Today’s episode was written by Katherine Collins and was directed by Eva Vives
Episode 506 – Together
“June and Luke’s mission puts them in serious jeopardy. Serena senses a threat from her benefactors. Lawrence and Nick make a shocking power move.” (Together, Season 5, Episode 6)
June and Luke’s captors have thrown them into the back of a truck with their wrists bound. Luke makes some desperate attempts to kick his way out of the truck, but June tells him to stop, trying to calm him. Luke hasn’t experienced this sort of unknown danger the way that June has, and it’s clear that she is voice of experienced reason here. The masked captors take them to an abandoned warehouse where they take mugshot-esque photos of June and Luke. They attempt to get information out of these men but are unsuccessful and carted off.
Dr. Landers, Serena’s new OB/GYN has arrived at the Wheeler home. Serena thought she was going into his office, but it turns out, the Wheelers have set up a fully equipped exam room upstairs in their home. Dr. Landers even mentions that it’s a “full birthing suite”, so apparently the Wheelers intend to keep her on the property all the way through the end of her pregnancy. Serena is becoming increasingly alarmed. After a full exam, the doctor shockingly asks Serena to have dinner with him and has apparently received permission from the Wheelers. YIKES. She doesn’t give him a yes or no answer but says “it’s an interesting proposal.” Are the Wheelers trying to marry her off?
Aunt Lydia arrives back at the hospital after learning that the doctors have canceled Esther’s “uterus harvesting”. Lydia, and we as the audience, are floored when the doctor tells her that it’s because Esther is pregnant, three weeks along. Doing some quick math, the only male that Esther has been alone with (that we have seen) was Commander Warren Putnam during that creepy chocolate scene at Fred’s wake. Lydia enters her room to find Esther awake, finally. She begins to “gently” question Esther to confirm her suspicions. Then she hits her with the classic victim-blaming: “…you had a private audience with Commander Putnam. Now, you can tell me the truth, there is nothing to be ashamed of. I need to ask you; did you behave in a way that might have — even unwittingly — invited his attention?” When Esther says no, Lydia continues, “God knows our truths.” Esther stands up for herself and insists she “didn’t do anything…He raped me.” This breaks Aunt Lydia’s heart (even though it was obviously rape, Esther is a minor) and she cried, “That’s terrible…I’m sorry, dear.” Esther stands up for herself and tells Lydia that she’s not sorry, she knows exactly what they do to handmaids. Lydia becomes uncomfortable and attempts to get Esther to rest for the baby, but then Esther brings the hammer down and screams, “GET OFF ME! DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME! GET OUT!” and starts to thrash around in the hospital bed, letting all the built-up rage out.
Lydia arrived at Lawrence’s house to tell him what Putnam did and asks if he agrees that he should be punished. Lawrence asks her where the sin is, and Lydia says, “he violated that girl”. Lawrence notes that Putnam got Esther pregnant the day before she was posted. Lydia continues to view “The Ceremony” as sacred and does not consider it rape. I believe Lawrence is trying to point out that they’re the same, but this point is lost on Lydia.
Luke and June have been placed in adjacent cells, and Luke cannot stop pacing and rambling about their situation. June finally tells him to sit down and stop panicking and wasting energy. He continues getting worked up when June finally stops him. She is very obviously triggered by all this but points out that she has always survived. He eventually apologizes for his outbursts and says he wishes he could’ve been the type of man that came and rescued her from Gilead. Over the course of the five seasons, we have seen Luke’s guilt continue to eat away at him and now he is desperate to act.
Back at the Wheeler house, Alanis and Serena are engaged in one of Serena’s favorite pastimes: flower arranging. Serena brings up Dr. Landers’ advances, and Alanis is clearly a fan of this idea, even though Serena is not. “I may not even choose to get married in the near future at all…it’s not actually Gilead, is it?” This stops Alanis, who says eerily, “You can’t be a single mother…Your baby needs a mother and a father, and that’s more important than your feelings.” Serena has had enough and tries to go outside for a walk, but Alanis stops her and says, “Go to your room.” The June and Serena comparisons continue, as once Serena is upstairs in her room, she begins to break down as she becomes increasingly alarmed by her situation.
Back in their cells, June and Luke start to engage in some adorable, flirty banter to keep the mood up. Their captors approach and rough June up a bit, before entering Luke’s cell. He briefly attempts to escape, but they start throwing him around and violently beating him. June gets him to stop fighting back, but they continue. She repeats over and over to them to stop, and that he isn’t resisting. They drag him, beaten and bruised, back into his cell and leave him to suffer, lying on the ground.
Putnam, Lawrence, and Nick are toasting to Putnam becoming a father again, and it is absolutely sickening to hear him talk about the raping of Esther and how much it’s benefitting him politically within the Gilead power structure. Lawrence is keeping himself composed but Nick looks disgusted. Putnam begins prodding Lawrence for his lack of desire to father children or engage with women at all. Lawrence and Nick appear to be up to something.
Ezra brings Serena downstairs to meet with Mr. Wheeler, which she assumes has to do with her confrontation with Alanis earlier that day. But he’s actually called her in to tell her that “June Osborn was apprehended today, by one of my teams in No Man’s Land. When Serena asks what will happen to her, Mr. Wheeler says he is sending Ezra to deal with June in No Man’s Land, similarly to how she dealt with Fred. Serena wants to go with Ezra; she wants to see June executed, to “bear witness.” Mr. Wheeler surprisingly allows her to go.
