“American Horror Story: Freak Show”: American Psycho

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In this week’s Very Special Episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show, we visited a gay dancehall, learned more about the sideshow’s most recent arrivals, and watched a cute hustler get chopped into bits. So we’ve got that going for us, anyway.

The American Morbidity Society’s Night of Discoveries – Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and Maggie (Emma Roberts) are all dolled up, and Cam Tucker’s mom introduces their new “Modern Mutations” show of exquisite human anomalies. The Seal Boy dead in a tank? OH HELL NO. Oh – it’s just a fantasy. Whew. Maggie is doubtful of Stanley’s vision. She also doesn’t want to kill anyone, but he needs her on the inside to help him execute his master plan of harvesting all the freaks. His beefcake magazines spill out of his suitcase and Maggie warns, “You need to put a little lead in your loafers, cupcake,” adding, “If there’s one thing they like less than freaks in Jupiter, it’s poofs.” She says she’s in for an extra 5%, since she has to live with the unsavorites.  Stanley purrs, “Fraulein Elsa’s is about to have a run of bad luck.” I think that run began about 20 years and a snuff film ago, pal.

Opening titles.

Stately Mott Manor. Gloria (Frances Conroy) doesn’t hear the percolator on, and it’s past seven! It is so difficult to find good help these days, until you do find them, dead in the dining room. Yes, she finds Dora (Patti Motherf*cking LaBelle, thanks for coming to work today). Dandy (Finn Wittrock) tries to pass it off as a home invasion but she isn’t buying it for a SECOND. Gloria has to clean up his mess, as usual. Dandy pretends to be upset but he smiles as he walks away.

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Stanley visits Elsa (Jessica Lange) and she offers him schnapps. Atta girl! He says that he’s “from the land of dreams,” which she assumes is Hollywood. He says he actually works in TV, to which she replies, “I would rather be boiled in oil than be on television.” (JESSICA HOLD FOR LAUGHS) She says motion pictures are the expression of our souls, dreams, and fantasies – TV is “the death of art and civilization.” I guess the one Emmy was enough for her.

Jimmy (Evan Peters) rehearses outside, juggling and practicing his patter in which he calls himself the “Son of Neptune” – more astrology. Now we’ve got Jupiter, Mars, Neptune, the Twins… where my Libras at? Maggie says he’s a local hero, and that’s why the house is full tonight. He has stage fright so she offers to read his palm. He reluctantly lets her. She sees he shadow of a man who is coming soon who will lie to him. She tells him to leave. Go north – maybe New York? She calls him smart and good looking and he tries to kiss her but she turns away. “Your future’s bright – I’m just not in it.” I’m starting to like her.

Del is missing, Ethel (Kathy Bates) is pissed – but not in the good way. Jimmy goes to get him, and finds that Desiree (Angela Bassett) is wasted (Del is AWOL). She says they underestimate Del – he made her feel powerful and showed her off in all her glory. She tells Jimmy to go to his audience, but he says he didn’t do anything to deserve the attention – Meep was the brave one. He still blames himself, crying, “It should have been me!” She tells him he’s a good kid, and they kiss. She purrs, “Make me feel somethin, Jimmy!” He fingerbangs her, but she starts bleeding everywhere. Ethel takes her to see Doctor Friendly.

Jimmy introduces Elsa and we get “Life on Mars” again. The audience is alternately bored or openly hostile to her, and even Ma Petite gives Elsa the side-eye. Suddenly in her mind her voice is gone – it’s silent, and the audience starts throwing things at her. Amazon Eve is not amused. Jimmy rescues her and they draw the curtain. Stanley visits her and her 30 mirrors, and now she wants to learn more about television.

