Just when you think American Horror Story: Asylum can’t possibly get more Baroque, it shimmies up a gilded spire and tosses a zillion putti at your head until you beg for mercy. We’ve been raped by the devil a lot this season. Our hair is very tousled and we’re all round and gravid with aliens. Don’t get me wrong; I’m in the “bring it on, Ryan Murphy” camp, but good grief. There are some gaping plot holes that can’t just be forcibly stuffed with penises. Put some answers in our orifices.
In case you’d washed away the vestiges of last episode with some creamy and delicious egg nog, Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) had recently attempted to bring Kit (Evan Peters) to the brink of death in order to trap Kit’s alien friends. The aliens appeared, as they usually do, in a flash of white light, and revealed to Arden that Grace (Lizzie Brocheré) is pregnant and being cared for by microcephalic Pepper (Naomi Grossman).
As this episode opens, Arden brings Kit back to life with a jolt and lies to him, telling him that the aliens never appeared; in an extended flashback, however, we see Arden having a lengthy exchange with a newly sage Pepper. He plans to x-ray Grace, but Pepper tells him that won’t work because the aliens will protect the fetus from the harmful radiation. Fine, says Arden, I’ll just perform an emergency c-section; the invisible aliens then toss Arden and his scalpel away from her body. Pepper explains that she was framed by her sister’s husband for the murder and ear-slicing that landed her at Briarcliff, her status as a “freak” making her an easy target. If Arden continues to try to mess with Grace, the aliens will “open up [his] head and stir [his] brain with a fork,” and Pepper advises him to run off to hang out with his “whore nun” instead of mucking around as a sadistic OB-GYN. Arden appears to take her advice, closing the door on Grace and Pepper for, like, the whole episode. I can’t believe that Arden’s not glued to this pregnancy considering his fascination with the supernatural, but I guess he’s already unraveling a little bit because of his crush on Satan Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe).
Monsignor Timothy (Joseph Fiennes), meanwhile, is alive and relatively well (still nursing some stigmata, of course) after Lee Emerson (Ian McShane) crucified him during the last installment and left him to chill with the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy). What a fake out. With all of the resurrections this season, I’m just tapping my fingers until Shelley’s (Chloë Sevigny) scabby return. As Satan Mary wheels him around and blathers on about the manhunt for Emerson and how she’ll be sleeping in his room while he convalesces, we flash back to the AoD telling Monsignor that the devil is in his “favorite young nun” and that he needs to guard his thoughts, use his rosary, and cast her out. Way to downplay how hard it is to kill a devil, Conroy, especially for Monsignor Timothy, who’s as soft and easily disintegrated as a soggy communion wafer.
Satan Mary bids Monsignor adieu so she can go oversee the delivery of Grace’s baby, saying that “exciting new things are happening around here.” She is also referring to the fact that she has recently acquired a new (used) jukebox to replace the creepy ambience that departed the ward when Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) smashed the ever-spinning annoying earworm. One of the patients immediately thwaps the thing in an attempt to get it to dispense a pack of Camels before Satan Mary can play “I Put a Spell on You” and dedicate it to Sister Jude, a.k.a. “Miss Judy Martin.” Kit and Lana find each other and hug (I guess you’re always surprised to see people show up alive at Briarcliff), but Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) enters looking dapper and takes a big metaphoric dump on their reunion.
He takes a seat near them and tells Lana that he admires her “pluck,” adding that as long as she’s carrying his rape baby, he’ll hold off on making her skin into a sport jacket. Also, because Dr. Thredson is apparently a member of La Leche League, he will allow her to stay alive for a year to breastfeed his progeny because even the scourge of humanity be needin’ antibodies. He’s staffed now, by the way: Satan Mary has hired him as a therapist full-time, and he’ll be resuming Kit’s treatment/torture. Plus he has to replace all those nipple lampshades he discarded and can’t seem to procure from H.D. Buttercup.
