Previously on Call the Midwife: Sister Evangelina had to go have surgery, so no-nonsense Nurse Crane arrived to take over her duties.
The camera pans past a rat, then some broken-down barbed wire fence, and a sign for a public men’s bathroom before joining the local volunteers who’ll be the go-to folks in the case of a nuclear attack. Because despite the fact that they had direct evidence to the contrary, people at this time still believed you could actually flee a nuclear bomb blast before it melted your skin off. Fred’s the leader of this crew. One of the men, Tony, asks if there’ll be provisions in the shelters for babies and Fred tells him not to worry. A rat scurries through, and while the others panic, Tony stomps the thing to death, calling it a filthy thing, spreading disease.
Sister MJ, meanwhile, is picking up all the rat poison Fred’s put down at Nonnatus. Crane tells her patiently that the poison is there for a reason, and that they carry diseases. MJ sticks up for ratkind and points out that, as a vegetarian, Crane shouldn’t support the murder of any animal.
Tony works at a garage owned by his father-in-law. His heavily pregnant wife comes by with lunch and, after a little flirting with her husband, is found and taken home by Patsy.
Crane is summoned to Turner’s surgery to hear that there’s a dysentery outbreak in the district. ‘Spreads like margarine,’ she sighs before offering to notify the Ministry of Health. Turner just wants her and the Nonnatuns to be on the lookout for fresh outbreaks, because they can’t deal with an epidemic.
Patsy and Tony’s wife, Marie, return to the couple’s home where Marie shows off a truly hideous painting of a woman with a creepily blue face that Tony bought the week before. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Patsy notes the piano and asks who plays. Tony plans to, once the garage is making enough.
At the clinic, an Irish mother wipes one of her two sons’ faces and a bitchy pregnant lady nearby sneers at the ‘paddies.’ Bernadette calls everyone to attention so she can warn them about the dysentery outbreak and give a primer in handwashing, which Bitchy takes umbrage to because she thinks they’re hinting that they’re dirty. Carbolic soap is offered around, but the Irish mother turns it down, because they aren’t ‘in need.’
Tom seeks out Trixie and tells her that the rector’s wife, who was supposed to run the Rose Queen pageant, has broken her ankle and is out of commission. Tom’s been put in charge, but since he knows nothing about these things, he asks if Trixie might be willing to take over. Her eyes practically gleam at the thought and she agrees right away.
Irish Mum, Mrs McAvoy, gets an exam from Crane, who notes the holes in the woman’s stockings and shoes and the underwear made of potato sacking. Crane, a professional, doesn’t make any comments.
Tony and his father-in-law have a drink together and f-i-l reassures him he’ll be a fine dad, that everyone’s scared. Tony admits that he doesn’t really know what comes naturally and has to sometimes remind himself that this is his life, his house, his wife. He feels like an alien. FIL does not see that for the red flag it is.
Trixie is roping in the other Nonnatuns to help with the Rose Queen. MJ comments that, back in the day, the Rose Queen was put to death. Anti-Pagan sentiment. The shocked looks on everyone’s faces are pretty great. Trixie sees that last year’s Rose Queen was Marie, Tony’s wife. ‘There’s going to be a bit more Rose Queen than I imagined,’ she says. Heh.
Mrs M takes the boys to see their dad at a church. He gives her some money and promises more at the end of the week. She begs him to get them back together under one roof, telling him that she and the kids are treated like animals where they’re staying. He promises they’ll be together soon, that he’s doing everything they can. They go and light a candle together.
Tony locks up the garage, glances at his house, where Marie is closing the curtains, and continues past, stopping at that public restroom we saw at the beginning. There, he washes his hands eeeever so slowly, making some eye contact with another man. He reaches out and touches the man’s hand, and when the guy doesn’t turn away, kisses him passionately. The guy lets him do it for a bit, them pulls away and blows a whistle, summoning Noakes and another policemen who were lying in wait. Tony begs them not to arrest him, because he has a wife, but Noakes is unsympathetic.
