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.
Welcome back to Poplar, where Sister Julienne just can't catch a break. As if the "we're knocking your house down AGAIN" memo from the council wasn't bad enough, she's also received a note from Mother Mildred. Apparently Mildred's missive is so important that Julienne runs out into a torrential downpour to speak with Dr. Turner, and looks so wide-eyed and bonkers that even Miss Higgins backs off of her questioning. Here’s the deal: Mother M is concerned about the order’s position in Poplar, and so is Sister Julienne.
Dr. Turner: But you’re an integral part of the community!
Sister Julienne: Just because you’re used to us doesn’t mean we’re secure here, bro. Women want to go to the hospital now, and our building is on the chopping block again.
Dr. Turner: That program is going to take years to complete and you know it.
Sister Julienne: LOL you RUBE — they’re demoing a block just around the corner from us.
Dr. Turner: Yikes — without you guys the maternity home is a goner!!
Sister Julienne: I really want us to stay, but times are changing. We need to adapt, and I need your help to do it.
Back at Nonnatus, everyone’s watching TV except Phyllis, who isn’t into the romantic show the kids and Sister Monica Joan are watching. She packs up for bed just in time to hear this exchange:
Val: I do love a hot doctor!
Lucille: Good luck with that, they’re rather thin on the ground.
Me: First of all, this is Dr. Turner erasure, and second of all, I saw the preview for this episode, so JUST YOU WAIT, KIDS.
Fred's out patrolling for the civil defense when he hears breaking glass from an abandoned building. He locates the source: a strange fellow who yells at Fred to shut the door, because his pigeon will escape. The guy’s living conditions are not great: as we've seen before on Call The Midwife, this is one of those times where everyone else in a condemned building has already moved out. The breaking glass wasn't hooligan kids, it was the bird smashing a lamp. In addition to having an annoying and rude pet, this guy also has a nasty cough. Medical Mystery of the Week detected! Fred tries to help but the guy tells him to mind his own business so he can catch his bird, Dot. Fred apologizes; he only came in because he thought it was kids causing a ruckus, and not a grown man and his pet.
Back at Nonnatus, Julienne and Dr. Turner have an announcement, which they present in the style of parents who have to move their teenage kids across the country and know it’s not going to land well. Here's the deal: our pals are collaborating to help train four young doctors. I would like to know who taught Val about the power of magical thinking; does Sister Monica Joan have a copy of The Secret stashed in that bookcase of hers?
Phyllis: Uh, this is extra work and we already have a lot of work.
Dr. Turner: Yeah but this is the kind of work where we mold our future coworkers!
Sister Frances: What can they learn from us?
Sister Julienne: We have tons of on the ground training that they don’t have. Come on dude, have some self respect.
Phyllis: When is this happening?
Phyllis: And they’re not living here, are they??
Lucille: So you're telling me Mother Mildred is ok with men staying here?
Sister Monica Joan: We're nuns, sheltering people is in the bible.
Phyllis: Yeah but it’s not the nuns that are gonna have to be in close quarters with the RANDOM MEN is it?
Sister Julienne: I know it's kind of a pain; we’ll give you some extra cash to make up for it.
Val, stiff upper lip: It’ll be like a sleepover!
Me, loves drama of all kinds:
Violet is off to a council meeting, but not before she tells Fred that Bird Guy is definitely going to have to move, because the whole block is a hazard. I also feel like you should know that Vi is wearing a very cute hat. Reggie, who's there for a visit, correctly points out that losing your home is hard, which gives Fred the excuse to loop him into this ongoing shenanigan.
Things are TENSE at Nonnatus. Sister Julienne has circulated a bathroom roster, and no one likes it: hot water is already a hot commodity, and the dudes haven't even moved in yet. The non-nun squad has a team meeting in Trixie and Val's room: Phyllis and Lucille are pretty sure they're going to lose their room since it's slightly bigger. They've already packed up their stuff. Val insists that Phyllis take her bed, because that’s the kind of person she is, and also because competitive suffering is practically a sport in the UK (and in most modern offices!). Val has a good (winning) point: if Phyllis throws out her back again, we’ll be down a nurse. Phyllis is not super graceful in defeat, but she can't be good at everything, now can she?
