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Worldly Distractions: Call the Midwife 4.1 - Episode 1





Well, well, well. After all the changes of the last season and Christmas special, how exactly are these new dynamics going to work? I hear rumours that they're bringing in new blood - does this mean we've officially reached the stage of a TV show where everyone is interchangeable? You decide.

Old Jenny continues to narrate even though she wasn't there - it's the usual stuff about love and beginnings and stuff. The midwives are still patrolling the neighbourhood catching any babies who happen to be arriving. Trixie hitches a ride on a milk truck to deliver a woman who has randomly gone into labour in her car. In fact, it looks like she's going to deliver the damn thing right there. Wouldn't a cab driver be more suited for this?

After an appropriately gory and loud delivery, a little girl is born. Everyone applauds your friendly neighbourhood midwife. The mother is delighted that the baby will be blonde, because blondes have more fun - not that Trixie agrees, being literally up to her knees in puke.

The nuns all congratulate Trixie on a first-ever car delivery. Sister Monica Joan is still attempting to steal cake. Evangelina blames hospital birth for inconvenient deliveries, saying that everyone's better off at home. Meanwhile, Chummy is temporarily being transferred out to a mother-and-baby home in the country, which at least will be good for little Freddy's lungs. (PS Chummy can't drive, not one little bit.)

Sister Julienne catches Sr. Monica Joan scrubbing the floor and is horrified. Sr. MJ explains that she's getting ready for the new midwife, whom she keeps mixing up with a new nun. Naturally, she's off on another tangent pretty quickly, so Sr. Julienne doesn't have to spend much effort talking her out of it.

The new midwife arrives, dressed in all sorts of bright colours, to strains that sound vaguely like "Georgy Girl". The Sixties have arrived with her. She introduces herself as Barbara Gilbert. Unfortunately, she is greeted by Sister Monica Joan, who is convinced everyone is abroad and keeps rattling on about cake. Stray dogs also appear to be stealing all her clothes. A young boy comes to the clinic with his younger, sickly-looking sister. The kid is so cockney he might as well be the Artful Dodger. I keep expecting him to break into song. Shelagh is concerned about their health, so Trixie takes charge. While Dr. Turner looks at the baby, the boy kind of takes off with the pram and all their supplies. In the midst of all this, Nurse Barbara turns up, highly confused.

Shelagh gives a speech about formula, touting them as superior to breastfeeding. She is contradicted by this one lady in the back who has read too much Dr. Spock. Pipe down, lady. It turns out the woman is having a baby after several losses, so Shelagh cuts her a bit of slack.

The little boy comes home to his mother, who is most likely a hooker or party girl of some kind. At home, Shelagh expresses concern for the mother from the presentation. Her husband agrees. Timothy, for some reason, is some kind of breastfeeding expert, which confuses his parents as much as it does the audience.

Barbara Gilbert turns out to be a PK (Preacher's Kid), which is awesome, because there is nothing better than one of those. Trixie and Patsy provide Barbara with a lively introduction, complete with lots of booze. She is adorably innocent and clearly has no idea what's going on.

The little boy goes back to his filthy home and attempts to feed his sister rosehip syrup. Back at the nunnery, the girls dress up in their finest pajamas and have a pillow fight talk about fellows. I'm still convinced that Patsy is a complete lesbo, but there's no way the show will admit this for at least half a season. Barbara pukes from, like, one drink. Patsy takes charge while Trixie sings "Look at Me I'm Sandra Dee".

The next morning, Patsy explains away Nurse Gilbert's hangover by claiming it's food poisoning. Trixie gets hit on by the milkman, and manages to find out from him that the cockney kid and his mother are squatters. Barbara practices her bike riding, despite being perfectly competent like two scenes ago, and drops trays of instruments all over the place.

When the little boy (Gary) shows up for more milk, Patsy comments that the new housing will soon grant him a better situation. Unfortunately, Trixie just misses him, which really pisses her off. Later she goes to meet Tom the curate, who has joined her on the hunt for Gary. I guess she's the new protagonist since Jenny and Chummy are gone (the latter temporarily)?

Gary comes home to find the key gone, which leaves him unable to get to his sister. Sisters Evangelina and Julienne have a chat about Nurse Gilbert, whom they have decided belongs more in a maternity home - in order to develop more experience. Furthermore, Sr. Evangelina has to go with her, as Sr. Julienne is getting quite concerned for her health and wants her to see a doctor. Oh, god, they can't kill off the Trunchbull!


