‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Episode Recap: Fans Finally Get Janine’s Backstory

Season 4 episode 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale, titled “Milk,” premiered on Hulu on May 5. The new episode of The Handmaid’s Tale picks up immediately after the shocking ending of the third episode of the season, “The Crossing,” and provides fans of the show with a change in scenery.

[Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for season 4 episode 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale.]

Elisabeth Moss as June and Madeline Brewer as Janine in season 4 of 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Elisabeth Moss and Madeline Brewer in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Hulu

June and Janine travel to Chicago in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

At the start of “Milk,” June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) and Janine Lindo (Madeline Brewer) sit on the side of railroad tracks as they break out of their handcuffs.

Janine frantically tells June they should go back to check and see if Alma (Nina Kiri), Brianna (Bahia Watson), and the other Handmaids are still alive, but June declares they are dead. The two briefly mourn their friends, and June insists they continue on their journey.

At nightfall, they secretly board a train by hiding in a refrigerator car carrying milk. June figures out how to drain the car. As they huddle together in the cold, the two argue and Janine angrily blames June for Alma and Brianna’s deaths.

“This is stupid and dangerous! We’re going to the front of a war in a refrigerator!” Janine yells at June. “I wouldn’t have told them where we were. You know that’s why they’re dead.”

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Serena tries to manipulate Rita

In Canada, Moira Strand (Samira Wiley) tells Rita Blue (Amanda Brugel) that Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) has requested to see her. Because Rita has already told authorities about the Waterfords’ treatment of her in Gilead, she fears that Serena is angry with her.

Rita decides to visit Serena anyway, and is surprised to be greeted warmly by her former captor. Serena hands Rita a sonogram photo and reveals she is expecting a son.

Rita seems excited at this news, and Serena shares that she hopes Rita will help her raise the baby because she has not told Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) about the pregnancy.

After her visit, Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger) brings Rita “interview prep materials” from Serena’s defense attorney. Mark tells Rita that Serena hopes Rita will corroborate her claims that Fred is to blame for any decisions she made in Gilead.

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When Mark tells Rita that Serena thinks she shares a bond with her, Rita reminds him that in Gilead she was Fred and Serena’s property. Realizing that Serena is still attempting to control her, Rita decides to pay a visit to Fred.

She reminds Fred that the two are not friends and gives him the sonogram photo that Serena gave her.

“You deal with your family. It’s not my job anymore,” Rita tells him.

Fans of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ get Janine’s backstory

Janine has always been a beloved character in The Handmaid’s Tale, and after multiple seasons fans finally see Janine’s life before Gilead. As June and Janine travel toward Chicago, scenes of Janine’s flashback are interspersed with the present day.

At the start of the flashback, Janine skips a shift as a waitress to visit an abortion clinic. While there, she learns the clinic does not actually perform abortions and she is guilted into trying to keep the baby.

Viewers then see Janine’s life at home in her small apartment with her young son, Caleb. She visits another doctor, and this scene demonstrates how Gilead’s ideals slowly took over society.

Janine explains that she cannot afford a second child, and the doctor tells her that by law she is required to discourage Janine from getting an abortion.

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The doctor then explains that the risks she was legally required to mention are made up to try and scare women from getting abortions, and she gives Janine pills for a medication abortion.

Janine and June make it to Chicago in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

When the train is stopped by rebel soldiers, June and Janine convince the rebels to take them in. The two are driven into Chicago, and witness how hard it has been for U.S. citizens trying to survive in the war-torn city.

In order to earn their place at the camp, June and Janine are told they must continue being sex slaves. June realizes the group of soldiers that found them are not Mayday and she insists that she and Janine leave after they change out of their Handmaids’ uniforms.

Seeing how upset June is, Janine hooks up with one of the soldiers in exchange for food and board. June apologizes to Janine for her behavior, and the two sit in silence.

New episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale premiere every Wednesday on Hulu.