'Call the Midwife' Series 4 : Episode 5 Recap

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Trixie and Tom (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Viglasky / © Neal Street Productions)
Previously on Call the Midwife: Last week's recap is right this way. 

This has been quite the series for infestations and contagious disease outbreaks. First, London experienced a rat invasion. Next came an epidemic of dysentery.  Oh and don’t forget the syphilis-ridden brothel. Now our medical professionals must contend with a very nasty disease indeed, diphtheria. 

More on the pestilence later because I know we all want to celebrate the long-awaited return of Nurse Cynthia Miller, now known as Sister Mary Cynthia (Bryony Hannah). She’s left the mother house in Chichester with some encouraging words from Sister Evangelina and a bit of anxiety about coming back to her former home in an entirely new capacity. 

She needn’t worry because everyone welcomes the new sister with open arms, even those newcomers who haven’t met her yet. (Alas Sister Monica Joan is away spending the week with her nephew.) Sister Mary Cynthia is assigned new, quieter quarters more conducive to her continued studies. She’s also put on the district nursing rota for the first few weeks so that she doesn’t have to go out on late night delivery calls.

Of course, it’s Trixie, the person who has known Cynthia best at Nonnatus House, who seems to be unsure and awkward around her. And if there’s someone who needs an old friend right now, it’s Nurse Franklin. She’s trying her best to go about her business and act as if nothing is wrong, but her friends know otherwise.  She’s been avoiding her ex-fiancé and she doesn’t want to join Patsy and Barbara for an evening out, very un-Trixie like behavior indeed.

Now let’s get to the main stories for the week beginning with the Prendergasts. Wife Janice (Bethany Muir) is giving birth with Sister Julienne attending. Mr. Prendergast (Matt Whitchurch) is praying with a Christian Scientist practitioner in the living room. Janice has a son, which they name Raymond after his father, and all seems well for the moment.

When Sister Julienne returns a day or so later to check on mother and baby, she hears a commotion and learns from a neighbor that there’s either crying or yelling coming from the “Holy Rollers” flat at all hours. Upon examination, Sister Julienne finds the baby quite possibly has a fractured collar bone, not unheard of in many otherwise normal deliveries. An x-ray confirms the midwife’s diagnosis, but she discovers that Janice isn’t giving the baby the prescribed pain medication thus little Raymond still fusses and cries frequently. While bone setting is allowed in their religion, Janice fears that the medicine will interfere with their prayers for the baby’s healing. Sister Julienne suggests she administer the medication herself and the two women can pray together for the child’s recovery.

Alas Janice shows up at the clinic not too long afterwards telling Doctor Turner that Raymond has started up with the crying again and something seems amiss with his leg. Sure enough the infant has a second fracture; one the hospital doctor believes probably resulted from an assault rather than an accident.

With the parents being of little help concerning how this could have happened, Dr. Turner consults with Sister Julienne and they agree it is in baby Raymond’s best interest for them to contact the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. A court order is issued to remove Raymond from the Prendergasts’ care until the NSPCC is convinced the home is safe. Mr. Prendergast’s temper flares and his wife is inconsolable. Back at home, Janice tries to question Ray about whether he may have gotten angry and hurt the baby by mistake, but he will not answer her.

Meanwhile the mystery of what has been happening to this newborn is about to become clear. The woman fostering Raymond brings him to Doctor Turner. She’s been very careful with him, but he has a strange bump on his back – you got it, another fracture. A lightbulb comes on and Patrick realizes the baby is suffering from a rare brittle bone disease.

The Prendergasts’ baby will never fully recover and will probably be wheelchair-bound, but they are relieved to have him returned to them. However, they have no kind words for Doctor Turner who misdiagnosed their son and virtually accused them of child abuse. 

In a related subplot, this episode has been a trying one for Dr. Turner. His waiting room has been packed every day with the patients of other local (vacationing) physicians. The case of the Prendergast baby was making him lose sleep anyway and then after realizing he’d made mistaken assumptions about the parents, the doctor’s confidence is firmly rattled. When Fred comes in to see Patrick about a bad back and makes a harmless comment about not wanting to miss anything, Dr. Turner freaks out a bit. Shelagh comes in the office to find her husband quite shaken and in a state of barely controlled panic.

