Previously on Call the Midwife: Shy Jane finally got kissed, Jenny lost Jimmy and also discarded her lousy attitude.
JVO: East End families in the 50’s tended to be large, thanks to the lack of birth control. There were rumours of a magic pill being developed that could help with that, but it kind of seemed like a fantasy to Jenny and her patients. As JVO speaks, Jenny bikes through the neighbourhood, stopping to let some schoolkids pass. She nods in greeting to one of the mums, who’s toting a baby.
Back at Nonnatus, Sister MJ is brushing her teeth, looking glum.
The mother Jenny was just smiling at is home, washing her face. She pauses and puts a hand to her belly and looks worried.
Sister MJ checks out a packed suitcase sitting on her bed, takes out a prayer shawl, and tosses it out the window.
Mother of the Week’s husband returns home and she worriedly observes that he hasn’t found any work that day. He tiredly confirms it but says he’s been promised a shift the next day.
At Nonnatus, everyone’s scurrying about trying to find that veil. Evangelina, who is apparently travelling with Sister MJ, is impatient to get on the road and says MJ can just borrow a veil from one of the sisters at the place where they’re headed, but MJ refuses to do that. Outside, Trixie catches some kids playing with the veil and takes it back.
Veil restored, Sister MJ is being steered reluctantly out the door, complaining about having to go on vacation, because she doesn’t understand the call to idleness. I can’t help but wonder why she, of all people at Nonnatus, needs a vacation. She already does fairly little. Maybe Julienne just wants her out of her hair for a bit. As they’re getting her out the door, a nicely dressed woman they all greet as Mrs Clark arrives and perkily says good morning, brushing past the group in the doorway to meet with Julienne.
Her business with Julienne is about the annual church fete. This year, the proceeds are going to be split between Nonnatus’s clinic and the usual charity. With two beneficiaries, though, they need to raise a bit more money. Mrs Clark wants to hold a baby show with a famous judge. Julienne doubts they can get a famous judge but Mrs Clark is sure they’ll manage.
Evangelina and MJ are waiting for the bus, and MJ’s face is so long her chin’s practically dragging on the ground. Why did they even make her go, if she didn’t want to? She’s just going to spoil it for Evangelina, who probably could use a break. While Evangelina looks out for the bus, Sister MJ fakes a heart attack. Man, what a selfish, childish creature she’s become.
The midwives discuss the baby show, which Jane thinks is kind of awful, since it’s basically a beauty show. Trixie, however, thinks they’re adorable.
Meanwhile, Bernadette, looking terrified, goes to ask Julienne for a word. Before they can start the discussion, however, the phone rings. It’s Evangelina with news that she’s at the London with Sister MJ. Julienne says she’s on her way and when Bernadette asks how she can help Julienne tells her to change nothing, just stay exactly as she is. And then, just in case she managed to dodge that falling anvil, she adds that she doesn’t really think she can do without Bernadette. Subtle.
Clinic! Mother of the Week is finally called in to see Jenny and gets a name—Nora Harding. Jenny does the exam and estimates the woman’s about 17 weeks pregnant. Nora bursts into tears, because she’s already got eight other kids. Jesus. Jenny offers to make her a comforting cup of tea, but Nora’s not interested and ends her exam right then and there.
With her youngest in the pram, she marches over to the home of a woman named Edna, where she hammers angrily on the door and shouts that she’s a fraud. Edna comes out, as people stop to stare, and asks her what she’s doing. Nora hysterically accuses her of stealing two guineas from her, which is what she paid for what she thought was an abortifacient. Say that a little louder, Nora, I don’t think the whole neighbourhood heard about you trying to buy illegal drugs. Edna says she didn’t treat her for pregnancy, she treated her for stomach cramps, and if Nora doesn’t want to be knocked up all the time she should consider keeping her legs crossed. Nora slaps her right across the face, and soon the women are tussling in the street, with Nora’s one-year-old right there in the pram. Stellar parenting, there. Nora’s husband, fortunately, happens upon the scene and the women desist, Nora bursting into tears yet again.
