Mr Selfridge: The Breaking Point

Mr-Selfridge-3-3Previously on Mr Selfridge: Harry decided to bankroll a charitable housing project, no matter what the cost. Henri slid further into PTSD territory, Violette whined for a job, and Mardle became head of fashion.

Harry and Kitty launch a major beauty event in front of the press. For some reason, Agnes is hanging around in the background of all the photos. After the launch, Kitty explains to the girls down in cosmetics that she’s going to be giving demonstrations of all the new products. Gordon comes over and congratulates Grace, the young woman who used to work in the tea department with him, who is now head of accessories following Mardle’s move to fashion. Grace is sweetly modest; Kitty is a bit bitchy about it. Once a catty bitch, always a catty bitch. Gordon suggests he and Grace go out and celebrate sometime.

Grove and Mardle walk through fashion and he compliments her on a job well done before asking if Doris can come by and pick a few things out for her birthday. She agrees and he thanks her.

In Harry’s office, he’s trying to persuade the manager of his bank to make him a £30,000 loan so he can buy the land for the housing estate. The banker agrees to give him the loan, but since Harry has few assets, he’s facing a very high interest rate.

Crabb and Grove discuss the board meeting. Grove thinks Crabb did the right thing, but Crabb sighs that things are now quite uncomfortable between him and Harry. Grove tells him things are about to get more uncomfortable: they let the surplus women go that day.

Outside, some of the homeless ex-servicemen offer Henri some cigarettes for sale. He agrees to take them. As he’s fishing about for change, they overhear a wounded man nearby begging. The ciggie vendors comment that they were lucky not to come home with any injuries. As Henri moves off and gives some change to the wounded men, the others snark that they’re in the wrong game.

Crabb and Grove go to Harry’s office and remind him that it’s firing day. He asks for the women to come to his office, so he can thank them personally. He figures it’s the least they owe the girls.

Agnes is trying to focus on displays for the beauty event, while Henri seems to be pretty zoned out. She calls him to attention and tells him it’s really disturbing how she seems to be speaking into a void here. She tells him she just wants to help, but she needs him to tell her what’s wrong. He insists that nothing’s wrong and she just gives up.

Harry thanks one of the women and Grove reassures her she’ll get good references. She bursts into tears and tells them that there are hundreds of women looking for jobs now, so references are pretty useless. Grove hands her a month’s wages, but she snaps that there’s no much hope once that’s used up. She tells them she loved it at the store and was good at what she did. Harry agrees. She takes the money and leaves, passing a queue of other women waiting to be fired, all lined up outside. This was a really poor way to handle this, guys. Those poor other women, just standing out there, waiting for the axe to fall.

The recently fired woman and Kitty’s sister, Connie, leave the story and Connie says she’s heard there are some jobs in the East End, if you can use a sewing machine. The cigarette-selling vets overhear the women talking and start giving them crap about wanting jobs, because they went and served in the army, so they’re way more entitled to employment than lame-o girls. They tell the girls to go home and pop out some babies. Connie sneers that they’re pathetic, which is clearly an insult that hits home just now.

Gordon goes to his father’s office once all the women have been dismissed and reassures his father that he’s been quite generous. Harry doesn’t seem to think so. Gordon reminds him that the housing estate will be helpful for people in need, so there’s that to cling to, right? Harry agrees and takes Gordon to the auction.

Connie dishes up a massive amount of peas in some sort of vegetable-fuelled rage while complaining about the ex-servicemen. Kitty asks her what she plans to do now she’s out of a job. Connie suggests she keep house while Kitty’s at work and Kitty’s like, ‘um, no, get another job.’ Connie whinily asks Kitty to pull some strings for her and Kitty yells that she worked hard to get where she is, and if Connie wants to get somewhere, she needs to get off her ass and start looking. Connie stomps off in a snit. Edwards compliments the dinner.

