If there was any doubt, 1964 (especially at Briarcliff) was not the year of the woman. I’m not sure if this show is an impassioned indictment of how women were disempowered decades ago or just an excuse for mutilating some of them on screen, but the truth is that this episode was probably a rough one for anyone — male or female — to watch.
Sister Jude, so moved by Anne Frank’s claims about Dr. Arden, takes Mother Claudia’s advice and connects with a Nazi hunter. Mr. Goodman not only promises to look into Sister Jude’s suspicions, he thinks Anne Frank’s complaints could be dead on. “Have you heard of Operation Paperclip?” he asks, before describing how some SS scientists ended up stateside and how all of them have a tattoo of their blood types on their upper bodies. But don’t be trying to get Dr. Arden half naked, Sister Jude! The one thing Goodman doesn’t want her to do is collar him herself. If he is who she suspects he is, Dr. Arden is far too dangerous to bring down alone.
Unfortunately, Anne Frank hasn’t gotten that memo. Having already shot Dr. Arden, she’s ready to blow his brains out — until Sister Mary Eunice shows up. “I’ve waited so many years for this, I can wait a few more minutes,” Anne Frank says, stupidly. Unfortunately, a few more minutes means a lost opportunity. I always wonder why anyone hesitates to either get away or kill someone in a TV show or movie. Take the shot! Run! Come on! Anyway, Anne Frank is disarmed, and we soon learn that Anne Frank may not be Anne Frank anyway. Her husband shows up at the asylum and reveals her name is actually Charlotte — and after their baby was born, she became obsessed with the famed diaries and definitely disinterested in her colicky kid. It’s a perfectly logical explanation which I don’t entirely trust.
Dr. Thredson happens to walk by and pops in with his diagnosis — postpartum psychosis! Her husband, however, thinks she’s just a “very emotional person” who doesn’t like to hear babies crying all day. Even though Dr. Thredson seems to have the stronger case, he is not her doctor, as Sister Jude handily points out. Rightly fearing that Anne Frank/Charlotte will be murdered if she stays in the asylum, the sympathetic (in this case) sister releases her to her husband’s care. Whether or not Anne Frank is who she claims to be, it doesn’t matter. Dr. Arden is probably already plotting his revenge as some unlucky medical professional excises the bullet from his leg. Can’t keep a bad man down!
And for anyone hoping that the discovery of Shelley might bring down Dr. Arden’s shaky house of cards, no dice. When Sister Jude investigates Dr. Arden’s rooms, she sees no sigh of the monster he’s turned Shelley into — and Anne Frank/Charlotte only looks that much crazier for having claimed to see her. I realize that, once someone has checked into Briarcliff, all of their complaints (no matter how valid) are necessarily viewed with skepticism by both the other characters and viewers, but I’m still hoping that Goodman (thanks for the obviously heroic name, “AHS”) manages to find the kernel of truth in what Anne Frank is saying.
Trapped in their isolation cells, Kit and Grace talk about how “there’ll be no tomorrow for either of us” — right up until Kit is freed from solitary. He won’t be getting “fixed,” as Sister Jude thinks he’s repented for his lustful acts. Grace, however, isn’t so lucky. She’s going to go under the knife — but before that, she’s going to get abducted by aliens. Talk about a crappy day for Grace.
While on the great alien operating table, she sees Alma, pregnant and reassuring her that she should just relax, as there’ s nothing she can do. When Grace comes to, she’s bleeding from what I’m may or may not have been Dr. Arden’s attempt to sterilize her (or hey, maybe it was the aliens’ handiwork), and Kit is being dragged away. But more on that in a minute. This episode is so chock full of crazy it’s hard to keep track of the plot twists.
Kit may have been saved from the knife, but he can’t escape Dr. Thredson and his persistent need for his poor patient to confess to all the horrible crimes he’s accused of committing — and doing so into a tape recorder. I smell a trap, but Kit doesn’t have a lot of choices — Dr. Thredson says he’ll testify that Kit was insane at the time of the murders if Kit confesses to them, and as miserable as life may be in Briarcliff, it’s still not the electric chair.
