This week in Poplar, we get to start the episode off with another example of our buddy Fred absolutely saving the day for the team at Nonnatus (mechanical work; always a joy). We also get Reggie for another week, as he’s here to visit Vi and Fred.

Fred: Reg, get hype, Vi is running for mayor!
Reggie: But only men can be mayors?
Vi: Untrue, pal, watch me!

Am I slightly worried that this might lead to Vi taking over the whole damn world? Yes. But since she’s always looking out for our squad, I shall set my fear aside. In the meantime, all the midwives hear from Sister Julienne that they need to be encouraging their patients to attend the postnatal classes; not enough people are turning up.

Nancy: It’s one million degrees outside; nobody wants to come hang out in a stuffy hall.
Sister Veronica: Maybe we can offer treats!
Sister Julienne: The content should be the draw. And guess what: the next classes are being taught by the trainees, starting with you, Rosalind.

While Rosalind crams for her presentation, Fred and Reggie take stock of an overgrown outdoor space that Cyril has asked them to tidy up. Bonus: they get to drink all the leftover beverages from the fete. Honestly that sounds like heaven to ME, and I’m not even semi-retired!

A man in a giant floppy hat dances happily in his garden

The two have a minor mishap where a piece of metal gets stuck inside the push-mower, and then cuts Fred’s hand when he tries to extract it, but they soldier on and finish the job.

Fred: We crushed it, Reggie.
Reggie: We’re a good team!
Fred: Yes, and we need to be a good team for Vi. She’s nervous about this whole mayor thing, no matter how much she’s trying to hide it. She needs our support, and family support is what makes hard things possible.

A woman, overcome with emotion, applauds and starts to cry

At clinic, Miss Higgins happily signs in an expecting mum who’s running late from a work thing. Is this partly because Miss Higgins is a little starstruck by their patient’s job (modeling) especially when she finds out that said patient was also a famous child model who went by Baby Pearl? Maybe! To be fair, Miss Higgins isn’t the only one: everyone’s abuzz about Baby Pearl, from her fellow patients in the waiting room to Rosalind! During her exam, we find out two important things. First, that Baby Pearl plans to do modeling work with her baby after the birth, and second, that Baby Pearl’s baby appears to be in a breech position. The plan? Have Baby Pearl come into the maternity home so the team can attempt to reposition her baby manually. She’s worried, but they’re not yet, so I’m sure this will all be fine.

Kermit the frog quakes in terror

Meanwhile, Vi meets with some of her council constituents. The topic? A bad landlord who’s not fixing the plumbing. Vi says she’ll write to the man and get it taken care of, but I have a feeling it won’t be that easy. On her way home afterwards, who should she run into but Mr. Trixie, who’s waiting outside Nonnatus for Trixie.

Mr. Trixie: Hey Vi. Any complaints from my tenants
Vi: No babe, you’re apparently one of the good ones. Your colleague Bill, however, is a nightmare, and he’s also a councilor, which makes it even worse.
Mr. Trixie: Yeah, I know him. He’s an awful slum lord, and what we really need is a strong mayor to keep him and his pals in line.
Vi: I know, I know, and I still need to do all the prep paperwork and my letter of intent before I can run!
Mr. Trixie: Just think about what you’d do in the role, and why it matters to you. The rest is cake.

The next day, Baby Pearl and her husband arrive at the maternity home so that Shelagh can try and turn their baby. She agrees to let all the trainees watch the maneuver, which is great, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Dr. Turner explains that they are going to have to plan for a breech birth.

Baby Pearl: Not at the hospital though, right? I don't want to go there!
Shelagh: Right. You’ll get to deliver with us! It might be complicated though, so as soon as you feel any pains come right here, ok?

Hey, remember that no big deal cut that Fred got the other day? His hand is still super bandaged and he’s started taking medicine for a “summer cold.” Listen, I’ll be real with you: if anything happens to Fred I will actually lose it! The dude is, somehow, the beating heart of this show! No time to worry yet though; first we have to encourage Vi to go drop off her application with the Mayor’s secretary, even though she’s really worried about it. Fred gives her a comforting hug and accidentally gets blood on her jacket. And does this prompt him to go get that cut looked at by one of the MANY medical professionals he works with and is friends with? NO! FRED, BUDDY, GET IT TOGETHER. Ahem. Anyway. Fred and Reggie head out to do their handy-manning, and Vi pops over to the mayor’s office to drop off her application. The secretary seems pleased to see her, which I think is a good sign.

