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Call The Midwife Threatens One Of Poplar's Biggest Champions

And: other stuff happens that no one cares about because...how could we?

See, what happened was, when Previously.TV hired me to write about this season of Call The Midwife, they didn't tell me about THIS. OH MY GOD, CAN I QUIT? Do I have to do it? I'm not strong enough; I'm really not. The good news -- if there IS any good news, which there is NOT -- is that the up-and-down quality we've experienced since the Christmas special has been corrected at last, and the show is very nearly back to full strength. The BAD news, though, is that they saved their best for...well, I mean...it's just...I'm upset, okay? Let's lean on each other.

You will bitterly recall that Barbara was stricken at the end of the last episode with a scary blood infection. She remains stricken, along with her husband and friends and ALL OF US subjected to this brutal hour of television. I have many thoughts -- MANY -- but before I get into my feelings -- MY MANY FEELINGS -- I should say that even though this whole thing was horribly difficult and caused me to cry endless tears, I was glad that the show was finally back on its emotional footing.

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So, here we are with Barbara at St. Cuthbert's. She's not helping to deliver babies or visiting a new mother or sitting by the bedside of one of Tom's parishioners. No. She's submitting to a spinal tap and covered in blood bruises and fever sweats. "Sometimes life is shattered in an instant," says Old Jenny. "And all our certainties are savagely stripped away." SHUT UP, OLD JENNY. I don't want to hear from you right now, and neither does Tom, racing up to the intensive care window just in time to have its blinds shut in his face. Nor does Phyllis -- who, while comforting him, looks terribly worried. Everybody's worried. Dr. Turner, in the hospital halls; the nurses back at Nonnatus House; me. And we're all right to be worried -- Barbara has meningococcal septicaemia and must be isolated to avoid the risk of further infection. "Don't fret, lad," Phyllis tells Tom. "She's young and strong. She's a fighter, is our Barbara." OH, GOD. No, I'm quitting. I can't! Siiiiiiiigh.

Fred and Violet are worried, too. When he leaves the shop the next morning, Vi runs out and brings him a scarf. "I don't want you catching anything," she says. She hugs him, and tells him to give her love to Tom.

At roll call, Phyllis somewhat wearily reminds the nurses that they're all advised to take a precautionary round of antibiotics, as are any mothers who have had recent contact with Barbara. "My mum's friend's youngest had meningitis," Valerie offers, probably desperate to say something. "They went through a terrible time. It was touch and go." Everybody cringes. "But he's fine, now!" she adds, hopefully. Into the mix comes Sister Julienne, requesting to go back on the rota. Was she ever off it, for some reason? I don't recall one, and I know she's delivered at least a few babies this season. Maybe it's supposed to be her day off. Anyway, just seeing her comforts me. Phyllis, relieved to have an extra set of hands, begins distributing assignments. When she gives Lucille a job meant for Barbara, her voice cracks and -- four minutes in -- Linda Bassett stabs me right in the heart. The pain has yet to abate.

Over at the Turners', Dr. T is preparing to leave with a TRULY awkward wave to Angela. Shelagh wonders if Tom is aware of how serious Barbara's condition is, and Dr. Turner says he is, but that he's in shock. Coming downstairs, Tim chooses this moment to ask if he can go see a little group called the Rolling Stones -- heard of 'em? -- the next night at the Regal. His dad asks if they aren't a bit undesirable. "I'm going to watch them," says Tim, "not make friends with them." Imagine a world where the Rolling Stones are the new band on the scene. Tim has the teenaged nerve to look butthurt when his dad rushes out the door with a "we'll see," and when Shelagh tries to defend Dr. Turner's reluctance to let him go, he even gives her a withering "He's ridiculous." "To be fair," she says, "he's being pulled in all directions at the moment, with the clinic, his surgery, and Wadelock House." Um, and a dying friend, but okay. Anyway, this was all to introduce Wadelock House, a remand home for wayward boys where Dr. Turner is covering while its regular GP is out.

Sister Winifred, Valerie, and Lucille are still looking quite unsettled as they prepare to jump on their bikes and ride out to their first calls. As Phyllis is about to get into her car, Sister Winifred runs over and very kindly offers to drive her to the hospital later to see Barbara. Phyllis declines, to everyone's concerned glances; when she gets into the car alone, she almost lets herself break down for a millisecond. But no, this is Nurse Phyllis Crane. Calling upon her inner steel, she rallies.

