Will Call The Midwife See Its Way Clear Of Sister Monica Joan's Cataract Story?
And: the luck of the Irish sure seems to mean something different than we thought in our latest EPIC OLD-SCHOOL RECAP!
The year is flying by. Apparently, summer is now over and the residents of Poplar are making fresh starts, including its newest arrivals: an Irish family, the Davidsons, just happily pulling into town with their worldly possessions on top of their car. "How do we know we're not living in the Catholic bit?" one of the kids asks his dad. He answers that stuff like that doesn't matter here and, to the delight of all, drives up in front of the new family business: a newsagent shop they're taking over. As the husband and wife beam with pride, Fred walks up and welcomes them to the neighborhood. "Is that an Irish accent I'm hearing?" he asks, after they exchange pleasantries. Mr. Davidson stiffens. "Northern Irish," he says. "Is that a problem." Fred chuckles. "Not for me. As long as you sell The Sporting Life, we'll be the best of chums." With that, Fred's off. The very pregnant Mrs. Davidson presents her husband with a shopwarming gift she had made before they made the trip over: a placard reading "Proprietor, T. Davidson & Son." He loves it. "Is there anything you haven't thought of?" he asks. "Food," she says, adding that she thinks they passed a chipper back down the road. Smiling broadly as he enjoys the beginning of this new chapter of his family's life, Mr. Davidson says he'll run out and get some while the rest of them get started with the unpacking.
In the Nonnatus House ready room, Valerie and Lucille are preparing for their own journey -- into the dark and twisting nightmare of female adolescence. Valerie, for one, is determined to make things better for girls in 1963, with a little community center course she calls "Puberty, Periods, And Pongs." Lucille doesn't seem to appreciate the alliterative humor at this hour of the morning, so Valerie amends that last P to Personal Hygiene. Anyway, Valerie is carrying out this noble pursuit because of the surprising number of teen girls in the community who know basically nothing about their own bodies. "Mind you," she adds, "I thought that babies came out through the belly button when I was little." Lucille laughs, saying that the first day of midwifery training must have been an eye-opener. Growing quiet, she sighs, saying that it's good to have the youth center to hold the classes, but that she can't help thinking a girl should be taught these things by her mother. Valerie is understanding that Lucille is nervous, but says that not every parent is up to the job: "They prefer to leave the embarrassment to us." (You know, this is still ridiculously hard in 2018 but, as they are prone to do, the Dutch have figured it out before the rest of us.) For Lucille, the embarrassment is widespread. "Tampons?" she gasps in shock as Valerie piles them into the supply box. "For unmarried girls?"
Out in the streets, Mr. Davidson is returning to his new home, happily jamming to the radio and enjoying a newspaper full of England's saltiest...
...when he CRASHES INTO A TRUCK.
Val is going over the modern conveniences of sanitary protection when a girl runs into her class late, turning in her parental permission slip. Lucille, a trained nurse who regularly reaches into the business end of bleeding women, is barely handling this assignment. When Val expounds on the benefits of tampons -- you can wear them under your swimsuit on the beach! -- Lucille practically waves a sanitary belt in the air.
"Or you can just wear something like this!" she says. "There are very few days you can wear a swimsuit on the beach in England." I mean, she has a point. Val laughs it off, but in private tells Lucille that she might try to be a bit more positive. "Sorry," says Lucille, not sorry. "But you know my views."
Mrs. Davidson and the kids, back at their new shop, are hungry. It's been an hour since Mrs. D sent her husband out for chips. "He'll have gone to see a man about a dog," young Davidson Jr. jokes, and into this scene, Tom and a policeman arrive with very sad news.
Okay, look, was ANYBODY hanging on for the resolution of Sister Monica Joan's cataract ordeal? Well, good news: you're about to be rewarded with an entire hour on the subject. In the kitchen at Nonnatus House, Phyllis finds the sister in question rummaging through the pantry in the evening, packing food for the hospital. "Standard provisions would be a nightgown and a toiletry bag," Phyllis says, clearly concerned. But Sister MJ is trying to get the important stuff together, okay? "What about nourishment?" she says. "Keats may feed my brain, but what about my belly?" Having overheard all this, Sister Julienne comes through to lead her sister back to bed, saying that the surgery isn't for another week. WHAT? Y'all. I very much appreciate the perspective they have always tried to give on the inner lives of older adults -- and, in Sister MJ's case, the elderly and infirm -- but did we need three episodes dealing with this? And it still hasn't happened? Edit something, somebody, please.
Back at the community center, a mother meets her daughter, Elizabeth, at the door, and asks how her evening went. "Only table tennis," the girl lies, unable to admit that she was at Val's super-sexy secret tampon class.
