American Horror Story
“Tricks and Treats”
October 24, 2012
Oh no, Mrs. Adam Levine! Bloody Face is gonna get you! You best run, gurrl! Run and go get Adam Levine and drag him into that solitary confinement cell with you! You can’t drag him in with you because he’s missing an arm? Oh well, save yourself! Lock yourself in that cell and do not look out the food slot because you do not want to watch Bloody Face stab your new husband to death. I SAID DO NOT LOOK OUT THAT FOOD SLOT! And now Adam Levine is full of stab holes and you watched the whole thing and now you’re going to be psychologically scarred forever and ever if you ever get out of here alive, which, I have to say doesn’t look terribly promising. But that’s your baggage, I suppose.
Secret Lesbian Girlfriend Who Happens to be a Teacher is having some regrets for signing Lana Winter, Problem Girlfriend’s! rights away to some sociopathic nun, and she cries about it to some friends who are like, yeah, that was a terrible decision. There’s a knock at the door, and one of the nameless friends is all ZOMG DON’T ANSWER IT BLOODY FACE! Other Nameless Friend is all, oh, stop being a ninny, and opens the door to a bunch of trick-or-treaters who have arrived on October 30th, one day early. Secret Lesbian Girlfriend Who Happens to be a Teacher wails that she doesn’t have any candy BECAUSE IT’S NOT HALLOWEEN YET, and they send the children away because IT’S NOT HALLOWEEN YET. Not that any of this would ever happen because who trick-or-treats a day early anyway? No one! No one does this! And I don’t even understand the point of this in this particular scene, WHY ARE THERE EARLY TRICK-OR-TREATERS?
Anyway, long story short, Secret Lesbian Girlfriend announces that she just wants to take a hot shower, go to sleep and in the morning she’ll go get Lana Winters, Locked Up Girlfriend! out of the mental institution where she illegally dumped her. Obligatory Psycho shower allusion, but Secret Lesbian Girlfriend manages to survive washing her hair, only to get out of the bathroom and find Bloody Face waiting to kill her in her hallway. O HAI! MURDER MURDER MURDER.
At Briarcliff, the guards hustle the ladies out of their beds for an impromptu cell check, where they find that Pepper has stashed some food, Chloë Sevigny makes some lewd comment about an illicit cucumber, and, oh what’s this? but Lana Winters, Idiot Reporter! has hidden away notes about her stay at Briarcliff. Sister Jude will take those, thanks. Lana Winters, Goose Reporter! insists that her editor knows that she’s working on a story about Briarcliff and will come looking for her, but Sister Jude, she’s not terribly worried about that. Lana Winters, Idiot Patient! assures Sister Jude that she doesn’t need her notes: her memory is excellent. WE’LL SEE ABOUT THAT, promises Sister Jude. INSTITUTION PRO TIP: Don’t taunt the head of an institution with your superior memory. They have ways of dealing with that.
Case in point: Sister Jude heads straight to Dr. Hoggett’s office and informs him that she has a problem, and he immediately guesses it’s Lana Winters, Impromptu Guest of Briarcliff! Sister Jude insists that it’s her memories that are terrorizing Lana Winters, Troublemaker! And Dr. Hoggett understands that Sister Jude wants to do a little electro-shock therapy — a therapy, he goes out oh his way to remind her, that she once said was barbaric. Yeah, well, Sister Jude has come to understand that it’s just another of God’s tools in his therapy tool chest. Which, I suppose, is one way to look at it.
That settled, Dr. Hoggett and Sister Jude have the orderlies strap Lana Winters, Human Lamp Cord down to the table. Dr. Hoggett then insists that Sister Jude apply the shocky thingies to Lana Winters, Live Wire’s temples, so that she can be part of the fun, too. Bzzt! BZZZZT! KBAI MEMORY!
