The Handmaid's Tale -- "Liars" - Episode 311 -- June must rely on an unpredictable Commander Lawrence to execute her plan, but a terrifying return to a place from June’s past puts everything in jeopardy. Serena Joy and Commander Waterford take a clandestine trip. June (Elisabeth Moss), shown. (Photo by: Jasper Savage/Hulu)
Credit: Jasper Savage/Hulu

Things will never be the same after “Liars.” (Good timing since season 4 is officially on the way!) Let’s break down why.

Lawrence chickens out

Commander Lawrence implied he was, at last, ready to team up with June for some major #resistance activity last week, but immediately balks at the opportunity here. After witnessing Eleanor literally point at gun at her husband, in a sort of blind rage over the predicament he’s put them — Eleanor and June, the household, the residents of Gilead as a whole — in, June is able to calm her down and explain that she needs him to make things better. But clearly something clicks in him: He needs to run away.

After meeting with a group of powerful, skeptical Marthas — they come around to June’s plan after admiring and finding comfort in her steely resolve — June learns that Mrs. Lawrence never ate her breakfast. And then she learns no one has seen her or the commander. And then, it becomes clear: They’ve fled. “I’ll end up at Jezebel’s again if I’m lucky,” Sienna the Martha says. But June hatches an even grander plan: Use the plane the powerful Marthas are using for a big shipment — of what, no one is sure — to get 52 kids out of Gilead. Crazy? Let’s see.

Waterford road trip

The time has come for Fred and Serena to make their secret exchange with Tuello and bring Nichole home. The plan, of course, is vague, dangerous, and illegal; but Serena’s desperation is overpowering. When Rita asks her if she’s doing what’s really best for Nichole, Serena can’t even defend herself. She’s operating on pure emotion at this point, and she knows it.

The road trip into the middle of nowhere gives the pair the chance to reconnect, as we’ve seen steadily happen these past few episodes. When they land at their overnight place, Serena launches into a conversation with Fred that reflects all of the pain, history, and love of their marriage at this point. She reflects on when she wrote her first book, then asks him, heartbroken, “Why would you take that away from me?” Fred expresses regret at how Gilead restricted her. (It’s a running theme in this episode: Lawrence also discusses how he didn’t foresee how repressive Gilead would become.) But they find real common ground. Fred wonders whether they should retire in a place like this when they get Nichole back. Serena is moved. And at night, when they’re in bed (separate mattresses!), Serena beckons him over to his.

Lawrence returns

And… Joseph is back. June hears him return to the home. “I had an attack of conscience,” he quips to her, but she’s not buying it. Then he admits the real reason: He can’t get out now. He needs new authorizations. He’s on the Eye’s radar, in other words, and it’s only a matter of time before the hammer comes down. “I’ll try to find you a kind commander,” he says to June, hinting at the kind of dread lurking around the corner. But June isn’t giving up — she’s renewed with purpose. And so she tells him: “You’re taking me to the city.” Specifically? Jezebel’s. They drive over, June all dressed- and made-up, and reach Gilead’s seediest establishment. Lawrence waits in the car. June enters.

The Waterfords Get Caught

An even bigger thing happens later, but in terms of immediate impact on core The Handmaid’s Tale characters, this is perhaps the most seismic moment of the show this season. Tuello meets them at a little stop in the middle of nowhere; he asks them to follow him in his car to a place he knows that’s safe. Blindly, they do. Fred asks Serena if she trusts him. She says yes. But on her face, she’s clearly indicating otherwise; again, all reason has gone out the window here.

And so they drive. And keep driving. And keep driving. The discerning viewer should be able to figure out what’s going on here: Tuello is driving across the border, and taking the Waterfords along with them. There’d been an allusion or two to what happens when people like Fred go into Canada; they’re wanted war criminals, after all. And so, when Tuello finally stops driving and they all get out of the car, he immediately puts his grand plan into motion. He tells Fred he’s under arrest. Suddenly, both he and Serena are ambushed by police officers and separated from one another. Tuello reads the laundry list of charges, beyond war criminal: Kidnapping. Slavery. Rape. Serena watches on in shock as her husband is stuffed into a car and whisked away.

Bloody Revenge

At Jezebels, June immediately takes a seat at the bar and chats up the bartender. She asks, “Are you Billy?” — the man the Marthas were discussing who was helping with their shipment. He barely deflects. “I hear you have access to a cargo plane,” June continues. Then she gets right to the chase: She wants to get 52 kids on it and sneak them out of Gilead. He’s shocked by the proposal, but June’s offer — all of Lawrence’s remarkable art, including a huge Picasso collection — is enough to entice him. But that’s tabled for now.

As June heads out she encounters none other than Commander Winslow. “Ofjoseph,” he immediately recognizes. And he wastes no time. He asks her to follow her into his private room. He makes her get face-down and look away. It’s an agonizing sequence. But June fights back. She kicks him off him before he can do any more. They fight around the room; she tries crawling away, he smashes her face into the floor. But then she finds a ballpoint pen on the floor. She stabs him over and over and over, blood spattering, just trying to keep him at bay. She succeeds. He’s losing steam, and she finds a heavy statue on a nearby desk which she clubs him with, essentially finishing him off.

The final sequence of the episode lyrically captures the cover-up: Marthas — including one from Chicago whom June saved way back when, in that brutal Lawrence test — clean up the hotel site like nothing happened. Lawrence takes June home and, the next morning, she puts her uniform on like any other day. And then he gives her a gun. “They’ll be coming for us,” he says.

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