“American Horror Story: Asylum” Recap: Dark Lady

Confession time, y’all: I have no idea what the f*ck is going on. This week’s American Horror Story: Asylum has had the effect on my wee brain of a Jolt Cola-sponsored 48-hour horror movie marathon held in an operating steel mill. I’m no longer able to discern heroes from villains, the dead from the living, or a fake Boston accent from a real German one.

Asylum, you have finally broken me with these four simple, yet impossibly beautiful, words:

We begin with a bit of background nunsense: two smiling nursing sisters titter about Lilies of the Field as they arrive for their shift through Briarcliff’s front doors. I’m half expecting them to punch a clock on the way in as a sheepdog punches himself out. (“Mornin’, Sam.” “Mornin’, Sister.”) They arrive in the medical ward, where a very grey, very sweaty Grace (Lizzie Brochere) lies barely conscious under a sheet. One of the sisters pulls back the sheet to reveal gallons of blood soaking Grace’s downstairs area:

The sisters whisper intensely about the fact that Dr. Arden is likely behind this, but Bloody Crotch Grace is distracted by someone else in the room. It’s the luminous Frances Conroy, standing off to the side looking like she’s dressed for Helena Bonham Carter’s baby shower:


Seriously, it’s like the Nanny McPhee Collection by Vivienne Westwood.

Gothy McPhee approaches Grace and asks her if she wants a kiss. Uh, hello – time and a place, lady! This ain’t last call at the Cubbyhole. Grace replies “I’m ready” and McPhee suddenly sprouts a huge pair of black wings. Oh my! Grace has stopped breathing, and Chicken Lady bends in to kiss her … but before she can, Sister Smiley pounds Grace in the sternum, bringing her back from the brink. Chicken Lady (who does not, as it turns out, “love life”) backs off as Sister Smiley comments, “We almost lost you, Grace!” Grace mumbles that they should have let her go.


In his office, Arden (James Cromwell) gardens. He’s always gardening, actually – is anything going to come of this plant obsession? He’s the King of Arden Gardens. He’s the constant Ardener. Sister Mary Eunice Whoopsies del Diablo, BVM (Lily Rabe) enters, commenting that seeing as how he’s “all thumbs” it’s good that at least one of them is green. She blames him outright for botching Grace’s sterilization, but he says he never touched her. Whoopsies insists: “All of her girl parts have been scooped out!” Remind me to not make butternut squash anytime soon. Arden tells her not to talk to her like that, demanding that she show him the respect duly owed to a murderous Nazi doctor with a teeny-tiny peepee.

She replies, “You really think you’re in charge?” and Arden slaps her.

You heard me, folks: Babe’s daddy just slapped a nun.

Apparently not a Pig in the City fan, Whoopsies whispers, “Touch me again and you die.” She then sends him flying across the room without touching him:

Well then – cards on the table, folks!

We then meet a young black man (Tongayi Chirisa) with a very loud, rather aggressive inner monolog working in the kitchen. As he assembles sandwiches and a nun uses a deli slicer nearby (opening scene of Children of the Corn, anyone?), his voices belittle him. He yells something profane and the nun at the meatsaw shooshes him. Miles (which is his name) eyes the slicer and tells the nun that he thinks it’s broken, and offers to fix it. If by “fixing it” he meant sticking his arm into it, then bravo – he is a DIY genius!

Also, I think he just cut his arm off:

Note to self: Next time you stick your arm in a deli slicer, close your mouth. Dont’ want to stain the pearly whites! Also: Don’t stick your arm in a deli slicer.

Whoopsies enters the kitchen shortly after to find people attending to Miles and a strange set of symbols written on the wall in his blood. She freaks out, asking who “summoned her.” Miles says he doesn’t even know what the symbols mean, but from the photo below the meaning is clear: “Let’s have the ziti!”

Later, Miles is in solitary, strapped to a bed so that he can’t pull at his stitches. He tells Frank that he doesn’t want to be there anymore – “there” meaning “on earth.” Frank pats his arm (ouch!) and turns the lights out and suddenly Chicken Lady is there, telling Miles that he summoned her. Huh? What, with the baloney? By saying he wants to die? Because I’m pretty sure he didn’t write that on the wall, did he?

Regardless, she sits with him as he slips from his straps and rips open the wound on his arm, and bleeds to death as she kisses him with her big-ass wings:

I gotta say, if dying means I get to make out with Ruth Fisher … I’m okay with it.

Also, when did this show turn into Supernatural?

