Call The Midwife Welcomes A New Nurse To Nonnatus House
And: is Trixie preparing for an early sexual revolution?
It's early 1963, and London shows no sign of warming up. Yes, the Big Freeze is still on, and, as they have had to with so many other indignities, Poplar's residents are adjusting accordingly. The Nonnatans lead the way, of course.
In the ready room, though they are frozen to the bone, Trixie and Val get the blood moving with a conservative jig to "He's So Fine." I dare you to listen to it and not do the same.
Even Sister Winifred gets in on the action. Doo-lang, as they say, doo-lang. Their joy is cut short when Nurse Crane and Sister Julienne come in, the latter with a letter for Sister W. To her great shock, she learns she will have to take her driver's test in two weeks. Lord knows why they believe we're invested in Sister Winifred's life behind the wheel, but there's your update.
Moments later, Trixie is surprised by Christopher, racking up points on his Best Egg tally. He's appeared to surprise her with a gift-wrapped box of Miss Dior. This guy gets Trixie on a deep level.
Over at the surgery, Dr. Turner is giving young Teddy a tour of the office when Shelagh comes in with news from one of his patients, Mr. Gellen. Apparently his wife, recently treated for bowel cancer, is in a lot of pain since coming home from hospital.
In one of London's seedier establishments, the local punters are getting an eyeful of bump and grind. One of the girls descends from whatever nightmare lodgings come with the job to be greeted by the "house mother" below. She's a swell gal. "I hope you didn't come downstairs dressed like that," she says, of Nadine's sleeping clothes. "I don't like the customers seeing girls in a state of undress." Nadine snarks back that she thought they were paying to see her in a state of undress. House mother: "A Wincyette nightie and a quilted housecoat aren't exactly what they had in mind."
Nadine won't give and inch and reminds the house mother that it's been a very cold winter. "Ah, yes," the snakelike creature retorts, "thank God for 'Venus In Furs.'" OH, SNAP. Apparently this is a slam on Nadine's act, a striptease in a mink coat that involves a lot more flamin' tease than it does strip. This cannot stand, says the snake, and -- speaking of snakes -- by the way, "Eve of Eden" has fallen off the back of some Maltese fella's moped and thus cannot cover her lunch shift, and if Nadine wants to keep her job she can cover (and make ten bob extra if she goes on with Eve's python).
Dr. T has arrived at the Gellen house to find everything wonderfully warm and tidy. Inside. Outside, the world is falling around them: the whole block is being demolished to make way for new building. I'd like to point out that it's 1963 and that the war ended nearly twenty years ago. It's awful to think of the generations of people who had to live in that chaos of recovery for so long. Dr. Turner kindly caters to Mrs. G, who is clearly house proud, especially when it comes to anything bestowed upon her by her beloved son, Martin. In a thick German accent, she crows about his general greatness. He's an eye doctor! In Florida! America! Good for you, Martin, leaving your parents to be cared for by your sister in frozen-over England. Dr. T gladly accepts a plate from Mr. Gellen, who has been stress-baking strudel and bread since his wife and his home entered such perilous states. "I'm not a man who can sit idle," he says, "and these romantic programs [on the television -- a gift from Martin!] don't interest me." The sweet kiss he bestows on his wife's hand reveals that Mr. G knows plenty about romance. These two geezers, too dear for words, each doing whatever they can to spare the other seeing their pain.
It's tea time at Nonnatus House and, praise God from whom all blessings flow, they've finally come to the end of the mulligatawny soup that has been on the menu for days. You've really got to be tired of mulligatawny to be excited about pea soup (without ham, even!), but everyone is. Everyone except Sister Monica Joan, unfortch. She snaps about the soup before stomping off complaining about how understaffed the midwives are.
