Scream Queens premiere recap: Pilot and Hell Week
Welcome to Kappa Kappa Tau, the sorority pledges are dying to get into.
If Scream and Mean Girls had unprotected sex atop the detritus from nine rounds of beer pong while “Bad Blood” played in the background, the fruit of their loins would probably look something like Scream Queens — the latest horror story from producers Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan.
In familiar Murphinian style, Scream Queens delights in poking fun at, well, everything. Some targets worthy (pumpkin spice lattes), some not (deaf people). Whether or not you relish equal-opportunity mockery will likely dictate whether you suck up Scream Queens like some sort of bittersweet cocktail. (Be sure to check out my colleague Melissa Maerz’s review for even more commentary.)
But enough of that: Shall we get to recapping, idiot hookers?
We open in 1995, with a scene ripped from I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant: Sorority House Edition. A Kappa Kappa Tau pledge—under the mistaken impression that she’s hiding nothing more than the Freshman 15 beneath her yellow taffeta — has just given birth in an upstairs bathtub, while a party rages downstairs. Her disgusted sisters won’t deign to help her until they’ve properly jammed to TLC’s “Waterfalls.” (“A lonely mother gazing out of her window…”) Cut to approximately four minutes and 39 seconds later, and Teen Mom has bled out. Oops. The baby seems to be fine though. Note that.
Now we fast-forward to the present, 20 years later. The Kappa house is ruled by Chanel No. 1 (Emma Roberts), with minions Chanel No. 2 (pop tart Ariana Grande), Chanel No. 3 (Billie Lourd), and Chanel No. 5 (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine no more) nipping at her heels like so many pitiful Maltipoos. All is not well in House Kappa. A new Dean (’70s scream queen and yogurt aficionado Jamie Lee Curtis in a winking turn) has won the academic game of thrones and is out to stymie the sorority. Dean Munsch accuses Chanel of Lannister-ian plottings after a spray tan incident left the previous Chanel No. 1 burned and disfigured last year. (Hydrochloric acid will do that to a person.) It’s worth noting this bronzed flashback offers our first look at the Red Devil — a menacing costumed figure and this series’ Big Bad. But before Dean Munsch can revoke the girls’ charter, in walks Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad), the national president of Kappa Kappa Tau and a lawyer who graduated from a fourth-tier law school in the Caribbean. Gigi’s efforts ensure the side-boob mixer will go on this year, but she agrees with the Dean that changes are needed.
NEXT: Grace under peer pressure
Now, every Evil Queen needs her Snow White, and this story’s seemingly fair princess is named Grace (Skyler Samuels), an entering freshman. Daddy’s (Oliver Hudson) driving her to college, and as Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” wafts from the stereo speakers, he’s begging his daughter not to rush a sorority. But dead mom was in one, she argues! Why can’t she be in the sisterhood too?! (Yes, dead mom. Is Grace the Bathtub Baby? Only if someone is lying about her age because the math doesn’t quite add up. Thank you, college calculus.) Anyway, Daddy’s pleading does little to stop Grace — in fact, she recruits her roommate Zayday (Keke Palmer) to rush as well, since it might just help fulfill her presidential aspirations. (Okay, sure.)
At a mixer full of Megyn Kelly clones, Dean Munsch and Gigi reveal their plan: Anyone who is currently enrolled at the college can become a Kappa pledge. Which means Neck Brace (Lea Michele), Deaf Taylor Swift (Whitney Meyer), and Candle Vlogger (Breezy Eslin) are all eligible. (But seriously, will someone buy that Nancy Meyers Experience candle for me? I want my apartment to smell like creamy couches.) The Chanels, of course, are livid. Chanel No. 1 harrumphs off to complain to sort-of boyfriend Chad, who’s hitting golf balls at hippies with Gay Brother Boone (Nick Jonas). Chad bottom-lines it for Chanel: He “can’t date a garbage person.” (Though, apparently, he’s not above sleeping with the Dean…)
Chanel hatches her own plan, one she reveals to maid Ms. Bean while at the coffee shop ordering her trenta, five-shot, no-foam, pumpkin spice, half-caf, no-foam latte from barista-investigative-reporter Pete. She’s going to kill Ms. Bean in the deep fryer. Okay, she’s only going to make it look like she killed Ms. Bean in the deep fryer. The oil’s going to be cold, silly. (Question: Do all sorority houses have deep fryers? Did I miss out on four years of deep-fried Oreos by not rushing a sorority? Did I waste the best years of my life!? PLEASE ADVISE.)
Back at the house with all of the Chanels and pledges gathered, No. 1 let’s her scheme unfold. Except… someone has actually turned on the deep fryer, and Ms. Bean is scalded to the point of her flesh dripping off of her face. (I was eating my Massaman curry takeout at this point. Big mistake.) And so, you know, the maid’s dead. Grace wants to nark, but Chanel uses the promise of boyfriends and trips to Cancun to persuade the other pledges to falsely accuse Grace of the crime if she does so. (They were stupid not to hold out for iPads if you ask me…) In such a lovely display of team work and sisterly camaraderie, the girls drag Ms. Bean’s body to the freezer and hide her there.
