Table of Contents
- Call the Midwife Season 8, Episode 6 Recap
- Closed Captions, Anyone?
- Worker Protection
- Teen Mother
- Communication Skills
- Modern Day Midwives Blog
- Meet the cast of Call the Midwife series six
- Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter)
- Sister Ursula (Dame Harriet Walter)
- Nurse Barbara Gilbert (Charlotte Ritchie)
- Shelagh Turner (Laura Main)
- Nurse Phyllis Crane (Linda Bassett)
- Call the Midwife: Season 6, Episode 1 Recap
- Home Sweet(?) Home
- No Soup For You!
- Trix Are For Kids
- FYI: Reception Committee
- We’ll Drink to That
- What’s Love Got To Do, Got To Do With It?
- The First Rule About Fight Club
- Garden of Dreams
- And They Lived Happily Ever After
- FYI: The Kray Brothers
- 4.1 Mama Mia
- She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Sister
- One Ringy-Dingy
- Great Expectations
- Extra: MIA this episode
Call the Midwife Season 8, Episode 6 Recap
Episode 6 marches in the week of May Day (May 1), when union members and labor advocates around the world stage parades and protest for better working conditions and benefits. In the episode’s introduction, Call the Midwife points out that in 1964, every East End family had a connection to the wharves. The pay at the docks was considered good, but the hazards of the labor could cost workers their health. We see Brittall family men face deadly diseases they contracted while at work.
Closed Captions, Anyone?
Sister Mildred (MIRIAM MARGOLYES), Joe Brittall (DENNIS BANKS).
Watching Call the Midwife does not lead to hearing loss, but the closed captions come in handy alongside actors’ renditions of the East End Cockney accent. If you had trouble understanding dialogue or the meaning of slang phrases, here’s a recap of all the lines we stumbled through, and the plots they relate to.
“The hospital let me dad come home last night.”
While nurse Trixie Franklin is bicycling past the docks, a worker stops her to share some news. Between his accent and having no context about the character Barney Brittall, we really had no idea what he said, and had to replay the scene several times! He announces it as good news, but his dad, Joe Brittall, has actually returned home to die. At least he’ll be among his family of three generations.
Joe Brittall is dying from pneumoconiosis, the medical term coined in 1866 from the Greek pneuma (air, wind) and konis (dust). It’s commonly known as occupational lung disease, which is caused by breathing in dust, silica or asbestos particles at the workplace. The particles cause scarring in the lung tissue, which makes breathing difficult. There is no cure.
Trixie says the disease is common among Poplar’s retired dock workers, like Mr. Brittall. Elsewhere, miners can suffer from black lung disease, caused by coal dust. Brown lung comes from the dust of cotton or other fibers.
“Just don’t let her take the mickey.”
“Take the mickey” is slang for making fun of someone, or teasing them, but in this case we think it means to take advantage, or make a fool of someone. Violet Buckle wants to protect her husband Fred from the intrusive Mother Mildred, who is commandeering his time and use of his van in her effort to get to know the Poplar community that Nonnatus House serves.
“She doesn’t know if he told a porky.”
A “porky” means a lie, and comes from the Cockney tradition of creating slang out of rhymes (porky pie rhymes with lie). Val Dyer says this of Lucille’s suitor, Cyril. Churchgoer Lucille had heard that her new love interest was a pastor, and he isn’t. But he didn’t lie about that – it was Sister Monica who did! She defends her portrayal of him as a pastor with a gem of dialogue: “To operate solely on the plane of the literal would be tedious and would blind one to a greater truth.” We’re glad Cyril does not get eliminated in this episode of the bachelorette Midwife!
Nurse Lucille Anderson (LEONIE ELLIOTT), Cyril Robinson (ZEPHRYN TAITTE).
“I ain’t flashing my pins for no one!”
Pins is Cockney slang for legs, and is usually meant to compliment a woman’s legs, in particular. This wisecrack comes from nurse Val’s grandmother, who is basically saying she doesn’t want any strange doctor looking at her body. Val is visiting her to tend to some sores on the back of her grandmother’s “pins.” Gran lets Val know she should come around for visits more often, not just because Gran still insists on giving her ice cream money.
Valerie Dyer (JENNIFER KIRBY) and her grandmother Elsie Dyer (ANN MITCHELL).
“I come as Boadicea, girded for battle.”
Mother Mildred shows up at Fred’s doorstop with this proud greeting. She may be distinctive in her habit and robes, but she’s no Boadicea! Boadicea (or Bodica) is a familiar name to ancient history buffs in the UK. She was the queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe in Eastern England who led a revolt against the Roman Empire in AD 60 or 61. Her troops killed tens of thousands of Romans and Britains, but did not defeat them. She died by either suicide (poison) or died of illness.
As Joe Brittall is dying from years of inhaling dust and other particles as he loaded and unloaded goods at the East End wharves, his son Barney is hospitalized with a potentially deadly disease called Anthrax. Anthrax is a bacteria found in the soil that can infect livestock and animals. It is not contagious, but people can contract it by breathing in spores, as Barney Brittall seems to have done via infected bonemeal from Lebanon.
Barney Brittall will recover from the Anthrax. Barney’s 21-year-old son has seen enough and decides to run for a position with the union so he can advocate for protective clothing and better knowledge about the potentially dangerous goods the dock workers handle.
