Previously on Call the Midwife: Chummy took off for Africa and was replaced by the seriously shy and awkward Jane. Jimmy got married, presumably leaving Jenny behind permanently.
Jenny cycles through the neighbourhood and receives some wolf whistles from a crew of older teen boys. JVO talks about how unintimidated she was by her surroundings after having been there for a year. It’s about time she acclimated. I will say, she hasn’t been as obnoxiously judgmental as she was last season. Fred and a man who’s such an absolute dead ringer for Hugh Dancy that I actually find it distracting are playing cards and talking about how Jenny’s teen admirers spend way too much time and money on Brylcreem. This guy is actually played by Jamie Thomas King, better known to us as Thomas Wyatt from The Tudors and possibly best known to the world at large as the guy who got his foot cut off by a lawnmower in Mad Men. Good to see him again! Fred asks his partner, Douglas, if his wife’s due soon and Doug says she is, and he’s sure that, after two girls, it’s going to be a boy. Fred asks if he wants to wager that and Doug agrees.
At the clinic, Turner’s son, Tim, shows up with a scrape on his elbow. The school sent him over, because I guess they were clean out of peroxide that day. Turner’s annoyed, because he’s busy and really, the school should have been able to handle a damn scrape on their own. Bernadette bustles over and agrees to take over Tim’s care.
Ruby, Doug’s very pregnant wife, emerges from her exam and walks past the row of other pregnant women. One of them, an obnoxious busybody bitch named Joyce, starts some trouble by basically calling Ruby a snob for no reason, but Ruby gives as good as she gets before walking out.
Later, the bell rings at Nonnatus and Julienne finds a blonde man in sunglasses on the doorstep. He introduces himself cheerfully as the Reverend Applebee-Thornton. He’s played by the same actor who played Herrick in Being Human, which is yet another distraction in this episode because I half expect him to go all evil vampire any second. It’s those very dark eyes—they’re a little alarming. Anyway, he’s expected, having been sent by Chummy to stay at Nonnatus while he’s waiting for his new parish’s lodgings for him to be prepared. He’s also a real chatterbox; it’s hard for Julienne to get a word in edgewise. He and Chummy crossed paths in Africa, and he loves her, so now we know he’s totally human.
Doug arrives home and flops down on the bed. Ruby comes in and bemusedly asks him how drunk he is and whether he’s been gambling. He has, but at least he won. She calls him a bad man but gives him a kiss before sitting down next to him. He sweetly wraps his arms around her and rubs her belly, asking how everyone is. They’re so lovely together you know something terrible’s going to happen.
The girls, including Jane, are coming home from a fair or something and talking about first kisses. For the record: Trixie’s was a rather movie-star kiss through a chain-link fence, Jenny’s was during a game of sardines with a person unknown, and Cynthia’s happened when she was eight. The girls press Jane for her first kiss story and decide to name the goldfish she won at the fair after her first love. Jane sadly tells them the goldfish will have to remain nameless before ducking inside.
Breakfast the next morning is about eight different shades of awkward as the girls sit in a row, all staring at Jane, until she just takes her toast and leaves. Bernadette’s the only nun at the table and has clearly been filled in on the whole story. Cynthia wonders if Jane will be all right and Bernadette says it’s rather hard to tell, what with Jane being so incredibly buttoned up. Trixie feels bad for her and Bernadette points out that Jane’s crippling shyness probably makes it difficult for her to speak to men. Trixie wonders where Julienne found Jane and Bernadette remains mum.
In comes the Rev, who greets them jovially and sits down to start chattering away. He goes on and on and on, to the point that, when the bell rings, all three of the midwives leap to their feet to get it, relieved for the distraction. It’s Doug, come to fetch the midwife for Ruby. Evangelina joins them and says she’ll attend to Ruby, having already delivered both of Ruby’s daughters. She tells Jenny she can assist.
Evangelina and Jenny arrive at Ruby’s and Ruby admits she feels rather awful and that this is hurting like hell. Evangelina helps her into the bed and props up her legs as Jenny gowns up.
Labour, labour, labour. Ruby delivers the baby and…something’s not right. It almost looks like there’s some big sore on its back. Evangelina and Jenny exchange an alarmed look, but Evangelina’s soon all business, wrapping up the baby and attending to it and ordering Jenny to look after the mother. The baby starts to cry, and Evangelina orders up some damp gauze soaked in boiling water. The baby is a boy, by the way. Doug, having heard the baby’s cry, comes up to see everyone, but the midwives quickly bundle him out.
Gradually, Ruby realizes that all is not quite right here, and she demands to know what’s going on. Evangelina gently tells her that the baby’s had some complications and that there’s a problem with his back. Ruby looks horrified.