Harry and Gordon get ready to start bidding for the land. Harry whispers that it won’t go for more than £14,000, and that his limit is £15,000. Bidding starts at £10,000. Things are going according to plan, but then, of course, Loxsley shows up and drives the price way, way up. Harry, unwilling to let the project go or to let Loxsley win, ends up paying £30,000 for the land, the entire amount of his loan. Eeek! Afterwards, Harry catches up with Loxsley and warns him to stay away from him and his family. ‘Why so unfriendly? You got what you wanted, and so will I,’ Loxsley says, while twirling the moustache he really should have.

Harry whirls into the dining room at home, where the ladies of the family are gathered for dinner, and immediately gets scolded by Rosalie for being late for family dinner. He ignores her and bellows for Sergei, who strolls in. Harry asks if Sergei told Loxsley about the auction. Sergei smarms that he may have mentioned it. Harry reminds Sergei that he warned him to stay away from Loxsley and Sergei brats back that this is none of Harry’s business. Harry reminds him that he’s married to his daughter and lives under Harry’s roof, even as Marie warns her son to back off. Harry informs his son-in-law that Loxsley is using Sergei to undermine Harry and his family. ‘You’re doing a pretty good job of that yourself,’ Sergei pouts. Rosalie bursts into tears and rushes out, followed by Lois, while Marie, realizing that her asshole son is now endangering her literal meal ticket, drags Sergei out of there. Harry stomps off and Violette chirps that they should do these family dinners more often.

Agnes returns home to find Mardle hard at work. She asks if Henri’s come home and Mardle replies that he has not, but surely he’ll be home any minute. Agnes heads off to bed and Mardle looks briefly disturbed.

Agnes wakes the following morning to find Henri’s half of the bed empty. She already looks exhausted.

Harry and Gordon get to the office and Harry dispatches a card to Miss Webb that reads: I won the field.

Agnes makes her way to Victor’s and asks to speak with him. He takes her to his office and congratulates her on getting married, adding that Henri’s a regular now. She tells Victor that Henri isn’t himself and he won’t talk to her about what happened, so she was hoping that he may have said something to Victor. He has not. She goes to leave and Victor, looking concerned, tells her that Henri was in Verdun.

Agnes: Yeah, I have no idea what that means. We had censorship in this country during the war. You may as well have just said ‘he was in Aberdeen.’

Victor fills her in: thousands of people died at Verdun, some of starvation because supply lines got cut off. The dead bodies piled up and it was generally just an absolute horrorshow. She gently asks Victor what happened to him, but apparently that’s a story for another day. She thanks him for his time.

Mardle shows Doris a suit and tells her the colour is perfect for her. Doris agrees that it’s lovely. Mardle asks after baby Ernest and Doris is like, ‘everything’s great! So great! So, so, so, so great! GREAT!’ She’s selling it so hard that Mardle’s response is essentially, ‘uh, RU OK, Doris?’ Doris swears she is and Mardle doesn’t press.

Agnes arrives at her office to find Henri there, having worked all night. She tells him she was worried and he apologises, saying he just got caught up in what he was doing. He says he feels like he used to, before the war. Well, that’s something.

Mardle shows Doris downstairs, but on her way out, Doris is accosted by a man with blonde hair. Ooooh. See, last week Doris mentioned that her most recent kid is the only one with her blonde hair. So it seems that little Ernest isn’t a Grove after all. Doris tells the man to get lost, and then he grabs her arm and Mardle comes rushing to the rescue. The guy leaves and Doris says she has no idea who that was, but she’s sure he was harmless. She rushes out, promising to get a cab home.

Fraser the butler delivers some tea to Lois and tells her he’s got some gossip: the flat that Marie says she can’t live in because it’s being redecorated? Not having any work done at all. It’s also being lived in by someone else. The previous tenant cleared out after leaving a huge number of debts. Lois thanks him for the info.

Ages finds Henri working on a window display and asks if she can help. He tells her he needs to do this himself, so he can prove he still has it in him. She reminds him he hasn’t slept in more than 24 hours now and he snaps that this is the first time he’s felt himself, so he needs this. She gives up and goes home.

