As the proverb goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn, but I suspect dawn will never come to Briarcliff. Instead, the asylum seems pitched into an eternal state of gloom, and while some brave souls try to fight the system, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for them. The darkness of this place is so oppressive, so unrelentingly black, it overwhelms at least one character this week. No spoilers here, but I will say this is one episode that demands your full attention, even as it skips over more details than I would have liked.
Last week Dr. Arden “killed” Kit, with the goal of attracting the aliens that come out of the woodwork when they perceive Kit might be in danger. I’m still curious to know why this poor guy is the chosen one, as I thought the only people to have close encounters with UFOs lived in trailer parks or were Richard Dreyfuss, but maybe next week. In any case, Dr. Arden tells Kit the aliens didn’t appear, but that’s a lie — in addition to seeing the flashing lights we’ve come to associate with the little grey men, he discovered Grace, alive and pregnant and watched over by Pepper (the microencephalitic inmate, though she refers to herself as a pinhead).
Pepper, it seems, is (like everyone else who encounters the aliens) reborn, in her case as a pithy counter to Dr. Arden who refuses to believe the aliens have given Pepper the ability to think. “They laugh at you, Dr. Arden,” she sneers, and I’m pretty sure she’s not only thinking on her own, but thinking some unkind things about our Nazi doctor.
When Dr. Arden threatens to give Grace an emergency C-section, Pepper warns him that, “If anything happens to Grace in here, they’ll take you, open up your brain and stir it with a fork.” It doesn’t come to that, of course, given that an alien force flings Dr. Arden and his scalpel against the wall before he can even attempt to dig into Grace, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it.
I’d love to tell you that Dr. Arden has some continued connection to this storyline, but not so much. We do see Grace again, but Dr. Arden just… moves on. He seems to be fine with sticking a severely pregnant woman in his office, closing the door, and running off to do other things. Of course he’s a busy guy, but this is one of those times when “American Horror Story,” riddled as it is with plots and subplots and randomly stirred-in ideas, seemingly drops a ball. Given how things wrap up, it looks like an oversight in the writer’s room, but I could also grudgingly buy the idea that Dr. Arden is very, very distracted.
One thing Dr. Arden might be distracted by in his unhappy state is Sister Mary Eunice, who has seemingly forgotten all about him as she’s so busy ministering to Monsignor Timothy. Old Timmy pretends to enjoy her attention, but he’s really only trying to hide his fear and loathing. It seems that while he was hanging around on the cross, waiting to be rescued, the Angel of Death dropped in to tell him Sister Jude was right about her underling all along. “The devil is at Briarcliff in your favorite young nun,” she says. “Guard your thoughts, use your rosary. Each bead is his name. This is your moment, Timothy.” Well, that’s all you have to say to Tim-o. A chance to shine? Bring it on!
But when Timothy tries to pray the evil out of Sister Mary Eunice, she shrugs him off, climbs on top of him and, yes, takes his virginity. “Does it feel like a warm, wet hug?” she taunts. For once, Monisignor Timothy is at a loss for words, but his face tells us all we need to know — the horror, the guilt, the physical release and the desperate wish to disengage. To make it just a little more horrible, Dr. Arden walks in and sees everything. In the history of first sexual experiences, Monsignor Timothy might actually win the award for absolute worst ever. Really, it made “American Pie” and any other raunchy teen movie you can think of pale in comparison.
There’s no rest for the wicked, of course, so when Sister Mary Eunice isn’t busy climbing on Tim, she’s trying to destroy Sister Jude/Judy Martin’s mind. When Sister Mary Eunice pretends to have found a cucumber in poor Judy’s cell, she recommends electroshock therapy for Judy — and when Dr. Arden isn’t looking, she turns up the dial to give the deposed nun the maximum amount of juice. Judy emerges like something out of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” stumbling and groggy.
When she ables into the common room, Lana asks her if she remembers her name. After punching the button for “The Name Game” on the jukebox Sister Mary Eunice recently acquired for the residents, Judy indulges in a colorful hallucination (I’m guessing) complete with singing and dancing. Dressed in a cheerful dress and performing the song as her fellow residents celebrate. It’s weird and sad and, as we watch some of the inmates twitch in fast-motion, a little disturbing as well. Does it drive the story forward? Not really, but it gives us a chance to watch Jessica Lange do her thing, and that’s okay.
It also gives us some contrast between the carefree, happy Judy of the hallucination and the Judy who finds herself sitting across from a chastened, broken Monsignor Timothy. It seems he needs to not only apologize, but seek her counsel about Sister Mary Eunice. “Your voice had the gift of moral clarity. I owe you an apology,” he says as she stares at him, as if trying to determine whether or not he’s a seat cushion or a potted plant. “She’s destroyed you, and now she’s destroyed me. I need your counsel… What should I do?”
