Well, the fun keeps on rolling at the non-stop carnival that is Briarcliff Asylum, and I’m thinking everyone on this particular ride desperately wants to get off of it. As we all know, bad things are about to happen. The only question, really, is who will be the unlucky one on this episode. Or, I should say, unlucky ones.
The first potential victim is a new character — Anne friggin’ Frank. Seriously. The show takes a turn into “Once Upon A Time” territory by (possibly) tossing in an iconic literary character; given that we already have Dr. Frankenstein in the form of Dr. Arden, I’m expecting cameos from Snow White and Captain Hook any minute. As much as I enjoy the tossing-spaghetti-at-the-wall madness of this campfest, at times it can feel random, less like homage than writers opening up Wikipedia, closing their eyes, and typing wildly into the search box. This would be one of those times.
Anyway, as played by Franke Potente, this version of Anne Frank is all grown up, pissed-off and ready to cut anyone who gets in her way, sort of like Anne Frank: Vampire Killer, I suppose. When Anne (or whoever she is) ends up in the asylum for slicing some anti-Semitic oafs like kosher brisket, she doesn’t seem entirely sane — but sitting down with Sister Jude to discuss exactly why she’s kept her identity a secret (given the power of the book, she soon realized she could do more good dead than alive), she makes a pretty compelling case for being Anne Frank. More importantly, she makes an even better case as to Dr. Arden’s true identity — an evil S.S. scientist under Hitler’s command during WWII who conducted horrific experiments on some of the internees. Sounds like Dr. Arden to me! And also “Marathon Man” with some “The Human Centipede” thrown in. I’m telling you, the mash-ups on this show are starting to make my head hurt.
I suspect some very bad things could also be awaiting Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto). He’s simply getting too involved in the lives of the patients in the asylum, and he seems far too comfortable messing with Sister Jude (Jessica Lange). Sister Jude isn’t as completely evil as, say, Sister Mary Eunice (who is actually possessed by the devil), but she’s no slouch in the messing-people-up department. In this episode, Thredson decides he’s going to try to bend the rules for not one but two patients — Lana and Kit. He informs Lana that, if she agrees to work with him on aversion therapy for her lesbianism, he’ll spring her from lock-up. When she hesitates, he gives her a kindly but serious look from behind his nerd-cool glasses and sighs. “You’re a fish out of water, gasping for life. It won’t end well, believe me.” Lana, not being an idiot, agrees to be treated for something she knows full well isn’t an illness at all.
Aversion therapy, unfortunately, isn’t as easy as glancing through dirty magazines and declaring oneself cured. No, Thredson pumps a puke-inducing substance into her veins to make her feel sick while viewing images of sexy women, then moves on to more dramatic measures. “I think you might actually enjoy this part,” Dr. Thredson stupidly suggests before embarking on a painfully misguided experiment. After recruiting handsome, long-haired Daniel to strip down in front of Lana, Thredson urges her to touch herself while she strokes Daniel’s “tumescence.” Given that it’s 1964, I would think this would then make it necessary for Thredson to deprogram Lana for masturbating, but never mind.
Shockingly enough, this decidedly creepy, wildly humiliating and deeply unsexy exchange also makes Lana puke, but no matter. Thredson isn’t giving up on Lana. She may be gay, but the least he can do is get her out of Briarcliff. “I’m leaving here on Friday and I’m taking you with me,” he whispers to her, which will give her yet another glimmer of hope and probable ensures he’s dead as a doornail by the conclusion of episode five.
Still, he also offers hope, though maybe not quite as much, to Kit. He doesn’t think our unlucky UFO abductee is a bad person and he doesn’t think he’s insane. Still, that doesn’t mean he thinks the kid is innocent, either. “I am willing to lie to the courts in order to save your life. But only under one condition,” he says to Kit as a warm-up to imploring him to face to the crimes he’s committed through therapy. If Kit can simply work through the subconscious issues that led him to kill, the good doctor will make sure he gets to live out his life in the asylum instead of meeting certain death by execution. Of course, I’m not so sure surviving in the asylum is such a great option, given that Dr. Arden is spending some of his spare time beating the hell out of Kit and X-raying him to the brink of lymphoma. Plus, there’s also the little matter of Sister Jude’s nasty plan for him as well as Grace.
As hard as it is to believe that anyone feels like getting it on in this hellhole, Kit and Grace somehow summon up the hormones to get the job done. After Grace tells Kit her “story” about how her stepmother and father were murdered in an elaborate scam to steal the family farm, she and Kit debate his guilt. Rather, Kit debates his guilt. Grace doesn’t give a crap, as he could say almost anything and she’d still lift her industrial grey sack dress for him. Which, in fact, she does, right on the kitchen table where he was kneading bread. This makes me think that the simple carbs at Briarcliff will do more substantial harm than simply aggravating someone’s undiagnosed Crohn’s disease.
Unfortunately, the lovebirds get caught with their pants down (well, Kit does) and they’re dragged before Sister Jude. Grace is ready to take her beating, but a harsher punishment awaits — sterilization. This seems a little extreme, even for Sister Jude, but I guess she’s had a pretty lousy week. Kit and Grace are dragged off to separate cells, but not before Dr. Thredson gets a chance to plant an unsavory truth in Kit’s brainpan — Grace’s tale of being framed for murders she didn’t commit is about as true as most political campaign promises, and Grace really did hack her dad and his new wife to death. Kit, who can talk to Grace but not touch her, cajoles the truth out of her. It turns out that her dad was a molester, her stepmom ignored the truth and, when her beloved horses were sold, Grace saw no reason not to get in touch with her inner Lizzie Borden. “Have I opened your eyes, Kit?” she asks. “Are you repulsed by what I am.”
“No. I admire you,” Kit says, clearly jealous that his new girlfriend can kill someone and not block it out or imagine UFOs were involved. Some girls have all the luck!
Kit, so unnerved by Dr. Thredson’s efforts to force him to confront the murders he so obviously (not) committed, finally does something drastic — he goes to Sister Jude to ask her to help him find God. It’s almost the most shocking scene in the episode, or at least it seems to be for Sister Jude, who can’t believe anyone is actually asking for her help to do anything.
After all, the one person she admires most — Monsignor Timothy — certainly doesn’t appreciate her. When she finds homicide detectives pestering Dr. Arden about a prostitute’s accusations that he attacked her and, more significantly, has some scary porn and Nazi memorabilia in his possession, she doesn’t seem to notice that the police are interested in him for one of the Bloody Face murders that took place after Kit was imprisoned. No, she tells the good father about her suspicion that Dr. Arden is a former SS psychopath, an accusation that Monsignor Timothy not only pushes aside, but twists around into an opportunity to tells Sister Jude she’s a drunk and a sore loser. She can’t know that Timothy already knows the truth about Dr. Arden — and gives the doc the tip off that other people, including Sister Jude, are on to him.
It’s a good thing Anne Frank isn’t waiting around for Sister Jude to do anything helpful. She confronts Dr. Arden, and when he seems ready to turn her into another one of his experiments, she pulls out a gun and shoots the bastard in the leg. After she gets the key out of Arden, she runs for the door but opens the wrong one. And there, in all her nightmare-inducing glory, is Shelley.
Shelley, covered in sores, her legs gone, crawling like an animal. so far removed from the desperate sexpot she used to be. Her eyes wild, she screams, “Kill me,” and I desperately hope someone does. But that would be a small mercy, and as we know, there aren’t too many of those in the nightmare-inducing halls of Briarcliff.
What do you think of Anne Frank? What do you think Dr. Arden has on Monisgnor Timothy? What do you think will happen to Lana and Dr. Thredson?