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The Handmaid's Tale: Sacrifice

"The June Osborne you knew doesn't exist anymore."

You said it, Fred.

I've always had a great deal of compassion for Eleanor Lawrence. Unlike the other wives, she's a pure victim of Gilead, and her illness is certainly not her fault. But Eleanor could have gotten everyone in her household and even members of the Martha network executed. Should they all die because Eleanor didn't grasp the fact that she was endangering them?

We all know Elisabeth Moss is an amazing actress. June was running to get help for Eleanor, and she literally stopped in her tracks. We could see everything June felt on her face as she thought the situation through and made a terrible decision. Note that she didn't get a pillow to smother Eleanor, and she didn't prevent anyone else from finding her before it was too late. June simply returned to her room and let the chips fall where they might. I can't say I wouldn't have done what June did. What real choice did she have?

What happened to Winslow in the previous episode wasn't what I'd call murder; it was self-defense. And what June did to Eleanor, or didn't do, what was it? Would it be considered murder? Manslaughter? It's a morally complicated morass, you might say.

(The set up with the tea tray was so clever, by the way. All season long, the Marthas have left it in front of Eleanor's closed door, but June always took it in to her. Did Joseph Lawrence ever notice that? Will such a small thing make the difference?)

Joseph Lawrence was surprisingly calm about losing his wife. As he said, she was fragile. Maybe he was expecting to lose her to natural causes at some point. But at the cemetery, he looked sideways at June as if he suspected something was rotten in the state of Gilead. Losing a spouse you love can make you suicidal, he loved Eleanor deeply, and he's been such a loose cannon up until now, too. I expect Joseph Lawrence might be the monkey wrench in June's plan.

It's a shame, too. With George Winslow and Fred Waterford gone, Calhoun and Putnam were trying to run things and they were ready to plunge Gilead into war with Canada, and/or what's left of the United States. Joseph Lawrence was doing his best to prevent it. If Lawrence does manage to leave with the kids, or if he dies in the season finale, is that what will happen? War?

It's fascinating that the timing with the arrest of the Waterfords in Canada has convinced everyone that Commander Winslow was taken, too, and no one has mentioned that he was at Jezebels when he disappeared. There was a lot of tension in the Lawrence house even before Eleanor died, with Commanders talking war and Olivia Winslow and Naomi Putnam showing up for forced prayer meetings. It's a miracle that Joseph was able to cover for Eleanor's reveal that they were trying to get kids out.

Meanwhile in Canada

The news that Fred and Serena were in prison made June's day. June, with Winslow's bruise still prominently visible on her cheek, sat down in the living room and smiled, laughed, and cried tears of happiness. Serena did betray Fred as many of us thought, and the moment he realized it was actually somewhat poignant, even though I despise them both.

And Moira was a breath of fresh air. I want more Moira; there hasn't been enough of her this season, although let me add that I absolutely do not want to see her back in Gilead. There was something deeply satisfying about Moira stating clearly to Serena what she and Fred had done to June, and what Fred did to Moira at Jezebels. It was more satisfying even than Luke punching Fred in the face, although that was cool, too.

What is Serena getting out of this? Please tell me she's not getting custody. Just scheduled visits? Is that enough for her? (I doubt it.)  Mark Tuello has no idea of all of the utterly revolting, criminal things that Serena has done. He brought her reading material, something he must know would make her happy, and told her, "There's an interesting piece on media bias as pertains to religion." I can imagine Serena being excited about expressing her opinion for once. Yes, this is the real world where religion can actually be discussed, Serena.

Plus her room is actually comfy. It can't be an actual prison. It's way too nicely appointed and roomy with a view of outdoor plants and coffee, tea and bourbon. Maybe they're detaining Fred and Serena in some sort of American embassy situation because of their status as Gilead hotshots. No orange jumpsuits. Not yet, anyway.

This morass was our penultimate episode of the season, and I have no idea what is going to happen in the finale. Will Joseph confront June with his suspicions? Probably yes. Will June's insane plan actually succeed? Probably not.


