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'Call the Midwife' Recap: Season 13 Episode 8

Daniel Hautzinger
Shelagh looks at Sister Julienne
Shelagh approaches Sister Julienne with worries that May will be taken away. Credit: BBC Studios/Neal Street Productions

Call the Midwife is available to stream for a limited time. Recap the previous episode and other seasons.
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 Poplar is hosting a “Mother of the Year” competition, with many deserving candidates such as Violet, whom Reggie now calls “mum.” To nominate her, he makes a garden including both violets and ivy, for his late birth mother’s name. Beryl Walker is also admirable: she has one child and another on the way, but is also watching her sister’s three kids while her sister recovers from a back injury in the hospital. She refuses to slow down as she nears her due date. Nancy worries about her health.

Beryl has to take several buses to visit her sister with the kids, but she hasn’t even made it out of Poplar when she goes into labor. The bus driver pulls over and calls for help. Violet and Nancy soon arrive and empty the bus of people. Violet minds the children while Nancy delivers the baby, which is already far along, on the bus. She even untangles the umbilical cord from around the boy’s neck during delivery, despite the inauspicious location.

Shelagh also has a brood of children to mind, including one that is not biologically hers – and now her custody of the adopted May is in jeopardy, thanks to a recent accident that has engendered May’s biological mother’s concern. Now Shelagh and Dr. Turner learn that Esther, May’s mother, wants to speak with her daughter in a phone call from Hong Kong. Her circumstances have recently changed.

Shelagh goes to Sister Julienne with her worries, and Julienne authorizes Sister Veronica to telegram the religious order in Hong Kong, where Veronica once worked. Veronica will also attend May’s scheduled phone call with Esther, in case Esther prefers to speak Cantonese. She learns from a telegram that Esther recently lost her job and ended up back on the streets. She became pregnant again and returned to the sisters, who delivered a baby boy to her.

Through Veronica, Esther asks May about her life and whether she is happy and loved. She finally asks if May would like to live with the Turners forever – and May says yes. The Turners rejoice.

Trixie’s problems are not so easily solved. She is depressed in the wake of Matthew and his son’s departure for New York City, and continually popping both sleeping and caffeine pills to deal with her insomnia. It all affects her work: she’s short and less than enthusiastic with a woman in labor. And the caffeine causes her to knock a burner off a table and light her pantyhose on fire. Sister Julienne quickly puts it out, and the burns are superficial, but she asks if there’s anyone Trixie can go to for help.

Trixie’s brother Geoffrey shows up as soon as called. He pours out her pills, asking her when she last attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He then walks her through the questions they ask at a meeting and encourages her to embrace love and her family, difficult though it may be right now.

On her next phone call with Matthew, he tells her he misses her and that he will be back in a few months – by then he’ll be able to manage his new business from afar. He and Trixie agree that they have exited their honeymoon phase and are finally doing the hard work of building a life together. She tells him that she’ll come join him in New York. He thanks her and tells her that it won’t be forever.

Just as Trixie will be reunited with her family, a mother and son finally meet again after decades – but their time is short. When a woman appears at Miss Higgins’ door and says she is Victor Chopra’s wife, Higgins sends Nurse Crane away with no explanation. Crane waits outside with concern for her friend, then rejoins her after her visitor leaves. Victor is Miss Higgins’ son, whom she had in India and had to give up for adoption. She had grown up in India but left with her parents at age 10 before returning on her own when she was 21 and meeting a man with whom she had a clandestine affair. He wanted to honor his family’s wishes and thus went through with an arranged marriage, so Miss Higgins arranged for John, as she named her son, to be adopted by a Dutch mother and Hindu father so that he could maintain a connection to Hinduism.

His new parents renamed him Victor, and now he is in London for two weeks and wants to meet his birth mother. He nervously chooses flowers with his wife Mariam to bring to Miss Higgins, then meets her at her home with Mariam and Nurse Crane. Both he and his mother worried that they would disappoint each other, but they are delighted with how each has turned out.

Victor works in the civil service, like his birth father, and his son Harry is studying in Liverpool to become a dentist. He and Miss Higgins go for a walk by the Thames and share information about each other over a snack of whelks. But then John has a medical attack, and Miss Higgins rushes him to Dr. Turner’s clinic.

Nurse Crane has noticed Victor’s swollen ankles and learned from Mariam that he has a kidney disease. Dr. Turner finds that it has progressed: Victor’s kidneys and heart are failing. Miss Higgins madly researches the best specialists in London, and gives up her own bed at home for Victor so that he can be more comfortable and she doesn’t have to visit him at the hospital. Mariam wonders whether it was wise for Victor to travel, but agrees that it was important for him to come see his mother. She gives Miss Higgins papers full of information about his life, in case he can’t share it all in his limited time left.

His son Harry comes down to London to see his father and meet his birth grandmother. The family all share photos of each other’s lives, so that Higgins’ can see her son’s and he can see hers.

Victor dies in Miss Higgins’ bed after being placed on oxygen. Miss Higgins witnessed both his first and his last breaths. Harry goes with her to the Thames to lay the flowers Victor brought her on the river, just like they will do with Victor’s ashes on the Ganges.

The transnational reunion of Joyce and her husband Sylvester has been less happy. He’s blackmailing her into handing over half of her wages, so that he can establish a life in England, by threatening to reveal that she has been lying about her past and qualified as a nurse under a false name.

He attends Cyril’s church and testifies in front of the congregation to his good fortune in this new country. He holds up the envelope Joyce gave him holding wages, saying that he has gotten his first paycheck and life is going well. Rosalind has been curious about religion and visiting various churches to find one that fits her, so she witnesses this display.

After the service, she confronts Sylvester, demanding to know why he has a wage envelope from Nonnatus House that he is claiming as his own. He tells her to ask Joyce.

When Rosalind does approach her roommate, Joyce panics and begins packing her bags to run away. But Rosalind and Nancy insist on helping her, and approach Sister Julienne. Julienne promises to fix Joyce’s paperwork so that everything is legal despite the false name and to report Sylvester to the police. Your position at Nonnatus House is not in danger, she assures Joyce.

Sylvester comes to Nonnatus House when Joyce misses their next meeting and demands his payment. With Nancy, Rosalind, and Sister Julienne behind her, Joyce tells him off and closes the door in his face.

At the Mother of the Year ceremony, Sisters Veronica and Monica Joan get over a bit of petty squabbling to nominate someone who mothers not just them, but all the midwives and many women of Poplar: Sister Julienne. She wins.