Previously on Call the Midwife: The nuns and the midwives helped raise a whole lot of money at the annual fete; Bernadette was diagnosed with TB and dispatched to the country for treatment, giving Doc Turner a sad.
JVO talks about how important the river is, bringing people and things to Poplar and taking them away again. We see men stream off ships, passing by Fred, who’s buying a lovely little Vespa-type scooter.
At Nonnatus, the girls are sprucing the place up in anticipation of Chummy’s return. Jane helpfully exposits that Chummy and Noakes will be staying at Nonnatus for a while, as apparently their entire block was condemned while they were away. Well, that sucks. I also find it a little hard to believe that Chummy’s family would have been ok with her apparently living in a total craphole. Jane’s worried that, now Chummy’s coming back, she’ll get bumped out, but Jenny reassures her that she’s part of Nonnatus now, so I guess she’s staying.
Inside, the nuns pray for Bernadette.
Speaking of, Bernadette’s in her room at the country hospital, looking pale as her hospital gown, but up and about.
Fred arrives at Nonnatus with the scooter and everyone oohs and aaaahs over it and Julienne tells them this is primarily for toting around the gas and air, not joyriding. Fred seconds that, telling everyone they’ll be having some serious lessons before they take off.
Back inside, the phone rings, and only Sister MJ is around to answer it. The frantic man on the other end says his wife, Rose, is having her baby, and MJ, of course, starts quoting poetry , which does not at all calm the poor man, as you can imagine. Thankfully, she’s sufficiently with it to take the man’s name and address. Jenny comes in as MJ hangs up and MJ hands over the info. Jenny goes off to take care of it and Julienne reminds MJ that only the midwife on duty should be answering the phone. MJ seems miffed to have yet another task taken away from her, but I’m with Julienne here—if MJ’s just going to start spouting poetry at people when they’re in a panic, then being an operator isn’t the job for her.
Cynthia and Evangelina arrive at the home of their patient of the day: a sour, slovenly man named John Lacey who apparently owns a pie shop, verbally abuses his wife, and has diabetes. Evangelina has no time for this man’s douchey behavior and merely hands him a jar to fill up.
Clinic! A rather cowed looking black woman sits in one of the chairs, rubbing her swollen belly and watching one of the other mums scream at her young daughter. The little girl, who seems rather sweet, smiles at the black lady, and her mother asks her if ‘that coloured woman’ is bothering her again. Before things can get even more awkward, Jenny calls the woman—Monique Hyde—in for her appointment.
Cynthia tests Lacey’s urine and notes that his sugar level’s very high. Evangelina yells at him for not taking care of himself and tells him he can’t have any more pies or beer, and that he’s going to get injections twice a day. He yells and squirms like a little kid, but he’s no match for Evangelina, who jabs him and tells him to expect Cynthia twice every day.
Jenny pleasantly makes small talk with Monique, during which we learn that Monique’s husband was in the air force during the war, and that she’s recently moved to England. Judging from her accent, I’d say she’s probably from the Bahamas or somewhere down in that area. Monique’s really nice and clearly hopeful about the future. Jenny proposes a home delivery, but Monique’s not too excited about that. From beyond the curtains, they hear that other mum, Mrs Bailey, I think, yelling at her kid again, and Monique rolls her eyes. Apparently Mrs Bailey’s her next-door neighbor. Jenny says she heard Mrs B has a heart of gold, but there’s been precious little evidence of that so far.
Fred’s polishing the scooter as Trixie comes out to fetch her bike and ask when they’ll get to take a spin on the new toy. He insists they’re not ready yet, and she says they can’t be that dangerous, or they wouldn’t let Italians ride them. She’s clearly never been to Italy and nearly been run over by some jerk on a Vespa. Believe me, those things are plenty dangerous.
At the country hospital, Bernadette stares at an envelope containing a letter from Turner. With a determined look on her face, she puts it on the beside table as a nurse comes by with tea. The jolly nurse jokes that she’s got Bernadette all figured out—the nun thing’s just a cover and she’s on the run—she’s Jane Bond, and as she’s on the run, she refuses to open her mail. Bernadette refuses to play along, because she’s kind of a dull killjoy, if we’re being honest. Before she goes, the nurse asks Bernadette to say a little prayer on her behalf, since she rather misbehaved over the weekend. Bernadette tells her there are souls in want of saving worse than hers, as she casts a baleful look at the letter on the table.
