Every season, the Drama After Dark team gathers ‘round the conference room table to watch the latest and greatest in British dramas. We're thrilled to be bringing you coverage of perennial PBS favorite, Call The Midwife. This show has everything: hard-working nurses, sassy nuns, and gut-wrenching emotional trauma that somehow keeps you wanting more. I’m here to recap the season as it happens just in case you, dear reader, miss an episode and haven’t yet been able to catch up on WGBH Passport.
It's spring in Poplar, and you know what that means: it's time for Phyllis to visit the school to see its community garden and check on their vaccinations. It's kind of cool that they can just make every student follow a heavily tested life-saving protocol; makes you think! Today we meet two new students: brothers called Rahul and Jalal. These adorable scamps just recently emigrated from Sylhet in East Pakistan, and have a great grasp of English thanks to their mom. Their vaccination records are a little funky, and while Phyllis can see that they've got scarring consistent with vaccinations it's impossible to say what for. Thankfully, Phyllis LOVES to follow up on things, so they should be all set.
At the Turner's surgery, Shelagh jumps at a chance to corner Trixie. Here's the deal: our friends are trying to raise the money to get an incubator for the surgery, and while they started off strong, the effort has petered out. Shelagh wants to get the whole community involved but isn't sure how. Why should we care? Miss Higgins explains: if they have their own incubator, they won't have to refer as many women to St. Cuthbert's, and they'll be able to stay in the community (a real theme this season). Trixie, of course, agrees to help out.
Don't worry, we haven't seen the last of Rahul and Jalal: Phyllis tells their teacher that she's concerned because they look a little underfed and have shabby clothes. Have we met their mother? Oddly, no: the teacher says that usually families emigrate as a unit, so it's weird that mom is still an unknown quantity. Dad brought the kids on the first day, but they've taken themselves ever since. Simpler times!
Over at Nonnatus, the show writers are gearing up for the big emotional manipulation of this episode: the nuns are atwitter with excitement because Cyril has planned a special surprise date for Lucille. Am I very invested in their love story? YES. Will I riot if something tragic and horrible happens to them? ALSO YES. Do I really want a cute overdone proposal moment despite personally despising that sh*t? HECK YES.
Next up on Shelagh's list of people to ask about this incubator thing? Violet, who it turns out is a bit busy between the council stuff and the spring rush on clothes alterations. But don't worry, Violet isn't too busy to help out, and she's already found a matching fund that will double any donations they get. She also suggests that they do a fashion show, since Trixie is involved and clearly the most bougie of them all. Shelagh of course loves this idea, but points out the big dilemma: where will we get the clothes?
It's time for Lucille and Cyril's date, but she's a little busy coaching a mom through a speed-run three-hour delivery. Don't worry, it's still going to be a fun night because Sister Monica Joan, the founder of the Cyril Appreciation Society, lets him into the house, congratulates him on his exams, and asks him leading questions about his intentions for tonight which only she can get away with.
Upstairs, Trixie is KonMari-ing her wardrobe and wearing a truly bonkers era-appropriate color bomb of an outfit.
Trixie: Ugh this stuff is OLD.
Sister Frances: I mean, donate it to the fashion show?
Trixie: I would if any of it was fashionable.
They're particularly excited about the cool new fashion coming out these days, including a cute outfit Val finds in a magazine.
Trixie: You should get it, that would look cute on you!
Val: Alas, I make a pauper's wage and would have to save for a month.
Trixie, having finished her clothes purge, moves on to Val's stuff.
Trixie: You haven't worn this in ages.
Val, a hoarder: I'm keeping it for special occasions!
Trixie: Let's raise the hemline!
Frances, also apparently a fan of Project Runway: And we can put the sleeves from this other dress on it!
Val’s into it, but might just be humoring them. Trixie, however, has it all figured out: this will be the theme for the fashion show!
And speaking of humoring your friends, downstairs, Cyril is politely chatting with Monica Joan about her favorite topic: television. Clearly a bunch of time has passed, because Cyril has been able to explain the rules of cricket, the world's most boring sport, to MJ. Lucille finally arrives just as Cyril has decided to leave. She’s sorry she’s late, but also a g-d professional who wouldn't leave a laboring mom! Cyril, a prince among men, is pretty much ok with it. Lucille tries to reschedule for tomorrow but he’s got evening class, and can’t skip. He’ll think of something! Reader, if we don’t get a proposal soon I’ll be miffed as hell.
