American Horror Story Season 2, Episode 9: ‘The Coat Hanger’
It almost seems as though the pro-life Springdale Cleaners of Cincinnati got an advance screener of this week’s American Horror Story. Whether political or just exceedingly envelope-pushy, this episode really hammered the nail of “Hey, missus, what’s cooking in there?” An alien? A future cat-skinner sociopath with silly little mullet wisps? Some immortal somebody-or-other who’s going to have hanger poke-marks on his back? Puppy Surprise? At least in Grace’s case, it looks like answers are imminent. And perpetual man-baby Thredson is back on the loose, so mommies, padlock your chastity belts. BABIES BABIES BABIES LADIES LADIES LADIES, Ryan Murphy is twisting his finger all up in you.
We open on a modern-day therapist’s office, but don’t worry, Adam Levine isn’t there in the form of a manskin rug on the floor. Dr. Gardner (Brooke Smith, whose skin is legendary for being on Buffalo Bill’s must-have list in The Silence of the Lambs) is meeting with a patient named Johnny Morgan (Dermot Mulroney — er, Dylan McDermott), who found her services advertised in a Penny Saver circular and has come seeking treatment for something a little more serious than smoking cessation: He wants to curb his compulsions that began when he was in foster care. The doctor thinks he’s talking about masturbating (how cute), but really he’s been skinning dead cats, then killing live cats, then killing and skinning live women (“like the cats” — yes, I follow you). While in prison for robbery, Morgan did some soul-searching and wondered if his biological parents might be to blame for who he’s become; retracing his roots, he found that he was the son of Bloody Face, and laments the fact that he has no surgical training to commit spic-and-span murders like Dad did. “Do you think it’s too late?” asks Morgan. “It’s never too late to turn yourself in,” says Dr. Gardner hopefully. “No! To go to medical school!” Well, let’s talk about the debt. And did you happen to take organic chemistry in undergrad?
Back in 1964, Satan Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) meets with Lana (Sarah Paulson) in her office. Lana remarks that Satan Mary has become a lot like Sister Jude, by which she means a bossypants who snips at people for Failure to Knock Syndrome. Satan Mary tells Lana she’s pretty sassy for a girl in her condition, and when she recommends her aunt Celeste’s signature Drano margarita, we know that that condition is the apparently sass-incompatible pregnancy. Satan also knows it’s Thredson’s, because Lana told her about the rape before she knew that Satan Mary was not on team benevolence. Lana doesn’t want to carry the child, understandably, but Satan Mary basically has the registry all planned out and intends to send the Briarcliff baby to an orphanage, just like all the other Briarcliff babies resulting from patients humping away in the bread factory downstairs. Lana is handed a receipt of her medical exam and faints on the way out, probably because she didn’t have insurance.
Sister Jude, a sister no more, is broken-looking and strapped down in a cell with Monsignor Timothy (Joseph Fiennes), who is telling her that she killed a man. She’ll be a patient at Briarcliff for the rest of her days and has been stripped of her clerical cloths, becoming Ms. Judy Martin once again. (Hey, Judy Martin seemed like a stinking good time, Monsignor. Don’t take that away from her.) She thinks he’s talking about Lee Emerson (Ian McShane) — the Psycho Santa she stabbed in the neck — but he means Frank (Fredric Lehne), who was offed by Satan Mary Eunice. We flash back to a series of testimonies given by Emerson, Satan Mary, Dr. Arden (James Cromwell), and Monsignor Timothy framing Sister Jude. Hell, even Mother Superior’s in on it, telling police that Sister Jude told her that Satan Mary Eunice was possessed, though she probably doesn’t know that Sister Jude is the last bastion of sanity in the nunhouse. Emerson then tells Monsignor Timothy that he’s repentant for his crimes of Christmas past, and would like to apologize to his 18 victims when he gets through the pearly gates of heaven. So optimistic of him.
