Previously on Call the Midwife: Women gave birth, Sister MJ was a bit out of it, Sister Evangelina was fabulous, Chummy got married.
To some strangely ominous sounding twangy guitar music that doesn’t quite jive with the usual soundtrack, Jenny bikes through the East End, along with some of the men on their way to work. JVO reflects that her journey to womanhood began with this job, which kept her very busy all the time. Jenny arrives at Nonnatus, where the nuns and other midwives surprise her with a birthday cake (Sister MJ swipes her finger right through the icing). Jenny thanks them and attempts to blow out the candles.
Later, the girls are heading out to a movie. Chummy’s running late, having gone to battle with a steamed pudding that exploded. They make it to their showing of South Pacific.
The next day, they’re all humming Younger than Springtime, but Evangelina calls them to order so she can hand out tasks for the day. The only one missing is Trixie, who wanders in late, apparently not for the first time. As punishment, Evangelina puts a flea in her ear and gives her the most unpleasant task. Naturally, this puts her nose out of joint, like it’s not her fault in the first place. Just show up on time, Trixie, it’s not like you have a long commute or anything!
Clinic time! Jenny reminds a Mrs Collins to take one of her kids home with her (‘plenty more like her at home,’ the loving mother says carelessly). Jenny calls out for Molly Brignole, but she’s a no show.
Doc Turner and Chummy, meanwhile, are getting ready to demonstrate nitrous oxide for some of the pregnant ladies. Yikes. I was put on that at the dentist’s once when I was about 12 or 13 and I had a terrible trip on it. It was so bad I was convinced to never, ever touch drugs. Anyway, they’re going to offer the gas in the new maternity home, but at one woman’s urging, the doctor stupidly says he could probably keep the apparatus in the boot of his car and bring it to the homes, if it’s needed. Chummy lies down on a bed so they can all see how great it is. She nearly passes out but is sufficiently with it to tell them all what a very pleasant sensation she just had.
Later, Evangelina, of course, grouses about this new-fangled pain relief to sister Bernadette. She thinks women should just suck it up and bear it. Says the woman who’s never, ever had to give birth. She pauses in her complaining to tell Bernadette, who’s having trouble with her glasses, to get herself to an optician already. Jenny steams up and tells them that Molly Brignole, who’s due to give birth any day now, missed another appointment, making this her fourth miss. Evangelina tells Jenny to make a house call.
Jenny gets on that, and when she arrives at the flat, she can hear Molly’s husband shouting at her inside. It’s not clear what he’s yelling about (just yet), but he obviously wants her to do something and she—pale as death and miserable looking—tells him she can’t. Jenny interrupts by knocking on the door and threatening to send someone more senior if they don’t open up. Husband does, with a big, fake smile. He offers Jenny a cup of tea as she assesses the rather messy surroundings, and then pretends to be all sweet to his wife before he leaves. Jenny gets her kit out and tells Molly she really needs to come to her appointments. Molly says it’s tough to get there. Jenny goes to take her blood pressure and notes a huge bruise on Molly’s arm. Molly clearly lies that she hurt herself on the wardrobe. Right. Jenny notes that Molly’s down for a home delivery, and Molly confirms that before noticing a little girl poking her head out from behind the car seat that serves as a sofa. Molly draws her out—it’s her toddler daughter—and reassures her that nobody’s going to hurt her. That tells you all you need to know right there.
Jenny reports to the others that Molly’s house is completely unsuitable for a home birth and she can’t believe it was ever cleared. Cynthia says that, back when it was cleared, the place was in good order, so apparently whatever help Molly was getting back then has ceased. Julienne urges Jenny to speak to Molly’s mother, because if Molly’s home doesn’t improve, she’ll have to have the baby at hospital. Jenny shakes her head and says that Molly was adamant about not wanting that. Or, rather, her husband didn’t want it. Chummy, rightly, finds that disturbing. The phone rings and she trots off to answer it.
She and Cynthia have been called out for a delivery. It’s Mrs Collins, and she’s screaming like billy-o. Chummy tries to get her settled while Cynthia gets things set up.
The woman’s screams actually attract a bit of a crowd, though surely these people are rather accustomed to hearing women give birth. Maybe it’s because she’s so very loud. She wails for the doctor, and she’s so insistent Chummy goes to call him.
