'Call the Midwife' Recap: Series 5 Episode 2

I’m assuming we’ve all watched episode two and are ready to relive it, right? Because, as you know, this one traverses a rollercoaster of emotions; love, loss, anxiety, hope and disappointment! So if you’ve girded your loins, let’s crack on with the recap.

Nurse Gilbert and The Becketts – As a patient, Stella Beckett (Katherine Rose Morley) has presented at her check-ups with high blood pressure and a bad attitude about her husband’s inability to get work at the docks.  She wants a nice home and nice things for her baby. Unfortunately her husband Johnny (Jason Maza) won’t accept hand-outs from the National Assistance Board nor credit for the fancy pram his wife covets.

Nurse Gilbert giving Stella Beckett stress reducing advice                        Image credit Red Productions Limited

Though we see Johnny show up too late to be picked for a shift, it’s obvious he’s very unwell. Then suddenly, we hear that he’s back to getting regular hours and Stella’s stress and blood pressure improves. They even get the new pram she’s been wanting.

Nurse Gilbert has been seeing Stella in the clinic and on home visits and so knows something of their plight and its recent improvement. So when Barbara visits a pub to deliver some medicine to the barmaid’s daughter and finds Johnny Beckett sitting at a table with a drink he’s been nursing all day, she is understandably confused and disappointed. Barbara feels she should share this information with Stella and confides in her friend Tom Hereward hoping he can advise her on how to approach this delicate matter.

Meanwhile Stella shows up at the docks with Johnny’s forgotten dinner only to find out from his boss Mr. Gibson that her husband has been lying to her and no longer works there. Stella collapses, the midwives are called and Barbara goes out to find Johnny in his new home away from home. She urges him to talk to his wife, but he doesn’t know how to tell her that despite giving everything he has to Gibson’s, he’s been turned away like a dog.

When Johnny returns home, he’s confronted by an almost hysterical wife who is angry that he doesn’t have “the backbone” or the tools to work now that he’s pawned his longshoreman’s hook which has been in his family for three generations. In the end and in spite of Nurse Gilbert’s efforts to diffuse the situation, Stella kicks Johnny out of the house stating she can only care for one baby, not him as well.

Shortly after the row, Johnny is found unconscious and bleeding in the warehouse. Dr. Turner diagnoses him with pneumonia and he’s sent to the London for tests to discover the underlying cause of his illness. We soon learn that Johnny has leukemia and has only days to live. Stella tearfully apologizes to him for all the horrible things she said and declares she doesn’t want to have the baby without him.

Stella pleads with Barbara to help her give birth a week early so Johnny can see his child. Nurse Gilbert brings this dilemma to the midwives who debate the appropriateness of inducing a healthy mother, but Sister Julienne says they will support whatever Barbara thinks is best. However, she warns that Johnny could die before Stella can give birth causing her to miss out on spending his last moments at his side. Trixie (still in her defiant mood against Sister Julienne perhaps) chimes in that she will assist Barbara with the induction.

The procedure doesn’t go smoothly at first but finally Stella’s labor gets truly underway, enema or no enema. Dr. Turner sits with Johnny during the ordeal and even has to call for help as the sick young man starts to bleed and lose consciousness yet again. Stella gives birth to a boy just in the nick of time and the pair is transported to the London to visit Johnny on his deathbed. The father gets of say his goodbyes even though, much like the 10th Doctor (sniff) he wants to stay.

At Johnny’s funeral/wake, Stella seems to be holding up fairly well. She has her young infant John to keep her mind occupied and her hands busy. Also Mr. Gibson makes an appearance with an apology, an envelope of cash and Johnny’s pawned hook that can now be returned to its rightful place on the mantle.

Sister Evangelina and Connie Manley - A full-press advertising campaign for infant formula has come to Poplar. An American manufacturer has sent a sales rep out to talk to working mums about the convenience and other advantages of formula. (“It will make your child more intelligent!” for example.) Sister Evangelina happens upon this presentation and confronts the woman, reminding the crowd that “Baby has the best and it’s free. The breast!” She admonishes the saleswoman, wearing a lab coat no less, calling her a charlatan who just cares about money. Viewers can be in no doubt as to the sister’s opinion on this polarizing matter.

So of course when we meet Connie Manley (Jessie Cave), an anxious mum-to-be and motherless herself, we know she will take Sister Evangelina’s judgements very much to heart. After a smooth and routine delivery, the experienced midwife instructs Connie on breastfeeding and touts its great health benefits. Alas Connie is having trouble getting her newborn son to latch on.

Connie continues to struggle with breastfeeding getting more distressed about what this failure says about her as a mother. Sister Evangelina assures her and the other midwives that as a healthy mother she can and will be able to do this even though her infant is losing weight.

