American Horror Story: Asylum Season 2, Episode 3: ‘Nor’easter’
It was almost eerie, the title of last night’s AHSA episode: “Nor’easter.” Ryan Murphy has a knack for that. The fact that this episode was no more Halloween-y than the previous two, but that it revolved around a storm, was interesting to me: This year’s Halloween has been, obviously, overshadowed by a huge, horrible weather system, and while I had prepared myself for what I hoped would be a series of door chimes at Briarcliff manor pressed by weird-looking ginger children, I was not prepared for a lot of talk of The Storm. I appreciated this accidental synergy even if I didn’t really feel like thinking anymore about the life-altering wet; way to kick things off on an uncomfortable note before you even get to James Cromwell calling everybody (Shelly, Satan Mary Eunice, statues) “whore.”
As if just to get my goat, Leo (Adam fuuuucking Levine) is still not dead. The stabbed and one-armed bionic Jaggerman is still clinging to life in present-day Briarcliff as his wife Teresa (Jenna Dewan Tatum) screams her head off at a person who appears to be Bloody Face. They tussle as Leo, who vacillates between looking gray and as though he’s been exhumed from 2004 and, seconds later, as if he’s been beamed to set straight from a refreshing sip of Starbucks on The Voice, attempts to come to her rescue. Teresa, what with her extra arm and all, gets up and stabs the crap out of Bloody Face-Maybe-Not-Bloody Face, and then (AGAIN) tries to drag Leo out the door. He protests with “Ow, my arm,” as if he hasn’t just appeared dead in the final moments of each of his first two segments and has instead strained a muscle buying too many of the big waters from Trader Joe’s and walking to his car in a far-away lot. She picks up her iPhone to call 911 and, I assume, Instagram the horrors she’s seen (@comfortablysmug immediately responds that the Raspers are Obama lobbyists). Two more Bloody Faces appear and shoot Teresa and Leo (are they dead? Can I say they’re dead now? I’m going to go ahead and say it just to make sure that next week the show begins with Adam Levine buying one-sleeved button-downs at Paul Smith) before stripping off their masks to reveal that they’re just a couple of bros, one of whom is remorseful (eyeing the dead bodies and going, “Cha, man”) and the other of whom is bloodthirsty (“That was … so sick”). A third (fourth?) Bloody Face appears when summoned by one bro who asked the question, “His arm’s been ripped off, man, who coulda done that?” and looks at them menacingly before we are generously allowed to go back in time to when things actually mattered and somebody cared about set lighting. Hallelujah. Nuns.
Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) is in her study when Satan Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) knocks at the door, delivering the mail and news that a storm is coming, “a big fat storm.” The newspaper included in the pile bears a front-page headline reading “Framingham Police Hopeful to Find Missing Girl” with a photo of the wee lass Sister Jude’s vehicle smushed many years ago, and that’s not because it’s a slow news day: The paper is from 1949, so who brought it to Sister Jude’s desk? “The mailman?” suggests Satan Mary Eunice, who knows that it was not. From this point forward, everyone in the episode acquires a vaguely New England accent, beginning with the radio weatherman who is broadcasting into Dr. Arden’s (James Cromwell’s) severe office. Dr. Arden is busying himself burning the little metal chips that came from Kit’s (Evan Peters’s) neck while peering evilly through a wonky magnifying glass. They fuse back together immediately because nobody likes being stared at by Dr. Arden. Sister Jude has done what any sane person does when confronted with unsettling morning headlines: She’s now down in the bakery hole, slamming the hell out of some dough and reliving the nightmares of her alcoholic past. Dr. Thredson intrudes to ask if everything’s all right and natter on about his agenda for eliminating the corporal punishment used by the institution, invoking the Skinner box. Sister Jude tries to redeem herself as a compassionate soul by mentioning that she’s arranged to have a screening of The Sign of the Cross for the patients during the storm, to distract them from the lightning and such with calming images of milk baths and the murder of Christians. Dr. Thredson wonders if Sister J’s salty attitude might be the product of a guilty conscience (which it is, though not for the reasons he assumes). Sister Jude semi-obliquely accuses him of planting the newspaper, but his blank Quintoish reaction sends her back to pounding sourdough, searching for answers elsewhere.
