For the record, “American Horror Story” does not get you into the holiday spirit. Or maybe, if you really, really hate the holidays and want to kill anyone who wishes you a chipper “Season’s greetings!” in late October, or who camps out on Black Friday or deep fries their turkey and accidentally sets an entire city block on fire, this might be just the show for you. And hey, there are even cooking tips in this episode! As Dr. Thredson says, “Nutmeg makes all the difference in the world.” If you have not seen this episode, you might think that’s handy advice. And if you have seen this episode? You may never, ever cook with, eat or use the word nutmeg again. As if I needed another reason not to eat pumpkin pie.
This episode is called “Origins of Monstrosity,” and as you might guess, we get a little insight into what makes “AHS” monsters tick. Well, beyond killing people. We start in modern time, with someone who may or may not be Bloody Face (Dr. Thredson would have to be well into his 70s at this point, so I’ll be really impressed if he still has the stamina to be taking out twentysomething smart alecks) telling the police to come pick up some bodies at Briarcliff, which he has hung artfully in the entry way. If it wasn’t so gruesome, it would be a great instillation piece. Damian Hurst is probably working on something like it as we speak.
But it’s time to go back to the 60s, where we meet sweet, little Jenny. Her mom wants to drop her off at Briarcliff. Sister Jude has no place to storehouse kids, but, just for kicks, what’s wrong with Jenny? Well, she killed her playmate Josie. With scissors. In the chest. Mom’s a little scared of Jenny. “Where does this evil come from? Could she have been born this way?” she asks Sister Jude, who has no response.
Speaking of evil, Lana’s still hanging out with Dr. Thredson, despite a deceptively cozy scene in which she wakes up in her own bed, pictures of her sweetheart on the bedside table. But Ollie has just moved her bed into his killing room, where he’s making her grilled cheese and ham on a hot plate. “Is there anything more heavenly than awaking from a nap to the smell of croque-monsieur?” he purrs. “Can I tell you a secret? Nutmeg makes all the difference in the world.” Yeah, this would be the bit that gets you to swear off nutmeg, I think.
Dr. Thredson then gives Lana his tale of woe. At first I thought, hey, he really is going to give her his bio, so maybe she’ll live long enough to publish! Um, no. He has other, creepier plans. Lana is about the age his mother was when she abandoned him. He grew up in the system, where he was given the essentials for life – but never, ever a hug. “Touch would certainly spoil the child,” he explains.
So, what are his plans for Lana? He knows she isn’t his mom, but cosmically she could be his mom. Anyway, he’s craving a mother’s touch. And the problem with dead women? Their skin is all cold and gross and waxy, and they smell. So, he wants Lana to be his living mommy! Lana is clearly thrilled at this turn of events.
Now, I’m a little confused by this – I thought Sister Jude had stripped off her habit and run away to pick up men at bars, but I guess she decided to come right back, shimmied into her habit and resumed normal operations. Even though her goose is cooked. Anyway, when the Nazi hunter calls her, she is in a rush to get off the phone. That crazy Anne Frank! Except she was right. He has all the information about Dr. Arden’s evil past, but he needs one last thing – a fingerprint. So, Sister Jude has to figure out a way to get a fingerprint. From Dr. Arden.
As if she doesn’t have enough to worry about, Jenny wanders in to let her know her mom kissed her on the cheek, told her to be good – then booked the hell out of Briarcliff.
But Sister Jude doesn’t really have problems. No, Monsignor Timothy has to give last rights to a patient so horribly mutated, so terrifying in visage that no one else is willing to do it. Guess who? Shelley! And Monsignor Timothy knows exactly who she is.
Of course, all of this begs the question of what Dr. Arden has over Monisgnor Timothy to have him go along with his cray-cray torturing of mental patients. Wonder and you will receive, as we flash back to 1962, when Briarcliff was a tuberculosis ward and Dr. Arden was about to hand over the reigns to Tim. But wait, Dr. Arden has an idea! He’s working on an immune booster, one which will save all Americans from nuclear attack. He just needs to do, um, some human testing. But it’s a good thing, really. “A good that would not go unnoticed, even in Rome,” he says, making Tim’s face light up like a kid’s at Christmas.
