Well that was a whirlwind of an episode. We started out with a lot of clunky dialogue and actions, swung wildly between drama and comedy, made Magda one of my favorite new characters, then seemingly wrote off two characters, blew up a major relationship, and had a relapse.
This episode did not start all that well. Nurse Crane (Linda Bassett) heads to the Lunt’s for a home visit. The place is dirty, the kids have scrapes and bruises, and the dad is kind of an asshole. It seemed like we were hitting abuse right on the head there, but it ended up not being that at all. I get subverting our expectations, but that was a little weird. Nurse Crane books Mrs. Lunt in at the clinic.
Over at the Buckle’s, Fred (Cliff Parisi) and Violet (Annabell Apison) are cooking up a scheme to have a beauty contest. The dialogue clunks around, attempting to be flirty. After Fred convinces Violet he doesn’t just want to “see the local girls in their smalls” — ew, first time writer Kelly Jones –, Violet agrees to help out because they could make a homemade dress portion.
Over at the Turners, Shelagh (Laura Main) has totally come around to Magda (Nina Yndis). She saves her from having to learn about cricket with Tim, but asking Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) if she could hang out with the nurses sometime. Val tells Shelagh to send her to Keep Fit that night. Violet brings the beauty contest sign up sheet to Keep Fit. Magda quickly agrees to sign up and Val also agrees, seemingly because she really wants to be friends with Magda. Maybe it is Patsy and Delia’s absence, but I am fully behind the gay Val theory now.
Sister Winifred (Victoria Yeates) is giving a talk at the school and the Lunts’ daughter, Wendy, falls and is covered in bruises. Sister Winifred brings her concerns to Nonnatus. Nurse Crane is seeing Mrs. Lunt the next day and Lucille (Leonie Elliott) asks if they need to be concerned about abuse. They aren’t sure yet. At clinic, Mrs. Lunt says her husband wouldn’t like her talking to Nurse Crane. Mrs. Lunt then runs off her and leaves her children there. Trixie (Helen George) ends up taking them home. She forces her way inside when Mr. Lunt tries to turn her away.
This is when we find out his isn’t an asshole and something is wrong with Mrs. Lunt. Her father was taken to a “nut house,” so they don’t want to see Dr. Turner (Stephan McGann) at first but Trixie convinces them.
Back in our comedy plot, Val asks Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) if she can be Miss Nonnatus House in the contest. That gets shot down and she is Miss Black Sails Public House instead. Magda comes over because she needs help making her dress and I guess Val offered. They then hang out with Trixie and Lucille and we get some backstory for Magda. She escaped out of communist Hungary, spent some time in a refugee camp in Austria, and had an abusive boyfriend in Paris. She is happy to be in Poplar now.
A specialize sees Mrs. Lunt and Dr. Turner and Trixie break the news to them that Mrs. Lunt has Huntington’s Disease, which causes nerves in the brain to break down over time. They aren’t sure what to do but Dr. Turner and Trixie try their best to help them. Mrs. Lunt has her baby, which is a seemingly health girl. That is almost a forgotten detail in their storyline, so I thought I would just get it out of the way.
Speaking of things to get out of the way, I’ll mention this bit with Trixie here because it seems unimportant until it is incredibly important at the end of the episode. Christopher (Jack Hawkins) tells Trixie that his daughter, Alexandra, is having trouble in school, having nightmares, and wetting the bed. Trixie seems more concerned then she let on. Alexandra goes to a psychologist, who suggests that Christopher only sees her on set days and she doesn’t see Trixie if she doesn’t want to. Trixie reminds him that she told him she didn’t want to meet his daughter if it would be bad for her. It didn’t seem like he thought that through enough.
Let’s focus on Magda for a bit here. I was getting really invested in her story line and was getting all excited about a new young character being added to the cast who isn’t a nurse. It would have been really interesting, but more on that later I guess. Magda goes to a family planning clinic, not the one ran but the Nonnatans. She is trying to get birth control, which already felt like a scandalous element. But when she gets examined, the nurse tells her she is two months pregnant. This was when the writing started getting good.
Magda naively asks about an abortion, which are legal in Hungary. She is shot down and sent away crying. She is still freaking out a bit at the beauty contest practice. Val keeps looking to her for confidence. Val is seeming rather unsure about this whole thing and also called Magda glamorous earlier. Magda seems to notice and takes charge of the practice, while Val trips over her heels.
As they are leaving, Magda is strategically asking Val questions about a boyfriend. Interesting, Val doesn’t really say anything more than “men are more trouble than they’re worth.” Well that sounds an awful lot like, “Trixie, having a boyfriend isn’t the be all and end all.” Val pieces together that Magda is asking her about how to get rid of a baby.