Whoopsies arrives and she and Chicken Lady – whose real name is apparently something guttaral that sounds roughly like “Jafar” – have a brief standoff where we learn that they are “cousins”. Angels, that is, of the fallen and still gainfully employed varieties. I bet their family reunions are a hoot! And also very downy.

Jafar calls out her cousin for nunjacking poor Sister Whoopsies, and she makes this priceless face:

But moments later the demon regains control and she’s all business again, telling her cousin to make like a bird and fly the hell out of her sanitarium. Jafar quietly complies, but she warns that they will meet again. Probably at Christmas.

Elsewhere, Dr. Arden has Grace on his table, and for once he’s actually administering medical care to one of his patients. Will wonders never cease! They should accuse him of being a Nazi more often.

We then catch up with Kit (Evan Peters), who is visiting his attorney in order to build the case for his defense. Kit is a natural at navigating the choppy waters of criminal justice, as evidenced by this facial expression:

Seriously, I’m understanding more and more every week why the aliens threw him back. What are the chances that, finding no “girl parts”, they scooped out his brain instead?

As his lawyer yammers on, Kit notices how massive office supplies were in 1964:

Enraged that smaller tape despensers are still decades away, Kit bludgeons his lawyer over the head with a hole-punch and makes his escape out the window. Thanks, Staples – that really WAS easy!

Okay, this is where the fun stops for a minute, guys. Because I am not about to joke about rape. Rape is pretty much the one thing I can’t watch – and it’s a central element in a subgenre of horror known as the “rape-revenge” movie (Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave), which I’ve never cared for. It may have something to do with the fact that I was forced to watch Last House at a Little League barbecue at age 8. Or it might just be because it’s disgusting and far too many women (and men) have survived it and want to move on. Either way, I’m not going to talk about this scene.

Later, Lana is visited by Jafar. Lana says, “You heard me calling.” Lana tells her that death would be better than this, and Jafar doesn’t need any convincing. Jafar leans in to kiss her. But at the last minute Lana pulls back, saying that she isn’t ready.

Oliver Threadson (Zachary Quinto) barges back downstairs to berate Lana (Sarah Paulson) for having the nerve to be raped by him. Ugh. She panics, naturally, as he’s clearly losing his already tenuous grip:

Oliver comforts her with the news that he doesn’t want to hurt her, and that he’ll even give her the choice between being strangled or having her throat cut. Lana reacts like it’s Christmas morning:

…and she has just found her dead father stuck in the chimney wearing a Santa suit.

Oliver grabs a needle full of Godknowswhat and goes for her. He tells her that now she can be with Wendy again. At the sound of Wendy’s name, Lana looks to the bedside table at Wendy’s photo:

And as Oliver bends to inject her, Lana smashes the picture of Wendy on his head and knocks him off of her. She stabs him in the leg with the needle, knocks him on the floor, and chokes him unconscious with the chain around her ankle. Wait, did she just use her own lesbian lover as a weapon to overthrow her tormentor? Yes she did. Atta girl.

Oliver of course comes to and dives for her, but she’s too busy serving Jamie Lee Curtis realness on the stairs to be bothered:

She kicks his psycho ass off the landing and onto his own toolbench.

She runs. Should she have buried a bone saw in his head? Obviously. Would that have happened were this Episode 11 instead of Episode 7? Probably. So let’s just go with it.

Lana makes it outside, and she runs down the dark road in a glorious moment straight out of Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But the horror is not over for her yet. Oh, no – she’s about to be picked up by Tom Cruise’s cousin:

Yes, William Mapother is Tom Cruise’s cousin. But that’s just the beginning of her newfound terror: turns out this guy just got dumped by his cheating wife, and he’s not too happy about finding another lady on the road. He pulls out a gun. Lana, incredulous at her run of really bad luck, looks into the backseat and sees Jafar sitting there patiently like Miss Daisy en route to the Born This Way Ball. Lana shakes her head, saying, “No – not after all this…” In another moment straight out of Texas Chain Saw Massacre, her chauffeur blows his brains out:

Lana screams and grabs for the wheel, but it’s too late.

Moments later, she comes to in a familiar room:

Sister Whoopsies welcomes her back to Briarcliff – “where you belong.” Oh sh*t.

We then catch up with Jude (Jessica Lange), who is having a serious Calgon moment in Sam Goodman’s bathroom. As he bleeds out (and we see the flashback of Whoopsies killing him with a mirror shard), she runs to the phone to call the police. Behind her, we see Jafar – whose dance card is really packed for a new girl, no? – lean in to kiss him goodbye.