And now introducing Dr. Sylar! (Who I am afraid I am going to have to violate my plan to not call characters by the same name I called them last season, but I don’t care, it’s my blog, I can break the rules if I want to.) Dr. Sylar is here from the state to evaluate Kit and determine whether he is crazy or just criminal. In the common room, Kit insists to Dr. Sylar that not only is he not crazy, he’s not guilty. Furthermore, Secret African-American Wife Alma, she might not be dead. After all, the authorities only have bodies, no heads, and Kit’s pretty sure he’s beginning to remember “them,” the “men from outer space” taking Secret African-American Wife — and she was still alive. Huh, says Dr. Sylar.
Meanwhile, out in the woods, Dr. Hoggett startles poor Sister Mary Eunice, who notes that the “creatures” were particularly loud the night before, and, by the way, what are these creatures anyway? OH PLEASE, AS IF I’M GOING TO TELL YOU IN THE SECOND EPISODE, says Dr. Hoggett before offering Sister Mary Eunice a caramel apple for her trouble. EAT IT. EAT THE APPLE.
And then Sister Mary Eunice returns to the institution with the candy apple in her basket while Chloë Sevigny looks on in a fit of jealousigny.
Lana Winters, Drooling Amnesiac! sits in the common room with her burn marks and her hazy memories while nearby, Grace questions Kit about his meeting with Dr. Sylar. Did ze do what she told zim zo do? Did ze zpit or throw le merde on ze doctor? Kit replies that he did not, because he can not fake the crazy. And anyway, there has to be a way out of this place, they just have to come up with an escape plan. Good luck wiz zat, grumbles Grace, while Lana Winters, Who Is Now Just Asking For It takes surreptitious notes.
Dr. Sylar is deeply unimpressed with Sister Jude’s operation here at Briarcliff, and has a lot of comments about the institution’s appalling conditions to which he’s been witness. He’s happy to share some concerns with her. For instance, electroshock therapy to treat homosexuality rather than the preferred method of behavior modification? Isn’t that rather … extreme? But Sister Jude is less than interested in his constructive criticism and urges Dr. Sylar to do his job, and she’ll do hers. And with that, she heads up to her office to talk to her newest victim patient.
Or at least her newest victim’s patient’s parents who explain that they just don’t understand what happened to their son, he was such a good boy! But now he’s a chronic onanist! Which is when Dr. Sylar barges into the office and is all, OHAI, LET ME HELP. The parents describe how their 17-year-old son is moody and sassy and lazy and there was also this one time when they found him in the barn speaking in tongues, having torn open their prized cow’s belly and eating her internal organs and frankly they just don’t know what’s gotten into the boy. Dr. Sylar, he is stunned silent. DOES THE COW-EATER GOT YOUR TONGUE? taunts Sister Jude, and Dr. Sylar explains that he needs to see the boy before he can give an accurate diagnosis. Fair enough! Let’s go see him!
And so the group tromps down to a private room where a teenage boy secured in a straightjacket waits for them with his eyeballs all rolled back into his head, looking dangerous. As Dr. Sylar approaches the boy, he takes a chomp at Dr. Sylar’s face, which NO SIR. Teenage boy’s eyes go all spooky yellow and a different, Reaganesque voice comes out of him saying…something, and Dr. Sylar announces that he needs to be medicated. Yeah, medicated WITH A FACE FULL OF HOLY WATER, Sister Jude doesn’t say.
To that end, Sister Jude and Monsignor Timothy Fiennes bring in Father Anspaugh to get his exorcism on to Dr. Sylar’s VERY SERIOUS DISAPPROVAL, because 1. This ain’t Dr. Sylar’s institution and 2. The times might have changed, but the nature of evil has not. And anyway, Father Anspaugh is happy to have Dr. Sylar assist, as he’s required to have a medical doctor in attendance, and he enjoys having a nonbeliever in the room as it ups his game. LET’S GET THIS EXORCISM STARTED!
