Call the Midwife: Sister Wives

Call the Midwife, Episode 3Previously on Call the Midwife: Jenny reunited with Jimmy, as friends, though it seemed like she wanted a bit more. Too bad he’s gotten some other chick knocked up.

Unusually, we start off with Cynthia this week, walking her bike through the local market while JVO talks about what a close-knit community the East End was. Cynthia pauses next to a greengrocer’s stall, eyes some avocados, and asks if they’re avocado pears, which is apparently what they were called back then. The identical twins manning the stall make fun of her for having to check, with all her education, and Jesus, ladies, how are you still in business if this is how you treat your customers? And yes, she’s educated, but in medicine, not fruits and veg, so maybe dial down the condescension a bit?

Cynthia notes that one of the women is pregnant and guesses they’ll be seeing her at the clinic soon. She gets defensive, and her sister says they don’t believe in clinics or doctors. Their doctor is Nicholas Culpeper. As in, the herbalist who died in 1654 and believed that plants that resembled parts of the body should be used to treat the ailments of those parts. Cynthia tells them that it might not be the best idea to put all their faith in someone who operated during a period when leeches were a common cure, but the non-pregnant idiot says it’s old wisdom and they have no use for newfangled ideas like hygiene or vaccines or antibiotics that Culpeper probably would have killed for in his day. Cynthia backs down and orders up four of the avocados. Before she leaves, she tells the sisters the clinics are every Tuesday afternoon, and they can just drop in.

Back at Nonnatus, Julienne offers Jenny some chocolates to butter her up before telling her that the London Hospital is short-staffed and she’s going to be filling in for a little while on men’s surgical. She starts that very day.

A mousy, middle-aged woman approaches the front door, looking scared to death as Cynthia arrives home. Cynthia introduces herself and the woman introduces herself as Jane. She’s there to help out until Chummy comes back.

In the dispensary, Trixie, of course, is a bit jealous of Jenny getting to join men’s surgical. Cynthia comes in and shows off her avocados before telling them about Jane’s arrival. Jenny fills her in on her new temporary posting. In comes Julienne with Jane, whom she introduces around. Turns out Jane’s not a midwife, she’s an orderly. How, exactly, is she going to be all that helpful when they’ve lost a midwife? Most of her experience is, apparently, in an asylum for the incurably insane, which Cynthia says must be very rewarding. Actually, Cynthia, I’ll bet it isn’t. I don’t see how there could be anything rewarding in that, which is probably why Jane’s here now. Jane’s handed off to Fred to be shown to her room, and Fred tells her she has big shoes to fill, because Chummy’s awesome. Jane looks terrified, but that also seems to be her regular expression.

Pregnant Idiot is relaxing with her feet up while her Idiot Sister consults their book and says Nick recommends marshmallow for scourge of the bladder. Pregnant Idiot suggests the clinic might have pills or something for it, but her sister says their book will tell them all they need to know. It’ll also probably tell you a bunch of useless nonsense, lady, and I hope you can tell that from the actual useful information. PI asks again if they can just go to the clinic, and when she grimaces in pain, her sister grudgingly says they’ll go, but just so PI can see she’s not missing anything.

Jane comes downstairs and peeks her head into the sitting room, where Sister MJ’s knitting. Jane explains she was looking for the kitchen, and Sister MJ says she hopes Jane’s a cook, because the Nonnatus cook/housekeeper apparently has Tuesdays off and they have to fend for themselves. Jane notes MJ’s knitting project—it’s a little pig toy—and asks if it’s Pinky or Perky. MJ doesn’t know or really seem to care. She just wants cake. While she contemplates that, Jane just turns around and wanders off. Strange, that one.

Jenny arrives at the hospital, knocks on the matron’s door, and lets herself in. Matron looks up at her, then tells her to wait while she finishes signing something. She finishes that important work and asks if Jenny’s ever scrubbed in before. She has, but only supervised. Matron tells her to go collect a uniform and says they were designed by Norman Hartnell, so they’re practically couture. Because that’s what you really want in a nurse’s uniform.

Back home, Evangelina’s protesting the loss of Jenny and says that Jane will be fairly useless until she gets trained. Julienne shuts her down as Cynthia comes in with lunch—rather hors d’ouvres-y looking things she made with the avocados. She explains she got them from the stall run by the twins, Meg and Maeve, and at that point we get the interesting tidbit that the two sisters are both married to the same man. What? I mean, there’s being close to your sibling, but this is bizarre. Also, bigamy was (and still is) illegal in the UK, so who performed this ‘marriage’ and how are they getting away with it? Strange.

