Skip to main content

It’s all Bertie Wooster’s fault!

Jeeves and Wooster
3.4: Right Ho, Jeeves 
(aka Bertie Takes Gussie's Place at Deverill Hall)

A classic set-up of crossed identities as Bertie pretends to be Gussie and Gussie pretends to be Bertie. The only failing is that the actor pretending to be Gussie isn’t a patch on the original actor pretending to be Gussie. Although, the actress pretending to be Madeline is significantly superior than her predecessor(s). 


The plot of The Mating Season (the novel was first published about two decades on from much of the season’s source material) has been split between this and the following episode, although Deverill Hall, and its phalanx of aunts, are confined to this one. Bertie's required to pose as Gussie on account of the latter being sentenced to "fourteen days in chokey", a result of a night out with "Catsmeat" Potter Pirbright (John Elmes), during which he plunged into the Trafalgar Square fountain. Gussie has been sentenced to meet one of Madeline's godmothers (the other being Aunt Agatha: "Scylla and Charybdis" as Sir Watkyn jocularly refers to them), Dame Daphne Wentworth (Rosalind Knight, previously the hotel proprietress in 1.5 Brinkley Manor), and Bertie can't have him not show up lest it puts him back in the marital frame with Madeline.


BertieFor your information, Catsmeat, Jeeves takes a size fourteen hat, eats tonnes of dish, and moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. Speak, Jeeves.

Jeeves curiously opts out of joining him, despite suggesting the stratagem, on the grounds that The Ganymede Club would not look kindly on his "sailing under false colours" as Gussie's manservant. And yet, he's quite happy to show up a day later with Gussie (after the judge has had a change of heart) pretending that the latter is Bertie, which is about as false as colours get. In the novel, Jeeves has a much better reason, being that his uncle Charlie Silversmith butles at Deverill and knew Jeeves valeted for Bertie (quite a lot of good material had to remain in the novel to prune it down to these two episodes). Catsmeat masquerades as Bertie's valet Meadowes, meanwhile, complete with fake moustache (he's besotted with Dame Daphne's daughter Gertrude, planning to elope with her, whom Gussie falls for in short order, aggrieved at the demands Madeline has been making of him, while she doesn't even bother to show herself at the Hall).


BertieOh, but dash it, Aunt Agatha.
Aunt AgathaPlease! Kindly confine that sort of language to the taproom where it belongs.

Bertie is supposed to be making his way to Deverill to woo Gertrude (as he surmises, it couldn’t work between them because "Bertie and Gertie"), on the instructions of the fearsome Aunt Agatha. His initial audience with the collective of aunts is first-rate foolery, ushered into dinner as soon as he arrives ("Well, this is jolly") and making puns that fortunately aren’t understood ("all the little Deverills") or telling jokes that are even less so ("Is this Wembley? No, its Thursday"); "Unseemly anecdotes" as the real Gussie will later surmise. He also receives an insight into his Aunt's view of him:

Dame DaphneApparently, he's completely irresponsible Agatha says she often wonders if the kindest thing wouldn't be to put him in some kind of home.


The highlight of the episode, however, finds Bertie arriving at Madeline's friend Hilda's house to retrieve Gussie's misguided missive - Bertie has been writing to Madeline on Gussie's behalf (on the grounds he's sprained his wrist, when in fact he's all eyes for Gertrude) and Gussie has also written, breaking the engagement – only to take refuge behind the sofa, with the framed picture of his not-truly-besotted, when they enter the living room.  Soon after, Hilda pulls out a pistol out and begins shooting at him ("There’s a damned man behind the sofa!")


The gun and subsequent court case are Clive Exton sexing up the episode, with Madeline pleading with the judge for Bertie's release, and they aren't up to the true Wodehouse standard. Nor is the business with Bertie's fake golf club, laying the groundwork for Gussie to play a surprising blinder. This fuels another addition, Jeeves posing as Scotland Yard via Catsmeat's tache (while Jeeves has presented himself as the law in the novels, this occasion wasn't one of them) and arresting Bertie for being in possession of an illegal golf club in order to extract him from the clutches of Deverill Hall. Other moments of note find Bertie responding to Dame Daphne's "Don’t I recognise you?" with "Well, I hope so, yes", although she’s actually talking to the disguised Catsmeat, and the latter apologising to Wooster for use such long words when he says "infatuated".


This is nevertheless a good episode, with Aunt Agatha (Mary Wimbush, Aunt Lavinia in K9 and Company) on fine imperious form and appearances from Red Dwarf's second Kochanski Chloe Annet as Gertrude and Hillary Sesta as Aunt Emmeline (the fortune teller in Snakedance). But the entrance, or rather return, of Richard Braine, formerly Rupert Steggles (1.3 The Purity of the Turf), isn't a patch on Richard Garnett in the first two seasons. Braine is only ever doing an impression of someone wet, and not that well, while Garnett just exuded dampness whenever he appeared. Still, his rendition of "Ever so goosey goosey goosey goosey goo" is a suitably wretched, tuneless dirge ("Well, if this doesn't bring Gertrude to her senses, nothing will"), at least until the throng applaud him on the grounds that "He's just like Jack Buchanan" ("Well, the whole grizzly crew seemed to think it was wonderful" is Bertie's summary).


GussieDon't you think that Madeline's a bit, well, soppy, Bertie?