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Desiree has never been to a doctor before and she’s nervous so Ethel stays with her. Desiree doesn’t have a regular period, but she thinks all this blood is an injury from the Lobster Boy. She tells the doc that she was born in Philadelphia, and they thought she was a boy and named her Derek. Then she grew three breasts at twelve. Turns out she never was a boy – she’s not packing a penis, it’s an enlarged clitoris that he can reduce surgically, if she wants. He says she’s 100% woman, and she just miscarried a 12-week baby. It was just not viable, but he thinks she may be able to get pregnant again if they try soon. Okay, this is getting interesting.

Gloria is making the gardeners dig a 12-foot hole for her narcissus bulbs. Dandy apologizes for killing Dora – she tells him he has “the sickness” like his father before him, who stifled it by hanging himself. It’s a result of inbreeding: “Jack the Ripper was a Windsor, for God’s sake!” He says he needs to express himself – he wanted to be an actor, remember. She tells him that he can’t just go around killing vagrants like they used to in the good old days – “people are missed” in 1952.

Elsa listens to Bowie in her dressing room – “Fame” this time. She gets dolled up with Ma Petite’s help, because she’s getting her photo taken for her new TV show. But on the way out she notices two heads in the back of Stanley’s car. Which pulls away without her. Stanley fantasizes unveiling the twins’ severed heads to Cam Tucker’s mom – Bette died first, in his fantasy:”The droopy one caught a cold!”

Stanley tries to feed the twins pink cupcakes and talks about “The Tattler Twins Hour”. He of course injected something into the cupcakes, but Bette (Sarah Paulson) is none the wiser and takes a big bite. Dot won’t touch hers. This show and its poisoned cupcakes! Bette starts to choke, and foam comes out of her mouth. Later, Stanley reads beefcake mags as Bette dies and Dot can feel it. He tries again to get her to eat the cupcake. Wouldn’t he just inject her, at this point? He suffocates her. That’ll work too!

In reality, Dot won’t let Bette eat the cupcake at all. Well I for one would have been very interested in seeing Dot walk around with a dead head hanging out of her neck for the next 7 episodes, wouldn’t you?

Dandy works out in his nursery in tidy whities, oiled up and practicing Charles Atlas poses and “acting” faces in the mirror. In voiceover, he tells us, “This body is America: Strong, violent, and full of limitless potential.” He wants to be the US Steel of murder. He lounges and touches himself. He says, “I am no clown, I am perfection.”

So he goes to a gay bar.

Of course he does.

Roxy Music is playing. And there are go-go boys and a WANTED poster with Twistsy’s face. And also Del (Michael Chiklis). YEP! A few of us were speculating last week that Del might be lifting giant barbells for the other team, and there you have it. He brings a Brandy Alexander to Andy (played by Actual Gay Person Matt Bomer), a cutie with a drawl who draws gay erotica for him. Del wants to take Andy with him out of Jupiter, but Andy doesn’t wanna go. He’s a prostitute and is perfectly happy, even if he sometimes gets “blood in his shorts and loads in his hair.” Yeesh. Andy’s tired of hearing about Del’s wife – “You’re out the door before I wipe my dick off!” Del says it’s complicated but that he loves him. “Slave to Love”, eh? Andy asks Del who he’s hiding from: “You’re already a freak.” Del says he can push through the pain of being a strongman but “There’s nothing worse than the hurt of loving someone you can’t have.” Del storms out, Andy lights a cigarette. Dandy approaches, and Andy gives him the price list.

It is not going to end well for Andy.

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Bette doesn’t see why Dot is resisting the TV offer, and Elsa tells Bette she is right and they should go for it. She says she wants the best for them, but Dot mind-talks to Bette that she doesn’t trust her. She has arranged a fitting with a seamstress. Dot is suspicious. Bette: “I’d love a new hat!” Boy, they’ve got the Good Cop/Dumb Cop act down, eh?

Del comes home to Desiree and she tells him that she’s 100% pure female and they can have babies. Del is all, “Uh, okay, whatever” and walks off to pour a drink. She tells him that Ethel told her that his daddy had the Lobster Hands and he’s Jimmy’s father. She says she’s gonna have a normal life now, but not with him. She has her bag packed. He tries to get her to stay, but she tells him she’ll be too much woman for him soon enough, and she’s moving into Ethel’s caravan.

