Lady Gaga shows up to the Murder House sometime in the late ’20s. “I was given your name through my friend, Margaret Gibson,” is how she introduces herself to the abortionist. You may know Margaret Gibson from the annals of Weird Hollywood: An actress in the silent age, she left Hollywood and lived a long quiet life — and then, dying, she confessed to the long-ago murder of a famous Hollywood director. You surely recognize Murder House, and the abortionist Charles Montgomery, from American Horror Story season 1. Montgomery was sort of the James Patrick March of season 1: A long-dead spirit made manifest as a kind of free-floating infestation, his particular fascinations infecting anyone who dared live under his roof.
Charles Montgomery conducts his operation. After three weeks, Gaga’s stomach is already swelling: evidence that she already has the virus that will make her immortal. (Can don’t-call-them-vampires get pregnant? Has Gaga been using birth control ever since?) The nurse holds the fetus, horrified. “I think it’s still alive!” It is; she’s not, for long. Is this the birth of the Infantata?
No. Sort of. The mystery of Bartholomew played out over the course of this week’s episode of American Horror Story. I’m not sure it’s quite finished yet — and I’m not sure if we’ll learn more about Gaga’s relation to Murder House, or if we’re meant to glean that her virus left some residue of infection in that haunted mansion. There are more important things to focus on, for now….
…like love! Yes, while no one was paying attention, Tristan and Liz Taylor have fallen deeply into it. They’re pefect for each other. Tristan’s an orphan: With Liz, “It’s like Mommy and Daddy are both in the room, loving you to pieces.” Tristan and Liz aren’t just some casual fling. This is a full-fledged, once-in-an-immortal-lifetime romance. Could it possibly work out? Tristan is the concubine of Lady Gaga; she interrupts TristLiz’s quiet night, demanding Tristan play her proxy in a lovemaking session with Will Drake, who is still resolutely gay and still resolutely focused on making an honest woman out of Gaga.
Speaking of boundary-bursting family arrangements! Nearly divorced John goes on a spirit walk one night, and finds his soon-to-be-ex-wife sleeping next to his dead son in a glass coffin. He falls unconscious. When he wakes up, Alex insists he’s been seeing visions. “I think you’re having a psychotic break,” Alex insists. They go downstairs to investigate his visions. There are no coffins in the pool. There are no coffins in the pool.
Upstairs, Gaga visits Room 33 and says goodbye to her dear sweet Bartholomew. She’s off to Paris with Will; she’ll be back soon, with so much money that she’ll never have to leave her dear sweet child again. There’s a pattern forming here, a swoony inverted-Oedipal romance. Mothers and their eternal children: Alex and Holden, Gaga and Bartholomew, even Iris and Donovan.
Where does that leave dads? Or jilted ex-lovers? Donovan and Ramona waltz in, plotting vengeance while Gaga’s away. But the little blondies are nowhere to be found — and Bartholomew escapes. Helplessly devoted Donovan goes up to Gaga’s penthouse, remembering better times. He runs afoul of our Danish tourists, from way back in the season finale a million years ago. They’re wandering ghosts in search of a purpose. Donovan tells them the story of Cara, the suicide teacher who started killing people. Not to free herself. Just to free the monotony.
The mind runs back to Murder House, and the endless parade of murdering ghouls. In season 1, a family found grace in the afterlife. They didn’t break the cycle. They accepted it. They put up a Christmas tree. They made themselves a happy forever. Will that be the solution here? The Danish girls launch an attack threesome on visiting bro Mister Wu. They kill him. They cry. The hamster wheel keeps spinning.
NEXT: Drive Himself Crazy[pagebreak]
Alex has a hot idea for the Danish girls. Don’t kill people. Just drive them mad, mad, mad! She’s got a target on mind. Truth is, though, poor John is already most of the way there. He shows up to a crime scene, where some televangelist got his insides ripped outside because he took the name of the Lord in vain. His old partner tells him to get lost.
That sends John to the floor of the hotel corridor, nursing a bottle, not his first that night from the looks of him. “I love my kids. I love my wife. It’s not my fault I’m so s—y at it, is it?” he asks, which is my second favorite thing Wes Bentley says tonight. (My most favorite: “This is my breakdown! I’m gonna have it!”)
In no time flat, John’s saying hello to the beautiful young Danes, who are suddenly astride him, naked, crying blood, vomiting blood, covering him in blood. John races down to the hotel lobby, naked, begging Liz Taylor to help him. Liz has seen it all; no doubt Liz isn’t surprised when John takes his suitcase and leaves this crazy hotel. There’s a surprise for John, of course: Bartholomew sneaks into his suitcase before he leaves.
Liz comes clean to Lady Gaga. In love with Tristan — real, great big crazy love! No way Gaga feels that way about Tristan, right? Gaga: “I don’t share.” But she lets Tristan and Liz talk it out with her. Tristan calls her out. He says that he may be a dumb stupid model, but he knows what her big problem is: “You feed off our heartbreak,” he says, “knowing we’re out there suffering over you.” Tristan chooses Liz; Liz chooses Tristan; Gaga chooses to open Tristan’s neck wide open.
Back at the Lowe Home, John promises his daughter he won’t leave her alone. (Poor daughter: Mom’s been gone for days, Dad’s been gone for weeks, her ageless kidnapped brother’s been gone since she was a kid.) Then John sees something in the kitchen and pulls the trigger a few times. The daughter runs away, back to grandma’s house. Alex shows up, tells John he just needs to relax. John knows what Alex is up to: knows she’s going back to that Hotel, far away from the domestic life they used to live.
More and more, I wonder if this season is about the dichotomy between those two places. The Family Home: a place for people who unconditionally love each other, for parents and children united together in common purpose to grow older together. Compare that to the Hotel Cortez: an incarnation of every cool and brokedown notion of urbanity, a place for fashion shows and heroin addicts, where the bar never closes, where murder and threesomes and murder threesomes are eternal, where grunge meets hipster and an immortal Countess can marry a gay fashion designer.
John thought he wanted to go to the Hotel, but it ruined him. Now it’s Alex’s turn. She finds Bartholomew and brings him home: rescuing Gaga’s son, as Gaga rescued hers. (Never mind that Gaga actually stole her son.) The camera lingers on Bartholomew’s strange face. But I prefer to recall the final shot of his room, with the numbers “33” shining bright. A number with resonance: the age of Jesus on the cross. Is Bartholomew this Hotel’s Messiah? Does that make Lady Gaga the Virgin Mary?