Mr Selfridge: The Competition

Mr Selfridge episode 8Previously on Mr Selfridge: Bunting turned up, clearly in a bad way, prompting Doris to show her softer side. Agnes got switched over to fashion and started making out with Henri, and Ellen decided to become a Serious Actress.

Looking a bit tense, Harry takes in the dining table at the Selfridge manse and tells his butler, Fraser, that he wants everything perfect for their dinner party. He and Rose are hosting FW Woolworth and his wife, who are coming over to open a new store. Fraser unnecessarily and clunkily tells us all that Woolworth’s American and Harry reminds him that FW likes his mutton very well done. Well, he’s an idiot, then. Very well done mutton would be like shoe leather, and that’s just a terrible thing to do to a nice piece of meat. The doorbell rings and Harry and Rose sally forth to greet the Woolworths, who are clearly old friends. Rose is gracious; Harry’s still tense and clearly trying to impress FW.

At dinner, Rosalie tells everyone about her first soiree and how Mae introduced her to so many wonderful people. FW tells them that his daughter’s getting married and goes on at length about how rich the fiancé is. His embarrassed wife shuts him up and he reminds everyone that he and Harry came up the hard way, so a little bragging isn’t too wrong. Well, yes it is, FW, when it’s clearly a matter of one-upmanship, as it is here.

While freshening up after dinner, Mrs Woolworth observes that Rose seems to have settled in well. Rose confirms that, but admits she misses family and friends back home. Mrs W says she and FW might be in the old country more, because he’s opening up more and more stores. She’s clearly not too delighted by this and tells Rose she thinks she liked it better when they were just starting out. It was tough, but at least they were together, and happy.

FW and Harry light up cigars and talk business. Harry says he heard FW was thinking of opening up on Oxford Street. FW tells him to chill, because he doesn’t think their stores attract the same crowds. He caters to the bargain hunters, and Harry’s got the carriage trade. Harry resents that, because he wants Selfridge’s to be for anyone, but the fact of the matter is, his prices are too high to attract anyone but the wealthy.

The Selfridges see off the Woolworths and Rose and Lois exchange a look that suggests they know FW’s put Harry’s nose out of joint.

The next day, Harry arrives on the shop floor, holds up a threepenny bit and asks what he can buy for that. Answer: absolutely nothing. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Kitty raises her hand and proudly announces he can buy a bag of candy for a penny in confectionary. She looks around, pleased with herself, like she just said something utterly brilliant. Harry is disappointed.

Mae’s with Rose, running down potential husbands for Rosalie, but Rose tells her that Rosalie will be marrying for love, not a title or a fortune. Seeming sincere, Mae says that Rosalie’s quite lucky, since most mothers use their children to make their mark on the world. Rose seems to feel bad and backtracks, figuring it wouldn’t hurt to introduce her to a few nice young men.

Over at the store, Grove approaches accessories and tells the Catty Bitches he’ll be interviewing them over the next couple of days to decide who should take Agnes’s old job.

Up in his office, Harry quizzes Crabb on how often his wife shops in the store. Clearly feeling awkward, Crabb admits she’s a thrifty sort, so she doesn’t frequent Selfridge’s. She does, however, intend to check out the new Woolworth’s.

Harry heads downstairs and tells the heads of department (the ones with lines, anyway) that he wants to start discounting items throughout the store. Mardle catches on and suggests a big event—a mid-season sale. Henri, of course, chimes in that everything must be made to look beautiful. Harry agrees and sends them all scurrying away. Grove takes the opportunity to ask Harry if he can give Bunting a reference and is swiftly shot down, because Harry doesn’t give references to dishonest people.

Up in the palm court, who should come wandering in but Ellen, sporting what looks like an absolutely atrocious hairstyle, and Tony, Lady Mae’s former lover. Quite the pair. Victor notes their arrival to his boss, who tells him to put them somewhere discreet. Yes, because that’s why they’re at the restaurant—to be discreet. Victor does his best, but Ellen insists on her old table, right in the middle of the room, where Harry usually sits. Victor tries to persuade her out of it but Ellen refuses to budge.

