All Creatures Great and Small (2020) s01e05 – All’s Fair

This episode takes place over a single day—it’s town fair day—and has a whole bunch of plots. I’m not sure if it’s the best episode of the show so far, but All’s Fair is certainly the most logistically ambitious and successful.

The day starts with Nicholas Ralph on his way to play “Attending Vet” at the fair; he’s going to inspect ponies, judge a pet show, and just be around for whatever veterinary question an attendee might have. Steven Blakeley plays the annoying event coordinator, who hounds Ralph throughout the day, occasionally resorting to calling for him through a megaphone. It’s not an enviable position (before you even get to the shitty people who want Ralph to help their animals cheat to win), and everyone at the veterinary practice except Ralph knows it.

In fact, they bet on it. As Ralph heads out, Callum Woodhouse and Samuel West gleefully wager on when Ralph will break down. Even Anna Madeley, who tells them she disapproves of gambling, places a bet.

But Ralph’s arc isn’t just going to be contending with angry pony and dog owners; he’s also going to get himself into a moral quandary regarding potential love interest Rachel Shenton’s prize bull. Specifically, whether or not the bull’s much of a prize anymore, Shenton and her family are trying to sell it, needing the money. So, in addition to staying ahead of Blakely and not trying to offend Shenton, Ralph’s scurrying around the fair trying to track down Jon Furlong, another farmer who should know whether or not the bull’s got what it takes.

Studding wise.

It’s a direct follow-up to last episode, including Tony Pitts as Shenton’s dad. Her actual beau, Matthew Lewis, is also around, putting his fingers on the scale as needed. While not a high-stakes arc, it’s a good one for Ralph in terms of character development and performance. He gets to do a varied lot amid the rest of his busy episode.

Meanwhile, both Woodhouse and West have romantic arcs. Woodhouse is trying to figure out the next steps in his relationship with bartender Mollie Winnard and doing what he can to avoid talking with her about it. West tries to provide brotherly counsel but soon needs some of his own when Madeley’s friend, Maimie McCoy, pops in for a visit. McCoy’s from a few episodes back, where she and West’s genial flirtations quickly gave way to automotive discussions. Here, they stick to the genial flirtation.

Madeley’s arc proper kicks off thanks to McCoy’s visit and some discussions of the past, which affect Madeley in the present. Also, correction from earlier because I looked it up finally—Madeley was not in a nursing corps in the First World War; she was in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. They do not appear to have done any nursing. My bad.

Her arc eventually involves Imogen Clawson, calling back to their bond from a few episodes ago.

The episode doesn’t culminate any outstanding story threads; it just brings some background elements in those threads to the fore, getting “All Creatures” ready to move forward.

It’s a packed episode—script credited to Debbie O’Malley—and director Metin Hüseyin does a great job keeping everything coherent.

Ralph’s got the best arc, probably followed by Madeley, who’s got the least of the three supporting arcs, but definitely the most intense. Though this episode does reveal some critical backstory on West, who it reveals to be a widower. That history also informs on Woodhouse. So, again, not a big wrap-up, rather a big unwrapping.

It’s impressive.