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Worldly Distractions: Call the Midwife 3.3 - Episode Three





We are back with the women of Poplar and their strange and wonderful stories. After the previous episode's repeat of the Black Baby Contretemps, I wonder if they'll actually manage an original plot this week?

Old Jenny narrates about the odd hours midwives keep, as well as the nuns' Godly schedules. While Sister Julienne gets a serious phone call, the midwives and nuns discuss Chummy's upcoming birthday. The head nun comes in to tell them that the nearby prison is short-staffed and needs them to provide care. Trixie is brought in, which doesn't seem like a great idea, but I guess she's pretty tough these days.

She and Sister Julienne arrive, intimidated by the frisking and scary locks. They find three patients, including one who looks particularly scary, and get down to work. There's a catfight before they even begin the examinations.

Fred runs across a couple who are stuck and need to sell some theatre tickets. Looks like a scam to me, but he buys them for five pounds each, which sounds like a lot of money at the time. I guess that's Chummy's birthday gift solved? Still totally a scam, though.

Trixie examines an inmate, Stella, who seems really innocent and sweet. Obviously, this means something terrible will happen before the delivers. She keeps referring to her fiance away at sea. Um, yeah, you have a fiance away at sea like Rick Santorum has gay friends. At one point, Trixie picks up a book belonging to Stella and comments on it. The woman snatches it away and gives her a scared look.

Sheila and the good doctor have apparently had some success in the reproduction department, because she's counting off dates on a calendar and marking certain ones as "weeks". She's also quite edgy about it, because when the midwives comment that she seems like a "natural" with one of the infant patients, she tersely comments that she's just doing her job. Fred shows up with the theatre tickets - they're going to see My Fair Lady. Naturally, he overcharges them for it. At least the nuns are savvy.

Trixie and Sister Julienne see a new patient, who recently gave birth and has some sort of wicked postpartum infection. Due to the generally terrible standard of medical care, the jail has more or less let her rot.

Jenny examines an extremely glamorous pregnant lady, whose habit of wearing Spanx-like undies has caused some not-so-glamorous varicose veins. Jenny gives her a serious talking-to, while the woman whines about looking ugly. She gets the bitchface in return.

Sister Julienne, appalled by the conditions, demands that they be allowed to see patients every day. The woman in charge says no, because bureaucracy. They leave in a huff just as a mini-riot breaks out. Sister J is determined to change things and, upon returning to Nonnatus House, immediately attempts to get someone important on the line. Trixie declares her full support, much to the nun's gratification. Cynthia asks how it went, and gets a gigantic rant in return. They try to cheer her up with the My Fair Lady tickets.

Stella's book appears to be for children, and from the sounds she's making, I guess she's trying to teach herself how to read.

Trixie complains some more about prison, to which Sister J curtly replies that the inmates have to put up with it much longer than they do. The tickets come up again. Chummy and Peter are coming, having found a babysitter, so it looks like it's all going ahead. They still have one ticket left over, so Jenny decides to invite Alec. Trixie puts on the cast recording, which sends Sister Evangelina fleeing in terror. Apparently, she really hates Julie Andrews.

We get the treat of hearing the actual recording - God, I love that voice - and segue into Kathy's story. She's the one complaining about not being sexy while pregnant. Man, is she going to be surprised the first time the baby shits on her. In secret, she puts on the dreaded support stockings and promptly bashes her shin on something. Cue a hilarious attempt to hide her unsexy attire from her concerned husband.

Sheila wanted to keep it a secret, but needs the doctor's signature to send in the pregnancy test. Why she couldn't just go to another doctor is left unexplained. He's thrilled, of course. Sweetly, he promises to look surprised anyway.

However, she confides in him that she's not sure about the pregnancy, because she's having no symptoms besides the really obvious one. Yeah, I sense a miscarriage or negative test in here. No way are they going to let the Turners have their happy ending just like that.