The next morning, Sister Julienne delivers some news with breakfast: one of the ward sisters at St. Cuthbert's is sick, and they need someone to come supervise the newbies until she’s better. Julienne deputizes Lucille: she'll be a good teacher, and she'll benefit from experiencing the larger hospital situation. Lucille, who's always up for a challenge, hands Phyllis her super long list of patients, and heads out the door. Val razzes her about it a bit, and Lucille confides that she’s worried about how she’ll get to see Cyril with the new schedule.
Val, sanguine: I'm not worried! Also worst case scenario, Monica Joan will keep him entertained.
At the surgery, Phyllis pokes around in the records, asks if they’re up to date, and then quickly apologizes to Miss Higgins, because OBVIOUSLY they’re up to date. Phyllis is looking for Mrs. Mohammed, the mom of the kids we met earlier, with the added challenge of not knowing her name. Miss Higgins confirms that the kids are super well-behaved, registered recently, and dad brought them in, which makes Phyllis even more convinced that mom’s still in Pakistan. She gets a little gender essentialist about the responsibilities of childcare, but it’s the 60s so I guess I’ll give her a pass. The good news is that Miss Higgins has their address, so Phyllis heads off to make a house call.
One of the kids answers the door, and Phyllis finagles her way into the flat. We learn two things immediately: one, the flat smells heinous, and two, Phyllis is a pretty good improviser, because she covers her gag and handkerchief grasp by saying she’s got a cold. Despite Phyllis's worries, mom is right there, and she doesn’t look happy. She immediately asks them why the kids let someone in, and we don't need the subtitles to see that the gospel of stranger danger is alive and well in this household. Phyllis doesn’t mess around, and sends the kids to play outside while she has a chat with mom. It's time for the medical mystery of the week: mom appears to have an open wound on her foot and fresh urine stains on her clothes. If I'm right about the diagnosis, I really feel for her: this is a doozy.
Lucille’s off to her first day at the hospital, and let me tell you, her first patient is a real jerk. This gal refuses to believe Lucille is in charge, belittles her, talks around her as if she’s not there; all in all, she's a racist mess. Imagine being mean to the sweetest human person? Ridiculous. She’s also refused to tidy her little area. This gal is on bed rest because her water broke early, but that doesn’t excuse being a jerk.
Back at the Mohammed’s house, Phyllis comes right out and says it: she's worried Mrs. Mohammed isn't getting to the toilet fast enough and that she might have an infection. Obviously this is just a horribly embarrassing situation, and Mrs. Mohammed (who IMDb tells me is called Farzina) deflects, saying that her kids are clean.
Phyllis, digging for more info: Well, when does your husband get home from work?
Farzina: He lives with friends now.
Phyllis and Me:
Phyllis: Glossing over *that* revelation, have you been outside at all?
Farzina: I can’t, I’m dirty.
Phyllis: Ok, that’s not true at all. You have nothing to be ashamed of, this is a medical issue!
Farzina tells Phyllis she knows the smell is bad because her husband told her. When she gets up to try and shoo Phyllis out of the apartment, she has another accident, and immediately starts apologizing. Phyllis, ever a champ, sends Farzina off to change while she cleans up. Phyllis will leave, for now, but she'll be back, because this is a medical issue, and she's a nurse, dang it!
At St. Cuthberts, the hits keep coming for Lucille. Her next patient is an overwhelmed young gal who’s having trouble breastfeeding. She's freaking out and very concerned that she doesn’t have enough time to learn. Lucille, the human embodiment of sunshine, immediately sets her at ease, saying she'll help while the patient is in hospital, and asking about her support system at home. Here's the deal: the patient's mom is coming to stay, but she's not sure she'll be any help because neither of them know anything about infant care: our patient was adopted as a toddler. Lucille reassures her that she’s not letting anyone down and it’s ok to learn a new thing, then brings out the hard drugs: a strong cup of tea.
Project Runway: Poplar ahoy! The squad has started to sort through donated clothes to figure out how they can be updated into stylish swinging 60s gear. Lest you assume they're not considering marketing, they also come up with a bomb tagline: "Style on a Shoestring." And speaking of stylish, Lucille is heading out on a date with Cyril and wearing a truly baller outfit that I very much want to own. I'm glad they rescheduled that date, and that Lucille has adjusted to #SidecarLife.
Phyllis gives Dr. Turner the lowdown on Farzina Mohammed: Phyllis couldn't do a full examination, but her skin is wrecked all the way down her leg, and the whole flat smells horribly of urine. Apparently, that sort of thing can be caused by a severe, untreated UTI (thanks for the horrible revelation, Dr. Turner), but it's probably something worse. Phyllis and Dr. Turner make a plan: they'll drop by Farzina's house after clinic tomorrow so they can hopefully convince her to come into the clinic for an exam.
