Previously on Call the Midwife: A childhood friend of Jenny’s, Jimmy, declared his love for her and got turned down; Chummy decided she wanted to give the missionary life a try.
Jenny and Cynthia leave a home after a birth while JVO talks about how the mothers gave them their trust, which made the midwives brave. They weren’t invincible, of course, and faced challenges of their own.
Chummy and Noakes, meanwhile, are adorably dancing to You Are My Special Angel, dressed in their PJs and dressing gowns. God, how I love these two. So cute! Chummy can’t believe they’re actually going to be going to Africa and worries she might be making a mistake. He tells her he’s at her side, and that she can change her mind if she wants to, but he’ll support her no matter what she wants to do. So cute!
Cynthia’s awakened by Bernadette with tea and the news that the Kelly baby’s on its way, so she’d better hop to it. Cynthia staggers out of bed.
Off to the Kelly home she cycles, where she’s met by the grandmother-to-be, Mrs Cook, who apologises for the early hour and tells Cynthia the kettle’s on. Bless her.
Inside, Mrs Kelly screams and wails and insists she can’t do it, but of course she does, finally delivering a son. Mrs Cook fetches the same blanket she wrapped her daughter in as an infant, and they wrap him up. Mrs Cook happily kisses her daughter’s hand and the baby is placed in Mrs Kelly’s arms. She thanks Cynthia, who tells her she was the one who did all the hard work.
Back at Nonnatus, Julienne asks Chummy if she realizes what a huge step she’s taking. Chummy says she does, but admits she’s terrified. Julienne reassures her that God only asks of us what he knows we can give, but Chummy wonders what would happen if he’s wrong. ‘Then we should all be very afraid,’ says Julienne before sending Chummy off to share her news with the others.
Mrs Cook emerges from the bedroom with her grandson, ready to introduce him to his father. The sitting room’s crowded with people waiting to meet the baby, but the new father hardly seems to notice them. He can’t believe he has a son, and, being Irish, he fishes around for some silver to tuck into the baby’s blanket for luck. His dad provides a piece (a shilling or something like it, I believe) and Mr K promises to pay him back, once he can work again (his arm’s in a sling). Cynthia emerges and Mr K thanks her. She tells him he has a real little soldier. Drinks are poured all around, and Cynthia’s handed a little glass of whisky. They all toast the baby and drink (she barely takes a sip).
Chummy screws up her courage, goes into the dispensary, and tells Trixie, Jenny, Evangelina, Bernadette, and Fred that she’s going to Africa. They’re all shocked into silence, and then proceed to kind of be assholes about the whole thing. Evangelina sneers that all the young girls do now is swan in and swan back out again, like she’s going to just go put her feet up in the south of France or something. Trixie’s all put out that Chummy didn’t say anything earlier, and Jenny pouts that she thought Chummy was happy there, with them. Chummy defends herself by reminding them that she’s always wanted this and if she’s going to do this, she needs to before kids come along. And anyway, it’s only for six months. Evangelina continues to be bitchy and sweeps out. Jenny excuses the sister’s poor behavior by telling Chummy that this is just because she’ll miss her. Fred offers to take over the scouts while she’s away, and Trixie bursts into tears and embraces her friend.
Sister MJ breezes through the front door and asks Julienne to settle her fare with the taxi driver. She’s been going to see her nephew regularly, and because there’s a bus strike on, she’s been taking cabs both ways, and it’s getting a bit expensive. Julienne gently reminds her that they are a little cash strapped but MJ, of course, seems unconcerned.
While out on her rounds, Jenny runs into Jimmy, who’s astonished to see her. She seems rather delighted to see him and asks what he’s doing around there. He offers to show her over a cup of tea. Apparently, he’s working for some company building apartment blocks in the area, and he’s actually really sweetly enthusiastic about it. Which makes Jenny’s bored and completely sarcastic response to his explanation of his work really make me want to slap her. He takes it in good humour, though and she says it’s great to see him so animated, even if it is about concrete. Bitch. The long and short of it is, he’s going to be around. Actually sounding sincere, Jenny says she’s glad to hear that and hopes they’ll see more of each other.