Jenny, dressed in her Hartnell outfit, which, like many of his designs, is rather floofy and faintly ridiculous (she looks like the dancing nurses from the Olympics opening ceremony), meets up with a friendly blonde nurse who introduces herself as Patsy and tells Jenny the lead surgeon’s kind of a dick.

Maeve and Meg come into the clinic and announce that they’re looking for a nurse, ‘the small one.’ Cynthia steps forward and greets them, and the non-pregnant one shortly says that PI has scourge of the bladder. Cynthia smilingly ushers them into a cubicle and non-pregnant idiot tells her they don’t want anything ‘meddled with.’ Cynthia goes to get the doctor and non-pregnant-idiot (Meg, apparently), picks a speculum out of a kidney bowl and shows it to her sister, sniffing that ‘they’re just waiting for their chance.’ What’s the deal with these women? What are they so afraid of?

Jenny and Patsy are scrambling around the ward, getting it ready before the surgeon shows. Jenny’s surprised when a patient comes back from the bathroom and turns out to be…Jimmy! He’s just as surprised to see her, but he seems quite pleased as well. They can’t chat, though, because the surgeon shows up with a gaggle of medical students. He examines Jimmy, who’s in for abdominal pain and constipation. The surgeon asks him if it’s wedding nerves and tells Jimmy he can go, his appendix should be fine. Jenny tucks him back into bed and confirms that he’s going through with the marriage, then. He asks her if she really thought he wouldn’t. Hoped, more like, Jimmy.

Turner’s in with Meg and Maeve, telling Maeve she’s a bit older than most mums having their first, but that’s fine. He tells her they can start to prepare for a delivery in the maternity home, but Meg, who is not the one having the baby here, mind, snaps that they know what goes on in those places, that women die like flies. Unlike in Culpeper’s day, when maternal death rates were nil and delivery passed easily in half an hour on a cloud of marshmallow, right? Turner tries to talk them down, but Meg says Turner’s just trying to scare Maeve and tries to bundle her out, accusing Turner of wanting to slice her up with knives. Christ, what a paranoid nutjob this woman is. And the frustrating thing is, at no point do we get any indication of why she’d be this way. She’s English, so we can’t put it down to a cultural issue, and the one bad thing that happened to them happened when they were too young to remember it, so I don’t know that we can really put that down as the cause. So, she’s just kind of crazy, and incredibly stupid.

Later, the nuns, Cynthia, and Turner discuss the case. Cynthia comments that they seem unusually close, even for twins. Sister MJ recalls that Meg was the first born, and she howled until Maeve was put beside her. Unfortunately, their birth cost their mother her life. Turner says they need to gain Maeve’s trust in order to treat her. Julienne suggests they visit the woman at home, to try and keep her calm.

Jenny shows up at Jimmy’s bed to give him his last routine checks before he checks out. She asks if anyone’s coming to fetch him and he says Francine is. She asks about the wedding and he tells her it’s in two weeks. And speak of the devil, Francine shows up and is clearly taken aback when she sees Jenny, so I guess Jimmy filled her in on his history with her. Jenny finishes her checks and releases him.

Meg’s shuffling some tarot cards (oh, of course) while Maeve suggests they just tell the midwives she wants to have the baby at home. Meg tells her they’re just trying to get their claws in her, because I guess in her crazed brain there’s something to be gained by taking control of a pregnant woman. She deals the cards, and of course they’re all bad, so she scares the hell out of her poor sister. Way to go, Meg, you hypocrite. Weren’t you just accusing Turner of frightening her for no reason a couple of scenes back?

Apparently stupid is catching this episode, because the nuns are sending Jane off to deliver the delivery pack to Maeve and Meg. Seriously, ladies? You’re going to send your least aggressive, most easily cowed person to deliver this pack to a hostile woman? Well done. Send Evangelina, we all know she can deal with difficult and reluctant patients.

Jenny’s getting ready to scrub in on a procedure while Patsy natters about how unfortunate it is she has to work with Mr Tracy right away (he’s the jerky surgeon). Jenny’s trying to remember the names of all the tools on the tray, and she’s clearly nervous. Patsy gives her a pep talk before steaming away.

Jane arrives at the M&Ms and it all goes as well as you’d expect. Meg starts pawing through the box, finding fault with everything, even the brown paper. She tosses the instruments out the door, one by one, shattering them, and then slams the door in Jane’s face. I hope someone sends this bitch a bill. Inside, Maeve tells Meg that she frightened Jane, and Meg bellows that Jane’s out to frighten Maeve. LOOK WHO’S TALKING, you horrible, controlling harpy!