The man on her mind, meanwhile, is sitting around during clinic time and subtly pumping Trixie for information on Bernadette. Trixie tells him they get hardly any real information from Bernadette’s regular letters, but she’s hoping to have more info after visiting her the following day.
Cynthia’s back at the Laceys’, and she arrives just in time to keep the missus from taking in a pie and glass of beer—the very things he’s not supposed to have. She says it’s hard not to do what he wants, and Cynthia reminds her that the man’s ill and she has to be strong, for the sake of her husband’s health. Mrs L packs up the pie and tells Cynthia to take it with her when she leaves.
Cynthia kindly shares the pie with Trixie and Jenny, who declare it delicious and decide Lacey sounds like a jerk.
Evangelina returns home to find Fred playing with the scooter (but not actually riding it). He says he’s just making sure to keep it in tip top shape, because if he doesn’t the thing could be a deathtrap. She sniffs that they’ve survived the Blitz and the Great Smog, so she’s pretty sure a little scooter won’t off them.
Jenny bikes to Monique’s, and just before she gets to the door Mrs B draws her aside and mentions that there are six people living in Monique’s flat now. Monique answers the door and reluctantly lets Jenny in.
Cynthia arrives at Lacey’s just in time to keep him from going nuts on his wife for feeding him ‘slop’ instead of the pie he wants. Cynthia throws herself in between them and tells him that he’s getting this food on her instructions, so if he wants to be mad at someone, be mad at her. The wind now completely taken out of his sails, he shuffles off to get a urine sample and Cynthia helps Mrs Lacey clean up and tells her she shouldn’t have to put up with this.
Jenny checks out the tiny one-room flat while Monique makes tea. Jenny asks how many people are living there and learns that Mrs B was right, it’s quite a few—Monique’s brothers-in-law and their wives, but Monique and her husband are planning on getting a place of their own, just as soon as they can find a landlord willing to rent to people who aren’t lily-white. Jenny notes that her mother has the same china as Monique and Monique says her mother had it too, so she brought it along to remind her of her mother. Her mother also had a lovely garden, and Monique thought everyone in England drank tea and grew beautiful flowers. Well, she had the tea-drinking right.
Cynthia finds Mrs Lacey dragging a heavy box of potatoes and pitches in, then tells her again that her husband shouldn’t treat her so badly. Mrs Lacey says his treatment’s not half so bad as being homeless was, but she’s proud of the fact that, no matter how bad things got for her, she managed to raise her son, Bob, well.
In the dispensary, Cynthia tells Evangelina how awful Lacey is and how sad it is that Mrs L puts up with it because she’s just grateful to have a roof over her head. Ever the practical one, Evangelina tells her she’d be surprised what she’d put up with if she were on the streets for a while. Cynthia thinks Mrs L should stand up to him, like it’s just that easy, and Evangelina tells her they don’t have Hollywood endings in Poplar. Clearly, she’s never watched this show before.
Trixie’s visiting Bernadette and checking out the cute doctors, a game Bernadette, of course, refuses to join. Instead, she checks out a dead butterfly that Turner’s son sent her, asking if she could have one of the doctors make a diagnosis. Bernadette’s delighted and admires the boy’s inquiring mind. She asks Trixie how everyone’s doing and Trixie brightly says that they want Bernadette back as soon as possible. With Chummy coming home, it’ll just be like old times again.
Cynthia shows up at the Laceys for an appointment and Mrs L greets her with the delighted news that her son’s coming home with his fiancée (which she pronounces fie-an-cee). Cynthia’s happy for her. Mrs L also shows off the little transistor radio Bob sent her, and Cynthia sweetly shows her how to use it. Mrs L’s so happy it’s almost pathetic.
Cynthia goes back to see Lacey, who’s just as excited as his wife that Bob’s coming home. He starts firing off a list of things he’ll need (razor, pomade, clean suit) and tells Cynthia to pass the word along to his wife. She refuses to tell her anything and suggests he ask her nicely.
Mrs L starts getting her son’s room ready for the visit and finds a baby bonnet in one of the drawers. She hugs it close.
