Call the Midwife may be turning into one of my favorite television-related things ever. True story. As per the standard set forth by this season's first two episodes, this week's third installment was heart-breaking, tear-inducing, and beautifully, wonderfully love- and life-affirming. Here's the episode summary of this week's action from the BBC website:
Jenny is placed on the district nursing roster for a few weeks, to extend her experience of community practice. Her first patient is a gentle old soldier, Joe, who is suffering from appalling leg ulcers. In his eighties and almost blind, Joe is effectively confined to his one-roomed tenement flat and enjoys Jenny's visits. Although not naturally chatty, Jenny appreciates his stories, and a tentative friendship forms.
The story of their emerging friendship is interwoven with that of Ted, who becomes a father rather late in life. His wife, Winnie, is in her forties, and had thought her days of nappies and babies were well behind her. They have only recently married. For Ted, a childless widower in his sixties, it was a stunningly sweet and unexpected romance; for Winnie, it was a pragmatic step that secured her future. The pregnancy is a surprise to them both and Ted, who never imagined he would be a father, is overjoyed, and throws his heart and soul into the preparations. Winnie, sadly, seems less than thrilled. Ted is exceptionally solicitous and he enthusiastically accompanies Winnie to her clinic visits, and takes the lead in sorting out the pram and the layette.
Despite her growing fondness for Joe, Jenny remains revolted by the filthy condition of his flat and even feels unable to accept a cup of tea from him, so unclean are his cups. Their friendship is saved - and indeed cemented - when he produces a bottle of sherry. As the buildings where Joe lives in come up for being condemned, there is talk of moving him into an old people's hospital. Saddened by this development, Joe focuses all his energy on a forthcoming regimental reunion - he has been unable to attend for many years due to mobility problems, but Jenny has a plan.Jenny (Jessica Raine) has come a long way towards acclimating to the less-than-hygienic conditions that come with life in the East End, but her latest patient assignment tests her fragile resolve to the max. Apparently the midwives of Nonnatus House serve on some sort of rotating basis on the district nursing roster, where they perform in-home health visits of a more general nature (attending to the needs of the elderly, housebound, etc.). Jenny is assigned to Joe Collett (Roy Hudd), a veteran of the Boer war, who lives in an East End tenement and needs visits three times per week to change the dressings on his legs as he suffers from ulcers. Joe is SUCH a heart-breaking charmer. Starved for company and friendship, desperate for connection, he is thrilled by Jenny's visit -- she, less so by the appalling condition of his flat and the filthy residue on his dishes. But prompted by Sister Julienne's (Jenny Agutter) gentle but firm admonishment to fulfill her calling, Jenny perseveres and is gradually won over by gentle Joe's friendship and his heart-wrenching life story. (Seriously, when he revealed that he lost both his sons to World War I and his beloved wife to the Blitz, I nearly bawled.)
Joe's character is a beautiful, poignant illustration of the elderly -- what they have to offer as well as the heart-breaking reality of how they are often treated by society. By and large I don't think the Western world takes to aging well. Let us, like Jenny, learn to have patience with the Joes of the world...because if God grants us years, one day we'll be in the position of hungering for a little kindness and friendship. When Jenny learns that Joe has been invited to a forthcoming regimental reunion, she determines to find a way for him to go -- but given his physical limitations, she'll have to enlist the aide of a most unlikely ally...