Honestly, though, Barbara is in bad shape. Back at the hospital, the nurses move around her taking blood, repeatedly checking her extremities for signs of color deterioration in her fingers and toes.

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As if we have time for this at all, Dr. Turner arrives at Wadelock House, where the boys are doing their morning calisthenics in the yard. It's a rough place. A tiny Scotsman, warden of the joint, greets Dr. Turner with the news that they're having a scabies outbreak. Dr. T begins running down the list of things they'll have to do -- strip and boil all bedding, etc. -- but this is not Wadelock's first rodeo with those little buggers. They're already on it.

Back at the hospital, Tom is quizzing Barbara's nurse, who gives him the unconvincing update that Barbara's "holding her own." Her condition is basically unchanged; the nurse doesn't add that this means it's still awful. "Please don't let her die," Tom begs, and it's just too sad. The nurse is slightly offended by this, and says they're doing everything they can to prevent that, adding that she has as much faith in their doctors as Tom does in God. Okay, lady? Let's not say unhelpful shit like that to a holy man in his darkest hour. She sends him out and says he can come back that evening.

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At her first stop of the day, Lucille is greeted at the door by Mrs. Palmer, a black woman. The look on Lucille's face when she hears the lady speak with a Caribbean accent is enough to make me happy for a brief moment. Mrs. Palmer, whose baby Barbara recently delivered, is upset to hear that Barbara is ill, adding that she had a little gift she wanted to give her for "the gift she's given me." They go into the house, where Mrs. P asks Lucille to remove her shoes to protect the new carpet. She also brings Lucille to the back room, because she never has the heat on in the front room except Sunday. "You sound like my mother," Lucille says quietly. This really is very sweet. Can we just stay in this scene for an hour?

I'd even stay at Wadelock House, where Dr. Turner is now preparing to examine a long queue of teen boys who are, you guessed it, acting like dicks! He particularly notices one young man being pushed and harassed, and instead of immediately stepping to the bully and ripping his weave right out, he scrunches his face and starts calling them in.

Back at Mrs. Palmer's, Lucille is examining the thriving Baby P and explaining that Nonnatus House would like them to take a course of antibiotics. The Jamaican patois between the two women grows thicker as Mrs. Palmer talks about how she and her husband, who is the pastor of their church, waited a very long time to thank God for their child. "That's lovely," says Lucille. "Where is your church?" Mrs. Palmer says she's standing in it. Their congregation is a small one: they meet in the front room, read their Bibles, and pray together. "When we first came, we attended a larger church, with a fancy altar, big congregation, but their hearts were not so big," she says. "Our church is not like that." Lucille can relate. She says she is thinking of changing the church she attends. Mrs. P says Lucille is welcome to come and pray with them, but Lucille says she thinks she will be too busy working until Nurse Hereward is back on her feet. "Well," smiles Mrs. Palmer, "this door is always open. Like at home."

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Michael Sumter, the young man Dr. Turner saw get shoved in the hallway, is now in his exam room. Like everyone, Michael's got scabies. He also has an infected cut on his hand that will require him to come back the next day. Bandaging his hand, Dr. Turner notices three distinct razor scars on Michael's wrist. Dr. T's face falls, but they are interrupted by the sound of the bell indicating Visiting Time. "You'd better go then," says Dr. Turner, smiling. "I don't get no visitors," Michael tells him sadly.

Phyllis has arrived at the hospital in a pouring rain to find Tom at the back door, staring vacantly at nothing, getting soaked. He tells her that the nurse sent him home. "You took a lot of notice, then?" Phyllis gently chides. Tom says he just doesn't think he can face going home, and will maybe go back tonight after he is allowed to see Barbara. Poor Tom. Y'all know he hasn't been my favorite, but this is not fair. "I had a feeling this might happen," says Phyllis, and hands over a bag of food and clean clothes. "We can't let standards slide." Tom, knowing Barbara would agree, says he'll try his best. He shares what the nurse told him -- that there's no change. Doing her best to sound encouraging, Phyllis says that "no change" cuts both ways, and to think of it as Barbara's no worse. "I know how much you love her," Tom says. "And how much she loves you." Honestly, as sad as it is, this is my favorite Tom Moment of the entire series. All Phyllis can do is nod to keep from crying. But that doesn't keep the rest of us from crying!