A few days later, Fred is walking down the alley in front of the newsagent's shop when he runs into the Davidson family coming out the door on their way to Mr. D's funeral. Hat in hand, Fred offers his condolences, saying he'd been looking for the notice in the paper so that he could come pay his respects. Mrs. Davidson says that there wasn't one, since no one around there knew her husband. Fred very, very kindly says he could come to the funeral. Mrs. Davidson is grateful, but says it's only for family. Sighing, Fred says he's been in her shoes and would be glad to help in any way he can. "Thank you, Mr. Buckle, I know you mean well, but you needn't concern yourself with my troubles," she says. "I can manage perfectly well on my own." Fred's a bungler, to be sure, but his admirable community spirit never wavers.
Barbara (yay!) rushes from her flat to make it to morning call, and runs into Sister Julienne and Shelagh leading Sister Monica Joan down the stairs on their way to the hospital. "Is today the big day?" she asks. Sister Monica Joan nervously responds that the planets are not well-aligned. "Oh. Oh, dear," says Barbara. Shelagh fussily fusses that they're trying to get out the door with as little fuss as possible, and Barbara sends them off with a subdued "good luck" and a wave.
Mrs. Davidson is smoking up a storm at an appointment with Dr. Turner. He asks if she has any help at home with the two children she already has, not to mention the one she has on the way. She explains that, no, her husband just died in a car crash, and she finds it hard to leave their shop during business hours, but that she's fine, everything's fine. "Me and Terry, we stood on our own feet," she says with grim determination. "And that's what I'm going to keep doing." Dr. T, with sympathy, says he'll be sending a midwife to see her at home starting that evening. "You must tell her if you're struggling," he adds. Mrs. Davidson sadly says that she's not struggling: "I'm very capable."
Also capable? Shelagh, pushing ever forward with that old positive outlook as she prepares Sister Monica Joan for her time in the hospital ward. Trying not to fuss over her former sister but doing the exact opposite, she says that she and Sister Winifred have set up a rota so that Sister MJ will never be alone. "Sometimes solitude is the best society," Sister Monica Joan responds, and one can never truly know if that devastating shade was intentional, though facing the prospect of Sister Winifred ding-donging around my sickbed might have caused me to say similar or worse.
Anyway, Sister Monica Joan's Eeyore routine is interrupted with great irony when the door blows open and a loud couple of classic Poplar geezers rolls in, laughing it up like they're falling out of the Black Sail at closing time. "Giddy-up, giddy-up!" hoots the elderly female patient to the orderly pushing her wheelchair. "Oh! You young men can take me 'round the block any day of the week!" Her husband laughs, telling the young man to be careful: "There's not many fellas take my missus for a ride and lives to tell the tale!" Suddenly noticing the horrified face of Sister Monica Joan, the man apologizes and introduces himself. "Albie Valentine. And this is my missus, Maudie," he says. "She'd never normally be fruity in front of a nun, but she didn't see you there. She's blind as an old bat!" Sister Monica Joan barely has time to react before Maudie confirms that she's ripe as a French fig and ready for slicing. Yikes. When they find out Shelagh and Sister MJ are from Nonnatus House, all ceremony is abandoned. "Your lot delivered all of ours," Albie yells. "If you don't remember Maudie's face, you might remember the other half!" Further hilarious screeching goes on, to the great disturbance of both Shelagh and Sister Monica Joan -- who, yes, may have spent most of her life assisting the great unwashed masses, but...well, you can take the old girl's old money, but you can't take the old money out of the old girl, and she's clearly upset at the thought of spending her recovery next to this clown college.
Barbara arrives at the newsagent's shop that evening to find Master Alistair Davidson closing up. "Aren't you a little young to be a shopkeeper?" she asks this eight-year-old. He says he's the man around there now, and asks what he can do for her. Barbara orders a bag of flying saucers. "My daddy says these taste like communion wafers," says Alistair. Barbara fully agrees that they do, and says her husband loves them, adding, "But then, he is a vicar, so that might explain things." This cute convo is interrupted when Mrs. Davidson emerges from the back room.
It's another day at Learn Basic Information About Your Own Body And Maybe Prevent Another Thousand Years Of Women's Societal Shame Imprisonment Class, and Valerie is doing her best to explain how pregnancy actually occurs while Lucille stands to the side, waiting to die of embarrassment. This is honestly more than I understood about pregnancy until I was practically an adult, and that is so stupid. Let's be Dutch about this mess, for Lord's sake. Ignorance is rampant, as one giggling pupil demonstrates by saying she heard that if you take a wee after doing it, the sperm is washed away and "the lady won't fall for a baby." Valerie calmly explains that this is not the case, and goes over again how the urinary tract and the vagina are different things. With visible discomfort, Lucille tells the class to copy the picture from the chart and label the body parts with their correct names. Val quietly asks if that was so hard, and Lucille says yes: if the girls had asked her those same questions, she wouldn't know where to look. "You look 'em right in the eye, and you give it to 'em straight," says Val. "Better that than they go 'round with their heads stuffed full of nonsense." It's just true!
