Call The Midwife: The Holiday Special (S3Ep10)

Call the Midwife is a rather recent discovery for me and I really like it. I wanted to write about it, but my timing didn’t make sense until now. The fourth season of Call the Midwife starts airing tonight (Sunday, March 29) at 8 p.m. on PBS. So, I’m going to blog about it. Season four is my favorite season, mostly because we get more of my two favorite characters, Patsy (Emerald Fennell) and Trixie (Helen George).

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So, why did I decided to start this with a post about the Holiday Special? 1) It is the only episode from the first three seasons that is not on Netflix because it did a simultaneous airing on BBC and PBS on Dec. 29, 2014. 2) It was really hard for me to find and find anything written about it. It’s streaming on PBS’ website until April 7. Go watch it. 3) It is incredibly important to the events of season four and watching that season without seeing this episode left me rather confused.

The episode starts with Mature Jenny, the narrator (voiced by Vanessa Redgrave) first time onscreen. She is reminiscing about Nonnatus House on Christmas 2005 with her husband, Phillip Worth. 1959 Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) met Phillip during the episode before this and decided to leave midwifery to become a hospice nurse. She is looking for a china ornament. It is kind of fun to see Mature Jenny just speaking with the same level of wisdom and gravity in a regular conversation as she does in her narration.

We then switch to Christmas 1959 in Poplar as everyone is receiving their Christmas cards from Jenny. Trixie, Tom (Jack Asthon) and Cynthia (Bryony Hannah) are helping Chummy (Miranda Hart) and Fred (Cliff Pairsi) with the Christmas pageant. Fred is taking playing Santa very serious and Trixie finds it humorous.

The nuns are setting up the Naivety scene at Nonnatus . Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) is berating Hitler for causing some of the pieces to break. A bomb exploded during the last Holiday Special. The next two scenes gives us three important bits of information. Cynthia is having private meetings with Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) about something, Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) is having all kinds of strange pains and Chummy and Peter (Ben Caplin) are having a bit of a spat because he is spending too much time studying for his sergeant exam instead of helping with the pageant or watching Freddie. He has already failed twice and is dead set on not failing again.

Cynthia is talking with Sister Julienne more seriously about becoming a nun. She hasn’t told anyone else about this yet. She would start in a six month trial period with a few others. I like this story line. Mostly, it makes me uncomfortable. I like Cynthia and I think she is a good characters, so I want to support her decision. But, I find it hard to agree with it. I want to view it like Patsy does, but I find myself more leaning toward how Trixie does. More on that later.

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Incredibly fitting our next scene with Cynthia is her doing a check up on Angela, Shelagh (Laura Main) and Dr. Turner’s (Stephan McGann) adopted daughter. Cynthia’s whole story line is just the reserve of Shelagh’s from season two, but for it seemed easier to support Sister Bernadette leaving the religious life to be with her adorable dork family than it is to support Cynthia leaving her friends for the religious life.

During Tuesday clinic, Chummy is dealing with two pregnant teenagers, who introduce our A plot. Avril Fox (Lousia Connolly-Burham), an orphan, and slightly higher class Denise (Lea Jackson), who is there with her mother, are being sent to the local mother and baby home. Patsy is charged with escorting them.

The C plot is introduced by Sister Monica Joan and Fred going to buy a Christmas tree. They are assisted by Victor (Daniel Cerqueria). He helps them bring home a comically large tree that barely fits inside. Victor is clearly hungry and Cynthia runs after him with some food as a thank you. Victor runs home with the food to his wife, Nancy (Kacey Ainsworth), who seems to have some sort of mental problem. It seems they are expecting a child and are saving what little money they have in a tin marked “baby.”

Patsy goes into full hard ass Nurse Mount mode when she arrives at the mother and baby home with Denise and Avril and finds it far under her expectations. The head nurse seems to be rather uncaring though she is talking up how caring she is.

But, Patsy leaves before the head nurse goes into full asshole mode. She is discouraging the mothers from bonding with their babies before they are taken away for adoption and quickly shuffles off laboring mothers to the hospital.

