Mr Selfridge: No Man’s Land

mr_selfridge_episode2_05Previously on Mr Selfridge: Rosalie married a total golddigger, who comes with an equally greedy mother. Agnes and Henri finally made it official, though Henri’s struggling to hide his lingering PTSD from the war. Victor’s got a nightclub to run, which is made difficult by a crooked copper and George, who decides what Victor really needs is him on the payroll.

Lanvin has sent some exclusive designs to the store, which Thackeray unwraps reverently, refusing to let anyone else touch them. Lanvin’s creative director is coming by the next day to see how the dresses are to be displayed. Thack’s plan is apparently to do as little with them as possible, to ‘let them speak for themselves.’ Let’s just see how well that goes. Crabb comes swirling in looking for Harry. He’s nowhere to be found.

That’s because he’s lurking outside Miss Webb’s house. As soon as she arrives, he hops out of his car and asks for a word. He knows that her backer has pulled out and offers to be his replacement. He shows her the drawing of Rose’s houses and says she would have approved of this project. She’s delighted and immediately offers to send him all the details of the project.

Out of work ex-soldiers accost people on the street, begging for change and getting into fights amongst themselves. Harry sees this as he arrives at the store. The doorman offers to get the police but Harry sighs to just let them be.

Inside, he orders Crabb to summon a board meeting so he can ask for an interest-free loan to set up a company to fund the houses. Crabb warns him that this is not their area of expertise, but Harry’s got the bit between his teeth and won’t hear it.

Harry welcomes Sergei and Rosalie home from their honeymoon and notices a samovar that was given to the newlyweds by Marie. Violette declares it the ugliest thing she’s ever seen, right in front of Rosalie and Sergei. Man, she’s quite the little bitch, isn’t she? Also, I just remembered that Rosalie used to be played by a blonde. Recasting fail. The butler announces that Henri has arrived, having been summoned by Harry. Harry goes out to the hall to greet him and quickly asks if he and Agnes might consider returning to work a little early. Didn’t they only have a week off to begin with? How short was Rosalie’s honeymoon? It would have taken at least a couple of days just to get to Venice, and then a couple of days back. I doubt she and her husband only spent a day or two there. Oh well. Harry’s hoping to make a good impression on the Lanvin folks so Selfridge’s can score an exclusive contract. Henri promises he and Agnes will be on hand.

Kitty viciously brushes her sister’s hair and tells her she has to look her best for the Lanvin event, as it’ll be a chance for Connie to shine. Connie says she’s found her niche in fashion, just as Kitty did in beauty. Edwards gets off the phone and announces he’s got a deal for his next book: life at home for soldiers after the war. Kitty is adorably happy for him.

Agnes pouts and woodenly says she wishes they could have a little more time before going back to work. But of course they can’t let Harry down.

At Victor’s, he and his partner/lover share a post-coital smoke. She observes they make a good team and wonders if they really need George. Victor declares he needs him. Furthermore, he tells her that, though they have fun now and then, he runs the club and he wants George and that’s that. Guess she isn’t a partner. Also: what a dick.

The creative director checks out the dresses, which have all been displayed on mannequins in curtained alcoves. He is not pleased. He says that Mme Lanvin will not be happy. The displays are declared drab and passé. Thack is aghast and insists the man isn’t seeing his vision properly. The director, Longchamps, gets ready to stomp out, but Henri saves things by promising to fix this. They have until that afternoon to change his mind. Once he leaves, Henri tells Thack that he sees the dresses as art, whereas women want to see themselves in them. Thack gets super uptight and scolds Henri for ‘swanning’ back in and criticizing him. He insists that nothing needs fixing, because Longchamps is just another French idiot. Maybe, but his opinion still matters and you still have to impress him, so clearly something does need fixing. Gordon rolls his eyes.

Crabb and Grove discuss the matter of the houses. Grove, like Crabb, does not seem to think this venture is a great idea. They’re waylaid by Miss Blenkinsop, who’s now running the new information bureau. Unfortunately, it’s been heavily staffed by ladies formerly of the loading docks, and they know absolutely nothing and Blenkinsop has no time to train them, so it’s basically a disaster. Grove tells Crabb this is all a mess. Crabb asks for help getting through to Selfridge, but Grove instead advises putting his head down and weathering the storm. Harry comes by and asks when the board is getting together. The only available time was that evening, when Mme Lanvin is expected. Harry doesn’t care, the houses are more important! Gordon rushes over and tells his dad they have a serious problem.