Julienne arrives at the hospital and Evangelina tells her they think this is angina, but there’s some suspicion she’s faking. Evangelina sighs that she can’t go on holiday now, as it would seem selfish, but Julienne says that, if she’s faking this, MJ’s the selfish one, and Evangelina should go. With a little more prodding, she agrees.
Mr Harding attends to his wife, who’s hurt her ankle or something, as she tearfully tells him she’s still pregnant. He takes the news calmly, with some resignation, and tells her they’ll manage.
Julienne is with Sister MJ, who’s in bed at the hospital, crowing that she just knew her heart would be trouble. Julienne notices that MJ has a rather yummy looking sponge pudding on the tray by her bed and MJ says that, if she eats it, they’ll think she’s healthy and will discharge her, and Julienne will send her off to Chichester. Julienne starts helping herself to the pudding and MJ tells her to stop eating it or they’ll think she had it. Julienne says that, one way or another, MJ is going to be sent home to convalesce, so now it’s just a matter of who gets to eat the pudding. MJ grabs her pudding out of Julienne’s hands and starts wolfing it down. I love that Julienne’s the MJ whisperer now.
Back at Nonnatus, Fred’s figuring they’re going to have quite a crowd for the baby show. There’s some talk of prizes (Fred’s grandson won a year’s supply of Brylcreem for babies, which conjures up some really funny images in my mind). They’re still on a search for a judge and Jane suggests they get a man to do it, just to be a bit different. Trixie teases her a bit about the Rev and Jenny playfully calls Trixie a beast and tells Jane to ignore her. Jane’s kind enough to catch us all up on her love life: Rev’s pretty busy with his parish at the moment, but he plans to visit soon, and in the meantime they’re happy being penpals.
Jane goes and sits with Sister MJ to try and get her knitting some tat for the handicrafts stall. Sister MJ, the very person who was complaining about being idle, refuses to do anything, because she had a heart attack. Jane tells her she had a touch of angina and that it won’t kill her to finish off a knitted puppet. Sister MJ gets to work and tells her there are a whole bunch of little toys in a cupboard that need a bit of stuffing.
At the Harding Hovel, Nora and her husband talk about what they’re facing here. He says they’ll manage, since they don’t really have a choice, though they can hardly feed the kids they have. She starts looking down many more years of this (though, judging by her age, I don’t think she’d have too many fertile years left). The poor man, clearly distressed by her misery, apologises and she pulls herself together and observes that it’s not like she wasn’t a willing participant. He climbs into bed beside her and takes her hand and she cuddles up to him.
The midwives are listening to records, mixing up pretty disgusting looking cocktails, and going through film magazines looking for a judge for the baby show. Sister Bernadette approaches the room, drawn by the sound of music and giggling girls, but then Cynthia, unaware she’s out there, closes the door, leaving Bernadette alone in the dark. Thank you, show, we get it.
The next morning, Mrs Clark arrives with a cadre of scouts hauling the makings of a games booth. Julienne sends them off to Fred and Clark tells Julienne she needs to make up a list of everything she needs and hand it to Turner to submit to the parish council. Julienne’s pretty sure she can do it herself but Clark says it’ll have more authority coming from the doctor. She adds that there’s going to be a photographer from the local paper coming to the next clinic to drum up publicity for the baby show.
While out on her rounds, Jenny swings by Nora’s place for a check-up. The baby’s hanging out in his pram in the hallway, and Nora comes out and gives him some bread with a bit of condensed milk on it. Jenny suggests she give the baby a little cube of cheese to snack on, and Nora briefly gives her a look that says, you really don’t get it, do you? Jenny looks around the place and asks how many rooms they have. Two, total. For a family of 10. And a shared lavatory, though they don’t have to share it with anyone else right now because everyone else in the building’s been rehoused. They can’t rehouse the Hardings because they need four bedrooms or they’re legally overcrowded, and there aren’t too many four-bedroom flats being built around Poplar. Jenny says they’ll book her into the maternity home and Nora tells her she doesn’t want any more kids. Jenny promises to give her some contraceptive advice once the baby’s born, but it turns out that, while the advice is free, contraception is not. Not on NHS, anyway. Nora starts to get some tea ready and Jenny compliments the dark green curtains. Nora says she got them from a woman whose house she used to clean.
