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'Call the Midwife' Recap: Season 13 Episode 6

Daniel Hautzinger
Matthew hands Trixie keys next to a car
Matthew finally reveals his financial woes to Trixie, right when she was hoping to have a new car. 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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Two very young boys are not the kind of devout faithful a priest might expect to find in a church in the middle of the day. Indeed, the boys, whose wrists are decorated with a bracelet of red ribbon, were left there by their mother, as a note explains. The note begs someone to look after them.

The boys have scabies but are otherwise fed and cared for, so the mother must have felt forced into leaving them. Cyril, who is training as a child welfare officer, finds a temporary foster home for them. Because they are so young and thus demanding of time and energy, they might have to be split up for more permanent housing.

Gladys Bell’s father was also supportive of his daughter but was unable to give her the life he envisioned. He wanted her to finish school on her scholarship, but when he lost his job after she had completed only one term, she had to drop out to work and supplement the family wages. Gladys explains all this to Sister Monica Joan after Gladys’ father dies at home. Monica Joan suggests that Gladys take some time to mourn, but she refuses – there’s too much to do.

But a pain in Gladys’ abdomen is making everything she wants to do difficult. When Dr. Turner examines her, he is alarmed and admonishes her for not seeking medical attention sooner. He sends her straight to the hospital, where a gynecologist passes her on to another specialist, who diagnoses an untreatable cancer. Although Gladys has no hope of recovery, she tells her children that she is cured.

The cancer is caused by asbestos, making Gladys eligible for a medical trial that Dr. Turner convinces her to consider. But where was she exposed to asbestos? Her father was a drill operator who drilled into asbestos and then would rush home to put her to bed every night, still in his work overalls – not that anyone was aware back then that asbestos was cancerous.

The experimental treatment in the trial wouldn’t cure Gladys but only add a few more months to her life. She turns it down; she doesn’t have any fight left in her. She even decides to stop shielding her children from her prognosis and tells them that she will die soon. She wants to start getting her house in order.

Matthew’s house is distinctly not in order. He has brought the company he inherited from his father nearly to ruin. To be fair, it wasn’t in the best shape when he took over, but his generosity on top of bad investments have made it worse. A donation from his mother will keep it afloat, but Matthew is kicked off the board and will lose his salary. He is both broke and out of a job.

He was hoping that things would straighten themselves out so that he would never have to tell Trixie, but now he has no choice – at the very moment when she was expecting to get a new car. She’ll also be deprived of their new apartment closer to Nonnatus. Even the home they live in now is only guaranteed for five years, until the lease expires. Trixie’s wages are their only source of income now.

Trixie asks around for favors and finds a possible job for Matthew, but he’s upset and ashamed that she has been spreading the news. His whole life has evaporated in front of him; maybe now his marriage will, too. And that’s not the only thing that is in peril. When Trixie asks Matthew to walk her through his finances, she learns that Nonnatus House – which he bought to save it from destruction or takeover – could be in danger.

Its end is not as near as Gladys’. Her youngest son is a budding soccer player up for a prestigious youth team, but when he finds paperwork showing that Gladys has rejected a treatment that might prolong her life, he loses his appetite for soccer. He sprains his wrist fighting other boys and tells Sister Monica Joan that his mother is a coward. He only wants to join that team if his mother can see him on it.

Monica Joan visits Gladys and tells her that she is a fighter and shouldn’t give up now but rather continue fighting to gain even just a day with her loved ones. The quickly declining Gladys agrees to undergo the treatment.

Deirdre Torpy is also in dire straits – so dire that she considers jumping from the docks, but collapses before she goes through with it. She is found and rushed to Dr. Turner, who diagnoses her as anemic and depressed. She’s also very pregnant – overdue, even. But her health isn’t strong enough to have the baby yet, so the nurses and Dr. Turner rush to help her regain strength.

They also find red ribbon in her coat, and she admits that she is the mother of the boys left at the church. Her husband beat her with a belt buckle, so she took the children to the hospital with her and then never went home. They left Dublin to come to London, but she eventually couldn’t make rent and so decided against her heart to leave the boys in the church. She loves them so much – and now that she knows she can access some welfare, desperately wants them back.

Cyril is in charge of her case, and feels awful that he can’t see her being ready to take care of two young boys and a newborn right away. But he brings the boys to visit Deirdre for a picnic in the park. Rosalind is there, too. She’s still struggling with her confidence, and with final exams approaching is worried that she will fail oral exams. Nurse Crane quizzes her while they exercise, in order to distract her, and also assigns her to Deirdre – it’s a difficult case that will help her grow.

Deirdre goes into labor at the park, and Rosalind brings her back to the maternity clinic and delivers a baby girl. Deirdre promises her infant she will love and protect her.

Cyril has realized that there is no perfect solution to the quandary of Deirdre and her children, so he moves forward with the next best thing. He organizes lodging and benefits for Deirdre, who can keep her newborn. Her boys will stay in foster care for now, while Cyril watches to see how Deirdre copes.

Deirdre knows that this is the best solution and doesn’t begrudge Cyril. But she worries that her boys will be scared or forget her. Rosalind offers to help her write a letter to them, even though it will take all night, given all that Deirdre has to say. Nurse Crane has given Rosalind and the other pupil midwives the night off, because their finals are the next day. Deirdre finally feels like she has a fresh start in life.

When Rosalind undergoes her oral exams, she clutches a piece of the red ribbon Deirdre tied around her boys’ wrists. She and the other pupils all pass – and Sister Julienne offers Rosalind and Joyce positions at Nonnatus House, which they eagerly accept.