Previously on Call the Midwife: Trixie and Tom got engaged and then broke up, which seems to have prompted her to become an alcoholic. Fred remarried, to Mrs Gee, the owner of the local haberdashery shop, and Patsy’s girlfriend suffered a traumatic brain injury and tragically forgot who Patsy even was.
JVO reminds us that Christmas is the celebration of a birth, so that makes Christmas specials especially fitting for this show.
Tom is conducting a mass baptism for the local newborns while at Nonnatus Sister MJ is making the Christmas pudding. Must be Stir-Up Sunday. They get a call for a woman who’s expecting twins and Trixie and Cynthia head out to attend to her.
At the church, the Sunday school kids are acting up, so Barbara distracts them by handing out gumballs. Just as they start chewing away, Tom calls them up to the front to sing Silent Night. Barbara has no choice but to hold a giant handful of half-chewed gumballs while the kids sing horribly. Turner chuckles but Bernadette and Tim (who’s playing the piano) look horrified. Turner is rescued by Trixie, fetching him for the twins case, but the others must soldier on.
MJ gets the pudding on but starts to look a bit unwell.
After the service, Bernadette—whom I guess I really should be calling Shelagh now—complains to Tim about how bad the kids’ choir was. They’re interrupted by Iris Willens, the woman who keeps the church clean, and Shelagh tells her how nice it looked. Iris is played by Victoria Hamilton, who shows up quite a lot in costume dramas. Apparently Iris is the aunt of the woman having twins and asks if Turner was called away for said niece.
False alarm. The poor young woman, Rosemary, is pretty sick of being pregnant by now. Iris shows up to see how things are going and sadly eyes the two bassinettes waiting for the arrivals.
Trixie and Cynthia arrive back at Nonnatus to find MJ passed out on the stairs. The pudding has boiled dry and explodes all over the kitchen.
Iris chats to her husband that evening, and he seems like a really sweet guy. It transpires that these two lost a baby, a little girl, years ago.
MJ has a fever and has been put to bed. The girls are filling out the Christmas cards and Barbara asks Patsy how Delia’s doing. She has no idea: she hasn’t heard a word since Delia was taken back to Wales.
Sister MJ, of course, is being a terrible patient and refuses to stay in bed. Turner is sent for and hears she’s got a temperature and is delirious, talking about her childhood.
Violet mends a split in the trousers of Fred’s Santa suit and chats about having to put a Christmas raffle display in her window.
Turner diagnoses MJ with a bad cough and a fever, but warns Julienne to watch it doesn’t turn into pneumonia. Julienne admits they’re more concerned about MJ’s persistent confusion than things like fevers. He prescribes a sedative as well and Evangelina comes through to complain about the lost Christmas pudding.
Julienne checks on MJ, who’s being tended by Nurse Crane. Crane tells Julienne that MJ’s been talking about her mother a lot lately. Julienne leaves MJ’s mother’s ring and necklace, saying they sometimes comfort her.
The next day, Barbara tries to persuade MJ to eat something. MJ complains about the food and Nonnatus’s lack of television, which she prefers to the wireless. Where has she been watching TV? I doubt there are that many of them around Poplar. This kicks off a tangent where Barbara says she’s not able to go home for Christmas, as she hoped, because there’s too much to do. MJ gets upset, because she thinks Christmas is a time to go home and be with one’s loved ones.
Tom gets a letter from the BBC and reports to the Nonnatuns that the network wants to film a carol service in a London church and broadcast it on Christmas. He’s super excited but basically just gets crickets in response, especially from the nuns, who think this is an outrageous thing to do in a sacred space. The midwives are cautiously enthusiastic. Tom persists, saying that Shelagh has offered to take the choir in hand and he wants to create a crib scene with a real newborn. Super idea, they aren’t unpredictable at all! Now even the midwives are starting to look skeptical.
The producer of the programme, Barrington, comes to see the church and complains about the lack of ornamental plasterwork. He’s kind of a dick and proceeds to insult everything, including the kids he hasn’t even met, saying that they can’t look ‘poor’. Shelegh is offended and Tom’s fairly disgusted as well, but they manage to hold back until he’s gone and unload on Iris, who cheers them up with some pink wafers. Aww.
Shelagh’s going to hold auditions for the choir and enlists Iris’s help putting up posters around the neighbourhood.
