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Worldly Distractions: Call the Midwife 3.4 - Episode Four




Halfway through the season already. God bless you, British short television schedules.


Old Jenny narrates about love, youth, and job satisfaction. Cynthia's tied up with a long delivery, so Jenny asks Sister Winifred to go. Sr. W, for her part, whines and tries to get out of it - but Jenny holds firm. At his home, heartbreakingly, Dr. Turner finds Sheila looking at a baby dress she had been knitting. He advises her to put it away, saying they'll "find a way" no matter what it takes. This doesn't do much for Sheila.

Sister Winifred shows up with the pethidine, but it's useless - the baby is almost here. The wailing mother begs for "Frankie", and they all think it's her husband, but it is in fact a teddy bear. The nun rushes to get it, then tries to book it out of there, because birth...seems to gross her out? Um, if you wanted to become a nun there were a ton of other options, lady. The mom has a little boy and all is well, though once the baby's out she gets a little sheepish about needing the teddy.

Sheila is still in charge of the clinic, which seems like a really bad idea in her current emotional state. Jenny handles a Mrs Moss, who is tired and has super-swollen feet. She also seems extremely concerned about time for some reason. Jenny assures her she'll hurry, but is distracted by the patriarchal medical system (Dr. Turner wasting his valuable nurses' time by sending them to get ashtrays).

Sister Winifred and Cynthia discuss the birth, where Sr. Winifred admits that she was freaked out by the mom's distress. Cynthia cautiously suggests that the nun might not be too suited for medical work. Winifred explains that the order goes hand-in-hand with nursing, so that's what she'll do - even if she doesn't feel great. Cynthia's advice? Basically, "fake it 'til you make it."

Jenny returns to the cubicle to find Mrs. Moss gone. We catch up with the patient going back to her home, where she finds her aged mom, kneeling on the floor and seemingly about to puke.

The nuns play Cluedo (you Yanks know it as "Clue"), where Sr. Monica Joan argues for Miss Scarlett's free spirit and calls Colonel Mustard a "yellow-bellied colonial imperialist" while Sister Julienne teases them all for being murderers. To Sister Evangelina's horror, Sister Monica Joan seems to be something of a Cluedo savant. Evangelina suggests they go back to their real work, which prompts MJ to call her a sore loser. Fred just shakes his head.

Alec invites Jenny to a mini-break in Brighton. The scandal! The horror! Of course Jenny's considering it (though with the mysterious "Gerald" from season 1 - yeah, that never got explained - I don't think this is her first mini-break, if you get my drift). And wouldn't you know, it just happens to be her weekend off. She agrees, and Alec walks away clicking his heels.

She returns to Nonnatus all a-flutter, where she finds Cynthia puzzling over the bizarre Sister Winifred. I still think she's the escaped Kate Winslet nun from Extras.



Jenny and Cynthia cannot fathom that someone might find a stressful and emotional career like midwifery difficult, but decide they will support her anyway. How charitable.

Mr Moss comes home, adorable and nerdy and devoted to his wife. Oh, and did we mention they're Jewish? Because this scene does, about eight hundred times. Anyway, he's about to get a promotion at work and it's a great opportunity and bla, bla, bla. It does necessitate a move, however, and he is anxious to get out of the East End. Their problem: the mother-in-law. She's very ill and obviously can't be moved. Here the story takes a turn for the bizarre. Apparently, Mrs Moss's mother has been suffering for twelve years, and in that time has not seen a doctor or even left the flat. Mrs Moss is crumbling under the strain, but can't bring herself to make the move. Something's got to change. Mr Moss urges her to broach the subject.

Sheila donates the baby dress to the nuns' charity box - but doesn't tell Sister Julienne what it was supposed to be.

Cynthia and Sister Winifred arrive at the Moss residence to bring the delivery pack. Despite her agoraphobia, the mother (Mrs Rubin) seems to be a perfectly charming hostess. They're alarmed to find Mrs Moss moving furniture, and chide her for both that and running out on her appointment. Hearing about the situation with her mother, Cynthia agrees to see Mrs Moss at home from now on.

