“American Horror Story: Freak Show”: Boys vs. Girls

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This week the freaks bonded along gender lines, to deadly results. But the less said about that, the better. Let’s dig in.

Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson and Sarah Paulson) enjoy an ice cream sundae in Dandy’s room. Gloria (Frances Conroy) insists to Jimmy (Evan Peters) that they can leave any time they want, and that she’s just been giving them “a daily regimen of vitamins and foie gras” because there’s nothing bizarre about that or anything, adding that she paid good money for their company. Bette accuses Jimmy of lying about saving the kids from Twisty – Dandy (Finn Wittrock) did it! Jimmy realizes that Twisty’s clown accomplice was Dandy, and Dot realizes that he read her diary because he knows she wants the surgery. Dandy says that he and Bette are in love. Dot telepathically tells Bette that there’s clearly something wrong with Dandy, and she says, “I choose my sister – always.” They leave with Jimmy. Gloria looks gobsmacked, and the camera zooms into Dandy fast enough to break his teeth.

The freaks play “Come As You Are” with Jimmy – who played a Muppet Baby Kurt Cobain in Season 1, remember – doing vocals. (Wait, they had autotune in 1952?!) Elsa (Jessica Lange) judges openly as Penny (Grace Gummer) cares for Paul (Mat Fraser) in his tent, and the camera swoons around drunkenly as we catch up with Dell (Michael Chiklis), who is back at the gay dancehall looking for Andy, who of course hasn’t been around lately because he’s been taking a very long acid bath. Dell beats up the sassy – and hunky – Irish bartender as Stanley (Denis O’Hare) entertains a hustler and watches. Elsa purses her lips into the next county and tells Jimmy his performance was “adequate”. She pulls rank on him and he calls her a liar and says that they all know that she sold off the twins like so many purebred Yorkies. He tells the twins to tell everyone what Elsa did, and Dot lies to protect Elsa and asks Elsa’s permission to come home. Okay, not sure who’s scamming whom here. And I just realized that they are using the score from Under the Skin all over the place this season.

Desiree (Angela Bassett) takes Ethel (Kathy Bates) to see Doctor Friendly, but his office is of course closed since Dell broke his hands and all. They ignore the sign and go in anyway. His assistant – sorry, daughter – tells them that he is dead and tells them that it’s their fault. Oh, and she came down from Boston to bury him, and thinks he somehow smashed his own hands to death for penance for touching them. Mmkay. She yells, “Get out, you freaks!” and they scatter. Is the Boston/Florida connection the link to Vivian Harmon in Season 1 that everyone’s been yammering about?

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Stanley tries out the Test Your Strength and tells Dell that he can’t manage – he feels “like a damn fairy”. Dell isn’t amused but when Stanley calls him impotent, he hammers it to the top. Stanley says they should go get a drink at a place he knows called High Noon, and mentions that he saw Dell there today looking for a hustler. Maggie (Emma Roberts) interrupts before Dell can clobber him, as per their plan. Inside the tent, Stanley says that Dell is his ideal man, but that for a guy with such muscles “he lacks the beefcake look” and makes a nasty reference to his having “someone else’s shit under his fingernails.” Ugh. Stanley pulls a gun on him and threatens to shoot him in the dick. He tells Dell that he needs a dead freak, cleanly killed, that no one will miss. He tells him about the barn and gives him one day.

Maggie and Jimmy are in bed together – that was fast! He says there’s something weird about the twins changing their story, and she says it’s a sign that they should leave now. He says he has to protect them from Dandy and asks her if she would recognize the second clown’s voice if she heard it. Mags accuses him of stalling, saying he’ll never leave this place.

Dell pours chloroform onto a rag (I’m guessing) and skulks up to Amazon Eve’s (Erika Erwin) trailer, where she sleeps in those godawful pajamas. She wakes up and fights back, and he throws her down. She bites him and proceeds to kick the shit out of him against her wall of shoes. It’s kind of Amazing. She knocks him out with a trophy and throws him the hell out of her trailer: “Who’s the strong man now?” Okay, she wins everything.

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Ethel and Legless Suzy and Jimmy comfort Eve – Ethel says that they can’t bring the cops in, that they have to exact their own justice… WITH HER ACCENT. The girls get all Sisters Doin’ It For Themselves, and Ethel tells him goodness just gets you killed. She cries and says that “hope will kill you every time.” This is quite the pep talk. She says they “can’t let that degenerate prick win” but Jimmy says he can handle him. She says he’d better, or they will. Dell teaches a carny to swing the hammer while Stanley fans himself in the background. Jimmy wants to talk to Dell, and Dell suddenly remembers that Jimmy has a claw hand (which he himself passed on to him, duh). He says they should go into town for a drink. PLEASE don’t take your son to the gay hustler bar, Dell. You’re already operating at a perfectly satisfactory level of inappropriate.

Elsa and the twins negotiate and she scoffs at their dreams of a “Siamese Twins Floor Wax Hour”. Bette wants to be a blonde comedienne and to have caviar for breakfast and to have 20% off the top, as well the money that Gloria gave her. Elsa calls it blackmail and reminds them that she rescued them from the hospital. Dot says she thinks they should take 50%. Atta girl!

Dell Tries to get Jimmy drunk, but Jimmy resists. He tells Dell that the ladies are ready to lynch him and Dell lies about what happened in Eve’s trailer. Dell gets Jimmy to drink and he tells a story about how he loves winter because he can wear mittens just like everyone else and once he gave Ma Petite a homemade rabbit fur coat, adding, “I love that little broad.” They… um, bond? I guess? But Jimmy doesn’t feel good and leaves. Outside, he pukes and Dell picks up a brick and comes up behind him, but before he can do anything Jimmy tells him he knows he’s his dad and always has. “The Famous Toledo Lobster Clan!” Jimmy cries and tells him to admit it. “Yer my daaaaaad!” He admits it and drops the brick and they hug and Jimmy tells him he has to leave or they’ll kill him. Dell takes him home.

