Oh hello. Checking back into Azkaban, are we? Well keep your wand and your happy thoughts close at hand because this is the best, most disturbing episode yet. We open on Sistah Jude admitting a new patient to Briarcliff, and I am instantly happy because it’s Franka Potente, who has one of those faces you just expect to pull you out of a mine shaft or something. She was dragged to Briarcliff after she stabbed some businessmen in a bar when they were making anti-Semitic jokes.
I don’t know if it’s the German accent, but this all sounds quite reasonable.
When Sistah Jude asks for her story, she merely whistles (any of you sleuths know which meaning-laden song it is this time?).
Meanwhile in his secret laboratory (put the emphasis on the “or” if you want to sound supercool) Dr. Arden has turned over a new leaf and is dedicating himself to the care and rehabilitation of baby birds. Just kidding, he’s injecting Shelley with chemicals until she becomes one of his pet zombie creatures.
“What can I say? It was the ’60s. We were all experimenting with zombies.”
TITLE SEQUENCE OF TERROR! SHIELD YOUR EYES, MY INNOCENTS!
Whew. Now that we’ve got through that, it’s off to the asylum bakery, where the miraculously unsupervised patients toil away, making the hot cross buns that are really the raison d’être of this whole institution. Kit uses his Cake Master time to tell Grace about Dr. Arden’s continued abuse. It would seem the dear old doc has misplaced the chip he found in Kit’s neck, and assumes that it must have crawled back inside him. To look for it, he’s been x-raying Kit without the little ovary protection vest or anything. Oh Kit, yours is a hard lot.
Not so hard as Grace’s though, who relates her own tale of seeing her father and step-mother brutally murdered, and then being framed for it. The story is told in flashbacks, which begins this week’s theme of unreliable narrators.
The logic here is that no killer could wear slippers this fluffy.
Grace’s story sounds plausible enough until, out of the blue, she includes an anecdote about how much she misses riding horseys on the farm. Poor Kit though, as we are about to find out, is the Most Gullible Man On Earth.
In the strongest storyline of the episode, Dr. “Do you even go to this school” Thredson is offering to help free Lana from Sistah Jude’s clutches, as long as she goes through the motions of aversion/conversion therapy to treat her homosexuality. But Lana is like, “thanks but there is no cure for being awesome.” While in the common room she meets up with Franka Potente, who is keeping a little Girl, Interrupted journal about what a nightmare this place is. When she sees Dr. Arden, it’s revealed to be a different sort of diary, as she springs to her feet, accuses him of being a Nazi, and proclaims herself to be Anne Frank.
Well hey there, Anne, I’m Amelia fucking Earhart.
So. Let’s discuss the corner into which the show has now painted itself. Either:
1. You have just written Anne Frank into your show as a mental patient who stabs people in bars.
2. You have written a crazy person whose entire testimony against Dr. Arden is an extended delusion.
I’m honestly not sure which option in worse, but you’re treading on thin ice covering hallowed ground.
At any rate, Anne Franka Potente goes on to tell her story of surviving the war only to marry a soldier and move to New Jersey (which I’m sure made her second-guess the providence of surviving the war).
Meanwhile, Dr. Thredson tells Kit that he can’t in good conscience spare him from the electric chair unless he accepts his Bloodyface guilt (which: continuity issue from last week when Thredson thought Kit was innocent, but it’s Ryan Murphy so whatever). As Anne Franka tells her story, Dr. Thredson tells Kit his.
According to Anne, Dr. Arden was formerly known as Hans Gruber—or something, her accent is too adorably thick to be sure—a sadistic, Mengele-like figure who experimented on the women of Auschwitz.
“Ja, ees videly known that humans could not see colors until ze feefties.”
According to Dr. Thredson, Kit was consumed by societal guilt over his marriage to Alma, causing him to lash out and murder women, destroying their head and skins, the very markers that made his marriage so taboo.
Calling bullshit solely on the grounds that she could kick his ass.
Both stories are told in flashbacks—Anne’s in jerky news reel black and white—and I get the feeling they can’t both be true.
Also in the realm of the subconscious, Lana is forced to rethink Dr. Thredson’s offer when she fantasizes about receiving professional accolades for her exposé of Briarcliff. Embedded in the daydream is the knowledge that if she remains she will become as broken as the other inmates. And I can relate, because if I hear “Dominique” one more fucking time I will go insane myself.
OKAY RYAN MURPHY. YOU WIN. I SURRENDER. IT’S TERRIFYING.
