Previously on Call the Midwife: Evangelina returned, and it turns out she had a pretty bad stroke while she was gone, so she decides not to handle newborns for the time being. In even more sobering news, two babies—Cottingham and Mullucks—were born with deformities. Mullucks’s mother seriously stepped up and is fiercely determined her daughter, Susan, will live as normal a life as possible, but Baby Cottingham was too severely damaged to survive for long.
Shelagh and Turner talk about how popular the Pill is and how much it sucks they can’t prescribe it for unmarried women. Yeah, god forbid unmarried women have any control over their reproduction or sexuality. Hussies. Good thing the government’s there to keep the ladies pure, right?
Tessie, a woman who practically has ‘pushy’ stamped on her forehead, stops for a chat with Violet and Fred, accompanied by her son, Mitchell. Mitchell’s just back from a failed stint in Australia. He seems like a nice guy and is doing ok, he’s got a job at the tool factory. His mother hustles him along to Tom’s house for ‘a consultation’, only to find Tom’s in the vestry. They find him in his undershirt trying to fix a heater. Tessie briskly explains hat they need to organise a wedding quickly, because Mitchell’s got a fiancée on the way, as well as a baby. Tom explains that it takes three weeks to read the banns, but Tessie’s in a hurry, because this young woman’s fairly far along, and she wants these two married as soon as the boat docks.
Clinic! Evangelina weighs kids cutely. Mrs M is there with Susan. A woman sitting next to her notes that the baby’s pretty well wrapped up and Mrs M explains that Susan just feels the cold. The other woman’s actually pretty nice and makes it clear she knows what’s up with Susan, adding that Mrs M can take the blanket off if the baby’s hot, because she doesn’t mind.
Turner checks out Susan—who’s a really adorable little girl—and notes that she’s getting a pretty good grip. Mrs M proudly explains that she can pick up a spoon and everything. She worries a bit that the doctors are a little keen to just chop these misshapen fingers off the children but Turner notes that Susan has some good muscle going and they can definitely work with that. Mrs M bursts into tears and Shelagh reassures her she’s doing a brilliant job. Mrs M says she thought the pain would be over once she’d given birth, but it turns out that’s not the case. Still, she’s doing an amazing job, this woman.
Barbara, covered in baby poo, runs into Evangelina in the kitchen. Evangelina hands her a clean apron and tells her to talk to the baby’s mother about possible overfeeding.
Mrs M has calmed down a bit but tells the Turners she can’t help but worry all the time about what kind of a future her daughter’s going to have. Turner gently suggests she take something to help her sleep and prescribes her some Distaval.
That evening, Crane, Trixie and Barbara chatter loudly in the Nonnatus kitchen about pantyhose and ketchup bottles, disturbing Evangelina, who yells at them for being so noisy. Barbara apologises and Evangelina calms down.
Tessie goes to Violet’s shop to order baby supplies. Violet’s face freezes in a ‘don’t judge’ look and she tells Tessie she’ll have to get the girl, Noelle, signed up with the midwives. Mitchell bursts in and announces the ship docks the following day. He’s so excited it’s adorable.
Barbara visits an Indian lady, Tripti, and checks her out. Tripti says she wants the baby born at home and Barbara reassures her that’s definitely possible, then slaps at a flea on her arm.
Noelle has arrived, and she’s just as sweet seeming as Mitchell. And Tessie is really sweet to her, telling her she can go ahead and call her ‘mum.’ Aww. Good to see she’s not just some garden-variety obnoxious mother-in-law.
Barbara goes to see Tom and talk about the sanitation issues in some of the houses, which leads to things like fleas and bedbugs. They’re going out for a date, and she suggests chatting and dancing. Presumably the chat will not be about vermin.
Delia fills out a passport form, practically giddy at the idea of having her very first passport. Patsy’s surprised she never had one before, but really, Patsy, you’ve met Delia’s parents. Do they seem like the adventurous travelling types to you? All Delia needs is her birth certificate from her mum. Yeah, there shouldn’t be any problems there, right? Since her mother’s so agreeable to her being away from home. Delia and Patsy are in their usual coffee shop, and Delia quietly notes that this one woman she frequently sees adding gin to her coffee is there again. She sadly wonders what this woman’s deal is and thinks she’s lonely or heartbroken. Patsy says she seems a little familiar. She should: it’s Mrs Cottingham.
The attics at the Mother House are being cleared out and all the stuff sent to Nonnatus. One of the boxes has some of the sisters’ wedding dresses in it—apparently, back in the day they wore wedding dresses to take their vows. This kicks off some fond nostalgia as the ladies find their dresses. Not for Evangelina, though. She says she felt like a sideshow in her giant white dress. Julienne finds Evangelina’s, and MJ realises she and Winifred wore the same dress.