Secretary: Fun fact: so far you’re the only one to turn in an application!
Vi: OMG, and the deadline is really soon!
The Competition, dramatically throwing open his office door: Did someone ask for a nuisance? It’s me, council man and nasty slumlord Bill, and here’s my application. What’s the word, am I unopposed?Vi: Nope, you’re very opposed. By me!

Slumlord Bill acts like he’s never met Vi (he has), tells her she’s wasting her time because this job is hard and women can’t handle it (ugh), and generally proves to all of us at home that he’s a disgrace and Vi better win. Not to let this grimy jerk get the last laugh, Vi takes this opportunity to pass along the letter she wrote on behalf of her constituents who are suffering from this man’s neglect, and to let him know she wrote a similar one for the housing department.

Young woman says "you go, girl"

While Vi slays, Fred finally goes to Trixie for some wound care.

Trixie: I’m going to clean this but if it doesn’t get better soon, you need to see Dr. T. Also, you don’t look so hot, bud.
Fred: I think it’s just a summer cold. Or maybe sunstroke.
Trixie: Hydrate.
Fred: Noted. Totally separately, you have to go to a lot of fancy parties with your husband, right? Do you have to do small talk?
Trixie: Yeah, but I like it. It’s easy for me; I’m only there to support him, you know? Back on topic: have you had all your vaccines?
Fred: Yeah, yeah. I’m seriously more worried about Vi being mayor, and me having to be the lady mayoress.
Trixie: Fred, you know they won’t actually call you that if Vi wins, right? And it’d be fun!
Fred: Maybe…

But he doesn’t seem convinced. Honestly, Fred is so warm I kinda assumed he was a classic extrovert, but being worried about a lot of small talk is extremely relatable. We believe in you, buddy!

Later, at the shop, Mr. Trixie pops in for a paper and Vi gives him the update. Good news: she’s applied! Bad news: that snake Slumlord Bill did too.

Mr. Trixie: Not to be biased, but wow can I not wait for you to wipe the floor with him.
Vi: Same, tbh.

While they plot, their spouses are, coincidentally, also chatting. Fred hands Trixie a bag of fresh tomatoes to thank her for helping him.

Trixie: Normally I’d say you shouldn’t have, but your tomatoes are amazing. Thank you Fred!

That evening, Fred somehow looks even worse. He returns home and hands Reggie half the cash from their work on the garden. I’m honestly relieved to find out they weren’t just paid in soda, as I originally assumed.

Reggie: I never get paid usually.
Vi: That’s because you work for the community you live in.
Reggie: Ah. Well I’m saving up and taking us all for tea!
Fred and Vi: Yay!
Vi, when Reggie walks off to stow his paycheck: Fred, we also don’t pay Reggie, and he helps us all the time. We really should.
Fred: Good thing that’s an easy enough change to make. We also should put his actual name on the pay packet, it’s not right that he doesn’t get recognized for what he does.

Yeah guys, geez! Sure, kids working at family businesses often aren’t paid, but Reggie is a grown adult!

Meanwhile, in the midst of a photoshoot, Baby Pearl makes the classic Call The Midwife “uh oh I’m in labor” face. She tries to soldier on at the insistence of her agent, but thankfully doesn’t filibuster too long. Arriving at the maternity home, Baby Pearl finds out that she’s already halfway dilated. Yay! With breech births, dilation can take longer due to the baby’s position, so the midwives encourage Baby Pearl to walk around the surgery to let gravity do its thing.

Later, it’s time to push, and Rosalind is doing a bang up job coaching Baby Pearl through the birth and with the delivery. In the hall, Phyllis keeps an eye on Baby Pearl’s husband, who’s understandably pretty worried about his family. But he doesn’t need to be: in the delivery room, Baby Pearl successfully pushes out her baby daughter, and now that this complicated delivery is finished, everyone’s thrilled.

Across town, Vi picks up her formerly bloodstained suit from Mrs. Wallace, who is apparently the Poplar dry cleaner. She’s also rooting for Vi, and tells her she’s got the whole congregation praying for a mayoral win. Mrs. Wallace even refuses to take payment for the cleaning: it’s her contribution to the campaign.