Rev’s now babbling about his last Christmas in Sierra Leone, as Julienne tries to get herself and him out the door. The phone rings, so she goes to answer it, and he wanders over to Jane, who’s feeding the goldfish. He introduces himself, startling her a bit, apologises, and then notices she’s overfed the fish. He cheerfully tells her they’d better get the fish out of there before he eats himself to death ‘like a Roman emperor.’ Together, they save Nemo. Bernadette, passing by, observes this for a moment before making herself scarce.
The doctor is now with Ruby and Douglas, explaining that the baby has hydrocephalus and spina bifida. Excuse me while I go and eat about a pound and a half of lentils just in case. Seriously, if I ever manage to become pregnant I may have to take a complete break from this show, because it’s like a catalogue of all the things that can go terribly wrong in a pregnancy and childbirth. When was the last time we saw a totally straightforward birth on this show? I get that the complications make for more drama, but they also make for more anxiety for your delicate recapper here.
Doug’s clearly trying to absorb this, but Ruby’s just lying in the bed, pale, crying, and not responding to anything at all. Turner tries to reassure these poor people that treatment’s come along in leaps and bounds and the baby will be well cared for at the hospital, where they’re going to take him.
Montage time. Doug tries to feed his daughters, burning the toast, Ruby responds to nothing, Rev and Jane bond over the goldfish, Jenny keeps visiting the Roberts home to check on Ruby.
On one of her visits, Jenny brightly informs Doug that the baby is doing well and will be able to come home the next day. She asks how Ruby is and he tells her to see for herself.
Upstairs, Ruby’s up and putting her face on and fixing her hair. Jenny relays the news about the baby doing well and Ruby says, a little too quickly, that that’s great, that they’ll have him back soon, then.
Jenny reports back to Nonnatus that Ruby seems to be in much better spirits. Sister MJ recalls her first spina bifida birth, describing it as looking like raspberry jam on the baby’s back. Thanks for ruining raspberry jam for me, sister. She also tells the girls that ‘treatment’ in those days essentially meant ‘euthanasia’. They’re shocked, but Julienne tells them there wasn’t much that could be done in these cases back in the day, and it was considered a mercy to just let the baby die. Evangelina adds a ray of sunshine by listing all the awful things this kid faces during its short life but the others are sure the parents will manage somehow. Sister MJ blames the eating of green potatoes but the others inform her that’s just a myth. In comes Rev, who immediately starts talking about what a great walk he just had. Julienne interrupts him and says he’ll have to accompany one of the nurses the next day, as Julienne is going to be stuck at Nonnatus attending to administration. Bernadette immediately offers up Jane, who agrees to have him along.
The Roberts baby has come home and Doug enters the bedroom to introduce him to his two sisters. Ruby takes one look at him and silently closes her eyes. The girls go to see him, and one of them asks what’s wrong with the baby’s legs. Doug sends them on their way and hands Ruby some dressings and antiseptic that they’ll have to use on the baby’s back. He follows the girls out and the baby starts to wail. Ruby looks like she wants to cry too.
Jane and Rev go to visit a complete hovel, where Jane tends to the bedridden wife while Rev stands around a bit awkwardly, receiving a hairy eyeball from the bedridden woman’s elderly husband. Rev offers to tidy up a bit, but the man sharply tells him not to and asks if his home offends him. Rev says it doesn’t and the man says it bothers him. His wife asks Jane to chuck her husband out the window. Rev starts talking about how shameful it is that such a great country lets its elderly live in such squalor. Wife says that, at their age, they’re just happy to wake up in the morning, and her husband agrees, adding that they need to take pleasure wherever they can get it, because you’re dead a really, really long time. This scene has MESSAGE: IMPORTANT stamped all over it.
Outside the hovel, Jane tends to a little cut on Rev’s hand and a passing woman teases them a bit.
Jenny’s back at the Roberts’, commenting that the baby looks good. She tries to give Ruby the baby to feed but Ruby rather angrily says her milk dried up and the baby has powdered downstairs. Jenny offers to make it but asks Ruby if she’ll at least hold the baby. Ruby won’t and quickly launches into a self-guilt trip, wondering if this happened because she kept working or because of something else she did. Jenny tells her she can’t blame herself, but Ruby points out that she’s the one who grew the kid. She then wonders if they’re being punished by God. Jenny quietly offers to feed him and takes the baby downstairs while Ruby weeps.