Ok, fair warning: steel yourselves, folks, because this is where it gets grim. Cynthia arrives at the Kellys’ to check up on mother and baby, and as soon as you hear Mrs Kelly happily report that the baby doesn’t even cry, you know this is going to go horribly wrong. Cynthia looks into his crib and sees that he’s a ghastly shade of blue. She manages not to completely freak out as she snatches him out of the crib and tells the mother that he’s not breathing. She orders Mrs Cook to telephone for Dr Turner, as she places the baby on the floor and starts doing CPR. Mrs Kelly, as you can imagine, does enough freaking out for both of them, dragging herself out of bed, sobbing and begging Cynthia to help him. Sadly, it’s too late, and after a valiant effort, Cynthia quietly tells the mother that the baby’s gone. Mrs K begins to sob brokenly as Cynthia carefully gathers him up and places him back in the crib. She sits down beside Mrs Kelly and puts her arm around her, helpless, really, to do anything.
Turner and Julienne arrive together and rush upstairs, only to have Turner confirm that the baby’s dead. Mrs Cook can’t fathom this, because the baby was just fine. Turner quietly tells Mrs Kelly he’ll have to conduct a post-mortem, and promises that everything will be done with the greatest care. Mrs Kelly, who’s stopped sobbing but now just looks pretty broken, sitting on the edge of the bed, asks to hold the baby once more, just as her husband arrives. Julienne offers to say a prayer for the baby, who was named Thomas, and when given leave she begins, ‘I am the resurrection and the life, sayeth the lord…’ Mrs Kelly holds the baby for the prayer, and when it’s over Julienne gently takes him and walks out of the room with the tiny bundle. The mother begins to sob again and her mother sits beside her and holds her close.
Later, Cynthia leaves, looking hollow, slowly making her way down the stairs and back to Nonnatus House, where Trixie and Jenny rush to greet and grieve with her. Cynthia cries, saying she did everything she could, and the girls know. With that kind of hysteria that accompanies moments like this, Cynthia says she’s running late and has missed all her patient calls, but the girls tell her not to be silly, that they’ll cover this. Evangelina joins them and tells Cynthia she needs hot chocolate, aspirin, and her bed, in that no-nonsense tone of hers. I hope by ‘hot chocolate’ she means ‘hot toddy’, because if anyone needed a drink, I think it’s Cynthia right now. Looking relieved, she obeys.
That evening, Bernadette delivers some tea and Cynthia’s notes to Turner, along with an invitation to dinner. He thanks her, but says he wants to get ahead of this inquiry. She asks if there’s anything she can bring him and he says he could use some of her faith just now, because at times like this he wishes he had one. ‘It’s at times like this I wish it made a difference,’ she says. Wow. Pretty strong stuff for a nun to be saying. True, though. No amount of faith can really assuage this kind of grief, not when it’s raw, certainly. He seems rather shocked by her statement. She goes to leave but he asks her to stay and take some tea with him. She swiftly excuses herself and hurries away.
Noakes returns home and finds a letter that makes him look rather worried. He seeks out Fred, who exposits for us that Chummy’s not around because she’s gone to Manchester for her missionary training. Noakes tells Fred that he has to pass a physical exam before he can be sent to Sierra Leone and join their police force while Chummy’s stationed there, which could be a problem, because Noakes is a bit on the portly side. Fred thinks this is great, because if Noakes doesn’t pass, he and Chummy will stick around. Noakes gets through to him by saying that, if they get rejected because of him, it’ll break Chummy’s heart. Fred loves Chummy as much as everyone else does, so he agrees to help Noakes.
Cue the Rocky-inspired training montage, to the tune of ‘Jump, Jive ‘n’ Wail’. Fred puts Noakes through his paces, assisted by the scouts. Hee!
And back to the grim A plot. Cynthia stands in the hall at Nonnatus and watches Julienne greet Noakes and another policeman at the door. A little later, they’re interviewing Cynthia, confirming that there didn’t appear to be anything amiss during the birth. Noakes checks the logbooks and notes that Cynthia was out very late at another delivery the night before and only had a few hours’ sleep before going to see Mrs Kelly. Cynthia says the midwives are all used to working long and awkward hours. Noakes looks like he’s really hating this, but it has to be done. Somewhat apologetically, he asks if Cynthia makes a habit of drinking on duty. Cynthia defends herself, saying she only took a sip to wet the baby’s head, it’s not like she was out there getting sloshed with the men. Plus, the baby had already been delivered by then. She asks if she’s being accused of something, and when she gets no answer, tells them she did everything she could.
