Skip to main content

Jeeves, you really are the specific dream rabbit.

Jeeves and Wooster
2.2: A Plan for Gussie 
(aka The Bassetts’ Fancy Dress Ball)

The cow creamer business dispatched, the second part of this The Code of the Woosters adaptation preoccupies itself with further Gussie scrapes, and the continuing machinations of Stiffy. Fortunately, Spode is still about to make things extra unpleasant.


Sir Roderick delivers more of his winning policies (“the Right to be issued with a British bicycle and an honest, British-made umbrella”) and some remarkably plausible-sounding nonsense political soundbites (“Nothing stands between us and victory except our defeat!”, “Tomorrow is a new day; the future lies ahead!”) while Jeeves curtly dismisses Spode trying to tag him as one of the working masses. It’s in Spode’s ability to crush skulls that we’re interested, though, and it looks as if his powers have deserted him at the start.


Jeeves has given Gussie a pep-talk in how to get over his terror of Spode (“We don’t fear those we despise… fill one’s mind with scornful thoughts”) but Bertie’s quite right to be sceptical about its efficacy (it doesn’t make Gussie any good at cricket, for starters), particularly since it leads the newt fancier to write all his insults down in a book so he won’t forget them. Which falls into Stiffy’s hands (she is still set on her plan to curry favour with Sir Watkyn; Stinker must steal Oates’ helmet and “If you can’t, you’ll never be bishop!”). 


Her light-fingered approach naturally leads to scrapes for Bertie, most dynamically when, during their hunt for the notebook in her room, he and Jeeves leap from a roused and yapping Bartholomew to the safety of the top of a chest of drawers (querying Jeeves’ cowardice, the valet draws his master’s attention to “the number and size of teeth”). Compounding this, Stiffy then gives Spode the notebook and lays the finger on Bertie when the theft of Oates’ helmet comes to light.


Bertie Wooster: Have you ever thought about love, Sir Watkyn?

With Bertie under threat of marital damnation from Madeline (“I will be your wife, Bertie”), the idea of announcing to Spode he will be wedding Stiffy (such that Stinker will seem like a good choice) doesn’t exactly elicit the expected response (Jeeves must be off the fish this week), since Sir Watykn is only relieved she isn’t Madeline, who told him earlier Bertie was due to become his son-in-law (“Oh, well, in that case. I’m delighted”).


Gussie Fink-Nottle: You silly old ass! You unmitigated, pudding-headed old jobbernow!

The juggling of elements is particularly deft in this episode, and the scenes with Spode are as delightful as ever. Come the fancy dress party climax, with Spode as centurion, Bertie as T E Lawrence and Gussie as the devil, it’s time for more farcical chasing, mostly of the variety of Spode pursuing Gussie (“Come out, you putrid little earthworm!”) or Sir Watkyn doing likewise (Gussie unwisely insults him, handing him his notebook to read after Sir Watkyn pulls the plug on his newts).


Bertie Wooster: You can’t be a successful dictator and design women’s underclothing.

The Eulalie ruse is such a good one, it’s only right that Plum chose to dismantle if after this. As Bertie notes before the climax, having the word alone is rather like holding up a bank and not knowing if your gun is loaded or not. He essentially admits it’s a masterful deus ex machina (“Isn’t anyone else I can use it on, is there?”) It’s interesting that Exton chose to alter the novel’s ending, in which Jeeves reveals that Spode is a designer of women’s undergarments of his own accord. Perhaps he considered it a little too indiscreet, as here, Bertie (very conveniently) happens to see Spode with a slip through a shop window.


Bertie Wooster: Are these the actions of rational human beings?
Jeeves: Difficult to say, sir.
Bertie Wooster: Is it for this we dragged ourselves from the primeval ooze, to stir up the notions of simple honest people to a frenzy, and then to go around playing tennis and gigging?
Jeeves: An interesting question, sir.

On the Bertie front, he’s given to opine on the mysteries of the female of the species as a source of incipient pain and disaster for his truly. It’s been said that Wodehouse’s female characters aren’t very fully formed, and that may be true, but I’m not sure the charge is really any more the case than any of his other broad-stroke supporting characters. The real point is his (comparative) lack of female lead characters. It feels idle to single out the author on this area.


Bertie Wooster: Jeeves, you may get rid of those handkerchiefs. I owe it to you. Thank you, sir. I did it last night.

Also on the put-upon Bertie side, he upheld a rare non-capitulation to Jeeves with regard to the latter’s pulling for a world cruise in the previous episode (accusing his gentleman’s gentleman of a Viking strain, and a desire to witness the dancing girls of Bali; Bertie refuses to be decanted in some ocean-going liner and lugged off round the world). He’s less resilient this week, as Jeeves is wonderfully belittling over his latest fashion faux pas: “novelty” handkerchiefs. Initially, Jeeves is reluctant even to label these monogrammed monstrosities as such (“I think not, sir. They appear to have writing on them”), his masterstroke being the suggestion that anyone needing them must be “in danger of forgetting their name”.


With The Code of the Woosters completed, there would be equal parts picking and choosing and proper adaptations for the rest of the season. Certainly, the four-episode run from 1.4 might rank as the most consistently high quality of the entire run, but the mix and match of the rest, which includes the brief tenure of valet Brinkley, ensure there’s still a high standard of material for the picking.



