American Horror Story: Asylum Season 2, Episode 7: ‘Dark Cousin’

American Horror StoryLast week, as Grantland took a much-needed tryptophan nap, American Horror Story: Asylum packed quite a wallop. Before I start recapping this week’s episode, let’s catch up. In Dr. Thredson’s (Zachary Quinto) torture chamber, Lana (Sarah Paulson) is still being held hostage, though this time in what appears to be her bed from home; Dr. Thredson/Bloody Face, no longer content to be just a skin-snatching serial killer, is now revealed to be a creep with a serious mommy complex who just wants to suck the colostrum from Lana, make her croque monsieur sandwiches (possibly with Clea Duvall subbing in for ham), and whine about being abandoned by his mother. He’s been stalking Lana for a while, and now it looks like he wants her to be his motherlover. Groooooooss.

Speaking of gross, Monsignor Timothy (Joseph Fiennes) is called to give last rites to a dying woman, who turns out to be Shelley (Chloe Sevigny) — on top of everything else, she now has tuberculosis — and, recognizing her from the asylum, strangles her with a rosary. (I still think this is not the last we’ll see of Shelley.) The Monsignor confronts Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) about what’s happened to the poor legless nymphomaniac and we get a nice glimpse into Arden’s backstory (when Briarcliff was a TB hospital, he conducted human experiments to try to make an immune booster that would make people resistant to nuclear radiation; in return for allowing this, Arden promises the Monsignor that the project will impress the Pope). Jenny, a bad seed with twin braids, is left at Briarcliff by her mother, who suspects that she has killed her playmate Josie (she totally did, though she tries to blame a man in a brown jacket). Satan Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) takes Jenny under her wing in the bakery while making what I’m pretty sure is focaccia and plants some murder seeds in her young brain (Nurture those impulses! Defend yourself! Here is a gleaming knife; I’m done chopping rosemary if you need it!), so Jenny, when sprung from Bcliffs, murders her mother and siblings and keeps locks of their hair, because why not?

While we’re trying to get at what makes people evil (lack of breastmilk and skin-to-skin contact, demonic possession, looking like Wednesday Addams), Satan Mary’s susceptibility to being a sublet for the devil is explained as having stemmed from a prank pulled by her high school classmates during which she is tricked into disrobing at a pool party. Weaksauce! Flaunt it, Satan Mary! Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), who’s been given notice that she will be transferred to a home for wayward girls, attempts to get Arden’s fingerprints to Nazi-hunting Mr. Goodman (Mark Margolis) to prove that he’s Hans Gruber. She gets the prints on a cognac glass, but by the time she’s delivering them to Gruber’s room, he’s been stabbed by Satan Mary Eunice, who took all of his evidence and went scuttling back to her main man, Dr. Arden (she kept some damning clippings for herself in case he tries to double-cross her). Goodman is barely alive enough to finger Satan Mary for the stabbing, but Sister Jude does find out that a nun did it, so hopefully that’ll narrow it down for her.

Bloody Face calls the police in present-day shadow-shot land to confess to killing the Bloody Face impostors in now-abandoned Briarcliff, but says he didn’t slay Leo (Adam Levine). Also, Teresa (Jenna Dewan Tatum) is now in Dr. Arden’s torture chamber, needing a payphone and not expecting to be fine. Also: Satan Mary Eunice wiggles around in a nightie to “You Don’t Own Me.” If you are satisfied, we can continue. Even if you’re not satisfied, here we go, back to the future.

Grace (Lizzie Brochere) is either hanging out in a pool of the most intense, super-plus-absorbency-defying period ever, or she’s hemorrhaging from her alien fingernail bite in a hospital bed. Some nuns come to assist her, but not before she’s greeted by the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy! Frances Conroy!), sporting some badass retractable wings, who leans down as if to make out with her before the nuns jolt Grace back to life. Meanwhile, Dr. Arden is tweezing at some salvia plants (so that’s how Dr. Arden spends his free time!) when Satan Mary Eunice enters his cellar to get salty with him about botching Grace’s sterilization (“all of her girl parts have been scooped out” — by aliens, not by Arden, and I do hope we’ll get to see what they do with that cornucopia of warm fallopia). Arden denies performing the sterilization and slaps Satan Mary for being so disrespectful, but Satan feels no pain and tells him that if he touches her again, he’s dead meat. When he raises his hand, she tosses him across the room using only her eyeballs and lets him know that he’s working for her now (“I hope this clarifies the chain of command, Arthur”).

