American Horror Story: Freak Show was too sick and perverted for the Thanksgiving week, which is meant to focus on family and other wholesome things. So it took a little break, but now it’s back, even sleazier and bloodier for being pent up.
The episode begins with Gloria, Dandy’s mom, smoking a cigarette and speaking to her psychiatrist. She tells him she won’t lose Dandy or have him institutionalized. She talks about how Dandy always felt like a “foreigner” which leads to a flashback of Dandy tying Dora’s daughter to a chair and cutting her hair. When Gloria tells him no, young Dandy responds by murdering a cat.
While she’s doing this the doctor writes down things on a notepad. The things about Dandy are common serial killer signs, of course.
There’s another flashback to Dandy befriending and running with a small boy, the gardener’s son Emil, a small boy of about three. We see them running hand in hand. Gloria Emil vanished and was never seen again.
The psychiatrist says he needs to see Dandy. Before the session ends he asks Gloria if there were any recent incidents that triggered this anxiety.
This triggers quick flashbacks to Dandy murdering their maid Dora, Dandy covered in blood, all of the atrocities Gloria has recently covered up.
“Just a mother’s intuition,” Gloria tells the doctor, and takes a drag on her cigarette.
There’s a search party out looking for Ma Petite in the woods. Everyone is panicking. Dell, who personally broke Ma Petite’s neck so Stanley could sell her corpse as an oddity, is pretending to be concerned. Jimmy finds something and screams.
The party returns to the main tent with a sad little apple box. Jimmy shows Elsa what’s inside and she gasps in shock. There was no body, but there’s bloody clothing they assume means she was taken by a coyote. Elsa shows genuine anguish at the death, but Ethel is very suspicious.
Ethel visits Elsa later in her tent to bring her food, where Elsa talks about how Ma Petite is “a little angel” who was too good for this place.
Elsa notices Ethel is almost too drunk to stand. This gives her courage to accuse Elsa of faking her tears over Ma Petite.
“I almost believed you meant it,” she says. Elsa slaps her over this and says “she was most precious one.”
Ethel says the roar of the crowd is most precious to Ethel and God forbid someone steals her spotlight.
This triggers a flashback to Ma Petite getting a lot of applause for being drawn out onto stage in a little fake horse carriage and Elsa being jealous. Elsa gets angry at being accused of “killing innocence itself.”
Ethel says she’s been with Elsa for 14 years. She said always wondered why it gave her so much pain to be around her. And now she knows.
“Who am I if not your savior?” Elsa says. She tosses the food Ethel brought and screams “God damn you.”
Ethel starts going on a rant about how Elsa suckered all the freaks in by pretending to be a mother to them. Elsa again protests that she’s killed no one, and Ethel gets around to her main point. The conversation she overheard with con artist and freak hunter Stanley, in his guise as fake talent agent Richard Spence, talking to Elsa about mercy killing the twins and Elsa calling it “quite a solution.”
“I died when I heard you say that,” Ethel says.
Elsa blows it off as a “turn of phrase” and says she’ll be judged on her actions, not her words. She says she’ll bring the twins back to pronounce her innocence again, but Ethel says she’s hidden them somewhere safe.
Elsa finally admits she wanted to be done with the twins, but not to killing them.
“I wanted to be rid of them. Put them on a bus to Tampa. Although for me, death would be preferable to Tampa,” she says. Ooh, burn.
She tries to kick Ethel out and Ethel pulls a revolver and shoots her. But it just hits her wooden leg, where it makes a neat hole. Elsa laughs.
“I am just like the rest of my children. I love you, because I understand you,” she says. It really seems like Ethel had no idea about the wooden legs.
So we get another flashback, this to where Elsa was rescued by a soldier after having her legs cut off by a chainsaw in German snuff film. We see how a master craftsman makes Elsa’s prosthetics as his life’s masterwork.
Elsa says she kept it a secret because she was ashamed and asks Ethel to put the gun away.
“No. Curtain comes down tonight,” Ethel says. She’s going to shoot Elsa then shoot herself, because Elsa broke her heart in two.
Elsa tries to talk her out of, unsuccessfully. She says she left Jimmy a letter and tells Elsa it’s all over, “for all of us” because no one’s innocent any more.
So, Elsa suggests one last Schnapps for the road. Ethel lets her get up to go get it. As she walks toward it she follows her and prepares to shoot, but instead of Schnapps Elsa draws one of her knives from her table and throws an expert shot into Ethel’s eye, killing her instantly. She never misses.
