Queenie considers switching teams, while Madison offers Zoe an unexpected invitation

By Darren Franich
Updated November 21, 2013 at 04:05 AM EST
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Michele K. Short/FX

American Horror Story

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It’s been almost a century since James Joyce published “The Dead,” the lengthy tale which closes his anthology Dubliners. “The Dead” is generally considered one of the best short stories ever. It is filled with humor and tragedy, raw humanity and casual epiphany, the cruel weight of history and the light comedy of human interaction.

Alas, in what we can only assume was a serious oversight brought about by a looming deadline, Joyce forgot to feature a scene where a resurrected drug-addict celebrity has sex with a reanimated boy sewn together from his sundry fratboy body parts. Nor, for that matter, did the great Irish author ever even consider putting two such personages in bed with a third participant, a witch with the incredible power of vagina aneurysmica. Fortunately for history, Coven rectified Joyce’s lapse this week, with an episode titled “The Dead” that featured a Frankenstein-Celebutante-Witch threesome. And said threesome was far from the weirdest event in the episode, which also saw the death of yet another lead character. At this point, easy money says that the finale of Coven will just be one long scene where everyone kills each other and resurrects each other, while in the background the minotaur plays the saxophone solo from “Baker Street” on an endless loop.

The episode began by taking a close look at the long-term physical and psychological effects of not-quite-deadness on the characters. Kyle flashed back to a fun day with his fratboy pals, who were getting tattoos, including a Chinese character that the artist swore read “Beginning and End.”

Kyle didn’t want a tattoo. Evan Peters gives great drunk talk, but the soused fratboy made it clear that he had big dreams. He wanted to fix the levies. He wanted to fix city hall. He wanted to be an engineer. He wanted to make things in this country, build things, not just stick his hand in another guy’s pocket. Instead, he wound up with another man’s tattoo, not to mention the arm that tattoo is attached to. Worse, that tattoo was a shamrock, and Kyle doesn’t like Guinness or the Red Sox or The Boondock Saints. Zoe came to Kyle with a gun, expecting to kill him; but Kyle grabbed the gun and almost killed himself.

Madison’s not reacting much better to her second life. She’s prone to soliloquizing narration now. “I’m a millennial,” she said, a member of the generation “born between the birth of AIDS and 9/11.” Like all young people in post-industrial history, millennials are known for entitlement and narcissism and having terrible taste in music. But Madison made it clear that her narcissism has a deeper truth: She was numb to the world. Before she died, she did everything she could to feel something. And now she literally can’t feel anything. She burnt a scar into her hand: Nothing. She ate the equivalent of seven dinners: Nothing. She looked at pictures of Batkid: Nothing.

The girls had been vaguely trying to keep Madison’s return a secret, but her nocturnal candelabratic perambulations attracted the notice of Delia. (Given that there are maybe like five people who actually live at Miss Robichaux’s, nobody ever seems to run into each other except when they have to.) Delia was troubled. She received a phone call from her cheating hubby. Unbeknownst to her, said hubby was shouldering an impressive-looking sniper rifle. (Although Hank the Witch-Hunter didn’t reappear in the episode, we should start getting excited. Sniper rifles are one of those things that are always exciting, like action scenes on trains or Christopher Walken reading cue cards.) When Delia grabbed Madison, she clearly saw the young girl’s death…and the face of Fiona, slicing Madison’s neck wide open.

Speaking of Fiona! The reigning Supreme was enjoying an evening with her new beau, Danny “The Axeman” Huston. The Axeman brought her back to his apartment — the previous owner of the apartment was decomposing slowly in the bath — and began the sweet dance of seduction. Bourbon. A jazz record. Faulkner quotes. “The reason for livin’ is to get ready to stay dead for a long time,” he said, a line from Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. (ASIDE: As we all know, Faulkner published Dying in 1930, 11 years after the Axeman was killed by Meryl Streep’s Daughter and the Stabbin’ Suffragettes. Maybe the Axeman passed the time by exploring Miss Robichaux’s library. To hell with logic, now I’m just dreaming of an adaptation of As I Lay Dying directed by Ryan Murphy, ideally with a closing dance number where reanimated corpses in the Yoknapatawpha County cemetery sing a dance-pop version of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” mashed with Ke$ha’s “Die Young.” END OF ASIDE.)

