American Horror Story
“The Origins of Monstrosity”
November 21, 2012
A woman shows up on Braircliff’s doorstep with her 9-year-old daughter, Jenny, and a plea to Sister Jude to take her daughter … please! It seems that while Jenny’s siblings are perfectly normal, Jenny is … different. She never cried, not even as a baby, which, you know is weird. And there’s also the thing where Jenny probably, most definitely stabbed her playmate in the back with a pair of scissors and claimed that some mysterious man with a beard and a brown jacket did it.
Jenny’s mother wanted to believe the story about the bearded jacket man, even though an extensive search found nothing. But when Jenny’s mother found a lock of the dead girl’s hair in Jenny’s things, she realized she had to do something. So, long story short, how’s about Sister Jude take Jenny off of her mother’s hands, please and thank you. Sister Jude sighs in sympathy, but explains that while she would like to open a children’s ward one day, right now she can’t help Jenny or her mother. Has Jenny’s mother tried praying? And hiding all the sharps in the house? OK GOODBYE.
In Dr. Sylar’s basement, Lana Winters, Hey, Where Am I?! wakes up to the smell of grilled cheese and tomato soup, and with pictures of Secret Lesbian Girlfriend on either side of her, and for a moment, she forgets where she is. But that changes soon enough, and she begins screaming, and Dr. Sylar’s like, Yeah yeah, scream all you want. Soundproof kill basement, blah blah blah. Lana Winters, Alarmed Captive! wonders where Secret Girlfriend is, and Dr. Sylar exposits that he had to put her body where it would never be found, which is especially important now that Kitt is on the hook for Bloody Face’s murders.
Dr. Sylar brings Lana Winters, Come to Think of it, I Could Use a Sandwich! the Croque Monsieur and tomato soup he had been working on for her, noting that it is the kind of after-school snack a mom would make. Not that he would know, since his mother abandoned him as a baby, when she was about Lana Winters, How’d I Get Dragged into This?’s age. Dr. Sylar grew up in the system, and was given all the basics: food, water, education, but never affection, as the thinking of the day was that touching or hugging would spoil a child. Lana Winters, I Might As Well Eat This Free Sandwich! tells Dr. Sylar that the Croque Monsieur is really delicious and she is not just saying that because she’s terrified that he’s going to slice off her nipples: it is really, really good. (Lady Tears and Psychosis Nutmeg is the secret ingredient.) And Lana Winters, This Might Just Work! assures him that she appreciates this act of kindness, after all, she knows what it’s like to be abandoned, that’s how she felt in Briarcliff. Dr. Sylar sighs in relief: she’s the one! Lana Winters, Girl Reporter! is the perfect person to whom to tell his story!
So, settle in, Lana Winters, Captive Audience!, this is a long story. Dr. Sylar always knew he was different from the other kids, so he decided to study psychiatry to figure himself out. It was in medical school when he had his breakthrough: during a gross anatomy class, Dr. Sylar saw a female cadaver, and decided that it was his mother. Not in a literal sense, but in a crazy person sense. And so he broke into the lab at night and got all naked and gross with the body as he realized that a mother’s touch was what he had been missing this entire time. However, even rubbing himself all over a dead body didn’t satisfy his crazy, and that’s when he realized that the body was too cold and too dead. Which is why he started skinning all those ladies, duh. But all of that is behind him now, because he has Lana Winters, Substitute Mommy! Hooray!
Back at Briarcliff, Sister Jude receives a call from Nazi Hunter requesting a fingerprint from Dr. Hoggett. While “Anne Frank” turned out to be Anne Fraud, she got the Dr. Hoggett was a nazi part right, and all Nazi Hunter now needs is physical proof. So, if Sister Jude could help him up with that, that’d be super. And that’s when Sister Jude discovers that Little Jenny’s mother left her at Briarcliff after all. BECAUSE SISTER JUDE DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH TO DEAL WITH. COME ON.
Monsignor Timothy shows up at a hospital to perform last rites on a mystery patient that all other priests have just cold refused to help, which, uncool, priests. Way to be jerks. As the hospital administrator escorts Monsignor Timothy to the mystery patient’s room, he explains that they are pretty sure she has TB, and ohbytheway, her face is totally gross, so, you know, try to be cool. And Monsignor Timothy enters the room, and somehow recognizes Chloë Sevigny under all the boils and hideousness. Eep! and also, Flashback!