It's swings and roundabouts, though, as we’re now blessed with the definitive Madeline in the form of Elizabeth Heery (then Morton), and she'd be a fixture until the end of the series (previous innings were provided by Francesca Folan and Diana Blackburn, both paling in comparison to Heery's vision of simpering goopiness). Her every intonation, vocal quaver and doe-eyed look are perfection. The only shame of it is, she never got to play opposite Garnett.


GussieIt's all Bertie Wooster's fault!

The episode ends with a race against a train as Bertie tries to make it back to the Hall in time to warn of Madeline's imminent arrival. Alas, too late, although true love rather rights itself, if in rather perfunctory fashion that doesn't quite allow the episode to breathe (The Mating Season isn’t quite done justice). In parting, Bertie informs Jeeves that, should there ever be a society for suppression of aunts, he can be put me down as a founder member.


  

Sources
The Mating Season


Recurring Characters:

Aunt Agatha (1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.3, 3.3, 3.4)
Madeline Basset (1.4, 1.5, 2.1, 2.2, 3.4)
Gussie Fink-Nottle (1.4, 1.5, 2.1, 2.2, 3.4)




















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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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.

Dude. You’re my hero and shit.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was going to say I’d really like to see what Vince Gilligan has up his sleeve besidesBreaking Bad spinoffs. But then I saw that he had a short-lived series on CBS a few years back (Battle Creek). I guess things Breaking Bad-related ensure an easy greenlight, particularly from Netflix, for whom the original show was bread and butter in its take up as a streaming platform. There’s something slightly dispiriting about El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, though. Not that Gilligan felt the need to return to Jesse Pinkman – although the legitimacy of that motive is debatable – but the desire to re-enter and re-inhabit the period of the show itself, as if he’s unable to move on from a near-universally feted achievement and has to continually exhume it and pick it apart.

Two hundred thousand pounds, for this outstanding example of British pulchritude and learning.

The Avengers 4.18: The Girl From Auntie
I’ve mentioned that a few of these episodes have changed in my appreciation since I last watched the series, and The Girl from Auntie constitutes a very pronounced uptick. Indeed, I don’t know how I failed to rate highly the estimable Liz Fraser filling in for Diana Rigg – mostly absent, on holiday –for the proceedings (taking a not dissimilar amateur impostor-cum-sidekick role to Fenella Fielding in the earlier The Charmers). I could watch Fraser all day, and it’s only a shame this was her single appearance in the show.

The past is a statement. The future is a question.

Justified Season Six
(SPOILERS) There have been more than enough damp squib or so-so show finales of late to have greeted the demise of Justified with some trepidation. Thankfully it avoids almost every pitfall it might have succumbed to and gives us a satisfying send-off that feels fitting for its characters. This is a series that, even at its weakest (the previous season) is leagues ahead of most fare in an increasingly saturated sphere, so it’s a relief – even if there was never much doubt on past form – that it doesn’t drop the ball.

And of those character fates? In a show that often pulls back from giving Raylan Givens the great hero moments (despite his maintaining a veneer of ultra-cool, and getting “supporting hero” moments as he does in the finale, 6.13 The Promise), it feels appropriate that his entire (stated) motivation for the season should be undermined. He doesn’t get to take down Boyd Crowder, except in an incarcerating sense, but as always he is sanguine about it. After…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

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.

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.

What you do is very baller. You're very anarchist.

Lady Bird (2017)
(SPOILERS) You can see the Noah Baumbach influence on Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, with whom she collaborated on Frances Ha; an intimate, lo-fi, post-Woody Allen (as in, post-feted, respected Woody Allen) dramedy canvas that has traditionally been the New Yorker’s milieu. But as an adopted, spiritual New Yorker, I suspect Gerwig honourably qualifies, even as Lady Bird is a love letter/ nostalgia trip to her home city of Sacramento.

You’re only seeing what’s in front of you. You’re not seeing what’s above you.

Mr. Robot Season 2
(SPOILERS) I suspect my problem with Mr. Robot may be that I want it to be something it isn’t, which would entail it being a much better show than it is. And that’s its own fault, really, or rather creator and writer-director of umpteen episodes Sam Esmail’s, who has intentionally and provocatively lured his audience into thinking this really is an up-to-the-minute, pertinent, relevant, zeitgeisty show, one that not only has a huge amount to say about the illusory nature of our socio-economic system, and consequently the bedrock of our collective paradigm, but also the thorny subject of reality itself, both of which have been variably enticing dramatic fodder since the Wachowski siblings and David Fincher released a one-two punch at the end of the previous millennium.

In that sense, Mr. Robot’s thematic conceit is very much of a piece with its narrative form; it’s a conjuring act, a series of sleights of hand designed to dazzle the viewer into going with the flow, rath…

It’s the Mount Everest of haunted houses.

The Legend of Hell House (1973)
(SPOILERS) In retrospect, 1973 looks like a banner year for the changing face of the horror movie. The writing was on the wall for Hammer, which had ruled the roost in Britain for so long, and in the US the release of The Exorcist completed a transformation of the genre that had begun with Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby; the realistic horror film, where the terror was to be found in the everyday (the home, the family). Then there was Don’t Look Now, which refracted horror tropes through a typically Nic Roeg eye, fracturing time and vision in a meditative exploration of death and grief. The Wicker Man, meanwhile, would gather its reputation over the passing years. It stands as a kind of anti-horror movie, eschewing standard scares and shock tactics for a dawning realisation of the starkness of opposing belief systems and the fragility of faith.

In comparison to this trio, The Legend of Hell House is something of a throwback; its slightly stagey tone, and cobweb…