‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 2, Episode 10 Recap: The Natural Way Isn’t Always the Best

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

  • Emily gets a small but satisfying taste of revenge.
  • Offred has a classic case of Braxton Hicks, and Serena and the Commander are not amused.
  • Eden commits the ultimate sin, and Nick is really bad at pretending he cares.
  • The Commander takes pity on poor Offred and sets up a meeting for her and an important little person from her past.

Let’s see what fresh hell the Waterfords serve Offred this episode, shall we?

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Let The Contractions Begin

The episode opens as Emily (Alexis Bledel) prepares for the dreaded ceremony. “You treat it like a job. An unpleasant job to be gotten through as fast as possible,” she muses as her Commander and his wife get in position. “Kissing is forbidden, this makes it bearable…You steel yourself. You pretend not to be present. Not in the flesh. You leave your body.”

After pumping away, her Commander finishes and immediately collapses. His wife screams at Emily to get help but she simply says the chances of her getting pregnant are better if she lays on her back afterward. Incredulous, the wife yells for their Martha and runs out of the room. While alone, Emily takes the opportunity to kick him right where it hurts.

The next day, the handmaids are gossiping at the grocery store about what transpired at Emily’s home, and it sounds like her Commander died. (*Cough* Good riddance.) Offred (Elisabeth Moss) wanders around, passes Eden (Sydney Sweeney) and Isaac (Rohan Mead) flirting, and suddenly finds it hard to breathe. She leans over and clutches her stomach, but then sees Emily and Janine (Madeline Brewer) and gathers the strength to walk over. She asks how Emily is feeling and Janine says she’s moving to a new post since her services are, um, no longer needed. Offred eagerly tells them that Moira (Samira Wiley) escaped to Canada and although Janine answers, “Praise be! Maybe we could all end up in Canada one day,” it’s clear the news is meant for Emily. She impolores Emily to share her enthusiasm, saying that she could escape and see her son again, but Emily dejectedly says, “I’m not his mother anymore.” Offred tries to talk sense into her, but unexpectedly goes into labor instead. Whoopsie, baby.

She’s taken back to the Waterford home by ambulance. Nick (Max Minghella) dotingly escorts her inside lovingly and the hurt is written all over Eden’s face. Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) rushes outside and prays on Offred’s belly before cheerfully saying, “We did it, Offred! And this is the will of God and we shall rejoice and be glad in it.” But Offred is not in the mood and curtly responds, “No one knows the things of God,” before walking inside.

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False Alarm

Offred returns to the site of her dreaded ceremonies, aka the Waterford’s bleak blue room, to give birth to her child. Handmaids and Aunt Lydia gather around and everyone is smiling—except for Emily and Offred. Marthas bustle around the home, Commanders puff on cigars in Commander Waterford’s (Joseph Fiennes) study, and wives congratulate Serena on all of her hard work as they guide her through fake labor. Serena is in heaven…until Aunt Lydia calls her into the room and informs her Offred is in false labor. Womp, womp. Offred says she’s sorry, but the coy smile on her face tells a different story.

Later a doctor confirms that Offred isn’t dilated, but Serena says she wants to induce, like, now. Aunt Lydia and the doctor talk her out of it and opt to induce in a week if Offred still hasn’t gone into actual labor. Until then, Aunt Lydia prescribes vigorous walks, mango salad and, “a spicy tea that works wonders.” Serena is furious with Offred (and her tricky uterus) and tries to get back at her by saying she’ll be banished to another district after she gives birth. Offred quips back, “You’re right Mrs. Waterford. It’s been lovely, but I think it’s probably best that we don’t ever see each other again.” Aunt Lydia shakes her head and everyone leaves the room.

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The ‘natural’ Way

Later, Commander Waterford and Offred run into each other in the hallway. He calls the day’s excitement “fate” and invites her into his office. They chat about how Serena is kicking her out soon and she sees an opportunity to con him into getting what she wants while he’s feeling chummy. So she asks him to allow her to move into her daughter’s district if it’s “in his power.” He’s angry that she would dare to question his power, and she tries to reason with him, saying, “I understand it’s unusual. She would never even see me. I promise you.” But he’s irate and not playing her games. “I’ve been too lenient with you, too indulgent…I’ve spoiled you. Get out,” he sneers. When she doesn’t, he screams at her so apoplectically that spit flies out of his mouth. That’s when she delivers the final blow: “You have no idea what it’s like to have a child of your own flesh and blood. And you never will.” Burn.

The Commander meets Serena in her greenhouse and they commiserate about Offred. Serena says she looked happy when the baby didn’t come, and the Commander says, “She’s forgotten her place.” They express their frustration that the doctor wouldn’t induce and then Serena offers an alternative: “I think the best way is the natural way.” Now what could that mean?