The baby starts howling and the two women rush out to the hall, where they find a rat climbing around the carriage and the baby with a bite on his face. Apparently, this is not the first time this has happened.
Bernadette, of course, has been tasked with telling Turner what the clinic needs so he can take it to the parish council. They have a loaded moment over spirit lamps, of all things, but then Turner’s kid Timothy comes running in to tell his dad he’s needed at the surgery. Tim says hi to Bernadette and she says she’s heard he’s down for the three-legged race. Timothy says he is, along with his dad, though Tim’s much better than him, which is actually quite awkward. Heh.
Turner grabs his bag and goes to the surgery, where the patient is Nora’s bitten baby. While they’re there, Nora asks him if he can arrange for her to have her tubes tied. Apparently he can only sterilize a woman if it’s medically essential, so instead he suggests Jenny talk to her about family planning. Nora wearily says Jenny’s already done that.
Cynthia and Jane have gotten MJ’s knitted toys out, but they kind of suck. In comes MJ herself to randomly suggest she keep herself occupied by rolling bandages.
It’s montage time. Fred builds carnival booths, Jane and Cynthia unravel bandages for MJ to re-roll, the scouts test the sturdiness of one of the booths and it half collapses, babies at the clinic wail when the photographer tries to take pictures, so Jenny comes over and keeps them entertained with a puppet. The photog asks for her phone number and she turns him down flat. Scouts and their partners train for the three-legged race.
After the clinic, Trixie tells Jenny that she is actually allowed to date. Jenny just isn’t interested in having a boyfriend just now. Trixie changes the subject to a tidbit she got from the photographer: some variety show performer named Clifford Raines is filming not too far away.
The scouts are rehearsing some variety act of their own—a song about Robin Hood that is not meeting Fred’s high expectations. Neither is Cynthia’s piano playing, apparently. He asks her to add in some ‘twiddly bits’ like Jenny does.
Trixie goes to the studio and finds a man hanging around drinking tea near the stage door. He asks if she can help her and she says she has a note to deliver to Clifford Raines. He offers to take it in for her and they get to chatting. He asks what she does and she says she’s a midwife, which he correctly figures is hard work in that neighbourhood. She responds by quoting a nursery rhyme called Curly Locks. He’s charmed, and so is she. She hands over the note and in he goes.
Harding Hovel. Dad checks on all the kids and then tells his wife he’s nipping down to the corner store. She tells him to get her some gin, as she’ll be imbibing tonight as she soaks in a hot, hot bath (thought to cause miscarriage). He tries to talk her out of it but she’s determined, even going so far as to say she’ll off herself if she can’t get rid of it. He hurries to comfort her.
At Nonnatus, the phone rings and Trixie picks up. It’s Clifford Raines, and of course, he’s the man she was speaking to outside the studio. He agrees to judge the baby show as long as Trixie agrees to have dinner with him. She’s only too happy to say yes.
The nuns pray. Nora fills a bath with steaming water and soaks in it while drinking gin from a teacup. She asks her husband for more hot water and he pours it in, even as she shrieks with pain.
Trixie reports her success with Raines to Jenny and Cynthia. Cynthia asks if Julienne knows about the date and Trixie says she can do as she likes in her own time. Jenny just wants her to make sure the guy isn’t married.
Nora’s trying to feed the kids breakfast, but she’s not looking too well. Her husband’s concerned, and when she runs out to the hall to vomit into a bucket, he follows her out and tells her this isn’t worth it. She ignores him and says she’ll try Epsom salts next. She also heard of someone who did it with a pickle fork. Eeeek!