Nurse Lucille Anderson (LEONIE ELLIOTT), Elaine Pilkington (HANNAH RAE)
Call the Midwife‘s particular line of labor comes into the episode with seventeen-year-old Elaine Pilkington. The teen mother gives birth to her second child at the maternity home. She has yearned for a child to replace the infant that was taken away from her without her consent at age 15. When her parents learn their unwed daughter wants to keep this child, they refuse to let Elaine or the baby live them.
Lucille connects Elaine to the National Council for the Unmarried Mother, a charity which helps find Elaine a “sympathetic landlady.” Elaine will be able to get National Assistance until her child is five. We hope her typing skills will support her beyond that.
In 1970, the charity changed its name to the National Council for One Parent Families. It merged with Gingerbread in 2007. That charity assists single parents in England and Wales and its president today is Harry Potter author JK Rowling.
Dr Patrick Turner (STEPHEN MCGANN), Shelagh Turner (LAURA MAIN)
Shelagh and Dr. Turner are preparing for the moment when May, the four-year-old orphan from Hong Kong that they’ve been fostering, moves on to her intended adoptive family. They hearts hurt at the thought of seeing her go, and they also want to know how to prepare her for the transition. Unlike the social worker assigned to them, the couple think there must be ways to make the upcoming separation easier on May. We see Shelagh start to make a scrapbook of photos and mementos that May can take with her.
Mother Mildred likes hearing the sound of her own voice and her sophisticated turns of phrase. Too bad she couldn’t have become a priest who could preach sermons from the pulpit. Unfortunately, her silver tongue lacks the tact of the midwives. She deeply offends Mrs. Britall by comparing the living conditions in Poplar to that of the slums in Kowloon. (Learn about its impoverished area called the Walled City, which was razed in the early 1990s; Kowloon is part of Hong Kong, which first became part of the British Empire in the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, after the First Opium War.)
She clashes with Trixie, insults Mrs. Brittall and takes advantage of Fred. But Mother Mildred ends the episode showing her heart is in the right place. She apologizes (if still rather aggressively) to Mrs. Brittall. After Violet lays down some rules of engagement with Fred, Mother Mildred admits “I came here to learn and I’m learning every day.” And, she goes out of her way to show her moral support for the dock workers, who she agrees should have better health protections. She may have unfinished business with Trixie.
For more background on the year the midwives and sisters are living through, see our 1964 highlights of songs, films, advances in medicine and science and more. Watch the next Call the Midwife episodes on Sundays at 8pm. Episodes will stream for two weeks after broadcast. You can read the blogs of real-life midwives on the
Modern Day Midwives Blog
“Call the Midwife” Season 8 is rated TV-14. The plot points discussed in this episode recap contain mature content and may not be suitable for all audiences. Discretion is advised. Warning: spoilers ahead.
As the curtains open to this week’s episode of “Call the Midwife,” we travel to the edge of the city where father and son team Barney and Ed Brittall are hard at work at the docks. As these two new characters set the stage for our latest story, the midwives also find themselves playing host to a familiar house guest.
Filling In for Phyllis
This week, Phyllis is forced to the bench when a painful, trapped sciatic nerve sends her to the hospital at the beginning of the episode. When it’s determined that she’ll have to be off her feet for six weeks, Mother Mildred offers to send someone from the Motherhouse in her place. Yet as fate, or faith, would have it, Mother Mildred volunteers her services instead in an effort to give back and learn more about the Nonnatans’ work. While the women are encouraged by her enthusiasm, they’re not as keen to hear she’ll be shadowing them during house calls, and everyone’s quick to play a game of “not it” when she asks who she can accompany. She’s not one to shy away from letting her opinions be known and while we appreciate how vocal she is, let’s just say she teeters on the edge between being outspoken and a tiny bit abrasive.
The New Visitor
This minor character flaw later presents itself when Trixie draws the short straw and Mother Mildred joins her on her trip to the Brittalls. There she meets the entire family, including Barney’s wife Gilda, his father Joseph and Barney’s second son John. Trixie has been treating Joseph for pneumoconiosis, which is likely a result of his former job as a docker, working around excessive amounts of dust.
While Joseph is Trixie’s main patient, the house call soon turns into an appointment for Barney as well when he pulls her aside to get her medical opinion on a red blemish that has surfaced on his neck. Mother Mildred steps in to observe the infection and states that its cause is probably environmental, not unlike infections she saw from her work in the Kowloon slums of Hong Kong.
Understandably, Gilda does not take kindly to this comment, believing it to be a statement about their own living situation and throws some major dagger eyes her way. Did it just get cold in here? Oh, no, that’s just the chill we’re feeling from Gilda’s resentment toward Mother Mildred.
Not Meant to Be
Speaking of awkward, the slow-blooming relationship between Cyril and Lucille has also soured. When Trixie and Valerie push Lucille for details following her first date, she expresses utter disappointment. She divulges the ~scandalous~ account of the night to her friends, which include a date at a West Indian social club where marijuana was present and that despite what she had heard through the grapevine Cyril is not a pastor, nor does he attend church. We sense a deal breaker here.
Later, upon taking Trixie’s advice, Barney schedules an exam with Dr. Turner where he’s confronted with an unfortunate diagnosis. Dr. Turner suggests the possibility that some of the products Barney handles while at the dock, like bone meal, could contain traces of anthrax. After further testing, they confirm the often-fatal infection and begin treatment immediately.
