Previously on American Horror Story, Dr. Thredson promised to free Lana from Briarcliff, but only if she touched a boy’s “tumescence,” Grace and Kit got caught having speed-sex and Sistah Jude threatened to spay/neuter them both, and a lady claiming to be Anne Frank showed up to accuse Dr. Arden of being a Nazi. At first I didn’t believe her but then she shot him in the leg so now I’m singing a different tune. And it goes like this:
THEORY: Maybe if I play ’90s pop over the title sequence it will make my stomach feel better.
This week Sistah Jude has shed her nun’s habit in order to meet with “Mr. Goodman,” a raspy-voiced Nazi-hunter who tells her to be on the lookout for a distinctive SS tattoo on Dr. Arden’s chest, should the opportunity ever arise to see him topless. And no offense, James Cromwell, but I pray we can prove the Nazi thing without ever having to see your body, which I imagine is so pale that it actually emanates light.
Or maybe we can bypass the whole investigation, since Anne Frank has a gun to Arden’s head, but alas Frank The Guard stops her and takes us to the title sequence.
UPDATE: The ’90s pop experiment has failed. I think I just ruined “Genie in a Bottle.”
When we get back to the action, Sistah Jude is questioning Anne about what she saw in Dr. Arden’s operating theatre—which was designed by the same architect who did the execution room in the Department of Mysteries—and Anne tells her about finding a legless monster (you and I know her as poor Shelley). But by the time Jude can investigate herself, zombie Shelley is already gone.
And then who should show up but a man claiming to be Anne Frank’s husband, except in his version of events, her name is Charlotte, a troubled young woman who became obsessed with the Holocaust in a fit of postpartum depression. And I mean, he’s got his own flashbacks and everything to prove it, but they’re shot in creepy consumer-grade video and there’s a musical saw playing over them so I don’t know if they’re any more trustworthy than Anne/Charlotte’s own black and white recollections.
Do we trust “Reverse Schindler’s List” or “VHS recording of Days of Our Lives?”
Why don’t we just assume it’s some space alien mischief and move on?
When Dr. Thredson—whom Sistah Jude, to my delight, refers to as “Dr. Buttinsky”—hears of her plan to sterilize Grace and Kit, he is incensed, and something in his tone makes me think he has more than an ethical interest in the matter. He needn’t fret though, since Sister Mary Eunice makes an executive decision to spare Kit from the knife, which I think has something to do with the alien chip that has apparently found its way back inside him. Having no chip, Grace is not so lucky, and is set to be forcibly sterilized tomorrow. Naturally, Grace is none too thrilled about these developments, but there may be hope for her yet, when a creature with long, dangly fingers comes into her cell, perhaps to give her a chip of her very own. While abducted, she runs into the remarkably still-alive Alma, who seems to have been impregnated with an alien baby because that was the slip of paper the writers pulled out of the hat this week.
“Yeah I mean, first I was skinned alive and now I’m pregnant in a Mac commercial. It’s whatever, I guess.”
When Dr. Thredson reappears, he has Kit record a confession for the Bloodyface killings because of, like, doctor reasons.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Most Gullible Man on Earth.”
When Dr. Arden returns from having his leg mended, it is with Lucius Malfoy’s wand-cane and a major grudge against Sistah Jude. He threatens to call the Monsignor and have Sistah Jude sacked for her negligence. Apparently the director didn’t think this confrontation was interesting enough, because he keeps cutting back to this shot of the fireplace.
“Why don’t we all just have some s’mores or something?”
Back in his office, Dr. Arden is joined by Sister Eunice, who I wish we saw more of this week. She is the only villain I really enjoy, hatching all her evil little schemes with a joyful song in her heart. She is the Mary Poppins of evil. This week, she has a little back-tracking to do, and must apologize for coming onto Arden two weeks ago. Her agenda has changed from sexually shaming him to offering support for his continued monster experiments. This makes perfect sense because Satan has her hands in a lot of pies, like any good entrepreneur. I think it’s a safe bet she moonlights as a record producer and we have her to thank for “Dominique.” As a gesture of good faith, she dragged legless Shelley monster from Dr. Arden’s office into the forest, where they both assume she will rot helplessly. Arden and Satan share a chuckle at her expense and toast to their future successes.
