“Why yes, that was Cuba Gooding Jr. banging Lady Gaga in the woods, thank you for asking!”
That sentence now exists after tonight, and it’s a real thing you can say at parties to show you’re the most well-versed pop-culture expert in a room that would rather have you talk about any other topic than the star of Radio having sex in a forest with an actress who made her TV debut on The Sopranos in 2001 as “Girl at Swimming Pool #2” (uncredited).
American Horror Story: Pig Year returns in its third week with, finally, some explanation of the colonial mythos that’s been haunting the Roanoke farmhouse where Shelby, Matt, and Lee have been terrorized. So far: Shelby’s been manhandled in a hot tub, Matt’s witnessed two dead nurses murder an elderly woman, the house and surrounding farmland has all but been turned into a crafts room on the last day of sleepaway camp, and Lee’s daughter has been abducted by the ghost of a prepubescent colonial troublemaker.
It’s that last crime that takes the main focus this week. Thankfully, Flora is not dead, despite the grim omen of her marigold sweater being plucked from the top of a tall tree covered in blood. But she is indeed missing, and the police continue to be either horribly inept, woefully racist, or all of the above. Just guess which answer is accurate.
So Lee, an ex-cop, takes it upon herself to pick up where a search party essentially leaves off after three days. In the forest, the gang stumbles onto Flora’s doll — only now it’s dismembered, de-stuffed, surrounded by a circle of blood, and sporting pig-body parts in place of its manufactured doll limbs. If we’re talking about more accurate body representation in Barbies, then great, it’s a win for society; but in this case, it’s another sign to Lee that Flora’s no more.
Next, they find an abandoned farm. Inside the house there’s — you guessed it — more pig crap and maggots (the title of my memoir), but it’s what’s inside the barn that bears a greater gift: Two mud-covered young boys in a pig sty, suckling at the teat of a giant sow. Like the responsible adults they are, the trio brings the boys to the authorities, where they’re cleaned up and interrogated by a social worker. But because they’re thoroughly inbred — like, deep, deep inbred — they can only say one word: “Croatoan!” (Which, as we know, is the sole word carved into the tree at the site of the lost colony of Roanoke.)
In the same scene, Lee’s husband Mason has also arrived, and he’s fuming because — remember — Flora only went missing because Lee straight-up abducted her from school. Naturally, he blames her, and things even get physical. After striking Lee one night, he storms out of the house to go to the police; 15 minutes later, Lee seemingly follows. Matt’s security footage captures her returning to the house four hours later, which wouldn’t be a big deal were it not for the phone call Matt gets from the cops: They found Mason’s body in the woods, burnt to a crisp and hung up inside that same straw-man sacrificial circle the teens have been doing everywhere.
So, did Lee kill Mason? Shelby’s suspicious, Matt’s undecided, and Lee says absolutely not. I personally would opt to believe Lee, if only because in my experience there’s no way you can burn a man AND build a sacrificial ring of dried grain in less than four hours. Six, maybe.
NEXT: Medium rising
An otherwise bleak episode suddenly turns sprightly with the arrival of the incomparable Leslie Jordan, wearing a truly heinous platinum-blonde bowl cut worse than if Edna from The Incredibles married into the Malfoy family. Meet Cricket, a New Orleans medium-slash-child-detective who was “called” to the house by spirits after hearing about Flora’s disappearance on the news.
Lee, Shelby, and Matt are dubious about his arrival, but they’re supposedly comforted by the results of a quickie Google search that suggest he’s helped find missing kids all over the country (which, frankly, seems like MORE of a red flag to me).
But they trust Cricket after he miraculously appears to sense and locate the cupboard under the stairs, where Flora once hid and warned that death was coming for everyone. Inside, they find another bonnet, and Cricket suddenly has the revelation that Flora is not dead, and furthermore wasn’t abducted by the living. “Your daughter is with Priscilla,” he reports before divining her entire Tinder profile: “She’s a child. She has a fondness for cornhusk dolls. She died in the late 1500s.”