While the Brittalls cope with the enormous weight of ailing family, the Turners struggle with their own family dilemma. During this season’s Holiday Special, Patrick and Shelagh brought May, an orphaned child from Hong Kong, into their home as her foster parents. May instantly became part of the family as Tim took her under his wing as a brother figure and Angela became her playmate both at home and school. Yet just as the Turners start to become attached to their foster daughter, word from the Nonnatus House charity arrives about plans to move May in with her permanent family. Though Patrick and Shelagh knew their time together would be temporary, the news serves a brutal blow as they realize how much they care for her.
A Teen Pregnancy
At the maternity home, Lucille attempts to rid her mind of he who shall not be named and busies herself during her night shift. There she encounters Elaine Pilkington. The young woman, who has concealed her pregnancy beneath layers of clothing, stumbles in exclaiming that she’s in labor. When Lucille offers to call her parents as they prepare for the birth, Elaine promptly rejects this, implying she might have something to hide. From this conversation, Lucille discovers that Elaine is only 17.
At the Brittalls’ house, the toll of both Joseph and Barney being sick (Joseph likely on his death bed) is overwhelming. To make matters worse, all work has been halted at the dock after word spreads about the risk of anthrax infecting other workers, leaving many men, including the Brittalls without pay. With the rising stress on the family, Trixie offers Nonnatus House’s services to do what they can to assist Joseph and the others while Barney is at the hospital. Though Gilda accepts the help, she requests that Mother Mildred is not included in the house call rotations.
This of course does not go over well with Mother Mildred when Trixie attempts to explain the situation to her. Despite her unwillingness to accept that she may have caused Gilda offense during her row with Trixie, however, she later appears to reflect on their discussion and visits the Brittalls to apologize. Gilda doesn’t exactly welcome her with open arms, but as the two spend time together, Mother Mildred learns about the poor work conditions as well as the lack of proper clothing and equipment to protect the men at the wharf from dangers such as anthrax. After renewing her relationship with Gilda, Mother Mildred takes it upon herself to go straight to the source of the Brittalls’ problems to see how she can help.
When Elaine delivers her daughter, Sarah, Lucille urges her to share the news with her parents. Elaine hesitates at this and reveals that Sarah is not her firstborn. Having given birth before, Elaine was unknowingly forced to give her son away when her parents took him to “see a doctor” though they were secretly arranging to bring him to an adoption agency. She eventually agrees to let Lucille inform her parents of her whereabouts but prefaces this with a warning: that this time, her child isn’t going anywhere.
Unlucky Dr. Turner is tasked with confronting Elaine’s parents who 1. are in disbelief that Elaine was pregnant to begin with and 2. have not changed since the first baby. They both agree that unless Elaine is married, she won’t be mothering a child on their watch.
Taking on The Man
Though Elaine’s parents won’t be swayed, Mother Mildred leaves the Brittalls’ house enlightened after her conversation with Gilda. She meets with Mr. McGregor, who manages the dockers, and there she also becomes acquainted with one of the many disgruntled members of the dockers union, Pete Jessop, the union’s shop steward.
Life As a Single Mother
At the maternity home, Elaine receives a visit from her parents who attempt to bring her home — without the baby. They reiterate their sentiments over her status as an unwed woman and how it could tarnish their reputation and family business. Clearly, we know where their priorities lie, but a brave Elaine puts her foot down and refuses to surrender Sarah. Following their altercation, Elaine’s father puts the final nail in the coffin when he returns to the maternity home with Elaine’s belongings, officially abandoning her. Lucille and Ms. Higgins help her search for an organization that assists young mothers and Elaine begins looking into work as she treks into the world as an independent woman.
Ed’s Political Aspirations
When Mother Mildred returns to the Brittalls’ to check on Joseph, she runs into Ed who reveals that Gilda has asked her sons to find safer jobs. Instead, he says that when Pete Jessop retires, he’d like to run for the position of shop steward to represent the dockers union and change the workplace for the better. Mother Mildred supports this wholeheartedly, and while it takes a moment to sink in for Gilda, she too approves acknowledging that her son is trying to help protect other men like Joseph and Barney.
As early supporters of Cyril and Lucille’s relationship, Trixie and Valerie are stumped to hear that Cyril lied about his work as a pastor. Thanks to a little detective work, the two piece together that the rumor was spread through Cyril’s biggest fan, Sister Monica Joan. Upon this discovery, Valerie explains the situation to Sister Monica Joan and why Lucille feels that she can’t trust Cyril, and Sister Monica Joan admits that she may have fabricated that piece of information about him.
Realizing the mistake she’s made, Lucille searches for Cyril to explain why she ghosted him and — oops — called him a liar. Luckily, he finds the ordeal to be quite comical and agrees to give her a second chance, also admitting that while he doesn’t agree with the substance use Lucille witnessed at the social club, he frequents it to feel closer to home. The two resolve their differences, and while Cyril isn’t a pastor, he does agree to join Lucille at her church for date #2. Praise.
As Episode 6 concludes, Elaine looks forward to her life with Sarah, despite being shunned by her family during her time of need. She also qualifies for national assistance to help with rent and receives space at an apartment thanks to the Council of Unmarried Mothers.
While the Brittalls experience great loss this episode when Joseph eventually succumbs to his pneumoconiosis, they experience a bit of fortune as Barney’s health vastly improves. As Season 8 begins to wrap up, we wonder what will become of Cyril and Lucille and are eager to learn more about May’s new family. Honestly, can anyone live up to the Turner family? What’s more, we hope Phyllis gets better soon because we already miss her so!
