Call the Midwife: Season 7, Episode 6 Recap

Deborah Gilbert | April 22, 2018

Sister Winifred (Victoria Yeates).

Sister Winifred (Victoria Yeates). Photo: Laura Radford

Episode 6 of Call the Midwife was about love and romance stories and all the ways those stories play out. “Happily ever after endings” cannot be stated so finitely – they’re more accurately measured on a spectrum. And even in the depths of tragedy, grief and wasted life, there can be the small glimmers of hope that life and love can be reclaimed (Oy, now I sound like old Jenny narrating, don’t I?)

Here are the 16 essentials of Call the Midwife Season 7, Episode 6.

16. To Quote the Philosopher Ricky Ricardo, “Eye, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi!”

Call the Midwife S7, Episode 6.Sister Monica Joan (JUDY PARFITT) Photo: Laura Radford

We now know Sister Monica Joan didn’t have the cataract surgery yet (we were wondering!). One could say she’s a tad nervous. Actually, she is back in panic mode in anticipation, packing her suitcase a week early, stocking it with food, unsure she’ll be fed at the hospital. On admittance day, she has to be dragged out of Nonnatus House (pretty much) kicking and screaming. (She looked exactly the way I do when I have to get on an airplane.)

Shelagh delivers her to the hospital where her stress level gets bumped up even higher when her very boisterous roommate, Maudie Valentine, rolls in with her equally boisterous hubby, Albie. Sister Monica Joan is trying to calm her nerves with some peace, solitude and prayer but her roommate seems to think cataract surgery is cause for a knees up – and a bit of TMI. Albie tells them that the Nonnatuns delivered all their kids so while they might not remember her face, they’ll surely recognize her other end. Shelagh and Sister Monica Joan clutch their pearls in unison. Maudie goes on to laugh that after six kids, she stood up one day to get a cup of tea and her hoo-ha fell into her knickers. She can’t see the horrified looks on the good sisters’ faces at that image she just put in their heads. Oh great, something else for Sister Monica Joan to worry about!

FYI: Knees Up. Knees up is Cockney slang for party. It comes from the old pub song “Knees Up Mother Brown” which dates to the end of World War I, and later became a pop hit during World War II. Both the song and the traditional dance that goes with it were the inspiration for the number “Step in Time” from Mary Poppins. Here’s Petula Clark performing the original (with the dance) on a British variety show from the 60’s.

15. Alive and Kicking

When the porter and nurse come to take Sister Monica Joan to the operating theater, she pleads that she’s changed her mind. Resigned that she’s going in anyway, she asks them to pray for her immortal soul. When she awakes from anesthesia, Sister Julienne is there to greet her – and Sister Monica Joan’s first words to her? A very relieved, “I’m alive!” Sister Julienne reminds her to keep still until she heals, and explains how they have her hemmed in to prevent her rolling over in bed onto her stitched eye. She doesn’t care; in fact she has no cares at all. She just keeps repeating her new mantra, “I’m alive!”

FYI: Wakey-Wakey. Sister Monica Joan’s reaction to awakening from surgery reminds me of a story I’ve never forgotten, told to me by my high school art teacher: She was in the hospital to give birth to her daughter, and when she was coming out of the anesthesia (that was common in the 50’s), all the TVs were on, tuned in to Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation. Still groggy as she was waking up (my teacher, not the Queen), she heard all the choirs singing and thought she had died and had arrived at Heaven’s Gates. She panicked thinking, “Oh no! The Christians were right, now I’ll never get in!”

14. Sing Out Sisters

Late at night, post-surgery, carefree roommate Maudie has a turnabout; she wakes up screaming from a nightmare thinking she can’t move because of the way she is bound by her bedsheets, and because of her eye patch, she’s afraid she can’t see. Now that she has awoken and rejoined the land of the living, Sister Monica Joan is suddenly Sister Monica Pollyanna. She is even loving her jaunty Napoleanic eye patch. The roles between her and Maudie have reversed; now it is she who must allay the fears of her now frightened roommate. She tries help Maudie travel through the custody of her mind’s eye and (essentially, like Tinkerbell) think good thoughts, but all the literal-minded Maudie can picture is custard. The dessert-loving Sister goes with it and says she can picture the delicious custard too.

They sing the dark away like they’re having a few pints at their local. This night truly breaks the ice and they begin to talk and share their lives and feelings. Sister Monica Joan tells Maudie she is blessed to have her family, that her own family were cold fish. Maudie tells her that, appearances to the contrary, it isn’t all party all the time; they have their troubles including losing their youngest in the war which still, some days, leaves Albie in bed sobbing. She asks the sister about choosing the Church: “Did you never want a fella?” Sister Monica Joan says that there was Jason and Odysseus, but what she chose was service, study, and freedom; that marriage would have been a jail for her.

