Previously on Mr Selfridge, a returned Henri was hairy and bitter, Rose continued to be smitten with Delphine Day, Mr. Grove started to lose his shit, Agnes came close to losing her shit, and Lady Mae’s husband confirmed that he himself is a piece of shit. While this last fact stays true throughout this week’s episode, the rest begins to shift, sometimes in satisfying ways, and sometimes not.
The heart of the storyline this week revolves around Selfridge’s big “Don’t Worry About War; Keep Shopping!” promotional push, Empire Week. Because this is the early 20th century, and the sun never sets on the British Empire. They alternatively could’ve called it “Cultural Annihilation Week,” but I guess that didn’t sound as snappy. Anyway, one of the lands they’re so proud to have brutish control over is India, and the episode starts with Agnes Towler working through the night on a display of stylish white people in the jungle, including an opening shot of a terrifying looking tiger accompanied by creepy background music. Geez Louise, Ms. Towler. Some recappers have weak hearts.
Of course, all of her effort is for naught, as the next morning when she goes to show Mr. Selfridge the scary India exhibit, Prickly Dick in fashion has removed the entire thing and replaced it with his own flashy version. This Thackeray guy is nowhere near Lord Loxley in creepiness levels, but man, is he still a jerk. Agnes takes the jungle motif to the restaurant instead, but even Victor gives her a hard time about the details, because Victor is still hurt about the whole Agnes abandoning him for two years in Paris thing. The atmosphere between them in these first few episodes of the season is beyond uncomfortable, so listen up, Victor and Agnes: just have a good sit down and work through your feelings already, okay?
Franco wanders over to Victor after Agnes walks away to say, “Hey, mate, I know love is hard, but go tell her you’re sorry because you’re kind of being a meanie.” Victor replies, “You’re so right, Franco. I’m so glad you traveled back in time from Skins to help an Italian brother out,” and then he goes to get his girl. Except his girl has already become distracted. Because when Agnes retreats downstairs, she discovers the Selfridge’s shock of the day: Henri is back. And he’s shaved. And Agnes’s face once again shines with the light of flowers blooming in spring, the first time it’s been so all season. Her falling into his arms feels like one of those moments when you didn’t realize how much you’d missed something until it’s in front of your face again, and colors seem brighter and you can feel your heart pumping blood into your veins again and your mind suddenly calms and clears.
Victor, of course, arrives just in time to view this scene, and his face falls as much as Agnes’s just lifted. Add on top of this the fact that talk of war has made anti-Italian talk rise sharply–Kitty warns him and Franco that they better not seem unpatriotic–and it’s a pretty crappy week for Victor.
When it comes to crappy times, though, Lady Mae is living them 24/7. As she continues to suffer through life with her mean little bug of a husband, her face registers varying beautiful shades of disappointment and disgust.
But listen here, Mr. Loxley. This is Lady Mae, goddammit, and she ain’t going to live like this forever. Sure, she may be locked in your prison, but she’ll at least make her prison somewhat bearable while she’s there. She has suspicions that the good Lord may be having some financial trouble, so she goes to the bank to deposit some of her valuable jewels in a secret safe deposit box. First rule of marrying a cruel lord: always have a secret safe deposit box. And wear velour and a dashing hat when you deposit stuff in it.
She then uses her foxiness to wheedle information about Loxley’s exact financial woes from one of the lowly bank workers. As any of us would, he succumbs to her spell and spills all the beans: Loxley is broke, up to his ears in gambling debts. Because some rich and foolish dudes be SO rich and foolish that they lose it all playing games they never think they can lose.