Back in Poplar, the nurses and Tom are walking home from singing at the hospital. They start talking about the nuns, who seemed to have split from them before the fish and chips stop. Trixie says becoming a nun seems like a strange choice for a woman as young as Sister Winfred (Victoria Yeates). Patsy says it seems so for anyone. Cynthia said there is more to it than they can understand. Tom agrees, but agrees he is different than the nuns. This all leads Cynthia to telling them about her decision.

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Once they are inside, Patsy is trying to get Cynthia out of her room to talk to her and Trixie about her decision. Patsy has taken this whole thing as just a big shock, but Trixie seems pretty mad and disappointed. Patsy and Trixie sit in the hallway. Trixie vents and says Cynthia wouldn’t be throwing her life away if she has just had one boyfriend. Patsy is making faces all over the place and tells Trixie having a boyfriend is not the end all be all. This just adds more fuel to the maybe Patsy isn’t straight theory. Patsy says the decision is Cynthia’s faith versus their hope and it isn’t a fair fight. In a later scene, Cynthia voices her doubts with Sister Julienne and thinks she doesn’t have enough to offer God in her religious life.

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Back at the mother and baby home, the head nurse and the social worker pretty much steal a baby away from a mother while she is upstairs preparing clothes for him. Avril realizes Denise is sick but the nurse will not let her call for a doctor. She also sees the head nurse is drinking on duty. Avril gets feed up with all of this and calls Nonnatus.  Chummy answers and she, Dr. Turner and Timothy (Max MacMillion) head over. The head nurse flees.

The C plot pops back around after Victor collapses at the Christmas tree stand. Shelagh is there to call an ambulance. He and his wife were recently released from a closed down mental facility. Cynthia heads over to look after them. Eventually, Sister Winfred joins her. This story line does a good job of addressing the real life issue of the de-institutionalization of mental illness, which happened in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Nancy has also been lobotomized and sterilized without her consent. Victor and Nancy realizes they can’t have a baby but they still have their love to give to each other and that is enough. This makes Cynthia realize she has enough to give God. She leaves to go home to tell her parents in person. On the way out she finds, a broken part of the Naivety scene and sends it to Jenny. It ends up being what Mature Jenny was looking for in 2005.

Chummy has agreed to stay on at the mother and baby home after Dr. Turner checks everything out and Patsy is sent too. Patsy and Avril have already cleaned up the house and created a better environment in a couple of hours. They get snowed in and have to stay at the home. They throw a party for the girls and it is all cute and fun and we get a shot of Patsy dancing, which I find absurdly cute. Avril starts to go into labor and pulls Chummy and Patsy away from the party. Avril fights the nurses’ help and refuses to look at her baby at first, which she said earlier that she wouldn’t.

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Eventually, she accepts their help and looks at her baby. She also decides to not give her baby up for adoption because nobody said she had to that is just the rules of the home before. Avril decides nobody could love her baby more than she could. In contrast, Denise gives up her baby to give him his best chance. Chummy ends up agreeing to take care of looking after the home.

Being the Holiday Special everything wraps up nicely. The Christmas pageant goes smoothly. Peter passes the sergeant’s exam. The Turners write a letter to Angela’s birth mother, not knowing if she will get it or not, to let her know that Angela is being well taken care of. Everyone gathers at Nonnatus for a Christmas dinner with Victor and Nancy joining them.

The final scene is on New Year’s Eve, Trixie and Patsy are uncomfortably sitting on the steps at Nonnatus. Patsy says they could be out partying with the doctors from The London, but instead they are waiting to marry off Cynthia to God. Trixie uses that metaphor when Cynthia arrives in a habit and it really seems to fit.  Trixie and Cynthia are both about to cry about how things will be different when she returns in six months. Trixie and Patsy walk Cynthia down the aisle in the chapel towards a crucifix. There is also a photo of Jenny with Cynthia and Trixie there.

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We the switch back to 2005 with Mature Jenny and Phillip. They found the broken Naivety scene piece. Mature Jenny said everyone is lucky if they find love, no matter in what form.

This was very long, but this was a longer episode than usual. I’m adding Call the Midwife to the blogging schedule and my post about the first episode of season four should be up in the next few days.


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