Well, that light’s gone out in a hurry since Monsignor Timothy saw the creepfest that was Shelley expire before his eyes. He goes storming into Dr. Arden’s lair and declares him a monster. Arden won’t be so easily condemned. He shows the boss the latest creation “his benevolence has produced,” which is pedophile Spivey, writhing beneath a veil of boils on a surgical slab. Then, he reminds good ol’ Tim that if he goes down, he’s taking the Monisgnor with him. He also hints at bigger, badder secrets to be revealed about Tim. Besides, he reminds him that they “have a threat in common.” And that would be poor Sister Jude. Woman can’t catch a break, can she?
Monsignor Timothy informs her that she’ll be moving to a home for wayward girls in Pittsburgh, and of course Sister Jude is crushed. I want to tell Sister Jude to pack her things fast and get out the door as quickly as her feet will carry her, but she doesn’t see it that way. She’s pissed, and she’s specifically pissed at Dr. Arden. When she goes down to visit him with a bottle of booze and two clean glasses, determined to get his fingerprint, I’m sure that Arden is going to inject her with something, lop off her legs and turn her into a bubble-covered plant holder. But their encounter is surprisingly drama free. Not that that precious fingerprint is going to do the sister a lick of good.
Sister Mary Eunice is, it seems, mostly the devil but still a little bit of herself. Chatting with Jenny, and encouraging her “gift of authentic impulse” (what the rest of us would call stabbing someone who pisses you off with scissors), she recalls how much of a patsy she’s been in her life, letting mean girls convince her to jump off a diving board naked and generally get picked on. I’m not sure what this little flashback is supposed to tell us, other than the fact that girls can be mean, but we already knew that.
After she chats with the sweet little girl who kills people, Sister Mary Eunice goes off to do some bloodletting of her own, stabbing poor Mr. Goodman in the neck. When Sister Jude finds him in a puddle of his own blood, all he can tell her is that a nun did it – and we’re pretty sure Sister Jude will figure out her much-changed protégé is to blame. But what can she do about it in Pittsburgh?
No matter – Sister Mary Eunice is already off to visit Dr. Arden and assure him everything has been taken care of, and his dark past is hidden away once more. And, oh yes, she’ll be keeping some of the evidence of his Nazi membership, should he choose to “double cross” her. Dr. Arden doesn’t ask too many questions (one question might be, how did you, tiny nun, take care of the problem exactly?) But he does ask the important question. “I know you’re not in love with me. I’m too old, too ugly. What do you want from me?”
Not a thing! Except that he trust her with his “entire soul.” And in return, she promises him “everything will work out.”
So, all’s well with Dr. Arden, but what about Lana? And Dr. Thredson? Whom I’m starting to find calling Dr. Arden a little formal and a little too respectful, as he is off-the-chain crazy. He almost demands a nickname, but then, he does have one already – Bloody Face. When Kit calls Ollie (I’m going with that) from jail to call him a “phony, lying bastard,” which is entirely too true, Lana takes the opportunity to hack away at her ankle chains. But when Ollie comes back and discovers her handiwork, he’s in no mood for forgiveness. Alas, it’s time to kill again. And Lana seemed so perfect!
On goes the icky mask, out come the sharp instruments. But wait, don’t count Lana out yet. Even as he makes a move to cut her, she… forgives him. “A mother’s love is unconditional,” she says, trying her best to remain calm. “Everyone deserves that. Even you. Baby.”
It’s a gamble, but it works. Off comes the mask, down goes the sharp instrument, and Ollie actually cries a little before declaring, “Baby needs colostrum” and suckling Lana’s breast. It’s horrible, but I’m a little relieved. For the moment, at least, Lana’s alive.
But before we can heave a sigh of relief, we blast back to the present, where the police are realizing that Teresa is missing. Where could she be? With Bloody Face, of course. Or whoever is pretending to be Bloody Face. I guess we’ll find out at some point. Here’s hoping Teresa remembered to pack a shiv.
Oh, and little Jenny? She kills her whole family. The end.
I’m always a little conflicted when we learn the supposed reasons a killer is what he or she is. Is it really as simple as Thredson not getting hugs? Should we just set fire to orphanages everywhere, as they’re likely riddled with future serial killers? Of course, Jenny put the lie to the idea that evil intent is so easily explained, which is a welcome (if not nice) touch. I don’t think “American Horror Story” will reveal anything about the darkness of the human heart that we don’t already know, but I’m curious to see where the show takes us next. Although I could do without that Bloody Face mask.
Who do you think is committing the Bloody Face murders in the present? What do you think Sister Mary Eunice (or really, the Devil) hopes to accomplish? And do you think Lana will someday be able to break free?