Snow is falling. Office holiday parties are in full swing (online, that is). Winter is here, and so is a drama fan favorite holiday tradition: the Call The Midwife Holiday Special! I’m here to recap the special in case you missed it, or just couldn’t get enough of our favorite nurses, nuns, and other assorted denizens of Poplar.

Our friends in Poplar are kicking off the holiday season with some familiar pastimes: holiday baking (Shelagh), making cards (Sister Frances), shopping (Trixie and Phyllis), and hiding from friends and family (Lucille). And lest you thought Fred was taking a year off from his more… enterprising schemes, we find out that he’s been trying to convince Vi to sell turkeys that he “got from a farm in the country” in her shop. Vi, thankfully, is smart enough to know the birds might on the wrong side of dodgy, and shuts the plan down, just in time for Reggie to look outside and see… a polar bear? No, it’s not one of those dudes from the Coke commercials, it’s a poster for a circus. A CIRCUS IS COMING TO POPLAR. Ahem. Apologies for shouting, but let’s just say that your recapper has an abiding love of all things circus, so this special just got even more exciting.

Back at Nonnatus, Trixie is impatiently waiting to use the lavatory. Apparently, someone’s been in there for a while, and Trixie has deduced that it’s either Lucille, or Sister Monica Joan. However, our nun friends inform her that Monica Joan is, predictably, in the parlor waiting to watch Dr. Who. If this series were set about 10 years later, and Lucille was a little less proper, I’d maybe assume she was hiding in there with a pregnancy test, but given that she’s an actual angel incarnate and home pregnancy kits weren’t available until the late 70s, I’m stumped. Sister Hilda guesses diarrhea (apparently boundaries just aren’t a thing in Nonnatus house) but no: poor Lucille has been experimenting with her hair, and she doesn’t like the results.

A woman says "Oh that is... that is bad news"

Lucky for Lucille, she lives with Trixie, whom everyone agrees is a hair and makeup expert (though having seen friends take hairdo experiments from bad to worse a few times in my day, good luck to everyone involved).

Trixie: You’re not the first person to get this haircut and freak out. I can help!

A man smiles and nods.

Trixie: Hold up: where’s Val’s stuff?

Later, at tea, Sister Julienne explains. Val asked her not to say anything, but she resigned after Gran passed away at the end of last season. Obviously, losing a close family member is enormously difficult, and everyone agrees that Val can’t have been in the right frame of mind to make a big life decision like getting written off the show between seasons. So instead, Sister Julienne sent Val off to work at one of their clinics in South Africa.

Lucille: And when is she coming back?
Sister Julienne: TBD!
Trixie, keeping it light, and reminding us again that it’s the 1960s: Maybe she’ll be back when she runs out of hairspray.

Later, Lucille shares her confusion and concern with Cyril. Why would Val just disappear and not say anything, leaving behind her whole life?

Cyril: Lucille, we’re literally immigrants, moving should not be such a big deal to you?
Lucille: But we said goodbye to people! It’s not the same! Didn’t she love us?
Cyril: I think she probably just didn’t want to hurt anyone; she was in a lot of pain.
Lucille: But we were friends! And she would have liked my new hair :(
Cyril: What new hair? JK: I like it a lot.

At the surgery, an ambulance arrives to transport a rather grey mum and her newborn to the hospital, and the reason becomes clear as soon as we see the delivery room, which looks like an abattoir. Phyllis arrives with a bucket and mop to help clean up after this pretty serious hemorrhage, thankfully with enough pep in her step that I think the mum in question is more stable than the buckets of blood might imply. Shelagh has also arrived, and she’s brought baked goods and a grudge against the ambulance team for leaving behind the patient’s notes. Never one to be idle, she drops off the notes herself, and happens to run into someone she knows in the waiting room.

Waiting Room Lady: Shelagh! Remember me? Gloria? We were in here together that one time a couple of seasons back when you were pregnant with your son?
Shelagh: Oh my goodness it’s nice to see you again — I wondered what happened with you!
Gloria: Well, it’s been rough — I lost my baby while we were in here together and I had three miscarriages after that.
Shelagh: Oh no, I’m so sorry.
Gloria: Don’t be: I’m pregnant now and only 2 weeks away from delivery!
Shelagh: AHHHH YAY! Remember what you said to me back then? We’ll see each other again someday and we’ll both have babies — and you were right!
Gloria: Exactly! So glad to run into you!

In her appointment, Gloria is less optimistic. The doctor tells her to just wait for nature to take its course, but Gloria is overcome with worry that something could go wrong, and unfortunately, the doctor isn’t particularly sympathetic.

Doctor JerkFace: Just, ya know, go home and get over it! And when you go into labor, Mr. Gloria will drop you off, easy peasy!

