Before we even jump into this week’s ball pit of insanity, let me just say this: They got there. I frankly wasn’t convinced going into this season that any of this asylum foofery was going to add up to a satisfying horror tale on par with last year’s geeeeeeenius House, but holy flaming batcrap was I wrong. This week’s episode was such a game-changer that I may even write a separate essay on it, but don’t hold me or the Good Ship AfterElton to it. But just for the record, I do think this sh*t is legendary.
Now let’s begin.
We start things off in a proper, gas-guzzling American automobile, with a well-scarved Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) behind the wheel (I believe the look is called “Depressed Millionairess”). She walks into a hostel (?) of some sort and knocks on a door, which is answered by a kindly old Jewish fella. She’s looking for Mister Goodbarman, and she’s found him: he’s a concentration camp survivor who now devotes his free time to tracking down Nazi war criminals (remember, 1964 was PSE – Pre-Sudoku Era). She tells him that the Monsignor thinks she’s lost her marbles, but he corrects her: “Instincts are everything.”
She hands him a lean dossier on Dr. Arden – he says it’s all probably lies, anyway. He schools her on Project Paperclip, which is not a reality show that tasks Heidi Klum with selecting the next great paper clip designer, but rather a postwar rebranding effort that secreted Nazi bigwigs into the United States after the fall of the Reich and gave them false identities and histories. He asks if Jude has ever seen Arden shirtless – she hasn’t. He notes that Nazi criminals were tattooed on their upper arm with their blood type after the war, which I’m sure will never prove to be important or anything.
In Jude’s office, Sister Mary Eunice Whoopsies del Diablo, BVM (Lily Rabe) is rifling through Jude’s desk (why is it you can never find a Tic-Tac when you need one?) when Let’s Just Go Ahead And Call Her Anne Frank (Franka Potenta) bursts in with Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) at gunpoint. Let’s Just Go Ahead and Call Her Anne orders Whoops to go call the police. Seconds later, there’s a gun to Anne’s head – it’s security maven Frank: “Drop the gun or I’ll blow your goddamn head off.”
Well that went well, no?
Let’s Just Go Ahead and Call Her Anne wakes up to find that someone’s gone to the trouble of changing her into her restraint-jammies. So sweet! She starts yammering on about seeing something inhuman in Dr. Arden’s lab, and Jude tries to get her to explain what it was she thought she saw. Because she looked everywhere and didn’t see any creature, and she’d looooove to nail Arden’s tiny nutsack to the wall with some evidence. Anne says that whatever it was couldn’t have just run away – “It had no legs!”
Before Jude can find out more, Sister Whoopsies interrupts to tell Jude that a man is there to see her. Not just any man – Anne’s husband.
Let’s Just Go Ahead and Call Her Anne’s name isn’t Anne, according to her kind-eyed alleged husband – it’s Charlotte Brown. They recently had a child, who is colicky, and his wife can’t deal with all the crying, which totally explains why she’d start thinking that she’s one of the most famous victims of the Holocaust. He explains that his wife saw The Diary of Anne Frank on stage and after that she became obsessed with Auschwitz and Anne’s story. In a series of hilarious dramatic recreations that look like they could have been snipped from old Dark Shadows episodes (the gimmick is very Natural Born Killers, actually), we see the domestic drama unfold.
Jude quips, “So all of this happened after a night at the theater?” (If only she’d gone to see South Pacific! I bet she’d do a killer “Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair”…) Dr. Oliver Threadson (Zachary Quinto) – whose doctoral degree is apparently in Applied Doorway Lingering – chimes in to say that she’s suffering from classic post-partem depression. Jude tells “Doctor Buttinski” to buttoutski.
They bring Not Anne out to see her husband – but she says she doesn’t know him and that that she doesn’t want to leave. They show her a photo of herself, her criminally handsome hubby, and their baby, and she begins to remember. They send her off with him, no further questions asked. Well that was easy!
Dr. Oliver thinks not: “You’re making a mistake.” He also criticizes Jude for her decision to sterilize Kit. She shrugs.
Speaking of Kit (Evan Peters), he is in another wing posing for a new ad campaign:
Seriously, though, that’s a screencap from the episode. No idea.
