“Spring can be brutal—breaking open secrets, dragging into light those things unseen, and giving voice to words unsaid.” —Vanessa Redgrave narrating as Jennifer Worth
This week’s opening narration for Call the Midwife was a little on the heavy-handed side—anyone watching the episode could see, without Vanessa Redgrave’s Captain Obvious words from afar, that things were going to get “brutal.” For chrissakes, within the first few minutes, poor Barbara had to dispose of a placenta that Trixie brought back in her briefcase—the excuse being no coal for the incinerator at the birthplace. (But thank heavens for Patsy’s deadpan reaction: “Oh dear, no gardeners in the family?”).
But, yes, almost all of the CTM characters had a secret to share in this episode, each one slowly bubbling up to the surface until the biggest secret of all is revealed during the series’ Tragedy (But Not Entirely) of the Week. We finally get a bit of background on the steadfastly selfless Sister Julienne, who goes to visit with her pre-religious-life lost love, Charles Newgarden. The wealthy Charles is dying of heart failure, but for some strange reason he wants to leave a generous legacy to Nonnatus House (three guesses). Julienne’s reunion with her old beau triggers a whole mother lode of feelings she thought she had locked away forever when she stood him up at the pictures in 1932 and stopped calling herself “Louise.” (That and Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights is a good one, Julie. Your loss there.) And we know it’s a real crisis of conscience she feels, because she’s taken off her wimple when she’s gazing longingly at her clandestine photo of her and Charles from 1929—which is hidden away in her copy of Revelations of Divine Love (another reason to adore Julienne here—RoDL was the first book written in the English language by a woman, Julian of Norwich, in 1395).
Even though both Charles and Julienne are at peace with their life choices, we still get a beautiful scene in which Charles re-creates their missed date right in his living room: A film projector screens City Lights while the two erstwhile lovers hold hands and eat Julie’s “favorite refreshment,” choc-ices (the British term for a Klondike bar). Both are then able to move on with happiness in their hearts once the inevitable happens: Charles succumbs to heart failure, and Julienne, not without several stealthy tears of her own, accepts his endowment to repair the leaky Nonnatus House roof.
Although Patsy’s lack of boyfriends and her not-so-cryptic line last season about Trixie’s fiancé Tom Hereward (“He has not enough of some things and too much of others”) didn’t make her revealed sexual inclination all that shocking, I liked how Call the Midwife really took into account how furtive the elegant nurse had to be in 1960 Britain. We meet her dear pal, Delia Busby, in this episode, but without nary a kiss, it is plainly obvious that Patsy and Delia are much more than good buddies. First off, there is the brilliantly executed fake-out as the two eat their fish-and-chips dinner in the Nonnatus House chapel. Delia: “Do you suppose we’ll go to hell?” Big, pregnant (pun intended) pause. “Sitting here and eating our supper in the house of God?” Then, following the devastating delivery of a stillborn baby, Patsy seeks solace and comfort in her girlfriend’s arms. And keeping with the necessity of discretion, Call the Midwife gave Patsy a great line when she had to sneak out of Delia’s room at the nurses’ boarding house the next morning: “No one will see me leave. No one will see anything at all.”
So the big story line of the week, which gave credence to Redgrave’s line about “dragging into light those things unseen,” revolved around Terence and Abigail Bissette, a happy-go-lucky West Indian couple expecting their first child. At the start, the biggest concern the island-born Abigail had was knitting a pair of booties to ensure her baby will always have toasty tootsies, because Abigail hasn’t had warm feet since arriving in cold, damp England. But in a gutting string of events, Abigail delivers a stillborn daughter, shattering both the inexperienced Barbara and the not-senior-enough Patsy (who resorts to calling in Sister Evangelina and the newly arrived Nurse Phyllis Crane before tumbling into bed with Delia).
NEXT: And it just gets worse…