Call the Midwife: Barely Breathing

Call the Midwife series 2 episode 6, courtesy BBCPreviously on Call the Midwife: Kitchen table abortion. Enough said. Also, Bernadette had a bit of a thing going with Doctor Turner, though she was fighting it as much as she could.

Bernadette wakes early in the morning, rolls over, and stares at the ceiling, then at the cross on the opposite wall for a moment before checking out the scar on her palm and doubtless thinking of the stolen kiss of last week. JVO chimes in and says that, as midwives, they saw a lot, and they kept a lot of secrets, and who could they turn to when they needed to confide?

Fred runs into Sister MJ in the hallway, where she’s wandering about wearing her nightgown. He pleasantly asks her where she’s going and she tells him she’s heading to chapel. He points out that she’s a bit underdressed and she’s surprised to see that she’s forgotten entirely to put on her habit. She asks him not to say anything about this lapse and he promises, watching, a bit concerned, as she walks away.

In a typing pool somewhere, ladies type, type, type. One of them—an absolute dead ringer for Audrey Tautou, raises a black baton and the boss lady observes that this will be her fourth bathroom break that day. She sends the young woman off, giving her 60 seconds, and actually starts counting down. Man, 60 seconds? It’d take at least five times that just to untangle yourself from the undergarments of the time. Once in the stall, she undoes a girdle that’s holding in her rather pregnant belly, then pulls a letter out of her purse.

Cynthia checks on a patient who’s in the hospital for false labour pains. The woman starts hacking up a lung and reassures Cynthia that she’s had this cough for ages and it’ll pass. Cynthia doesn’t think so and goes to fetch the doctor.

Audrey reads her letter on the bus and gets out near a pub. She looks up at the sign hesitantly before going in.

Cynthia’s patient apparently has TB and this is the third case Turner’s had this week. He reports to Julienne and says this looks like it could be a bad outbreak and they really need to start doing mass screenings. He wants a mobile van to come around, but he has to go see some board to convince them to send one. Julienne promises he has the full support of Nonnatus House.

Audrey looks around the pub, clearly stewing in memories. The barkeep guesses she got his letter and snarks at her for apparently being a slow reader. She says she came as soon as she could, as she follows him up the stairs. He pauses outside a bedroom and tells her to prepare herself.

Inside, a paper-white old man lies on a brass bedstead. As Audrey walks in (her real name’s Julia, by the way), he sits up a bit straighter and sneers that illness always flushes out the guilty. She says she wanted to see him and he calls her a hopeless liar, like her mother. He’s a charmer. He then proceeds to dump on her life and she manages to ignore that and tell him he needs to see a proper doctor. He yells (as much as he can) that she has no right to come wandering in after six years and tell him what he needs. She does not win any points by saying she thought it was just five years. Like one year off that estrangement would make any difference. He insists that it’s six and guesses she probably wants to leave. Why would she, with a welcome as warm as that?

Back at Nonnatus, Trixie is showing off a rather fierce pair of red heels and wonders if they make her walk like Marilyn Monroe. Jenny says she heard Marilyn chops a bit of her heels off to help with the wiggle, so Trixie tries to get Fred to do the same. The girls tell her not to spoil a brand new pair of shoes. The whole point of this scene is to reveal that Fred’s not fond of heights.

The nuns pray and Julienne notices Bernadette looking particularly intense.

Terry, the barman, and Julia’s dad are going over the books. Dad asks why he hasn’t ordered gin, because it’s August and women drink twice as much when the kids are off school. Heh. Someone calls Terry down and Terry tells his boss not to go running off. The man laughs, and then wheezes.

Downstairs, Terry finds Turner waiting for him, along with Julia. He brings them up and Julia says she called Turner. Her dad’s not pleased, but Turner ignores his protests and starts his examination. Turner notices a sore on the man’s back and says that needs to be dressed. Julia says he needs to be in hospital, but Turner thinks he’d be best where he’s comfortable. He will need constant care, though. Julia shortly says she can only stay the night. Turner follows her out into the hall and tells her that her dad’s going to need her for a bit longer than a night. She insists that’s not possible, because she has a job and a life of her own. Turner informs her that this isn’t a matter of healing, but palliative care. Her father’s heart is failing, and he’s going to die soon. Julia coldly repeats that she can stay the night, and then thanks Turner for coming.

Everyone’s scurrying around the dispensary, where Bernadette’s handing out assignments and Evangelina’s bitching about missing clamps. Jenny’s dispatched to take care of Julia’s dad while Bernadette has to go with Turner to face the board over the x-ray van. Turner’s surprised when she appears in Julienne’s place, but she explains that Julienne was called away, so she’ll have to do. She’s clearly working hard to keep this completely professional, but it’s still a bit awkward.