13. #GreatReadPBS

Call the Midwife S7, Episode 6. Sister Winifred (Victoria Yeates). Photographer: Laura Radford

As Sister Winifred reads Sister Monica Joan’s beloved Keats to her by her bedside, neighbor Maudie is quite vocal that the hoity-toity poetry is not to her tastes. She prefers the classics like Caribbean Kisses by someone named Gwendolyn de la Rich — and she happens to have a copy with her. Sister Winifred, who has a bit of sparkling mischief in her soul, now sits bedside reading to them from the steamy Caribbean Kisses. (Thoroughly!) No more of that highbrow stuff — and someone please open a window, it’s getting hot in here!

FYI: “Local boys” Jason and Odysseus. Sister Monica Joan’s crushes, Jason and Odysseus, were heroes ancient Greek literature. Odysseus (AKA Ulysses) was the King of Ithaca, known for his intellect, who featured in Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad. Jason appeared in numerous works including Medea. He was the leader of the Argonauts, who searched for the Golden Fleece, the symbol of authority that would allow him to take his rightful inherited throne. Medea worked with him, agreeing to help him if he’d take her away and marry her. It was, essentially, a highbrow romance novel like Caribbean Kisses.

12. Both Sides Now

It’s time for the bandages to come off and glasses go on and wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, not only is Sister Monica Joan alive, she can see! She displays a giddy joy like we’ve never seen before. Maudie’s surgery was successful as well. As they say goodbye Maudie tells the Sister she feels like a new sister for her now, and hopes they’ll stay in touch. For her part, Sister Monica Joan doubts that whatever roommate she has when she comes back to get her other eye done will be as terrific as Knees Up Maudie. How many of you saw these two and envisioned a spin-off where Maudie and Monica become a wacky crime-fighting duo? I say the BBC has to make this happen!

Her chats with Maudie (and maybe Caribbean Kisses) have caused Sister Monica Joan to wonder. When Shelagh comes to take her home, she asks the ex-nun what she thinks about her choices — because Shelagh has seen the life from both sides. She wants to know, was one choice better than the other? Shelagh says she doubts that, and says you don’t choose; you are chosen. She is then distracted by the copy of Caribbean Kisses in Sister Monica Joan’s luggage, a souvenir from her roommate. She offers to lend it to Shelagh, who says it would be nice for the maternity hospital library – but, of course, she will have to read it first, only to make sure it is suitable for the expectant mothers, don’t you know. She guiltily tucks it in her handbag.

11. Fresh Start, Dead Stop

There is a new family in Poplar, and they sure know how to make an entrance! We meet Terry and the very pregnant Pearl Davidson as Terry swerves his car (with their belongings tied to the roof) through the streets, narrowly missing his new neighbors, on their way to the tobacco shop they just bought, sight unseen, for a new start in a new country. Their two kids in the back seat are giving the “when do we get there?” whine, and ask how they know they won’t be living in the Catholic bit. Terry answers that it doesn’t matter now; in London everyone lives all mixed up altogether.

Once arrived, Fred is the first new neighbor to make their acquaintance. When he notes the Irish accent, Terry says, they are Northern Irish and reflexively, defensively asks, “Is that a problem?” Fred assures him no; as long as he carries his favorite racing form they’ll be best buds.

While Pearl and the kids start getting settled, and before even unloading their belongings, Terry says he’ll nip out to the chippy for some grub. We hear a lot about the dangers of texting while driving, but no one ever talks about the dangers of eating fish & chips while driving. We know where this is going before it even happens and… squeal of brakes, boom, fade to black… and Tom and a policeman, hat in hand, come looking for the family of Matthew Craw… I mean, Terry Davidson.

10. Proud Mary

Fred Buckle (CLIFF PARISI), Violet Buckle (ANNABELLE APSION). Photographer: Laura Radford

Fred sees the Davidsons as they are heading out for Terry’s funeral and offers his condolences. He tells Pearl he’s been in her shoes. He lost his first wife and was left with two kids (but, as far as we know, he wasn’t pregnant). Fred and Violet try to befriend and help, but Pearl is proud and won’t admit she needs help – even from Dr. Turner, after he inquires whether there is family to assist her; she says she has none. She will, however, accept the standard midwife home visit to prep for home delivery, where she admits to Midwife Barbara that she’s left up the duff without a penny, and that she is conflicted; she hates her husband for leaving her there on her own, and hates herself for feeling that way about her lifelong love. Barbara comforts her and helps her get organized, but also asks if she can go back to Northern Ireland. Pearl says they can’t go back.

9. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Pearl Davidson (KELLY CAMPBELL). Photographer: Laura Radford

Pearl is pregnant… and smoking. So odd, from our 2018 vantage point, to see pregnant women and doctors in their offices, smoking. Even though we saw it growing up, I still can’t get used to seeing it again, can you?