In the premiere Jenny mentioned something along the lines of not being interested in boys, because the only one she wants is one she can never have. This episode sees the introduction of Jimmy (George Rainsford), who I can only assume is the young man in question (if anyone has seen the whole season, and I'm off-base on this, please let me know!). While this episode doesn't delve too deeply into Jimmy's background, he's apparantly a bit of a charming ne'er-do-well who leverages his long friendship with Jenny into sleeping in the Nonnatus House boiler room. This leads to some hilarious scenes as Jenny is constantly trying to keep Jimmy from being discovered. I loved the "agreement" she reaches with the enterprising handyman Fred (Cliff Parisi), who it turns out uses the boiler room to store inventory for his supplemental income ventures. *wink*
Jimmy is SUCH a cutie -- for some reason he really reminded me of Rolfe from The Sound of Music (the charming Rolfe, not the Nazi version). I loved it when Jenny asks him to help get Joe to his army reunion, and Joe thinks they're a couple, and she won't admit to that but she is so happy seeing Jimmy help Joe. Warm fuzzies all around, people! And then when he's later caught in the Nonnatus House entryway, after Sister Bernadette (Laura Main) nearly discovers him in the boiler room, and the nuns insist he stays for this VERY AWKWARD LUNCH. It's all lightly humorous until Jimmy makes a joke about Jenny's famed reticence that falls flat and endangers their friendship -- if there's one thing this show has proven, it's that Jenny feels things, very deeply -- but she's also intensely private (I can relate!). I sincerely hope that Jimmy isn't hiding any proverbial skeletons in his closet, because I think he's adorable and would love to see things work out between him & Jenny!
As far as midwifery goes, this week the spotlight shone on Trixie (Helen George) and Cynthia's (Bryony Hannah) work with new mothers. Trixie meets forty-something Winnie (Tessa Churchard), on her second marriage to Ted (John Ashton), who is "unexpectedly" expecting her fourth child in a MONTH. (You know something's fishy when a woman who has given birth three previous times claims to not recognize any of the symptoms of pregnancy!) Ted, who never imagined that he'd be a father, is overjoyed -- Winnie, not so much. I get that Ted was a little smothering, but he seemed so nice, and he actually wanted to be INVOLVED (props to him for that) -- and Winnie shuts him down at every turn. I must admit, I did NOT see the reason for Winnie's tension coming. I could not BELIEVE she'd been living in denial for eight months like this because she didn't want to think about the child being recognized as having a black father, the product of a one-night stand. I mean WOW...didn't know you had that in you, Winnie!
For some inexplicable reason both Trixie and Cynthia are called to Winnie's home when she goes into labor (the previous norm seems to have been only one midwife per birth). But whatever the reasoning behind that, it was nice to see more focus on these two characters -- and equally nice to see Stephen McGann make a reappearance as Dr. Turner. :) (I like McGanns, this one needs more scenes!) Winnie's fear of rejection, fear of her husband's reaction is heart-breaking -- but when Ted accepts the child without question, oh! That was a beautiful exhibition of grace, such grace! If only there were more Teds in the world, hmm?
Remember how much I loved Chummy (Miranda Hart) last week? Well she's still awesome. :) It appears now that she and Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) have reached an accord they are working together more -- but not without testing Evangelina's patience. It seems that the young police officer, Constable Noakes (Ben Caplan), hasn't forgotten how Chummy knocked him over on her bicycle, and is MORE THAN WILLING to have lengthy chats when he sees her out and about. THEY ARE SO BEYOND CUTE TOGETHER. The way they make eyes at each other just KILLS me! I liked this Noakes chap even more after he comes to Nonnatus House to give Fred a friendly warning that he really shouldn't make caramel apples in the same place that he kills quail, I mean is that common sense or what? And of course with that business dispatched he and Chummy are free to make eyes at each other again -- until Evangelina JUST CAN'T TAKE IT ANY MORE, so she arranges a date for Friday night. I was laughing so hard at that moment, it was brilliantly played (especially the bit about how they make her so relieved she took vows!). Chummy and the constable are just the cutest thing ever. THE CUTEST.
The final scenes of this installment, featuring Vanessa Redgrave's voiceover as the older Jenny, were incredibly poignant. Joe's death just broke my heart -- once he left the East End and the care of district nurses like Jenny, the relationship between patient and caregiver was removed -- or at the very least minimized. But seeing the impact that friendship made on Jenny, and how she shares Joe's bequest of a bottle of sherry with Jimmy -- that was an incredibly moving scene. And perhaps I'm misreading this here, but against that backdrop of grieving a loss, the moment where the loveably quirky Sister Monica Jean (Judy Parfitt) seems to lose her place in the singing -- I have to wonder if that perhaps hints at forthcoming health struggles for Nonnatus House's oldest resident.
Call the Midwife is a gorgeous show about the full scope of life in all its heartbreak and joy and complexity. A rare treasure, indeed. I cannot wait for the next installment!