of her and wake up with her every day and just on and on until Agnes finally just interrupts him to say yes. Victor is overwhelmed –literally, he’s crying –and super happy and it’s kind of adorable and I almost wish that I thought this relationship was going to make it. But, for me, Agnes doesn’t seem like the kind of girl who’s going to be happy trading creative display design at Selfridge’s for running a restaurant with Victor, not in any way, no matter how much she might want to.

Vile Loxley Remains Vile. Not content with merely emotionally abusing and basically raping his wife in one episode, Vile Loxley swaggers into Selfridges to demand that Harry provide him with a list of felt suppliers super fast. Yes, without a hint of shame, even after his comments during their card game that Selfridge was basically not good enough to hang out with his procurement committee buddies.  Oh and he also calls Harry a hypocrite to his face too and still expects him to help out for fun. Well, some people have a lot of nerve. Selfridge finally tells Loxley to get the heck out, saying that he doesn’t trust him and that he won’t work with or sell to him. Loxley puts on his best snooty expression and says that Selfridge is just a tradesman, who are by nature untrustworthy, and one who has only managed to build a vulgar shop and get rich. He insists that Harry’s done nothing for England and swans out, somehow managing to not get struck by judgmental lightning since he’s pretty much committing active theft under the umbrella of “helping England”. HATE HATE HAAAAATE.

Afterward, Selfridge goes home to find Bill Summertime waiting for him, and pretty much immediately agrees to spy for him, clearly as a reaction to the nasty things Loxley said about his life and status earlier. Summertime gives him a list of people he needs to track down and explains that he could be called to disappear to Germany – er…”on a business trip” at any moment, and must not tell anyone the truth about his destination, not even his wife. 

Time for a Patriotic Concert! Everyone’s busily getting ready for the patriotic concert for charity. Henri tries to tell Harry about his plan to go back to France but Harry’s distracted by how pretty Rose looks. Miss Mardle’s helping her handsome young Belgian refugee – who’s been volunteered to play violin for the show – get ready and they’re all kinds of flirty, complete with wide eyed staring at each other. Agnes loans George’s cufflinks to Florian as a show of support.

At the store, Grove is weirdly jealous over Miss Mardle’s young Belgian friend (primarily it would appear because he thought Florian was a girl and is upset to discover that *he* is actually kind of dishy), while Harry is called away for a quick meeting in his office. Rose heads into the event and verbally spars with Vile Loxley about throwing a British patriotic event as Americans. She is so awesome. Harry’s quick meeting turns out to be Bill Summertime telling him that he’s got to get in a car to head to Germany right now and refuses to let him even go upstairs to tell anyone where he’s going. He lets him write a note talking about his “urgent business trip” though, which I’m sure won’t make anyone angry or be suspicious in any way.

Predictably: Drama Ensues: Meanwhile, Rose decides to start the concert without Harry. Alfie Boe sings for the group and then requests a volunteer for his next number. To the shock of most in the room, Mae gets up to join him and they perform a duet together that turns into a group sing-along.

Sadly, that’s not the most dramatic moment that happens during this performance. Delphine, who is arriving at the concert late, manages to run into Selfridge getting into his carriage with Bill Summertime, and Harry, for some unfathomable reason, decides to tell her that he’s going on a business trip and not to worry Rose about it because she doesn’t know. Delphine promises not to, which I think we can all guess at this point is a lie. She says she’ll be thinking of him and then kisses him goodbye, because this show has decided to make me hate her in less than a single episode. Ugh, Delphine, really. Whyyyy.

Meanwhile, Alfie Boe has started singing “Danny Boy” (his voice sounds so lovely) and a bunch of police officers arrive looking for Henri. They’ve been sent to arrest him on suspicion of being a spy, and they drag him off. Several of the guests, including Rose and Agnes jump up to protest thing, and Thackeray’s shown at the top of the stairs watching proceedings with intense interest, so I guess we can all assume he’s the one that turned him in. Anyway,  Henri’s basically dragged off as quickly as if they’ve just found Al Capone. He even gets shoved in what looks like a paddy wagon; it’s pretty intense. It has actual bars on it. Whew.

Well, I wanted something to happen this week, didn’t I? Thoughts, folks?

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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