Outside, Gloria is understandably fuming.

Gloria: What the heck; easy peasy!? I’ll still have to GIVE BIRTH!
Mr. Gloria: It’ll be ok, I promise!
Gloria: You can’t promise me anything! And I don’t know anyone here, it’s a disaster!

Not a disaster? Vi’s incredible color coordinated winter ensemble that she’s worn to watch the circus parade through town. Does this circus have everything?

A man excitedly says "yes!"

Acrobats! Jugglers! Clowns! A band! Stiltwalkers! Pretty ladies in glittering outfits! A trapeze mounted on a tractor! Most of the citizens of Poplar like the circus parade a lot. But Sister Frances, who has a bad case of coulrophobia (fear of clowns), does not!

The Grinch makes a sad face

At the surgery, Shelagh is fretting about their new patient history folders: they’re pretty small, and some of the patients have a LOT going on. Miss Higgins, ever resourceful, has a solution: rubber bands. Before we can get even deeper into a conversation about their filing system, Gloria and Mr. Gloria arrive. Is something the matter? No, she just wants to switch providers, which would mean that she’ll get care from our favorite midwives before and after she gives birth, even if she has to deliver at the hospital for medical reasons. Everyone seems on board with this plan, even thought Dr. Turner and Shelagh are both a little worried that Gloria hasn’t really processed her losses. Before they can pry, another mum bursts into the waiting room with three kids and a dog in tow.

Miss Higgins: Uh, you gotta get that dog outta here, pal. Maybe have one of your kids take it outside?
New Patient: Well, first of all, this dog is a performer, so he’s very well behaved. And second of all, only two of those kids are mine.

At Nonnatus House, Sister Monica Joan, unsatisfied with Sister Frances’ attempts to hang garland, tries to get at the ladder to do it herself. Lucille obviously shuts that down pretty fast, but I sure hope she also hides the ladder, because let’s be real: Monica Joan can’t be trusted in these matters. Meanwhile, someone is at the door: it’s the postman, with some special holiday mail for Trixie. Here’s the deal: every year, Trixie’s godmother sends her a dress allowance, which she’s obviously extremely excited to unwrap. But not this year. Oh no. This year, she’s paid for Trixie to join a marriage bureau (a matchmaking service) so that she won’t end up single.

A group of children gasp

First of all, rude. Second of all, Trixie knows how to find dates. And third of all, who cares if she’s single: she’s a kickass lady with a fulfilling career, awesome friends, and a previously fabulous dress collection!

Back at the surgery, the mysterious new patient from earlier is finishing up her exam with Shelagh. Based on her performing pet, it might not surprise you to learn that she’s part of the circus.

Shelagh: Well, don’t worry, we’ve definitely delivered babies in caravans before. How long are you all in town?
Circus Mom: We’re supposed to head to Paris in the new year: this might end up being a French baby!
Shelagh: Oh la la! Were you born somewhere exotic?
Circus Mom: No, but I’ve never been back to the town where I was born: my mom died while having me and my dad’s never brought the circus back there. Obviously he freaks every time I get pregnant, thinking the same thing will happen to me.
Shelagh: Well you can tell him not to worry: you’re in great shape.
Circus Mom: I better be — I was doing shows until a couple months ago. I’m a trapeze artist!
Shelagh: You better not let me catch you up on that trapeze until after you give birth!
Circus Mom: Who knows, maybe it’ll bring on labor!

Back at Nonnatus House, Lucille and Sister Frances try to comfort Trixie.

Lucille: You’re not tragically single, you’re just choosy!
Frances, trying to be helpful: Yeah, or the men are choosy? It’s not YOUR fault!
Sister Hilda, frantically:

A man gestures with his hand to say "no"

Trixie: Well clearly my godmother thinks it IS my fault.
Sister Hilda: Noooo! She’s just trying to get you to try a different strategy, that’s all! There’s nothing wrong with letting an agency introduce you to some nice guys!

Out in the parlor, just as I foretold, Sister Monica Joan, left to her own devices, prepares to ascend the ladder. And just to make me even more nervous, her shoelace is untied.

In the kitchen, Trixie pours her heart out; her godmother has completely ignored her professional achievements, and that’s not really fair given that Trixie is a community fixture and a nurse and her godmother was a hand model.

A man says "Because I'm a hand model, mama. A finger jockey. We don't think the same ways the face and body boys do."

Sister Hilda: Well sounds like we all need cookies.
Sister Frances: Can’t have those, they’re set aside for Christmas!
Sister Hilda:

A man aggressively says "Do I LOOK like I'm negotiating?"

Lucille: Hey, Monica Joan, get in here, we’re about to have baked goods!

