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.
This episode opens on a death bed so… strap in guys, this week might be a lot (that is, on the show... let's be honest, I already know this week has been a lot in real life 🙃). As always, the Nonnatus sisters are the helpful calm in the storm, comforting the family through grief. While Sisters Julienne and Monica Joan head back from this pretty intense morning (which doesn't seem to mess them up too much; after all, it’s kind of their job), back at the house, the nurses chat about an exciting new film: The Sound of Mother Freakin' Music.
Phyllis somehow missed the memo about the new movie, but she saw the musical years ago. It’s a classic Phyllis saga: the gal she went with fell asleep and the woman next to her was knitting despite Phyllis's TUTTING. Shameless. Trixie informs her that they turned the play into a movie and it’s great. You know who else is stoked? Sister Monica Joan, obviously!
Just to add drama, Violet is raffling off a pair of tickets to the movie in her shop. I didn’t know that watching the entire cast of Call The Midwife go to see The Sound of Music together was my dearest wish until this very moment, but I have to live my truth.
Anyway, the raffle proceeds go to the incubator fund, and Vi got the tickets for being a fancy politician (get it, girl). Since Fred, not shockingly, did not want to attend, we have a raffle. Monica Joan can barely contain her excitement: she’s stoked because this movie has singing nuns AND a soprano with a four octave reach. She immediately dives into the jar, but Vi isn’t gonna let her get away with a free ticket, even if she is a nun, so MJ writes an IOU. She doesn’t win, alas, but I’m not worried; even the cruel writers of Call The Midwife wouldn’t deprive MJ of young Christopher Plummer!
Frances is visiting a nice couple for a health check-in. The husband, Albert, just got back from the hospital and is down a lung (oof) which makes him vulnerable to infections. His wife Grace says she’s been thinking a lot about a present he gave her: a cute scissor holder shaped like an owl. She used to lose the scissors all the time and now doesn’t. Nice husband also needs insulin injections, which is why Frances is here, but he doesn’t seem too keen on needles. They have several grandkids and one more imminently arriving; in other words, this family is chaotic. Good luck, Frances!
At Nonnatus, Monica Joan bustles in to Julienne’s office. She's on a mission: to get Sister Julienne to spill her secret plan to take everyone to the movies; this one is even relevant to their whole deal! Julienne gravely tells her to sit, which is good because Monica Joan was definitely gearing up for a rant.
Julienne: We’re nuns.
Monica Joan: Yeah, exactly!
Julienne: Going to the movies is frivolous and inappropriate.
Monica Joan: YOU'RE frivolous and inappropriate!
MJ storms out as much as a nun can storm, and runs into Lucille, who's on the phone making plans to see someone on Friday.
Me and MJ, thirsty for romance: Oooooooh, who is it?
Lucille, to the person on the phone: ...and I’ll bring nipple cream. TTFN!
Me and MJ, deflated: Oh.
MJ: So, not to pry, but it’s been a while since Cyril came around...
Lucille: Yeah, we’re both just busy killing it between work, his studies, and preaching, so we don’t get to spend as much time together.
Lucille leaves, and we can all tell that she's more bummed out than she's letting on. Sister Julienne passes by, and MJ uses the opportunity to suggest that taking everyone on "a group outing" might cheer Lucille up. Julienne pretends not to hear this very subtle suggestion, leaving Monica Joan (and let's face it, ME) miffed.
Frances is still visiting the family, Albert and Grace. She asks Grace to distract her husband, and Grace is just getting started singing a song when Frances finishes the injection. She offers to make them both tea, but Grace, suddenly grumpy, kicks her out.
Speaking of suddenly grumpy, Cheryl, the granddaughter of the woman who died at the start of the episode, walks by the Nonattus garden and is snippy to MJ, who just tried to say hello. Cheryl is looking for Sis Julienne, and is carrying a tea tin. What’s in the tin!?!?