Fiona loved the attention. But sadness loomed. She keeps on grabbing errant strands of hair off her head: the cruel comforts of chemotherapy. “This was a mistake,” she said. “I’ve had three husbands. I’ve destroyed any decent relationship I’ve ever had. I’m a wretched human being, a miserable mean goddamn bitch.” Coming from the mouth of Jessica Lange, it sounded like Shakespeare writing a Dixie Chicks song. The Axeman threw out some double entendres about playing with his instrument, and they had an explosive love scene crosscut with a jazz number. Seriously guys, this show has just become Treme now.

NEXT: Friends forever, we’ll be togetherBut on a lighter note: Queenie and Delphine are BFFLs now! Since Madison raided the kitchen, they raced over to the local Frostop. They dared to supersize their meal. Queenie pondered the course her life had taken; in the second best line of the night, she casually mentioned, “I’m sitting in a fast food parking lot at three in the morning with an immortal racist.” Delphine has warmed to Queenie, but she told the young witch that she would never really fit in at Miss Robichaux’s. “They’re never gonna see you as their sister,” she said.

Queenie took those words to heart. Like so many Salemites before her, she broke the fragile truce and meandered over to Marie Laveau’s hair salon. Marie told her the same line as Delphine. When Queenie insisted that her sister witches didn’t care about her skin color, Marie cackled, “They care plenty.” From Marie’s perspective, America is behind enemy lines. “We’re only here because our great-great grandpas couldn’t run fast enough,” she said. “We’ll never be welcome here.” The best they could hope for, said Marie, was depending on each other. And she extended a hand to Queenie. She could join the Voodoo crew. She would never be second-best to some pretty little white girl. She would have power, more power than a Supreme. But only if she delivered her new best friend, the Madame LaLaurie.

Back at Miss Robichaux’s, Zoe was trying her best to coach Kyle back to something like humanity. She taught him to say “food.” She taught him how to use a spoon. Madison came in to stir things up. She didn’t remember killing Kyle — her amnesia is very vaguely defined, but she seems to not remember much of anything from her post-Hollywood witching life. She sent Zoe to see Delia, and then had a heart-to-heart with Kyle. “You were dead,” she said, “So was I. I didn’t see a light. Did you?” For the first time, Madison set aside her tough-cruel-demon-goddess veneer. She tried connecting with Kyle. “You know exactly how I feel,” she said. Kyle hugged her. Intercourse ensued.

Meanwhile, we got a good look at the New Delia. New Delia is the opposite of milquetoast Old Delia. New Delia takes her tea with a shot of flask liquor. New Delia sees the calamity that is consuming her beloved academy. New Delia says things, “You are one hotsh*t witch.” She gave it to Zoe straight. If the young witch was indeed the next Supreme, she would need to watch her back. Fiona is dwindling; she needs the power of the Supreme. So Delia told Zoe the new plan, and in the process gifted us the best line of the night: “We’re going to kill my mother. Kill her once, kill her good, kill her dead.”

Speak of the Supreme! Fiona awoke from her assignation with the Axeman. She’d had fun. But the fun was over. She chastised the serial killer for that smelly body in the bathroom. She said that she’d called the police. In fact, it became clear that Fiona had enjoyed their evening a little too much. Like Madison, Fiona has a complicated relationship with pleasure: She lives for it, but she’s also a bit scared of it. (It might be more accurate to say that Fiona and Madison — and many key characters in the American Horror Story multiverse — enjoy pleasure but are afraid of serenity. They like one-night stands, but the concept of a lifelong romance seems like a kind of death.)