Barbara's exam of Mrs. Davidson is indicating that her baby, like her two older children, will be pretty sizable. "Active, too!" Barbara adds, listening to the baby roll around. "You must be getting kicked to bits!" Mrs. Davidson says that she hasn't really been paying attention. Barbara, the only one around here acting remotely like her old self, says no, she can only imagine what poor Mrs. D is going through. She notes that the flat will be fine for a home delivery, and that it's spotless. Seeing what appear to be moving boxes crowding the living room, Barbara wonders if Mrs. Davidson might want to get rid of them before the birth. "They're Terry's things," she says, cringing with grief. "I don't know what to do with them." Barbara says she would be glad to help Mrs. Davidson to go through them, or just sit with her while she goes through them -- a very kind offer indeed considering, as Mrs. Davidson points out, that this is not part of Barbara's job. "When I'm not being a midwife, I'm the wife of a curate," Barbara says. "Helping people through life's vile moments is very much in my remit." Aw. I love her.
Back outside the community center, Elizabeth's mom is there to meet her again, promptly, at closing time. When Elizabeth doesn't come out with most of the other girls, she goes inside and runs into Valerie, giggling with Lucille over some of the labeling on the students' reproductive system handouts. "I'm pretty sure that 'tuppence' isn't an anatomical term," Lucille laughs. Well, it's all fun and games until Elizabeth's nervous mom looks down and sees a line drawing of a naked female figure! "What on earth?" she says, mortified. Valerie, assuming that this lady knew what the class was about -- and also perhaps assuming this WOMAN would (a) know what female parts are, and (b) want her daughter to know the same -- glibly says that the handouts are part of an exercise they do with the girls so that they'll know what's what down below. Girl, read the room, this lady is not into it! Val tries again, still smiling: "The health and relationship class?" See, Elizabeth's mom has never heard of this class. She didn't sign any permission form. She thought her innocent daughter was in here playing table tennis, not learning all sorts of forbidden stuff about her own body, which is everything. Storming out, she promises Valerie, "You haven't heard the last of this!"
At the Herewards' flat, Barbara rushes in apologizing for being so late with her last lady, already putting on her apron while Tom chills at the kitchen table. He thinks she should sit down and relax for a minute, but that's not Barbara's thing. It's called getting the job done, Tom. Look into it! "When we were in Birmingham, I had time to do our housework," she says. "But now your shirt pile's getting out of hand." Tom says he never used to iron his shirts before he was married; he would just put on a jacket and let the wrinkles fall out. Barbara says that was endearing when he was a single man, but now people would just think he had a terrible wife, and she can't have that! I mean, the answer is for Tom to learn to iron so that his wife, who works full-time saving lives, won't have to do it, but okay. Tom's lucky he didn't marry Trixie, is all I can say. Anyway, he correctly states that Barbara is the perfect wife, at which she smiles and says she doesn't know about that, but that she's trying. Now you try trying, Tom! They kiss and it's cute, whatever.
Poor Sister Monica Joan, out of the wimple and out of sorts in her hospital bed, is just trying to pray the next morning. The problem, though, is her blowsy and unwelcome roomie, Mrs. Valentine. "Six kids I've got, Sister," Mrs. Valentine is saying, by way of chit-chat. "Albie would have had more, but I had to put a stop to it in the end. Well, nature intervened. I stood up one day to put on the kettle, and me insides fell into me knickers. 'Course, you'd be no stranger to that kind of thing." LOL. Oh, man. Listen, no one wants to hear a stranger talk about their pelvic floor or lack thereof (although it's a common problem no one should be embarrassed to speak to her doctor about), but I did laugh because this kind of octogenarian information-sharing seems very real. Seriously, there's two types of old lady: the one who will let it all hang out (sorry) and tell you about it, and the other kind. Sister Monica Joan is no stranger herself to interrupting people with inappropriate commentary, let's be honest, and yet is nevertheless horribly affronted as Mrs. Valentine comically goes on and on. "Please!" Sister MJ finally says. "I will have peace to say the offices of the day." Mrs. Valentine scoffs: "If you say so!"
Back at Nonnatus House, Valerie and Lucille have been called on the carpet in Sister Julienne's office re: Elizabeth Walker's mother's complaints about their class. I suppose one never stops being scared of nuns, even if you live with them, because Val and Lucille look pretty nervous. "The allegation that shocks me the most is that Nurse Anderson encouraged the girls to produce drawings of an indelicate nature," says Sister Julienne, and the blood visibly drains from Lucille's face. "Oh, my days," Lucille mutters in shock while Val gamely tries to jump to their defense. Too bad: Sister Julienne cancels the classes! Valerie is mad and so am I, but Sister Julienne imperiously suggests that they pay a visit to Mrs. Walker with a fulsome apology. Sister Julienne, what is your deal lately?
