Welcome back to Poplar, besties. Last week, we met our trainee midwives for the season and saw two fairly dramatic births. This week, we kick things off with a visit to Cyril’s church, which is practically bursting at the seams. We also get a Nigel the Cat sighting!

Me, patiently waiting to see Nigel:

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Mrs. Wallace, doesn’t have time for this: Cyril, there are too many people for our space. We need new premises.
Cyril: I know. I tried to bring this up last episode but the delivery plotlines were so intense my conversation with Vi got no follow up! To recap: that church space sharing law might actually pass.
Mrs. Wallace: I’ll put it on my prayer list. After item one: quitters.
Cyril: We do have some of those.
Nigel: Indeed. But should we not respect the wishes of our fellow man?
Mrs. Wallace: No. Also, recapper, this thing where you make the cats and babies talk like philosophers is played out. Cyril, feed your cat and then get a notebook: we’re making a list of doors to knock on.

Once again I am in awe of Mrs. Wallace’s commitment, and I bet her strategy will work. Who’s gonna say no to her? Anyway, over at Nonnatus, Trixie rocks up to work looking frazzled. Why? Because she had to take three buses to get there, and still ended up late.

Phyllis: Maybe should you leave earlier?
Trixie: Pal, I’d have to have set out last night. Nightmare!
Phyllis: Yeah, fair I guess. Rosalind is going with you.
Trixie, out loud: Again! Nice!
Trixie, internally: Hopefully we don’t get shot at again.
Rosalind: I packed your bag for you. Hope I didn’t mess it up!

Friendship! Meanwhile, across town, Cyril heads out into town to do his door knocking. First stop: a pregnant lady named Edna Bristow. Technically, Cyril is actually looking for her husband, who hasn’t been to church in a while. He also hasn’t been HOME in a while.

Cyril: Yikes, sorry. Sometimes even church can’t stop someone from losing their way.
Edna: For someone who’s “lost” he sure did find his way into a loveshack with a floozy up in Nottingham. She’s welcome to him!

A man grimaces

Well would you accept help from the church?

A man looks pleased with himself and says "no, I don't think I will."

My husband knows his bible. Doesn’t mean he lives by it.
Cyril: Still offering help. And I’ll pray for you!
Edna, not about to give up the last word: Cool, thanks. Prayer won’t help pay my bills though!

Meanwhile, at the surgery, Nancy takes a break from getting berated by Miss Higgins for improper alphabetization to share a fun look with a patient called Mrs. Khan. In the back, Cyril checks in with Sister Julienne about Edna.

Sister Julienne: Yeah, she’s on our books. Why?
Cyril: I met her this morning on church business, and her situation isn’t good. You’ll keep an eye out, right?
Sister Julienne: Duh.
Cyril: Thanks. I wish I could do more.
Sister Julienne: You did a lot already. Sometimes our best has to be enough, ok?

Over in the exam room, Nancy finishes up a blood draw with Mrs. Khan, and shows her into Dr. Turner’s office.

Dr. Turner: So, looks like your symptoms are the same as last December: abdominal pain, aches in your legs, and trouble sleeping. But your tests all look normal… has your insomnia gotten any better?
Mrs. Khan: A bit?
Dr. Turner: So that’s a no. I’m so sorry, this has got to be rough.
Mrs. Khan: It is. I have to work, it’s not easy.
Dr. Turner: I’m sure starting fresh in a new country is also hard. I’m going to give you some sleeping pills, and we’ll keep trying to figure out what’s up.

And with that, Mrs. Khan heads out to pick up her medicine. Nancy wonders if homesickness might be playing a role in their patient’s symptoms.

Dr. Turner: Really?
Nancy: Yeah, I mean I remember when I moved here. First few months I felt like I was dying.
Dr. Turner: Hm. I think there’s also something she’s not telling me yet. Can you make a non-official house call? She might be more open with a woman.
Nancy: Hell yeah brother, I’m in.

