'Call the Midwife' Recap: Season 12 Episode 4

Daniel Hautzinger
Sister Monica Joan and Nurse Crane sneak bites of ice cream in the clinic in Call the Midwife
Sister Monica Joan supports Nurse Crane as her competence is questioned. Photo: Courtesy BBC/Neal Street Productions/Olly Courtenay

Call the Midwife is available to stream for a limited time. Recap the previous and following episodes and other seasons.
Keep up with your favorite dramas and mysteries by signing up for our newsletter, Dramalogue. 

The midwives of Nonnatus House are a devoted bunch; they can’t imagine not working. Nurse Crane may be over retirement age, but she hasn’t considered leaving her job. She has seen the emergence of numerous new medical technologies, and adopted all the good ones. That’s why she attends a ventouse training with Dr. Turner and Shelagh, even if she has some questions about using a vacuum to replace forceps. So when the doctor leading the training implies that she’s old-school and notes her age, she snaps at him.

The outburst leads to some sneaky retaliation: she is called before the local Board of Health because of her age. She has never doubted her abilities until now, when they are to be questioned, she tells Miss Higgins. Perhaps she should retire, she tells Sister Julienne; her confidence has been undermined. But she wants to keep working, and fears that the board will search her records and disapprove of her recent long holiday and bad back. 

Nurse Crane’s patient Simone Lucas isn’t helping matters. Simone is pregnant with her second child and is in the process of moving house; she was hoping the baby would have been born by now. She loves everything modern: she can’t imagine having a home birth, and likes the new idea of inducing a birth, so that a mother can have her baby closer to when she expects. When Nurse Crane expresses skepticism of widespread inducing, Simone tells the midwife she sounds like her grandmother—not in a flattering way.

At least Nurse Crane has an ally in Sister Monica Joan, who notices that Crane is having a tiresome day and sneaks out to buy her an ice cream cone, which the two older women then split.

Sister Monica Joan also insists on accompanying Crane to her hearing with the Board of Health. When the board notes that Crane hasn’t attended any of the suggested refresher courses, Monica Joan enters the hearing and defends her friend, noting that Nurse Crane is younger than all three of the men sitting on the board. Crane commits to taking some refresher courses, and is allowed to continue to practice midwifery. But the board notes that they will be having a word with Sister Julienne about Nonnatus House’s “eccentric” practices.

The head of the board dislikes how Dr. Turner and Sister Julienne have dealt with an outbreak of gastroenteritis. Shelagh first notices the illness in one of the newborn twins of Vinita Khatri, who is still recovering from the birth at the maternity clinic. Then another mother in the clinic vomits, and yet another feels sick. 

The maternity home and surgery must be shut down and everyone in them quarantined until the outbreak passes. Gastroenteritis is dangerous for the newborns, so Shelagh, Trixie, Tim, and Dr. Turner—the workers currently at the clinic—must stay there as part of the quarantine, to limit exposure and to take care of the mothers and newborns around the clock. They can’t afford to have any other midwife or medical professional get sick. 

Sister Monica Joan insists on going to help—she’s retired, and can be an extra pair of hands. A replacement surgery is set up at Nonnatus House.

The Board of Health dislikes that Dr. Turner and Sister Julienne put all of these measures into place on their own, even if they agree with all of them. When journalists try to call Nonnatus and ask questions, Matthew uses the legal knowledge of his profession to turn them away. He also provides emergency supplies through the duration of the quarantine, and moral support to Trixie, who misses him and his son dearly and is exhausted. Matthew wears Trixie’s cologne while he is separated from her.

There are five newborns and four mothers quarantined at the clinic. The newborns must stay in the nursery for special care, although the mothers can visit them. After Shelagh gets sick, and brings it home to her children, Dr. Turner must sleep at Nonnatus House. 

Sister Monica Joan becomes even more valuable. She comforts Vinita when her second twin’s breathing stops, while Trixie and Tim revive the infant. (Tim is home from school, having finished second in his year, and has been put to work by Miss Higgins at the clinic over summer.) The twin is saved, but must be sent to the hospital for intensive care.

Vinita’s husband and her daughter are waiting outside the clinic, and see the ambulance pull away. Vinita sends a note to her husband—they don’t have a phone at home—asking him to visit the twin at the hospital. He wanted a son and now has three daughters, so Vinita worries he doesn’t love the newborns. But she and her husband speak through a window of the clinic, and he says he told the infant in the hospital that he loved her. 

When the quarantine is lifted and Vinita’s family reunite, they finally name the twins: Shakura and Asha—meaning Gratitude and Hope. 

Reggie needs a little hope. He’s tired all the time, and is losing handfuls of hair—but he doesn’t want to tell Fred and Violet that something’s wrong. They pick up on it anyway: it’s odd that Reggie doesn’t want to play dominoes with Cyril, and that he sleeps in and asks for coffee, which he doesn’t typically drink. When he overhears Violet worrying that he’s lazy because he’s too tired to do anything, he gets upset and tells Violet and Fred that he wants to leave their home. 

They have always explained his mother’s death to him as the result of her getting too tired to go on, so Reggie is worried that he’s dying. He asks Cyril about heaven and explains his symptoms, and Cyril accompanies him to Dr. Turner. The doctor sends Reggie for a blood test and informs Fred and Violet, with Reggie’s permission. 

Reggie has hypothyroidism, Turner explains to the whole family. Reggie will have to take a daily pill the rest of his life to manage it, but he will be fine. 

Simone Lucas worries that she won’t be fine when she finally goes into labor, her home half-packed up for the move. Her husband drives to Nonnatus to fetch help—their phone is already disconnected. Even though Simone wanted a hospital birth, now she refuses to leave her house. Nurse Crane leads her through a complicated home birth successfully—and gains Simone’s trust and gratitude. When Simone went into labor, it hit her that everything was about to change and paralyzed her. Nurse Crane, a familiar and solid presence, helped her through it.