It’s Lent, which means everyone’s miserable and deprived. Fittingly, this episode is airing in the UK in January, the traditional month of self-imposed post-Christmas misery and deprivation. Why do we do this to ourselves?
Anyway, for those keeping track: Trixie and Valerie have given up cigarettes, Fred and Violet aren’t doing sugar, and Sister MJ doesn’t get to put any flowers in the chapel. She also maybe has to scrub the floor with a toothbrush? That seems odd. And mean, but I’m guessing it’s self-imposed because the other Nonnatuns are definitely not that cruel.
We mostly focus on A plots this week! Yay!
First off, there’s a very close-knit family, the Bulmers and Mrs Bulmer’s mother, Florrie Watkins. Mrs B is expecting her second child soon, and she’s determined to work as long as possible because she and her husband, Ken, are saving for a house. Florrie comes along to look after their young daughter, Gillian, but it’s clear Florrie is white-knucking through some serious pain.
Pain is bad enough, but it looks like there’s some dementia on top of it. Florrie just grabs her coat one day and goes out to the shops, leaving Gillian alone in the house for hours. The poor kid freaks out, which, honestly, is probably one of the best possible outcomes of this particular scenario. The neighbours hear her crying and summon the police. Valerie, who knows the family well, happens by and sees Sgt Woolf and another policeman, along with quite a crowd, gathered around the locked door, trying to talk down the sobbing child inside.
Woolf decides that, considering the kid’s distress, they need to take the door down. Apparently all it takes to bust down a front door in Poplar is for one rather slender policeman to kind of bump it with his elbow. Maybe there were some tools involved that I couldn’t see? I hope so, because that was laughably easy.
Gillian’s mum comes home just in time to see the police break down her front door, and then Florrie comes home with the shopping. Poor Florrie gets a total, ‘What have I done?’ look on her face as she realises what happened. Mrs B shouts a lot, which is pretty reasonable under the circumstances. Looks like Florrie’s going to need a total work-up by Turner.
And while all this is happening, Woolf has a heart attack.
He’s carted off to the hospital, where he’s visited by both Crane and Miss Higgins. I have to admit, I totally forgot that he and Miss Higgins were dating. She’s been acting quite girlish and excited over his gift of a hyacinth and plans the two had to go away over Easter. This clearly annoys Crane, but she keeps her mouth shut and is a nice support for Miss Higgins when Woolf’s in the hospital.
It seems like he’s doing well, but he confesses to Crane that his convalescence is likely to be long and the outcome uncertain. Under the circumstances, he thinks it’s best to break up with Miss Higgins. He does so, and Crane appears shortly after to take her out for some tea and companionship. And thus blooms a friendship even lovelier than the hyacinth!
Back to Florrie and her family: Turner’s not quite sure what’s going on here. It looks like Florrie’s developing diabetes, which is odd since she doesn’t have any risk factors for it. It’s likely she’s going to need a fair bit of care going forward, especially considering the memory lapses.
This leads to a discussion over the Nonnatus dinner table over how much care parents should expect from their grown children. Sister MJ thinks it’s only fair that adult children provide total care for aging and unwell parents, as a return for the care they provided when their children were young. A fair point, but the matter is quite a bit more complicated than that, isn’t it? I mean, caring for a baby or young child when you yourself are, presumably, reasonably young and energetic is quite different from taking on a parental role for an adult who might have complicated medical needs and may resist being “babied” by their own child. Add to this the fact that, by the time a parent needs a lot of care, the adult child is likely to be juggling things like work and underage children of their own who also need their care and attention. Like I said, it’s complicated.
Before long, Florrie starts to show symptoms of liver failure. Also odd for someone who barely drinks, owing to some experience with an alcoholic family member. Ray kind of gently suggests to Mrs B that her mother might be hitting the sauce on the sly, but she not only completely shuts that down, she threatens to throw him out if he ever says such a thing about her mother again. But even Trixie, who knows a thing or two about this sort of thing, wonders if there might be something to this theory.
There isn’t. Turner dives into his articles and figures out that Florrie has toxic levels of iron in her blood, which manifested after her periods ceased. Jesus, that can happen? Great, something else to be worried about for the future. It’s treatable, with regular “bloodlettings” (much more humane than what they did in the middle ages), but it’ll take a while for her to fully recover. Mrs B doesn’t care, she’s just delighted her mum’s going to be ok.
Mrs B rather nervously breaks the news to Ray that, although her mum will recover, the house purchase will have to be put on hold because she’s going to have to stop work to look after Gillian and the new baby. Ray, fantastically, is like, ‘The hell with the house, your mum’s going to be all right! Hurrah!’ Aww, Ray’s a good guy. They’re all good. What a lovely family.