Monica Joan, having successfully fixed the garland, attempts to sneak upstairs with the hammer. Unfortunately, Chekov’s shoelace rears its ugly head, and she tumbles down the stairs, sending everyone running. She’s clearly in a lot of pain, and since no one knows if she passed out at all, an ambulance is summoned.

Across town, Vi’s dressed Fred up in a snazzy new outfit so he can assist at her shop (which she’s rebranded as a fancy newsstand). Fred, predictably, isn’t thrilled. He doesn’t want to sell newspapers! TBH, neither does Reggie: he’d rather be at the circus.

Mariah Carey shakes her head and says "same."

Anyway, it’s a busy time of year and Vi needs all the help she can get, so no one is heading to the circus just yet. Or are they? As soon as Vi heads out on an errand, Fred hatches a scheme. At closing time, he and Reggie will go to the circus to see if they need papers delivered. He’s calling it marketing, which I’m sure will really go over great with Vi.

An animated robot laughs, says no, and shoots lasers out of its eyes

At Nonnatus House, Sister Monica Joan isn't doing so well. Sister Julienne is worried that she may have a broken hip, which will make moving her even harder. Thankfully, Lucille remembers a splint in the storeroom, and Sister Frances grabs the same gas they use for women in labor, and with that Sister Monica Joan heads off to the hospital, with Sister Julienne in tow. Everyone is super worried; this could be a very serious injury, and Sister Julienne even hints that it might be fatal.

In much cheerier news, Fred and Reggie close up shop and make their promised trip to the circus, and run into Circus Mom.

Circus Mom: Well hi there! Welcome to the family business, how can I help ya?
Fred: We were wondering if you might like a daily delivery of the newspaper?
Circus Mom: Heck yeah, we’d love that — no one offers caravan folk like us that kind of thing normally! You’re going to come see the show, right?
Reggie: Uh, where’s the polar bear?
Circus Mom, thinking on her feet: Oh… he’s been sick so he’s recovering at a nice place near the north pole. Want to come get a signed photo and help me feed the horses though?
Reggie: Yeah!

At the hospital, Sister Monica Joan is hoping to get some tea, but unfortunately, she’s gotta wait: they might have to take her in for surgery. The good news? Her hips are both unbroken, which is pretty bonkers given her age, but she broke two bones in her leg and won’t be home for Christmas. Sister Monica Joan has what I think is a pretty fair reaction to this news:

A cat petulantly knocks an assortment of bottles off a table

Sister Julienne, however, doesn’t agree.

Sister Julienne: I get that you’re upset, but you’ve been a nun for a long-ass time: cool it, please.
Sister Monica Joan: It’s just horrible getting old, you know? And I’m just supposed to tolerate that?
Sister Julienne: Well I tolerate it!
Sister Monica Joan: You’re younger than me!
Sister Julienne: Yeah, but I’m no spring chicken. And I still work, and I have to save Nonnatus House — it’s a lot!
Sister Monica Joan: How can I help?
Sister Julienne: Pray for everything to turn out well.
Sister Monica Joan: Yeah, but how am I supposed to pray in this crummy hospital?

Sister Julienne doesn’t have an answer to that, and neither do I. Back at the circus, Reggie gets to feed the horses some carrots and to go meet more of the animals, while Fred gets a signed photo from the ringmaster.

Fred: And can you sign it for the bear too?
Ringmaster Grumpy: You know the bear’s dead, right?
Fred: Yeah, kinda figured that.
Ringmaster Grumpy: Had to have him cremated; at least he still gets to tour with us.

Mid-signature, the gents are interrupted by a booming explosion outside. Everyone goes running; a gas canister inside one of the caravans has exploded, and now it’s on fire. The staff runs to evacuate the stables, and to try and put out the fire, but Fred and Circus Mom are more concerned about their kids. Thankfully all three of them emerge out of the fire, led by a level-headed Reggie.

Back at the house, Trixie is late for dinner. Why? Because she called up the marriage bureau folks and asked them to set her up with some men based on Sister Hilda’s advice. Normally, I might wonder about taking love advice from a nun, but desperate times!

Lucille: Well I think it’s weird as hell.
Trixie: Everything is weird as hell these days: our whole livelihood is threatened, Val fled the country, and Monica Joan is in the hospital. Christmas is ruined, bah humbug, etcetera.
Sister Frances: No, it’s gonna be great — we’re making a fancy dinner!
Sister Hilda: Yeah, and we’re even inviting the Turner children to fulfill the cute kids requirement!
Trixie: Be that as it may, if I don’t go on this date, I won’t get my dress allowance. And if I don’t get my dress allowance, it’ll be the end of the world as we know it.

A young girl says "If the apocalypse comes, beep me."