Jane, MJ, and Bernadette are getting things ready for the handicrafts stall while Mrs Clark drinks tea and natters on that Trixie really should be congratulated for securing Raines. She goes on to say that she’s surprised Trixie isn’t around to be congratulated by Clark personally. This woman’s a piece of work, isn’t she? Julienne says that Trixie’s quite busy and MJ pipes up that they all are, except for Bernadette, who’s been spending quite a lot of time at prayer lately. Her observations upset Bernadette, who leaves.
Jenny’s back at the Harding Hovel, where she notes the Epsom salts and asks what they’re for. Nora says she had stomach cramps.
Julienne finds Bernadette in the chapel and apologises for having given her the brush off earlier. Bernadette can hardly bring herself to speak, and tells Julienne that she doesn’t really know how to say what ails her, which distresses her because if she can’t say where it hurts or what’s wrong, she can’t be cured. Julienne takes her hands and says that this—just talking—is a start. Bernadette tearfully says this is all she can manage at the moment.
Jenny is examining Nora and notices a big, rather awful looking bruise on her belly. Nora lies that she bumped into the handle of the pram. Jenny warns her that, if she keeps this up, she’s more likely to harm herself than the baby she’s carrying, because in order to force a miscarriage you practically have to kill the mother. Jenny reminds her that there’s only one way to deliberately terminate a pregnancy, and that’s illegal. Mr Harding comes home and Jenny asks him to make is wife a cup of tea and make sure she doesn’t hurt herself again. As soon as Jenny’s gone, he hands Nora a bag and tells her it’s the knitting needles and crochet hook she asked for. Ugggghhhh. Excuse me while I go vomit at the mere thought. Nora takes it but says she’s going to have to go back to Edna. You really trust that woman to treat you now after you assaulted her in the street?
Fred’s still coaching the scouts in their Robin Hood song, but it’s not going well, because they’re having trouble imagining all of it. Cynthia suggests costumes but Fred’s reluctant. Cynthia appeals to him by actually invoking Chummy’s name (specifically, by asking ‘what would Chummy do,’ which I think they should all put on those rubber bracelets people were wearing all over for a while a few years back) and reiterates that they need costumes.
Nora’s back at Edna’s, and just as I thought, Edna’s not exactly pleased to see her.
Her price for an illegal abortion: 10 guineas. Nora explains to her husband that Edna always charges guineas, as proper doctors used to, like that somehow makes her more legit or something. They’re not sure where they’re going to get the money. They have some squirreled away to buy new furniture for the new flat they’re probably never going to get, but that’ll still leave them 2 short. So, Nora decides to sell her wedding ring and curtains.
The midwives are setting up for the fair and talking about all the great stuff they might be able to get with all the money their celeb’s going to pull in. Sister MJ wanders over and starts to wonder when babies became so precious. After all, they once played naked in the gutter or were entrusted to siblings hardly older than themselves. She wonders if they’re more precious now because they can survive or if they survive now because they’re more precious. I think survival has a lot more to do with advances in medicine and sanitation than love, sister. She takes off and Jane and Cynthia talk about how sad it is that Sister MJ doesn’t really have much to do now.
Edna, her young assistant, and Nora are all gathered at Nora’s place, where they prepare to give her an abortion right on the table where she and her family eat their meals. I mean, I know they don’t have too many options, but Jesus Christ, how could she stand to even look at this piece of furniture ever again? This whole scene, by the way, is intercut with shots of Trixie giving herself a manicure—nice, blood-red nails—while listening to Blue Moon.
Once it’s all over, Nora is helped into the bed and Edna tells her the baby will be gone in a day or so.
All dolled up, Trixie walks into Raines’s apartment building and goes up to his flat. She notes the set table and is thrown, because he said they were going out to dine. He clearly lies that the Dorchester wasn’t able to accommodate them. Trixie’s smart enough to look a little wary at this point, but she still accepts the cocktail he’s offering.
Back home, Jane and Cynthia prepare to make Robin Hood costumes out of the curtains Nora sold, which Cynthia happened to pick up. Jenny comes in and comments that the curtains are rather smart.
Meanwhile, Nora pants in pain, staring at her now curtainless windows.