All of these questions and more answered next week — hopefully. Catch you next time, “Midwife” fans!
Forgot how we got here? Catch up with our Season 8 GIF recaps. And don’t miss our modern take on “Call the Midwife”: The Modern Midwives Blog.
Get Another Take on This Episode
From Thirteen.org | The British Tele Dish
From WTTW Chicago | The Playlist Blog
From NPT Nashville | The Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Recap
From WETA Washington | The Tele Visions Blog
Sunday night’s (17 February) episode of Call The Midwife was full of ups and downs and viewers – who dubbed it an “emotional rollercoaster” – absolutely loved it.
The episode featured a heartbreaking storyline, as the Turners learned a new adoptive family has been found for their foster daughter, May. Patrick and Shelagh expressed their sadness about the situation and it seems like maybe they’re not ready to let her move on after all.
Viewers certainly don’t want May to leave the Turner house.
If the Turner’s don’t adopt little May I’m going to cry @CallTheMidwife1 😭💔 #CalltheMidwife
— eves (@whatevieedid) February 17, 2019
🗣 why can’t the Turners keep little May? I love the Turners. #CallTheMidwife
— Bianca 🏁 (@itsB33xox) February 17, 2019
Little may’s departure may actually literally break my heart. Got too attached along with the turners 😭😭😭#callthemidwife
— little miss ray sunshine ☀ (@sunbabe08) February 17, 2019
Also the day little May has to leave the Turners is going to kill me, I don’t want her to leave 😭 @StephenMcGann #CalltheMidwife
— Leonnie Gomes (@LeonnieGomes) February 17, 2019
On a lighter note, Nurse Valerie’s gran Elsie (played by EastEnders star Ann Mitchell) was introduced. Val visited her beloved grandma, who insisted on giving her pocket money for ice cream, and viewers loved their sweet relationship.
val and her gran have such a beautiful relationship my heart #callthemidwife
— Lucy ♡ (@Lucymyfanwy42) February 17, 2019
I just love Val’s gran #callthemidwife
— Lee Fergusson #FBPE (@LeeFergusson) February 17, 2019
Speaking of relationships, Nurse Lucille and her could-be boyfriend Cyril patched things up after a misunderstanding about his job as a mechanic and it seems like love could be on the horizon for the pair.
Viewers are thrilled to see Lucille finding romance.
I’m rooting for Lucille and cryill. I love their chemistry 😁😁😁 #callthemidwife
— little miss ray sunshine ☀ (@sunbabe08) February 17, 2019
Lucille and Cyril forever 💗 #CallTheMidwife
— Chloë Stilgoe (@chloestilgoe) February 17, 2019
Lucille and Cyril are SO CUTE. #CallTheMidwife
— rachel (@raqueIturner) February 17, 2019
Talk about a whirlwind of emotions.
#callthemidwife is always such an emotional rollercoaster, I always cry too! But I love it all the same ❤
— Chloë (@Chlobee24) February 17, 2019
Call The Midwife returns to BBC One this Sunday at 8pm.
Catch up on the Season 6 premiere of Call the Midwife. Warning: spoilers ahead.
Bring on the tea and extra servings of cake because the midwives of Nonnatus House are back! Oh how we have missed the witty ramblings of Sister Monica Joan and the hustle and bustle of Poplar, London. No need to fret, though. Season 6 is here and packed with more heartwarming — and tear jerking — stories and, of course, adorable babies.
When Season 5 concluded, the midwives had experienced a roller coaster of events, testing their ability to overcome the obstacles in both their professional and personal lives. As Dr. Turner dealt with a hospital crisis related to an overwhelming number of infant deformities caused by thalidomide, Trixie struggled with Barbara and Tom’s courtship, while also coping with a long history with alcoholism. Sister Mary Cynthia was subject to a vicious assault after one of her calls, and Sister Evangelina, one of the House originals, passed away.
Later, we witnessed the midwives as they traveled to the Eastern Cape of South Africa to provide aid to an understaffed mission hospital. On top of everything they had endured both at home and abroad, they saved the collapsing hospital, forging ahead to prove that together they could stay strong in the face of adversity. Here’s where they are now:
1. Introducing Sister Ursula
As usual, things never slow down at Nonnatus House. So much so that the ladies barely have time to set down their suitcases before being greeted by an unfamiliar face and a new way of living. Cue Sister Ursula, a newcomer to the house who thrives off strict rules and doesn’t mind rocking the boat before the women can even get over their jet lag. After a call from the Mother House, the midwives discover that, not any new addition, Sister Ursula will be taking over Sister Julienne’s position while Sister Julienne is demoted to an everyday member of staff. First impressions, eh?
2. Poplar’s New Villain
Meanwhile, as the midwives come to terms with this change in leadership, we’re introduced to our first expectant mother of the season, Trudy. Outside a jail in Poplar — red flag number one — she reunites with her newly released husband, Lester, who is way too excited about winning a trophy for boxing in jail. Red flag number two. Though at first glance the two appear to be lovebirds, Lester is quick to reveal his dark side behind closed doors, and we see the emotional and physical suffering Trudy experiences from spousal abuse. With zero support from her mother, Trudy finds companionship in Nurse Crane as conditions worsen.