Kathy arrives at Dr. Turner's office at that moment, limping pretty badly. Dr Turner takes a look while Sheila looks at the pregnant woman enviously. The doctor scolds Kathy for wearing heels. A worrisome blood pressure reading lands her in the maternity home for the duration of the pregnancy. Kathy's concern? Maybe her husband won't find that attractive. Sigh.

Sister J and Trixie show up at the prison, but they're not on the log and get turned away. Bureaucracy, folks! Shown the door, Sister Julienne says she'll gladly wait. That's right, the nun stages a damn sit-in. I think she's my hero right now.

The nuns see more appalling conditions, including Stella - supposedly on bedrest - being forced to work like everyone else. Bitch Pregnant Lady provokes and assaults her, starting a big fight. The guards rush downstairs. Sister Julienne and Trixie hurry to her assistance.

Jenny and Alec continue their secret affair, which would be a lot more interesting if we'd ever been properly introduced to the guy in the first place. Seriously, he's a total blank to me.

As Sister J and Trixie lead Stella away, a man comes up to her. It's the chaplain, who seems sympathetic (and perfectly willing to report any violations of prisoner treatment). Sister Julienne enlists his help immediately. The priest gives Stella - or was it Trixie? - a lingering look. Either way, he's into someone. Oh my god, after all the stuff with Jane in Season 2 (what happened to her?), I have to wonder, are priests just considered super sexy in England? They do seem to get all the chicks. Good thing no one ever told my dad the archbishop, he'd have left Canada in five seconds flat.

While they look after Stella, there's another awkward moment with the reader. Sister J tactfully gets Trixie to leave the room. Once alone, Stella confesses that her school was bombed out during the Blitz, and she never had the chance to learn to read. She's desperate to learn something, anything, in order to have more evidence that she's a fit mother, and therefore a better shot at keeping the baby. Sister Julienne gives her some reading advice and encourages her to keep going. Stella explains that she only stole because she was desperate - and wants the nun to stick up for her with the board. Sister J is gentle but detached.

As the nun leaves, the chaplain chats with her. He assures her that Stella has a better chance than average of keeping the baby, but the angry woman (Maureen) will likely lose this one, her second. The guard shows up and drags Stella from the room, as she's going to be disciplined for fighting. Sister Julienne is outraged. She can't stop the meeting, but insists on accompanying Stella to make sure she's not mistreated.

Jenny tends to Kathy in the maternity home. The patient is feeling pretty lousy, and confesses that the spark has gone out of her (short) marriage. She sounds horribly lonely, and Jenny does her best to comfort her. It doesn't work.

The warden gives Stella a rather vicious lecture on violence. When Sister Julienne attempts to be a witness, she is rebuffed. Her chances look worse and worse by the moment. Soon enough, Stella's in tears, feeling helpless and alone. The awful thing is, not much can be done.

A giant shipment of donations has come in, which is perfect for Sister Monica Joan's hoarder tendencies. She spends so many hours at it that Sister Julienne has to pull her away. She coaxes a copy of Peter Pan from Sister MJ's iron grip, and I think we can guess where it's going. Then she goes to pray for a bit, because that's what nuns do.

Sheila gets her test results, but doesn't want to open them. Dr. Turner does the honors. It's negative, but he tells her not to give up. This convinces her that something's wrong, since she's gone three months without a "cycle", and been inconsistent in that area since her time in the sanatorium (which, if you'll recall, was way back in her nun days). They decide to look into it further, speculating that the TB might be responsible. I think it's that mysterious disease that holds off conception until the series finale.


We get one of the series' few hospital births, with Kathy in the maternity home. Interesting observance of some of the medical technology, including the use of gas and air. Meanwhile, just outside, he tells his wife that a gyno friend of his has been working in America, where he picked up a radical new exploratory surgery technique. She readily agrees. The conversation is interrupted when Jenny summons the doctor. The baby's big, and it looks like things are getting difficult...

Stella's overdue, but not upset about it, since it means she can hang onto the baby longer. Sister Julienne takes the moment to present her the Peter Pan book - and assure her that she's on her side. It's heartbreaking. I love Sister Julienne.