At Nonnatus, Evangelina sees the nativity scene half set up and the front door open. She rushes out and finds MJ buying tinsel, which Evangelina does not approve of.
Rosemary rolls up to Iris, who’s cleaning the windows of her home, and admits she’s super restless and just keeps cleaning. Oh, she’s going to have those babies any day now, then. She asks Iris to come with her to the clinic, since her mother’s off picking up prams. Iris agrees.
At the clinic, Turner checks a little boy who has a rash. Seems the epidemic this year is measles. They’ve had four cases already. Turner tells his wife he really wishes there were a vaccine for this.
Rosemary and Iris get to the clinic just in time for Rosemary’s waters to break.
At Nonnatus, there’s some talk about taking the Sunday school kids to see the Christmas lights. MJ’s working on some sort of tinsel wreath which Evangelina starts making fun of, which is a bit cruel. Julienne reminds MJ that they won’t be putting up decorations until the 18th, as usual, but MJ really wants to start bringing some Christmas cheer. She also brings up the television, which is really starting to feel like a forced subject, saying rather hysterically that she’s seen it work its magic on hundreds of children. Where? And how would it make any difference at Nonnatus, where there are no kids? Evangelina starts getting bitchy and says that local kids need more than nonsense like tinsel, and soon things devolve into a ‘who had the worst childhood?’ shouting match between the two women. MJ takes her sad little wreath and goes while everyone else looks kind of awkward. Unable to let it go, Evangelina tells the rest she doesn’t want to see any more tinsel until the 18th. Jesus, Grinch, take it down a notch.
The kids are being taken to see the light show, bundled onto the bus by Barbara and Patsy and Fred in his Santa suit.
Cynthia and Trixie prep Rosemary’s room for the birth while she breathes through some contractions, Iris at her side.
MJ puts her wreath on the door and heads out into the night, coughing.
On the bus, Delia’s keeping the kids entertained while Tom hands out sweets. He offers one to a little girl who’s not feeling well and is being cuddled by Barbara, who notes that the kid has a fever. Tom offers Barbara a sherbet lolly, which is a sweet she adores. She urges Tom to have one himself and he does and is delighted. Oh, are we shipping these two now? While they’d probably make more sense together than he and Trixie, you can’t deny that’ll be super awkward.
Rosemary delivers her first baby, a girl, and Iris nearly weeps with happiness. Turner steps forward and quickly feels the mother’s stomach and whispers to Trixie that the next one’s breech. The newborn is handed over to Iris while the second baby is delivered.
On the bus, Patsy glances out the window and spots Delia and her mother on a street corner. Delia sees Patsy too, and clearly recognizes her. Yes, that’s right, Delia remembers Patsy! The bus moves on and Patsy just sits there, stunned.
Rosemary’s second baby is finally born: a boy. Rosemary’s mother comes bursting in just as the boy is born and immediately goes to take the little girl, crowing about how she’s a grandmother. ‘How about me being a mother?’ says Rosemary. ‘Yeah, that too,’ her mother agrees, adding that they’re going to be quite the double act, Rosemary and her. This woman’s quite a piece of work. Poor Iris is left just standing there, ignored.
The kids arrive home from their light show, and now little Tina’s doing so badly she has to be carried off the bus by Barbara and taken home by Tom. Barbara tells the girl’s mother to call the doctor if she worsens.
Crane goes to wake MJ, only to find her bed empty and unslept-in.
Iris goes to Mrs Gee’s and is given some nappy pins as a gift for Rosemary. Mrs Gee suggests Iris enter the raffle for the baby layette that’s all set up in her window and Iris goes for it, receiving tickets 84 and 85. Mrs Gee chatters about how nice babies are, and then remembers Iris’s loss. Iris admits that this time of year is rough and Mrs Gee is really sympathetic and sweet, remembering the baby very well. Turns out the baby died at just four months. Geez. Iris needs a moment to gather herself, then makes her purchases.
Julienne looks around MJ’s room and notices MJ’s mother’s jewelry is gone. She says she has to telephone the motherhouse, but Crane tells her they really need to phone the police.
Turner is called to see little Tina, who also has measles. All he can give her is aspirin. Really? That was all they had in the early 60’s?
Shelagh gets her auditions underway, with Iris’s and Tim’s help.