At Nonnatus, Fred’s giving the girls a preliminary driving lessons, having them practice signaling as they maneuver around kitchen chairs.
Later, Jenny heads out to the garden, where she’s joined by Sister MJ, who’s wearing her nightclothes again and digging around frantically. Jenny warns her that she’ll catch her death of cold, but Sister MJ’s on a mission to unearth some keys she thinks are buried there, which she thinks will release her. As she says this, she seems to realise how odd that sounds, and she gets very sad and quiet. Jenny gently leads her back inside.
Cynthia shows up at the Laceys’ and finds Mrs Lacey anxiously waiting for Bob, dressed in a nice pencil skirt and a hot pink blouse that she bought just for the occasion. Cynthia’s taken aback by the change in her, and the change from her usual dowdy blue housecoat, but she tells Mrs L she looks great. Lacey comes out, wearing a suit, and makes fun of his wife, hurting her feelings. Cynthia glares at him and takes him back for his injection.
Jenny and a bouquet of flowers show up at Monique’s. Monique smiles, but then grimaces in pain. After a quick exam, Jenny tells her she’s having Braxton-Hicks contractions and then asks why she didn’t call her earlier, even if it was just false labour. Monique’s worried the neighbours will think she has her own personal nurse coming by all the time and Jenny tells her that her job is to look after women like Monique. She asks her to promise to let Jenny take care of her, reminding Monique that she’s only around the corner, so it’s not like it’s out of her way.
Evangelina finds Fred reading the highway code and immediately guesses that he can’t ride the bike. She tells him to meet her the next morning at the bike shed.
As Jenny leaves Monique’s, Mrs B once again pulls her aside and asks her to come attend to her and the other white ladies first when she does her home visits, and do Monique last. She’s sure Monique’s carrying all sorts of strange diseases and she doesn’t want to catch anything. Smiling, Jenny promises to come to Mrs B first, so that she can have time to sit down with Monique and have a conversation with an intelligent, well-mannered woman who isn’t loaded with judgment. Go Jenny!
Bob has apparently failed to show, which has put Lacey in an even fouler mood than usual. He snarks at his wife as she clears up the dinner plates and makes excuses for her son, and then as she walks by he grabs something off the plate, which for some reason makes her spill all over her new shirt. He sniffs that it makes no difference, because there’s nobody around to see her. He stomps off and she bursts into tears.
Turner sits in his car, in the rain, just watching the windshield wipers go.
Bernadette lies in her bed at the hospital and reaches for her bible.
Tim Turner asks his dad if he’s feeling sad, remembering that he used to sit in the car like this after Mrs Turner died. Turner changes the subject by suggesting they go get some fried bread.
With Fred riding pillion, Evangelina goes for a spin on the bike, giving him pointers along the way. He’s terrified, but she’s delighted, having apparently done quite a bit of motorcycling during the war. Heh, I’m having fun imagining her as a Hell’s Angel.
Bob finally shows up, trailing his very blonde, very pink-and-ruffles-clad fiancée, who wastes no time running up her snotty bitch flag and just letting it fly. She tries to drag Bob away, asking him to show her ‘the real England’ but then Cynthia comes out and says his mother’s just popped out to pay the rent and that she’s been watching the door since the previous day. It seems like Bob might just leave anyway, but luckily Mrs L comes in and is both shocked and overjoyed to see him. Mr L comes out and is surprised to see Bob. He’s so overcome he starts to wobble on his feet, and Cynthia and Bob help him sit down.
Sister Bernadette is still staring at that damn unopened letter, and the nurse suggests she send the thing back already, to spare the poor man the wasted time and postage. Seriously, lady, either open the damn thing or throw it out. DO SOMETHING! She asks the nurse if she can arrange for a visitor.
Mr Lacey’s fine, but tells Bob and the fiancée that he has diabetes. She couldn’t possibly care less. Lacey notes that Bob’s gotten himself a rather posh accent but Mrs L thinks he sounds like a gentleman. Talk turns to the wedding, and Mrs L, rather heartbreakingly, eagerly suggests they rent the parish hall down the road. Fiancée’s eyes practically bug out at that and she quickly tells Mrs L that that won’t be necessary, since her parents have a lovely place on the Hudson. Bob adds that they would like for the Laceys to be there, but Mr L gruffly says he can’t travel, so they’ll have to write and tell them how it went. Eager to get out of there, fiancée suggests they hit the road, but Mrs L asks them to wait just a minute while she fetches something.
