Previously on Call the Midwife: Patsy went to Hong Kong to be with her ailing father, Trixie began dating Christopher Dockerill, and little Susan Mullucks became the first baby in Poplar to show the tragic effects of thalidomide.
Let’s start with the B plots.
Trixie thought things were going well with Christopher, but then he started cancelling dates. Because he thinks it’s 1892, he’s cancelling them by leaving a note on the front door of Nonnatus House. WTH, Christopher? You know this place has a telephone. What a strange way to go about cancelling.
Trixie tries not to think the worst, but then she spots a lady’s expensive silk scarf in his car and freaks out at the other midwives, going on about how it was drenched in a perfume that may as well be called WHORE by Guerlain and it wasn’t Hermes, but it was damn close, which sends a fairly mixed message about this other woman, no? I love that Trixie’s like some sort of Sherlock Holmes of dating. I mean, I’m not surprised that she’s basically a bloodhound crossed with Wikipedia when it comes to perfumes, but it’s still funny.
She finally asks Christopher what the hell is up here, and he tells her there is another woman: his six-year-old daughter. Christopher is a divorced man.
Christopher! What are you doing? That is definitely the kind of thing you tell someone really early on in a relationship, especially if there’s a kid involved. I know that being divorced now is somewhat less taboo than it was back then, so people are probably more willing to come clean about it, but still. ‘I have a kid’ is definitely information the woman you’re dating should have. You don’t have to introduce them, but she should know said kid exists.
Trixie kind of freaks out (understandably), then goes away and thinks about things and ultimately invites Christopher to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night with her and the nuns. And she tells him she’s in AA, which he totally supports. Happy ending!
…But, there’s trouble with another couple, one that’s not exchanging letters. Patsy’s father apparently died two weeks ago, but Delia’s not heard word one from her girlfriend. Personally I think she needs to chill a bit, because for sure Patsy’s dealing with a lot of very serious things right now: arranging a funeral, handling emotions, saying goodbye to a parent, and probably trying not to be traumatised by being back in the country where her mother and sister died. Just…chill, Deils, ok? I get that, of course, you’re anxious and this waiting is torture, but still. Relax and give the woman time to regroup and catch her breath.
On to the A plots.
Remember little Susan Mullucks, daughter of Rhoda the amazing mama bear, who was born without limbs because of thalidomide? She’s 18 months old now, can you believe it? And she is THE CUTEST. Seriously:
Tell me your ovaries didn’t explode a little bit, looking at that face.
Rhoda is determined that Susan will have a normal life, so she goes to register her for nursery, only to be turned away because Susan is considered ‘ill’. Both Turner and Rhoda take offense at that. I can see why they would, and I think using the word ‘sick’ to describe Susan was probably not the best use of vocabulary, but I can also understand that a teacher in what is almost certainly a very busy council nursery might not be prepared to take on a child who’s going to need a fair bit of extra help and attention. I’m not saying it’s fair, just that I can, to some extent, see why this would be an issue.
Turner gets on the phone with a specialist hospital that agrees to assess Susan for prosthetic limbs. Rhoda’s really happy that there might be some movement on that front and that her little girl might finally be able to begin living a semi-normal life. She and Susan and her husband, Bernie, visit the hospital and everyone there is super nice and welcoming and supportive. They also meet another thalidomide mum, Lydia, whose three-year-old son, Philip, has no arms. They also find out that he’s deaf. Considering the situation, Lydia’s incredibly upbeat. Rhoda, too, is determined to make this work. She is working so hard to remain positive, but Bernie is not helping at all.
After their visit, Bernie puts his foot down and flat-out refuses to let Susan go to the hospital and be fitted for the limbs that will enable her to walk, pick things up, feed herself, and otherwise live a somewhat independent life. He doesn’t want her going somewhere where she’s going to be treated like a ‘problem’ that needs fixing. His wife points out the absurdity of that argument, reminding him that she’s pulling far more than her weight here, just trying to teach Susan how to shuffle across the floor, and how is this kid going to live? She won’t even be able to toilet train because she won’t be able to manage on her own! Seriously, Bernie, I’m happy that you’ve rallied behind your kid, but I think you’re taking things a bit far now. Nobody’s saying that Susan is the problem, they’re saying she has a problem, and there are ways to fix it. Why wouldn’t you want to fix something that is going to severely diminish your own child’s quality of life? That’s like not giving a deaf child hearing aids or not teaching a blind child braille. If there’s a way to fix it, or at least improve the situation so it makes life measurably better for everyone, including your entire family, then do it! Not doing it because doing something acknowledges that the issue exists is kind of a bonkers position to take.
