Since Fred and Serena’s public plea to the world about Nichole’s abduction, June has noticed groups of Aunts and Marthas kneeling in circles, praying for her safe return. June finds strange solace in it, knowing, that, as long as they are praying for her, that she’s still out of their grasp…and thusly still safe. In a twistedly-funny moment of dark humor, June wishes, via voiceover, that Serena looks past her broken heart to remember that Nichole is better off where she is and that Fred let this go, or, alternatively, they could get hit by a truck. “I’m honestly down for either.”
At home, Lawrence tells June she’s been summoned to join the Waterford’s on a trip to the capital to make an appeal to the Canadians to repatriate Fred’s daughter. “Don’t call her that,” June asks. Either way, Lawrence is unmoved, insisting the idea of a week of prayer is a good one—a great photo op. All June cares about, though, is that Serena will be there. Another chance to work on her.
On the train to D.C., June looks out the window and sees the Washington monument in the distance, which looks like it’s been turned into a giant cross.
In D.C., Lydia is in awe of the train station’s grandeur, while June laments how dreary it looks now. Lydia is still excited and, in another moment of rare levity, says, “I’m pumped! Aren’t you pumped?” to which June responds, in the flattest, most sarcastic tone possible, “Oh yeah…I’m pumped.” Her moment of relaxed sarcasm quickly fades though, when she notices two handmaids who have their mouths covered. While Lydia gasps in delight, saying “such devotion!”, June is taken aback as she starts to wonder what she’s walking into.
Lydia directs June to go to the designated handmaid waiting area, which is a large red circle painted on the floor, where handmaids kneel while waiting to be collected by their commanders. June approaches and an Aunt puts down a pillow for her, June’s cue to kneel. Just then, Serena and Fred approach, accompanied by Rita, and Fred points to June, “this one is ours.” As Serena and June glare at each other, Fred says, “all together again. Isn’t this nice” and then beckons them all to head out—the most twisted family ever.
Rita and June are happy to see each other, though. June asks Rita why Serena would go along with this and Rita sympathetically reminds June that “it’s the only thing she’s ever wanted.”
As they pull up to High Commander Winslow’s house, June takes note of the size and elegance of the mansion. Serena, for her part, would rather be staying in a hotel, but Fred reminds them of what a good opportunity this is. Fred needs to prove to Serena (and himself) that he is a powerful man again.
Inside the High Commander’s house, Serena notices two songbirds in a cage while Fred is oblivious to them. Before Fred and Serena even get to talk to the Commander (an upbeat-in-a-creepy-way Chris Meloni), the door to the study flings open and five children run in, all yelling, “Daddy!!” Serena is absolutely amazed at the sight of all these children. “Are these all yours?” she asks. Mrs. Winslow responds, “Of course, who else’s would they be?” Cut to June rolling her eyes in disgust.
Serena picks up the youngest, who looks about Nichole’s age and, as she is escorted out, June looks back to see Serena cooing over the baby. This is going to be harder than she thought.
Later, Fred checks in on Serena in her own room, proving they haven’t reconciled all the way yet. He reminds her that they are now in his area of expertise—propaganda, apparently—so she should trust him. Before he leaves, he puts her wedding ring on the table, asking her to wear it again, so “everything looks right.” Once he’s gone, she kneels by the bed but instead of praying, she takes the picture of Nichole’s footprints out and holds it tight.
The next shot is of June drawing a baby’s footprint in the fog of the window in her room. She and Serena are still connected. Just then, June’s roommate comes in and June introduces herself while Ofgeorge is taking off her uniform to get ready for bed. When she still hasn’t responded to June, June looks over and sees that Ofgeorge has had her lips stapled shut with silver rings. June apologizes, turning away in horror. She is literally sickened to her stomach. They don’t just encourage the handmaids to be silent here, they force them to be.
The next day finds everyone at Fred’s carefully calibrated photo op, and our first view of June is with a statue of Gilead’s symbolic wings behind her, rising up, making June look like some kind of avenging angel. Fred wants to get everything and everyone just right for this, including, apparently, inviting Nick for some emotional manipulation of June. Fred pretends that he’s surprised to see him, but it’s clear he’s going to use Nick to soften June. June is thrilled to see Nick, but she still is disgusted as she’s forced to participate in this video that is intended to put more pressure on Canada to return Nichole.
Lydia brings in a group of handmaids, who form a prayer circle for the video. It’s here that Lydia notices the handmaid’s mouths for the first time. Even she is taken aback.
While Fred is distracted setting up the shot, June uses the opportunity to probe Serena again, trying to assess how committed she really is to this. She’s frustrated when Serena indicates she’s still 100% on board.