Monsignor is now tasked with nosily peering into Sister Jude’s box of nun things: a crucifix, Bible, light bulb (?), and her red negligee, presumably planted by Satan Mary, who waltzes in to wonder “who she was fancying when she wore it.” She also drops the knowledge that Sister Jude and Monsignor Timothy had big dreams to climb the papal ladder, hoping to get Monsignor into a cushy pope position with Sister Jude as his right-hand woman. “Those things were said in confidence!” gasps Monsignor, which is surprising because that’s some of the least damning information anybody could whisper about in the hallways of Briarcliff, considering the material. Satan Mary offers to take Sister Jude’s spot, helping him “save souls all the way to Rome.” I am guessing she wants to save them to eat them later, like airy roast beef sandwiches. Mmm.
Lana is escorted to her cell, where she immediately produces a clothes hanger from a pants rack she spied while wandering the asylum. Is there a laundry off the bakery? Is Briarcliff like one of those apartment buildings with all the convenient retail beneath? Thunder and lightning erupt as if to be like, “nature both approves and disapproves of this message.” In a cell down the way, Sister Jude is refusing sedatives from a pair of nuns when Monsignor Timothy enters with Emerson. He has something to say to her, and Monsignor thinks she’ll “find it more medicinal than any pill.” Emerson says he forgives her — for stabbing his neck, and also, as we see in a flashback to 1963, for restraining him after he bit a photographer’s face off — and kisses her forehead. Eeeeew! We know he has pus-filled sores all over because he told us, and his breath smells like paparazzi face!
Kit (Evan Peters), who has his IV unplugged, is lying in his bed when Lana comes in to tell him that she’d really like to go ahead and kill Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) now. Kit reiterates that Thredson’s his only way out of the electric chair, and says he wants to use Sodium Pentothal to get a confession out of him. Lana thinks she might know another way to get him to talk, and I believe her because Thredson’s a colostrumoholic and Lana’s fixing to produce the real deal. Lana goes to Thredson’s mattress barricade and gives him a drink of water before showing him her handy pregnancy receipt. He’s totally psyched: Looks like Bloody Face always wanted to be a dad. But not so fast, because Lana has the coat hanger ready unless Thredson tells her about killing his victims. He obliges (all of them had fuzzy skin, “like a peach,” which I guess makes it more adhesive for mask-making), and of course Kit is in the back taping the whole thing. Lana then admits that she’s already aborted the baby, which compels Thredson to get all hypocritical and call her a monster, “worse than [he is] — you killed an innocent child.” Yeah, but she didn’t make a suit out of it. (Maybe because it would have been too small to fit, but the point is she didn’t.)
Kit sneaks off to the hydrotherapy room to hide the tape in the pipes beneath a bathtub, which is pretty foolish because I bet those bathtubs are drippy as hell and it’s not like a CD you can wipe off or an MP3 you can back up. You have to be careful with tapes. At least it’s not in the sun, though. That’s the worst. Dr. Arden finds Kit and takes him away for a chat in his office, giving him a cigarette and some 18-year single-malt scotch because he’s obviously preparing to kill him. Arden produces an imprint of the foot of the alien he encountered in the death chute with Grace’s body (Lizzie Brochere) and tells Kit he’s seen the aliens Kit’s been nattering on about. It appears to Arden as though the aliens want to snatch anybody who’s had sex with Kit, maybe because “they’re experimenting, probably refining some sort of eugenics.” No, Nazi, that’s you. The aliens seem to be so fond of Kit that Arden thinks that if Kit were brought to the brink of death, the aliens would appear to save him. With or without Kit’s permission, Dr. Arden wants to almost kill him so that he can take a look at these beings and hear their magical discotheque buzz again, and Kit assents because it’s his only chance at being reunited with his wife, Alma. And down the hatch goes the scotch.