Vi, choked up:

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Vi bustles back home to get everyone ready to hit the campaign trail with her. Fred, who’s looking worse than ever, tries to suggest he stay home, but Vi isn’t having any of it. This is a family affair! Somehow I think she’d feel different if Fred just showed her the festering wound he’s carrying around, but he’s hiding it from everyone pretty effectively. Too effectively: Vi and Reggie head off to get ready, and that’s when Fred starts exhibiting some pretty textbook tetanus symptoms: extreme muscle tension and seizures.

At the event, Vi’s looking at the clock, absolutely dejected that her very supportive husband hasn’t turned up. It only gets worse when Slumlord Bill oozes over to “introduce his wife” i.e. embarrass Vi because her husband isn’t there. Vi does her best to confidently tell him that Fred will be there soon, thank you very much, but she doesn’t seem totally convinced. To be fair, given how steady Fred is, his absence would leave one not totally confident, so that tracks. And lucky for Fred, if not Vi, Reggie comes home, spots his surrogate father on the floor, and immediately heeds Fred’s ask for help, running straight to Nonnatus, where Trixie and Joyce are on call. They call an ambulance, because Fred’s hand is horrifyingly infected in addition to the aforementioned probable tetanus.

Meanwhile, at the maternity home, Phyllis has noticed something interesting about Baby Pearl’s baby girl, and asks Rosalind to fetch Dr. Turner to discuss. Dr. T agrees with Phyllis’ observation: the kiddo has congenital hip dislocation, which is more common in breech births, but can also be caused by hip or leg bone issues. The baby will need an x-ray to find out if there’s something amiss, so they call up St. Cuthberts. Unfortunately, both parents are pretty freaked out by this diagnosis, despite Dr. Turner’s assurance that they’ll give baby the very best care.

Over at this candidate meeting, Slumlord Bill gets up and insults Vi’s credentials. He completely leaves out her work as a council woman, focusing on her shop instead. He also makes it sound like his business makes him good at civics, which is even more galling when we know he’s the worst kind of landlord and only makes things harder for the elected representatives and the constituency alike. Vi, unamused, fires back.

Vi: First of all, since my opponent mentioned handicrafts, I’ll use a nice metaphor about how shoddy workmanship can spoil a whole project. Then I’ll tell you all that I’ve got an eye for detail, and care deeply about this town.

She’s just finished her speech, with a few extra sewing metaphors for good measure (pun very much intended there, thank you) when the Mayor’s secretary runs in and tells her she’s needed on the phone. Obviously, she rushes straight to the hospital where Trixie gives her the bad news: Fred’s got a bad infection and tetanus. He’s getting antibiotics for the infection, but there isn’t a cure for tetanus, so Fred will have to just hold it together until his body processes the toxin. Vi is crushed, both because of the severity of Fred’s illness and because she scolded him for bloodying up her clothes earlier.

Vi: I need to see him. He’ll be scared and need my support.
Trixie: Of course, but you need to prepare yourself; he’s having muscle spasms, which are totally normal, but look pretty scary. Let me fix your makeup and then I’ll take you in.
Fred, seeing Vi: I’m sorry Vi.
Vi: Are you kidding? Why are you apologizing!?
Fred: I missed the meeting!
Vi: You had a good reason! I’m sorry I was mean about the suit. I’ve never been so upset with myself.
Fred: Is it bad?
Vi: Could be worse. You’re in good hands, and you have a lot of support.
Fred: How’s Reggie?
Vi: He’s fine. You have to get better for him, Fred!

While we all worry about THAT, back at the maternity home, Rosalind explains to Baby Pearl that they’ve put two diapers on her baby to help keep her hips in line. Remember how Baby Pearl was so against the hospital for her delivery earlier? We get a little more information on why that might be the case.

Baby Pearl: Do we really have to go to the hospital for her hip? She can’t be seen at home?
Rosalind: Yes, but the doctors there are really good.
Baby Pearl: The hospital is where they give you bad news.

Later that night, at the Buckle house, Miss Higgins has just finished making Reggie rice pudding for dinner when Vi gets back. She explains that Fred won’t be home that evening.

Miss Higgins: Any updates for the Nonnatus crew?
Vi: They said he’s critical but stable.
Miss Higgins: I want you to know that I am here for literally anything you need ok?
Vi: Thank you!
Reggie: This is because of his hand, isn’t it? He did that helping me!
Vi, starting to cry: That’s Fred all over, huh? He’s always helping everyone else. I’m sorry Reggie.
Reggie: I’m sorry too!

At the hospital, Fred struggles to breathe, but does seem to be as stable as he can be, which is something. The next day, Phyllis tells Baby Pearl that they’ve got an appointment at the hospital shortly.