Jenny arrives at the pub and pleasantly introduces herself to Julia’s dad, Mr Masterson. He’s just as unpleasant to her as he is to his daughter but Jenny ignores it. Looking at Julia, hanging around by the foot of the bed, he asks Jenny if she has kids. When she replies in the negative, he says she’s lucky. Jesus, what a dick. Jenny briskly says that children are a good thing. He goes on to say that he lost all his kids to TB. Jenny reminds him that he still has one. ‘Yes, God chose carefully that day, left me with an icy cold wind,’ he responds. And I’m sure your attitude had nothing to do with that, Masterson. Julia, fed up, whirls out. Jenny stupidly says that these two must be close, because she’s not at all paying attention. Masterson says he lost his wife, then his five sons and finally the other daughter, all one after another, leaving him and Julia alone. He continues that Julia kept him sane during that difficult time, but then one day she just left, wanting to make a life for herself away from the pub. Well, can you really blame her? He says she only thinks of herself, although, if he were paying any attention to his own story, he’d know that really isn’t true. Also, a selfish person wouldn’t have come to see you when you were ill, or called the doctor, Masterson, so shut the hell up.

On her way out, Jenny finds Julia packing up in one of the bedrooms. She says she’d understand if Julia wanted to run, after what her father said, and Julia shortly says she just can’t stay in this pub. Jenny reminds Julia that she’s all the old man has left. Julia sinks onto one of the beds and Jenny looks at her for a moment, then asks if she’s pregnant. Julia fesses up and tells her that the office will lay her off if they find out, and she didn’t want her father to know. She admits she’s eight months along, which shocks Jenny, because Julia’s still pretty tiny, thanks to that girdle. She tells Julia she has to stop wearing it immediately and asks if there’s a father. Not anymore—apparently he told Julia, after the fact, that he was marrying his sweetheart. Douche. Jenny makes her promise not to wear the girdle anymore and asks her to lie down so she can do a quick exam.

Turner and Bernadette sit down in front of the board, who are all the most pompous examples of middle-class bureaucratic assholes you can imagine. When Turner tells them that people are going to start to die if they don’t get the van down to Poplar soon, one of them reminds him that patients do sometimes die. Yes, but they shouldn’t have to die of completely preventable and treatable diseases, you dickhead. Jesus, who says something like that? Besides Ebeneezer Scrooge, that is. Turner says he just diagnosed a heavily pregnant woman who has five kids, and that she could very well die because they didn’t diagnose it early enough. The douchebag in charge sighs that they’re not making much progress with this discussion and reassures Turner that the vans are coming to London. Turner guesses they’re going to be showing up in the rich areas, which are areas that tend to be pretty low in TB already. Turner tells the man that, in Poplar, thanks to massive overcrowding, the disease spreads through households like wildfire. And then Bernadette cannily appeals to their mercurial natures by telling them that an infected patient could go to work and start transmitting the disease unwittingly to his colleagues, thus slowing the moneymaking machine down considerably. Together, they get through to the board, which agrees to give this some consideration.

Outside, Bernadette and Turner breathlessly congratulate each other on being great.

That night, at dinner, Bernadette reports the whole thing to the others, who also congratulate her. Evangelina grouses that it’ll be a lot more work, and Sister MJ pleasantly suggests that anyone who isn’t prepared to work shouldn’t eat. Turner comes in, apologises for interrupting, and announces that a van will be arriving in a week. Sister MJ suggests Evangelina control the crowds that are sure to show up. Good choice.

Jenny’s back at Masterson’s, and Julia’s there, it should be noted. She gets up to leave the room during Jenny’s exam and her father immediately starts in, calling her little miss selfish. I don’t think he actually understands what that word means. Julia snaps at him to stop being such a jerk, reminding him that her family died too, and she got away because she couldn’t stand to be near him anymore. Jenny tries to call a truce and calls Julia over so she can show her how to give a lymphatic massage. Julia hesitates but Jenny finally gets her over and starts showing her how. She’s not great at first, of course, prompting her jerky father to crap all over her again. God, what an asshole. Julia persists and starts to get the hang of it. As soon as she’s done, though, she hurries out of the room. Jenny joins her in the other bedroom and asks her to come to the clinic for an antenatal appointment. Julia says she dreamed of coming back one day and showing her father that she’d made something of herself, but there’s no hope of that now. Jenny says he may feel some shame, but this is, after all, his first grandchild, and that’s a big deal to anyone, particularly to a dying man.

