A man with a battered suitcase makes his way into the foyer, instantly removes his hat, and looks around like he’s never seen such a place before. There’s nobody there to greet him, but Fred soon raises the alarm, bringing Starr running. Starr asks the man what he needs and the man asks where the check-in desk is. Starr instantly realizes this guy’s out of his league at the Bentink and he suggests another hotel nearby. The man protests that he doesn’t want to go to this other hotel, he wants a room at the Bentink. Starr shortly tells him to get lost, because they’re full, and the man goes to leave, but then rethinks and says he doesn’t believe Starr. Starr tries to persuade the guy to go, because he knows this man can’t afford the Bentink, but the guy gets belligerent, and right about then Charlie comes down the stairs and the guy assumes he’s the manager. Because Charlie’s an affable guy, he offers to help out, introducing himself as Charlie Hazlemere, rather than using his title. The guy finally introduces himself as Stanley Parker. Charlie asks why the guy’s so determined to stay at the Bentink and Parker says he’s heard it’s the best hotel in London.
Louisa comes in, fresh from a shopping trip, to make this little confrontation even more fun. Starr fills her in on Parker. She tells Parker he’ll be more comfortable elsewhere, but Charlie steps in and basically forces her to let the guy stay there. She tells Starr to show him to a room. Once he’s gone, she asks Charlie what he was thinking, because the staff and other guests will look down on Parker and make him uncomfortable for his whole stay. She hisses that he meant to be kind, but it was the cruelest thing he could have done. Charlie follows her into her office and easily says this is really no big deal, and she really should chill out.
Starr sets Parker’s suitcase down in his room, and Parker offers him a tip that I’m guessing is pretty lame by this hotel’s standards. Parker asks about the key to the room and Starr tells him they don’t have keys, because they don’t lock the doors there.
In her office, Louisa unwraps a totally hideous statue of a monkey playing a violin. She got a line on it from some guy named Arthur Shepherd who owns an art gallery down in SoHo. Louisa asks Charlie when he plans to clear out, because apparently there’s some event coming up he never misses, but he plans to pass on it this year. He’s sounding a bit bored and down, our Charlie. He mopes a bit about not having enough to do, so Louisa does the sensible thing and sends Merriman for some wine.
In Parker’s room, Mary lays his fire and gives him some nice coaching on proper tipping amounts and technique. Seems I was wrong—he’s offering too much, not too little.
Louisa and Charlie sip champagne and Charlie goes back to moping about being bored and useless. He whines that if he died the next day, nobody would know or care, which is a pretty thoughtless and crappy thing for him to say to Louisa. Louisa finally figures out that what’s bothering him is that his painting hobby isn’t going well. Yes, it looks like Charlie somehow started painting somewhere along the line, presumably after he learned piano. He hauled a bunch of paintings up from his country house but won’t let Louisa hang them because he thinks they aren’t any good. She thinks they’re great and suggests he show them to Shepherd. Charlie says there’s no point in it, but Louisa bullies him gently and kind of calls him a coward. Conveniently enough, Shepherd’s coming by later to take a look at her hideous new piece of bric-a-brac, so Charlie can show Shepherd his paintings then.
Fred starts squealing in the hall and Louisa goes out to investigate. Seems Parker has wandered down, and man, does this dog hate him. Louisa shouts for Fred to be quiet and asks Parker what he wants. He’s looking for the lounge, which they don’t have, so he asks for the dining room, which they also don’t have. He asks for lunch, and Louisa’s patience is clearly wearing thin, because he can’t answer a single question she asks him about this meal he wants. She tells him it won’t be ready until half past one and he says that’s fine, because he’s not picky. Louisa sharply tells him that most of the people who stay there are.
In the kitchen, Cochrane and Ethel are hard at work on the lunch dishes. Merriman comes down and chats with them a bit about some bishop who’s staying there. He passes on Louisa’s request for a lunch for Parker. Louisa wants them to serve the guy some salt-free veal stew, not caring that he probably won’t like it.