Baby Pearl: I don’t like hospitals.
Phyllis: Yeah dude, most people don’t. We can take your baby over for you, but we figured you’d rather go with her? She will need to be fed.
Baby Pearl: Fine, I’ll go, but I thought I’d get Shelagh.
Phyllis: Well you’re stuck with me.

In the waiting room, Miss HIggins tells Dr. Turner that a LOT of their patients are behind on their Tetanus vaccinations. This is particularly problematic because tetanus is all over the place.

Dr. Turner: I just wish Fred had come straight here after he got that cut; we could have given him the vaccine and he’d be fine.
Miss Higgins: Do you think we should hand out leaflets?
Dr. Turner: I’m not sure anyone reads them.
Me: If only there were a TV program where a beloved character could be endangered by tetanus so everyone would remember to get vaccinated! Oh, wait.
Dr. Turner: What I was GOING to say was that we should do posters.

Over at the hospital, Phyllis introduces Baby Pearl to the medical staff, and then comforts her when she starts crying as they take her baby away for scans. Meanwhile, in Fred’s room, Fred tells Reggie to take care of Vi, because family is everything, before the medical staff take him to intensive care so that he can get more help with his breathing. Back in the waiting area, the specialists return Baby Pearl’s kiddo, who’s been put into a full body harness that must be worn at all times to help her hips grow properly. Baby Pearl, either because she values optics more than most, or because of some as yet undiscussed childhood trauma, really doesn’t want this harness to be seen. But the specialist insists that it’s the only way her daughter will be able to walk, and so she agrees. Next, they talk her through the setup: the harness has to be worn at all times, and can only be removed when changing clothes or doing sponge baths.

Baby Pearl: She hates it. It’s hurting her!
Specialist Nurse: It’s uncomfortable, but not painful. Promise.
Phyllis: She’ll get used to it.

Outside, they’re greeted by Baby Pearl’s husband. Phyllis tries to persuade her patient to return with her to the maternity home, but with little success. Baby Pearl wants to be in her own home, and insists she doesn’t need help. Nonetheless, Phyllis explains that the team will visit twice a day. Baby Pearl brushes her off and runs for the car. Folks, after all that talk last week about getting to know what’s up with patients outside of their medical needs, I feel like we’re missing something major in this lady’s life that’s making her resistant to medical treatment. Seems worth looking into!

Tichina Arnold Whatever GIF by CBS - Find & Share on GIPHY

Meanwhile, in intensive care, Fred has been put on a ventilator to help him breathe while his body recovers. Not going to lie to you, reader, this scene is pretty hard to watch given what we all learned about lung disease from the covid pandemic, so I’m not going to go into too much detail, but it’s dire, and everyone knows it. At Nonnatus, Sister Monica Joan prays nonstop. The Turner kids make a card for Fred, and baked goods for Reggie and Vi, while Shelagh supervises and tries not to cry. Vi sits by Fred’s bedside and talks to him, trying to keep his spirits up and telling him how much she loves him (and that she hopes he doesn’t think she’s an imposter, because they’re not a lovey-dovey couple).

A man weeps

Later, at Baby Pearl’s house, Phyllis and Rosalind look in to find that things are not going great. Baby Pearl has told her husband that they’re not supposed to have visitors (our Nonnatus friends obviously said no such thing), and is, basically, spiraling a bit. Her behavior starts to make more sense when Baby Pearl’s agent arrives and essentially says that her baby can’t work in the harness, and insinuates that she won’t book Baby Pearl either. Discrimination, for multiple reasons! We hate it!

Over at Nonnatus, Sister Veronica broaches the subject of Fred’s health. He’s getting worse, and she thinks they should talk about what might happen if he dies. Sister Monica Joan insists that they should focus on praying for his recovery, but all three nuns are clearly very sad and worried. At the shop, Trixie checks in on Vi, who tells her that she’s also starting to worry that Fred won’t recover. Trixie scoops Vi into a hug, which is pretty much all you can do, but ugh. Later that night, Rosalind and Nancy join the nuns in the chapel, looking for a place to think and be together.

The next morning, Miss Higgins finds Reggie looking at the garden project.

Reggie: I won’t be able to finish this without him.
Miss Higgins: Waiting is hard when we’re worried. Keeping busy helps though, and I need a distraction too. Can I help you?
Reggie: I’d love that.