That night, the girls gather in one of their rooms, where Jenny sets Trixie’s hair and talk about the Masterson situation. Cynthia figures there’ll be a bit of a scene when Masterson finds out about his daughter being pregnant and unmarried but Trixie thinks it’ll be ok, because surely the man must actually love his daughter.

At the clinic, Trixie and Bernadette hang up posters advertising the van and dispel rumours that x-rays are bad for babies and pregnant women. Julia shows up and Jenny hustles her away for an exam. During said exam, Jenny asks Julia if she’s sure she’s only eight months along, because her baby feels low. Julia’s sure it happened on Christmas Eve, but then she remembers that she and Frank had a moment on Bonfire Night as well. For heaven’s sake, Julia, Bonfire Night’s one and a half months before Christmas Eve. Did you really not notice you were feeling sick or that your boobs got huge and sore and that you had no period in those intervening weeks? For heaven’s sake! So, anyway, she’s due pretty much any minute. As she gets dressed, Julia asks Jenny if her father approves of her and says she often wonders what it must be like to have a proper father, who actually cares. Jenny reminds Julia that her father lost everyone he cares about, save her, so Julia’s certainly precious to him. He has a funny way of showing it.

Julia returns to the pub and brings up some porridge for her father. He acts a bit jerky towards her for a bit, but she ignores that and sits down next to him for a stroll down memory lane. This leads to him telling her he knows that she’s pregnant. He asks if she has a man and she says he left her. He weakly offers to knock the man’s block off, which is sort of sweet, actually. Julia apologises for being pregnant, and for being the only member of the family to not die, because she knows she couldn’t be any consolation to him. He says it’s just been hard, because he needed her and she left. She points out that she had to get away, because she lost her family too. He takes her hand and says they’re very alike, the two of them, both stubborn and strong. He asks when the baby’s due and asks if she knows what she’s going to do. She doesn’t, so he offers, and then outright begs, her to stay and have the baby there, because he’d love to hold his grandchild. Aww. Though this does seem like an absurdly quick and simplistic resolution to this family conflict. Julia took off for the better part of a decade, after all. There’s clearly a lot of bad blood there, so to have the two of them just make up like this, because she made him porridge, is kind of absurd. But quick and tidy endings to conflicts are kind of a hallmark of this show, and one I’d rather see them do away with.

Trixie and Cynthia cruise the neighbourhood, advertising the x-ray. Julia quits her job, and the other ladies in the typing pool look at her in a sort of awe, which seems strange, because it’s not like being a single mother was something most young women aspired to back then.

Julienne finds Bernadette toting some equipment through Nonnatus and happily observes that she seems rather perky again. Bernadette is just happy at the thought of all the lives that they’ll be saving.

The van pulls up and all the ladies at the clinic crowd up to the window to gawk and talk about how exiting it is that they’ll be able to see their unborn babies. Trixie wonders if people will come. Well, the clinic patients certainly seem enthusiastic.

And so, it seems, are other residents of the neighbourhood, as Turner discovers when he pulls up to Nonnatus and sees quite a crowd gathered. He hops into the van and tells the doctor who’s in there just sitting on his ass that he should probably put the crossword away and get to work.

Jane heads upstairs to collect Sister MJ for her x-ray, but MJ’s barricaded herself in the bathroom and is claiming the door is jammed. Jane tries the door and MJ says she’s safe in her ark. Jane goes to get help.

Evangelina’s working crowd control and teaching everyone how to queue. Bernadette delivers some equipment, practically glowing with happiness. Turner takes it from her and introduces her to the x-ray tech.

Jane finds Fred and asks him to help get Sister MJ out. He tries battering down the door, which doesn’t go as well as it usually does on TV. MJ repeats that she’s quite comfortable in her ark.

At the van, a little girl is refusing to have her x-ray taken. Bernadette makes a deal with her, that Bernadette will get an x-ray, and so will the girl. The kid agrees. Turner tells her she’s a natural with children.

Fred props a ladder up against the building and nervously prepares to ascend to the bathroom, which appears to be rather far up in the building. He admits to Jane that he’s scared of heights, and she tells him that she’d normally be sympathetic, but today she isn’t. Hee! She tells him to get his ass up the ladder. He makes it up and tumbles through the bathroom window. I hope you’re happy, Sister MJ. She’s decided that gamma rays will bring forth a flood. He tiredly tells her there will be no flood as he unblocks the door and offers to escort her to and from the x-ray van. She agrees to go, calling him her rock and her fortress. Aww, that was pretty sweet of him.