Outside Violet's shop, Fred is fixing Barbara's bike bell and chatting about the Davidson family. Fred is still worried about them, especially since Mrs. Davidson's son and daughter are the same ages his kids were when he was widowed. The community held Fred's family together then, he says, and he'd like to offer the same support to Mrs. D, but she doesn't seem to want it. Vi says she stopped in to see Mrs. D this week, as well, but couldn't really break the ol' Davidson shell. "She's a proud woman," Fred muses. Nodding in agreement, Barbara rides off, promising to tell Mrs. D that Fred was asking after her. Violet is touched by her husband's heart for the lady. "Mrs. Davidson will get there," she tells him. "We all do." And may I add, on a purely aesthetic note, I'm glad to see they've given Violet a sensible hairstyle rather than that ratted blowout she has previously been saddled with this season.
At the hospital, the time has come for Sister Monica Joan -- AND THE REST OF US -- to be released from the bondage of her cataracts. We're almost free! But wait, what's this? Sister Monica Joan is starting to panic, and suddenly says she's changed her mind. Not now, ma'am! After all this?! "Oh, go on, off with you," Mrs. Valentine pipes up. "Give me some peace!" Clutching the nurse's hand, Sister Monica Joan is stricken with fear. "Pray for me," she asks, sincerely. "And for my immortal soul." The nurse does the condescending crinkling smile you do to an old person or child who is speaking nonsense, so I will take this moment to give a quick PSA: when someone asks you to pray for them, say "I will," and then do it. When they say they're praying for you, say "thanks." You don't have to be a believer, and I know there are some sanctimonious jerks around, but do your best to respond meaningfully to a meaningful gesture, because it's the sort of nice thing that could help someone who needs it. Life is hard.
Valerie and Lucille are doing their best to apologize to Mrs. Walker for Elizabeth's having forged the permission slip to learn about her own body, but it's not going that great! What a surprise. "My daughter is not at fault here," Mrs. Walker snits. "It is you. Exposing unmarried girls to things they've no business knowing!" Even Lucille, a known prude, is at a loss as to how to deal with this level of willful austerity, and can only stare as Val tries to say that, in her experience, the more information a young woman has, the better. Mrs. Walker, to put it mildly, strongly disagrees! In her experience, she says, "precocious knowledge" can only lead to ruination, as it did with her own sister. So she won't be withdrawing her complaint, and won't rest until such classes are banned from all the nation's youth clubs! With that, she commands Elizabeth to show the nurses out -- to the door, which is one foot from where they're sitting -- and marches into another room to slam that door, also a foot away. Note: it's just not a dramatic exit if you can't actually go anywhere, and no one needs to be "seen out" if they can literally reach out their hand to touch the doorknob. Anyway, this moment with Elizabeth only gives the nurses more chances to corrupt her virginal mind and try to understand how her mom became such a shrew. Seems the community center was the last place Elizabeth was permitted to go on her own for a social life: she'd even been banned from visiting the library alone after Mrs. Walker caught her reading a romance novel. I'm not sure what leads some grown adults to believe that girls don't know they have vaginas until they read about them in books, but those folks are still out there. Lucille asks about the sister her mom mentioned. Elizabeth identifies her as Aunt Lily, but doesn't know anything about her except her name.
We return now to the riveting storyline of Sister Monica Joan's cataract surgery. Again, I am happy that they are addressing the sorts of things seniors go through, but...three episodes. Anyway, I can't really complain, because coming out of surgery safe and sound gives Judy Parfitt and Jenny Agutter a lovely moment to showcase the sisterhood we've so been missing this season. "I'm alive! I'm alive!" Sister Monica Joan says, waking up after surgery. "I have walked through the valley of ether! And come out the other side." Sister Julienne, at her bedside, smiles radiantly, and reminds her sister to lie very still to allow things to settle. "The nurse has put sandbags on either side of your head to remind you not to turn," she says. "Do you think you can manage to be still?" Sister Monica Joan says she shall meditate on stories of miraculous deliverance. "What an excellent idea," says Sister Julienne, nearly in happy tears. "But first, perhaps a little sleep?" Sister Monica Joan, crying, says she can sleep when she's dead. "But for now," she adds, "I'm alive. I am alive!"
Barbara, in her capacity as curate's wife -- and, generally, all-around great person -- is helping Mrs. Davidson sort through her husband's things. Gingerly, she asks if Mrs. Davidson has considered going back to Ireland. "There's no future for us there. Terry made me see that," Mrs. D says. "Though I'd never have made the move without him. He made me brave. He always had a plan." She begins losing her cool when she explains that it was Terry who convinced her to have another baby, lease the shop, and move to England, and look at them now: "Hundreds of miles from home, and not a penny in the bank. And I'm not brave! Not anymore! And I hate him for it, for leaving me here. God forgive me, but I do! And I hate that I hate him, because I've loved him all my life!" Barbara doesn't say anything, but wraps her arms around Mrs. Davidson and holds her while the poor woman finally breaks down.