Sister Julienne reports that, as it happens, she's just heard they're getting a new midwife very soon. "I thought that she might share your room, Nurse Crane," Sister J says, and here we must pause to acknowledge the first in a long sequence of BAFTA-worthy reactions that cross Linda Bassett's face in this episode. This lady. She is a one-woman master class of poignancy. Well, they all are, aren't they? But Nurse Crane's displays of world-wise tenderness and sympathy...Linda Bassett is very special, and she embodies this character so fully and, well, I am sort of crying just thinking about her performance in this episode. ANYway: Phyllis, as she always does, takes this unwelcome news like a champ. I mean, thinking you've finally scored a single only to be told you'll have to share a room again: it's terrible. Her fellow nurses are quick to rally. "But Nurse Crane's just turned Barbara's old bed into a studio couch," Trixie cries. Phyllis says she is sure she and Nurse Anderson will make very good comrades in arms, "wasted scatter cushions notwithstanding." NOOOOOO. Not the scatter cushions!
At the Turner residence, Shelagh opens a letter from St. Cuthbert's to learn that Mrs Gellen's time in hospital was not at all uncomplicated. Her stoma revision was, sadly, a mess, and it's no wonder she is in so much pain: her cancer has spread to her liver and lungs. "Poor woman," Dr. Turner cringes sadly. "She won't have long."
Back at the peep show, Nadine is serving the customers a level of elegance they don't deserve. Well, honestly, that's all she's serving them. While her mink (fur is dead) is surely as luxurious as they come, the flashes of shoulder and knee she's providing are, to put it mildly, underappreciated by the clientele.
In the dressing room, Sonya the snake puts it plainly: she knows Nadine is pregnant and has been hiding behind the coat, and now she will have to go. Nadine is indignant. She can manage one more week, she insists, especially if she keeps doing Venus in Furs. She's been saving and saving and needs as much as she can get before the baby comes. "Stop begging," Sonya says with disgust. "Men beg when they think it'll get them what they want and it makes my skin crawl." Look, we can all agree that's an accurate read on all men, who should be banned. Nadine sees the writing on the wall and cuts to the chase, asking for her wages for the three shows she did that day. "You never showed more than a flamin' knee in any of them," Sonya snits, adding that Nadine is welcome to come back to work as long as she doesn't keep her kid. "Why would I want to come back here?" Nadine asks. Sonya, ashing her cig with extreme smugness, says that the peep show is a good, steady job, and that Nadine will regret it if she doesn't come back. Yes, it seems like a great place to work. Anyway, that's torn it with Nadine, who snatches her handbag in a rage, gathers her makeup and prepares to go, saying Sonya has no idea what she regrets.
Back at Nonnatus, Trixie is liberally spritzing her new perfume, breathlessly extolling its wonders to Val: "When Christian Dior commissioned this, he said to his parfumiers, 'Create a fragrance that's like love." Valerie, struggling to withstand the onslaught, smirks that love must smell like a hundred roses, a big bunch of jasmine, and a dash of Lemon Pledge. Trixie is utterly nonplussed. Before she has time to thoroughly defend Miss Dior's heartnotes of Sicilian oranges, Nurse Crane bustles in. "Can I smell furniture polish?" she asks, happily. Heeee. Val puts her in the picture about the perfume being a gift from Christopher. "Oh," Phyllis responds, saving it. "It's got quite a personality, hasn't it?" Don't worry, Trixie quickly gets her revenge, telling Phyllis Val's news: seems Aunt Edie has upped sticks and moved to Frinton, leaving Val to serve as ballet teacher at the dance school until it's sold! How she hasn't pressed Trixie, with her Keep Fit expertise, into helping, I don't know. Nurse Crane has worse news, anyway: the power company workers are taking work-to-rule action, and power cuts will begin tomorrow.
The next morning, Violet is seeing dear Reggie off on an excursion, accompanied by Fred. For reasons known only to God, they have chosen Sister Winifred to drive them to the station. On frozen roads. Violet, for some reason, doesn't feel confident about it! Nor does Reggie. As Sister W, under Fred's tutelage, lurches into action, Reggie looks desperately out the back window at his receding mother: "I'm scared."