In the aftermath of the fire, Circus Mom and her family rent a room from a weirdly closed-minded barkeeper/landlady in town. She clearly isn’t keen to have performers in her midst, but since they’re paying cash, I’m sure she’ll deal with it. Less willing to deal with it is Circus Mom’s dad, Ringmaster Grumpy, who runs in and insists his daughter sees a doctor, despite him coughing everywhere in a way that suggests massive smoke inhalation.

At the Buckle residence, Vi deals with the smoke problem by forcing Reggie to take some medicine, and giving Fred crap for bringing Reggie to the circus in the first place.

Fred: Yeah, well people get hurt everywhere, look at poor Monica Joan!
Vi: Poor thing, I just brought her some magazines.
Reggie: I bet she’d rather have candy.
Fred: Well speaking of, Reggie, would you like some adult candy? You earned a beer and some respect today with your very adult life saving actions.

Back at the lodging house, Phyllis takes a look at Circus Mom, who as anticipated seems to be doing just fine. Thankfully, she also threatens to look at Ringmaster Grumpy, who’s still coughing up a storm.

Phyllis: Anyway, stay in bed, you had a hell of a day.
Circus Mom: Sure, but all of our stuff just burned up; I need to figure out a plan! I bought the kids some random appropriative costumes, and all the clothes I got for myself are old costumes I can’t even think about fitting into anymore.

Phyllis, who wears a uniform every day, is super jazzed to check out the be-sequined costumes. And speaking of clothes, it looks like Trixie might have secured that dress budget after all, because she’s arrived at clinic with a LOT of boxes and bags. But no: they aren’t new clothes, they’re date-ready outfit options, because Trixie has to run downtown right after work to meet the matchmaker.

Lucille: Uh, just wear your uniform?
Trixie: Lucille, be serious: I’m too fabulous to show up in something so lacking in panache.
Lucille: Well don’t wear that black dress; it looks like you’re going to a funeral!

Out in the hall, Sister Julienne asks everyone to keep the St. Cuthbert patients separate. Why? Well Julienne is doing a review, probably to try and keep the doors open at Nonnatus house. There’s also a questionnaire!

Miss Higgins: Uh, excuse me, but have you been doing administrative work behind my back?
Shelagh: Yeah, baby, I did it last night! There’s also a suggestions box!
Phyllis: This is gonna end poorly, mark my words.

At the circus, Dr. Turner pops in to check on Ringmaster Grumpy, whose reaction to the intrusion is, well, grumpy. He tries to run Dr. Turner off, but thankfully our local doc is a charming fella, and convinces Ringmaster Grumpy to let him look him over. Post exam, Dr. Turner ends up charmed by Ringmaster Grumpy instead.

Dr. Turner: I don’t know how you’re managing — it’s incredibly impressive that you’re still working when you only have one functional lung, the other is slowly getting worse day after day, and you’ve got the side effects from radiation.
Ringmaster Grumpy: I do what I have to do to keep my daughter from knowing. Since you're here can you also look at this thing on my shoulder?
Dr. Turner: That’s your lymph node. Which usually means that the cancer has spread.
Ringmaster Grumpy: How much time do I have?
Dr. Turner: Maybe instead of time you could think about quality of life? I can get you oxygen and pain relief; it’ll make a huge difference. We could even drain your lung and make you more comfortable.
Ringmaster Grumpy: Well I won’t stay in a hospital; can’t hide that.
Dr. Turner: Can you at least give up smoking? It’ll help.
Ringmaster Grumpy: No can do. We’re sponsored by a cigarette company; we all smoke.

At clinic, Gloria has her appointment with Shelagh, who tells her that her blood pressure is a bit high, but it’s probably just stress.

Shelagh: I get it, I was the same: I wrote out a baby themed to do list on a “how to chill out” leaflet when I was pregnant. You know: all the necessities.
Gloria: Uh, I don’t know if I know, you know?
Shelagh: Haven’t you prepared at all?
Gloria: I prepared for the first one and the second one. And then I had to sell all that stuff; it was extremely painful, and I don’t want to talk about it.
Shelagh: I understand; and we’re here to support you.

At the circus, Reggie stops by to drop off papers and ends up picking up some odd jobs to help out Circus Mom, before asking if he can come again tomorrow. She agrees, before sending Reggie home and then making the face all Call The Midwife fans know and love: the “oh crap, I’m probably in labor but I’m not ready to admit it yet.”

In the city, Trixie (who did wrangle a really fabulous outfit, as expected) meets with the matchmaker. The interview is wrapping up, and I’m gonna be honest, I don’t like where this is going.

