The Coven tries to take down their own Supreme. As usual, somebody dies.

By Darren Franich
Updated December 05, 2013 at 04:05 AM EST

A homeless fellow with a hammer tried to attack Queenie. She grabbed a board with a nail in it and used her human-voodoo-dolls to take him down. Out of the shadows came Zoe and Madison, her former sister witches. Maybe it was just the Coven-free Thanksgiving week, but it felt like some time had passed. Zoe knew Queenie was changing sides. She preached a new era in Miss Robichaux’s. “We know our Coven’s a s—show right now,” she said, an understatement considering that it only took seven episodes for most of the Coven to die at least once. “But things are changing. A new Supreme is rising.” Queenie heard that line before. She had a new family now. Marie Laveau sent her out to find a dark heart — and the homeless man was a serial rapist. So Temple of Doomed him, holding his still-beating heart up in the air. “War is coming,” she told her former allies. “And you’re gonna lose.”

The master-arc of Coven keeps on pointing us to a showdown between Marie Laveau’s Voodoo crew and Fiona’s Salem branch. But the episode that followed Queenie’s pronouncement was more focused on the internal struggle at Miss Robichaux’s. After a season that has mostly sent its characters spiraling outwards in several different directions, it was an opportunity to bring together most of the cast — living and dying and dead and undead, headless and otherwise. It was also a showcase for Fiona — and recurring director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, the idiosyncratic visualist who spent half the episode pointing the camera at mirrors. (It may have been an homage to the Evil Queen in Snow White, with her cruel magic mirror. Or it may have been an homage to how cool mirrors look onscreen.)

Fiona having a rough time. Meningeal carcinomatosis is consuming her. “I used to think I understood pain,” she said, as we saw images of her writhing in pure agony. And there were the other effects, more shallow but also more relentlessly visible: “I’m less Samantha, more Endora every day.” There was a joyful side note: The cancer was driving her into the Axeman’s arms. We saw the two of them lounging in bed, like a pair of teenagers. Fiona only had a month left? The Axeman fully intended to spend that month with her. And Fiona still had her own plans. One of the witches under her care was coming into her own power as Supreme. With each passing day, that witch was taking power away from Fiona. Perhaps, if she could strike against them…

But Fiona didn’t know that the Coven was assembling for their own strike. They were led by Delia, milquetoast intellectual turned terse blind seer. Neo-Delia doesn’t have time to worry about past mistakes. Queenie joined the enemy? “She’s dead to me.” She assembled her remaining students. She had a plan: Kill Mom.

And there were witches aplenty converging on Miss Robichaux’s. Mere days after Misty opted not to join the Salem crew, she came running back for sanctuary. She woke up earlier in the day to see the resurrected Myrtle inside her shack. She assured Myrtle that she was safe. Myrtle said that, quite the contrary, a man with a gun had just stepped on her face. Then the man attacked. We didn’t see his face: He could be one of the anti-witch swampsters who burned Misty to near-death, or he could be a certain double-agent fake-hubby witch hunter. But Delia welcomed Misty to the Coven.

And Misty had not come alone. Myrtle was in the garden. Her skin was corpsey, but her hair was perfect: “I’ve been buying in bulk from North Korea for yeeeears,” she trilled. And Myrtle was preaching a new gospel. She had seen the face of the Supreme, and it was Misty Day, whose power of Resurrection is apparently much more difficult than any of the “Seven Wonders” a Supreme usually has to demonstrate. Or, in the words of Myrtle, “She’s brought back more people from the dead than Jesus Christ.” (ASIDE: Part of the reason I like American Horror Story is that it throws out ambient bits of mythology without really caring about continuity — it’s got the everything-at-the-wall vibe of a first-season sitcom or a ’40s comic book. At this point in the season, resurrection is either the most powerful thing anyone can do or something that pretty much anyone can do. That’s also why — even though it’s an obvious talking point — I don’t really care about the “Who Will Be The Next Supreme” guessing game. It could be anybody, or everybody; or it could be Stevie Nicks. END OF ASIDE.)

Upstairs, Zoe set up FrankenKyle with a grade-school vocabulary app. He tried kissing her, but she wasn’t in the mood. In came Madison, who sat down next to the reanimated boytoy and tonguekissed him, promising premium-cable debauchery later in the night. They were shot on either shoulder, like the cartoon angel and the devil. Zoe talked about teaching Kyle how to talk, so he could rejoin society. Madison wondered why he wasn’t watching porn, like every other good American boy.

Speaking of Good American Boys, neighbor boy Luke was trying to explain to his mom why she should be more understanding about those nice girls next door. They didn’t hurt him. They saved him. “Only Jesus can save you,” she said. When that line came out, you probably thought we were being set up for a full-scale Carrie’s Mom Christian-Horror freakout…and you were right! Joan ranted about being unclean, brought her son into the bathroom, and told him to take off his pants. Crazy music twirled on the soundtrack as she set up an enema. Between Luke and Kyle, this has not been a good season of American Horror Story to be a human male with a mother.

NEXT: The Sacred TakingMyrtle convened the Coven for a rite known as the Sacred Taking. In silent-film flashback, we saw the history of the Taking, which had only been invoked three times. The most famous incident came in Salem, 1692, when the witches decided to flee South to avoid persecution. The consumptive Supreme knew she was too weak to survive the trip. So she took her own life, bestowing her power immediately on the next Supreme. “Can you imagine the Salem witches traveling here in covered wagons, without a proper charcuterie platter or a bidet?” pondered Myrtle. (Big week for Frances Conroy!)

