American Horror Story: Freak Show
December 3, 2014
Gloria has finally decided, some twenty years too late, that she should maybe discuss her concerns about her sociopathic son with a professional. And so she plops down on a psychiatrist’s couch and explains that while she is not ready to institutionalize Dandy, the boy definitely ain’t right:
As a child, he tied up Miss Patti LaBelle’s daughter and cut her hair, he killed small animals and he maybe, probably, most certainly killed the gardener’s son. Or maybe Dandy was just working on his cosmetology skills, trying to help a sick kitty and playing an epic round of hide and go seek with Gardener’s Son, who can say?
Dr. Feinbloom suggests to Gloria that Dandy come see him before asking if there were any recent incidents with her son that prompted her to visit …
… and Gloria’s all, “NOPE.”
Meanwhile, back at the carnival, everyone is like “Hey, anyone seen Ma Petite lately?” So they go search the woods where they find nothing but her teensy torn and bloodied dress. The performers deliver the bad news to Elsa who is all, “VAT? NEIN! OH, NEIN, NEIN, NEIN!” and sobs and wails and sobs but Ethel is like, “Miststück, please.”
Later, as Ethel delivers Elsa’s dinner to her tent, Elsa continues to mourn her little cuddle buddy, and calls Ethel “Edna” at one point according to my closed captioning, but we’ll just chalk that up to her all-consuming grief. Ethel, in turn, is like, “Great performance out there, I almost believed you,” before accusing Elsa of killing Ma Petite in a fit of jealousy. So Elsa slaps her, because, VAT? VAT DID SHE SAY? Ma Petite vas her most precious one!
This then leads to an endless Emmy Reel-off between Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates. Ethel goes on and on about how she loved Elsa sooooooooooo much and was willing to look past her many faults, but she knows who Elsa is and how much she hates anyone stealing her spotlight. Ethel reminds Elsa that she is not just the performers’s savior, she’s their mother. And that’s why it was such a betrayal when Ethel overheard Elsa making plans to kill the Twins. So, Ethel made her own plans, she hid the Twins and dug out her gun and now she’s going to shoot Elsa in the leg now, K? Or at least I think that’s what she said.
But the joke’s on Ethel (Or Edna. Whomever.) because Elsa’s hobbling around on a couple of wooden shins and the bullet passes right through her “calf.” Elsa decides that now is as good a time as any for ein flashback, und reveals zat after zee German soldier, he saved her, he took her to ein Italian prosthetics maker/movie props maker, Signore Axeman, who made her a pair of wooden legs. Elsa skips over the more important part of the story that Ethel presumably doesn’t know: the whole snuff film, amputation part, but whatever.
Ethel is like, “That’s really sad, I guess, but I’m still going to kill you for killing Ma Petite and stuff,” and cocks the trigger. Elsa suggests that zey have ein last Schnapps, and Ethel is all, “SOUNDS GREAT BECAUSE I LOVE ALCOHOL.” But instead of offering her a drink, Elsa offers Ethel a knife into her eyeball.
R.I.P. Bearded Lady with the Unintelligible Accent of One Sort or Another. I’ll miss having to rewind every scene to try to figure out what it was you just said.
The next day, “Esmerelda” explains to Jimmy that she was out in the woods picking flowers for Ma Petite when she saw Ethel drive her tree into a car to kill herself, which just sounds like a really hard way to kill oneself. Everyone heads out to the crash site where they find that not only did Ethel supposedly drive her car into this tree, but she wrapped a chain around her neck so as to pop her head plumb off in the crash, because this episode was obviously written very soon after this happened and Ryan Murphy couldn’t stop himself. Everyone is so freaked out by the sheer awfulness of the whole head thing that no one seems to notice that her eyeball is completely missing.
And then it’s revealed that “Richard” helped Elsa stage the whole accident, because that’s what a good “agent” would do for his client. Hope he negotiated for more than a 10% cut.
Back at the Mott Mansion, Gloria comes home to find Regina, Miss Patti LaBelle’s daughter, waiting to see her mother. Gloria is all, “Uhhhhh …. she went to get squash? Yes, squash! Squash in another town, that’s the ticket!” But Regina is like, “Whatever, crazy white people, I’m just going to sit here and wait for her.”
At the carnival, the performers hold a funeral for Ethel, where Jimmy reads part of an Emily Dickinson poem: “I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you – Nobody – too? Then there’s a pair of us!” in an attempt to milk as much sentiment as possible from the scene. After the body is lowered into the ground and the majority of the performers head back to the carnival, some of the lady freaks stay behind to pay homage to Ethel for being a strong woman and decide that in her honor they should pay Meryl Streep Jr.’s father a little retribution.
Dandy does visit with Dr. Feinbloom and goes through the Rorschach Test where he sees murder, murder, murder and then some murder. So, just how much of a genius is he, Dr. Feinbloom? Dr. Feinbloom tells Dandy that he’s going to need to see him several times a week to determine that, so Dandy starts yammering threateningly about Papau New Guinea cannibals. Time to look into some personal security measures, Doc!
Dandy returns home and is like, “CUTE TRICK SENDING ME TO A SHRINK, MOTHER.” And that’s when Regina pops her head in and is all, “Oh, hey, is my Mom still not back from buying squash? Oh, OK, cool, I’m gonna go ahead and call the cops, Crazy White People.” As soon as she leaves, Dandy bargains with Gloria: He’ll see Dr. Feinbloom again if she kills Regina. Great deal! Absolutely! Nothing wrong with that plan at all!
