Mean Girls of Gilead: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Recap

Alright fam, this episode of The Handmaid’s Tale was a rollercoaster. It swung wildly from amazing (Aunt Lydia flashbacks!!!!!) to absolutely terrible (stillborn baby close-up), and I’m just going to go ahead and say right now that yes, it does end with June looking directly to camera while kitschy music plays. How many times are the writers going to do this? At this point, every time it happens I can’t help but think of this video and start laughing uncontrollably:

Can someone show the writers of The Handmaid’s Tale this video so they realize this trope is over and they can move on to something else? Please?

Back In Gilead

We open on a handmaid named OfAndy giving birth. It is truly hard to keep all these handmaids straight. I had no idea OfAndy was even a thing. Since OfMatthew revealed that she narc-ed on Frances the Martha and got her killed, OfMatthew must now face the snitch’s fate of getting stiches. What did she expect?

In this case, the stitches are emotional, as Gilead has been transformed into North Shore High School, with June acting as Regina George.

June: That was a really good prayer, OfMatthew. You’re so religious.
OfMatthew: Thanks!
June: …so you agree? You think you’re really religious?

The other handmaids are literally bullying OfMatthew while OfAndy gives birth. And when I say literally bullying, I mean literally. They’re shoving her. They’re snickering behind her back. At one point someone breaks something and blames it on her. It’s a whole-ass mess. And June is just standing there like:

The only person who is not into the bullying is poor, sweet Janine. She’s that one popular girl who always sticks up for the nerds because she’s low-key in all the AP classes with them and would probably be a nerd herself if she weren’t so hot. It’s not her fault she’s so popular.

This scene is difficult because, on the one hand, it’s tough to watch someone get bullied, especially when that person is pregnant and scared in Gilead. On the other hand, she totally snitched and got someone killed.

June sums this up best when she says “She got someone executed. She doesn’t feel sorry about it. She should have kept her f*cking mouth shut. Also that’s the ugliest effing skirt I’ve ever seen.”

Even Aunt Lydia takes notice of the bullying and tells June to “tell your friends to cool it.” Between Aunt Lydia saying “pumped” in the DC episode and her saying “cool it” in this episode, I think it is safe to say she’s been perusing Urban Dictionary.

At The Red Center

As with all cases of girl-on-girl bullying, the handmaids have now been assembled in the gym for trust falls. June is in the middle of the shame circle, but just like the kid who gets detention every day, it has lost its effect.

That is, until Aunt Lydia pulls out the Hannah card and makes June admit that her actions led to Hannah (who she calls “Agnes” because that’s her new name, unfortunately) losing her Martha and having to move. This clearly f*cks June up for a second, but just like Regina, June has a few pages of her burn book yet to reveal, and she’s not going to go down without a fight.

June: Yeah, well OfMatthew told me she doesn’t want her baby.

Clearly, June has taken it too far. Keep OfMatthew’s baby out your mouth. Like, I know she’s kind of tragic, but she’s Janine’s friend, so be nice to her, okay??? Also, harming a child and/or endangering a child in any way is a big f*cking deal in Gilead (except that one time Janine did it) so saying this puts OfMatthew’s life in genuine danger. Very uncool.

Speaking of Janine, she’s watching all of this go down like:

The group then turns on OfMatthew, who is already on the brink of a mental breakdown after all the bullying she endured at OfAndy’s birth. Hats off to actress Ashleigh LaThrop for conveying OfMatthew’s genuine terror here, and hats off to the cinematography for really putting us in this scene. I felt like I was the one getting bullied here, and frankly, I did not appreciate it.

At this point I start to realize that this episode has gone from Mean Girls to Heathers real fast (esp. with the red outfits) and that can only mean one thing: a lot of people are going to die.

Aunt Lydia Flashback

The best thing I can say about this episode is that it blesses us with the one thing we’ve all been wanting since season one: an Aunt Lydia flashback, complete with a sex scene. Didn’t actually know we needed that second part until it happened, but thank God it did. We’ll get to it later.

