Previously on Call the Midwife: Jenny started dating Jimmy and Chummy started dating Noakes. Only one of those relationships looks like it has real promise, though. Babies were born, tragedies dealt with, and the nurses occasionally found themselves handling non-pregnancy-related cases.
Peggy, the woman who does the cleaning at Nonnatus, emerges from her little bungalow, smiling, and heads to the docks to give her brother, Frank, the lunch he forgot. He laughs at his forgetfulness and she asks the teenage boy with him to take care of Frank before heading off to work. Frank, meanwhile, schools the boy in the fine art of negotiating prices by insulting the goods. As they move away from one of the fish stalls, he tells the boy you have to come back at the end of the day and get everything half price.
Jenny passes Peggy at Nonnatus, says hi, and asks after Frank, who’s being treated for oyster poisoning. Jenny seems surprised his treatment is still ongoing, but Peggy’s not worried and politely turns down Jenny’s offer to send the doctor by to look at him. As they chat, an enormous pig wanders in and saunters down the freshly scrubbed hallway, followed closely by Fred, who rushes by, explaining he’s raising the pig for bacon. Jenny laughs, but then notices that Peggy’s upset, because the floor she just spent the morning on her hands and knees scrubbing is all messed up again. Nice going, Fred. Now why don’t you come back here and clean up after your latest harebrained scheme? Why do the nuns let him trash their place like this? First birds, now a pig he can’t control?
Jenny heads out and is met by Jimmy, who’s found himself an old car, which Jenny makes fun of. Jimmy’s too good-natured to be offended and instead helps Jenny in so he can give her a lift.
It’s the end of the day, and the woman at the market is regretfully selling Frank the fish at cut price. He goes off to announce his triumph to Peg, who’s frantically scrubbing the floor and muttering how sorry she is, over and over again. Oh dear. And once again, nice going, Fred. Frank stops her and kindly reminds her that their workhouse days are long behind them. Well, clearly not entirely behind them, if her behavior is anything to go by. Poor woman. He suggests they take a nice walk home, along the river, as it’s such a lovely day.
Clinic day! The doctor enters with Chummy in tow and the two of them talk about a contraceptives class Chummy’s going to be leading in a few days. The doctor takes a moment to make a religious/political stand about God staying in the church and not in people’s bedrooms.
The fish lady from the market is in for an appointment, because she’s heavily pregnant, and Trixie can barely hold her lunch down because apparently the smell of fish sickens her. And yet, she works in an area very close to the docks. How does she manage? Bernadette tells the mom-to-be—Elsie—the baby’s due soon.
Fred’s finally got the pig out in a pen in the garden and Evangelina’s not happy about this thing being there. She tells Fred not to let “that filthy thing” anywhere near her, and he flings back that she shouldn’t worry, because the pig’s very particular about her company. Nice way to talk to your employer, Fred. Sorry, usually I like him, but lately he’s been grating a bit, with all these stupid moneymaking schemes that cause more trouble than anything else. Sister MJ looks on, smiling beatifically. Bernadette climbs into the pen and, after a two-second examination, tells Fred the pig’s preggo. Bacon for everyone!
Frank and Peg are chilling in their lovely little garden, having a drink and just enjoying the day and each other’s company. It’s so sweet, the two of them together. He gets up and starts mucking around with some grapevines, but then he begins to collapse, clutching his stomach. Peggy runs to the nearest telephone box, hustles another woman out of it, and calls Nonnatus for help.
Whatever is wrong with Frank, it’s bad enough that he has to go to hospital, even though he hates doctors and all forms of institutions. Julienne tries to talk him into going, but when that doesn’t work, she enlists Peggy’s help.
Bernadette and Chummy head into the contraceptive class, though it looks like a lot of the women in this class are coming a bit late. Trixie hands out boxes of condoms while Chummy quietly freaks out and sets up a model penis for demonstration purposes. She tries to get the class started, but the women here act like they’re about five years old, so she’s got quite the uphill journey. Why are these women at the class anyway, if they’re clearly not going to take it seriously? Trixie wonders if she should step in, but Chummy finally gets her legs under her and someone in the crowd gets the most obnoxious of the ladies to shut up already, so things start to progress. Except obnoxious woman pipes up that this all goes against God’s work and isn’t natural (again, why did you show up, lady?) and Chummy apparently feels the exact same way that I do and replies that, if this were against God’s plan, he wouldn’t have invented rubber, which is perfectly natural.