So, when Monsignor Timothy (or really, the Catholic Church, in practice) originally bought Briarcliff, it was being used a TB ward, and Dr. Hoggett was the doctor overseeing the last few stragglers as they took their time coughing to death. Dr. Hoggett explains to Monsignor Timothy that back in the day, 100 people a week were dying up in here — so many that they just shoveled them all into the cremator and were done with it. This somehow segues into Dr. Hoggett explaining the research he’s been working on: an immunity booster made up of one part tuberculosis to one part syphilis to one part nazi, shake and serve to human guinea pigs that can’t resist and whom no one will notice has gone missing/gets covered in hideous face boils if something were to go wrong. If Dr. Hoggett is right and could perform some human trials, he’s pretty sure his little cocktail could end all illness as we know it. And you know who might think that’s pretty cool? ROME, THAT’S WHO. WINK, WINK.
And so Monsignor Timothy strangles Chloë Sevigny to death with his rosary beads.
After killing Chloë Sevigny, Monsignor Timothy returns to Briarcliff and whines at Dr. Hoggett that what he’s doing is wrong and bad and HE’S TELLING. After a weird and pointless diversion in which we see (and can’t unsee) Mark Consuelos masturbating while spying on Sister Lucy Fur, only to be caught by Dr. Hoggett and given the hideous boil treatment, Dr. Hoggett threatens Monsignor Timothy that if he tattles on him, he’ll take Monsignor Timothy down with him. And so what Dr. Hoggett and Monsignor Timothy really need to be worrying about is their mutual problem in the habit, the one with the drinking problem and cane fetish.
In the Briarcliff kitchen, Little Jenny joins Sister Lucy Fur as she chops some vegetables, and complains that she was left there because her mother thinks she killed her friend. When Little Jenny denies stabbing her friend in the back, Sister Lucy Fur calls her on it: yes she did stab her friend, and Sister Lucy Fur knows she did because she’s the devil. And anyway, Little Jenny’s friend, she deserved it: she didn’t really like Little Jenny, she only played with her because her mother made her, so you know, she had those scissors in her back coming. Sister Lucy Fur encourages Little Jenny to embrace the gift of the authentic impulse, and to not waste time trying to be a good girl, like she did.
Sister Mary Eunice is at a pool party, and as the guest of honor, urged to get on the diving board. On the count of three, the hostess instructs, everyone is going to drop their robes. One, two, THREE, and haha, Sister Mary Eunice is the only one who is naked. Good joke.
Back in the kitchen, Sister Lucy Fur explains that she thought the only place she’d be safe was with God, but Little Jenny knows there’s no God, right? That it’s just a bunch of crap that someone made up to keep people from doing what they really want. Little Jenny worries about being locked up in a room forever, and Sister Lucy Fur orders that she stop being a whiner. Little Jenny’s smarter than the rest of them, and she needs to remember that.
Monsignor Timothy heads to Sister Jude’s office where she informs him that Little Jenny’s mother has been found, and she’ll be retrieving Little Jenny shortly, hooray. Monsignor Timothy has his own news for Sister Jude: she’s being transferred to a home for wayward girls in Pittsburgh. Wait, do what now? Asks Sister Jude, shocked at this turn of events. PACK YOUR BAGS, SISTER, YOU’RE OUTTA HERE.
And so, Sister Jude packs her things, but not before sending Sister Lucy Fur to the kitchen to fetch a bottle of Cognac and a couple of very clean glasses. She’s got some Nazi-catching to do.
Kitt Walker is still on the show, you guys! Sure, he’s not in Briarcliff, and considering how little time they’ve devoted to him and Grace, I can understand why you thought the writers forgot about him. But he’s still around, and using his one phone call from prison to tell Dr. Sylar that HE KNOWS IT WAS HIM, FREDO. THANKS FOR TRICKING ME, JERK.
Meanwhile, while Dr. Sylar is busy being yelled at by Kitt, Lana Winters, You Gotta Take Your Chances When You Get Them! attempts to saw her way out of her chains with … something, I don’t know. The point is she is not successful enough to get away, but she is successful enough to leave evidence of her attempt. Once Dr. Sylar hangs up on Kitt and returns to discover Lana Winters, Failed Escapee!’s handiwork, he is VERY DISAPPOINTED. WELL, GREAT. NOW HE HAS TO GO PUT ON THE BLOODY FACE MASK AND GET HIS SCALPEL AND HE DIDN’T WANT IT TO COME TO THIS, BUT LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE MADE HIM DO. GAH.