Rhoda takes matters into her own hands and brings Susan back to the hospital so she can be assessed and measured for her prosthetics. She also makes friends with Lydia, who tells her about a meetup of thalidomide parents that’s coming up. Later, Rhoda seeks out Bernie at the pub where he hangs out. He already knows he’s screwed up here and is remorseful. They have a good talk where she basically tells him they need to be on the same page, because their kid needs them and this is a hellish thing they’re dealing with and they need to get through it together and accept that this is a road that isn’t going to end anytime soon.
They make up, and Bernie goes to the meetup, where we learn about Lydia’s little boy’s deafness and see a photograph of another little girl who was born with no arms, no eyes, and no roof to her mouth. She lives in a home and her father’s never visited her. The mother (who, guttingly, took thalidomide preventatively because she’d had a rough time of it with morning sickness in the past) takes some solace in the idea that, when she visits her daughter and squeezes her hand, she’s pretty sure her little girl knows her. Ooof. Thank God these people found each other, so they can form some sort of supportive community of people who understand. But still: oof.
And then we have the Antoine family. The Antoine kids, three boys, are mixed-race and deal with a fair bit of bullying because of it. Nurse Crane tries to shelter them at scouts as best she can, and she has a soft spot for the family. She attends the birth of the fourth Antoine, another boy, and on the way home decides to give Winifred a driving lesson. Winifred does so badly that Crane takes over. As she’s driving along, she fiddles with the rearview mirror (which you should NEVER DO while you’re actually driving!) and hits one of the Antoine children as he’s dashing across the street. It’s actually really horrifying and realistic.
Winifred goes tearing out of the car to see to the child while Crane just sits there, frozen, for a while. When a policeman arrives on the scene, Crane numbly tells him she hit the kid.
Crane is taken to the police station to give a statement, and while she’s there Mr Antione arrives and accuses her of having been drinking, because he poured the midwives a glass of sherry each to wet the new baby’s head. She insists she didn’t imbibe, but she still has to provide a urine sample. She breaks down in the bathroom.
Winifred, meanwhile, is being comforted in her hysterics by Julienne and MJ, who sweetly provides her with some very, very sugary tea to steady her nerves. Winifred collects herself and goes to tell the police the boy ran right out in front of the car and the collision was pretty much unavoidable. She and Noakes go to talk to the Antoines and gently persuade the non-injured kids to tell them what happened. They were playing in a closed-off street, like they were told to, but the other kids were being so horribly obnoxious they left and, well, an accident happened. Crane’s test came out clear, because the midwives are forbidden to drink on the job and if we know anything about Crane, it’s that she does things by the book. Mr Antoine, now calmer, insists she not be charged with anything.
Fortunately, the boy’s injuries were not severe. He was concussed and fractured a femur, but considering he got hit bit a car going at a decent clip, I’d say he got off fairly lightly. And he’ll probably be looking both ways before crossing the street in future. He’s going to be fine.
But Crane? Crane is wrecked. It get so bad that, when she’s called out to attend a mother at a delivery, she just stares at her car in horror, unable to get herself back behind the wheel. Thankfully, MJ’s there to be pretty fantastic. She covers Crane’s terror by saying it seems Crane doesn’t know how to get to the labouring woman’s house, but it’s ok, because MJ knows how and is happy to play the navigator. She hops in the car, and Crane joins her, and off they go.
At the patient’s house, MJ continues to be amazing, comforting the mother, remaining cheerful, helping out wherever she can. Having that support and being back at work seems to shake Crane out of her terror, and she eases back in and helps deliver a little girl. All’s well that ends well!
Kids: seriously, adjust your mirrors before you set off.