Later, at the clinic, Edna comes for a checkup with her older kiddo Tracy in tow. Nancy scoops Tracy up for storytime, while Shelagh introduces Joyce to Edna. In the exam room, Edna tells the midwives that she’s having trouble sitting still for this: she normally cleans the hall where the clinic is held, and old habits die hard.

Joyce: What you actually need is to relax. You’re almost full term!
Edna: Real talk: I need to pay my rent.

While Joyce listens for baby’s heart, Shelagh tries to make comforting small talk.

Shelagh: It must be hard to do this solo.
Edna: Wow, gossip in this town is no joke.
Joyce: Baby’s heart is great!
Shelagh, pressing on instead of taking the out that Joyce offered: Look. you’re entitled to benefits. Some now, and some after baby is born!
Edna: I’m not trying to be ungrateful. I’m lucky to have a council flat.
Joyce: And I bet you’re already ready for your home birth.
Edna: Sure am, it’s spotless.
Joyce: Well yeah, you’re a pro! I always think how sparkly clean this place is when we come set up.
Edna, touched: thanks.

Later that night, at Nonnatus, the crew tries to play a new board game. Well, I say tries, but nobody is really giving it their all. Sister Monica Joan is even openly cheating when nobody’s looking. The next morning, Nancy looks in on Mrs. Khan under the pretext of inviting her to their coffee event for Asian ladies new to the East End.

Nancy: It’s hosted by our receptionist Miss Higgins.
Mrs. Khan: The one who was giving you so much grief for spelling the other day? No thanks, she’s scary!
Nancy: LOL, yeah, that’s the one. She’s actually very nice. Oh my goodness, those shoes are beautiful!
Mrs. Khan: Thanks! My cousin works at the factory, and my husband and I sell the surplus at the market.
Nancy: Yeah, I bet you crush it. Can’t have too many shoes!
Mrs. Khan: Right? Anyway, I went to university, and my husband went to college, but business sense is different. And obviously we work hard too, but my health gets in the way.

Nancy, seeing her opening, asks if there’s anything Mrs. Khan maybe hasn’t told Dr. Turner yet. Mrs. Khan, though initially reluctant, finally explains that it’s a taboo in her culture to discuss menstruation, but that’s exactly what’s been bothering her. She has extremely painful periods, and all of her other symptoms get worse when she’s menstruating. Hopefully this extra info will be just what our friends need!

Meanwhile, at the clinic building, Edna looks around the room, psyching herself up to start cleaning. She’s just started mopping when her water breaks.

Edna, extremely metal: Well. Good thing I’ve got the right tool for the job. And guess what, kiddo, you’re not allowed to be born until I finish. We need this paycheck!

YIKES! Back at the surgery, Nancy arrives just as Dr. Turner has started to wonder how that house call went. She explains what’s up, and Dr. Turner, who’s just received another batch of “normal” blood tests, asks Miss Higgins to set up a referral to Gynecology at St. Cuthberts.

Meanwhile, Phyllis gives a lecture to trainee midwives about the joys of district care. Hilariously right on schedule, Shelagh bursts in to take Joyce with her: Edna has apparently finished mopping, and called up our pals. At Edna’s home, Shelagh helps get Tracy to sleep before the midwives examine Edna. No surprise, but the baby is almost crowning.

Joyce: LMAO, what? Why didn’t you call sooner?
Edna, sobbing: I was at work!
Shelagh: You did so good on your own!
Joyce: You sure did. We’re going to take care of you.

Edna reaches over to grab Joyces hand, and pretty soon, Edna’s baby boy is born. He looks a lot like his dad, which Edna declares “a useful reminder” whatever that means.

The next day, Trixie again arrives late to work. But hark: nothing to worry about! Soon she’ll be free of the bus, because Mr. Trixie is going to give her driving lessons!

Phyllis: Wow, he’s brave.
Me, Sister Veronica, and Nancy:

Two women laugh uproariously

Trixie: Hey!

