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'Call the Midwife' Recap: Season 13 Episode 4

Daniel Hautzinger
Trixie and Joyce stand in nurse's uniform in front of a patient
A distraction at home leads Trixie to rush while working with a patient with Joyce. Credit: BBC Studios/Neal Street Productions

Call the Midwife airs Sundays at 7:00 pm and is available to stream for a limited time. Recap the previous and following episodes and other seasons.
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Violet is determined to make Fred rest after his brush with death due to tetanus, which gives him plenty of time to spend with Sister Monica Joan as they both eagerly await the launch of Apollo 11 and its attempt to put a man on the moon. They watch both the moon and TV updates, and share worries: Monica Joan that the mission will turn into a disaster, Fred that Violet will be overwhelmed by all the new duties that come with being mayor. Sister Monica Joan pledges to only eat porridge – as close to the astronauts’ paste meals as she can get – until the mission is over, and insists that the TV “rest” the day before the lunar landing.

As always, there’s not much rest for the midwives. Sister Veronica is coordinating tuberculosis testing of teenage students and finds that the newly arrived Chidozie kids have the disease. They will need x-rays and treatment, so Nancy goes to their home in a rat-infested alley to deliver the news. There are four children living there, supported by their parents Felix and Ngozi. Felix was a government clerk in Nigeria, but the family fled the civil war there and he now sweeps streets.

He is becoming too weak even for that, lately, and Nancy sees him cough up blood. Suspecting TB, she sends for Dr. Turner, who explains that medical care is free for the family, although prescriptions to help any of them infected with TB do have a cost.

Felix loses his job because of his increasingly ill health, but he must wait for a bed in the hospital’s isolation ward to open up. Nancy and Rosalind bring food for the family and tell Ngozi there’s no shame in accepting help. Once a bed finally becomes free, the Turners go to fetch Felix. He collapses and spits blood while they are there, and is dead before the ambulance arrives.

Hearing Felix’s tubercular cough and seeing his bloody handkerchief has brought back memories of Nancy’s mother. Nancy now thinks her mother died of TB. She tells Nurse Crane, who enlists Miss Higgins to dig into records for details.

Miss Higgins tracks down a nun who worked at the orphanage where Nancy was raised and offers to drive Nancy to visit her at her nursing home and help ask questions and take notes. While Nancy is initially unsure if she wants to learn more, she decides to go. The nun remembers Nancy’s mother, recognizing her face and eyes in her daughter. Nancy’s mother was sick and thin when she brought Nancy to the convent to make sure that she would be happy there once her mother died – she loved Nancy. Her sisters had already died of TB; it was a tubercular family. Nancy must have had natural immunity, or been vaccinated.

The nun asks Nancy if she made a good life. Nancy responds yes, thinking of her daughter.

Back at Nonnatus, she hugs Nurse Crane for her help in uncovering her past. She then rushes to Collette and tests her for TB, even though she’s younger than when the test is typically recommended. She asks Sister Veronica to make an exception and vaccinate Collette, worrying that her family is particularly susceptible to TB, and Veronica agrees, if she can secure doses.

As the Chidozie children go to the hospital to be treated, Nancy offers to help Ngozi track down a Nigerian friend who came to London before her – Miss Higgins is great at finding people.

It’s the midpoint of the pupil midwives’ training period, and the senior midwives are happy with their work, with a few criticisms: Rosalind needs more self-confidence, and Joyce needs to be less focused on hospitals and ready to address issues in the home if necessary. So the midwives assign Joyce to the stubborn Prue Stanton, who bristles at any orders. She has missed her last two appointments, and Dr. Turner has advised her to give birth at the hospital because of her age, but she insists on doing it at home.

The no-nonsense Joyce is the perfect match for Prue. She stops Prue from smoking at the clinic – Prue goes through some 30 cigarettes a day – and sweeps past any of Prue’s objections.

When Prue goes into labor, Joyce and Shelagh attend to her at home, and Joyce does an excellent job of making her comfortable and ushering her through a long labor. But the baby is presenting in the rare position of face first, so the midwives call Dr. Turner and Trixie swaps in for Shelagh. Matthew calls Nonnatus for Trixie in the middle of the labor, sounding urgent, so Rosalind rushes to the Stanton home to tell Trixie. Trixie runs out to the nearest phone box and calls Matthew – who was just calling to vent because he has a headache, is swamped by work, and his son won’t stop crying. Trixie is upset, thinking there was an emergency.

She returns to the Stantons and helps Joyce and Dr. Turner deliver a son. She then rushes back to the phone to check in with Matthew but can’t get a hold of him – he has fallen asleep. Worried and eager to get home to him, she signs off that the placenta is complete even though Joyce wants to spend more time examining it before making that determination – it is malformed and dark due to Prue’s excessive smoking. Trixie rushes home to her family.

The next morning, Prue has a fever and is bleeding. Part of the placenta is still inside her. She must go to the hospital.

Rosalind tells Joyce that she must explain what happened with Trixie to the senior midwives – her burgeoning career is at stake. Rosalind joins her to speak with Sister Julienne, who then talks to Trixie. Trixie is devastated by her carelessness and offers to resign, but Sister Julienne won’t accept. Instead they must figure out how to mitigate the damage to Joyce.

They decide that Joyce should write up her notes on Prue – who is critical but stable – making clear that Trixie signed off on the placenta. Trixie doesn’t want to harm Joyce’s career, and her own should be safe because Prue’s smoking did make the placenta a special case.

Matthew doesn’t understand how much the mistake has affected Trixie, and suggests that she take some time off from midwifery. Perhaps she could find other ways to do good, like charity. Trixie is apoplectic that he wants her to step back from her calling. She announces that she will stay at Nonnatus three nights a week so that she can devote all her attention to midwifery, and then be able to spend the rest of the time with her family without distraction. Matthew does not like the idea – Trixie must decide whether she is a wife or a midwife. And yet Trixie goes forward with her plan anyway.

As the lunar landing is broadcast, everyone gathers outside Nonnatus house to watch the epochal event – the TV has been placed on the porch. Sister Monica Joan is joyful to have gotten to witness it.