Jeeves and Wooster
4.6: The Tie that Binds
aka The Exs Are Nearly Married Off
Good grief. Well, Exton was at least consistent in his Season 4 malfeasance, such that The Tie that Binds arrives replete with Plumbo Jumbo, a bloody kangaroo (I suppose we can at least be grateful Spode wasn’t ascribed a romantic relationship with Celia) and dual Bertie engagements. When Bertie was “in America” I’d be wishing they’d sensibly relocate his stories to a location the series was actually equipped to visualise. Now he’s back in England, I just wish they’d stop visualising them altogether, so it’s a slender mercy the series finished here.
From the pre-penultimate to the penultimate – Aunt’s Aren’t Gentlemen would be spared the Exton touch – this finale varnishes an adaptation of Much Obliged, Jeeves (1971). While certain core ingredients match up, there are also a number of significant additions, deductions and alterations. Aunt Dahlia and Brinkley Court are out, with Totleigh and Aunt Agatha coming in instead. Perhaps this occurred because the series called Bertie’s ex-gentleman’s gentleman Brinkley, rather than Bingley, and he returns, now with some land through an inheritance; Brinkley has also stolen the Junior Ganymede Club book, information from which – “The idiosyncrasies of all the gentlemen’s gentlemen’s gentlemen, if I may so put it” – he plans to use to secure a win in his bet on the local election.
Bertie: But you’re an absolute idiot, Ginger.
Ginger: I know, but it’s a safe seat.
This is because it has some goods on Ginger Winslip – or Gerald Parsnip, as Spode refers to him – who has been pressured into standing by fiancé Florence Craye. Ginger is quite useless, but he has Spode making speeches on his behalf, so spurring his chances exponentially (sample Spode topics include “The vexed question of overpopulation… forbidding anyone earning less than £500 a year to have children, £1,000 – two, £1,500 – three and so forth”). Spode is present with Madeline, his fiancé. Ginger soon becomes disillusioned with Florence, on account of his secretary Magnolia Glendennon’s interest in him; he throws his lot in for his opponent and elopes with Magnolia (Florence doesn’t have time to break the engagement; he just races off with her).
In both accounts, Spode is inspired to run, but he will have to renounce his title to do so. This leads to Madeline calling things off, on account of the title being the real reason she’s interested in him (at least that is explicable, even if the entire thing is no less icky on Spode’s part). Exton’s addition of Florence being engaged to Bertie besides Madeline is actually a decent one, leading to some – perhaps imperfectly executed – mugging in which Bertie and Jeeves attempt to avoid either of them saying they’re engaged to Wooster while both are in his presence (in the novel, both consider marrying Bertie, but matters don’t escalate to such a degree). And as ever, there are less egregious embellishments; instead of Jeeves slipping Bingley/Brinkley a mickey, Bertie steals the book while Jeeves distracts the former valet; this brings Oates onto the scene (the end of the novel finds Jeeves destroying the pages featuring Bertie).
However… Tuppy appears in both versions, but his plotline in the episode has him in disguise, with a latest cartoonish money-making scheme – Plumbo Jumbo – in an attempt to unblock Totley’s drains. Leading to eruptions all round. So gone is LP Runke and the silver porringer he’s due to sell Uncle Tom, and gone is his making a mint off Tuppy’s dad’s invention (Dahlia is attempting to persuade Runkle to give Tuppy a fair share so he can marry her daughter Angela; this leads to her theft of the porringer and Bertie getting the blame, with the benefit of Florence being dissuaded from his suitability as a marriage partner).
Spode: They need me, Watkyn. The people need me.
Besides the drains slapstick, Spode and Madeline are to be married in The Tie that Binds, this shifting at short notice to Bertie, and then back to Spode (and then the drains interrupt matters, so both the book and the show share the prospect of their nuptials ultimately unrealised). In the novel, Spode returns to Madeline after receiving a face full of vegetable matter during a melee at the candidate debate; this leads to his reconsideration of running and thus… there is no need for Celia. Of all Exton’s additions, this may be the most desperately feeble. Rummaging around for something else to equal Eulalie, he fails resoundingly and settles for an incident in which Spode, during an Antipodean sojourn, was “suspected of nobbling Celia in a kangaroo race”. It’s unduly pathetic (Florence cooing over Brinkley running in the election instead of Ginger isn’t much more convincing).
Jeeves: They make an… interesting couple, don’t they, sir?
What’s good here? Well the guest cast are on form, although Julian Gartside makes for a rather anonymous Ginger Winslip, and Selina Cadell has little to do as labour candidate Mrs McCorkadale. Robert Daws, in particular, is having a lot of fun with his drain man disguises, even if the plotline itself is regrettable. The credits roll with Bertie and Jeeves hightailing it out of the church, drains-doused attendees in hot pursuit. They should have played the Benny Hill theme, rather than Ann Dudley’s. Indeed, I seem to recall this was the kind of “business” that typically ended an episode of Rentaghost. A somewhat ignominious end to the show, then, and illustrative of a season that, if one wishes one’s Wodehouse on the undiluted side, may be best avoided.
Much Obliged, Jeeves (1963)
Madeline Basset (1.4, 1.5, 2.1, 2.2, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 4.5, 4.6)
Sir Roderick Spode (2.1, 2.2, 3.5, 3.6, 4.5, 4.6)
Sir Watkyn Bassett (1.1, 2.1, 2.2, 3.5, 4.5, 4.6)
Florence Craye (3.5, 4.2, 4.4, 4.6)
Tuppy Glossop (1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.5, 2.6, 3.1, 4.1, 4.6)
Aunt Agatha (1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.3, 3.3, 3.4, 4.1, 4.6)
Brinkley (2.4, 4.6)
Constable Oates (2.1, 2.2, 3.5, 4.5, 4.6)
Butterfield (4.5, 4.6)