Merriman delivers the meal to Parker’s room, and of course Parker doesn’t seem to know what to do, which is pretty stupid, because it’s self-explanatory. You sit and eat, Parker. Not hard. Parker asks for champagne and Merriman asks for a particular year. Parker has no clue what to order, and just says “plain champagne.” Merriman practically seethes as he heads out.
Shepherd, who has a nasally voice and is just about every stereotype of an art gallery owner you’ve ever heard of, admires the colors in one of Charlie’s paintings, which looks like a cross between a Monet and Seurat. Shepherd even compares the works to Monet, which is quite an exaggeration. Charlie laps it up, though, and pours himself, Shepherd, and Louisa some wine. Shepherd tells Charlie he’s opening a new gallery and he wants to feature a polish artist, Svorski, along with some of Charlie’s works at the opening. Charlie’s over the moon at the idea and agrees right away.
Later, Mary makes her way into Parker’s room and startles him out of his nap. As she adds coal to the fire, he asks her about where she came from and tells her he’s in the shipping business. After a long silence, he asks her where she would go, if she could go anywhere in the world. She unimaginatively wants to go back to Wales, and then offers up the Isle of Man, because you can get there and back in a day. He waxes poetic about Africa, and then tells her not to worry about making up the fire later, because he’s tired and going to bed early.
The next day, Starr gets ready to pack up some of Charlie’s paintings in the hall when Parker comes down and asks about them. Starr says he doesn’t know anything about the paintings or where they’re going, which I find doubtful. I think he’s just being difficult because he doesn’t want anything to do with this man. Parker examines one of the paintings and then asks Starr where one would go if they were looking for a night on the town. Starr claims not to know, so Parker starts talking about going to the theater, or maybe the Café Royal, even though Starr couldn’t care less. Starr does tell him that if he wants to go to the Café Royal, he has to book a table pretty early.
That evening, Parker returns to his room and hears Charlie playing his piano in his own room nearby. After a little while, Parker heads over to Charlie’s and knocks and asks if he could listen in for a little. Charlie says sure and offers Parker a drink. Parker accepts and admires one of the paintings on the wall, which just happens to be one of Charlie’s. When he hears that the other paintings are being shown in a gallery, he wistfully says he’d love to see the exhibition, so Charlie nicely offers him an invite.
Well-heeled ladies and gentlemen peruse the exhibition and congratulate Charlie on his clever paintings. The ladies don’t seem to be too impressed with Svorski’s work, though, finding it a bit too hectic for their tastes. Shepherd comes over and hustles Charlie over to Svorski for an introduction. Charlie compliments him on his paintings, and naturally Svorski’s one of those obnoxious, pretentious artists who goes on and on about how his work is no good, all trash! You know the drill. I hate people like this—just take the compliment and stop beings such an ass. Charlie tries to be nice to the guy, who shuts him down, calling him a dilettante. And then Charlie overhears some of his friends saying basically the same thing and mentioning that Shepherd probably only brought Charlie in for publicity. The same snotty bunch spot Parker coming in and make fun of him amongst themselves. Charlie steps out and greets him, which is nice of him, and shows Parker around. Parker doesn’t like Svorski’s work either, and to be honest, they do kind of suck. They’re imitation Cezannes, if anything.
Charlie stalks back into the hotel and is met by Louisa, who asks him how the whole thing went. “How do you expect?” he spits meanly before dashing into her office. Looking reasonably confused, Louisa follows him in, and Charlie immediately accuses her of having paid Shepherd to hang Charlie’s paintings in the gallery. That’s quite a leap; I wonder where he got that idea? Louisa says he didn’t, but it seems that she did suggest to Shepherd that it would be a bit of a PR boost for him to have Charlie’s paintings there. Charlie rails about how he’s an amateur at everything he does. Well, then, why not do something, then? The only person keeping you an amateur is you, Charlie! Meanly (and unfairly) he tells Louisa that, thanks to her, he’ll never do anything worthwhile. Oh, please.
In a full-on snit, Charlie whirls out of her office, just as Parker comes into the front hall. Parker congratulates Charlie on his successful show and tells him he’s bought a painting. Parker jabbers on and on, eventually driving away another guest just because he’s that annoying, and Charlie finally loses his patience, calls him common and stupid, and tells him to chop up the painting for firewood as Louisa listens in from her office, looking sad.