Sister MJ is wandering around, eating a snack and going through the pockets of some of the jackets hung up in the hallway. She finds a key or something in one of them and uses it to open a drawer filled with knick-knacks.
Contraceptive class is over. While Chummy’s clearing up, Noakes comes by to invite her to tea with his mum. Chummy glows with happiness at the idea. Noakes only asks that she not bring her fake penis with her. Chummy laughs and agrees.
Peggy cleans, cleans, cleans while listening to the radio. Meanwhile, outside, the doctor meets Jenny just heading out and asks if she can help him. He needs to break some bad news to Peggy: Frank has pancreatic cancer. Damn. Even now that’s a pretty devastating diagnosis. She thinks (hopefully) that this isn’t a big deal, because the pancreas is like an appendix, right? It’s not something vital, like the stomach or liver. Instead of telling her exactly what a pancreas does and how important it is, Jenny and the doctor say they need Frank to stay in hospital for a bit so he can have radium treatments. Peggy knows he won’t stay at the hospital. He’ll have to be an outpatient.
We next join Peggy and Frank at their bungalow, where she’s getting him ready for his first appointment. She accompanies him to the hospital and waits while he gets the treatment, trying to maintain a brave and hopeful face. When she’s next at Nonnatus, she lurks outside the chapel, where the nuns are singing, and prays like crazy.
Elsewhere, the phone rings and Jenny picks up. A man on the other end identifies her correctly and says he wanted to hear her voice. Jenny blanches and quickly hangs up. Jenny Voiceover says his name was Gerald, and she didn’t want to hear his voice because it stirred up too many memories of rules broken and love cut short. Hmmm. I’m going with Gerald as a married man, what do you think?
Frank arrives home, looking pale and tired. Once he’s rested a bit, he steps up his schooling of that teen boy, telling him when he should avoid buying oysters, etc. Inside, Julienne is gently telling Peg that Frank’s dying, despite the treatments. The boy comes in and tells Jenny, who’s lurking nearby, that Frank’s taken a turn, so Jenny hurries out to attend to him. Julienne, meanwhile, measures out some morphine for him to take. Frank asks Julienne how long it’ll be before he’s better. She looks pointedly over her shoulder at Peggy, then tells him it won’t be long.
Jenny, cleaning up after Frank’s turn, passes by their bedroom, absorbs the fact that there’s only one bed, and looks grossed out as only a nice middle-class girl can.
Back to Nonnatus she and Julienne go, and of course Jenny can’t resist bringing up the fact that she saw the rest of Frank and Peggy’s place while she was there. In hushed, horrified tones, she brings up the fact that they share a bed, and once again, I feel compelled to slap her. First off, her pearl-clutching is not only getting tiresome, it’s getting downright stupid. How long has she been working in this incredibly poor area? Where families are jammed into just a couple of rooms? This can’t possibly be the first time she’s seen siblings sharing a bed. Sure, it’s a bit unusual for grown siblings to be sharing, but then, it’s a bit unusual for grown siblings to have both remained unmarried (presumably) and lived together their entire lives. And bed sharing was even more common in families when Frank and Peggy were young, so they were probably brought up that way and don’t see any big deal in it. I don’t think it necessarily means they’re having some kind of sexual relationship, as Jenny seems to be assuming, but that it’s just how it’s always been for them, so they don’t see anything wrong or strange in it. Get off your high horse, Jenny, not everyone can afford a two-bedroom, ok?
Julienne, who, along with Evangelina and Chummy is becoming one of my favorite characters, refuses to even acknowledge Jenny’s prissy ideas or propriety and instead focuses on the fact that Frank and Peggy have always loved and been there for each other, and that’s what’s really important.
Having failed to get any satisfaction from Julienne, Jenny goes out and gossips about it with the other girls, right in the hearing of Evangelina, whom, let’s not forget, grew up poor and probably shared a bed with someone or other at some point. Marvelously, she throws a potato peel or something at Trixie to shut her up when she starts sneering at how gross this is, and then she paints a picture of what it’s like to live in a workhouse, as Frank and Peggy once did. Naturally, none of them have a clue what those places are like. They’re hellholes, and Frank and Peggy were torn apart when they were put into one as very young, orphaned children. The experience made them all the more determined to cleave to each other when they finally got out and were reunited. Cynthia tells Evangelina that this is incest we’re talking about, but I still haven’t seen anything to support a sexual relationship between these two people. It’s not like they’re holding hands and kissing or anything, even when they’re alone, from what we’ve seen. They seem close, yes, but not sexually close. Anyway, Evangelina says there was no semblance of family after they walked through those workhouse gates. I’m not sure that’s actually an excuse for incest, but whatever. She shoos the girls away.
