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'Call the Midwife' recap: Episode 4

Women’s empowerment is alive and well in 1960 Poplar, but for some, it comes at a painful expense.

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Laurence Cendrowicz

Call the Midwife

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:

“I sometimes wonder what the last two wars were for in that respect. Every time the world goes up in flames, they draft women in to pick up the slack, and then once it’s over, it’s back in your box and don’t say boo!” —Nurse Phyllis Crane

Preach, Nurse Crane, preach.

No one ever said women’s empowerment was going to come easy, even in the female-centric universe of Call the Midwife. In this week’s episode, the casualties to our noble cause included a crushing breakup (paired with further descent into alcoholism), a syphilis outbreak—and the enlisting of a male voice of reason to get through to a particularly stubborn husband.

But these Sisters (and midwives) are doing it for themselves, pioneering healthier lives, independence and liberation for the generations of women who will follow them. The prim and proper Sister Winifred took on the challenge of eradicating venereal disease among Poplar’s prostitute population by educating the working girls about the importance of using “sheaths.” Barbar— with the help of Dr. Turner—taught one local rope maker that perhaps his newborn daughter might take over the family business someday. Even sweet Sister Monica Joan, determined to still serve the people of her community at her advanced age, made a difference in the lives of two women this week: While Trixie was passed out drunk and no other midwives were around, she dragged a frightened, in-labor woman through the pouring rain to Dr. Turner’s surgery and into the tender hands of a slightly out-of-practice Shelagh Turner, who delivered the baby herself. MJ’s actions helped not only the mother in need (who named her baby Monica, in gratitude), but Shelagh as well, who discovered that in addition to being a wife, mother, and her husband’s medical secretary, she really misses practicing midwifery.

And while she may not know it yet, Trixie, despite having both suffered and screwed up the most this episode, is championing the novel concept of women having a say in their own relationships. The bad news is—and there’s a lot of it where Trixie is concerned this week—her engagement to Tom Hereward is off. Plus, she has an encroaching drinking problem which is only going to get worse given the relentless pain anyone endures after a breakup. However, putting her alcoholism aside for now—it will be addressed in later episodes, I assure you—Trixie must be applauded for achieving enough clarity to end things as early as she did. We learned this episode that as benevolent as Tom might be as a religious servant to the community, apparently that compassion does not extend to his future wife.

The first red flag that popped up was Tom was about to receive a visit from a bishop—and the notion of having this church elder meet his fiancée never even crossed the curate’s mind. Although Trixie was the model image of a young wife-to-be, decked out in a glamorous purple and black sleeveless dress and plying the bishop with tea and sandwiches, it was quite evident that she wasn’t welcome at this meeting. Especially not after she voiced concern over the bishop’s wish to relocate Tom to a parish in a Newcastle slum (she had envisioned raising their family in the country). The bishop’s annoyance at Trixie’s outspokenness is one thing, but the fact that Tom behaves as if she is little more than a nuisance is pretty much the equivalent of a klaxon horn sounding off.

NEXT: Have a drink, Trixie. Or two. Or three. Or four.