Meanwhile, with two notable holes in her lineup, Elsa breaks out that awesome clown face bag of hers and goes on a recruiting trip to a nearby spa where she finds Barbara, her new fat lady, whom she lures to the carnival with a Baby Ruth. Because overweight people are easily reduced to simple stereotypes by lazy writing, even by the likes of Ryan Murphy, King of the Outsiders.
As for the Ladies Get Revenge plan, Desiree, Eve, Legless Suzi and Meryl Streep Jr. gather a bunch of tools in a pillowcase and break into Mr. Streep’s house where they bonk him over the head and kidnap him. They return with him to Desiree and The Commish’s caravan where they strip him down and tar and feather him in a nod to Tod Browning’s Freaks.
However, before they can continue with their original plan involving a little castration and a lot of murdering, “Esmerelda” bursts in and is all, “NOT COOL, GUYS.” Somehow, over Desiree’s protests that a pretty white girl doesn’t know what it’s like to be tattooed like a lizard or have three boobs, “Esmerelda” is able to convince Meryl Streep Jr. that nothing good will come of killing her father, even if he did have it coming. And now I have that Chicago song stuck in my head.
In the big tent, Jimmy stops drinking his grief away long enough to meet Elsa’s newest acquisition, Ima Wiggles, whom Elsa sits before a huge feast that would make the Golden Corral proud. (Needs more
E. Coli Chocolate Fountain.) But Jimmy’s too broken-hearted over Ethel’s death to make nice and instead yells at Elsa that the carnival days are over. But Elsa’s like, “Da, but look at Ima’s big boobs. She could comfort you like ein Mutter, da?” Jimmy is not convinced.
Back at the Mott Mansion, Gloria calls Dr. Feinbloom to announce that she and Dandy are off on the Queen Mary with an open return, so they will not be needing his services any longer. When Dr. Feinbloom is all, “Yeah, that’s a terrible idea and you’re going to be murdered by your sociopathic son. But, hey, as long as I’m not the one on the other end of his psychopathic fixation, have a nice trip! Good luck! Byeeeee!”
That’s when Dandy walks in all mopey that his mother clearly thinks he’s crazy, and goes on a long bit of exposition about how Miss Patti LaBelle told him all about how Gloria was forced to marry her second cousin because of no monies, but her cousin was crazy and did those things to those little girls, and that she’s no better than a Roosevelt, which is 1. the best line in the episode and 2. what actually elicits a response from Gloria. HOW DARE HE SAY THAT IN THIS HOUSE. And in conclusion, Dandy is not going to Europe with someone who hates him so much.
Gloria responds that Dandy was the love of her life from the moment he was born, but she’s all tapped out now and has no more love to give. To this, Dandy pulls out his gun and places it to his head before being all, LOL, J/K, and shooting her.
Back at the carnival, “Esmerelda” tries to convince Jimmy to cut it out with the boozing and the moping, but Jimmy is all NOPE. So “Esmerelda” stomps off, leaving him to sob into Ima Wiggles big, not-so-nasty-after-all boobs.
And finally, this happens:
That is one very portable bathtub.
As last week’s episode was about everyone’s daddy issues, this week is mom’s turn. Between Dandy killing Gloria, Regina looking for her dead mother, Jimmy’s mother dying and the symbolic death of Elsa as a mother figure to the rest of the troupe, this episode neatly tied together that most archetypal of losses: the death of Mother.
But both of these themes — the abandonment of the Father, the death of Mother — they both tie into what is the larger theme at work this season: family and the loss of it. The carnival acts as a makeshift family for the family-less, those who have been cast out and rejected by their own flesh and blood. But now the carnival is falling apart, murdered by its father and abandoned by its mother, all which serves as a metaphor for the death of the era of the traveling carnival as a whole, a passing which Jimmy keeps insisting is coming.
Alright, so that out of the way, can we just take a second to talk about this season so far? What is even happening anymore? Where is this going? Is there a plan? I’d like to think that there is a plan, but I think the most plan we have is this symbolic of the death of the carnival lifestyle that we just discussed; the rest they seem to be making up as they go along. With the deaths of Kathy Bates and Frances Conroy, we have lost respectively the emotional heart and the comic relief of the season — this after having lost the only actually frightening character, Twisty, only four episodes in. Who is there even left to care about? Jimmy? Because I realllly don’t care about Jimmy. At this point, I wish Dandy would just kill everyone and let us be done with it.
And then there are questions: Are we done with the singing yet? What is the purpose of the singing? What really happened to Ma Petite? Has she really been turned over to the Not!Mütter Museum or was that just another fake out? How long did Regina sit around with Dandy playing Candyland before she gave up on waiting around for Miss Patti LaBelle? Why was there a shot of Gloria coming up behind Regina with a gun in the preview for this episode and why didn’t it make it to air? How much blood is in the human body? Enough to fill a bathtub? Because somehow I don’t think it’s enough to fill a bathtub, but I could be wrong, but the thing is I don’t want to search for “can you fill a bathtub with the blood from one human being” on Google and get on all the watchlists. And finally, how does Dandy get that bathtub out into the woods in the first place, not to mention then moving it back into the playroom? Is it on wheels? Does he have people move it for him? Does he have bathtub servants? Confused.
American Horror Story: Freak Show aired on FX.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Tubular.