Back at Wadelock, Michael is subjected to more bullying, right in front of Dr. Turner. Some ass is ragging the guy for knocking up his "bird." Nice. "You forget to pull out?" the guy says. "Surprised you put it in." Michael shoots back that the bird in question is actually his wife, the other dude calls her a tart, push literally comes to shove, and the fight is on. Dr. Turner stands there watching and does squat about it, though he looks concerned.

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At tea, Lucille is telling everyone about Mrs. Palmer's church. Sister Winifred expresses dismay that they hold church in their tiny flat. "We are not judged by the size of our churches, but the way we inhabit them," says Sister Julienne. I want to make a meme of this and send it to the two dozen megachurches I pass every day on my commute. Looking down to the other end of the table, she notes that Sister Monica Joan is not wearing her new glasses, and not eating. "Strangely I find myself devoid of the ability to partake in this nourishment," says Sister MJ, with sadness and confusion. "I am old. I have had my time, yet here I am, sight renewed, while our beloved friend is stricken so. I would gladly let the Good Lord take me if he would spare her." Everyone is upset. "He does not trade one precious soul for another," says Sister Julienne, trying to comfort her. "It is not His way."

On the Turners' terrace, which I never knew existed, Dr. Turner is staring reflectively into the night. Fretting about Barbara, surely? No. Somehow, they think we care about something other than that, because now we have to listen to Dr. T tell Shelagh about his worries about Michael. Blah blah blah the kid is depressed, yada yada defending his pregnant wife's honor. I mean, this is all very noble, but I cannot. Shelagh says she'll try to find out if Michael's wife is a patient at Nonnatus House. Dr. Turner, thinking of his own son, asks where Tim is. Shelagh says he's at orchestra and should be back soon.

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In the little waiting room at the hospital, the head nurse finds Tom. Sparing an ounce of sympathy, for once, she asks if he got any sleep. Reluctantly, he confesses that he didn't even go home. She starts to get mad, but he cuts her off: "I'll sit here, and I promise not to move. I just have to be here when she wakes up. I've sat at the bedside of so many dying people, some of them in this very hospital. Surely I can be near my own wife?" The man has a very good point, and Nurse Ratched over here is forced to agree. She says that Barbara is still very ill, but that she's calmer and not as feverish as she was. She allows Tom to put on a mask and gown, and lets him in to sit next to Barbara. He nearly cries with relief.

Meanwhile, Tim has come home late from orchestra. Look, band kids need to have fun, too! Dr. T acts like he's been out killing people and grounds him until further notice, which means he will miss the Stones concert. Uncool!

Phyllis comes in to her and Lucille's bedroom with a stack of laundry -- presumably Barbara's, from the way she's fretting over it. Concerned, Lucille very kindly asks if Phyllis would like to pray together. Phyllis, though she is irritated, still manages to be polite about something she does not believe in, and says that Lucille can pray all she likes for Barbara, but that Phyllis will just continue to do what she's doing, quietly. Poor Phyllis.

The next morning, Lucille is regretting having asked, telling Valerie she doesn't even know why she did it, knowing Phyllis -- like Valerie -- wouldn't want to pray. "You were being kind," says Valerie, practically. "Phyllis will know that." Lucille says, to be honest, she probably was asking more for her own sake: "I like to pray with other people. It's how I was brought up." Valerie is understanding: "Everything feels so fragile right now. There must be a comfort in it." She extends herself by telling Lucille that, if she wants some company on the bus on Sunday, she'll gladly go along and just take a stroll while Lucille attends church. This is how to support a friend when a crisis is going on. Lucille says that they'll have to see how Barbara is doing first. Behind them, Phyllis comes out of the house, struggling to get her gloves on. Sister Julienne sees and comes to her aid, suggesting that perhaps the crew could spread their cases out between them so that Phyllis could spend more time at the hospital with Barbara. Phyllis says she'll feel better if she stays busy for now, but perhaps will consider it later. Sister Julienne suggests bringing Shelagh back on rotation, which Phyllis agrees would be the perfect solution.

Ugh, Wadelock House. Dr. Turner's minuscule amount of extra attention to Michael has done nothing to help him, as the rest of the goons now just refer to Dr. Turner as Michael's boyfriend. Can someone burn this place down? I don't have time for it.