8. Our Bodies Ourselves

Val and Lucille have a new community health education assignment: teaching the teen girls of Poplar about the birds and the bees and their bodies (but only with parental permission). Nurse Anderson is uncomfortable with it, especially with unmarried girls learning about tampons, which is kind of odd, considering she’s a nurse. At the meeting, Val explains all about periods as Lucille holds up sanitary belt. (Remember those belts??? Yeesh!) Is this how Vanna White got started? The PMS fighting duo also dispel nutty how-to-not-get-pregnant fallacies given them by uninformed schoolmates.

7. Footloose

All goes well until one day a Mrs. Walker turns up to pick up her daughter Elizabeth, and (because class ran long) comes inside, concerned, and sees one of the female body diagrams. She pitches a fit, accusing them of peddling filth as Elizabeth tells her she ruins everything and stomps off. It turns out naturally curious Elizabeth forged her signature on the parental permission slip and has been hiding the true nature of this community center activity. Mrs. Walker is incandescent with rage that girls are being exposed to this because she knows what lies ahead – dancing! She saw it happen to her own sister, who was ruined, and she will not stop until she sees to it that these porn classes are banned all over the borough. And your little dog, too!

There is something about Mrs. Walker that is beyond over-protective mommy; her daughter is practically a hostage. She can’t go anywhere, not even to the library anymore because her mum caught her there, reading a romance novel. When Val and Lucille visit the unrelenting Mrs. Walker to explain they didn’t know the permission slip was forged, Lucille asks Elizabeth about her mum’s sister. She says all she knows it that her name is Auntie Lily.

Even though Elizabeth is not at the next health class, Mrs. Walker turns up to the community center to harass the girls there, screaming “whores!” as Lucille ushers them into another room. Val tells her if she doesn’t leave the girls alone, she will call police, but Mrs. Walker says she’ll call them herself. Val gives her right a talking to. She wants to know what happened to her sister. From the answer, what we can discern is that her older sister started having sex in the alley and was dragged away (screaming) to reform school, never to be seen or heard from again. Val asks why she doesn’t know what happened to her, and Mrs. Walker asks why should she? Val answers, “because she’s your family!”

6. Lost and Found

Something in what Val said got through and caused Mrs. Walker to pull out an old childhood picture of her and her sister together. She leaves a note at Nonnatus House’s door and runs away. When Val responds, she says she has had second thoughts about her sister and decided to try to find her. She tells Val she’ll start by contacting the reform school she was taken to, Larkhill. Maybe they’ll know where she went after she left there. But Val is familiar with the name Larkhill; it was never a reform school. It was a mental asylum.

They visit Larkhill and there she is, long-“lost” sister Lily. At first, neither sister recognizes the other. But after a bit of coaxing and explanation, Lily recognizes the woman in front of her as little sister Maureen (Mo). Back in the office, the nurse/adminitrator tells Mrs. Walker that Lily was admitted in 1938, at the age of fifteen for “moral insanity,” (i.e.; her parents thought she was boy crazy), and she has been there all these years. She was pregnant when she arrived and the baby was taken away to be adopted. Mrs. Walker wants to know why she wasn’t released when she came of age, and the nurse says Lily never got over being forced to give up her baby and still speaks about him. Val puts two and two together and states what the nurse cannot/will not: Lily was not mentally ill when she arrived at Larkhill but her treatment there made her so — and there she has remained, abandoned.

5. Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

Maureen tells Lily she never knew she was there, that she would have helped if she had known. Lily remembers her sister Mo as a good little girl and wants to know where her hair ribbons are. She tells her sister she gave those up years ago, and shows her a picture of her own little girl, Elizabeth. Lily says she’s lucky to have a husband and daughter, but Maureen laments about her own ruined life. She tells Lily he left her because she couldn’t be as close to him as he wanted. She couldn’t because their parents drummed it into her that girls who like it too much get in trouble, which clearly sparks a memory in Lily. Visiting time is over way too soon. Lily doesn’t want her to go, but Maureen assures her that she’ll be back. We later see Mrs. Walker putting together a care package to take to her sister. And it seems that from seeing what her parents’ attitudes had done to her sister, and also to her, she loosens up the reigns on Elizabeth. She can go back to the library (and maybe even read Caribbean Kisses). Will renewed contact be able to pull Lily back to sanity and the outside world? Or is she to remain locked up there for life? One hopes we revisit this family in the future to find out.

FYI: Larkhill. Larkhill was a Victorian mental asylum, built in 1852, known for electroshock therapy. At the time, conditions such as depression and post-natal depression were classed as a mental illness and treated the same as schizophrenia, with electroshock therapy and sometimes lobotomies. Larkhill became part of the NHS system in 1948 and in the 1960’s its name was changed to St. John’s Hospital. It closed in 1990 and its remaining patients dispersed to other institutions. The foreboding building sat abandoned for 20 years, until real estate developers turned it into condos. Construction was halted temporarily when surveyors unearthed skeletal remains in the one and a half acre cemetery for patients who never escaped. The site has been searched by ghost hunters who says it’s haunted.