In what appears to be Briarcliff’s patient- and nun-staffed deli — because you can’t be making in-house focaccia without fixings, and a slew of meat-slicing machines in your mental hospital — a patient named Miles is losing an argument with the voices in his head, one of which compels him to stick his arms into the slicer (“for once in your miserable life,” treat your fists like a hunk of Boar’s Head and be a man!). Satan Mary Eunice is ushered to the scene of the crime and sees a name written in ancient Aramaic on the wall with Miles’s blood. Satan Mary freaks at the deli graffiti and starts to interrogate Miles, but he needs stitches and doesn’t know ancient Aramaic, so off to solitary confinement he goes. Miles tells Frank the guard that he’s ready to depart this sad deli life for the big hoagie in the sky, so as soon as Frank leaves his cell, the AoD shows up like Dita von Teese’s morbid mom and is like, “You rang?” His wounds open, they snog, and he’s gone. Satan Mary enters, and the shy AoD tells her not to “look upon” her — she can tell that “something else resides in you, one like me but fallen.” Frances Conroy, ladies and gentlemen! I love this woman and her fancy prose delivery! Regular Mary Eunice gets dragged out of Satan Mary for a second by the AoD in a Serious Acting Showdown, asking to be released, but then Satan Mary shoves her back inside and tells her to shut up — “she likes it in here.” Poof, the AoD disappears for a runway show at a Hot Topic somewhere in the ninth circle.

Grace is battling an infection, and Dr. Arden is administering to her because he’s worried he’ll take the heat if she dies. As a needle goes into her arm, it seems like a nice place to segue into Dr. Thredson furiously humping Lana, who is so not into it (the conversion therapy with a dude who wears masks of human skin has proved ineffective? Who woulda thought?) that she summons the AoD to make her a bird to fly far, far away from the person who keeps calling her “Mommy.” Yes, please, take us away. Okay; now we’re in a police station, where Kit (Evan Peters) is trying to clear his name by explaining to his lawyer that he didn’t mean what he said in his taped confessional (“it was a head-shrinker trick!”) and that Grace can testify that she saw his wife, Alma, alive. As he’s being told that Grace is too sick to go to court and that he’s probably facing the electric chair unless he can behave sufficiently nutso to convince a jury that he’s insane, Kit beans the lawyer with some handy and hefty office equipment. Nice move.

Okay, now it’s safe to check back in with Lana, who no longer has a man who wants to be her son trying to crawl back inside of her with his penis. The AoD takes a seat on the bed and strokes Lana with her gloved hand, but she’s not quite ready to cash in her chips yet, or go to first base with death. Thredson comes back in, smoking a post-coital cigarette and asking “Are you decent?” because — well, because he’s a strange pudding of a person, I guess. He wants to chat, he’s a tenacious person and full of stick-to-itiveness, and hey also? He and Lana have reached an impasse, and he’s forced to choose between strangling her or slitting her throat (“I don’t believe in guns”).

He tries to pop a needle into her throat, but she grabs the framed photo of Wendy (Clea Duvall) next to the bed and smashes it on Thredson’s face. In the tussle that follows, her restraints break and she throttles Thredson with them, knocking him out just long enough to escape from her shackles, out the door and into a stranger’s car. The stranger, of course, is a woman-hating, gun-wielding nutjob suffering from the wounds sustained from a messy divorce. Oh, hey, AoD in the back seat! Luckily, she’s not there for Lana — the stranger shoots himself instead and crashes the car. When Lana wakes up, she’s looking into the beautiful, batshit crazy eyes of Satan Mary Eunice and wearing a metal hat that I suppose either keeps her brain inside her damaged head or will be used to torture her guts out later.

In Mr. Goodman’s bathroom, Sister Jude is learning that it wasn’t just any nun who stabbed him, but one of her very own nuns. Sister Jude, it doesn’t take Nancy Drew here. We flash back to Satan Mary breaking the medicine cabinet mirror and impaling Mr. Goodman, just in case we thought Sister Jude had a whole crew of murderous nuns under her tutelage. Sister Jude starts to call for the police, but then she gets distracted by some hooch on the nightstand and sees that the TV is blasting static and has MURDER spelled out on it in blood, plus a nifty little newspaper clipping reminding Sister of the hit-and-run (the victim’s name is “Missy”) she committed back when she was a barfly.

Goodman has been Conroyed at this point, and the bleakness of the whole situation sends Sister on a trip down memory lane to 1949, when a member of her band came calling to fire her after she missed a gig, twisting the knife a little by telling her that her apartment smells “pretty ripe.” Sister Jude, then known as Judy, tries to seduce her way out of being canned by telling her band cohort that she’s “always wanted to be with a colored man,” but unfortunately she “smells of vomit” so her wish remains unfulfilled, plus he leaves her with a card from a detective who wants to know if she witnessed the hit-and-run that she committed (oh my God, it’s a double flashback all the way). Sister freaks, packs up and leaves, boozily crashing her car right outside a church with some kind nuns milling about. So, that’s how Sister got religion.

