WE MADE IT TO JEZEBELS (HANDMAID'S TALE EP. 8 RECAP)
Under His Eye, sisters. And by his eye, I mean our favorite sex friend, Nick. This week we took a trip down the rabbit hole to Jezebel’s, so fasten on your cottontail and let’s get this “party” started.
We've got our typical two timelines running here. We have Offred’s trip to the sex house and Nick’s backstory. So...great. Another man story. This one is not so hard to swallow because we do spend a lot of time with our girl.
Nick is one of those men we keep hearing about in the news. You know, he's struggling. The fucking mill closed down and he can't hold a job. If only some bullshit artist would come along and promise him a better future: one where everything is in its proper place. Pimps up and hos (Heauxs?) down. He's an angry young man. He punches dudes out in the unemployment office. Luckily for him, his counselor is also involved with the Sons of Jacob, your friendly local he-man woman-haters club. Nick apparently takes him up on the offer to come to a meeting, because the next time we see him he's driving some white men around in a limo and listening to them plot. Wow, wouldn't it have been cool to see a Sons of Jacob meeting? How are they selling this to the ordinary guy? Aside from total employment (dead, burning things, carrying boxes, or fighting) what does this group have to offer to the Joe the Plumbers among us? That question is too hard for the screenwriters to answer. Nick seems like a disaffected youth, a skulky rebel without a cause. There's a group for that, Nicky boy!
Fred Waterford sits in the back of the limo with a fat white guy who is a pig and a skinny white guy who is a prig. They're discussing the ins and outs (I WILL NEVER STOP) of the Handmaid situation. The pig says he doesn't care how it's done. He's angling for a Dr. Strangelove type impregnating scheme (the elites fucking a load of women), while the prig wants to keep it semi-Biblical. “The wives will eat that shit up,” the pig says. Waterford is pretty quiet, although he does come up with “The Ceremony.” Somebody get this devil genius a Clio. Nick skulks and Waterford asks him what he thinks. He's like, keep it clean, bro. Waterford excuses the pig, saying he's coarse but a great military mind. Cool, Nick doesn't say, because he is a skulking mystery.
The next time we see him, he's responding to Rita’s screams and cutting down the previous Offred, who has hung her poor self from the chandelier. Not what Sia meant, I think. Then he's standing next to an official, having just become an Eye, and watching as Commander Pig is dragged into the building in cuffs. Nick informed on Poor Pig for boning the Handmaid. The head dick in charge tells him to keep an Eye on the Waterfords, especially after the loss of the last Handmaid. This guy is a true believer, you can tell, and Devil Fred is on his radar.
Meanwhile, in real time, Offred is boning down on Nick and feeling guilty about Lucky Luke being alive. She voiceovers about how she could say she’s doing this to fuck the patriarchy (YASS QWEEN) but really it feels good and she’s lonely. (SAD TROMBONE QWEEN). So this is a plot point I’ve always struggled with, and I guess we are just supposed to assume Offred is a more sensual woman than, say, I am. She just needs to get that dick! It makes her feel better. Whatever gets you through.
Offred breezes into her room, high on sex fumes, and is surprised by Devil Fred perched on the bed. (I swear I’m not rhyming on purpose.) Oh man, he’s just being extra devilish tonight. He has a surprise planned that takes a lot of time. He’s gotta shave those hairy legs of hers, which is super gross. Sidenote: so, she has to shave her legs once a month for The Ceremony (you know Commander Pig was like: bitches better be shaved). We are to assume that Commanders care more about hairy legs than eyelessness in their sex slaves? OH. OKAY, SHOW, IF YOU INSIST. Maybe I know nothing about men but I do know about leg hair and if you let it grow it becomes soft. Anyway, Devil Fred kneels down and scrapes the hair off of her legs and it is gross. Then he’s like, fix your mug, giving her a little bag of old ass makeup and holding a mirror for her. So, I’m clearly anti-leg shaving but I am pro-mirror holding, from an erotic standpoint. It’s so subservient. Hold that mirror, Commander Devil. Offred gets all gussied up and he gives her a spangled cocktail dress. V. Great Gatsby. She puts on a cloak of Serena Joy’s (out of town, visiting Mommy, who must be a piece of work) and is escorted by Devil Fred and Skulky McSkulkerson.
They breeze through the checkpoints and then Devil Fred tells her she has to put her head down because women are not allowed passed a point. DON’T FALL FOR IT, OFFRED! But she does. He’s like, oh, was that so scary and erotic? (He acts like a total pervert this whole episode.) Nick is casting glances in the rearview. I bet he wishes he had some emo music to listen to. These three sneak into a mysterious building. Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” blares. This is extremely on the nose. Offred is whisked to a land of forbidden female flesh on display. They’ve arrived at Jezebel’s. Offred is dazzled because this 40 50 (!!!!) year old baby boomer song about fucking drugs is thundering and there are tits out. [Time out: that song is 50 fucking years old. That song could be my boss. That song is like fifteen years from retirement.] Anyway, someone called HBO’s CEO of Tits to consult. Like I said, there are tits out. There are ladies in slutty clothes? One has a big dog, which I found perverse. (But my dog would love to come with me to work, so good job, dog.) There is this one skinny, heroin chic gal who legit looks like slutty Louise Belcher:
I can’t find a picture of her but she has a pink hat. And while searching for a picture just now it came to me: PUSSY HAT? IDK BUT MY MIND IS ALMOST BLOWN. Anyway, it’s so debauched there they even have a fat girl. (BTW fellow fat girl speaking). This gal raided the lingerie section of Torrid and she is decked out and entertaining a gentlepig. So, last week, this really great article by Rebecca Bodenheimer on Ravishly talked about the lack of overweight women in this series, tying it to the race blind casting we’ve seen. The article made a big impact on me, so I was heartened, in a way, to see a big woman in this place. But she’s clearly a fetish, and the show goes out of its way to show her three times by my count. It seems to be a bit, look at this!!! Every other woman we see is somewhere between Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, body type wise. Lots and lots of smoky eyed waifs. Some supermodel tall, some not as tall. The lone heavy woman is there for decoration, and to fulfill a fetish for an asshole.