Doris is waiting outside Grove’s office for her interview. Kitty comes out and says her interview went so well she’s surprised he didn’t offer her the job right there and then. Doris looks terrified as Grove calls her in. He asks her where she sees her career going—does she want to be head of the department? She answers honestly, telling him she used to think so, but now she’s not sure, because she doesn’t want to end up alone for the rest of her life, like Bunting. She wants a family someday. She figures she’s just blown the interview, but Grove says he appreciates her honesty. He also tells her that Harry refused to give Bunting the reference, adding that he’s very sorry. Doris sweetly says she’s sure he did his best.

Harry arrives at the palm court and tells Victor’s boss, Perez, that they’ll have to come up with some cut-rate menu items for the cheapskates who’ll be showing up for the sale. Perez is reluctant to consider change, but Victor’s quite excited by the prospect. Harry turns away and moves into the restaurant, where he’s drawn up short by the appearance of Ellen. He recovers nicely and Ellen tells him that Tony’s brought her shopping (on whose dime?). Harry mentions that he heard she left the Gaiety and Tony tells him that Ellen’s taken a principal role in his new play, which opens in a few weeks. He suggests Harry come along and Harry fobs them off. They leave and Harry tells Perez to give him a head’s up if they ever come in again, so he can avoid them.

Victor’s trying out some ice creams on Mae, but she’s uninterested. She’s also now uninterested in Victor’s future restaurant, or in Victor himself, it seems. Poor Victor looks like he’s just barely managing to contain his rage as she dismisses him and tells him to go out the back way so he doesn’t bump into her guests on their way in. Cold, Lady Mae.

In a less chilly room, Henri is entertaining Agnes for dinner. He puts on a record of La Boheme and tells her what it’s about when she asks. ‘You see everything like a story or a play, don’t you?’ she says a little nonsensically. Yes, Agnes, he does, especially when what he’s looking at or listening to is a play. She tells him she wants to have his job someday, and then probably because her conversation’s boring as hell, he starts kissing her. The pause long enough for him to let her hair down and call her beautiful, then they recommence making out. They pause again, long enough for him to ask if she’s sure she wants ‘this.’ She says she does. She’s a fool. And this whole relationship seriously doesn’t work for me, for a couple of reasons/ One: their romantic chemistry sucks, mostly, I think, because the actress playing Agnes is rather dull and can’t seem to emote much of anything at all. Two: Agnes’s job is really, really important to her, so I find it hard to believe she’d put it in this much jeopardy (which is why I found her flirting with Victor on the shop floor hard to swallow as well). Three: It’s unlikely that a young woman raised in the Victorian era who had no access at all to reliable birth control (and probably didn’t know much about the unreliable methods either) would go jumping into bed with any man. Sex was kind of a big deal, and young women had it drilled into them from birth that it was something you did after you were married. That kind of thing is hard to just cast aside.

The Selfridges, with Rosalie, arrive at Lady Mae’s for her latest soiree. Lady Mae quickly steals Rosalie away and introduces her to a pair of handsome brothers, who immediately offer her champagne, to her father’s consternation. With Rosalie taken care of, Mae returns to Rose and Harry and asks who they know. They know FW, who’s holding court at the other end of the room. Mae realises that Harry’s got some competition here and teasingly says that London might not be able to handle two American kings of commerce.

Later, FW asks Harry if he’s coming to the big opening of the new Woolworth’s store. Harry says he’ll try but he might be busy with his REALLY BIG SALE. Woolworth makes fun of him for trying such a thing at his store and Harry asks how he does it. Seriously, Harry? You invented the bargain basement, and you don’t know how Woolworth’s business works? Woolworth buys in bulk and keeps the prices as low as possible. According to him, it takes experience to really get that right, though. He also dumps the fancy service, but Harry insists the service at Selfridge’s will always be top notch.

FW turns his attention to Rose, who says how sorry she is that the missus couldn’t make it. Harry wonders how Rosalie’s doing, so Rose goes to check on her. Rosalie’s doing just fine, being entertained in the billiard room by none other than Roddy Temple. Great. Rose blanches slightly but recovers, and when Rosalie is called away, she tries to make some small talk with him. Temple won’t have it and tells her that he came to the party hoping to see her. Rose whispers to him that she’s a married woman and nothing is going to happen, though she’s very happy for his success. As she turns to go, he says, in the most menacing way possible, that she has a very lovely daughter, and where has Rose been hiding her? Creeeeepy!

