American Horror Story
October 26, 2016
We begin the episode in the production trailer hidden away in the woods, where Sidney, the toothy producer, is watching as Dominic and Matt pummel each other, exactly as he planned.
But the reality good times come to a quick end when the production assistant, Toothy and his camera man are all hacked to death by one crazy-bananas Agnes in her Butcher costume.
R.I.P. Toothy, &c. You had it coming, but I didn’t expect it to come quite so soon.
Inside the house, the cast search for Rory who left nothing behind but a giant puddle of blood. This proves nothing for Audrey, who assumes that the whole thing has been staged by Toothy so that Rory could slip out of his contract without disrupting the filming. Orrrrrr he was set upon by nurse murder ghosts and spirited out of the house, somehow.
Meanwhile, in what I suppose is the Professor’s cellar, crazy Agnes films herself having a guilt about having killed the production assistant — but not Toothy because that guy was an asshole, and not the camera man because who? But she then begins justifying her behavior: she needed to be on the show — she as a fan favorite! She was only supposed to be in three episodes, but after she became so popular, they made it five! Crazy then slips back into The Butcher again, ranting about how they took her land and her destiny and legacy and blah blah blah. Her torch snuffs out and when Agnes finally finds her lighter, she finds herself surrounded by Celtic chanting and a bunch of those Blair Witch dolls. “Eep!” says Agnes.
The next morning, Dominic tries to hit on Shelby in the kitchen but she is like, “Dude, no, I’m trying to fix my marriage, which, thanks to you, is broken.” Matt walks in on them and informs Dominic that he can have Shelby as far as he’s concerned. He’s done with her.
Dominic heads to the confessional where he reveals that he doesn’t actually care about Shelby one way or the other, he’s just trying to be the instigator per Toothy’s orders. He’s going to be the Puck, Omarosa, That Crazy Bitch With the Fake Leg of this series.
AVIVA. HER NAME IS AVIVA, SIR. AND THE ONLY THING FAKE ABOUT HER IS THIS:
SHE IS A CLASSIC. GET IT STRAIGHT.
Shelby goes up to her room for a good cry when she notices a camera on her bed. As she goes to investigate, Agnes emerges from the closet and starts making “TRESPASSER!” and “INTERLOPER!” noises while waving her cleaver around. Shelby tries to talk her down, only to get a cleaver in her shoulder as thanks. Dominic hears her screaming, and manages to tackle Agnes, saving Shelby. But by the time he gets up to fetch towels for Shelby’s wound, Agnes and her camera are long gone. That is one spry psychopath.
The housemates tend to Shelby, but when they try to call for an ambulance, they discover the phone lines have been cut and Toothy does not seem to be in any kind of hurry to bring help, on account of being an asshole and all. Oh, and dead. Also, he’s dead.
So the group decides that it just makes good sense for the men to stay at the house with Shelby, and for Audrey, Sister and Monet to go to the trailer to find help. Sister announces that she brought her gun with her1 and that they’re the dummies for not packing. Which, true. They then slip out of the house through Mott’s secret tunnel so as to avoid cleaver-slinging colonial reenactors.
However, that proves to be more complicated when they are confronted by what appears to be Edward Mott’s actual ghost who is much less fop and much more shrieking terror monster. Sister fires four shots into it, all for naught.
The women wander around in the woods for a while, looking for the trailer and filming themselves the entire time per Sister’s orders — she is NOT going to be framed a second time, God dammit. As night falls, they finally discover the trailer, only to find the entire production staff murdered but good. The women search the trailer for a phone, a laptop, ANYTHING that can help, but there’s nothing and the car is dead, because of course the car is dead, this is a horror series, duh. And that’s when Agnes comes charging at them from the woods, stopped only when Sister fires a shot into her shoulder.
The women continue along the road, determined to try to make it into town, when the torch people appear, sending the women deeper into the woods. There, Audrey goes full Blair Witch, recording a tearful message to Rory. The good news is he might have heard it! The bad news is he might have heard it because his corpse was tied to the tree directly above her head, dripping blood all over her.
And that’s when the hill folk show up.
After dragging the women off to the their cannabis farm, the Polks separate them. Sister is taken to a room where she Momma Polk forces her to rub oil and spices into her own leg because “everybody knows the secret to sweet meats is tenderizing.”
Later the hillbillies check in on the other ladies who plead to be released. Their request is denied. Instead, they offer the women a snack: “Sister Jerky.” The women politely decline, but reconsider once the hillbillies begin zapping them with their cattle prods.
Meanwhile, Agnes — who is still not dead despite having had a rough 24 hours — retreats to her cellar where she pulls the bullet out and chants the pain away.
Back in the house, Matt keeps the injured and drugged Shelby company in bed where they discuss how their marriage fell apart after they moving into this house. But hey! maybe they can work on putting it back together once this whole thing is over. Hope!
Except that night, Matt goes full Paranormal Activity. In a trance-like state, Matt climbs out of bed and goes downstairs, waking Dominic in the process. Dominic follows Matt to the basement where he sees Matt tell someone that he’s been waiting for them, before this same someone shrieks and pulls him down to the floor.
Dominic hurries upstairs and wakes up poor Shelby who probably does not need to deal with this right now, honestly. But she goes down to the basement with him and when she finds Feral Gaga on top of her husband making the sex, she grabs a crowbar and pops one nasty witch upside the head with it. Feral Gaga scurries away, only to have Matt tell Shelby that Feral Gaga is the real reason why he came back to the house.
So Shelby goes full Walking Dead on his ass and smushes his skull in like a ripe cantaloupe.
- I just really did not see that coming.