Jenny starts screwing up right away in the operating theatre, handing Tracy the wrong blade. It takes him no time to lose his temper and yell at her for being too slow. Jenny backs out of the theatre and is found by matron in the hallway. Matron scolds her and tells her to dry her eyes and get back in there. Jenny apologises and says she’s too used to midwifery. Matron says she’s too used to being the expert in the room and she has to remember to respect rank.

At Nonnatus, Sister MJ is trying to salvage the shattered delivery pack items. Julienne tells her they can’t use them anymore and urges her to go sit in the parlor and knit. ‘Why must you have me fritter my days away?’ Sister MJ wonders. Look, Sister MJ, I feel for you, I really do, but there’s not a whole lot you can be trusted with. Sad, but true.

Jenny cycles home and finds Jimmy in Lady Chatterley waiting for her. They sit in the car together for a chat and he admits that this marriage isn’t what he wants, but that’s life, I guess. Jimmy asks her to come out with him one last time before he has to sell the car to put a deposit down on a house Francine wants. There’s a very heavy silence after that, and Jimmy comments that he can hear Jenny’s watch ticking, and that this is the deepest silence they’ve ever sat in before. Jenny suggests they get together on Saturday.

Back to the London she goes the next day, and she runs into Patsy outside. Patsy tells her she was just interviewing at a florist’s shop. They’ll barely pay her anything, but at least she won’t have to deal with Tracy anymore. Jenny asks if anyone ever reported him and gets a decided no, because the man’s a surgeon and they’re just lowly nurses. They both steel themselves and go in.

Evangelina answers a pounding at the door and finds Maeve standing on the doorstep. Maeve says she wants to talk to ‘the small one’ and Evangelina says she’s not there, so Mave’ll have to deal with the big one. Slightly cowed, Maeve admits she snuck out. Evangelina tells her she’s going to be the one to deliver this baby, and she has to do what’s best for her, and what’s best is probably having the baby in the maternity home. Maeve says she doesn’t want Meg upset (shame Meg doesn’t have the same concern for you), but she doesn’t want any disasters either. Evangelina tells her this isn’t about her and Meg anymore, it’s about Maeve and her baby. Maeve weeps and Evangelina tells her to send for them as soon as her labour starts. Maeve nods obediently and leaves.

That night, Jenny and Cynthia sit in Jenny’s room and talk about Jimmy and his situation. Jenny says that Jimmy doesn’t want to get married, and that he’s unhappy about this. Cynthia gently tells her she has to let Jimmy go, because he belongs to someone else now. In comes Trixie with a surgical book for Jenny to borrow.

The next day, Jenny approaches Tracy and notices a tremor in his hands. He tries to cover it up by making small talk while she carries out some routine checks on a patient. Later, she goes to the telephone, calls Jimmy, and tells him she can’t come out with him on Saturday. She says she’s doing the decent thing here, and she knows that if she doesn’t say goodbye now, she’ll end up making the same mistake twice.

Trixie answers a knock at the door and finds Mr Carter on the doorstep, with news that Maeve’s gone into labour.

Meg’s got her sitting in some sort of birthing chair, with poultices wrapped over her belly. She gives her some raspberry leaf to drink, but Meg doesn’t want it. The door opens and Trixie and Bernadette come in. Trixie’s apparently taken more than a few leaves from Evangelina’s book and won’t be cowed by anybody. She wastes no time turning on the lights, even though Meg argues that Culpeper says it should be dark in the birthing room. Sure, because this isn’t a situation where you’d want to be able to see what you’re doing, right? Trixie won’t let her near the light switch and quickly gets to work reassuring Maeve and peeling off the poultices so she can listen to the baby’s heart. She and Bernadette help Maeve into bed and Meg angrily asks who sent for them. ‘No one. We operate purely on telepathy,’ says Trixie. Hee! Maeve says she was the one who sent for them and begs Meg to come hold her hand and let the midwife do her job. Meg refuses and leaves. What a shit sister.

Patsy bursts into the ward and tells Jenny she needs to get a cart ready, because there’s an acute abdomen coming in and Tracy’s been called because he’s the guy who discharged the poor bastard in the first place. Alarm bells start going off in Jenny’s brain and she rushes down the hall to find Jimmy on the gurney, of course, and he looks really, really bad. He’s grayish and screaming in pain. He’s terrified he has septicemia. Tracy comes in and Jenny reminds him who the patient is. She also offers to scrub in on the procedure, because there’s no one else around to do it. Tracy’s not happy, but he agrees.

Jimmy’s knocked out in the surgical theatre while Jenny preps him. Tracy comes in and gets started, and Jenny’s clearly got her head in the game, because she’s on top of all the tools he needs.

