‘Call the Midwife’ Recap: Series 5 Episode 3

This week’s Call the Midwife reliably delivered another dose of medical drama, hope, kindness and innocent romance. Not to mention another unthinkable example of how women suffer for their indiscretions while the men go basically scot-free. Let’s get on with the summarizing, shall we?

(In case you need it, last week's recap is right this way.)

Nurse Mount and the Poplar Typhoid Crisis –First of we are reminded that families are big and close in Poplar; constantly in and out of one another’s houses. Meg Mahoney (Sadie Shimmin) is a prime example of this as the matriarch of her quite extensive clan. 

It’s a busy day for Meg as she looks after her hoards while Nurse Mount is upstairs delivering her granddaughter Jeanette’s (Claudia Jessie) baby girl. The proud nana spreads the word to all her family and neighbors including Stan Roberts (James Greene) who is happy for the news but ominously has little appetite.

A few days later Patsy returns to find the new mother very ill. She has Jeanette’s husband, Benny Su (Andrew Koji), call for an ambulance when she notices the young woman grasping at her blankets in a very frantic way. Nurse Mount saw the same symptoms in her mother and sister when her family was in a Japanese prison camp and suspects Jeanette has typhoid. Dr. Turner shows up after the ambulance departs to check out the baby. He reassures Benny that they are in good hands with Meg.

At hospital Jeanette’s condition is getting more critical. It’s soon confirmed that she does indeed have typhoid and Patsy is removed from her other duties to reduce the chance of the disease spreading to her other patients.

Patsy and Doctor Turner meet with Jeanette’s extended family to explain what is happening with her condition and to educate them on the vital role of hand washing in stopping the infection. A relative called Angie is concerned about how typhoid could have come to Poplar. She blames Benny for the outbreak as he and his family are from China. Meg stands up for Benny and tells Angela to apologize or leave.

Patsy handles the typhoid outbreak. (Photo:  Courtesy of Red Productions Ltd 2015)
Patsy handles the typhoid outbreak. (Photo:  Courtesy of Red Productions Ltd 2015)

While this confrontation is going on, Sister Mary Cynthia stops in to see Stan on her district nursing rounds only to finds the poor old fella dead with a few tell-tale reddish spots to suggest he too had typhoid. As the urgency grows, all the exposed family members are asked to give a blood sample to track where the outbreak may have originated. Benny worries it’s his fault because he brought Stan a sandwich the day before.

It turns out the actual culprit is Nana Meg. She may actually have had a mild case of the disease as a child and not been aware. They take her to Dr. Turner’s office where Shelagh puts her on the carrier list which requires her to inform the authorities if she moves to another address. On the plus side, Shelagh tells her she could be eligible for one of the new flats due to her health status. Meg won’t consider this.

In fact, the guilt and shame of her responsibility for making people sick causes Meg to withdraw from her family. She won’t hold her granddaughter or make food for the family and she begins compulsively washing her hands. Fortunately Jeanette recovers though we fear the worst when Benny comes to the hospital and finds his wife missing from a made-up bed.

After an obligatory enigmatic discussion with Sister Monica Joan about weeds and purpose, Nurse Mount gets the brain wave to take Meg to see one of the new flats to show her how living there could allow her to be useful to her family again. She takes this advice to heart and at the end we see a proud nana in her shiny new home surrounded by her loving family.

Sister Winifred and the Disgraced Teacher – The tragic story of Dorothy Whitmore (Hannah Morrish) begins innocently enough. Sister Winifred (who I commented last week had virtually gone AWOL) visits Miss Whitmore’s classroom to teach the students some first aid techniques. Afterwards the two bond over their education backgrounds until Miss Whitmore inexplicably passes out on the floor and shortly after throws up. The nun starts questioning her about her periods to which she finally admits she might be pregnant.

An examination by Dr. Turner confirms the suspicion and Sister Winifred reminds Dorothy (and the audience) that she will need to make arrangements to leave her job since even a married woman can’t keep teaching while pregnant. Dorothy admits she needs to work because her boyfriend is a married man.

As expected when Dorothy reveals her condition to the baby’s father Jeremy (Arthur Wilson) he suggests an abortion in a nice place like Harley Street. Unfortunately he hasn’t got the funds for such procedure.

Dorothy’s situation spirals out of control when she returns home to find her self-righteous, snooping landlady has packed her bags and has them waiting for her on the doorstep. To add insult to injury, Jeremy won’t take her phone calls.

With little money and nowhere to go, Miss Whitmore shows up at Nonnatus House desperate for help and understanding. Sister Julienne makes arrangements for Dorothy to get a room at a nearby women’s hostel. Sister Winifred is uncharacteristically cold and distant with the mother-to-be and Dorothy feels her judgement.

