Dandy comes into his own as the new murderer in town, and Elsa succumbs to her dreams of stardom (again).

By Jodi Walker
Updated March 02, 2015 at 04:14 PM EST
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Michele K. Short/FX

American Horror Story

S4 E5
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Did you know that Jack the Ripper was a Windsor? Well, he was, and he probably just wanted to be a dancer and express himself, too. I myself, am no Windsor, nor am I affluent enough to have anyone even close to warranting their own Criminal Minds episode within my family tree; I am, however, filling in for your regular recapper, Darren, on the night that Ryan Murphy decided to roll out the enlarged clitoris plotline, and the murder of Matt Bomer (why must the best guests always leave us?), so it’s quite possible that there’s at least something a little psychotic rolling around in here, anyway.

Last week we got a grim look into some of our favorite characters’ pasts, and this week we peeked into their even grimmer future. Or, maybe we didn’t—never trust a flash forward and never trust a man with a mustache, pink cupcakes, and a syringe full of poison.

Edward Mordrake has left the circus tent, and with all of Elsa’s performers safe, now they only have to worry about the raving psycho with funds to spare, an enabling mother, and access to what is surely a bounty of abdominal oil. After the death of Twisty, tonight’s episode felt like the start of a new chapter, and the AHS writers packed a lot in: a trip to the doctor’s office, a trip to the strip club, a beautiful guest star, another trip to the doctor’s office, an imagined murder (double-murder?), a real murder, and an elongated commentary on the cesspit that is television and how it killed cinema. And now, onto your television program!

The episode appears to open in a flash-forward, with Stanley and Maggie in the audience of the grand opening of “Modern Mutations” back at the American Morbidity Museum they formerly tried to scam. Stanley is feeling pretty proud of himself this time around though for providing the specimens that are about to be unvei—hold the phone, that is the Illustrated Seal Boy… in a tank… dead.

Flash-back to present and Stanley is discussing how they should go about getting the tanks to put the freaks’ bodies in once they’ve killed and collected them. To get to the specimens that will make them the big bucks though, he’s going to need to keep an in with Elsa, as she is somehow still running that show. Maggie is looking real dubious about all the murder talk, as Lobster Boy recently saved her from being sawed in half, and I guess that kind of changes your outlook on life and its worth. Mostly though, she wants Stanley to get rid of the muscle man mags that keep falling out of his suitcase because, “the only thing people in Jupiter hate more than freaks are poofs.”

Oh hey, speaking of… everyone back at the camp is preparing to perform for their first sold-out crowd—thanks for becoming the town hero, Jimmy—but their Strong Man is nowhere to be found. Let me be straightforward with you here: I do not like Dell. He’s excellently acted by Michael Chiklis, but in a show full of killer clowns, that guy has been the certified Worst. Wouldn’t you know it though, the bad boy of the Freak Show is in love, and it does reveal a bit of his softer side, even if that softer side is still pretty yell-y. But it’s not his wife, Desiree, he’s all goo-goo for; no, it’s the prettiest boy down at the For Gentlemen By Gentlemen’s club, Andy, played by Matt Bomer. For Jupiter to be so against “poofs,” there’s certainly got quite the booming social scene.

Matt Bomer has those sparkling eyes that anyone could fall in love with, and it seems that Dell the Strong Man has been making his way to the club and paying for, ahem, his time, just about every day since he rolled into town a month ago. He’s taking this time to tell him how much he loves him, he needs him, oh baby, oh baby. “I got a heart, ya know… I feel things,” the Strong Man says to the paid boy. But that’s exactly what he is: paid. He tells Dell he’s just doing his job, and he needs Dell to understand that he does all the things he’s doing with him with lots of guys. “THERE ARE NO OTHER GUYS BUT ME!!!” Ah, yes, there’s the Dell we know.

Alas, Desiree insists, we don’t know Dell. When Jimmy goes looking for him in his trailer, he finds Desiree instead, drunk and crying about the how happy she and Dell used to be. So, Jimmy sits down to comfort her, but then starts crying about how it’s all his fault that Meep died, because that’s a thing he does fairly regularly, and then he kisses Desiree, because that’s a thing that does not make sense. I guess he’s still reeling due to an earlier rejection by Maggie/Esmerelda who just can’t because she’s “not in his future.” But whether it makes sense or not, Lobster Boy moves fast; unfortunately, when he gets down to Desi’s dual-parts, she starts screaming and suddenly there’s blood all over Jimmy’s hands and her legs.

NEXT: Man, she feels like a woman.