After everyone’s been sent back to their cells for the evening, Satan Mary marches down the hall to conduct a room search. When Lana confronts her about hiring Thredson, Satan sends her packing to the hydrotherapy room. Carrying this crabby mood on down the line, she then plants a cucumber in Sister Jude’s cell and produces it in front of the other patients, humiliating her by accusing her of masturbating with it while fantasizing about the Monsignor, “diddling [herself] all night long.” For this diddling and some toss-off diagnosis of manic depression, Sister Jude is prescribed electroshock, during which Sadist Satan Mary cranks the dial up to 11. These scenes are so visceral. The biting and the thrashing. While Lana emerged from ECT relatively unscathed, Judy’s not going to have such an easy time. Her brain is now a Parmesan tuile, very crispy and with little holes where the important stuff used to go.
Back in Monsignor Timothy’s recuperation room, Satan Mary is unbandaging his hands and flattering him: Man, these scars have healed too well! Monsignor launches a pretty pathetic sneak attack to try to exorcise the demon within her, but she tosses him off like a whisper-thin cashmere devil sweater and then decides she’d like to snatch his virginity from him. “Is yours inches thick, Father?” she asks, and then pulls a lot of frat guy nonsense telling him his body’s saying let’s go though his cassock’s saying no. She peels off her habit to reveal Sister Jude’s red negligee and then asks him, mid-bone, if sexing feels like a “warm, wet hug.” Dr. Arden appears in the doorway for the finale just to make what already was less sexy than a bowl of month-old shepherd’s pie covered in flies even worse.
Sister Jude re-enters the ward post-ECT looking like she’s been stuck in the washer-dryer for 11 years. Most of the ward patients have a cackle at her, but Lana and Kit are sympathetic. As Jude hits the jukebox with her one good arm and then pathetically tries to squirm her way behind it to yank the plug, Lana gently tries to coax sense out of her by asking if she knows her name. “Sister Jude, it’s me, Lana. Lana Banana” — and now we’re in a very weird episode of Glee, in which Sister Jude hallucinates a complicated asylum dance number choreographed to “The Name Game” while wearing periwinkle polyester. I would have hated this but for Kit leaning against a column like a beatnik dream boy before reluctantly joining everyone, including straitjacket man, in Grease-era hand jives.
OK! Hallucination over; Judy-Judy-fo-Fudy is blank and clueless once again. Why bother with segues: Dr. Arden is wheeling his barrow of human chum through the wintry forest to feed his monsters with sores when Satan Mary waltzes up to try to make nice. Nothing doing, because Arden is really pissed and jealous that he caught her humping Monsignor. “There is no ‘us,’” he tells Satan, who nonetheless tries to use her devilish cuteness to convince him to lobotomize Sister Jude (he’s not into it, just because Satan Mary wants him to, and he’s the punishing type).
Dumping the body parts onto the ground summons the monsters, who Dr. Arden shoots execution-style, proclaiming that “the experiment is over.” I have a problem with this, because we never really got enough information about what the experiment was, but Dr. Arden doesn’t care. He turns the gun on himself and gets really emo: It’s a farce, finita la commedia, weeping weeping, “You have no idea what it means to have lost you.” Satan Mary is understandably grossed out by this show of goopy sadloves and scrapes Arden off her legs.
I know what you’re thinking. WHO IS BAKING THE BREAD THAT THIS SHOW MUST MAKE TO EAT AND LIVE OFF OF? Don’t worry; someone is. Sister Jude is emptily contemplating her unbaked loaf when Monsignor Timothy comes into the bakery and dismisses everyone but her. He thinks she’s just zonked because of a high dose of medication, not knowing that her head is now filled with old socks and Styrofoam peanuts. At least this makes her a good listener as Monsignor confesses his loss of purity with Satan Mary and apologizes for wronging Sister Jude, a “loyal and honest friend.” He tells her that she was right about Satan Mary Eunice and wants to know what to do. “Kill her,” she croaks. Good advice but again, if Sister Jude couldn’t kill Satan Mary, why should this guy be able to? The only people who might be formidable enough to face off with Satan Mary are Lana and Dr. Thredson, and only one of them has any reason to take a stab at it. Dr. Thredson’s got other fish to fry, though — he asks Carl the guard to bring him Kit Walker and a straitjacket, then goes poking around in Arden’s office for some sodium pentothal. He finds Grace in labor in an anteroom, with Pepper’s face popping up between her legs to inform him that “she’s crowning.” This is more potent than pentothal, because Thredson knows better than anyone how protective people are of their babies and the colostrum cows who birth them.