Dandy takes Andy to the bus. Uh-oh. Andy is suspicious but he goes, because $100. Andy moves to kiss Dandy but he stops him: “I’m not a fruit.” Dandy says they will turn their backs, take off their clothes, count to three, and turn back. “Whatever magic happens happens.” Andy disrobes. So does Dandy. Two pairs of whities! 1-2-3. Dandy has the mask on. And a knife. And he butchers him. Andy’s not quite dead yet and tries to crawl away, screaming, “HELP ME!” and Dandy stabs him some more. Then we get more of Dandy’s American Psycho voiceover as he disposes of the limbs in lye, etc. But wait – Andy is still alive after one of his arms is gone, and Dandy whines that he’s making him feel bad. “Please kill me. Please kill me.” Dandy saws off the other arm. Sweet Jesus – Patti Motherf*cking LaBelle had it easy.

Gloria gets a call from Regina (Gabourey Sidibe), Dora’s daughter, from the Barbazon Secretary School in NYC. Second NYC reference this episode! I’m terrified more than anything that Rachel Barry will walk in any minute. Regina is concerned that her mother missed their weekly phonecall. Gloria says that her mother might not be able to call her for another month at least because it’s busy season for maids and stuff. She asks Regina how she remembers if Gloria was a good mother – but she only remembers the nannies. Gloria remembers when Dandy had a fever and called for her and she sent the governess in instead. Dandy never called for her again. Regina gets the hell off the phone, and Dandy appears covered in blood. Gloria gasps.

Elsa drives the twins…. somewhere?

Del visits the doctor. He breaks his hands – he won’t be operating on his wife no more! He threatens to break his grandkids’ fingers too, whyIaughtta!

The doorbell rings at Mott Manor… and it’s Elsa, delivering Gloria something that she wants. I don’t think it’s Girl Scout Cookies!

SCENE

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Notably Dead: Andy, an unborn baby, my appetite for cupcakes

Notably Absent: I think they were all pretty much on this week!

Freak of the Week: Let’s give it to Desiree

Quote of the Week: “The droopy one caught a cold!” is pretty damned perfect, especially coming out of Denis O’Hare’s mouth.

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Blood 10/10

For better or for worse, there was blood everywhere this week.

Beasts 0/10

I miss Meep.

Buns 8/10

Okay, while buns proper may have been fleeting, this episode was undeniably beefcake heavy.

Like Dot and Bette, I’m of two minds about this ep. On the one hand I loved the fleshing out of Del and Desiree and even Maggie. The murder of the prettiest little plot device in Florida was one of the most gruesome things the show has done in a long time, even if it made very little sense. (Wouldn’t that bus still be a crime scene? How does Dandy get around in broad daylight looking like the inside of a slaughterhouse?) The American Psycho references were a bit on the nose for me, and Stanley’s fantasy sequence misleads were a little gimmicky, but whatever. More than anything I’m concerned that one of our primary villains is being played for comedy even as he commits horrific acts of violence. Horror comedy is hard to pull off, and the goofy, punchline-delivering killer shtick seldom works.

I know some folks will probably never watch the show again after seeing Matt Bomer’ bright-eyed gay hustler get hacked to bits, which is exactly the visceral response they were going for. But for me the problem wasn’t simply the vicious murder of a gay character and the homoeroticism of the panty-party crime scene, but the fact that Dandy – a problematic over-the-top caricature from the start – was the man holding the knife. Even though he’s fun to watch exercise, I just want Dandy to disappear.

Still, I’d give it a solid four Pennywises:

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What’d you folks think? Was Dandy and Andy’s reenactment of Cruising too much? Should we be at least grateful that Dandy appears to actually be straight?

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