Last week, June attempted to acclimate to life in Canada, finding herself struggling through the day to day activities of a “normal life.” Serena and Fred are back to their scheming ways, and June warned Tuello about Serena’s true nature.
This episode may be triggering for those who have suffered from trauma as June retells her life in Gilead and warnings for rape and suicide.
June is ready to shed part of her Gilead identity, cutting her long blonde hair in favor of a short bob cut before heading out to a Gilead survivor support group in a library led by Moira. The group discusses June and the upcoming testimony she’ll have to make in the confirmation of charges hearing set for Fred. Some ask if she’s nervous, Moira stating she can send in a written statement, but Emily reveals that June wants to tell her story in person. And June says she can’t wait.
Moira and June meet among the books where June notes her feelings of alienation from the other members of the group. She doesn’t understand why they aren’t angry. They hear a commotion and find Emily being barraged with questions from a woman frantically trying to get Emily to speak with her. June runs her off but not before the woman can drop her contact info on a small shred of paper. Emily tells June and Moira nothing about who she is, and June picks up the paper the woman had dropped.
It’s dinnertime at Luke’s house, Moira, Emily, June, and Luke having small talk before June brings out the paper from Iris Baker, the woman from the library. She confronts Emily about her, and Emily reveals she was an Aunt named Irene from the district of her first posting in Gilead. June tries to encourage Emily to face Irene, but Emily says not everyone is like her.
After Emily had left and Moira went to put Nichole to bed June and Luke are doing dishes, Luke toeing around asking about Irene, Lydia, and then the upcoming trial. He wants to go and support June but she doesn’t want him to hear about the terrible things she went through, the things she did. Then he brings up the lake house, where June told him she’d last seen Hannah, and that Tuello wants to help, but June is upset he’d told Tuello about that (because it’s not true.) Moira interrupts the tense moment, June taking the chance to escape, and she consoles Luke as he navigates trying to figure out who his wife has become as a result of her trauma. June overhears from just out of sight.
In anticipation of their trial, Serena and Fred are going over the statement from Moira about Fred, and it’s not good. Serena wants Fred to get it together, and Fred wants her to stand by his side in court as a dutiful wife. It will help their case to appear as a happy family, and does Serena want June to think she’s afraid to face her? As he leaves, he requests Serena wear her signature Gilead attire.
Back in Gilead, Aunt Lydia is still unhinged, punishing a handmaid with her taser, and ends up hitting her fellow Aunt, Aunt Ruth, with it as well.
It’s testimony day, June enters the courtroom and sees the Waterfords, Serena in her signature teal beside her husband, and then she watches as Luke enters to listen to her story.
June begins telling her story, all of it, beginning with those initial fateful moments of her first ceremony with the Waterfords. She continues to detail how Serena forced her to have sex with Nick in an attempt to become pregnant, Serena citing Fred’s infertility as her reason. She retells her first attempted escape, the abuse she suffered at the hands of the Waterfords upon her return after her capture, and then the ire she faced at the hands of Serena for being in false labor, as well as the rape she was forced to suffer through as punishment.
The story continues with the Waterfords forbidding June to see Nichole after she gave birth, but still being expected to provide breast milk. She also tells the court about Serena’s attempt to improve the lives of women and girls in Gilead when she asked if they could be allowed to read, a crime in Gilead, for which Serena was punished with the loss of her pinky finger, Fred not objecting. After, when June had confronted Fred, he’d hit her and threatened to cut out her tongue. When she mentions that she had yet another attempt to leave Gilead, she tells them she stayed for Hannah.
After that, she shares the stark contrast between the Waterfords and the Lawrences, and how the Waterfords knew of the Lawrences unwillingness to participate in the ceremonies. She also tells them how Fred forced Commander Lawrence to perform one as a test of royalty, and that that was a leading cause of Mrs. Lawrence’s suicide.
She ends her testimony by referencing the countless other women still suffering as she had in Gilead, and the ones who lost their lives. She begs for them to confirm his charges, for the maximum sentence, and for justice.
The court is silent as she finishes, Luke and the Waterfords looking on stunned. The defense now has the opportunity to question June and the first thing they bring up is that Luke had been married when they first met, the first few months of their relationship being an affair, and that June has a history of deceitfulness. They say that June chose to become a handmaid and June responds that it wasn’t much of a choice, it was that or the colonies.
