The episode begins with The Handmaid’s Tale’s signature cinematography—overhead shots that are choreographed and hauntingly beautiful. It is a celebration of the babies born in the district. As everyone marches towards the gathering place, June scans the lines of wives, wondering who could be turned into an ally.
While at the celebration, June flashes back to Hannah’s baptism, with Luke and Moira and June’s mother all there. Luke and June reference the country’s upheaval and, despite their inherent lack of belief in organized religion, agree that it couldn’t hurt to make use of any method to protect Hannah, especially in the current climate.
Back in Gilead, after the celebration, the favored handmaids that fulfilled their duty by having babies that year are invited to a smaller reception for the leadership that’s taking place at the Putnam’s. Of course, they’re not allowed to join in on the party or even eat at the buffet, but that doesn’t stop June from wandering freely throughout the house. It also allows the handmaids to talk amongst themselves, never a good idea for the Gilead power structure.
At the reception, Serena approaches June and we notice immediately that the walls have seemingly come down between them. June uses this chance to try again to talk Serena into mobilizing the wives, but all Serena can think about is Nicole. Serena asks June if she regrets not getting out when she had the chance and June immediately says no, not as long as Hannah’s still in Gilead.
In Canada, meanwhile, Emily and Sylvia are finally reunited, but, after all this time, neither is sure how to act or feel around each other. When she finally sees her son again, she is hesitant to hug him. But he is excited to see her and wants her to read to him. Emily is overwhelmed by how much she’s missed. She feels like a stranger there.
Back in Gilead, Aunt Lydia is rebuffed when she tries to join the party, so she sits alone in the hallway, where Janine approaches her with some tea and she and Lydia share a moment—or so it seems. Has Lydia softened since surviving Emily’s attack?
When Waterford walks into the kitchen where all the handmaids are gossiping, he encourages them all to try the buffet, even though they know they aren’t allowed to. It’s obvious he just wants a moment alone with June. The two of them talk like old friends, as June asks how Serena is doing. Fred thinks June is being friendly and concerned, but she is just squeezing him for intel. She has a long game here, and it all involves Serena being up to it. When Fred notes that he is worried that Serena will never be satisfied with being a typical wife, June jumps at the chance to suggest that Serena be given more to do behind the scenes. Fred desperately wants to fix things with Serena and June desperately wants to keep Serena and Fred together so she can use Serena. June suggests that Fred find a way to give Serena a real voice.
Having planted that seed, June embarks on part two of her plan, convincing Serena to reconcile with Fred and take the reins behind the scenes as the puppet master. She finds Serena in the solarium and makes her pitch, which seems to work, because Serena silently offers June a cigarette. June leans back on the chaise lounge and smokes it, like she doesn’t have a care in the world. Her plan to get Fred and Serena back together and to convince Serena to start a quiet rebellion from within the power structure seems to be working perfectly.
Back at the reception, Mrs. Putnam brings Angela in for everybody to coo over. When Janine sees Angela, she wanders into the room, almost in a daze, unaware of June, who is trying to hold her back, knowing the rules Janine is breaking. But Mrs. Putnam is gracious and lets Janine hold Angela. The tension mounts, as June is terrified at what could happen to Janine if she doesn’t walk away right now. Instead, Janine pushes the envelope even further, telling the Putnams she wants to be their handmaid again and give Angela a brother or sister. Lydia erupts, jumping on Janine and beating her in the middle of the Putnam’s living room. June screams at Fred to stop Lydia, but he just stands there, so June throws herself on top of Janine, forcing Lydia to stop beating her. The guardians drag a lifeless Janine out and everyone in the room just stares at Lydia in horror. They aren’t used to seeing the sausage get made.
Lydia slinks out of the room and breaks down, knowing what she’s done. Ann Dowd probably earned her second Emmy right here.
Obviously upset with what she just witnessed and as a sign that she’s on board, Serena whispers in June’s ear some information about Hannah’s school—where and when June might be able to see her. It’s a big moment for June, emotionally and strategically. She’s starting to get hopeful.
But then guardians come to the house, and show a video to Fred and Serena. It’s from a protest in Canada, where Luke is clearly visible, holding baby Nicole. They ask June to confirm his identity, which she does. She’s horrified at what this may mean for Luke—can they get to him?—but, at the same time, she’s so happy to see for herself that Nicole and Luke are together. However, her new alliance with Serena may be at risk now that Serena has been dragged back down into the Nicole abyss. What will Serena do now?
The episode ends as it began, with a baptism, but, this time, it’s Nicole being baptized, with Luke and Moira promising to protect her—with, hopefully, a little help from above.
This article was originally published on AwardsWatch.com.