Val tells her she isn’t allowed to see any of the women who can help that she has read about. Magda cries and Val holds her. I ship it.
Also, what was this?!
The set designer just hung up a random photo? Trixie secretly knows and supports this relationship? Val and Pupcakes had an off-screen bonding session and they left their photo with their new gayby for inspiration?
Wendy Lunt also has Huntington’s. Trixie tries her best to help but they aren’t taking good enough care of the new baby. Her brother and sister are put in foster care. Trixie takes Wendy to a residential home for children. While there, Trixie stops for a moment while looking at a girl that looks a lot like Alexandra. It isn’t but the camera lingered for so long, I thought it was going to be.
Magda tells Shelagh she wants to enter nurses training after she is done working for them and they quickly offer her all the medical books she needs to read about how to bring on a miscarriage. On the day of the competition, Magda tells Trixie she isn’t feeling well and leaves to go to Nonnatus. Only Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parifitt) is there. Magda has been taking a bunch of pills she got out of Dr. Turner’s bag and injects herself with something. She stumbles away and collapses in the garden.
Thankfully, Sister Monica Joan calls Shelagh at the contest and she leaves. Val overhears and chases after her, while wearing her first-place homemade dress. At Nonnatus, Val tells Shelagh Magda is pregnant. They find her in the garden and call an ambulance.
At the hospital, Shelagh is rightfully a bit freaked out with Dr. Turner. Magda is going to be fine, but Shelagh partially blames herself for not noticing, making Magda feel like she couldn’t tell them, and giving her all the resources to find out how to do it. But, importantly they don’t seem mad or disappointed. Neither do the Nonnatans. Only Sister Winifred, because of course, asks if they are going to report her. Sister Julienne tells everyone Magda has suffered enough.
So with all of that and all the time dedicated to Magda this episode, I really thought she was going to stay. But, she doesn’t. The story is that she is going back to Paris and going to study to be a nurse, but worryingly I don’t believe that. The Turners ask her to keep in touch, but it doesn’t seem like she is going to. The last we see her, she is getting a last glimpse of Poplar outside the train station.
Now to the other character seemingly written off, Christopher and Trixie are talking in the garden. And Trixie oddly tells Christopher he should go back to his wife for Alexandra’s sake. Christopher is shocked and confused – me too, Christopher – and points out its his ex-wife and he doesn’t love her, he loves Trixie. But, she gets up and leaves him in the garden. Um Trixie, this doesn’t make any sense.
And then what seemed like a silly story line that we have basically had before takes an important and dark turn. Trixie goes into her darkened room alone, eyes the drinks tray and…
…I don’t know if the episode deserved to do this. I’ve never liked Trixie’s alcoholism storyline because I feel like the show never put enough effort into it. And again, her BIG drunken moment is because she broke up with a guy. I know Helen George can act the hell out of whatever this show throws at her, I only hope the writing can match the potential.
Overall, this was a weird episode that I really liked. It started like a nothing episode and by the end it shook up a lot of things. Nina Yndis was amazing this episode and I’m sad she’s gone now. Trixie has kind of been taking a backseat for this season so far, so I’m glad she is going to get some more screen time. I really hope it’s good.
I am tempted to start this episode with just a series of sort outs from the directing to the writing to Leonie Elliott to the focus on friendship to the subtle inclusion of Violet to Laura Main’s comedic abilities. This was an amazing episode. Five main cast members from last season are missing and I barely noticed. Also, I’m starting to ship Lucille and Valerie.
Anyway let’s get into this.
We start with Val (Jennifer Kirby) standing outside of a hairstyle while Mature Jenny (voiced by Vanessa Redgrave) talks about the changes in 1963. Val is sadly not getting an alternative lifestyle haircut, but she has known the owner of the hair salon and her pregnant daughter for years. While she is there, the daughter, Marge, goes into labor. Val calls Nonnatus and Lucille (Leonie Elliott) is set.
She instantly gets a few weird looks walking in but the full blown racism doesn’t hit until Marge’s mom, Mrs. Stanton sees her.
I am really glad Val got paired with Lucille for this story line. It makes specific sense later after her East End heritage is brought up, but for this early bit it seems to be playing off the fact that they seems to really hit it off last week.
The birth goes so smoothly it isn’t even shown, which just made it feel like something was going to happen afterward and it did. Marge starts complaining about her head hurting. Val runs downstairs and calls an ambulance. She thinks it’s post natal eclampsia, but Lucille doesn’t think the symptoms fit and thinks its a stroke. Mrs. Stanton starts to freak out and get even more racist, blaming Lucille. Val does her best to stand up to Mrs. Stanton as Marge and her mother go to the hospital.