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Dell and Jimmy stumble in singing about the strongman in the morning light. Elsa tells them to quit the caterwauling. Desiree piles on. Dell admits that Jimmy is his son to everyone and Elsa ridicules him for taking 24 years to admit it. Dell says that the Toledo Code means you never let a woman tell you what to do, and Jimmy starts yelling about bulls and stuff. Elsa: “IDIOTES.” They stumble off and Eve gives the stink-eye through the window. Dell tucks Jimmy in and Jimmy says “goodnight dad” and on the way out, Stanley hisses to Dell, “Queer… isn’t it?” but he’s talking about his cigarette. Stanley wants a dead freak and he wants one now!

Penny creeps back into her house while her dad (Lee Tergesen) sits in the living room oiling his hair and grousing. She says she’s going back to the freak show and he’ll have to kill her to stop her. He says he’s an electrician and he can’t risk her damaging his reputation. She says, “Prepare for the shaming of your life!” because she chooses to be a freak. She says that evil lives in his house. Out of nowhere introduces Morris, an artist friend of his who he invited over to give her a proper sendoff. He’s a tattooed man. What?

Bette thinks she looks like Eve Arden with her blonde hair and the makeup lady says she’s worked with girls with double chins but never a girl with two heads. [pause for laughs] Bette says they are like the caterpillar and the butterfly: “The Metamorphosis”. Elsa slips Dot a note as Bette preens in the mirror. Later, Bette sleeps under a mask and Dot read the note, which we see Elsa read in what looks like a Queen video. Elsa intones, “We are in this together.” Later, Pepper (Naomi Grossman) brings Elsa a note and she has her make her a drink. The note is a response Queen video from Dot, who wants Elsa to locate a Chicago doctor named “Oscar Sugar”.

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Penny’s father watches as his friend tattoos Penny’s face on the couch. Oh good grief. She wakes up and her dad has had her turned into a Lizard Girl, complete with a forked tongue. Remind me never to cross my electrician!

Stanley eats steak in front of Elsa. She tells him that the twins are back and hellbent on destroying her. Elsa tells him about Dot’s request and asks him to execute it for her. He suggests an alternative that’s less public to relieve the girls of their misery – “a mercy killing.” Ethel overhears as she carries in a Jell-O mold. Elsa tells him that one of them killed their mother and one of them tried to kill the other – she can’t remember which. Ethel drops off the gelatinous monstrosity and Elsa purrs that she’s finally found a manager who will kill for his clients.

Dell visits Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) and gives her a box. It’s a purple gown and she goes to try it on.  It actually looks very similar to what she’s already wearing, doesn’t it? He calls her a little princess and holds her… and breaks her neck. Her little feet go slack. OMG that was NOT COOL. He tells her he’s sorry. Its a bit late for that!

Paul wakes up to find something lurking in the dark of his room. Penny creeps out of the corner with her new lizard face. He says it’s all his fault and cries and holds her.

Up at the American Morbidity Museum, Cam Tucker’s mom (Celia Weston) dings a glass and unveils their new acquisition: “Mahadavie Patel, the smallest woman in the world.” She’s still in her dress. OMG MAKE THEM STOP.

Notably Dead: Ma Petite, the Doctor, Penny’s endorsement deal with Clinique
Notably Absent: Regina Ross
Freak of the Week: I want to give it to Ma Petite for getting killed AGAIN this week, but I have to hand it to Amazon Eve for putting Dell in his place.
Quote of the Week: While Elsa’s schnitzel-scented stage whisper delivery is starting to seriously wear on me, the “Siamese Twins Floor Wax Hour” was pretty hilarious.
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Blood – 2/10
A blot on a hankie here and there, but nothing major.
Beasts – 0/10
Sigh.
Buns – 3/10
There was a fair bit of side-bun at the High Noon. We’ll take it!

Rating

So let’s take stock: we’re down one performer, poor sweet Ma Petite. I might argue that the scene would have been more shocking if we hadn’t seen her attempted murder twice last week – turns out third time’s not a charm, I guess? Thankfully the writers thought to restock the pantry and gave the company a new member in Penny the Lizard Girl, which is an interesting development even if the mechanics of it make absolutely no sense for a number of reasons including that no tattoo artist would ever forcibly ink a person’s face against their own will and that Penny’s dad’s chances of knowing this man well enough to get him to do this are absolute zero. We now have two murderous closeted gay men, which seems a bit of a stacked deck even for 1952 in a small swamp town whose gay hustler honeypot is abuzz with activity at any time of day, any day of the week. Meanwhile, are they still performing for audiences? Is Elsa still being booed off stage twice a night, three times on Saturday? Has no one called Esmerelda’s references or found it odd that Elsa’s new manager is always hanging around and not actually doing anything?

And why in God’s name was no one watching Ma Petite’s back when just hours ago loose cannon Dell was caught physically assaulting one of the other performers? Okay, show. Bette might have summed up the episode’s theme early on with the line, “I choose my sister – always,” but she should have added, “…and I’ll also try to make sure she doesn’t get snapped in half by the drunken, rampaging cyclone of testosterone that lives next door, if I remember.”

While the ep had some great moments, it was also ridiculous. I’ll give it two out of five Pennywises:

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What’d you folks think?

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