Call the Midwife: “Season 4 Episode 1”

In the first episode of its fourth season Call the Midwife is quickly able to prove it is just as good despite being down its original lead Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) and Cynthia (Bryony Hannah), who has left for six months at the Mother House for her nun training. Also, where did Jane go? Was that explained and I missed it or did she just disappear?

Anyway, while Mature Jenny (Vanessa Redgrave) is talking about the magnificence and simplicity of childbirth, Patsy (Emerald Fennell) comes home exhausted by a delivery and Trixie (Helen George) runs out of Nonnatus for another delivery. She is offered a lift by the milkman, who takes her to a lady giving birth in the back of a car.

Trixie is all kinds of hilarious in this scene, by saying she arrived by magic carpet and agreeing that blondes have more fun as she realizes she is kneeling in some type of bodily fluid.

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Back at Nonnatus, Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) is concerned that someone new is coming and they don’t have any cake while everyone else is having breakfast. Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) says a baby being born in a car must be a first for Poplar. Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) blames the growing popularity of hospital births. Sister Monica Joan also vents about how child will not know work like she did because of electric floor sweepers.

Chummy (Miranda Hart) is there but she is planning on leaving to take over the mother and baby home from The Holiday Special. She attempts to drive out of the episode, but can’t and Peter (Ben Caplan) and Freddie have to come with her.

Later at the clinic, Shelagh (Laura Main) helps a young boy named Gary (Alfie Davis), who is pushing a baby in a stroller. He is there to collect the milk tokens and orange juice. Both of the children look rather unkempt and Gary says their mom is working.

We pop into the market and get our introduction to the new nurse, Barbara Gilbert (Charlotte Ritchie). She asks for directions, which is given in addition to bananas. She reaches Nonnatus and is met by Sister Monica Joan, who first says everyone has gone aboard but then takes the superfluous bananas and helps her once dogs start running away with her belonging.

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I like Barbara and her introduction. I’ve seen people call her Jenny’s or Cynthia’s replacement, despite her being mostly like Chummy’s replacement in this episode. Truly, I don’t see her as anyone’s replacement. She is enough of a mix of our three missing nurses and her own character for her to be a fun new addition.

Back at the clinic, Shelagh realizes Gary’s three younger siblings that he has told them about have not been brought into clinic in a very long time. She gets Trixie to help her out. Trixie asks Gary to stay because she thinks Coral, the baby, is sick. Gary acts cool but quickly runs out right past Barbara and Sister Monica Joan.

Later on, Gary arrives home to his two other sisters, who have been locked into their flat by their mother. Gary ran into her on the way home. She seems to be a sex worker. It is clear that Gary is the one raising the other three children.

Back at Nonnatus, Sister Julienne is showing Barbara to her room. We are told she is a clergyman’s daughter from Liverpool and grew up in a around the church, which is probably why this next scene goes so hilariously. Trixie and Patsy invited Barbara to come drink in their room.

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It’s a little scene but it gives us a bunch of character moments. Trixie is complaining that Tom (Jack Ashton), her cleric boyfriend, is spending more time working than with her. Trixie says she thinks he might break up with her, Barbara says she is too nice for that. Trixie and Patsy laugh. Then Trixie says Patsy is the unlucky one without a boyfriend at all. Patsy just sighs. The moment is broken by them having to run Barbara to the bathroom to vomit. Patsy then covers for her with the nuns in the morning.

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Trixie goes to the address that Gary gave her and the milkman says it has been abandoned for months. She has Tom help her track down Gary’s family. Tom hasn’t been able to find them. Trixie is relating to Gary because she also knows what it like is to put on a brave face for other people. Trixie explains this to Tom later in the episode. But she told Jenny last season, she played like Shirley Temple so no one would notice her wrecked home life because of her alcoholic father suffering from severe PTSD.

Gary goes back home again but the key fell off the string and he is locked outside while his three siblings are inside. Pouring milk through the mail slot doesn’t work as well as Gary hoped it would, so he tries to steal some biscuits from the market. The unsympathetic shop owner drags Gary to the constable station, but luckily Sgt. Koakes is on duty.

Peter starts to question Gary. He is scared but eventually tells him the biscuits were for his siblings. Gary has realized how bad the situation is and tells Peter everything. Peter and the police break into the flat. They are disgusted by the conditions and call it Dickensian.

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He takes the children and tells the police to stay and arrest the mother when she gets back. Shelagh (Laura Main) and Dr. Turner (Stephan McGann) do their best for the children. They realize the baby has to be taken to the hospital. Shelagh calls Nonnatus to have two nurses come assist. Trixie heads out and Sister Monica Joan asks to come because what they will see will not shock her as much as it will Trixie.

Gary is still trying to do everything to make sure they don’t appear poor. Trixie is quickly to side with him. No emergency foster parents can be found so Trixie brings the three older siblings to stay at Nonnatus. It is clear this is all becoming a little too much for Trixie, who goes and pours herself a drink in her room.

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The next day, Gary and his sisters are getting ready to be taken to a short-term foster home. Trixie is nervously packing up extra clothes for them and is about to cry. She can’t bring herself to say goodbye to them as Sister Monica Joan is playing with them outside. She then explains her childhood to Tom, but she lets her guard down only for a moment.

But, it seemed to be enough for Tom to realize her doesn’t want to loss Trixie. So, in their next scene he proposes. He says he talks about love all the time but didn’t realize what it meant until he met Trixie. She says yes, of course.

Gary’s mother gets arrested by Peter. She loses custody of her children. The baby was adopted and the three others are being sent with the Child Migrant Program, which sent orphans to Australia for a better life. Mature Jenny crushes our hope by saying the program was a scam, but the only good part is maybe the hope made them happy for a while.

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The Turners are part of the small B plot about breastfeeding versus formula, hospitals versus home births and a very nervous mother. It was good and cute, but didn’t have much for the overall season arches. Except that Shelagh is missing nursing and is going to be Dr. Turner’s medical secretary.

Also, Sister Julienne sends Barbara and Sister Evangelina to the maternity home for a while because she can tell Sister Evangelina is sick. She doesn’t take it too well. She takes her frustration out by throwing jabs at Barbara and Sister Monica Joan. She is the one who convinces her to see a doctor. Sister Evangelina and Barbara get roped into the B plot, which was good but with the intensity of the A plot it felt rather trivial in this episode. In a different episode, it would have probably worked better.  But aside from that, I have nothing negative to say about this episode.


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