Upstairs, Trixie wails a bit to Jenny about this horrible business Cynthia’s going through and Chummy getting ready to leave. She hopes Jenny’s planning on sticking around. Jenny’s response to that is a dreamy look, which Trixie, naturally, immediately notices. She demands to know what’s up and Jenny admits she ran into Jimmy and feels he’s rather grown into himself.
The door opens and Cynthia comes in. The girls sober up and ask her what happened. Cynthia tearfully tells them that they think it’s all her fault.
The phone in the hall rings, rings, rings, and nobody answers. Cynthia’s sitting up on the edge of her bed, listening to it ring endlessly, unable to make herself answer it. Bernadette does it instead, noting that Cynthia’s the one on the schedule. I’m actually rather surprised they’d keep sending her out so soon after a trauma like that, and while she’s pretty much under investigation. That seems like a poor idea both for her and the women in labour.
Jenny goes to meet up with Jimmy again, for tea and sandwiches, during which she fixes his bowtie and asks him about his love life. Under some prodding, he admits that there is a girl, but it’s not serious. Jenny says she thinks it’s lovely and that Jimmy should be having fun. ‘Always so generous, aren’t you?’ says Jimmy, just proving he doesn’t know Jenny at all. Jenny says that Jimmy’s her friend, and she wants him to be happy. He awkwardly asks if she’s still out breaking hearts. She tells him she’s way too busy, since they’re in the middle of a baby boom.
Sister MJ is preparing to leave Nonnatus in yet another taxi, but Julienne dashes out and tells her this really has to stop, because they simply can’t afford it. MJ pulls a complete spoiled brat/martyr routine and tells the driver she no longer has need of him. Julienne backpedals that she didn’t have to stop taking taxis right this second (so, what was the timeline, then, Julienne? You probably should have been a bit clearer). MJ pouts that she’s not useful or important anymore, and she’s crumbling like the Temple of Thebes. Come off it, lady. Julienne’s not being spiteful here, the nuns can’t afford the taxis! Tell your damn nephew to come visit you every once in a while!
Clinic. Trixie asks Jenny how her non-date with Jimmy was, but Jenny says it was nothing much. One of the waiting mums asks if it’s going to be much longer, and a few minutes later Cynthia calls her over. The mum blanches and says that, actually, she needs to use the loo. It’s clear that neither she nor any of the other mums want to be treated by Cynthia just now.
Fred has Noakes doing situps in one of the storage rooms at Nonnatus, where Evangelina finds them and asks what the hell they’re up to. ‘The Missionary Mission,’ says Fred. ‘Are you in, or are you out? Because if you’re out, then you know too much, and that leaves us in a sticky situation.’ She’s clearly intrigued.
Once she’s gotten the whole story, she puts both Noakes and Fred to work digging up the garden. Niiiice.
Jenny and Cynthia are cleaning up post-clinic when a latecoming patient shows up. Jenny tells her the clinic’s closed, but the young woman, Francine Spencer, chatters that she had to stay at work late and she can’t come on Fridays and blah, blah, blah. Presumably to shut her up, Jenny tells Cynthia she’s got this and leads Francine behind one of the curtains.
Julienne delivers some tea to Sister MJ, who’s in her room pouting. She tells Sister MJ that she’s been looking at the books (‘Are we to move to bread and water?’ Sister MJ sneers bitchily and unnecessarily.) Nope—turns out Julienne has managed to scrape together enough cash for Sister MJ to get to Richmond and back by taxi. Oh, God, Julienne, don’t just give her carte blanche like that! Tell her you have enough for X number of trips, or she’s going to be going all the time. Now that she’s gotten her way, Sister MJ is happy once again. I feel like I’m supposed to be all heartwarmed by this, but it leaves me utterly cold. I realize that aging is distressing and Sister MJ isn’t all there, but she acts like a spoiled child and seriously has no purpose here anymore. All she does is spout out nonsense at the tea table, which does not make her a compelling character. Sorry, but I think it’s time for her to go.