Mrs B is trying to navigate up a steep staircase with some laundry when she tumbles backwards and is thankfully caught by Monique, who manages to help her to a nearby chair. Mrs B reluctantly thanks her and complains about the council not washing the steps. Monique suggests the neighbourhood ladies take it in turns sweeping the stairs, as she used to do with the verandas back home. The mention of verandas makes Mrs B think of Gone with the Wind, and she and Monique sort of bond over a mutual admiration of Clark Gable. Mrs B asks Monique what it’s like where she comes from and Monique paints her a very pretty picture that makes me think living in the East End must be absolute hell for her. One of the other ladies comes along and that’s the end of girl-talk with Monique.
Back at the Laceys, fiancée looks around and declares the place quaint and rather Dickensian, and she does so in the most condescending manner possible, of course. Mrs L finally returns and gives her the baby bonnet, which seems like a slightly odd thing to give to a bride-to-be. I think it would help if she accompanied it by a bit of backstory—how this was clearly one of the few nice things she managed to get for her son when he was a baby. To fiancée, it’s just a tatty old bonnet, and she treats it as such, proving that money doesn’t buy manners. While Bob’s saying goodbye to his mother, she just drops it onto one of the chairs. Jesus, lady, you couldn’t have waited until you left to get rid of it? What a bitch. They leave, and Mrs L starts up the radio, looking sad. Mr L looks pissed off. Outside, the fiancée bitches about this place and ‘those people’. Bob reminds her that ‘those people’ included his mother.
At the pie shop, Mrs L’s tidying up. Mr L finds the bonnet and Mrs L naively thinks it was left behind by mistake. Mr L tells her it was done on purpose and that that girl’s in charge now. Mrs L insists he hasn’t changed and Mr L points out that he’s not rushing back to collect the bonnet. She tearfully says Bob’s her son and she knows what kind of man he is. Mr L angrily says he belongs to his fiancée now. Mrs L grabs the bonnet and runs upstairs. Later, she tosses the new blouse in the garbage.
Bernadette’s visitor arrives at the hospital, and we see it’s Julienne. Julienne realises there must be something serious afoot and urges Bernadette to unburden herself.
Cynthia’s back at the Laceys, testing Mr L’s urine while he listens to the little radio. Cythia comments that she thought it was Mrs L’s, and he gruffly says it’s his shop and his wireless. Ok, then. Cynthia asks him why he won’t go see his son get married, since he’s perfectly able to travel, and Mr L says Bob isn’t his son, he just took him in when he married the boy’s mother. Cynthia goes on to tell him it would mean a lot to Mrs L to go over for the wedding and he says she would have been in the workhouse if not for him. Mrs L, overhearing this, steps in and snaps that she might as well have been. He reminds her that he took her off the streets and saved her and she says she’s thanked him plenty for that and given him far more than she’s taken. He scoffs and she runs off.
Julienne and Bernadette walk around the hospital’s lovely gardens. Bernadette admits she thought she’d lost her faith. She hadn’t, but she realises now that she wants other things, things that can’t be had in the religious life. Julienne says that they’ve all felt that at some point, but Bernadette believes God wants another path for her. Julienne warns her that she’d better be sure about this, because it’s not an easy path to take.
Mrs L dolls herself up and shortly informs her husband that she’s going out and she doesn’t know when she’ll be back. He wants to know what the hell’s going on here, but she refuses to bend and reminds him that she had a life before him and it’s about time she found it again. Sigh. Look, I’m not sad that this downtrodden woman’s found her voice, but I find the circumstances of it to be absolutely absurd. After all these years of being bullied and cowed by this man, all it takes is a local nurse telling her to stand up for herself and she does? Yeah, right, it’s just that easy. This is nonsense, and kind of an insulting view of emotional abuse. Come on, ladies, all you have to do is put on some lipstick and assert yourself! It’s simple!
At Nonnatus, Fred’s finally got the girls outside with the scooter so he can start teaching them to ride it for real. Trixie’s up first and does beautifully, and as she’s maneuvering it around, who should roll up but Chummy and Noakes. Yay! Everyone rushes to hug her, and what’s this—Chummy’s pregnant! Double yay! A Chumlet! (Noakle?)