Lucille is back at Mrs. Palmer's for another check on the baby, who is reportedly right as rain. Mrs. P gives her a little box with a glass angel ornament to pass on to Barbara. "That's pretty. Nurse Hereward will love it," says Lucille. "My mother collects little glass ornaments." Mrs. Palmer says she knows Lucille misses her mother. "Yes," says Lucille, clearly feeling guilty at being so obviously homesick. "But my work is here and I love it." Mrs. Palmer tells her that they're having a prayer meeting that night, and that she's welcome, but Lucille says she has choir practice. Story of my life, girl. Inscribed on my tombstone will be, "I can't die; I have choir practice." Mrs. P says their church doesn't have a choir, but that they love to sing, and Lucille rushes out lest she allow herself to embrace what sounds like something that would be great for her.

In the medical room at Wadelock, Dr. Turner is trying to crack the hard shell that is Michael. He says he saw the other boys provoking him outside, and asks if it happens often. "It happens to everyone," says Michael. "I ain't anything special." He couldn't take the other boys calling his wife, Allison, a tart, he says, because she isn't one. A possible-tart named Allison? I know it isn't a shout-out, but let's pretend it is. Dr. Turner says he's sure Allison is not a tart. Michael, who is really very sweet, says he doesn't know what his wife ever saw in him anyway. Her mother certainly didn't approve: "She didn't want her to marry me, but she didn't want a bastard in the family so she let her. All she cares about is what people think." Apparently, Allison is living with her mother now. "At least she's not stuck with some good-for-nothing waster who's going to be in and out of jail for the rest of his life," he adds. Dr. Turner looks sad, and asks if Allison said that. "No," says Michael. "But I bet she thinks it."

Tom is still parked on the edge of his waiting room chair when Phyllis arrives at the hospital. They both look exhausted. He tells her that Barbara's still not awake, but that the nurse says her fever has come down a bit. "What did I tell you?" says Phyllis, with a weary smile. "She's a strong lass." This time, in her bag of tricks, Phyllis has brought some clean nightclothes for Barbara and, from Fred, Tom's razor. "And if I were you, I'd use it," she says. "You don't want Barbara waking up and getting the fright of her life because your facial hair has taken on a life of its own." Tom smiles. Wouldn't that be something, he says, if Barbara woke up and looked at him, the way she always does. Phyllis, moved, puts her hand on his shoulder.

Fred and Lucille come in to Nonnatus House to find Valerie sorting and arranging a multitude of get-well cards and gifts from the community. "Looks like the word is out," says Fred. Val nods: "This is Poplar, Fred. The word is always out." Lucille says that everyone must think a great deal of Barbara. "They do," says Valerie. "They think of her and Tom as family." Lucille says this is a lovely thing, especially since Barbara and Tom are not from there. "They're very lucky," Lucille adds, as she places Mrs. Palmer's glass angel among the tributes.

At home, Shelagh discusses with her husband Sister Julienne's request that she return to the team. "We'll manage," he says supportively. She also reports that she hasn't been able to find a Mrs. Sumter, Michael's wife, on the Nonnatus patient list. Dr. Turner says that, for Michael's sake, he hopes she hasn't moved away.

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Because the hospital is satisfied that there's no risk of anyone catching Barbara's infection now, Tom is allowed to go into her room without a mask. He sits down and takes Barbara's hand, which is cold. "Oh, darling," he says. "My poor darling. Everyone sends their love." He says he's been thinking about when Barbara will be better: "I know we both love it here, but I think it's time for a change, don't you?" He says they should move to the country, with fields and streams and a little cottage that opens up to grass and not a fog-filled street. It will be somewhere they can feel safe, and raise a family. Poor Tom. As he speaks, Barbara's eyes flutter and open. She's awake! Praise the actual LORD. "Oh, you gave me a fright," says Tom, flooded with relief. Barbara, with her hand on his face, whispers that he needs a shave. I mean, even on our deathbeds, we must be practical. Tom laughs: "Phyllis said you'd say that." Barbara very correctly responds that Phyllis knows everything.

