Two nuns and two young women walking out of a building

Call the Midwife Season 9 Episode 5 Recap: Guardians of the Threshold

The Sound of Music has landed, everybody! And man, Poplar is EXCITED.

Violet is doing a raffle for two tickets to a showing. Although Sister MJ tries hard to be the winner, ultimately it’s Angela and Mae who pull the lucky ticket. And then St Timothy swoops in to make them hand over their tickets so their parents can have a date night and talk about how totally fine it is that Turner’s a workaholic who’s never home for dinner anymore. But that’s cool because it’s 1965 and Shelagh’s turning into a little bit of a Stepford Smiler who keeps herself busy planning the most boring family days out ever. (Best line of the night goes to Miss Higgins: ‘You’re taking the children to see an…escalator?’) If ever a family needed a magical singing and dancing nanny, it’s this one.

So: Sister MJ is running around, talking up the film which means there’s some talk of a Nonnatus outing to the cinema. Which will give Trixie a chance to wear the new couture dress her super rich godmother sent her. Trixie, you need more of a life. If the only place you can wear your couture is to the cinema with a bunch of nuns, you need to find more ways to get out.

Meanwhile, we have some plot!

First, there’s a young couple, Ronald and Aileen. They’re expecting their first child, and Ronald is HERE FOR THAT. Like, he’s out pushing a pram filled with 7 lbs of potatoes, just for practice. Ronald is adorable. When Aileen goes into labour, he hustles her to the maternity home and insists on being with her for the birth. Nurse Crane is NOT here for that sort of thing at all, as I think we’ve already seen. Of all the midwives, she’s the most adament that men need to stay far, far away from their labouring wives.

But Ronald will not be deterred, so he’s there as his wife gives birth to their son. It’s super cute. And so is the baby.

A couple of days after the birth, the baby starts to develop a strawberry mark on his forehead. Despite being reassured by Turner that it’s just a birthmark that’ll probably go away by the time the kid’s a toddler, Ronald is freaked out. So much so that he acts like kind of a dick to his wife and to Sister Hilda, who makes an offhand remark about it when visiting the baby.

(Also: We get a little development on Sister Hilda! Sounds like she was born into a wealthy family and had a very distant father. It’s not a lot, but I’ll take it because it’s nice to see her doing more than just checking the local schoolchildren for lice and such. Then again, it’s the summer holidays, so maybe that’s why she finally has time to do other things.)

Hilda tracks Ronald down to the wharf, where he tends to go for a think. He admits he flew off the handle and then tells her that his dad used to bring him here. His dad was great, a really good dad, but sadly he died in an air raid when Ron was 5. His mother remarried a total dick, who was abusive, and Ron clearly has some severe unaddressed issues with marks on bodies. I’m not sure that really explains away his behaviour, to be honest, because clearly a birthmark is quite different from the marks left by abuse, but the actor delivers this so movingly I just go with it and tear up a bit.

Anyway, Ronald settles down and he and his wife go forth with their super adorable infant and presumably go on to live a happy family life.

Our other patient du jour is Grace. Grace has A LOT on her plate. Too much, honestly. Her husband has developed diabetes, so needs regular injections from Sister Frances. Grace does not like having this young woman in her home and Sister Frances is kind of baffled by her attitude.

But really, it’s just that Grace is completely overwhelmed. There’s her husband, and Grace is also having to dash off to take care of her elderly mother, who definitely shouldn’t be living alone. The woman clearly has some sort of dementia, as well as incontinence and simply can’t care for herself on even the most basic level. It’s heartbreaking.

Plus: Grace has an ugrateful brat of a daughter who shows up with her husband, toddler, and newborn in tow, announcing she’s going to stay with Grace and make Grace take care of them all because she didn’t like one of the nurses at the hospital where she recently gave birth. This piece of work won’t even get up to tend to her own baby at night, so Grace has to do it.

And did I mention Grace is sick? After missing two appointments (Higgins, amazingly, responds to this lapse not with censure but with a sad, ‘Some people live such very hard lives.’ This lady knows her neighbourhood.) she finally manages to see Turner, who diagnoses fibroids. She’ll need to go to hospital for at least two weeks. She manages not to laugh in his face at the very idea.

Things get so bad that Grace, who’s been bleeding heavily from the fibroids, collapses and has to go to hospital anyway. Once she’s there, Sister Frances puts on her big-girl pants and tells everyone how it’s gonna be: She’s been in touch with social care about support for Grace’s mother, she’s going to teach Grace’s husband to give himself his injections, and her obnoxious daughter can get her ass home and take her damn family with her. The daughter’s reaction to that is to pull a sour face and stomp off like the toddler she is. This woman is raising children.

While all this is going on, Sister Julienne is discovering what life is like on the other side of the nun’s habit. She has a bit of a rough time of it this episode: not one but two people scream at her and tell her she doesn’t know what life is like outside her cushy convent. One of these people is Grace who, again, is probably just super stressed and lashing out. The other is the granddaughter of a recently deceased woman who takes out some sort of grief-rage on Julienne because her grandmother left £5 to the convent. Grief is strange, but that seems really uncalled for.

So, Julienne takes off her habit, puts on some recently donated clothes, and walks around the neighbourhood for a while before going to the cinema. Now, the sight of her delightedly biting into a candy bar as she settles into her seat is charming and I totally want that to be my gif for the day, but I’m not really sure what the point of this whole interlude is. I mean, taking the day off to go to the movies isn’t exactly experiencing others’ daily hardship, now, is it?

But, whatever. She goes to the cinema, and then everyone else goes too, on a mass outing. The episode does not end with any singing nuns, which is sad.

Maybe next time.

2 thoughts on “Call the Midwife Season 9 Episode 5 Recap: Guardians of the Threshold

  1. Is Trixie ever going to have a story-line this season? Hope she isn’t leaving the series.

  2. It was subtle, but I think that Sister Julienne’s cinema trip in her “civilian clothes” riffed off Grace’s outburst that middle-aged women with hard lives were invisible to those around them. Sister Julienne couldn’t have been more plain and drab and, well, invisible. I was delighted by the interlude.

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