The final episode of “Call the Midwife” Season 8 draws near and oh, how it has been a journey. If you’re still reeling over the sudden death of Jeannie Tennant or you’re on edge after all of Sister Monica Joan’s health scares (someone please keep her in a protective bubble for us), grab your support buddy for this one — because Episode 7 will wreck you.
When we left off last week, the midwives were busy comforting an unwed teen mother and helping a family through an anthrax scare. Trekking forward, the ladies are uniting to help the women of their community beyond pregnancy checkups and other medical services with the possibility of bringing an advisory center to the neighborhood. After all, while the women of Nonnatus House might be midwives in name, they’ve also been caretakers, counselors, and keepers of dark secrets for the patients they’ve seen over the years.
Considering Different Points of View
From single mothers who need assistance raising their children, to women seeking guidance following traumatic births or problems in their home life, the services of the advice centers around London could easily benefit numerous women in Poplar. Enter the midwives, who, after their fair share of experiences treating illnesses, witnessing birth defects, and holding the hands of tearful women, will do anything to help their borough.
Inspired by the case of Lois Parry, a young woman who grappled with her identity in Episode 5, Trixie has taken it upon herself to rally community representatives to build such an institution in Poplar with the hopes of providing counsel to women like Lois. With the help of Dr. Turner, Trixie meets with the Tower Hamlets Borough Council, including councilwoman Violet Buckle, to pitch the idea of opening a branch of London’s Brook Advisory Center in their area. Yet with extra funding required the pair find themselves at odds with Violet, who’s wary of pulling money from others’ needs in the borough to help sustain this new venture.
Searching for Supporters
When things don’t go as planned for Trixie’s vision, she heeds advice from her own female council at Nonnatus House. Mother Mildred encourages her to use Sister Julienne, a longtime resident who knows all too well the issues that overwhelm Poplar, as a resource to convince Violet of the advisory center’s worth. Yet Trixie hits another roadblock, as Sister Julienne is also on the fence regarding this new initiative, thinking that it might only further encourage sexual relations and pregnancy out of wedlock.
The Pugh Family
Putting her lobbying hat aside, Trixie takes on patient Heather Pugh, a newcomer to the area, during a routine clinic checkup. Expecting her first child, Heather’s pregnancy appears to be moving along smoothly. Of course, there’s always a catch. As an ever-observant, veteran midwife, Trixie notices a hint of distress, and Heather opens up about recent pains during urination. Though Trixie assures her there’s likely no reason to be concerned, she takes a urine sample from Heather to confirm.
Later, Heather returns home to prepare a special dinner and we’re introduced to her husband, Vince, a bookie at the local horse tracks. To her dismay, she’s peeved to hear that he has a shift later that night. Mmk, Vince… just popping in for a slice of freshly made pie just to peace out on your wife right after? We’re not impressed.
Meanwhile, at Nonnatus House, a new name is finally being added to the roster. When Mother Mildred returned during Phyllis’ absence, she came in guns blazing with no filter and no regard for the way things were run by the other midwives. Since that time, and thanks to a wakeup call from one her patients, she’s taken a step back to let her colleagues lead, but as always keeps a watchful eye on the house to see where she can help. This week, she decides to throw rookie Sister Frances into the deep end after seeing that the younger midwife has not yet delivered a baby solo. That’s about to change.
Behind Closed Doors
Well, Vince didn’t make a great first impression on us, but we hoped he would do something to change our minds. So far, the men of this season have been largely supportive and caring SOs. Dr. Turner, the doting father. Cyril, the beau who bends over backwards for Lucille. And of course, Paul, Lois Parry’s fiancé who loves her unconditionally.
So naturally, we were overdue for a man to let us down. As it turns out, that man is Vince. His sudden late-night shift seemed fishy, and sadly, we weren’t wrong. In an extremely unfortunate plot twist, we return to Vince as he goes to “work” and see that he’s visiting a mystery woman as poor Heather waits up for him at home.
