George holds one of his prize pigeons in episode 4 of Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife Season 9 Episode 4 Recap: Is There a Doctor in the House?

Oh, man, you guys. I am not 100% today. I’m not even 20% today, so if this review gets a bit odd at points, I’m really sorry.

Let’s meet George! He breeds and races pigeons and has for many years. He’s extremely good at it, and he’s very devoted. Hearing him talk about his pigeons and how he’s held and guided generations is really touching. But there’s a problem: George is still living in a flat that’s been condemned, and by the look of the place, it should be. But he doesn’t want to move because then he’d have to give up his birds. Totally fair, I get that.

George also has a nasty cough, and because I’ve been reading the news a lot, I immediately thought, “Oh, no, the pigeons are making him sick!” But for the time being, everyone thinks he has TB. When his TB tests come back negative, Turner is baffled.

But George is, for the time being, happy, despite the cough. He’s befriended by Fred and Reggie, who really takes a shine to George’s prize pigeon.

Meanwhile, over at Nonnatus, Sister Julienne is really stressed out about the impending demoliton of their building, and worried they’re becoming irrelevent. In a bid to position themselves as useful, she agrees to take four trainee doctors in for a little while, to give them some on-the-ground training delivering babies.

Four show up, but two of them are so pointless they get neither names nor lines of dialogue. I’m not sure why the show thought it worthwhile to include them. Why pay two extra actors to basically just fill up the background for no reason? Why not just have two doctors come to stay?

The other two doctors are Walters and McNulty. McNulty comes from a working-class background and is keenly aware of the fact he’s lower down the social ladder than Walters (although, it doesn’t seem like Walters particularly lords that over him or anything. This seems to be more McNulty’s hangup). Walters’s father literally wrote the book on obstetrics and gynaecology, so Walters has some big shoes to step into. And he’s not massively keen on it, although he’s clearly quite gifted in medicine. He delivers a baby at the clinic one day without breaking a sweat.

McNulty (who kind of bonds with Val) has to work a little harder. But his background actually comes in handy when he hears Turner talking about George’s symptoms. He recognises what’s happening because an uncle of his, who worked in the mines, experienced something similiar. With some prodding from Val, McNulty flags up the possibility that the pigeons’ poo is the issue here. Turner runs some tests and, sure enough, the birds are the culprit.

George will get better, with two weeks of in-hospital treatment, but he’ll have to give up his birds after all. He’s understandably very sad about that, although they all go to good homes with other racing enthusiasts. He hangs onto his prize pigeon, though, handing her off to Reggie to care for. After he’s treated, he moves into a new council flat and starts making friends with a pigeon who lands on his balcony. Heh. Can’t keep a bird-man down!

McNulty, meanwhile, finally gets to attend a birth. He and Val go to deliver a second child for Lesley, a former swimsuit model whose husband apparently deals in stolen goods. The birth is a pretty rough one, and McNulty is very green. Val is just super competent and calm, dealing with some minor complications and quickly interceding to correct McNulty, who’s a bit quick to suggest an episiotomy and nearly cuts the cord without clamping it. Guy clearly needs more practice (I mean, clamping the cord is pretty much baby 101, right?), but that’s why he’s here.

A baby girl is safely delivered, and it’s all good, but later Lesley cries and panics to Val that she’s terrified her husband’s going to get arrested. Which is likely, considering he’s storing all this stuff right in their flat and then selling it very obviously in the street. Val just kind of pats her on the head and… that’s it. I’m guessing (hoping?) they come back to this because otherwise this was a weirdly dropped plotline.

Back at Nonnatus, Walters causes a bit of trouble, drinking after hours and then starting a game of cricket with the other doctors that results in a shattered window and a VERY angry Sister Julienne. He later confides in Trixie that he doesn’t seem to feel the same level of passion that the midwives do, and Trixie gently suggests that maybe medicine isn’t for him, then. Also: watch the drinking.

Generally, the doctors improve. They get more comfortable and start actually talking to the patients. And even Crane, who reacted to the news that they were coming with a lot of passive aggression and martyr-ish attitude, seems to be softening. But nobody seems all that sorry to see the boys go.

I am, though! Nevermind they were kind of cute, it was interesting seeing the midwives at work besides these bumbling newbie doctors (especially since we’re so used to only seeing hyper-competent Turner). The contrast between the doctor/medical approach to birth and the midwife approach was interesting too. And I would have liked to see the relationships develop further between the doctors and Val and Trixie. I kind of hope these guys come back for a bit, because otherwise this, like the thing with Lesley, feels like a build up to nothing much at all.

Anyway, good episode, nice to see some variation in both the medical cases and the cast. Ta for now!

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