3. Cheers to Babs — and Cocktails
Recently engaged to Tom (surprise!), who proposed to her in South Africa, Barbara decides to join Patsy and Delia in the world of martini glasses and adult drinks. No more bitter lemon for this girl! After all, “vicars’ wives drink quite a lot of sherry.”
Attempting to hold on to his title for Worst Father of the Year, a volatile Lester takes his son Mickey to a boxing ring while an unknowing Trudy rests at home. Having expressed her disapproval for Mickey’s participation in the sport the moment Lester was released from jail, Trudy is shocked when she discovers that Lester, not a midwife, has pulled Mickey out of school to fight a boy twice his size. When the police are unable to get involved, Trudy is left to confront an already angered and abusive husband at home all while trying to protect Mickey.
5. The Power Behind a Mother’s Love
After Trudy attempts to take a stand against Lester and alerts the police of his actions, things quickly escalate in their household. Lester physically assaults Trudy and locks her into their bedroom, leaving his now-injured and pregnant wife alone. It’s not long before Trudy begins to go into labor and must work with Mickey, who sadly was witness to the altercation, to escape. As mother mode sets in, Trudy forces her way out and makes the trip to Nonnatus House just in time to deliver her baby girl.
6. The Problem with Love
While being tended to at Nonnatus House, Trudy opens up to Nurse Crane about her dreams of “weddings and white dresses” when she was a young girl. Clearly discouraged by the day’s turbulent events, she seems to imply that she has given up on the dreams she once cherished and the concept of “true love.” Yet a wise Nurse Crane reminds her that love — motherly love — was responsible for her strength in leaving Lester and securing help for her children.
7. Sister Mary Cynthia Opens Up About Her Attack
After a brutal assault in Season 5, Sister Mary Cynthia struggles with anxiety, which comes to light after she’s caught in the middle of a conflict between Lester and Trudy. Struggling with the trauma, she attempts to face her demons alone, but it’s not long before Sister Monica Joan and Sister Julienne step in to support her.
8. Shelagh’s Expecting!
Though Nonnatus House experiences its fair share of lows this episode, the Turner family pulls through with some much-welcomed and uplifting news. After there were doubts that Shelagh and Dr. Turner would be able to have a biological child together, Shelagh reveals that she’s pregnant. Nervous about motherhood, she confides in Sister Julienne.
9. Nurse Crane Provides a Shoulder to Cry On
After another violent run-in with Lester, Trudy attempts to file for custody of her children. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go as planned. Her attorney explains that Lester could argue that her injuries were actually of her own doing as a result of her past with self-harm. He also claims that there were no witnesses to the incident despite the fact that this was the same event that triggered Sister Mary Cynthia’s PTSD. As a last resort and after revisiting a dark place in her life, Trudy drops her children at the police station and leaves without word of her destination. Having been by her side throughout this emotional journey, however, Nurse Crane finds her and reminds Trudy that despite feeling so alone, she’ll always have people there to help her battle life’s monsters.
10. A New Way
On the other side of town, Barbara, who is unconcerned with conventional proposal rules and flashy jewelry, buys an engagement ring with her own money. She reveals the ring to Tom as “their” ring when he exclaims, “That’s not the way it’s meant to be,” because gender roles were still a thing back then. Though initially taken aback, Tom ultimately approves of Barbara’s progressivism. (Let’s be real though: He’s probably just stoked about saving his money.)
11. Shelagh’s (Real) Reveal
Ending on a high note, Shelagh finally reveals her baby news to Dr. Turner with an extremely detailed and surprisingly accurate drawing of an infant. Dr. Turner is both stunned and thrilled over the exciting news that the pair never thought they would hear. Congrats to the Turners!
Stream Episode 1 now and don’t forget to catch Episode 2 next Sunday at 8/7c. Read more gif recaps here.
2016 Holiday Special
Nonnatus House responds to an SOS from a tiny mission in South Africa.
Meet the cast of Call the Midwife series six
Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter)
The most experienced midwife at Nonnatus House, Sister Julienne is the consistent stalwart among the midwives.
Jenny was 18 when she played Roberta in the film of The Railway Children. Since then she’s won a Bafta for her performance as Jill Mason in the 1977 film Eqqus and played Tessa Phillips in Spooks.
Sister Ursula (Dame Harriet Walter)
Joining the nuns for series six is Sister Ursula – a nun described as a “not very welcome addition” to the midwifery team.
Dame Harriet Walter is an accomplished star of the big and small screens, starring in Atonement, Sense and Sensibility, Downton Abbey, Little Dorrit and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Nurse Barbara Gilbert (Charlotte Ritchie)
Barbara is now an established face at Nonnatus House and is good friends with Trixie – despite becoming engaged to her ex-fiancé Tom.
Comedy fans will recognise Charlotte as Oregon from Channel 4’s Fresh Meat and Hannah from BBC Three’s Siblings.
Shelagh Turner (Laura Main)
Former nun Shelagh left Nonnatus House when she fell in love with and married Dr Patrick Turner, but missed the life at the convent and returned in series four to help out.
Laura first appeared on the stage at the age of 11 in a stage production of The Sound Of Music. As well as a lengthy career in theatre, she featured as DC Alison Bain in ITV’s Murder City.
Nurse Phyllis Crane (Linda Bassett)
Officious Phyllis is not afraid to put ideas forward to try improve the lives of those at Nonnatus House.