Trixie measures Marie for a Rose Queen dress. There’s a knock at the door: Noakes, there to tell Marie as gently as he can that he’s had to arrest her husband for public indecency with another man. He’ll be in jail overnight unless he can make bail. Marie insists that he would never do that. Trixie asks if there’s someone they can call and she whimpers that she wants her dad.
In a jail cell, Tony paces, breathes heavily, and panics.
Back at Nonnatus, Trixie briskly tells Noakes that his timing was kind of sucky. He says they’ve had complaints about that particular restroom, hence the honeytrap. Patsy thinks all this is a terrible overreaction. Trixie wonders if Marie will forgive him. She couldn’t—not because of what he is, but because he cheated. She has no problem with homosexuality, having once served as a beard back when she was a student nurse. Patsy says the nurses were all warned away from ‘dark secrets’ on pain of losing their positions.
Father-in-law returns Tony to his home and fires him. Poor Marie can’t even deal with this. And it gets worse, because Tony’s got to go to trial in a week. She panics at the idea of him going to prison, but he rushes towards her and reassures her he’ll find someone to attest to his good character. She is not reassured.
Bernadette is marking the dysentery cases on a map, to try and trace the source. She fancies herself a bit of a Dr Watson with this, though I think fancying herself a Dr Snow might be more accurate.
Crane goes looking for Mrs M, only to discover the woman’s given a false address.
[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Yep, Patsy’s a lesbian. She’s taking this storyline waaaaay too personally.[/cryout-pullquote]Patsy goes to Marie’s to check on her. Patsy’s super perky and tells Marie that she’s a willing ear if Marie wants to talk about anything. Marie insists her husband isn’t ‘one of them’ because she couldn’t love someone so unnatural.
Crane goes to Turner’s surgery to double check Mrs M’s address. She had it right, so she knows that the woman lied about where she lives, and now she’s worried.
Out on the street, Mrs M gives her kids something to eat and tells them that they can go inside at 7 and tuck up. She embraces them and looks sad.
Trixie bribes Barbara with cake and gratitude to keep sewing the banners for the Rose Queen. Tom arrives with poles, which he leaves to Barbara before following Trixie to the kitchen.
MJ finds Fred measuring the front door to determine how many sandbags they’d need to block it up in the event of nuclear war. She hates all this nonsense and thinks this energy would be better put to use in peace talks. Fred notes that she’s picking up the rat poison and she says she doesn’t hold with purges, because who knows what ‘undesirables’ they’ll go and start killing next? ‘Hear, hear,’ Patsy says as she passes. Yep, Patsy’s a lesbian. She’s taking this storyline waaay too personally.
Crane gets on the phone to try to track down Mrs M, but she’s having no luck. Julienne tells her she’ll have to wait for Mrs M to come to them, which should be any day now.
Tony goes to Turner and pleads with him to speak up for him in court. Because he’s a nice guy, Turner agrees. Tony’s a complete mess, crying and saying it would be best if he weren’t alive. Turner urges him to cling to his impending fatherhood, and his family.
Everyone at Nonnatus gossips about Tony over dinner. MJ thinks this is absurd, because she always thought that a crime required some sort of harm. Crane points out that Marie was somewhat harmed by all this. MJ reminds them that sex was once punishable by stoning. Maybe they should just stone Tony, then! Winifred says that sodomy is a sin. Trixie thinks telling people who they can and can’t love is fascist, and they just fought a war over that.
Turner and Bernadette share a cigarette and gossip about Tony too. Bernadette can’t believe he’s gay, since he’s married and has a pregnant wife. Turner says it’s not uncommon. People are just trying to fit in. He thinks they should all just live and let live.
Tony tells Marie that Turner’s going to speak up for him. She’s hopeful, thinking that a good, upstanding man like Turner speaking up for him will help the judge see that Tony just made a mistake.