Over in the Turners’ story line, their au pair Magda (Nina Yndis) is set to arrive. Shelagh (Laura Main) sends Dr. Turner (Patrick McGann) to go get her from the train station. She looks much more glamorous than her picture and Shelagh is shocked and a bit threatened. Shelagh spends most of the episode flustered and annoyed with Magda, who Tim (Max MacMillion) instantly takes a strong liking to.
The Barbara-shaped comedy hole is filled by Sister Winifred (Victoria Yeates) again this week. This week was much better. Shout out to writer Louise Ironside, whose only other writing credit is 6.6, so damn could she write some more? Sister Winifred’s story line starts with her knitting boobs for the breast feeding lesson of her mother craft class. Fred (Cliff Parisi) has a fun moment when he asks if he can carry the box for her.
At her class, eager mother-to-be Janet keeps talking about how great her husband is and gets a bunch of eye rolls from the other mothers. Janet says her husband is so dedicated, he’d even come next week. Sister Winifred likes the idea. She brings it up at Nonnatus that night. Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) thinks it is a good idea, but asks for Sister Monica Joan’s (Judy Parfitt) opinion. Sister Monica Joan says they can’t let progress stop and maybe it is time.
Lucille is there during the discussion but doesn’t contribute because she is too busy dealing with racists this week. Mrs. Stanton specifically starts blaming Lucille for her daughter’s stroke. She brings her grandchildren to the clinic for milk tokens. Val and Lucille instantly descend on her to ask how everyone is doing. She yells at Lucille and tells her to keep her filthy hands off her grandchild. Obviously, the Turners are not having this and Val pleads with Mrs. Stanton to stop. Lucille quietly takes it, turns around, and gets back to work.
Once Marge gets discharged from the hospital, Sister Julienne and Nurse Crane (Linda Bassett) decide Val should take over for Lucille as Marge’s nurse. Lucille goes and stands up to Sister Julienne — in her second episode, so damn — and says if she doesn’t let her continue to see Marge it is like she is saying Mrs. Stanton is right. Sister Julienne agrees and let’s Lucille continue to see Marge.
Rumors are starting to circular that the stroke was caused by Marge’s mom forcing her to continue to work during her pregnancy. Lucille loudly discredits that rumor in front of everyone at the hair salon. Mrs. Stanton then starts to allow Lucille, Dr. Turner, and Marge’s husband, Dennis help more.
Janet’s husband, Allan, does come to mother craft, but he is not as up for being at the birth as Janet thought he’d be. They have a bit of a falling out over the issue. She has a good talk with Nurse Crane and they seem to reconcile. She is helping out with Allan football team when she goes into labor. He helps her into the team’s van and they start driving toward Nonnatus. They don’t make it through and have to call from a pay phone, right around the corner from the site of Delia’s bike accident. I don’t know if it is limited sets or world building but I liked that I recognized it.
Sister Winifred decides her bike would take too long and opts for Nurse Crane’s car instead. There was a running joke through the episode that Nurse Crane and Fred both don’t trust her enough to lend her their vehicles. She makes it a bit later than Allan would have liked but he and Janet did a good job on their own. He almost faints when it is over. He says he wants to be at the next one and Janet says she wants him nowhere near it.
Now that that levity is out of the way, back to our racism story line. Val finds Lucille in the kitchen late at night and apologize for Mrs. Stanton’s behavior. Lucille tells her she doesn’t have anything to apologize for. But Val feels bad that an East Ender would treat her that way, especially because she was basically discriminated against in the army for being from a poor, working class neighborhood.
And let the air out of your Valerie’s a secret lesbian theories, everyone. Her superior didn’t like her not having a good upbringing and blamed her for a young soldiers death. She was found to have done nothing wrong but Val decided to leave the army after that and come home. Lucille told her she should have had to leave because of that.
So with that reveal and Tim’s crush on Magda, it seems our queer representation is officially at zero until Patsy and Delia come back. Or maybe Val is crushing on Lucille, who knows?
Anyway, after all the standing up Lucille has to do to Mrs. Stanton she gives Dennis the courage to stand up to his mother-in-law and convince her that Marge is on the mend and they all have to work together.
Trixie (Helen George) has a brief but fun story line in here. Shout out to first-time director Claire Winyard. Now that is how you cover up a pregnancy without it being distracting. Valerie and Nurse Crane tease Trixie for reading a book about home making. She spends some time with Christopher (Jack Hawkins) and his daughter, Alexandra. It seems they have also spent some sexy times together. She also attempts to cook for him, which goes poorly but he is sweet about it.
Overall, this was a fantastic episode. Everyone was used nicely, except for maybe Gruff McNewCop. I’m not sure how I feel about him yet. Leonie Elliott and Jennifer Kirby have clearly proven they can handle being the leads of this show for however long they need to be. See you next week.