Linda played Julia Roberts’ mother in the film Mary Reilly, and was nominated for a Bafta for her performance as Ella Khan in East Is East. Past TV credits include BBC period dramas Sense and Sensibility and Lark Rise to Candleford, and in recent years she’s starred in Calendar Girls and The Reader.
Call the Midwife: Season 6, Episode 1 Recap
Call the Midwife, Sunday, April 2nd – May 21st at 8pm Season 6, Episode 1: The team reunites, but all is not well when a change of management shocks Nonnatus House to the core. Sister Mary Cynthia’s health takes an unexpected turn as mental illness threatens to derail her. Shown: James Farrar as Lester Watts, Tommy Finnegan as Micky Watts. Credit: Neal Street Productions 2016
Call the Midwife is back, baby (pun intended)! When THIRTEEN asked me to do recaps for the new season of Call the Midwife I thought, wait a minute, how can I recap this show (in my usual nutty style) when they often cover such heavy issues? I’m not sure I can but I’m going to give it a go. I hope you’ll come along each week and join in the discussion in the comments section below.
The drama Call the Midwife returns to PBS for a sixth season April 2-May 21, 2017, 8-9 pm.
Here we go with the Thirteen Essentials of Call the Midwife, Episode 1…
In Polar, East London, time marches on and change is always in the air. The 60’s was a decade that belonged to London and it will be interesting to see how our friends at Nonnatus House are a part of it. As the post-war years recede further into the distance we’ve got new, updated pictures over the titles, more casual diversity, and surroundings that become cleaner and brighter as time goes by, (even though there are always new problems – and old ones popping up too). Another sign time is passing? Little Timothy is shaving and his voice has dropped about seven octaves. He’s now singing bass in a doo-wop group. They’ve still got him in the short pants though. Some things are eternal.
Whoever designed the uniforms of our midwives was not kidding around. It is entirely appropriate that they wear capes. Most superheroes do. These midwives, especially when they are flying to the rescue to the strains of that tense background music, are superheroes. Superheroes in sensible shoes.
- Home Sweet(?) Home
Laura Main as Shelagh Turner, Harriet Walker as Sister Ursula (Sister Grinch to Deborah Gilbert) in Call the Midwife.
Our conquering warriors return from Hope Clinic in sunny South Africa to pouring down rain London to find one very big change at Nonnatus House: There’s a new sheriff in town! For some reason that we are not privy to, while they were away saving lives, the Mother Ship decided to replace Sister Julienne with some Folgers Crystals (AKA an evil nun, Sister Ursula, whom would be more accurately called Sister Mary Grinch). This is why people don’t take time away from the office – the minute you do the vultures circle.
And how does Sister Julienne find out this news? Miss Ursula delays the group’s lunch, making everyone stand at attention around the table while Sister Julienne goes to take the phone call Grinch knows is coming. She knows what the news will be for Sister Julienne and that she will be blindsided, yet allows her to go skipping off to grab the phone unprepared. Pretty ruthless. Ever the Pollyanna, Sister Julienne takes the high road and returns to the kitchen to congratulate her replacement as all the faces around the table fall. Sister Ursula further humiliates Sister Julienne by making her move furniture. Sister Ursula demands obedience in all things, including her interpretation of ‘the will of the almighty’. Translation: Don’t question my authority. Sit down and shut up…and go back to rearranging the furniture in the sitting room.
- No Soup For You!
Need more evidence that Sister Grinch is evil? She took away the TV! Monster. It all began innocently enough: Sister Monica Joan was enjoying herself, standing in front of the telly, pole dancing to the BBC test patterns, as a person is wont to do, when Sister Grinch walked in wanting to know why the flower arrangements had not been done and was shocked to find someone having fun. She instantly snapped off the TV and admonished Sister Monica Joan who panicked and warned her that suddenly cutting off the signal would kill all the garden fairies in Poplar. Alas, evil Sister Grinch would not heed the warning. She wanted her flower arrangements and she wanted them now, dead garden fairies be damned. So there. Of course, Sister Monica Joan is not the only one upset about the AWOL TV. When Sister Mary Grinch was questioned later by the group as to the whereabouts of the missing television, all she would say is that ‘it was sent to live on a farm’.
- Trix Are For Kids
Sister Mary Grinch’s reign of terror continues as her new budget eliminates biscuit funding at the maternity clinic. Biscuits are now for fainters only. No more of this self-indulgence of munching on a cookie while waiting hours for needed medical attention. Back home at Nonnatus House, she has reinstated war-time rationing and has proceeded to slowly starve the staff in clear violation of the Geneva Convention. I expect a future episodes to include random nuns standing out on the High Street holding signs that read, ‘WILL BIRTH BABIES FOR FOOD’, and Sister Monica Joan bludgeoning Sister Mary Grinch with an empty cake tin. Something to look forward too!
- FYI: Reception Committee
Younger viewers might have been shocked and confused to see what Sister Grinch did with the TV. No, not when she had it carted away; when she touched it and it and the screen went black. You see boys and girls, in the olden days, before the earth’s crusts cooled, if you wanted to turn the TV on or off, or even wanted to change the channel, you had to stand up and walk across the room, (which required dexterity and balance) to turn knobs that were on the front of the TV. Sometimes, (if you drew the short straw), you even had to stand holding one of the small metal poles which protruded from the top of the TV (called ‘the antennas’) with one hand and some tin foil in the other, while holding your foot in the air at just the right angle to get clear reception. Don’t be alarmed. We survived – but at least we had a freakin’ TV, Sister Mary Grinch I’m looking at you!