The next morning, Serena watches all the children as they play with the Marthas in the Winslow living room. June sits down next to her and appeals to her again, saying, “please talk to me.” Serena, despite being vulnerable by the presence of the children, stands firm, saying they have nothing to talk about. Serena reminds June that seeing Nichole changed everything for her. June responds with the reminder that even though she has changed, Gilead has not—and this is still the place that Nichole needs to be free from. She deserves better, June says. Serena looks over at the children playing and says to June, “they seem happy here,” and June replies incredulously, “have you SEEN their handmaid?”
Fred announces that the Canadians have agreed to have the Swiss conduct interviews with the whole Waterford household. When Serena asks what this means, Fred tells her it doesn’t mean much now, but it’s a step.
They all pull up to an official-looking government building, decked out in Gilead banners. The Swiss representative asks to speak to June alone. Even though Fred reluctantly agrees, Serena feels the need to warn June, “don’t be stupid.”
June tells the Swiss that she is the child’s mother and she wants her to stay in Canada. It’s not that simple, they say. It’s clear the Swiss want to negotiate, so June asks them what they want to ensure Nichole stays. They want information about the Gilead power structure. June promises that she can get Nick, who is a Commander now, to give them the intel they want, and they agree, shaking on it. June feels emboldened, like she just won Nichole’s freedom. They can’t touch her now.
Back at the Winslows, Fred and Commander Winslow—George, Fred can call him now—are bonding over a game of pool. Winslow compliments Fred on everything and tells him he’s got a bright future, even in the capital. Fred bursts with pride. Winslow is obviously buttering Fred up for something, we’re just not sure what yet.
Serena and Mrs. Winslow have a nice chat while watching their husbands play with the children. Fred comes over to Serena, holding a stuffed lion, and sweetly asks for more sugar for their “tea” in a funny voice. Serena grins, which makes Fred melt. This is the sweetest they’ve been to each other in a long time. Fred notices she’s wearing the wedding ring and he finally knows that his hope for reconciliation is not a pipe dream.
That night, Nick comes to see June and they share a passionate kiss, but then June tells him of the deal she struck with the Swiss. Nick is furious. He reminds her you can never trust politicians. June begs him to think of the fact that this could be the one chance he has to be a father to their daughter. He reluctantly agrees, but he’s clearly not happy.
After Nick meets with the Swiss, the lead Swiss representative comes to the house and tells June that they have evidence that Nick cannot be trusted, so the deal is off. June is angry and confused and says she’ll convince him to give them what they want, but the rep says it’s too late—he’s already on a train to the Chicago front. June asks Serena what Nick did before he was a driver and Serena tells her he was a soldier for Gilead in the crusade. “We wouldn’t be here without him.” June is floored by this information and Serena takes glee in seeing June off balance.
We then see Nick walking through a moving train, filled with soldiers, who all stand at attention as he walks through. Nick’s civilian days are over.
Lydia comes to get June ready for a big event. This includes giving her the “accessory” that all handmaids in the capital wear: the mouth cover. When Lydia hands it to her, June asks Lydia, imploringly, “do you want us all to be silenced?” Lydia responds that she does not. It is an emotional moment they share, but Lydia soldiers on, helping June to put it on and then taking her to the Lincoln Memorial, where a prayer ceremony is being televised in Fred’s big propaganda moment.
Before the ceremony begins, June has a moment alone in front of the now-destroyed statue of Lincoln. Serena approaches her and they instantly insult each other, prompting Serena to suggest they just stop because it will all be over soon. Once this is all over, she says, June will return home, they will stay in D.C. and they will be free of each other. But June reminds her she’ll never be free of her, not until both of her children are safe. Their mutual anger with each other pours out, as Serena again blasts June for abandoning Nichole and June accuses Serena of being empty and alone. They walk towards each other, claws out. “I should have put a ring in your mouth the day that we met,” Serena sneers. June responds, “I should have let you burn when I had the chance.” Serena turns and walks away and we next see them both at the top of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, looking out onto the stage that Fred has set for his manipulated plea to the world. The entire Mall is filled with thousands of handmaids, all standing in formation. Cameras are rolling as Fred and Serena take their spot at the top of the steps, with June in the middle. Fred begins the prayer, which is June’s cue to kneel. As she kneels, all the handmaids follow suit, a powerful image. As June is kneeling, the camera zooms in to see the altered reflection of the Washington monument in her eye. The final shot of the episode is the iconic landmark, now a giant cross—a twisted monument to Gilead’s fanatical ideology.
This article was originally published on AwardsWatch.com.