Lucille and Cyril's date? Very nice! He's taken her to a cafe where the food looks like it might actually have some flavor.
Lucille is delighted: the food tastes like home! Cyril destroys the Best Boyfriend competition, telling her that he's missed her, but that working hard and kicking butt is why they're here; certainly not for the weather (ZING). Lucille tells him about the annoying racist lady at the hospital, and Cyril commiserates and then does this:
Cyril: I'm so proud of you. You're taking on a new challenge. I should be brave about something I want, too.
Lucille: Like what?
Me: YEAH LIKE WHAT?
Cyril, with a curve-ball: Uh I actually feel called on to preach?
Lucille: That’s so great, I support you!
Is Sister Monica Joan a psychic, or did she will Cyril's calling into being? Hard to say, but either way she is to be respected and possibly feared.
Phyllis heads over to visit Mrs. Mohammed with some extra clothes for the kids, gifted from Shelagh. Farzina isn't looking great, and clearly has a fever, but she perks up when Phyllis holds her hand. Dr. Turner comes in, and does a much worse job covering his reaction to the smell. Farzina, embarrassed, apologizes again, but they both insist it's not a big deal and they're there to help. Dr. Turner asks some questions about the incontinence, and we find out that it started three months ago after the birth of her third child. Long, horrible story short, labor went on for four days with only Farzina's mother-in-law to help. The baby didn't survive, and afterward the family blamed Farzina. Dr. Turner wants to help, but he’ll need to examine her, which is a nonstarter. She's so freaked out she also turns down medicine, which makes the situation very serious: they think she has a bad infection, which could damage her kidneys if it goes untreated. Phyllis doesn't give up, so she stops by school to enlist the help of the boys: she needs to get their dad to help translate, and thankfully, they know where to find him.
Back at St. Cuthberts, the nervous first-time mum is trying to refuse to go home. Lucille gently reminds her that this isn't a hotel, and her bed is needed. It's time to go! Unfortunately, Mrs. Racist is still there, and she's in bad shape. She's clearly in pain and is refusing treatment from Lucille, trying to get her to clean up, instead. Lucille stands up for herself, and Mrs. Racist hops out of bed to better argue with Lucille. Now that she's up, it's clear that she's in labor.
Across town, Trixie stops in to check on worried mom from the hospital. She’s doing a lot better, but her mom, who's here to visit, is not. Should they get a bottle so she can help with feedings? I don't know anything about babies! Trixie calms everyone down, makes some suggestions about how Grandma can help out around the house, and tells them both they're doing great. Hooray for continuity of care!
Meanwhile, Phyllis prepares for her confrontation with Mr. Mohammed. He opens the door and asks the kids two reasonable questions for a school day: what are they doing here, and who’s this lady? You know what though? You don't get a cookie! Take care of your family, sir! Phyllis agrees, and gets right to the point: we need to give your wife medical care, and you need to help convince her to accept help.
At the flat, Phyllis and Dr. Turner have Mr. Mohammed translate for them.
Mr. Mohammed: The doctors say you’re really sick: you need to let him examine you. Also it’s gross here.
Dr. Turner, who doesn’t speak Sylheti but knows some B.S. when he hears it: Stop editorializing! You’ve been through a really bad birth and had a major loss.
Phyllis: You’ve been all alone.
Mrs. Mohammed: YEAH DUDE — you made me come here and then you abandoned me and the kids, wtf?
Mr. Mohammed: I was ashamed.
Mrs. Mohammed: How do you think I feel you CLOWN?
Dr. Turner: We need to stop this from getting worse. Would you let Phyllis examine you while I wait out here?
Phyllis: Your sons need you.
Mr. Mohammed, finally getting his act together: WE need you.
Thankfully, she is convinced. Phyllis tells Farzina that she’ll need to narrate what she’s seeing for Dr. Turner in the next room, so we get a full play by play. Here's the deal: Farzina has bad sores on her legs and vulva, and is actively leaking urine. It's not just a UTI: Farzina has a 2-3 inch vesicovaginal fistula: a hole between her bladder and her vagina. Her urine is dark, probably because she's been trying to avoid drinking fluids so she won't pee, but that's only making the infection and the skin irritation worse. Examination complete, Dr. Turner sits down with Farzina to explain everything, even drawing a handy diagram. The good news is that fistulas can be surgically repaired, and once Phyllis agrees to accompany Farzina to the hospital, she agrees to the surgery. Before they leave, Phyllis puts on the kettle, scrounges up dinner for the boys, and dresses Farzina's wounds: things are looking up!
