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Mr. Selfridge Backspin: S1E8 – A Little Healthy Competition

Mr. Selfridge Backspin S1E8: Lady Mae Loxley (KATHERINE KELLY), Victor Colleano (TRYSTAN GRAVELLE)

Like Selfridge’s itself, there was something for everyone on this week’s episode, with enough intrigue to keep some characters’ hands full, and more than a bit of competition (romantic and otherwise) for others to contend with. Although he proved to both his investors and his staff that he was back to his characteristic form last week, Harry seemed irked by the prospect of a professional challenge in the form of his friend, and one-time mentor, Frank Woolworth. With the fellow American, and accomplished storeowner, expanding his business into Britain, Harry became aware for the first time that Selfridge’s accessibility didn’t extend past the wealthiest customers.

Worried that a new Woolworth’s store on Oxford Street might undercut him, and unwilling to alienate the average shopper, Harry made a bold move in proposing the store’s first sale. While the thought of being challenged by Frank rankled with the distracted Harry, Mrs. Woolworth offered a cautionary view into the future for Rose, revealing that with her husband’s success had come increased strain on their relationship. Like Harry, Woolworth’s ambition seems to be boundless, and his wife suggested that the price of that professional drive is a marriage marked by distance and compromise.

Although upset by Mrs. Woolworth’s unhappiness, and worried by the similarities between their marriages, Rose didn’t have much time to dwell on the issue. Lady Mae, having taken a keen interest in Rosalie’s prospects, had already started vetting suitors for the eldest Selfridge child, and insisted that the family make an appearance at her soiree in her bid to play matchmaker. At the party, Rose left Harry and Frank to talk business, hoping to catch up with (and keep an eye on) their daughter, only to find that rather than hitting it off with one of Lady Mae’s eligible bachelors, she’d struck up a conversation with none other than Roderick Temple.

Mr. Selfridge Backspin S1E8: Harry Selfridge (JEREMY PIVEN), F.W. Woolworth (MICHAEL BRANDON)

Both a mentor and a competitor, Frank Woolworth was quick to offer unsolicited business advice to Harry.

Mr. Selfridge Backspin S1E8: Lady Mae Loxley (KATHERINE KELLY), Harry Selfridge (JEREMY PIVEN), Rose Selfridge (FRANCES O'CONNOR)

Lady Mae took great interest in the Selfridges’ eldest daughter, inviting the three of them to her latest soiree.

When Rosalie returned to the other guests, Roddy revealed that he only came to the soiree to see Rose, but she made it clear that she had no intention of furthering their relationship. Unfortunately, her daughter seemed to have taken a liking to the young artist, an advantage that worked in his favour when Rosalie invited him to call at the Selfridge home. Unsurprisingly, his presence riled the normally cool-headed Rose, who forbade him from returning to the house – an order that he refused to follow, rightly pointing out that she had far more to lose by informing her husband than he did. With her children now involved in their quickly souring friendship, we’re intrigued to see how Rose responds to the choice that Roddy has set out for her.

Meanwhile, Agnes and Henri began to spend more time together, inadvertently breaking Selfridge’s rules against staff relationships. The issue didn’t seem to be on either of their minds, however, and although Henri drew inspiration from their differing backgrounds, their interaction at the store remained professional. For his part, Victor grew impatient with his arrangement with Lady Mae and, disillusioned with the experience, seemed to have a renewed interest in (and more time for) Agnes. Sadly for Victor, it looks as though he may have missed the boat, unless something unforeseen manages to push Selfridge’s creative director, and its resident ingénue, apart.

With Agnes thriving in her new role in the fashion department, Kitty and Doris were both in the running to replace her as the senior assistant in accessories. After informing Doris, during her interview, that Harry wouldn’t provide a reference for Miss Bunting – a message she later had to deliver to the poor woman – Mr. Grove suggested to Miss Mardle that she take over the position. Surprised by his recommendation, Miss Mardle convinced him to concede, and the position was awarded to Kitty.

The situation only served to underline the uncertainty and discomfort between the secretive couple, a condition that was heightened when Grove proposed that they stop seeing one another for a time. Although he cited grief at his wife’s passing as the reason behind the request, it seemed as though Mr. Grove isn’t being completely forthright with his longtime companion, and we couldn’t help but notice that he’s become enamoured with Doris.

Mr. Selfridge Backspin S1E8: Doris Miller (LAUREN GRACE), Kitty Hawkins (AMY BETH HAYES)

Best friends Doris and Kitty were competing to move up in the ranks after Agnes switched departments.

Mr. Selfridge Backspin S1E8: Victor Colleano (TRYSTAN GRAVELLE)

Victor was growing impatient with Lady Mae’s empty promises, and decided he’d have better luck working alone.

Things were no less awkward when Ellen Love made a return to the scene, arriving at the Palm Court restaurant on the arm of the ever-troublesome Tony Travers. Despite being relieved of her duties as the Spirit of Selfridge’s, Miss Love seemed intent on making her presence know, and wasn’t bothered when she and Tony happened to run into Harry on his way to lunch. Taking the opportunity to inform him of her latest role – the lead in Tony’s new play – it appeared that things are looking up for Ellen, but while Harry was nothing but polite, it’s clear that he still wants as little to do with her as possible.

Harry’s mind was soon back on the operation of the store, though, as the new menu for the upcoming sale gave Victor a chance to impress Selfridge’s owner. Offering up suggestions for an exciting and unpretentious spread, Victor made a good impression, proving that in his quest to own a restaurant, his talents and ambition will serve him better than Lady Mae ever would have.

After days of preparation and carefully selected markdowns, the sale at Selfridge’s went off without a hitch, drawing a far more varied crowd into the store and meeting the discerning – and thrifty – standards set by Mrs. Crabb. The success was dampened slightly, however, when Harry learned that Woolworth wouldn’t be opening a location in London after all, due to his wife’s deteriorating health. Like his wife at the episode’s start, Frank left Harry with some sobering advice of his own, warning him that while business can seem all-important to men with their drive, their achievements mean nothing without family. And, given the events that transpired under his roof this week, we’re inclined to think that Harry should heed his words.

– Kate Shepherd 

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