Speaking of breaking down, the happy-go-lucky Mrs. Valentine is no longer feeling so jovial. In the dark at the hospital, she has woken up afraid, with no one there but Sister Monica Joan to comfort her from the next bed. "All is well," Sister Monica Joan assures her. "We are hemmed in by our sheets. We must lie in our trenches until our wounds are healed." Mrs. V says that this isn't a trench, it's a coffin. She feels like she's buried under the earth, in blackness. "That's the eye patch!" says Sister MJ. "I fancy we look quite Napoleonic." Mrs. Valentine continues to spiral, and tries to call out for a nurse. "Summon your inner strength, Mrs. Valentine!" Sister MJ tells her, suddenly the brave one. "You are the mistress of your vision. Custodia Occulorum." The abrupt switch to Latin confuses Mrs. Valentine. "Custard? What's custard got to do with it?" she wonders, and Sister Monica Joan clarifies that she should take custody of her mind's eye: "Instruct it to show you something wonderful. The night ablaze with the shimmering Aurora Borealis. Or the might of the majestic Zambezi as it drops like a curtain at Victoria Falls." Pausing a moment to let this sink in, she asks what Mrs. V sees now. "Custard," says Mrs. Valentine. "Lots and lots of custard." Well, of course, a sweets-lover like Sister Monica Joan is going to be delighted. "Ha! So do I!" she says. "Oh, it looks delicious!" God bless, I feel bad now for ragging on this whole thing, because this elderly "Who's On First?" between Parfitt and June Watson's Mrs. Valentine is all the payoff I needed. I should have had more faith. Forgive me, Saint Raymond! I knew not of this custard!
At breakfast the next morning, Sister Julienne announces that Sister Monica Joan had a good night. She has other good news: the council received so many parent letters of support for Valerie and Lucille's Health & Relationship classes, they've been reinstated. Valerie is surprised when it's Lucille who breathes the biggest sigh of relief. "It was very unfair that one parent could prevent the education of so many girls," she says, adding that she hasn't entirely changed her tune on the whole thing, but that she's been given food for thought.
Shelagh arrives at the hospital later to find a veritable Valentine Party going on. Seems the whole multi-generational family has turned up to run riot on the wards. Mr. Valentine is, even at this moment, about to provide Sister Monica Joan with a celebratory candy. Of course Shelagh c-blocks this post-haste. "I hope that sweetie is not intended for Sister Monica Joan," she snoots. "She is prone, so at risk of choking." Well, sis, good thing she's in a hospital, right? Anyway, Sister Monica Joan, getting in the spirit, feels like she can handle it: "Like a Roman, I have become adept at the art of recumbent dining," she insists, but Shelagh ain't going for it. Mr. Valentine, knowing he is beaten, passes the sweet to his wife, who accepts it gladly as the racket in the room increases on Team Valentine's side. Meanwhile, Shelagh has found Sister MJ's book of Keats, that old bastard, and has begun to read "Ode On A Grecian Urn" while Sister Monica Joan seems to wish that, for once, she could join the party.
Speaking of parties, everybody's having a grand ol' time getting ready for vagina class until Mrs. Chastity Belt Walker shows up to yell at them in the lobby like a Westerosian shame-bell ringer. "If you continue to harass my class, I will be forced to call the police," says Valerie, and drags her into the kitchen to get her to shut up. Except Mrs. Walker is not yet ready to shut up! No, not by a long shot! "What, am I to stand by while you corrupt their young minds?!" she howls. "Well, I know how it ends! I've seen with my own eyes!"
Val has had enough. She asks straight out what happened to her sister, Lily. Mrs. Walker is practically shivering, shaking her head, saying she can't possibly tell: "It's too late. As soon as she did it, it was too late." Apparently, Lily committed the ultimate sin of being interested in sex as a teenager: "And once she started, she couldn't stop. Climbing out the window in the middle of the night, at it like a sewer rat until she was ruined. I can still hear her crying when they took her away." Damn. Val, shook, asks where they took her. "Reform school," says Mrs. Walker. "I haven't seen her since." Now Val's kind of mad, actually, that this lady hasn't spoken to her sister once in all these years. "I told you what she was like," Mrs. W says, defensively. "Even if I could find her, why would I want to?" Val brings down the guilt hammer, and rightfully so: "Because she's your family."
Former roommates and eternal BFFs Phyllis Crane and Barbara G. Hereward are careening joyfully arm-in-arm through the streets of Poplar after enjoying a Spanish recital. "As you know, I'm extremely partial to Spanish guitar music," Phyllis sighs. Barbara says, actually, she thought the guitarist was rather partial to Phyllis: "He kept looking your way!" Phyllis nods, sagely: "Indeed! The poor chap had a lazy eye." This beautiful moment is rudely interrupted by the sight of smoke coming out of Mrs. Davidson's shop.
