‘American Horror Story’: A real medium or medium real?

American Horror Story
“Chapter 3”
September 28, 2106

Because the people on this show are dumb, so dumb, really really dumb, they brought a small child to a house which, in the worst case scenario was being haunted by a pigman ghost, and in the best case scenario was being beset by angry hillbillies.

And what happened? The small child went missing. Several times. But then the SECOND TIME the small child came to the house — the time when her mother actually kidnapped her and brought her to the pigman ghost house — she went missing for good, and the only trace of her was her sweatshirt that was found at the top of an improbably tall tree. So, great choices, everyone. Well done.

“Sister,” having been a cop once, starts rattling off the not-so great chances of finding “Flora” after a certain amount of time, and is understandably in a bit of a panic. That panic is not helped when they find a baby pig’s head surrounded by doll parts out in the woods,  or later when they find the pig’s torso with the doll’s missing head a little further along, near a house.

“Sister,” “Matt” and “Shelby” search the house and come up with nothing but a fly infestation and a spare goat head in the fridge. However, the same can’t be said about the barn, where the trio find two filthy feral children suckling on a large sow, because that’s what kind of show this is.

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The cops reveal that the rest of the hillbilly family, the Polks, are nowhere to be found — that they just up and left the kids to be cared for by their nanny pig. Once in the hospital, the feral rat children are cleaned up, but the only thing they have to say is “CROATOAN!” which, frankly, is just not very helpful in finding Flora.

After a couple of days pass, “Sister” becomes less and less hopeful about finding her daughter. “Ex-Husband” understandably snaps and accuses of “Sister” of having “Flora” hidden somewhere, waiting to sneak her out of the country as soon as everyone gives up looking for her. Furious, “Ex-Husband” gives “Sister” a good shove before storming out into the night.

Exhausted, everyone heads to bed. Later they are woken up by a phone call — a real one, not a ghost one this time — alerting them that the police have found a body. Horrified, “Sister,” “Matt” and “Shelby” head out to the woods where the cops show them a charred corpse strapped to some sort of wooden structure. The cops then show “Sister” a ring they found on the body which she identifies as belonging to “Ex-Husband.”

Back at the house, “Matt” checks the security footage and sees that “Sister” left the house after they had gone to bed, and returned some four hours later. Soooooooo …. that doesn’t look great for her. When “Sister” overhears “Shelby” discussing the possibility that she may have had something to do with “Ex-Husband’s” death, she’s understandably pissed, and notes that she’s clearly not welcome in their home. “Matt” assures her that they trust her, but she’s right — they aren’t welcome in this house, none of them are. Something is clearly telling them to leave, and maybe they should listen and go check into a hotel.

Which is when Cricket the medium comes wandering into the house that they didn’t lock up. You know, the same house where they’re being menaced by Blair Witch-obsessed hill people who maybe stole their kid and murdered “Ex-Husband.” Why would they lock the door?

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Cricket explains that while he was enjoying a Cafe du Monde beignet at home …

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… yes, Cafe du Monde has takeout, and yes, maybe Cricket lives nearby in the Quarter, but from my experience this is not a thing with native New Orleanians, guys. It doesn’t happen. You eat the beignets there at Cafe du Monde with all the tourists, or you go to Morning Call in Metairie.

ANYWAY, he was enjoying this supposed takeout beignet while watching a story about “Flora” on CNN when he was contacted by a spirit urging him to use his powers to help.

Cricket explains to the skeptical group that he has a record of working with the FBI to find missing children, including one case where he found a boy alive and well. As Cricket moves through the house, he points out the crawl space where “Flora” hid that one time, and claims that “Flora” is with Priscilla, a child who died in the late 1500s.

This is enough to convince “Sister” to let Cricket hold a séance, and he does not spare a single seance cliché: candles blow out, windows shatter, and the candle is sliced in half by an unseen presence. Cricket “speaks” to a spirit called The Butcher who informs him that they are all “trespassers,” and says that “Flora” is with the bastard child Priscilla somewhere beyond her own hallowed ground where The Butcher will not venture. And then the séance comes to an end with Cricket screaming, “CROATOAN!”

To actually retrieve the child, it will cost them $25,000. The “Millers” are not amused.

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But as Cricket takes his leave, he assures “Sister” that she will invite him back and whispers something in her ear.

The off-camera producer notes that Sister went to see Cricket the next day, was it because he said something about her first daughter? Emily? Sister demands to know how they know about Emily, and the producer (who is definitely being played by Cayenne Jackson) explains that they are all subject to background checks and death records are publicly available. Shaken, Sister demands they TURN THE GODDAMN CAMERAS OFF.

Somehow, the production crew convinces her to stay, and she explains that Emily was her first daughter whom she had when she was 17 years old. One day Sister left baby Emily in the car while she ran inside the grocery store, and when she came back, Emily was gone.