Because he’s Charlie, he gets over his wobbler quickly and immediately goes and apologizes to Parker, who instantly forgives him. The two men sit down together and Charlie tells him that the trouble with being a lord is that people don’t often tell you the truth, and when it really matters, you’d rather they did. He compares the situation to having a mortal illness the doctors don’t want to tell you about, and from Parker’s suddenly downcast face, we now know why he’s taking this expensive vacation at the Bentink. Charlie picks up on that right away and figures out Parker’s sick. Parker tries to shrug it off, but he’s unsuccessful and finally confesses that he’s quite ill indeed and there’s nothing anyone can do.
Charlie changes the subject by observing the room kind of sucks (although it doesn’t) but Parker doesn’t mind, because he’s just a clerk and this is grander than anything he’s ever seen. When he got his diagnosis, he decided to go out and really live for once. And how is he funding this fun little trip of his, you might ask?
He cleared out his and his wife’s life savings. Seriously. All the money they had both saved from their jobs their whole life—he helped himself to it, and took off to go party in London.
What. An. ASSHOLE! This is when this character totally lost me. He’s been presented this whole time as this affable, likeable guy (and continues to be for the rest of the episode), but he’s stolen all the family savings—and at least 50% of that belongs to his wife—so he could live high on the hog in the city without even having the decency of bringing her along. Oh, it gets better, too. His wife has no idea he cleared out their savings, she thinks the company he worked for gave him a free trip somewhere in return for his 25 years of service. Wow. WOW. I repeat: what an asshole. What was this poor woman supposed to do when he died and she suddenly found herself totally broke? Has he even thought of that, or is he too busy thinking about himself and what he wants? What a selfish dick. I don’t begrudge someone living it up a bit when they have a short amount of time left on earth, but if you’re going to do it at someone else’s expense, get that other person’s input, because once you’re gone, they may not appreciate suddenly having no money to pay for food or rent. Asshole.
Charlie heads down to the kitchen, where he interrupts Louisa’s rant about the lousy guinea fowl the butcher’s sent to ask her for a word. She follows him up to her office in a right snit, because she’s been dealing with crap all day, and let’s not forget she got a rather unwarranted earful from Charlie himself not too long ago. Charlie accuses Louisa of being a snob with Parker, and for some reason she’s offended by that, even though she herself has proudly claimed to be a snob in the past. He points out she’s given the guy a lousy room and second class food and service, and she gets her hackles right up.
When we next join Parker the Prick he’s being served an elaborate repast by Merriman, along with some claret sent up by Louisa herself. He bolts the claret and comments on it being warm. Merriman somehow manages not to roll his eyes. I give my eyes free reign to roll as much as they please, because I hate Parker.
Louisa comes in to affably ask him about his dinner and joins him in a glass of wine. She pretends that the cool treatment Parker received is all part of the Bentink experience, then raises a glass to Parker’s long life and happiness.
The next day, Parker’s introduced to Fred and then heads out to have some fun with Charlie, who’s got a grand day and night planned for them. He’s treating Parker to new clothes, lunch at the Ritz, and dinner later with some friends. Louisa watches them go, shaking her head in confusion at Charlie’s enthusiasm for this guy.
Charlie and Parker return late that night, drunk as can be and singing Champagne Charlie. Starr unlocks the door and lets them in; Charlie’s so far gone he can barely stand. Louisa comes down and she and Starr help the boys to bed.
Mary’s in Parker’s room, making up the fire. Parker stumbles in and collapses on the bed, drunkenly telling her all about his evening as she helps him take his shoes off.
The following morning, Mary bustles in, having presumably only had a couple of hours of sleep, not that you’d know it by her cheery demeanor. She opens the curtains and notices that Parker’s in bed and not looking too good.
