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American Horror Story recap: Freak Show' recap: 'Magical Thinking'

A ventriloquist arrives at the freak show, bringing fresh horror and surprising arousal. Also, more people die.

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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

Poor Jimmy Darling. He can’t afford a lawyer. Good thing he has a pal like Mister Spencer. Mister Spencer knows a person. “This person is willing to pay a lot of money for memorabilia connected to your… business.” But ol’ Jimmy ain’t got nothin’, Mister Spencer! “You have your hands,” he explains. “They could bring in enough money to hire a good lawyer.” Jimmy wouldn’t need to lose both hands; just the left one would do. Mister Spencer slips him a grotesque-looking liquid. “Drink this,” he says. “I’ll take care of the rest.”

I’m convinced that this season of American Horror Story only really makes sense if you admit that the latest iteration of Denis O’Hare is Jedi mind tricking everyone. Sure, Jimmy’s worried about the cops killing him in his cell—but it still seems like he goes along with the whole “cut off a hand to pay for a lawyer” gambit a little too easily. (ASIDE: On American Horror Story: Coven, Evan Peters played a Frankfratboy named “Kyle Spencer.” Stanley introduced himself to the freaks as “Richard Spencer.” Coincidence? Nothing’s a coincidence anymore. Pepper is the Boo of American Horror Story. END OF ASIDE.)

Just minutes later, Jimmy’s vomiting into the toilet; just minutes after that, Mister Spencer’s got him inside a fake ambulance driven by the handsomest undercover himbo in all of Florida; and just a few hours later, Jimmy’s in the hospital. He checks his left hand: That one’s gone. He checks his right one: Yep, that’s gone, too. Goodbye, lobster claws. Farewell, opposable thumbs. So long, sweet leather gloves, I won’t be needing you anymore!

Back at the freak show, things are finally going well for Bette and Dot. Those two sweet gals had their shared heart broken; Bette by doofy Dandy, Dot by janky Jimmy. But the ladies have each other. And they’re leaning in to the free-love hedonism of the carnival life. “Our top priority is sex,” they announce. Despite all of Bette’s furtive meanderings, she’s never heard of an orgasm. The girls need to find someone to fix that. Will it be dapper Toulouse? No, it willn’t.

But sooth! A new arrival in the land of misfit toys. His name is Chester, and he’s peddling some wares. The man has a penchant for lizards; they calm his nerves. He was on Normandy Beach; he was injured; he has a metal plate in his head, so watch out for thunderstorms. Chester has a dream, does Chester. He has a little magic act. And he has Marjorie, a delightful little ventriloquist doll. Chester treats her like she’s a nagging sitcom wife; she acts more like Mrs. Bates with less self-awareness.

Elsa has no use for magic. But she notices that Chester is good with numbers. And so, in possibly the worst business decision since whatever she decided five minutes ago, Elsa hires Chester to help out with the book-keeping and warm up the crowd. Afterward, Marjorie really lays into Chester for letting Elsa hire him for a song. Good thing Chester’s already caught the eyes of Bette and Dot—even if, when he looks at them, he sees two faces that are decidedly not Sarah Paulson.

At the hospital, Dell is shocked to discover that his beloved-as-of-last-week son has lost both of his hands. Jimmy explains the whole sell-my-hands-to-get-money-for-the-lawyer plan, which actually makes even less sense when you hear it from a man with bloody stumps where his hands used to be. “He promised me he was only gonna take one of them,” says Jimmy, with a tone of voice that suggests he is beginning to suspect that Mister Spencer might not be such a swell guy after all.

Dell tries to play it cool. They have great prosthetics today! He knew a guy at Guadalcanal, a chef at Asbury Park, who lost both of his hands. (ASIDE: If you’re keeping track, that’s a reference to the big battle from Saving Private Ryan and a reference to the big battle from The Thin Red Line, in back-to-back scenes; also, Jimmy’s loss of both hands recalls the moving performance by real-life veteran Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives. I’m sure that means nothing, but maybe it means that next year’s American Horror Story will be set during World War II? Or maybe it means that the next season will feature Neil Patrick Harris as Steven Spielberg and Emma Roberts as Terrence Malick? END OF ASIDE.)

Dell assures his son that the chef from Asbury Park has incredible new hook hands. He can chop; he can slice; “All that normal cook shit.” The two boys decide that they’re going to buy the freak show, and Dell talks about his father, and generally they do a really good job of quickly moving on from the fact that Jimmy doesn’t have hands anymore. Just another day in the life, I guess. You wake up one day: Car won’t start. You wake up the next day: No hands!

NEXT: A Genuine Sawing Box