Valerie comes into the Nonnatus kitchen to find Lucille warming up a bedtime drink. She takes this opportunity to say that what Lucille said about Tom and Barbara being lucky to have the community's support makes her worry that Lucille still doesn't feel welcome there. Lucille says it's not there; it's at her church. Apparently, the choirmaster gave her a solo, and various biddies, probably sopranos, got their backs up about it. "Some people thought it wasn't the done thing to have the likes of me stand up, on my own, and be seen," says Lucille. Valerie is upset and tells her never to go back, but Lucille wonders if sticking to it and singing her heart out would be the best revenge. I say yes, but Valerie wants her to go to Mrs. Palmer's prayer meetings instead, since they sound so lovely. "They do. It sounds so much like home," says Lucille. "But I'm living in England now, and I should be trying harder to fit in here."

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Lucille and Valerie are interrupted by the ringing phone, which Sister Winifred answers. "Oh, Mr. Hereward," she says nervously, causing the whole house to come running. It's good news! "That's so wonderful! I'll tell everyone!" she cries, but she scarcely has to, as everyone breaks into tears and starts hugging. On the staircase, Phyllis finally, finally lets herself go. She sobs with relief and is held up by Sister Monica Joan. Y'all. I really will never get over the boomerang of agony we are forced to experience in this episode. This beautiful moment gave me such a swell of hope...until I looked at the clock.

The freaking violins are still yanking happy tears out of my eyes as we return to the hospital and see Tom giving himself a much-needed shave in the waiting room. Tom, you sad bastard, I love you, man. I'm sorry for everything.

The next morning, the ready room is happily bustling as Phyllis hands out the strict schedule she's drawn up for their visits to Barbara's bedside. Shelagh arrives, looking awesome back in the old midwife uniform, to a rousing welcome. "Thank you!" she says, with a huge smile. "It's only temporary, 'til we get Barbara back." Oh, how happy everyone is. Phyllis sends her out to her first call -- one Miss Weatherly.

Tom, newly smoothed out, places Barbara's hand on his cheek. "How's that feel?" he asks. Barbara smiles, still weak. "More like my Tom," she says...

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...and this kicks off an adorable montage of Barbara being visited by her happy, happy Nonnatus family, all bearing gifts from the community. Phyllis stands guard at the door to her room, ordering them in and out like a gunnery sergeant. It's all so cute and familial I almost can't take it.

Not cute at all is the situation going on at Shelagh's call on young Miss Weatherly. In what looks like the classic teen girl's bedroom in a decent flat, Shelagh examines a young mom-to-be under the hawk-like eye of her overbearing mother, who seems to have the answer to everything, including how her daughter is feeling and where she's going to give birth. That will be at home, Mrs. Weatherly states: "She's goin' nowhere. Not as long as I've got breath. I don't like to think where you might've been living if it was up to that--" Miss Weatherly interrupts this harridan shrew with an embarrassed "Mum!," and Shelagh smiles uncomfortably.

At Wadelock, Dr. Turner chats with Michael, and offers to tell the warden that Michael is being mistreated. What does Dr. Turner think "remand" means? Michael says he could be leaving there soon anyway. He'll be seeing the magistrate board the day after next. He knows he won't be going home -- he stole a car, after all -- but he'll be moved out of Wadelock. Dr. Turner sighs and asks, "Why did you do it?" "I've got a kid on the way," says Michael, by way of explanation. He says he is sorry he did it, but that he doesn't have the right words to explain it to the magistrates. "Tell me," says Dr. T. "I'll help you. You don't need big words. Just the truth." Michael gives it a shot: "I'm sorry for doing it, cos it was stupid, but I just wanted to look after my wife, and I'd rather die than take money off her mother, the old bag." Sounds good to me, but Michael knows that won't fly. Dr. Turner continues to encourage him, but Michael is not feeling it: "It doesn't matter. What kind of a father would I be anyway? You got kids?" Dr. Turner says yes, including a son Michael's age, who is sort of in trouble at the moment, because he stayed out late. Michael smirks at this so-called serious infraction. "You sound like an all-right dad," he says. Dr. T asks how Michael's dad is. "Buggered off before I were born," he says. "Like father like son." Dr. Turner feels bad for this dude and so do I.

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Back at the Weatherlys', Shelagh finally has a private moment with her patient, who she says is not far off from labor. Out from under the glare of her mother, the young woman hurriedly tells Shelagh that her last name isn't actually Weatherly. She's married and is actually Mrs. Sumter! This is Allison, Michael's wife! Shelagh tells her that Dr. Turner has met her husband and is sorry to hear that Mrs. Weatherly hates him so much.