It's on fire! The two nurses run there trying to rouse the house. Phyllis is unable to put the fire out and runs upstairs to save the family while Barbara calls the fire brigade. Phyllis is barely able to get them downstairs and out of the building to safety before getting trapped by a falling ladder. Barbara rushes to get a fireman, and Phyllis is saved. "It'll take more than a little thing like a fire to finish me off," Phyllis croaks, as Barbara cries with relief. "Where is everyone? Is any medical attention required?" Oh, Phyllis Crane, stalwart nurse legend. Barbara says yes, Phyllis is the one who needs medical attention, since she is probably in shock and has inhaled a lot of smoke. "Oh, bother," Phyllis says, coughing up a lung.
Later, Barbara finally arrives home to find Tom, worried. "Where have you been?" he asks, seeing she is covered in soot. She says she'll explain later, and that they have some guests, and goes to prep the bedroom for all the Davidsons to bunk together. "You'll need my help," says Tom, which...um, thanks? Like, don't announce how great you are at helping -- just help.
Meanwhile, at St. Cuthbert's, the good times are finally rolling. Sister Monica Joan and Mrs. Valentine are having...a sing-along, and it is the cutest thing of all time. Finishing up a rousing "Oh, Lord, Abide With Me," Mrs. Valentine says it's Sister MJ's turn to choose the next song. "The one you taught me," Sister MJ says, excitedly. "My new favorite." Mrs. Valentine tells her to start it, and they kick off a lovely chorus of "You Are My Sunshine." This is my new fave duo -- not just on Call The Midwife, but in any capacity. Forget you, Lennon and McCartney! Key and Peele! Now it's Valentine and...uh, Christ?
At the flat, Barbara has finally gotten the kids to sleep. Tom says he's never letting her out of his sight again, but Barbara assures him that she was never in danger, and that Phyllis was the real hero. They are finally relaxing when Mrs. Davidson peeks her head around the corner and calmly announces that her waters have broken and she's having pains. I know the Irish have a reputation for being dramatic people, but Mrs. Davidson's life is out of control right now.
Back with the new Simon and Garfunkel over here, things have taken a wistful turn. "You were blessed with your family," Sister Monica Joan is saying. "My people were cold fish." Mrs. V tells her it ain't all fun and games: "The kids bring me their troubles, and I wear 'em. And Albie looks cheery enough, but he never got over us losing our youngest in the war. Some days, he takes to his bed, and all I can do is hold him till he stops bawling." Y'all. LIFE IS HARD. And old people speaking truth is the thing to make me for real cry this week and it's too much. Mrs. V asks Sister Monica Joan if she didn't ever want a fella. "Jason held a fleeting appeal," she answers. "But Odysseus was my one true love." Mrs. Valentine: "Local boy, was he?" MRS. VALENTINE 2020. Sister Monica Joan says he felt local to her. "But you chose the church," Mrs. V surmises. Sister Monica Joan sighs: "I chose a life of service and study. And the freedom to pursue both. For me, marriage would have been a jail."
Barbara, who was just trying to have a night of flamenco delights, has now assisted in the rescue of a family from a devastating fire; believed she was watching her friend die; and is currently helping a grieving woman deliver a baby in Barbara's own bed. Oops, scratch that. Because it's Mrs. Davidson we're talking about, it's actually a baby and THEN, just as Dr. Turner arrives, A SURPRISE SECOND BABY. LORD. Life is beautiful and everything, but can Mrs. D catch an easy break somewhere? Anywhere. No, she cannot. She's shocked and exhausted, and so is Barbara, but now they have to labor together with Dr. Turner's (minimal) help, a second time! It's boy/girl twins and they're both awesome, and so are Mrs. Davidson and the wonderful Barbara.
In the middle of all this, Mrs. Walker, defender of hymens, has found a photo of her sister and slipped it through the mailslot of Nonnatus House, asking for Valerie's help. They discuss it all over cigarettes back Mrs. Walker's flat, where she admits that Valerie was right: "Whatever she did, she's still my sister. And she shouldn't be out there with me not knowing where she is." She says that since her mother never stopped threatening her with that reform school, Lark Hill, she still knows the name and guesses that's where she'll start trying to find out where Lily went after she left. Upon hearing the name of the place, Valerie's face falls. "It was never a reform school," Valerie says. "It was a mental asylum."
Valerie, because she is good, goes with Mrs. Walker to the awful place, where she sees a woman her age dancing slowly in the middle of the room. "Lily?" she says. "You still love to dance." The stern warden points out another woman, sitting sadly against the wall, and tells Mrs. Walker that actually this is Lily. The woman is practically gray, with blank, vacant eyes. In short order, they get the extremely grim news. Lily was admitted in 1938 at age fifteen, with a diagnosis of "moral insanity," because her family thought she was too interested in sex. Val is pissed. "And the doctors here just took their word for it?" she asks, through gritted teeth. "Lily was pregnant when she was admitted," the warden continues, to Mrs. Walker's great shock. "The child was adopted. Lily still talks about him." Val and Mrs. Walker are having trouble even processing this nightmare. "She was put in here for one mistake?" Val asks. Mrs. W follows up with the essential question: "Why is she still here?" The warden lowers the boom. "As I say, Miss Ellingham never really got over giving up her child for adoption," she says. Val's about to die with the reality of the situation. "If she wasn't mentally disturbed when she was admitted," she asks, "she is now?" It's awful.
