Secrets and hidden things are all over this episode. In fact, this might be one of the most tightly themed episodes in recent memory (if ever!). And I can happily report, it’s significantly less of a downer than last week. I guess the writers realised we all needed some balance!
First, we meet a woman, Mrs Campbell, who’s about to have her second child and appears to be dealing with pica. She’s sneaking snacks of coal, which I thought would alarm everyone, but they all act like it’s NBD. And, indeed, it is NBD, because she gives birth to a perfectly healthy baby girl, attended by Trixie.
The proud papa offers Trixie a little glass of sherry after the birth. She tries to demur, as she’s on duty, but he urges and she relents. Then, during a post-birth check-up, Mrs C lets slip about Trixie’s tipple to Nurse Crane, who goes back to Nonnatus and has STRONG words with her co-worker. She won’t report her for drinking on duty, but she does tell her, in no uncertain terms, to get herself back to her AA meetings.
Trixie obligingly goes to a meeting, but before it can even get started she slips out, picks up a bottle of gin on her way home, and locks herself in a room at Nonnatus to drink alone. Secret drinking, lying… I don’t really need to tell you that none of this is good (but I will anyway). Also, the sight of a clearly pregnant Helen George digging into bottles of gin is a bit disturbing, even on a show set in the 60’s, and even with the knowledge that it’s not really gin.
In other dramas, a man named Saddiq Gani returns after a trip back to his home country (Pakistan, I believe) with a surprise for his wife: her 15-year-old cousin, Parveen. Oh, and an extra surprise: Parveen is his second wife, and she’s quite heavily pregnant. Apparently this was all arranged during a previous trip home and Saddiq never told his poor wife anything about this until she was confronted, quite brutally, with the evidence. This would be enough to swallow at the best of times, but apparently Mrs Gani has never been able to have children, though she desperately wanted them, so this is essentially like getting slapped in the face and punched in the stomach all at once. No wonder she runs out of the room, saying she feels sick.
So things are… tense in that household, to say the least. In the middle of it is a girl who’s still a child who probably had little to no say in this. Her youth causes some concern for Turner, since, you know, 15 is pretty young to be having a baby. And the whole situation probably throws up some legal implications. She is, for instance, below the age of marital consent in England, and bigamy is also not legal in Britain. While that’s mentioned, it’s not actually explored, but it makes me wonder about the legal status of the baby. It’d be technically illegitimate, right? I know that was socially frowned upon at the time, but not sure if there were legal implications. Like: who would have actual, legal parental rights over this child? The underage mother? Both mother and father? The father? Could pose some difficulties down the line, if Parveen ever wanted to leave. But I don’t know for sure what any of that means. Anyone want to fill us in in the comments, I’d be grateful!
Anyway, Parveen’s not stupid, and she understands the tension in the household. Mrs G basically won’t have anything to do with her. Sister Julienne hears about the situation and has a word with Mrs G, who at first doesn’t want to talk but then breaks down and tells her all about how horrible this entire situation is. And it is! Can you imagine having something like this just launched at you, with no warning? To have no say in this? Good lord.
Parveen goes in to labour and gives birth to a son, with Mrs G at her side. It seems, for a few seconds, like there might be some sort of family solidarity at last, bonding over this much-wanted infant, but then Mr G basically shuts his first wife out so he and his second wife can coo over their son, and the heartbroken woman just leaves them to it. Mr G, if you’re going to make this arrangement work, you need to get it together and start including BOTH your wives. I understand, of course, that there’s a whole cultural aspect to this arrangement, but all the same… He’s not a bad guy, he just needs to sort out his personal situation in such a way that everyone can live peacefully and even happily together. And a lot of that comes down to proper communication and inclusion.
Parveen’s successfully given birth, but she is not at all interested in taking care of her baby. She just leaves him to cry, won’t feed him. The nurses are concerned. Julienne once again goes to Mrs G and begs her to intervene, and although she’s initially reluctant, injuring her hand on a sewing machine helps turn her around, convinced by the kindness shown by both Turner and Julienne. She heads to the hospital with some food for Parveen and gets the girl eating. The spark of something other than loathing from her cousin seems to perk Parveen up, so it looks like things’ll be ok here.
Things are less ok for Trixie, though. Christopher shows up at Nonnatus while she’s out on rounds, and Crane basically tells him that Trixie’s going through some serious stuff right now, so he can’t go jerking her about. Poor girl needs a friend, not a practically married man. (What’s his status? I thought he was divorced? Is he going back to his wife?) Christopher earnestly says he has no wish to hurt Trixie, because he loves her. He catches her later, when she’s coming back from rounds, and offers himself up as a friend who listens. Trixie ends up confessing about having fallen off the wagon and admits she needs help. He takes her… somewhere, it’s not quite clear to me where. A meeting? A clinic? At any rate, it’s a place where whatever’s said inside is confidential. When she comes out, she thanks him, but tells him they really can’t be in each other’s lives. At all. I still don’t agree with any of this. I feel like he’s the best person to be in her life right now, because he’s one of the only people who truly knows the extent of her problem, and who understands how fragile and damaged she really is. You need the person who knows where all your bodies are buried when you’re going through hard times, because you don’t have to put on an act for that person.
Trixie has decided she not only needs to send Christopher packing, she also needs several months of rehab
so Helen George can go have a baby so she can fully get in control of her problem. Julienne grants her six months’ leave. Aww, Nonnatus won’t be the same without you, Trixie! Good timing for Barbara to come back, though. Guess the actor who plays Tom didn’t take much paternity leave?
And in other Nonnatus news: Sister MJ has cataracts. Fred’s the one who flags it up, after he notices she’s using an extremely powerful magnifying lens to read the paper. She is coaxed into seeing a specialist, who recommends surgery, but she completely freaks out at the idea of going under the knife. She reassures Julienne that she’ll be fine, because she’s got all her favourite books memorised, and Julienne gently points out that she can’t really rely on that memory the way she used to.
Still, MJ resists, until Fred has a talk with her over a bouquet of flowers (which, sadly, she can’t even identify as flowers from a short distance away). There’s a fair bit of back-and-forth that ultimately ends with her saying this must be God’s will, right? That she go blind? And Fred employs the argument that always pops into my head when people say something like that about something modern medicine can cure: did God not create the cure and put it directly in your path, then? Who are you to slap away the helping hand of the Almighty? He also brings up Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, whose journey to the stars enthralled MJ and the other Nonnatuns earlier in the episode. Fred says that she was probably scared too, just like MJ, but if she can harness that fear, then so can MJ.
So, MJ goes to Julienne and says she’ll have the surgery after all, because of women in space. Julienne, unnecessarily, tells MJ she can’t possibly compare cataract surgery to flying in space. Geez, Julienne, do you want her to have the surgery or not?
She has the surgery, and it goes fine. So, that’s a happy note to end on.
How many people out there heard the name Valentina Tereshkova and thought, ‘Who?’ Maybe it was just me (modern history outside of the United States is taught VERY poorly in American schools), but it made MJ’s comment that the woman’s name would echo down the centuries seem a bit sad. She was a remarkable woman (left school at 16, kept up correspondence courses, flew in space, and later earned a doctorate in technical sciences) and should be better known.