In her bossy yet loving way, she sends the doctor home to rest while assuring him she can sort out the patient situation. With assistance from Patsy and a borrowed nurse’s uniform from Nonnatus House (the patients didn’t trust she was a qualified nurse without it), Super Shelagh saves the day. Yet she admits to Sister Julienne she is worried the shell shock (PTSD) from the war is returning and she might not get Patrick back this time.

Meanwhile as Dr. Turner gets some well-deserved and much needed rest at home, his son Tim is collecting an overwhelming amount of flowers, cards and gifts that Poplarites are leaving at the doorstep for this beloved and respected man. Tim tells him that he hopes to be half the doctor Patrick is thus confirming my earlier suspicion that Tim has ambitions to follow his father into the medical profession. Why else would a teenage boy be reading The Lancet?

Do all these gestures of appreciation and good will cure Doctor Turner of his paralyzing doubts? The next story will answer that question soon enough…

Nurse Gilbert notices a pregnant woman in a sari walking by who appears to be in considerable discomfort. The woman doesn’t speak English, but her son who is standing nearby speaks for his mother until he has to go into school. Though their conversation must end, Barbara is concerned about the woman and goes to the school to find out more about the family. 

She learns from a school official that the woman is Ameera Khatun (Manjinder Virk) and that she, her husband and her son Faruk (Abhisek Singh) are not Indian as Barbara assumed but Sylheti from Bangladesh.

After a short home visit wherein Barbara explains the services midwives can provide, Mrs. Khatun agrees to come into the clinic for an evaluation with Faruk positioned behind a curtain to do the translating. Trixie and Barbara don’t feel comfortable having the boy ask his mother if she will consent to an internal examination so they try to ascertain if Ameera has any female friends who could come in Faruk’s place. Faruk says most of the women stay back in the Bangladeshi villages when their husbands come to England to work, but his mother said she would miss his father too much. Where he goes, they go.

(This conversation hits home with Trixie; so much so that she seeks Tom out to tell him she wants him to go wherever he wants and needs to be. She also hopes he’ll find a girl who will be by his side no matter where he ends up.)

Thanks to Fred’s excellent memory and good contacts, Barbara finds a woman who speaks Sylheti and thus can help with translation when it comes to delicate lady matters. So appreciative is Ameera of the midwives’ assistance, she brings them homemade samosas. Her gift is not only for their medical help, but also for providing her with the female companionship she has been missing.

Sometime later young Faruk shows up at Nonnatus House with an urgent message.  It’s not the baby as we expect but rather that Ameera has been sick and is having difficulty breathing. By the time Barbara and Sister Mary Cynthia arrive at the Khatun home, their patient has developed a high fever and is obviously gravely ill. Remember earlier when I mentioned diphtheria? The very expectant mother has contracted it and is struggling to breathe.

And here’s where we tie up the Dr. Turner story. With his confidence restored by the kind gestures of his patients, Patrick takes the urgent call to come to Ameera’s aid since the ambulance is painfully slow in arriving. He recognizes that her air passages are swelling shut and decides he must do a tracheotomy to save her life. With Barbara and Cynthia assisting, Dr. Turner performs a successful procedure and we see later that Mrs. Khatun also delivers a healthy baby.

What say you after this installment of CTM? For one thing, I know I expected the Christian Science storyline to go another way. It makes me sad, but I can totally relate to the wedge between Trixie and Mary Cynthia. Trixie’s sneaky drinking is going to be worse than her social drinking, I imagine. And Fred seemed awfully flirtatious with the proprietress of the buttons and bows shop. Could our favorite handyman have romance on this mind? Finally, if you want a better reason to keep up with your family’s vaccinations, just watch the scene of Ameera throwing up blood again and I guarantee you’ll be convinced.

There are only three episodes left to go so get in on the conversation and share any impressions, hopes or criticisms you might have. That’s what the comments section is for after all!