Previously on Call the Midwife…Amidst plans for a Poplar charity picnic, Trixie made her temporary exit while Barbara and Tom returned from their assignment in Birmingham. Nurse Anderson helped an expectant mother face a traumatic fear and an ill sailor who caused a health scare was rescued by Reggie and Nurse Crane. All rest of the details from Episode 5 can be found here.
This time around, the midwives and their friends rally behind families who have lost a great deal. Meanwhile, Monica Joan gets a new lease on life at the same time Barbara faces a serious infection.
The Trials of the Davidson Family
When we first meet the Davidson family, recently of Northern Ireland, they are relocating to Poplar for the promise of a better, safer life running a news agent’s shop. Their hopefulness is fleeting because when dad goes off in search of dinner, his extremely distracted driving leads to a fatal collision with a truck.
After the police and Rev. Tom have broken the news to Pearl (Kelly Campbell) and her children, Fred Buckle stops by to offer condolences. He also lost his spouse when his kids were young and he wants to help, but Pearl politely declines. Dr. Turner also voices concerns about her struggle to deal with so much while pregnant, but Mrs. Davidson is a proud woman and assures him she can handle everything alone.
On her midwife home visit, Barbara offers to help Pearl go through her husband's things (in her capacity as a curate’s wife). Mrs. Davidson tells Nurse Hereward that Terry was always the brave one and now that he’s gone she hates him for it despite loving him all her life.
As if losing Terry wasn’t enough, the Davidsons are tested again. While walking home from a concert one evening, Barbara and Phyllis discover the family’s shop ablaze. Barbara goes to call the fire brigade while Phyllis breaks in and rescues Pearl and the children who are oblivious to the danger in the shop below their flat. For a moment it appears that Nurse Crane is trapped by the flames, but when she emerges she hoarsely assures Barbara it’ll take more than “a little thing like a fire to finish her off.”
With the Davidsons displaced, Barbara brings the family home with her. No sooner are they settled, then Pearl goes into labor. Barbara delivers her perfect baby girl. Dr. Turner stops in to check on the family and Barbara asks him to stay since she has more than a small suspicion that Pearl is having twins. Though exhausted, Pearl gives birth to the unexpected second child, a little boy.
At the maternity home, Barbara breaks the news to the new mother that the fire damage to the shop is extensive. Pearl worries her children will be taken away as she has no means of making a living. Barbara consults Fred about the shop’s condition. He says it needs to be gutted, but Pearl has no insurance for the repairs. The residents of Poplar band together to help the destitute newcomers Mr. Buckle rallies his Civil Defense Corps buddies to help rehabilitate the news agents’ and Phyllis collects clothing donations for all the Davidson children. When the work is done, Barbara takes Pearl and the babies to see their new and improved home where they can start anew.
Let’s Talk About Sex
Valerie is training Lucille on how to lead a teenage health and relationship class for girls at the community center. Lucille is taken aback by her colleague’s rather explicit approach. This results in an amusing standoff between Val who is pro-tampon and Lucille who is firmly in the sanitary belt camp.
Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Walker (Ellie Bindman) has been attending the class without her mother’s knowledge, telling her she was at the youth club playing table tennis. During one session, the class runs late and Mrs. Walker (Georgina Rich) comes inside to find Elizabeth. When she realizes what’s really going on, she gets indignant with the nurses for teaching her daughter such “filth”.
Later Nurses Dyer and Anderson sit down to talk with a still irate Maureen Walker. She says they’re providing unmarried girls with precocious knowledge that will ruin their lives as it did her own sister. She’s made an official complaint and wants the class banned from all the youth clubs in the area. On the way out, Elizabeth apologizes to the midwives. Her mother is extremely controlling, and she only knows her Aunt Lily by name.
At the next class meeting, Mrs. Walker stands outside the room shaming the girls as they arrive. A fed-up Nurse Dyer takes Maureen into another room and firmly asks what happened to her sister, so she can try to understand this woman's extreme opposition to the class. She says that Lily used to sneak out at night with boys so their parents sent her to reform school. Maureen hasn’t seen her since and there’s no reason why she would want to. Val reminds her that Lily is her family.
After a bit of consideration, Maureen requests a meeting with Nurse Dyer. She’s thinking of contacting Larkhill, the reform school where her sister was sent, to see if they know where she may have ended up. Val informs Mrs. Walker that Larkhill is a mental asylum, not a reform school. Soon after Valerie accompanies Maureen to the institution where an visibly depressed Lily (Pauline Turner) is pointed out to her.