Matchmaker: So, let’s cut to the chase: I’m impressed with how you look and carry yourself, but I’m worried about your job and where you live.
Trixie: So you think my zip code is a problem?
Matchmaker: Uh, more the convent part, especially since you won’t drink.
Trixie: Well I object to the idea that I ought to drink, and frankly if a man won’t meet me for tea, he’s not really a gentleman is he?
Matchmaker: Noted. Sign here.

Outside, Cyril catches Lucille out on rounds, and he doesn’t look so good. Apparently, their church is about to be closed down.

Lucille: Just because the woman who hosts wants to go live with her son doesn’t mean the church is closed; church isn’t about the location, it’s about the worship!
Cyril: Yeah, but the rest of us don’t have a big enough place to host; we have nowhere to go, and we can’t get bigger. We’ve got people who have been with the congregation for a long time, and I just don’t feel like we have enough to offer them; I’m not even a real pastor!
Lucille: Don’t talk badly about yourself! You used to think you couldn’t preach — something will work out if it’s supposed to.
Cyril: I wish I could get you to ask God; you’d get an answer back.
Lucille: Oh, so I’m bossy huh? Like a grandma?
Cyril: Sure. But maybe bossy like a nurse.
Lucille: Well since I’m being bossy and a nurse: you better buy yourself some gloves with your next wages — it’s cold as heck here and I’m not treating you for frostbite.

Once again, these two continue to be the sweet bright spot in this series, and if anything bad happens to them I will lose it. Another bright spot? Shelagh is taking Gloria shopping for baby stuff at Vi’s shop, which they’ve got all to themselves. Shelagh and Vi are super helpful, but Gloria is understandably overwhelmed.

At the surgery, Phyllis chats with Miss Higgins about the upcoming holiday.

Phyllis: I’m super glad you’re joining us for Christmas dinner!
Miss Higgins: Well yeah, sounds fun, as long as the aggressively rich and greasy food doesn’t upset my stomach.
Phyllis: TBH, worth worrying about: the turkey smell gets into everything.
Miss Higgins: Meh, I’ll just bring some antacid and be happy to have the company. Otherwise I’d just be hanging out solo after attending spiritualist church.

A man says "I'm sorry, what?"

Apparently we all heard that right: Miss Higgins subscribes to the Victorian era craze for attempting to contact the spirits of the dead. Fun fact: this very belief system drove a wedge in the friendship between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who wrote the Sherlock stories and believed in spiritualism) and Harry Houdini (the famous escapist and magician who loved debunking spiritualists). Are we in for a similar argument here in Poplar? No, because Phyllis is about to lay her cards on the table.

Phyllis: Well *my* least favorite part of the holidays is feeling like I’m everyone’s sad wine aunt that they only invited out of pity.
Miss Higgins: YES. And then having to pretend to be excited by the “generic gift du jour.”
Phyllis: Totally! If you could have anything you wanted for Christmas dinner, what would it be? Mine would be beans on toast and stout in a fancy glass.
Miss Higgins: No savory. Just desserts: a HUGE bowl of trifle and a Harvey Wallbanger, which is an orange cocktail with an umbrella garnish. I had one in 1926 at a charleston contest and haven’t forgotten it since.

Ok, FIRST OF ALL: was anyone going to tell me that Miss Higgins was a flapper, or was I just supposed to notice that in the 2020 holiday special myself? Second of all, I wish these two would just peel off from the group and do their own thing for the holiday, because it sounds fun and they deserve it.

Back at the house, Trixie reviews her potential matches, and TBH they don’t sound great. The first one is old, likes taxidermy, and has a health condition that the matchmaker has glossed over in such a way that even Sister Hilda thinks sounds fishy. Cyril, distracted thinking about his church issue, still weighs in with a pretty solid opinion: Trixie can do better. Lucille, all business, suggests they move on to the next candidate, who isn’t much better: recently widowed with three small children.

Sister Hilda: LOL, that guy doesn’t want romance, he wants a babysitter.
Sister Frances: Hilda, focus up, we’re supposed to be planning Christmas dinner!
Sister Hilda: Oh. Right. Next agenda item: dessert for the Turner kids?
Sister Frances: Oh, they aren’t coming anymore.

Sister Hilda? Outraged. Across the room, Lucille is concerned that one of the matches is “too good looking.” Cyril, somehow dragged along into this mess, is the only one to hear the phone ring, and gamely answers.

Cyril: Nonnatus House, not a midwife speaking!
Sister Monica Joan: Oh boy, what’s gone wrong that they’ve all left you to answer the phones?
Cyril: Oh hi Sister Monica Joan — you haven’t escaped yet?
Sister Monica Joan: No, I’m trapped and I’m bored! Sister Julienne came and went and all she left me were some lousy grapes.
Cyril, truly the best: What if Lucille and I come visit — with better snacks.
Sister Monica Joan: Only if you want. But you better come soon because I’m gonna be out by Christmas.

