In this episode, we learn a bit more about Nick and sense the awakening of his moral compass through his compassion for June. As the episode opens, June is sitting on Nick’s bed, feeling guilty because Luke is alive but she goes back to Nick frequently—because it feels good.
We then flash back to Before, and see Nick at a career counseling place. He apparently has a hard time holding down a job, and when he’s heckled in line he punches the man who heckled him. Rather than chasing him off and telling him not to come back, the career counselor buys Nick a cup of coffee and tries to recruit him to the group that wants to clean up the country, called “The Sons of Jacob.” The counselor convinces him to come to a meeting.
In the present, Offred returns to her room to find Mr. Waterford there. He shaves her legs, which is uncomfortable for Offred and certainly for the viewer. He then hands her a bag that has make up in it and asks her if she remembers how–presumably how to apply make up. She puts it on. He gives her a dress (1920s style, beads and sequins) and high-heeled shoes. It fits—he tells her she looks stunning, then unpins her hair. She asks what this is all for, and he says that tonight he is taking her out. Mrs. Waterford is visiting her mother and so Offred is given Mrs. Waterford’s cloak to pass checkpoints in disguise. They cross into what used to be Boston, where women aren’t allowed—she has to hide herself in the car as they drive in, but Mr. Waterford seems unconcerned.
Flashback, Nick is driver for the Sons of Jacob now, and Mr. Waterford and another Commander brainstorm “The Ceremony”—they name it that for branding, though initially they acknowledge the Handmaids seem like concubines. Calling them handmaids and involving the wives in the extramarital sex makes it more palatable. So, they say they’ll round up fertile women and impregnate them with superior children, and tell the wives it’s holy–as the other Commander says, “they’ll eat that shit up.”
In the present we arrive at what appears to be some sort of warehouse. Mr. Waterford gives Offred earrings, and they walk into some sort of club where women are hanging around topless, pantsless. Offred asks whether these clubs are forbidden—Mr. Waterford says they are, officially, but unofficially they turn a blind eye. After all, “we’re only human.” She asks who the people are. He describes the men. She says she meant the women. Mr. Waterford says they used to be professors, lawyers, working women—“we’ve got quite a collection.” As she looks around the room at these women who used to be independent, she sees Moira–her friend from Before, who was with her in Handmaid training and with whom she escaped a Red Center. Offred excuses herself to go to the restroom.
In the ladies’ room, June finds Moira. It’s a joyful, tearful, and brief reunion–Moira tells June where to find her later that night. There’s a floor where all the women who live and work at the club sleep.
We cut away to a scene between Nick and a Martha in the kitchen of this club. We learn that Nick supplies the place with drugs, pregnancy tests, and rufees for men with sleeping beauty fantasies. This time, he seems perturbed by it. He flashes back to finding the last Waterford handmaid has hung herself. In his memory, Martha screams—Nick arrives to find the previous Offred hanging by her stocking from the ceiling and cuts her down. As he remembers this, he seems to be connecting the women’s treatment in this club with that suicide. He recalls that Mrs. Waterford, as they took the woman’s corpse away, asked her husband “What did you think was going to happen?”, which seems like a criticism of the whole Handmaid idea.
In their hotel room in the present, Mr. Waterford complains to Offred about Commander Davidson, and worries that he has a target on his back. When Offred responds sympathetically, he says “you do understand me, don’t you?” She asks him why he brought her here. He says he thought she would enjoy it, and they could just be together. No need to be quiet. She cries as he undresses her.