Ethel takes Desiree to the kind doctor that so readily helped her, and then we have to watch her go through her first ever OBGYN visit. Not something I was expecting to do tonight. But it does prove informative, and actually a little moving, considering the life-altering information he reveals. You see, after being birthed with the help of a midwife who declared her a boy, this is the first doctor Desiree has ever been to. And he has news for her—she’s not a male who developed female parts. She is 100 percent female, her third breast probably developed from a surge of estrogen, her “dingaling” is actually an enlarged clitoris, and the bleeding that just occurred was as the result of a miscarriage. All of this translates to Desiree to one fact: She can have a baby with Dell, and that is something she never thought her body could do.

But really, I think Gloria Mott might tell you, children sometimes are just not all they’re cracked up to be. Now that we’re over our confusing Twisty mourning—dammit, there was just something about that murderous, violent clown!—it’s time to recall that there’s a second killer clown in Jupiter, and his mother is currently discovering his first victim, the criminally underused Patti Labelle Dora, on the dining room floor. Dandy rushes down the stairs at her screams all, “OMG looks like somebody broke in and did a little murderin’,” but Gloria isn’t having it; she knows her son is a monster. But it seems she’s also resolved herself to the idea.

While they bury Dora in a 12-foot deep flower bed, Gloria tells Dandy that “these mental perversions are an affliction of the extremely affluent. Cousins marry cousins to protect the money… inbreeding. It becomes a rite of passage to have a psychotic or two in the line.” Well, with Dandy’s father, and Dandy, that makes two, so I guess the Motts have met quota. But Dandy isn’t ready to be written off as just your average cat-torturing rich kid: “I need to express myself!” He tells Gloria if she had just let him become an actor, none of this would have happened. But since that ship has sailed, it looks like it’s time to update the LinkedIn title to “Murder Clown,” and start hunting for entry level positions.

Only he’s not a clown. In his tighty-whiteys, inside his giant man-playroom, while practicing his “acting faces,” and doing his Kanye’s Dandy’s Workout Plan, Dandy narrates exactly what he is: “This body is America. Strong, violent, and full of limitless potential… I am no clown. I am perfection; I am greatness; I am the future, and the future starts tonight.” Eat your damn heart out, Patrick Bateman.

But the real theme of tonight, is that stardom—perfection, greatness, the future, all of it—is so rarely given to the people who want it most. Dandy’s need for the glory of an audience is so severe that he has to take away other people’s futures permanently. Jimmy couldn’t care less about Jupiter’s stinkin’ hero worship, and yet, here they are, filling every seat at the freak show to support him. And then there’s Elsa… oh, Elsa.

Elsa employs people with physical abnormalities that classify them as “freaks” and bowls herself over week after week to explain how she’s no freak herself; but Elsa was born with her own abnormality—limitless delusion. To hear Elsa tell it, she’s too good for an Academy Award, so get that filthy script for a period piece about a woman who saves an orphanage, directed by David Fincher, and written by Aaron Sorkin out of her face. She’s a star, she tells you, the best star there ever was, and she deserves only the best that Hollywood has to offer her!

And television, it seems, is the absolute worst offer around. Stanley, under the talent scout alias he introduced himself as last week, goes to meet Elsa before she opens the show and tells her that he works for the largest TV broadcasting network in the country, and is open to casting her. This does not go over well: “I would rather be boiled in oil than be on television.”

It’s funny because you know if Elsa lived in our current day and age, she’d be part of a 16-person reality show cast where people compete to see who can fall in love the fastest underwater just to get a little taste of fame. But right now, she only has eyes for motion pictures. “Squeezing the beauty of the silver screen into that little black box… I find it very depressing,” she says from the circus tent she calls home (and office).

It’s just so sad. Despite her delusions and cuckoo eyebrows, I want the best for Elsa. Headlining her own freak show is simply as good as it’s going to get for her… and frankly, even that isn’t going well. She steps out on stage in that powder blue suit for a reprise (for us at least) performance of “Life on Mars” to open the sold out show and my heart sinks with dread. People aren’t paying attention, the boos start coming, she starts hearing her own heartbeat, people start throwing things at her, and the performance goes downhill so fast, Jimmy has to go take her offstage. That’s all it takes for her to go running back to Stanley and tell him that she’s ready to consider his terrible, horrifying television offer, putting her exactly where he needs her to be to lure her performers into tanks of formaldehyde ASAP.