Over in the hydrotherapy room, Grace and Lana Winters, Pruney Lady! soak in some tarp-covered tubs (? this was a thing? a relaxing, tied down bubble bath? Huh!) until Grace cuts herself out of her tub so as to walk around naked, untie Lana Winters, Soggy Blanket! from her tub and purr things in her heavy French accent, thereby making Lana Winter’s, Lady Parts! feel tingly. Lana Winters, Secret Girlfriend Who? announces that she knows of an exit from the institution, she just needs someone to help her make an escape plan. And Grace is all, no I zon’t believe zou! before coming around and is like, Oui! Let’s zo dis! And bring Keet along! But Lana Winters, Judge First Ask Questions Later! insists that Kit is not invited on account of killing all those ladies. Grace notes that Lana Winters, Betrayed Girlfriend! has trust issues, and Lana Winters, Open Book! is all, YA MAYBE WHEN YOUR SECRET LESBIAN GIRLFRIEND INSTITUTIONALIZES YOU, YOU MIGHT DEVELOP SOME TRUST ISSUES, DR. FREUD.
Down in the laundry room, Chloë Sevigny offers Dr. Hoggett her “candy apple” in exchange for fifteen minutes of fresh air. Dr. Hoggett is not amused by her slutty sluttiness, which sends Chloë Sevigny into a long monologue about sexism and double standards and how she has always loved sex and then she married to a jazz musician and he cheated on her so for revenge she slept with some soldiers during Fleet Week and her husband found her in bed with them so he institutionalized her and it ISN’T FAIR, therefore, she deserves to go outside for five minutes, PRETTY PLEASE? Nope! Shame you’re such a whore! End scene.
In the common room, Lana Winters, Clearly Looking for Another Round of Electrotherapy! writes her notes, while Grace warns her that she eez joos azking for eet. Suddenly Kit swoops down on them and snatches Lana Winters, Too Stupid for her Own Good!’s notes from her moments before guards storm into the room and announces that it’s an early bedtime for everyone. Kit attempts to whisper to her the she can trust him, but Lana Winters, Not Buying It! doesn’t buy it.
As the exorcism gets started, Monsignor Timothy sends Sister Jude downstairs to hang with the parents, as this is clearly no place for a woman because SEXISM. So she glares and stomps out. Father Anspaugh gets started exorcising, warning Dr. Sylar to not listen to the patient/demon on account of lying. So, of course, the demon/patient begins taunting Dr. Sylar in a strange voice, telling him that s/he’s ashamed of what Dr. Sylar has become and that s/he’s glad she gave him up. I SAID DON’T LISTEN, DR. SYLAR. And the the demon-patient throws the Bible around, and Father Anspaugh’s wheelchair up into the air for laughs and everything goes bonkers and Monsignor Timothy is all, uh, yeah, I’m going to go downstairs now, ok goodbye.
Monsignor Timothy grabs Sister Jude and hurries her upstairs. The menfolk have to perform last rites on Father Anspaugh, which requires that Sister Jude stand in the hallway and look in on the demonpatient AND UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES GO INTO THE ROOM. Which, of course means: Go into the room.
So Sister Jude goes into the room, obviously, so that Demonpatient can taunt her about her slutty dance hall past and how she got drunk and ran over some little girl on her bicycle who really shouldn’t have been out riding that late anyway, but Sister Jude didn’t bother to even check on her and that’s why she became a nun, the end. Monsignor Timothy returns from wherever to find Sister Jude slapping Patientdemon around, and pulls her off of him as he screams obscenities about Sister Jude and her nighttime habits (pun!) that involve fantasies about Monsignor Timothy.
Monsignor Timothy and Dr. Sylar head back in to deal with Demonpatient, and after throwing a little more holy water in his face to absolutely no effect, Dr. Sylar is like, yeah, it’s time to medicate him, and he jabs a syringe of sedatives into Patientdemon’s arm.
BOOM! All the lights go out and the institution shudders and all the creepy red emergency lights go on because who even knew Briarcliff could be any creepier and the cell doors open to the patients’ astonishment. Lana Winters, Opportunist! realizes that this is her and Grace’s big chance, and the two run down the hallway towards freeeeedom! Except that they run into Kit who is all, Oh hey, guys, where you going? Lana Winters, Possessive Girlfriend is all NO BOYZ ALLOWED, so Grace is like, très bien, I weel go wiz heem. So Lana Winters, Jealous Witch screams for help! The murderer! He is escaping! And the orderlies swoop down on them, struggle struggle struggle, while Lana Winters, Rat! looks on.
