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

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke (the answer is: Mad Max: Fury Road )? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

Why don't we go on a picnic, up the hill?

Invaders from Mars (1986) (SPOILERS) One can wax thematical over the number of remakes of ’50s movies in the ’80s – and ’50s SF movies in particular – and of how they represent ever-present Cold War and nuclear threats, and steadily increasing social and familial paranoias and disintegrating values. Really, though, it’s mostly down to the nostalgia of filmmakers for whom such pictures were formative influences (and studios hoping to make an easy buck on a library property). Tobe Hooper’s version of nostalgia, however, is not so readily discernible as a John Carpenter or a David Cronenberg (not that Cronenberg could foment such vibes, any more than a trip to the dental hygienist). Because his directorial qualities are not so readily discernible. Tobe Hooper movies tend to be a bit shit. Which makes it unsurprising that Invaders from Mars is a bit shit.

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli

Somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun.

The Sound of Music (1965) (SPOILERS) One of the most successful movies ever made – and the most successful musical – The Sound of Music has earned probably quite enough unfiltered adulation over the years to drown out the dissenting voices, those that denounce it as an inveterately saccharine, hollow confection warranting no truck. It’s certainly true that there are impossibly nice and wholesome elements here, from Julie Andrews’ career-dooming stereotype governess to the seven sonorous children more than willing to dress up in old curtains and join her gallivanting troupe. Whether the consequence is something insidious in its infectious spirit is debatable, but I’ll admit that it manages to ensnare me. I don’t think I’d seen the movie in its entirety since I was a kid, and maybe that formativeness is a key brainwashing facet of its appeal, but it retains its essential lustre just the same.