It’s Wednesday and you know what means! Time to watch America’s favourite creepy carnival from 1952, plagued by the world’s creepiest serial killer. You know, I’ve always thought the term serial killer was a bit of a misnomer. It’s not like Dandy’s murdering Captain Crunch or Count Chocula. (*pause for laughter*)
I’m sorry – I’ll relocate that to my failed stand-up act or to my Too Many Cooks fanfiction, coming soon to Post Show Recaps.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on with this week’s freaky activities.
Last Week… – Elsa became more than a little frustrated by Bette and Dot constantly stealing her thunder. So she shipped them off to the very last place you should ever send anybody… the Mott household. Why is it that Sarah Paulson’s characters are always held in captivity by crazy serial killers?
We also got a deeper dive into what makes Del and Desiree tick. Del was keeping Matt Bomer as his own private sidepiece while trying to convince himself that he loved Desiree. In the meanwhile, Desiree received life-changing news: she’s all woman, and with some cosmetic surgery, she can look normal. Her newfound confidence gave her the strength to leave Del. But he made sure that the doctor that was set to perform surgery on her would refuse by threatening his family.
Dandy made the moves on Matt Bomer, but then killed him and took the body home to join Nora (not Dora) in the family mausoleum. And if Bette and Dot aren’t careful, they could be next.
Wheel of Misfortune – We open on Elsa learning a new trick: throwing knives at a wheel that has a person rotating on it. Elsa’s inner monologue is about staying off of the wheel, about maintaining power and control of your own destiny. It gives us some background on her decision from last week in sentencing Bette and Dot to their doom just to stay on top of her freak show. By all accounts, Elsa is a really bad lady. What she’s done is terrible. But this does give us her thought process on it, which I appreciate.
When Ethel questions Elsa on keeping the carnival’s troupe together in lieu of Bette and Dot’s disappearance, she turns it back on the twins being ungrateful for what she had provided them. Ethel then just accepts the shoddy answer and, worse, says she’s going to make Elsa an amazing birthday cake. I suppose that’s a smart idea when your boss is literally going to put someone on a wheel and throw knives at their head though. So I’ll allow it, Ethel.
Birthday Sex – It’s Elsa’s birthday. And that means it’s time for some sort of reverse Christmas, where she sits on a chair and everyone gives her a present one at a time. Some presents, she’s enamoured with (Ma Petite jumps out of a box as Amazon Eve’s gift) and others, she absolutely detests (“You cheap bastard,” she says to Paul).
The night is marked with an air of gloominess thanks to the twins’ disappearance. But Elsa won’t stand it. “Now I demand you have fun this instant,” she says, giving her best impression of a Disney witch.
We soon find out that it looks like being a total dick to a woman is how to win her heart. Paul’s cheapness has made an impression on Elsa, as we soon find them in bed together! Elsa insists it’s just a casual relationship, but she soon finds herself inviting Paul to be her personal chauffeur on her way to the top. This is the definition of putting the cart before the horse. Well, not literally, but you catch my drift.
Turns out, Elsa’s being two-timed. Paul’s sleeping with slutty nurse lady, Penny (Grace Gummer), from the premiere. And, unlike his relationship with Elsa, he actually seems to love her. Their conversation is rudely interrupted by Penny’s father, coming to make sure she’s safe and sound and behaving.
Honestly, I don’t think “Elsa is sleeping with Paul, who’s actually cheating on her with the slutty nurse” was anywhere on my AHS: Freak Show bingo card. But I’m pretty interested to see where they take this! Paul, you dirty dog!
I Want Dandy, I Want Dandy – Dandy and Gloria are enjoying one of their lovely Mott dinners. Gloria has purchased a whole bunch of prophylactics for Dandy to prevent the spread of disease (thanks Google!). Apparently she’s nervous that Dandy might, like, catch being a Siamese twin or something.
She’s really nervous that Dandy has been spending too much time with Bette and Dot. But Dandy says that when he’s with them, he feels normal for the first time in his life. And, despite his mother’s protests, he’s going to marry them and be with them forever. Yeah, hi, Dandy? Did you think that they maaaaay not be so cool with that, dude? For fear that you’re going to jump out of the TV and kill me with your creepy half-Twisty mask, I’ll shut-up now.
Meanwhile, Bette’s writing in her diary again, waxing poetry about how much she loves Dandy. But while Bette is enamored, Dot seems worried. And for good reason.