Presumably, Monsignor has spent this interval coming to peace with Sister Jude’s advice, in his bland way, and as he’s praying Satan Mary creeps up on him and asks if he’s ready for another roll in the habit. She can read minds, so she tries to seduce him out of carrying out his plan to snuff her torch, but he’s set on freeing Sister Mary Eunice from Satan’s grip. Sister Mary comes through on the AM dial to tell Monsignor that it’s cool; she is no longer about this life, so Monsignor tosses Satan Mary/Sister Mary down the spiral staircase where she meets the Angel of Death on impact. It was that easy? Are you kidding me? The devil didn’t jump out of her and into Monsignor Timothy? She didn’t telekinetically shove some invisible fingers up his nose and pull out all his nostril hair in self-defense? Hello? Writers? Help me? Anyway, fine. The dead body of Satan Mary is now all laid out to be prayed over while Dr. Arden watches. Arden insists that she be cremated because her cells have been corrupted by the devil, and since Monsignor is probably pretty pooped at this point, he assents. Dr. Arden dabs at her mouth like a real skeeve, though by Monsignor’s account she smells of “nothing but decay.”
Thredson is now in possession of Kit, and he’s angling to get him to reveal the location of the tape he and Lana made of Thredson’s narcissistic monologue of all the murders he committed. Kit holds out until Thredson leads him to Grace and the baby, who’s cute and swaddled and making Gizmo noises. Kit immediately succumbs to this, and I can’t say I blame him because at one point in my life I probably would have sold out my entire family to Dr. Thredson for just, like, 10 minutes with Gizmo. Thredson hightails it to the hydrotherapy room and reaches under the tub to find a package, but it’s not the tape, it’s “See Spot Jump.” Lana, having been banished to the industrial bathroom earlier in the episode, has cleverly exchanged her rapist’s evidence with a wee hardcover. “I’m plucky, remember?” she taunts, knowing that she can withhold this information without getting murgled at least until Baby Thredson has graduated to Gerber peas.
Poor Sister Jude, herself reduced to a human jar of Gerber peas, is lounging on an afghan trying to remember the names of the patients on the ward as they pass when Mother Superior comes to pay her a visit. Apparently Jude had asked Monsignor to see her. She wants to say goodbye, because Monsignor is taking her to Rome to marry her and become the pope. She’s in a zippy and crazy state, telling Mother Superior that he loves her cooking and thinks she’s a rare bird and muttering about Ravish Me Red, the lipstick that Satan Mary wore way back in the early days of her corporeal occupation. The clouds clear for a minute on the bonnie banks o’ Sister Jude’s nutso Loch Lomond and she tells Mother Superior to help Lana escape from Briarcliff, that she’s been wrongfully committed. Someone, please, help Lana. Or anybody. This Sister Jude stuff has gotten too bleak for me to cope with.
Speaking of bleak: the final scene is Dr. Arden draping himself over the body of his demon crush, taking one last (presumably) platonic dance with Satan Mary before cranking them both into the incinerator to die together in a Nazi/devil embrace. No! I will miss that Nazi doctor! What am I supposed to do without Satan Mary with three episodes to go? Will Sister Jude recover? Is anyone going to escape this mental hospital with their nipples intact? What’s the deal with the aliens? Is Pepper an alien? How did it get to be 4 in the morning as I’m finishing this recap? Why stay in college? Why go to night school? I guess we’ll just have to wrap ourselves in a warm, wet hug and wait to find out.