Now that spring has finally come, the residents of Poplar are celebrating with some changes. The Turners get a new oven and a Hungarian au pair, Trixie is reading up on “domestic science” so that she can cook a meal for Christopher, and Valerie has decided on a stylish new haircut. While she’s at the salon, one of the hairdressers – Marjory, the daughter of the salon owner – goes into labor. Curlers still in hair, Valerie calls Nonnatus for help and heads upstairs to deliver the baby.
When Lucille arrives, she is greeted by Mae, the salon owner, with casual racism. But the nurse brushes it off and goes about her work, delivering a healthy baby boy to Marjory. During a follow-up visit, Mae continues to stereotype Lucille, doubting her abilities. Valerie, who stops by to bring her friend Marjory some congratulatory gifts, defends her comrade. But as Lucille checks Marjory’s blood pressure, the young woman suddenly cries out in pain and collapses onto the nurse. She’s had a stroke. An ambulance rushes her to the hospital.
Marjory survives, but is unable to speak for now and is largely immobile; one side is paralyzed. Mae copes with her devastation by withdrawing from the world: she doesn’t want any help caring for her daughter, not even from Dennis, Marjory’s husband. She has little faith in men, given that her own husband left her to raise Marjory alone, and even kicks the spineless Dennis out of his marital bed so that she can take his place.
The stroke is so unexpected that rumors begin to swirl in the salon: the only reason a youthful, healthy woman could have suffered such a thing is because her mother kept her working and on her feet through her pregnancy, all the way up to labor. When Mae learns of the accusations, her anger and frustration turn toward Lucille. It’s not her fault that Marjory had a stroke, Mae loudly declares at the midwives’ clinic; it’s Lucille’s, and Mae doesn’t want her colored hands – or those of any other of the nurses – near her daughter.
Sister Julienne and Nurse Crane decide to reassign Lucille from Marjory’s care. But Lucille’s not having it. It’s not Sister Julienne or Nurse Crane’s place to decide how much “discomfort” she can take, and by acceding to Mae they’re tacitly condoning her views. Lucille is put back on the case.
As a friend of Marjory and fellow East Ender, Valerie feels obliged to apologize to Lucille for Mae’s reprehensible prejudice. She tells Lucille about her own experience of being dismissed because of her background: as a working class nurse in the army, she was assumed to be lazy and ill-taught, and eventually quit after being blamed for an unavoidable death.
Lucille marches to the salon, takes a breath, and bravely faces down Mae in front of all the women there. Marjory’s stroke is not her fault, but Mae didn’t cause it either. So she will see her patient now, thank you. Because Lucille kindly dismissed the pernicious rumors against Mae, the salon owner becomes a bit friendlier to the nurse as the two bathe Marjory.
But Mae is still stubborn. When Dr. Turner recommends Marjory undergo occupational therapy at a clinic that mostly serves geriatric people, Mae refuses to send her daughter, despite the glimmer of hope therapy offers. Lucille shares some of her backbone with Marjory’s husband Dennis, telling him that if he wants to help his family he has to stand up to his mother-in-law.
Finally feeling useful, Dennis dresses Marjory, grabs his children, and takes her to therapy. Mae can help him with Marjory and the kids, but he’s going to do what’s best for them, no matter what she thinks. And he will sleep in bed with Marjory – not Mae. When the newly emboldened Dennis gives his wife a bunch of flowers, the same kind they had at their wedding, Marjory’s face twitches into a semblance of a smile, and she manages her first word since the stroke: “wedding.”
Noticing that Lucille not only faces racism but also misses home, Valerie asks two Caribbean women she knows to prepare a feast for Lucille. The new midwife is fitting right in – she has even started reading aloud to Monica Joan, having noticed that the sister’s eyesight is going.
Despite her age, Monica Joan has offered a surprisingly progressive opinion on a Nonnatus debate. Sister Winifred wants to open her mothercraft classes to husbands, and, with Monica Joan’s support, has the plan approved by Sister Julienne. Janet Romaine knows her husband Allan isn’t like other men: he’s much more supportive and will help her care for the baby. He does not, however, want to watch her give birth, despite her wish; he might miss football practice!
When Janet comes to the clinic distraught after a fight – Allan’s not the man she thought he was! – Sister Winifred speaks to Allan and discovers the real reason he doesn’t want to be at the birth: he heard his mother’s screams when she gave birth to his five younger siblings, and he doesn’t think he could handle watching Janet go through the same thing.
When Janet does go into labor – during football practice, of course – Allan proves a valuable companion, even when he has to pull over on the way to the hospital because the labor is progressing too quickly. While Winifred rushes to the scene – in Nurse Crane’s car, borrowed against her wishes – Allan helps Janet in her labor. The husband proves himself after all.
Shelagh’s also concerned about a man in her family – not Dr. Turner, but Timothy. The new au pair, Magda, is attractive and stylish, and Timothy has taken quite the liking to her. Worse, Magda is also incredibly competent. Shelagh is feeling outshined. But at least she has some help taking care of the kids – maybe too much, in Timothy’s case.