Mrs. Gellen is polishing the candlesticks in the company of her high-strung daughter when Dr. Turner pays another call. Knowing how much pain she's in, he says he can refer her back to St. C's if she would prefer. "I know what I know," she responds, as her daughter, Hillary, waves off Mr. Gellen's grief strudel in irritation. Mrs. G refuses to go to Hillary's new, nice house with two bedrooms and fancy oven and central heating. (I bet if it was Martin she'd go and wouldn't even slow down to pack a candlestick! Can we talk about the emotional labor of adult daughters for a second? What, y'all are busy? LATER, THEN.) "Your father worked his fingers to the bone to buy this house," says Mrs. G, before spiraling into a bloody coughing fit. In the kitchen, Hillary is about to stroke out, and tells Dr. T she knows her mother is dying. Lord, if they aren't pulling our heartstrings about old people who are unwanted by their families, they're killing us with old people who torture the families that want them by being stubborn jerks. Madam, your walls and lungs are about to collapse. I am a huge supporter of people dying with dignity, but can we agree that Mrs. G needs to come on?
Nadine, with smart but sad efficiency, has moved back to Poplar to have her baby; apparently, this is where she grew up. Trixie, who is seeing her at the clinic, expects that means she has lots of friends and family around. "No," Nadine says, resigned. "None, and that's the way I want it." Not only does Trixie not judge Nadine's obvious unmarried status, she compliments her classy mink coat with undisguised jealousy. Nadine says it has come in handy during the cold weather, as a coat and as a bedspread. Trixie goes through the usual routine, talking about blood groups and whatnot, saying that Nadine's previous doctor's notes indicate that her blood group is Rh-negative, which is only a problem if this is Nadine's first baby. Nadine confirms that it is, and also that she doesn't know squat about the dad, including his blood group or even his name, and so whole blood thing seems like it should be no prob, right?
At Nonnatus, the power cuts have begun, earning a genuine "Heavens to Murgatroyd!" from Phyllis Crane. I enjoy imagining Nurse Crane watching Yogi Bear in her off hours, drinking cooking sherry and accosting a nun on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night with a boozy "Hey, Boo Boo!" Let me have my dreams. At tea, it becomes evident that one plus of the power cuts is that you simply can't let a cake with real cream icing sit around, and are thus forced to eat the whole thing and not save any for whatever new nurses may or may not be arriving at any moment. Which, led by Sister MJ, the gang gladly does.
Outside, Sister Winifred tortures the car, Fred, and all innocent onlookers as she tries and fails to execute what I think is supposed to be a three-point turn. "Why can't I do it?!" she sobs, banging the steering wheel. God only knows.
Later, Sister Julienne sets Sister Monica Joan with the task to check the power cut schedule that is published every day in the newspaper, and inform everyone else so that they can plan accordingly. First of all, this is a condescending and ridiculous plan. "Read the paper every day and tell us what it says"? She's old, not a child. Read your own paper. "Their reliance on numerological formulae is almost akin to necromancy," says Sister MJ, wise to the whole charade of busywork. And it's not like Sister J or any of the rest of them should even receive any credit for "trying": this "give Sister Monica Joan a little job" idea has blown up in their faces MULTIPLE TIMES. Like, every single time they do it. The phone duty, the cap-knitting, whatever else -- all disasters, and most not even the fault of Sister MJ! "If you give us the information, we can organize our work," says Sister Julienne, shockingly unware both of how belittling she sounds and of how her sister's face falls.
On Trixie's day off, Christopher shows up with another gift for her. What a guy, this guy! Let's see what it i-- oh. Today's present is his super-cute daughter, because he apparently wants Trixie to babysit? During her few hours of peace? NAH, SON. I say this as the mother of an adorable eight-year-old who I love more than life itself: if I were Trixie, I would have pushed that man into a snowbank and slammed the door. Bye.