Sources: 
The Code of the Woosters


Recurring characters:

Sir Watkyn Bassett (1.1, 2.1, 2.2)
Sir Roderick Spode (2.1, 2.2)
Madeline Basset (1.4, 1.5, 2.1, 2.2)
Gussie Fink-Nottle (1.4, 1.5, 2.1, 2.2)
Rev H P “Stinker” Pinker (2.1, 2.2)
Stephanie “Stiffy” Byng (2.1, 2.2)
Constable Oates (2.1, 2.2)
“Barmy” Fotheringay-Phipps (1.1, 1,2, 1.4, 1.5, 2.1, 2.2)
“Oofy” Prosser (1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.5, 2.2)











Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

You guys sure like watermelon.

The Irishman aka I Heard You Paint Houses (2019)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps, if Martin Scorsese hadn’t been so opposed to the idea of Marvel movies constituting cinema, The Irishman would have been a better film. It’s a decent film, assuredly. A respectable film, definitely. But it’s very far from being classic. And a significant part of that is down to the usually assured director fumbling the execution. Or rather, the realisation. I don’t know what kind of crazy pills the ranks of revered critics have been taking so as to recite as one the mantra that you quickly get used to the de-aging effects so intrinsic to its telling – as Empire magazine put it, “you soon… fuggadaboutit” – but you don’t. There was no point during The Irishman that I was other than entirely, regrettably conscious that a 75-year-old man was playing the title character. Except when he was playing a 75-year-old man.

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman.

Casino Royale (2006)
(SPOILERS) Despite the doubts and trepidation from devotees (too blonde, uncouth etc.) that greeted Daniel Craig’s casting as Bond, and the highly cynical and low-inspiration route taken by Eon in looking to Jason Bourne's example to reboot a series that had reached a nadir with Die Another Day, Casino Royale ends up getting an enormous amount right. If anything, its failure is that it doesn’t push far enough, so successful is it in disarming itself of the overblown set pieces and perfunctory plotting that characterise the series (even at its best), elements that would resurge with unabated gusto in subsequent Craig excursions.

For the majority of its first two hours, Casino Royale is top-flight entertainment, with returning director Martin Campbell managing to exceed his excellent work reformatting Bond for the ‘90s. That the weakest sequence (still good, mind) prior to the finale is a traditional “big” (but not too big) action set piece involving an attempt to…

You're skipping Christmas! Isn't that against the law?

Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
Ex-coke dealer Tim Allen’s underwhelming box office career is, like Vince Vaughn’s, regularly in need of a boost from an indiscriminate public willing to see any old turkey posing as a prize Christmas comedy.  He made three Santa Clauses, and here is joined by Jamie Lee Curtis as a couple planning to forgo the usual neighbourhood festivities for a cruise.

The guy practically lives in a Clue board.

Knives Out (2019)
(SPOILERS) “If Agatha Christie were writing today, she’d have a character who’s an Internet troll.” There’s a slew of ifs and buts in that assertion, but it tells you a lot about where Rian Johnson is coming from with Knives Out. As in, Christie might – I mean, who can really say? – but it’s fair to suggest she wouldn’t be angling her material the way Johnson does, who for all his pronouncement that “This isn’t a message movie” is very clearly making one. He probably warrants a hesitant pass on that statement, though, to the extent that Knives Out’s commentary doesn’t ultimately overpower the whodunnit side of the plot. On the other hand, when Daniel Craig’s eccentrically accented sleuth Benoit Blanc is asked “You’re not much of a detective, are you?” the only fair response is vigorous agreement.

It's their place, Mac. They have a right to make of it what they can. Besides, you can't eat scenery!

Local Hero (1983)
(SPOILERS) With the space of thirty-five years, Bill Forsyth’s gentle eco-parable feels more seductive than ever. Whimsical is a word often applied to Local Hero, but one shouldn’t mistake that description for its being soft in the head, excessively sentimental or nostalgic. Tonally, in terms of painting a Scottish idyll where the locals are no slouches in the face of more cultured foreigners, the film hearkens to both Powell and Pressburger (I Know Where I’m Going!) and Ealing (Whisky Galore!), but it is very much its own beast.

I’m the famous comedian, Arnold Braunschweiger.

Last Action Hero (1993)
(SPOILERS) Make no mistake, Last Action Hero is a mess. But even as a mess, it might be more interesting than any other movie Arnie made during that decade, perhaps even in his entire career. Hellzapoppin’ (after the 1941 picture, itself based on a Broadway revue) has virtually become an adjective to describe films that comment upon their own artifice, break the fourth wall, and generally disrespect the convention of suspending disbelief in the fictions we see parading across the screen. It was fairly audacious, some would say foolish, of Arnie to attempt something of that nature at this point in his career, which was at its peak, rather than playing it safe. That he stumbled profoundly, emphatically so since he went up against the behemoth that is Jurassic Park (slotted in after the fact to open first), should not blind one to the considerable merits of his ultimate, and final, really, attempt to experiment with the limits of his screen persona.

Of course, one m…

I'm reliable, I'm a very good listener, and I'm extremely funny.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
(SPOILERS) When I wrote my 23 to see in 2019, I speculated that James Cameron might be purposefully giving his hand-me-downs to lesser talents because he hubristically didn’t want anyone making a movie that was within a spit of the proficiency we’ve come to expect from him. Certainly, Robert Rodriguez and Tim Miller are leagues beneath Kathryn Bigelow, Jimbo’s former spouse and director of his Strange Days screenplay. Miller’s no slouch when it comes to action – which is what these movies are all about, let’s face it – but neither is he a craftsman, so all those reviews attesting that Terminator: Dark Fate is the best in the franchise since Terminator 2: Judgment Day may be right, but there’s a considerable gulf between the first sequel (which I’m not that big a fan of) and this retcon sequel to that sequel.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.