Jude pauses at the phone when she sees the article about the missing little girl in the blue coat (that Jude ran over) taped to the television over the word “MUR__RER” written in blood. Dammit – if only we could see those two covered-up letters, we’d know that this all means!!!

The phone rings, and it’s Sister Whoopsies, who tells Jude that she planted all the evidence to make authorities think that Goodbarman was investigating Jude, and that she killed him. She also left her a bottle of rotgut and a straight razor.

We then cut to a filthy room where Jude wakes up and lights a bitchstick as someone knocks at her door, yelling, “Judy, you pass out?”

It’s 1949.

Jude lets in her bandleader, who chastises her for missing last night’s gig. He then fires her, giving her a little money to get her to her next blackout. Jude begs him not to fire her, and even tries to seduce him despite the fact that she stinks. He’s not having it, and tells her that the cops want to talk to her about a hit-and-run that happened near the club the other night. This is totally I Know What You Did Last 1949, isn’t it?

Jude suits up in her best scarf, gets behind the wheel, and cracks a bottle of booze. BECAUSE THAT WORKED OUT SO WELL LAST TIME. Maybe this time she’ll accidentally run over the investigating detective and all will be taken care of?

Instead, Jude blacks out behind the wheel and comes to the next morning in the front yard of a convent, where she has tidily wrapped her car around a tree. She’s roused by this vision:

If that face doesn’t say “rock bottom”, I don’t know what does.

But Jude is apparently taken by the way the early morning light hits the statue of the angel that she just nearly plowed down. It is quite lovely. She’ll make a point of running it over tonight.

Later, Jude freshens up in the bathroom of a greasy spoon when she finds the straight razor that Whoopsies left for her and she decides to pull a Miles:

But as Jude lies dying in a pool of blood on the crapper floor, we see that she is just envisioning her own suicide. That would have been an interesting mid-season development, no?

Jude stumbles back to her booth and finds Jafar waiting there for her:

Apparently they are old friends – Jude tells Jafar that she “jumped the gun again” and reminds her, “never trust a drunk” … with the keys to your convertible?

In her second Emmy speech this season (Dead Baby Squirrel being the first), Jude tells Jafar about how her husband-to-be left her after she told him that he gave her syphillis, rendering her infertile. It was the day before their wedding, and even though she forgave him he left, calling her a whore. Ouch. Well-played, AHS! And well-played Jessica Lange, for whom the Award-Worthy Ugly Cry is today’s blue plate special:

Amazing. To think how far this character has come since the first epsiode! Put that in your article, Lana Banana…

Jude tells Jafar that she’ll be ready for her soon, but she needs to do something else first.

From behind the counter, the greasy spoon waitresses tut-tut the sad old drunk talking to herself in the booth. They toss out the idea of calling Briarcliff to come pick her up. Which is of course exactly where this is headed, right?

Jude’s errand is to visit the Stones, who are the parents of the little girl in the blue coat that Jude turned into a sailkid way back when. Hank is not amused by the dotty old nun, but wee Missy’s mom is happy enough to chatter away about their daughter. Midway to confessing to killing their daughter, Jude looks up to see this:

No, it’s not Tina Fey doing her best Elizabeth Moss. It’s Missy, the little dead girl.

Lookin’ good, Miss! Even the little one thinks so:

Back in Briarcliff, Lana explains to Sister Whoopsies that Oliver Thredson is Bloody Face. Whoopsies momentarily flashes back to the exorcism of Jed, where the then-possessed Jed apparently complimented Oliver, hissing, “I love your work, Bloody Face!” like an E! News correspondent on the Daytime Emmys red carpet:

Technically Whoopsies is having a flashback to someone else’s memory, right? Or it’s the demon who’s remembering? Like he wouldn’t already know? Anyway…

Whoopsies snaps to and tells Lana flat-out, “I believe you.” Lana makes this face, which almost approaches “Hopeful”:

As though on cue, Whoopsies leaves her cell and immediately starts blabbing to everyone about what Lana said, that brain-damaged little crazypants! And lesbian. Let’s not forget lesbian.

We see flashes of Kit running down the death chute (going the wrong way!), and it looks like one of the pus beasts is following him…

We then rejoin Grace – who is upright, bright-eyed, and no longer eliciting a Sue Snell “Plug it up!” response from the smiling nursing sisters – in the kitchen, where it initially looks like she is sewing slices of bread together with yarn, that well-worn asylum pastime (I think she’s assembling price tags for loaves of bread). She gets a bit of a reprimand from Sister Meatsaw, who all of a sudden looks alarmingly like Nurse Jackie:

Sister Jackie, perhaps? Hide the pills!

