The Handmaid’s Tale has continued its third season at its weird and awkward pace. June (Elisabeth Moss) continues to do just enough rebelling to raise suspicions in Gilead, but not enough for it to make a major difference or for anyone to punish her for it. The latest episode centered around one long-awaited meeting and its consequences… but it was the other surprise reunion that ended up being more impactful.
June was the “Unknown Caller” that the episode title referred to, and she finally got to talk to Luke (O. T. Fagbenle) again. For the first time since the pair were separated during Gilead’s takeover, they got to hear each other’s voices. However, it was under duress. Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) coerced June into calling her husband to arrange a meeting with Nichole in Canada, after it was discovered that Luke was taking care of her.
Speaking of which: Why June wasn’t immediately taken into custody afterward by the Eyes that witnessed all this is anyone’s guess. The fact that Luke has the baby is more than enough proof for Gilead that June helped Nichole escape, or was at least complicit. The Waterfords may have power, but no one is supposed to be safe in Gilead. The Eyes are there to keep an eye on everyone. Including them.
But the phone call worked. Watching Serena and Luke’s encounter at the airport was rough and unpleasant, while also giving us a reminder that Canada’s offer to protect Serena still stands. But the reunion that mattered more was the one between June and Luke. It was heartbreaking to watch Luke beg and plead to make sure June was all right, as she was forced to keep her emotional distance. But she did bargain with Serena for something in exchange for her help: An audio message smuggled to Luke.
The message was beautiful, but even more heartbreaking. June told Luke that Nichole’s real name was Holly, and that she was “born out of love” with Nick. This is partially comforting—it proves that Nichole’s not a biological child of the Waterford, but it also shows that June has been able to find some sense of happiness in her horrific situation. Of course, the fact that June has fallen for another man couldn’t have been easy for Luke to hear, and Fagbenle acted that scene wonderfully.
The episode ended with Serena, vulnerable after her meeting with Nichole/Holly and with a desire to find a sense of completeness. She agrees to petition the Canadian government to return Nichole to Gilead and June is forced to participate in the Waterfords’ televised plea, her eyes burning with rage. Things were supposed to be different now, but Gilead’s pull is strong. No one is safe, even if they’re free.