Welcome back to a new batch of Call the Midwife episode recaps. Season 10! Can you believe it?
One thing that you can count on with CTM–the world keeps changing and Poplar’s midwives are always up for the challenge. And we’re not just talking about the hemlines of their habits. Now if you’ve got your cup of tea and a box of tissues, let’s begin.
It’s spring 1966 and Sister Julienne is determined to keep Nonnatus House up and running. (You may recall last season the order was granted a reprieve by the local council which reinstated their budget and froze their rent for one year.)
Julienne may be conservative in some matters, but when it comes to the community that so desperately needs their services, this Sister-In-Charge is open to some inventive solutions. She and the director of a fancy-schmancy private clinic have devised a plan to reallocate some of the Sisters to his facility in exchange for much-needed income for their operations in Poplar. Julienne enlists Nurse Franklin to work onsite for six weeks where she is to evaluate the appropriateness of the workplace for her colleagues.
When Dr. Turner gets wind of the arrangement, he is none too pleased. He feels very strongly that the NHS should honor its promise to protect the health of all citizens by adequately funding their care. He makes a snide comment to Sister Julienne about not charging a patient for an extra night at the maternity home. Mrs. Turner does not approve of his show of disrespect.
Trixie, on the other hand, is pleased to do what she can to save Nonnatus House. (Who can forget her scathing and passionate address to the council?) And let’s be honest, she loves a stylish frock and the luxury of high society.
But once at the posh Mayfair clinic, her expressions of dismay speak volumes. From referring to Trixie as ornamental to his opinion that pregnant women should quit their silly jobs, Mr. Scarisbrick’s (Richard Dillane) dismissive attitudes towards women trouble Nurse Franklin.
Surprisingly when Trixie sits down with the doctor to suggest that, more than charming or nurturing his patients, he should be allowing his midwives to empower their mothers-to-be, Scarisbrick has no qualms about letting her fully manage a labor. Trixie chooses the intelligent but insecure Fiona Aylward as her pet patient.
Shortly after, Mrs. Aylward delivers a baby boy with her husband at her side and Mr. Scarisbrick observing in the background. And though we don’t really see much bonding with Fiona, Trixie has a nice chat with the new father, Mr. Aylward. She urges him to hold his son and they talk about how his new child will be the “blind date of the rest of his life”.
The principal (and most heartbreaking) storyline of the week, however, is that of Audrey and Derek Fleming (Kathryn Wilder and Jack Colgrave Hirst). After five years of marriage, the couple is eager to welcome their firstborn child. Sadly, the infant is born with a serious deformity- he has no legs below the knee. Dr. Turner is summoned to the Flemings’ house only to find the baby too weak to transport to the hospital. Sister Julienne joins Nurse Anderson and Sister Frances in standing vigil over the deceased baby Christopher and caring for the grieving parents.
As any parent would, the Flemings question what happened to their son. Though it’s likely the tragic Thalidomide cases from past seasons popped into the minds of most viewers, it turns out the Fleming baby’s birth defects were more likely due to something his father was exposed to. Derek, who has suffered for years from gastrointestinal complaints, reveals that he and his National Service comrades were deployed to the South Seas where they witnessed hydrogen bomb testing over Christmas Island.
Dr. Turner tries to investigate what link these military exercises might have to the Flemings' health crises as well as other men stationed there at the time. Even the wrath of receptionist Miss Higgins can’t get the Ministry of Defense to fess up and disclose the medical records of Operation Grapple soldiers.
Meanwhile, Derek experiences a serious hemorrhage which results in part of his stomach being removed. Audrey tells Dr. Turner that once her husband recovers, they will fight to discover the truth about what these men (and subsequently their children) were exposed to. Patrick is clearly rooting for the couple to succeed after all they’ve been through.
In other plotlines, last season Sister Monica Joan took a dangerous tumble, breaking her leg in two places. Though her physical recovery is slow but steady, her spiritual healing is at a standstill. She is clearly depressed, and her crisis of faith continues to concern everyone who cares about the fragile Sister. Her heart-to-heart with Fred Buckle in which she describes her “dark night of the soul” demonstrates just how lonely Sister MJ’s journey has become.
And last but not least, Cyril Robinson (and the church of Jamaican expats he leads) find themselves suddenly homeless. Lucille presents a solution that addresses a trio of predicaments. The church’s matriarch agrees to rent the flat above the Buckle’s newsagents as their new venue for worship which will double as Cyril’s residence. Not only that, but Fred can finally hire a much-needed shop assistant.
So begins season 10 – the signature heartbreaking patient story, a new test of resourcefulness for the women of Nonnatus House and yet another chapter in the continuing trials of Sister Monica Joan. (Not to mention that nouveau habit fashion show at the end with a mortified Sister Frances juxtaposed against joyous Sister Hilda and Violet Buckle strutting their stuff!) Let’s chat in the comments about your thoughts on this episode and your hopes for the season!