'Call the Midwife' Recap: Season 8, Episode 5

Phyllis and the Sgt.jpg

Last time on Call the Midwife, we witnessed a family reconciliation and the tragedy of a woman driven to a fatal decision. All that and Phyllis and Sgt. Woolf’s art exhibition outing gone awry can be reviewed right here.

This week in Poplar was a busy one as well!  Dr. Turner and company began a new, potentially life-saving cervical (serv-EYE-cal) smear clinic, after a shaky start Sister Frances presented her first Mothercraft class and Sister Monica Joan played Cupid. And did you happen to notice there was so much stylish smoking the episode started to resemble a cigarette commercial?

Before we get to the patients of the week, let’s discuss Nurse Crane’s car trouble. Her Morris Minor is not getting the job done these days and finally gives up the ghost all together. Sgt. Woolf offers to drive her on her rounds and she hesitantly takes him up on the offer. Once in the car, he makes it clear (in a gentlemanly way) that he would like to spend time with her socially. This flusters the usually unflappable Phyllis and she exits the vehicle without addressing his request.

Meanwhile Fred has referred a reliable mechanic to take a look at Phyllis’ ailing vehicle. Cyril Robinson (Zephryn Taitte) is a handsome, courteous young man who takes an immediate shine to Nurse Anderson. Lucille, who’s apparently so committed to her work that she can’t abide even a whiff of fun, turns down his offer to go dancing.

The midwives, spearheaded by Sister Monica Joan, conspire to break down Lucille’s defenses by touting Cyril’s engineering ambitions and his love of the Lord. She eventually changes her mind and is surprised when her date shows up in a motorcycle and sidecar combo. It will probably wreak havoc with her hairdo, but at least she’s giving romance a chance.

Cyril (Zephryn Taitte and Lucille (Leonie Elliott) on their first date (Photo Credit: Courtesy of BBC/Neal Street Productions)
Cyril (Zephryn Taitte and Lucille (Leonie Elliott) on their first date (Photo Credit: Courtesy of BBC/Neal Street Productions)

Also this week, Dr. Turner was confronted with a couple of puzzling diagnoses. Pam Sharp (Nancy Sullivan) and her husband George (Jack Doolan) are expecting their first child after miscarrying some time ago. She was nervous about the pregnancy and now, as the time to deliver is near, she worries about what kind of mother she’ll make. Sister Hilda assures her things are looking good.

When Pam’s Braxton Hicks contractions start up, we see Mr. Sharp head out for a pint with a friend though, when no one is watching, he winces and holds his stomach. Pam confides to Sister Hilda that George has been acting strangely and she believes he’s hiding something.

After an urgent call from Mr. Sharp, Sisters Hilda and Julienne show up to find both Pam and George experiencing a considerable amount of pain. Hilda goes off to attend to the laboring mother while Julienne eventually calls for Dr. Turner to give the father-to-be a once over. He suspects George’s grief over the first baby and anxiety about the new one has brought on a phantom pregnancy. Once his daughter is born, Mr. Sharp’s symptoms resolve.

Parents-to-be George and Pam Sharp (Photo Credit: Courtesy of BBC/Neal Street Productions
Parents-to-be George and Pam Sharp (Photo Credit: Courtesy of BBC/Neal Street Productions

If you felt, as I did, that this storyline seemed a bit thin, it was. Apparently, there was a bit more to it in the original BBC cut which basically boiled down to Pam suspecting her husband’s strange behavior (and weight gain) was the result of an affair with a local café owner. Instead she discovered he was just eating for two.

The more substantial storyline of the evening was that of bride-to-be Lois Parry (Holly Freeman). Young Miss Parry shows up at the cervical smear clinic in her mother’s place though she doesn’t really qualify for the test. She tells Trixie she’s getting married soon and just wants to check that everything’s as it should be. Turns out she’s 22 years old and has never had a period. She’s kept this fact from everyone including her mother.

