'Call the Midwife' Recap: Season 12 Episode 5

Daniel Hautzinger
Spencer Wray clutches his baby as Cyril talks to him in a kitchen in Call the Midwife
Cyril is asked to intervene when a new father starts to act odd. Photo: BBC / Neal Street Productions / Olly Courtney

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There’s a lot of extra work at the clinic and Nonnatus House. Nonnatus’ autoclave has broken, so the nurses have to boil all their instruments by hand to sterilize them. Luckily, Sister Monica Joan can help. 

At the clinic, Tim is no longer helping out: he has taken a paid job to wash housebound people in their homes for the local Council, to the disapproval of Miss Higgins and Shelagh. And Dr. Turner has given Shelagh a day off: she’s stressed by all she has to do, especially after the family rabbit suddenly dies. 

Still, babies must be born. Sister Julienne delivers a daughter to the young Jill, who was kicked out by her mother when she got pregnant by the West Indian Spencer Wray. Jill’s mother didn’t want a Black baby in her house. Spencer’s mother Florence took Jill in, and she comforts Jill through the home birth. Jill plans to marry Spencer as soon as possible.

But Spencer is acting odd, especially around his newborn daughter, and seems to hear voices. Florence is worried, and wants him to see a minister, so Nancy gives her the address of Cyril—as long as she also schedules a medical appointment for Spencer. Florence agrees, but she doesn’t want anyone else to know about it. 

Matthew’s father seems more interested in antagonizing his son than caring for him. He has been released from the hospital and wants to visit Poplar. As he and Matthew drive through the borough, he reminisces about it, and says that he wants to sell the buildings the family owns there. Matthews argues that they should instead invest more in the community. His father responds that Matthew can be idealistic because he’s never worked a day of hard labor in his life.

So Matthew goes off and gets a job with Tim as a bathing attendant—only for ten days. The pair of them lug tanks of water and equipment up stairs, wash people who haven’t had a bath for years, and hear their stories. 

They accidentally knock on the door of the Barkelys at one point and find Annette and Pete dancing with a bunch of children—they watch other families’ kids along with their own daughter when they can, as they both love kids. Annette has a heart condition and was advised not to get pregnant again, but she and Pete didn’t do well with contraception. She has been avoiding her appointment with the cardiologist at the hospital because she doesn’t want to be lectured.

Dr. Turner and Miss Higgins know that she has missed her appointment, however, and are set to visit her to encourage her to go. But she comes to the clinic first, after having an attack of fatigue in the market. Violet sits her down in a chair and then sends her to the clinic, where Dr. Turner suggests that she stay at the hospital until she has her baby—but bureaucracy gets in the way, and she has to stay in the clinic waiting for the hospital, for now. 

Florence is also waiting for a psychiatrist to visit her son. Despite Dr. Turner’s best efforts, he can’t get one out for a week or two. But Spencer is getting worse and won’t sleep, so she visits Cyril and Mrs. Wallace, who also advise her to get a doctor. In the meantime, Cyril agrees to visit Spencer at home—he is afraid to leave the flat. 

Annette is afraid to leave the clinic for the hospital, even as she shows signs of early labor, but Dr. Turner insists. The cardiologist will supervise her birth, which will be conducted so as to reduce as much stress on Annette as possible. Nurse Crane stays with Annette through it all, and her son is successfully delivered via ventouse. 

Meanwhile, Pete has attended a “Men’s Health” talk led by Dr. Turner and Sister Veronica, in which they introduced the new procedure of the vasectomy. Annette was lucky in this delivery but might not be again, so Pete will get a vasectomy. 

Cyril visits the Wray flat and finds Spencer guarding the newborn, claiming that she is a demon. He becomes agitated and throws a vase at Cyril, who ushers the women into the hallway and shuts the door while remaining inside. Matthew, washing someone down the hall with Tim, comes to see what the commotion is and calls the police. 

Cyril tries to talk to Spencer, then grabs the baby while he is distracted and thrusts it out into the hallway, once again closing the door. Spencer stabs Cyril with scissors, and he retreats, shutting Spencer again. Tim comes and assures Cyril that the wound didn’t hit anything vital and he will live, while Matthew goes inside and fights Spencer to the ground. The police arrive and handcuff him, with everyone begging them not to hurt Spencer.

Dr. Turner arrives at the police station to find Spencer shouting in a cell, and sedates him. He now understands Spencer has schizophrenia. Florence stands outside the station in the rain, sobbing. Jill arrives with her baby, and stands with Florence, holding an umbrella over both of them. Dr. Turner commits Spencer to an asylum, to his regret. 

When Cyril returns home from the hospital, he tells Violet and Reggie he wishes Lucille were there. They arrange a phone call to Jamaica, and Cyril is ecstatic—until he learns that Lucille is working there, and has agreed to stay another six months. She hasn’t told him any of this. He worries that she was never happy in their marriage. But his sadness doesn’t prevent him from visiting Spencer at the asylum. 

Jill decides that she will stick with Florence and they will forge their difficult path together, even if Spencer spends his life in an asylum. Florence took her in when her own mother threw her out.

Matthew’s father once again visits and says that he’s going to sell the family’s tenements in Poplar; they don’t make financial sense. Matthew is upset, and tells his father that he is learning what it’s like to have to live off of other people’s kindness in his bathing attendant job. Sometimes life means more than investing just money, he tells his father.

His father later calls Trixie because he’s feeling unwell. She helps him, and encourages him to open up to Matthew and tell him that he’s grateful to him—but Matthew’s father says he can’t, and asks Trixie to do it for him. Perhaps he himself would have been more like Matthew if he had more time. 

Trixie later hears a noise from the bathroom and finds Matthew’s father on the ground, dead of an embolism. As she sits with Matthew in Nonnatus’ chapel after telling him the news, he thanks her for everything she has done. 

The Turners have their own little family drama. Shelagh has missed her period, and is convinced that she is pregnant, to her great surprise—and fear. She’s tired, she doesn’t know if the house is big enough, if she can handle another child. She doesn’t want it. 

The morning when the Turners are due to get her pregnancy test results, however, she has a period—she might even be starting menopause. She’s both relieved and sad. 

The Board of Health continues to investigate Nonnatus’ autonomy, and its chair, Threapwood, gains a lot more information than he had hoped for when he enters Nonnatus and finds Fred fixing the autoclave. Fred tells him about Matthew’s financial support of the institution.

Threapwood calls Sister Julienne into his office and lists all the irregularities and problems with Nonnatus and Dr. Turner’s clinic. Nonnatus House will lose its independent status and operate under the Board of Health—and all the midwives will be its employees.