Noakes takes notes about MJ, asking if there’s anything that may have upset her recently. MJ will only say that they live in close quarters and sometimes have disagreements. Why be so evasive? It’s Noakes!
The choir has been chosen and rehearsals begin.
Meanwhile, Evangelina and Fred hit the streets and looks for MJ while Noakes sends some of his underlings out as well. Fred finally manages to find MJ’s shoes, abandoned by a bench. They’re taken to Nonnatus and Julienne tearfully confirms that they’re hers. Noakes’s underlings find her wimple in a bin on the Commercial Road. Not good.
The girls talk about the disappearance and Barbara surmises that MJ was excited about Christmas and then upset that she basically wasn’t allowed to be. Evangelina overhears and screams at her for gossiping. You’re really not winning any points this episode, Evangelina. She tries to make up for it by ordering a Christmas tree. Once it’s delivered, she decorates it, crying.
As Patsy’s cycling home, she’s intercepted by Delia, who asks if they can talk. Patsy quickly changes out of her uniform and they sit down in a coffee shop. Delia says that she sent Patsy three letters, posted by her mother, allegedly, but clearly they were never sent. Patsy wonders if Delia’s mother suspects they’re more than just friends and Delia says that really is all she thinks, but her mother’s determined for her not to return to London. Uh, ok, Delia’s mum, it’s one thing to want to protect and care for your child, but it’s quite another to make that child feel like she has no support system or anyone who cares for her except you. That’s actually abusive.
Delia has appointments with a couple of London doctors who are going to assess her and say if and when she can return to work. Delia begs her to try and pick back up where they were and Patsy seems willing to give it a go. She asks Delia to telephone when she knows more from the doctors. Yay!
Two fishermen find an elderly woman floating dead in the water and report it to Noakes, who goes to Nonnatus and collects Evangelina and Julienne and takes them to the mortuary. They look at the body and determine it’s not MJ.
Turner is called urgently to little Tina’s bedside. Her mother weeps that she was doing well the night before, talking and saying there were little men in the wallpaper. Woah, lady, your kid was talking about there beingpeople in the wallpaper and you thought that was a sign of improvement? Did you think The Yellow Wallpaper was a self-help book or something?
The child is unresponsive now, so Turner urgently calls for an ambulance. That evening, yet another case is reported.
Sister MJ is taking refuge in a barn somewhere, which seems appropriate considering the holiday. She feeds a rat some crumbs, coughing and gasping a bit for air.
Turner goes to see the Board of Health, which agrees to a quarantine, which calls for schools to close and all children’s groups to be suspended, including the choir.
Tom and Shelagh go to see Barrington and tell him the children’s choral performance isn’t going to happen. Barrington is not happy at all. Shelagh reminds the man that they can’t go endangering children’s lives just for his broadcast. She promises he’ll still get a show, just not one with kids. He seems content with that.
MJ arrives at her destination: her childhood home, a once-grand mansion that’s clearly been neglected for a while.
Iris finds Shelagh in the church and starts showing her costumes she’s been working on for the nativity play. She also has her husband bring in their baby’s lovely cradle, to use for the manger. Shelagh seems touched. Later, the ladies sit down together and Iris admits she spent two decades hating Christmas because she had no child to share it with, but this year she’s actually been getting into the spirit and realized Christmas is for grownups as well. Shelagh admits she doesn’t know how she’s going to replace the kids in this show.
MJ knocks on the door of the house and it’s opened by a young man. Seems the place has been commandeered by a couple of early hippie squatters. The young man is sweet and concerned, as MJ moves through the rooms on the first floor, remembering the dogs and things. She drops into a chair by the fire and confesses she was almost never happy there, but it was her home.
Shelagh goes to Julienne and asks if the midwives and nuns will sing in place of the children’s choir. She admits it feels frivolous to be fretting over this when MJ is missing, but Julienne doesn’t quite agree and says she can count on the Nonnatuns.
MJ has been tucked into a makeshift bed while the two squatters discuss what to do. One of them thinks they should call for a doctor, but since they’re there illegally, that’s problematic, and MJ refuses to be taken to a hospital. She says she’s happy to die in the place of her birth. We learn that her name was Antonia, before she became a nun. Did we know that before?