Though we’d like to simply vote this one off the island, karma has a funny way of working her magic. Following Vince’s rendezvous, Dr. Turner and Trixie make a house call to the Pugh’s the next morning to deliver Heather’s urine sample results. Bad news. She’s tested positive for gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease, and while it’s not harmful when caught early, it can impact newborns exposed to the disease and potentially impair their vision. Heather denies the results, as she’s only ever had relations with her husband, and it’s upon receiving this information that Vince returns home during the worst possible time.
When Heather breaks the news to him, initially believing that Vince being involved in an affair is laughable, it doesn’t take much for him to fold under the pressure and tell her the truth. Since Dr. Turner needs to keep an eye on her to check for infection once the baby is born, and since Vince is the absolute worst, Heather leaves her home with Dr. Turner and Trixie to spend the remainder of her pregnancy at the maternity home. It’s awkward with a capital A.
A Step in the Right Direction
As one door closes (see ya later, Vince!), another opens… for Sister Frances, that is. It’s delivery time! After some tough love and a push from Mother Mildred, Sister Frances’ name has finally been included on the baby duty board, and her day to debut her skills as a solo midwife comes with the labor of Connie Blakemore. With a prayer to God and Mother Mildred’s faith in her, Sister Frances heads to the Blakemores’. Her anxiety is so high, it’s making us sweat, but we’re rooting for her!
The Skeletons in Vince’s Closet
Sadly, our Vince-free moment was short-lived. During a follow up visit with Dr. Turner, Vince drops a bomb of a confession to him when Dr. Turner implies he needs to be safer in his extramarital affairs. Vince claims the visit was for business and not love as he contracted the disease from a sex worker — because that somehow makes it better. Though he’s hesitant to out the woman, Dr. Turner insists he provides her information to prevent the spread of disease to her other clients.
After their chat, Vince tries to reconcile with Heather at the maternity home with “but I love you” and “I’ll never do it again.” (Can you hear that? It’s the sound of the world’s smallest violin.) Since rumors spread quickly, Sister Mildred is quick to quash this when she finds Vince in the room and shoos him out, leaving Heather visibly distraught. When this encounter ends in failure, Vince does what Vince knows best and gives in to temptation later that night. Little does he know, Dr. Turner has arrived at the woman’s house to speak with her about the infection and the extremely loyal husband (God bless), who is astonished over Vince’s behavior, is determined to get to the bottom of this predicament.
The two later have a deep conversation about Vince’s time in the military, where the impact of his service affected his mental state and made him physically aggressive toward others. Assuming that a brothel was the best way to help with his stress, Vince’s sergeant brought him to a sex worker, where he picked up a habit that followed him back to England. Though he stopped his descent into darkness when he met Heather, the stress of her pregnancy triggered his addiction. It doesn’t seem like a great excuse, but Dr. Turner seems to empathize with him and we’re feeling really conflicted.
May Leaving the Turners
As the uncomfortable conversations continue, Dr. Turner and Shelagh gather the kids for a family meeting where they tell them that May will be moving to her adoptive family soon. Bad news after bad news am I right? They try to disguise the major hurt of this update with an impromptu ice cream social, but Timothy and the other children are bummed knowing that their time with their foster sister is limited.
Elsie & the Gang
When we last left Lucille and Cyril during Episode 6, they had made amends following a series of misunderstandings caused by Sister Monica Joan’s rumors. (We still love her, though.) As their relationship moves forward, the pair reunite for a third date. Yet when movie night is canceled at their local cinema, they join Trixie, Valerie and Valerie’s grandmother, Elsie, for a raging night on the town playing Bingo.
We were first introduced to Elsie during Episode 6 when Valerie began treating her for a serious case of boils, but in an effort to be better about spending time with her grandmother, she introduces her to the squad. Now, Elsie has become better acquainted with Valerie’s friends and has even been seen by Dr. Turner and Sister Julienne for her condition. Not unlike her granddaughter, Elsie has a fiery spirit, and exudes pride for Valerie over her successes as a midwife. Don’t get too attached, though.
At the Blakemore home, Sister Frances’ worries are cast aside when she finds that she’s easily able to bond with Connie. As their new friendship puts her at ease, she begins to feel more comfortable in her abilities to deliver. That is, until Connie begins to feel sharp pains in her back, which Sister Frances discovers is due to a compound presentation. In other words, the baby is coming out elbow first. The ordeal sparks Sister Frances’ doubts again, and though Connie makes it clear that she trusts her midwife, Sister Frances calls in for extra assistance.
