'Call the Midwife' Recap: Season 11 Episode 5

Poplar friends gathering  (Credit: Courtesy of Neal Street Productions)
Poplar friends gathering  (Credit: Courtesy of Neal Street Productions)

It may be Easter Sunday for us, but our Poplar friends are already into late summer/early autumn on Call the Midwife. Just seven short days ago, our midwives were doing what they do- helping a struggling new mother with her distressing nursing woes and finding a way for a traumatized Holocaust survivor to reconnect with his faith. There was a lighthearted story about popsicles. Most heartwarming was how love (and families) were blossoming for our very own midwives. Check out last week’s recap here before we dive into some rather heavy tales ahead.

Let’s discuss the Packer family situation first. Gordon Packer (Doc Butler) took a fall off a crane which has left him a paraplegic. His wife Glenda (Natalie Klamar) is a proud woman sneers at the offer of social workers, etc. despite how poorly her family is coping with Gordon’s life-altering injury. We’ve met plenty of proud folks in Poplar, but Mrs. Packer’s hesitance to have help in her house turns out to be something quite dark.

After Sister Frances and Nurse Corrigan’s facts of life talk at the school, the Packer’s daughter, Deborah (Amelie Bea Smith) takes advantage of the anonymity of the question box to ask for help. At the same time, Nurse Franklin is fit to be tied about the council’s failures concerning Mr. Packer’s care: Gordon has sustained significant bruising on his back from an alleged fall from his wheelchair.

Once Sister Hilda, Dr. Turner and Trixie compare notes, it becomes apparent that domestic abuse is happening in the Packer home and Glenda is the perpetrator. Soon Nurse Franklin is at the door with a WPC and Mrs. Packer realizes she’s been found out. Grabbing for the dog lead, she rounds on her cowering son, calls her daughter a liar and mocks her husband saying he was grateful that she civilized him.

After admitting that she “smacks” her kids like everyone else, the questioning was moved to the station where Mrs. Packer assures the WPC that Gordon will change his story because “love runs very deep in our house.” Glenda has to be one of the creepiest characters on the show in recent years, right?

All indications are that Gordon is going to do whatever’s necessary to keep his kids safe, even if that means pressing charges against his wife. He vows Glenda will not be coming back. Dr. Turner promises to get the family all the practical and medical resources necessary to give the Packers a new start.

Linda Bassett as Nurse Crane (Credit: Courtesy of Neal Street Productions)
Linda Bassett as Nurse Crane (Credit: Courtesy of Neal Street Productions)

Now for the stories a little closer to home -three of our four secular midwives had an unexpected event happen to them this episode. They were a mixture of good and bad that demonstrated just how quickly our lives can be changed.

We’ll start with Nurse Crane (Linda Bassett) who had me in tears several times during this episode. Her reaction to the letter that she’d won £5000 on the premium bonds her mother purchased was a tour de force performance,  I loved when she talked about scraping by all her life and just now finding out she didn’t have to worry.  It obviously ticked her off greatly.

But her good friend, Miss Higgins, has convinced Phyllis to adjust to her new situation. It would seem that Nurse Crane will be leaving us for a few episodes at least. She’s taking a 6-week coach trip around Europe to visit all the places she never dreamed she’d see. Those Spanish lessons she took back in season 5 sure will come in handy.


Nurse Franklin’s story is one of long-awaited happiness that’s then suddenly put on hold. What with Trixie having a heart-to-heart with Matthew in the same bed, I think we can safely say their relationship has advanced a level or two. Matthew tells her he loves her after she peels back the curtain on the anxieties of her own childhood. He seems a genuine guy and posh enough to suit Trixie.

Then, of course, she gets a letter informing her that her godmother in Portofino has cancer- the woman who is the source of Trixie’s dress allowance and the one who nursed her through the withdrawal of alcohol addiction. Nurse Franklin feels compelled to go to Italy to look after her which means she and Mr. Aylward must be parted for a time. How long? Probably as long as Helen George (the actress who plays Trixie) needed to take her maternity leave. The camera can only hide the bump for so long…

I saved the saddest story for last. Nurse Robinson (Leonie Elliott) has been helping Pamela Heslop (Amy Morgan) prepare for her third baby. It's her enthusiastic husband Terry’s (Dan Linney) first. Pam talks about retraining as a bookkeeper so she can work from home and Lucille realizes her current career isn’t compatible with a family.

Cyril is increasingly disheartened by a steady stream of rejection letters for engineering jobs. Then his pregnant wife tells him she is going to retrain as a health visitor; a job with more regular hours and share many skills she already has. He’s upset she’s made this decision without asking his opinion or perhaps his already bruised pride is reaching its limit. The discussion turns into a quarrel. Cyril goes out to cool off and gets moved along by a copper. Poor guy can't catch a break!

(Credit: Courtesy of Neal Street Productions)
Zephryn Taitte in "Call the Midwife" (Photo: Neal Street Productions)

In the morning, Cyril checks in with Fred for his mail before heading upstairs. He’s overjoyed to learn that he’s been offered the civil engineering job with the council. He brings Lucille a bouquet of flowers from Fred’s garden and they both apologize. New job, new baby – things are looking up for the Robinsons.

The Heslops arrive at the maternity hospital. Pamela is considered a geriatric case and is having a bit of discomfort which is only magnified by her well-meaning but irritating hubby.

Lucille takes a bathroom break as her patient labors and discovers she has started bleeding a bit. She goes to make a phone call for assistance from one of the other midwives, but is interrupted when Mrs. Heslop’s labor suddenly advances.

By the time the Heslop’s baby girl has arrived, Nurse Robinson’s miscarriage is well underway. Phyllis is there to help out with the new delivery and Lucille’s heartbreaking loss. I don’t know what made me cry more – Lucille’s pain and grief or Nurse Crane trying to stifle her sobs and stay strong for her friend.

Nurse Robinson is transferred to St. Cuthbert’s for a D and C to stop the bleeding. Cyril is at her bedside afterward, a calming voice telling her not to be hard on herself. It’s all right to be "as human and helpless as everybody else. There’s no shame in not winning, only in not waiting to see what happens next.”

(Credit: Courtesy of Neal Street Productions)
(Credit: Courtesy of Neal Street Productions)

And finally, we can’t conclude without mentioning that little matter of unexploded WWII bombs threatened life and limb of the Nonnatus residents and half of Poplar. Apparently, two local boys were scavenging for items for Shelagh’s playground refurbishment jumble sale fundraiser. They came upon several items they thought were bowling skittles and exchanged them for candy from Mr. Buckle. Both he and Sister Julienne recognized the munitions immediately and the bomb squad was called in to detonate them safely.  Really boys? They were made of metal- skittles are wooden bowling pins!

 At the end of this installment, we are temporarily down two mid-wives and, I would assume, Lucille will need time to recover and deal emotionally with her loss. We know Shelagh will step into the breach, but will another Sister be sent in from the Mother House?

Once you’ve had a chance to catch your breath and wipe your eyes, let’s decompress by sharing our thoughts on this roller coaster of an episode. The comments section awaits.