Crane answers the ringing phone at Nonnatus. It’s a women’s hostel with a woman in labour. Trixie overhears part of the conversation and is aghast the hellhole is still open. She offers to come along.
Turner and Marie arrive at the court for Tony’s trial. Marie thanks Turner for speaking up. She’s trying so hard to see good signs in the procedures. Poor woman. Tony pleads guilty to the charges. Noakes gives his evidence. Marie tries not to cry as she listens to it.
Trixie and Crane arrive at the hostel, which is definitely right out of Dickens. The woman in charge only tells them that the woman in labour is ‘an Irish’ and sick with something. Great. Of course, Mrs M is the woman in question. She’s in bed, groaning in pain, as the two boys huddle nearby. She tries to explain that this is just temporary, until her husband gets back on his feet, but Crane nicely says there’s no need to explain. Trixie gets to work examining her and notes that she’s got dysentery. Crane sweetly offers some barley sugars to the little boys and sends them downstairs to wait.
Turner tells the judge that Tony’s a good guy, working with the Civil Defense Corps and supporting a pregnant wife. He just wants to put this behind him. The judge is pretty hard on Turner, and it doesn’t seem to go terribly well.
Crane tells the woman running the hostel that they need hot water. There isn’t any, it’s been shut off.
Crane: How about a kettle, do you have one of those, bitch?
The woman sneers at the idea of running about after the likes of Mrs M, like, what kind of an inhuman creature is this woman, anyway? Crane tells her to get the damn water already and then goes to telephone Turner’s surgery to arrange for Mrs M to be moved to the hospital after she delivers.
The judge wants to throw the book at Tony, but it seems Turner’s made some kind of an impression, so he gets a probation order on the condition he gets treatment and pays a £15 fine.
After the trial, Turner tells Tony he’ll have to come by the surgery to discuss this treatment. Marie promises he’ll be there later.
Mrs M is too weak to push. The woman running the place has apparently found her conscience inside that kettle and delivers a freshly laundered towel for the baby. Crane finds out where the husband’s staying and asks the woman in charge to bring him to see his wife and child. Trixie urges Mrs M to push and she delivers a daughter. She’s shown the baby (can’t hold it because of the dysentery). Mrs M urges her daughter not to look around, because this isn’t home.
Marie and Tony meet with Turner, who tells Tony that he thinks the best treatment is hormones. There’ll be side effects, of course. Tony may grow breasts and will be incapable of getting it up. Marie, sporting a seriously set face, says they already have their kid, so no big deal, as long as her husband’s not in prison. I guess if it’s a choice between imprisonment and celibacy, you do what you can.
The two return home, which is right next to the garage. Her father eyes them, then goes into the garage, slamming the door.
Mr M gets to the hostel and is able to hold his daughter. He apologises for sending his wife into all this and tells the midwives that they came over in the expectation of a job that apparently fell through. Also, there are very few landlords who’ll rent to Irish people. He promises to work every moment he can to get them back on their feet.
Marie insists that Tony has to take this medication, but he’s reluctant, because he knows they’ll change him.
Marie: Yes, that’s the whole point!
She pleads with him, telling him this could be a whole new start, and he holds her.
Turner and Crane go back to the hostel, where he explains that Mrs M and the boys have been admitted to the London, basically just to give them a decent place to stay. Crane wants Turner to do more and try to get the place shut down, but he says resources are limited and they have to just manage as well as they can.
Trixie and Crane are quarantined for two days because of the dysentery exposure. Crane gets Trixie to quiz her on her Spanish, which she’s learning because she wants to visit Spain one day. She gives Trixie some side-eye for pouring a drink, because apparently she had an alcoholic aunt. Trixie swiftly shuts down this whole discussion.