Yet with the majority of the crew at Bingo, help doesn’t arrive before she’s forced to proceed with Connie’s delivery. Though it takes them into the early hours of the morning, Sister Frances successfully brings Connie’s daughter into the world without any mishaps. The event is a major win for the young midwife whose confidence is soaring. With this, Mother Mildred silently exits from Nonnatus House. Sister Frances has proven her independence and the extra hands are no longer needed.
A Curious Call
After much praise and celebration over Sister Frances’ big night, things at Nonnatus House are back to business as usual where the women are enjoying a night in watching a historic Olympic race. The peace of the night however is soon interrupted when the women receive an ominous phone call from Valerie’s aunt regarding an emergency at her pub. Unsure of the gravity of the situation, Trixie accompanies Valerie to provide extra assistance.
The Big Reveal
When they arrive, things go downhill immediately. Valerie’s aunt appears to be spooked by Trixie’s presence but with an urgent issue at hand and no time to argue, she sends them to a room above the bar. When the midwives make their way through the door, they are stunned by the grisly scene before them. A young woman lay on a table bleeding out, and in perhaps the most mind-blowing reveal in “Midwife” history, Valerie’s grandmother Elsie sits at the end of the table.
With the patient hemorrhaging, Trixie immediately jumps into action as Valerie remains frozen, trying to wrap her head around this living nightmare wherein Elsie is performing illegal abortions on the women of Poplar. After witnessing firsthand the damaging effects and even a fatality from failed abortions past, Valerie has been fiercely opposed to the underground practice throughout her time at Nonnatus House. As Trixie aids the woman, she tells Valerie’s aunt to phone for an ambulance — and you do not tell Trixie no— threatening to call the authorities if she doesn’t. Coming out of her haze, Valerie defends Trixie’s statement, leaving her aunt no choice but to have the woman taken to the hospital.
Pugh Family Therapy
As we return to the maternity home, Heather has delivered a healthy daughter. Though she’s reluctant to speak to Vince, she’s encouraged by a discussion with Dr. Turner who says he believes that Vince has changed. When Vince finally visits his wife and daughter after a bit of self-reflection, Heather sets him straight as soon as he walks in the door. She notes that while she’s willing to work on their relationship with him, Vince is no longer allowed to work a job with night shifts and must attend marriage counseling with her to talk through their problems. Willing to do whatever he can to win her back and earn her trust again, Vince complies.
A Hard Confrontation
Chaos ensues at the pub. When the injured patient is taken away and Trixie trails her, Valerie stays behind where the ultimate fight follows. She is fuming. Not only does she ask her grandmother to consider the job consequences there could have been had she arrived alone and followed through with Elsie’s procedure, but she expresses her disgust for the atrocities Elsie has committed to all of the women who have come to her. She recalls women like Jeannie who died at the hands of an abortionist, leaving a husband and children behind, and Cath Hindman who was so badly injured from her abortion that she was told she’d no longer be able to bear children.
During their screaming match, Elsie retaliates with her own stories of women who have come to her crying and begging for help, be that battered wives or women who barely have enough money to feed their already enormous families. She even goes so far as to burn the seven pounds she’s received from her most recent undertaking to show that she does her work to help the community and not for the money. The dramatic display is in vain however, and isn’t enough to alter Valerie’s view on the matter. Disappointment. Sadness. Rage. Valerie lays it all out for her.
The end of Episode 7 is marked with sorrow as they part ways and the status of their relationship, assuming there’s anything remaining of it, remains in limbo. We’re left with a cliffhanger as Valerie is faced with a difficult decision: whether she’ll give Elsie’s name to the authorities for her crime or protect her family despite her personal feelings on the matter. While we’ve witnessed the passing of two midwives, saw one leave Nonnatus House due to the death of a boyfriend, and another struggle with alcoholism, this earth-shattering revelation might be the craziest story “Call the Midwife” has thrown at us yet. Eager to know how this will impact all of the Nonnatans, we’ll be tuning in next time for the Season 8 finale.
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