‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 3, Episode 12 Recap: Betrayal

In season three, episode 11 of The Handmaid’s Tale, June (Elisabeth Moss) took matters into her own hands to help the children of Gilead escape. But when she went to Jezebels to secure assistance from an enterprising bartender with access to cargo planes, she ran into High Commander Winslow (Christopher Meloni) and ultimately killed him.

Will Gilead come for her or will she be given the opportunity to save the children? Let’s find out.

june handmaids tale
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We open on June waiting in her room with the gun Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) gave her in the last episode. She hears the sound of cars arriving and assumes the Guardians have come to take her away. Alas, it’s just a group of Commanders who have come to tell Commander Lawrence that Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) has been arrested.

Eleanor (Julie Dretzin) asks June to check and see if Beth (Erin Way) needs help preparing tea and sandwiches for the Commanders. When June enters the kitchen, Beth calls her amazing and says, “Billy is in. Flight is a week from today.” She successfully convinced the bartender to help her get children out of the country. It’s an enormous victory, but she only gives herself a moment to celebrate. She offers to carry the tray into the room where the Commanders are meeting so she can eavesdrop.

As she learns upon entering, some of the Commanders want to wage war on Canada in retaliation for Commander Waterford’s arrest. They ask Commander Lawrence to step up and become a figurehead once again. He quips that they recently stripped him of his high security clearance, and they promise to reinstate it if he cooperates. He says he needs to think it over.

When they leave, Commander Lawrence and June powwow. He tells her she’s “off the wall, for now,” as the Commanders think High Commander Winslow was captured by the Americans (not killed by June). He also tells her that the Waterfords went rogue to get baby Nicole back and are now facing trial as war criminals. “I guess they didn’t bring 52 kids with them,” he levels. “Cheer up. Fred and Serena are toast and you just got away with murder. All in all, not a bad morning.” We’d say. 

June goes to the grocery store later and tells Alma (Nina Kiri) about the plan. Then, June spots Rita (Amanda Brugel) and they gossip about the Waterfords. Rita says the Eyes came to see her to ask what she knows. She also says she heard about the plan to help kids escape. She tells June, “You’re such a boss now. I’m proud of you,” and clasps her hand.

That afternoon at the Lawrence household, Mrs. Winslow (Elizabeth Reaser) and Naomi Putnam (Ever Carradine) gather with Commander Lawrence and Eleanor in a prayer circle for High Commander Winslow. Mrs. Winslow says she worries that her children will be taken from her. Eleanor says she can bring the children with them, but before their cover is blown, Commander Lawrence clarifies that the children are welcome to stay at their home. Mrs. Winslow says she hopes it won’t get that far.

The next day, Commander Lawrence learns that Gilead officials are eager to close the borders to punish Canada and America. Commander Lawrence asks June to move up the departure date, but she says that’s not how it works. He needs to do whatever he can to keep the borders open. Then, Eleanor tries to rush out the door to go get some children. She’s at risk of blowing their whole operation and June yells at her. She comes to her senses and goes back to her room.

When June goes to check on her later, she realizes that Eleanor has taken a lot of pills. She rushes to get help but then stops, kisses her on the forehead and slowly leaves. She knows Eleanor can’t be trusted to keep their secret. In the morning, one of the Marthas finds her lifeless body.

Commander Lawrence is devastated, as expected, but tells June that he kept the border open. “It’s hard to argue with a man who’s in mourning,” he muses. He expresses guilt for not being able to save her and June tries to hide her own.

They gather for her funeral later. June and the other attendees shed their usual colors for black, except for Commander Lawrence who wears his normal tweed. After the service, he and June stand in silence as they look over Eleanor’s grave.

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Meanwhile, Commander Fred Waterford and Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) reunite in Canada. He kisses her passionately and tells her to play dumb and act like she did nothing wrong. Slowly, she tells him they won’t do anything to her and he realizes that she set him up. “What have you done?” he asks in disbelief. She responds, “I want to be with my daughter.” He goes on to say that he pities the child who has her as a mother and she leaves.

Later, Moira (Samira Wiley), Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) and baby Nicole arrive at the detention center where Serena and Fred are being held. Serena has shed her Wife uniform and now looks like any other woman. Moira brings Nicole in to visit Serena while a social worker and Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger) watch.

luke and moira with baby nicole handmaids tale
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There’s animosity between Moira and Serena and it boils over. Moira tells Serena that she’s still the same woman who held June down so Commander Waterford could rape her. Nicole begins to cry when Moira leaves, and the social worker says, it’s “just a little stranger anxiety.” Serena tells Nicole that she’s her mama and the social worker says she can’t “use terms like that. It’ll confuse her.”

moira and serena handmaids tale
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Tuello then meets with Commander Waterford and asks him to teach the world more about Gilead. The Commander reasons that manipulation won’t work on him. Tuello follows by telling him that Luke wants to meet with him. The Commander allows it and he and Luke sit down.

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Jasper Savage/Hulu

Luke has compiled information on Fred and says “you’re going to rot in this jail. Know that your wife betrayed you.” The Commander quips, “What about your wife.” He says that June hasn’t come back to him and that she’s completely different. Luke punches him in the face and is dragged out by a guard.

serena and mark tuello handmaids tale
Jasper Savage/Hulu

Later, Tuello brings Serena a pizza and some newspapers. He says he’d love to hear her thoughts on all that’s going on in the world.

Next Wednesday, August 14, the final episode of season three of The Handmaid’s Tale hits Hulu. Will June successfully get children out of Gilead? Will Serena be let free? What will become of baby Nicole? All that, and more, will be revealed. 


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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.