Turner’s arrived at the Carters’, where Meg has now dived completely into unbelievably selfish victimhood. She claims not to care about her soon-to-be-born nephew or niece and offers to move out and leave the husband, Maeve, and the baby in peace. Oh, please, drama queen. Dial it down.

Upstairs, Maeve tells the nurses that she was the death of her mother, and that it’s always been her and Meg against the world. A contraction comes and Trixie suggests she try gas on the next one. Maeve weakly says she wants Meg, but she goes for the gas as suggested.

Back in surgery, Tracy asks for some tool (Moynihans) and Jenny subtly redirects him to a different tool, which he agrees with.

Maeve labours, and even as she goes, she keeps saying she wants Meg. Bernadette and Turner exchange a glance, but they both know the only way Meg’s coming upstairs is if they carry her up. The baby’s finally born and it’s a girl. Her response? Meg will be pleased, because they never did like boys. Well, except for the one, presumably. They try to hand the baby to her, but she won’t take it, she just wants Meg. I think these two need some sort of counseling, because they’re beyond close, this is just creepy. Turner goes to announce the good news, but Meg’s still stony-faced about the whole thing. Trixie comes out and asks Turner to come back upstairs with her.

Up there, Bernadette tells Turner this looks like twins, but there’s a problem: the second baby’s a transverse lie. That’s a phrase that will forever make me shudder. Maeve’s sure she’s going to die, just like her mother did. Bernadette applies pressure to turn the baby externally, which sounds like it would be agonizing. Judging from Maeve’s whimpers of pain, it is. The baby is successfully turned, and Turner ruptures the membranes so they can move things along, but then Trixie realizes the placenta’s coming away, so they need to get the baby out right away. Turner’s getting the forceps into place, and Maeve starts screaming, so Meg decides to come steamrolling in and grabs Bernadette, dragging her away and smacking her in the face. Jesus, WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER? Bernadette, bless her, pops right back up and Turner tells Meg that if she keeps interfering, she may lose her sister and/or the baby. Trixie orders her to take her sister’s hand, and thankfully, Meg does. Maeve pushes and the baby—another girl—is born. But the baby isn’t crying, and then Maeve starts to haemorrage. While Turner deals with her, Bernadette starts rocking the baby up and down slowly and gently, trying to get it to breathe. Just when it looks like she’s about to call it, the baby begins to cry, and Maeve rouses. Bernadette puts the baby in her arms, and Maeve tells her to give the other baby to her sister. So, now we get a whole new generation of crazy, emotionally screwed up twins. Oh, and their names will be Maeve and Meg, naturally, because that won’t be confusing at all.

Jimmy’s made it through surgery and wakes as Jenny’s taking his pulse in the morning. She reassures him he’ll be all right and he says he should have put up a fight for her. He tells her he’s standing by Francine, but it’s clear his heart’s still with Jenny. He tells her to always put up a fight, because you never know what you might lose.

Turner and Bernadette stand outside the Carters’ place and share a cigarette and a smile over the crazy night they just had. Bernadette recognizes the cigarette brand because they’re what her father used to smoke, and she used to sneak some out of his desk when she was a kid. She thanks him, gathers her bike and heads home as he watches.

Jenny is shown into the matron’s office and tells her that Tracy’s a problem. She mentions his short temper, his tremorous hand, and the fact that he’s been making mistakes. Apparently, when he discharged Jimmy, he missed a part of the abdominal exam that could have kept Jimmy off the operating table. Put all together, Jenny thinks the man has Parkinson’s. Matron tells her that Tracy himself was concerned and has taken a voluntary leave of absence so he can get some tests. Matron praises Jenny for her common sense and intelligence and tells her she’s welcome to come back to the hospital if she ever wants to start working her way up the ladder.

Sister Bernadette prays, brightly lit by streaming sunlight. Time for the closing montage, I think. Jenny watches from a distance, hidden around a car, as Jimmy and Francine emerge from the church after their wedding. JVO talks about bonds and how some are for life, while others, not so much. The Carter sisters and their babies show up at the clinic for a checkup and Maeve sits in an empty chair. Meg glares down at the woman sitting in the chair beside her and jerks her head, basically ordering the woman to move, which she does. Bitch. Everyone else treats these ladies like this is all adorable and come to coo over the babies. I remain nonplussed.

Well, that at least was a fairly uplifting episode, but I guess they wouldn’t slap us around so hard after last week’s SIDS situation.

5 thoughts on “Call the Midwife: Sister Wives

  1. Thank you so much for your summary. There were one or two important things that I would have missed without it. Also your commentary is hilarious. 🙂

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