This leaves the sister completely pissed off at poor Barbara. Soon enough, the milkman shows up and leaves some milk for Gary, who shares it with all the children in the apartment (I think they're all his sisters?). The nervous lady (Mrs Wimbley) from the lecture has begun having premature labour. Dr. Turner keeps her under observation at the maternity home.

Gary is caught shoplifting some biscuits, which spells doom for his sisters. Barbara brings Mrs Wimbley a burnt breakfast, which they both find funny - but the laughs stop when the woman's water breaks. Noakes hears Gary's shoplifting case. Since the boy is starving, he's very sympathetic. Mrs Wimbley is terrified and in pain, though Barbara and Sr. Evangelina try to reassure her. Dr. Turner stands in the corner and doesn't do anything. The baby girl is born alive, but has trouble breathing. Fortunately, they're able to bring her round, and she is taken to the London to be observed.

Noakes sits Gary down with a cup of tea. The boy tells him how much his sisters are suffering. Apparently, the kid is left home alone to look after the family for days at a time. The police immediately go to investigate. The family's apartment is utterly atrocious, so filthy I can barely describe it. There are two little girls huddled in the corner, along with the baby. Gary takes charge of them like a parent. Noakes instructs the other cops to arrest the mother as soon as they find her. Also, there appears to be a policewoman among them, which truly astonishes me.

The Turners examine the girls, who have been badly neglected and abused - the baby even needs to be hospitalized, and possibly have skin grafts. Sr. Monica Joan, who has seen way too many of these cases, begs to come along with Trixie. The kids are photographed and bathed, and their case is reported to Social Services. As there are no foster parents available, they are put up at Nonnatus. Trixie lies awake that night, haunted by what she has seen.

Shelagh and Dr. Turner also can't sleep. She admits that she misses being a nurse-midwife (wait, what has she been doing for the past few episodes?), though the work will conflict with her family life. Sr. MJ and Evangelina bump into each other in the night, where MJ notices how sick the other woman is. It looks like she's not long for midwifery, if not for this world. However, Sr. MJ is also coming apart, forgetting that she has left crumpets in the oven.

Barbara goes to check on Mrs Wimbley, who is despondent about her daughter's situation. As the woman is producing milk, Barbara suggests that she bike the bottles over to the hospital for the baby's benefit. Sr. MJ is great with Gary and family, who are starting to come out of their shells. Tom the curate takes them to a foster home, which will fortunately allow the kids to remain together. Unfortunately, this is giving Trixie flashbacks to her childhood with her dad's PTSD, and she's barely holding herself together. Tom tries to comfort her as best he can.

Mrs Wimbley is quite cheered at the prospect of being able to feed her daughter, so Barbara gladly helps transport the milk. This, in turns, makes Sr. Evangelina think better of her. Trashy Mom shows up to her apartment to find it littered with police. She attempts to justify her treatment of the children, saying that she was about to be re-housed and kept begging the doctor to tie her tubes, but she is hauled off to the police station anyway. Tom proposes to Trixie with cake, which is the best kind of proposal. He is suitably handsome and bland, giving a little speech about how her inherited PTSD totally made him want to propose, so Trixie says yes and they make out for a while. Awesome.

Shelagh becomes her husband's new secretary, which seems like a nice compromise. Sr. Evangelina needs to see a female doctor. Looks like she's curtains for sure. The premature baby grows stronger, the abused baby is adopted out, and the three older siblings are sent out under the Child Migrant act (the show conveniently glosses over how extremely problematic that is).

Next time: New elderly nurse who seems a bit mouthy, the nurses treat an old priest who apparently once boned Sr. Julienne, they have a new mother in an apparently traumatic situation.

Okay, good things. I really enjoyed the pivot of Trixie to lead, even if her fiance is a tad bland. As well, nurse Barbara seems to be a nice addition - I'll be interested to see what direction they'll take her, as she seems to be a combo of Nervous Noob and Manic Pixie Dream Girl. And weirdly enough, Jenny is not missed at all (though Chummy sure is). The plotlines were pretty par for the course, though they were well-acted, and it truly concerned me how glibly they discussed the children's forced migration - I mean, Australia officially apologized for that shit (Canada never did because we suck), so you know it's got to be bad. All in all, it was a good way to set up the series' new status quo, so maybe it was best that they avoided anything too dramatic. Join me next week for more tales from Nonnatus House!

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