The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, Episode 4 recap: Milk

The Handmaid's Tale -- "Unknown Caller" - Episode 305 -- June and Serena grapple with the revelation that Luke is caring for Nichole in Canada, leading to an incident that will have far-reaching ramifications. Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), shown. (Photo by: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)
The Handmaid's Tale -- "Unknown Caller" - Episode 305 -- June and Serena grapple with the revelation that Luke is caring for Nichole in Canada, leading to an incident that will have far-reaching ramifications. Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), shown. (Photo by: Sophie Giraud/Hulu) /

The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Season 4 returns this week after a three-episode premiere last week filled with tragedy, triumph, and neverending roadblocks. It didn’t take long for the series to return to its regularly scheduled doom and disaster, and this week’s episode, “Milk”, is no different.

There was a momentary whiff of freedom during last week’s premiere when the Handmaids disguised themselves as Marthas and lived on a farm. They were working under a very young Wife by the name of Esther (McKenna Grace) but were eventually captured after a series of events involving June (Elisabeth Moss).

While on their way to a breeding colony, June and the other Handmaids make a run for it but unfortunately, not all of them make it past an oncoming train. Janine (Madeline Brewer) and June are the only ones to make it onto the other side before getting caught once again.

It’s heartbreaking to see the group split (and even some of them die in the process), but this week’s episode gives Janine a much strong backstory and fleshes out her character more than ever before. With just one another to rely on, June and Janine traverse the next set of obstacles as they try to find a safe place.

Now, let’s discuss what happened in this week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, and where things will go from here!

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, Episode 4 recap: Rita deals with Waterford drama

Back in Canada, Rita (Amanda Brugel) can’t seem to shake off the Waterfords, no matter how much she tries. While speaking to Moira (Samira Wiley) about records of her sister and nephew (which she hasn’t been able to locate), Rita learns that Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) wants to see her.

Rita is under the impression that Serena is pissed about her talking to the court about the Waterfords. But even with the underlying fear, there seems to be a tinge of sympathy in Rita’s eye for Serena. Whether this is a mild case of Stockholm Syndrome or just basic human decency, I can’t say. But it’s definitely jarring to see anyone sympathize with the Waterfords, even if it’s just a little bit.

Rita agrees to meet Serena, and when she does, she’s greeted with a lot of enthusiasm and love. But Rita continues to remain formal and goes right back to the days of Gilead where she was considered nothing but an object to own.

Serena doesn’t wait long to reveal that she’s pregnant with a boy, and is quick to thank Gilead and God for this miracle. She doesn’t, however, intend on telling Fred (Joseph Fiennes) because she’s walking away from that marriage. Instead, she just wants Rita to help her take care of the baby and tries to appeal to her by giving her a picture of the sonogram.

Rita seems genuinely happy for her, almost too happy, making me feel uncomfortable as to her kindness towards Serena. It’s almost as if this dynamic is more comfortable for her than the life she’s currently leading in Canada.

A bit later in the episode, Rita learns that Serena’s lawyers are hopeful and pretty much assuming Rita will come to Serena’s defense against Fred. Rita seems to be a bit conflicted over the whole assumption, but it’s as if suddenly she realizes what is going on.

She’s no longer anyone’s property, and she doesn’t owe the Waterfords a single thing. And with that, she pays Fred a visit and is way more reserved and cold towards him, although she does call him “sir”. Rita is turned off by the fact that Fred refers to her as a friend, and does something we weren’t expecting her to do.

Instead of aiding Serena, she’s quick to show Fred the sonogram and reveal that Serena is indeed pregnant. And as a parting gift, she tells Fred to take care of his own life, because she’s done with it and them.

Mic drop.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, Episode 4 recap: A glimpse into Janine’s past

This episode is very crucial to understanding Janine and who she was in the past. In fact, we learn more about her than we have before. A flashback to Janine’s past reveals that she worked at Denny’s and is pregnant.

However, she’s hoping to have an abortion as she already has one kid, and can barely afford to think about another. She arrives at a medical clinic where the volunteer is a bit too Gilead for my taste. She immediately resorts to belittling Janine and stating nonsensical things about abortion, in the hopes that Janine will change her mind.

Janine leaves the clinic confused and frustrated but takes home the pregnancy brochure she was given. Her contemplation is broken by the sound of her son, Caleb, running up to her. She truly does seem like a great mother, but as she explains once again to the second doctor she visits, she can’t afford to take care of another child.

Luckily, this doctor is way more empathetic and understanding of Janine’s needs. She even comforts her by saying that wherever she went before is known as a “crisis pregnancy center”, where women are lied to and forced to keep their unwanted pregnancies. In any case, Janine is given abortion pills and sent on her way with instructions on what comes next.

With this flashback, we really learn about Janine and why she is the way she is in the present day. Even though she wanted the abortion, it certainly took a toll on her. And that sadness and regret likely stayed with her during her time in Gilead and explains a lot of her erratic behavior we’ve seen throughout the present day.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, Episode 4 recap: June and Janine’s escape

After barely making a run for it, Janine and June find themselves looking for a safe place to hide. Janine thinks they should hide in Boston, while June thinks they should find Mayday and fight the cause alongside them.

They eventually decide to get on a train headed to Chicago where June believes the resistance to be fighting. Unfortunately for them, the train car they choose to get into is a refrigerator of cold milk. At first, they struggle to keep afloat until June figures out how to drain the car of the milk.

While trying to stay alive from the hypothermia, Janine gets aggressive with June, demanding to know what her plan is. She doesn’t want to be lied to and she’s tired of it whatever June has been hiding. Furthermore, she’s convinced that they didn’t die because God only wanted the nice ones.

The conversation shifts to Janine asking June point-blank if she ratted out their location. June tries to say that she did it because of Hannah, but Janine won’t have it. She feels she wouldn’t have done the same thing if she was in June’s shoes, but I’d say that’s rather difficult to know for sure.

Following their argument, the train comes to a screeching halt and is attacked by someone from the outside. June assumes the attackers to be a part of Mayday and the resistance and pleads for them to take her and Janine to safety.

After arriving at the base, they speak with the leader, Steven (Omar Maskati) who seems to be disgusted with Gilead’s practices, but doesn’t act any differently himself. He tells June and Janine that they can only get shelter, food, and clothes if one of them sexually pleases him. Seriously, dude? Not cool.

June volunteers for the job because she wants Janine away from the mess but it’s all rather disheartening and disgusting. This was supposed to be a moment of triumph for the girls but instead, they find themselves in an all too familiar situation. Perhaps it’s not just Gilead that harbors horrible and disgusting notions.

Rather than doing Steven’s gross bidding, June changes her mind once she realizes this group is not part of Mayday. They don’t even know what Mayday is. Instead, she gets up and decides that she and Janine are going to leave. But while she’s changing her clothes, Janine ends up doing what Steven asked of them.

In exchange, she gets a loaf of bread to eat and a guarantee that they have a place to stay. June feels horrible for what had to happen, but Janine takes it in stride. She’s doing what she has to survive, even if it means life hasn’t changed much since Gilead.

Seeing Janine be so courageous may be just the break June needs. She can take a step back from the leading, and let someone do it for a change. And seeing as how Janine stepped up to the plate when she didn’t have to, I’d say they’re going to be alright. Well, eventually anyway.

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When will June kick some major Gilead butt?

Did you enjoy this week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4? Tell us in the comments below!