Meanwhile, at Cyril’s job, a colleague brings in a demolition order for a few new buildings. The problem? Cyril thinks they’re actually in ok shape, and there’s nowhere for the people who live there to GO. His coworker suggests they apply to live in the new tower blocks, but as we learned in last week’s episode, the tower blocks don’t actually exist yet.

A nonplussed man says "Well that's not good."

Also not good? Edna is already preparing to go back to work, even though she could clearly use a little more rest. Shelagh tries to convince her to apply for assistance, but Edna still doesn’t want to: she wouldn’t want to take it from someone who really needs it. During the convo, Shelagh also notices that Edna’s older kiddo Tracy seems kinda sick. She offers to help put Tracy to bed for a nap, but Edna says no: she should stay there. This seems a little suspect, and unfortunately we find out why soon enough: the bedroom is absolutely covered in mold. Edna’s in the middle of trying to paint over it when the baby starts crying. This poor lady’s at the end of her rope!

And speaking of people who work a lot: across town, Cyril has just arrived back at home at the crack of dawn after working overnight at the shelter. He barely has time to freshen up and grab coffee before he has to head off to work. Fred, concerned, hands over a free newspaper. But Cyril can’t even get a minute of peace to read the dang thing, because his cafe breakfast is interrupted by Colette. Thankfully, Cyril doesn’t mind, because the subject is cats.

Colette: Cyril, what’s Nigel’s other name?
Cyril: Kiddo, I have not slept. What?
Nancy: Colette’s having to memorize a T.S. Elliot poem for school.
Colette: Will you sponsor me?
Cyril: Yes, and Nigel will too!

Reader, for those who don’t know, these poems? They were the inspiration and source material for the musical Cats, which means that throughout this whole scene, my brain was doing this:

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But don’t start thinking about singing and dancing cats yet: there’s still important plot to come. For something has caught Cyril’s eye in the paper: a notice looking for folks interested in becoming social workers! Do I think he’d kick butt at that job? Yes! Do I think he needs even more to do? No! But that’s up to Cyril!

Meanwhile, at the surgery, Miss Higgins greets Dr. Turner with a new update on Mrs. Khan: her husband called to tell them that she’s dealing with blurred vision and a severe headache. Obviously that’s pretty concerning, so Dr. Turner heads straight there, only to find her writhing on the couch in agony. Despite the pain, she’s still very wary of Dr. Turner, but finally assents to an exam, and to giving another urine sample. Unfortunately, on her way back she collapses onto the couch and begins having a seizure. It’s hospital time.

Over at Edna’s home, Sister Veronica has arrived to look in on the family. Unfortunately, Tracy’s cough has gotten much worse. It’s bad enough that Sister Veronica tells Edna to go call for an ambulance. While Edna is gone, Sister Veronica helps her patient sit up, and in doing so, notices mold. It’s EVERYWHERE. Truly a nightmare, and it’s so pervasive it surely wouldn't be something even a professional cleaner like Edna could deal with on her own. Later, at the hospital, Sister Veronica explains that Tracy has bronchitis. She’ll have to stay in an oxygen tent for a few days, and her condition is fairly touch and go. Edna is horrified, especially when she finds out that this was caused by mold.

Edna: I’ve been scrubbing that wall for months, constantly calling the council, and they did nothing!
Sister Veronica: This isn’t your fault.

Right on schedule, the baby starts crying, and so does Edna. She needs to be with her daughter, but her son has to be kept away from his sister. Every time he cries, Edna’s milk leaks. What is she supposed to do??

Sister Veronica: Look, I talked to Dr. Turner, and if you are ok with it, we’ll take your baby to the maternity home for a few days. That way he’ll be looked after and you can focus on Tracy.

It’s a good plan, and it’s also kind of the only option, so Edna agrees and hands her baby over to Sister Veronica. Back at the surgery, Nancy notices something funny about Mrs. Khan’s urine sample, which has been sitting forgotten on a tray in all the ambulance fuss. The sample is dark brown!

Dr. Turner: Woah. It wasn’t this color when she gave it to me. It must have been exposed to sunlight.
Miss Higgins: I suppose it’s possible that it was briefly on the counter.
Dr. Turner: I actually think this is clinically significant: she might have liver problems.