Sister Jackie Meatsaw thinks that Grace and her scooped-out girl parts should be in bed where they belong, but she leaves Grace to her bread-sewing for a few minutes more. Hold on – is she really leaving another inmate alone with the deli cutter? Think of the ziti!!!

But before Grace can liberate any of her blood (or the dried pasta), Kit appears to whisk her away to a blissful life spent running from the law and hiding in barns.

Grace is stoked. Sorry – make that French for stoked. It’s way classier.

But on their way out they run into that pesky Sister Meatsaw – who, upon seeing Kit, screams bloody murder. She then experiences bloody murder:

Nice knowin’ ya, sistah! The beastie throws her into a baking rack and goes for Grace.

Let me pause for a second, though, to take a closer look at our “castle freak”:

Are those nipples Dr. Arden’s doing, or did they come pre-loaded?

Anyway, the whole “mutant/deformed killer” trope is a tried-and-true one for the genre, and has been celebrated in films ranging from The House on Sorority Row to Grotesque to Humongous to The Prey to Just Before Dawn to Texas Chain Saw Massacre to Friday the 13th to Hell Night. Glad to see the show robbing as many subgenre graves as it can, as ever.

Kit is not as impressed as I am by their uninvited guest, and he guts the poor guy like a freshly-caught perch all over the kitchen floor. Is nasty.

Frank enters and sees Kit holding a sharp object, and he raises his gun – but as he shoots, Grace jumps in front of Kit and catches the bullet. I guess this is what they mean when they say “Grace under fire”?

At least Grace looks pretty for her death scene:

Sure enough, Jafar appears just in time to make out with Grace before she dies. I have a feeling no one will ever play Spin the Bottle with poor Frances Conroy ever again.

It is lovely, though:

With her last breath, Grace whispers: “I am free!”

Sure you are:

Honey, what you are is an afternoon with the Arm & Hammer and a waste of a perfectly good laundry bag.


Notably Dead: Grace (maybe), Miles, Tom Cruise’s cousin, Sister Meatsaw, one of the Briarcliff pets

Notably Undead: Missy Stone, Jude’s alcohol tolerance

Notably Absent: The Monsignor, Jenna Dewan Tatum and nuBloodyFace, Mr. Spivey, and WHERE THE F*CK IS PEPPER?!

Holy hosts, y’all. Just when you think this show can’t get any crazier, random motorists blow their brains out, mutants start chewing on the local clergy, and Frances Mothersuperiorf*cking Conroy stops in to clean the floor with the supporting cast. GENIUS.

Blood – 10/10

BUCKETS OF IT. Irish American blood! African American blood! Jewish blood! French blood! The United Color of Bennetton is officially red.

Beasts – 8/10

I’m gonna go ahead and count Jafar as a “beast” – between her and the castle freak, I think they did pretty well this week.

Buns – 8/10

While I am as thrilled as anyone that La Quinto has deigned to flash his can, it’s downright cruel that he should do so in a scene as decidedly unsexy as this. You hear me, AHS? CRUEL. How’s anyone supposed to masturbate to that?! Wait – is this what they mean by “torture porn”? In any case, I’m docking Zachary’s otherwise flawless full moon two points. For Lana.

Final Diagnosis

Wow. I seriously don’t even know where to begin. I loved that Sister Whoopsies has gone “full demon” and that angels have just as complicated family issues as everyone else. I loved that Lana escaped and the crazyassness that befell her on the road to salvation. I love that Jude has gone completely off the deep end, thanks in part to the fact that the transformative moment of her life didn’t actually really happen. I say she combines her time as a jazz singer and her stint as a Bride of Christ and she starts a nun-themed juke-joint combo. She can call it a “sister act”! I love that one of Dr. Arden’s pets has been discovered … although I’m sure he’ll cover it up by next episode. However, I don’t like the rape AT ALL, even though I think that more than anything it’s a plot device to get Lana pregnant. What is it with this show and pregnant ladies?! Is Pea in the Pod a silent partner? I hope it goes better for Lana than it did for Vivien…

Oh – and I have a suspicion that Grace really may not be a lost cause, due to the aliens having turned her into a waifish French pinata and all that. But if she really IS dead, they gave her a pretty good run and a decent sendoff.

So my diagnosis of this episode would be: Multiple personality disorder with suicidal tendencies brought on by chemical abuse.

Or, as Briarcliff’s patron saint Barbra would call it, “eight out of ten Nutses“.

But that’s just one lunatic’s opinion. What’d you think?

Writer-filmmaker Brian Juergens launched CampBlood.org, the world's first website devoted to horror films from a gay perspective, in 2003.