- R.I.P. Matt
- BUT ENOUGH WITH THE HEAD BASHING Y’ALL. ENOUGH. THAT’S ENOUGH. NO MORE. ENOUGH. I AM HAVING SOME SERIOUS WALKING DEAD PTSD OVER HERE. AND I HAVE HAD IT. OFFICIALLY.
Dominic takes a shocked Shelby back upstairs where he tries to convince her to turn herself in: there are cameras EVERYWHERE, it’s not like she’s going to get away with this.
But they are going to have to put a pin in this discussion as it is interrupted by one Crazy Ass Agnes who, having set up her camera, is out screaming in the yard about how she’s going to burn the house down, etc. And that’s when the actual Butcher and her backup band, the Torches arrive. Crazy-Ass Agnes fangirls out, but the Real Butcher is unimpressed with Crazy-Ass Agnes’ cosplay and so she cleaves Crazy-Ass Agnes’ head in half. BYE GURL.
Let’s begin with a few interesting points about this episode, starting with Matt’s death. Now, I can only assume that the writers decided Matt should die in this particular way in this particular week as a nod to The Walking Dead. After all, we have all known for a very long while now that Negan was going to bash someone’s skull in on the season premiere, and I think this was intended to be a cheeky nod to what they knew would be a big week for The Walking Dead.
Unlike The Walking Dead, I don’t think anyone could have predicted this death coming in this fashion: it certainly earned surprise points. But it also felt wrong. Whatever you have to say about how The Walking Dead carried out the Negan scene — and I had a lot to say about it — the victims themselves made sense. Nothing about Matt’s death particularly made sense. After knowing that Matt had slept with this woman at least two other times, after deciding to participate in the show as a means to fix their marriage, after having had a conversation with Matt just a few hours earlier about how maybe they could work their way back to one another, after all of that, Shelby’s going to snap and become homicidal now?
It doesn’t make sense. Now, I think it had to happen to set up how the series will eventually end, which we will talk about later, but I think it came too soon and it was unearned. In their rush to wink at The Walking Dead premiere, they sacrificed logic. In other words, it was just Ryan Murphy being Ryan Murphy.
Which is a shame because I think that a lot of what happened in this episode was really interesting and helped contribute to what is making this season so tight and thematic and the best season to date.
Take the whole subplot with Polks, for instance. I’m not a big fan of torture horror, I hate slasher movies as a rule, and refuse to watch movies like Saw. But this scene worked because of what was not shown. So the hillbillies capture these women, separate them, rub oil and spices into Sister’s leg and then present Monet and Audrey some mysterious meat to eat which they — and we — assume is Sister’s leg. But all we see actually happen to any of them is Momma jab that fork into Sister’s leg and some cattle prod shocks.
I suspect what is going on here is that the Polks, like the rest of America, watched My Roanoke Nightmare and did not care for being depicted as a bunch of murderous cannibals. So they are taking it out on the cast — reenacting, if you will, the story that was told about them. It’s worth remembering that only Matt and Shelby really know what happened with the real Polks; everyone else, including Sister, Monet and Audrey, believe the My Roanoke Nightmare version of events. And so the Polks are torturing the women with their “reality” personas: playing with the idea that is already in their heads that they are going to make jerky out of Sister, and making Monet and Audrey come to their own conclusions that they are eating her. They never say, “and now we’re going to cut off your leg”; they never say “have a bite of your friend’s leg,” because they don’t have to. Sister is fine, aside from having that fork in her leg, and the women are eating just random meat. But thanks to My Roanoke Nightmare, the women have constructed their own verison of reality. Again, it’s this complicated interplay between what is real and what is fiction.
This theme is further played out in the other horror references in the episode: the obvious Blair Witch touches — those dolls and Audrey’s tearful video, and the less obvious nod to Paranormal Activity, when Matt is compelled in the middle of the night to leave bed and follow some supernatural force. Both movies, like this second half of the season, are of the found footage genre in which the material is presented as if it were discovered documentary footage. Blair Witch went so far as to market itself as being real found footage, and though Paranormal Activity never made any such claims, plenty of people, bless them, believed it was real. The horror of these movies lies in the verisimilitude: that it could be real. But, of course, it is not.
And so once again, we have this fictional show about a reality show that used actors to reenact a story that may or may not be true which was then spun off into its own reality show that utilizes a genre that purports fictional material to be real. Who even knows what, if any, of this will be “real” in the end. Like Matt, my mind is blown.
As to my thoughts on who is going to survive, let’s look at who is left:
Toothy and the Crew
While there is an argument it will be Sister, personally, I’m going with Shelby.
So, remember what Brad Falchuk told Entertainment Weekly back at the beginning of the season: “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.'”
I think the cleanest answer is that over the next two episodes every one else is killed off and somehow Shelby survives and escapes, possibly after some sort of confrontation with Feral Gaga. Then episode 10 is basically American Crime Story: Roanoke. Dominic isn’t wrong, after all: Shelby’s murder of Matt has been captured for posterity. She will be arrested and tried for his murder, and over the course of her case, the truth about what really happened will be revealed.
This would then tie all of this season’s major themes together, particularly these ideas of reality vs. fiction, and the theme introduced in this episode: the pursuit of fame. Dominic proudly declares that he is willing to be the bad guy on the show to make himself more famous. But it’s Agnes, desperate to reclaim some of that power she felt when she was embraced by the audience, who takes the idea of being the reality villain to its bloodiest conclusion.
Though Shelby isn’t herself fame-hungry, she is now famous thanks to the first series. And it would only make sense that her murder of Matt would make her a notorious true crime figure, not unlike O.J. Simpson: famous for one thing initially, but then becoming more famous for committing a crime of passion.
Of course, this being a Ryan Murphy project, that might all be a little too tidy, so even who knows what we can expect. (Aliens. Maybe the Pope. Definitely Nazis.)
American Horror Story airs on FX Wednesdays at 9/10 p.m.