The Handmaid's Tale

This recap of Episode 5 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, lounging on the floor of Commander Fred’s office, playing Scrabble. And she’s finally won, after 34 games. “I got lucky,” she says. “Maybe you’re just learning my weaknesses,” he replies. Indeed she is, Fred old boy, indeed she is.

The Handmaid's Tale -Fred and Offred play Scrabble

He presents her with a seemingly innocuous gift, a copy of a “women’s magazine” that you might see plastering our newsstands in 2017. How do I know it’s a women’s magazine, you may ask, dear reader? Because it’s called BEAUTIFY. This is a very precious gift, apparently, because all other copies were destroyed.

“It’s not allowed,” she protests. “It is with me,” he tells her. As she thumbs through it, she thinks how insane the models all look to her now, “like zoo animals.”

In a flashback, June and Moira are at a food truck, looking at June’s Tinder on her phone. Moira spots a guy standing nearby, who turns out to be Luke. Moira tells Luke that June’s Tinder profile pic is attracting a lot of “chumps.”

She asks him to take a look and give his objective opinion, so he does. “Uh, yeah it’s nice,” he says. He then scrolls through the pics on her phone to find an alternate profile pic and lands on pics of her cats, WHO ARE NAMED LUCY AND ETHEL. Oh, June, I love you. We would’ve been friends.

He finds a pic he thinks she should use for her profile because “you look invincible.” Luke’s got game! Flirting 201: give her a compliment that’s not about her being “pretty” but still let’s her know she’s attractive.

Back in the Waterford kitchen, June eats at the table. Nick wanders in, lingers longer than necessary just to be near Offred. When he turns away to wash his hands, she looks at him the way I look at a piping hot order of Shake Shack fries (WITH A LARGE AMOUNT OF DESIRE).

The Handmaid's Tale - Moira looks at Nick

Serena Joy comes in and ruins the fun. “Offred, can you help me outside for a bit?” Ugh. Fine.

Offred is afraid she’s found out about some of her secrets, the Scrabble, the magazine, the Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum carving in her closet. Nope. Wrong on all counts.

Serena Joy wants to know if Offred’s pregnant. “Your time is running out here.” And then she says what we already know, “Maybe he can’t, the Commander.” Old Doc McFingers dropped that knowledge on us last episode: most of the Commanders are sterile.

The Handmaid's Tale - Serena Joy in the garden

She wants to “try another way,” and June, smartly, plays dumb, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean.” Serena Joy explains that women do this all the time, find another dude to pollenate their Handmaid’s flower, no biggie. She wants to use someone they trust: NICK. And June’s like, “Yep. Yes. On it. If you need me I’ll be doing Nick, no problem, see ya, byeeeeeeee!” Just kidding. That was my reaction. Offred actually said, “Nick?” all casual-like.

In pimp-like fashion, Serena Joy preemptively asked Nick if he’ll try to impregnate Offred and “he’s already agreed.” Serena Joy’s set up their tryst for this afternoon, after the shopping.

At the store, New Ofglen and Offred stroll the aisles. Who else is there? None other than the ORIGINAL OFGLEN (EMILY)!

Offred cannot contain herself. She joins Emily and we find out she’s now Ofsteven (or Ofstephen, unsure at this point). Anyone else need a spreadsheet to keep up with the multitude of names?

Ofsteven tells Offred she’s “fine.” But clearly, she isn’t. She can’t talk to Offred about the Eye in her house because it’s “too dangerous to be a part of it.” Offred asks, “Part of what?” Ofsteven answers, “Mayday.” Offred’s about to ask, “Please tell me more of this Mayday you speak of,” but New Ofglen interrupts them and takes Offred away with her.

Read all of our The Handmaid’s Tale recaps, here.

As they walk home, New Ofglen lets Offred have it. New Ofglen’s life was not good before all this. Now, “I’ve got a safe place to sleep every night and I have people who are nice to me.” She doesn’t want Offred’s cozy friendship with Ofsteven to f things up for her.

Back at home, Serena Joy takes Offred to Nick’s room above the garage for their *ahem* appointment.

In a flashback, June and Luke are on a lunch date. He asks her if she and Moira ever hooked up in college, since they’re both attractive. Um. What, dude? June does that thing we girls (especially young girls) do when we like a guy in the very beginning of a relationship, but we hate something he says. She starts to politely explain why his question is misguided, but then she smiles, laughs, continues to flirt and coyly says, “No.” No one is amused, June.

Luke reveals that he hasn’t been telling “Annie” about his lunch dates with June. Annie? Annie, who? Annie Get Your Gun? Annie, the sun’ll come out tomorrow? Annie manny fo-fanny? None of the above. ANNIE = LUKE’S WIFE.

