O Canada, I will stand on guard for thee for as long as I have breath if it means that you’ll give The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Serena and Fred Waterford every ounce (make that kilogram!) of misery that they deserve.
Forgive me if I’m getting ahead of myself, and if you haven’t heard, please allow me to joyfully announce the news: In this week’s episode, June’s old commander and his wife get lured into Canada in hopes of recovering Nichole. But before the Waterfords realize what’s happened, good ol’ Mark Tuello informs them that a) they’ve wandered onto foreign soil and b) Fred is under arrest for war crimes. Then a cavalcade of soldiers bodily carries them into custody, and it is highly, highly satisfying.
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Oh, and back in Gilead? June commits a high profile murder. Read on for the highlights of “Liars.”
UNDER THE GUN | The good news: The marthas are willing to help June get 52 children out. The bad news: The vehicle Lawrence has procured for the purpose only seats 10. “Fifty-two kids and 10 seats,” June voiceovers. “How does that math work?” She’s downstairs in the house when she hears a commotion in the study: Eleanor has a gun pointed at Joseph, and she’s rambling about guilt and Gilead and the usual. June keeps her cool, slowly approaching her mistress. “You were raped because of him. You were brutalized, poor girl, because of him!” Mrs. Lawrence yells. “I know you want to kill him. I would like to kill him, too. But we can’t always just do what we want. We have to control ourselves,” she says soothingly. They get into a discussion of how Gilead’s rise is the fault of everyone — including those who didn’t do enough to stop it — and eventually June entreats the older woman to help make her experiences and her plan “mean something.” She drops the weapon, then, and cries on June’s shoulder.
Later, a shaken Joseph offers June a drink, calling her “ice queen.” But he does thank her for her help earlier, and they get to discussing the kindertransport. He blanches at the number, but she presses on. “You owe me,” she says as he muses about how Gilead’s founders underestimated the fallibility of mental health and the power of maternal love; eventually, he agrees to try and get more trucks. “Wouldn’t it be funny if you actually turned out to be a hero?” she wonders. “Wouldn’t it?” he agrees.
DON’T MESS WITH THE MARTHAS | First snag in the plan: The marthas who have signed on to help June are kinda going rogue and do not have the blessing of The Marthas Who Make Decisions. Several angry members of this latter group show up at the Lawrences’ home and, through Beth, demand to speak with June. And by “speak with,” I mean “shut down.”
The problem is that TMWMD have plans of their own, black-market- and Jezebels-related plans, and June’s liberation efforts could put them in serious jeopardy. “Why would you ever prevent these kids from having a better life?” she wonders aloud, frustrated. But they won’t be swayed… until Beth vouches for her housemate. And after June promises that her mission won’t interfere with theirs, TMWMD finally agree not to get in June’s way — but they won’t help her, either. And the marthas who do want to help do so on their own. “If this goes sideways, their blood is on you,” one warns June. Noted!
Second snag in the plan: The next morning, both Commander and Mrs. Lawrence are gone, as is their car. His files have been shredded. A scratch pad in the study contains his unsatisfactory explanation: “Sorry.” June looks like someone made her eat a bowling ball sandwich, but she regroups as quickly as possible and decides to piggyback on TMWMD’s plan: There’s a plane that’s scheduled to deliver contraband destined for Jezebels, and she wants to get the kids on the aircraft after it makes its delivery but before it leaves town.
IN WHICH JUNE ENACTS PLAN B| She’s still working out the details when Lawrence returns, claiming he had an “attack of conscience.” But June surmises the truth: He couldn’t get out. He admits that new authorization codes are needed to cross the border, and he doesn’t have them — even more evidence he’s being squeezed out by Fred Waterford & Co. “They’ve got me. It’s just a matter of time,” he says, seeming really scared as he remarks that he’ll try to keep her out of The Colonies if at all possible. June wants to try a different tack: “You’re taking me to the city.”
That’s how she winds up at Jezebels, hair down, lipstick on, heels clacking on the floor as she struts in and sits at the bar, hoping to blend in with the brothel’s denizens. She succeeds in making contact with Billy, the bartender in charge of all things contraband, who says he “maybe” will give her access to the cargo plane in exchange for all of the priceless art in Lawrence’s home. (Seems Joseph looted America’s museums soon after Gilead took over, which is another fun fact for which we can despise him.) But then June fails in getting out of there before Commander Winslow can recognize her and call her by name.
ADIOS, COMMANDER WINSLOW | Winslow brings her back to his room, where she lies and says that Lawrence likes her to go to Jezebels, do things with other men, and then tell him what happens. “Really?” Wallace wonders. “You all seem to have your kinks,” June shoots back. “Why don’t we give you something to tell him,” he says, ordering her onto the bed, and even though we all knew this wasn’t going to end well, I get a sick feeling in my stomach nevertheless.
