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Call The Midwife Bids Farewell To One Mother Of A Sister

And in the midst of their grieving, the Nonnatans must also deal, at last, with the truth about Thalidomide.

  • Previously

    Several babies were born in Poplar with severe birth defects, some of them fatal. The Turners quit smoking! Barbara and Tom grew closer! Patsy and Delia are at least half living together! Trixie grew in her sobriety! The Pill! It's been a tough season, but yay: Sister Evangelina has finally returned to Nonnatus House!

  • Character Study
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    Mama's Boy's Mama

    Name: Tessie.
    Age: Mid-50s.
    Occupation: Mother to Mitchell; malcontent with a heart of gold.
    Goal: To marry off her sweet son, Mitchell, who tried his hand at making his fortune with an Australian immigration. Didn't work out so well, but he did manage to knock up his girlfriend while he was there! His mom is as thrilled about it as someone who just ate a bee.
    Sample Dialogue: "I've a bloody good mind to write to that Prime Minister."
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    Get The Look: Hot For Preacher

    The Word of the Lord: I'm not saying I like Tom, okay...

    Blessed My Soul: I mean, when Tessie and Mitchell come in to the vestry to try to make arrangements for Mitchell to marry his fiancée as soon as she arrives from Australia, he looks okay in a sweaty undershirt and with some greasy tools in his hand....

    Thanks be to God: Listen, I feel awkward enough! While I pray on it, pity poor Mitchell, who will need a special dispensation to arrange his marriage that fast, considering that the girl is supposed to show up in a matter of days, and so is her baby.

  • Alert!
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    Susan, No Girl Could Ever Take the Place of You

    Alert Type: Reality Bites Alert.

    Issue: Rhoda and Susan Mullucks, the mom and baby who stole our hearts when Susan was born with no arms and legs, continue to do their best.

    Complicating Factors: Things are just hard. The family tries to stay positive, but Rhoda and her husband struggle with the sadness of knowing Susan will have to grow up in a cruel world.

    Resolution: There really isn't one.

    Spoiler: Rhoda's unfairly self-directed guilt and shame will sadly soon increase exponentially.

  • That Happened
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    No Rest For The Sick-ed

    Sister Evangelina is somehow grumpier than usual, if that can be believed. Or, at least she's more tired, and can't abide chit-chatty nurses talking about modern conveniences of pantyhose and squeeze sauce bottles when she's trying to grab a nap by the fire before Compline!

  • Alert!
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    International Relations

    Alert Type: East End Lyfe Alert.

    Issue: Barbara tends to a lovely Sylheti lady who intends to give birth at home in her own bed.

    Complicating Factors: Well, for one, the woman's husband is usually sleeping in it, due to his double shifts. For another, their home is infested with fleas. And for a third, they have no running water, making it a hard job for a single midwife.

    Resolution: Barbara enlists help from an expert on all subjects: Sister Evangelina.

    Spoiler: Common ground is established between more than the two cultures in question.

  • Plot Lightning Round
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    Mitchell's ADORABLE fiancée arrives from Australia. She asks if she may call his mother by her first name. Tessie, softening her harridan act immediately: "I think you'd better call me 'Mum.'"

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    Barbara visits Tom in the vestry and they're all schmoopy and cute and I still don't like Tom, okay, but I...can't help it. I'm happy for them.

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    Pats and Deels are having tea in a shop when they notice a pitiful lady in there pouring gin in her coffee. She looks vaguely familiar to Patsy, but Patsy can't place her....

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    Get The Look: White Weddings

    The Mother House is converting their attics and sent a bunch of old storage boxes to Nonnatus House for safekeeping. One of them contains the wedding gowns the Nonnatus nuns wore when they became novitiates! They couldn't be sweeter reminiscing about wearing them.

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    Simplicity: Of course Sister Julienne's dress was a simple affair, made even more so when she was compelled to unpick every stich of silver embroidery on the sleeves.

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    Sideshow: Sister Evangelina doesn't have quite as fond memories when her dress is unearthed: "If there's enough crepe de chine in it to make a parachute, yeah, it must be [mine]."