Dell is leading Jimmy to main tent, where Maggie is in distress. Dell says Stanley found her blubbering by the Ferris wheel. Maggie is surrounded by the freaks and crying. She tells a story about being in the woods and seeing Ethel intentionally crash her car into a tree to commit suicide. It’s bizarre and unlikely, but Ethel, Dell, Maggie and Elsa all team up to support the lie by revealing Ethel was dying. Jimmy seems to buy it.
They take Jimmy and the others to the tree, where we get a little peek into how Stanley’s mind works and it is not pleasant. His idea for covering Ethel’s knife injury was to decapitate her. Stanley picks up a bloody chain and says Ethel killed herself by wrapping a chain around the tree, wrapping the other end around her neck, and getting in the car and hitting the gas.
We get flashback to Stanley helping Elsa cover it up by setting up the fake accident by attaching the chain to Ethel’s neck. Elsa shows panic and genuine remorse for a second over the gruesomeness of it all, but defends her actions as necessary to protect her precious angels.
“Horse****. You had to protect yourself,” Stanley says. He says he’s protecting her to protect her “career” and that she’ll win an Oscar one day, keeping to his lie about being a talent agent. Then he puts a rock on the accelerator and they jump out and let the car go.
Elsa is a bad actor. Her fake performance of grief for Ethel is a lot less convincing than her genuine grief for Ma Petite. But Jimmy goes to comfort her anyway.
Back at Gloria and Dandy’s mansion, Dora’s daughter Regina is waiting with Dandy in Dandy’s play room to see her mother. Gloria arrives with a big stack of presents for Dandy. Dandy has already sold Gloria out, lying and saying that Gloria was the last one to speak to Dora.
She says Dora went out to get squash, basically, and other things that Gloria wanted for an extended shopping trip. Regina sits down and says she’ll wait. She and Dandy are playing Chutes and Ladders, so Regina takes her turn.
Jimmy gives an eulogy at his mom’s funeral. Talking about how she could be manly and tell dirty jokes, but she also loved culture. He tearfully reads one of his mother’s favorite Emily Dickinson poems, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” over her grave.
“You weren’t nobody, Ma,” he says, and starts crying. Dell and Maggie comfort him and the freaks lower Ethel into the ground.
Everybody leaves for drinks but Amazon Eve, Legless Suzi, Desiree and Penny, who was recently tattooed and mutilated to be a lizard girl. Desiree waxes poetic about how Ethel was a survivor and how it’s harder for women. Penny agrees and points to how her dad defaced her because she loved Paul The Illustrated Seal. This puts a plan in motion to make Penny’s dad pay.
Dandy is at the psychiatrist’s office, under the false pretense that he’s there to test his “genius IQ.” He’s doing Rorschach inkblot tests. He only sees perverse and bloody carnage in them. The doc says he wants to see him two times a week.
Dandy gets irritated by this. He tells a story about a tribe that eats its vanquished enemies to take their power. He asks if it would work by bathing in their blood as well.
Back in his play room Dandy angrily confronts his mother and asks if she thinks he’s sick. She says he’s just “spirited,” but Regina comes into the room and says “That’s a laugh.”
Regina is feisty and smart. She demands to see her mother and Gloria makes up another clumsy lie and says Dora will be home by dinner tomorrow night. Regina says if she’s not she’s going to the police.
When she leaves Dandy agrees to go to the doctor. His only condition is that Gloria must kill Regina. He says Gloria is a horrible liar and plays on Gloria’s fears by saying Regina wants to send him to the electric chair and that if he goes he’ll bring her to sit on his lap.
Elsa is at a 1950s fitness club, carrying her bag with the freak show’s devil mascot on it that she uses when recruiting. She walks past a room where an overweight woman is on an exercise machine, one of those weird old 1950s ones that just kind of shake you with a belt as you stand still. Then turns and goes back.
Elsa turns off the machine. She asks the woman, Barbara, what’s the point and asks her to come with her.
They talk. Barbara says she hates her life as a debutante and her mother’s attempts to make her skinny. Barbara says she likes the way she is.
Elsa opens a candy bar and starts eating it as Barbara watches, hungrily. She tells Barbara there’s a place where every pound will be celebrated.
The women are making arrangements to deal with Daddy in Desiree’s caravan. Penny wants to do it herself, but they won’t let her because she’s “family.” They hold hands. For some reason they have a weird black soup that Eve leaves simmering on Desiree’s stove.