Back over at the Gellens' house, Dr. Turner and Nurse Crane are attending to Mrs. G, whose bed has been brought down to the sitting room so that she no longer has to navigate the stairs. (That's the way they put it to her, anyway.) She, of course, complains about this to cover her fear and pain, and Mr. Gellen is grimly amused for a moment as he bakes his 10,000th strudel. Nurse Crane lets the poor lady fuss and is then cool as a cucumber when Mrs. G's colostomy bag comes loose, much to Mrs. G's extreme distress. "Don't let Arnold see," she begs Phyllis, who reassures her with utmost kindness as Mr. Gellen, pretending not to have heard, cries silently over his pastry.
Trixie, looking quite glam, helps sweet Alexandra to build a snow lady to welcome the new nurse to Nonnatus House. It's rather a shame, she notes, that they can't give the thing a manicure. "But we can have one of our manicure lessons later, if you'd like," she says, smiling. The little girl shakes her head, to Trixie's surprise. "Don't you want to try a bit of my new nail varnish? It's Pomegranate Kiss! You've been longing for me to buy that one." Alexandra is sad: "My mummy says only tarts paint their nails." Trixie pales beneath her fur-trimmed hat.
Later, Alexandra watches Z Cars with Sister Monica Joan and eats Rice Krispie treats while Trixie and Christopher have a private chat in the chapel. It's where one goes to talk to her boyfriend about how his primary schooler just called her a ho-bag. Christopher says it is perhaps his fault for returning his daughter to her bitter mother last week with bright pink fingernails. Now this REALLY offends our girl. "They weren't bright pink!" she retorts. "They were a sort of delicate salmon!" In any case, Trixie adds, Alexandra will be taking home sweet treats this time, which will perhaps restore Trixie's reputation. Christopher assures her that her reputation is spotless, especially since they didn't even get to go on their ski trip, WINK WINK. Trixie is like, "...what?" Which, come on, girl. Christopher gets all smarmy and says, YA KNOW, that all he wants is for them to get to go away together where they can, NUDGE NUDGE, "be in a hotel" where they can close the door. Since he pretty much just literally spelled it out for her, Trixie finally gets it: Christopher is DTF. She seems genuinely shocked by the suggestion! Dang, maybe Trixie SHOULD have married Tom. No, don't imagine it. Anyway, deftly sidestepping the issue with a chaste kiss, Trixie reminds Christopher that the Nonnatus chapel is not the most appropriate location for talk of hotels. I mean, what would St. Raymond think?
Frozen to the bone, Nurse Crane passes the exciting news to Sister Julienne that they've had a postcard from Patsy and Delia, who are off on safari in Bostwana together. Yay, ladies! Sister Julienne and Nurse Crane pause for a jealous moment, imagining African sunshine. They move on to worriedly discuss the mysterious absence of the new nurse they've been expecting. Nurse Crane says that if Nurse Anderson, who is young and traveling alone, doesn't materialize that night, she'll go to the police for help. Perhaps she had not considered that she knows nothing about Nurse A other than that...she's a young nurse.
The next morning, Sgt. Walrus -- though he is a gruff bastard and should be banned -- is not wrong when he says he can hardly rally the troops to go in search of her. "I leave you with the facts I have at my disposal!" Phyllis snits, and marches out, having basically left the officer with no facts.
Back at Nonnatus, Trixie and Val are milling about the ready room while Trixie worries over Christopher having seemingly suggested that she's a loose woman. "The thing is, Valerie," Trixie says, steeling herself for a confession, "I'm not that sort of girl. And I've never been that sort of girl. Not once in the whole of my life." Val is saved by a sudden power outage -- you know girlfriend's face was a mask of shock and awe. No shame on Trixie, but on a ranking list of Potential Non-Virgins of Nonnatus, she'd be at the...well, she'd be the only one on that list.