So all in all, a tough time for everyone, which means we're due for some levity in the form of Trixie’s first driving lesson. Her driving lesson fit? Spot on. Her ability to use the clutch? Not so much. It’s going to be a long day.

Across town, Edna gets kicked out of the hospital (visiting hours are over) and heads to the maternity home to visit her baby. When she arrives, Miss Higgins realizes that Edna herself now has a fever, and sets Shelagh on the case. Next stop? Retrieving baby from Joyce, who’s feeding him.

Joyce: Miss Higgins, this isn’t a great time to interrupt him. In the hospital —
Miss Higgins: You’re here to learn about the ways we are different from a hospital. Specifically that we’re a lot less rigid, despite my whole vibe, and we care about mom too. Bring that baby to Edna!

Joyce brings him out just in time to witness Edna finally melting down. She’s got mastitis, which means she’s in a lot of pain and needs antibiotics, and she hasn’t rested out of worry for Tracy.

Shelagh: Yeah, I’m going to admit you. Someone needs to take care of YOU.
Edna: But what about Tracy? You can’t make me pick between my kids!
Shelagh: We never would make you do that. In a perfect world we’d look after all three of you at home.
Edna: But it’s not that, it’s a filthy horrible world that makes me ashamed of how I have to live!

Horribly unfair, and a rough crash course in district life. I guess Rosalind got hers last week, so it is Joyce’s turn, but oof.

Out on the road, Trixie’s doing… not great. And Mr. Trixie is not the most patient instructor. After a couple of near misses, and an utter failure to get into gear, Trixie swerves to avoid a cat and nearly crashes the car in front of a police officer. Mr. Trixie is able to talk their way out of trouble, but he’s still not keen to let Trixie drive them home. She sassily throws the keys back to him, but he fails to catch them, and they fall directly into a sewer grate. All in all, not the best outing for our newlyweds.

Back at the hospital, one of the doctors tells Mrs. Khan that they finally have a diagnosis for her: Porphyria. Porphyria is a relatively rare disease where the body isn’t able to create heme, a component of blood. The heme building blocks, unused, build up in the body and cause all sorts of problems. There’s no cure, but there are some treatment options. The main one? Cutting out the things that make the symptoms worse. Unfortunately for Mrs. Khan, her trigger seems to be the hormonal changes of menstruation, which leads to the doctor suggesting that she avoid pregnancy. This is a huge blow, and to make matters worse, Mr. Khan is slow to comfort his wife.

Mr. Khan: Everyone wants kids. That’s why you get married!
Mrs. Khan: You get married to be a team about whatever happens, actually.
Mr. Khan: I’m sorry.
Mrs. Khan: I’m sorry too. Sorry I can’t give you a kid and be sure I’ll live.
Mr. Khan: We’ll talk to our parents, they’ll have good advice.
Mrs. Khan: No we won’t! It’s not their business. And I’m ashamed.

While they think about their future, Shelagh attacks the housing office. Specifically, Cyril’s jerk coworker.

Horrible Coworker: Not now please, I’m very busy and important.
Shelagh: Not likely, but I actually am both of those things, so I’ll make this quick. I’m here about my patient Edna, who came to you several times for help with her mold-infested flat. And you told her to paint over it?
Horrible Coworker: Well, that’s typical.
Shelagh: Typical? Is it typical for the mold to keep coming back until a child ends up in critical condition at the hospital?
Horrible Coworker: That seems overblown.
Shelagh: Well it’s not. Do not blame her for this. Do you have kids? Have you ever thought about what it’d be like for your family to be forced to live like this?
Horrible Coworker, blasé: I’ll send someone to inspect the place, but I’m sure they’ll come to the same conclusion as me.

Later that night, at Nonnatus, the team talks over the patients of the week. Sister Monica Joan shares speculation that King George III may have suffered from Porphyria. Mrs. Khan might have a royal disease! Nancy, correctly, points out that Mrs. Khan might not care about that. Next up, we get a good update on Edna’s daughter, who’s finally starting to respond to treatment. The downside? She might have permanent lung damage, and it’s unclear what will happen once she’s discharged.