Downstairs, Doug’s doing the washing up and finally channels his rage into smashing one of the plates. Jenny waits a minute, then asks him where the powdered milk is. He shows her, and she suggests he take the baby out for a walk. He says that a man doesn’t go about pushing prams. Ok, then. Jenny asks him to hold the baby and he takes the tyke readily enough and asks if Ruby’s touched him yet. Jenny excuses Ruby’s behavior, saying she’s ‘under the weather’. He hands back the baby and leaves.
Jenny returns to Nonnatus and tells Julienne that, while Doug is working things out, Ruby’s not doing so well. Julienne’s not surprised, since this is a difficult thing for anyone to come to terms with. Jenny admits to feeling rather underprepared for this situation and says she doesn’t know what to say to these people. Julienne suggests Jenny accompany Jane and a box of donation to St Gideon’s.
St Gideon’s is, apparently, a home for people with various birth defects. The woman in charge, Mrs Peacock, thanks Jenny and Jane for the donations. Jenny asks how many of the residents have families and learns that most do, though at least abandonment’s less common nowadays. Jenny can’t imagine why anyone would do that and Peacock tells her that most of the mothers feel guilty, thinking this is all their fault. As they walk through the halls, they’re met by a young man with a friendly smile and a winning attitude who asks Jenny if she’ll stay for a cup of tea. He’s difficult to understand, and she can’t figure out what he’s saying, so Peacock translates. He turns to Jane and tells her she’s looking well, and she smiles and thanks him, calling him by his name, Jacob, so clearly they know each other. Peacock cheerily sends him off and describes him as being bright as a button and cheeky as a monkey. Jenny mentions the Roberts’ and suggests the baby would do well at Gideon’s. Peacock tells her that this is a home, but is not, actually, home, and that the best thing is to keep the baby with its family, if they can. As they go to leave, Jenny asks Jane if she used to work at Gideon’s. Jane confesses she was a patient there, and then became a trustee. Jenny promises not to mention it to the others.
Cynthia and Trixie have apparently gotten on board with Operation: Hook Up Jane and is offering Rev a pair of tickets to the week’s dance. Bernadette and Trixie also suggest Jane would enjoy it, so Rev takes the tickets and goes to ask her. Jane’s instantly suspicious, wondering why he’d want to go with her and he says she works so hard and he thought she might enjoy herself. He’s clearly rather nervous and it’s pretty adorable, really. Jane agrees, seeming to surprise even herself.
Evangelina catches Jenny wheeling Ruby’s baby around the neighbourhood. Jenny claims she’s giving Ruby time to adjust and Evangelina tells her they deliver the babies, they don’t raise them.
Doug stumbles out of the pub, drunk and looking ready to cause some trouble.
Jenny returns to the Roberts’ and urges Ruby to come for a walk with her and the baby. Ruby, sounding a bit desperate, says she’s not up to it. She’s trying to come to terms with this, but with Doug out getting wasted, she’s got kind of a lot on her plate. Jenny gently tells her she can’t do this for them forever, and that they need to take some baby steps here. Ruby gets up and prepares to go for a walk.
The baby’s parked in his pram outside, and who should come over and look at him but Joyce, perhaps one of the most hateful people to ever be on this show. As Ruby and Jenny come out, the woman says she can’t blame Ruby for leaving her baby outside, since nobody would want to steal a cripple. Jesus, what a harridan. Poor Ruby’s delicate resolve crumbles, and she rushes back inside. ‘Not so high and mighty now, is she?’ Joyce sniffs. I hope she has a hideously painful birth.
Rev’s waiting for Jane outside the dance hall. Along comes Doug, drunk as hell. He takes one look at that gang of teens that was ogling Jenny at the beginning and decides this would be a good time to pick a fight. He starts insulting them, saying he knows women who spend less time on their hair than them. They start piling on him, and Jane, who’s at the top of the stairs, shrinks back in fear. Rev throws himself between Doug and the teens, telling them all to lay off. He goes to help Doug as Jane runs away. Doug quietly says that the baby’s his flesh and blood and how can Ruby turn her back on him?
Jane arrives home and appears to have a full-blown panic attack, crying, gasping for air, and clapping a hand over her mouth so her sobs can’t be heard. Woah.
Jenny delivers some food to Ruby, who’s in bed. Ruby says she doesn’t care what people think, that that isn’t what’s bothering her. Jenny asks what it is, then, and Ruby tells her that, if she holds the baby, she thinks she might just be crushed by the sadness. Jenny quietly says she’s sure it gets easier and urges Ruby to eat something. As she goes to leave, Ruby asks her why everyone bothered to save the baby, since he’s not expected to live past 16. Jenny tells her that life is never without hope.