NEXT: Carbs that kill…

And he’s already got two of them in his grips: Elsa watches Stanley drive off with Bette and Dot in his car, and there’s another flash-forward to Stanley with the Morbidity Museum owner, looking at a two-headed body in a tank. Flash-back to Stanley on a picnic with the twins, offering them beautiful pink cupcakes full of poison, and Bette is in full-Bette mode: “Pink cupcakes, what a treat!” No, Bette, not a treat—a trap that’s about to give you a “cold” that turns into “pneumonia” while you lay in bed dying, and makes your sister weak enough for a good old-fashioned suffocation-by-Stanley.

Naw, just playing. It seems that was all just imagined, or perhaps a hallucination, because suddenly the cupcakes are whole again, Dot is saying they have to watch their figure(s), and they’re back at camp telling Elsa all about how they’re going to be stars. It feels a touch foreboding.

There’s real horror to be had in Jupiter though, and from the moment Dandy walks into the gentlemen’s club that Dell has just vacated and lays his eyes on Andy, it’s clear exactly who that horror will be happening to, so prepare your sadness, and get some screenshots of Bomer. I couldn’t tell you exactly why Finn Wittrock and Matt Bomer looking like mirror images of each other was so creepy, but the fact that they were also wearing almost inverse outfits (horizontally-striped polo and ’50s jeans vs. vertically-striped dandy Uncle Sam outfit) tells me that it was intentional… sould we expect Darren Criss to be coming around as Andy’s concerned little brother some time soon?

It’s only $20 to take Andy home, but what’s $20 when you’re dead? Dandy pays him $100, and takes him out to Twisty’s humble abode in the woods, but as soon as he tries to do his job, Dandy informs him that he’s “not a fruit.” How ‘bout they just turn back-to-back, take all their clothes off, count to three, and “whatever magic happens, happens.” One… two…three—*boom* Twisty mask on (probably still unwashed, ya nasty), stab, stab, stab, stab. Still alive, try to escape, more stabbing, all over the back. Andy won’t go down and I’m torn between wanting him to be out of his misery, and wanting him to have some sort of power that will bring him back two episodes from now.

From the fear on Bomer’s face, to the shallow knife, to the sounds of sawing limbs, and Dandy’s childish complaints—”How can you still be alive? You’re making me feel bad! Stop it!”—this scene is raw. In voice-over, Dandy tells us, “Rule number one of a good killer: make sure all the evidence is gone—start with the limbs.” Assuming Murder Club is a lot like Fight Club, Dandy might be filling us in on more rules as the season progresses and his skills in Murda Bizness improve. For now, rule one involves sawing off limbs and dissolving them into a bathtub full of acid, which I know Twisty did not teach him.

But even with the evidence hidden, methinks Dell might not be too keen on someone killing his lover, especially considering he goes full-on crazy just because the woman he was planning on leaving tells him she’s leaving him first. It seems Ethel told Desiree that Dell’s father had lobster hands the he passed onto Jimmy, and she doesn’t want his “freak blood” involved in the pregnancy she plans on having. She’s going to have the good doctor do the operation he suggested she have for her enlarged situation(s) and have herself a baby. Or, that was her plan, but she might have to revise, since Dell just showed up at the sweet doctor’s office and broke all of his fingers. That guy is a jackass.

The episode ends with Dora’s daughter, Regina, played by Gabourey Sidibe, calls Gloria from college because she hasn’t heard from her mother in a week; Gloria starts asking if she remembers her being a good mother when she knew her as a child and Regina tells her the thing we’ve all wished wished we could say at some point or another while watching AHS: “I’m feeling really uncomfortable, so I’m going to go now.” But Gloria shan’t be lonely for long because she’s got a gift waiting on her doorstep: It’s Elsa and she’s got something(s) the Motts want. And as she was last on the road taking Bette and Dot to a seamstress for their big move to Hollywood, there’s a pretty good chance that something was BOGO.

As much as I enjoyed last week’s episode, the death of Twisty, and the loss of Patti LaBelle before we ever got to experience the real value of Patti LaBelle, had me a little worried that the most interesting aspects of Freak Show were either fading too quickly or going to go unexplored. But tonight, several previously one-note characters—Desiree, Stanley, and even Dell—proved they had stories fully worthy of exploring. And, oddly enough, with Twisty gone, the threat to all of these characters is even greater. With Wittrock in the driver’s seat, Dandy’s child-like impulse to kill sans any real cause is keeping the creep factor plenty high, but now the question is, might he be able to share the Big Bad title with Stanley as swimmingly as he did with Twisty?

Freak Show’s future is bright, even if its inhabitants are all surely doomed.

Episode Recaps

American Horror Story

An anthology series that centers on different characters and locations, including a haunted house, an insane asylum, a witch coven, a freak show, and a hotel.

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