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And that’s why “Sister” returns to Cricket with the money that she got who only knows where and asks him to help her find “Flora.”

Cricket explains that The Butcher is Tomasyn White, the wife of Governor John White of the Roanoke colony. As we discussed in the first post, John White went back to England in search of supplies, and when he returned, the entire colony was missing. “YEAH, I KNOW,” says “Sister.” “WHAT DOES THE LOST COLONY OF ROANOKE, WHICH INCIDENTALLY IS NOWHERE NEAR HERE, HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING?”

Cricket explains that actually, what had happened was, The Butcher was left in charge of the colony when her husband returned to England, and folks weren’t happy about her leadership on account of all the starvation and such. The men wanted to move to another location, further inland, but The Butcher refused, worried that her husband wouldn’t be able to find them when he returned.

So one night, the men — including her son — snuck into her sleeping quarters and announced that they’ll be taking over now, thanks, and she’ll stay here with an iron mask on her head to think about her choices. Her son, under duress, pledged his loyalty to the other dudes, and Momma was NOT IMPRESSED.

The colony abandoned her in the woods to starve to death. And she very nearly does! But then one day when a wild hog began chasing her, she prayed for mercy only to have Feral Lady Gaga appear out of nowhere and kill the hog. Somehow Feral Gaga removed the mask — MAGIC! — and offered The Butcher the hog heart to eat and to declare her fealty to her, which she gratefully did.

That taken care of, boy howdy, did The Butcher have something to say to the assholes who banished her — and she lets her butcher’s cleaver do the talking. She killed most of the leaders of the rebellion, and considered killing her son, but granted him mercy THIS ONE TIME. And then everyone was like, “So we’re staying?” But TWIST! The Butcher defied everyone’s expectations and announced that they were moving inland after all.

And as it turns out, the lost colony of Roanoke set up shop on the same land where Matt and Shelby’s home currently stands and Ghost Butcher is really uncool about it, to the point of wanting to murder everybody.

So everyone heads out to the woods where Cricket negotiates a deal with The Butcher: she gives Flora back and in exchange, they’ll burn down Matt and Shelby’s house. This is news to “Shelby” who is all, “EXCUSE ME?” But “Sister” insists that “Matt” told her it was cool. Needing to confirm that her husband agreed to BURN HER HOUSE DOWN, “Shelby” looks around and suddenly realizes that “Matt” is nowhere to be found.

So “Shelby” goes looking for “Matt” only to find him having sex in the haunted teeth woods with Feral Gaga while some hillbillies watch, hilling their billies.

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Meanwhile, Cricket and “Sister” go looking for “Shelby” and “Matt” and about an hour later, they find “Matt” confused with no idea where he had been. They return to the house where “Shelby” is waiting with the cops. “Matt,” relieved that “Shelby” is safe, receives a fierce shove when he goes in for a hug, because NO SIR, ABSOLUTELY NOT. When “Matt” asks what’s wrong, “Shelby” is like, “UH, WHERE TO BEGIN? WITH THE PART WHERE YOU AGREED TO BURN OUR HOUSE DOWN? OR THE PART WHERE YOU WERE HAVING SEX WITH SOME DIRTY WOODS LADY?”

“Matt” insists he has no idea what she is talking about, just as the officers place “Sister” under arrest. “Matt” demands to know what “Shelby” has done, but she just shakes her head and tells him that she has no idea what he’s talking about. A woman scorned, man.

i ain't sorry beyonce

Let’s start with a quick historical check: As it turns out, Tomasyn White did not actually go to Roanoke with her husband. Their daughter, Eleanor, did go to Roanoke, where she gave birth to the first English child in the New World, Virginia Dare. Tomasyn and John did have a son together, Tom, but he died young.

So it’s interesting that in the AHS universe the writers would choose to change history in such curiously obvious ways. Not only is Tomasyn in the New World, but here her son is alive and well and an adult named Ambrose. As for Eleanor and perhaps the most famous Roanoke colonist, her granddaughter Virginia, they are as of now nowhere to be seen. Why?

I’m probably overthinking what is just classic lazy AHS writing here, but what if this is another clue that what “Shelby,” “Matt” and “Sister” are being told isn’t true or real? What if this is another indication that they are being conned or hoaxed?

I will say that this episode loosened my convictions that someone is playing a hoax on Shelby and Matt somewhat. Ex-Husband being killed raises the stakes and makes everything that much more real, and the whole Matt having sex with Feral Gaga thing is so strange that it feels like he must have been bewitched.

Still … it remains within the realm of the possible that Matt could have chosen to have sex with Feral Gaga, or have been in some sort of fugue state when he did so. As for “Ex-Husband’s” corpse, the only thing identifying it as such is that ring — it could be someone else’s body or even a prop.