As June defends herself, Fred interrupts that the rape June was subjected to at nine months pregnant was another holy ceremony and he continues defending Gilead’s ways, using the rising birth rate as evidence. He considers Serena’s pregnancy a reward for his actions — a gift from God.
June storms out, unwilling to be subjected to Fred. Everything else can wait for his trial.
Commander Lawrence wants the details of what happened with Aunt Lydia and Aunt Ruth, and he’s not buying Lydia’s story. He then commends the good behavior of the new handmaids, unlike June.
June won because she knows how to make people like her. People do not like you.Commander Lawrence
He threatens Lydia, saying these reports of her lashing out need to stop, but he wants her back in full form. He wants her to do her job and do it well. Then, he hands her a file of a fugitive handmaid captured in Chicago — Janine. He tells her that Janine has left a stain on Lydia’s legacy and she has to take control of her, giving her full permission to do with Janine what she will.
Another night, another group at the library, but this time June brings Aunt Irene along after finding her outside waiting for Emily. June sets a chair in the middle of the circle for Irene giving her an opportunity to talk. She tries to defend the actions of the Aunts in Gilead, that the physical punishments are designed to keep the handmaids alive, but she did much worse to Emily without ever touching her.
When Emily was discovered to be in a relationship with a martha at her first posting, Irene had reported it. When the affair continued after Emily was moved, Irene had informed the Eyes and as a result the martha was hung and Emily’s genitals were mutilated.
Emily asks her what she wants and Irene tells her she hasn’t known a moment’s peace since knowing Emily had made it to Canada, and she wants Emily to forgive her. June calls her out for lying about being a refugee to make it into Canada, saying that all of the horrors she did in Gilead don’t just disappear now that’s she’s here. She doesn’t deserve forgiveness.
Getting on her knees in front of Emily, Irene begs for forgiveness, asking what she can do to make things better. Emily tells her there’s nothing she can do and leaves.
At dinner that night Luke asks how group went and apologizes for showing up at the courtroom. He’s hoping they can move on now that he knows everything. He brings up Hannah and June shuts him down again, leaving Luke to surrender again. He’s upset, he doesn’t know what to do, and he tells her he’s trying.
June tries to have sex with Luke again but this time he refuses, he wants her to talk to him not just resort to the physical aspect of a relationship. June is upset and stalks off, leaving Luke just as lost and confused.
Janine is now in the same holding facility as June was before her escape and Aunt Lydia has gone to see her. She tells Janine that it was Gilead that saved Janine, no one else. Janine asks where June is, and Lydia tells her that June made it to Canada … without her. Lydia tries to turn her against June, saying that June purposefully left her behind. Janine has accepted her fate, that her life will be miserable until she dies, and begs for Lydia to not make her a handmaid again.
Blaming June, Lydia tells Janine she’s been corrupted and Janine begs again, saying she’d rather die there than become a handmaid again. Lydia embraces her, not giving a straight answer to Janine’s question, instead only saying, “Whatever are we going to do with you?”
After the group session, Moira has caught up with Emily at a park. She asks Emily about Irene and what she wants to do about her. Moira tries to tell her that Irene may be useful in bringing Gilead down if she testifies in court.
Emily, with Irene’s address in hand, heads out to find her the next day. But when she arrives at the address, Irene has committed suicide.
Protestors are outside the doors as Fred readies himself for another day in court. Serena has met him, dressed in her Gilead teal, and joins him for his case. When they get outside they’re greeted by cheers from supporters, not protestors. Serena’s face changes as she sees the masses glorifying her and her husband as Fred takes her hand. Signs praising them and Gilead, cameras flashing, this is seemingly all she’s ever wanted.
At group the following day Moira brings up Irene. She asks if anyone wants to share their emotions surrounding the events and the group quickly changes from feelings of fake remorse to stating that Irene deserved what she got, including Emily who feels amazing after knowing that Irene is dead and she hopes she had something to do with it. The other girls join in on that sentiment, the anger June was looking for rising in the group much to the dismay of Moira.
Moira ends the session, but June volunteers to stay longer to let the women vent. They all agree.
That night, June finally tells Luke she needs to tell him something — about the last time she saw Hannah.
Find our recaps for episodes 1-7 and the rest of our coverage here.