But now it seems to have forsaken her again, back in Mr. Goodman’s room, because she’s getting drunk when the phone rings: it’s Satan Mary Eunice, calling to mess with Judy’s sloppy little head and tell her that Mr. Goodman was investigating her hit-and-run (and Sister Jude, drunk as she is, seems to be beginning to put together the pieces of the exorcism and the floating disenfranchised Satan … maybe she’s on to Satan Mary Eunice?). Helpfully, Satan Mary left her that booze she’s already discovered, as well as a razor just in case Sister Jude had finally come to the conclusion that she ain’t about this life. Sister hotfoots it to a diner, where she imagines slicing her wrists in the bathroom, and when she returns to her booth she finds the AoD, whom she apparently keeps on speed dial (“Aren’t you sick of me yet?” she asks).

“Never trust a drunk,” advises Sister Jude on drunk-dialing Mrs. Death, but the AoD, who claims to be non-judgmental (I guess that’s how she stays in business), says that her call was “more plaintive and piercing” this time, even more than when Jude was left by a man who gave her syphilis and made her barren (good grief, they’re HEAPING IT ON IN HERE — Jude wants children so badly, couldn’t Thredson have made her his mommy sex slave? She’s got an excellent complexion for lampshades). Though just a self-proclaimed “drunken whore and a murderer” now left without her calling of nundom, AoD reassures Jude that she should be commended for her efforts to find meaning in life (sometimes by caning mental patients, but whatevs), and somehow uses this to try to talk Jude into making out with her and finally getting some peace. Sister’s almost going to bite, but says she needs to do one last thing, so she shows up at Missy the victim’s family home (smart shoppers, they bought her that blue coat from Filene’s basement — please, AHSA, keep riding the authenticity wave and throw in a Brigham’s) to confess. Before she does, however, in walks Missy — alive, having suffered a few broken bones back in the day but now a mother and a nurse.

Hang on a second. Did Sister Jude never find out if her victim died? Has Satan Mary Eunice been running an evil cousin of The Onion and making fake headlines about this girl dying? Please, somebody, fill in this hole. What kind of hallucinogenic communion wine are they feeding us here?

Lana, minus her cranial vise, is now sitting up in bed at Briarcliff and asking for Sister Jude. Unfortunately for everyone, Sister Jude has been canned and Satan Mary Eunice is now running Briarcliff, and she’s probably not the best person to tell about Dr. Thredson’s double life as Bloody Face and Kit’s innocence, but any port in a storm. You’d think all-knowing Satan Mary would’ve been clued in to this from the start, but she seems surprised by Lana’s claims until she remembers the devil’s previous host calling out Dr. Thredson mid-exorcism, so she tells Lana she believes her before making her take some sedatives. Satan Mary tells Frank that Lana’s confused, but that she insists that Kit is innocent and Thredson is Bloody Face, so Frank gossips back that Kit has escaped custody — and escaped he has, back to the bowels of Briarcliff. He doesn’t seem to know he’s being followed by what I assume is a Rasper, either, which is nice for him for a minute or two. He finds Grace — miraculously (well, Dr. Arden knows his way around antibiotics) healthy and toodling around with some doodads in the bakery — and takes her hand to lead her out of there, but is interrupted by a nun who screams when she sees him. Enter Rasper, who attacks the nun and then goes after Kit and Grace before Kit impales him with some sort of an object that looks like a sharp toilet plunger. Frank the guard enters and draws his gun on Kit, but Grace jumps in front of the bullet and gets Spiderman kissed [] by Frances as she bids adieu to life.

I love this show. I really do. Here I sit, three in the morning, listening to the drizzle outside and just marinating in the creepy feelings that are so unique to both seasons of American Horror Story. It is so campy, but for whatever reason, the handling of this camp is deft enough that it results in a great combination of being scared and baffled by the excess of it all (aliens, Nazis, alcoholism, psychological torture, exorcisms, supernatural hysterectomies, apparitions, human experiments, cannibalism, pepperoni, pineapple, and extra cheese). I don’t know of another TV show that has so successfully alienated its audience into a cohesive group of fans. Trying to talk about this show with people who haven’t seen it makes you feel genuinely isolated because there’s just no way to explain why it’s so much fun to tune in every week. Enjoying it this heartily — and maybe that’s just the case with a lot of what makes up the horror genre — almost makes you ashamed of yourself, but I don’t want to call it a guilty pleasure because there’s a lot of meat on its crazy, double-jointed, glow-in-the-dark bones. As an actor, AHSA must be one of the best jobs to land, especially if (like Lange, Rabe, and Conroy) you get to be reinvented every season. I’m so stoked for season three, and we’re still only smack dab in the middle of season two.

Bring it on, AHSA! Keep making me gag on my beer with “baby wants colostrum” and Shelley the bubbly-skinned human pincushion. Keep being the visual Sensa that leaves me unable to finish my pot pie. Bring on the nightmares. I could not be more down.

Filed Under: American Horror Story, FX, Horror, Recaps