Emerson, meanwhile, is in church, praying. He tells Monsignor Timothy that he wants to be saved, which is pretty exciting to Pope-hungry Timothy: Yes! Yes! “You could be my miracle, Lee!” I can’t believe this guy is so gullible, because he was there when Psycho Santa had the face-biting incident, but I guess he has a short memory. Monsignor unshackles Emerson and baptizes him while Emerson renounces Satan, then nearly drowns Monsignor in the baptismal font. OBVIOUSLY. Lana has been caught trying to snatch knives from the bakery, so she’s brought back to her room and has to improvise learning to stab by practicing on a pillow with her used coat hanger. After she’s become proficient, she goes back to Thredson’s barricade and finds him gone; as soon as she makes her way into the hallway, who should she meet but Satan Mary, who’s released Thredson and informs Lana that her attempted abortion was unsuccessful. She places her hand, which doubles as an ultrasound, on Lana’s abdomen and divines the gender of the baby (it’s a boy). Yes, it is a boy, a boy who will grow up to destroy Dr. Gardner’s office in the modern day and mess up her face pretty bad before her next patient arrives looking for help because she can’t stop eating buckets of chicken by her lonesome. The patient screams and looks the bloodthirsty Derbil McDillet right in the eye.
On the mid-century ward, Lana is smoking probably her zillionth cigarette while the ubiquitous French pop song cycles once again. Sister Jude, plainclothes and war-torn, is thrust into the ward with all of the patients she caned during her reign as crabby nun overlord. She asks Lana for a cigarette, tears off the filter, and apologizes for her treatment of Lana, saying that it “was more than just wrong, it was immoral.” Yeah, that electroshock was pretty rude. “It was criminal,” corrects Lana, and Jude agrees. She says she plans to get Lana out and earn her trust, then saunters over to the record player and breaks the 45 like the badass she is. Go, Judy Martin, go. “Well, hot damn,” says Lana, because it was apparently so hard for anybody to break that record before now (they’re insane, shouldn’t they be breaking records on the daily?). Dr. Arden is readying Kit’s syringe of potassium chloride, which he’ll inject into Kit’s heart before reversing it at the precise moment Kit is about to bite the dust. Kit prays as Arden tells him that this is about to hurt, jabbing him in an X marked on his chest with more force than is probably necessary. Arden checks his watch before the alien techno spectacular crashes the scene with flashing lights and loud outerspace dubstep, warping everything so that Arden looks like he’s trapped in a Prodigy music video. Arden finds himself in a cell with a pregnant Grace and Pepper (Naomi Grossman), who tells him that “the baby’s full-term, it won’t be long now.” Aliens, apparently, are gestated in microwaves. Grace is wearing nice, editorial-style makeup and looks a lot better than when we last saw her (dead in a wheelbarrow); she takes Arden’s hand and places it on her belly as Pepper says she’ll look after Grace when she goes into labor. Pepper is not who I’d choose for a midwife, but hey, anything goes, I guess.
In the church where Emerson and Monsignor Timothy recently took a dip, a janitor enters to find Monsignor barely alive and crucified by the font of ill repute. It’s sort of a mess and requires more than a mop, so the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy) materializes and answers Monsignor’s call for help. You know, if she weren’t the Angel of Death, I think she’d be the perfect person to help with all of the baby-birthing about to transpire at Briarcliff — she’s very soothing and seems like she’d administer a good epidural. Steady hands. Plus you could hang swaddling blankets on her wings to dry. Unfortunately, baby daddy Thredson is now loose on the scene again, and two alien babies (Alma’s and Grace’s) will have to deal with a young cat-skinning Baby Bloody Face at Briarcliff Daycare. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait out the third trimester, because the next episode isn’t until January 2. Maybe if we eat enough labor-inducing salads, we can will it into being delivered early. I hope you like Gorgonzola with your demon spawn.
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“Actually, the last thing we shot with Matthew [McConaughey], which was really great because we got to surprise him, was from episode seven when Marty’s watching the video tape Rust stole from the Tuttle house and Matthew has his back to Woody. We start rolling and I keep it going and we gather the entire crew right outside the storage unit. We slammed the doors open, which kind of shocked him for a second, and then the whole crew was there to clap for him. It was pretty awesome.”