Satan Mary Eunice, barely concealing her possession in front of the patients, oozes into the common room to halt the single-track French record and announce movie night: “We’re all going to be together in the dark, watching Sign of the Cross: a movie full of fire, sex, and the death of Christians. What fun.” Surprisingly, only one of the crazy gang notices that Satan Mary Eunice is behaving a little differently, a Mexican woman who reasonably asks the nun to “Go away … Satan.” Instead of going away, Satan Mary Eunice flashes her some spooky Riff Raff eyes. Kit is deep in a pretend chess game with Grace (Lizzie Brocheré), and as soon as Satan’s off the floor he suggests that they make a run for it during movie night. Lana (Sarah Paulson) walks by, and Grace leaps up to bitch at her for ruining their last attempt at escape. Lana insists that she’d do it again to keep Kit from murdering anyone else — she still believes he’s Bloody Face — and Kit defends her, saying he would do the same but for the fact that he’s innocent, innocent I tell you! Though he may not be Bloody Face, Kit is guilty as hell of having mechanical bugs in his neck, so he’s ordered into Dr. Arden’s office to get poked around in some more as if he’s a human cuticle from Black Swan. Meanwhile, Sister Jude has enlisted a guard to do some digging on Dr. Thredson, and though the guard’s got nothin’, Sister asks him to keep an eye on the doctor. Satan Mary Eunice busts in excitedly with a carafe of red wine and pours Sister Jude a glass, claiming that someone’s been drinking it. So, you know, now everyone has to so it doesn’t count. Sister Jude refuses because, as you know, Satan Mary, I don’t drink. “Oh yes, how could I forget … since 1949,” says Satan ominously. Open your eyes, Sister Jude! Satan Mary is wearing Ravish Me Red lipstick and being extremely obvious! Satan makes a big show of enjoying the wine before Sister Jude confiscates the lipstick, which Satan then claims is for Sister Jude, a gift from Dr. Arden, who knows that red is Sister Jude’s favorite color. Actually, only we know that because Sister Jude let us peek at her in that negligee that one time, and we loved it.
Dr. Arden has Kit’s microchip in a glass jar; it’s grown its legs back and hops against the glass like it’s Friday night and trying to get back into the fabulous nightclub that is Kit’s neck. Dr. Arden, narcissist that he is, thinks that Kit’s chip is a device implanted by the KGB to spy on him and the kooky things he has going on in his lab. He pokes Kit with a long needle and muses on other possible espionage culprits: maybe the Jews. He’s going to dig around in there until he finds the truth, he says, and then slices into Kit’s neck with a scalpel. I bet Dr. Arden studied dermatology at one point. I could really see him going to town on a nice big mole. In her cell, the Mexican woman is praying when Satan Mary Eunice enters her cell and barks at her in the same devil voice the spirit’s previous host, Jed, used when chatting with Sister Jude about the 53 cocks she once stuffed into her mouth. Satan Mary bats her around some, forces her onto her knees to pray, and then stabs her in the gushiest part of the carotid artery with some heavy-duty scissors. She rears back and stabs her again in the heart, just to be a dick.