Kitchens. Ethel starts sniffling, and when Cochrane asks her what’s wrong, Ethel sniffs that she’s done something terrible. Without pausing in what she’s doing, Cochrane says, “You haven’t cut your finger again and put blood on Mrs. Trotter’s soufflé?” Ha! And also, ew. No, Ethel’s all guilt ridden for having put pepper in Parker’s soup his first night there, and she’s sure God will strike her down for it. Everyone kind of rolls their eyes at her histrionics and Merriman exposits that Louisa’s keeping Parker there until he recovers. Or dies. Merriman doesn’t approve, because death in a hotel is bad for business. I would imagine so. Merriman thinks the guy should be at home, with his family. Mary, sitting nearby, looks thoughtful.
In Louisa’s office, Charlie urges her to send for Parker’s wife, but Louisa digs her heels in and refuses to do so because, in her own words, she “won’t have him upset by some nagging bitch of a wife.” Sigh. And now Louisa’s lost me. Have you met this woman, Louisa? How do you know she’s so awful? Maybe Parker’s the bad guy here, did you ever think of that?
Louisa insists that Parker would have told his wife if he wanted her to know. Charlie gently tells her she’s a kind woman (oh? Really?) but she can’t make Parker live out of the kindness of her heart any more than she can make Charlie an artist. Louisa still won’t give up.
She goes out and gets Parker a fancy dressing gown, because the doctor says he can get up the next day. He tells her it’s too good for him, but she counters that nothing is too good for her guests. Parker makes noises about going home soon, but Louisa won’t hear it, because she’s just gone completely deaf to anyone’s needs if they happen to run counter to what she wants and has decided on. She suggests getting a bottle of champagne for Parker because champagne is well known to be a cure all, I guess. Parker worries about the expense, but she says she can just tack it on to someone else’s bill. Jesus, what is with these people this episode? Amazingly, Parker then tells her that’s not quite honest. Hypocrite!
Louisa heads downstairs, where she’s intercepted by Starr, who whispers that Mrs. Parker’s turned up to see her husband. Indeed, a rather out-of-place looking woman is standing in the foyer, looking around the place like it’s a palace.
Having no choice, Louisa shows the woman up to Parker’s room. Mrs. Parker nicely observes that his trip ended a bit early. Still lying, he tells her it did, so he came to the hotel for a few days and was taken ill. She shrugs it all off and takes a seat beside the bed, observing that the hotel’s nice and must be a nice change for him. Rather than being the nagging bitch Louisa expected, this lady’s totally sweet, which makes me hate Parker even more than I did before.
He grabs her hand and asks her to take him home, because he doesn’t really belong there. She smiles sweetly and says all right, and then suggests they go first class, because they’ve never done that before. He says no, because they should save the money, which she’ll need after he’s gone. Oh, now he thinks about that. How fortunate for him Louisa’s told him not to worry about the bill. She takes a moment to absorb that, but then manages a smile and a nod. Louisa, who’s been listening outside the door this whole time, pokes her head in and says she’ll send lunch up for them both shortly. Parker tells his wife that Louisa’s a grand cook, almost as good as Mrs. Parker.
Charlie, for some reason, feels it’s necessary to take Shepherd to task for using him for publicity. Oh, Charlie, let it go. Shepherd admits it was a bit unfair, and when asked, admits that Charlie will never be much of an artist. He has a little bit of talent, but not enough. Instead of being an artist himself, Charlie volunteers to be Svorski’s patron, paying his rent for a year so he can continue to paint and show his work in Shepherd’s gallery. Before he goes, Shepherd presents Charlie with a check—payment for the pieces he sold to Parker and some of Charlie’s friends.
The Parkers are packing up and getting ready to leave. Before departing, Parker hands a little something over to Mary and thanks her for a lovely stay. She thanks him for being there.
Downstairs, Louisa and Mary watch the Parkers leave, and Louisa pouts that it’s a terrible shame, because if Mrs. Parker hadn’t shown up, they could have given Parker a great send off. And at that point, I swear to God, I literally smacked myself in the forehead in disbelief at her complete and utter selfishness. It’s totally disgusting to me, how she wanted to take over this man’s death, when it turns out all he wanted was to go home and die in peace with the wife he loved. What is wrong with Louisa?
Louisa figures Charlie was the one who wrote to Mrs. P., but Mary says she was the one who did it, because a man has a right to die at home. With that, she turns on her heel and stalks off. Good girl, Mary! Put this awful woman in her place!