The nurse tells them Lily was brought to Larkhill in 1938 at the age of 15. She was admitted with a diagnosis of “moral insanity” (inappropriate sexual behavior) and was pregnant at that time. She never got over up giving her child for adoption. Valerie notes that if Lily wasn’t mentally disturbed when she arrived, she is now.
Maureen sits with Lily, showing her pictures from their childhood and of Elizabeth. She apologizes for not coming to see her. Their parents never told her about where Lily was or about her baby. Mrs. Walker also reveals that her husband left her because they weren’t "compatible" since she was taught women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex. When visiting hours are over, Maureen promises to return now that she knows where her sister is.
Later, Valerie and Lucille discuss what being sexually in the dark did to both sisters. They may not have been able to save them, but perhaps a little knowledge might have helped them make different choices. Lucille apologizes for doubting Valerie and the value of her classes.
At the end we see Maureen assembling a care package for Lily. It also appears she might be loosening the reins on Elizabeth just a little, signaling the start of a new attitude.
Sister Monica Joan’s Cataract Surgery
Okay, so Monica Joan is finally having the eye surgery that some of us thought had happened two episodes ago. You remember, right? She agreed to have the operation, then next thing we know she was sitting with Fred in his garden contentedly enjoying the flowers, sans magnifying glass. This episode would explain the confusion we expressed about not seeing any of her recovery though, wouldn’t it?
Anyway, Shelagh accompanies Monica Joan to the hospital. There she’s confronted with a loud, bawdy roommate named Maudie Valentine (June Watson) who is in for the same cataract operation. Maudie interrupts Monica Joan during her prayers which isn’t making the Sister feel any better about going into the ether and under the scalpel. In fact, when it’s time to be wheeled down for her operation, she almost backs out of the whole thing.
Sister Julienne is there when an infinitely delighted and relieved Monica Joan gets out of recovery. Maudie, however, wakes in night agitated by the darkness and being hemmed in with sandbags. The nun tries to calm her by telling her to take custody of her mind’s eye which, to one unaccustomed to Monica Joan speak, sounds like she's blathering on about custard. They pass the night singing and talking about having a family versus living a religious life. Monica Joan says marriage would have been a jail to her.
The following day Sister Winfred comes in to read Keats to Sister Monica Joan. Maudie calls it codswallop and recommends romance novels instead. Next time we see Winifred she’s reading from one of Maudie’s paperbacks called "Caribbean Kisses". The two women part as friends (or something closer) and, before she is discharged, Maudie invites Monica Joan to stop by her produce stall for plums and a natter.
Shelagh arrives later to take Monica Joan home. The old nun, noting Mrs. Turner has experienced both the spiritual life and the secular, asks her which is better. Shelagh says neither and both, but adds “we don’t choose, we are chosen.” She notices "Caribbean Kisses" among Monica Joan’s belongings. MJ says it’s a souvenir from a friend, but offers it to Shelagh. Mrs. Turner says it will be appreciated at the maternity home, but she’ll have to skim it first to see that its suitable then slips it secretively into her purse. Watch out, Patrick!
Barbara, You’re in Danger, Girl
Since the Herewards have returned from Birmingham, Tom has been concerned about how hard his wife has been pushing herself. Between her midwife rounds, fulfilling her duties as a preacher’s wife and trying to get the housework done, Barbara has become worn down and can’t shake the nasty cold she’s had for some time.
After getting the Davidsons settled back into their home, Barbara has taken a turn for the worse. She’s developed a fever and a bad headache. Tom asks Nurse Crane to stay with Barbara while he’s away for the evening.
Phyllis notices a rash on Barbara’s arms and calls for Dr. Turner. During his examination, he asks Barbara if she can bend her neck which she is unable to do. He suspects septicemia and asks Phyllis to call for ambulance. When Barbara says “I think I’m rather unwell,” Patrick tells her brightly that the hospital will get her all fixed up, but he looks very concerned. When Tom returns from Pearl Davidson’s thank you party and his rounds, Dr. Turner is waiting to take him to Barbara at the hospital.
In the end, we’re left with some happy endings and a rather worrisome cliffhanger. How much did you enjoy Sister Monica Joan’s hospital adventure? Does Nurse Crane’s bravery have no limits? How about Val’s unwavering dedication to empowering women? As for Barbara, no one is more selfless and devoted. Let’s chat about these brilliant and inspiring ladies in the comments. In your opinion, who’s the most awesome of them all?