Call the Midwife: We Are Family

Call_the_Midwife_series_two__episode_eight___preview_pictures_and_predictionsPreviously on Call the Midwife: Chummy came back, all knocked up and Jenny lost Jimmy, for good, it seems.

JVO talks about how exciting things are at Nonnatus now that Chummy’s back and how everything just seemed soooo perfect. Nothing going to go wrong here! Chummy and the girls are washing baby clothes that Cynthia’s mother sent for Chummy to use. Chummy unwittingly puts one of the little cardigans through a wash wringer, crushing the mother-of-pearl buttons that came off of Cynthia’s mother’s wedding dress. Chummy apologises profusely for her fumbling.

Tim and Turner arrive at the surgery to find a letter from Bernadette to Tim. He reads that she dutifully handed over the dead butterfly to her doctor, and that she plans to answer all Turner’s letters shortly.

Back at Nonnatus, the nuns are having a briefing with Julienne, who reminds them that Sister MJ is not to be answering the telephone, so one of them needs to remain within earshot at all times. Cynthia suggests they keep MJ occupied with knitting baby clothes for Chummy. Evangelina bustles in and tells them to put her to knitting blanket squares. Jenny says she’ll be bored, but I say, whatever keeps the woman occupied and out of trouble. Evangelina doesn’t really care if she’s bored, so long as some poor soul gets a nice blanket out of it in the end.

A lime-green van pulls up in front of Nonnatus, bringing out a rather anxious Fred, who scolds the driver—his daughter, Dolly—for being late. She reminds him that it’s a five-hour drive from where she lives, as she climbs down, rubbing her big, pregnant belly. Of course. Fred asks where her husband is and learns he’s off on some sea voyage. Fred delicately says that she’s in an ‘interesting condition’ but she’s not the type to mince words and says it’s not that interesting, and that the tyke kicked her in the bladder the whole way and made her drive all the faster. Heh. She goes around back and opens the door to fetch her firstborn, who looks like he’s not even old enough to quite be walking yet. Fred greets him joyfully and quite pointedly refuses to use the kid’s name, which is Anthony.

Inside, the girls are sewing new buttons on the cardigans and talking about what else Chummy’s going to need. Any further sewing is going to have to wait until after Chummy’s done a maternity version of her uniform. Cynthia frets about her continuing to work when she only has a few more weeks to her due date, but Chummy’s not the sort to sit around, and anyway, she’s too excited to be still.

Further chat is interrupted by the arrival of Noakes, who can’t seem to get into the bathroom, because someone’s been hogging it up. Chummy goes up to see what’s happening and finds Evangelina there, bitching about having her bath interrupted and finding the seat up. She bustles past them and it looks like Noakes is officially tired of living at Nonnatus. Didn’t Noakes’s parents live kind of nearby? Why aren’t they staying with them?

26105With her new uniform on, Chummy tries to heave herself onto the new scooter, but her girdle’s getting in the way. I thought they didn’t approve of girdles during pregnancy, after Jenny yelled at that one woman a couple of weeks ago. With some difficulty, Chummy manages, but then they can’t get it started. Right on cue, Jimmy and some friend of his show up with what looks like surveying equipment. Jimmy introduces his rather cute friend as Alec Jesmond, his colleague. Trixie offers up refreshments, which they accept.

Julienne pays a visit to Bernadette, who happily reports that she’s going to be discharged to convalesce at home the following week. The only problem is, she’s not sure where her home is. Julienne says her home shall be at Nonnatus until she decides what she wants to do. Bernadette asks if Julienne can bring her some clothes, because all she has at the hospital is her habit, which she feels strange wearing now. The look on Julienne’s face says, ‘damn, I thought she might have given up on this by now.’

Jenny and Jimmy catch up. His wife’s dropped the pup, which is a little girl whom Jimmy adores. He seems genuinely happy with his life, and Jenny has the grace to be genuinely happy for him. He takes the opportunity to thank her for taking such good care of him when he was in the hospital. She says she’s really loving nursing more and more, and it’s becoming the most important thing to her.

Alec comes out and Jimmy directs him to take some pictures of a wall that’s got some issues. Jenny asks why they’re taking pictures and Jimmy says they’re just recording the look of the district, since places like these are going the way of the dinosaur. For some reason, Jenny doesn’t pick up on the oddness of that remark at all. She just says this feels like home. Alec tells the pair to smile and takes a picture of them.

Fred escorts Dolly to the clinic and Chummy ushers her in for an exam. Dolly leaves her sprat with Fred.