Harry goes up to see the dress displays and immediately asks if Longchamps was really disappointed. He tells Thack this isn’t good enough, and Thack defensively says that Gordon approved of them. Yeah, well, Gordon’s not an artist, is he? Harry seems disappointed and says Thack and Gordon both let him down. Thack, either figuring he’s done anyway or having suffered some sort of breakdown, immediately calls Harry out on not being sufficiently focused on the store in the leadup to one of their biggest promotions. He starts to shout about the unskilled staff that’ve been forced on all the department heads and Harry’s frequent absences. Grove and Crabb are practically pulling out boxes of popcorn in the background. Thack shrills that he’s not one of Harry’s ‘yes men’ and Harry insists he doesn’t employ yes men. He employs men who are supposed to get it right. Thack tells Harry he hasn’t been getting it right since Rose died, and Harry immediately fires him. Harsh, Thack, but true.

Connie rushes downstairs and tells Kitty and several of the other girls that Thack’s been sacked. Meanwhile, upstairs, Harry asks Agnes and Henri if they can fix this. They promise to do what they can. He also tells Crabb to go ahead and summon the board.

Victor’s former army sergeant shows up at the club with some cut-price cigarettes to peddle through Victor’s business.

Sergei shows Loxsley the work that’s being done on his prototype plane. Loxsley asks if Harry’s investing and hears he isn’t. Sergei says he pushed too hard for it. Loxsley agrees to invest instead, declaring Sergei and men like him the way of the future.

Victor pays for the smokes, even though George is nervous about this deal. Sarge asks for a drink, but Victor refuses.

Marie visits Rosalie and says she’s sorry to see her apart from Sergei so soon after their return, adding that Harry will hardly get to know him if he’s away too much. She ‘suddenly’ remembers that Rose has a painting studio and suggests it could be converted into an office for Sergei. Lois’s eyebrows say, ‘excuse me?’ as the two ladies go to check out the room. Rosalie warns Marie that they’ll have to approach the subject very delicately with Violette. The butler delivers some tea to Lois, along with the news that Marie’s giant hotel bill has arrived. Lois checks it out and tells him to keep this on the down low for the moment.

Henri shows Agnes a sketch and they discuss plans to move the display from the restaurant to the fashion floor. Henri rubs his forehead, looking stressed.

Crabb meets his wife for tea. She notes he’s off his feed and he asks her if she thinks he’s a yes man. She tells him he’s the bravest man she knows. I like Crabb, but I don’t think that speaks very highly of the men she knows. He tells her about the charity project and how he doesn’t think it’s a good idea and she advises he follow his conscience.

Violette finds Rosalie standing in their mother’s studio and they talk about how hard it still is, not having their mother around. I know this is petty, but I’m actually distracted by how bad the actress playing Violette’s posture is. She’s all rounded and hunched over like a turtle. Honey, if you don’t straighten up you’re going to be a seriously hunchbacked old lady someday.

Marie comes in and almost immediately spills the beans about the plan to convert the studio, which goes over as well as Rosalie though it would. Nice job, Marie. Violette insists their father will never agree to this.

Gordon’s sharing an office with Crabb. He asks Crabb if there’s anything he can help with and Crabb reassures him everything’s fine, so Gordon heads out. Once he’s gone, Crabb begins paging through the ledgers.

Violette stomps into her father’s office and informs him of the studio conversion plan. Surprisingly, Harry’s head doesn’t explode. Instead, he calmly says that Sergei does live with them, so they all have to make an attempt to get along. She continues to fume that she’s going crazy at home with nothing to do. Uh, wasn’t she a suffragette or something? I know that battle was pretty much won by this time, but couldn’t she find some other worthy cause to throw herself into? Guess not. She demands daddy find her a place at the store, but he puts his foot down for once and tells her they have too many staffers already. He suggests she travel to Chicago and visit some of her mother’s family. ‘And hope that I meet some rich Yank to marry?’ she sasses. Jesus, Violette, did he say that? Did he, at any point, intimate that? No, he did not. She thanks him for nothing and heads out to go shopping, since that’s ‘all she’s good for, apparently.’ I take back what I said earlier. She’s a HUGE bitch.