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    Sentimental Journey: Sister Monica Joan and Sister Winifred discover that they wore the same dress in their respective ceremonies. God love Victoria Yeates, who must stand by and react while Judy Parfitt brings the pain recalling that moment. How any of them is brave enough to act across from this international treasure, I have no idea.

  • Alert!
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    Back In The Saddle

    Alert Type: Once More Into The Breach Alert.

    Issue: Barbara asks Sister Evangelina to accompany her to the Sylheti lady's birth.

    Complicating Factors: There are a few. First, Sister Evangelina promised herself that she would not handle newborns since her stroke, and second, damn Fred -- less than competent, as usual -- still hasn't repaired her bicycle tire.

    Resolution: Reminded of her young self by Barbara's grit and determination, Sister Evangelina agrees to go, but only to do the "donkey work" of fetching and hauling.

    Spoiler: Her invaluable help to Barbara, the mother, and the baby is a just-in-time reminder of the hugely important service she has provided to Poplar for these many years. Exhausted, Sister Evangelina returns to Nonnatus, gets into the standard argument about cake with Sister Monica Joan, and finally settles in front of the fire for a rest.

  • Passages
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    R.I.P. Sister Evangelina

    It's down to Fred to make the sad discovery the next morning that Sister Evangelina has died in the night next to the fire. I was spoiled for it and I still cried. What a character they created and what an incredible job by Pam Ferris. Has there ever been one so crotchety and so dear? I feel like someone I know has died.

  • Plot Lightning Round
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    Dr. Turner is just about to read the latest copy of The Lancet when Shelagh, in tears, tells him he's been called to Nonnatus House.

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    The devastation to the entire crew is complete and heartbreaking.

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    But, of course, none cut my soul to shreds like Sisters Monica Joan and Julienne. Especially when it is implied that because Sister Evangelina died suddenly, her death may require an investigation, including an autopsy.

  • Dialogue

    The Communion Of Saints

    If you're not crying, you're lying.

    You shall not take her from this place!
    Oh, Sister....
    The Lord himself assured us of the resurrection of the body. How is our Sister to rise again if her earthly form is not intact? She will need eyes to see, a brain to think, a heart to love.
    Whatever must be done on Earth, we know our Sister is in Heaven. It is her reward, and we must not resent or fight it.
  • Alert!
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    When It Rains

    Alert Type: It Gets Worse Alert.

    Issue: Dr. Turner returns home to find his wife crying, not about the loss of her former Sister. ("I was," Shelagh says, "but I decided Sister Evangelina wouldn't approve.") No, she's upset because a letter came in the mail with the nightmarish news that the drug Dr. Turner keeps prescribing to his patients -- one containing Thalidomide -- has been found to cause birth defects.

    Complicating Factors: The Lancet has some somewhat conflicting information, and no one can figure out exactly how serious the problem is or when who knew what when. It's a disaster, and poor Dr. Turner is freaking out.

    Resolution: In her grief, Sister Julienne must also grapple with this news and determine how it affects her present patients. She wisely brings along Phyllis. The gimcrack team of Nurses Crane and Mount, wizards of the Rolodex, are just what is needed in this situation. They travel the district, gathering every known prescription.

    Spoiler: Even with that ugly job done, the devastating news must be delivered to those already affected by the drug.

  • Symbolism
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    The Light Of A Single Star

    The Scene: Sister Mary Cynthia visits Mitchell's fiancée, who is due any moment. She is cheerful, if a little sad that she must wear a frowsty maternity frock and hat for her quickie wedding.

    The Symbol: The young woman's name is Noelle.

    The Meaning: Perhaps out of all this darkness and tragedy, we can hope, as we are promised at Christmas, for a new beginning.

  • That Happened
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    Here Comes The Bride

    Grief is a funny thing. You're crying one second, laughing the next. It's a roller coaster of crazy, really. When Sisters Julienne and Mary Cynthia are regarding the outpouring of notes and flowers they have received already from the community, they smile a little at how Sister Evangelina would have spurned it all, having spent her life trying to give everything away.