Meanwhile, Sister Jude is discovering that her life in Briarcliff is about to end. Dr. Arden, who comes back from the hospital raring for justice, fully intends to press charges — not against Anne Frank, but against Sister Jude. He’s going to call the cops, the Monsignor, everyone — and Sister Jude will be exposed as a shoddy mother, so to speak. He’d consider forgiving all if she’d just prostrate herself before him, but to Sister Jude’s credit, she’s too proud for that. Still, she knows, as she says, “It’s over for me. My goose is cooked,” after telling the guard a long, sad story about how she prayed for a dead squirrel to come back to life when she was a little kid. This is just an excuse to let Jessica Lange act the hell out of something, and if this is the character’s coda, by all means.
The guard shakes his head sadly, pointing out that, as a strong woman, she “never really had a chance.” It’s a sad moment, and a somewhat jarring opportunity for the show to toss in some feminist dictum to help us get through the less-than-female-friendly plot twists the show (and horror in general) thrive on. But part of me is relieved to think that Sister Jude may actually be getting out of this place alive and in one piece. Not everyone is going to be so lucky.
So, how did Shelley manage to disappear just moments after Anne Frank/Charlotte saw her? Sister Mary Eunice/The Devil, of course! As she tends to Dr. Arden’s bullet wound, she suggests to him that he’ll be running Briarcliff soon — and once he takes over, she’d love to become his “strong right hand.” Dr. Arden takes this under advisement, then asks how she managed to hide Shelley. “You’d be surprised. She weighed very little.” Cue gagging as we watch a helpful quick edit of Shelley being dragged across the floor.
Of course, Sister Mary Eunice (who just loves to make trouble now that she’s got The Devil in her) doesn’t hide Shelley all that well. Shelley starts climbing up a set of outdoor stairs at the local school, her face a mass of boils, her teeth askew, her legs missing. Children scream and even the teacher who comes to see what’s the matter yells her head off. “It’s a monster!” someone shrieks, and it’s impossible not to feel for Shelley, who once was able to turn heads even with a patch of hair shaved from her head, but now attracts attention for all the wrong reasons.
Though Shelley is (possibly?) free and Sister Jude is shedding her habit and taking off to bed guys at bars before robbing them, two other women aren’t as lucky (not that the first two are lucky at all — it’s just relative). Anne Frank/Charlotte’s husband brings her back to the asylum after she tries to strangle their son. When Dr. Arden says he can help her with a surgical procedure, we can guess instantly what that means — a lobotomy.
I’m thinking this is going to end in a “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” homage, but weirdly, it doesn’t. Anne Frank/Charlotte does her hair, hugs her baby, and makes pot roast. All that WWII/Anne Frank/Nazi stuff? Pfft, throw it away! I’m not convinced she’s become a happy, smiling Stepford wife, and once we see that Dr. Arden is actually standing behind Hitler in one of the photos she’s clipped, I’m also not convinced she’s going to leave him alone, either.
Back at the asylum, Lana thinks she’s finally, finally going to get out. Dr. Thredson is risking everything to free her, and she’s just so grateful. What a swell guy, that Dr. Thredson! It’s only when she enters his immaculate apartment and realizes one of the lampshades IS MADE FROM HUMAN SKIN that she understands she’s leapt out of the frying pan and into the roaring, sadistic flames. Lana tries to escape, but she’ s no match for Bloody Face himself, who’s conveniently convinced poor Kit to confess to his crimes (with that handy tape recorder running, natch).
As Dr. Thredson explains in his disarmingly calm voice, he’s kept Lana’s girlfriend on ice just for her. “Normally by now I would have removed the skin and head,” he says, as if he expects a little thanks for his restraint as Lana squirms around on the tile floor of his torture chamber. “We’re going to continue our therapy, Lana,” he says, pulling on his hideous Bloody Face mask. “I took her teeth.”
It’s a horrible, hideous twist, and it’s to Zach Quinto’s credit that he portrayed Dr. Thredson as so utterly calm and charming that, even when we had to assume he was up to no good, we had a hard time believing it. I’m guessing we’ve seen the last of Lana, unless Dr. Thredson changes course and decides to let her write his story before he lops off her head and turns her into a lampshade. In that case, it would be the psycho killer version of Stephen King’s “Misery” plus a dash of Sheherazade and “One Thousand and One Nights,” which, given the fact we’re one character away from this turning into the horror version of “Once Upon A Time,” wouldn’t surprise me at all.
Did you see the twist with Dr. Thredson coming? Do you think we’ve seen the last of Sister Jude? And what about Anne Frank/Charlotte?