Rose Queen rehearsal. Patsy helps zip Marie into her dress and expresses some surprise that Marie’s there, what with all the rumours going around. Patsy’s trying to be nice and supportive, but Marie clearly wants to pretend that nothing’s changed at all. The rehearsal gets underway, with Marie escorting the new Rose Queen, but before they can really get into the swing of things, that horrible bitchy woman from the top of the episode comes stomping in waving a newspaper and declares, ‘he’s a flaming queer!’ There’s an article in the paper about Tony being arrested for gross indecency. She rubs Marie’s nose in it, because she’s a terrible person whom we’re all supposed to hate. The woman insists that filth not be brought to the Rose Queen, because won’t someone think of the children?! Marie, mortified and humiliated, grabs her coat and rushes out while Horrible Bitch snits, ‘that’s right, you go, and you stay gone.’ Jesus, woman, what is your problem? Patsy informs the woman that Marie has every right to be there. ‘that filth has no place at a church festival,’ the woman shouts back. ‘Smallmindedness has no place there,’ Patsy responds. Go Patsy! She catches up with Marie, who’s crying and saying there’s nowhere she can go, she can’t hide from this.
Tony arrives at the Civil Defense Corps meeting and is told by Fred that nobody with a criminal record can serve. Poor Tony begs to be allowed to stay, because he needs something good in his life right now. But Fred says his hands are tied.
He returns home and almost immediately has a plate thrown at his head by his enraged wife, who shows him the article and tells him she’s not allowed to be in the Rose Queen anymore. She weeps and says she thought she’d found her prince charming in him, but as anyone who’s seen Into the Woods knows, that’s not necessarily the end of the fairy tale. She screams that he ruined them and he cries and says that he hates himself for all this. He tells her he’s sorry and offers to leave, just disappear.
Marie: Uh, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we have a kid on the way, so MAN UP and take your cure.
At Nonnatus, Patsy wonders if she’s the only person who doesn’t despise Tony and Marie. Trixie doesn’t despise them, but she doesn’t think it’s their place to take sides in this. She especially doesn’t want any blowback that might hurt Tom. She asks Patsy why she cares so much about this and Patsy shrugs that she’s a bit like MJ and doesn’t hold with culls either.
Tony gets dressed and ready to go to the hospital and get his meds.
Turner goes to see Julienne and tells her he wants to petition the medical officer, Lancing, about the conditions at the hospital. He was hoping one of the Nonnatuns might accompany him. Julienne nominates Crane.
[cryout-pullquote align=”left” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]’You poor devil. How DO you manage your conscience?'[/cryout-pullquote]Turner and Crane go to see Lancing and Turner tells him that the conditions in the hostel are disgraceful. Lancing does the usual ‘look, we just don’t have the resources to make sure that every place where people are living isn’t a disease and rat-infested hellhole the likes of which would make Charles Dickens declare, ‘woah, too much!’’ Crane says she feels sorry for him, because it’s so easy for Turner, a man not constrained by politics. Turner’s only concern is care for actual human beings. But Lancing must ignore and turn away from women and children in deplorable conditions. ‘You poor devil. How do you manage your conscience?’ she asks. Ha! I really like her. Lancing writes out an order to have the place fogged. Well, it’s something.
Marie returns home from shopping to find someone’s painted ‘Queer’ over her door. Nice neighbours you’ve got there. As she goes to fetch a pail and scrub brush, she starts to go into labour. Tony, meanwhile, stops in the street and stares at the medicine bottle in his hand.
Patsy arrives at the house and gets Marie ready to deliver.
Tony goes into the garage and gets ready to commit suicide, rigging up a hose to a car’s exhaust pipe and crying as he turns the key in the ignition. This poor man. That sort of self-loathing must be unbearably awful.
Marie’s father arrives at the house just before she delivers a daughter. He nearly cries in relief, then goes outside and hears the sound of the car in the garage. He rips open the doors and yanks Tony out of there, telling him he has a daughter. He tells the young man that he made a mistake, but he can come back from that. Tony sobs that Marie deserves better. Her dad says she doesn’t want that, she wants her husband. She can’t live without Tony, and her dad can’t live without her, so they need to stick together here. The older man fiercely embraces the younger.