But Grace is too much of a goody-two-shoes for this s—, so she turns to Pete (whom she met at the coffee house during the Great Pumpkin Spice Latte Kerfuffle of 2015) for advice. But when they go to examine the body, they find the same thing that Chanel and Chad do: It’s missing. Chanel soothes herself with the delusion that Ms. Bean isn’t actually dead. Because that makes total sense.
You know who else is over this s—? Chanel No. 2. She has a potential career as a newscaster to protect, after all! She runs upstairs to pack her things and leave… until she’s interrupted by an ominous text from “Unknown.” It reads: “Brave enough to open the door?” And whether brave or simply dumb, she does it, finding the Red Devil on the other side.
He (she?) texts again: “So you want to dance with the devil.”
She replies: “Maybe.”
The Red Devil dips Chanel No. 2 before texting: “I’m going to kill you now.”
To which she ludicrously responds: “Wait, whaaaat!?!?!”
Good to his/her word, the Red Devil plunges a knife into No. 2’s chest. But she’s not dead! She crawls to her laptop to tweet for her life until she’s mercilessly stabbed again. No. 2 pops up once more — just long enough to hit enter on her 140 characters. (Which looked a lot longer than 140 characters.) Millenials.
NEXT: Heads up
Cue the hazing (which Grace is curiously absent from). It involves the pledges being buried up to their heads in the yard—a “Sexy Gopher Whore Head Challenge.” But, as you could have probably predicted, it goes horribly awry when the Red Devil takes a spin on a lawnmower decapitating Deaf Taylor Swift. Wielding some very poor logic, Dean Munsch and Gigi convince the girls to stay in the Kappa house until the murder is sorted out. At least they won’t be there without protection! Enter security guard Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash). Here’s her firm’s three-step plan the girls must follow to stay safe:
1. If you’re in danger, scream Denise Hemphill’s name.
2. If you don’t get a response from Denise Hemphill, it’s because she’s not there. So call 1-866-KLJ-0199.
3. If no one answers, get the hell out of there.
All in all, pretty straightforward. Grace isn’t content to just sit around, though, so she and Pete go back to investigating, this time splitting up. Grace breaks into the house’s creepy closet room—where Chanel finds her and tells her the legend of the Bathtub Baby. And its conclusion is a juicy one: Dean Munsch supposedly covered up the death (ostensibly with Bean’s help). Grace helpfully muses that there must be some connection between that death 20 years ago and the recent lethal incidents. Bound for Valedictorian, that one.
Meanwhile, Pete breaks into the Dean’s office and is bludgeoned (but not killed) by the Red Devil. He’s left dangling outside the administration building wearing a sign that reads: “MYOB.” (“Mind Your Business” for you olds out there. Which includes me.)
Grace and Pete reconvene in his dorm room to compare notes, and what does Grace find in his closet?! A Red Devil costume. What. I mean. He’s the mascot. C’moooooon. (This is a total red herring, right?) Grace immediately asks how old Pete is. He’s just about to turn 20. The same age as the Bathtub Baby.
But there’s not much time for theorizing because the Red Devil strikes again while the pledges are doing mayo shots in their underwear. You see, Chanel went upstairs to fetch something from her room, where she reportedly (REPORTEDLY), was nearly thrown from the window by the serial killer. The girls race up after her to find out what’s waiting for them. (Denise wisely stays put downstairs). And, honestly, if you ask me (which I guess you are if you’re reading this recap), their reaction (gasps, cries, SCREAMS) to the words “Sluts Will Die” scrawled in red paint in Chanel’s bedroom, is a touch dramatic. (Transfer to Juilliard if you’re into theatrics.)
Actually, speaking of institutions where teens sing and dance (Camp Rock), let’s turn our attention to Nick Jonas/Boone because he’s the Red Devil’s next victim. Sort of. Boone was planning to out himself and then join up with KKT, but his dreams are dashed when, after a completely gratuitous workout scene (I’m not complaining), he comes face to face with the masked murder and ends up flayed and splayed atop the frat’s dining room table. But before you break out into a rousing chorus of “This Is Our Song”—Boone’s not dead! The episode’s final twist is that the Red Devil owns a morgue (I guess?!), and he/she opens a drawer to reveal a very alive Boone. So they’re… in cahoots?
Prime Suspects: Each week I’ll review the facts, à la Jerry Orbach in Law and Order, and pick my prime suspects for the murders. We’re clearly looking at a team here, right? Boone and someone else? (A trio theory feels a bit advanced at this point.) Anyway, I’m going to say Boone… and Chanel No. 1. We already know she’s capable of killing right?
Until next week, leave your thoughts and theories in the comments!