No sooner has the darkness fallen than here comes Sister Julienne to blame Sister Monica Joan for messing up her one menial task: informing them of the scheduled outages. She makes it worse by sort of talking behind Sister MJ's back about it to Sister Winifred in just the kind of patronizing "bless her heart" tones that will piss an old person right off. Unfortunately, she may be slightly batty, but her hearing is great: Sis hears every word and is traumatized that they all think she's crazy. "Anyone can make a mistake," Sister Winifred assures her. "I make them all the time." True. Sister Monica Joan cries that none of Sister W's mistakes are held up as proof of her derangement. Well...
On the staircase, the whole household gathers around as Sister MJ breaks down. I'll say again that I don't know how any of these women shares the screen with Judy Parfitt without falling apart. She is incredible. When Sister Julienne says that they've all been under strain and Sister Monica Joan is not invincible, Sister MJ delivers, through sobs, some heart-crushing Shakespeare: "Neither am I confined to second childishness. Sans teeth. Sans eyes. Sans everything."
The night is wearing on when, in blowing snow, a woman staggers to the house, and falls. When Val lets her in, she immediately asks if the visitor needs to see a midwife. Turns out, this IS a midwife! It's the long-awaited Nurse Lucille Anderson, who has been stuck on a snowbound train for two days.
Lucille is an adorable West Indian lady, efficient and very ready to put her recently completed training into action. Val and Trixie get her hurt knee patched up with a side of tea and sympathy (and the nuns' cooking brandy).
It will take more than that to treat what ails Mrs. Gellen, laboring to breathe back at her flat as Nurse Crane sees to her needs, and her daughter, Hillary, seethes in frustration. She has plenty of reason to seethe! Her mother is dying; her father is grief-strudeling; precious Martin is still in Florida and no one wants to put him in the picture. Hillary can stand it no more. When her mom tries to fake it to Martin that her breathlessness is due to running to the phone, Hillary takes charge. "Martin," she cries. "Mum's lying." Mrs. Gellen sighs, upset that her son is being made to face the truth. Yes, we mustn't distress poor Martin.
Trixie and Val have installed Lucille in her room with new nylons and thermal underwear. "It's shoulder to the wheel at 8 o'clock in the morning," Val reminds her. "You make the most of your early night." Nurse Anderson is appreciative. When her new colleagues leave, she gets out of bed and, looking proudly on her new uniform ready on the chair for the next morning, kneels -- even on an injured knee -- in prayer. I love her already.
Bright and early the next morning, the nurses chuckle that even after all that rest, Lucille had to be roused. Before she comes down to breakfast, Sister Winifred worries that some of their patients might take issue with Nurse Anderson being "colored." She says it with reluctance, and Sister Julienne reacts with surprise at the very idea -- "There have been West Indian nurses at St. Cuthbert's for some time!" -- as if the world wasn't racist as all hell in 1963. And today. While it is generally agreed that Poplar's residents are even more likely than the general population to be rude to a black person, Nurse Crane states matter-of-factly that "anyone who says anything sideways deserves to be corrected." Let us all learn from her example. She adds that "the National Health was struggling 'til all these girls started coming from the Commonwealth." White people: depending on black people to save them since always! Good thing we've made so much progr-- Oh, never mind.
As it is, Lucille is more than ready to take on the job. Nervous but excited, she waits for everyone to come in for the daily assignments and, when they arrive, promptly faints. She's got a raging temp and, as Dr. Turner later confirms, "a rip-roaring bladder infection." So, on her first day on the job, Nurse Anderson is confined to her room, from which she must suffer the further indignity of watching Sister Winifred murder the car every morning.
Trixie visits Nadine in her new flat to find that Venus in Furs seems to have made the sad decision to place her baby for adoption.
Back at Nonnatus, Lucille runs into the one housemate she hasn't met yet: sweet Sister Monica Joan, poring over the newspaper with a magnifying glass. Even in her time of mental and emotional turmoil, she welcomes the new nurse to her room, and is especially thrilled when Nurse Anderson not only admires her book collection, but joins her in quoting Keats. It seems Lucille was a librarian before coming to England to train as a nurse. For a moment, it looks as though Sister MJ will have a new bff...that is, until Nurse Anderson offers to rearrange her books according to the Dewey Decimal System. "They are aligned according to the understanding between their authors and myself," Sister Monica Joan snoots. "No rearrangement is required." Dismissed, Nurse Anderson drags her overstepping bladder from the room.