Sister Monica Joan is still recovering at St. C's with her new bestie by her side. They listen patiently while Sister Winifred does quite a lovely reading of Keats's "Ode On Melancholy," until finally Mrs. Valentine has her fill: "That Keats fella don't half write some codswallop! You want to read a proper writer like Gwendolyn de la Riche." Sister Winifred doesn't think she's familiar with her. "Course you are!" crows Mrs. Valentine. "Caribbean Kisses? Doctor's Delight? Call yourself educated women!" I believe those books were later adapted for Lifetime. If not, they should be. When Mrs. Valentine slides a book out from beneath her covers, Sister Winifred's eyes light up.
Back at Lark Hill, Mrs. Walker is awkwardly reuniting with her long-lost sister. Lily is struggling to recognize her, staring at the picture. "I'm your sister," Mrs. Walker tells her, pointing to herself in the old photo. "Maureen. Mo." Now Lily remembers. "Where's your hair-ribbons?" she asks, in a fog. Mrs. Walker says it's been a long time since she wore those. She apologizes for not knowing Lily was in this place all this time, or about Lily's baby. Her parents never told her, even when she was old enough to understand. "I'm sorry," she says, wiping away a tear. "I might have been able to help you." Lily says that Maureen was always a good little girl. SO SAD. Mrs. Walker shows Lily a picture of Elizabeth, telling her, "You've got a niece. I always thought she took after you more than me. Although there's a touch of my husband in there as well." Lily smiles, though it's difficult for her. "You were lucky," she says. "Baby...husband." Mrs. Walker says she wasn't so lucky in that last department. Her husband left, because she couldn't be intimate with him, no matter how badly she wanted to: "Mum always said girls who like it...end up in trouble." Oh, bless. They're really clanging on this anvil, but it's still terribly sad. When the warden comes in and calls visiting time over, Lily suddenly begs Maureen not to go. "We'll come back," Maureen promises. "Now I know where you are."
Resting now at the maternity home, Mrs. Davidson is startled to hear from Barbara that the shop was completely destroyed. "I could lose my children," she says. "I have no home. I have no means of making a living." Barbara takes her hand, obviously worried as well.
In Val's room at Nonnatus House, she and Lucille are sadly reviewing the Walker situation, deeming it a waste of two lives. "Lily was damned because she did," says Val, shrugging in resignation. "Her sister was damned because she didn't." Lucille apologizes for ever doubting the importance of the Health & Relationships classes, though Val notes that she's not sure those classes would have helped either of the two sisters. "Perhaps not," says Lucille. "But with a little knowledge, they might have made different choices." Bless this whole sad story. Sex education. How is it STILL so hard? It's HEALTH, for God's sake.
It's happening for real this time! Shelagh sits by Sister Monica Joan's bedside in anticipation as the bandages are removed from Sister MJ's eyes, and her new glasses are put in place. Everybody is holding their breath -- including me, original hater of this arc, now a full convert. Success! Sister Monica Joan is, in a word, overjoyed. "Oh! It's a miracle!" she says, in tears. "It's a miracle worthy of the name!" Hooray!
Fred's in the Nonnatus ready room, allegedly fixing something when Barbara comes in to talk about the Davidson fire, which officials believe was caused by a cigarette. "The flat is mainly smoke-damaged, which is bad enough," he says. "But the shop needs gutting." And in further Classic Davidson news: there was no insurance. Neither of them can stand to think of this woman, who barely had anything before, now being left with nothing, her children in care. "I can do something," Fred says. "I'll have a word with the fellas at the [Civil Defense Corps]. We'll see her right." I know it's rare for me to say this, but: YAY, FRED.
Later, Barbara and Phyllis are sorting out clothes for the newest Davidsons, who I HOPE keep the drama in their lives to a minimum and do not go into the family line. Now, Barbara says, they just need to find some stuff for the older children. Oh, I'm sorry, Barbara -- did you forget this was Phyllis CRANE you were talking to? It's obviously in hand. "I made an emergency appeal to the Cubs to ask their mothers for any appropriate hand-me-downs," says Phyllis, indicating a big stack of neatly folded clothes. "Early results are very promising." Barbara is amazed at the haul. Phyllis explains that there's quite a lot of competition between the sixers. The Parakeet division is currently in the lead. "Tommy Parker, their sixer -- a charming boy, but devoid of scruples," says Phyllis, holding up a pair of white turn-downs. "I saw his little sister going off to school this morning in shoes but no socks!" So cute.