4. She Can Bring Home The Bacon And Fry It Up At The Corner Shop

Now that Barbara and Tom are back, she rejoins the Nonnatus House midwife team while simultaneously trying to be the Poplar’s answer to Martha Stewart. She is a whirling dervish, houseworking her fingers to the bone because she fears people will think she’s a terrible wife if Tom goes out into the world with a wrinkle in his shirt. And on top of everything else, she’s got her curate’s wife duties.

Pearl Davidson (KELLY CAMPBELL), Nurse Barbara Hereward (CHARLOTTE RITCHIE). Photo: Laura Radford

As she and Nurse Crane walk back home after a girls’ night out concert, they see the Davidson’s shop on fire. Having done Pearl’s home visits, Barbara know they live above the shop. She calls for the fire brigade while Nurse Crane breaks a window and runs in to save them. By the time Pearl wakes and finally answers Nurse Crane’s frantic door knocks, the fire has grown. Nurse Crane wants to lower the children out the windows, but they are blocked. There’s no way out other than back downstairs through the engulfed shop. You’d think that the dark cloud following this family could let loose with a downpour to douse the flames but no such luck. A flaming ladder leaning against the wall falls over onto Nurse Crane and for a few tense moments we thought she was a goner. Barbara gets the fire brigade to go in after her and out she comes – she’s OK. Phew!

3. Troubles Doubled

Barbara arrives back home to worried Tom with the now-homeless Davidsons in tow. They’ll bunk in with her and Tom — and they get settled not a moment too soon; Pearl announces her water just broke. Luckily there is a midwife in residence! One has to wonder how many carpets these poor people in Poplar go through with water breaking all over the place, all the time. In labor, Pearl is enduring a roller coaster of emotions thinking about her late husband and how he’d been there at her other deliveries. She is sad because Terry’s not there, and exhausted. Barbara delivers the baby, it’s a girl! Dr. Turner shows up to consult but sees everything is in hand and is about to leave when Barbara tells him, hold on there a minute bunky, there’s another bambino coming down the turnpike: It’s twins! Pearl isn’t sure she has the energy to deliver another but Barbara assures her she does. And it’s boy to complete the set. Mrs. Davidson is quite the overachiever.

But with the joy comes both sadness and real fear. The fire damage was extensive and there was no insurance on the shop. Pearl is left a widow with four kids, no home, no job and not a dime in the bank. Her older two kids are in temporary care, and she fears she’ll lose them all permanently. That’s when Super Fred mobilizes his old Civil Defense Corp buddies, and the whole community steps in to rebuild shop. Barbara brings Pearl and her twins home to a lovely surprise: a reunion with her kids and a newly renovated and stocked shop. She plans to throw a party to thank them all.

2. Clammy On A Half Shell

We thought we’d dodged the proverbial flaming ladder but as it turns out there’s another one to fall. Barbara starts feeling ill, bit by bit. It starts with sniffles. She thinks she has a cold, but it gets worse. Luckily, Tom asks Nurse Crane to babysit while he goes out to Pearl’s thank you party (only to make sure Barbara stays in bed resting) and on his curate rounds. Barbara has a splitting headache, and is hot and clammy. Concerned, Nurse Crane calls Dr. Turner. When he pulls back the blanket and sees she is covered in a rash, he is alarmed. He asks her if she can bend neck. She can’t. He doesn’t want to jump the gun, but he thinks it’s septicemia. They call an ambulance, and Barbara finally admits she is feeling “rather unwell.” Quite understated, and very British. Dr. Turner waits for Tom to return and takes him to the hospital.

FYI: Septicemia. Septicimia is blood poisoning caused when a bacterial infection in another part of the body enters the blood stream (it could be something as simple as a urinary tract infection). It progresses very quickly and can lead to organ failure and death. Because of how quickly it moves, there often isn’t time to look for the source of the infection, so it is treated with large doses of a range of antibiotics.

1. Off A Cliff Hanger

Oy, that was some cliff hanger! And the previews of coming attractions for next week look like it will be another edge of your seat episode. Will Barbara make it? She has to pull through; we’ve already lost Jenny, Cynthia, Chummy, Patsy, Delia, Sister Evangelina and (at least temporarily) Trixie. The Call the Midwife writers are chasing more people from the East End than the Luftwaffe! And what about the babies she just delivered and carried into their new home? Will this infection have ramifications for them as well? Tune in next week; same bat time, same bat channel!

What did you think Nonatuns? Join the conversation in the comments below or tweet using the hashtag #MidwifePBS. Watch Call the Midwife episodes and behind-the-scenes clips.

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