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American Gothic recap: Jack-in-the-Pulpit

As they lay Mitch to rest, all is not well in House Hawthorne

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Ben Mark Holzberg/CBS

American Gothic

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:

The series premiere of American Gothic ended with Madeline Hawthorne, our matriarch, calmly suffocating her husband in his hospital bed. It’s become abundantly clear that whatever secrets are lurking amongst the Hawthornes, Madeline knows all. We also see the rest of our main characters struggling — with addiction, with their consciences, and with each other.

Just when you thought you couldn’t keep track of anymore potential serial killers, “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” brings us a few new characters. First we have Detective Cutter, who is the lead on the Silver Bells Killer (SBK)/tunnel-collapse case and leaves no room for error about whether she’s born and bred in Boston. Then we have Gunther, also with a heavy Boston accent, who appears to be a landscaper/trash-remover/chess opponent employed by the Hawthornes. Everyone speaks fondly of him, like he’s a member of the family, but let me just say right now — I ain’t buyin’ it.

Episode 2 takes place over what I assume is a few days, from mourning to funeral planning to funeral itself. We see Madeline act remorseful early on, but that 20 seconds she spends crying in her bathtub is all she’s got — for the next 40 minutes, she really outdoes her evil self.

In the midst of grieving, Cam, Tessa, and Alison finally find time to question their mother about the silver bells in the shed (Tessa, in particular, will not let it go). Madeline tells them Mitch was always obsessed with “true-crime stories” (did he binge Making a Murderer? We’ll never know), and that he bought the bells and newspaper clippings from a collector. However, Mitch began suffering from dementia in recent months, and he became convinced he was SBK. Mitch’s quick descent into senility was such a torturous experience for Madeline, she’s just happy it’s over. Both Tessa and Cam are skeptical about this explanation, but Alison wraps things up by making everyone swear they won’t tell a soul about any of it because they need to protect “dad’s legacy” — a.k.a. her campaign for mayor.

Garrett comes in from one of his “long walks” and announces he wants to speak at the funeral. Alison is relentless in preventing him from doing so, because she worries he’ll say something crazy and defamatory in front of the press, but Garrett doesn’t care. Alison confers with Naomi about what she could do to keep Garrett out of the funeral altogether, and they conspire to have him pulled over by the police knowing he won’t have a license. During this conversation, Naomi attempts to comfort Alison, pulling her close and then grabbing her hand. Alison doesn’t quite pull away, and the looks they exchange imply something has (or will?) happened between them.

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Cam continues to ignore Jack’s sociopathic tendencies, some of which include: an interest in rigor mortis and postmortem fingernail growth; a simultaneous complete lack of interest in his dead grandfather; and finally, pretending to hang himself with his necktie. Make no mistake… This kid is a charmer.

At the police station, Brady suggests his fellow detectives seek out everyone who had a hand in the collapsed tunnel’s construction, in an attempt to find the owner of the SBK belt. When this list of names is obtained, Detective Cutter points out that Mitch Hawthorne was one of the supervisors on the project, and that Brady will need to get DNA from Mitch as soon as possible. Brady is less than thrilled to mine his father-in-law’s home (or even his dead body) for some DNA, but he also wants to prove himself, so he obliges.

NEXT: “Should I open the casket and pull a hair off the corpse?”