Julienne, meanwhile, is telling the others that Bernadette has decided to go to Chichester for her convalescence. Cynthia can’t imagine why Bernadette would want to leave at all, because being a nun is just 24/7 fun, amirite? MJ, who’s working on a blanket square, says she’s reconsidered her vocation many times.

Later, Dolly and Fred are having a bit of a visit after the baby’s bathtime. Nostalgia turns to reminiscences of the war, and we learn that Fred was away fighting when his home was bombed. His wife died, but Dolly and her sister survived. He feels guilty for not being there, but Dolly clearly bears him no ill will, saying he was away fighting so that sort of thing would stop and never happen again.

Evangelina fetches the suitcase Bernadette first brought to Nonnatus back in 1948. She frets about the clothing being so outdated, because people will stare at Bernadette and make her uncomfortable, though I doubt Bernadette will notice, but Julienne gently says Bernadette has asked for these. Evangelina fondly remembers Bernadette’s early days, and how Evangelina thought she’d chosen her name from The Song of Bernadette, which apparently made becoming a nun rather popular for a while.

Jenny’s preparing to go out on her rounds when Alec shows up and asks if he can have a look at the broken down scooter. He hasn’t had his hands on one since he was in Rome and he’d love to give it a go again. It’s clearly not the only thing he wants to have a go at, but Jenny’s pretty much freezing him out and coolly says he’ll have to go talk to Sister Julienne about it.

Chummy’s back on scouts duty, with Fred at her side. Today, they’re working on their handicrafts badge by learning how to make an origami frog. That’ll come in handy, I’m sure. See, nonsense like this is why I never joined the Girl Scouts. I could learn perfectly useless things without having to change into an ugly uniform. Turner’s on hand to teach them how to do it, and I’m a tiny bit curious to know how he knows origami. Is it something he just picked up, or was he stationed in the Pacific at some time during the war? Not that it matters, I’m just curious.

Dolly makes her way to the parish hall with the baby, wearing her slippers. She’s come to deliver Fred’s lunch and scolds him for forgetting it. She drops a comment about her feet being so swollen she couldn’t even get her shoes on comfortably, and Chummy immediately picks up on that and asks to take a look at her. She takes Dolly back to the kitchen area and asks her to provide a urine sample so she can carry out a few tests. Dolly’s confused, but she agrees and asks if she can have an aspirin too, because her head’s splitting. And every single person who watched last season of Downton Abbey just simultaneously went ‘oh, shit.’

Guess Julienne gave Alec the go ahead, because he’s got the problem with the scooter figured out and he’s only too happy to tell Jenny all about it when she brings out a snack on a tray. He thanks her for the refreshment and they bond over the garibaldi biscuits. He asks her to go for a spin with him, once he’s got the scooter fixed, and she tells him she’s on call, so it wouldn’t be appropriate.

Chummy is carrying out her tests and exhibiting her total lack of poker face. She asks Dolly to hang out while she fetches Turner, who’s just completing his frog-folding demo.

Turns out, Dolly has toxemia, which naturally has her and Fred a bit stressed out, but Chummy’s actually quite relaxed, because medicine’s come a long way and toxemia’s treatable now. Also, Dolly has a competent doctor. She’s going to be taken to the hospital for rest and more tests. Which means Fred’s going to have to take care of his grandson for a few days. He looks slightly terrified.

Fred holds the baby inside and watches Timothy sweep up the frogs. Tim comments that he’s had to learn to do all sorts of things since his mother died. And apparently Fred’s about to learn to do a few new things as well, since little Anthony’s just wet his diaper.

At the maternity hospital, Dolly cries and says she’s been overdoing it and worries that Fred won’t know what to do with the baby. Chummy comforts her and suggests she help herself calm down by reciting a psalm or singing her favourite song, taking deep breaths between each line. Dolly gives it a try, singing ‘Catch a Falling Star’, and it works. She calms down.

Julienne has received a rather distressing letter and is sharing it with Evangelina, who’s not pleased to have to deal with this, on top of everything else they have going on. Julienne tells her not to worry about it until the situation becomes a bit clearer, and not to mention it to anyone else in the meantime.

Fred arrives at the hospital with Anthony to visit Dolly, who immediately scolds him mildly for using the wrong soap on the kid. Turner arrives and tells Fred he’s interrupting bedrest, but Dolly insists she won’t be able to get any rest if she’s worried about her sprat. Turner reassures her men aren’t complete idiots, and even if they are, babies can bounce. Heh. Chummy suggests Fred bring the kid by every day so Dolly can get a look at him through the window, though why that’s more restful than the boy being brought up to see her face to face, I don’t know.