“I’ve done this before. I can do it again. Just like all the other times,” June says placidly via voiceover while Winslow orders her to remove her “panties” — God, why do creepsters always use that word? What is the matter with “underwear”?! — but keep on her heels, because OF COURSE. He demands that she lie face down; internally, June is sing-songing, “Not me. Not my flesh. I’m not here.” But something in her won’t let her submit this time, and she suddenly rolls over and kicks him off her.
He decks her. She gives it back as best as she can. Their fight goes to the ground, where he’s on top of her, slamming her head into the carpet while his other hand wraps around her throat. But she’s able to grab hold of a ballpoint pen that’s on the floor, so she just starts stabbing at him like she’s a fro-yo employee with your frequent customer card in hand and zero effs left to give.
She’s indiscriminate in her attack, but she must luck out and hit something vital, because all of a sudden he’s bleeding heavily and breathing like a bull at the end of a fight. “My children,” he pleads as she lifts a heavy statuette off the desk and holds it high. Wrong thing to say, dude. She brings it down on his head, killing him.
PERFECT TIMING | June’s starting to go into shock when housekeeping knocks. The martha who opens the door sees June, sizes up the situation, and immediately closes the room’s door behind her. She directs her to the service elevator down the hall. “I saw you at the cages. You saved me,” the martha says, identifying herself as one of the women Lawrence made June choose from the detainees earlier this season. With the martha’s access card in her hand, June makes her way, barefoot, to the elevator; a commander and his companion pass, but they don’t even notice her.
June starts to come back to herself and gets back to Lawrence’s car. “Drive,” she tells him. Meanwhile, the martha who helped June — aided by some other members of the housekeeping staff — tidy up the crime scene and haul Winslow body down to the incinerator, where they burn all the evidence. Easy peasy!
June wakes up at home and gets dressed. Lawrence enters her room and hands her a gun. “They’ll be coming for us,” he says. June looks serene.
SHUT UP AND DRIVE | NOW LET’S GET TO THE GOOD STUFF. Serena and Fred are going on a Nichole-related trip. She tells Rita that they’re taking a more “personal approach” to getting the baby back, then draws her martha near. “Thank you for loving Nichole so much. May the Lord bless you and keep you,” the blonde says. (Side note: I will have thoughts about this in a little while, so remember it.) Then Fred pulls up in a sportscar and shades like every d-bag in every ’80s movie, and they’re off.
As you might have guessed, they’re driving to Canada. On a lonely, rural road somewhere north of Boston, Fred marvels at how Mark Tuello underestimated her. The way she’s looking at him makes me hope that he, too, has not paid enough to how insanely sly his wife can be and that maybe she is up to something. But then Radio Free American comes on the radio — aw, Oprah is still kicking, guys! — and Fred turns the broadcast off.
He offers Serena a chance to drive, and although she initially says no, pretty soon she’s in the driver’s seat with the top down and the pedal to the floor. She smiles as the wind loosens one strand from her tight chignon.
They wind up at the house of a large family — an econowife and her husband? — who puts them up for the evening. Serena steps away from the post-dinner hootenanny, and when Fred follows her to see what’s wrong, they wind up talking about their lives before Gilead. He remarks that she’s a good writer, and she replies, “How could you take that away from me?” He says he had no idea how much she’d wind up losing, and they talk about who would’ve left whom by now if Gilead hadn’t happened. For instance, Fred says, she’d probably have ditched him “for a man more capable of giving you a child,” which is the first time I can recall him baldly stating that he knows he’s at least part of their fertility problem?
But when Fred starts yapping about their raising Nichole in a home like the one where they’re saying, she calls BS: He loves the “pomp and circumstance” too much to ever leave his post. “I don’t want to miss watching our daughter grow up,” he tells her softly. That night, he reaches for her across the gulf between their twin beds. “Come,” she beckons, and they have freshman-year-style sex. Like God intended.
READ HIM HIS RIGHTS! | The next morning, they meet Tuello at an abandoned gas station. He says he has a place they can talk, but they’ll have to follow him a short bit up the road. “Do you trust him?” Fred asks Serena once they’re back in the car and tailing Tuello. She says yes.
Tuello comes to a stop along a wooded stretch of road. When Fred and Serena exit their vehicle, he announces that they’ve crossed into Canada (ha!) and Fred is under arrest “for war crimes and crimes of aggression in international human rights treaties and international law.” Further, they may be transferred to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Fred sputters. Serena cries. Soldiers roll up and lead them off in different directions; you’d best believe that American officials are there, as well.
So, about that earlier thing: How many of you think that Serena knew about the whole shebang and willingly led Fred into a trap? Even if she didn’t, this new development is VERY SATISFYING, NO?
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!