The little montage of Dandy and Bette falling in love just might be my favourite thing of this episode. Their little popcorn meet-cute is so adorably creepy and their winking at one another across the dinner table is positively charming.
Dot has already figured it out, realizing that while they may not be chained up, the girls are definitely prisoners. But when Dandy brings up his interest in potentially separating the twins, Dot decides to take advantage of his affluence to coax him into paying for the surgery.
Dot’s a bit shortsighted here. Her dream of being separated from Bette is totally against her pragmatic nature. Sure, she maysurvive and she may get Jimmy to fall in love with her as a result. But the probability of those things occurring is not tremendous. She has to know that this is unlikely to go according to plan.
The twins later get into a debate over whether they could and should ever be separated. Bette thinks their condition is God’s will, but Dot looks at it as a plague they’ve been cursed with. Dandy doesn’t like Dot’s insistence on claiming her own identity, demanding that the twins keep no secrets from one another… or from him.
“Let’s play a game. I’ll tell you a secret, then you tell me one,” Dandy suggests. He goes on to take credit for killing Twisty and freeing everyone that was being held against their will. I don’t remember it that way, buddy. Dot believes Jimmy’s original version, but Bette’s sold. Dandy insists that Dot tell him a secret in return, but she refuses. “He lied,” Dot maintains.
And while she may be right, she doesn’t have a good hold on the extent of Dandy’s mental illness. He lives in an artificial world, believing his own lies, his own false promises to himself. He throws a temper tantrum when Dot insists he’s lying not because he wants to prove her wrong, but because he truly believes his own bullshit.
A Petite Cliffhanger – Maggie meets up with Stanley to give him a status report on the carnival. He’s suspicious of Elsa’s role in the twins’ disappearance (as everyone should be), but needs a payday to tide him over. Though he originally suggests Jimmy, Maggie has her own idea. And then she commits the most nefarious crime of the entire season: she offers Stanley Ma Petite. THIS IS BLASPHEMOUS. I’m so mad at you, Ryan Murphy.
Oh, phew – it’s another fake flashforward. I’ve gotta stop falling for those. The lighting is even different, but I just was so concerned for little Ma Petite!
Maggie later sneaks into Ma’s room, waking her up and bringing her to the murder tent Stanley has set-up for her. We’re left on a semi-cliffhanger of whether or not Maggie will actually follow through with murdering Ma.
Maggie, ultimately unable to go through with it, tells Jimmy that she wants to run away. She goes to her tent to pack up her things, but Stanley is there waiting for her. And he’s pissed. “No more excuses,” he tells her. And he demands that she kill Jimmy so they can sell off his lobster claws. Here’s an idea: go buy some lobster claws from Whole Foods or a Japanese supermarket.
Stomach Pains – Paul goes to the drug store looking for lady’s perfume. And who should he run into? Why, of course, creepy Dandy, there to buy everything Dot and Bette desire. Paul quickly realizes that Dandy is buying things for the twins and, after taking some verbal abuse, he leaves willingly. “I’ll take my business to Wolworth’s,” he says. “They have ice cream,” he adds for good measure. I’m not sure why he wouldn’t have gone there in the first place. After all, ice cream is delicious.
Paul reports his suspicions to Jimmy, going as far as to pin it on Elsa. Jimmy puts down his suggestion, but Paul is sure that Elsa would do anything to stay on top.
Later, we open back up on Elsa singing Frank Sinatra’s “September Song” in her tent to Paul. When he turns to head in for the night, Elsa tries to lure him to stay. “Just a good night kiss,” she requests. But when he leans in, she can smell the perfume he purchased for Penny and demands to know whom he’s screwing.
Paul calls her out on her bullshit, demanding to know where the twins are, going as far as to tell her that the general consensus is that she’s done something malicious to them. Elsa wakes everyone up, reminding everyone that she was the one that saved all of them. In her rage, she tosses all of their gifts around, upset that nobody seems to trust her. Ethel and Jimmy want to know a way to prove their loyalty.
“The wheel!” Elsa demands. She wants one of them to strap into the wheel to prove their loyalty. How does this accomplish anything?!
Though Jimmy tries to volunteer, Paul steps up instead. “I offer myself as tribute,” he demands, in a neat Hunger Games tie-in. And so it is done – he’s strapped up to the wheel. Always the showman (or showwoman, I suppose), Elsa gives everyone the intro about how death defying the stunt is and how fate is ultimately deciding what happens to Paul.
She tosses one knife beside his head. It’s a miss.
