This recap of Episode 6 of THE HANDMAID’S TALE is chocked full of {SPOILERS}. ***If you haven’t watched yet, go do that and then come back here. ;)***

This episode opens on Offred remembering her passionate night with Nick. Cut to a gaggle of Handmaids scrubbing the blood of the dead off of the “hanging wall” by the river while Aunt Lydia shouts bible-y motivational quotes at them. They’re cleaning because they’re going to have diplomatic visitors, and, oh, what’s this now? The diplomats are coming to the Waterford home! Can’t wait.

At home, Rita informs Offred that she needs to put on her clean dress and go see Serena Joy in her room. She replies, “awesome” and Rita can’t help but smile a little because like anyone with a brain, she appreciates the effective use of Offred’s sarcasm.

In the Waterford’s bedroom, Offred arrives before Serena Joy, which gives her about a minute to think about all the wonderful times they’ve all spent together in this beautiful and not at all cold-feeling museum-like space. Memories such as being raped by the husband while the wife holds your wrists. Good times, good times.

Serena Joy pops in, explains that a trade delegation from Mexico is coming to visit. She inspects Offred to make sure she’s presentable, deems her “fine,” to which Offred offhandedly replies, “Red’s my color.” I fully expected Serena Joy to lose it but she simply says, “Well, that’s lucky.”

There’s a high possibility that the visitors will question Offred and Serena Joy wants her to watch her mouth. Offred says “I’ll try to” and then lingers a bit too long after S.J. dismisses her.

Serena Joy starts to head downstairs, spots Fred, and for the first time, we get a glimpse into her history. She has a flashback to her and her husband BEFORE all this. She was a career woman (wearing PINK) who rushed home to try have a quickie with her husband in an effort to get pregnant. Only he’s whiny and “needs to be romanced” because he’s not her “boy toy.” They recite bible quotes to each other about pregnancy and then proceed.

Back in the present, Serena Joy reassures Fred that he shouldn’t  be nervous, “They’re having dinner at the home of a very powerful Commander. Let them be nervous.”

Offred sidles up to Nick, amid the hustle and bustle of prepping for the visitors. He tells her she looks pretty, and she says “Thanks. I wore it just for you.” They subtly hold hands for just a second until Fred summons Nick to “bring her in.” “She’s standing right there, d-bag. Just talk to her directly,” I grumbled.

Nick and Offred enter the Commander’s office, which is full of members of the Mexican delegation. Fred introduces Offred in Spanish (show off). THERE IS A WOMAN in the Mexican delegation, in a power suit. And I immediately need to ask her ten million questions. Such as, why don’t you do something? Will you tell the world about the atrocities you are currently witnessing right in front of you at this exact moment?

Turns out SHE’S THE MEXICAN AMBASSADOR (#GirlPower), her name is Mrs. Castillo.

Mrs. Castillo’s assistant, Mr. Flores, asks Offred, “What is your given name? From before?” Uhhh. Can she answer this? Is this a trick? She doesn’t give him her name.

Fred explains that Handmaids are named Of-whatever-dude-they-belong-to. No one bats an eye. Except me, and Offred, and you.

Mrs. Castillo asks Offred, with genuine curiosity, “Did you choose to be a Handmaid?” You can practically SEE the color drain out of Fred’s face as he begs her with his eyes not to tell the truth. She lies and says, “Yes.”

Which is why I threw a pillow from my couch at the TV and knocked a bunch of Blu-Rays on the floor. SO MUCH RAGE!! Why, Offred, why?!

The delegates are summoned to dinner by Serena Joy and as they file out, Mrs. Castillo asks Offred, “Are you happy?” Is she happy? How much time ya got, lady?

After a long and tense pause, in which every member of the Waterford home waits and watches with baited breath, she responds, ” I have found happiness, yes.” B*tch, please. BURN THIS PLACE TO THE GROUND. LIGHT THE MATCH OFF OF FRED’S FOREHEAD, FOR GOD’S SAKE.

Just off the dining room, a bunch of Commanders sit around mansplaining crops and trade to Mrs. Castillo but she’s no dummy. The minute she gets the chance, she asks, “How does the quiet half of the room feel about Gilead?” She means the Commander’s wives, who are all posed like “Conservative/Barren Barbie” in the corner of the room. Fred’s like, wtf, who cares how they feel?

Mrs. Warren is the first to answer, “It’s absolutely wonderful.” But Mrs. Castillo is not buying it.

She looks at Serena Joy, wants her to answer, and she does, “I’m blessed to have a home and a husband to care for and follow.” Fred jumps in and rattles off some STRAIGHT UP B.S. about how “traditional values” (I hate that phrase) rule everything in Gilead.

Mrs. Castillo serves them some knowledge right quick, “Never mistake a woman’s meekness for weakness.” ¡Señora Castillo para Presidente en 2020!

Not so fast.

Get a load of this: That line is not original to Señora Castillo, but rather a quote from … SERENA JOY’S BOOK, ENTITLED A WOMAN’S PLACE.