Not long after, Connie’s husband arrives in a panic at Nonnatus House looking for Sister Mary Cynthia. Connie is in a bad way. Mary Cynthia finds the new mother crying and bleeding from the nipples and her child dehydrated. The young nun finally convinces Connie her son must be given formula and assures her it’s no indication of her worth as a mother. When Mary Cynthia returns home she finds Sister Evangelina and fills her in on Connie and the baby’s condition. Taken aback, Evangelina swears she didn’t mean that breastfeeding was the only way, but Mary Cynthia warns her that her words carry a lot of influence and she must be careful what she tells her patients.

Sister Evangelina goes to Connie’s home to apologize and assumes all the blame for what could have happened to her child. Following a bit of solitary prayer, the despondent nun goes to see Sister Julienne to ask permission to go to an austere enclosed order for six months! She’s gotten so wrapped up in her work that she’s forgotten her calling and how to listen. Sister Julienne is hesitant and says she will have to seek approval from the mother house which Sister Evangelina begs her to do.

Being given permission, Evangelina is packing in her room when Sister Monica Joan happens by. When she attempts to help, Sister Evangelina takes hold of her arm and Monica Joan forlornly asks “what will I do?” To which Evangelina replies that she should pray for her. They tearfully embrace which is all the more touching because we know of their often contentious relationship over the years.

Nurse Crane and Tommy Smith- Nurse Crane, always full of efficient ideas, is in top form with her scheme to track the midwives’ movements with a map and push pins. She also suggests since Poplar’s residents are increasingly international, learning a second language would be a good idea. She’s joining a Spanish class and encourages the other nurses to join her.

No one does and Phyllis seems to feel a bit out of place when most of the other students are much younger than she. That is until a Mr. Tommy Smith (Paul Copely, yes Mr. Mason from Downton Abbey!) arrives late and sits down next to her. The two hit it off right away and ascertain through round-about questions that both are single. Tommy lost his wife a few years ago.

When they arrive next week’s lesson Phyllis and Tommy discover the class has been cancelled and so, on Tommy’s suggestion, go instead for tea and conversation. We learn that Tommy is quite a romantic who has travelled to the Spanish coast and loves to walk home in the moonlight.

Back at the house, Nurse Crane is floating on a cloud and everyone seems to notice including Sister Monica Joan. Later Phyllis asks Trixie if she can borrow her gramophone to play an album of Spanish love songs (just to get in the Latin mindset). Trixie and Patsy happily oblige. Girl talk leads to Phyllis asking the two younger nurses for help with her makeup.

When she arrives at the next Spanish class, Tommy compliments her appearance which Nurse Crane attributes to her new cardigan. She feels confident enough to invite him to accompany her in her motor car for a day in the country to which he ups the ante offering to buy them dinner and tickets for a flamenco demonstration.

Alas poor Phyllis Crane, just when she gets her hopes up, she is deflated in the most humiliating way. While on her community nursing rounds she meets Mrs. Smith who happens to be Tommy’s wife – not dead but suffering from advanced dementia. The mortified nurse leaves the home in a hurry. Patsy follows her out to the car where she offers to buy her a cup of tea. Nurse Crane declines the kind offer and tells her that she is quite content with her life, but just for a while she thought she could have something more.

Tommy comes round to the convent to explain to Phyllis that he did lose his wife as she hasn’t recognized him for five years. Going to the Spanish classes and, of course, meeting her made him happy. He thought they were friends. Nurse Crane tersely remarks that he made a fool of her and that she doesn’t need more friends.

Later we discover that Mrs. Smith has been granted twenty home help visits by the council which Patsy and Phyllis are very pleased about. Patsy suggests she cover the phone while Nurse Crane goes to her Spanish class. Though Phyllis hesitates, Patsy stands up for Tommy citing the strength it must take for him to care for his ailing wife and still find passion in the world and the trust necessary to share “his painful and private truth.”  Phyllis turns up at the flamenco concert and the couple shares an understanding smile.

Tommy Smith and Nurse Crane enjoying flamenco and companionship              Image credit Red Productions Limited

So what say you? How does this episode rate? Is Sister Evangelina overreacting about her behavior in the treatment of Connie Manley and her baby? Are we to assume that Johnny Beckett’s cancer was caused by exposure to toxic substances on the docks? Will Nurse Crane and Tommy Smith continue to step out together? How much longer will it take for Nurse Gilbert and Tom Hereward to finally admit their feelings for one another? Oh yeah, and has anyone else wondered if Sister Winifred will ever get a storyline of her own again? Share your impressions with us in the comments below.