We’re just passing the halfway point tonight of American Horror Story: Freak Show. And I’m a little bit down on the season at this point. I feel like we really need a good episode tonight.
The pieces are in motion, the die has been cast. And now we should be ready to see what direction this thing is heading in. To recap from last week:
• Dandy has Dot and Bette. Bette kinda sorta loves it, while Dot is trying to use the Mott family fortune to pay for surgery that will separate her from her sister. Dandy just figured all of this out by reading her diary. Ugh @ that plot contrivance.
• Elsa is sleeping with Paul, who is sleeping with Penny (played by Meryl Streep’s daughter Grace Gummer). When Elsa finds out her eff-buddy has another chick on the side, she goes psycho. And she whips knives at Paul until one hits him in the gut.
• Jimmy pieced together that Dandy had the twins and went over to figure out what could be done about it.
• Maggie didn’t have the heart to kill Ma Petite, so Stanley gave her strict instructions to kill Jimmy.
Drumroll please… and now onto the show!
Come As You Are – Jimmy pays a visit to the Mott household, hoping to save the Stadler twins. Dot spills everything that got them into their current situation and it finally is starting to look like there’s light at the end of the tunnel for poor Dot.
In the end, they’re forced to choose: Dandy or Elsa’s Cabinet. This choice joins the pantheon of easiest This or That questions of all time. Also in contention:
• Rob Has a Podcast or TV Talk Podcast with RC and Artis?
• Simon or Garfunkel?
• Ice cream death by chocolate or literal death by chocolate?
To conclude, if you’re ever in a situation of choosing between nice boy with lobster claws or a creepy serial killer with sociopathic tendencies… well, I’d break out some butter for dipping and enjoy lobster all day.
Naturally (and predictably), the twins choose to go with Jimmy and re-join the other freaks. But Dandy doesn’t like this one bit. No, not at all. I have a feeling this isn’t going to end well for at least one of our characters.
Returning to the carnival, Jimmy takes to the stage for the first time, singing some sweet Nirvana. Evan Peters kills it. But Elsa isn’t enjoying – and when she tries to put the kibosh on his mid-show performance, he calls her out on her lies. Though Elsa denies playing any role in the twins’ disappearance, Jimmy (and the rest of the freaks) don’t believe her anymore.
How did Jimmy come up with this plan? Did he write it all out in advance? Here’s how I guess it would look:
• 1) Tell everyone Elsa is a liar.
• 2) Sing Nirvana.
• 3) Fight with Elsa about whether Nirvana is show-appropriate.
• 4) Call out Elsa.
• 5) Cue surprise entrance of the twins. Code word is “Hodor.”
• 6) Profit.
Anyway, the twins do show up (despite Hodor never being mentioned) and Dot wings it, telling everyone that Elsa giving them up to the Motts was all her idea. They tout Elsa as some sort of peoples’ champion, helping them out and stuff.
Jimmy looks like an idiot, having spread the word of Elisa’s trickery like wildfire to the other freaks. And he’s now on the outs, lamenting about it to Maggie later. Maggie is quick to hit the runaway button again, but Jimmy doesn’t want to leave until they get everything in order. He wants to ascertain whether Dandy was the second clown on Halloween night that almost killed them. And he wants to figure out what’s going on with Elsa.
Maggie sighs. “We’ll never leave,” she says.
She’s probably right.
No Surgery For You – Desiree arrives at the doctor’s office, prepped and ready for the anti-transsexual surgery or whatever it is I’m supposed to refer to it as. But she and Ethel find that the doctor’s office is closed for business on account of, y’know, his suicide and all.
The audience knows that the doctor didn’t commit suicide. Rather, Dell, who wanted to stop Desiree from having the surgery and leaving him, murdered him. The doctor’s daughter is there. Not the one with kids, in case anybody in the audience was wondering (they weren’t), but his other one from Boston.
She yells and screams that Desiree and Ethel need to leave. And they reluctantly do, leaving Desiree with no option but to remain in her current state.
I’m slightly confused – was this dude the only doctor in Florida that could operate on Desiree? I guess the case could be made that most doctors would refuse to help. But I’m sure somebody would be interested in the science behind her abnormalities and want to do it. Alas, I’ll just accept this and move on.