Barbara gets the call to tend to Tripti and asks Evangelina to go with her to help out, since there’s a little bit of a language barrier with everyone except Tripti herself. Evangelina admires the fact that Barbara’s been learning Sylheti and agrees to go along.
At Tripti’s, Evangelina notes the flea problem and gets to work scrubbing the floor while Barbara tends to the mother. When Evangelina goes to fill the bucket at the outdoor tap, she hears the welcome cry of a newborn baby and smiles beatifically, then looks a little sad, rubbing her stiff hand across her chest.
Back inside, she heats water for the baby’s first bath. Barbara asks her to clean the baby while she tends to Tripti, who’s still waiting to deliver the placenta. Evangelia tries to decline, but someone has to do it, so she steps up and cutely bathes the little girl.
Later, she and Barbara return home, Evangelina clearly just delighted by the events of the evening. She directs Barbara to some leftover chocolate cake, but as usual MJ has already been there, and Evangelina scolds her for hogging the cake. I want to scold her for just leaving her fork and plate on the table for someone else to clean up. Evangelina settles down in a chair by the fire and Barbara covers her with a blanket to keep the chill off while she makes some tea.
The next morning, Fred goes to clear out the fireplace and finds Evangelina still there, supposedly asleep, but…not. When his racket fails to wake her, he realises she has, in fact, died in her sleep. Oh, man, I didn’t see that one coming, and as fierce and difficult as she could be, that makes me really sad.
Timothy delivers his dad’s copy of The Lancet and they talk about buying a birthday present for little Angela. Shelagh goes to answer the telephone and rushes back in, tearfully telling her husband that he’s needed at Nonnatus.
At Nonnatus, everyone’s praying and crying. Turner tells Julienne that it looks like it was another stroke. MJ insists he not take Evangelia away. Julienne gently tells her that formalities must be observed, and in this case, that means a post-mortem, but MJ’s a mess and can’t stomach the idea of her friend being dissected in any way.
Turner returns home and tells Shelagh he’s managed to avoid a post-mortem. He notes how upset she is and thinks it’s because of Evangelina, but it’s not: Turner has received a letter informing him that Distaval is being pulled because of a possible link with infant deformities. She looked in The Lancet as well and found a letter to the editor about it. Turner kind of freaks out because he’s prescribed the stuff to dozens of patients.
Cynthia checks out Noelle and says she seems fit and well. Noelle admits she feels quite pampered—Tom’s even managed to get a special dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury to move the marriage forward. You have to go to the Archbishop of Canterbury for all sorts of strange things. My parents had to get some document from him so they could get married in England back in the early 1980s (they both lived in America). It’s this massive, official looking thing, like something you’d expect Henry VIII to issue. The guy must do nothing but sign and stamp documents all day.
Cynthia notes Noelle’s wedding clothes—a pink flowered maternity dress—hanging up. Noelle tries to seem enthusiastic but says she kind of wishes she could have found a real white wedding dress.
Shelagh gets on the phone to try and get answers about the Distaval recall while Turner tries going through the files and stress smokes.
Flowers and cards start pouring into Nonnatus for Evangelina. Julienne says that a funeral home has offered to provide the wreath free of charge, but she doesn’t think that’s what Evangelina would have wanted, since she took their vows of poverty really seriously and gave away everything she ever had. Cynthia says she thought about that when she was visiting Noelle and could practically hear Evangelina telling them to give the poor girl her wedding dress. She and Julienne laugh and cry together, then Julienne goes to answer the ringing telephone. It’s Shelagh, summoning her to the maternity home.
Tom delivers a cup of tea to Fred, who’s sitting sadly beside Evangelina’s bike, trying to figure out why the front tyre kept going flat. He sadly says that he’s just doing what he does. It’s actually really tragic and underlines the fact that, although she was a difficult personality, Evangelina was definitely a presence, and however you felt about her, you’re definitely going to feel her loss.
Crane takes Julienne to the maternity home, where they get the story about Distaval. Crane’s sure there are more cases, both in Britain and Europe, and this is only the start. The odd thing is, Mrs Mullocks, who seems like one of the earliest patients in this case, wasn’t prescribed Distaval until the previous week, obviously long after Susan was born. They don’t know about Mrs Cottingham yet. Crane says they need to go out and collect all the Distaval that’s been prescribed, before more damage is done. She tells Julienne to go back to Nonnatus and take care of things that need attending to there, and send over Patsy, because she’s ‘a champion Rolodexer and stays calm under pressure.’ High praise, coming from Crane. She then tells Turner this isn’t his fault, but we know how good he is at self-guilting.
At Nonnatus, the nuns prepare Evangelina for burial, combing her hair and bathing her with scented oils while downstairs the girls get to work adjusting the old wedding dress. It’s actually a really sweet collection of scenes, these. MJ sobs for a moment as she holds Evangelina’s habit and Winifred comfortingly rubs her arm.