Dr. Turner does an internal exam and is perplexed that he can’t locate her cervix. He refers her to a specialist at St. Cuthbert’s for further examination. Unfortunately for Lois, the specialist is Mr. Kenley (Gerrard McArthur).  Yes, we’ve seen this insensitive, condescending physician in past seasons. Shelagh was his patient in the high-risk pregnancy ward. He also examined a Somali woman who’d undergone female circumcision. In both cases, Kenley possessed zero bed-side manner or compassion.

Anyway, after humiliating Lois in front of an audience of male residents, the diagnosis turns out to be even more upsetting. Wisely Dr. Turner and Trixie deliver the delicate news themselves. Lois has testicular feminization syndrome which means she has a pair of testes where her ovaries should be. She is intersex. Lois’s sense of identity is shattered. She can’t have children and questions if she and her fiancé will be able to have a sexual relationship or that he’ll even want her.

Lois Parry (Holly Freeman) questions her identity  (Photo Credit: Courtesy of BBC/Neal Street Productions
Lois Parry (Holly Freeman) questions her identity  (Photo Credit: Courtesy of BBC/Neal Street Productions

Lois hastily breaks off her engagement by simply telling Paul (Joel Robinson) that she doesn’t have the same feelings for him anymore. She rips apart her wedding dress and finally has to admit to her mother what is going on.

Mrs. Parry (Sarah Belcher) storms off to Nonnatus House to confront Sister Monica Joan who was the midwife for Lois’s birth. Sister Julienne steps in to calm the distraught woman, explaining there was no reason for Monica Joan to have suspected Lois was anything but a normal baby girl. The Sister also assures her that Lois is still the same person who will need her mother’s strength as she has since the day she was born.

Upon returning home, Mrs. Parry finds Lois unresponsive on her bed with an empty pill bottle next to her. She’s rushed to the hospital where her life is saved by pumping her stomach. Lois is finally ready to start learning about her condition and moving ahead with the support of her family and, she hopes, Nurse Franklin as well.

Once home, Lois learns that Paul has been waiting outside the house to talk to her for days. She puts off seeing him at first, but when Lois is finally ready to tell him everything, Paul still wants to marry her saying,

“I used to think that we were made for each other, so if you're not made like other people, that just makes you more precious to me.”

A beautiful sentiment from a young man who is clearly in love and in touch with his feelings. I hate to be cynical, but while it was a touching and hopeful conclusion to this story, it was a bit too tidy. Marriage is hard work and  these two have more obstacles ahead than most. If they were real people, I’d certainly wish them the best but advise plenty of time and honest reflection before taking that stroll down the aisle.

So how did we feel about the events of this week’s episode?  Has Trixie stumbled upon a different direction for her talents as part of the Women’s Advice Clinic and will she have to forgo her Keep Fit classes? What is Nurse Crane’s aversion to a friendlier relationship with Sgt. Woolf (besides the fact that he rather resembles a walrus)? Will Sister Monica Joan begin moonlighting as a matchmaker? The comments section awaits your input!

Carmen Croghan

Carmen Croghan often looks at the state of her British addiction and wonders how it got so out of hand.  Was it the re-runs of Monty Python on PBS, that second British Invasion in the 80’s or the royal pomp and pageantry of Charles and Diana’s wedding? Whatever the culprit, it led her to a college semester abroad in London and over 25 years of wishing she could get back to the UK again.  Until she is able, she fills the void with British telly, some of her favorites being comedies such as The Office, The IT Crowd, Gavin and Stacey, Alan Partridge, Miranda and Green Wing. Her all-time favorite series, however, is Life On Mars. A part-time reference library staffer, she spends an inordinate amount of time watching just about any British series she can track down which she then writes about for her own blog Everything I Know about the UK, I Learned from the BBC.  She is excited to be contributing to Telly Visions and endeavors to share her Anglo-zeal with its readers.

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