Back at Briarcliff, Sister Lucy Fur puts on Sister Jude’s red slip and dances in front of a crucifix to Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” which, yes to this. Her awesome sacrilegious dance party is interrupted, however, by a phone call in Sister Jude’s office, which she answers using an eerily accurate impersonation of Sister Jude.
Sister Jude heads down to Dr. Hoggett’s office, cognac and glasses in hand, and offers a toast in his honor. She’s leaving! He won! Bottoms up! And with that, Sister Jude has her Nazi fingerprints. Boom.
Except! Before she can give them to Nazi Hunter, Sister Lucy Fur gets to him first and stabs him in the throat with a piece of mirror. Sister Jude discovers him while he’s (barely) still alive, and he gurgles that one of her nuns did this to him.
It seems Sister Lucy Fur was busy: after she killed the Nazi Hunter, she took all of his files on Dr. Hoggett, hid some of them, and then returned to Briarcliff to give him the rest. Dr. Hoggett gets all defensive about his Nazi past, and Sister Lucy Fur is like, Hey, no worries, it’s all cool with me. In fact, it’s a whole new era. Now, if Dr. Hoggett will just promise his entire soul to her, she can promise him that everything will work out just fine.
As for Little Jenny, it seems she a strange man with a beard and a brown jacket stabbed her mother and her brother and sister to death under the same bridge where her friend was killed. What a coincidence!
And back in Dr. Sylar’s killing basement, Bloody Face hovers over Lana Winters, Next Victim! with his scalpel, and assures her that as soon as the shock sets in, she won’t feel a thing. He sighs that he wishes it could have been different. He had high hopes for her, ever since he first saw her. Which means, Hey! Another flashback!
Back when they first arrested Kitt Walker, Lana Winters, Food Reporter! was waiting with the rest of the press for Kitt to do his perp walk, and she discussed with one of her fellow reporters that this is going to be her story: she’s going to figure out what made Kitt this way. After all, he was once someone’s baby. Dr. Sylar happened to be there, too, and overheard this, and thought that she would understand him. BUT ALAS.
And Lana Winters, What Other Options Do I Have? decides to just go for it. She does understand him. It’s fine. She doesn’t want him to feel guilty. After all, a mother’s love is unconditional, and he never had that, did he? Everyone deserves that kind of love, even him, Baby. And with that, Bloody Face removes his mask and cries all over her and then begins nursing on her because it’s a Ryan Murphy show and we have to go there.
After receiving a call that informs them that they will know the caller’s name when they see “them,” that “they” were impostors, the cops finally arrive at Briarcliff to find three Bloody Faces strung up and dripping in the entryway. Eesh! They lower the bodies, and soon discover Dead Adam Levine in the hallway. Dead Adam Levine’s phone rings in the solitary cell, which they answer and are told that the others were just impostors, he needs them to know that. And then one of the cops identifies Dead Adam Levine as someone who is supposed to be on his honeymoon, so the obvious question is, where is Mrs. Adam Levine? Oops, she’s on Bloody Face’s table about to get bloody-faced.
First of all, why were there three bodies strung up in the entryway at Briarcliff? I’m not particularly good at math, but I thought our body count in the present day was only up to four. But three bodies in the entryway, plus Dead Adam Levine, plus Mrs. Dead Adam Levine = 5, if I’m not mistaken. So, who’s our mystery body?
Secondly, (not to belabor a fairly obvious point) this episode is all about the issue of the origins of evil. Dr. Sylar is under the impression that there is a simple scientific answer to this question. He didn’t get the requisite amount of touch and affection from his mother at the right moment in his psychological development, ergo: he’s a serial killer who wears his victim’s skin on his face. It’s all very mathematic and therefore solvable.
However, Little Jenny’s minor plotline suggests something much darker and less simple. Jenny’s mother did nothing wrong, Jenny’s mother was present and loving and raised two other children who were perfectly normal. And yet, Jenny was just born … evil.
I have a lot of complaints about this season (lack of a sense of humor, the heavy-handed use of Very Important Social Issues, etc.) but I will say that the season’s efforts to remain ambiguous on certain points is refreshing. It would be very easy for the writers to come down firmly on one side on this point, this question of the nature of evil. But instead, they’ve been striving to balance the science versus religion argument, which I appreciate. This is also reflected in Sister Mary Eunice’s “possession.” Is she the devil, or has she had a psychological break and is just releasing her id? As of this moment in the story it’s unclear (although the previews for next week’s episode suggests that might change). In any event, a little ambiguity, a little bit of nuance is never a bad thing, especially in a Ryan Murphy series.
American Horror Story airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on FX.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.