- We’ll Drink to That
Emerald Fennell as Patsy Mount (the “bartender”) in Call the Midwife.
Nurse Patsy is the new bartender, but newly engaged Barbara is now joining in for the first time, bracing herself for her future as a Curate’s wife. Patsy’s relationship with Delia continues, buthow long will their secret stay a secret? What is the first rule of drama? A secret is always a ticking time bomb that can go off at any time. All it will take is Sister Grinch on night patrol, catching Patsy creeping into Delia’s room post-lights out and boom goes the dynamite. So far this season, the only time bomb going off comes in the form of a letter bringing bad news that Patsy says will hurt both of them: Her father has ‘degenerative condition of the nervous system’ and is paralyzed (I’m wondering if that means ALS?). And why would it hurt both of them? Something else that has the potential to hurt them all: Does Sister Mary Grinch know about these little end of shift cocktail parties? I’m guessing she does not, and when she finds out it’s gonna be prohibition-time in the OK Corral. Just a hunch.
- What’s Love Got To Do, Got To Do With It?
Pearl Appleby as Trudy Watts in Call the Midwife.
As we move into the 60’s, it is the era when the Kray Brothers, the infamous East End gangsters, ruled London, and they are represented in this episode by Lester Watts, and his cohorts. Lester is a ‘made man’ (as they say in Jersey) who is newly released from prison and quickly getting back to his old abusive ways.
We meet pregnant Trudy Watts and her son Mickey when she visits the clinic. Nurse Crane asks why Mickey isn’t in school and Trudy says he’s been wetting the bed and when he does he doesn’t want to go to school the next day. He’s getting teased at school, about that and his eye-patch astigmatism glasses. Nurse Crane offers to give the eye clinic a push to get them to fit him for new, proper glasses. Maybe they’ll even take them today. This causes Trudy to panic. She has obligations she must attend to and she’s already been sitting there for hours. Nurse Crane reassures her that she’ll just get the appointment for her and drop it by. Little did Nurse Crane know that when she did that and walked through the door of Trudy’s house that she’d be entering one of Dante’s circles of hell.
All dolled up, Trudy goes to meet Lester as he is released. We can see, the moment Lester approaches his son that the boy is terrified of him. That must be why he wet the bed last night; the anticipation of his dad getting out. It must also be why the thought of missing this obligation caused Trudy the panic. After the welcome home party, when Trudy is too exhausted to really welcome him home, he attacks her then storms off to see the hookers on Dock Road that he says are so much better than she is anyway.
- The First Rule About Fight Club
Prison boxing champion, Lester wants his tiny son to follow in his footsteps but Trudy is against it. The next day when she thinks Nurse Barbara is picking Mickey up from school, Lester gets him instead and takes him to the boxing gym. Lester tells his terrified son that he’s got to learn to fight his corner (when all little Mickey wants is his own little corner in his own little chair). Lester tosses him in the ring with a much older boy who knocks him out just as Trudy rushes in too late to stop it. She goes to the police to keep her son away from him but Sergeant Noakes says there’s nothing he can do other than have a friendly word with him. But a gangster doesn’t appreciate a friendly word from a copper. It backfires bigly.
An argument ensues when Lester is furious about the cops visiting him at the gym, and Trudy says that maybe he abuses her in a way that doesn’t leave visible marks because he’s a coward. He decides to prove her wrong on that score; he grabs her and stubs his cigarette out on her chest three times, shoves her to the floor, locks her in her room, and once again storms out, leaving Mickey sitting there alone as his dad says he’s too stupid to get into any trouble. Mummy tries to make him think they are playing a pirate game but we guess he knows the score. As the ‘game’ drags on for hours, Trudy goes into labor and needs to get help. With an assist from Mickey, who brings her a butcher’s knife from the kitchen, she chops her way out and packs off to Nonnatus House with Mickey in tow, getting there just in time. When her water breaks, it’s green slime. After the baby is born we learn that that was the baby’s first bowel movement, which happened in utero. Lester literally scared he crap out of the baby, and Trudy is alarmed that Lester was able to waltz right into the clinic hospital and touch the baby. Against doctor’s orders, she flees.
- Garden of Dreams
At Nonnatus House Sister Mary Grinch is Mother Superior, but at Lester’s gaff, Trudy’s mum is Mother Inferior; a nasty piece of work who undermines her daughter at every turn, sacrificing her happiness and (possibly)life to stay in the orbit of ‘connected’ gangster Lester. When Trudy changes the locks and calls a lawyer to file for divorce, her mother, Zelda, sides with Lester, asking “how do we know you didn’t do all this abuse to yourself?” Now, under Zelda’s supervision, the locks are changed back and Lester is filing for custody. At the end of her rope, Trudy takes her kids to the police station and disappears. To find her, Nurse Crane does some ace detective work (actually, she just listens to her patients so she had a feeling Trudy would go to the garden she had described as her childhood dreaming spot. Trudy admits she was considering suicide (we assume to sacrifice herself so that her kids would go to foster care and get away from their father). Nurse Crane tries to reassure her that there is another way. There is always another way.