And with that, she has to hang up to go to a procedure. Unfortunately for Cyril, Lucille catches him with the phone, and isn’t too impressed even though everyone else was too preoccupied to answer AND it was only Monica Joan. Just then, the phone rings again.

Lucille, pointedly: Nonnatus house, ACTUAL MIDWIFE SPEAKING.
Circus Husband: Can someone come check on my wife? And the landlady says bring extra newspaper to protect the mattress.

At the Turner House, Timothy and Dr. Turner wrap presents in the kitchen with Shelagh, and talk about their Christmas plans. Tim and Dr. Turner both have fond memories of spending the holiday at Nonnatus, but Shelagh thinks it's time for them to make their own family traditions, especially since the kiddos need stability. Just then, one of said little kiddos calls for a drink of water, but obviously has to be kept out of the wrapping zone lest the Santa Myth meet an untimely end.

Shelagh, heading out of the kitchen with water and completely ruining her reputation as a reasonable person in one sentence: You know, the turkeys at the store didn’t look great — I’m going to order ours from Fred.

Over at the room over the pub where Circus family is crashing, the scene is, well, a circus. The kids are running around. The landlady is hovering over her mattress. Ringmaster Grumpy is refusing to leave until he’s convinced they’re taking good care of his daughter (and you can imagine how much Phyllis likes THAT).

Phyllis: Well, she’s about to have an enema, so you all better get out of here. No dads allowed, and yes, that means you too, Ringmaster Grumpy.

Finally, everyone listens and departs, leaving Circus Mom in the capable hands of Sister Hilda and Phyllis. In potentially less capable hands? Trixie, who’s off with the matchmaker to meet some of the fellas on the list. Love at first sight, it ain’t. Several of the gentlemen have beards (a Trixie no no), one takes a cigarette from her case without asking, and one tries to insist she have a drink with him, even after she’s declined. There’s also one who doesn’t speak any English, and one who’s old enough to be her granddad. All in all, not a solid outing.

Back with Circus Mom, she’s starting to struggle. She’s tired, her limbs feel like lead, and she feels like she doesn’t have any strength. Our midwife friends try to keep her calm, but frankly, I’m worried, and so is her dad downstairs. Hilda heads for the phone to call for Dr. Turner and his forceps. Between the group of them, they get the baby out, but there’s some meconium in the baby’s airway, so he’s slow to cry, leaving everyone worried, but all's well that ends well. Downstairs, all the bar patrons drunkenly cheer Dr. Turner as he leaves. Upstairs, Phyllis is about to send Ringmaster Grumpy off to find Circus Dad when Circus Mom bends over in pain. Her hands are cold, her pulse is elevated, and her lips are turning blue: she’s having a heart attack. Phyllis sends Ringmaster Grumpy to call for the ambulance while she and Sister Hilda try to keep Circus Mom awake and alive. When the ambulance arrives, Sister Hilda heads to St. Cuthberts with the baby and Circus Mom, but Phyllis stays behind: Ringmaster Grumpy is obviously in really bad shape, and she’ll take care of him.

At the Turner house, the phone rings: it’s Mr. Gloria, who’s calling because his wife can’t stop crying. Luckily, Dr. Turner has just gotten home from the Circus birth, so he and Shelagh head right out. Gloria’s panicking, but she isn’t in labor, so they decide to keep her in the maternity ward at the surgery so the midwives can check on her regularly and keep her calm.

At St. Cuthberts, with Circus Mom settled, Sister Hilda takes a few minutes to sneak in and visit Sister Monica Joan.

Sister Hilda: I thought we could do our nightly prayers together?
Sister Monica Joan: I’d rather you tell me what’s airing on TV.
Sister Hilda: But there isn’t a TV here?
Sister Monica Joan: Yeah, there’s one at home!
Sister Hilda: Look, I won’t lie to you, you’re gonna be in here for weeks. You won’t be able to do stairs for a long time, and our house is all stairs. Are you ok, do you need a bed pan?
Sister Monica Joan: No need, I have a catheter which is somehow even more embarrassing? And also it keeps me stuck in this bed just as much as the cast.

At the circus, Phyllis calms Ringmaster Grumpy: his daughter is at the hospital getting the best possible care, and now it’s time for him to take care of himself too!

Ringmaster Grumpy: Is this my fault? Did I force her into a lifestyle that’s admittedly a lot of hard work just because I love it?
Phyllis: I meet a lot of people, with a lot of dreams: nothing works for everyone. And having talked to your daughter, I think she’d like to put down some roots. I personally would have loved to be in the circus; particularly the high wire or the arials.
Ringmaster Grumpy, charmed: I one time tried to get our polar bear to walk the high wire… he was NOT into it.
Phyllis: His loss! Now keep using that oxygen I brought you. You know, the circus is absolutely beautiful. Don’t tell me how the magic happens, I like to be surprised.
Ringmaster Grumpy, less grumpy: I would never.