Sister Julienne has managed to coax the story out of Sheila and listens with sympathy. When Sheila starts to blame herself, she cuts that off right from the get-go. With her thoughts scattered, Sheila asks for any sort of task - anything to distract herself. Sister Julienne, remembering Sheila's beautiful, expressive voice, suggests a local choir.

Mrs Rubin asks for details of Sr. Winifred's job, and tells her she does a beautiful thing in the world. Cynthia advises Mrs Moss to cut back on the work. Mrs Moss and Mrs Rubin explain that the latter is frequently stricken with attacks of dizziness. Cynthia and Sister Winifred are concerned, especially when they hear about the agoraphobia. They even offer to send a doctor on a house call. The women refuse.

Alec and Jenny discuss their upcoming holiday and engage in the usual lovey-dovey. Soon enough, they're dancing to "You Were Meant For Me", not even caring if the nuns walk by. Cynthia sees them, but has the sense not to intrude. It's beautiful. And Jenny rocks that burgundy dress.

She chats about it with the girls later. Trixie brings up the scandalous lodgings. Jenny, surprisingly naive for her age and life experience, assumed that there would be two rooms. Yeah, right. Trixie assures her it will probably be just fine (with the suggestion of a wink), and now Jenny's a little edgy. As usual, Cynthia is the voice of comfort, while Trixie brings up the "modern woman" problem.

To clear things up, Jenny goes to visit Alec at work. She finds out that his co-workers know about the trip, and that the hotel has a "reputation". She confronts Alec, who has no idea what she's talking about, and cancels the trip.

Sister Winifred visits Mrs Moss (Leah, incidentally) and urges her to take things easy in the last few days. Never fear - the grandma-to-be has it all under control, even though it's both Shabbos and Shavuot. They talk about the story of Ruth for a bit, but it's interrupted by one of Mrs Rubin's dizziness attacks. Despite Mrs Moss's protests, Sister Winifred immediately sends for the doctor, citing the health of everyone in the house as a reason - including the unborn baby.

Sheila brings Timothy to choir practice, unsuccessfully attempting to convince him that people of all ages will be there. (He's upset about missing The Lone Ranger.) When Noakes happens to walk by, the boy begs to be arrested. Noakes admits that he likes The Lone Ranger too - but he's always wanted to be in a choir. Sadly, he's on duty, so it will have to wait. The two of them arrive to find about three people there. Since the director, most of the members and the piano player have all quit, they're going to a pub instead (Timothy will sit on the steps, because they did have some parenting standards in 1960, BETTY DRAPER). Sheila turns them down flatly, despite her stepson's protests.

Dr. Turner is bowled over by Mrs Rubin's story, and asks for more details. Leah tells them about her terrible childhood, in a Nazi ghetto and then in a cellar after their escape. With no one left at home, they moved to London, and that's when the attacks began. (There is shitty, overly emotional music to dramatize the feelings, when really, the story could stand on its own. Clearly they've been taking lessons at the Downton Abbey School of Scores.) Dr. Turner promises not to move her - yet - but wants to diagnose her. PAGING DOCTOR HOUSE! ...okay, that doesn't happen, but he does suggest that Meniere's Disease might be at work. It's not a cert, but it could help. Leah tearfully thanks them.

Alec bitches out his friend for mentioning that stuff to Jenny. His friend's argument - Miss Lee is much too proper anyway and needs a bit of a shaking up. Before Alec can craft a suitably witty response, the scaffolding collapses under him and he goes crashing to the ground. His friend goes running for help. Noakes happens to be outside (this guy just wanders into every scene, apparently), is brought to the scene and tries to revive the injured man. Dr Turner is also in the neighborhood, so he shows up and promptly diagnoses a broken femur. His foot is also torn to shreds.

Over at Nonnatus, a frustrated Jenny throws her new dress into a bag. Meanwhile, Dr. Turner and Noakes work to save Alec. The doctor even MacGyvers a splint out of neckties.

Mrs Rubin is astonished that the doctor can possibly cure her, and looks forward to better days. Meanwhile, Mr Moss (Charlie) breaks the news of the job offer. Mrs Rubin is a little edgy at the prospect of moving, though they assure her she will go with them. However, she advises them to "start packing", so I guess she's on board. They happily begin Shabbos.