While the nuns lay down some Psalm 121:5 at vespers, we see that things at the Gellen residence are far from improving. Mr. G, out of the kitchen, looks out into the street to watch the buildings around them fall as Mrs. Gellen calls out for Martin in her sleep. Arriving to give aid, Nurse Crane puts a workman on notice that his little barricade will not be stopping her from helping her patient.
Elsewhere, Nadine's fur is subjected to the indignity of her breaking waters. Trixie is there in short order and reassures her as she labors that the baby should arrive in a few hours and that everything is progressing beautifully. "I had to see this woman once," Nadine sighs between contractions, "about a kid I didn't want to have." As she tells the story of her back alley abortion, Trixie's face freezes with worry. "So this isn't your first pregnancy," she says, thinking of the Rh- screening question that it is now quite clear Nadine misunderstood. Nadine: "It's my first baby, innit?" Yikes. Trixie gives her some gas to ease the pain.
Nurse Crane, at the Gellens' house, is doing the same for her patient when Sgt. Walrus knocks rudely at the door. He stands there blathering through his mustache about the Council's orders for the Gellens to move out, blah blah blah, but Phyllis is not having it. "That won't be convenient, I'm afraid," she says, already dismissing him. "I have an extremely poorly lady to take care of." With that, she shuts the door, leaving a perplexed Walrus on the step. Boy, as I believe was expressed to you on many previous occasions, BYE.
Trixie is checking the position of Nadine's baby, who Nadine says has always been quite the gymnast in there, to the point where she wondered if she should take it back to her former workplace to get it onstage as a contortionist. "I can't promise it's going to appear in a spangled leotard," Trixie says, "but it would seem we've got a bit of a trickster on our hands. It's breech." Nadine, who seems to have literally zero knowledge of childbirth whatsoever, asks if this is bad. Trixie calmly says no, not exactly, "just rah-thah inelegant." She calls for backup from Nonnatus, where Sister Winifred is crying AGAIN about her bad driving. "If you didn't damage the War Memorial and you didn't damage Nurse Crane's car, I really don't think it counts as an accident!" Val admonishes her. Sister W snivels that it counts as a failed maneuver. Y'all, we really do not care about Sister Winifred's driving. She's already been in a car that ran someone over – what else is there to do with her and the subject of cars?
Suddely, a call comes in from Sister Julienne. Seems she has undiagnosed twins being born across town. Both Val and the crying Sister Winifred are also needed elsewhere. That means there's only the new gal to help Trixie. Val apologizes for getting her out of her sick bed, "but this is like when Churchill had every plane in the air in the Battle of Britain!" Lucille is more than ready to get in the fight, saying all she needs is a bike and a map and she's there. Val buttons the new nurse's top cardigan button, and they head out into the snow.
None too soon, really, as Nadine is pretty much unable to keep herself from pushing. Lucille, an absolute hero, rides over the frozen cobblestones with a bladder infection, and rolls up her sleeves. Trixie tells her privately that Nadine started pushing a bit too early, and that there's going to be some difficulty as a result. Lucille is not afraid: "The rest will unfold as it unfolds." Get yourself a nurse like Lucille. She physically supports Nadine as Trixie prepares to guide the baby out, cheering on the whole team. Trixie reaches in (aaaieee) and feels what may be a foot or a hand. "Toes are all the same length," Nurse Anderson recites from the manual, so fresh in her head. Trixie says yes, it's a foot, and proceeds accordingly. The baby girl emerges up to her belly, and Trixie does that gravity trick we learned from Chummy all those seasons ago. Miss you, girl! Lucille, caught up in the moment, is doling out the platitudes like a master of the game. Finally, the baby is born, and the grossest of all procedures is performed to clear her nasal passages. Good God, I hate it when they use the suction contraption. Doctors and nurses are heroes, especially the ones who willingly sucked on a tube, the other end of which was stuck up the nose of a human being who just emerged from a birth canal.