Up to this point, we have no reason to believe Judy understands a thing the Monsignor is saying. But on some level she knows what needs to be said, even if she can’t revel in the fact that she has been proven right, albeit far too late. “Kill her,” Judy whispers. This time, you can bet Tim is paying attention.
Tim isn’t the only one facing a mighty enemy. Lana and Kit make the unhappy discovery that Dr. Thredson is back at the asylum, having been hired full-time by that crafty Sister Mary Eunice. How convenient! Thredson assures Lana that as long as she carries his son, she’ll stay alive — and, of course, he’ll need her to breast feed the baby for a full year, as that’s what’s best for the baby. Zachary Quinto manages to play the good doctor without winking, which makes the character’s paternal devotion more about his psychotic compartmentalization than the punchline it could be.
Kit, however, doesn’t have Lana’s handy safeguard. Thredson has determined that, after he finds out where he’s hidden the tape by dosing him with large amounts of sodium pentathol, Kit can be carted off by the police or otherwise disposed of. But Thredson discovers he doesn’t need the truth serum, because in sniffing around Dr. Arden’s office he finds something much better — Grace, giving birth. He presents Grace and her baby — in theory Kit’s baby, though I’m wondering if there isn’t a little alien DNA in there, too — to Kit and tells him all he has to do to ensure their survival is cough up the location of the tape. For Kit, it’s an easy decision — he’ll sacrifice anything, even himself, even Lana, to protect his kid. Thredson, so dedicated to his unborn child, knows the power of that connection firsthand.
But Thredson discovers the tape is gone, a children’s book tucked away in its place. Lana has beaten him to the punch. If anything happens to Kit, she’ll make sure the tape gets to the proper authorities, as she is plucky enough to make it happen. Lana has the upper hand, at least for a little while, and I can’t wait to see how this plays out in the few episodes we have left.
We know Dr. Arden is completely unaware that Grace has been discovered, popped out a kid and has been used as a negotiating tool, but, as I said, he’s been busy. After spotting Sister Mary Eunice with Monsignor Timothy, she tries to talk him into giving Sister Jude a transorbital lobotomy, but he refuses. Not because he cares about Sister Jude’s brain turning into mush, but because he doesn’t want to do anything Sister Mary Eunice may want. He tromps into the garden and kills his remaining monsters, then puts the gun to his own head. “You have no idea what it means to have lost you,” he says to Sister Mary Eunice before dropping to his knees.
“Jesus Christ. You’re being pitiful, Arthur,” she says as she tromps away, completely unimpressed.
Besides, now that Monsignor Timothy is set on destroying her, she has to make nice. “Your little fantasy about killing me hasn’t put me off,” she purrs. “On the contrary. I’m going to make all your dreams come true.” She dangles the promise of the Vatican before him, and I’m almost sure he’s considering it — but only for a moment. As the two battle, for an instant the Devil allows the true, our Sister Mary Eunice out, crying and distraught. It can’t be easy for Monsignor Timothy to toss her off the stairs to her death, but amazingly he does it. I’m expecting the Devil to leap out of Sister Mary Eunice and into… someone or something, but, at least this week, it doesn’t seem to have happened.
Dr. Arden suggests to Monsignor Timothy that they cremate the body, and he’d like to do it on his own. I’m trying to sort out what kind of bizarro plans he has for the late sister. Still, it’s a shock when he actually climbs on top of her body and hits the automatic mechanism to ride into the flames along with her, screaming as he dies.
It’s a horrible way to go, albeit a fitting one for a character so dark and ugly (a Nazi to the ovens!). I’m surprised that it seems her decision to “cheat” on him with Monsignor Timothy seemed to be a line in the sand for him, as he seemed well aware that the good sister was being inhabited by the devil. Really, what did he expect? Loyalty? Purity? And why not stick around to sort out the alien issue? Discovering Grace must have been a shock, and I’m sure he had questions. We certainly do. His decision to commit suicide isn’t totally nonsensical, but it seems an abrupt decision tied to one (admittedly major) disappointment, an odd way to go for a character so otherwise controlled. It’s a big, memorable send-off, but perhaps that scene is what drove the story instead of the other way around.
But his head couldn’t have been any more scrambled than Judy’s post-electroshock, of course, and we end on her visit with the Mother Superior. She’s babbling wildly about how she’s going to marry Monsignor Timothy in the Vatican and not making a tremendous amount of sense, when she manages to grab hold of one coherent thought. Pointing out Lana across the room, she tells the Mother Superior she needs to help her get out. I can only hope, seeing how she’s failed to save Jude, the Mother Superior will make an extra effort for Lana. But that would be too optimistic, I’m sure.