— In the opening scene, June was waiting for the van that would take her to her death, pistol in hand, and it turned out to be Eleanor running up the stairs. June pointed the gun directly at Eleanor for a moment. Geez, no foreshadowing there.

— The baby was well behaved for Moira, but fretful and uncomfortable with Serena. What a terrific baby actress.

— Ofmatthew's baby still only weighs three pounds. (Calhoun is the father.)

— Is June walking to the market alone? I bet none of the other handmaids would walk with her at this point.

— This week's Loaves and Fishes announcement was four cans of peaches per household. But the highlight was June and Rita meeting over the carrots and touching hands over the potatoes. Rita wants to help with the Great Escape. Please don't die, Rita.

— In this week's hair report, Serena put her hair up in a wife coif but almost immediately let it down. And I always loved how Eleanor's hair was such a rat's nest, never in the coif. It was, of course, a metaphor for her state of mind.

— The episode began with June in her room backlit by the light coming in the window. This is the sort of shot they give us often, that halo of light.

— I absolutely loved the angled shot of Serena looking at her own hand. The focus blurred and changed from her wedding ring to her severed finger. It was a perfect visual representation of her marriage.

— The Lawrence marriage ended in this episode. The Waterford marriage probably ended, too.


Beth: (to June) "You're fucking fantastic. Billy's in. Flight's a week from today."

Lawrence: "Cheer up. Fred and Serena are toast, and you just got away with murder. All in all, not a bad morning."

June: "I can't stop imagining them in orange jumpsuits."

Fred: "I pity the child that has you as her mother."
Fred has Serena's number now. Too late for him.

Moira: (to Serena) "You are still the same woman who held my friend down so your husband could rape her."
Tuello: "That's uncalled for."
Moira: (to Tuello) "Fuck you. (to Serena) You know, he raped me, too. At the whorehouse. Treated me like shit, like I was worthless. Look, I am who I am, and I have sinned plenty, but you? You are the gender traitor."
Please! More Moira!

Fred: (to Luke) "The June Osborne you knew doesn't exist anymore. Gilead's changed her. I've changed her."

It's hard to rate a penultimate episode that is set-up for the finale, but I'd give this episode three out of four black wings,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. The previous episode left me on a high, this one it made me feel so heavy and empty at the same time. Wondering what I would have done..

  2. Yes, more Moira. With all the politics and intrigue it's nice for someone to say, in four letter words, what's really going on here.

    What's Tuello's angle with Serena? He seems quite deferent to her. Is he playing her or coming on to her?. Serena may be out of Gilead but is she still being used?

    And is Canada going to use Nicole as a political football like the Swiss and Gilead?

    Glad we got another season. Still a long way from any kind of justice, if that's even possible in this world. It may well be airing during the home stretch of the 2020 election. Buckle up.

  3. That was June’s Breaking Bad moment, and for good reason. Eleanor was a liability. On the other hand, it was a huge risk. Lawrence really loved his wife. What if her suicide had made him lose interest in the escape, in life, in everything? What if Lawrence suspected June, as is hinted by that grim stare he gives her at the burial? I was very worried here. But I understand June’s decision. Many lives were at stake. Besides, it was Eleanor’s choice. At some point I thought June was going to smother her with a pillow to ensure it was done. I’m glad it didn’t come to that. I Iike how she covered her tracks by leaving the tray outside the bedroom. Very cool-headed.

    What is Serena getting out of this?

    You know, up until this moment I never believed Serena Joy when she said all she wanted in life was a child. I always thought she did it all for the power and it backfired on her. But this episode made me believe her, and, what’s more, made me realise she’s still living her obsession in a fantasy world in her head which might even be pathological. She may be mentally deranged. That would explain a lot. Because she’s not dumb. She knows, rationally, that the child is nothing to her, or to her husband, biologically. She knows that Luke, as June’s husband, in the real world, is the most likely tutor for the child, biological parents being out of the picture for now. Yet, even in Canada, the real world that she knows and remembers, she clings to the hope to be with her “daughter”. Is Serena Joy mentally unhinged? Was she always mentally unhinged, which would explain why she was an architect of Gilead and closed her eyes to everything she didn’t want to see? She definitely seems delusional now.


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