They have both made a grave error though, which is: never underestimate what a nymphomaniac can accomplish on her knees. Shelley has managed to crawl all the way to a schoolyard, seeking help. Of course when the children find her, they see not a victim but a monster, in a scene that powerfully evokes one of the original horror stories, Frankenstein.
Remember when her biggest problem was her haircut?
Also being misunderstood is Anne/Charlotte who returns to Briarcliff to receive a lobotomy, at the request of her “husband.” Sistah Jude flips a coin, which lands on “stand up for vulnerable patients” instead of “torture and sterilize” so she tries to prevent the lobotomy, but it is to no avail. She is furiously praying for justice when Frank the guard comes in to tell her Dr. Thredson has quit and Lana Winters has disappeared. Since that is about on par with the rest of her day, Sistah Jude calls for a spotlight and launches into her ballad. What follows is a tale of a wounded squirrel that she tried and failed to nurse back to health as a child. I can pretty much guarantee that 18 year-old girls will be using it as an audition monologue for generations to come. Frank The Guard graciously sits through this and then offers Jude some sage insight.
“I certainly hope you aren’t blaming yourself. Men are never going to accept a woman taking charge, especially a woman as strong as you are. In my opinion, you never really had a chance.” It’s an old Shakespearean trick—having the “fool” suddenly burst out with a profound bit of wisdom—and it’s a piece of writing worthy of a Buffy alum like Tim Minear. Having finally passed her “fuck it” threshold, Sistah Jude ditches the habit for some “ravish me red” lipstick and goes out to get drunk and laid.
Oh, and in case you ever wondered what a lobotomizer sounds like while going through a brain, that happens too.
Meanwhile, Dr. Thredson has finally smuggled Lana out of Briarcliff and into his bachelor pad. So. At this point I must address the theory put forth by many of you in the comments last week (your comments, by the way, are my favorite part of this whole business): that Dr. Thredson is Bloodyface. I had a similar notion but was deeply hoping to be wrong, since the “evil psychiatrist” is one of the most threadbare tropes in all of fiction. I was holding out hope until I saw his apartment, which has that freakish tidiness that only the dwelling of a serial killer can achieve. The lampshade made of human skin and the skullcap candy dish were really just overkill after that.
Lana finally catches on that maybe the man who made her vomit and molested her by proxy isn’t her friend after all, and attempts to make a break for it. She winds up in his Bloodyface accoutrements closet and instead of, I don’t know, STABBING HIM THROUGH THE HEART like good old Anne Frank would have done, she attempts to make a joke about the whole situation. Thredson pushes a button and she falls through a trap door into his actual murder room in the basement.
The only moment of this episode that qualifies as a “twist.”
Need a break from something horrible happening? How about…something else horrible happening? In the Briarcliff common room, Kit finds Alma bleeding from between her legs, which he thinks is the result of her sterilization and I think is the result of her alien abduction. Before he can do anything about it, he is dragged away by the police for all those murders that he confessed to on tape. As he leaves, Grace emerges from her stupor long enough to tell him that his beloved Alma is alive.
Back in Chez Bloodyface, in case the “abandon all hope, ye who enter here” motif wasn’t clear enough, he has the body of Lana’s partner laid out on the floor and boy is she ever dead. Thredyface tells Lana she’s here to “continue her therapy” and she has to begin by kissing her lover’s cold mouth, from which he has removed all the teeth to complete his Bloodyface mask.
So it’s pretty awful but if any of it surprises you then you don’t watch this show.
Finally, we learn that the major effect of a lobotomy is that one becomes the perfect housewife and stops talking about all that disturbing Holocaust business. As Anne/Charlotte whisks off to make her husband a martini, the camera zooms in on one of her old WWII pictures, which, The Shining style, features a picture of our very own Dr. Arden.
“So doing bunny ears on The Fuhrer would probably be a bad idea, right?”
Well, now that we are all thoroughly disturbed, I think I’ll cleanse my mind with some Disney. Maybe “Bambi.” No wait, his mom dies. I give up.
See you next week.