We get an answer quickly: it’s money, and a fair bit of it for the era, which Cheryl's Gran wanted to donate to the nuns. Clearly Gran loved the nuns (and it was mutual), but Cheryl doesn’t think as highly of them: her grandmother was in a work house and never rested, and Cheryl thinks that deserves more respect than what our nun friends do. I know she’s grieving, but HEY — they work really hard! Cheryl tells Sister Julienne to enjoy Gran’s savings, and that the funeral is on Friday, and then snippily walks out.
Over at the surgery, Shelagh is telling Miss Higgins about an upcoming trip she’s taking the kids on. Miss Higgins thought they were going somewhere cool, but apparently they’re going to see an escalator? I’m as miffed as Miss Higgins on this one; it's a good thing Shelagh’s kids are pliant and easily entertained. Before Miss Higgins can really interrogate this bad plan, a super pregnant lady, Ingrid, comes in with her mom. It’s Grace, the lady from earlier. While Ingrid runs into her appointment she tells her mom she’ll need childcare help the next day so she can pick up an extra shift. A) kind of rude, and B) I'm a little worried about Grace, who seems to be having a tough time physically in addition to caring for her very sick husband. Thankfully, Miss Higgins notices too, and asks if she can help. Grace gets right to the point, and asks if she can make an appointment for herself. Miss Higgins remembers her, and she’s not pleased; Grace dodged her appointment two weeks ago!
Sister Hilda is preparing to teach a class to a rowdy group of men. One of them, Ron, is particularly keen. He’s been doing extra reading and wants to be there for the delivery even though he’s getting razzed by all the other guys. Hilda says it’s not totally unheard of, but given how Nonnatus has handled this in the past it makes sense that folks are confused.
Over at Grace’s house, husband Albert is having a bad day; he’s coughing and having trouble breathing. Wasn’t Grace heading out? Not anymore. Well, now we see why she’s missing appointments. Dr. Turner seems a little concerned, hopefully enough to follow up! And speaking of following up, Frances is knocking on their door because Albert hasn’t had his insulin. A helpful neighbor tells her that Grace has gone out to see her mum, and Albert is napping and won’t be woken up by Frances' nun-ly racket. Frances is resourceful though, and asks where Grace's mum lives.
Across town, Sister Hilda bumps into the worried dad from her class and his wife. He’s carrying a library’s worth of books, including the work of Dr. Benjamin Spock, an American doctor who revolutionized how people thought about infant care AND has a great name. Hilda uses this opportunity to tell him not to worry about the other men in the class; it’s perfectly normal to want to be there!
UGH poor Grace - she’s late visiting her mum because of bus issues, and now it’s clear that she’s caring for her mother, her husband, and her grandkids almost full-time. Even more challenging, her mother has pretty severe dementia. Frances arrives and explains the whole "I have to give your husband insulin" thing, and Grace, somewhat annoyed, invites her in to give her the spare key. The minute Grace’s mum spots Frances, she protests: no one can look after me but you! Yikes. Frances tries to ask if everything’s ok, since she knows about the missed doctors appointments, and Grace loses it: she can’t be in two places at once, can she! Frances looks worried enough to do something about this, which is good, because when Grace walks her out we can see that she's bleeding. Her mum thinks it’s menstrual blood but Grace seems old enough to have her periods on lock. Medical Mystery of the week?
Once again, it's raining torrentially, just in time for concerned dad Ron's wife Aileen to go into labor. He’s trying to do everything, running around to open her door with an umbrella, despite her attempt to tell him she’s just fine. Phyllis is on duty at the maternity home tonight, and as we’ve previously discussed, she doesn’t mess around. No, Ron can’t come straight through to the delivery room, because he’s an infection risk. Sit down and wait, I’ll be back! Ron isn't about to just chill out though: he promised to help, and a Lannister always pays his debts, so he's rummaged around in the store room, found a spare gown, and put it on.
Phyllis: Well, you tried, but it’s backwards. I don’t have time to fix you, because I’m focusing on your wife, but since you’re here, you can help. Get her a glass of water.