I’m having heart palpitations. My world is turning upside down. Who turned off the lights? There is so much exposition about Serena Joy’s past in the next minute or so I had to pause and rewind twice. Here goes…

Serena Joy Waterford wrote a book about domestic feminism BEFORE the war. She spoke at a number of rallies. She was arrested for inciting a riot.

It’s abundantly obvious now that Mrs. Castillo made this trip from Mexico to speak to 1) Offred and 2) Serena Joy. She couldn’t care less about these puffed up Commanders. She wants to know if this is what Serena Joy wanted, a society in which women aren’t allowed to read. Serena Joy’s answer, which is “no, but…” is diplomatic and eloquent and seemingly well-thought out. She’s the politician, not Freddy.

After dinner, Fred laments they shouldn’t have invited the wives. If Gilead doesn’t make a trade deal in six months, their currency will tank. Serena Joy asks to go over the details with him and he just dismisses her. Dude, you need her help, you are NOT the brainy one in this duo.

Read all of our THE HANDMAID’S TALE recaps here.

In another flashback to before the war, Serena Joy cuts flowers in her kitchen as Fred comes home after a stressful day of trying to revolt against the U.S. government. Serena Joy declares that they’re “going out.” At a movie theater, they talk about her second book, which she thinks should be about infertility as a natural resource. I’m reeling. SERENA JOY HAD A PRETTY BIG HAND IN ALL OF THIS GARBAGE.

Fred gets a text and says, “It’s happening. They issued the orders.” He explains that there will be three separate attacks: Congress first, the White House next, then the Court (I assume Supreme Court) and Serena Joy is HAPPY. She says, “Praise be. Things have to change.” She tells him “We’re saving them. We’re doing God’s work.” He’s the one who’s skeptical.

In the present, Nick visits Offred in her room to tell her Fred wants to see her in his office. In the hallway, he kisses her tenderly, she kisses him back.

In his office, Fred rants to Offred about how poorly the delegation visit went while downing too much scotch. “Being in here is a privilege.” Annoyed, he tells her, “Time to go.”

She heads to the door, super angry, settles herself, turns back and apologizes, then asks if she can “stay here with you, please?” It works. He summons her over to him, fondles her in a drunk, clumsy, aggressive way, then demands she kiss him. She does, but he knows she doesn’t mean it.

She kisses him again, pretending to mean it more effectively. “Sweet girl.” GROSS. Then he dismisses her again. She rushes back to her room and brushes her teeth over and over until her gums are bloody.

Aunt Lydia stands before a gaggle of Handmaids in some fancy-shmancy official Gilead building lobby. Serena Joy comes over, tells her to line them up and Aunt Lydia is like, who the f do you think you’re talking to? Serena Joy repeats the request, less politely, “Now, Aunt, if you would.” She then asks Aunt Lydia to “remove the damaged ones.”

Aunt Lydia explains that just because some of them were punished (AKA deformed by her), doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be “honored.” Serena Joy, salty as a pretzel, retorts, “You don’t put the bruised apples at the top of the crate. Do you?”

Aunt Lydia calls out the names of the “damaged” Handmaids, including Ofwarren. But as usual, Ofwarren doesn’t understand why she can’t join them inside at the “party” so she starts to make a scene. Aunt Lydia calls her Janine and reassures her that she’ll get a “whole tray of dessert” if she leaves quietly right now. Then she kisses her on her missing eye. It’s a tender moment from Aunt Lydia and I don’t know how I feel about anyone in this show anymore. I’m being pulled in all directions all at once.

Inside, it’s a fancy dinner banquet for the Mexican delegation. The Handmaids file in and make their way to their tables.

In a flashback, Serena Joy reviews her notes outside a U.S. Government building door labeled “The Gallery.” Fred comes out and tells her that “they” won’t let her speak. She looks crushed, leaves.

Another Commander joins him, asks Fred if Serena Joy is okay. Fred explains that she’s frustrated because she expected to be involved in the decision-making process.

And this piece of sh*t says, “This is our fault. We gave them more than they could handle. They put so much focus on academic pursuits and professional ambition. We let them forget their real purpose. We won’t let that happen again.” 99% certain this is how a fair to good number of our elected Senators and Representatives talk about us behind closed doors, ladies. Let that wash over you.

Back at the dinner, Serena Joy makes a grand entrance, addresses the room, “I want to welcome our guests.” She asks the Handmaids to stand because they’re being honored at this dinner. She says she wants to present to the guests, the “children of Gilead.” Is Hannah coming out? Where’s Hannah? Is she alive? Is she here?

Aunt Lydia and some wives escort a bunch of kids in. Offred scans the room for her daughter. Some of the other Handmaids spot their children. But Hannah’s not there.

Alma asks Offred if she’s heard anything about the trade deal from Commander Waterford. Annoyed, Offred’s like leave me alone about trade, dummy, I’m trying to spot my kid. But then Alma clarifies the trade situation. Mexico doesn’t want to trade crops with Gilead. They want to trade for Handmaids! I’M SICK TO MY STOMACH.