They joke about how people in the movies have affairs, about how they go to dirty motels with vibrating beds or, I don’t know, THE HYATT. They discuss how they’d go about meeting each other at the Hyatt, if they were to do something crazy like that. “But it’s not gonna happen,” they agree.

The Handmaid's Tale - Offred Serena Joy Nick in his room

Back at Nick’s room over the Waterford’s garage, he asks Serena Joy, “Do we pray first?” Serena Joy just wants the business to commence, “No, there’s no time.” Offred makes her way to his bed as he starts to unzip, the same way the Commander does for the ceremony. She stays clothed, the same way she does for the ceremony.

In a flashback, June and Luke let themselves in to their freshly-rented Cheaters Suite at the Brooklyn Hyatt. June thinks they’re only going to do this once, so she wants things to be – just so.

Back in Nick’s room, at first, Serena Joy looks away as Nick and Offred “have relations” (as my grandmother used to say). It’s as cold and emotionless as the ceremony always is. Serena Joy peeks at them, and doesn’t look away again (cheeky). Offred looks around the room and notices a gun on Nick’s table. A GUN.

As Nick wraps things up (if you don’t get it, I can’t help you), Offred caresses his elbow. That doesn’t happen in the ceremony.

Serena Joy sneaks Offred back into the main house. She asks, “How do you feel? Do you feel any different?” Offred’s so fed up with this woman, she snaps, “You don’t just feel pregnant 30 seconds after a man comes.” Serena Joy, off the mark as ever, quotes a bible verse and tells her to go lie down.

The Handmaid's Tale - Ofsteven and new wife with dog

Ofsteven is at her new home, playing fetch outside with their German Shepherd. Her Commander’s wife joins her. “He’s so happy to have someone to play with.” Ofsteven and you and I all wonder if she’s talking about the dog, or the Commander.

She tells Ofsteven that she’s feeling sick and that they’ll have to skip tonight’s ceremony, which she has obviously used as an excuse before, because Ofsteven says, “You can’t be sick every month.” It’s become clear that the wife knows what they did to Ofsteven, and she’s going to do her best to limit the “ceremonies” for her. This is a kindness from a Commander’s wife that we haven’t seen before. I’m not mad about it.

Speaking of ceremonies, time for Offred’s. They begin, as usual, with Fred reading from the bible. In their bedroom, it’s business as usual. Serena Joy, teary-eyed, can’t watch. Offred tries to think about something else, Fred broods as he thrusts. Offred notices him lock eyes with her as he moves his hand down her leg. THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA. Offred panics that Serena Joy will notice.

The Handmaid's Tale - Offred panicking during ceremony

Later, she goes to his office, unsummoned, and tells him, “Don’t you ever do that again! Touch me like that, when she’s there!” He apologizes. In the understatement of the season he declares, “I just find the whole thing so impersonal.” WE ALL DO, IDIOT.

He offers her another magazine, this one’s called LADYFAB. I’m getting real irritated at these offerings. What about The Economist? Or Travel & Leisure? I’d even be happy with PARADE, at least there’s a crossword puzzle in there.

He thumbs through it, ruminates on how women had problems before. They felt they weren’t young enough, or pretty enough. She tells him, “We had choices then.” He replies, “Now you have respect. You have protection. You can fulfill your biological destinies in peace.” Thanks, Mike Pence, I mean, Commander Fred. How about you shove LADYFAB fully up yourself?

Ep-5-Ladyfab

 

He thinks the only reason for living is to have children, “What else is there to live for?” She answers, “Love.” Commander Fred believes “love was never anything more than lust, with a good marketing campaign” just like I did when I decided to I divorce my first husband.

When she essentially tells him he’s wrong, he looks like he’s going to reach across the desk and choke the word “love” right out of her. This is the real threat he feels. The reason he keeps the whole Handmaid system in place. It’s not sex that he finds threatening. It’s LOVE.

He alludes to how Ofglen was punished for who she loved, with not an ounce of regret or disgust.

Offred asks him what they did to Ofglen (Emily) and his answer made me hulk out. “We helped her. We saved her. We had a doctor take care of the problem. It’s such a small problem, truth be told.”

He goes on, “Every love story is a tragedy, if you wait long enough.” Ouch. Here’s where I paused to let those words flow through me and then vanish like vapor into the air.

June leaves, crying. He tells her, “We only wanted to make the world better. Better never means better for everyone, it always means worse for some.” I hate that he’s 100% correct. But he is.

THIS SHOW IS SO GOOD, Y’ALL!!!!!!

June pukes up her emotions, figuratively, and her stomach contents, literally, in the kitchen sink. Nick comes in, asks if she’s sick. “Are you spying on me?” she asks. “Go to bed,” he says. She asks, “Do you know what they did to Ofglen?” He does. “Do you know because you’re one of them?” He says, “You shouldn’t be down here.” His non-answer answers are upsetting.