The first thing we learn about OG Aunt Lydia is that she was a teacher at a school. Makes sense. Her hair is down, she has a blow out, she’s rocking sensible flats and a flowy top, presumably from Chico’s.

Lyds has stayed late because one of the children in her class has yet to be picked up by his mother, whom Aunt Lydia clearly does not like. The principal of the school stops by and she immediately quotes the Bible at him, so clearly she hasn’t changed too much since the old days. The principal clearly digs this Bible reading, and the two of them have distinct sexual chemistry.

Can Aunt Lydia spit game?, I wonder.

Unfortunately, the flirting sesh is interrupted by the boy’s mother, who is clearly a struggling single mom. Aunt Lydia invites the two of the over for chili, but only so she can keep judging them and making shady comments. I have also done this many times to my dinner guests, so I get it.

At the chili cookout, Single Mom curses in front of Aunt Lydia, which would get you tased to death in today’s world. Since it’s not today’s world, Lydia’s only weapon is a vicious side-eye, which she uses often.

We end this scene with a couple more pieces of Lydia info:
1. Her full name is Lydia Clements.
2. She used to be married but he “was a mistake.”

Interesting…

In Gilead

We cut back to the Red Center, where Aunt Lydia is fulfilling her dream of making struggling women pay. She releases all the girls from the auditorium and thanks June for “telling what you know about OfMatthew,” but we know what she really means is “I’m on to you, bitch.”

Back at Commander Zaddy’s, June is trying to figure out where the f*ck Hannah moved to. I guess she should have thought about the fact that moving exists before she tried to break into her home and school. Hindsight is 20/20.

June: I need to know if you’ve learned anything about Hannah and the Mc—
Commander Zaddy:

Like most bullies, June’s home life is extremely f*cked up right now. Her Commander is mad at her. She doesn’t know where Hannah is. She’s struggling and lashing out at her peers. You hate to see it.

They get called to help with OfAndy’s birth again. I guess I didn’t realize that she never actually gave birth the first time. Shows where my priorities are at. The handmaids are all hands on deck for this baby, except for June, who is just chilling in the doorway. Maybe her parents wrote a note saying she could sit out?

Ultimately, the baby is stillborn and has the cord wrapped around its neck, which the director chooses to show us in vivid detail. Not something I necessarily needed to see on a Wednesday, but okay.

June sits out of the post-stillbirth group hug and instead pops over to go stare at the dead baby, which is some pretty extreme antisocial behavior from our girl June Osbourne. What’s her issue? Other than like, everything that has ever happened to her.

Finally, June returns to the Lawrence home, where the Commander inexplicably wants her to start hanging out with his wife again. Pretty sure that didn’t go great last time, but whatever.

June, who is clearly having some sort of mental break, responds to this attempt at friendship by laying into Commander Lawrence about the world he built, and how it affects his wife. Is she wrong? No. Was this the best moment to convey this sentiment? Probably not.

At The Aunt Office

And now for another glimpse into the daily life of Aunt Lydia, who apparently is in charge of deciding which handmaid goes where along with two other Aunts. They do this using a giant lazy susan and not like, computers, for some reason.

Do computers still exist in Gilead? They have to, right? I feel like a shared Google Doc could be helpful here.

At one point, Aunt Lydia refers to a family that “doesn’t want a handmaid of color”, which is significant in that it is the first time Handmaid’s Tale has addressed racism at all. Prior to this, you kind of got the impression that all racism was magically cured in whatever war happened. In my mind I rationalized this by saying that perhaps the fertility crisis has made people so desperate for babies it overrode hundreds of years of racial bias, but if that’s the case, this show should probably like, say that at some point. Just a thought.

Once the Aunts are done excusing racism, they go onto their favorite activity: sh*t talking June. Clearly, Aunt Lydia is not impressed with her mean girl turn, and the Aunts can’t help but notice that her walking partners keep going insane. Maybe it’s time to send her to military school?

