The Handmaid’s Tale: (S01E08) “Jezebels”

Booze, drugs, prostitution, it looks like the Republic of Gilead isn’t so different after all. I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse. I’m going to go with ‘worse’ personally, if only because it makes the rigidly Christian Gileadites hypocrites, which is one of the things I despise the most. (Yes, I did just make up the word ‘Gileadites.’ Got a problem with that? Didn’t think so.)

This week’s thrilling episode takes us, and Offred, to an underground club that looks like it was maybe once a hotel? It’s called Jezebels. ‘White a Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane is playing and Offred is decked out in a fab, vaguely flapperish dress (I wish I had little boobs and could wear backless dresses, but me going without a bra means I risk blackening my own eyes,) heels, makeup, jewelry, her hair is down, the works. The women at Jezebels seem to be wearing much less, on the whole. She orders a Manhattan (a girl after my own heart) and spots Moira.

In between seeing a whole new side of Gilead, we also see a whole new side of Nick, who in a flashback is talking to a career counselor after going through a string of jobs that, for one reason or another, didn’t work out for him. It seems he and his brother lost their jobs due to the economy and his brother drinking.  Nick’s absences while he tried to keep everything together tended to piss off his bosses. Over coffee, the counselor asks him to come to a meeting of an organization he was involved with called The Sons of Jacob. Hmm. The counselor, who we learn is called Commander Pryce, recruits Nick to be an Eye, who drives the car while Pryce sits in the back with Waterford and another Commander, a rather less refined man called Guthrie, discussing the logistics of Handmaids, aka, how do we sell this idea to the Wives without them cutting off our little Commanders?

Offred and the Commander are in a private room and he makes his move. Later, he is sleeping and Offred sneaks out to go to the dormitory area where Moira and the other women who work at Jezebels live. Sadly, Moira’s rebelliousness seems to be gone, she believes there is no escape from Gilead. She also tells Offred that they are both alone. Nick, in the meantime, is bartering with a woman in the Jezebels kitchen, trading drugs and pregnancy tests for booze and hair dye. And handing her a bunch of fresh basil, which she offers to make into her famous pesto which he can sample, if she sticks around. Am I the only one getting a vibe? He says he can’t, and then she goes to cop a feel. Yup, those two definitely have a history.

We flashback to Nick standing with Pryce watching as a subdued Commander Guthrie is led away in handcuffs by Guardians. Nick reports that Guthrie was boning his last two Handmaids and skimming from the Transportation budget. It seems Nick is pretty good at this spying thing, and has been assigned to Waterford, but his primary responsibility is to report on Waterford. So, is Pryce more important? What is the hierarchy of Commanders? And while we’re on the subject, who is the Big Kahuna in Gilead?

Flashback to the day the previous Offred killed herself. Her body is taken away in a black van while Waterford and Serena Joy watch. S.J. seems to be angry with Waterford, which is very interesting. The plot thickens, not that it needed thickening.

Back home the next day, Nick is cool to Offred, and says they have to end things. Offred is angry, but before she can escape to her room, S.J. stops her and gives her a gift, a music box from her room at her parents’ house. Offred bitterly notes that the dancer is a girl trapped in a box who can only dance when someone else opens the lid. Meanwhile, she scraps the words “you are not alone” in the closet. And that’s where we leave her.

Another episode told from a male perspective, but I was more interested this time, probably because I find Nick more interesting as a character than Luke and also I’m more curious about him. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out why anyone would want to escape Gilead, but why would someone want to be recruited? Also, we’ve spent a lot more time in his company than Luke’s, so I have more of a connection to him. I also think we met more Commanders this week, in the sense of spending more time in their company, not just seeing them in passing at a dinner party. I thought Pryce was an interestingly enigmatic character, joining the Commanders in planning their brave new world while also quietly spying on them.
Other things:
– Waterford shaves Offred’s legs, but what about her armpits? That was a sleeveless dress; did she have to wear it with hairy pits?
– Speaking of hair, did you notice how Waterford arranged her hair to discreetly cover her ear tag after putting in her earrings?
– That was a lot of basil Nick handed over to the chef in the kitchen. Isn’t he worried that S.J. will notice that it’s missing and ask awkward questions?
Choice Quotes:
“Sounds good, nice and Godly. The Wives will eat that shit up.”

“What did you think was going to happen?”

“We are going to clean up Gilead, son.”