He apologizes for not saying “no” to Serena Joy’s pimp-a-thon. She begs him to please answer her question, “Are you an Eye?” He hesitates, but then mutters, “Yes. Now go to bed, before I report you.” WHY, NICK? WHY?!

In the flashback to the Hyatt. June watches Luke dress. She tells him, “I want you to leave your wife.” And Luke says, “Okay.” Just like that. They’re in love, so yeah, just like that. There’s nothing to think about.

At an outdoor market full of shopping Handmaids, Offred spots Ofsteven again. Offred tells a rando Handmaid that the lilies are really beautiful and that “my companion might like them.” Luckily, the helpful and quick-minded rando Handmaid takes Ofglen away to go check out those gorgeous lilies.

Offred sidles up to Ofsteven, “I know what they did to you. I’m so sorry.” Ofsteven tells her that she can help Mayday. Mayday is a THEM. “Who are they?” Offred needs details. THEY’RE FIGHTING BACK! Ofsteven didn’t yell this at Offred but I yelled it as I typed it, rest assured.

The Handmaid's Tale - Ofsteven at outdoor market

New Ofglen, not putting up with this crap, pulls Offred away, “You are gonna come by the lilies and you are gonna stay by the lilies.”

A black car pulls up, the driver gets out and opens the door for a Commander’s wife. Ofsteven races to the car, jumps in the driver’s seat and DRIVES AWAY! She races past armed Guardians, drives in a circle. Throws it in reverse, runs into two of these goons.

She locks eyes with Offred, and guns it – RUNNING OVER ONE OF THE GOONS IN THE PROCESS, while all the Handmaids watch. Another goon smashes the window with his gun and they pull her out of the car, throw her in the back of a black van. I know this is bad for her but you know what, she just showed all those watching Handmaids to DO SOMETHING TO FIGHT BACK and it’s glorious.

At home, as they prepare to part ways, New Ofglen tells Offred, “It’ll be okay. We’re gonna look out for each other.” Yay! New Ofglen’s not just looking out for #1 anymore, and I’m glad.

Offred remembers how Luke once explained to her where the term “Mayday” comes from. It’s French for “help me.” M’aidez.

The Handmaid's Tale - Offred and Serena Joy in living room painting

Serena Joy asks Offred, “I heard there was a bit of trouble in town.” Word’s spreading like wildfire. “Are you alright?” Offred ignores her question, a real power move, as she strolls across the room to inspect Serena Joy’s painting. She spots the garden shears on the table and keeps her eyes fully locked on them while Serena Joy blathers on again about how some women can’t handle their positions but that Offred can, because she’s smart. Oh, Serena Joy, if you only knew how much she wants to jam those shears into your jugular.

In her room, Offred bathes in the memory of Emily driving the car and running over that Guardian. “She looked invincible.”

That night, Offred sneaks out of the house, heads to Nick’s room. He lets her in. She locks the door and removes her bonnet, lets her hair down.

She then takes off his shirt. FINALLY, MAX MINGHELLA IS SHIRTLESS WHICH, AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, HAS BEEN WELL WORTH THE WAIT! I know it’s gross that I’m objectifying a man while writing about this *particular* show. #SorryNotSorry.

The Handmaid's Tale - Nick and Offred

They make love and it’s the opposite of the “ceremony.” Because it’s about love and intimacy, and not just a biological obligation to produce children. I can see what Commander Fred finds so threatening.

My fave moments:

  • Beautify and Ladyfab – apt fake magazine names for women’s mags
  • “Every love story is a tragedy if you wait long enough.”
  • Ofsteven’s Commander’s wife bowing out of the ceremony to spare Ofsteven the horror of it
  • Ofsteven whizzing past the Handmaids in the stolen car
  • M’aidez!
  • Obviously –  shirtless Max Minghella
  • I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl,” the Nina Simone song that runs over the credits

What I hope we see in the next episode:

  • Nick’s gun in Offred’s hands. Don’t look at me like that. He has a gun in his room!
  • I hope somehow Ofsteven’s Commander’s wife can get her out of this new patch of trouble, but I’m doubtful.
  • Serena Joy better hide those gardening shears of hers, if she wants to live.
  • MORE of Max Minghella, shirtless, washing a limo or taking down a fence. Again, #SorryNotSorry.

Something I learned:

  • I thought Alma was the New Ofglen, but she isn’t. Alma is some other OfCommanderWhoever, she’s Ofwarren’s shopping companion.
  • Mayday is how we yanks pronounce the French, “M’aidez.”
  • Serena Joy doesn’t just smoke. She also visits other wives, knits, gardens, paints, and doesn’t have intercourse with her husband.

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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