Kathy's baby turns out to have been slightly out of position, which is corrected pretty quickly. However, the kid is still a whopper, so Dr. Turner grabs the scissors and every female viewer shudders. The ensuing screams scare the crap out of her husband. Unfortunately, the only person around to reassure him is Sheila, who is still baby-crazy and just goes on about how beautiful and natural it is. A cry comes from the next room. The guy stands up and cheers. I don't think Kathy's got anything to worry about.

Meeting their daughter (who is indeed enormous), Kathy's husband is overcome and teary, telling her that she's wonderful. When his wife starts to hurl, though, he flees the scene. Nice.

More Julie Andrews plays while the nurses indulge in some pre-show drinking. Chummy arrives to get ready with them and indulge in girl talk. I still wish she was a full-timer. They talk about marriage and babies. Everyone thinks Jenny's next, since Alec's so dreamy and all. They toast each other and birthdays and life moving on. Meanwhile, Alec and Noakes awkwardly attempt to make small talk in the next room.

Stella practices with the Peter Pan book. As she's doing so, she starts to go into labor. And Trixie's on call tonight...

Watching Dr. Turner with Timmy, Sheila looks fondly at them, but her eyes well up and she has to turn away. It really is touching, and the actress pulls it off perfectly.

At the theatre, Trixie seems excessively bitchy. Chummy correctly diagnoses her as burnt-out with all the prison work. Trixie tearfully tells her just how hard it is. Chummy's advice is to suck it up, and she's right, but it still sucks. Just then, Noakes and Alec arrive with the news that we've been expecting all episode - the tickets were fake. Everyone's pretty disappointed, to say the least.

"One can always make one's own entertainment," Chummy declares wickedly, so they decide to make the best of their evening out. They go off to a pub, where Chummy rocks at darts and everyone gets tipsy. On the way home, Alec confesses that the pub was way more fun than My Fair Lady would have been. He then casually drops an "I love you". Jenny's smooth response? "Thank you. I'd better go." Han Solo she ain't.

They arrive back at Nonnatus to the news that Stella has gone into labor. Trixie's in a mad dash, Jenny's tormented about her boyfriend, and Cynthia's left alone. Aww, it's okay honey, you'll get a proper plot to yourself one of these days. She and Jenny go upstairs, where they chat about boys n' stuff. Jenny likes Alec, but she's not sure she loves him, and it's all awkward and everything. Cynthia points out that it's not a proposal - yet. She then offers some chocolate to make it all better.

Stella gives birth to a boy. It's a pretty happy moment, though you know there's going to be some shit later on. However, at this time all is well.

Later that night, Sister Julienne reads some notices in the paper. Her eyes linger on a name. We don't know who it is.

Sister Evangelina drags Fred in to apologize to the nurses for the ticket snafu. He can't reimburse them because he spent the money already. When Trixie complains, however, Sister Evangelina takes them all down for being idiots. Pam Ferris, thou art a gift to the screen.

Sister Julienne has gone back to the prison to help the new mother settle in. The baby is going to be named Peter, in honour of the book. Stella asks Sister Julienne to help her at the hearing tomorrow. Sister J, in turn, mentions that she looked up Stella's fiance in various records, and found no trace of him. Stella's face turns pale, and it turns out there's some sort of awful story behind it. Sister Julienne says she'll help - but she'll need the truth first.

Trixie has had an itchy head, and Sister Winifred finds the cause. Gleefully, she diagnoses nits and throws her into the shower with special oil. Trixie bitches about the prison some more. There goes the Jean Seberg look, I guess.

We don't get to hear Stella's story, but basically, there is no dad on the scene. Stella asks Sister Julienne to lie about the fiance so that she can get out of their clutches just long enough to find a job and establish herself. Sister J points out that that's an uphill climb at best, and refuses to lie about it. The warden is not pleased and it looks like baby Peter's fate is sealed.