Oh, and back in the exorcism, Sister Mary Eunice runs upstairs to warn Sister Jude about the impromptu early release program that is happening downstairs, just as Patientdemon dies. The crucifix falls off the wall, Sister Mary Eunice collapses, and Sister Jude is left to deal with the parents. Well, the good news is that your son won’t be devouring any more of your prized livestock …
And while all of these shenanigans were going on, Dr. Hoggett was busying entertaining a paid lady friend, one for whom he prepared a fancy dinner. All Dr. Hoggett asks in return is that Paid Lady Friend tone it down with the dirty talk, try to behave herself, and maybe go upstairs and put on a nun’s robe and habit. You know, the usual. And if she does these things, Dr. Hoggett won’t have to menace her with this carving knife.
Paid Lady Friend obliges, because she doesn’t want to further excite the scary old man with the carving knife, but while she is undergoing her wardrobe change, she discovers a box of pictures of women in various states of undress. And states of hogtied-dom. And states of brutally mutilated-dom. This, understandably, alarms Paid Lady Friend — who, in her nun’s habit bears a creepy resemblance to Sister Mary Eunice which I guess is the point. Dr. Hoggett bursts into the room and is rather unhappy to he discovers that she’s seen these things, so Paid Lady Friend tries to return his money to him, because NO THANK YOU, SHE’D RATHER KEEP HER FACE, PLEASE. Dr. Hoggett insists she get on the bed and show him her “mossy bank,” WHICH OH MY GOD GROSS, and he begins rubbing himself and DR. HOGGETT, NO. I CAN NOT UNSEE ANY OF THIS. But then Paid Lady Friend punches Dr. Hoggett and makes her escape, thank goodness, not because I care about her character, but because I CAN NOT TAKE DR. HOGGETT RUBBING HIS HOGGETT ANYMORE, STOP.
The next morning, Dr. Hoggett checks in on a sleeping Sister Mary Eunice in the infirmary, gets all gross and weird when he sees that her leg is exposed, and tries to pull her nightgown back down. This wakes her up and they talk about her passing out and how he was sorry he wasn’t there to take care of her because he was busy terrifying prostitutes. Dr. Hoggett notes that it’s disconcerting to see her out of costume, and she apologizes for distracting him. Dr. Hoggett insists that the body is just one big machine to him, no biggie, as he takes his leave, lest he begin asking about her “mossy bank” (GROSS) and rubbing his Hoggett again. As he leaves, Sister Mary Eunice’s eyes change, and she throws the blanket off of her exposed legs because she is now Sister Lucy Fur.
Lana Winters, Bad Friend! is brought into Sister Jude’s office to receive her reward for turning in Grace and Kit: She won’t be caned, and they will. Hooray? Kit and Grace are then brought into the room and bent over Sister Jude’s desk to expose their bottoms, because this show will never miss an opportunity to show some bottom as we have well established. Lana Winters, Worst Friend! is tasked with picking out just which cane to use on the pair. She chooses the smallest one, and Sister Jude insists that she try again. Lana Winters, Judas B-word! picks out a different cane, while apologizing to Grace, who is not interested in hearing it. Kit then tells Grace to stand up, he’s the guilty one, she doesn’t deserve punishment, she was just trying to help a desperate friend. OK, cool, says Sister Jude. I guess you’ll be getting 40 lashes rather than 20. And with that, the caning begins. Ouch!
The most fascinating part of this episode for me was the fact that the exorcism in this episode was told from a very genuine place — it was meant to be a supernatural experience, not merely a psychological one. After the first episode, the writers seemed to be establishing that Sister Jude was outdated and operating from Middle Ages’ understanding of mental illness. However, the patient in this episode (and now Sister Mary Eunice/Lucy Fur) does seem to need help from a stronger source than just modern pharmaceuticals. From a TV criticism perspective, I found this whole episode, especially when viewed in conjunction with last week’s episode of The New Normal, in which a formally Catholic gay man struggles to rediscover his relationship with the church, a fascinating glimpse into Ryan Murphy’s own conflicted feelings about Catholicism. I am probably reading too much into a whole lot of nothing, but it seemed to me that these two episodes reveal a man who has a complicated relationship with the church, and is trying to reconcile his long-held faith with a theology that he considers out of touch with the modern world.
