The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 episode 5, titled “Unknown Caller,” picks up where the last episode left off – June is relieved to see her daughter Nichole/Holly made it to Canada and is safe with Luke. She reminiscences about the night she and Luke conceived Hannah, and considers the possibility that she may never see or hold Luke again. (Obviously spoilers ahead, so turn back if you’re not caught up!)
“If I thought I would never touch him again, never have him, I would die,” she narrates over a flashback of the two dancing together in a club. “But nobody dies from lack of sex. It’s lack of love we die from.”
After June has a somewhat annoying interaction with her walking partner Ofmatthew, the scene cuts to an awkward interaction between Joseph Lawrence and his wife, as the Commander asks if she did something different with her hair. Once the two are alone, June asks Commander Lawrence if her husband was safe, to which he replies “none of us are safe.”
After a short scene where Fred Waterford allows Serena to join him in a meeting of other powerful Gilead commanders who are discussing “their” kidnapped daughter, Serena tells Fred that she just wants everything to be over with and forgotten, which apparently sparks a new plan between the Waterfords, who come to June’s new posting and ask to speak with her.
June walks downstairs to meet with Fred and Serena, who ask her to call Luke and set up a meeting so that they could say goodbye to Nichole. At first June protests, until Serena asks to speak to her alone, and Serena agrees to “owe” June something in return if she calls Luke.
The scene with June calling Luke is pretty heartbreaking, especially from the point-of-view of Luke, who is sobbing in the rain (considering he probably hoped she was calling him to tell him she escaped and was in Canada). June only has two minutes to speak with him, and has to convince him to meet the Waterfords at the Toronto airport so they could see Nichole for one last time. He grudgingly agrees, but only allows Serena to come.
After a depressing scene with June alone in her bedroom contemplating what she just did, and Luke telling Moira that “June sounded like June,” the scene cuts to June speaking with Commander Lawrence’s wife, who tells her how Joseph used to make her mixtapes when they were in college, and that she misses the man he used to be. June tries to reassure the poor woman that her husband might still have a sliver of hope left in him, since he helped her daughter and Emily escape, before she heads to the basement to listen to some of Commander Lawrence’s mixtapes.
As Serena gets ready to head to Canada, Rita hands her a small package that was delivered the night before, addressed to Luke. Serena also has a small gift of her own for baby Nichole that she hopes Luke will pass on to her.
The next fifteen minutes of the episode revolve around Serena’s meeting with Luke in Canada. When she arrives in Toronto, she has a surprise visitor who greets her as she disembarks the plane – Mark Tuello, the same man who she spoke to during the intense season 2 episode titled “Smart Power,” and who offered to help Serena escape Gilead and start a new life. He tells her she has to change clothes before she can meet Luke, because he wants to meet in a more public area and not draw attention to their meeting (because her sexist blue outfit might not sit well with the other Canadians).
Their meeting does not start off well. Serena says “God bless you” when she meets Luke, who responds “f–k you,” and tells her he is only meeting with her because June asked him to. They have a tense exchange about Nichole’s eating habits before the conversations quickly turns ugly; Luke asks her what she wants out of the meeting, and Serena replies “to see my daughter,” to which Luke tells her that she isn’t her daughter. Serena asks him to explain to Nichole that it isn’t about biology, and that she loves her regardless of her parentage, but Luke tells her that she will never be old enough to understand how she was brought into the world (as he is still under the impression that Fred is the father of Nichole).
The conversation takes a weird turn at this point, while Serena explains that she helped June help Nichole escape, and Luke apparently believes her immediately, despite all of the torture, abuse and rape that Serena has subjected June to (even if Luke doesn’t know the full extent of June’s experiences with the Waterfords, he gets the gist). He offers to let her hold Nichole before she leaves, and at some point Serena must have passed on the package (that Rita delivered) to Luke.
After a tearful goodbye, Serena can be seen boarding the plane back to Gilead, and a strategically angled camera shot shows a note in her purse that says “if you need me,” next to a cell phone. It’s unclear if this was a message from Luke to June, or from Mark Tuello to Serena, who once again offered to help her escape Gilead if she so chose. Luke had told Serena that he didn’t want her to pass on a message, but he could have changed his mind before she left and given her the cell phone. We will likely find out over the next few episodes who the phone and note is from.
After Serena arrives back in Gilead, June is speaking with Ofmatthew, who tells her she is pregnant once again (for the fourth time). Ofmatthew looks genuinely perturbed by the news of her own pregnancy, despite constantly telling June she should feel blessed for being given the opportunity to basically be used as breeding stock. As the two are speaking, a group of guards come in to the store and force June to follow them to the black van of doom.
As viewers are scrambling to figure out what’s going on and if June is about to be punished for helping Nichole escape (since it’s pretty obvious at this point that she wasn’t kidnapped, considering the baby ended up with June’s husband), the scene cuts to Luke, who finally opened the package Serena delivered to him. It’s a tape, with June’s voice recorded over the song.
She apologizes to him for how short she was on the phone, and how hard it must have been for him to meet Serena. She tells him Nichole’s real name, and how she was really conceived – “out of love,” she says.
“I had to build a life here,” she tells him. “And you should too. You deserve a life, a full life Luke. You deserve love, and you’ll always have mine. I understand if you maybe need more of that,” she cries into the recorder.
“I need you to know that Nichole, she was born out of love,” she continues, sobbing. “Her real name is Holly, and her father’s a driver named Nick. You met him. He helped me to survive. I need to believe that you can forgive me. I’m not the woman you remember. She is part of me, but I’m doing what I need to to survive. And you should too. You have to. You have to for Hannah. This is all for her. This is all for her. I promise I am trying to get to her. I love you.”
After the emotional tape scene (let’s give it up for Luke who killed every one of his scenes this episode), we finally cut back to what’s happening with June, who is met by Aunt Lydia, which is never a good sign. Aunt Lydia has her change into a “fancier” Handmaid’s outfit, and walk out onto a set/stage, where Serena and Fred are seated on a couch. As June desperately tries to get Serena’s attention to ask her what’s going on, Aunt Lydia warns her not to be disruptive or she will face consequences.
Suddenly, a bunch of lights flash on and the cameras start rolling, and Fred starts to beg the international community to send “their” child back to them, while claiming Emily is a deranged lunatic who stole their baby.
“We are a family in mourning,” Fred tells the cameras while Serena sits next to him and June is forced to stand beside them with her eyes downcast. “A family devastated by loss, desperate for help and answers. And we make this request to the Canadian government in peace – our beloved baby daughter Nichole Waterford was kidnapped by a dangerous fugitive fleeing our country. Nichole belongs in Gilead. We miss her dearly and we just want her back. We expect the government’s full cooperation and our daughter is an innocent victim … ” the rest of his speech is drowned out by the background music as the cameras slowly zoom in on June’s face, who looks murderous.
So what’s going to happen to Luke now that Fred has gone public about his daughter’s “kidnapping?” Will the Canadian government comply with Gilead and Fred’s request to return their daughter? Or question how/why Luke has Nichole to begin with? We don’t believe that the Canadian government is going to just up and hand Nichole back to Fred, but we expect there will be some fallout from Fred’s little publicity stunt.
Tune in next Wednesday at 12 a.m. ET to catch the newest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, only on Hulu.