Fred and Reggie drop in on Bird Guy. Fred pretends to be interested in the bird, which makes the guy like him, and Reggie is actually genuinely interested, and asks to hold the bird. Bird Guy is delighted to have a captive audience, and gives Reggie the birding basics. Fred asks Bird Guy (who's actually called George, but too late, his recap name is Bird Guy) to come do a talk for the CDC (Civil Defense Corps, not THAT CDC), because obviously Fred's pack of weirdos *would* be into a bird talk. Fred also tries to remind Bird Guy that his building is due for demolition, but Bird Guy just ignores him and asks Reggie if he wants to see Dot’s family. You read that right: there are more. On the way to see the rest of the birds, Fred notices that Bird Guy's coughing up blood.
The doctors are here, and they look just as excited to live with a bunch of nuns as Team Nonnatus is to have them move in. This will go great! Here's what we know about the docs so far: there are four of them, and they have a car. Trixie answers the door, and immediately gets mistaken for a nun by a low-budget Benedict Cumberbatch in what is supposed to be a compliment but falls completely flat. The first guy's sidekick, who I'm calling Baby Doctor, apologizes for being late, and gets razzed for his navigational skills by Dr. Sherlock. Trixie's too cute to sit around and listen to this, so she goes to fetch Julienne and leaves the guys with Sister Monica Joan, who shows off their painting of Raymond Nonnatus (hey, that’s the name of the order!). Baby Doctor surprises everyone by knowing who Ray Nonnatus was; guess we know who's going to get the extra cake. Julienne arrives to show everyone to their rooms and let them know that she saved them some food. Freshman orientation will also include an intro to the midwives after dinner.
Across town, Fred, who's been around enough medical professionals to know that pulling a Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge isn't a sign of peak health, calls Dr. Turner to snitch on Bird Guy.
Phyllis lectures the younger midwives about keeping a clear head around the new doctors. Trixie tells her that they’re all past childish crushes.
She then vaults off her high horse, informing everyone that she's single and ready to mingle. Bless you, Trixie. Two of the docs roll in for dinner: it's Dr. Sherlock (hilariously the character's first name is actually Benedict; I'm even prouder of my burn from before), and Baby Doctor. Dr. Sherlock apparently has a famous dad who literally wrote the book on obstetrics and gynecology; at least he has the good grace to be embarrassed about it. The other two doctors are still unpacking, but Phyllis isn’t gonna wait around to drop the hammer on the new arrivals: here is the bathroom roster, and also, being late is a big NO in this house.
Dr. Sherlock: Wait, we’re last on the list?
Phyllis: Oh good, you CAN read.
Dr. Sherlock: But we need hot water to shave!
Phyllis: We have a kettle, ever heard of one?
Dr. Turner examines Bird Guy. Even without the stethoscope, we can hear that his lungs are real messed up. Dr. Turner gives him a mini-lecture about avoiding the doctor and prescribes antibiotics. Bird Guy is pretty sure he has TB, but since we did a very special series of episodes about that a few seasons back, we all assume that's not the culprit. Dr. Turner is sending his samples off for tests and wants to do an x-ray.
While Lucille and Trixie carpool to rounds with Dr. Sherlock and one of the still nameless B-squad doctors, Val takes Baby Doctor out on rounds by bicycle. He impresses her (and me, tbh) with his knowledge of bike basics and ability to have a normal human conversation. It turns out his dad owned a bike shop in Coventry.
Over at the Buckle’s, Vi says that Bird Guy is exactly why the council is into urban renewal; he’s sick and isolated! Fred points out that the tower blocks are impersonal and boring, but Reggie lands on the real problem: the birds can't live in a flat. Violet doesn't have a solution to that issue, which probably means bad news for Bird Guy's pets/friends. Speaking of Bird Guy, he’s having a nice chat with Dot about how he’s “the most popular bird man in Poplar.” It's a weird thing to crow about (wink), but you do you, Bird Guy.
At clinic, Trixie and Dr. Sherlock tag team a patient. He’s got lame bedside manner, which Trixie calls him on, but the patient doesn’t care: she’s liking the view. Baby Doctor is more chill about learning from Val, which is good because she isn’t shy about correcting him. Their patient, Mrs. Pike, used to be a model and feels like something is different with this baby — maybe it's bigger? Dr. Turner shows up to check in, and asks Baby Doctor what he thinks is happening, because this is a classic teachable moment. Baby Doctor gets a B+: he correctly surmises that there's probably nothing to worry about, but talks to Dr. Turner instead of Mrs. Pike.