The hostel is being fogged as Turner, Crane, and Lancing watch. Crane brings up Lancing’s newborn and asks if he’d be willing to bring him home to such a place, even after it’s been fogged. Lancing insists he’s not responsible for housing. Turner knows they can’t save them all, but Lancing could declare the place unfit for a new mother and baby to return to. Lancing, I kid you not, says ‘you…want me to use my position to influence another department’s decision?’ Is this guy a politician or not? Come on.
Turner returns home and finds Bernadette triumphantly smiling over her dysentery map. She’s found the source of the outbreak: a mobile kitchen that serves two schools that were at the centre of outbreak clusters. Well done, Bernadette.
Tony finally arrives home to meet his daughter. He’s crying all over the place. Aww, new dad tears! So sweet. Marie tells their daughter that this is her daddy and he’s always going to be there and will look after her. He weeps and says he doesn’t know how to. Marie says he’ll just have to figure it out, like everyone. Her dad looks on, a bit teary himself. I know this is supposed to be heartwarming and all, but I can’t help but cringe at the thought that this is essentially a sham marriage going forward, and that this kid is going to be growing up in that household. Not that she won’t be beloved and well cared for or anything, but there’s no way this doesn’t affect her somehow. Her parents are being forced to live a lie. And you have to figure that, at some point, when things ease up a bit socially, there’s going to be a divorce here. It’s just going to be ugly at some point, is what I’m saying, and that makes me sad.
Anyway, Turner finds Crane and tells her that the McAvoys are being rehoused. She cheers. He gives her some barley sugars, having heard they’re her favourite. How sweet!
Time for the Rose Queen. Tony shows up during setup and everyone stops so they can offer up some narrow-minded judgment. He ignores the catty women and asks Trixie what time Marie needs to be ready. Tom says that they figured she wouldn’t show, since she’s recently given birth and all, but Tony says she deserves to be there. ‘After what you’ve done?’ Heartless Bitch says, meaninglessly. Another woman chimes in that they’re all sinners now. Well, you two harridans are perfectly free to take your lily-white asses elsewhere. Trixie says that Marie, being the outgoing queen, deserves to be there, and anyone who doesn’t agree can go home and stew in their own meanspiritedness. Thank you, Trixie!
Trixie: Didn’t Jesus teach us to love everyone, even the sinners? Tom, back me up. Right now.
Tom: What she said.
Tony leaves without actually getting a time.
Mrs M and the new baby join her family in their bright, shiny new council flat. I’m happy they’re rehoused and everything, but how are they paying for it? Did Mr M get a new job as well?
MJ emerges from Nonnatus and finds some kids taunting a rat. She squeals at them to stop, asking what their parents would say. The kids shrug that their parents hate rats too. Crane and Barbara take MJ’s arms and urge her to let the rats go. She insists that they’re all God’s creatures. ‘Some are easier to love than others,’ Barbara observes. ‘It’s the others that need our help the most,’ says MJ.
Tony snuggles his daughter and picks out ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ on the piano. He looks at the hideous painting, then comes to a decision.
The Rose Queen gets underway. Marie is there, escorting the new Queen down the aisle to the strains of Pachelbel’s Canon. Her father arrives just as she takes the stage, and then Tony comes in, wheeling the baby’s pram, and takes a seat with Patsy in the back. Tom crowns the new Queen and everyone applauds. He announces Marie as the outgoing queen, and everyone just sits there, because they universally suck. Tony looks around for a moment, then gets to his feet and begins clapping loudly. Awww. Patsy joins in, and then Marie’s dad, and the other Nonnatuns, and then everyone else, even Heinous Bitch, who rolls her eyes but claps anyway. I wish her a long and painful labour.