At the pub, Julia prepares the bedroom for the new arrival. She opens one drawer and finds a row of tragically tiny shoes and pauses, then gets back to work, stripping beds, opening windows, and wheeling in a bassinette. She also finds a family portrait and puts it by her father’s bed. He’s dozing, and his breathing doesn’t sound good.

Back at Nonnatus, the mass x-raying is finished. Turner thanks Evangelina, who’s practically lost her voice with all her shouting. The tech calls Turner into the van for a word. Uh oh.

Julia’s summoned Jenny, rightly concerned about the old man’s breathing. Jenny observes that his heartbeat’s very fast and thinks he might be taking a turn for the worst. Julia isn’t ready to let him go yet, so Jenny asks her to start massaging his legs. Julia gets ready to do so, pausing for just a moment to wince in pain.

Turner goes into Nonnatus, where he’s met by Julienne, who congratulates him on the success of the day. He asks to speak privately to Bernadette, and she agrees, sending them to the dispensary. There, he shows Bernadette her x-ray, which shows lesions on her lungs. Lots of them. He gently tells her that she’ll need a more detailed chest x-ray and asks if she’s had any symptoms. She admits to having been a tad breathless, but that’s all. He tells her he’ll have to carry out an exam.

Julienne helps her prepare for the exam. Turner listens to her breathe through his stethoscope and says there are definite crackles on both sides. He says he’s arranged an x-ray for her in the morning and says he’ll drive her.

Jenny sits at Masterson’s bedside, checking his pulse, and reports to Julia that his heart’s a bit calmer. Julia thanks her, and then jumps, revealing a damp spot on the bed. Her water’s broken.

Trixie, Cynthia, and Evangelina are giggling over Fred’s rescue of Sister MJ when Julienne comes in and soberly tells them she has some news.

Bernadette is in bed and receives a glass of warm milk from Julienne. Jane knocks on the door and tells Julienne that Jenny called and is asking Julienne to join her at Masterson’s, since Julia’s in labour and the old man’s in his last hours. Julienne suggests they send Evagelina, but Bernadette tells her she should go, because life must go on. Julienne agrees to go.

She arrives at the pub and gets the rundown from Jenny: Masterson’s so frail that Julia won’t leave his side, but she’s going to give birth pretty soon. Terry calls up that hot water’s on its way and Jenny thanks him. Julienne and Jenny go into Masterson’s bedroom, where Julienne tells Julia she really needs to go and give birth and Julienne will stay with her dad. Julia finally agrees, telling her father not to die while she’s gone.

In her bedroom, Julia breathes and rocks in pain while Jenny preps the bed. Julia kneels beside the bed and refuses to get onto it, no matter how hard Jenny tries. Jenny gives up for the moment, listens to the baby’s heartbeat and talks Julia through the next contraction. Julia asks her to check on her dad and Jenny agrees, hurrying out and telling Julienne that Julia won’t get of her knees. Julienne says the main thing is for her to be comfortable. Jenny asks after Masterson and Julienne says his heart’s weak. She leans over and tells Masterson that his daughter’s going to have her baby soon. It’s impossible to tell if he hears her or not.

Jenny returns to Julia, after taking delivery of the hot water from Terry, and coaches her along. Julia’s a total champ, just huffing and puffing her way through, clearly focusing hard on something. She must be a Zen master or something, she’s not really making any noise at all. She gives birth to a son and immediately asks Jenny to take him in to her father. Jenny does, handing the baby over to Julienne and hurrying back to the mother. Julienne tells Masterson he has a grandson, and he rouses enough to ask to hold him. Julienne lays the baby in his arms and he smiles down at the infant, observing that the baby’s just arrived as Masterson’s leaving, but he’s very pleased to meet him. Julia comes hurrying in, walking like she didn’t just give birth a minute ago, which is crazy. She gets there just in time—her father dies, and she bursts into tears, crying hysterically as Julienne gently lifts the baby from his arms.

JVO starts up again, saying that the world is full of love that goes unspoken, which carries its beauty and its pain in its silence.

Turner takes Bernadette to the hospital, where she gets all sorts of tests.

JVO continues that Masterson’s will, drawn up during those years of estrangement, still left the pub to Julia, securing her future.

Bernadette arrives at a hospital out in the countryside to start her treatment. Turner tells her he hears the treatment is really good. She thanks him and says he’s been more than kind, then turns and walks into the building as Turner watches her go.

Next week: Chummy’s back!


4 thoughts on “Call the Midwife: Barely Breathing

  1. I agree with you on the resolution, but no tv show takes time with those things anymore. Furthermore, and more importantly they both knew he was goino die; and in moments like that its a waste to try an slowly rebuild.

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