Welcome back to another season of Call the Midwife. I'll be recapping the joys, the heartbreaks and the comical moments that take place over the next eight episodes. I'm looking forward to hearing your insights and opinions about the storylines and the changes that are bound to take place in 1960's Poplar. If you need to refresh your memory about what happened during the Call the Midwife special that aired at Christmas, you can take a glance at it right here.
Now if we're all caught up, let's begin.
It's the winter of 1963 and England is still in the throes of the Big Freeze. Nevertheless, there is the usual flurry of activity at Nonnatus House.
Sister Winfred is scheduled to take her driving test in two weeks, weather permitting. The practice and preparations are bringing her to tears most days and she's genuinely scaring her passengers including Fred Buckle's cousin Reggie. Eventually she passes the test, but my question is where is she going to get a car of her own?
Local dance teacher Madame Edith is moving out of Poplar so the task of teaching toddler tap and baby ballet has fallen to her niece, Nurse Dyer, until the dance school is sold.
Also a section of the neighborhood is scheduled for demolition and power cuts will be necessary. Sister Monica Joan has been put in charge of checking the paper daily to ascertain when the outages will affect their area. When Nonnatus House loses power unexpectedly, Julienne rushes to blame herself for asking too much of the elderly sister. For her part Monica Joan is distraught to be thought incapable and childish.
As for Trixie, her beau, Christopher, is still obviously smitten, showering her with thoughtful, if not rather pungent, gifts and bringing his daughter Alexandra by for suprise visits. While making a snow woman to welcome the new midwife, Trixie asks if the girl would like a manicure with her new pomegranate kiss nail varnish. Alexandra declines, citing her mother's opinion that only tarts paint their nails. Christopher says his ex is a bitter woman and reiterates his wish to to go away with Trixie someplace where they can be alone. Later when Trixie confides in Valerie we learn that she’s "not that kind of girl" and never has been once in her life.
The Delayed Arrival of Nurse Lucille Anderson
Meanwhile the midwives await a new addition to their ranks who will help ease their immediate burdens. Trixie might be even be able to reschedule the ski vacation that was postponed due to the earlier snowstorm. Julienne suggests the new midwife should room with Nurse Crane, a request to which she graciously agrees. This is despite the fact she had already furnished the half of the room Barbara had vacated with a studio couch and scatter cushions.
The appointed day arrives and the anticipated Nurse Anderson (Leonie Elliott) fails to show up. Julienne thinks it quite posssible she may have been delayed by bad weather. A decision is made to eat the cake intended to welcome her since the cream will spoil. When the morning still brings no word of their new recruit, Nurse Crane goes to notify police albeit with very little in the way of a physical description. Lucille finally graces the doorstep of Nonnatus House late that evening with a scraped knee, but her spirits still intact. She had walked all the way from an evacuated train that was stuck on a siding for fourteen hours. Lucille apparently persuaded the conductor they should just walk the rest of the way.
Valerie and Trixie put Lucille to bed for an early night before her first day of work. No sooner do the other midwives find Lucille waiting for them in the morning, she collapses to the floor. Dr. Turner checks her out and reports the young nurse has a raging fever and a rip-roaring bladder infection. The one meant to ease their workload is forbidden from working for a week.
During her recuperation, the newly arrived nurse happens upon Sister Monica Joan in her room reading with a magnifying glass. Lucille compliments the nun's book collection and can quote Keats just like Monica Joan. We learn that before her midwife training, she used to be a librarian back in Jamaica. Monica Joan seems delighted by this bit of information until Lucille offers to arrange her jumbled tomes according to the Dewey Decimal System. (Such a librarian stereotype, by the way!) The elderly nun curtly explains they are arranged according to the understanding between the authors and herself. No rearranging is required. Lucille leaves without another word as she realizes she's not gotten off to a great start with one of her colleagues.
As for the midwives' caseload, they continue the work of ushering lives into and out of this world.
The Gelins and Nurse Crane
Ruth Gelin (Julie Legrand) has been discharged from hospital, but is still in a great deal of pain. Dr. Turner pays her a house call and is treated to tea and cheesecake prepared by Mr. Gelin (Allan Corduner), a former baker who has taken over his wife's kitchen since he retired. Mrs. Gelin is coughing and obviously uncomfortable. A letter from St. Cuthbert's informs the doctor that Mrs. Gelin’s bowel cancer has returned and metastasized to her liver and lungs. Mrs. Gelin’s daughter Hilary (Susannah Wise) is concerned and wants her parents to relocate to her bigger, newer house. The prospect of leaving her home upsets Ruth, but Hilary is concerned that her parents will soon be evicted and are just ignoring the facts. Her fears are confimed by a notice to demolish in three days posted outside the Gelins' door.
The impending eviction notwithstanding, Dr. Turner and Nurse Crane continue to care for Ruth in her home. When Mrs. Gelin’s son Martin calls from America, she doesn’t tell him of her condition. A distraught Hilary grabs the phone and tells him their mother is lying about why she is out of breath.
As the demolition begins, Nurse Crane winds her way through closed streets trying to get to Mrs. Gelin. Sgt Woolf (Trevor Cooper) comes to the door to inform Phyllis that her car is causing an obstruction. He tells her that once the houses on the opposite side of the street have been dismantled, power to the Gelins' home will be cut and demolition will begin there. Nurse Crane says this will be inconvenient as she is caring for an extremely poorly lady and then shuts the door in the officer's face.
On Nurse Crane's next visit to the Gelin home, Hilary is in a panic as Ruth has coughed up a frightening amount of blood. Phyllis is as unruffled as ever and gently scolds her patient in a playful way to lighten the situation. Later Dr. Turner confirms the diagnosis of a pulmonary hemorrhage which means Mrs. Gelin doesn’t have much time left. When Dr. Turner asks if Mr. Gelin has support from his synagogue, he replies that he hasn’t gone in years. The congregation grew smaller and people moved away. He moved away too, in his mind, even though he never left the neighborhood.