Satan wheels the corpse into the woods to feed it to the Raspers, which we now see are human-like figures with really bad complexions. Dr. Arden is relaxing in his office with some light reading, The Stages of Mind Control, when Satan Mary Eunice knocks at his door. He’s delighted to see her, his “little ray of sunshine,” and so touched to hear of her concern for the creatures during the storm that he places a hand on her thigh. That sets off Satan, who would like a little less conversation and a little more action. Satan attempts to get Dr. Arden to “suck on [Satan’s] rosebud tits” and explains that she’s had an awakening to the power of sex and it has left her “all juicy.” Dr. Arden prefers his pillow-talk a little more Renaissance Faire (“mossy bank”) and slaps Satan Mary, who laughs before he banishes her, furious that she was willing to give him what he’s wanted all along without a lot of feigned reluctance and boring monologues about Chopin. Back in the common room, Lana corners Dr. Thredson and asks for a moment of his time over by the piano, which is being clonked on unmusically by some poor amateur patient. Lana asks Dr. Thredson to pass a note to Wendy (Clea Duvall), her girlfriend, who she doesn’t know has been murdered by Bloody Face and who, she hopes, can be her ticket back out of the asylum. Down in the bread-making basement, the other patients are also brainstorming their escapes, and Shelly (Chloë Sevigny) approaches Grace to beg to be included in her escape plan with Kit because she wants “to go to Paris, France” where everyone is “20 years ahead of us” sexually and people will listen to Shelly talk about boning cucumbers because everybody in France loves Delta of Venus. Grace doesn’t seem to be an Anaïs Nin fan — she moved to America when she was 9 — but seems to consider Shelly’s pleas anyway.
Dr. Arden is making himself a bed in his gloomy office to weather the storm at the asylum and pout at not having anyone to lust after who’s sufficiently repressed. Sister Jude, most repressed of all, is apparently not under consideration as the object of Dr. Arden’s affections, even though she enters his den condemning the lipstick she thinks he proffered her and appearing as though she’d be his dream date. Dr. Arden explains that he admired Satan Mary Eunice’s purity and innocence because he “never had any, even as a boy” and tells Sister Jude that Satan Mary has been corrupted by the asylum, recounting that she “exposed herself to me, like a whore.” Sister Jude goes into me-me-me mode (all of the administrators of this hospital are so self-involved) and accuses Dr. Arden of trying to strip her of her position and climb ranks himself — she also seems to think that he’s behind ye olde newspaper appearing on her desk, and tells him that he “doesn’t know what [he] thinks [he] knows.” She leaves, and Dr. Arden is left to the task of inspecting the Ravish Me Red lipstick in his office as the completely inauthentic Boston accent on the radio gives the increasingly bleak forecast for the storm. Hmm, Dr. Arden seems to be thinking, I do so hate whores.
Back in her own study, Sister Jude is praying when the phone rings. She answers, like a moron. The voice on the other end belongs to the little girl she ran over, just phoning to make Sister Jude feel guilty like somebody’s ancient grandmother who they never call or write to: You just left me there! You never got out of the car! Sister Jude weeps and apologizes, and then the line goes dead and she notices some smashed glasses on her desk. Man, that Satan Mary Eunice is not subtle. I’m surprised there wasn’t some sort of a stuffed animal with its guts ripped out to employ in these scenes, or a puppy involved in the hit-and-run for good measure. Of course this sends Sister Jude’s hand Ouija-ing across her desk to the carafe of wine, which she proceeds to completely drain before stumbling downstairs for movie night. She drunkenly wrangles the crazies and introduces the film after being informed that “the Mexican” is missing. This is some grade-A Jessica Lange, by the way, especially when she notes that “the incomparable Charles Laughton […] is an enormous whoopsie” (also: Did you remember that there were alligators in this movie? What?) and then launches into a very weird ramble about how storms are followed by “a golden sky and the bright silver song of a lark” while crying over the pedestrian she murdered. Then she cues the lights and excuses herself with “I’m off to find the Mexican,” whose seat in the front row Satan Mary Eunice decides to occupy.
While searching for said Mexican, Sister Jude encounters a tall alien that purses its lips at her, but she’s so wasted it’s hard to say if this isn’t just the communion wine talking. Lana is sitting next to Dr. Thredson and asks him if he’s heard from Wendy. Of course he hasn’t, and what’s more, he tells Lana, he discovered some ominous signs that lead him to believe she may have been a victim of Bloody Face, leading to doubts as to whether Kit is BF or just some guy with USB bugs in his body. The patients are all roaming around at this point in the picture, claiming to have their periods and needing to use the restroom. Grace and Kit wander out, and Lana excuses herself during the bathing-lady scene by claiming that it’s unsuitable based on “her condition” as a lesbian. Smooth!