The girls talk about the broadcast and Trixie offers to give Barbara a little makeup lesson ahead of it.
That evening, Evangelina finds Crane gargling in the kitchen. Seems her singing voice is a bit rusty. Evangelina talks about how guilty she feels about MJ’s disappearance and Crane comments that, in her delirium, MJ talked about her childhood and the house she lived in and how everyone should go home for Christmas. This kicks Evangelina’s mind into gear and she hits the files, finding the address of MJ’s childhood home in her folder.
While cleaning out a grate, Iris gets a sharp pain in her abdomen.
Evangelina rushes to Noakes with the address and tells him she knows where MJ is. Noakes gets on the phone and calls the local constabulary, which apparently moves very slowly and just says they’ll get back to him eventually. Evangelina gets annoyed, grabs the address back, collects Fred, and tells him to drive her to Berkshire.
Barrington doesn’t approve of the cradle because it’s not a manger, but Shelagh talks him around to it. He asks if the baby inside it will at least be good looking. Oh, Barrington, pretty much all newborns look the same, and they’re never all that attractive, depending on how newly born they are. I mean, they’ve just been through a fairly traumatic thing; they need some time for all their features to sort back out again. Barrington also isn’t keen on the midwives’ uniforms, which seem limp and dull to him. He asks if there are at least some frilly caps and Barbara gaily informs him there totally are!
Poor Iris seeks out Shelagh and admits she’s in a lot of pain. She thinks that a kidney stone she had last year has come back. She wails at the poor timing of this, when there’s so much to do, but Shelagh tells her not to worry about it and gets her off to the clinic.
MJ dimly recalls her mother scolding her for having the bible in her room. The young squatter guy tries to get her to drink something but, still, she won’t take it. She seems to die, but I think we all know better.
Turner checks out Iris, listening to her belly with a stethoscope. He starts to smile, then hands the stethoscope to Shelagh, who also listens, grins, and tells Iris she’s going to be moved to the maternity home across the street, because she’s having a baby. Christmas miracles everywhere! Iris is completely bewildered and clearly somewhat terrified and man, Victoria Hamilton really nails the gamut of emotions this woman’s facing, all while being in a lot of pain. She gabbles about Julienne having been with her for her first birth, so that’s who they send for. She joins Iris and Shelagh in the birthing room at the maternity home and just her presence calms Iris immensely. She labours away while Turner offers her husband, out in the waiting room, a cigarette and coaches the excited and nervous man through some breathing of his own.
The squatters clear out just before Evangelina and Fred arrive.
Iris has a girl! Hooray! She cradles the baby and kisses her, awed, and I start crying, because it’s Call the Midwife and that’s just what I do during this show. Damn this show!
Evangelina prays at MJ’s side, and MJ rallies. Yet another miracle! Also, this woman’s practically indestructible, isn’t she? She was sick and nearly 90 years old but survived a long trip, at least partly on foot, to Berkshire. MJ admits she pawned her mother’s jewelry to help fund this trip and there’s still some cash left over. She wants to go back to London now.
Iris’s husband gets to meet his daughter and Iris calls the baby Joy, then laughs that she hasn’t got a thing to dress this poor child in. I guess she’ll have to get that cradle back too.
At Nonnatus, Patsy gets a call from Delia, in a phone box at the corner of Whittle Street.
As soon as Fred gets home, Violet puts him to work rigging the raffle so Iris will win it. Heh.
Patsy and Delia meet up by the phone box and embrace. Delia’s had good news: she’ll be able to come back to work very soon. She promises she’ll be back in London before Patsy knows it. Here’s hoping!
It’s the day of the broadcast. Things are a bit frantic at the church. Barrington pulls the winning raffle ticket. Number 85, fancy that! Iris gets her picture taken with the baby and the layette she’s just won.
Frilly caps and makeup go on, and so does the show, with MJ in attendance. Iris’s baby is the child in the cradle, which seems right. Shelagh leads the midwives and nuns in a rendition of Silent Night.
MJ uses the rest of the money from pawning the jewels to buy a Christmas pudding and a television set for Nonnatus, so they were all able to gather and watch their broadcast on Christmas Day. Aww.
Well, that gave me the warm fuzzies, which is just what these specials should do. The new series starts up in about a week, so we’ll be back with the Nonnatuns soon enough!