Jenny arrives at Molly’s mother’s, Mrs Grey’s, house. Mrs G sits her down over tea and tells her that Molly was good until she got boobs and started giving lip and resenting her mother for evacuating her to the country during the war. Jenny regretfully says she has to pry into Molly’s life right now. Mrs G goes on to say that she partied a bit while her kids were away during the war, and she thought they could all just go back to how things were afterwards, but they couldn’t. Jenny tells her that they’re all very worried about Molly and she was wondering if Mrs G had any concerns. Well, yes, she does: she knows her son-in-law is a horrible douchebag. But Molly’s obsessively in love with him, so there’s not much mum can do. Jenny gently tells her that, if Molly can’t clean up her house, social services might have to get involved.
Turner arrives at Mrs Collins’s and says there’s no cause for concern. She doesn’t care—all she wanted was the gas. Turner gets an ‘oh, shit, what have I done?’ look on his face as soon as she mentions it, but as she goes back to screaming, he runs downstairs and fetches the machine. The rest of the birth passes in relative calm, with the mother half out of it but able to deliver her daughter. She mumbles that everyone’s going to be wanting the gas now. Oh dear.
Molly bids her husband goodbye with a kiss. As soon as he’s gone, her mother hustles into her house with a bucket and mop. She starts scrubbing the place down, while Molly sits around doing jack all with her kid at her side.
Turner, meanwhile, is being called to every last birth to administer the sweet, sweet gas. Poor guy’s looking a bit frantic.
Molly thanks her mother sweetly, and Mrs G says she doesn’t have to thank her, because it’s what mums do.
Later, Jenny’s examining Molly and declaring her and the flat to be shipshape. Mrs G’s in the background hanging some laundry. As Jenny finishes up, the husband, Richie, comes in, looks around, and says, in a rather dangerous tone, that nobody told him to expect company. He’s especially pissed off to see Mrs G there, and he registers his irritation by slamming into the bedroom.
As Jenny leaves, she hears him screaming at his mother-in-law to leave. Inside, we see he’s completely lost it and is holding Molly by the hair, threatening to burn her with a cigarette unless Mrs G leaves. Mrs G begs him not to hurt Molly, and then Jenny comes busting back in to witness all this. Jenny charges him and he grabs her and just manages to restrain himself from slapping her. He releases her and stomps back off to the bedroom. Jenny asks where the little girl, Lorraine, is and hears she hid behind the sofa, which seems to be her safe place, poor kid. ‘You’ve seen him in action, now,’ Mrs G observes. Jenny goes over to Molly and gently takes her arm.
Back at Nonnatus, Jenny has just finished giving a statement to Noakes. Julienne is at her side, looking sick. Noakes says this sounds like assault, but if Molly won’t press charges they can’t do much. Jenny offers to press attempted assault charges, but Julienne warns her that, if she did so, he’d probably keep the midwives away from his very pregnant wife, who needs them more than ever just now. Jenny says that what she seems to need is her husband, whom she clearly worships, which sickens Jenny.
At tea, Sister MJ quotes an old law that states a man can beat his wife with a stick no wider than his thumb for several offenses, such as sleeping around or wishing pain upon his teeth. Good to know. Evangeline comes in and informs everyone there will be no more gas at home deliveries because Turner has other things to do than provide everyone’s fix. Trixie pulls out the tried-and-true costume drama line—‘it’s XXX year, for heaven’s sake,’ and that line always bugs the hell out of me, because it’s clunky and nobody ever really uses that in real life. Not in that way, certainly. My grandmother refuses to get internet service or take pictures with anything except a disposable camera, but I’ve never once fretted, ‘But it’s 2013! Everyone’s on Facebook now!’ Nobody talks like that! Sorry, rant over. No more gas at the deliveries. This leads to a discussion about how Doc Turner’s not looking too well since his wife passed away, a topic that clearly affects Bernadette.
Chummy’s in bed, reading the paper, and Noakes joins her and asks what she’s reading. She’s perusing listings of postings in Africa, for old time’s sake (remember she once considered missionary work). There’s one six-month posting in Sierra Leone, which she rather sadly observes would have been her cup of tea, once upon a time. He distracts her by asking her to quiz him on prostitution laws.