Shelly, Grace, and Kit are hanging out in the hallway like they’re in The Breakfast Club, eyeing their escape tunnel and making social connections with each other, as Lana approaches, asking to come along. Grace throws her against a wall and tells her to screw herself, but Lana tells Kit that she knows she was wrong about him and plays the pity card by saying that someone she knows “may be in danger,” which is code for “has already been murdered.” Now the love triangle is clearly Lana > Grace > Kit > Lana. Like a snake eating its own sexy tail. A guard named Carl shows up, with whom Shelly is already acquainted (wink wink), so Shelly goes off to distract him, leading him to the hydrotherapy rooms by his fly. If you were curious what Dr. Arden was up to this whole time, we cut away to reveal that he is standing in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary painting lips, cheekbones, and very crude nipples onto it with lipstick; “There you are,” he tells the statue, “a whore.” He repeats this word several times and at varying volumes as he caresses the statue and then pushes it backward, where it crashes on the floor in slow motion; there is your entire art semiotics paper. Shelly is Brown Bunnying Carl, taking one for the team as the rest of her crew finds the door to the escape tunnel, but stops before he reaches completion to try to rejoin them, pushing Carl so he falls down, unconscious. Shelly dashes into the hallway to find Dr. Arden staring at her: “There you are,” he repeats, “whore.” I am guessing that as the shooting of this episode progressed, the crew’s notes were predominantly filled with “more ‘whore’ from Cromwell,” because they know what an audience will appreciate. He is gangbusters at delivering the word: It is like a diamond tiara coming out of this man.
Shelly’s blow job took too long and Grace, Kit, and Lana elect to leave the whore behind. They run out into the storm and start celebrating stupidly one inch away from the doors; they then start heading toward the road, but back in the screening room buzzkill Dr. Thredson becomes concerned by the fact that so many patients have their periods and are taking so very long to fasten their complicated vintage maxi pads to the harnesses of their incredibly old undergarments. He alerts the guard, who stops the movie just as it’s getting good. Speaking of getting good, Dr. Arden has trapped Shelley in his den and prepares her to get anally raped (!!) by commanding her to spread her cheeks. Even in her distress, as soon as Shelly sneaks a peek at Dr. Whore’s manhood, she erupts into giggles and asks him if he’s been in “an accident,” because he’s “7 feet tall; [she] thought he’d be hung like a —” and then she’s beaned on the head with a paperweight because NOBODY laughs at Dr. Whore!
The escapees have gained some ground in their path toward the road, but before they get there they run into the remains of the Mexican lady, who has been mostly eaten by Raspers, who are nearby and immediately give chase. Besides having gooey faces, these things run really fast and chase the misfits right back into Briarcliff. Sister Jude has collapsed on a sofa to take a red wine siesta (I hear that, sister), where Satan Mary Eunice finds her and wakes her up to attend to the commotion in the screening room. Sister Jude asks Satan if this has anything to do with that alien she just saw, but Satan has no idea what she’s talking about, so Sister Jude seems to chalk that up to a drunk vision; maybe that’s what wine goggles do to the face of Dr. Whore. Sister Jude, now speaking like she co-starred in The Departed, enters the screening room railing about the patients’ near-escape, cancels movie night for the foreseeable future, and spoils the film for everybody (“everybody dies”).
That wouldn’t be a sufficient note to end on, though, would it? Shelly comes to under the lights of Dr. Arden’s operating table, woozily insisting that everyone will be looking for her. Dr. Arden tells her that they’re searching in the woods, because they think she ran away; Shelley promises that if Dr. Arden releases her, she won’t tell anyone about what’s happened. No, explains Dr. Whore, she has been too naughty and “tried to fly away, so [he] had to clip her wings.” Of course he means that he had to chop off her legs, and we are treated to a shot of her stitched-up stumps so icky that my companion swallowed loudly and told me, “That was a barf.” Indeed it was! One of many I assume we will stifle this season. A word to the wise: dinner during Life After Top Chef, drinks during American Horror Story: Asylum. Just don’t hit the red wine too hard. It leads to sin, you whores.