I love that it’s her ego, her ambition, her drive that keep her going through this ordeal. She steels herself for the worst and goes for treatment. Unfortunately, “the worst” is beyond her wildest fears.
Since he is The Most Gullible Man On Earth, Kit starts asking himself if Dr. Thredson’s version of events might actually be accurate. He’s pounding out his feelings in a ball of dough (my girlfriend’s strongest feelings of sympathy this entire episode were for the “poor dough”) when Grace comes to reassure him that if he were really crazy he would never doubt his alien abduction story, and the fact that he’s unsure indicates that he is actually sane. Kit can’t follow this logic, but Grace tells him not to worry his pretty little head about it and they engage in exactly 21 seconds of passionate sex.
There is more crying in baseball than foreplay in Briarcliff.
Naturally, they get caught in the act by one of the guards, who drags them to Sistah Jude’s office. Sister Mary Satan makes a brief appearance to pick a particularly brutal cane for their beating, prompting Jude to say, in a moment of genuine hilarity, “I don’t know what’s gotten into you lately, Sister, but it’s a decided improvement.”
Sistah Jude would like to know if Grace and Kit are “purposely trying to create a murder-baby” so double-whammy for writer Jessica Sharzer, earning her an IMDB search. And GUESS WHAT: homegirl directed the basketball episode on Ye Olde L Worde. I knew I liked her.
Anyway, Sistah Jude thinks the best punishment for their sex is to sterilize them both, an all too historically accurate detail. Mercifully, she is delayed in her delivery of “justice” by the police, who are investigating Dr. Arden. It seems that the prostitute whom he tried to rape blew the whistle on him, which fills me with almost as much vengeful joy as watching Fox News call the election for Obama. While going through his porn collection, she found some Nazi memorabilia, lending credence to Anne’s story. It would also seem to support Kit’s innocence since Dr. Arden, a surgeon, seems a great deal more likely to remove women’s skins than Kit, a mechanic.
And now for the red meat: most of the time, I think of this show as a boggart, frantically shifting into whatever it thinks will scare us most. And we all know that the only way to fight a boggart is to laugh in all of its one thousand faces. This time however, we’ve got an honest-to-god dementor on our hands, in the form of the 1964 medical establishment. I have rarely been so disturbed by a television show, and I mean that as a compliment. I can’t imagine a homophobic person–watching Sarah Paulson’s face as Dr. Thredson makes her vomit while looking at pictures of women, including her own partner—not being horrified. And when Dr. Thredson brings in a male patient and forces Lana to touch his penis while masturbating. Well I’m sure someone out there has words for it but it ain’t me.
Someone get this woman an Emmy.
He’s talking about finding her “root” like he’s Miss Mary and I’m struggling to remember a time when I did not want to kill him. Unlike last week’s sensationalistic rape scene, this moment serves a profound purpose and should make all of us very grateful for how far we’ve come.
When the Monsignor comes for his visit, Sistah Jude brings Anne’s and the prostitute’s allegations to him, which he swiftly and predictably dismisses. He also accuses Sistah Jude of having fallen off the proverbial wagon. I think the show is laying the groundwork for Jude herself to be committed, but in the meantime the Monsignor urges her to “pray on it.” His piety is as false as a splinter from the cross, and he calls Dr. Arden to warn him that his past is rapidly catching up to him. Sistah Jude goes to her Mother Superior, who encourages her to listen to her own inner compass, with a truly fine little feminist speech.
When Grace and Kit are reunited Kit confronts her about her story, and Grace confesses that it was she who ax-murdered her molester father and enabler step-mother. But remarkably, the horsie part was actually true.
Back in the common room, Dr. Thredson apologizes to Lana for his “therapy.” As someone who has undergone bad psychotherapy I know how damaging it is and I don’t forgive Dr. Thredson any more than I do the shrink who set my development back a couple of years. However he does offer her a ridiculously sexy picture of Clea DuVall and promises to set her free within the week.
A lollipop might help too.
In our closing scene, Dr. Arden tries to give Anne Franka Potente the same treatment he did to poor Chloe Sevigny, but I guess he hasn’t seen Run Lola Run, because he is totally unprepared when she pulls a gun on him and shoots him right in the leg. Then she swiftly crosses to the closet, where Shelley is almost fully zombified and begs Anne to kill her.
To close out, this episode was rough on me at least, but I bear a gift, a photograph a little like the one Dr. Thredson gave Lana.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
See you next week.