blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

All Creatures Great and Small (2020) s02e04 – Many Happy Returns

“All Creatures” bounces back this episode, which isn’t a surprise, but this episode has the same director as last episode (Sasha Ransome). At some point between filming the last one and this one, Ransome figured out how to direct Nicholas Ralph and Rachel Shenton’s chemistry. The last episode took a dive because of the episode’s butterfingers handling of their first kiss, and this episode more than makes up for it. I was really expecting a different director; maybe it’s all the writers’ faults (and successes).


The A plot this episode is Callum Woodhouse out on his own. It’s his birthday, with brother Samuel West giving him the medical bag present (from the first episode this season) and then a day of assignments. Ralph’s going to be accompanying him, but not only to observe; Ralph’s got to go check in on Shenton’s farm—they’ve got a very important horse no one’s ever mentioned until now, so he’s got a full day.

Meanwhile, Anna Madeley is putting together a last-minute dinner party for Woodhouse—everyone assumed he’d want to go to the bar, but instead, he wants to be classy—and West is hanging around the house, trying to think of excuses to go out and check on Woodhouse.

Woodhouse has two veterinary cases, though the first is multiple patients. He’s doing maintenance work on numerous horses at an afore unmentioned estate, where he knows the fetching daughter, Jessica Clark, and wants to invite her to his dinner party. Since Ralph’s now coupled with Shenton, he’s got lots of advice to give—though their subplot is him not having told her about his Glasgow job offer even as he tells Madeley he’s going to talk to her about it immediately.

Steven Hartley plays the stablehand who’d prefer experienced West to take care of the horses and very drolly observes Woodhouse on his first solo assignment. It’s a fun outing for Woodhouse and Ralph, with lots of charm from Woodhouse. And Hartley’s a delight.

The second patient is one of Jon Furlong’s cows. She’s having a difficult labor (presumably knocked up by some bull other than Shenton’s, which was a season one plot thread). Again, it’s a charming outing for Woodhouse, who seems to be having trouble but refuses to give up. The episode never points it out, but Ralph had a similar first day when he started at the practice.

There’s some cute stuff for Shenton’s family—little sister Imogen Clawson is waiting for the horse to give birth to her very own pony, with dad Tony Pitts hanging around for the scene. He seems to be there just so Clawson can amusingly tease him. Ralph invites Shenton to the dinner party instead of telling her about the Glasgow job.

The dinner party will have some society drama and a lot of gentle doting for West and now officially returning girlfriend Dorothy Atkinson. It’s the most Atkinson’s had to do on the show so far; she’s delightful. Clark and Shenton have a history separate from their hosts, which proves tense, but the focus is on brothers West and Woodhouse. West’s finally proud of his little brother, and nothing can go wrong now.

Except, of course, this season’s all about the secrets, and all of them get aired here. Well, most of them. Any outstanding secrets are now qualified.

The episode does a great job working through it all. Debbie O’Malley gets the script credit. Shame she wasn’t around last episode.

The episode also gives Shenton some of her first real acting all season, and she ably handles it. But the stars are Woodhouse and West. They both get a wide range of emotions to essay, and they’re outstanding.

It’s not the most ambitious “All Creatures,” but I think it’s the most successful. Even if it weren’t rebounding from last episode’s pratfalls, this one does exceedingly well.

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