He’s so earnest even Phyllis can’t resist, so she helps him fix the gown and says they’ll do this together. From there, everything goes very smoothly. Mom Aileen is tired, but the baby is out and looking good. The whole family is happy and everyone is choked up, even Phyllis. She’s fully come around on this husband, and even talked Dr. Turner into getting Ron a spare bed at the home. These folks really got their hooks in her: Phyllis doesn’t say this often, but that is one cute baby! Back at Nonnatus, she fills in Sister Hilda about how everything went. Interestingly, even though that went pretty well and Phyllis likes this family, she still doesn’t want men around because women should be the focus. Phyllis, this episode:
What has everyone else been doing this whole time? Glad you asked! Val, the only one with her priorities in order, is trying to organize an outing to The Sound Of Music, and of course invites Sister Monica Joan — we should all go! YES VAL, WE SHOULD. Despite this great idea, Sister Frances is distracted and sad. Trixie notices right away, and asks what’s up.
Sister Francis: I’m really worried about Grace. It’s like she doesn’t want me there and I feel like I can’t do anything right; I can’t figure out how I made her mad.
Val: Women her age are very self sufficient, because we have to be around here. This neighborhood got wrecked in the blitz in addition to, ya know, the poverty.
Sister Julienne: Maybe you can teach her to give Albert his injections, she might be more comfortable.
Sister Hilda, shady: And so would you!
Grace is back visiting her mum with groceries and they’re both having a bad day. Mum has had an accident, and Grace is struggling with the stairs. She cleans her mom up and then trudges over to the surgery to finally see Dr. Turner. They small talk about Albert, who's doing well, and we find out that the removed lung is due to TB, and that having both that and diabetes is not a good combo. Next, Dr. Turner asks about Grace: a few months ago she had a bad back ache, is that better? No, and she’s also now constantly bleeding heavily “down below.” She thinks its menopause but also says it’s gotten worse recently. Obviously, Dr. Turner is now concerned. Yes, this might be the run-up to menopause, but we need to do an exam. Shelagh happens to pop in, and thank goodness because Grace needs to ask her a lady question: should she remove her underwear, and the intense makeshift pad she’s created from CURTAINS? Look writers, I see what you did there with the thematic reuse of drapes, but I don't like it!
The Turners tell her it’s ok for now, and Shelagh offers to stay for the exam which really puts Grace at ease. Here's the deal: Dr. Turner thinks Grace might be anemic from the blood loss, and is going to prescribe iron tablets. Unfortunately, it won’t stop the bleeding. She has fibroids, so he’s referring her to St. Cuthberts. Grace is obviously freaked out that this means she has cancer, but the Turners reassure her: the fibroids are definitely benign, and most people don’t know they have them, but they cause heavy bleeding. She’ll have to get a hysterectomy, and will have to be in the hospital for two weeks, which makes Grace pretty upset. Shelagh, understandably, thinks she’s bummed about the fertility aspect, but no: Grace can’t leave Albert for that long! Not to mention her mom and all the grandkids! And speaking of grandkids, Ingrid’s oldest is at Grace's house because Ingrid is in labor. Frances, who unfortunately has the worst timing ever, shows up to tell Grace she's here to teach Grace how to do Albert's insulin injections so Frances can leave, and to rub in the fact that Grace is going to have another grandkind to manage soon. Hooray?
Back at the maternity home, Phyllis and new mom Aileen check in on her baby, who’s doing well except that he's got a birth mark on his face that seems to have gotten bigger? Phyllis isn't worried, but when dad Ronald looks in later and takes off baby's hat to show that the birthmark has DEFINITELY gotten bigger, he gets very worried. Who among us can blame him? Ron scoops the baby up and runs through to the surgery to find Dr. Turner and get some answers.
Across town, Grace is in the market when Albert surprises her with a song and flowers! It's very charming and adorable. Should he be outside the house? Possibly not, but awwww. He’s here to walk her home, but Grace declines: she has to go clean Ingrid’s house and then check on her mum. Albert looks pretty dejected, but listens to his wife and heads home. As much as I hate to say it, it's a darn good thing Grace went to visit her mum, because she’s fallen and injured herself, and Life Alert hasn't been invented yet.