So that was the plan: Convince Fiona to off herself, and watch as one of their number ascends to Supremehood. Not that everyone was exactly hankering for that responsibility. The faces of past Supremes stared down at them from the walls: How many of those women had happy lives? Supreme power goes hand in hand with crushing responsibility. Fiona only survived, we were told, because she ran from that responsibility.

That was an interesting detail. We’ve come to know Fiona as a power-hungry figure: A woman who killed her own mentor to grasp power early, who decades later killed her own student to hold onto that same power. But this episode suggested that Fiona was also a very different kind of figure in the Coven’s history: A woman who, amidst the liberated wave of mid-’60s ideology, tried to set her own path. (This was an episode where Fiona talked about her time at Woodstock — and Woodstock is one of those things that always symbolizes some idea of the ’60s, like JFK and Jim Morrison and everything Oliver Stone made movies about when Oliver Stone was still making good movies.)

Upstairs, Fiona was just finishing a bout of nausea when the Coven kickstarted their plan. She emerged into her bedroom to see Madison, dressed in red, dancing to “Season of the Witch” by Donovan. Madison announced that she had resurrected herself: She was the new Supreme, after all. And that meant Fiona was over and done. They would burn her at the stake. Or she could take the easier way out: Swallow a few pills and go to sleep. Madison left, but she was just the prologue for the equally-resurrected Myrtle. “Is everyone back from the dead?” asked Fiona.

Fiona had an exit strategy. She was leaving on a forever-vacation with the Axeman. “I have finally found someone I belong to, I truly love.” He would take care of her. Wouldn’t he? Myrtle preyed on Fiona’s fears. We saw a sequence — a fantasy? a premonition? the bleakest and best-acted episode of Red Shoe Diaries ever? — where a withered Fiona lay on her deathbed, steadfastly not-quite-dead. The Axeman had to leave. The smells made him sick. We left dying Fiona falling off the bed: “I’ll die soon! I promise!” Imagining that last bit pushed Fiona over the edge: The idea of herself — alone, unmourned, and unloved — was enough to send her to the pills.

NEXT: The next Supreme?Fiona prepared herself for the end. She had Myrtle hold up a mirror while she made herself look like one hell of a corpse. She mused about an old affair, at Woodstock, with “Levon, the drummer in The Band.” They had a wild six months in Woodstock. Another woman in her position might have taken her final moments to engage in recrimination, in past mistakes. Not Fiona. “What good would it do?” She swallowed the pills, and told Myrtle to hang her portrait up on her chosen spot — or anywhere except the basement, where one finds a painting of “that disgraced Russian witch.” She lay down, fell asleep. Myrtle stole her jewelry. Fiona was dying.

Or maybe not: Her faithful servant Spalding woke her up. Had the butler come back to life? Nope: He was a ghost, like the Axeman, haunting the Academy where his family has served so faithfully for generations. He told Fiona she had been tricked. “They’ve been running a number on you,” he said. He gave her some liquid. She drank it. A few minutes later, the suicide pills regurgitated, she made Spalding a promise. “I will avenge your murder,” she said, “Right after I avenge my own.”

Across town, Queenie was meeting with her former slave/enemy/BFF-turned-captive Delphine. She tried feeding the immortal some fast food. But Marie wouldn’t allow it. The appearance of her nemesis brought out the old, bad Madame LaLaurie. “What you gonna do? Kill me? I cain’t die!” she cackled. She asked Marie to throw her back in the house. She had seen this modern world. She had seen the black man in the White House — although she called him something much worse. She promised Marie that, when she was re-exhumed some hundred years hence, “the natural order would be restored.” So Marie chopped off Delphine’s hand. “We’ve only just begun,” she said.

Downstairs at Miss Robichaux’s, the girls were awaiting word on their mission. Nan mused: “Do you think I could be the Supreme?” They did not. She raced over to Luke’s house — using a bit of telekinetic energy to open the door. She freed him from some restraints, and even kissed him. Luke wanted to escape… but his mom got in the way. “I made you!” she screamed. “And I can unmake you!” At that point, she was shot: Delia’s witch-hunting hubby was outside. He took down Luke, too, leaving Nan scrambling.

Meanwhile, Myrtle played Schubert’s Last Sonata for the assembled witches, awaiting the moment when the fire of Supremehood would enter one of them. It was not to be. Fiona reappeared, seemingly mostly upset about the fact that Myrtle wasn’t playing Schubert properly. But attention shifted to the bloodshed next door. Fiona watched Misty bring Neighbor Mom back to life… while Delia found a telltale silver bullet, conjuring up an image of her hubby with a sniper rifle.

Zoe returned to her reanimated fratboy guy-pal, Kyle. He’s learned a few words. “This road goes two ways,” he said. “I love you.” A shocked Zoe responded in kind: “I love you, too.” The camera panned over to Madison, overhearing around the corner, crying.

Interpersonal problems are brewing between the young witches. But the day’s events had a happy accidental result: Fiona and Cordelia’s relationship has never been stronger. Fiona admired how the entire Coven came together to take on a nemesis. Admittedly, that nemesis was herself, but still, she had never been prouder of her daughter. Delia joked that if she knew that would impress Fiona, she would’ve tried to kill her years ago. They laughed and laughed and laughed. But that silver bullet was no laughing matter. There were witch hunters about: One more threat to the Coven. And now there’s a woman down — or most of a woman anyhow. A package arrived for Fiona, containing the head of Delphine LaLaurie. Still alive. Probably in a lot of pain. But as far as diets go, the decapitation method is proven to help you lose weight 5 out of 5 times. So that’s the good news.

Fellow viewers, what did you think of “The Sacred Taking”? Not enough fish-eye lenses?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich