‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 3, Episode 5 Recap: The Inevitable Happens

In season three, episode four of The Handmaid’s Tale, June (Elisabeth Moss) and the Waterfords learned that baby Nicole made it to Canada and is being cared for by June’s husband, Luke (O.T. Fagbenle). But now that Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) and Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) know where Nicole is, will they leave her be?

Let’s find out.

june handmaids tale
Elly Dassas/Hulu

Episode five opens on June at the grocery store, thinking about the fact that Nicole is alive. She considers that it might be a miracle but decides against it since the word “miracle” denotes divine intervention and she made this happen. As she smiles and thinks about her baby safe and warm with Luke, Handmaids quietly congratulate her. A win for one of them is a win for all of them in Gilead.

When June returns to the Lawrence household, she finds Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) in the dining room and tells him she needs to know if her husband and daughter are safe. He answers cryptically and tells her, “We’re all in danger.” 

Meanwhile, Serena and the Commander attend a meeting to discuss the Nicole situation. Serena is made to wait outside, as not even Wives have a voice in Gilead. We learn that Gilead has gathered some intel on baby Nicole, but before the Guardians spill the details, Commander Waterford insists that Serena be present. Once they’re both safely within the confines of the conference room they go through Nicole’s medical records and learn that she’s not only healthy and happy, but she also has a tooth. After the meeting, Serena breaks down and says she just wants the whole ordeal to be over.

Despite this, later that evening, the Waterfords call on June at Commander Lawrence’s home. They tell her they have a proposition for her. They’re desperate to see baby Nicole and want June to call Luke and set up a meeting for them. She immediately refuses, not wanting to put her husband or her daughter in danger. Serena asks Fred to leave them alone and levels with June, asking her what it’ll take to make her say yes. June replies that she wants Serena to owe her. 

Soon after, a Guardian dials Luke’s phone number and tells June she has two minutes to arrange the meeting.

luke getting phonecall from june handmaids tale

At first, Luke ignores the call from an unknown number because he’s buying diapers for Nicole. After the second call, he answers and is shocked to hear June’s voice. He asks her if she’s OK and if she’s safe. The experience is emotionally taxing and June remains stoic during the call. She tells him that, yes, she’s safe and so is Hannah. He begins to tell her that he loves her and misses her and he’s sorry that he didn’t try harder to find her. She tells him to stop and says that she needs him to meet the Waterfords. He’s hesitant but knows what could happen to June if he says no. So, he agrees, but says he’ll only meet Serena, not the Commander.

Afterward, Luke feels traumatized and guilty about the position his wife is in. Understandably, he’s worried about what might happen to baby Nicole now that Gilead knows where she is.

Back in Gilead, Mrs. Lawrence (Julie Dretzin) checks on June and says it must have been difficult to hear her husband’s voice. June says she’s frustrated that she didn’t quite get to tell Luke how she feels about him, but Mrs. Lawrence says the sentiment came through. She tells June that before this lifetime, Commander Lawrence used to make her mixtapes. Now, they sit in boxes in the basement, along with Mrs. Lawrence’s memories of what her husband was like before he created this terrible society.

The next day, June goes down to the basement to listen to the mixtapes and uses the cassette player to record a message for Luke.

june recording message for luke handmaids tale

Meanwhile at Serena’s mother Pamela’s home (Laila Robins), Serena prepares for her journey to Canada to see baby Nicole. She packs away family photographs and a tchotchke that says, “For this baby, we prayed.” She hopes Luke will keep it for Nicole so she can remember Serena, her “mom.” Just before she leaves, Rita (Amanda Brugel) brings her a package that arrived for her journey (it’s the tape for Luke). Serena takes it, and before long she’s boarding an empty plane to Canada.

When she lands, Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger)—the guy who tried to offer her asylum from Gilead in Hawaii the last time she was in Canada—meets her on the tarmac. He says he’s going to be supervising the visit and that she’ll meet Luke in the airport. But first, she must change into normal (i.e., not Gilead) clothes so she can blend in. When she puts on a turtleneck and jeans, it’s hard not to remember the outspoken woman she was before she was in Gilead’s clutches. Mr. Tuello escorts her to a crowded terminal and, suddenly, she sees Nicole. She’s taken aback and starts to cry but composes herself when he introduces her to Luke.  

serena in canada handmaids tale

Luke is obviously suspicious of Serena and insists that she tell him where June lives now. She’s hesitant but ultimately tells him June lives with Commander Lawrence. He asks what she wants out of this meeting and she replies that she just wants to see her daughter. “She’s not your daughter,” he points out, and she quips back, “Nor yours.”

She pleads that Luke tell Nicole about her and the Commander when she’s old enough and can make up her own mind about her story. She takes out the tchotchke to give to Luke and he refuses it, saying that Nicole will know exactly what part Serena and the Commander played in her birth and just “how brave her mother was” for getting her to Canada. He says Serena will never be anything to Nicole. Serena, crying, says that she did what she needed to do so Nicole could have a better life. She adds that she protected June, and Luke immediately grows angry. Ultimately, he takes the gift and lets Serena hold the baby. She asks if there’s anything he wants to tell June and he says no. He’s too suspicious to accept her help.

luke and baby nicole handmaids tale

On her flight back to Gilead, Serena notices that Mr. Tuello placed a satellite phone in her bag with his number just in case she changes her mind about escaping. Serena is gutted from the visit, but when she lands she’s calm, cool and collected. She tells Commander Waterford, “She was perfect, and now it’s over.” She gives him a hug and he responds, “It doesn’t have to be.”

The next day, June and Ofmathew (Ashleigh LaThrop) are at the store and Ofmathew is still not in high spirits. After snapping at June, she reveals that she’s pregnant again. The look on her face suggests that she may not be able to handle the emotional turmoil of giving away yet another baby, but what choice does she have? 

Just then, Guardians approach June and whisk her away to some sort of soundstage.

june in gilead propaganda video handmaids tale

Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) meets her there and gives her a new set of fancy Handmaid clothes to change into. She steps onto the stage and is directed to stand in the corner, behave and keep her head down. Then, the Waterfords take a seat on the couch in front of her. Cameras surround them. 

Meanwhile, Luke listens to the cassette tape that Serena smuggled to him from June. On it, June tells him that Nicole was born from love (remember, Nick is her father) and that she had to do what she had to do in order to stay alive in Gilead. She urges him to move on with his life, whatever that means, and she promises she’ll continue to protect Hannah.

When Luke arrives home later and picks up Hannah, Moira (Samira Wiley) rushes in and tells him they have to turn on the TV. When they do, they see live footage of the Waterfords and June. The Commander asks the Canadian government to return baby Nicole to Gilead and says he expects the government’s full cooperation.

serena and commander waterford video handmaids tale
Elly Dassas/Getty Images

All we can say is called it. Still, what happens next? Will Canada return baby Nicole or will tensions mount further? We’ll find out when season three, episode six hits Hulu next Wednesday, June 26.


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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.