Kit and Grace (Lizzie Brochere) discuss their impending neuterings through the wall – in a nice bit of visual trickery, we see them touching one another despite there being several feet of solid metal barrier between them. Actually, this might be a good time to mention that this is visually one of the strongest episodes in the show’s history – lots of great use of shadow and silhouette, beautifully moving camera, and classically composed images. There are a handful of moments from the episode that effortlessly evoke classic horror films and really shake up the institutional aesthetic.
Anyway, Sister Whoopsies stomps in to collect Kit, and brings with her the news that Jude has chosen NOT to cut his nards off, because she feels that he has truly repented for getting personal hairs in an entire day’s supply of pate brisee. Kit is grateful. As is Grace, until Whoopsies stops by her grate to tell her that unfortunately she’s still scheduled to be spayed or neutered. Sorry – blame Bob Barker!
Grace does not take the news well, understandably. She beats on the walls and eventually collapses in a heap on her bedroll. But she’s roused when a bright light and strange wind creep under her door. Reflected in her eye we see that she is either getting a house call from the aliens or Mummenshanz is back in town:
“It’s fun to stay at the Y … M C A!”
It’s breakfast pill time in the common room! Lana (Sarah Paulson) downs hers and then sneaks up on someone who looks just like her from behind – but then it is her, and it’s Threadson that crept up on her. Okay, that was disorienting. Threadson tells her that he’s breaking her out of there and to be at the stairs at 6pm. Incredulously, she asks, “Is this real?” You know, Lana, we’re not entirely sure.
Oliver retires to his office with Kit and a reel-to-reel. He essentially talks Kit into confessing to the murders that he didn’t commit on tape, which we’ve kind of seen coming for several episodes now, right? Any lingering doubts that this man is indeed ol’ Bloody Face can be laid to rest – he’s clearly been duping both Kit and Lana, whom he wants for some sinister purpose. But Kit – not the brightest, bless! – falls hook, line, and decapitation.
Grace, meanwhile, is visiting with Alma (Britne Oldford) in the Interior Illusions Lounge, where Alma is apparently pregnant and Grace is covered in K-Y (just like the real Interior Illusions Lounge!). An alien cuts a slit across Grace’s tummy.
Jude, meanwhile, is leaving a message for Mister Goodman that her whole theory about Arden was hufflepuff and he should drop his investigation. I don’t think that’s likely to happen. But Arden overhears and storms in to demand an apology for letting a patient play with guns and shoot him. Jude won’t apologize, and as Arden now knows that she found nothing in his lab, he tells her he’s going to ruin her. (Too late!) There are repeated cutaways to his wolfs-head cane and the fireplace.
In his office, Arden drops his pants to re-dress his gunshot wound, but he is interrupted by Sister Whoopsies, who kneels down to help. She apologizes for her untoward behavior the other night (uh, that’s putting it mildly) and admits that she helped Arden out by getting rid of Shelley after she left him and Anne Frank in Jude’s office. We see an extremely disturbing shot of her dragging Shelley out of the lab, and she notes, “She weighed very little.” That Whoopsies – always looking on the bright side of dismemberment!
We then cut to a school playground at recess. Wait, whah?
An adorable little girl runs off to get a drink of water, but she’s distracted when she sees something at the bottom of the cement stairwell to the basement. OMG it’s Shelley!!!
The girl screams, then runs and gets the teacher and entire class, and then they all scream at the sight of Shelley (Chloe Sevigny) dragging what remains of her boil-covered body up the stairs and into the playground.
Ladies and germs, it’s moments like these that make it worth getting out of bed in the morning. Or at least rolling over, coughing out a hairball, and picking up my laptop.
Back at Briarcliff, poor Let’s Just Go Ahead and Call Her Anne Frank has apparently dropped out of the Mother of the Year race yet again by attempting to smother her baby in its crib. Eesh. She is thrown in solitary confinement and visited by Arden in a creeptastic, suitably Teutonic moment straight out of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari:
Her unflaggingly adorable hubby begs Jude to keep his wife for treatment and requests that maybe that nice Dr. Threadson fella treat her. Shame to see such bad character judgment come from a man who even cries beautifully:
Threadson, however, is busy elsewhere. Lana waits under the stairs and he arrives at 6pm, hands her a box, and tells her to simply walk straight out the door. She does, and he distracts the Cute Ginger Guard by lighting his cigarette. Home free?