Meanwhile, Offred is speaking to the baby in her room. “Listen to my voice. This is your mother. I love you and I always will. K?,” she coos. Rita (Amanda Brugel) comes upstairs and says Serena wants to see her, ominously adding that she’ll tell the baby about Offred. Confused, Offred walks downstairs and is surprised when Serena asks her to come and sit on her bed. Serena holds her hand as Commander Waterford walks in, closes the door and undresses. It becomes clear this isn’t a friendly meeting and as Serena’s grip tightens she says that they want the baby to come out “the natural way.” The Commander enters Offred while she struggles, cries and yells for them to stop.

Offred’s internal monologue echoes Emily’s and she thinks, “When treated like a child, one detaches oneself. No more to you than a bee is to a flower. Not me, not my flesh. I’m not here,” until the Commander finishes and he and Serena leave her to grapple with what just happened.

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Your Cheatin’ Heart

Rita cleans up after the false labor alarm and Eden offers to throw out the trash for her. While she’s dumping enough flowers for a small wedding into the dumpster, Isaac comes up behind her and there’s a heavy moment until they finally kiss. Nick goes outside to smoke a cigarette and sees them canoodling, but couldn’t care less. Eden notices Nick watching, panics and tells Isaac to stop. She runs to their apartment begging for forgiveness, but Nick flippantly tells her not to worry about it. That really sets Eden off.

“Don’t you care? Why don’t you care?…You don’t look at me. You don’t touch me unless you have to. You never kiss me. I’ve never been kissed before tonight. I’m your wife and you just caught me cheating on you. You should care,” she cries hysterically.

There’s a beat and then she puts two and two together and asks him if he’s interested “in the handmaid.” Nick brushes it off, saying it’d “be suicide,” but that’s even worse for poor little Eden because she realizes he just doesn’t love her. He throws her an empty sorry and she starts sobbing while he watches from across the room uncomfortably.

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A *well* Deserved Surprise

The next morning, Offred is recuperating in her bed when the Commander comes in and says he has a surprise planned for her. (Um, no thanks, dude.) He puts Offred in a car and tells Nick to bring her back in three hours before Serena notices they’re gone. The Commander kisses her on the forehead, tells her she deserves this (whatever this is) and orders Nick to not let anyone see them.

As they drive, Nick begs Offred to tell him what the Commander did, but she won’t respond. They arrive at a palatial brick home powdered in snow and when they enter, everything is covered in sheets, like it’s abandoned. But then she sees a pair of little shoes and a guard pops out and tells her she has ten minutes. Hannah (Jordana Blake) is in the next room playing with a Martha and, suddenly, Offred is overcome with emotion. The little girl looks at her with no recognition even as she hugs and kisses her. Hannah breaks free of Offred and runs to hide behind her Martha. The woman tells Offred that her name is Agnes now.

“I’m sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to scare you. I just missed you so much. Do you remember me?” Offred asks her only daughter.

Hannah shakes her head “Yes” but is shy and unsure until she finds her voice and asks a series of questions: “Did it hurt…when they hit you on the head?…Did you try and find me?…Why didn’t you try harder?”

It’s devastating, and Offred tries her best to make amends, even when Hannah heartbreakingly says “I waited for you.” Offred continues apologizing and Hannah stops her and says, “It’s OK I have new parents now.” Ouch. Offred asks about them, and Hannah says they’re good to her and they’ve only hit her when she was bad, which is pretty good by Gilead standards.

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The Hardest Goodbye(s)

The little babe notices her mom is having a baby and wisely says, “You don’t get to keep it.” Offred tries to connect with her further, but a guard suddenly says they need to go right now. The Martha carries Hannah away, but Offred gets in a couple more words in the foyer. “I just want to tell you that I will always be your Mommy. You know that? And Dad and I will always love you. Always, always, always.” Hannah cries and Offred tells her it’s okay and asks her to please enjoy her life and love her parents and do whatever her parents say so that she can stay safe. She redirects her attention to the Martha and asks her to love and protect her daughter because she can’t.

Hannah tearfully asks, “Mommy? Am I ever going to see you again?” and Offred says she’s going to try.

Having seen enough emotion for the day, the guards pull them outside. Nick tries to keep Offred inside but she breaks away and she and Hannah embrace. Offred puts on a happy face and tells her to go home and be a brave little girl. As the G-Wagon pulls away, Offred sobs uncontrollably and Nick tries to soothe her as they both face impossible realities.

They rush back into the abandoned house and Nick tells her to hide so he can make sure the coast is clear. Another car of guardians pulls up and confronts Nick for being there. He tries to explain, but they shoot him, pull him into the car and drive away. Offred runs after them but there’s no use. She’s alone and she better run like hell.

Will Offred escape or will the Commander swoop in to protect his (ahem, Nick’s) unborn baby? We’ll see when season two, episode 11 hits Hulu on Wednesday, June 27.

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Lex is an LA native who's deeply obsessed with picnics, Slim Aarons, rosé, Hollywood history and Joan Didion. She joined PureWow in early 2017.