    "I thought of that when I was looking at Noelle's wedding outfit. It was as though I heard Sister Evangelina's voice," Sister Mary Cynthia says, smiling. "Clearly as I hear God's, when something deep and precious happens -- as clearly as I ever heard hers when she was telling me off, which happened quite often over the years....But this time, she was saying: 'Poor girl, all the way from Australia. Tessie Anselm as a mother-in-law and no proper wedding dress. Give her mine, for pity's sake!'" Through happy sobs, Sister Julienne remarks that now is not the time to be arguing with Sister Evangelina about any of her ideas.

  • Dialogue

    Tea And Sympathy

    Better late than never, I suppose, Fred gets down to work on that bicycle at last.

    I thought you might like a cuppa, Fred. It's well-sugared.
    Thank you. I'm all right, I just, er, I didn't know what to do, so I thought I'd come and do this.
    Well, I'm sure Sister Evangelina would be grateful, Fred.
    No, she wouldn't. She never once said "thank you" in eighteen years of bicycle maintenance! She was a grafter, and grafters don't waste time on pleasantries. I'm just doing what she would have done if the shoe was on the other foot. I'm just doing what I do.
  • Wrap It Up
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    Relieving everyone, the coroner agrees that a post-mortem will not be necessary. Her Sisters prepare Sister Evangelina's body for its final journey. Pretty much the most crushing thing I have ever seen.

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    The rest of the gang works on altering Sister Evangelina's old wedding dress to give to Noelle.

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    Oh, wait, did I give the impression I couldn't be more crushed? Wrong. In the midst of all this, the Turners must inform Rhoda Mullucks that her daughter has no legs or arms because Rhoda took some seemingly-harmless pills that had been prescribed to her sister. I have run out of words to describe how painful this story is. The sobbing. I may never breathe again through my nose.

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    And Sister Julienne must have the same searingly awful conversation with the poor lady boozing in the tea shop who, it turns out, is none other than cute Mrs. Cottingham, whose baby died so pitifully in hospital. Not only is Mrs. Cottingham still wrecked from the experience and now neglecting her family to day-drink gin in a wretched state, she's apparently addicted to the very pills that so damaged her baby. Life is sometimes terrible, and I am as comforted by Jenny Agutter's poignant empathy as I would be by an actual nun.

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    As if I even have room in my heart for one more thing to cry about, Trixie has a minor breakdown with Phyllis, collapsing in tears at her inherent lonliness and feeling like she doesn't belong with anyone. "You know what I like about you, lass? You're a trier," Phyllis says, killing me even more. "And if there's any justice, you'll get your reward. Let's see what Father Christmas brings you." Oh, please, yes, let Trixie win.

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    Many tributes are paid to Sister Evangelina, including by the undertaker, who insists on handling every funeral arrangement free of charge. It seems Sister Evangelina delivered him when he was two months early, and sat by his poorly mother's bedside for seven days: "And now it's time to pay back what I owe."

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    As if we have time, Patsy and Delia take tea with Delia's mom, who has come to deliver her birth certificate so that Deels can get a passport. Seems these two "friends" plan to travel to Paris together for their holidays. Bless Delia's heart, she looks scared as hell for her mother to hear this. I've said before, I give Delia some leeway in her floundering because I'm basically Delia. I somehow cry even more when her mother, no dummy, asks that they just not do anything to make Delia's father cry. Just kill me, I am not going to survive this episode.

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    Mitchell and Noelle are married in the community building, Noelle radiant in Sister Evangelina's gown. She goes into labor moments later and, behind a curtain (?!) gives birth to a baby boy while her wedding guests do the Twist at the reception.

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    The entire community of Poplar turns out to honor Sister E.

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    Instead of adorning Sister Evangelina's coffin with flowers, Sister Monica Joan brings out Sister Evangelina's sensible work shoes: "They mark her spirit as well as any bloom, and deserve their rest as much as she."

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    The Sisters and nurse midwives of Nonnatus House say goodbye. "The world was hers no longer, and she wanted no memorial, but her work carried on in the love that lived beyond her, and the hope that knew no end."

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