Aunt Lydia Flasback #2

Wow. This next scene was a wild f*cking ride, so strap in because we’re about to cover a lot of ground. We start with Aunt Lydia at Single Mom’s house. Clearly they have become close, even though Lyd is still making condescending comments about her roughly every 30 seconds. Single Mom is unfazed by this (she’s got a lot of other sh*t on her plate) and decides that what Aunt Lydia really needs is a makeover. And starts sensually applying makeup to Lydia’s face. For a second I’m like…are they going to hook up? But they don’t. This is just a standard makeover. Lame.

Beat for the gods, Aunt Lydia goes out for a night on the town. Yes, you read that right. Aunt Lydia goes clubbing in this episode and yes, she is wearing a sequined top.

And who is she at the clurb to meet? Oh, just the hot principal from one flashback ago, of course! Not only are they hitting it off and looking amazing, it is also New Year’s Eve. Bold choice for a first date, but Aunt Lydia is a bold woman. She enjoys a single glass of champagne and then we cut straight to them doing drunk karaoke. Who among us hasn’t had the exact same night? One minute you’re enjoying a glass of champagne, the next you’re screaming “No Scrubs” to a room full of strangers. Life comes at you fast.

Speaking of fast, Aunt Lydia and Hot Principal go home together ON THE FIRST DATE. Now of course, there’s nothing wrong with going home with someone on the first date, but given Lyd’s entire personality, this is pretty surprising. The two start making out and it’s like…what’s gonna happen here? Is he gonna try to go too far and get pepper sprayed? Will this be Aunt Lydia’s first taste of blood?

Quite the opposite! Aunt Lydia goes to give Hot Principal a casual first date hand job and HE TELLS HER THEY ARE MOVING TOO FAST!!! He slut-shames Aunt Lydia!

In his defense, he does say that he wants to see her again, but Lydia is already heartbroken. And what does a heartbroken Aunt Lydia do?

F*ck.
Sh*t.
Up.

And by “sh*t” I mean the lives of two innocent people by reporting Single Mom to whatever the Gilead version of CPS is for “moral weakness.” Hot Principal watches all this go down with a sad look in his eye.

Where is the woman who tugged his dick just a few months ago? Or do hand jobs not count as moral weakness, just like they don’t count as cheating?

In Gilead

Back in Gilead, June is standing in the snow to meet up with OfMatthew who is not. doing. great. Like, she’s crying before they even get to the bus stop. They’re really layering this bullied child motif on thick.

They make it to the grocery store, and within five seconds we see OfMatthew losing her sh*t in the seafood aisle over a can of lobster bisque. The combination of the bullying, the pregnancy, and her natural narc-iness are too much to bear. Like many bullied youths before her, she is about to lose her f*cking sh*t in a public place.

Then, OfMatthew does the one thing you’re never supposed to do: she physically attacks Janine! Like, really beats the sh*t out of her! This is why you can’t be nice to people. Within 30 seconds, OfMatthew has gone full Carrie on everybody at Loaves and Fishes.

To make matters worse, she attacks a guard and steals his gun. So now she has a gun. Basically, OfMatthew was bullied so badly it drove her to buy a gun and open fire at a grocery store. I see no parallels to our current world there! None at all!

Just as we think she is going to shoot June (who is so crazy at this point, she just kind of stands there smiling), she turns her gun on Aunt Lydia. I know Aunt Lydia survived being stabbed seven times and falling down the stairs, but can she survive being shot at close range in the grocery store?

Sadly, we do not find out because the guards kill OfMatthew (who we learn is really named “Natalie”) right there next to the frozen shrimp. Damn. RIP OfMatthew. You mostly sucked, but I did feel bad for you at the end there.

As I mentioned before, the episode ends with June looking to camera while Nancy Sinatra’s version of “Que Será Será “plays in the background. Yawn.

Images: Hulu; ChrissySh / Twitter; Giphy (7)