One scary thing is enough for this episode, so we get some good news at the surgery. The birthmark really is just a birthmark. Ronald is still freaking out, because he’s read too much Dr. Spock, but Dr. Turner uses that to his advantage and reminds Ronald that Dr. Spock is most famous for telling new parents to trust themselves.
Grace has just mastered the art of insulin injections when Ingrid shows up. She immediately shoves the baby at her mom and says she’s moving back in. Frances' horrified face is a mirror of my own: what the heck, Ingrid, read the room! Ingrid is here because she didn’t like the nurses at the maternity home and had a complication. She’s supposed to be on bed rest but that’s fine because mom will look after her. WHAT?! Frances tries to help with baby and accidentally knocks the beloved owl scissor holder off the wall and onto the floor where it shatters. Frances says she’ll fix it because she knows how much it means, but Grace is worryingly chill about the whole thing: scissors aren’t a big deal in the scheme of things. UGH this poor woman. I just want to take her to a spa! Later that night, in bed, she’s having trouble sleeping and singing to her husband.
The next day, Grace is about to reheat some bread in the oven, and is very obviously a hot second away from putting her head in the gas instead, when Sister Julienne shows up in the nick of time to check on the baby. Julienne comes in and smells the gas, and also smells a lie in Grace’s “the oven’s acting up.”
Sister Julienne: Are you ok? You don’t look ok.
Grace: Cool, thanks for the rude assessment. Why are you even here?
Sister Julienne: To help. I know how hard stuff can get.
Grace: LOL OK, sure you do, with the nice house and robes... how would you know what it’s like to live here, an invisible middle-aged woman living hand-to-mouth that everyone ignores? You’re all self-absorbed with the praying. Now I need to go to the market because no one else is going to make supper.
Awkward! Julienne checks the baby, and then does some soul-searching back at Nonnatus. She takes Grace’s words to heart, and heads out to see what life is like in her street clothes. Answer: HORRIBLE. No one knows who she is, and they make fun of her or ignore her. Monica Joan recognizes her, of course, but Grace doesn’t. Of course she doesn't! The poor woman has the entire world on her shoulders, she ain’t looking at you, Julienne! Sister Julienne, oblivious to the fact that people are trying to find her back at the house, decides to play hooky and go to the movies. And reader, you know what she's watching.
In town, Miss Higgins runs into the Shelagh and the kids. Tim is here for a visit, and May and Angela have run off to look at ribbons with Vi. How was the day trip? Tiring! Lots of walking BUT... we get to have TV dinners later! Higgins says this is “avant garde” by which I think she means “weird and lame” but whatever; you do you, Shelagh! I'm not gonna lie, even this sad trip to look at an escalator sounds like the most riveting day of my life right about now. At the shop, the girls draw the lucky raffle ticket! They are delighted, even though they're probably too young to know what they actually won. Tim, always a quick thinker, comes up with a plan to avoid having to chaperone this trip to the cinema. He knows exactly who to bestow these tickets upon.
Ok, back to the upsetting plot line: Grace barely makes it into the house. Somehow, she’s been hiding her illness from everyone else in her family. She collapses in the kitchen, which manages to wake Albert despite his heavy sleeping. He gets help, and Grace is taken away to St. Cuthberts where hopefully she'll get some help.
At the Turner’s, TV dinner is in full swing. Shelagh is LOVING it, and no judgments here: she didn’t have to cook and manage feeding four kids dinner alone, I get it! Tim isn’t so much feeling TV dinner, but he's a moody teen so he gets a pass. Dr. Turner rushes in, apologizing, but no need: Shelagh is in a great mood, and he’ll make it up to her! Tim is there with the assist, getting the kids to hand over the tickets because mom and dad deserve a date night. Folks, I genuinely can't wait for them to watch this movie, which I am somehow only now realizing has a lot of similarities to the Turner family situation.