She tosses one knife at his crotch. It’s a miss.
She tosses her final knife at his gut. She sunk his battleship.
“Oh no! That was a total mistake! Oh my god! What have I done?!” Elsa exclaims. Yeah, right. If she’s truly sorry, then I’m the king of Luxembourg.
Suspicious Minds – Penny tries to sneak out of her house, but Daddy doesn’t want her to go. He insists that she go back to her room, pointing a gun at her. But he can’t bring himself to do anything to stop her, eventually just letting her go.
She makes her way back to the carnival, looking for her lover Paul. She’s pointed in the direction of Elsa’s tent, where she’s just in time to see Paul, taking his hand and waiting with him for a doctor that was never called. Because Elsa wants him to die for his betrayal. And what Elsa wants, she seems to get.
Meanwhile, Ethel continues to make Elsa’s cake, while Jimmy, always the voice of reason, begins to question their current leader’s state of mind. It all just seems too coincidental to Jimmy that she would let Paul die and not care at all about the twins’ disappearance.
Dot Dot Dot… Hmm? – Dandy cries the blues to Gloria about Dot’s diary, which seems to consistently rag on Dandy. I mean, I get it, Dandy sucks. But to put all of your secret feelings into a diary that you just know he’s crazy enough to break into is DEFINITELY NOT SMART. I’m so freaking mad at you, Dot.
Gloria tries to console her son, reminding him that Bette still loves him. But Dandy, being the psychopath he is, wants both of the twins to love him. He continues to prattle on and on about how Gloria cannot understand his mind… and only the twins can. He tells his mother that his purpose is to bring death to those around him. With that, he takes a knife and walks away. Gloria follows him to the door, but does not seem immediately frightened by his murderous revelation. Is that, like, a thing in 1952? Find out your son is obsessed with murdering people and dive right back into 30 Rock reruns without a care in the world?
… And then the doorbell rings.
“Let him in, mother. He’s here for the girls,” Dandy deadpans knowingly.
Someone’s going to lose a child tonight.
Make A Wish – Ethel and Elsa sit together to eat Elsa’s birthday cake, while everyone else is with Paul. Elsa tells Ethel that her parents never had any interest in her after losing their first daughter, so she created her own family in the Freak Show. “You were the sister I never met,” Elsa says. “Why don’t they know my heart?” she then asks her friend. Uh, maybe it’s because you act like a crazy dictator? Just a hunch.
Ethel lights a candle for Elsa and then pays her a strong warning. “If I ever find out you’re lying about those girls, I’ll kill you with my own two hands. Now make a wish.” Ominous. I don’t doubt that this could be Elsa’s fate later in the season.
“I just want to be loved,” Elsa sighs as we fade to black. Again, if you stopped being such a self-obsessed control freak, you might find some happiness. It’s impossible to have everything you want, Elsa. You can’t be the troupe’s stalwart leader, but also write a death sentence for anyone that intimidates you.
The episode ends with Elsa blowing out a candle on a cake we never see her take a bite of. Because, as they say, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. And that applies to Elsa, just like the rest of us.
OVERALL – Okay episode. Definitely my least favourite of the season. I liked the direction of the Dandy storyline and I liked getting some character development for Paul the Illustrated Seal. But there wasn’t much movement or much horror or any genuine surprise.
My biggest gripe with this episode – and probably the season – is that Elsa is an unlikable villainess. There’s no complexity, no nuance. She is just a straight-up bad lady. And I’m hoping she meets a fate worse than any of Lange’s other devious dames. There may be redemption yet for her, but Elsa could contend for worst character in AHS history. And that’s saying something.
Episode Grade: C+
- A major theme this week seemed to be how many of our characters have delusions of grandeur. Dandy was sure he’d marry Bette and Dot. Elsa was sure she’d become a star, pretty much already cashing her cheque. Dot dreams of a happy ending with Jimmy, separated from Bette. And Paul thinks he can have a life with a normal girl like Penny. Within the world we’ve seen established over the last six weeks, these things are not going to happen. But our characters really seem to think they will.
- Dot associates the taste of caviar with the constant reminder of being kept against her will by the insane Dandy. Personally, I associate caviar with deliciousness. Om nom nom.
- I literally understand nothing she says, but everything Ma Petite does is adorable.
- Very sweet of Ethel to make Elsa a cake. But the colour scheme on that thing is heinous. Black frosting? Ew.
- Editor’s Note: I am not the king of Luxembourg.