And this is when the Axeman very creepily admitted that he had been watching Fiona for a very long time. He watched her when she was a little girl at Miss Robichaux’s, being bullied by a girl named Helen. The Axeman took action, pushing several shelves of glassware onto Helen’s face. (ASIDE: This little flashback exposed an aspect of Fiona’s character that runs throughout Ryan Murphy’s work. We’ve only known her as a towering figure, take-take-taking what she wants from people less powerful from her. In this moment, we saw that — however briefly — she was once on the other side of the bullying line. In American Horror Story, victims are never sanctified for their victimhood. The bullied become the bullies; the tortured become the torturers — an idea reconfirmed by the incredible shot that ended the episode. END OF ASIDE.)

So the Axeman used to think of Fiona as the daughter he never had. Then, as she grew into a beautiful young girl walking naked around her room, he felt strange stirrings in his saxophone case. He called Fiona the most fearsome thing that ever lived, and he told her he knew her better than anyone on earth. “You gave meaning to my endless tortured days.” She kissed him and she slapped him and she recontextualized him. The Axeman considers himself a mythic guardian, someone who has seen Fiona’s whole life. To Fiona, he’s just a man who saw her grow old. She stormed out. I’m not sure there will ever be another show on television where a cancer-stricken soul-sucking super-witch falls in love with a resurrected serial killer saxophonist. Unless that’s what The Mentalist is about?

NEXT: Strange bedfellows in a strange fellow’s bedYou have a tongue, right? Sure you do. You use it to talk, and lick things, and to do Miley Cyrus imitations. But have you ever thought about your tongue before? Like, really thought about what your tongue would look like if — say, just theoretically — it was outside of your mouth and then crawled back in? Well, the writers of American Horror Story are way ahead of you. Spalding awoke from his slumber, tied to his bed and rocking an incredible yellow bathrobe. And he could talk. Zoe discovered his enchanted tongue inside the Box O’ Stuff hidden inside of her room. Myrtle Snow had saved it, all those years ago. Zoe put her own enchantment on the tongue, leading to a scene where she put the tongue back into Spalding’s mouth. It was so gross, and it gave me an idea for a horror movie where the tongue of an executed serial killer goes on a murdering spree in a small town. (Working titles: The Crawling Tongue, The Taste of Murder, and/or Tongue Twisted: Suck My Lick.)

Seven episodes in, we finally got the pleasure of a full-fledged non-flashback Denis O’Hare Speaking Scene. He had to respond truthfully to all of Zoe’s questions. He told her that Fiona killed Madison, and he told her that his family had served the Salem Coven for 10 generations, and he told her that he had devoted his entire life to the Coven’s well-being. Clearly, Zoe is not a fan of outrageous Southern accents, since she stabbed poor Spalding in the heart. Now place your bets on who will resurrect Spalding. The clear choice is Fiona. Or maybe it’ll be Misty. Maybe Misty and Spalding will fall in love. Who knows? There are six episodes left, people, which is the narrative equivalent of 10 seasons of Boardwalk Empire.

Downstairs, Queenie asked Delphine a question: What was the worst thing she ever did? Delphine regaled her with a horrifying tale from her days as New Orleans’ reigning psychoristocrat. A slave named Sally gave birth to a baby with a complexion as light as cream. Her husband was mysteriously ecstatic about the news. He always wanted a boy; why not name him Pierre? The Madame asked Sally to take on a new role in the house as a handmaiden. Delphine showed off her preferred beauty product: Blood. “This came from a boy. Newly-born. Youth begets youth.” And she explained to Sally that she really didn’t need to bother coming up with a name.

