June is really getting the routine down now. Since the new round of purges, public hangings have become almost a daily occurrence, and it seems they use the handmaids to do the dirty work. We see June and about thirty other handmaids walk up to three giant red ropes that are on the ground at the local square. They pick them up, and, at Lydia’s prompting, they start to pull, in unison. The ropes are tied to the platform of the hanging station. I’m not quite sure how it works, but, apparently, the handmaids are now the ones who actually pull the lever for the hangings? It’s not clear, but we are meant to understand that it’s yet another Gilead tactic to (hopefully) keep the handmaids in line by reminding them of the consequences if they stray.
Even though we’ve never seen this before, June seemingly knows the routine because as soon as the hanging is done, she drops the rope and starts to walk off, just a split second before Lydia commands, “disperse!” June has had enough of Gilead’s shows.
But as she briskly walks off, Ofmatthew defends the hangings, which only makes June roll her eyes. What is it with this one, anyway? June has had just about enough of her, too. But then, mid-crazy talk, Ofmatthew pulls up, looking nauseous. June doesn’t like her very much, but if there’s one thing she knows, it’s morning sickness. So she tries to comfort her. And, in a moment of rare candor, Ofmatthew confides to June that, even though she normally loves being pregnant, “this time is difficult.” June starts to gently suggest that there may be ways to lose the baby, but Ofmatthew quickly snaps back and responds, defensively, that her baby is a blessing.
At Loaves and Fishes, the handmaids have arranged for June to talk briefly to the McKenzie’s martha, so June can try to convince her to help get Hannah, now that June knows where her school is. Again, I don’t know what June’s plan is, but the martha seems reluctant to help at first, not wanting to put Hannah in danger. She eventually relents, telling June that there’s a friendly guard at Hannah’s school and, if June can get there, he will help her. (Help her do what is the question). Ofmatthew notices June talking to the martha.
In Canada, a rep for the Canadian government is asking Emily about her “criminal” activities while in Gilead. We are reminded of everything Emily did, running over the guard, stabbing Lydia… The rep tells Emily it’s just a formality, but who knows what will come of it. “Did you take any other actions that Gilead would see as criminal?” “Probably.” Emily is embarrassed that Sylvia heard all of it, even though Sylvia insists that she understands. The divide between them grows.
In D.C., Mrs. Winslow plays realtor, trying to convince Serena that she and Fred should move into the house next door. She takes her over for a tour, proudly telling her it’s “one of the last unrestored houses,” which essentially means it’s still the way it was when the people who lived there were run out. Personal belongings are strewn everywhere, broken picture frames, abandoned toys–it’s a haunting sight, everything is still where it was when a family once lived there, but now it’s layered with dust, feeling and looking like a tomb more than a house. Oblivious, Mrs. Winslow only talks about the beautiful light and the proximity of the master bedroom to the nursery. Serena seems unmoved, although she does notice the empty crib.
At the Gilead headquarters, again George butters up Fred, telling him what a bright future he has, but also reminding him of the powerful leverage Nichole being in Canada gives Gilead. Fred understands the irony: his bright future is dependent on Nichole staying in Canada.
June needs to find a way to get to Brookline to see Hannah at her school, so she can meet with the friendly guardian who will—help her to get Hannah? I’m still not sure what June’s plan is, but she’s so desperate to go that she manipulates Mrs. Lawrence into going for a walk, telling her it’s a beautiful day. We still don’t know what exactly is wrong with Mrs. Lawrence, but she responds to June’s promise of an adventure, so she says yes. When they run into busybody Mrs. Putnam on the street, June is worried Mrs. Lawrence will lose her courage, but she forges ahead. While on their walk, Mrs. Lawrence confides in June that she always wanted children, but Mr. Lawrence never thought it was a good idea, saying they were always adjusting her bipolar medication. It’s the first time that we learn what Mrs. Lawrence’s medical issue is and it’s all starting to make sense now. June is moved by the revelation and feels guilty for having used her. She comes clean and admits that it’s not a simple walk they are on, it’s a trip to Hannah’s school and she apologizes, saying she’d understand if Mrs. Lawrence wanted to go back home. But Mrs. Lawrence insists they keep going, suddenly invigorated by the promise of adventure.
But when they get to Hannah’s school, June sees it’s literally a fortress and there are many guards protecting it. When they find out their friendly guard is not on duty, Mrs. Lawrence says she wants a tour and demands to be let in anyway—of course without June. So here’s where I really was confused. What was June’s plan here? Was she going to just walk into the school, grab Hannah and walk out? And what does she think Mrs. Lawrence is going to do? But Mrs. Lawrence goes into the school anyway, leaving June to wander the perimeter of the school, hearing the children playing on the other side of the twenty-foot wall. She’s sure she hears Hannah’s laugh, and it tears her apart, but it brings back such happy memories. Meanwhile, Mrs. Lawrence herself gets kicked out because she’s having some kind of breakdown. June comes to rescue her, telling the guards she’s got a medical condition as she whisks her back home, where Mr. Lawrence is none too happy, but June still has the courage to admonish him, “she came alive out there. You should have seen her.”
Serena and Fred, meanwhile, are getting closer. They have an intimate dinner together where they reminisce and Fred promises he’s doing everything he can to get Nichole back, even though we know that’s a lie. They share a dance at a party where everybody takes notice of them. Serena is starting to get seduced by life in D.C.
In Canada meanwhile, Moira and Emily are similarly reminiscing over coffee. Well, Moira is trying to reminisce by naming friends that they might have had in common before the war, counting on the Boston lesbian community to be small. Moira is flabbergasted that she can’t find a single friend in common from the old days, which makes Emily feel even more isolated, but then she hears that Moira is heading out to join in a spontaneous protest over Canada’s insistence on keeping the lines of communication open with Gilead over Nichole, and Emily asks if she can come. It turns out the protest pushes the right button to bring Emily out of her shell, as she screams at the politician, causing both of them to get arrested. While they both sit in jail, Emily confesses to Moira that she poisoned a wife when she was in the colonies—and that she’s not sorry. Moira similarly admits to killing a commander in his sleep. A bond is growing between them. It’s the first time and the first person Emily’s been able to open up to since she escaped.
At another hanging, June hears that the McKenzies have disappeared and nobody knows where they are. Then, she sees that one of the ones being hung is the McKenzie’s martha—the same one who was taking care of Hannah and who she asked to help her get Hannah out. Lydia announces that she is there because she committed the worst crime of all, endangering a child. Lydia says her crime was “conspiring against the child she was trusted to protect.” The look on June’s face, as she is forced to pick up the rope and pull the platform so the martha drops to her death is a mixture of hatred, anger and confusion. It’s almost too much to bear. She needs to find out what happened.
It doesn’t take us too long to find out, as Ofmatthew seems to get pleasure in telling June, as the handmaids are leaving, that she was the one who reported the martha, and that June should be thankful because she was trying to protect June. The devastation is complete. June knows that now Hannah is gone and there’s no one to protect her. And, because of June and Ofmatthew, a good woman was put to death. June snaps and attacks Ofmatthew, screaming “do you know what you have done??” The other handmaids have to pull June off before she can kill her.