Jenny runs some routine tests on Francine and asks her some health-related questions (in case it becomes important later, this girl apparently catches everything under the sun). Francine sees that Jenny’s noticed she’s not wearing a wedding ring and says her man will marry her, he just doesn’t know about the baby yet. Uh, you may want to get on that, sweetie. Especially if you want a dress like Grace Kelley’s. She’s got it all planned out: big white wedding, house in the country. She’s setting herself up for a huge fall, we all know it.
Julienne finds Cynthia in the dispensary and asks her to go attend to a Mrs Lennon. Cynthia tries to duck out, but Julienne gently pressures, so she agrees.
Off to the Lennon house she goes, where she’s met by the affable husband, waiting outside. He’s evidently done this many times before. She heads in and joins the mother, looking tense, but she removes her hat and coat and starts to examine the woman. The mum—April—says she heard it was one of the young midwives with the Kelly baby. At the mention of that, Cynthia loses her head, excuses herself, and runs to the nearest phone box to phone Nonnatus. She gets Trixie, who tells her she has to get back in there and attend to the mother. Cynthia weeps that all she can see is baby Thomas’s little face. Trixie says she’ll be there as soon as she can, but Cynthia basically has to pull herself together. Cynthia can’t do it, grabs her bike, and flees. Trixie hangs up the phone and tells Julienne that Cynthia’s just abandoned her patient. Julienne realizes it was a bit too soon to send Cynthia out (you think?!) and tells Trixie to get to the Lennons’ as quickly as she can.
Cynthia cycles blindly through the streets, finally winding up, accidentally, in the middle of traffic on a busy road. Cars and buses honk at her, like that’s really going to help. She looks like she’s having to focus just to keep breathing.
Trixie returns to Nonnatus and irritably announces that Mrs Lennon is fine, but Trixie’s about ready to wring Cynthia’s neck. She asks where Cynthia is, and everyone’s surprised to hear she’s not with Trixie. She hasn’t come back to Nonnatus. They all exchange significant looks before getting up to start searching. Julienne calls the police, Trixie tries the local church, and she and Jenny both cycle the streets.
It’s Jenny who finally finds her, sitting down at the side of a quiet street. Jenny crouches down beside her and gently urges her to come home. Cynthia cries that she can’t, because she’s made such an awful mess of things. Jenny quietly asks what happened with Mrs Lennon and Cynthia admits she lost her nerve. Jenny tells her she’s blaming herself for something that wasn’t her fault. Cynthia isn’t sure anymore that it wasn’t her fault, but Jenny points out that Julienne would never have sent her out if she didn’t think Cynthia was safe to be with. She’s talking Cynthia down pretty well, and Cynthia’s calming. She gets up and accompanies Jenny back to Nonnatus.
Noakes gets home after yet another day’s training to find Chummy home early, holding the letter he received. She asks him why he didn’t tell her about this, since it came before she left for Manchester, and he opts for indignation as his response, telling her he wasn’t keen on telling her he might be too much of a roly-poly to be accepted into the colonial police. He adds that he’s been doing everything he can to make sure he passes because he doesn’t want to be the one who let her down. Chummy absorbs that and quietly says she’s been selfish, because Africa was all about what she wanted, and she didn’t even notice that Noakes was so worried. She wonders again if this is a mistake and he pulls himself together and tells her he thinks she’s wonderful, and he’d walk to Africa if he had to, to be with her. So cute!
Turner delivers the results of the post-mortem to Cynthia and Julienne. Before she opens the envelope, he asks her if she thinks she did anything to cause the death, reminding her that she has to make life and death decisions all the time, and her instincts matter greatly. Cynthia takes a deep breath and tells him she’s sure she did everything she could. Julienne tells her that she’s an excellent midwife, and Cynthia finally has the courage to open the envelope. It tells her there’s no blame—not with her or the Kellys. The baby was born with a defect that kept his lungs from fully inflating, which would be why he didn’t cry. There’s nothing anyone could have done. Cynthia weeps, half in relief, half in grief.