While Alec is carried away in an ambulance, an oblivious Jenny vents to Trixie about the Brighton Incident. Trixie assures her that it's all a misunderstanding. The conversation is brought to a halt when Cynthia comes in with bad news. At the hospital, we learn the extent of the damage: several broken bones, including the femur, plus an amputated foot - and he's lucky it wasn't worse. Jenny is horrorstruck, but as dedicated as ever, staying by his side as long as the hospital will let her. And yes, this is supposed to be a serious moment, but what the hell - I'm going for it.


It's a gloomy morning at Nonnatus. Jenny's walking around in a daze. Fred offers his condolences. Jenny bursts into tears, so he gives her a fatherly kiss and forces her to eat some eggs. While she eats, he watches over her protectively.

Moving has proven to be slightly more difficult than imagined, as Mrs Rubin is reluctant to actually walk out of the flat and go to another. She's trying her best, but it's just not enough. Leah manages to get her out of the doorway, but she runs back indoors immediately. Back to work.

Sheila comforts her husband over Alec's foot, pointing out that he saved his life and leg. They have a smoke, and she confesses that she has a new project - reviving the dwindling choir down the road.

The Mosses have summoned Sister Winifred, believing that she has a connection with the old woman. However, Sr. Winifred is short on ideas. Charlie and Leah argue about whether he should go back on the job.

Jenny tries to comfort Alec, but it's still an enormous loss. She assures him that they will go on together as always, and at least he's alive. He doesn't seem to think so.

Sister Winifred teaches a children's class on dental hygiene, where the kids are all perfectly behaved, enthusiastic, and engaged with the material. I call BULLSHIT. Meanwhile, a bunch of mothers are casually singing and just happen to sound as good as the Andrews Sisters. And yes, Sheila does walk by at that moment. The choir is back! One of the mothers is the blonde from the beginning of the episode - and her baby has inherited the famous teddy. Sister Winifred is curious, so Sheila explains Project Poplar Choral Society. "Sometimes we have to take matters into our own hands," she concludes. This gives Sister Winifred an idea...

She tells Mrs Rubin a story about an old racehorse, which offends the old lady, who thinks she's being called an animal. Feeling lost for words, Sister Winifred finds herself telling a new story - one of a woman named Rubin who was brave and clever and defeated the Nazis with her daring. This angers Mrs Rubin outright, as she maintains that she failed, because she allowed her family and friends to die. Sister Winifred tells her that she fought, and fought bravely - and can fight now. She offers her arm. It looks like they'll get to the door, but she turns away again.

Jenny and Alec continue their love talk, which is still exceedingly boring despite the sad circumstances. They vow to travel together and go to Paris and dance just like Singing in the Rain - oh, shit, that was wrong. Jenny says they'll dance anyway. In their hearts. Sigh. Dialogue is not this show's strong suit.

Sheila continues to drum up choir members. Jenny comes back to Nonnatus and gives them an update on Alec. The phone rings - Leah Moss has gone into labor. In huge contrast to the beginning of the episode, Sr. Winifred is thrilled to be on call and practically springs out the door. Jenny goes with her, wanting to get back to normal.

Just as Leah's labor starts to go downhill (slow fetal heartbeat), Mrs Rubin comes in with frightening news - Alec's "gravely ill" and the hospital wants her to come right away. Jenny rushes out, leaving Sr. Winifred to handle the crisis her self. The nun looks terrified. Hey, kiddo, this is what you signed up for. She steels herself and gets the job done, bringing Mrs Rubin in as her impromptu assistant.

Jenny pedals at full speed to the hospital while Leah delivers the baby. Sister Winifred is practically in tears by the time the baby, a girl, is delivered. Everyone has a happy moment together, and Leah promises her mother that they can stay in the flat forever if she wants.

Before Jenny can even get to the ward, a nurse stops her and informs her that Alec has died. Well, that got dark fast. A rare fracture complication(likely embolism) took him from joking to dead in just over an hour. She runs past the nurse and goes to see him, where he is indeed most sincerely dead. We get a beautiful shot of Jenny walking down the hall, alone. She heads to Alec's flat, where she sees that he booked two rooms after all - under "Mr G. Kelly and Miss D. Reynolds". Sitting at his table, she stares into space.