Getting EVEn – Dell pays a visit to the gay bar where he used to meet Andy, who was brutally murdered by Dandy just a few weeks back. The barkeep warns him that falling in love with a hustler was probably a bad idea. But Dell is ready to Hulk smash anybody that gets in his way of finding his lover.
And who should be there to witness Dell’s little tirade? The sly Stanley, of course.
Stanley follows Dell back to the carnival where he makes a few cute quips and then puts the moves on the strongman, calling him out on his closeted homosexuality. He uses this as leverage to blackmail him. Dell will kill one of the carnival’s freaks and provide Stanley with the body; they’ll then meet for an extraction at a bar in a neighbouring town.
That night, Dell sneaks into Amazon Eve’s trailer with some chloroform. But she’s not ready to go gently into the good night (Interstellar reference!!!) – she rages back. Hard. Not exaggerating: she kicks the shit out of him. He even yells uncle like three times. But she’s not having any.
I feel like if you’re going to kill one of these freaks, you should probably pick one of the ones that doesn’t looks like she eats testosterone pills for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like, Eve is one that you do not want to mess with. But Dell made a bad decision and now he’s got a bloody nose.
Drinking Buddies – Eve takes the news of Dell’s assault to Ethel and Jimmy. And while Jimmy wants to hash it out, Ethel wants to sneak into his trailer and kill him. Jimmy’s constant waffling is the exact kind of thing that shows like AHS punish characters for. We all learned our lesson from Breaking Bad, right? No half-measures. Ethel is right: they should kill Dell. But Jimmy is insistent that his mother let him take a stab (not literally, I guess?) at giving Dell a graceful exit.
Dell, under Stanley’s watchful eye, lets Jimmy take him for a drink in town. Dell eying his own son for his murder victim is more than a little disturbing. And with every drink he pushes his son to have, my heart sinks a little. Look, my favourite show once told me that all the best cowboys have daddy issues. But the idea of a father knowingly murdering his son is sickening even by AHS standards.
When Jimmy goes into a back alley to puke, Dell tails him. He picks up a brick to strike his own son down, but Jimmy spares his own life by telling Dell that he knows his lineage. He knows that Dell is his father.
And, of course, the emotion is too much. We’re going the sentimental route. For once, I’m actually relieved. Jimmy cries and whines for his father to admit it and he does. They embrace. All is right in the world.
The next morning, the boys return to the carnival arm in arm. They’re drunk, but triumphantly jovial. And Dell is thrilled to proclaim that Jimmy is his son. As Elsa points out, Dell isn’t winning any Father of the Year awards – he’s been absent for the first twenty-four years of his son’s life. “Sleep it off,” she advises both of them.
Under Dell’s tutelage, Jimmy stands up to Elsa. “Never let a woman tell you what to do” is probably not great advice, but Jimmy is still right not to trust Elsa.
Piss-drunk, Jimmy is put to sleep by his ol’ man. Aww.
Twinning– Elsa wants to know what the twins want for not selling her out to the others. And their list of demands is steep.
Bette gets to be a comedian. Bette gets caviar for breakfast everyday (someone’s gonna get a tummy ache!). And, more importantly, she gets 20% of the box office revenue.
“You can have it,” Elsa says, “once I’m in Hollywood.”
Psh, hardly fair. You’re a bad negotiator, Elsa.
Bette wants the money now. And Elsa really has no choice but to oblige her. “And what do you want, Dot?” she asks.
Dot wants 50% of the box office. Steep. She’s a ballsy bitch.
Bette gets her bleached hairdo, which creates an amazing contrast between Bette and Dot. We couldn’t have done this six episodes ago? Paulson’s facial work separating the twins has been phenomenal this season. But I think having the twins looking aesthetically different would have made for an easier visual cue. I’m basically all for anything that makes recapping faster and gets me to bed sooner. Sorry, I know I’m selfish.
Elsa drops Dot a note, which she puts in her pocket for later, reading it privately once Bette has fallen asleep. Elsa basically wants to know why Dot wants so much money. She has figured out that Dot probably wants something in particular and she thinks she can get it for her (she even rhymes off things she could potentially want, like a new car, which makes me ponder if Price is Right already exists in this universe). “We are in this together,” the note concludes. Oh, wow, is High-School Musical also around in this universe?