Back to the Kellys she goes, where she finds Mrs Kelly folding laundry, getting on with her life. Mrs Cook goes to put the kettle on and leaves them alone. Mrs Kelly, who clearly holds no ill-will towards Cynthia, tells her she didn’t have to come, because Evangelina’s been coming by and checking on her. Cynthia offers to help with the laundry folding, to let Mrs Kelly rest. Mrs K says it’s almost as if it never happened, but she still remembers, and she still his the blanket, which she says smells of him. She puts the laundry away in the drawer where she had been keeping baby clothes, observing, with some grim humour, that she has space for it now. She stands up, and all we see is her back, but somehow it speaks volumes as she stretches the tiniest bit, takes a moment to gather herself, and then goes to Cynthia for her check up.
While out on her rounds, Jenny’s flagged down by Francine, who happily shows off her engagement ring and trills that it’s official. Jenny congratulates her sincerely, and wouldn’t you know it, Francine’s fiancé comes along and…it’s Jimmy. He and Jenny blanch when they see each other, and pretend to be strangers, for Francine’s sake. Francine doesn’t seem to notice a thing and soon she’s sauntering off down the street on Jimmy’s arm. Stunned, Jenny goes on her way.
Cynthia reports to Sister MJ and Julienne that the Kellys don’t have enough money for a proper funeral for their baby, so little Thomas is going to be buried in the coffin of some local woman who died. A stranger, presumably. That’s pretty sad. Julienne briskly says there’s a charitable fund for such things but Cynthia says the Kellys won’t apply for charity because they’re too proud. Sister MJ blithely suggests the nuns put up the cash, but Julienne tells her they don’t have the cash to spare. MJ tells her to use her taxi fund—really, MJ insists! How generous of her to give up her afternoon teas with her wealthy family to allow this young, impoverished couple to properly bury their dead infant. My heart is well and truly warmed (and yes, that was all sarcastic). Her plan is to have her nephew and his family over at Nonnatus instead (see? Was that so hard?) She immediately makes demands about the snacks that should be provided and…oh, whatever, I don’t care.
Noakes passes his physical!
Jimmy hovers outside Nonnatus until Jenny comes biking up. Yeah, this is going to be awkward. She takes him out to the garden and asks if he loves Francine. He asks if it makes a difference. Well, yes, Jimmy, it does—you’re going to marry and have a child with this girl! Jenny says as much, telling him that Francine has all these plans and that Jimmy had better be sure about this, because soon there’s going to be a child involved. He says he was sure about something: that he was in love with Jenny. Well, too late now, Jims. He tells her he doesn’t want to just be friends (again, too late) and leaves.
Closing montage. The nuns sing one of their services while Fred carefully polishes a bicycle bell and Cynthia attends little Thomas’s funeral. Jesus, that tiny coffin! Mrs Kelly comes in and approaches it, smells the baby blanket once more, and tucks it around the tiny, tiny body. Her husband places a white rose in the coffin and comforts his wife. Sister MJ entertains her family in the garden and asks Julienne for cream cakes, calling her a dear. ‘Yes, aren’t I?’ says Julienne tightly. Glad to see she’s as annoyed by sister MJ as I am.
Chummy sits with Evangelina in the kitchen for a bit, but then hears distant singing and goes out in the hall to see what’s up. The scout troop, trailed by the other nuns and midwives and Turner walk towards her, singing You are My Special Angel as a sort of goodbye surprise. Noakes joins her, and Chummy looks like she’s about to burst. It’s so incredibly sweet. The phone rings, and Cynthia goes to answer it, all ready to resume her work.
Everyone, including the scouts, bid Chummy and Noakes farewell outside Nonnatus. Fred gives her that bicycle bell he was polishing as a gift, which is adorable and a nice callback to her days learning to ride a bike (which is how she and Noakes met, right?). JVO talks about how Chummy chased her dream with courage, and they loved her for it. Chummy and Noakes get into a car and head off on their next adventure.
Wow, between this and this week’s Ripper Street, my heart was pretty thoroughly busted by the time I went to bed on Sunday. Ooof.