“American Horror Story: Freak Show” 4.04 Recap: Tears of a Clown

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Happy Halloween, freaks! A comparatively plot-heavy episode this week, and in only 60 minutes – how DO they do it? And directed by the guy who made Some Kind of Wonderful, no less. Just let that stew for a few.

The green smoke is here, signaling either the arrival of Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley) or a James Wan movie. (Have you SEEN Dead Silence?!) After the tiny Sally Jesse Raphael on the back of his head tired of Ethel in last week’s episode, he’s now coming for… the chandelier? Actually, he’s here for Legless Suzi (Rose Siggins) and Paul the Illustrated Seal (Matt Fraser), both of whom give fantastic performances in abbreviated backstories that deserved more than a pre-credit montage, IMHO. There are hobo camps involved. Mordrake actually kicks poor Suzi across her tent and into a chunky credenza. Paul cries, “I have the face of a pretty lad!” Which is true. But Edward Mordrake wants none of it. Instead he visits Elsa (Jessica Lange) again – not because he might actually be here for her (we know he’s not, since he walked out of her Lana Del Rey performance last week) but because he is really just Mister Exposition in a Party City fright wig and hilarious accent. Moving on.

So Elsa actually thinks he’s her new fortune-teller-guaranteed Svengali for a few minutes but after his gang of Cirque du Beetlejuice pals pull off her prosthetic legs she tells him all about how she was a dominatrix in the Weimar Republic (Buns! Gays! Amputees! Scat! Hunchbacks!) who had a gang of “Watchers” who followed her… work… and never paid in Marks. Hmm. Eventually Elsa becomes the unwitting lead in a snuff film, which is when she loses her legs to a chainsaw. This is after she makes a German soldier on a leash sit on a toilet seat ridden with nails and pee, so adjust your shock accordingly. They leave her for dead, which is sad, because “it was said I could make men ejaculate gold,” which sounds like a pretty promising business model to me. Anyway, for better or for worse, Elsa’s snuff movie made her a star, of sorts. Mordrake’s second face is ready to take her but then he hears calliope music…

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Meanwhile, Jimmy (Evan Peters) is driving Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) home when they run out of gas, which she thinks is just his play to get fresh in the swamp. But they hear something, and stumble upon Twisty’s Chicken Shack. The kidnapped girl shows some pluck by getting the new boy to untie her and getting past Twisty (John Carroll Lynch), but then he chases her and she is recaptured for the second time. Jimmy and Ez watch in horror, but then Dandy (Finn Wittrock) appears and knocks them out, and before you know it, Dandy has Esmerelda in a guillotine in front of the kids (sorry, did he just call her “Tiny Tits”?) but Jimmy saves her and frees them all. Mordrake appears just as Twisty is about to kill Jimmy, and then we cut to a Lexus ad starring Edward Mordrake. No joke.

Dandy hates Ezzie for ruining his Halloween, which I’m sure will be important later. Twisty takes off his mask and tells Mordrake his story: “It was 1943…”

Poor wee Twisty was dropped on his head by his drunk mama but that didn’t stop him from being a great children’s clown. But the “dwarves” from the freak show picked on him and accused him of being a pedophile and ruined his career, so he wound up putting a shotgun in his mouth and blowing off the bottom of his face, adding, “I was so dumb I couldn’t even kill myself.” It feels like maybe something is missing there (and not just his jaw), but we’ll go with it. Oh – he also tried to sell garbage to the toy shop owner (“He doesn’t want your filthy whirligig!”), which is why he killed him and his twink shopboy later, I guess. The clown insists, “I am a good person!” and I do feel bad for him. But wait – who found him in his swamp bus after he shot himself? And would they really be able to save him? Anyway, the point is, he’s the “pure freak” that Mordrake is here for, and Mordrake stabs the shit out of him and he’s dead and the ghosts come for him and Jimmy sees it and that’s the end of Twisty.

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Dandy comes back from chasing Esmerelda and finds Twisty dead and gets all… um… horny? He takes his mask and puts it on. Dandy, that’s how germs are spread.

The cops think Jimmy and Ez are heroes for freeing the kids, but Jimmy won’t let them forget that they let Meep get beaten to death, so there. The next morning, nobody at the sideshow seems to be discussing the fact that they were all just visited by a gang of murderous ghosts riding in on crests of green smoke, but are totally spooked when a few cars full of paying customers arrive. Jimmy tells Elsa that Mordrake “claimed his freak” and the townsfolk thank them for saving their children. Elsa – ever the businesswoman – directs them to the box office. Desiree (Angela Bassett) shows up to squeal, “I’m a laaaaaaady… and then some!” Thanks for coming to work today, hon.

Del (Michael Chiklis) stumbles out of the trailer to ominous music, and Elsa tells Dot and Bette (Sarah Paulson and Sarah Paulson) that they have been demoted on the playbill. Before an argument can erupt, Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and his massive wang show up pretending to be a Hollywood Talent Scout and all is well.

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Back at Mott Manor, Dandy surprises Doris (Patti Motherf*cking LaBelle) and she calls him a “Little made-in-the-shade white boy.” She tells him to take a tray to Gloria, who is not contractually obligated to appear in this episode. He fronts, and she calls him on it, so he slits her throat. Oh, I get it – now that he’s wearing Twisty’s mask, he can actually kill people!

He smiles and laughs and looks intense.

SCENE

Notably Dead: Dora, Twisty, a hobo

Notably Absent: Gloria Mott, Ethel, Amazon Eve (unless I missed her in the crowd?), Ma Petit (likewise)

Freak of the Week: Let’s give it to the clown.

Quote of the Week: I loved when Jimmy told Ez, “Well, Sassy, lucky for you you’re not my type!”

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Blood – 6/10

A fair amount of the red stuff this week, even if much of it was implied or in black-and-white flashback.

Beasts – 0/10

Seriously, we need a goat up in this piece.

Buns – 8/10

Buns galore (and gay canoodling) in the Weimar Republic flashbacks, because Weimar Republic.

So several of the storylines have focused on the utter ruin of the showbiz dream. Elsa, Twisty (did anyone ever actually say his name?) and Bette have all fallen under its sway, and all have paid a terrible price. But I’m sure the freak show is totally gonna kill it at Regionals and Dot and Bette will land the leads in the Broadway revival of Funny Girls (or Side Show, even, which is actually back and directed by Bill Condon) and everything will work out fine. I know we’re supposed to feel really bad for Twisty, at this point, but let’s not forget that the guy did murder several innocent people, kidnapping a few others, and looked like a volunteer at a haunted hayride the whole time. A little too little, a little too late, for me. Can anyone explain how they got Patti Motherf*cking LaBelle to take this role? It boggles the mind. But whatever, the recent news that Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka are coming to the Freak Show – as well as Lily Rabe, in a single episode as her wonderful wet noodle Sister Mary Eunice from Asylum – means that we’ll probably be forgetting Dora entirely by midseason.

In all it was a pretty lively ep – I’d give it four out of five Pennywises:

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