Are they actually getting graded? Yes, if only in Phyllis's personal pecking order. She's telling Trixie that one of the b-squad docs talks too much and goes to the bathroom too often when they hear someone reaching the end stages of labor in the other room. Dr. Sherlock excitedly volunteers to help out, so Phyllis deputizes him. The baby shows up pretty fast, and Dr. Sherlock does an adequate job, even though he struggles with being too formal with mom. Phyllis comes round, saying he’s inherited his dad’s skill. Whatever, I still don't like him.
Fred and Reggie pay another visit to Bird Guy, and bond over tea, just in case you forgot they were English. It isn't just a social call: Fred tries to sell Bird Guy on the tower blocks with all their modern conveniences.
Bird Guy: Oh I see how it is, you’re just visiting to give me the hard sell!
Fred, sweating: Nuh-uh, Reggie wanted to check on you!
Bird Guy: And to see my Dot! I get it man, go ahead and grab her!
Reggie seems to be a natural with the birds, just like Bird Guy, who tells the guys that he isn't good at making non-avian friends. The birds are his family! This is cute and also sad.
But enough about birds: we’re over at Mrs. Pike's house from earlier; she of the large-seeming baby and the husband who’s “a very good salesman,” or based on this scene, “very good at selling stuff that fell off a truck” if you know what I mean. He’s sweet though. She tries to keep him on the straight and narrow, but he's committed to the life of crime until he can set them up nice.
Miss Higgins tells Dr. Turner to go home and be with his family on her way out of the surgery at the end of the day (good point, Higgins!). He’ll leave soon, but he’s waiting to hear about Bird Guy. Should Higgins stay? No, he doesn’t need her.
Miss Higgins: Everyone needs people, don’t be a doofus.
Meanwhile, dinner is getting challenging at Nonnatus. We’re low on cold meats and Baby Doctor worries that he’s taken too much. Everyone pretends like he didn’t to be polite, except Monica Joan who basically says it's ok because he needs that brain food. Phyllis is late, having delivered a baby, and there’s bad news: no room at the table and no food left. Baby Doctor tries to get up, but she’d rather make a point so she grabs digestive biscuits and a glass of milk, and makes a snarky exit to “wherever it is I lay my head!”
After dinner, the doctors gather around a leader-board they've made to track who delivers the most babies. Lucille finds them celebrating their first one, and is not impressed: the patients are not just boxes to check!
Dr. Turner checks on Bird Guy and delivers a bit of good news: he doesn't have TB. Dr. Turner also humors Bird Guy by asking about Dot and the rest of his birds. Bird Guy tells him about Dot’s nan Nelly: a champion bird. And in case you wanted to hear more, we then get to see Bird Guy's presentation for Fred's civilian defense club. It’s a great talk until he’s waylaid by a terrible coughing fit. Bird Guy wraps up and tells Fred he probably should have stayed home, since it’ll be a few days until the antibiotics work. Fred offers to walk him home, but he declines and says he'll be fine. Famous last words, Bird Guy!
Team Nonnatus has gathered in the girls' room to talk smack about all the doctors. Their consensus: Dr. Sherlock is efficient but bad at bedside manner. Dr Fielding barely talks, which makes sense because I have no idea which member of the b-squad this is. Baby Doctor is pleasant, but not a great communicator. Trixie notices, with a truly dangerous gleam in her eye, that Val doesn’t completely trash Baby Doctor, and needles her into saying that he’s ok to look at. Well done, Trixie.
Downstairs, Dr. Sherlock is mixing up drinks in an Erlenmeyer flask (it’s exactly the one you’re picturing), while the b-squad eggs him on. Baby Doctor is vaguely disapproving, especially when Dr. Sherlock dubs the drink The Nonnatus because it's "full of the holy spirit but bitter.”
Me, reacting to that:
Baby Doctor turns down a drink since he’s first on call, and when Dr. Sherlock pushes him, Baby Doctor implies that Dr. Sherlock is only there because of his daddy. Of course, this only goads Dr. Sherlock into behaving like a jackass. Smash cut to the sound of broken glass getting everyone out of bed later that night. They suspect a break in, so Phyllis heads downstairs to catch the culprit. Trixie, Val, and Lucille are just getting back from Keep Fit so they get to see the huge hole in a first floor window, and more interestingly, the doctors getting the bollocking of a lifetime from Sister Julienne. Quoth she: their attempt to play cricket is unacceptable, and if they don’t get their sh*t together she’ll kick them out. They all look chastened except for Dr. Sherlock, who seems to assume the rules don’t apply to him. From the bottom of my heart, I truly hope we get to see Phyllis grind him into the dirt.