The nuns and nurses have a silent dinner, Jenny's empty seat conspicuous among them. Trixie brings her tea and holds her hand. She lies on her bed, looking absolutely empty. Soon enough, though, she's back in Sister Julienne's office asking to return to work. Sister Julienne advises her to take it easy, at least until the funeral's over. She invites Jenny to join them in chapel, though Jenny can't see much point in God right now. Finally, she suggests compassionate leave, with maybe a spell at the mother house in Chichester. Whatever her options, at the moment Jenny is in no condition to make decisions.

Sheila asks her husband for help with some choral music, since he has some musical ability and the new choir is going to sing at Alec's funeral. He gets snappy, and of course it's all about his guilt surrounding Alec's death. They wind up crying together, both about Alec and their own unspoken tragedies.

Sister Winifred goes to visit the Mosses, where everyone is thrilled about the new baby. Mrs Rubin excitedly tells her about the synagogue naming ceremony, though she wasn't there herself. She glances at a family photo, and some resolve inside her snaps. Crossing the floor at top speed, she steps out into the sun, kissing the mezuzah as she goes. Sure, she only makes it to the balcony, but she still calls down to her daughter - who understands more than anyone how significant this moment is. Naturally, all Mrs Rubin can do is tell Leah to dress the baby more warmly. With that, she walks downstairs into the street, looking at the neighborhood for the first time in over a decade.

The choir assembles, including the young mums with their prams - who were inspired to come when they heard Alec's mother couldn't come to the funeral. They declare that they'll be his mothers instead. Noakes, too, has joined in, and Timothy's on the piano.

Jenny wants to take the Brighton dress back and get something for the funeral instead. She finds it terribly difficult, of course, though Cynthia's with her for moral support. Mrs Rubin and Leah walk by with the baby and offer their sympathies. They chat for a moment, during which it emerges that the Mosses and Mrs Rubin are moving after all. Mrs Rubin makes sure to give the nurses a real goodbye, since she lost so many chances to do so in Europe. This sets Jenny off, because she arrived to late and never managed to say goodbye to Alec. She dissolves into tears. Mrs Rubin puts an arm around her and assures her that one day, she will feel better. "You just keep living until you are alive again."

The church is packed at the funeral, and Sheila's choir makes its debut (and does quite well). It contains about half the cast, including the young mums, Dr. Turner, Noakes, Fred, Cynthia and Trixie. Jenny sits in the second pew, flanked by nuns to comfort her. After the service, Jenny leaves Nonnatus for Chichester. Everyone comes out to say goodbye, including Sister Monica Joan with some demented poetry for the occasion. Sister Evangelina can only tell her to eat, fighting back tears. Trixie and Cynthia make her promise to write. Sister Winifred is dashing off to a labor, ignoring Trixie's protests that she's the one on call. Sister Julienne offers the last goodbye, which is solemn and dignified as usual. As they start to drive away, Sister Monica Joan offers some last thoughts on goodbyes. Jenny kisses her goodbye, and they're off. Old Jenny narrates about her closed heart, and a time to heal.

Next time: London's in a smog, a new nurse named Patsy arrives, a girl with Down Syndrome shows up as one of their patients (yes, pregnant).

Well, this episode was shocking. It had its uneven moments (see: every bit of dialogue between Jenny and Alec), but the story of Mrs Rubin was intriguing, and the way it all came together was wonderfully done. Brilliant job by the actress who played Mrs Rubin. Her goodbye to Jenny was masterful. Though it was good to see Sister Bernadette find new purpose, her story did kind of take a back seat this time. Most of all, the show belonged to Alec's death, and Jenny's loss, and an extraordinarily accurate portrayal of grief. Alec was a pretty bland character, but his death and the community's response played out beautifully. Mostly, I want to see what's next for heartbroken Jenny. For tonight, though, this show has left us with more than enough to think about.

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    • dawn9476

      Posted (edited)

      Was it known that Hannah was having a 2nd? I know her social media is private, but it seems like stuff still comes out despite that.

      Edited by dawn9476
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      • Upvote 1
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      • Upvote 1
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