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American Horror Story recap: Freak Show' recap: 'Show Stoppers'

A magic trick goes horribly wrong. Slice slice, stab stab!

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American Horror Story Freak Show
Michele K. Short/FX

American Horror Story

TV Show
run date:
Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters
Current Status:
In Season





That’s all they needed to say. This whole tangential season, with its frequent diversions away from whatever the main story was supposed to be, just needed to make it clear that we were building up to the moment when—apropos of nothing, for reasons that barely even qualify as happenstance—special guest star Neil Patrick Harris was going to saw Emma Roberts in half. In hindsight, a better title for this season would’ve been American Horror Story: Emma Roberts’ Intestines.

Too bad, too. Things were looking so good for Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities. They hosted a very special dinner for their pal Richard Spencer. They begged him to stick around for the very special movie night. What movie were they watching? “Not The Sign of the Cross again!” begged the freaks. (ASIDE: Another iteration of Jessica Lange loved The Sign of the Cross—it was Sister Jude’s movie of choice. Given everything that we know about her, it’s impossible to imagine that Elsa enjoys The Sign of the Cross. Chalk it up to the complicated psycho-cosmic synchronicity of Jessica Lange-faced characters. END OF ASIDE.)

No no no, the movie would be Freaks. The performers told Spencer the plot of Tod Browning’s brilliant dark classic: The tale of a normo gal who marries a little person, and poisons him for the inheritance, and gets punished in a way that was quite unusual in those long-ago days before Ryan Murphy produced half of television. Spencer gets the hint, but it’s too late: They’ve already produced the head of the nice lady from the Museum of Weirdness. They put him on the knife wheel to terrorize him; then they let him run just long enough to make it interesting.

But before they capture him, he reveals his big secret: That Elsa killed Ethel. Now, you could argue that Elsa probably should’ve known that was happening; you could also argue that the denizens of Miss Elsa’s had no reason to believe Spencer. You could argue all kinds of things!

Meanwhile, Jimmy is finally starting to realize that he has no hands. “I have no hands!” he declares. “I can’t even take a piss by myself!” Elsa assures him that there’s an old friend who will turn that frown upside-down and turn those nasty-looking stumps into super-sweet Luke Skywalker hands. You’ll be singing Nirvana again in no time, Jimmy D!

Maggie tries to extend a hand to Jimmy in friendship. But he has NO HANDS! And no love left for Maggie. “If I was you, I’d get the hell out of Dodge before I get those new hands,” says Jimmy. On a slightly more romantic note: Bette and Dot are having a grand old coitus with new owner Chester. Nothing could possibly go wrong, except for that tiny matter of the doll Chester keeps talking to. Marjorie tortures Chester into admitting the truth: He killed his wife and her lover.

Bette and Dot discover this information, thanks to a visit from our boy Dandy. “I hired a proper gumshoe and gathered all the information I could on your new beau,” says Dandy. “He’s an absolutely beastly sicko!”

With every passing episode, Dandy appears to be in a very different and vastly more exciting season of American Horror Story, some kind of aristocratic soap opera pitched somewhere between Downton Abbey and Dynasty except with more sex and more bloodbaths. Given that this season of AHS has established the linked-universe over-story, would it be possible for Dandy to carry over to the next season? I’m seeing Dandy going on an extended European vacation—and we’re talking mid-’50s Europe, the Europe of The Talented Mr. Ripley and To Catch a Thief, all glamour and expatriate misbehavior and excellent fashion and La Dolce Vita-era existential dread. Call it American Horror Story: Monte Carlo.

Meanwhile, the performers are having a nice quiet drink. Things are great! Then somebody mentions how Spencer said Elsa killed Ethel. Then suddenly everyone realizes all at once that nothing about Ethel’s death made any sense. Then suddenly everyone decides to turn on Elsa.

On a slightly more romantic note: Elsa’s old doctor Massimo showed up. Because he is the newest iteration of Danny Huston, their reunion is shot like a romantic dream with lush lighting.

And then the episode suddenly becomes an extended Danny Huston flashback, as Massimo explains how he was in love with Elsa, but he wanted to hunt down the men who cut off her legs, so he spent years killing them across Europe, until he found the leader, who I swear to god he said his name was “Doctor Hans Gruber,” so it’s possible that Die Hard is being retconned into the American Horror Story-verse. Anyhow, Massimo says that he searched for Elsa, and he found her, and he sent her a note, but when she didn’t write back he just kind of hung out for a while, because the war removed all of his humanity and he has no soul now.

This was basically Massimo’s second scene, and it’s entirely possible he will not reappear. So you can’t say this season has too little story!

NEXT: Emma Roberts.