At the Buckle house, Vi tells Fred that she’s pleased he got Bird Man to come join the community: she finds kindness and thoughtfulness attractive, because Vi is a gem. Fred’s dropping Vi off at the council, so Reg is told to stay at home. Thankfully he doesn’t listen, and checks in on Bird Man just in time to find him in very poor shape on the ground. Reggie sounds the alarm and gets Fred.
Baby Doctor approaches Val — shouldn’t she be teaching him something? Having lumped him in with the other miscreant MDs, Val’s not feeling it anymore, and tells him maybe he should learn manners.
He tries to tell her he got dragged along, but Val isn’t completely buying it. Because she, like all normal people, loves gossip, she uses the opportunity to ask for some dirt on Dr. Sherlock, and Baby Doctor delivers: everyone loves him, and he’s a natural. We went to school together and I worked my butt off, while he never cracked a book and ended up top of the class — it's a story as old as time. Yes that sucks, but Val reminds him that some people will always have to work harder, and he should know that since he's also from the wrong side of the tracks.
Meanwhile, Dr. Turner checks on Bird Man: the antibiotics aren’t working, and while he doesn’t have TB, they need to put him in the hospital for tests. But what about the birds??? Oh, the dirty flying rats that probably gave him lung disease? YES, THOSE BIRDS. Reggie very sweetly agrees to look after them, because as Fred says, that’s what friends are for. Dr. Turner knows when he's beaten, and heads to Nonnatus, possibly hoping that Monica Joan will whip out some obscure disease from her history books again. Val and Baby Doctor just happen to be nearby having tea while Dr. Turner spills the beans to Sister Julienne. Baby Doctor clearly has a hunch about Bird Man, but is reluctant to stick his neck out and tell Dr. Turner. Val obviously tells him to get his act together and speak up, and when Baby Doctor continues to be, well, a huge baby about it, she forces his hand.
Baby Doctor tells Dr. Turner his favorite uncle growing up was a coal miner. Because we now know about workplace lung disease, you know where this is going: the beloved uncle started coughing up blood, and much like Bird Guy, he was initially, and incorrectly, assumed to have TB. Thankfully, the local doctor had seen similar symptoms in a miner who kept birds, and knew to look for histoplasmosis, which is transmitted by fungus that lives in bird poo (and also bat poo — nature is beautiful!). Histoplasmosis is very serious if it gets out of the lungs, but pretty manageable if you catch it early enough. Nice one, Baby Doctor! Dr. Turner gives him a verbal pat on the back and rushes off to treat Bird Man. Fun fact: bird owners can get a type of serious lung disease called, I kid you not, Bird Fancier's Lung, which is where I THOUGHT this episode was going. I'm not going to lie, I'm a little peeved to be proved wrong. You're on my list, Baby Doctor.
Across town, Mrs. Pike's dodgy husband continues with his plans to sell off his ill-gotten goods. She's playfully mad about it, and even tells him that if he gets caught she won't visit him in jail. He bustles out to commit some light crime, and she makes the tried-and-true "uh oh, I'm in labor!" face we all recognize after eight seasons. Things move relatively quickly. She ends up shambling down the hall knocking on doors in the hope that someone will call the midwives, but no luck: apparently everyone on this floor is out doing crime with her husband. Thankfully, said Ill-Gotten Husband comes back and finds his wife in the hall. He immediately tears off to call Nonnatus, where Val tells him to chill out and go keep his wife calm: help is on the way. Baby Doctor invites himself along, and they take Dr. Sherlock’s car, whilst he sulks in his room smoking and looking at his dad’s book.
At the flat, it does not escape anyone’s notice that Ill-Gotten Husband immediately defers to Baby Doctor instead of the actually well-trained Val, but we soldier on. This delivery is definitely more challenging than Mrs. Pike's first, and Baby Doctor makes it weird by talking to Val in jargon, which freaks out Mrs. Pike. Val, a total pro, translates: baby’s face is pointed down, which is fine! Baby Doctor doesn't seem convinced, so Val takes over. In his defense, he does a nice job talking to mom and keeping her calm while Val puts her whole hand up there to feel around for baby's shoulders.
Here’s the deal: this baby is a dang contortionist, and has it’s arm twisted around it’s back in such a way that it’s not coming out. Val has to deliver the other arm to get some wiggle room. Baby Doctor pulls out some monster scissors to try and do an episiotomy, but Val shuts him down: we don't need 'em. And she's right, because once that arm pops out, blammo, we have a baby. A very quiet baby, which is freaking out both parents, and Baby Doctor, who almost panic-cuts the cord without clamping it first. Val doesn't hesitate to verbally smack Baby Doctor's hand away: if you cut the cord without clamps, the baby will literally bleed out! Baby Doctor sure is learning a lot today! After a minute of rubbing, the baby finally cries, much to everyone’s relief. It’s a girl!