Then there is Cricket, the medium. He could be real; within the AHS universe there are real mediums, like Billie Dean. Or he could be a fraud, come to prey on Sister’s desperation — he is, after all the only one of them who supposedly can see and communicate with The Butcher.

And it may be as simple as that, he’s just ripping this grieving mother off. Orrrrrr, if there is nothing supernatural happening, he might be working with whatever this group is who are terrorizing these people under the guise of being either a real or a fraudalent medium, whichever they happen to believe. The real con here is not taking “Sister’s” money — although that’s certainly a benefit — it’s planting this story in all of their minds.

Cricket, like the Professor, shows up out of nowhere and starts filling their heads with stories about the property. They are not researching the property and finding out its supposed history themselves — they are hearing it second-hand from these sources who may or may not be reliable. Now, that might just be the AHS writers making the exposition more interesting. Or it could be that these characters are telling Shelby and Matt these stories to manipulate them, to make them believe that something supernatural is going on. For me the moment that felt like a writers’ clue that Cricket is somehow in cahoots with whomever it is that wants them out of the house was that he literally walks into the house (and show) right after “Matt” says: “We’re not welcome. None of us are. Something is trying to tell us to leave, and maybe it’s time we listen and go.” Is Cricket a crucial part of that something?

Let me end with a nugget that I should have included in last week’s post: As I am sure you have heard by now, Ryan Murphy has promised that there will be a twist to this season and it will be revealed in the sixth episode. From the Entertainment Weekly interview:

“You’ll see starting in episode 6, the show has a huge turn and the thing that you think you’re watching is not what you’re watching,” co-creator Ryan Murphy reveals to EW.

The plot of Roanoke was obviously the major secret that the AHS team had to protect, but they were also hiding this massive surprise. “Even though the subject matter has gotten out, it’s irrelevant because nobody gets what we’re doing,” says co-creator Brad Falchuk. “No matter what you think it is, it’s not that. Then, episode 6 comes and you’re like, ‘Wait! What happened?’”

Adds Murphy, “It’s a hat on a hat on a hat on a hat that we’ve had to protect.”

While Murphy thinks the twist separates the season into two halves, Falchuk considers it three unique stories. He says, “It’s like [episodes] 1-5, 6-9, and 10 is its own thing.”

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Murphy has also said that this season has ties to all the previous seasons — and so far, each episode has paid homage to the season with which it corresponds:

Episode 1: A married couple move into a new house trying to make a new start.

Season 1:

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Episode 2: Two nurses torture and kill their patients.

Season 2:

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Episode 3: Our characters are menaced by a woods witch and Leslie Jordan shows up unexpectedly.

Episode 3:

 

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But it’s even more than that! Each episode has referred specifically to the sixth episode of each season in specific ways:

Episode 1: We are introduced to Pigman — and in the sixth episode of the first season, Ben’s patient tells him the urban legend of Piggy Man.

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Episode 2: Flora meets a little (ghost) girl, Priscilla, who threatens to kill her and leads her out into the woods — in the sixth episode of the second season, we meet Jenny, a homicidal little girl who takes her victims out to the woods and kills them.

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Episode 3: The characters perform a seance and meet The Butcher — and in the sixth episode of the third season, Zoe and the girls hold a seance and contact The Axeman.

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So if the pattern holds, the fourth episode will pay homage not just to the fourth season, Freak Show, but to the sixth episode of the fourth season, which is where we learn that the Motts were inbred. And I’m thinking it’s a safe bet that the fifth episode will probably at least partially take place in a hotel. It’s worth noting that in the sixth episode of AHS: Hotel, we learn about The Countess giving birth to her weird monster baby in Murder House. Could it be possible that the feral children, and maybe all of the hillbillies are the children of Feral Gaga? Or that she may be now pregnant with Matt’s child?

And then we arrive at the sixth episode of the sixth season in which we are promised some huge twist. Considering how the crew of “My Roanoke Nightmare” are beginning to creep into the show, the obvious turns this series could take would be some form of the hauntings breaching “reality” —  that the actors portraying Matt and Shelby start actually being haunted; that the “real” Shelby and Matt interact with the actors portraying them and everyone is terrorized by Pigman and The Butcher or whatever; or the crew become the victims of whatever is happening.

But what if in the sixth episode of the sixth season, they go full-meta, and it’s not the cast and crew of “My Roanoke Nightmare” that are the victims, but the cast and crew of American Horror Story itself: Brad Falchuk Teley-Vision, Ryan Murphy Productions, Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lily Rabe, Angela Bassett — and the final “R” for the Murder Nurses will be Ryan Murphy himself? It would take this exploration of reality and fiction to the next obvious place: where the real actors who had been playing fictional reality characters become fictional victims. By bringing the actual series into the series would be the sort of Möbius loop logic befitting the sixth episode of the sixth season.

But who even knows with this series, right?

worst idea yet ahs

American Horror Story airs on FX Wednesdays at 9/10 p.m.

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