Montage time! Noakes laces Chummy into her girdle. Chummy wipes down Anthony’s face before his mother sees him. Fred tries unsuccessfully to feed the screaming baby. Bernadette receives her suitcase.

Jenny’s out on her rounds, biking up the road when Alec comes up beside her on the scooter and tells her straight that he wants to take her out and he’s not going to give up that easily. Jenny refuses to give an inch. And then the scooter breaks down again.

26107Noakes comes home and finds Chummy sitting mournfully on the bed, because her girdle won’t fit anymore. He says it’s no big deal, but it’s clear that what’s really upsetting her is the fact that she’s terrified of giving birth, like pretty much every mother-to-be is. He sits beside her on the bed and cutely kisses her on the cheek.

Jenny and Trixie are now on blanket-squares duty, because Sister MJ’s too slow and this blanket will never get done. The phone rings and Trixie picks up. It’s Jimmy, looking for Jenny. Trixie hands the phone over and Jimmy tells her that he and some friends have a little jazz group that’s going to be playing at a club in a couple of days. He’s hoping Jenny can bring some of the girls along so they don’t look like total chumps. And for those wondering, yes, Alec is clearly behind this, because he’s hovering in the background. Jenny seems reluctant, so Trixie takes over and tells Jimmy he’ll owe them some champagne.

Chummy checks Dolly’s blood pressure and tells her she’s doing really well. Dolly asks if Chummy’s considered names yet and Chummy says no, and then guesses that Dolly’s kid was named after his father. Nope, father-in-law, apparently, which really pissed off Fred, not that he ever said anything.

Jenny, Trixie, Cynthia and Jane show up at the club, with Jenny nervous because she’s never gone out in slacks before. Jane chirps that Princess Margaret does it all the time—she read about it in a magazine, along with some tip to wear a polo neck sweater. Hee! I never would have thought I’d end up liking Jane so much. Into the club they go, and sure enough, the champagne’s waiting at the bar for them. Trixie happily helps herself, while Jenny notes that the bassist in Jimmy’s band is Alec. Why is she surprised by that?

Back at Nonnatus, Noakes and Chummy are painting a crib and talking about family. Chummy’s had a letter from her mother, who sent a cheque for 10 quid and said she was just going off to bridge. I see she hasn’t warmed up any. Noakes is thankful Madeira’s so far away, and while Chummy no doubt agrees on some level, she also feels like she’s terribly disconnected from anyone who could offer advice. She can’t even think of any lullabies that aren’t in Hindi. She stresses a bit about what they have to offer a kid, when they have no home, no money, and no family nearby now Noakes’s folks have moved away (ah ha!). Noakes sooths her by reminding her she’s a nurse, and she’ll do just fine. Chummy will not be appeased.

At the club, Jenny orders a second round of drinks and is joined at the bar by Jimmy. He apologises for not telling her Alec’s in the band and Jenny tells him she doesn’t like being bullied into things. He repeats her line back to her about being her friend and wanting her to be happy and reassures her that, when she finds someone else, he’ll be glad. She doesn’t seem too pleased to hear that, because I guess on some level she hoped he’d kind of always pine after her, but that’s not to be. Jenny spitefully tells the bartender that Jimmy will be getting her drinks, as well as a double for the bartender, and then she stomps off, grabs Alec, and tells him it looks like they’re going to have to dance with each other, even though she doesn’t really want to. She talks herself in a bit of a knot, and Alec is nice about it, so Jenny unbends and they do, indeed, dance. And she finally smiles, which is good, because she was well on her way to being just plain sour.

26106Later, they’re up on a roof somewhere, picking out constellations. Afterwards, he walks her home and he asks her about where the nuns are planning to go after the demolition. Apparently the land Nonnatus House stands on has been earmarked for a new throughroad, and that’s what was in the letter Julienne received. Jenny is, of course, rather upset to hear that.

Inside, the nuns sing their first service of the day as Jenny listens from the doorway.

At the hospital, Bernadette looks at herself in the mirror, dressed in her civvies. It’s like she’s seeing a whole other person.

Jenny has spilled news of the demolition to the others, who are all as upset as she is. Chummy wonders what they’re supposed to do—put up a tent in the park? Trixie suggests she get a caravan while she’s at it, since she, Noakes, and the baby will be homeless to boot. So will you, Trixie. Where are the nuns and midwives going to go?