Later, Sgt. Woolf is at the door again with a council offical saying the family must vacate the premises now. Nurse Crane takes control of the situation telling the officer that Mrs. Gelin came to Poplar thirty years ago as German Jew escaping persecution. If he insists on driving her from the home where they are trying to keep her peaceful and free from pain, he’ll have as much on his conscience as those who drove her from her homeland. Just then the telephone line is cut and Nurse Crane is properly angered as it is Ruth’s one link to her son in America. Sgt. Woolf can sympathize. His grandparents emigrated from Russia. He takes the lead, insisting the workmen fix the line and puts the demolition on hold "until the end comes".
Ruth's breathing becomes labored and Mr. Gelin is concerned she is in pain. Dr. Turner assures him they have taken care of that, but says that she is still Ruth and she needs her husband now. Arnold Gelin sure tells his wife all the things he may not have – that he was grateful to her, proud of her, that he saw she was beautiful and that he loves her. He will talk about missing her tomorrow. Tearjerker doesn't even come close to describing that scene! Shortly after, Ruth dies. As Mr. Gelin and his daughter comfort one another, Martin calls from America. Nurse Crane informs him his mother has passed away.
Later we see a Hebrew prayer service taking place outside the Gelin house with the neighborhood in attendance. Phyllis returns to Nonnatus House, wearily carrying in her equipment. She is touched at her new roomate's kindness. She has placed a hot water bottle in her bed to comfort her after a difficult day at the deathbed of a patient. And the end of the episode, Mr. Gelin arrives at the comminity center with the last thing he will bake in his old kitchen – a strudel – for Nurse Crane. He’s moving to Hendon with his daughter Hilary. Phyllis cuts it in half and takes a portion to Sgt. Woolf as a thank you for his assistance.
Nadine Mulvaney and Nurse Franklin
Meanwhile Nadine Mulvaney (Tamla Kari) earns her living dancing in an exotic stripe tease club. Under her mink coat she unsuccessfully tries to hide the fact that she is pregnant from her unsympatheic boss, Sonia (Emma Stansfield). Not only is Nadine told she must go, but she doesn't get paid for her last two dances. Sonia says she can come back if she doesn't keep the kid.
At her first prenatal exam, Nadine tells Nurse Franklin that she has no friends or family nearby. Nadine’s blood group is Rh negative so Trixie would like to know the father's blood type if this isn't her first pregancy. Nadine assures the nurse it is her first baby and adds that the father isn't in the picture. As Nadine gets closer to her due date, Trixie urges the mother-to-be to think about where she wants to have the baby suggesting the she'll receive more attention at a hospital or maternity home. Nadine says she's gotten used to the fact that she'll be alone wherever she goes. She asks for information about adoption and has decided not to even name the baby since it will just get changed.
To the accompaniment of a heavenly chorus, the dismantling of the neighborhood begins and Nadine goes into labor.
While Trixie attends to Nadine during her labor, the young woman asks how long the pains will last. When she went through an earlier abortion, she was in pain for three days. So this is her first time giving birth, but not her first pregnancy after all. To make matters more worrisome, Nadine’s baby is in breech presentation so Trixie calls Nonnatus House for back-up. Undiagnosed twins have popped up ( a mini baby boom as it were), and Sister Julienne needs an extra pair of hands as well, so the recooperating Nurse Anderson is called into active duty. Valerie and Lucille head out into the snow and the new midwife is dropped off to join Trixie at Nadine's flat.
At the door, Trixie quickly quizzes Lucille on her knowledge of breech births. Satisfied with her responses, Nurses Franklin and Anderson proceed with the delivery. Nadine wants it over but there is work yet to be done. It’s a complex delivery, but Trixie is experienced and Lucille is calm and encouraging telling Nadine that “motherhood starts here with a vengeance.” After that scary dangling maneuver with the baby's head still in the birth canal, Nadine finally learns she's delivered a baby girl. Nurse Franklin tells her she is very brave then calls Shelagh and fills her in on the possible complications of the blood type situation. They will send an ambulance when the road conditions allow it.
Valerie takes over the care of Nadine and the baby at the maternity hospital. It turns out Nadine attended her aunt’s dance school. Madame Edith was first to make Nadine feel like she was good at something. The new mother asks when they will know if the baby will experience complications. She tells her they are waiting for the jaundice to appear over the next day or so but Valerie already sees signs and asks Dr. Turner to examine the newborn. They decide it's necessary to send her to St. Cuthbert’s for a blood transfusion.
Later Nadine tells Trixie that they plan to discharge baby Elizabeth from the hospital in a week or two. Trixie comments on the baby’s name and Nadine says she chose it because it sounds smart and respectable. She’s decided against adoption after all because she discovered her whole self when her baby was born. Trixie says some people wait their whole lives for a love like that. Nadine suggests that some people are scared of it. This conversation actually gives Trixie the courage to go off with Christopher on the holiday they’d talked about .
When things have calmed down with the baby, Nadine goes back to the strip club to insist on the wages she’s owed. She sold her mink to buy Madame Edith’s dancing school and she has her self-respect back. Miss Nadine is a a brave woman indeed!
So thus ends the debut episode of the season. Nurse Anderson looks to be a competent and soothing addition to the midwife pool. Will she and Monica Joan bond further over poetry or will she put her foot in her mouth once more? I don't know about you but I'm dying to see how the Turners' au pair adventure turns out. And I thought it nice that Nurse Mount and Nurse Busby got a mention even if it was just that they sent a postcard from Botswana. Let's talk about the return of the midwives in the comments below!