June has come home (for want of a better word). The house has been redecorated in her absence, and all the art and books are gone. New regulations, Aunt Lydia tells her, then encourages her to rest, because June’s home just in time for the Ceremony! But June has no intention of resting. She has work to do!
She seeks out Beth, who is in the kitchen glumly contemplating a table piled with scones. I know you’re wondering (as I did) how anyone can possibly be glum in the presence of delicious baked goods, but in Gilead, scones aren’t just scones, they are part of the Marthas’ Carb Code, and they mean ‘no’. In this case, they specifically mean ‘no, we can’t get any more black market mood stabilizers for Eleanor’ and the effects are being felt, by everyone. June asks if the network can help to get children out. Beth looks at her like she’s crazy. (What would the Carb Code be for that? Fruitcake, probably.) She also tells June that she’s going to get herself killed. June munches a scone and her expression makes it clear that she could live with that. (In a manner of speaking. You know what I mean.)
Unmedicated Eleanor is out of control and June finds Lawrence in his study, surrounding by the books removed from the other rooms. She tells him that she needs to get Eleanor out of Gilead.
June enters Loaves & Fishes alone (no new Ofmatthew yet, I guess). She goes to the bottle of colored liquid aisle and Alma’s response to her plan is similar to Beth’s, but there’s no time to get into it. All the Handmaids are taken to some kind of arena place where they are to be inspected. By Fred. And Winslow, who is concerned by the lack of rings and veils. Fred tells him that they are rolling out the new regulations gradually. Serena Joy is also there, and seems to be concerned about whatever is going on here. So is June.
Back at the house, June learns that Lawrence is at a meeting. It seems he has started going to meetings. June has a sneaking suspicion that his status may be slipping, but she doesn’t waste time thinking about that. Instead, she starts to search his study for info on the children taken away from the Handmaids. But those files are in the basement, Eleanor tells her helpfully, before showing June the cardboard boxes.
The Waterfords have a new home, and it’s very modern and gorgeous. Very Architectural Digest. Fred, Serena Joy, and Winslow are chatting, and Serena Joy asks if the new regulations have gotten any pushback. It seems that Fred has targeted Lawrence. I’m not positive, but I think it has to do with June. Winslow points out that going after Lawrence is a delicate matter, but he clearly is in favor of it. I’m not positive, but a think it has to do with Fred. Serena Joy is looking more and more concerned, but she doesn’t say anything until Fred suggests a ‘test of virility’. Something tells me Fred isn’t talking about an arm wrestling match.
June is going through the Red Center dossiers. She learns that Janine’s son was killed in a car accident. Poor Janine. She really can’t catch a break.
Beth tells June that she’s wanted in the parlor. It’s the Ceremony night. June hears other voices, Aunt Lydia and the Waterfords among others, and realizes they’re there to witness the Ceremony, a practice from early on that had long been abandoned. They go through the Scripture reading part and then retire to the Lawrences bedroom, where Lawrence says they’ll just wait twenty minutes, while trying to keep the agitated Eleanor quiet. But they brought a doctor to examine June and confirm that the Ceremony was, um, completed. June tells them that no, they must do the Ceremony. There’s a first time for everything, or so I’m told, and this is probably the first time that a Handmaid has to talk a Commander and his Wife into going through with a Ceremony. Lawrence reassures the weeping Eleanor that he loves her and it’s incredibly sad.
Downstairs the Shitty Committee is waiting. The doctor announces that the Ceremony was successful, and the S.C. leaves.
Later, Lawrence gives June a pack of birth control pills. June looks at Lawrence like, dude, have you ever met Gilead? He’s forgotten that anyone caught with contraceptives gets Ramsay Bolton-ed. And this is not going to be a one time event. Lawrence tells her he’s going to get a truck and June will take Eleanor out of Gilead. She says he needs to leave too, and he needs to bring the Stolen Children of Gilead with him. (Sounds like a Joan Aiken novel I once read.)
Once more, June and Alma are at the colored liquid department of Loaves & Fishes. Alma still thinks her idea is nuts, but then June tells her where her son is. Janine overhears and offers to help. Does June know about her little boy? He’s California now, living on the beach with a really nice Commander. Okay, I demand to know who’s chopping onions in here. Whoever it is, just stop.
Back at Chez Waterford, Serena Joy tells Fred that he needs to stop prioritizing himself over getting Nicole back. And she knows someone who can help. He’s an American, and her gave her a phone. Whoa.
June walks into the kitchen. Beth is staring at the table, almost in shock. She had sent out June’s question, asking if anyone could help get children out of Gilead. She had expected everyone send scones. Instead, they had sent muffins. Muffins, in the Carb Code, means yes. The table is covered with at least a dozen baskets full of yes-muffins.
The Marthas are in.
– What is in those bottles of clear colored liquid?
– Why on Earth are the Red Center dossiers at the Lawrence house? Why would Lawrence have them? It was ridiculously convenient and utterly implausible.
– When Eleanor says that Lawrence can’t leave because he’s a war criminal and would go to prison, what was she talking about? We totally need a backstory on the Lawrences, amirite?
“I believe my time of prayer has led me to see my true purpose.”
“Are you going to sit there in the bed with us too? Because that would definitely make things more interesting.”
“What? I’m brave.”