Inside, Chummy checks for messages and then admits to the other girls that she’s meeting “Peter’s ma” and she’s frightfully nervous. Trixie, of course, tells her to check with them first before she goes out so they can approve the outfit.
Apparently, it’s Jenny’s, Trixie’s, and Cynthia’s day off and Jimmy has shown up with his car and several other young people in the back to take them out of the city. Trixie and Cynthia pile in the back with the others but Jenny gets to sit in front. Perks of dating the driver.
Out to the country they go, to a big manor house somewhere that has a pool in the backyard and, oddly, no occupants. Everyone runs to the pool, strips down to their underwear, and dives in.
Back in London, Chummy practices meeting Mrs. Noakes and just succeeds in making herself more nervous.
Much splashing about and playing in the pool. Jenny floats on her back for a little and is soon joined by Jimmy at the quiet end. Jenny moves in to kiss him, but then tells him she can’t and starts paddling away. And then she appears to forget how to swim and begins floundering, so Jimmy has to rescue her and drag her out of the pool. The others join them at the side and Cynthia realizes Jenny’s having an asthma attack. She sends Jimmy to get a jacket or something as Jenny gasps for air. A near kiss gives Jenny an asthma attack? Between this and her prissiness I’m starting to think she’s seriously sexually uptight. Good thing she wasn’t teaching the birth control class.
They all return to London, and we see that Jimmy’s named the car Lady Chatterley. Wow, ballsy, considering that book was pretty widely banned for its lewd content. And also, if we needed any further indication that Jenny is totally wrong for him, that’s it right there. Her brain would probably melt if she read that book.
The others climb out of the car and Jimmy whispers his love to a supposedly sleeping Jenny and wakes her with a gentle forehead kiss. Oh, poor Jimmy.
Sister MJ passes Chummy’s room, sees her pawing through and rejecting all her clothes in frustration, and moves along, musing that the shell must be broken before the bird can fly. Mmmmkay.
It’s late, but Chummy finds Fred poking around in the kitchen, looking for something for his pig, Evie. And yes, in case you’re wondering, he named the pig after Sister Evangelina. Chummy gives him a Victoria sponge and asks him if he thinks Noakes’s mother will like her. He says of course she will and goes off to feed the pig her cake.
Jenny’s getting ready for bed when Cynthia stops by with some warm milk. Aww, that’s sweet. Jenny tells her she feels strange. Cynthia somehow knows what this is all about and says that Jimmy’s sweet, handsome, in love with Jenny and, perhaps most importantly, available, so she should forget about this man from her past. Jenny bleats that she can’t forget him, because he was everything to her, except for hers. Oh yeah, married for sure.
Julienne and Jenny deliver some more medicine and a crossword puzzle to Frank, who seems to be pretty much permanently abed these days. As Jenny goes to leave, Frank makes it clear he knows he’s dying. Jenny tries to put a good face on it, but he just wants to make sure nobody says anything to Peg until it’s absolutely necessary. Aww.
Julienne, meanwhile, finds Peg standing in the kitchen, looking lost. Peg wonders what she’ll do when Frank’s gone and Julienne draws her into a warm hug and tells her to remember that, one day, they’ll be together again.
Sister MJ finds Chummy in a corridor at Nonnatus and pulls her into her room to give her a dress to wear. Chummy’s delighted and it’s all very sweet.
Jenny returns to Nonnatus and asks Fred if he can hook her up with some pig poo for Frank’s and Peg’s garden. She delivers it immediately and Peg’s happy to have it for their little grapevine.
Chummy’s all dolled up for her tea. Trixie and Cynthia approve the look and Trixie even lends her a good-luck brooch.
Evangelina makes her way to the kitchen, opens the cake tin, and is pissed to find the sponge is gone. Furthermore, from the muddy footprints, she realizes who took it, and she runs out to yell at Fred. But the pig’s giving birth, so she puts the scolding on hold as her inner midwife kicks in, and she sends Fred off for hot water.
Instead, he gets Chummy and drags her out, completely ignoring the fact that she’s all dressed up, clearly has plans, and you don’t need multiple professional midwives to deliver a damn pig. I mean, come on, Fred, don’t be such a selfish dolt. But no, the pig’s more important than anything Chummy has going on in her life, so she climbs into the pigpen, dress and all.