While the teacher settles into her austere new digs, Jeremy has had a change of heart and puts an envelope full of cash through the letterbox of Dorothy’s former home. The landlady tries to call him back, but he takes off in his car without a word. She puts two and two together and takes the damning evidence to Dorothy’s headmistress.

When Miss Whitmore arrives a bit late to school, her class is thrilled to see her. Alas her boss is not and summons her to her office. The headmistress confronts her with her landlady’s accusations and is dismissed on the spot for having bad moral character.

Dorothy Whitmore and Sister Winifred. (Photo:  Courtesy of Red Productions Ltd 2015)
Dorothy Whitmore and Sister Winifred. (Photo:  Courtesy of Red Productions Ltd 2015)

Meanwhile, Sister Winifred is trying to avoid an uncomfortable situation, asking Sister Julienne if Dorothy’s records can be transferred since her current residence at the hostel is out of their district. Ever observant, Julienne questions Winifred about her discomfort since she has seen her be compassionate with other unwed mothers in the past. The young nun says those women were less “like her” and that she feels Dorothy has violated the privilege and responsibilities of being a teacher. Her superior kindly reminds her that Dorothy made an error in judgement and as a midwife Winifred should see her as a mother only, not a teacher.

Desperate and apparently out of options, Dorothy makes the horrible decision to perform an abortion on herself. Though we don’t see the act, we do witness the aftermath; a weakened and bleeding Miss Whitmore attempting to take the bus to the hospital before collapsing at the bus stop in front of a crowd that includes one of her former students.

Next thing we know, Sgt. Noakes (with no mention of where his wife has gone) shows up at Nonnatus House with some unhappy news. Miss Whitmore is in hospital after having suffered a miscarriage caused by a botched abortion. She almost died of blood loss and a hysterectomy was performed to save her life. The teacher will be questioned by police about who performed the procedure and that person could be arrested under the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861.

Sister Winifred, dismayed that she didn’t help Dorothy more, is reminded by a wise Sister Julienne that their patient needs a friend now as much as ever. Winifred goes to see Miss Whitmore in hospital and tearfully apologizes to her. Sgt. Noakes allows the nun to stay while Dorothy is questioned. She admits no one helped her with the abortion. Peter tells Winifred that formally the teacher will have to be arrested, but he expects the courts will not charge her since they are after the abortion doctors not the mothers.

And in fact when Dorothy recovers from her surgery, she is free to go. But where and to what? Her teaching career is over and, in Poplar at least, she is branded an immoral woman.  We don’t know where Miss Whitmore goes to start her life over, but in a case of things coming full circle, Sister Winifred is seconded to the school to take Miss Whitmore’s place until a permanent replacement can be found for next term. Winifred wonders if this is a punishment for her neglect and judgement, but regardless, she is required to obediently accept the assignment.

Tom, Barbara and the Indian Meal – Our young vicar has won a prize in a WI raffle and requests the pleasure of Nurse Gilbert’s company in enjoying it. Barbara admits her fondness for Indian food (the one time she’s had it) and agrees to accompany him though you can see she is nervous about how this will go over with Nurse Franklin.

Barbara tests the waters while helping Trixie hem a new dress. When Trixie brings up her broken engagement and her lack of love life since, Barbara asks if she regrets the end of the relationship. Trixie assures her the break-up was for the best and that she and Tom are better as friends.

Still not comfortable about stepping out with a co-worker’s ex-fiance, Barbara goes to Nurse Crane for advice. Ever practical and recently feeling the sting of relationship secrets herself, Phyllis urges Barbara to tell Trixie about the impending date with Tom. Thing is Barbara’s not even sure this is a real date as she has never been on one before. Nor does she know what is appropriate to wear on such an occasion. Aww!

The night of the date, Barbara hurries back from a long delivery and with Trixie being busy lately as well, she’s had no time to tell her about her evening plans. Of course!

Very kindly, Nurse Crane has laid out Barbara’s outfit for her. Soon thereafter, Nurse Gilbert emerges into the night to meet Tom in an adorable blue summer dress with white polka-dots. We don’t see the meal itself, but the couple returns back to Nonnatus House looking quite happy.  Barbara is sipping a bottle of milk (Fred’s suggestion- rather than flowers) and Tom takes her hand as she starts to walk away. A smile passes between them and, in the distance, Trixie looks on from the shadows. Dun, dun, dun!!!

Other Miscellaneous Events – Delia has moved into Cynthia’s old room at Nonnatus House. And then we don’t see her for the rest of the episode.

Fred is enjoying married bliss with his wife Violet. Apparently her jam is to die for as Sister Monica Joan is rather addicted to it.

So what did you think? After the sudden sad departure of Sister Evangelina and the painful death of a new father last week, this episode seemed to let up a bit on the heart strings. I’m interested to see what happens when Trixie finally confronts Barbara with what she knows -though we all get it that Tom and Barbara are so right where Trixie and Tom were doomed. Please chat with us about your insights and predictions in the comment section below. You know you want to!