I know it's not as gross as it looks, but it looks pretty gross! Nadine, who has been through so much in her life, is scared to hold her sweet baby. "You're brave," says Trixie. "So unbelievably brave. And I wish we all had your courage." Trixie transfers mother and child into the care of the maternity home after reporting out to Shelagh about the Rhesus sitch, and finally, finally can exhale.
A few blocks away, Nurse Crane's hard day is just beginning. She arrives at the Gellens' house to find Hillary frantic: her mother has had a coughing episode that has left her covered in blood. Here we return to the real star of this episode: Linda Bassett's face. The practical grace and compassion Nurse Crane shows, putting her patient at ease, bringing calm to this frightened woman at the end of her life. Bassett is playing it with such understated beauty. I just love her. "I leave you overnight and look at the spectacle of you," she says, and smiles at poor Mrs. G.
At the maternity home, Val meets Nadine when she brings her a heat lamp for her shredded nether regions. When Val smirks again about having to go teach her aunt's tap class, this professional dancer reveals that she was once a student! "I loved Madame Edie," she says. "She was the first person to ever make me feel like I was good at something." Aw. They discuss the baby, who is looking a bit yellow. Val is worried about jaundice, and interrupts the Turners talking about their new au pair. Well, it's more like Shelagh has decided they're getting an au pair and is informing Dr. T of this...and also of what an au pair is. Anyway, they check out Nadine's baby and determine that she needs to go to the hospital. Nadine is upset that she cannot go along with her.
Dr. Turner heads to the Gellens' and agrees with Nurse Crane that the end is near for Mrs. G. There's no need to break the news to her husband, who says, "I knew. As soon as she stopped polishing the candlesticks." They ask if he has been getting any support from his synagogue. He says no, that he moved away from his religion a while ago, even if he's never left the neighborhood.
Outside, Hillary is dealing with some council lackey and Sgt. Walrus, who have come to, I guess, put these people in the street at the worst moment of their lives. With a subtle note of danger, Nurse Crane asks the council dude to step away and leave her with the policeman. "There are times," she says with a threatening smile, "when uniform speaks to uniform, and this is one of them." The sergeant, hilariously, believes he's about to get a word in edgewise. Ha ha. No. "I'm afraid you misconstrue, Sgt. Wilkes. My uniform is going to talk to your uniform, not the other way round," she says, and goes on to say that Mrs. Gellen, who may have only hours to live, came to Poplar nearly 30 years ago as a German Jew to escape Nazi persecution. "And if you hound her out of her house, now -- if you drag her from the bed where we are striving to keep her at peace and free from pain, you will have as much on your conscience as those who drove her from the place where she was born." KNOCK 'EM OUT, PHYLLIS CRANE. Dumb Sgt. Wilkes, soon to be banned, says lamely that he's not without compassion, his own grandparents having come to England from Russia. Sir, first of all, this is not about you. Secondly, you shouldn't need a thin thread connecting you to another war two generations ago to have compassion for a dying woman you're sworn to serve and protect. Whatever. He has enough of his so-called compassion to chew the asses off the workers who accidentally snap the phone wire, Mrs. Gellen's single mode of communication with Martin. "The ties that bind can be so very fragile," Phyllis adds as a somewhat confusing postscript, and goes back into the house.
Trixie, having saved various lives all day, is at an AA meeting. She's struggling, it seems, with the protections she's built around herself that have kept her from getting down I MEAN serious with Christopher. "It's safe in a cage," she says. "You can even sing quite a satisfactory song, as I've discovered." Sobriety is hard. Trixie is entering into the phase where she must face her true self, and it just isn't easy. Bless.
