No Chummy. Fans of the strapping midwife had to go cold turkey during the third episode of this season’s Call the Midwife as the character of Chummy, so memorably played by Miranda Hart, is off in Sierra Leone with her policeman husband being a missionary for a 6-month posting.
As if in compensation, a new regular, seemingly shy Jane Sutton (Dorothy Atkinson), arrives with a suitcase at Nonnatus House, the convent residence of the show’s nurse-midwives and nuns. She’s a medical orderly, and will be assisting the midwives and nuns as they tend to their patients in London’s East End.
There are two major storylines in this episode: Jenny (Jessica Raine) is seconded (British English for temporarily transferred to another position) to a local hospital for a surgical rotation and identical twin sisters, Meg and Maeve Carter (both played by Monica Dolan), come into the orbit of the show’s regulars when Maeve became pregnant.
The first to meet the Carter twins, who both dress as if they were Russian grandmothers in babushkas and share a single hen-pecked husband, is Cynthia (Bryony Hannah), who encounters the women at the vegetable stall they run at a local outdoor market. She is intrigued by their display of avocadoes (called avocado pears here), and buys several. Noticing that Maeve is pregnant, she urges her to come to the clinic. (Though how Cynthia can tell that Meg is expecting, given how voluminous the robes both sisters wear, remains a mystery; she must have used her Special Midwife Sight Powers). The sisters angrily tell Cynthia that they follow the practices of an ancient herbalist and have no need for modern medicine, thank you very much.
Back at Nonnatus House, Jane has her first encounter with Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt), the somewhat dotty older nun, who appears to be knitting a toy bear today. “Might I beg to hope that you are a cook?” Sister Monica Joan asks, explaining that the convent’s cook is off on Tuesdays and the fare served up in her absence is dismal. “The stench of last week’s Spam is still clinging to my 3-ply,” she complains.
It seems that Cynthia is the temporary cook this Tuesday and she serves up her newly purchased avocados. No one likes them. Sister Monica Joan mutters that even Spam would be preferable.
Twins Meg and Maeve show up at the clinic because Maeve has a urinary infection. “We’re looking for a nurse, the small one,” Meg announces, scanning the room for Cynthia. Meg, the meaner of the two, makes it clear that the twins have no intention of letting the midwives or Dr. Turner (Stephen McGann) help with the delivery.
At the hospital where she’s temporarily working, Jenny discovers Jimmy (George Rainsford), the bow-tie wearing fellow with whom she has had an on-again-off-again flirtation this season and last. On the eve of his wedding to the woman he got pregnant (all of which happened in last week’s episode), he has been having severe stomach pain. The presiding doctor, Dr. Tracey says it’s nothing and dismisses Jimmy from the hospital, telling him, “I recommend castor oil and a stiff scotch for your nerves.”
Back at Nonnatus House, the Carter twins are Topic A of discussion. Sister Monica Joan knows their history, having been present at their birth. Their mother died shortly after Meg, the younger one was born, and the sisters have been inseparable ever since. As Cynthia heads out to visit with the twins, Sister Julianne (Jenny Agutter) cautions her to treat them gently because, “Where there is anger, there is fear.”
In their dark apartment, Meg is reading Maeve’s tarot cards. The card of death comes up. Both women look stricken. Meg says, “You can’t change what’s written in the cards, Maeve.”
Jane shows up at the Carter twin’s home with a care package from Nonnatus House containing items for a home delivery and baby care. Meg doesn’t put out the welcome mat. “Penguins sent you, did they?” she snaps at Jane. “Tell your cronies to leave us alone.”
At the hospital, Jenny is assisting Dr. Tracey in surgery. When she hands over the wrong scalpel, he turns brutally patronizing. “Step back and let somebody competent take your place,” he orders her.
After that humiliation, Jenny visits with Jimmy, who tells her that his forthcoming wedding isn’t what he wants. He asks Jenny to come out with him for a final spin in his car–his fiancée wants him to sell it and use the money to purchase a house–and Jenny agrees to meet him on Saturday.