Later that afternoon, Fred finds Trixie worrying in the garden, and hands her a bouquet. She explains the disastrous driving lesson.

Fred: You know, getting lessons from your partner can be… fraught.
Trixie: Sure can. Have you ever thought about teaching Vi?
Fred: I’d rather boil my own head.
Trixie: Do you think you might be willing to teach me? You’re much more chill.
Fred: Yeahhh ok.
Trixie: Just don’t tell Mr. Trixie. He’ll be super offended.

True to his word, when Fred sees Mr. Trixie later, he doesn’t say anything about driving lessons. But hilariously, he doesn’t have to, because Mr. Trixie does it for him.

Mr. Trixie: Look, Fred, have you ever taught someone to drive? I’ve been working with Trixie and, well. I’m just super busy with work, you know how it is. I’d pay you! But I’d appreciate it if you just offered without telling her we had this conversation?
Fred: I’d love to. No payment required.
Mr. Trixie: Thanks. And you might change your mind after the first lesson.

All's well that (hopefully) ends well! Speaking of which, guess who just arrived at Edna’s flat?

Edna: Ugh, you. I told you last time, pastor, I don’t like church.
Cyril: Oh, I’m not here for that. I’m here to assess your flat.
Edna: Great, two reasons to dislike you! Come in.
Cyril: Yikes, this is a bad case. There are a few ways the water could come in, can I take some photos?
Edna: Knock yourself out. It won’t help. They blamed me.
Cyril: Well my report will say otherwise.

Just then, the trainee midwives arrive with forms for Edna. Cyril tells them that the mold situation is worse than he feared: the flat has toxic black mold. The mold has spread from the wall into the mattress, and Joyce tells Cyril that if that mattress isn’t removed, it’ll make everyone sick. Cyril finishes snapping photos of the mold, and then he and the trainees carry the mattress out, again telling Edna on their way that this isn’t her fault.

Meanwhile, across town, Fred takes Trixie on the road for their first lesson. Learning to drive is hard, and learning to drive a standard shift is harder. Thankfully, Fred is way more patient than Mr. Trixie, and Trixie is much more inclined to listen to Fred, so it seems like we’re finally getting somewhere with THAT.

Later, back at Edna’s, she’s finally agreed to fill out paperwork for government assistance. Great for her long term prospects, but extremely frustrating in the meantime! Thankfully, Cyril is there to help.

Edna: This is the worst. I feel like a beggar.
Cyril: Look, I’ve seen all the other flats in this building, and they’re bad, but yours is the worst. You deserve better.
Edna: It’s so gross, I don’t want Tracy to have to come home to this. If she stays in hospital she’ll be safe. I can’t even get a new mattress! She’ll have to sleep on the couch!
Cyril: Not if you fill in these forms and take the money! Your kids have the right to a decent home. Their dad let them down, don’t let society let them down too.

That turns out to be the push Edna needs, and she gets back into filling out the forms. That night, at Nonnatus, Nancy and Joyce bond over their shared experiences with mold back in their countries of origin.

Joyce: Real talk, this is why I love hospitals. It smells clean. It is clean. It’s safe and controlled.
Nancy: You’re really vying for that hospital matron job huh?
Joyce: Maybe, but this case actually did make me realize that it’s pretty hard to take the best care of someone if you have no idea what’s going on in their life.
Rosalind, bursting into the room with excitement: I just found out that those higher pay leaflets I handed out caused quite a stir: we have a huge group of people planning to assemble at the tube station to go to the meeting together!
Joyce: Well I’ll be there too.
Nancy, semi-reluctantly: Me too. Just don’t tell Phyllis.