Devil Fred tells Offred to stop gawking and order a drink. I was hoping for a Don Draper Old Fashioned, but she orders a Manhattan and he’s like, good little baby girl. (PUKE). She asks who all these people are. Devil Fred is like, Commanders, cool guys, foreigners. Offred says, I mean the women. He’s like, oh, women aren’t people. They couldn’t assimilate. Some were hos (HEAUXS?) before, but we’ve also got professors and lawyers and journalists and CEOs. “You can have a great conversation with some of them, if that’s what you want,” he says. Then he chuckles because who wants that? He creepily brushes her bare arm with the back of his fingers.
Across the crowded room, Offred spies a familiar face: MOIRA! She’s wearing some beat up looking rabbit ears and chatting up a gentlepig while smoking a cigarette. They make eye contact and Moira gets up, obviously headed to the bathroom. Offred goes to join her. The two embrace, Moira begging for forgiveness for getting on the train. They don’t really have time to talk because the bathroom monitoring Aunt snaps at Moira to get back on the floor. Moira tells Offred to meet her in the dorms later. Offred leaves the bathroom and a gentlepig comes on to her, again, brushing the back of his fingers down her arm. OKAY: I’ve been a human woman for 37 years, and no one has ever run the back of his fingers down my arm. Am I missing something in my life? In Gilead, that is very erotic. Devil Fred comes in and growls at him and he backs off. Then, Devil Fred runs a key down her arm. ARMS, MAN, WHAT IS YOUR DEAL WITH THAT?
They go upstairs and Devil Fred gets red wine drunk and bitches about the target on his back. Offred has learned to pretend to pay attention, and she fluffs his ego. You really do get me,” he says and I puke to death. Earlier, Moira pointed out that Commanders like to bring Handmaids to Jezebel’s to extend their power trip. And it’s clear that’s what Devil Fred is doing here. She asks him why he’s brought her, and he basically says so they can get down loud and proud. Cut to him snoring and Offred sneaking off into the hallway of perversions. Basically, every room is like a room in the Overlook hotel. There’s audible S&M, groaning, and horror of horrors, a room of dudes watching a guy fuck a woman dressed as a Handmaid from behind as she kisses a woman dressed like a Wife. So roleplay mixed with voyeurism and light lesbianism. But it exposes the corruption at the center of this supposedly godly way of life. In the elevator, Offred sees a man licking the arm stump of a woman. She was probably a sexy English professor in another life, de-handed for reading. A woman after my own heart.
Offred finds Moira in the dorms as she takes off her uncomfortable looking boots. Offred asks her how she ended up there. Moira tells her about her escape to a Quaker safehouse, the Undergroud FemaleRoad, and her capture. After she was tortured, she was given the choice: the Colonies or Jezebel’s. She chose Jezebel’s because it’s free booze and drugs, the food is good, and you only have to work at night. “You’ve got a few years before your pussy wears out,” she says. Where would you end up in Gilead? Take my handy quiz! She tells Offred that no help is coming, that no one escapes Gilead. Offred perks up: Lucky Luke escaped! Instead of saying “Oh hell no,” Moira acts like that’s good news. But still, look out for yourself, she says. The two hug and exchange I love yous, and Offred goes back to the sleeping devil.
Nick is so sad and mad. He watches Offred and Devil Fred go to the room and then pow wows with a sassy ass Martha in the kitchen. They exchange booze for drugs and pregnancy tests and hair dye. They clearly have a thing going on. The Martha gives him some information and he gives her basil. She offers him pesto (she was an award winning chef before) and some sex. He says no to both. She’s like, cool, boo. On the car ride back he’s so sad and mad. The next day, Serena Joy comes back from her mother’s. Devil Fred greets her tenderly, and then Nick and Offred break up in the kitchen. He’s mad at her? Or he’s worried that she’ll end up hanging herself like previous Offred? Or he’s disgusted by the whole system? Or who the fuck knows, because he only smoldered and skulked. Offred calls him on his bullshit. She spits some fire. He tries to be intimate with her, sharing his full name and his home state, but she tells him to fuck off.
Offred is walking away, crying, when Serena Joy stops her in the hall. I fully expected her to comment on pregnancy hormones or something, but instead she gives her a music box from her childhood bedroom. There’s even a key. A little blonde ballerina pops up to spin. Cool, Offred says with her face like a 10 year old opening a sweater from Grandma. Offred hides in her room and plays her music box while she scrapes another message in the closet: You are not alone. She’s not going to be a girl in a box. She sits in the closet and looks batshit insane.
Okay. Here’s a question: what did we learn from the Nick flashback? Nothing. What could we have seen during a Moira flashback? A lot. Last week I joked that we were going to get a day at Devil Fred’s job, and we almost got exactly that. We even had the clueless coworker. Moira, and the other women at Jezebel’s seem infinitely more interesting to me. What does the sociology professor think? The lawyers? What do their days look like? What is it like for Moira, a lesbian, to have to not just have sex but seduce men? Instead, we have to take a trip to fucking Michigan with skulky Nick.
I love this show even when I’m mad at it. It is beautiful to look at (although hella dark: I watched during the day and could see almost nothing) and wonderfully acted. The source material is killer. Jezebel’s is one of my favorite episodes in the book. But! I achingly want more. I want Moira’s story. I want Hannah. GIVE IT TO ME, SHOW.