At the Gellens', it's time to say goodbye. Sgt. Wilkes has made arrangements for all demolition of the street to stop until Mrs. Gellen passes. Dr. Turner thanks him. "The East End's still good for something, doctor," he replies, and if he thinks that makes me like him he has once again misconstrued. Inside, Mr. G leans over his wife's bed as she struggles to breathe and says what he needs to say: "If I never said I was grateful to you, I say it now. If I never said I was proud of the home you kept, I say it now. If I didn't tell you that you were beautiful when your face grew lined, when you didn't have a new blouse from one summer's end to the next, I say it now. And if I didn't tell you that I loved you, I say it now." Something tells me this lovely man said these things plenty, and that what he didn't say, he said with baked goods. As I was watching this, it struck me that this speech is like closing the circle of the vows of marriage, the final acknowledgment of those promises before being parted by death, and yes...I cried and I'm still crying. Somehow Nurse Crane and Hillary live through this beautiful display.
At the hospital, Nadine waits to see her baby, whom she's named Elizabeth. She's keeping her. "I let her in, Nurse," she tells Trixie. "I let her in and she tore me open. My whole self." Trixie says that some people wait a lifetime for a love like that, and Nadine remarks that some people are just scared of it. I'm not sure why this case is what is driving Trixie to make such a dramatic change in her life, but whatever works. It frustrates me that Nadine can't get more of a payoff with that "wait their whole lives" line -- she's definitely waited her whole life for real love but, then again, so has Trixie.
Free from pain at last, Mrs. Gellen has made her exit. Guess who calls one minute too late? MARTIN. Do I even need to say anything?
Exhausted, Phyllis staggers home to find that Lucille has put a hot water bottle under her eiderdown. "I thought you might need it, coming from a death bed," says Lucille, and Phyllis is so touched and so tired, I am afraid she might start crying, which would be the end of me.
Nadine, BOSS BITCH, returns to the peep show. But not to work! To get the damn wages from Sonya, who tries and fails to make a crack about Nadine's famous coat, slithering, "Have you pawned your mink?" Nope, Nadine claps back, she's sold it. And, guess what? She's using the money to buy a dancing school. AND GUESS WHAT ELSE, HAG? SHE'S PAYING CASH. "Don't forget your 'self-respect' on the way out," Sonya snips. Nadine, shoulders back, holds up the money. "This is my self-respect."
The next day, Christopher arrives at Nonnatus House, having been summoned by Trixie. Not knowing whether he is currently in favor or out of it, he has brought flowers. This man is wise. Trixie, looking utterly lovely in a wrap the exact color of her eyes, cuts to the chase right on the doorstep: she thinks it's time to book that long-awaited WINK holiday NUDGE. We're talking about HOTELS here, people. Christopher keeps his composure, which is good, because he's immediately c-blocked by Fred, Valerie, and Lucille, practically carrying Sister Winifred out the door to go take her driving test.
In the rubble surrounding the Gellens' old house, the construction crew stands respectfully by while a (fantastic) cantor and gathered singers sing the El Malei Rachamim, the prayer for the departed during which Ruth's and her parents' names are lifted. A portion, in English: "The Everlasting is her heritage, and she shall rest peacefully in her resting place." It is stunningly gorgeous. Mr. Gellen, with his daughter and Nurse Crane by his side, seems grateful.
Over at Nonnatus, a celebration of a different kind is happening in the street: Sister Winifred passed her driver's test.
A few weeks later, making one final stop before leaving the neighborhood for good to go to live with Hillary, Mr. Gellen stops by the clinic to see Nurse Crane. "Their kitchen," he rhapsodizes. "You wouldn't believe it." Phyllis smiles beatifically, and is then moved to speechlessness when Mr. Gellen presents her with the last thing that came from his own kitchen: a lovely strudel. Phyllis completes the gesture by dividing it and delivering the other half to Sgt. Wilkes. What passes between them is a new understanding.
And if y'all thought Linda Bassett was done with your tear ducts, I'm afraid you misconstrued.