Can I take this opportunity to say one small thing? Nearly fifteen years ago, my husband and I lost everything in a fire. Some of you long-time recap addicts may remember it. Anyway, many people helped us, but even in the days before Facebook and GoFundMe campaigns and all that, it was our internet community that -- I'm not exaggerating -- saved us, including the wonderful people who operate and read this site. We'll never stop being grateful.
While Mrs. Davidson convalesces in the maternity home with her new twins, her own community saves her. The CDC builds the shop back, and the midwives get it stocked and ready -- better than it was before, even. Reunited with all her children, Mrs. Davidson is greatly moved.
If y'all thought Sister Winifred was good at reading Keats, you should hear her lay down some de la Riche. Ooh la la. We've been wondering all this time where her true talents lie; now we know. "'And there, under a Caribbean sun that was as hot as the fire burning in his loins, Sebastian took her in his arms and kissed her,'" she reads, and I swear to God both Mrs. Valentine and Sister Monica Joan's glasses are fogging up as they listen. Throw away this whole season, but leave me this one small scene and I will be fine.
Mrs. Walker is packing up a box of sundries to take to Lily as Elizabeth watches. When her mother suggests putting in a little note to tell her aunt what she's up to, Elizabeth must hesitate: "I'm not 'up to' anything." Mrs. Walker, having learned the harshest lesson of all time, steels herself, and against every fiber of her being says that the library is open if Elizabeth wants to go. Elizabeth is thrilled.
At some unknown time in the future -- and it must be a while down the road, since she's talking about much the Davidson twins have grown -- Barbara is wrapped up in bed, talking to Tom. Apparently, Mrs. Davidson wants to have a party to thank everyone for their help. The thing is, Barbara has some kind of cold that she's had for a while. Tom goes to make her some tea and toast, but turning back to ask her if she'd prefer marmite, he sees she's basically passed out immediately. He smiles at her sweet, sleeping face.
Who could understand this timeline, because over at the hospital, Sister Monica Joan is just now getting ready to go home. Maybe you stayed on the ward for weeks after cataract surgery back in the day? I don't know. Mrs. Valentine tells her to come down to her family's stall if she fancies a natter, or a free bag of plums. Smiling, Sister Monica Joan says she may take her up on that offer. "You know, at the beginning, I hated calling you Sister," says Mrs V. "Too formal. But now it feels like the most normal thing in the world. Because you are like a sister to me." Sister MJ is moved, and says she feels the same. I'm telling you, these two broads should go on the road. Shelagh wonders who Sister Monica Joan will have for company when she comes back to get the other eye done. "I doubt she'll be as amusing as Mrs. Valentine and her brood," she says. Reflectively, Sister Monica Joan asks Shelagh which side of her nun/non-nun life was best. "Well, neither, and both," Shelagh answers. "We do not choose. We are chosen." Breaking this lovely moment to glance into Sister MJ's bag, Shelagh, to her great shock, finds a copy of Caribbean Kisses. Sister Monica Joan says that it's a souvenir, from a friend, and that Shelagh can take it if she wishes. "I can put it in the maternity home," Shelagh says, nervously. "It will be appreciated there. Though obviously, I'll have to skim it first to check that it's suitable." AW, YEAH.
It's the day of the Davidson party, but Barbara is not well. Like, she is NOT well. Trying to sit up in bed, even she has to admit that her head is splitting. Tom thinks she's been doing too much and that this is the result. He's even hired a nurse to make sure she stays put while he goes to the party and visits a parishioner afterwards. The nurse is, of course, Phyllis. After reassuring Barbara that she's happy to skip the party to sit with her knowing that the Drama-son family is safe and happy, she gives her friend the true once-over and notes that Barbara really is looking rather peaky.
At the party, Tom awkwardly plays with the children while Mrs. Davidson asks for one more favor: for Fred to put the little T. Davidson & Son shingle over the door to the shop. "Maybe one day T. Davidson Jr. will want the shop," she shrugs, indicating the new baby boy. (No word yet on what she named the baby girl, but we'll assume it's Barbara Phyllis). It seems as though Alistair has decided to become an astronaut when he grows up, but surely one or another of these Davidsons will be selling magazines and sweets in Poplar for a long time.
Back at the flat, Phyllis has called Dr. Turner in to look at Barbara. They're worried about her fever, headache, and now a rash on her arms. Barbara tries to say she's fine, but she is decidedly not. When Dr. T asks her to bend her neck, she can't do it. That's a bad sign. "I don't want to pre-empt a diagnosis, but there's definitely an element of septicaemia," Dr. Turner whispers to Phyllis. She already knows. While she runs to call an ambulance, it occurs to Barbara in her haze that she's possibly rather unwell. Dr. T says that the hospital will get her fixed up in no time, though it doesn't seem like he believes it...
...and Dr. T later rushes to get Tom to the hospital. Let me tell y'all something: if Barbara G dies, I will throw this laptop and all its descendants into the ocean! INTO THE OCEAN. We can but watch and wait.