Call the Midwife series 5 episode 7 recap: the contraceptive pill arrives in Poplar

A familiar faces returns and a storm makes for a dramatic night in the ABC drama, while the midwives ponder the moral repercussions of the pill

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A few months have passed since last week’s upsetting instalment of the ABC drama. Sister Mary Cynthia’s wounds have healed and summer is well and truly over in Poplar. Nonnatus’ porch is piled high with apples – and something unfamiliar has arrived in the East End. The contraceptive pill will be licensed for distribution within weeks and Doctor Turner is terribly excited, especially because the government are yet to state that it can’t be prescribed to unmarried woman. It’s a troubling time for the Nonnatus nuns, though. “It’s a miracle with moral implications,” frowns Sister Julienne.  

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Patsy and Sister Winifred are called to the river bank to visit a travelling family. Pregnant mum Daisy is anaemic and has low blood pressure, but she’s wary of accepting help from the Nonnatons. When Doctor Turner insists on bed rest she’s persuaded and checks in to the maternity home for the rest of her pregnancy. Concerned about her other children’s lack of formal education, Sister Winifred organises for them to attend the local school while the family are stuck in Poplar. But it all goes wrong when the midwives wash and smarten up the children. Daisy angrily accuses them of interfering in their way of life and heads back to her barge. 

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Barbara and Tom’s romance is going from strength to strength. In fact, the duo get a little hot under the collar when left home alone at Nonnatus. An evening drinking tea and listening to Trixie’s records soon turns into some serious snogging. The pair end up kissing against the wall and accidentally leave evidence of their amorous encounter, when Tom’s Brylcreem leaves a greasy mark on the wall. Much to Barbara’s discomfort, the stain doesn’t go unnoticed. Nurse Crane starts to worry about damp while Sister Monica Joan is convinced it’s evidence of a “manifestation from another realm.” 

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Meanwhile, Barbara and Phyllis meet Mrs Gina Matlin, a young pregnant woman in a strained relationship. Her husband Lesley is quiet, moody and disinterested, even when their new baby boy is born. Gina shares her concerns, telling the midwives that they had to get married after three months of dating because she realised she was pregnant. She came around to the idea of their new life, but Gina’s worried that Lesley didn’t and never will…

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The pill debate continues to rage, with Sister Julienne organising a discussion evening. Doctor Turner explains the medical background, boasting about how the pill has been declared 100% effective, while Tom is asked to provide a Christian perspective on prescribing the drug to unmarried women. Nurse Crane starts talking about wooden penises and paddling with your socks on and Sister Julienne shares her concerns about promoting “recreational intercourse.” Tom says he’d preach self-restraint over anything else and later Barb is incredulous. “How could you sit there and lecture people on self-restraint in a room where your Brylcreem has made a mark on the wall as big as an elephant’s face?” she asks. 

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The next night a dreadful storm hits London. There’s a gale force 9 weather warning and Sister Monica Joan’s precious TV is compromised when the aerial falls off the roof. At the maternity home, multiple women are in labour and while Trixie tries to tend to them all the power goes out, leaving Timothy Turner to man a wind-up generator. Meanwhile, Daisy’s daughter runs to Nonnatus to find Patsy. On the barge, the pair reconcile and Daisy’s labour goes smoothly. Patsy takes a back seat and lets Daisy take the lead, until a healthy baby girl is born. 

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New mum Gina isn’t well. She’s in pain and has impaired vision. Her husband telephones Nurse Crane who calls an ambulance and heads over to them. The lift in their tower block is out of power but she makes it to their eighth floor flat to discover Gina suffering from what looks like a rare case of postnatal pre-eclampsia. Phyllis wants Lesley to go and flag down the ambulance but he won’t leave Gina’s side, the concern shocking him into being the husband and father he needed to be. They all go down together and the family head to hospital. 

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The morning after the storm, the Nonnatus nurses are trapped by rubble. A railway signal has blown down and knocked over a wall, but naturally Fred is on the case. As Sister Julienne and Sister Mary Cynthia look on they hear a familiar voice. It’s Sister Evangelina, back from the silent order. The nuns are overjoyed their sister has returned, but it’s soon clear she won’t be able to take on as much work as she used to…

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Evangelina had a serious stroke during her time away. She got her speech back within six weeks but her left arm is still affected. The recovery wasn’t what she expected from her time away but she’s learned an important lesson nevertheless. “When things change we have to find a different way. Now whenever I do up a button or a shoelace, I’m reminded of the need to keep learning,” she says. 

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Call the Midwife series five is currently airing on ABC in Australia