Agnes wakes in bed with Henri the following morning and looks…kinda bored, really.

The Selfridges, meanwhile, are hustling out the door to church, though Rosalie’s begged off with a headache. I’ll just bet.

Mardle has decided that it would be entirely appropriate to show up at Grove’s house out of the blue. He lets her in, looking around nervously, and once inside she observes that all the time they’ve known each other, she’s never been inside. Probably because his wife was always there, Mardle. Grove explains that he’s been sorting through Hetty’s things, picking out clothes to give to a relative of his who’s in need. She calls him kind and he says it’s a waste to throw it all away. He bursts into tears and admits he misses Hetty. Mardle throws her arms around him, to comfort him, and soon they’re on the sofa, pulling each other’s clothes off.

Agnes has taken Henri to Spitalfields to show him where real people do their shopping. He asks her if she doesn’t think he’s a real person and she laughs that he’s some fairy prince from a storybook. He admits that he did grow up in a castle, but there was no enchantment there. Agnes shows him an apple stall and comments that they cram every square inch with stuff. He thanks her for bringing him there.

Later, Agnes returns home to find Victor hanging around. He notes the flowers she’s holding and she claims she got them on sale before inviting him in for coffee. Upstairs, she pours out some camp coffee—premade stuff from a bottle that you apparently dilute with hot water—and he thanks her. She asks if he’s ok and he says he’s doing just fine. She asks about his restaurant plan and he admits that his investor doesn’t seem to have been serious. He’s understandably a little bitter about having been used, but he’s still determined to get his restaurant. He and Agnes actually have a fairly cute rapport. Which means this show is sure to screw it up with sex.

Back at Grove’s, Mardle’s in the afterglow, but Grove is already deep in guilt, telling her this is all wrong and they shouldn’t have done this, not with his wife so recently dead. He goes on to say that he broke his marriage vows for 12 years and Mardle points out that his wife was an invalid that whole time, and that she didn’t really think he still loved Hetty. Grove suggests they cool things for a while, until he’s sure about how they both feel. She already knows how she feels but he asks her to be patient. Look, I feel for her, but what did she really expect? That he was going to run her down to the nearest courthouse as soon as Hetty was safely in the ground? Give the man some time and space, lady!

Rose returns home from church ahead of the others and—surprise!—finds Rosalie completely headache-free and entertaining Roddy in the sitting room. Rose is pissed off for many reasons and tells off her kid for skipping church, lying, and improperly entertaining a man all by herself. Roddy tries to distract her by telling her about some exhibition he has coming up and how he hoped to show her portrait. Rose shortly says they can discuss that some other time, but right now, he’d better get the hell out before her husband comes home.

She escorts him to the door and demands to know what he’s up to. He says that Rosalie asked for a drawing lesson, so he obliged. Rose calls bullshit on that, so he just goes ahead and asks if he can call on Rosalie again. She tells him no.

Henri and his morning espresso check out Irene setting out some lingerie while he muses about the window displays for the sale. Irene asks if he intends to put ladies’ underwear out there and he says he really wishes he could, but sadly the English are too uptight for that, so instead he needs 100 pairs of men’s shoes. Irene dispatches Agnes to fetch them.

Harry arrives at his office with his son, Gordon, and finds Victor waiting to see him. Victor says it’s about ice cream, and Gordon likes the sound of that.

Henri asks Mardle for 100 white handkerchiefs, and she snaps at the Catty Bitches to fetch them, before stomping off. Kitty observes that she’s a bit grumpy today. Grove wanders over to them with a large leather satchel in one hand and hands it off to Doris, explaining that these are the clothes for that charity they discussed. It takes her a second to realize what he’s saying, but then she politely thanks him. Kitty asks if he’s decided about the senior assistant post yet and he says he has and could they send Mardle his way when they have a moment?

In Harry’s office, Victor is pitching his idea of having people circulating with cheap snacks for sale during the big sale: candied fruit, ice cream, all for a penny. Gordon thinks it’s a great idea and adds that they should have hamburgers. Did they even have hamburgers in 1910? Oh, yeah, apparently they did. Harry loves the idea and tells Victor to make it happen.