Inspector shows up at the club and warns Victor that the police are out looking for stolen cigarettes, so he might want to keep his out of sight. Well, at least Victor’s getting something for his payoffs. Inspector suggests he send some other people with stuff to sell Victor’s way, but Victor turns him down. ‘You can’t stay clean forever, not in this business,’ the Inspector warns him. Victor says he doesn’t really care about staying clean, he just wants to stay in charge.

Violette watches Agnes and Henri trying to arrange the new display. Henri stresses that Longchamps is due any minute and they’re nowhere near ready. Violette asks if she can offer a suggestion and Henri’s like, ‘yes, please do.’

He loves whatever she suggests, but Agnes says that Longchamps is a tricky customer. Violette tells them to leave the man to her, because of course her diplomatic skills are legendary. Longchamps gets off the lift and Violette strides over to him, shaking his hand and saying she hears he’s a difficult man to please. That should win him over.

She takes him to the Palm Court, where the man starts flirting with her. She tells him he can go ahead and do that, as long as he likes her idea for that evening. He says it’s not up to him, so she asks if his boss will like it, then.

Harry delivers some notes for the board meeting to Plunkett for typing. Crabb comes in and insists he needs to speak to Harry before the meeting, but Harry completely brushes him off.

Sergei tells his mother about Loxsley’s support. She urges him to give Harry one more chance to invest, because he’s family. Sergei pouts, but she tells him to trust her, when she tells him how to behave like a gentleman. Hmmm, sounds like we may have some fake aristos here.

Mardle admires the latest Grove baby, another boy, and the only one to get his mother’s blonde hair. Doris can’t believe she has five kids and things get briefly uncomfortable as Mardle absorbs that and Doris realizes she kind of stepped in it. They get past the moment and talk about work: Doris is relieved to be out of the store and Mardle seems to really miss it. She says she’s a company woman and likes structure, but Florian’s death has changed her.

Sergei goes to see Harry (so, Sergei can get in to see him, but Crabb can’t? Not cool, Harry). Sergei informs Harry that he has a financier interested in his plane. Harry’s glad to hear it. He turns down Sergei’s last offer to invest, explaining that his hands are tied because he wants to bid for that field. Sergei is enraged that Harry’s pulling the land out from under him and mentions that Loxsley is the potential backer. Harry orders Sergei not to do business with Loxsley, and furthermore, to cut off all contact immediately. Sergei’s surprised by this reaction but refuses to play along. He leaves and Crabb comes in, only to be instantaneously kicked out by Harry. Crabb leaves, passing Grove, who tells him the board is starting to arrive. Grove asks if he’s ok and Crabb just says he’ll join him in the boardroom shortly. He goes into his office and pulls some notes out of his ledger, steeling himself.

The Lanvin event gets underway while Crabb lays out folders for the board members. Henri greets Mme Lanvin and Longchamps.

Webb hands Harry all the notes and information she has for the land, which he declares very thorough. He asks her to wish him luck and invites her to stay for the fashion event.

Rosalie and Lois arrive for the event and Lois quickly learns that Rosalie knows nothing about her mother-in-law living at the hotel.

Mardle arrives at the store and compliments the woman running accessories in her absence. She tells the replacement that this’ll be a permanent post now, because Mardle’s resigning.

Henri is asked to pose with Lanvin. He flinches as flashbulbs go off. A reporter asks Lanvin if she realizes Henri’s a war hero. Henri tries to deflect, but Lanvin insists they applaud their war hero. More flashbulbs, and Henri clearly starts to kind of lose it. Only Agnes notices that something’s terribly wrong. Henri excuses himself. Agnes catches up with him and asks why the reporter was asking about Verdun. Ohhh, man.

Harry makes his pitch to the board and assumes everyone’s on board, but Crabb slowly gets to his feet and announces he has something to say. He directs everyone’s attention to a document he’s prepared, which shows just how overextended the store already is, what with the surplus female staff and all the expansion. Furthermore, they’ve gambled on costly experiments, like the information bureau, while other things, like their mail order business, have failed to take off.

So, the Lanvin gowns are being displayed on live models, one of whom is Violette. Was that her big suggestion? Using live models? Because that wasn’t innovative in 1919, it had been done before.

