This week on All Creatures Great & Small, the remaining members of Skeldale House are still coping with Tristan’s absence. Helen’s efforts last season to assist Siegfried with the paperwork have not improved either the organization or the finances of the practice. There’s also the issue of more farm and clinic calls than available vets. Siegfried decides to try something to solve the problem, but will it work? Let’s dig a bit deeper and find out.

The episode begins with animal shenanigans. Mrs. Stoke’s goats can’t stand to be apart even when one needs treatment. Both end up tearing Skeldale’s kitchen apart. This scenario is directly from Herriot’s real memoir, by the way. That’s not where the messiness ends. Siegfried’s chaotic accounting methods have resulted in Cargill the medicine supplier calling in their debt. Unfortunately, several farmers have either not paid their bills or paid in food items or favors. Siegfried’s newest dance partner, Miss. Harbottle, agrees to act as a secretary to sort out the mess. She’s not only horrified by Volonel puttering around in his cage but also by how antiquated Siegfried’s practice is compared to the modern businesses she’s worked for before. Miss. Harbottle’s capitalist efficiency also causes a culture clash with a potential client.

James and Helen meet Joe Coyne and his little ferret Wilf at the Drovers. Coyne has trained Wilf to entertain crowds with tricks and “Ferret Roulette” where people bet on Wilf’s running pattern. James pets Wilf and notices a lump underneath his fur. He tells Coyne to bring Wilf to the surgery for further examination. Coyne arrives at the surgery and Harbottle turns him away because he didn’t make a “proper appointment” ahead of time. He feels misled and walks away.

While Harbottle is running Skeldale with an iron fist — even to Mrs. Hall’s annoyance — Siegfried is called out to Mr. Daikin’s farm. His cow Blossom has a torn udder after another cow trampled on her. Siegfried determines that her recovery may be a drain on Daikin’s resources and that he may be better off selling Blossom to Mallock’s. Siegfried immediately spends the money Daikins gives him on something else instead of conforming to Harbottle’s new system for tracking petty cash. At this point, both James and Siegfried have figured out that Harbottle’s methods are a poor match for country vets, but handing her the pink slip proves to be tougher than expected. Mrs. Hall advises Siegfried to be firm yet honest.

Speaking of honesty, Mrs. Hall tells Helen that she’s filed for divorce. While Helen is supportive, Harbottle puts her foot in it by calling Gerald “Mr. Hall” right as they’re about to go out on a movie date. Gerald isn’t offended, but Mrs. Hall can’t help but feel that she’s in an awkward limbo and people may be judging her negatively for moving on. This doesn’t stop her from finishing her movie date, which is a good step forward. Helen and James also have their moment of honesty when they decide that they’re ready to start their family! The unpredictability of the RAF is still hanging over both of them, but they’ll let nature take its course. We love this for them!

Meanwhile, James meets Coyne again at the Drovers and apologizes for Harbottle’s rudeness. He agrees to sneak Wilf over to Skeldale after Harbottle has left for the day. James then examines the growth. Poor Coyne faints after seeing the blood on the examination table. Harbottle later finds out about Wilf and is mad at both James and Siegfried for their habits. Siegfried tells her off by saying Skeldale puts the animals before profit. Before he can fire her officially, she resigns.

It’s not explicitly stated in the episode but Joe Coyne is an Irish Traveller. All Creatures Great & Small has featured Travellers as part of the Yorkshire farming community who are also seen as outsiders in previous episodes. This one centers the culture conflict around how Skeldale House operates as a service to all the animals and owners. Screenwriter Helen Raynor should be praised for writing Coyne without using the word “traveller” or even worse, the g-slur.

The lesson of this episode is that anyone new who comes into Skeldale to ease the workload must have the same spirit of altruism towards the animals and their owners that James and Siegfried do. Will there be another attempt at recruiting help? How will James and Helen’s decision change their future? We’ll have to find out on All Creatures Great and Small next week.