Mrs L’s big plans consist of meeting Bob for lunch at a rather nice restaurant. Just the two of them—no bitchy fiancée, who’s probably running around Harrod’s and Selfridge’s this afternoon. Bob’s really sweet with his mum. She takes his hand and says she doesn’t want to lose him. She urges him to live his life the way he wants to. He nods and they settle in to get nostalgic for an afternoon.
Chummy presents everyone with gifts from her travels, including a little drum for Sister MJ, who heads up to her room, and fabric for all the girls, with promises to make them dresses. She even brought some cloth back for Jane, having chosen the colour on the recommendation of Reverend Applebee-Thornton. Awww! They put on a record that I’m pretty sure I heard on Mad Men, because I had this really strong image of Joan Holloway wriggling around to this song in my mind as soon as I heard it. Everyone’s delightedly dancing around and somehow they don’t hear the phone ringing, even though that’s the loudest phone on earth. Once again, it’s Sister MJ who’s nearby, and she answers. It’s Monique calling, because she’s definitely in labour this time. Sister MJ asks who she is, but then seems to lose her way partway through the call and, confused, she tells poor Monique that they’re closed before hanging up on her. Monique commences freaking out as she exits the phone booth.
She does the only thing she can think of and knocks on Mrs B’s door. She gets the much-maligned little girl, who tells Monique her mother’s not home before sweetly asking if it’s her baby that’s the problem.
Sister MJ wanders Nonnatus, looking confused.
Mrs B and her mean girl friends finally get home and find her daughter leading Monique towards the stairs by the hand. She yells at the kid to get home and then realises Monique’s in labour. Monique begs her to help and Mrs B tells her to call the midwife. Monique tells her they’re not answering, and then her water breaks. Mrs B bites her lip, then takes Monique’s arm and leads her towards the stairs, ignoring her bitchy friends. She urges Monique along the road, telling her to just hold on for a little bit longer.
The nuns and midwives are desperately trying to figure out who telephoned. Sister MJ looks distressed as Evangelina points to the notepad and says there’s nothing there but scribbles. Jenny’s leafing through their logbooks, but they’ve got lots of patients due that week and it could be anyone. Julienne tries to gently jog MJ’s memory. I wonder, not for the first time, why this woman is just wandering Nonnatus unsupervised all the time when they all know she’s not at all right. Something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. Sister MJ only remembers that the woman’s voice was gentle, and then she bursts into tears, saying that her thoughts are unraveling like old rope. Somehow from that, Jenny figures out that she spoke to Monique, and I have absolutely no idea how she came to that conclusion.
Mrs B and Monique finally make it to the front steps of Nonnatus, but Monique can go no further. Mrs B yells for help and Jenny comes running out, followed quickly by Chummy, Trixie, and Julienne. They manage to get the woman into the front hall, where they swiftly set up a makeshift bed. Chummy reports that the baby’s heartbeat is slow.
Sister MJ prays desperately in the chapel and is joined by Julienne, who gently tells her that her mind gets tired and when it does, they will protect her.
Monique labours while all the midwives coach her along. She births a boy, and the reason his heartbeat was slow was because there was a knot in the cord. He’s fine, though, and Jenny welcomes him to England as she hands him over.
Mrs L returns home to find her husband dressed up in his suit, with dinner waiting. Yes, ladies, stand up to your abuser just once and he’ll make you dinner! She coolly thanks him and goes to turn on the radio.
Monique and her family gather around the baby while Mrs B and her daughter pour tea, all BFFs now. Because sisterhood totally overcomes all forms of deeply ingrained racial tension and prejudice. Worked in The Help, right?
Bernadette finally reads the damn letters and looks pleased.
JVO talks about how everything is possible in the future.
Wow, show. That was rough, I have to say. I’ve accepted that tough matters are dealt with very simplistically here, but this was ridiculous. Years of emotional abuse swept away over the course of a week or so? Racism eliminated thanks to labour and Clark Gable? Why introduce these weighty themes if you’re going to be so dismissive of them? Totally stupid. Weak sauce. But hey, Chummy’s back! Yay!