Legless Suzi crawls in through Daddy’s open window and opens the door for the other women. Daddy is getting ready for bed and hears a noise, so he gets his shotgun and goes to investigate. Penny is on the stairs.
She tells him locks can’t stop us and that she came here with her “sisters.” Desiree sneaks up on Daddy and knocks him out, then they take him to beat him.
Jimmy is getting drunk in the main tent. Elsa and the pinheads enter and start setting up a table and a big dinner.
Elsa sees Jimmy drinking and asks what his mother would say.
“Nothing, she’s dead,” Jimmy says. She slaps the bottle out of his hand and says Jimmy had other mothers, including her.
Jimmy chastises Elsa for not coming to the funeral. Elsa says she was in Miami recruiting and she brings in Barbara, who she has given the stage name Ima Wiggles.
The meal is just for Barbara, to make her fatter. Elsa says the show will always go on.
But Jimmy just leans over and tells Barbara “You’re late. This party is over.”
Jimmy starts screaming about how the freak show world is dying. Elsa tries to set Jimmy up with Barbara, saying he can take comfort in her “ample bosom.” Jimmy, disgusted, walks away.
The women have Daddy back in Desiree’s caravan, in his boxers. The black soup is, of course, tar. And they take feathers from pillows.
Daddy calls to God, but Desiree says he’s proof enough their isn’t one.
“What you done to your little girl. That was chicken****. We gonna make sure you look the part,” she says. And then they’re going to cut his dick off and shoot him in the head.
Before Eve the tar, Penny runs in yelling “wait!” Daddy thinks he’s saved, but Penny just says “Let me.”
She gleefully dumps it on him as Daddy begs for mercy. They pour on the feathers and get ready to slice.
Maggie hears the screams and comes in to see Daddy covered in tar and feathers and Desiree with a knife.
Maggie says if Penny does this, it’ll change her more than Daddy did. She says she’ll go to prison, lose Paul and Daddy wins.
Desiree says Maggie can’t understand and Maggie agrees, but she says Desiree can have the things she wants too even though the surgeon that was going to do her gender assignment surgery is dead.
Maggie’s impassioned speech seems to work. Instead of killing Daddy, Penny just gets in his face and tells him she’s “The Astounding Lizard Girl” and he gets to live, but she will kill him if he comes near again. Desiree tells Eve to take Daddy to the edge of camp and let him crawl home. Eve has been holding his head his head part of this time, and when she removes her hands skin comes with the tar and Daddy screams.
Gloria is speaking to her psychiatrist, talking about how she booked passage on a ship to Europe and how she’s concerned about Dandy. The doctor says he fears for her safety, but Gloria just fires the doctor over the phone.
Dandy has been listening behind Gloria and startles her.
He says if he’s unbalanced it’s her fault. He says Dora told him when he was a child that Gloria married her second cousin for money and he was born of deadly sin. She knew the risks of inbreeding and she knew Dandy’s father had done things to little girls.
“You’re no better than the Roosevelts,” Dandy says.
“How dare you say that name in this house,” Gloria replies, offended. This is, by the way, the most hilarious exchange of the season, maybe the series.
So, Dandy refuses to go to Europe because she hates him so much. Dandy collapses and cries.
Gloria creepily strokes his back and comforts him.
“I love all of you Dandy, even the madness,” she says.
She gets up and goes to her purse, saying he’s tapped here out and she has no more love to give.
Dandy pulls out a small chrome pistol and says he’s sorry for causing her so much pain. He puts it to his head.
“I can’t go on if you kill yourself,” Gloria pleads.
“Ok,” Dandy says, and turns the gun on Gloria and shoots her in the head.
Outside the breakfast tent, Jimmy stacks beer bottles, still drunk. Maggie comes to him and tells him the best way to honor Ethel is to take care of business there so they can leave and start their own life.
“But you can’t do that passed out behind the Ferris wheel, wallowing over here,” Maggie says.
This starts a big fight. Jimmy says he’s not General Patton, he can’t stuff his feelings, and grabs another beer.
Maggie tries to take the beer, and Jimmy tells her to go have her “beautiful life” with someone else.
Maggie leaves in tears, and Jimmy eyes Barbara, eating at the breakfast table. Jimmy puts his face on her ample bosom and sobs.
Dandy has nice tub set up his playroom. He takes off his robe and gets inside. Yep, it’s filled with his mother’s blood. He crosses his fingers and has a relaxing soak. End of episode.
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