At Nonnatus, Sister julienne fills Frances in on Grace: the anemia made her pass out, but she's going to be ok. Frances feels like she failed her and that her vanity got in the way.
Sister Julienne: LOL you’re a lot of things, but not vain.
Trixie: Oh, you rang? Side note: couldn’t find you earlier, J, I was looking for the key to the donation cupboard.
Monica Joan, a true friend: She was out working, don't worry about it!
Sister Julienne: Frances, if you’re guilty, we all are; we assumed Grace could take on infinite tasks and should have known better.
Frances: Yeah I let my insecurities get in the way of paying attention.
Sister Julienne, who just that afternoon let her insecurities take her out to the movies: Um, yeah we all do that some times. We have to own our mistakes.
Sister Monica Joan: We also help each other.
She passes along a wrapped package, which holds an identical scissor owl to the one Frances wrecked earlier. Frances is delighted: this will make Grace’s day!
Young Ronald, still bummed about his kid's birthmark, is down by the river having a think. Sister Hilda comes to find him, because she wants to apologize for mentioning said birthmark earlier.
Ronald: I need a thicker skin.
Sister Hilda: No, I need to be more sensitive.
Ronald: I come here to think. My dad used to bring me here and make up stories about the ships.
Sister Hilda: He sounds really great.
Ronald: He was. He died when I was a kid during the blitz. Mum remarried an abusive alcoholic; I had a hard childhood. I just want to be a good dad like my real dad, you know? That's why I'm so over the top!
Hilda: You absolutely are a great dad already.
Me: I'm not crying YOU'RE crying.
The Turner’s date night is going great: they loved the movie (obviously; they've got SOULS) and now are getting fish and chips.
Shelagh: LOL I’m not like Maria, I can’t hit a top C.
Dr. Turner: Yeah, and I’m not a brooding sea captain with seven kids!
Shelagh: Well we love each other that much, even if we don’t sing about it.
Dr. Turner: I remember you singing in chapel one time. I'd had a terrible day, and I had to drop paperwork at the house and spied you singing. It touched my soul, everything melted away and it was just you.
He says he’d like to get her some edelweiss, but it’s an alpine flower, so they'll just have to settle for what Poplar has on hand. This whole interaction has me dead. DECEASED.
At the hospital, Sister Frances brings Albert to visit Grace, who looks MUCH better but is having trouble resting because she's just not used to it. They give her the new owl, and she is delighted. So delighted, in fact, that she tries to get out of staying at the hospital: there's a neighbor looking in on her mum, but Ingrid can't watch Albert. Thankfully, England has an actual social safety net (no comment), so Frances has gotten Grace’s mum into an adult daycare, arranged laundry help from the incontinence service, and set up home help at their house. Frances will train Albert to do his own dang injections so that Grace has some actual free time AND they’ll have time together. Ingrid razzes her dad (the fool; did she think she was exempt from Frances rampage of help?) and gets her marching orders: go home to your husband and look after your own family. Grace, unburdened of her myriad tasks, shares the other reason she’s been so stressed: Albert is a good guy who doesn’t hit her and they’re genuinely in love. His health problems are worrying her!
Well, we can't magically heal Albert but we're still going out on a high note, which is something of a feat considering how this episode began. Grace and Albert enjoy some ice cream on their balcony. Phyllis and Sister Hilda coo over Ronald and Aileen's cute baby, who's out and about despite his birthmark. Dr. Turner sends Shelagh some pretty flowers (as close to edelweiss as he could find in Poplar, which is too much for me AND Miss Higgins, who is scandalized). And just in case you were worried, everyone at Nonnatus, including Sister Monica Joan, head out for an evening of musical delight at The Sound of Music. Will everyone start wearing clothes made of old drapes? Will our favorite nuns start singing mean songs about Shelagh? Will she and Dr. Turner take the kids on an extended hiking trip? Only time will tell!
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