Back at the hospital, Mrs. Racist is being a brat and trying to tell Lucille that she doesn’t need a wheelchair to be moved to the Labor and Delivery unit, but Lucille isn't taking her crap. They only have to go down one floor, but when Lucille says they'll be there in no time as they enter an elevator, I have a sneaking suspicion she's about to be proven wrong.
The wheelchair isn't very comfortable, and in even worse news, the elevator is stuck. Lucille, always a quick thinker, bangs on the wall to get someone's attention, and tells the nurse outside to go get help. She then starts preparing to deliver the baby in the lift, because she knows just as well as the rest of us that Call The Midwife would eventually add "elevator baby" to the BINGO card. Mrs. Racist is NOT happy. The fire brigade arrives, and while they can break open the door, they can't open the interior cage or shift the elevator down enough to get the ladies out yet.
Need a break from the tension? ME TOO! At The Turner’s house, team Project Runway: Poplar is hard at work sewing and organizing the many donations. Phyllis arrives with last minute donations and the good news about Mrs. Mohammed, and sits down to help price all the items. Val lowballs the price, seemingly just to make Trixie twitch, but Violet saves the day by designating three price tiers. Val also tries on a cute hat. Feeling better? Good, because we're heading back to the HELLEVATOR.
The trainee nurse from earlier is back with a delivery pack, but the firemen won’t let her pass it in; if the lift drops suddenly she could lose a hand, so they will pass the items in instead. They keep trying to open the inner door, but it’s jammed. A couple of guys head upstairs to try and fix the problem from above. As if there wasn't enough drama, this is supposed to be Cyril and Lucille's date night. Don't worry: Monica Joan is ready and waiting to serve as backup date, and the two catch up on TV.
Now that things are getting serious, Mrs. Racist seems more willing to befriend Lucille. She mentions that she's had her other babies at home, and hates the hospital, where she feels infantilized by being told what to do, and then blames her discomfort for how she treated Lucille. Seems like kind of a cop out, but Lucille is prepared to let bygones be bygones since the baby's arrival is imminent. Mrs. Racist is freaking out, but Lucille reminds her that she's had two babies before and will do just fine. Lucille is, as usual, right: we got a baby! Mrs. Racist apologizes, and just in time: the elevator is moving again. WHEW.
Back at the fundraiser headquarters (i.e. Shelagh’s living room) Phyllis is looking for something nice to bring Mrs. Mohammed: you see, Phyllis' mom suffered from incontinence in her old age, and always wanted to look nice. Trixe helps her pick out a pretty piece of material to make a sari.
At Nonnattus house, Sister Monica Joan is waxing poetic about how great the TV is, and how much she enjoys spending time with Cyril.
All's well that ends well: Lucille makes the paper, and deflects attention because she's FAR too humble for how awesome she is. Case in point: she's realized a flaw in their system: when people come back to Poplar from St. Cuthbert's, Nonnatus should get a copy of their chart so they can check in like they did with Worried First Time Mom. Obviously that's a great idea, so Sister Julienne agrees to start setting it up. Lucille also tells Sister Julienne that while she's glad she had a rotation at the hospital, she'll be happy to be back next week in a more informal setting.
While Phyllis takes Farzina to the hospital and gives her her present, Dr. Turner sits down her husband for some real talk: yes, what happened was scary, but it was worse for her. Take care of your family, dude!
Lucille and Cyril go back to the cafe, where Lucille is feted like the hero she is. She doesn't love all the attention, but does admit that she sent a copy of the paper home (Cyril, predictably, saved several). She wasn't even scared, she was just doing her job! Cyril tells her she's an inspiration — to you and me both, pal!
And lest we forget, it's fashion show time! Angela and May are wearing cute dresses, but what really messed me up was the MATCHING TIE on Dr. Turner, and Shelagh's dress. Trixie is wearing a literal cape and hot pants combination which killed me AND brought me back to life. The older ladies in the audience (including Sister Julienne) are horrified, and the non-Nonnatans beeline it out of there. Frankly, this is kind of a fashion goal of mine for when everyone starts wearing real clothes again. Everyone looks fabulous, Cyril steps up to the plate and tries out preaching, and Farzina's kids and husband all visit her in the hospital. It's smooth sailing from here! Which probably means something bad will happen in the next couple of weeks — but let's enjoy it while we can, shall we?