Jenny returns to Molly’s, but the poor terrified young woman refuses to open the door. Instead, she speaks to Jenny through the letter slot. Jenny tells her she’s going to need help when she has this baby. Poor Molly weakly asks what she should do when the baby comes and Jenny tells her to call Nonnatus when her pains start and they’ll arrange for her to have the baby at the maternity ward. She wonders what she should do with Lorraine and Jenny suggest she take her to her mother’s.
Jenny and Chummy both hover outside the chapel, where the nuns are having one of their services. Chummy catches her eye and suggests some chips.
The girls settle down with their chips on a bench outside and Chummy says this is the exact smell that would make her homesick, if she ever went far away. Jenny distractedly asks if she plans on going away and Chummy seems to talk herself into admitting this is home now. Jenny starts talking about Molly, saying she herself never loved a brutal man, but she loved a wrong one, and it was hard to break away. She doubts Molly would find the courage to do so.
Trixie joins Cynthia and Bernadette in the kitchen and notices Bernadette finally has some new spectacles. They tell her how great she looks, as Chummy and Jenny come in and Chummy tries the glasses on. They don’t suit her quite so well, but she takes that in good humour, of course.
Molly’s spread out on the couch, watching television while Richie gets ready for his day. He comes over and strokes her cheek and tells her he’ll bring something back for her, if she’s good. She playfully says she’s always good, so he tells her to come over and give him a kiss. Still playful, she tells him to come to her, and just like that, all the humour’s gone and off he goes. Soon after he leaves, she goes into labour.
The phone rings at Nonnatus and Chummy picks up. It’s Noakes. They’ve gotten a call about a woman in labour on a cargo ship. Confused, she says that women aren’t allowed on those, and he admits it all sounds a bit funny. Trixie’s the one on call, so she’s fetched.
Molly makes it to her mother’s house, along with her little girl. Mrs G quickly calls Nonnatus and tells Jenny she’s bringing Molly to the maternity hospital. Jenny gets ready to meet her there and Trixie whines that now she’ll have to go to this cargo ship with Evangelina.
Evangelina and Trixie bike to the docks, where they find a couple of policemen and the captain of the ship. Evangelina looks him up and down and clearly doesn’t care for what she sees. He speaks to her in Swedish and Evangelina mistakenly identifies him as German. Trixie says this all seems rather irregular. Evangelina asks, in pantomime, how the mother is and he scrapes up enough English to tell them she’s screaming every five minutes. That’s enough for Evangelina, who steers Trixie towards a waiting boat.
Molly and Jenny arrive at the maternity hospital, which rather awes Molly.
Trixie’s pretty tense in the boat and says she’s never been on an oceangoing vessel before. ‘Shake your golden curls and pretend it’s the Good Ship Lollipop,’ Evangelina tells her. Heh. They pull up alongside a huge boat and a rope ladder is tossed down to them. Trixie squeals that she’s not dressed for a ladder and Evangelina tells her to pull herself together, because nobody’s going to be peeking up her skirts. The captain goes first, and once he’s up, Evangelina dismissively tells Trixie to hang around and apply another coat of lipstick while she’s waiting. She hauls herself up the ladder, which does look like a pretty long and treacherous climb. When she gets to the top, she stumbles, falls, and hurts her shoulder. Finally, it’s Trixie’s turn. She makes her way up the ladder, clearly thinking, don’t look down. Of course she slips at one point, and begs God not to let her die, because we need those extra moments of drama. She gets to the top without further incident and is amazed that she did it. The crew applauds her.
The ladies head downstairs, where they find the laboring mother squeezed into a bunk in a small cabin. Evangelina tells the captain the room is ‘Frauleins only’ and closes the door. She cheerfully introduces herself and Trixie to the mother, whose name is Kirstin. Kirstin seems bewildered by her own pregnancy, but Evangelina confirms there’s definitely a foetal heartbeat. She also hisses to Trixie that Kirstin’s weight is probably going to pose some challenges for them. Kirstin tells them the captain’s her father and that her mother died many years ago. Evangelina, clearly in pain from her shoulder, tells Trixie she wants the mother examined internally. Trixie’s fine with that, but she can’t really get a good angle because of the way the bunk’s wedged into the cabin, and the way Kirstin’s wedged into the bunk. Evangelina tells her she’s just going to have to figure it out. Trixie tells Kirstin they’re going to have to move her. Kirstin good-naturedly says there was more room when she first came on board, but then, there was less of her. Now, men slide right off her. Trixie and Evangelina note the plural and Kirstin, still rather cheerfully, tells them that, according to her father, men on a ship don’t fight when there’s a woman they can go to for relief.