The gang decides to hold a séance to summon Priscilla, only it’s not she who arrives. In comes Kathy Bates, who apparently calls herself The Butcher and stays just long enough to warn Cricket (the others can’t see her) that they’re trespassing on her land. “I protect this place. This place is mine. Ours. I shall stop at nothing to hold safe this colony,” she says in a wild Irish-ish accent that suggests Bates listened to two tapes of Muzzy and got bored.
She reveals Priscilla doesn’t belong to the colony — rather, she’s a bastard seed and a runaway, and is out of bounds of The Butcher’s land. And then she slices a candle in half and breaks all the windows, because why not, and Cricket shouts “Croatoan!” to the wind. She’s gone.
Now convinced spirits are playing a role in the shenanigans here, the trio needs Cricket — but he’s only available for a casual $25,000, which they refuse to pay. Lee pulls a gun on him, but Matt talks her down. Cricket laughs it off and insists he’ll return — which he does, after shocking Lee with some bombshell, impossible information about Emily, Lee’s first daughter.
Reality Show Lee tells us Emily disappeared at the age of 4, when Lee accidentally left her a parked car during an errand and she was supposedly taken. The information jars her enough to demand the cameras be turned off for a hot minute, just long enough to show us our first glimpse behind the scenes of the My Roanoke Nightmare docuseries — it’s nothing too revelatory, though, and won’t confirm any of your wacky conspiracy theories about what’s really going on at this POS TLC just yet.
After the bombshell, Lee hires Cricket, who does us a solid and essentially fills us in on the insanity that is: The Butcher.
Next: Butcher me all over my body
Here’s what we know about The Butcher: Her real name (according to my TV’s closed captions) is Thomasin White, and she was married to John White, the governor of the Roanoke colony. When John ventured off on a supply run, Thomasin was left in charge, but rebellious colonists wanted to relocate the village inland for the winter. Thomasin refused, so the insurgents — including her own son, Ambrose — banished her from the colony and left her in the forest to starve to death.
It was there, alone in the woods, that she heard the rumblings of a wild boar headed for her. Convinced she would soon be dead, she began to pray, until the boar was killed suddenly by a tree nymph…yes, Lady Gaga’s tree nymph, the same one who stalked around the Shelby circle last week. “Surrender thy soul to me,” Nymphgaga tells Thomasin, and she magically removes the cage from Thomasin’s head and offers up the raw pig heart.
Thomasin eats the heart, supposedly now belonging to this dark creature, and regains her strength and returns to the colony camp to slaughter the insurgents with a meat cleaver. She reluctantly spares her son, but reclaims dominion over the colony, which has moved inland — and which, as Cricket informs us, is exactly where the house now stands.
“For this land, she will kill you all,” he says, and that’s it. The legend of Thomasin White, or, Kathy Bates’ latest exercise in Rosetta Stone.
The obvious next step, then, is for Cricket, Lee, Matt, and Shelby to head into the woods and confront Priscilla to demand Flora’s release. Instead, they come face-to-face again with The Butcher, whom still only Cricket can see; Lee yells out to the darkness that they’ll burn down the house in exchange for Flora. (At Shelby’s balking, Lee adds in that Matt already agreed and it’s two against one, sorrrry.)
But The Butcher still does not speak for Flora’s whereabouts, and then the conversation is literally abandoned halfway through when Shelby decides there’s something more important than a ghost colony: Matt’s gone! Reality Show Matt claims he has no memory, but that’s highly convenient given what happened: Shelby finds him in a forest clearing, wooding Lady Gaga’s nymph, while two hillbillies furiously masturbate.
Man, remember when American Horror Story was about, like, a spooky house?
Anyway, back at the house, Shelby accosts Matt both for the wood sex (of which he swears he has no memory) and for telling Lee he’d burn the house down to get Flora back. They’re both seemingly equal crimes, apparently, and they’re enough to get Shelby to call the cops and have Lee arrested, either for Flora’s murder, Mason’s murder, or the murder of story lines that abruptly end.
What did you think of episode 3? Who is Priscilla? Will The Butcher be friend or foe? And what’s with all the f—king pigs?!