He actually goes home himself at some point, and when Agnes wakes up the following morning she finds him fast asleep beside her. She kisses him and heads to work by herself. Before she goes in, she checks out his new window display. Looks like he’s created a Truffula tree, with some Japanese screens and things nearby. It’s ok.

Ladies arrive for the cosmetics demonstration up in the palm court. Kitty leads the way, showing off the new products, which include lipstick in a tube. The ladies all oooh and ahhh.

Lois sidles up to the information bureau and asks Blenkinsopp to look into Marie and find out everything she can about the woman. So, basically, the information bureau is the Wikipedia of its day.

Webb arrives at Harry’s office and he immediately asks her to manage the whole building project. Wasn’t that always the idea? What, exactly, was her role going to be in all this? Just come up with the plan to build these homes? Anyway, she agrees to do it. He takes her downstairs to introduce her to Marie, Violette, and Rosalie. Most of the ladies are gracious, but Violette brats that she’s ‘not married, doesn’t have a job, so shopping is pretty much all she’s good for.’ Ugh, shut UP, Violette. I hate this girl. Webb looks uncomfortable, as well she might. Harry explains that Webb’s going to be leading the homes for heroes project, and the two older ladies continue to be graciously polite, despite the fact that they have very personal reasons to hate this project. Take notes, Violette. This is how grownups behave. All four ladies head upstairs for the cosmetics demo.

Later, Kitty nabs Agnes and hands her a box of products that need to go in the window. Agnes promises to hand them over to Henri, when he comes in. Kitty really wants them in the window ASAP, so Agnes takes them.

She starts adding the little boxes to Henri’s tree, and he sees her doing it as he walks up to the store. He rushes to the window and immediately starts throwing a tantrum about her meddling with his window and not waking him that morning. Agnes pretty much tells him to chill, but he will not chill because this window is EVERYTHING to him right now. Agnes bursts into tears and asks him what the hell he wants, because she’s going crazy being around someone who won’t talk to her about anything important. She weeps that they’re like strangers and it’s killing her. She tells him she went to see Victor and asked him about Verdun. Neither of them seem to realize that they’re standing right in a window and that their antics are actually attracting a crowd, but apparently someone noticed, because Crabb pokes his head in and asks what’s going on. Agnes and Henri ignore him, so he takes off to fetch Harry. Henri completely loses it and just trashes the hell out of the window until Harry arrives and tells him that’s enough. Agnes breaks down as Henri goes tearing off, followed by Harry. Crabb and Grace  lower the shade on the window as Agnes sobs that she’ll clean everything up. It doesn’t occur to either one of them to offer her any sympathy or comfort or anything.

Harry follows Henri to a nearby park, where Henri collapses against a tree and starts hallucinating that he’s back at Verdun. ‘Leave me!’ he begs the apparitions, in French. Harry brings him back to reality and Henri gasps that his men are all dying and that they’re everywhere, begging him for water. He hears them all the time. He gets up and runs away. Harry just stands there. Because when your friend is having a psychotic episode, it’s really best to leave him alone out in public spaces to just work through it.

Agnes waits up that night, but instead of Henri coming in, it’s her brother. She gets ready to go out and look for her husband but George tells her it’s 3 am and asks what happened. She says they had an argument and worries that something will happen to him. George reassures her that Henri lived through the war, so he’ll be fine. She asks George if he’s ok and he says he is. She notes that he doesn’t talk to her about the war. He says he tries not to think about it, but there are days when everything around you seems unreal, and you feel like it’s all going to break apart. All you can do is push on through and hope it gets better. He kisses her on the forehead, hugs her, and goes up to bed.

Henri wanders through some lousy area of London, where vets are sleeping rough. One holds up his hand for change but Henri apologises and keeps moving.