Oh. My. God. I-I don’t… Wow. Both Trixie and Evangelina clearly have way better poker faces than I do, because they absorb this little bit of horrifying information with hardly a comment (beyond Evangelina observing that this guy has it all organized, doesn’t he?) while I’m still struggling to scrape my jaw off the floor. I mean, what the hell kind of father looks at his own daughter and sees ‘morale booster’ stamped on her vagina? What in God’s name is up with the men on this show? (Besides Noakes, of course. And Turner, I guess.)
Kirstin directs Trixie to check under her pillow and Trixie finds a huge box of condoms under there. What kind of fairy delivers on that deposit? Not exactly baby teeth, right? Kirstin tells them dear old dad has never let her run out of rubbers. Well, that’s good of him, although clearly they don’t work.
A rather ashen-faced Evangelina opens the door and fiercely tells the captain that his daughter needs to be removed to a decent cabin with a clean bed, soap, towels, and bright lights. He departs to get things set up and Evangelina retreats into the cabin and tells Trixie she’s dislocated her shoulder. Trixie calls for a bottle of brandy.
Jenny prepares Molly for birth in the very sterile, very empty looking hospital room. Molly remembers seeing a horse give birth while she was on the farm all those years ago. Another contraction comes, and Molly tries to bear it in silence, clearly trying not to make noise because she’s been essentially conditioned not to disturb her husband, ever.
Kirstin is taken to a better cabin, pausing momentarily so one crewmember can put a cross around her neck. Evangelina and Trixie take over and tell the men to get lost.
Molly and Kirstin both labour seriously. Trixie’s examining Kirstin and, a bit tactlessly, observes that there’s ‘plenty of room in here’. Nice, Trixie. Way to basically slut-shame your patient. While she’s in there, she notices that the umbilical cord is not quite where it should be—I think it’s on top of the baby’s head, which is bad, because if it gets crushed during delivery, the baby could suffocate. Trixie doesn’t know what to do, having never faced this before. Evangelina tells her they need to get Kirstin on her knees with her bottom in the air, but Trixie says that, even if they could get her in that position (doubtful) she could never hold it. Kirstin finally notices they’re talking about her but both Trixie and Evangelina are like, no, it’s ok, everything’s fine! Trixie thinks fast and tells Evangelina to get up so she can use her chair. She uses the chair to prop Kirstin’s bottom half up and then climbs up so she can move the cord to where it needs to be. Just before she gets started, the whole boat shakes and Kirstin observes that another boat must have passed. Trixie gets started, with Evangelina coaching her, and finally the cord slips back. Trixie practically weeps with relief. She removes the chair, Kirstin’s water breaks, and she’s ready to deliver.
Molly’s delivered a boy, which she thinks will please Richie. Jenny hands her the baby and sees what appears to be a horrible burn on Molly’s right breast. She gently covers it while Molly admires her baby.
Kirstin pushes, pushes, pushes, and finally births a baby girl. At the sound of the cry, the whole crew, gathered just outside her door, makes relieved noises and probably start wondering just who the daddy is. They also, rather cutely, start singing a song that I’m guessing is a traditional Swedish tune. Trixie observes that Kirstin’s made the crew very happy. ‘I always make them happy,’ Kirstin says drily. Evangelina, helping herself to another glass of brandy, tells the girl she’d better get her contraception sorted. Kirstin looks down at her baby and says she’s been without a friend for a long time, but today the midwives came, and then her daughter came, and now she has a friend forever. I’d find this heartwarming if my skin wasn’t already crawling at the idea of what could lie ahead for this poor baby.
Out in the hallway, Kirstin’s dad seems to be the only one not celebrating. He looks—dare I say it—rather ashamed.
At the hospital, Molly picks her baby up out of his crib and sneaks out. How is she able to get up and walk so soon after giving birth?