Poor Noakes, meanwhile, is ringing the bell, dressed up, flowers in hand. Nobody answers. Wow, I hope there’s no actual emergency in the neighborhood while the stupid pig’s dropping her babies.
Remember Elsie, the fish lady? She’s in labor, and of course the only midwife available is Trixie, who nearly starts vomiting all over the place when she enters the house, which is entirely hung with curing fish. It’s like she entered her own nightmare. Still, she manages to pull herself together and get to work.
Back at Nonnatus, Noakes has finally managed to find his way inside, where he finds Chummy running for more water. She explains about the pig and he tells her she looks beautiful before stripping off his jacket and offering to help. I love these two!
Trixie’s attempting to attend to her patient, but it’s the patient who’s taking care of her, offering her a fan and water and sympathy, because she apparently can’t handle dead chickens any better than Trixie can manage fish.
Evie the pig finally manages to deliver a live one, to everyone’s happiness.
Jenny and Peg sit with Frank, who’s holding Peg’s hand tightly as she reassures him she’s there. He breathes his last and Jenny checks his pulse and quietly confirms his death. Peg breaks down in tears, still holding his hand.
Elsie’s had her baby and Trixie’s looking a bit better, standing beside the door and getting some air. The overjoyed father offers her all the fish she can eat and she manages to politely decline.
At Frank and Peg’s, Peg’s getting a shroud out and remembering how Frank managed to find her at the workhouse and got her out of there. She asks Jenny not to call the undertakers right away. Jenny offers to stay but Peg turns her down, saying she wants it to be just the two of them for one last night. Jenny bids her goodnight and tells her to phone if there’s anything she needs.
Peg wanders through the quiet, lonely little bungalow and finds the crossword Frank was working on, which has a sweet message for her about how he’ll always look over her.
Fred’s all smiles back at Nonnatus, now he’s a proud papa or whatever. He and Evangelina are even getting along. Noakes is getting ready to leave and tells her they’ll just have to go meet his mum some other time, because she’s insisting on meeting the girl Noakes keeps talking about. Fred and Evangelina sip their tea and watch from afar like parents.
Peggy reads aloud from Oliver Twist, which is a nice callback to Jenny’s earlier remark about workhouses being the stuff of Dickens novels. And damn but that workhouse in Oliver Twist is an especial nightmare. She gets to the lines “My heart will burst. I cannot bear all this,” and puts the book aside, climbing into bed beside her brother’s body. She curls up against him and goes to sleep.
Jenny, Julienne, and the undertakers arrive at the bungalow the next morning, but nobody answers the door. They let themselves in and find Peggy dead in bed. Jenny realizes she must have overdosed on the morphine, and she beats herself up for leaving it there. Julienne tells her nobody could have prevented this, because Peggy was too scared of the world to continue in it without her brother by her side. JVO chimes in that love permeated every last corner of that little house. Yes, Jenny’s learned yet another lesson about tolerance. Strangely, she seems to be the only one of the midwives who needs these lessons.
Jenny arrives back at Nonnatus and finds Jimmy waiting for her. She collapses in his arms, sobbing, and he lets her cry it out, without question, and then tells her he’s falling in love with her. She pushes him away and tells him that love is supposed to be this completely insane, overwhelming, misery-inducing feeling. Oh, she’s one of those. I knew someone like that once. She’s a smart woman, but she seriously believed that she’d actually hear a choir singing somewhere as soon as she beheld her soulmate, and if she heard no such thing the second she clapped her eyes on a guy, she dismissed him out of hand. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t have a very successful love life. Jimmy, who lives here on planet earth, tells Jenny that’s the stuff of novels, but Jenny doesn’t believe him, because I guess this is how she felt about that married lover of hers. You know, the guy she couldn’t even talk to on the phone. She tells Jimmy that she’s tried to force herself to like him, but she can’t because she’s still hung up on the ex. Poor Jimmy’s heartbroken and tries to talk her around, but Jenny won’t have it, so I guess that’s it for Jimmy. Poor guy. She goes inside and he looks absolutely crushed.
Inside, Jenny wanders down Peggy’s nice clean hall and JVO muses over how Peg and Frank kept the horrors of their lives at bay by forming a love so strong it created a whole new world.
Sister MJ gets her hands on a pair of scissors and cuts a bunch of doves into the dustcover that decorates the back of one of the sofas. It’s actually pretty cool looking. Jenny, meanwhile, goes to the window and watches the others embracing the piglets. Sister Julienne joins her and they walk outside together.