Kathy's husband arrives at the maternity home. They're still awkward about all the gross childbirth things. Kathy pleads with him to give her a chance until she gets her figure back. To his credit, he tells her that she will stay in bed until the doctor gives her clearance and he will look after her as long as she needs it. In fact, he's the one who feels he let her down, after the fleeing-the-vomit incident. They reaffirm their love for each other and coo over the baby.

Sister J takes her bike to Fred for a repair. When he asks her how she is, she gives an honest answer. Recognizing her distress, he sits her down for a cup of tea. He's sympathetic to Stella's story, recounting what happened when his wife died and he couldn't care for his daughters. The girls lived with different relatives, missing their father and never really settled. Sister Julienne wonders if she did all she could.




We see her making what looks like a Very Important Phone Call. Meanwhile, Trixie and Jenny are grossed out by the nit situation, especially Jenny, since it probably got all over her stuff too.

Sister Julienne turns out to be looking for a job for Stella, though everyone hangs up when they hear she's a criminal. Sister Evangelina arrives bearing a cup of tea and her particular brand of practicality. However, she holds back this time, condemning those who won't give Stella a chance. Sister Julienne, for her part, resolves to keep going.

Alec goes to see Jenny, since she's been avoiding him. They have the big "defining the relationship talk", and then settle on just really liking each other. No, I'm not making that up - they really say that. He then invites her out to My Fair Lady - with real tickets.

Sheila goes for her operation. Dr. Turner is ridiculously devoted, which is lovely, though the dialogue could definitely be improved. Nothing's breaking these two up.

The Board hearing begins. Quaking, Stella sits in front of the panel while they judge her. Sister Julienne has decided to peace out. They let her go out while they "review the decision", but in reality the decision has been made. However, while this is going on, Sister Julienne arrives in the nick of time. She gives a solid vouch for Stella's character, and adds that she's even found her a job, as a hospital cleaner. The day is saved, and her future as a mother is suddenly much brighter.

Dr. Turner is there when Sheila wakes up. However, his careful attempts to avoid talking about the results suggests that it's not going to be happy. Sheila insists, though, so he gives it to her straight. The TB affected her reproductive tract and left scar tissue everywhere. Conception is unlikely if not impossible. She immediately breaks down, apologizing to him for it. He assures her that their married life is wonderful, and this is not going to be the be-all and end-all. Despite his tenderness, it is an awful moment.

When the guards come to get Stella, she immediately panics and clutches the baby, refusing to hand him over. Luckily, she doesn't need to - the board has ruled in her favor. She breaks out in the sunniest smile you've ever seen.

The crooked ticket sellers are still working the docks. Unfortunately for them, Sister Evangelina wanders by. We don't get to see the ensuing showdown, but rest assured they were taken care of.

Old Jenny narrates about hope while Stella prepares for her new life and begins to write a letter. Sheila returns home, where Timothy embraces her joyfully. Sister Evangelina gives Fred his money back, Trixie and Sister Winifred deal with the nits (which have spread to Jenny and Cynthia). Stella walks out of prison, baby in hand and ready to start over. Over at Nonnatus, Sister Julienne reads Stella's letter of thanks, and smiles through her tears.

Next time: An apparently agoraphobic patient, Sister Winifred discusses her possible sociopathy, Alec invites Jenny on a minibreak and suffers some kind of terrible accident. Oh, boy.

Like all episodes in this series, tonight's was heartbreaking and fuzzy and warm in several different ways, with the odd cliched moment thrown in here and there. It was nice to have some more focus on Sister Julienne, who is a rather underappreciated character, and yet very interesting. The nurses were rather dull, with their usual problems in love and work. I did, however, appreciate them getting out of the neighborhood for a new patient story. The prison situation was particularly compelling, and rather upsetting to see. Can't vouch for the accuracy of the portrayal, but if it was anywhere close to that, it's pretty awful. All in all, it was a well-done episode keeping entirely in character with the series. Next week's promises to be fairly exciting. In a place like London, who knows what might happen next?

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