Valerie and Lucille are doing some paperwork at HQ that night when Val asks if Lucille ended up going to Mrs. Palmer's. Lucille finally admits that she can't bring herself to go because Mrs. Palmer reminds her too much of her mother and aunts. "Makes me ache," she adds sadly. Val feels for her: "If it was me, and I was that way inclined, I'd be there like a shot."

OH MY GOD, this is still going on?! Dr. Turner argues with the Wadelock warden about how all Michael needs is someone to believe in him. The guy says he learned a long time ago that you can't save them all and will have nothing left if you try.

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It's Phyllis's turn at Barbara's bedside. Barbara is awake, but looks kind of uncomfortable, with her hands clenched. Phyllis says she'll go -- she knows Barbara is tired -- but that's not it. Barbara uncurls her hands and shows her friend her purple fingers, asking, "These are worse, aren't they?" Phyllis, holding her face as steady as possible, nods yes. Barbara says she can't feel anything with them. Ever so gently, Phyllis lays down Barbara's hand and goes to get the nurse. Barbara looks worried.

Valerie and Lucille are setting the tea table when Sister Julienne comes in from the phone, visibly shaken. She's just had a call from Nurse Crane, with the news that the tissue on Barbara's fingers has been affected by the septicemia. "They won't know how much tissue is dead or has been badly damaged for a while yet," she says. The two midwives look stricken. "Could she lose them?" Val asks. Sister Julienne is barely holding it together, and says it's possible. "She won't be able to do her job if she can't feel anything," says Val. "No," Sister Julienne answers, and the heartbreak on all their faces is too real.

Gee, did you think you were upset just now? What about when I tell you Barbara is in her darkened room at the hospital, crying her eyes out, alone? Y'ALL. Are we going to make it?

The next morning, Dr. T comes downstairs carrying a brown suit. It's Tim's, and he's taking it for Michael to borrow for his appearance in court. Shelagh is not thrilled that he didn't ask Timothy first, but Dr. Turner waves this off.

Across town, Mrs. Weatherly holds up a hand-knitted baby cardigan she bought in a jumble sale, as proud as if she had knitted it herself. This over-coiffed B has never knitted anything, I can tell. Allison tells her not to go buying anything else for the baby. "Appearances matter," her mother snits, "especially in your situation. I will not have people talking about you or my grandchild just because you were stupid enough to get swept away by a fly-by-night." Allison looks down, ashamed, but of course this hag goes on, saying that at least they won't have to worry about Michael anymore after today. Oh yeah -- she's been keeping tabs; she knows Michael will be in court, and will probably be sent away.

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At the hospital, Tom is sitting with Barbara. Things no longer seem so great. Tom gently strokes Barbara's hand, but is hesitant to hold her painful-looking fingers. "You must always hold my hand," says Barbara. "Even if I can't feel you, I'll remember your touch." Tom immediately takes her hand, fighting back tears. Barbara goes on, saying that all she ever wanted to be was a midwife, to help bring life into the world. She tells him she heard what he said when he talked about moving to the country, and that it sounded wonderful to her. If she can't be a midwife, she'll be the best curate's wife in history. "I don't have to give up on babies, Tom," she says. "Not when we have our own." Oh, dear. Charlotte Ritchie is such a wonderful actress, and she plays Barbara so perfectly. I really just love her. "That day we got married, and I was all wrapped up in my cloak, that was the safest I've ever felt," she tells him. "And that's because of you, Tom." Jack Ashton is doing everything he can to survive this scene. Like, it is taking ALL his strength. Barbara asks him to bring in her engagement ring later. "The grass one?" he asks. He kisses her head, and they're both crying and, good God, so am I.

It's Michael's day in court, though how we're expected to muster up ANY energy for it, I don't know. Allison shows up and tries to come in, but is turned away. At least Michael sees that she's there for him. He asks Dr. Turner to go with her, because she's upset. Dr. T seems torn -- he's there to speak for Michael, and now won't be able to -- but he runs out after Allison and has barely introduced himself when she goes into labor. Of course she does! When Dr. T tries to go to call an ambulance, she grips his hand. "Please don't let anything bad happen to the baby," she begs.

