American Horror Story recap: Two enthusiastic thumbs up
Unlike previous American Horror Story seasons, 1984 has featured a notable lack of familiar faces: not just in its core cast, but even in one-off cameos. Whither the witches of Coven, the lunatics of Asylum, the latex demons of Murder House?!
Well, wonder no more! Tonight’s episode starts strong with a cameo appearance from multi-season alumnus Lily Rabe, sporting perfect victory rolls and a vintage red lip. It’s 1948 at Camp Golden Star (later, Redwood) and she’s the cook, dishing up nutritious grub for the kiddos, and giving her own sons a chance at some quality time in the great outdoors. Unfortunately, her older boy, Benjamin (sidenote: as in, Jingles?) is a sullen, chubby kid who’s more interested in peeping at the canoodling lifeguards than keeping an eye on his baby bro, Bobby. When Bobby goes swimming unaccompanied, he has his own, uh, intimate encounter with a motorboat (GROSS). Benjamin is suddenly an only child and his mother blames… well, everyone, actually.
“You killed him, every one of you!” she screams.
Roll credits, and we’re back in the ’80s — just in time to see them end. Brooke (Emma Roberts) is detoxing from her near-execution in a hotel room with Donna (Angelica Ross). In between episodes of Doogie Howser, she notices a newspaper advertisement for the Camp Redwood concert and flies into a rage: Margot didn’t just frame her for murder, she says. She made her miss the ’80s, which is so much worse. She wants revenge! And also, a couples skate!
Cut to a very retro roller rink, where Donna and Brooke are approached by another familiar (to us) face: Dylan McDermott, most famous for his turn as the crying, masturbating paterfamilias of the Murder House, is now Bruce, a mustachioed, sideburned, peanut-noshing casanova who’d love to accompany the ladies to Redwood. They decline, because stranger danger, but after Bruce helps them through a spot of car trouble (funny, the distributor cap was loose! for some reason!) they have a change of heart. This is very stupid of them, because like roughly 95 percent of all characters in the American Horror-verse, Bruce turns out to be a hitchhiking serial killer.
After a harrowing escape-and-recapture, Brooke wakes up in a pickup truck, with Donna tied to a long rope behind. Bruce gives Brooke a choice: hit the gas and drag Donna to death, or die. She chooses the former— but she puts it in reverse first, and then shoots Bruce either in or near his wiener (either way, not great for him!) amid the resulting chaos. And then she cuts his thumbs off, which is going to put a serious crimp in both his hitchhiking and crying-while-masturbating game. Sorry, Bruce. That’s a hard row to hoe. (And a very insensitive turn of phrase on my part, since hoeing a row is also basically impossible for a guy without thumbs! Actually, pretty much all farmwork and gardening is off the menu. Hmm. Bruce, how are you at soccer?)
Meanwhile, back at Redwood, the ghosts are all aflutter. All three of the Mister Jingles LARPers from a previous episode are still there and still dressed in their raincoats, although Montana (Billie Lourd) is wearing yet another new outfit. Again, how does fashion work in the afterlife??? Anyway, Jingles (John Carroll Lynch) has arrived and is chatting with the ghosts. They want to commit another massacre in the hopes of luring paranormal experts to the Camp, one of whom will hopefully know how to put their souls to rest. But there’s a problem: they’re not the only ones haunting the place:
“There’s someone else, a woman,” Chet (Gus Kenworthy) says. “She wears a white nightgown and she’s constantly terrorizing us.”
And this is how we learn that Jingles is, in fact, the same Benjamin from all those years ago — and that his mother was the original Camp Redwood killer! (Sidenote: The 1980s slasher influences have been thick on the ground since the season premiere, but this is more like a blatant rip-off of Friday the 13th.) Back in 1948, Mom massacred the camp’s counselors before being stabbed to death by her own son. So she was the first to haunt the camp, and possibly the source of all its evil. She even put the murderous impulses into Margot’s head back in 1970 — and all because she wanted to punish her older son for surviving when his brother, her preferred child, didn’t. She is also, uh, not subtle about her motivations.
“This will never end because I will spend every moment from now to eternity making sure you burn in excruciating agony,” she tells the now-adult Jingles. “It’s what you deserve!”
By now, what happens next should be pretty familiar: everyone converges on the camp, again, and people start dying, again. Honestly, this entire season is like one of those chemistry models where the molecules expand and contract, flying apart and then coming together — except every time they come together, some of the molecules pull out tiny molecule-sized knives and stab some of the other molecules to death, often for no particular reason. So:
Margot (Leslie Grossman) and Trevor (Matthew Morrison), as well as one of the bands, arrive onsite to prep for the Camp Redwood concert. Trevor spots Montana’s ghost lurking nearby and goes off to hook up with her. (Side note, yes, forgot to mention: In the aforementioned analogy, some of the live molecules also sometimes have sex with the dead ones.)
Richard “Nightstalker” Ramirez (Zach Villa) turns up and murders the whole band, but does not have sex with them, at least as far as we know.
And down by the lake, Jingles’ mom shows up to complain that he’s not allowed to sit where his brother died — but then has an abrupt change of heart when he starts talking about how he wants to protect his own son, also named Bobby. The problem is, the Nightstalker’s deal with Satan gives him an advantage over Jingles… unless Jingles kills himself, right here, right now, and then he’ll be an invulnerable ghost!
This is Mom’s recommendation, anyway, and personally, I’d take it with a grain of salt considering that it’s coming from a woman who was calling her son a “parasite” and vowing to torment him forever just before the last commercial break? But Jingles seems to find it convincing, so he guts himself, and now he’s a ghost, too. So, we’ll see how that goes next week. Til then, lights out, campers!
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.