- And They Lived Happily Ever After
The episode epilogue hints at a happy ending. Trudy, Mickey and new baby got help at a hostel for women, and she was awarded custody and a council flat in a galaxy far, far away with blue skies. This is much better than the epilogue (in an earlier season) where those horrifically neglected kids were taken away to Australia and as they happily waved from the plane (or boat). Jenny Lee’s voice-over informed us that program meant to help children was actually sending them to a life of servitude and abuse. Hopefully, these three will fare better (and Lester will never find them). We hope that especially for Mickey who was just about the cutest little thing we’ve ever seen.
- FYI: The Kray Brothers
Twins, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, along with their older brother Charlie, were gangsters (every bit as ruthless as Sister Ursula) in the East End of London, running an organized crime syndicate known as ‘The Firm’. In the 1950’s, before becoming successful at protection rackets and murder, they went on a violent spree while conscripted into the military, that included assaulting officers, going AWOL, and when caught, becoming among the last prisoners held at the Tower of London, (before being transferred to military prison). They became celebrities in swinging 60’s London after being photographed by iconic fashion photographer David Bailey. They hobnobbed with politicians, movie stars and socialites. Ronnie caused a big scandal when a tabloid reported he’d had an affair with Conservative politician Lord Boothby at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in the UK. The Krays’ celebrity, and their legitimate business running a nightclub, camouflaged their violent criminal activities. But, they couldn’t escape Scotland Yard forever. In 1968 all three were finally arrested, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. Ronnie died in prison in 1995. Reggie died weeks after getting compassionate leave because he had inoperable cancer. Charlie, who only served seven years on the original conviction, returned to his old ways after release, and was later caught smuggling cocaine and sent back to prison again in 1997, where he died a few years later.
4.1 Mama Mia
It is also interesting to note that the Kray Brothers’ mother, Violet, was rather well known, just like her sons. Another East End legend, Barbara Windsor, AKA The Cockney Sparrow (now, Dame Barbara Windsor!), who played Peggy Mitchell on EastEnders, based the character of Peggy partly on Violet Kray (whom she knew because she had dated two of her sons). So it was only fitting that Granny Zelda was played so brilliantly by another EastEnders alumni, Lucy Speed – though Peggy Mitchell, while she could be a tiny terror, would never have behaved like Trudy’s monster mom and plotted against her with her abusive husband!
- She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Sister
Trudy’s fear and Lester’s violent outbursts trigger Sister Cynthia, who was already barely hanging on by a thread after her attack last year. Now the unresolved issues from the attack, combined with the pressure Sister Grinch is putting on her to tackle a mountain of homework before taking her vows, (not to mention the brow beating she thinks of as spiritual mentoring), causes Cynthia to have what seems like a nervous breakdown. Sister Julienne takes away her medical bag (one thinks she must have feared her harming herself with something in it) and Sister Monica Joan offers her own brand of hazy, but wise, comfort. Dr. Turner is called and gently questions her with Sister Grinch present. Cynthia hears voices and feels like her noisy mind is a blackboard filled with scribbles that she cannot decipher, and she cannot make sense of some of Dr. Turner’s simple questions. She clearly needs help, but before the good doctor can get her a placement at a facility near her family, she is secretly sent away to the Mother Ship by Sister Ursula Grinch, who pulls rank, insisting that they are her family now. Is she worried about Cynthia or is she worried about the possibility of losing a recruit? Either way, alarmed Dr. Turner rushes out and runs into Sister Julienne who is as upset as he is. Even though she is now powerless to stop this, Sister Julienne wants it noted that she objects. Is she building a case against Sister Grinch?
- One Ringy-Dingy
As the travelers are welcomed home, there’s also excitement and congratulations over the engagement of sweet couple, Nurse Barbara and Curate Tom. Sister Grinch isa bit of a wet blanket as Barbara excitedly shares the news, and shows off her non-ring ring. Sister Grinch is only concerned that an empty ointment tin, used to store Barbara’s knotted blade of grass ring, not be wasted on such frivolity. With the happy couple, the only bump in the road is that Tom can’t afford a ‘real’ ring and is upset about that even though Barbara insists she is thrilled by her precious blade of African grass and that’s all she needs. She can live on love. But in the end, she buys a ring for herself, for him, really, because she thinks he needs her to have it more than she does. It hurts his male pride a bit but hey, they are affianced and nothing can burst their bubble. It’s like Thorn Birds, but with a happy ending (though Trixie might object to that idea, and want it noted).
- Great Expectations
It’s not all doom and gloom: Shelagh is expecting! She’s been keeping it a secret, but cannot help but confess all to Sister Julienne after almost puking in the milky tea she made for her. Shelagh would be completely over the moon at the news, if she weren’t so afraid; she’d been told she couldn’t have children, so we are guessing her fear is that something will go wrong. She hasn’t even told Dr. Turner yet, but with a nudge from Sister Julienne, and a drawing she makes, (a sweet anatomically correct valentine), she does. He’s thrilled, obviously!
Extra: MIA this episode
Chummy is not in this season premiere episode. Her hubby Sargent Noakes appeared, though, and as long as he’s around there’s hope she’ll return. Nurse Trixie was left behind in South Africa (temporarily, we are told) to continue the Nonnatan’s midwifery work. The pictures of her idol Marilyn Monroe are still pasted to the wall above her bed. It is the spring of 1962, and little does the world know that it is just a few months away from Marilyn’s passing. One wonders if that news will be part of an upcoming story turn.
Do you have a favorite story line from this episode, or past seasons? A favorite scene? Who were you most interested in seeing return this season? Join the conversation below or Tweet using the hashtag #MidwifePBS.
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