Meanwhile, Michael is doing some begging of another sort. He passionately and honestly expresses his regret to the magistrates for stealing the car. He knows it was wrong, and says he's never had anyone to help him in life, but that he's married now and wants to make good for his wife and baby. These heartless bastards hear him out, but say that although he is remorseful, they don't think he's ready to face his responsibilities. They sentence him to three YEARS in juvenile prison. Damn.

Dr. Turner makes it to the maternity home with Allison and hands her off to Shelagh. Allison says she does not want her mother brought there yet, and proceeds to go into serious labor. Shelagh, like a champ, promises that Dr. Turner will let Michael know when the baby is born, and efficiently delivers her of a baby boy.

Dr. T does indeed go directly to Michael, telling him about his son and how badly Allison wanted him to know that the baby looks just like him. "I know three years seems like a life sentence, but it's up to you," says Dr. Turner. "You're a dad now. You've got someone to prove it to." I'm sure this is all very touching, but my emotional tank is empty, because....

...at the hospital, the time has come for some facing of the music. Alone in the quiet room, Barbara puts it to Phyllis directly, nurse to nurse: "I'm not getting better." Her friend, practical to the end, shakes her head no. With tears filling her eyes, Phyllis says that as long as she's known Barbara, she's never hidden from anything: "I've learned a lot from you. And I didn't think there was anything left to learn." Barbara, though she is so ill, speaks the truth: "There's nothing anyone can teach you about caring for people, Phyllis." Smiling through her pain, Phyllis says she's not sure everyone would agree with that. "Well," says Barbara, "they don't know you like I do." Will any of us survive this? I honestly DO NOT KNOW, because this is a real display of deep mutual affection going on here, between both these two characters and these two actresses. This show can be overly sentimental, but good grief, they know what's real. "This next bit," Barbara tells Phyllis, and the rest of us, "is going to be hard." Phyllis nods, understanding. "I hate to see the people I love upset," Barbara adds. Phyllis promises that they'll do their best. Barbara lets out a brave sigh.

Timothy, I love you, but I don't care about your dumb suit and that you're hurt that your dad took it without asking, nor that you're actually supportive of his work and would have loaned it to him, nor that you and your dad deeply love and are proud of each other. I mean, all of that is expressed at their house when Dr. T gets home, but no one cares right now. Boys, bye.

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Barbara is sleeping -- ALONE? -- when a ward nurse comes in and finds Barbara's breathing labored. Didn't we just learn that she's dying? Where is everybody?! The nurse sounds the alarm, and various medical professionals come running. A call goes to Nonnatus House...

...where Valerie, her face a mask of dread, answers the phone. It's Tom, asking Phyllis to meet him at the hospital right away. Valerie screams for Phyllis, but she's already running down the stairs.

Phyllis and Tom race to the hospital, where Tom is met by the head nurse. The septicemia, she says, has caused irreversible damage. There's nothing more they can do. People, this is the cruelest thing I have seen on TV in years. Why make us think Barbara was going to be okay ten minutes ago just to do this?! I really, really hate everybody.

Dejected, Tom goes to Barbara's bedside. Barbara is barely conscious, breathing hard. He says what he needs to say, what any of us would hope to be able to bring ourselves to say at the end of a loved one's life. "Oh, Barbara. I love you so much. My life has been blessed to have you in it. I can't bear to let you go."

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Tom's clutching Barbara's hand when Phyllis comes in. She gently strokes her friend's forehead and tells Tom to keep talking to her. Tom leans on the faith he and his beloved wife share, and begins reciting Psalm 23. He gets about halfway through before breaking down and Phyllis, the level-headed non-believer, brings it home. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." As she speaks, Barbara slips away. Dry-eyed, Phyllis feels Barbara's wrist. "She's gone," she tells Tom. He falls apart, pulling himself together to place Barbara's grass ring on her finger and give her a final kiss goodbye.

Somehow, Phyllis is able to get Tom back to Nonnatus House, where everyone is there to wrap their arms around him.

BBC

From this devastating scene, Phyllis quietly removes herself and, on the front steps, collapses in tears.

Sometime later, Lucille is welcomed into her new faith community with a stirring all-sing of "Amazing Grace."

Experiencing something like grace, himself, is Michael, who has been allowed to meet his newborn son before going to jail.

But, across town, at the flat he once shared with someone he loved so much, Tom now sits alone and cries.

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