Across town, Mr. Trixie finds Trixie buying an expensive sofa (her argument: life is too short, which, in this instance, is compelling). Rosalind and Phyllis visit a struggling Baby Pearl again. They tell her that they’re worried about her, and ask enough questions to finally start figuring out what’s going on: Baby Pearl’s mom died the previous year from lung cancer. That’s why she’s so scared of hospitals.

Phyllis: I am SO sorry, I wish I had known! You were so brave! Now look, let’s go for a walk and get some fresh air, huh? You’ve been stuck inside this whole time and I think it’d do you good.

Baby Pearl tries to object, but Phyllis is an unstoppable force, so out they go. Unfortunately, being outside means even more scrutiny and stress, so when the baby starts crying in her pram, Baby Pearl removes the harness to try and comfort her kiddo.

Meanwhile, Reggie and Vi are interrupted at the shop by Slumlord Bill, who will apparently now be the mayor, since Vi has withdrawn from the race. He pretends he’s there to offer kindness, but is obviously there to gloat. It’s disgusting.

Reggie, after Slumlord Bill leaves: That’s not fair. He shouldn’t win.
Vi: It doesn’t matter anymore.
Reggie: Yes it does. That guy is horrible.
Vi: But my place is with Fred.
Reggie: So is mine. I’ll stay with him.

At Nonnatus, the crew’s normally cheerful dinner is somewhat subdued. They’re eating those tomatoes Fred grew, and Rosalind is worrying about the class she’s to present that evening, when Vi arrives and asks for a favor.

Vi: Reggie is insisting that I go do the mayoral election thing, but I need someone to take him to be with Fred. Sister Monica Joan, would you do it?
Sister Monica Joan: I would like nothing more.
Phyllis: I’ll drive.

Across town, Baby Pearl’s at the laundromat when she runs into Mrs. Wallace, who makes Baby Pearl sit down to rest when she finds out how young the baby is. Mrs. Wallace even tries to comfort the baby when she starts crying, but holds her the wrong way, causing Baby Pearl to snap, grab her baby back, and run out of there. The good news? Mrs. Wallace happens to know all the right people to tell about this. But she doesn’t even get a chance because Baby Pearl takes herself to Nonnatus first.

Rosalind: Oh wow, what’s wrong?
Baby Pearl, handing off her infant: I can’t do this! I don’t deserve her!

Bringing both ladies inside, the Nonnatus team talks Baby Pearl down: she’s not an unfit mother, she’s just brand new and having a hard time! It also becomes clear that Baby Pearl is really missing her own mother right now; she doesn’t have other family, and she’s lonely. Phyllis, who has a similar background, is able to sympathize, which turns out to be just what Baby Pearl needs. She gathers her strength, and tells the crew that she promises to not take the harness off again.

Meanwhile, Vi arrives at the vote not a moment too soon, and explains that she will indeed still be running. Slumlord Bill tries to guilt trip her for doing this when Fred is so sick: she’ll be all alone!

Vi: Oh, I’m not alone. I have a friend to support me.

Enter: Mr. Trixie, who in most circles actually goes by Sir, because he’s a lord or whatever in addition to being rich. Slumlord Bill, who cares about that kind of thing, greets and then tries to butter up, the new arrival.

Mr. Trixie: Oh, I’m not interested in talking to you. I’m here with your opponent, my friend Vi.

When it’s time to give her speech, Vi does even better than last time. She explains that she’s here because she believes so strongly in the future of her community. She doesn’t want to be mayor for herself, but to give back! It’s extremely well done, and she wins with a nearly unanimous vote. Slumlord Bill, the sleaze, looks like he just got forcefed a lemon. It’s wonderful.

At the hospital, there’s even more good news: Fred squeezes Reggie’s hand, and starts to wake up! Vi comes straight from her victory to hug her newly-awake husband, and Sister Monica Joan practically runs back to Nonnatus to tell everyone the good news.

Baby Pearl invites Rosalind to her baby’s christening, and is in turn invited to Rosalind’s parent craft class (adorable). Fred opens the card from the Turner kids and gets covered in glitter. Miss Higgins and Reggie work on the garden together, and Reggie finally gets paid for the work he does in the family shop. And with his pay, Reggie treats the whole family to that dinner he promised in the hospital, complete with fancy waiters and table cloths. What a WEEK, huh? I’d say we were due for a quiet episode after this, but in Poplar, that’s rather unlikely. Gird your loins, reader, and I’ll see you back next week for even more midwives!