The next day, Trixie successfully backs Fred’s van into a spot (to the worried and then delighted applause of the trainees) before happily tossing the keys to her mentor, who catches them easily, no sewer grate in sight. Riding high on her success, she’s even somewhat pleased to see her husband. That is, until she notices he’s fiddling with his ear, which means he’s hiding something. Fred, not wanting to divulge the secret driving instructor pact he made with either of these two, beats a hasty retreat, but he shouldn’t have worried. They both immediately confess, and then have a good chuckle at their Gift of the Magi-esque arrangement.

Across town, Sister Veronica tells Vi (who’s in Councilor Buckle mode) that she’ll be complaining to the housing committee about the appalling living conditions in Edna’s flat.

Vi: Well this report sure is thorough. What a story!
Sister Veronica: It’s not a story, and it’s widespread. We need action. I talked to the medical officer for health.
Vi: Was that really necessary? These flats are the best we have! Half of these people are here to try and get one of these flats!
Sister Veronica: Yeah, and if they did, they might die. I guess it’d be pretty embarrassing for the council if these fancy new places were declared unfit though huh?
Vi: I’ll look into it.

Meanwhile, Nancy looks in on the Khans, who give her extra sweets that Mrs. Khan’s mum has sent in the mail. They also unwrap a charm that’s meant to help Mrs. Khan conceive.

Mr Khan: You have to tell your mom. I can’t tell mine otherwise!
Mrs Khan: Why though? It’s not their business, and I don’t want to be the subject of gossip. We live here now. I won’t feel like a failure and be blamed for a disease that isn’t my fault; not by our parents, and not by you. If you can’t handle that, you’re weak, and I don’t want to be married to you.

Well that’s him told! And speaking of people getting a talking to: Vi works her magic and gets a builder in to fix the leaks that are causing mold in Edna’s flat.

Sister Veronica: Thanks Vi, you did good. And you should think about running for mayor; I tried to call his office to be connected to the medical officer and got nowhere. His term is almost up.
Vi, flattered, but not so flattered that she forgot their last conversation: You told me you talked to the medical officer!
Sister Veronica: You know, sometimes you have to lie for the greater good. Also, this is my major character trait and I haven’t told a whopper since last season!

A man wistfully says "Fair enough."

With that seed planted we start to get the wrap up on some of what happened this week. Colette crushes her cat poem recitation. Edna’s mastitis clears up, and both of her kids are able to come back home to a mold-free flat. And Cyril tells Mrs. Wallace that he wants to get out of the housing department and into social work.

Mrs. Wallace: This says there’s training. What’ll come of the church?
Cyril: I’ll be learning on the job, and studying part time. And that’s if I get accepted.
Mrs. Wallace: You will be. It’s God’s will. Just like our new church building.
Cyril: New building?
Mrs. Wallace: I got a local vicar to agree to let us use his church twice a month.
Cyril: That sounds like Mrs. Wallace’s will to me.
Mrs. Wallace: This is good news for everyone. Everyone except your cat. He’s not invited.

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Hey, did you really think Vi didn’t hear Sister Veronica’s suggestion earlier? She did, and she’s been thinking about it all day. So much so that she hasn’t planned dinner yet!

Fred: Woah, that’d be new. But you’re good at ribbon cuttings, so...
Vi: FRED. It’s about more than that! I’d be able to make change! Stand up for people! Lead the councilors to do the right thing! If you don’t think I can do that, you don’t believe in ordinary people!
Fred: Babe, you’re not an ordinary person. You’re magnificent.
Vi: Well will you support me?
Fred: Obviously.
Vi: Thanks. Now unwrap this stuff.

But when Vi isn’t looking, Fred looks a little less sure. Hopefully that’s just because Vi with even more power really is somewhat terrifying to ponder, and not because he’s having doubts!

Out in Poplar, Nancy and Colette see both the Khans doing a roaring trade at their shoe stall. Mrs. Khan looks particularly healthy and well rested, which is a relief. Cyril leads the congregation in prayer, Trixie and Mr. Trixie move past their driving woes, our midwife pals learn about the wage action, and all is well in Poplar… for now. What’ll next episode bring? We’ll just have to wait to find out!