Mardle arrives at Grove’s office and he tells her that he thinks Doris is the best girl for the senior assistant job. She disagrees, claiming that Doris has no ambition, and that Kitty, being sharper and harder, would be better. She rather angrily asks if he’s thought any more about what he said on Sunday, which was, what, yesterday? Christ, lady, BACK OFF! See, this is another story that doesn’t ring quite true, because the Victorians were crazy about their prolongued death rituals, and as a woman primarily brought up during that period, Mardle would have understood that and would have had the sense, not to mention the decency, to give Grove a bit of time. She’d do it for propriety’s sake, at least.

He says he hasn’t had a chance to think further, so she sharply asks him to let her make the decision on the senior assistant job, since she knows her staff better than he does. He sadly agrees.

Downstairs they go, so Grove can announce that Kitty has the job. Her eyes pop out of her head in the most cartoonish way possible at the news and she breathily promises to be the best senior assistant the store has ever seen. Agnes, watching from afar, smirks.

Harry’s got Crabb in his office to tell him to double their advertising and make sure everybody knows there’s something for everyone at their sale.

After closing, Doris makes her way through the crowds thronging to see Henri’s window, where all the shoes are displayed. Man, London must have been dull indeed if a window full of shoes could attract that big a crowd. She delivers the satchel full of clothes to Bunting, who’s waiting for her, and is so pathetically grateful to receive them it kind of breaks my heart. She tells Doris she’s very kind, and then asks about the reference. Doris regretfully tells her Selfridge turned the request down and Bunting takes that with really good grace. Doris asks her to keep in touch and turns to go, looking like she might cry. Bunting watches her go, looking rather hopeless and sad as well.

It’s time to start the sale. Harry gets everyone whipped up, and they open the doors and let the people flood right in. Sales are made, ladies fight over camisoles, Kitty talks a woman into a big hat. Victor watches, pleased, as his snacks are sold.

Harry observes everything, grinning almost maniacally.

Later in the day, Harry makes his way back to the shop floor and gets a chance to meet Mrs Crabb, who tells him she’s found something to buy in nearly every department and that his sale’s made her feel quite adventurous. Harry’s pleased, but their interview is cut short by the arrival of FW, who tells Harry this is swell. Harry unnecessarily says he hopes the ladies have enough cash left for FW’s opening the following day. FW admits he’s pushing the opening back because he needs to tend to his wife right now. Before he goes, he imparts a bit of wisdom on Harry: success is great, but it’s not everything. Family, guys.

Back upstairs, Harry stares at Rose’s portrait. Crabb comes in to deliver the day’s takings, happily announcing that sales were way, way up. Harry’s pleased and tells Crab to call it a night and go home to see his family. He then takes his own advice and heads out.

Rose and Lois arrive back at the Selfridge manse to the sound of the children giggling. Fraser tells her that the kids seem to be enjoying Mr Temple’s company. God, this man. I kind of hope Harry comes home and kicks his ass.

Rose hurries into the drawing room and pulls him away, furiously telling him she can’t believe he actually came back. ‘I can’t seem to help myself, can I?’ he smirks. Yes, you can, you asshole, just stay away! Show some self-control, like most adults do. In your feeble, cracked-out mind you probably think this is romantic or something, but it’s not, it’s creepy as hell and wildly inappropriate. If a woman tells you to stay away, you stay the hell away. She threatens to tell Harry that he keeps coming by and he threatens right back by telling her she has a lot more to lose than he does. Actually, she has nothing to lose if she tells her husband that some creepy man is harassing both her and their daughter. Trust me, Roddy, you have plenty to lose to an angry husband and father. Roddy tells Rose to come see him at his studio, and then he won’t come around the house anymore. So, threatening her to secure her company? What a catch this man is. And I’ll be really disappointed if Rose does go to see him, because that would just be validating his horrible behaviour. He seems to be very fixated on the ‘she says no, but really means yes’ idea, and has taken it a bit further by adding in—well, she’s saying no kind of a lot, so just ignore what she wants and start threatening her. Romance! He finally leaves.

Harry walks the streets of London, looking mighty pleased with himself.



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