Mrs B goes into labour, and Valerie comes to attend to her. Mrs B asks her mother to stay, to see her through this, and Florrie is clearly touched that her daughter still trusts her. Mrs B gives birth to another daughter and everyone is super happy. Valerie summons in Ray, who straightens his shirt before going in, which I thought was a cute detail.
So, that’s the happy story. Now the sad one. It starts with some serial milk theft: Violet and Fred and the Nonnatus nuns are having their morning milk pilfered by someone shitty enough to then leave the discarded cap on the doorstep. I kind of wondered if other people around the neighbourhood were also losing milk on the regular, because otherwise this seems oddly targeted, considering Fred and Violet don’t appear to live right next to Nonnatus House.
Everyone’s sick of this, as they should be, because theft is theft and milk is a useful thing to have around the house, so they set up something of a stakeout. And they catch a young woman whose costuming, styling, and general behaviour and demeanour basically scream, “cheap prostitute” even before we learn she actually is one.
(Ok, I realise that sounds very harsh and judgy, but since the show seems to be really working overtime to sell her as quite trashy in all respects — I mean, she’s stealing from nuns and seems to see nothing wrong with that! — I feel like we’re all expected to pretty much lean into that.)
This is Tina. Tina is pregnant. When they hear this, Sister MJ and Sister Julienne bring her inside to give her some porridge and talk a little bit about the importance of antenatal care. Tina insists she wants to take care of herself and the baby, but she gets off to a rather poor start by missing an appointment.
Sister Julienne tracks her down to the extremely sketchy dockside brothel where Tina’s living. Tina’s all excited about the idea of having a baby and says she wants to find a proper job and home and count all its fingers and toes. I suspect (and I think Julienne does too) that she’s really enamoured of the perceived cute stuff about babies and is likely to struggle when she finds out it is not, in fact, just a living doll, but that’s for some months down the road. In the meantime, Tina needs to get checked out for what appears to be some kind of infection.
She has gonorrhea, and considering her less-than-ideal living conditions, Sister Julienne pushes for her to be checked into the maternity home. Is she intending for this woman to stay there for the duration of her pregnancy? Because she’s pretty early on and it seems like they’re having to put some fairly complicated arrangements in place in order to avoid her spreading infection to other mothers. I think they only intend to have her stay for the duration of her treatment, in the hope she’ll get it together and leave with some better arrangements in place.
Julienne gathers up some potential jobs for Tina to consider, but Tina’s like, ‘nah, they sound boring.’ I think most of us star to wonder, at this point, just how committed she really is to keeping this kid. Maybe they should take her to a showing of Marnie to illustrate just how bad it can be if you try to raise a small child in a house of ill-repute?
But the answer to the question is: she’s not actually all that committed to keeping this child. Just as she wasn’t that committed to keeping her first two children. Yeah, there are other kids. Of course there are. How could there not be, considering her job and the general lack of reliable, easy-to-access birth control?
There are two kids, a boy and a girl, both of whom have been taken into care. The pieces only come together after Sister Hilda finds them at a lice checkup at the school. I hope they give Sister Hilda something to do soon. I love that actress, and so far her only function has been to act as a sort of deus ex machina, inadvertantly helping to solve the week’s mystery through her interactions with schoolchildren.
The two kids are extremely close, which isn’t shocking since they’ve basically only ever had each other. Some digging reveals that Tina had them at a few points in the past, but could never quite make it work.
Someone has offered to adopt the children, which I personally think sounds like great news for two kids who have been through a lot and would really benefit from some stability (also: they get to stay together! That’s often not the case with adoptions, especially in the past.) but this throws Julienne into all sorts of consternation. For some reason, she really, really wants Tina to get her kids back and be some sort of happy family with this new baby, even though pretty much all the evidence we’ve been presented with indicates that this would be a very, very bad idea that is unlikely to be in any way successful. I’m sorry, Julienne, but just because Tina’s daughter misses her does not mean Tina should absolutely have custody. Some people just aren’t cut out or fit to be parents, ok? This woman is a mess, her life is a mess, and she shows no indication of really wanting to change that. Just because she teared up when you mentioned her children does not mean she’s ready or in any position to care for them.
Tina ends up suffering an ectopic pregnancy which lands her in the hospital and ruptures her fallopian tube. But she still has one working tube and ovary, so there’s still the chance she could get pregnant again. In fact, Julienne realises it’s almost a certainty, and she asks Trixie to get this woman on the Pill ASAP.
Tina is sad but admits that it’s for the best she let the kids go to a hopefully more loving and stable home.
Sorry to end this one on a downer note. Also, I realise I probably came across as rather harsh with Tina. To be honest, I think the character just rubbed me the wrong way, and I felt very little sympathy for her. Maybe I just need more sleep.
Happy Monday, everybody!