Grove makes a strong case, reminding the board that they are retailers, and should leave homebuilding to the experts. This latest move Harry’s proposing will reap no actual profit, which will obviously affect the majority shareholders. That gets their attention. Harry calls for a vote, and the only ones who side with the housing project are Harry and Gordon, and even Gordon looks like he’s only doing it because he has to live under the same roof as Harry. Harry seems hurt but takes it like a grownup and bids everyone goodnight. Crabb looks like he wants to throw up.

The world’s most boring fashion show finally finishes up. It mostly consisted of four women fluttering fans and wandering about to the strains of some violins. And yet everyone stares the same way my baby gazes at bubbles, like it’s the most magically awesome thing that’s ever been dreamt up. The random reporter shouts that every girl will want to wear what Violette’s wearing. Why? She’s really just some rich brat.

The Dixieland band is playing at Colleano’s, and the crowd’s loving it. Henri, for some reason, has decided that this would be the best place to drown his horrible war memories. Victor greets him quite nicely and Henri orders up a large whisky.

Crabb goes to see Harry, who tells him to let the surplus women go, but give them a month’s wages. Thack does not get his job back. Crabb offers up his own resignation, but Harry refuses to take it. He does, however, swear to raise the money for the land somehow. Crabb reminds Harry that it’s his job to protect the company, even from Harry himself. Harry asks where this leaves the two of them. ‘Changed, Mr Selfridge. Changed,’ he says, sadly.

Longchamps invites Violette to go celebrate, while Connie hardsells dresses. Agnes tells Mardle that she’s really worried about Henri, wondering what’s wrong with him. Mardle suggests that there are some things Henri might not be comfortable sharing, even with his wife. Grove comes by and steals Mardle so he can offer her the now-vacant post of head of fashion. She tells him she came in to resign, but he insists the store needs her. And so does he. This is not, by the way, loaded with sexual tension, they seem like two good friends now, which is nice to see. She agrees.

Harry finally arrives at the fashion event and is surprised to see Violette modeling. She tries to leverage this success into a more permanent post at the store, but Harry tells her no dice. Not today, anyway.

Victor and Henri talk about where they spent the war. Victor was at the Somme. Man, these guys were really unlucky, weren’t they? Or lucky, depending on how you look at it. At least they lived. George watches from afar, and finally approaches Victor and tells him Henri really should be cut off. Victor says he knows a man looking for oblivion when he sees one and orders the whisky to keep flowing.

Webb admires a suit in fashion. Harry finds her and admits it didn’t go well with the board, but he’ll find another way to raise the funds. And by way of an apology, he offers her the suit. She urges him to sell the suit to his customers, failing to add that the damn thing is couture and could probably fund about a quarter of the land’s purchase. Harry insists, so she accepts. Kitty sends Connie over to deal with this.

Violette takes Longchamps to Victor’s club, presumably the only club in London, and Longchamps is a complete asshole to Victor, snapping his fingers right in his face and insisting he send someone over to his table immediately. Awesomely, Victor completely ignores him.

Sergei joins Loxsley at a party and tells him Harry has a serious beef with him. Loxsley says he has no problem with Harry, and that this doesn’t in any way affect his interest in the project.

Harry returns home and asks the butler to gather the family in the drawing room.

Victor finally tells Henri he’s probably had enough. Longchamps bitches about the lack of service, so Violette goes to insist on some, and though she’s slightly nicer about it, she’s still got an entitled attitude that makes Victor adopt a bit of an attitude of his own as he tells her he doesn’t work to Selfridge’s anymore, and he’ll see to her when he’s ready.

Agnes arrives to collect her nearly passed-out husband. She says hi to Victor, and he greets her politely before handing her over to Henri.

Marie arrives at the Selfridges’ and Lois pulls her aside to ask about this hotel bill. Marie brushes it off as they join the others in the drawing room. There, Harry announces that he’s going to bid for the field to create a lasting tribute to Rose in the form of the homes for heroes. Rosalie asks if Sergei knows about this. Harry explains that he does, but that’s not going to stop him from pursuing this venture. Rosalie looks sad.

Sergei’s partying with some girls while Loxsley looks on from afar and tells Edgerton that the little idiot has told him about the housing project. Loxsley is now planning to use this to help Harry dig his own grave.



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