At breakfast, Rev’s telling Julienne that he’ll be ready to move to his new parish soon, which she’s quite happy to hear. Jenny, on the other hand, is so depressed she’s not even listening. Jane appears behind Rev, sees he’s there, and disappears. Evangelina snarks at Jenny for spending so much time at the Roberts’ and Jenny says this is temporary, until the parents come around. Evangelina points out that’ll never happen if Jenny’s always there to take care of everything. Evangelina thinks Jenny feels guilty, since she was the one who delivered the kid, and says that her guilt won’t help the mother bond with the baby. She has to let go soon and let things take their course. Rev, amazingly, listens to all this in silence and gives Jenny a sad, sympathetic smile as she gets up to start her day.
Doug, Jenny, Ruby and the baby go to St Gideon’s. Ruby refuses to go in, saying she just can’t bear it, so Doug lets her wait in the car and goes in with Jenny and the baby.
Inside, they meet Jacob, who asks Doug if he had a fight with King Kong (he’s still all bruised up from his dust-up with those boys). It takes him two tries, but Doug manages to understand him and explains it was just half a dozen little monkeys. Jacob escorts them to Peacock’s.
Rev finds Jane in the kitchen, having a cup of tea, and he immediately starts explaining why he chatters so much: his parents hated each other and he felt it keenly in the silences at the dinner table, so he just started filling them. Ooof. As the child of two people who championed the silent treatment when they fought, I feel his pain. That’s a special kind of hell right there. He says he knows it can be hard to bear, but he talks so he won’t know what the silence holds. Jane tells him it’s no matter, and she looks like she wants to say more, but she doesn’t. He smiles kindly at her and leaves her alone.
Julienne finds Bernadette in the dispensary and delivers a drawing from Turner’s kid.
Peacock’s meeting with Doug, telling him they like the parents to visit as often as possible. He’s distractedly watching Jacob, who’s serving up some tea just out of earshot. Doug asks what happened to him and learns that Jacob was born that way. Not for any reason, just because it happens to every 1 in 1000 babies. Showing some black humour here, Doug cracks that, at 1000 to 1, he should have put money on that. Tea is served, and when Doug doesn’t immediately drink, Jacob jokingly reassures him that it’s not poisoned. Doug asks him what it’s like living there and Jacob tells him there’s a biscuit factory next door, and that they get the broken ones. Oh, man. That cut right to the quick, that one. It really describes this whole place, doesn’t it? This is where people send ‘the broken ones’ so they won’t have to deal with them. It clearly resonates with Doug, too, because he tells Peacock he has to have a chat with his wife. Jenny’s confused, but Doug tells her he knows Ruby, and he likes a gamble.
He and Jenny pile back into the car and Doug breezily tells Ruby that Peacock can take the baby right away, and it’s a nice place, there’s a biscuit factory nearby and everything.
Back home, Doug packs up all the baby’s things and tells Ruby he’ll take the suitcase and she can grab the baby. Faced with having to do this so suddenly, Ruby now looks uncertain. Doug goes to the door and tells her to grab ‘it’. She reaches into the bassinette, takes the baby’s hand, and tells her husband he’s not an ‘it,’ he’s a baby, her baby, and how can he even think of sending him away. ‘Yeah, what a bastard, eh?’ says Doug, smiling knowingly. She reaches into the bassinette and gently scoops the baby up. Doug closes the door and sets the suitcase down, looking at his wife and baby for a little while before going downstairs and telling Jenny there’s been a change of plans. Ruby calls down that Douglas, Jr is staying right where he is. JVO says that this had been a huge gamble, but it paid off enormously.
Rev’s heading out, suitcases in hand, which is what Jane needs to see to put some steel in her spine. She runs after him and tells him it’s her turn to talk. She explains that she’s been scared for her entire life; that she used to sit bolt upright in bed and scream, so her parents sent her away. Hold on: Jane’s parents’ response to their daughter’s night terrors was to send her away to an institution? Holy crap, what horrible people. And then Jane, who clearly never overcame those crippling fears, entered the medical profession? That seems like rather a poor choice. She tells Rev she really wanted to go to the dance with him, but she was too scared, and she thinks he deserves somebody brave. He doesn’t look like he knows what to say, but he finally says sincerely that she’s very brave. Awww!
Ruby and Doug take the baby for a walk and are met by Fred, who greets them cheerfully, says hi to the baby, and pays Doug three bob he won on their bet for having a boy. Fred offers another bet, but Ruby says they’re not gambling anymore. JVO informs us that the baby defied all expectations and thrived and was cherished.
JVO goes on to say that Jane was finally able to name the goldfish. Yay!