The next day, Harry gathers Grove and Crabb in his office and tells them Henri hasn’t been home, according to Mardle. Grove says he’s seen other men acting like this after coming home. Crabb suggests a period of leave, to give Henri time to decompress. Grove says that could work, but then, it might make things worse. So, damned if you do, damned if you don’t, right? Harry vows to find a role that puts Henri beside him, so he can look out for him.

Edwards arrives at the store in a snit and tells Kitty that her sister is driving him nuts and making it impossible for him to get any writing done, and since neither laptops nor Starbucks exist yet, this is a serious problem. She promises to talk to Connie.

Outside, Edwards gets a paper and notices the cigarette-selling vets. He eyes them for a few moments, then takes them to Victor’s. He tells Victor’s partner or whatever she is that he needs a place to interview the two men. He hands her a bribe and she agrees. Seriously? This was the only place he could have taken them in all of London?

Harry tells Kitty that beauty sales are way up, so she should think of what her department needs and if he can help, he’ll do so. She takes her chance and asks him to give her sister a job. He reminds her that jobs are given on merit, not family connection, and she smoothly points out that Harry hired his own son, so clearly that’s a rule that can be bent. Harry agrees to hire Connie back in the fashion department.

Edwards plies the two men with whisky and learns that they came back to discover that their jobs had been given to women, who would do the work for less money. The men complain that it’s not right that they’re begging on the streets while the women are taking their jobs for pin money, so they can buy cosmetics and pretty shoes and whatever. ‘Someone ought to do something,’ one of the men says, darkly.

Agnes finds herself in the same rough area Henri wandered through the night before. She makes her way home and calls for Henri, but he’s not there.

Webb and Harry look over sketches for the housing estate. Webb shows him some research into what the people who’ll live in these houses really want. While she talks, Harry gets a ‘you sure are purty’ look on his face. And then her voice fades into nothingness, because what she says isn’t important, right? It’s how much she reminds him of his dead wife.

Violette shows up at Victor’s in a really terrible dress that looks like something a small child would find in a dressing-up box. She goes right up to Victor and tries, poorly, to flirt. He kind of smirks and steps aside so she can get to the bar.

Harry sees Miss Webb out and they agree to move on to a first-name basis.

Mardle makes Agnes some tea and reassures her that Henri will come back to her, because they love each other. Henri comes through the front door, and Agnes, unaware that he’s listening in from the next room, sobs that whatever happened in the war changed him and she doesn’t know him anymore. He frightens her now. Mardle comforts her, which is sweet. Henri looks guilty.

The ciggie sellers are back on their corner, drinking whisky from the bottle. Kitty walks by on her way home and ignores them when they ask for cash. The one in charge calls her a bitch and she stops and asks him what he just said. Oh, Kitty, no. Keep going, don’t engage the assholes. Seriously, it never goes well. The men start massing as Lead Asshole accuses her of spending all her money on fripperies. Starting to sound a little nervous, she says she was working late, not shopping. He calls her a prostitute, basically, and she snaps that she’s head of department. One of the men accuses her of taking jobs from men, and she tells him she works in the beauty department, which is not exactly a male bastion. She tells the men they’re disgraceful, drinking on the street, which just sets the Lead Asshole over the edge. He walks up to her and she gives him a pretty decent backhand. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. He slugs her right in the face, sending her reeling into the stone wall of a building. He then tells one of the other guys to keep watch and holy crap, am I actually about to watch a rape scene on Mr Selfridge? The hell? This is one of my fluffy shows! And they’re right on Oxford Street, that’s not some back alley! As Kitty starts to freak out and a couple of the other guys start to look like maybe this is going just a teensy bit too far, Harry and Webb come running over, dispersing the crowd. Harry screams for the police as the vets beat it and Kitty sobs and starts to understand a little bit what Henri’s going through.

One thought on “Mr Selfridge: The Breaking Point

  1. Yeah, as soon as that guy said they should do something about the women taking the jobs, I had a bad, bad feeling. I am so so glad Harry and Nancy showed up. Ugh, looks like they’re taking a cue from Downton.

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