I was having a conversation with one of my co-workers about "American Horror Story" the other day. He hadn't seen much of the series, but what he had seen he had hated with a white hot passion. At the other end of the spectrum, another one of my co-workers wouldn't miss an episode (well, not without setting her DVR). I can understand both of their perspectives. "American Horror Story" is an acquired taste, and it requires a willingness to jump on the crazy train and hang on tightly. Once you've made that commitment and squeeze your eyes shut to block out some of the leaps in logic, on-the-nose dialogue and just plain batcrap insanity, it's a really fun ride. Unfortunately, this season has required more of a blind eye than usual. 

Tonight's episode seemed like a step in the right direction, though, and I think that's largely because Zoe was hardly in it. The battle of divas (Fiona Goode vs. Marie Laveau) is shaping up to be as brutal and ugly as any civil war, and there seems to be an effort to flesh out both storylines and characters that I can appreciate. I can only hope Zoe finds a special school for girls with extraordinarily sad, puppy-like expressions and transfer there. Then, I might be all in for "Coven." 

Marie's ready to fight In the opening sequence, we get a gruesome flashback to 1961 -- one of Marie's friends, Cora, sends her son Henry off to a newly desegregated high school, sure that New Orleans is ready for change. It isn't, Henry gets hanged by a bunch of racist thugs, and Marie settles the score with zombies. Yes, zombies. This sequence seems not to serve any other purpose than to show us that 1) you don't mess with Marie Laveau (though we already knew that) and 2) zombies. I'm disappointed to see that "AHS" is going with slow zombies, as I've developed a fondness for fast ones. Still, given how old the source material is, I should be impressed Marie's able to make them do anything at all. 

We know, of course, that when Fiona decides to decapitate minotaur/man Bastien and send his head to Marie in a box in a vaguely "Godfather" meets "Se7en" scenario, that Marie is going to be busting out the big guns for payback. And yes, that means zombies. 

Spalding is messed up, but he's not the creepiest guy on the show Poor, poor Spalding. Maybe he was always creepy, but now, with his horned fingernails and greasy, "Rocky Horror Picture Show" hair, watching him having a tea party with his dolls is even more disturbing than it might have been a few decades ago. It's a moderately clever spin that it's Spalding -- not Fiona -- who cuts out his tongue, a little factoid revealed through a flashback set while Fiona is facing the council on murder charges (more on that later). I find it hard to believe that in 1971 he had a crush on Fiona (the massive baby doll collection doesn't exactly mesh with adult sex drive, or even a fetish involving adult women -- "AHS" might have wanted to surround him with Real Dolls or even centerfolds stapled to the wall), but at least that somewhat ties in to what we see in the end sequence -- Spalding has Madison's dead body all to himself with which to play dress up. I'm wondering how this might play out -- I'm seeing shades of Norman Bates' apple granny mom -- but hey, maybe witches stay fresh longer or something.

Still, Spalding has nothing on Delia's seemingly normal husband, Hank. At first, his work trip seems like the stuff of a garden variety affair -- the young redhead shows up, there's sex, and then semi-sweet nothings between the new not-quite-couple. But when Hank tells his new flame that he was a monster for Halloween last year, writer Jennifer Salt might as well have spray painted "HANK KILLS WOMEN" on the wall above the headboard. Still, it's odd that, even though Fiona eventually admits to Delia that Hank "reeks of bullshit," it's strange to me that the Supreme can't smell something far worse all over this guy. 

Madame LaLaurie is learning lots and lots about modern life Right now, it seems as if Madame LaLaurie is largely on hand to provide comic relief, eyes wide at the thought of 21st century Halloween, minotaurs, and the idea that Queenie would bother to save her life. Her increasingly frightened take on the world around her makes her an easy target for Marie, of course, and when her three daughters show up at the door in zombie form, LaLaurie falls apart. I had hoped that Kathy Bates would get to play more of a spitfire, but I guess watching her run around screaming has its charms, too.

The Council drops in Nan, who seems to waver between being a goody-goody and a whiner, calls the Council to find out what happened to Madison. Of her housemates, only Nan seems all that concerned -- and of the council, the only one truly chomping at the bit to (literally) burn Fiona at the stake is Myrtle Snow. Alas, the key witness who could prove Fiona killed the last Supreme isn't talking -- it's Spalding. So, Myrtle tells him to write down the name of the person responsible for mutilating him on a piece of paper. She's livid when he writes down her name, but it's the truth -- before he was supposed to testify in Fiona's last trial, he overheard Myrtle mention that Spalding would be forced to tell the truth because of a spell she put on his tongue. Thus, the cutting (good thing she didn't toss in a spell to force him to write the truth, as it's pretty tough to cut off both of your hands -- the first one, easy, but the second?). Given all Spalding has been through, I guess he deserves a life-size  Fiona knock-off (Madison) to dress up. That may not have been her intention in asking him to get rid of the body, but it seems everyone wins.

Zoe sucks at everything So, how does Kyle (if you can call him that) spend his days now? Banging his head against the bathtub, of course! Zoe stares at him dolefully and gets weepy and is largely useless when it comes to taking care of a Frankenstein's monster, but eventually she decides to feed him. While she's trying to bang out a tuna salad sandwich, she apparently forgot to lock the doors and windows, so Kyle is out on the streets in a flash. Best of all, it's Halloween, so he'll blend right in! And she'll never be able to find him, as every high school guy also has blood all over his face, albeit the fake stuff! Zoe's raging incompetence at everything she sets her mind to is wearing thin, and I'm hoping she ultimately decides to go look for Kyle in Paraguay or Hawaii or someplace where "AHS" just won't bother to go this season.

Luke is sweet on Nan Apparently the way to a man's heart really is through his stomach, because Luke decides to drop by to deliver yummies to Nan as a thank you for the delicious lemon cake she made for him. I'm guessing Nan doctored it up with some love potion, since Luke rushes through the door acting like he wants to lick Nan all over even though she's dressed like one of Spalding's dolls. 

Blood is thicker than booze Delia and Fiona go out drinking, which results in Delia puking up her guts. It's a nice way to cap off the day, given that Delia has told the Council that her mother wouldn't have killed Madison, as she wasn't the next Supreme after all -- she had a heart condition, which automatically ruled her out. This is clearly bad news to Fiona, who now thinks she has to find another young woman to kill (not that she killed Madison, but since there's already a head count...) 

But Fiona doesn't have real problems,  not yet, as Delia walks out of the bathroom stall only to get a vial of something thrown into her face by a veiled woman (possibly Marie? Maybe Myrtle?) that makes her scream like she's being skinned (and I think I heard sizzling). Clearly, the war (which Chantal referred to as ten years of trouble) is being fought on many fronts by Marie and her gang. It's time for Fiona to bring her A game.

Best line of the episode: About that last war between the voodoo practitioners and the witches? Blood was running through the streets, Chantal squeaks in horror! "I used it to paint my day room brick red," Marie snarls. If I foresee more face offs between Angela Bassett and Jessica Lange, to which I say, more please!

Do you think Kyle could recover? Do you think Delia will learn the truth about Hank? Do you think Nan has put a spell on Luke?