Inside, Mr. Brown runs into Dr. Arden outside of LJGOaCHAF’s cell and apologizes profusely for his wife shooting him and calling him a Nazi and all that. Arden says not to worry, he has a solution that could cure her painlessly and humanely. How’s tonight sound? Martinis at 6 and lobotomy at 7? Sounds ducky!
Out in the parking lot, things are getting insanely tense for Lana. On the one hand, I want her to get the hell out of this place. On the other, I have zero doubt in my mind that she is going from the frying pan to the fire with this fella. Sure enough, when Frank comes out to get Threadson on Jude’s behalf (for poor, mouse-cute Mr. Brown) Threadson tells him to tell her that he doesn’t work there, and that he never did. Okay, that’s not ominous or anything. Buckle up, Lana!
Frank delivers the news that Lana is missing to Jude, who sees an opening to share a delightful anecdote about her drunk hotel maid mother and the fact that God wouldn’t bring her dead pet squirrel – which she’d inadvertently starved to death – back from the grave.
Okay, to recap:
Baby squirrels and bike-riding children: 0
She concludes to Frank that her “goose is cooked”. (Goose, please join the baby squirrel and dead kid in the corner.) Frank sympathizes, saying that as a woman, she never really stood a chance of anyone letting her succeed. Well done, Sister Suffragette! Afterward, Jude drops the robes and veil and slips into a smart skirt suit, ditches her purity ring, and walks out the door. She’s kicked the habit!
St. Elsewhere, Dr. Arden is prepping Let’s Just Go Ahead and Call Her Anne Frank for her close-up … OF A SKEWER!
Jude gets macked on at a bar by some guy whose pickup line is “What’s ya poison, shweethahht?” She responds with the appropriate expression:
At the same instant, LJGAaCHAF gets the lobotomy instrument tapped through her skull and into her frontal lobe. I’d probably prefer that crunch to the sound of that guy’s pickup line.
We then move to a handsomely appointed midcentury modern DREAM HOME, into which Probably Not Even a Dr. Oliver Threadson and Miss Lana “Banana” Winters gracefully enter. Okay, seriously? This is like porn for me:
The pass-through fireplace! The law-back sofa! Even those hilarious chrome-legged dinette chairs! Dear God I’m in heaven.
Unlike Lana, who has just entered the lair of a total whack job, no?
Lana, sensing that something is amiss but trying to be polite, says that she’d really rather just go home. Oliver counters that her home is the first place they’ll look for her, and then he offers her wine. She politely accepts. When he’s out of the room, she somehow manages to function while surrounded by so much gorgeous furniture and finds the phone. She dials, but before she can connect Oliver appears from behind a fetching set of Dutch doors to hang up the phone and tsk-tsk her for trying to call someone. She mentions Lois – Lois! the husky, predatory lesbian! – and quietly goes back to the couch. He hands her the wine, saying that she’s the perfect person to tell his story. She notices the odd pronoun … and then notices that the lampshade beside her has nipples:
Nipples, y’all. What will they think of next?! Although I wonder if when it gets really cold in there the lampshade becomes a poking hazard? Maybe you could grate cheese on it, or use it as a peg-board.
Anyway, Lana pretends not to notice, and Oliver pretends not to notice her not not noticing. He then offers her a mint from a hollowed-out skull. Again, WHAT NEXT?! I must have one. I bet West Elm has them, hold on…
Lana, to her credit, manages a fairly convincing “I Didn’t Just See a Lampshade with Nipples” smile:
Lana excuses herself to the ladies’ room, which where she comes from apparently means “try every door in the house until you find one that opens”. Lady, indeed! She finds herself in a small room … and then Threadson turns on the light to reveal that she is, indeed, in his workroom. Skins. Bones. Sharp things. He dryly remarks that she’s discovered his “hobby,” and Lana – ever the polite (yet nosy) guest – innocently asks, “You make furniture?” Yes, Lana. And Dexter is really just feeding the fish.
Lana starts to come unhinged as Oliver tells her that he mostly makes lamps out of skin – and then out of the f*cking blue, this happens:
OH. MY. LANA. LANTA.
Back at Briarcliff, Kit finds Grace sitting in the common room, despondent, with blood all over her crotch, the chair, and the floor. Before he can ask what the hell happened – since he thought she was not going under the knife after all – police arrive and annouce that they are arresting him for the murders to which he has confessed, including Alma’s. As they drag him off, Grace manages to grunt, “Alma’s alive! I saw her! Everything you said is true!” SLAM.