Back at St. Cuthberts, Doctor JerkFace, the one who saw Gloria at the start of the episode, leads some trainees on rounds to visit Circus Mom. He rather dismissively tells her that she’s had heart failure, but she’ll be fine with rest and medication, and that she can’t have any more kids. She obviously wonders if her mother died of the same thing, but the doctor refuses to discuss it, and doesn’t stick around to answer any of her questions, like the jerk he is.

And speaking of Gloria, at the surgery, she’s started to go into labor, and isn’t having a great time.

Gloria: Shelagh, you remember we had some fun times when we were in hospital together, right?
Shelagh: Oh, totally. Why do you ask?
Gloria: So I can remember I haven’t always been this miserable and snippy. Sorry I’ve been a bit rude.
Shelagh: Ok, first of all, good manners go out of the window when one is in labor, so don’t feel bad about that. And second of all, you’re not a miserable person, you’ve just been through a lot of really sad things. You’ve had to be brave for so long, it’s ok to be scared. I’m here!

Outside, Dr. Turner heads up to Fred’s turkey sale table to get a bird: Shelagh’s orders.

Fred: Oh, so you’re not coming to Nonnatus?
Dr. Turner: Not this year, just doing the family thing.
Fred: Well, we’ll definitely miss having you there, but if it’s what you want, we get it.
Dr. Turner, unburdening himself: Fred, it’s NOT what I want, I like to celebrate with the big group.
Fred: You know what, leave it with me, I’ll think of something.

At Nonnatus house Sister Julienne tells Phyllis that Ringmaster Grumpy asked for her, specifically, to go and visit the circus today.


A man points at himself in surprise and says "me?"

Well, he must be having issues with his oxygen, I’ll check in on him this afternoon.
Sister Julienne: Sounds good. Hey, have you seen the directory of clinics?
Phyllis: Isn’t that mostly private facilities?
Sister Julienne, not answering the question: Found it! Ok bye!

Later, Phyllis arrives at the circus to visit Ringmaster Grumpy, and is absolutely delighted by the clowns, and by Reggie, who’s there helping out again. Ringmaster Grumpy brings Phyllis into the big top.

Ringmaster Grumpy: Well, Reggie’s a good kid. And he makes a nice cup of tea, which is like 90% of the game in the middle of the English winter.
Phyllis: Look, I thought I was here because you’re sick, what’s up?
Ringmaster Grumpy: Lights!

The lights come up, and everyone can see that Phyllis is delighted, even as she attempts to keep up appearances of disapproval. Ringmaster Grumpy has one of the cast bring Phyllis backstage, where there’s a costume waiting just for her, and yes, it has as many sequins as you could wish. And back out in the center of the ring, they’ve lowered a trapeze for her. Folks, Phyllis looks fabulous, and this might be the cutest, most charming thing I’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, Reggie, making tea in Ringmaster Grumpy’s place, finally spots the cookie tin with Snowy the polar bear’s remains, and asks Fred and Vi about it: why did everyone lie?

Vi: Well, sometimes because people don’t want you to be sad.
Reggie: I’m not stupid.
Fred: No, you aren’t. Snowy died: everyone dies eventually, you know that.
Reggie: Fred, you gave me a beer and said it was because I was an adult who deserved respect. I want you to respect me. And another beer.

Back at the circus, Phyllis thanks Ringmaster Grumpy, who immediately starts coughing.

Phyllis: Look, I trusted you, you need to trust me. I’m calling an ambulance, and you’re going to get the care you deserve.

At the surgery, Gloria’s labor is progressing, but very slowly. Dr. Turner would be willing to move her into the delivery room (where the gas is) but it’s kind of a somber place to hang out for hours and hours. Shelagh thinks there’s a bigger issue at play: that Gloria isn’t progressing because she’s got a mental block; something she hasn’t processed yet. So she heads into the breach.

Shelagh: Gloria, you told me you don’t like to talk about the babies you lost?
Gloria: No, I said I don’t like to talk about my other pregnancies.
Shelagh: That’s a lot of pain to just not talk about.
Gloria: They always say the same thing, you know: don’t think about it. So I pretended I wasn’t thinking about it with everyone: my friends, my family. But inside I never let them go, and I imagined what they’d be like, you know? I never let them go.
Shelagh: Sometimes you have to let them go so you have room to love this one, you know? Why don’t you tell us about your kids.