Evangelina’s being taken in a stretcher to an ambulance, Trixie at her side, trying to comfort her. Evangelina slaps her hand away and snaps at her not to stroke her head. Hee! The captain calls Trixie back and thanks her for taking care of his daughter. She shortly tells him he’ll have to have a boat waiting for her every day for the next two weeks. He basically tells her he has places to be, and at this point she gives full voice to her disgust and tells him his exploitation of his daughter has been shameful and she could easily report him to the police. Go Trixie! She joins Evangelina in the ambulance and Evangelina asks for the gas. Ha!
Mrs G, Jenny, and Lorraine head to Molly’s place. Richie opens the door, greets his daughter, and offers to show her her new little brother. She goes with him and he slams the door in the other women’s faces without even acknowledging them. As they walk away, Mrs G sadly says she’d do anything for her daughter, and her daughter would do anything for him. She adds that people say terrible things about Molly, and she feels that, if she’d been a better mother, none of this would have happened. Jenny tells her it’s Molly’s mothering that’s in doubt, not Mrs G’s.
JVO tells us that she called at Molly’s flat every day, but the door was never opened. She figured Molly was locking herself away, but the truth was worse. JVO says that Molly was actually leaving her kids alone every day, dosed with milk and alcohol so they wouldn’t cry. As she says this, we see Richie kiss his wife, and then walk over to a car where he apparently sells her to the driver. Jesus, this show. How many more harrowing plotlines are we going to get? I know it’s based on a book and I don’t know how many of the plots are taken from that, but if it’s not many, than this is one seriously messed up writing staff. Child prostitution with accompanying mental break? Yep, we’ve got that Workhouse tragedies at Christmastime? Dead mother and dead baby? Possible incest? And now husbands and fathers pimping out their wives and daughters? We’ve had it all, and we’re only on the first episode of series 2. Yikes!
Eventually, Molly’s flat apparently caught on fire, and though the kids were saved, Molly and Richie were convicted of child neglect and sent to prison.
Trixie, meanwhile, has gotten permission to visit Kirstin in slacks (due to the whole climbing a rope ladder thing), and she’s taken the opportunity to get herself tarted up like she’s Audrey Hepburn taking the Queen Mary—head scarf, sunglasses, cigarette pants, flats, the works. The crew’s applauding her (they do love to applaud her). It seems this is her last visit, and she gives Kirstin a present of a big box of decent condoms. Kirstin tells her she won’t need them, because she’s going back to Stockholm to raise her daughter on dry land. Trixie asks if the captain agreed to it and Kirstin says she didn’t ask, she told him this was how it was going to be, and he said yes, probably because he’s rather ashamed of himself. As he should be.
Molly’s kids go to Mrs G, and JVO says this is her second chance at raising kids without messing it up. Well, it helps that this time around there won’t be a war getting in the way. And while this is a somewhat happy end to this particularly depressing story, I can’t help but wonder what’ll happen when the parents get out of jail. How long did you get sent away for child neglect in the 50’s? A couple of years at the most, is my guess. And then what? Hopefully the courts would give Mrs G full custody, but even if they did, you know Richie would be a problem, just because he hates her. Well, let’s hope for the best.
In the closing montage, we see Chummy posting a letter, presumably to that mission with the six-month posting and Bernadette secretly sewing loose buttons back on Doc Turner’s coat. Aww.
4 thoughts on “Call the Midwife: Pimp Slap”
I just found you from the Washington Post TV chat and I really like your recaps. I am reading the first book by Jennifer Worth and the show plots are taken directly from it. However grimly the situations are portrayed, they are really toned down from the dire events that Worth writes about. There are at least three chapters about the Irish teen prostitute Mary and its absolutely sordid. And her description of the smells, living conditions, crime, etc. is truly graphic. But I do love the show. The episode about the old soldier Joe … I’m still crying a little.
Hi Julie–glad to have you with us! I haven’t read Worth’s books yet, but they’re on my list. I’m not surprised the actual stories are more harrowing than what we see on TV. I guess the powers that be figured there’s a limit to how depressed we all want to be on a Sunday night (though they’re pushing it there with The Village).
Hope you enjoy the site!
Can’t really blame the writers when it comes from real life.