TV Recap: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 3, Episode 12 – “Sacrifice”

Kristen Gutoskie and Elisabeth Moss (Hulu)
June loads the gun that Lawrence gave her. As she hears vans pulling up outside the house and footsteps in the hallway, she prepares to go out in a blaze of glory as she points the gun at the door as it opens. But it’s only Eleanor, coming to tell her there are men downstairs and she should go down and help Beth. June tiptoes down the stairs, straining to hear what the men are talking about.

In the kitchen, Beth hails June’s successes: Billy has sent the signal that he’s in. The flight is in a week. Now all June has to do is cover up her murder of the top Commander, save her main ally from being put on the wall and secretly corral 52 children from 52 different houses onto a plane in one week. Well, at least Beth is impressed, I’m going to wait to see if she can actually pull this off.

Desperate to hear what’s being discussed in the parlor—especially if it concerns the murder of a certain Commander—June offers to take the tray of coffee and sandwiches in, a maneuver that is not lost on Lawrence. She hears the council discussing the fact that they seem to now be down two Commanders, so they might need him to step up to fill the void at the top.

After the men leave, Lawrence fills June in: Winslow is missing—they think he was taken in a plot by the “tricky” Americans. Just like the Waterfords, he says. Lawrence tells June how Fred and Serena “went rogue”, were ambushed and are in prison, facing trial as war criminals. In addition to him now seemingly safe from the wall, he remarks to her, “Cheer up. Fred and Serena are toast and you just got away with murder.” She sits back and basks in her achievement.

At Loaves and Fishes, June tells Alma that the plan is on, but Alma’s worried that her son is too far out of the city and she won’t be able to get him. June convinces her to try. June has a nice reunion with Rita, who is so excited to tell June about the Waterfords’ capture, but June tells her she already knows. Geez, you couldn’t let her have that one moment? Then Rita tells June that she wants in on June’s plan—she just wants to be a part of it. She is quite impressed with all June has done. “You’re such a boss now.” They reach out across the potatoes, touching hands and it’s a sweet moment. I swear, if anything happens to Rita….

In Canada, Fred and Serena are apparently being held in the Four Seasons prison. They let Serena visit Fred and he hugs and kisses her, promising that he’ll never let anything happen to her. She pulls away and tearfully warns Fred that he’s got to look out for himself now, to stop worrying about her. Fred can tell by the way she’s saying this that something is wrong. Serena confesses that she needed to do whatever it took to be with Nichole and Fred knows she betrayed him. He puts his hand on her throat and starts to turn into the monster we know him to be, but she manages to extricate herself, telling him she’ll pray for him. I don’t think Fred will return the favor.

June finds Eleanor having a hard time in the hallway, so she offers to help her go into the room where she finds Lawrence praying with Mrs. Winslow and Mrs. Putnam for Commander Winslow’s safe return. After they pray, they all talk about how horrible it is, especially for Mrs. Winslow, now facing the challenge of having to raise six children alone. Right then, Eleanor blurts out “we could take them with us!” June and Lawrence instantly freeze, knowing that Eleanor is about to blow the whole operation. Lawrence covers and none are the wiser, but that was too close.

Part of Serena’s deal with the Canadian authorities, we learn, is that she gets to spend an hour with Nichole, so Moira and Luke bring Nichole to the prison. It’s not clear what else she was promised or what she’s told them, but seeing Nichole was obviously Serena’s most important demand. When Moira takes Nichole in to see Serena, she just can’t hold back her still-simmering rage, calling Serena a gender traitor and reminding Nichole that she’s June’s daughter, not hers. The social worker, who is there to chaperone Serena and Nichole’s visit, also reminds Serena that she can’t refer to herself as “Mama” in front of Nichole, saying it will confuse her. But, seriously, how much more confused can this kid get?

Lawrence breaks it to June that, because of the taking of Fred and Serena (and the continued missing status of Winslow) that the Gilead council wants to close the border, which would completely kill their plan. June tells him it’s simple: he just has to find a way to keep the border open. Just then though, they both realize they have a more immediate issue to deal with as Eleanor, in a manic state, says she wants to go down the street to get the nice boy and make sure he gets out. She also wants to go find more kids—she’s determined to help get as many kids out. It’s a nice gesture, but she is completely unaware of how she’s risking the plan. June realizes the nice, soft approach isn’t working anymore and she grabs Eleanor and pushes her against the wall, sternly telling her that she MUST be quiet and stop. Something finally seems to click and Eleanor apologizes and goes upstairs to her room. Another crisis averted, but how many more will there be? She’s a ticking time bomb.

Meanwhile, while Moira is taking Nichole to visit Serena, Luke decides he’d like to have a face to face with Fred, for whatever reason. He’s carrying a lot of papers, but we never learn what’s on those papers or what Luke is really trying to get out of confronting Fred. Fred may have been completely neutered by his wife, but when he has the chance to take down Luke, who seems completely ill-prepared to take on Fred, he gets some of his arrogance back and seems to enjoy triggering Luke by telling him that June has changed and isn’t even his wife anymore. “Gilead’s changed her. I’ve changed her.” Luke takes the bait, of course, and punches Fred. This scene really had no point other than to prove to us how useless Luke really is.

When June takes Eleanor’s food tray to her room, she finds Eleanor lying on the bed, taking shallow breaths. She sees an empty bottle of pills and she realizes that Eleanor has taken them all. She tries to wake her, but can’t. She’s still alive, but barely. June starts to head to the door to call for help, but then stops herself. In a total Walter White moment, she realizes that letting Eleanor die is what she needs to do to protect her plan. So she shuts the door, goes over to Eleanor and coldly kisses her on her head and then walks out, leaving the tray in the hall, as if she had never been there. She walks down to her room and lies down, waiting for someone to find Eleanor, which Beth does the next morning.

The day of Eleanor’s funeral, Lawrence tells June that he managed to convince the council to keep the border open after all. “It’s hard to argue with a man in mourning. Even for them.”

Mark brings Serena a pizza and newspapers. Is he just playing the game or does he have an actual crush on her, I haven’t decided yet. But even Serena has to admit that reading a newspaper is something that she’s missed. At Eleanor’s service, June stands next to Lawrence as he mourns his wife and he looks over at her in a very strange way. Does he know that Eleanor was just another of June’s sacrificial lambs? The episode ends with a trademark closeup of June’s eyes, looking up, daring the world to stand in her way.

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