At Raines’s apartment, he asks if Trixie wants another cocktail and she politely demurs. He responds by sticking his hand up her skirt. She tells him, still politely, to remove his hand, and he calls her a tease and tries to pin her to the sofa. She manages to push him off and hauls ass out of there. She runs all the way back to Nonnatus, where she frantically rings the bell and hammers on the door. Jenny and Cynthia let her in and she immediately starts to sob.
A little later, Cynthia prepares them all some soothing hot chocolate while Trixie castigates herself for being so stupid and thinking she had all the power because some man was interested in her. The girls reassure her she did nothing wrong, and Cynthia, bless her, offers to spike the cocoa with some booze. She hurries off to get it, and when they’re alone, Trixie suggests she and Jenny open up a virgin-run hospital together.
Cut to the fete, where I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair is playing. Heh. The Harding family prepares to go and leave Nora behind in bed, where she’s looking bloody awful. Her worried husband stresses about her, but she tells him to just take all the kids out.
At the fete, Jenny sees one of the Harding kids and asks where her mother is. Mr Harding says she isn’t there, and that she won’t need any more visits from Jenny. Jenny immediately realises what happened and rushes to fetch Julienne. The two of them go to the Harding Hovel, where they find Nora ashy and collapsed by the side of the bed. Nora weakly asks if ‘it came away’ and Julienne says it did, as Jenny hastily wraps up the remains in a towel that was on the floor. Julienne asks Nora if she did this to herself and Nora admits she didn’t think it would work if she did it herself. Jenny and Julienne get to work, getting Nora back onto the bed. Julienne observes that Nora’s suffered a massive blood loss and the instrument that was used on her clearly wasn’t sterile. She tells Jenny to go fetch some help and instead of doing that, Judgy Jenny returns and she reminds Julienne that this was illegal. So, what, you’re just going to let the woman die? Shut the hell up and CALL FOR HELP, JENNY! As we all know, Julienne has neither the time or patience for Judgy Jenny and tells her to get a move on and fetch Turner from the fete.
The becostumed Merry Men are putting on their show, to the delight of the onlookers. Bernadette rather longingly watches Turner, until he’s pulled away by Jenny.
Nora is carted off by ambulance attendants while Julienne starts cleaning up the evidence of what happened. Jenny quietly says she should have gone with Nora to the hospital. Julienne says Turner thinks her uterus was perforated and she needs specialist care. She tells Jenny to get some water boiling so they can start scrubbing. Jenny admits she knew the woman wanted to be rid of the baby. Julienne tells her the world is full of women in similar situations and all they can do is give encouragement and help as much as they can. Jenny goes on to say that the woman kept begging for help that they couldn’t give, and Jenny isn’t sure what she should have done differently. Julienne says there’s not much she could have done, because illegal abortions and costly contraception were the realities of the 50’s.
Turner returns to the fete just in time to cheer Tim and Bernadette on to victory in the three-legged race. They stumble after the finish line and Bernadette hurts her hand, so she goes inside to rinse of the cut. Turner follows her and offers to take a look at it. She accepts and they have yet another loaded moment, culminating in him gently kissing her palm. She pulls her hand away and turns from him. He apologises and she tells him she’s not turning her back on him because of him, but because of Him. Turner doesn’t seem too pleased to accept that.
Time for the baby show. Clark announces that Raines will not be showing up, because he’s a spiteful bastard. Apparently, being kissed has not only magically cured Jane’s shyness but has also given her a genuine set of balls, because she hops up on stage and announces that Sister MJ will be judging the contest instead. She’s oh so pleased to do so and walks down the line of crazy adorable babies while JVO tells us that Nora ended up with septicemia and in a coma. Apparently, it was so dire her family was actually brought in to say goodbye. But it was all ok, she pulled through, and the family was rehoused in a charming, very green area 30 miles from London. Nora never conceived again (after a perforated uterus, I’d imagine not), but that magical pill came through after all and made her daughters’ and granddaughters’ lives a lot easier.