Dot responds via note as well, telling Elsa exactly what she wants: the German expat’s help in getting to the doctor in Chicago that can perform the surgery on the twins. Another bad move by Dot. She really is the Jon Misch of this season – thinking strategically, but making small boneheaded moves that will probably cost her the game. Feel free to make some Survivor comparisons (and discuss who you think will be left standing as our chosen winner at the end) in the comments.
Still under the impression that he’s going to make her famous, Elsa takes her issues to Stanley. She reveals that the twins are essentially blackmailing her and wants him to pitch a solution. Though Elsa is hoping Stanley will offer to take them away to Chicago for her, he goes a step further, suggesting to murder the twins (under the guise of a mercy killing), an idea that Elsa is thrilled to entertain.
Luckily, Ethel overhears their plans, which I’m sure will be important later on.
Say “Ahhhh!” – Penny comes home after a long night at the carnival with Paul. She tells her dad that she plans on packing her things and never returning home.
He gives her the standard creepy dad speech, telling her he won’t let her go. But when she calls his bluff, he reneges. A bit. He tells her he knows he can’t murder her, but he’s got a friend (Morris) who is an artist – a really creepy artist, at that – and he’s going to give Penny a parting gift.
This storyline definitely has the least traction of all this season. I have very little interest in what makes Penny tick or why she wants to join the circus. I’d rather spend the time with one of our twenty-something other underdeveloped characters like Desiree or Maggie.
When Penny wakes up, Mr. Morris is done his work. He calls Penny his masterpiece. And she looks horrible. She’s been completely mutilated, defiled and transformed. My eyes are burning from looking at this. She looks like one of those girls in the Pink Floyd album cover with the full body tattoos, but much worse.
Small Treasures – Dell pays Ma Petite a visit in the middle of the night, bringing her a beautiful new dress. She’s all too happy to try it on for him, offering him a hug in return. But during their embrace, he mercilessly chokes her to death. Watching the little cutie’s body go limp is probably worse than if Dell had killed his own son. After an episode where he partially redeemed himself, Dell has gone to the very bottom of the power rankings. I can’t even.
The museum unveils their newest exhibit: the smallest woman in the world.
My heart is hurting.
Overall – An improvement over last week, but this season still feels off in its pacing. We’re just getting through the halfway mark and the stakes do not feel all that high. We have a lot of different pieces hurling in a lot of different directions, but none of them feel like they’re on a collision course just yet. Dell is a monster, Stanley is slowly working his way through killing off the freaks, and Dandy is still out there all maniacal and evil. But none of these storylines feel as pressing or important as, say, escaping Bloodyface or figuring out who the Supreme is.
And regardless of what anybody says, this was not a scary episode. We got some real human drama from Dell and Jimmy, but it wasn’t Cam from Modern Family getting brutally murdered by a guy wearing a pig mask.
I’m fine with the show progressing beyond simple scare tactics, but we need to up the game a bit here. Penny’s makeover was gross, but it didn’t scare me. And while Ma Petite’s death is a travesty that we can never get over, it didn’t make my skin crawl. I know I keep repeating this gripe over and over, and I guess I just have to get over it. Whatever.
Overall Grade: B
– Ma Petite: you were too good for this world. I never understood a word you said, but I’m sure all of it was adorable.
– Ryan Murphy hinted that Stanley himself is a freak (in the Brice kinda way; like, with his penis). But we haven’t really seen much of it yet. I’m wondering if he develops a showmance over the next few episodes to give us more insight. Perhaps Dell? Dandy? Someone else?
– Edgic ratings for tonight:
• Elsa: CPN3. Too negative to win. She’ll get hers.
• Dot: CP3. Back in business. Winner’s edit, but not that strong.
• Ma Petite: OTTPP1. My sadness knows no bounds.
• Dell: OTTNN5. God, I hate this guy.
– I have no idea how Penny’s dad met his artist buddy, Morris. And I have no intention of ever finding out. Still: the makeover is still less dramatic than Renee Zellweger’s, right?
– No episode next week for Thanksgiving, so see you guys in two weeks. We’ve only got two episodes left before the midseason break. This season is flying by.