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Recap / The Handmaids Tale S 3 E 12 Sacrifice

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The Commanders plan to retaliate against Canada for the capture of the Waterfords. Commander Winslow is still missing and presumed apprehended by the Canadian government along with Fred and Serena. Fred finally realizes that Serena was in on his entrapment and has an uncomfortable confrontation with Luke. Serena tries in vain to bond with Baby Nichole. Eleanor's emotional breakdown almost ruins all of June's plans. Commander Lawrence tries to use the sudden conflict with Canada to get his privileges restored. June has to make a heartbreaking choice that may be detrimental to her mission to smuggle the children out of Gilead.



  • Call-Back: Billy communicates his intention to help June by sending him muffins, echoing the previous communication method established two episodes ago.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Averted. While Commander Winslow's "disappearance" and Fred's capture are separate events, the other Commanders do not think this is the case and assume that the American Agents working with the Canadians have also captured High Commander Winslow.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In countering ideas to shut the Canadian border down, Lawrence makes a statement that closing the border would have a reciprocal, devastating effect on Gilead. This means that, despite Gilead's status, Canada is still dependant on them economically for Trade. Depending on how you see it during present day events, it either represents Canada's tolerance towards the American Administration in power during the time this season was aired, or a preference of Canadian Politicians to continue trade with China despite the latter's poor record on Human Rights.
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  • Driven to Suicide: Eleanor finally snaps and overdoses on her sleeping medication.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: When visiting the Canadian detention Center and told to put the stroller in the metal detector, Moira snarks that baby Nichole might be an assassin. Luke tells her not to joke around
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Fred realizes Serena betrayed him to the Americans and almost strangles her in return.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Commanders acquiesce to Commander Lawrence demanding that the border be kept open after Eleanor dies, saying that it is hard to go against a grieving Commander.
  • Gilded Cage: June is positively giddy at the thought of Fred and Serena being arrested in Canada and locked up in orange jumpsuits. Cut to said prison, and they're both dressed in their Sunday best, with "cells" that could be straight out of a Hilton suite.
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  • He Who Fights Monsters: This episode has June do the single most reprehensible thing she has ever done, allowing Eleanor to overdose on barbiturates in order to keep her from endangering her plan.
  • Internal Reveal: Commander Lawrence realizes June may have been involved in Eleanor’s death when they exchange glances at the funeral.
    • Moira (who is taking care of Nichole/Holly) meets with Serena and reveals herself as June's friend and also reveals that she was raped by Fred while she was a Jezebel's
    • Fred finally catches up with the program and realizes that Serena helped orchestrate their capture.
  • It's All About Me: As Fred harshly notes, Serena’s sudden change of heart isn't born out of some noble intent to atone for her past deeds, but because she has grown weary of living under the oppressive regime she herself helped create and now wants out.
    • This is also extended to June. She would rather preserve her plans to get the children out rather than risk them for saving Eleanor's life.
  • Jerk Ass Has A Point: Fred is right; Gilead did change June, and not for the better.
  • Kick the Dog: When Serena confesses her role in Fred's arrest, Fred hisses that he pities whoever becomes Serena's Child. This is especially harsh when you remember that Serena's gunshot wound effectively rendered her sterile (unless Mark Tuello was correct regarding Uterine Reconstruction).
  • Loose Lips: Eleanor nearly gives up the whole child-smuggling plot to Mrs. Winslow and Naomi Putnam.
  • Never Found the Body: Because the Marthas in the previous episode had incinerated Commander Winslow's body, Gilead assumes he is simply missing and the likely culprits are American agents working with the Canadians who have already captured Commander Waterford.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Serena has one when she is introduced to Moira who promptly reveals herself as June's friend.
    • Fred has one when Mark tells him that Luke has come to pay him a visit.
  • Only Sane Man: Apparently, Gilead wants to send the Canadians a message by way of an invasion. Lawrence rightly points out that once you're in a war, it's very hard to get out. Not only that, Lawrence knows that closing the border with Gilead would only hurt Gilead more in the long run given that they are still dependant on trade with the Canadians.
  • Precision F-Strike: Moira directs this at Mark Tuello when he tries to get her to stop her rant against Serena.
  • Reality Ensues: Serena must face the fact that defecting from Gilead will not immediately result in the rest of the world welcoming her back with open arms and that she will not be allowed to proclaim herself as Nichole/Holly's mother, legally or otherwise.
    • Gilead doesn't take too kindly to the Canadians allowing American Loyalists to arrest a Commander on Canadian soil. On the flipside, Commander Lawrence points out to the other Commanders that while it is easy to start a retaliatory conflict, it is a lot harder to get out of one.
  • “The Reason You Suck” Speech: Moira tears Serena a new one when they meet in the Canadian detention center. Moira ends her rant with this line:
    "You are the gender traitor."
  • Relative Button: Fred presses this on Luke when the former mentions how he has "changed" June and not for the better. While this episode shows that Fred may well be right, Luke is incensed and promptly punches Fred.
  • The Reveal:
    • Moira's last name is Strand.
    • Part of the deal that Serena had made with the Americans involves visitation with Nichole/Holly. How much visitation she will get or whether she can pursue custody is yet to be revealed.
    • Canada is still economically dependant on trade with Gilead, with any proposed closure of the border seen as calamitous as mentioned by Commander Lawrence. It is likely the reason why the Waterfords were allowed an audience during the Season 2's "Smart Power".
  • Secret Keeper: Averted. Aside from Eleanor's Loose Lips moment earlier, June nearly snaps her in half after she tries to leave the house to take children with her. This later drives June's decision to not help the overdosing Eleanor because of this liability.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Poor Eleanor, the only Commander’s Wife who was a decent human being.
  • Warhawk: Commander Matthew Calhoun, the one who advocated the execution of the resistance women captured in the newly conquered territories, now advocates a military attack on Canada in response to Waterford's arrest.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: June lets Eleanor die from an overdose of sleeping pills so that her erratic behavior won't compromise her plans to smuggle the children out of Gilead.

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