Anyway. A few symbols. Dr. Hoggett seems to be a man full of symbolism. He offers Sister Mary Eunice an apple, which is a fruit heavy with symbolism: knowledge, choices and temptation. Interestingly, Sister Mary Eunice, after some hesitation, chooses temptation, and tastes his apple, in the very same episode where she appears to become possessed — or at the very least, fallen from her purer state.
The other interesting symbol associated with Hoggett is the box full of pictures that the Sister Mary Eunice stand-in discovers in his room. The pictures themselves are certainly meant to make us wonder about Dr. Hoggett’s extra-circular activities, and whether or not he is Bloody Face, but I’m interested in the symbolism of the box itself. Boxes can represent a number of things, including caskets, wombs and the unconscious. Pandora’s box is the most famous symbol of that last one, and Dr. Hoggett’s box-o-porn — that box that should not be opened, that upon opening releases darkness and terror into the world. Of course, it could be argued that by opening that box, by peering into the darkest parts of Dr. Hoggett’s soul, his paid-for friend for might have actually saved herself. So besides being a helpful plot point, the act of opening the box might have been a saving grace.
Speaking of boxes, it could be argued that the solitary confinement cell (and all of the patient’s cells, and maybe Briarcliff itself in lesser degrees) is also a box that is best left unopened. When Adam Levine and Mrs. Adam Levine peer into the solitary confinement cell/box, they, like Pandora herself, unleash the evil that lies within.
Finally, it would seem that like the first season, one of the big mysteries of this season will be the identity of the masked man. I don’t know who Bloody Face is and am not prepared to venture any guesses at this point — it’s not what I’m terribly interested in, in fact. Instead, I like to turn over the symbolism of the mask, and costumes in general, and what they are telling us about the characters and the story. Masks and costumes have many different purposes and symbolic meanings; they can be theatrical, or used in carnivals, funerals, and initiation rites. Basically, the mask and/or costume changes the identity of the wearer, subsuming the wearer’s actual personality and assuming a different one, showing the world a different persona or face.
I thought it was interesting in the final scene between Hoggett and Sister Mary Eunice that he specifically referred to her nun’s robes as a “costume,” for a number of reasons. For one, it underlines that he felt he could simply place the prostitute in a nun’s costume and somehow turn her into a surrogate for Mary Eunice, that she would assume Mary Eunice’s innocence and purity that he finds attractive by donning her clothing. It also suggests a certain disregard for Sister Mary Eunice’s vows and chosen life of chastity; that in his mind, her nun’s robe and habit is merely a costume, something that she could take off on a moment’s notice. Which, interestingly, she has done in this final scene. It is the first time we have seen Mary Eunice out of her habit, and Hoggett’s response is arousal mixed with the urge to restore her “purity.” Of course, she is out of her habit not merely because she is resting in the infirmary, but as a symbolic gesture of her transformation — she is no longer an innocent nun, she has shed her habit, she has molted into something … else.
And as far as the masks go, Bloody Face is the obvious example of a mask-wearer on the series (although, symbolically there are many mask-wearers, obviously). I find it curious that Bloody Face appears to be making his/her mask out of human flesh, which, taken with the notion that whatever Hoggett’s “creatures” are out in the woods are something less than human, it could be that Bloody Face is trying to make him/herself look like something closer to being fully human. It is as if by wearing a mask of human flesh, Bloody Face is attempting to be human. And though I said I wasn’t prepared to venture any guesses as to Bloody Face’s identity, I do find it curious that Bloody Face seems to be killing only women. Could it be that Bloody Face is actually female and attempting to look like a human woman?
Also, keep in mind, Bloody Face is in two different timelines, and it is possible that Bloody Face is, not unlike Gimpsy from last season, two different people. Today’s Bloody Face could simply be wearing a Bloody Face mask of their own in an effort to look like the historical Bloody Face. For some reason.
American Horror Story airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on Bravo.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.