Lana lies on the floor of what is clearly Bloody Face’s kill room, which – with its ceramic tile floor and sheets of hanging slaughterhouse plastic – is one “Orinoco Flow” away from the climax of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Where’s Rooney Mara when you need her?! Or even Kate Mara, in a pinch… (Seriously, why didn’t they bring HER back this season? She was amazing!) Anyway, Lana has a shackle around her ankle, and she’s not alone: a body wrapped in a blanket lies facing away from her. She recognizes it instantly but cautiously reaches out toward it … “Wendy?” She rolls Wendy over. She’s dead, and has been for a while. Lana screams and recoils, slamming into a chest freezer that slams shut at the impact.
Oliver Threadson emerges from the plastic shadows, in full Bloody Face drag, to tell her that he normally would have skinned and decapitated Wendy by now, but he needed to keep her around to continue Lana’s therapy. Oh please no. He tells Lana he can start by kissing Wendy on the mouth, assuring her that she won’t bite … because he took her teeth. He slips on his newly-enhanced mask.
Lana FLIPS THE F*CK OUT:
In a dingy motel room, Jude wakes up beside Mr. No-Name Bad Pickup Line and slips out without a farewell. She is way better at the Irish Goodbye than any nun has a right to be.
We then catch up with the Browns. Charlotte – newly lobotomized – is the very picture of a perfect housewife. She smiles as she speaks about the pot roast in the oven, and am I the only one whose eyes jumped to make sure that her baby was really in her arms? (They do pair nicely with carrots and potatoes at that age.) She smiles and tells her hubby that all the Nazi stuff can go in the trash, and that she’s never felt happier. But for a second we slip back into soap-opera-vision, so she’s clearly not entirely gone.
As they leave the room we close in on one of the last remaining clippings on her Third Reich Inspiration Board (crafters these days!) and of course it is a photo showing Dr. “Scottsdale” Arden standing behind one of the most recognizable supervillains of the twentieth century:
So, to recap: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeegah!!
In a nuthouseshell: Jude found that the sisterhood wasn’t a hard habit to break. Shelley decided to go back-to-school crawling. Anne Frank (or whoever she was) lost her memories and her fight against history. Grace came face to face with the spiders from mars and ruined her best socks, and Lana found herself getting that exclusive that she went to Briarcliff for in the first place. All in all, if this game is girls against boys, the girls had a rough match.
Notably Dead: Wendy (again), a baby squirrel, Jude’s short-lived second virginity
Notably Absent: The Monsignor (seriously, where the hell is that man?!), Pepper, the mutants in the woods
Shriek of the Week: I’m bringing back last season’s weekly “favorite scream” feature in honor of Sarah Paulson’s blossoming into full scream queenhood. That last squawk was SICKENING, yo. She is owning this part, putting it on eBay, selling it at a markup by bidding against it herself, buying it back at half-price on Craigslist, picking it up in person to save the shipping, and owning it again. WORK, mama. May the nurturing spirits of a thousand Final Girls before you grant you safe passage.
Blood – 7/10
While the streets weren’t exactly running red with the stuff, it was used effectively. Someone tell Grace that a little club soda will get that out. (“Liar!”)
Beasts – 8/10
Between the alien, poor Shelley – who really looks less human than human, at this point – and Jude’s dead squirrel and goose, the critters had a pretty strong showing this week.
Buns – 0/10
C’mon, guys. You can do better than that.
I loved this episode, especially as the completion of last week’s gonzo lead-in. It was shocking, gorgeous, scary, ridiculous, and mean. More than anything the Anne Frank episodes gave us someone to really root for (move over, Kit – it’s time for Lana Goes Bananas), showed us the stakes (if this show will lobotomize Ann Frank, no one is safe), and then tipped the odds heavily against her. I’m all in. I think season 2 has found its stride, and I hope it keeps it up.
Or to put it in patron saint Barbra Streisand’s terms, ten Nutses out of ten:
A few more of my favorite images from the episode, apropos of nothing:
Mrs. Brown, you’ve got a lovely husband
Grace, slick (never gets old!)
Shelley’s dramatic exit
Pretty. Psycho and evil, but pretty.
So those are my thoughts on “I Am Anne Frank, Part 2”. Anyone agree with me? Think I’m nuts? Meet me by the drinking fountain and let’s discuss.