At the surgery, Turner sets out a bunch of test tubes and Petri dishes for his son to clean. ‘I hate half term,’ Tim sighs. Hee! As with Jane, I never expected to like this character as much as I do. I think a lot of it’s to do with the fact this kid has fantastic delivery. The phone rings and Turner picks up—it’s Bernadette, telling him she’s being discharged and she has no intention of going to Chichester. He sort of melts a little and says he’s not sure if he said enough or too much in his letters. She reassures him he said what needed to be said, and now she’s coming back to Poplar. He reminds her she had TB until quite recently and that she needs to rest, but she’s done resting and is ready to get on with her life now. She says she’s going to catch the bus now. He insists she not travel so far by public transport, but before he can offer an alternative, Chummy pokes her head in and asks him if he can have a look at Dolly. He regretfully tells Bernadette that duty calls. Bernadette, of course, understands.

Turner finishes up his exam of Dolly and reports that things are moving along. Clearly eager to get out of there, he passes her along to Chummy and hurries out to his car, where he finds Tim waiting, having already finished all the washing up. They race off.

Fred arrives at his appointed time for the daily viewing and Dolly tells Fred he’d better find out how to send a ship-to-shore telegram, because he’s going to be sending his son-in-law some news soon. Fred’s rather tickled by that and cutely gets excited with the baby.

Turner drives down a country road with Tim hanging out the window like he’s a Labrador. Tim offers to shout if he sees her abut Turner tells his son to leave the talking to the grownups.

Dolly’s about ready to deliver, with the help of Chummy and Jenny. Jenny notes Chummy taking a moment to breathe deeply, clearly through some sort of pain, and quietly asks if she’s ok. Chummy lies that she definitely is.

Dolly, with the help of gas and air, births a daughter. Chummy smiles, and then grimaces in pain.

Turner and Tim drive through a thick fog until they find Bernadette walking down the road, suitcase in hand. They pull over and Turner gets out, fretting that she might have gotten caught in the rain or something. He takes his coat off and wraps it around her and they adorably smile at each other and say they know this is the right thing, even though they don’t know each other’s first names. For the record, hers is Sheila, and his is Patrick. ‘There, we’ve made a start,’ she says.

Fred’s waiting in one of the hospital rooms with Anthony. In comes Chummy to introduce him to his granddaughter. He cuddles her and wonders what Dolly’s going to call her. Chummy doesn’t know, but Fred’s decided he doesn’t really care about names anymore, because they’re just labels. Well, that’s true, but sometimes those labels can be really awful. Like when you get those obnoxious parents who can’t spell or something, and then you’re saddled with a horrible name that makes you look like an idiot on any resume you try to send out. Thank God my parents didn’t name me something completely ridiculous—it’s been documented that those sorts of names can actually hold you back. Anyway, Fred goes on to talk about how his dad kind of sucked and spent all the family’s money on beer, so Fred was determined to make a better life for his kids, and he succeeded, until Hitler came along. And Fred wasn’t there when it happened, and he feels really, really awful about that, because proximity makes you a parent. I think there’s a bit more to it than that, but nonetheless, Chummy agrees, and then gets a really serious labour pain, which Jenny arrives just in time to see. She declares Chummy’s working day over and Chummy declares Jenny’s just begun.

Back at Nonnatus, everyone’s scrambling around, boiling water and fetching towels and whipping up the usual enema, which Trixie is reluctant to administer and Chummy’s just as reluctant to have. The three other midwives coach her through yet another pain.

Meanwhile, downstairs, Bernadette is meeting with Julienne, who hands back the personal property she brought with her to Nonnatus—a whole 100 pounds. There’s also some paperwork for Bernadette to sign, which she does before removing her symbolic wedding ring and handing it over. Julienne offers her use of the chapel for a bit, if she wants some quiet time before she leaves, but Bernadette says she’s got a lot to do. They stand, and Bernadette hugs Julienne, who calls down blessings on her. Bernadette returns the sentiment and walks out. Wow, is it really that easy to leave a religious order? Just sign a paper and that’s it? Seems like it should require more effort, but I guess if you really want out, they don’t want to make that harder.

Noakes, as you can imagine, is nervously waiting for news. Unfortunately, he gets Evangelina, who tells him babies aren’t like lubricated penguins, ‘they don’t slide out to order.’ Heh. She also tells him not to expect regular deliveries of tea, because they’re going to be busy. She rushes out and he sits back down.

