The Handmaid’s Tale episode 6 recap: ‘A Woman’s Place’


In an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale that explained more about the Republic of Gilead’s relationship with other countries, Serena Joy had more time as well.

As an episode, “A Woman’s Place” does a lot for broadening the scope of The Handmaid’s Tale. That’s something the series has already done, especially with its work surrounding Emily/Ofsteven, but this one goes even further and even gets some international politics involved. 

The episode opens right where the last left off — Offred and Nick, in bed together. But then, we cut to her on the river with the other handmaids, washing blood off of the wall. One handmaid says that “government people” are visiting and will be at the Waterfords’ tonight.

In Serena Joy’s bedroom, Offred learns more. The visitors are the Mexican trade delegation mentioned last episode, and they want to know about life in Gilead.

"Offred: “I’ll try to speak wisely, Mrs. Waterford.”"

Serena Joy gets to have a flashback of her own, one where she and her husband quote Genesis to each other and pray even as it’s quite clear they’re ready to get to the main event. She’s wearing pink and black, and her hair’s in a ponytail, a far cry from her severe looks these days.

A bell rings, and Offred heads downstairs. Her first stop is to stand beside Nick. They exchange the usual greetings, and then he asks after her day and calls her pretty. She jokes that she wore it for him, and he says she shouldn’t.

But they then touch hands, almost lacing them together, about as close as they can get to anything. Commander Waterford interrupts to tell Nick to bring Offred in. The whole room goes silent as she enters, and he introduces her to Ambassador Castillo — a woman wearing pants.

The first question: what’s her real name? Offred doesn’t answer beyond “I don’t use that anymore.” Waterford explains further. The second: “Did you choose to be a Handmaid?” Offred says yes, and Waterford again says extra things.

Next, Serena Joy invites everyone to have some appetizers. The ambassador gets to ask one last question: “Are you happy?” There’s a long pause, and it’s clear everyone is waiting for Offred to “speak wisely.”

"Offred: “I have found happiness, yes.”Ambassador Castillo: “I’m very glad, Offred.”"

As the commanders talk with the ambassadors, we learn that Gilead has gone fully organic, and that new weather patterns have affected Mexico’s harvests. But then, Ambassador Castillo asks “the quiet half of the room” — that is, the wives present — about their thoughts on Gilead.  Waterford’s smile becomes strained, but Serena Joy offers a pretty boilerplate answer.

"Castillo: “‘Never mistake a woman’s meekness for weakness.'”Waterford: “Clever.”Castillo: “Yes. It’s from A Woman’s Place.”Waterford: “My wife’s book.”"

Castillo points out that Gilead now bans women from reading her book and asks Serena Joy how she feels about that. Looking at her husband multiple times as she answers, she says that “Gilead has been blessed in so many ways.” Waterford smiles as he takes a drink.

In a private conversation, though, they argue about the presence of the wives. It turns out that Gilead needs trade with Mexico to save its currency.

We then get another Serena Joy flashback. Fred comes home and talks about what we surmise is a meeting of the commanders prior to everything changing. Although he was up late last night, she convinces him to take her out to the movies. While there, he checks his phone. In three weeks, Gilead will start its takeover.

Nick pays a visit to Offred to summon her for another nighttime meeting with Waterford in his office. But before she gets very far down the hallway, she and Nick exchange some passionate kisses despite her initial warning. She breaks away first, and with just one look back, she goes to play Scrabble.

Waterford continues ranting about the Mexican trade delegation’s failure to understand Gilead, even as Offred arranges her tiles to spell skin. He tells her that it’s time to leave, even though the game is unfinished. But she comes to a stop before the door, and turns back around to apologize and ask to stay.

He gestures for her to come and stand before him, and then he runs his hand over her, up to her lips. She gives him a kiss at his command, but it’s too chaste for his liking. So she does it again, getting her hands involved this time. It isn’t enough. He sends her off to bed. The next thing we see is Offred furiously brushing her teeth, leaving blood in the sink.

Serena Joy walks up and down the line of handmaids, inspecting. Then she speaks to Aunt Lydia.

"Serena Joy: “Please remove the damaged ones.”"

It’s all about optics, as she said earlier. The bruised ones, those missing eyes, and one missing a hand are all called out of the line. That includes Janine, who protests, but she gets a promise of dessert from Aunt Lydia. In walk the remaining handmaids to the banquet.

Alone in a hallway, Serena Joy thinks back to a time where she wasn’t given the chance to talk. After she walks out, another Commander basically says that that sort of thing — a woman doing scholarly work — “won’t happen again.” Back in the present, the doors open for Serena Joy, and she takes her place next to her husband, who doesn’t like that the handmaids walked in late.

Serena Joy then stands to speak, and she bids the handmaids to stand as well as the room applauds for them. Next come the kids, all dressed in white, and all from handmaids. Ambassador Castillo looks delighted and touched, but the handmaids aren’t smiling. During a side conversation, Offred learns what’s really going on: Gilead’s been publicizing its handmaids because it wants to trade them.

In a flashback, Serena Joy oversees the removal of her old clothes and the delivery of her new outfits as a wife. Instead of going out to help Fred, though, she stays home. We’re treated to more shots of Marthas and even Nick disposing of clothes and books, including Serena Joy’s own A Woman’s Place.

Back in the present, she and her husband share a kiss after a compliment. It goes a little further, and she asks him not to stop. They don’t.

A shaken Offred visits Nick, worrying she has said the wrong things. In her frustration, she insists that he doesn’t call her Offred, and then gives him her real name.

"Nick: “It’s nice to meet you, June.”"

The ambassador visits again, this time with a present for Offred in the form of chocolate. But then Offred starts telling her the truth about life as a handmaid and asks for help.

The one problem: the ambassador has no way to help.

"Ambassador Castillo: “There hasn’t been a child born alive in Xipica in six years. My country is dying.”Offred: “My country’s already dead.”"

Waterford walks in then, stopping the conversation there. Offred wipes away her tears, and then Mr. Flores, the assistant to the ambassador, says that Luke is alive and calls her by her name.

Next: 10 times The Handmaid's Tale got way too real

As she holds the pad of paper, the episode ends.