Maeve, the pregnant Carter twin, shows up at the door of Nonnatus House, which Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) answers. Maeve says Meg doesn’t want the nuns’ or midwives’ help and that she and her sister have always stuck together. “It’s not about you and her anymore, it’s about you and your baby,” says Sister Evangelina.
Jenny has a heart-to-heart with Cynthia about Jimmy and the fact that she has feelings for him. “You have to let him go,” Cynthia tells her bluntly. Jenny mentions Gerald, the married man she was in love with before (a storyline that was never fully spelled out in Season One), and tries to tell Cynthia she’s not repeating the pattern with Jimmy. Cynthia is having none of it. “Jimmy belongs to someone else now. If you can’t accept that, things will all be out of order,” she gently counsels Jenny.
Heeding Cynthia’s advice, Jenny rings up Jimmy and cancels their planned Saturday car date. “I can’t make the same mistake twice,” she tells him.
Back at the hospital, Jenny notes that tyrannical Dr. Tracey’s right hand trembles slightly as he tends a patient. Hmmm. What’s up with that?
Maeve is going into labor and her husband, at her instruction, comes to Nonnatus House to fetch the midwives. Trixie (Helen George) and Sister Bernadette (Laura Main) head to the Carter apartment, where Meg has all the lights out. “This is the 1950s not the 1590s,” says Trixie, shedding light on the situation.
At the hospital, Jimmy has been readmitted. He has a bowel obstruction and his life is in danger. “Don’t leave me,” he pleads with Jenny, as he’s about to be wheeled into surgery. Dr. Tracey operates with Jenny assisting him. His hand is shaking again.
Maeve is having a tough delivery and Meg is in the other room, having a snit fit. Sister Bernadette urges Maeve to take a whiff of the pain-relieving gas. “You just may find that it takes the edge off,” the nun tells her.
Maeve’s baby is born. It’s a girl. “I want Meg. Why isn’t she coming?” the new mother pleads. Then she screams in pain again and goes white. Dr. Turner announces she’s about to give birth to a second baby. Yes, it’s twins. Maeve is worried that she’ll die, just like her mother did giving birth to her.
There are serious complications with the second birth. Meg finally comes into the room and, after a lecture from Dr. Turner, holds her sister’s hand. “You aint’ giving up now. You’ve got my strength now,” Meg assures Maeve, as Maeve gives birth to a second baby girl.
For a few minutes, it’s touch-and-go for both Maeve and the second baby but then, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Turner and Sister Bernadette (Trixie is off calling for medical reinforcements), everyone is doing well. The sisters name the babies Little Meg and Little Maeve.
Jimmy pulls through his surgery. “You’re going to be alright. I promise you,” Jenny tells him. Jimmy tells her he should have fought harder for her.
Sharing a moment out on the street after the long night at the Carter apartment, Dr. Turner jokingly offers Sister Bernadette a drag on his cigarette. She accepts and puffs away. “Oh, I used to love Henleys,” she says, telling Dr. Turner that it was the brand her father smoked and she used to raid his supply. Later, we see Sister Bernadette looking conflicted, staring unseeingly at a stained glass window in Nonnatus House’s chapel. (I’m thinking more than ever that there’s a romance down the line between the nun and the good doctor.)
Jenny visits the hospital’s Matron, the big boss lady of all the nurses. She tells Matron she’s concerned about Dr. Tracey’s temper, that he failed to perform a key test that would have revealed Jimmy’s bowl obstruction, and that he has memory lapses and a tremor in his hands. Jenny says she suspects that Dr. Tracey may be showing early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Matron tells Jenny that Dr. Tracey put in for a leave of absence that very morning so that he can get a diagnosis for exactly those symptoms. She praises Jenny and tells her, “If in due course you wanted to come back here and start working up the ladder, I’d be very pleased to have you.” Jenny smiles and looks pleased.
As the episode ends, Jenny watches from a discrete distance as Jimmy and his bride emerge from the church. At Nonnatus House, a beaming Meg and Maeve and their husband arrive at the clinic, new babies in tow. All the midwives and nuns cluster around them to admire the little twins.
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