Chummy huffs and puffs while Cynthia sooths her. She starts and tells the girls she just felt her waters break, but when they pull the blanket back there’s a huge bloodspot on her nightgown. Cynthia whispers to Jenny to get sister Julienne.

While Julienne goes up to attend to Chummy, Jenny calls for an ambulance, fighting back tears, telling the dispatcher they have a possible placental abruption.

Julienne attends to Chummy, rolling her onto her back while Evangelina drags in some oxygen and tells Cynthia to administer some painkillers. Chummy screams in pain. Jenny returns and urges Chummy to stay calm. Chummy starts to quietly sing ‘Catch a Falling Star’, which confuses Jenny, and then she passes out.

Chummy’s taken away in an ambulance, accompanied by Noakes. Evangelina, voice trembling, tells him to make sure to hold Chummy’s hand. At the hospital, she’s rushed into the operating theatre, leaving Noakes out in the hall. Back at Nonnatus, everyone sits around, anxiously waiting. Evangelina reflects that she’s watched people do this hundreds of times and never known what they felt, until now. Trixie rushes to answer the ringing phone and reports back that Chummy’s still in the operating theatre, and that there was another hemorrhage. Cynthia frets that they don’t have a telephone number for Chummy’s parents, who won’t even know what happened. Jenny, a little bit presumptuously, says that Chummy’s real family is right there, in the sitting room.

The nuns and midwives pass the night by sewing the blanket squares together while JVO muses that they had never felt closer than they did that night, and that they were all completely subsumed by a single task.

At the hospital, Noakes paces and cries. I start to tear up, even though I know they’re not going to kill off Chummy. I don’t think the show’s about to get quite that dark.

And sure enough, when we next see her, she’s asleep in bed, hooked up to some blood, with Noakes beside her, cradling the baby. Julienne comes in and asks how Chummy is and Noakes just shakes his head. Jenny comes in after her, carrying a package with the blanket in it. They drape it over Chummy as Noakes watches, touched. He gets up and places the baby beside his wife, quietly telling her they have a son. And, slowly, she rouses, saying hello to the baby and telling him it’s all right, she’s there.

Bernadette, now dressed in new threads, meets Turner in the parish hall, where he gives her a small wrapped box. She unwraps the paper and sees that, inside, Tim has written ‘please, will you marry my dad?’ Awwwwwwwwww! There’s a ring in there too, and Turner slides it onto her finger. I’m sufficiently touched to overlook the fact that this is a bit hasty for two people who barely know each other on a more personal, less anguished looks level.

Time to wrap things up. Chummy and Noakes and Dolly carry their babies into the chapel to be baptized. Dolly named her kid Samantha, which JVO declares a rather modern name, which I don’t really buy. The Noaklet has been named Fred, after the man who showed her the simplicity of parenthood.

As a man posts a demolition notice on the Nonnatus door, JVO says that the place was threatened but refused to lose its spirit, and that spirit would inspire. Jenny finds an envelope with her name on it on the table in the hall and, inside, finds the picture of her and Jimmy, with a note from him to be happy. She smiles and hurries outside to go for the delayed scooter ride with Alec.

So, that’s season two. Not bad, but I did take issue with how quickly weighty plotlines were sewn up. I have no problem with them tackling such difficult issues as birth control or birth defects and the effects such things can have on families, but the way the show treated them seemed dismissive to me. Only allocating a single episode to them oversimplified something that could have been genuinely interesting. It always felt like the writers suddenly realised they only had about 10 minutes of storytime left, so they just had a reluctant mother have a change of heart or pulled out a miracle recovery from a coma. Not that these things don’t happen, but they lightened up these weighty scenarios a little too much. This was a bit of an issue last season (remember the episode where the woman gave birth to a black baby?) but at least one of the grimmest plots, the story of poor Mary, got a couple of episodes and a believably ambiguous ending. We didn’t really get a lot of that here. And losing Chummy for half the series didn’t help either, since she’s easily one of the most likeable characters. But otherwise, this was a fairly good season, and I found myself pleasantly surprised by some of the new characters, particularly Jane and Tim Turner. I hope they’re both back next series.

Call the Midwife will be back for a Christmas special, and then series three next winter, so I’ll see you all then!

One thought on “Call the Midwife: We Are Family

  1. I realize this post is 5 years old at this point, and you may have learned this already, but I find myself wanting to spread the word about the popularity rise of the name Samantha. As this episode takes place in 1958, I believe, (coincidentally Samantha on Sex and the City was born in the same year), Samantha would be in mostly obscurity. It didn’t become popular until after Bewitched aired in 1964. This blog post explains the history:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.