It was a terrifying scene — even more terrifying since Kathy Bates was delivering the lines in her best peppy-terrifying voice. (Delphine has been a relatively passive character this season, but I fully anticipate that in the closing episodes we’ll see her go Full Annie Wilkes.) It got worse, too: Sally killed herself the next morning, and was buried with her baby. In the present, Delphine attempted to plea for something like forgiveness. It’s a testament to the peculiar wonder of American Horror Story (and the greatness of Her Batesness) that you actually somehow took her seriously. She said it was a different world and she said she was learning; she called Queenie a true friend. It felt a little bit like the whole horrifying racist past of America was incarnated in human form, extending a hand to Queenie and begging forgiveness.

Speaking of not having a good segue: How ’bout that threesome? The promotional material for Coven had teased the possibility of a three-way love scene, but I had no idea what to expect when Madison waltzed in on Zoe’s shower reverie and started talking about what to do about FrankenBoy. Madison semi-apologized for shtupping Kyle. Zoe demurred, noting that — after all — she could never have a relationship with the reanimated fratboy, what with her man-killing lady parts. But Madison insisted that Kyle’s time on the far side of existence had left him immune to that particular malady.

So would Madison step aside? No way. But that didn’t mean Kyle was off-limits for Zoe. Far from it. She guided Zoe into the bedroom, where FrankenKyle sat on the bed, looking as happy as he’s ever been. And Zoe joined them. There’s a bit of meta-transgression in this subplot — Emma Roberts and Evan Peters are actually dating in real life; Peters and Taissa Farmiga were the foundational American Horror Story star-crossed love story, the AHSverse’s version of Romeo and Juliet. Who the hell knows where it’s going, although it’s now entirely possible that the season finale of Coven will just be an hour-long orgy scene featuring the entire cast plus guest stars Cheyenne Jackson and Carmen Electra, while in the background the minotaur plays the saxophone solo from “Edge of Glory” on an endless loop.

Meanwhile, Queenie took Delphine out for another field trip. She claimed that the trip was to give the Madame a new hairstyle. Delphine seemed positively ecstatic about the wonders of the hair salon. She was less ecstatic to meet the owner. Marie Laveau was very, very happy to see her. They caged her up, and took a few pints of blood: Queenie, her friend, made the first cut.

So far, Coven hasn’t explored the world of Voodoo very much. Marie has been a distant figure this season, antagonizing from the sidelines while promising a war to come. The mesmerizing final shot of the episode implied that was a purposeful decision by the AHS creators. We saw Marie applying her enemy’s blood to her face. You’ll recall that we met Delphine doing the very same beauty ritual. The sequence was thus rife with moral complexity: In taking revenge on her nemesis, Marie has also become her nemesis.

Or maybe there was even more going on in that scene. We don’t really know how, exactly, Marie has lived so long — the explanation has just been that, basically, she’s super-powerful. Could it be that she has stayed immortal using the same methods that Delphine tried to use almost two centuries ago — that she lives off of the blood of others? Fiona’s uber-plan is to kill off the young witches and use their power to stay young — to essentially take the place of an entire younger generation. Is that how Marie survives, also? Or was the blood makeup just a particularly colorful act of vengeance? “Beautiful,” she said, staring straight at the camera, projecting an air of not-to-be-effed-with pride.

It was a relatively quiet episode, focusing in on a few key characters, with no sign of Myrtle, Misty, Nan, or Neighbor Boy. But let’s be honest: I could watch Danny Huston and Jessica Lange read the phone book to each other. (Sexily, natch.) By the end of the episode, they were back together. Where do you think that particular crazy love affair will end up? Sad to see Queenie turn her back on her Salem sorority? Also, let’s all start taking bets on what’s going to happen next season. Ryan Murphy told EW’s Tim Stack that the next AHS iteration is “not contemporary,” and that it will either shoot in New Orleans or Santa Fe. Working theory: It’ll be set during a post-apocalyptic werewolf-cyborg war, with Jessica Lange essaying the part of Robo-Hillary Clinton and Evan Peter’s Butt essaying the role of Naked Werewolf Butt.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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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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