This recap of Episode 8 of THE HANDMAID’S TALE is chocked full of {SPOILERS}. ***If you haven’t watched yet, go do that and then come back here. ;)***

For clarity’s sake, I’ll refer to Elisabeth Moss’s character as June when she’s not wearing the red robe and white bonnet, and as Offred when she is wearing the red robe and white bonnet.

This episode opens on June in Nick’s bed, thinking about Luke and self-shaming for being with Nick. Girl, take it easy on yourself, this sh*tty world is brutal and you’re allowed to find some semblance of happiness. WE ALL ARE.

One of my wishes is coming true, we…

Flashback to Nick at an unemployment office, getting derided by the employment agent. Some rando bully tries to get Nick to hurry up and go so he can get his turn with the agent. Nick’s not having it.

He stands up to the guy, the agent intervenes and Nick punches him, prompting him to get thrown out of the agency. The agent follows him outside and asks him if he’s okay. Inner alarm bell: ringing. Who gets punched and then asks the puncher if THEY’RE okay?

At a diner, Nick and the agent discuss rampant unemployment. The agent quotes Bible-y type verses at Nick and now I know what’s going on (it’s been a while, but I’m sure I’ve mentioned I’m from the South, right?). Dude’s trying to convert/proselytize at/cult-recruit Nick.

He talks a good talk and, what luck, he’s the head of the “chapter” of this great new group that’s sweeping the nation. They have meetings about the “screwed up world” and talk about how they can “clean up this country.” They’re called The Sons of Jacob.

He invites Nick to a meeting where maybe he can somehow find a job. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, a job acquired through a burgeoning cult of religious zealots trying to overthrow the government is not a job one should take.

READ OUR OTHER THE HANDMAID’S TALE RECAPS HERE

Side note: Joseph Fiennes is great in this episode. Pay close attention, he’s especially predatory and creepy without being over-the-top in the next several series of shots, it’s really something. He deserves credit for making us despise Fred as much as we do.

Back at the Waterford house, Fred is sitting on Offred’s bed when she enters her room. He asks her if she’s “up for some excitement.” What woman doesn’t want to be asked that question in her own bedroom by her rapist? Fred is a monster, y’all. If he were a color, it would be called STOMACH BILE.

He has a plan for “something different tonight.” But first, he wants to shave her legs for her. Kink level: 5.

He does shave her legs for her, and Offred notices he’s good at it. “He’s done it before,” she thinks. After the leg shaving finishes, he gives her some makeup and asks if she remembers how to use it.

Unless you’re RuPaul (#goddess), please do not mansplain makeup to a woman. We don’t forget how to use it. It’s not rocket science.

Fred holds a hand mirror for her while she applies it. Kink level: 3 (I could go as high as 4 here, if prompted). Then he gives her a gold glittery dress and some heels. It’s… an outfit alright.

Fred lets June’s hair down and then takes a big, creepy whiff of it. Kink level: 3 (mostly because of the really deep whiff). He declares, “Tonight, I’m taking you out.”

Nick’s there, ready to drive them to the mystery location. “Mrs. Waterford went to visit her mother, she won’t be back until tomorrow,” says Fred, announcing to all of us what an even bigger d-bag he is.

In the back of the limo, they reach a checkpoint, June pulls up the hood of Serena Joy’s green cape, which she’s wearing. They get through.

When they reach the river crossing, June has to hide on the floor because women aren’t allowed to cross the river. Just another fun tidbit about life in Gilead. Anyway, they get through.

Flashback to Nick before the war, driving a limo containing the employment agent, another church-y guy, and you guessed it, Fred Waterford.

Church-y guy says, “All remaining fertile women should be collected and impregnated, by those of superior status, of course.” In case that wasn’t clear, Nick, please do infer that you’re of INFERIOR status.

The employment agent doesn’t like this idea, “You’re talking about concubines.”

Waterford argues, “The wives will never accept it.” The employment agent, brainstorming, suggests “maybe the wives should be there, for the act. It would be less of a violation. There IS scriptural precedent.”

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA (That’s just my MANIACAL, HYSTERICAL DISGUST COMING OUT AS LAUGHTER). A group of white men planning the reproductive rights of women and governing their sexual activity is SO 2017, silly future oppressors.

Waterford thinks selling this “impregnating fertile women” thing to the wives is not gonna fly. No way, no how. He thinks they need a better marketing campaign. He wants to brand the Handmaid rapes as “the ceremony.” Because that’s better, huh, guys?

So there it is. Waterford came up with the name for the rape system: THE CEREMONY.

I’m pausing here. This is a two-glasses of wine episode for me, kids. In the spirit of Gilead – a prayer: Let us drink of this wine, for it is the juice and the skins of many Russian River Valley grapes, which were picked and fermented so that we might partake of them in order to shove down the innumerable and overwhelming feelings every episode of this show brings out. Amen.

Nick drops off the employment agent and the bible-y guy (Commander Price and Commander Guthrie, respectively). Alone with Nick, Fred apologizes for their conversation. He asks Nick’s opinion about the Handmaid ceremony. Nick tells him it’s “better not to form attachments.”

Huh? Is Nick saying raping Handmaids is better than partnering with them because it’s less emotional? Or am I giving him too much credit and he’s just sort of not answering the question?

Back to Fred’s secret date night – Nick, Fred, and June enter a freight elevator in a back alley. Fred tells June they have to use the back entrance because June is considered “contraband.” He then puts earrings on June. Kink level: 3.

They walk through a long hallway while Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” plays. 

We get what you’re doing here, creative team, and we like it.

Fred opens a door and June walks through it – into a room full of men and half-naked women, à la later episodes of GAME OF THRONES.

Fred holds June’s hand while she takes this all in, shocked. But he’s not comforting her, he’s claiming her.

Fred says, “It’s like walking into the past, isn’t it?” He goes to the bar to get her a drink. She orders a Manhattan.

Fred explains that the people here are senior officials, foreign visitors, and women who “couldn’t assimilate.” You know like lawyers, professors, CEOs. In other words, ACCOMPLISHED, AMBITIOUS INTELLECTUALS. They turned these women into literal whores.

Aaaaand just as I run out of wine, June sips her Manhattan, scans the room and spots… MOIRA! Moira spots her as well, leaves her “date” and heads to the bathroom, June subtly makes her way there, leaving Fred at the bar.

They just stare at each other for a sec and then Moira apologizes for leaving her at the train. They hug each other and cry.

An Aunt tells Moira she has to get back “out on the floor,” which tells us this is a Gilead-sponsored whorehouse. Good to know.

Moira tells June to fix her face and find her later. June sits, cries.

In the kitchen of the WHOREHOUSE OF ACCOMPLISHED WOMEN, Nick trades drugs and pregnancy tests for booze with a Martha. The drugs are for the girls to spike the drinks of the Commanders so they can go through their phones after they pass out.

In the course of their conversation we find out that this particular Martha is a James Beard Award nominee. I hope she’s serving these Commanders nothing but skewered eggplant, skewered zucchini, skewered bananas… you get my drift.

June returns to Fred, she pretends to be happy to see him, which he eats up, because he has a huge ego and thinks he is the greatest gift to ever have roamed the earth. Nick watches them from a side door, unhappy.

Flashback to Nick finding the original Offred hanging from the light fixture in her room in the Waterford house. He cuts her down while Rita screams in horror, watching. Serena Joy, Fred, Rita and Nick watch, in the driveway, as her corpse is loaded into the back of a white van. Serena Joy, seething, grunts at Fred, “What’d you think was going to happen?”

What did he do? I mean, in addition to raping her on a regular basis. What ELSE did he do? Did he take her to the WHOREHOUSE OF ACCOMPLISHED WOMEN?

In a bedroom at the WHOREHOUSE OF ACCOMPLISHED WOMEN, Fred is drunk as he unloads to June about the political goings-on behind the scenes with the other Commanders. Aww, poor baby. Are the other rapists being mean to you?

He asks her what she thinks of “our little club” while he drunkenly gropes her, while she does not even pretend to enjoy it, which makes zero difference to Fred.

Later, Fred sleeps while June gets dressed. She heads back to the bar area downstairs, but not before overhearing various sexual activity happening in the rooms she passes. One of the rooms has an open door – DON’T LOOK IN THERE, JUNE. Too late. Can’t unsee that. Kink level: early episodes of GAME OF THRONES.

June finds Moira downstairs. Moira tells her she “looks like the whore of Babylon” (bible-y). June wants to hear all about what happened. Moira took the train to Boston, found a safe house, she was being smuggled out of the city but the Guardians intercepted her.

She was labeled a “corrupting influence” and they gave her a choice – the Colonies or here, which we find out is called… JEZEBELS. But between us, it’s still the WHOREHOUSE OF ACCOMPLISHED WOMEN.

Moira explains that, at Jezebels, “You can get all the booze and drugs you want until your p*ssy wears out.” Talk about having a branding problem.

June tells Moira that Luke escaped. Moira, always the survivor, reminds June that Luke isn’t them and he isn’t stuck there. She tells June to take care of herself. They say they love each other and hug goodbye.

On their way back to the limo, Fred tells June, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you home before you turn into a pumpkin.”

Thanks,  cryo-frozen head of Walt Disney, for putting misogynist CINDERELLA propaganda out into the universe. WE, THE WOMEN OF THE WORLD, DO NOT FORGIVE YOU, in spite of Rey from STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

Flashback to Nick giving intel about Commander Guthrie to Commander Price. Guthrie’s “been sleeping with his last two Handmaids.” Also, he’s “skimming from the transportation budget.” Commander Price is happy to hear this as we see Commander Guthrie being led into a government building in handcuffs.

Commander Price informs Nick that “as an Eye, you’ll chiefly be reporting on the activities of your own Commander, Fred Waterford.” Nick knows, and he’s 100% cool with it. I get that he’s trying to survive in this crazy new world, but seriously, Nick? Get your head on straight. You’d better be double agent-ing.

If Commander Guthrie got in trouble for sleeping with his last two Handmaids, does that mean Fred will get in trouble for sleeping with June?

Back in the limo – Nick drives Fred and June home from the WHOREHOUSE OF ACCOMPLISHED WOMEN.

The next morning, at the Waterford home, Fred opens the door for Serena Joy, greeting her as if he’s been waiting there since the moment she left, ever the loyal spouse. He asks how her mother is. He tells her he was lonely without her. Lying, like every lying liar who ever lived.

If we don’t see Fred get what’s coming to him at some point in the future, I will absolutely lose it.

Nick finds Offred in the kitchen. He cold shoulders her. She asks if she’ll see him later. He says, “We can’t do this anymore.”

She tells him she had no choice but to go with Fred to the WHOREHOUSE OF ACCOMPLISHED WOMEN, because she has NO CHOICE IN ANYTHING. As if this needs to be explained to him. Still, he refuses to talk to her. She pours out her heart to him, asking, “Is this enough for you, this bullshit life?”

“You know we’re being stupid. It’s too dangerous,” he says. She argues that it isn’t. “At least someone will remember me in this place. At least someone will care when I’m gone.” Oh man. That stings.

He embraces her. “My name is Nick Blaine. I’m from Michigan.” Too late. She’s done. “Under his eye, Guardian Blaine.” She leaves.

Serena Joy stops Offred as she heads upstairs, still crying over Nick. She brought her a gift from her childhood home: a ballerina music box that locks, with a key. Wtf, Serena Joy?

Let’s think this through. This box has a mirror in it, which is made of glass. Glass can be broken. And when it’s broken, it can be used as a weapon. A weapon that can be used on, oh I don’t know, A RAPIST?! Or a rapist’s wife? Or on oneself even? What’s the deal, S.J? What are you doing?

In her bedroom, the ballerina spins in the music box as June thinks, “The perfect gift. A girl, trapped in a box. She only dances when someone opens the lid, when someone else winds her up.”

In the closet, June carves into the wall, “You are not alone.”

She thinks, “I will not be that girl in the box.” D*mn straight.

My fave moments:

  • June and Moira reuniting, albeit briefly.
  • June carving “You are not alone” into her closet at the Waterford house.

What I hope we see in the next episode:

  • Offred using the mirror from the ballerina music box as a shiv, killing Fred and Serena Joy (too much?).
  • HANNAH. We only have two more chances before the season ends!
  • Max Minghella, shirtless, washing a limo or HELPING JUNE GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WATERFORD HOUSE.

Something I learned:

  • Gilead runs a whorehouse (maybe more than one) for Commanders and visiting foreigners.
  • Fred didn’t invent the idea of the ceremony (aka rape) but he didn’t NOT invent it. And he DID come up with the name.
  • I love wine.

 

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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