In a flashback, Serena Joy empties out her closet of any items that are not green so she can fill it with a bunch of crap that is only green. Fred tells her that she should be coming with him to work. Instead, her plans for the day are to “make this place a home.” Uh huh. Good luck, Serena Joy.

Nick carries a box out of the house for the garbage truck to take away. On top of the stack is, you guessed it, A Woman’s Place. Literally, a woman’s place is in the garbage. Along with her high heels (100% on board with the high heels part of it).

Back in the present, at home. after the fancy dinner, Fred tells Serena Joy, “You’re an amazing woman. I forgot.” She kisses him, he kisses her back. Then he says, “We should stop.” She gets undressed. Aaaand they don’t stop.

Later, Offred goes to Nick’s room. She tells him she shouldn’t have lied and told the delegation she was happy. He assures her she had no choice. Offred loses it, and who could blame her? She tells him not to call her Offred because it’s not her name. “My name is June.” He says, “It’s nice to meet you, June.” They embrace.

The next morning, at the Waterford home, Mrs. Castillo and Mr. Flores arrive to meet the Commander. They’re early (praise be) and Offred catches them alone. Mrs. Castillo gives her a gift of Mexican chocolate to thank her for her “candor.” Offred smiles politely, then pauses. AND I AM YELLING “TELL HER!!! TELL HER, D*MNIT!!!” It seems like hours. Time has stopped. I can hear my own heartbeat in my ears.

Offred turns and says, “I lied to you. This is a brutal place. We’re prisoners. If we run, they’ll try to kill us, or worse. They beat us. They use cattle prods to try to get us to behave. If we’re caught reading, they’ll cut off a finger.” She goes on, “They gouge out eyes. They just maim us in worse ways than you can imagine.”

Mrs. Castillo is stunned but does Offred stop? She does NOT, “They rape me every month, whenever I might be fertile.”

She tells her, “I didn’t choose this. They caught me. I was trying to escape. They took my daughter. So don’t be sorry, okay? Please don’t be sorry. Please do something.”

Mrs. Castillo stumbles and says, “I can’t help you.” She seems sad about it but I still want to punch her.

OFFRED BECOMES INDIGNANT. “What are you gonna trade us for?! Hmm?! What?! F*cking chocolate?!”

Mrs. Castillo explains that there hasn’t been a living child born in the city she’s from in six years, “My country is dying.” Offred waits a sec and says, “My country’s already dead.”

At this point, I’m pacing up and down my hallway mumbling, “My country’s already dead. My country’s already dead. My country’s already dead.”

Fred wanders in the room, asks if everything’s okay. Just like my husband wandered in the hallway, asked if everything was okay.

Mrs. Castillo tells him she has a farewell gift for Mrs. Waterford. They go off to find Serena Joy.

Offred and Mrs. Castillo’ assistant, Mr. Flores, are left there – alone.

He says, “I want to help you. I don’t know where your daughter is but I think I can get a message to your husband.”

UM, WHHAAAAAT!?!?!?!

Offred tells him her husband is dead. And then THIS DUDE PRETTY MUCH JUST RECITES LUKE’S SOCIAL SECURITY #, HIS DATE OF BIRTH, HIS MOTHER’S MAIDEN NAME, AND HIS GMAIL PASSWORD TO HER FROM MEMORY. He’s on our side! He’s one of us!

“He’s alive,” Flores tells her.

He hands her a pad of paper and a pen, and calls her June (she didn’t actually ever tell him that was her name).

He tells her to write whatever she wants because he’ll try to get it to Luke.

She’s frozen in shock and so are we!

My fave moments:

  • Mrs. Castillo quoting Serena Joy’s book to a room full of Commanders and their wives
  • “My country’s already dead.” I am dramatic and I know this but, d*mn if I haven’t said this, or something like it, several times as of late.
  • Mr. Flores saying, “He’s alive.” What an awesome surprise.

What I hope we see in the next episode:

  • Luke getting June’s message!
  • Did Moira make it to Boston? If she did, then what?
  • Really need a glimpse of Hannah.
  • More flashbacks to the other characters from before. What was Aunt Lydia’s deal? What was Nick’s?
  • Speaking of Nick – more of Max Minghella, shirtless, washing a limo or taking down a fence.

Something I learned:

  • Serena Joy was a powerful voice, guiding this whole nightmare into becoming a reality, but then she got the boot because MEN.
  • Mexico wants to trade for Handmaids because their infertility rates have also skyrocketed, so it’s not just a U.S. problem.

 

This incredible show is most definitely not meant to be watched in a vacuum. It should be discussed, and at great length. What’d you think of this episode?

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Kim Bowman

In addition to recaps, Kim writes witty ensemble TV comedies with strong female leads, none of which have been produced *insert sad trombone sound here.*

Nevertheless, she persists.
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