The nuns pray. Trixie comes up to say the undertaker has arrived. Julienne nods and goes to speak to him.
Crane, Shelagh, Patsy, and Turner go through all the files. They’re rather perplexed, because the only women who were prescribed Distaval for morning sickness gave birth to normal, healthy babies. Crane finds Ruby Cottingham’s file and finds that she was prescribed Distaval before she fell pregnant. Crane figures she had some left over and took them post-conception as well.
The undertaker tells Julienne that a lot of people are going to want to come and see Evangelina, because they all see her as one of their own. He offers to take care of everything free of charge. Turns out Evangelina delivered him when he was born two months early and saved both him and his mother, so he relaly feels like he owes her one.
Turner gets off the phone with a doctor who tended Mrs Mullocks’s sister. Apparently not concerned with confidentiality, the other doctor says he prescribed his patient Distaval. It stands to reason she shared some with her sister around the time Susan was conceived. They all sadly realise what grim they work they have ahead of them.
While people flood into Nonnatus to see Evangelina, Crane and Patsy get to work collecting all the prescriptions. Some of the women, horrifyingly, are pregnant.
Julienne tracks Mrs Cottingham to the coffeeshop, where she now seems to spend most of her time, dumping gin into her tea. Mrs C says she can’t seem to let go of her child, and now she can’t bear all the noise of her sons. Man, that’s tragic. Julienne breaks the news that medication may have been behind this tragedy. She asks Mrs C if she took Distaval and Mrs C pulls a bottle out of her pocket, asking if she can just take one last one. I guess, why not?
Trixie gets to work ironing her funeral clothes while Crane wrestles with a hat. The others have gone out to a pub, which Trixie didn’t fancy, of course. Crane gently notes that Trixie looks lonely, and when Trixie bursts into tears, Crane offers up a hug and a handkerchief. Trixie admits it’s not the singlehood that bothers her, it’s the lack of belonging and contentment that she sees in others. Crane tells her that some women make a decent life of spinsterhood, but Trixie’s not one of them.
Noelle’s all dressed up in her remade gown and looks really beautiful. Tessie helps her get ready, coaches her on how to hold the bouquet, and says she looks a picture. Aww.
Trixie and Noakes have a moment with Evangelina before the crowds come in. They remember how they used to be terrified of her, and how much she taught both of them.
Patsy and Delia meet with Delia’s mother at a teashop. Her mother’s as delightful as ever, crapping on Delia’s possible plan to become a midwife (and, by extension, passive-aggressively crapping on Patsy). Delia, as usual, can’t stand up to her mother, so it’s up to Patsy to demand Delia’s birth certificate so they can go to Paris for their next holiday. Astonishingly, the woman hands it over with hardly a murmur. I find that a bit unlikely.
Mitchell and Noelle get married and everyone’s all smiley and happy and adorable. While the reception gets underway, Noelle repairs to one of the beds at the community centre and goes into labour with Tessie at her side. Violet, who’s there as well, watches the girl’s water break, then calmly calls for Tom to put the conga line aside and telephone Nonnatus.
Shelagh really obnoxiously steers Tim towards the front of the queue to see Evangelina. Not cool, Shelagh. If you were really worried about Tim being late for scouts, then you should have gotten there earlier. As they move past the people politely waiting, Mrs M calls out to her. Turner had been trying to get in touch with her, but she’s been nowhere to be found. Apparently she and the family were at the seaside over the weekend.
She’s taken to the maternity home and says that yes, her sister did give her some Distaval to take. She begins melting down at the thought that some pill she took did this to her baby. Turner fiercely tells her she’s not to blame. She snuggles the adorable baby and says her husband was only just starting to come around, and people were still being really shitty and it’s all because she took some pill to get some sleep. She sobs and tells her baby how sorry she is.
Trixie coaches Noelle through her labour while just on the other side of the curtain wedding guests do the Twist. Um, what? Who are these bizarre people partying in the same room while this poor young woman’s in labour? Why didn’t they go home? This seems so strange. And I can only imagine how surreal it would be for Noelle. I hope someone at least saves her some cake. Noelle delivers a son and Tessie happily calls out the news to Mitchell, who’s anxiously smoking with Fred.
It’s time for Evangelina’s funeral. Noakes reports to Julienne that people are lining the whole route and he’s stopped traffic. JVO says that Evangelina went to her rest surrounded by her colleagues and people who loved her. MJ emerges from Nonnatus with Evangelina’s shoes and hands them to the undertaker, who places them on her unadorned coffin. The nuns take their place behind the hearse, followed by the midwives, the Turners, Fred and Violet, and the other mourners, seeing Sister Evangelina to her rest.
That’s it for this season, folks. See you all back here for the Christmas special!