Dr. Turner gives Bird Man the diagnosis, and some good news: after a couple of months of treatment he’ll be totally fine. But there's also bad news: he has to get the drugs in the hospital, so he’ll have to leave home for a couple of months. Fred is more blunt: the winged rats you live with are making you sick, George! Dr. Turner, who is trying to be nice, explains that it's not really the birds, but their poo mixing with the soil in his yard, but reiterates that Bird Man will have to give up on his flock if he wants to get better. Obviously, Bird Man is very upset, but has to concede that Reggie has a good point: you can't keep a pet that's making you sick. Fred explains that they've already contacted some other bird weirdos (The Royal Pigeon Raising Association) and they're willing to adopt Bird Man's flock.
Bird Man: Can't I just keep one? Just Dot?
Dr. Turner: Alas, no: it only takes one bird to keep you infected, and if this gets into your system properly, you'll die. Is that what Dot would want?
Bird Man, reluctantly: No.
Back at Nonnatus, Dr. Sherlock scolds Trixie for smoking. She doesn’t rise to the bait, because you know who else smokes? Audrey Hepburn, and basically every other celebrity. LOL, says he, and whips out his own cigarette case. I know this is supposed to be a cute bonding moment, but it isn't cute! STOP SMOKING!
Dr. Sherlock: I watched you all yesterday, your compassion is amazing, and I don’t feel that.
Trixie: Well, maybe don’t be a doctor then?
Dr. Sherlock: You know who my dad is; I have to do this too.
Trixie: You can make your own choices, you’re an adult. Also BTW alcohol isn’t gonna solve your problems.
And then she stubs out her cig and walks out of there like a goddamn boss.
In the other room, Val insists that Baby Doctor give himself a mark on the baby board. He doesn’t want to because he almost screwed up catastrophically, but Val reminds him that he didn’t, so it's all good. Phyllis congratulates Val, who nicely shares the spotlight with Baby Doctor. Phyllis seems to approve, and even tells them where the good biscuits are stashed.
Reggie and Fred pick up Bird Man to take him to the hospital, which is sad for everyone. Bird Man is struggling with the quiet with his flock dispersed. Well, all except one: Dot is still there, because he's giving her to Reggie! Fred’s already cleared it with the community home where Reggie lives when he's not visiting Poplar. Fred and Reggie support their new friend while he cries it out.
Mrs. Pike tells Val that she appreciates what her husband does to support them, but really wishes he would lay off the illegal stuff, because she's pretty sure he's going to get caught and she'll be left alone with the girls. Right on time, Ill-Gotten Husband arrives to hopefully learn a lesson about honest work.
At the maternity home, Dr. Sherlock is also learning: he’s improved his skills and bedside manner, and explains that Trixie is the culprit. Dr. Turner also praises Baby Doctor, whose diagnosis of Bird Man saved the day. He then bustles off to deal with a patient, prompting Baby Doctor’s hero worship-itis to ramp up even more. It’s mutual: Dr. Turner is happy to have some actual dudes around. Not sure why he thought Phyllis of all people would agree with him; clearly the influx of potential bros has gone to Dr. Turner's head.
Lessons learned, it's time for life to move on. Trixie attends her AA meeting, the no longer Ill-Gotten Family watches TV, including Ill-Gotten Husband, who's given up his night-crime to be with his family, and Shelagh and Dr. Turner have a conversation about how they might need to hire another doctor for the practice because he's TIRED. Shelagh hilariously tries (and fails) to support her husband without calling him old. At Nonnatus, Dr. Sherlock erases the baby competition board because it now seems silly, and gifts Trixie with an Erlenmeyer flask to make up for the one they broke. Hope you didn't get too invested in the doctors (especially the nameless ones) because they're leaving already. So long, boys: it was fun while it lasted. Sister Julienne and Phyllis agree: everything went surprisingly well. But if we do this again, they are NOT staying at Nonnatus House. And don't worry, we get one last shot of Bird Man, who has moved into his new flat, and still gets an occasional winged visitor on his balcony. Is that visiting bird Dot, using her superior tracking abilities to pop over for a cuppa? Perhaps we'll find out next week!
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