June tries to comfort Luke, and even takes on some guilt for not preparing him for how brutal it could be. He stresses that he decided to go, it’s not on June. He’s afraid they’ll be separated again and wants to say goodbye. He thinks they’ll be sent to Gilead to be executed. But June knows in her gut that they will survive it, because they never gave up hope. “And we are gonna do that again.” Luke agrees and they reach their hands out through their cells to hold hands, a call back to June and Moira holding hands at the Red Center in season 1, and June and Rita holding hands in Loaves and Fishes from season 3.
The following morning, Alanis walks Serena out to the car. Alanis is creepily dressed exactly as a Gileadean wife. She’s given Ezra strict instructions to bring Serena straight back if she experiences even the slightest discomfort. Serena is visibly relieved once she’s away from Alanis and inside the car but begins to take deep breaths.
Mr. Wheeler’s men drag June and Luke outside, where they rip them apart. They overhear that whoever wants Luke, doesn’t want June. They scream and fight, but Luke is dragged to an SUV and June is taken to a beat-up old school bus filled with other prisoners. She desperately begins to weep. Her inner monologue returns as she talks about imagining the way we will die when it’s our time, and that it’s never the way we expect. She appears more hopeless than we’ve seen over this entire episode.
Naomi and Warren Putnam are having breakfast at some sort of restaurant, but the other customers cannot stop staring at them. Naomi asks “Why, what did you do?” to which Warren says, “something you will be thanking me for.” Just then, a group of Guardians walk in and drag Warren away, as Naomi follows in confusion. Outside of the restaurant, they throw him on the ground, at the feet of Lawrence and Nick. Nick states, “The high criminal court of Gilead in a special overnight session, found you Commander Putnam guilty of apostacy, sins of the flesh…” and Lawrence adds “the rape of unassigned property.” Warren pushes back and says, “I have a baby on the way” when Nick pulls out a gun and shoots him right in the head as blood splatters everywhere. Lawrence just may be able to pull off his “New Bethlehem” plan after all, with Putnam now permanently out of the way. And I have to commend the director of photography for the stunning overhead shot of Putnam’s body lying on the mosaic concrete of the Gileadean wings, with blood splattered all over.
Nick arrives home to find Rose upset over what he’s done. He tells her that she shouldn’t worry about any of the commanders. But she says, “I can’t stop. I’m worried about what kind of person this makes you.” It seems that Rose does know a little bit about Nick’s past, but not all of it. We as the audience and June don’t even know all the details of who Nick was before season one or what he has done. Nick responds, “It makes me the kind of person who will do whatever it takes to make Gilead a safer place for our child.” There you have it: Rose is pregnant. As she tenderly places her hand over her small bump, she asks, “Are you sure that’s who you did this for?” It’s jarringly interesting to see as Gilead wife so against the violence that is engrained into Gilead’s government.
Over at The Wall, Putnam’s body is being hoisted up as Aunt Lydia and the handmaids watch. It’s been a while since we’ve seen anyone hung up there. Lydia tells them, “Commander Putnam was an evil man. He took advantage of his position; this was justice.” Janine is amongst the handmaids, and says, “I wish I could’ve watched.” Aunt Lydia just takes this in. In past years, she would have struck a handmaid for speaking out of turn. It’s hard to tell if she’s changing the way she treats all handmaids, or if this is just because she has a particular bond with Janine. As they turn to head home, Janine lingers a bit longer than they others to look at Putnam’s dead body, certainly feeling that some small bit of justice was served on this man that raped and lied to her so long ago.
The bus full of prisoners stops and Ezra boards to collect June. She doesn’t know who he is, but when the bus pulls away to reveal Serena standing there, June speaks for all of us and asks, “Are you fucking serious??” Serena and June begin to verbally spar, similarly, to season 3, episode 6 “Household” at the Lincoln Memorial. Serena tells Ezra to remove her bindings because she wants her to be able to pray on her knees. June rolls her eyes as she kneels mustering, “For God’s sake, Serena.”
Ezra aims a gun at June, but Serena stops him saying “Wait, you gotta let me do it.” Who didn’t see this coming? She continues to persuade Ezra, “God has given me a chance for justice.” He eventually let’s her take the gun. As she points it at her, June begins to try to reason with her, but Serena tells her to pray. June agrees: “I pray for our children. I pray that my daughters live a life of peace, a life without all of this hate and violence. Give them a life, give them a happy life. And dear God, may they do better than we did.” It’s heartbreakingly beautiful, and Serena says, “Amen.” Then suddenly turns and shoots to wound Ezra. Serena is clearly experiencing labor pains, and keeps the gun pointed at June while screaming at her to get in the car. Although confused, June complies and jumps into the driver’s seat as Serena sits in the back, always keeping the gun on June. She screams at June to drive, and they take off down a deserted dirt road somewhere near No Man’s Land.
WHOA. What stopped Serena from following through with shooting June? Was her prayer somehow effective, or was it out of self-preservation to keep Ezra from taking her straight back to The Wheelers? Personally, I think both are true. These two are oddly back together, like the episode title suggests. And Serena is obviously in labor; that baby is coming soon. And what will happen to Luke? He was taken away in the SUV, but we have no idea where. And how will Nick’s future play out as he prepares to welcome his second child with his new wife? And what happens to Naomi Putnam, newly widowed, after her husband raped and impregnated a handmaid? So many interesting character pairings have come together this episode, and we are in for one wild ride towards the end of this fifth season.