And so Gloria does. She tells the midwives everything: what she’d named her children, what she imagined they’d be like, how old they’d be now. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s also obviously helping Gloria process. Outside, Mr. Gloria and Dr. Turner play a tense board game, while inside, Gloria is finally ready to push, and delivers a little girl with not a dry eye in the house.

At the hospital, Ringmaster Grumpy sits down with his daughter to finally tell her about his illness.

Ringmaster Grumpy: I’ll need to close the circus.
Circus Mom: Not yet — I’ll make you some kinda sequined collar like I did for the polar bear when he started looking all janky.
Ringmaster Grumpy: You always try so hard, even though all you ever wanted was a house.
Circus Mom: Well, anyone can have that: you gave me a magical life and career. And guess what, they’re going to let me out tomorrow, so we'll be able to have that circus christening you wanted. I may be ready to retire, but they’re still kids, and it’s their heritage.
Ringmaster Grumpy: It’s in their blood.
Circus Mom: Yes, and so are you.
Ringmaster Grumpy: Just like your mother is in you.

A man tries to hold back tears

And speaking of me crying, Gloria and Mr. Gloria talk about what to name their new baby.

Mr. Gloria: I wish you’d told me how much you were thinking about our other kids.
Gloria: I thought it’d make them feel less real if I shared with you. Wait, is that a band?
Mr. Gloria: Yeah, I asked them to swing by here on their route. Can’t wait to tell this little girl about the snowstorm and the brass band she had on her first birthday.

A man wordlessly holds out a box of tissues

Trixie readies for a date, and this time, the guy actually sounds like he might be up her alley. Miss Higgins gets a call from Phyllis, who, emboldened by her trapeze experience earlier, has a wild idea to share. Lucille drops in on Sister Monica Joan at the hospital with baked goods and Cyril, Monica Joan's BFF. Unfortunately, this very good idea doesn’t go over as well as you might assume, and Sister Monica Joan kicks Cyril out, too embarrassed for him to see her this way. Frankly, I get it, but thankfully Lucille is here to help (and you know it’s serious, because we get our first Lucille “Precious” of the episode, and it’s directed at Sister Monica Joan).

Lucille, hopping mad: Cyril, this is ridiculous, there’s no reason for her to have a catheter, the nurses are just doing it for their convenience!
That Very Nurse: Uh, what do you think you’re doing?
Lucille: I’m taking care of one of your patients, what does it look like I’m doing?
Cyril: We need to get her home.
Lucille: Oh, we’re gonna, and we’re gonna do it before Christmas.

That date I mentioned a second ago? It’s not going well, or perhaps more accurately, it’s not going at all, because it appears that Trixie has been stood up. However, Phyllis and Miss Higgins’ plan is going MUCH better. They’ve both prepared the exact dinners they wanted, and Miss Higgins does an absolutely adorable toast celebrating their friendship and independence. Hey you guys?

A man in an elf costume excitedly yells "I love you! I love you! I LOOOOOVE YOOOOOU!"

Downstairs, Lucille and Cyril show Sister Julienne how they could turn the store room into a room for Sister Monica Joan.

Sister Julienne: She might never walk again! And for at least the next few months she’s going to need full time care.
Lucille: Yeah, and? You know what we all do for work, right? She’ll be so much happier if she’s here.
Sister Julienne: You’re completely right: I was too focused on trying to be practical, but this is completely the right call.

And so Sister Monica Joan is returned to her rightful place with the rest of the crew. Cyril even moves the TV into her room! A similarly successful plot comes to fruition across town, where Shelagh unwraps her Christmas turkey only to find that it’s still covered in feathers, making all the kids run away screaming.

Dr. Turner, barely covering his delight: Oh NO. I guess it’s dead at least?

At Nonnatus, Trixie gets called into Sister Julienne’s office, where she finds out that the agency called to apologize; her date went to the wrong location. Trixe thinks about throwing in the towel, and Sister Julienne tells her not to worry too much; she won't have a lot of time for dating soon anyway. Are they closing? No. They're expanding, and Sister Julienne will explain everything early next year. At the circus, Cyril performs the special baptism for Circus Mom’s new baby in front of the whole crew. At the Turner house, the two adults make a brief attempt at plucking the turkey before Shelagh, laughing, gives up and calls Nonnatus to see if they can still come to dinner. Obviously, the answer is yes! So the whole family, as weird as they are, gets to be together.

And with that, we must say goodbye to our friends at Nonnatus house until next season. In the meantime, we'll be back for more recaps in January, when Andrea Wolanin will be covering All Creatures Great and Small, and I’ll bring you Miss Scarlet and the Duke. However you’re marking the end of this strange year, we here at GBH Drama headquarters wish you a festive season full of love, laughter, and just the right amount of drama.