American Horror Story Asylum, S2E6: Origins of Monstrosity
Original Airdate: November 21, 2012
Recap by Sarabeth Pollock
Given the season, I’d like to offer thanks to my faithful readers who follow along with me through this madness known as American Horror Story: Asylum. I’d also like to give thanks that I am not an inmate at Briarcliff. Thank goodness for that. But tonight’s story is about origins…and what a story it is….
So…remember when poor Teresa and Leo were trying to make their escape from present day Briarcliff? Yeah, it has been a while. The last thing we saw was the “real” Bloody Face giving chase to the two imposters who thought they were pulling a prank on the unfortunate newlyweds. Well, the prank was on them. At any rate, Teresa had tried to place a 911 call. She got through, and then she got. She dropped the phone. The show tonight begins with another 911 call from Briarcliff. The 911 operator answers and a man tells her to send officers to Briarcliff. We see them enter and start searching the grand entryway. The man’s voice continues to say that he disposed of the imposters. The voice says that he’s “been a busy boy,” and he promises that they’ll know who he is when they see his work. What does that mean? Something drips down on one of the cops. He looks up…and there are three Bloody Face ornaments hanging from the ceiling. Well, tis the season, right? But wait…how can there be three Bloody Faces?
Back in 1964, a woman and a little girl come through the doors of Briarcliff. The mother is talking to Sister Jude as we watch them enter. She can’t believe that her little girl could be capable of these things. This is the being that lived inside her, the same one that she bathed, that she fed. She can’t understand her behavior. The poor woman confesses to Sister Jude that little Jenny has never really acted like a child. She never cries. One day, during a play date with little Josie (the only child who could be convinced to play with her daughter), they went out to the woods to gather leaves…and the next thing you know, little Josie has a pair of shears sticking out of her chest. Jenny tells her mother in a matter-of-fact voice that a man killed Josie. He was tall and had a coat and beard, and he threatened to hurt Jenny if she got in his way. Sister Jude correctly guesses that they never found this man, but that’s not the problem. Two days prior, Jenny’s mom found a lock of Josie’s hair in Jenny’s pocket. Clearly, she can’t go to the police. Jenny is still her daughter, after all. Sister Jude is sympathetic, but Briarcliff doesn’t have a children’s ward. (Or “waaad”, as she says) The only thing left to do is pray, Sister Jude tells her, handing her a Bible. Jenny’s mother begs Jude to talk to Jenny, so that she can better understand the evil inside her daughter. Was she born this way? But the idea of talking to the little girl seems positively abhorrent to Jude, who looks rattled as the mother leaves her office.
Lana is waking up. She’s in a bed. At first she looks very peaceful, and it seems that for the moment she has forgotten where she is. We hear the sound of something being fried in a pan. That’s when Lana’s eyes widen and she realizes that she’s in the subterranean workshop of Dr. Oliver Thredson, aka Bloody Face. He notices that she’s awake and asks her if there is anything better than waking up from a nap to the smell of croque monsieur cooking. For those of you who don’t know, croque monsieur is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. The French gave it a fancy name. The camera pulls away to show that Lana is still in that same sterile room with the cold white tile all over, but now she’s in a nice bed with matching side tables and lamps. She has even been dressed in a nice nightgown. Thredson comments that her mother probably cooked the same thing for her on rainy days. That’s when Lana starts to scream. He yells, too, and then he tells her that the place is soundproof. Lana looks at the portrait of Wendy beside the bed and asks him what he did to her. He assures her that he took care of the body. He had to be very careful, of course, because it wouldn’t do for her to be found now that Kit Walker has given his confession. He pauses, revealing a big secret. “Nutmeg makes all the difference in the world,” he tells her. She realizes how mad he really is.
Thredson brings the soup and sandwich to Lana, calling it the perfect “mommy food.” Not that he would know about that. She slowly starts to eat, and he continues talking. As it turns out, his mother was about her age when she abandoned him. He grew up in an orphanage where he was fed and housed, but never experienced any form of human contact. That would spoil the children. Lana sees what kind of madness she’s dealing with, and she plays along, telling Thredson how good the food is. She says that she was also abandoned, only her abandonment came at Briarcliff. But he saved her. For a moment it seems like he can see through the ruse, but then his face twitches into an excited grin when he realizes that he made the right decision with Lana. She does understand him.
He goes on to explain that he was always more intelligent than the other children around him. He chose the field of psychiatry to better understand his own disorders. While in medical school, he came across a cadaver in his gross anatomy class that was the same age as his mother when she abandoned him (33, the same age as Lana). His classmates teased him and said it was the closest he’d get to a girlfriend. Boy, were they wrong. Thredson visited the cadaver late one night after she’d been sewn back together. He pulled off her sheet and tore off his white button-down shirt so that he could feel her skin pressed to his own. This skin-to-skin contact is what he had been lacking all these years, and what he was craving. Seeing the body reinforced what he was looking for, but he didn’t like the fact that she smelled of formaldehyde and her skin was cold when he peeled it off. He talks about the Harlow experiments, where baby monkeys are given the choice between a wire mesh monkey with milk and a model made of terry cloth with no milk. Even the monkeys know the difference. It’s the skin they crave, even if the cloth one doesn’t have milk. That’s what made him attack his first victim, the secretary we saw earlier. He cut her up while she was still alive, which made a huge difference, but it still didn’t fill the void. This terrifies Lana, who thinks she will become his next victim. He sees her fear and assures her that all of that is behind him. She’s perfect for what he needs now. He leans close to her and calls her “mommy.” Oh, dear.
Sister Jude’s phone rings. It’s Sam Goodman, the man who was investigating Dr. Arden’s true identity. Jude tells him that she tried to get in touch with him, that the patient in question—Charlotte/Anne Frank—was a fraud and she no longer requires his services. But Goodman has been working diligently on the case. Even if she is a fraud, the young woman had been correct about Arden. He was an Auschwitz doctor named Hans Gruber who was given a new life after the war. Hans Gruber became Arthur Arden. Of course, Goodman will need a fingerprint to be absolutely certain, but the fact remains that Arden is almost certainly a former Nazi. This news is shocking to Sister Jude, who realizes that not only is a Nazi being housed in the asylum, but that Anne Frank had been right all along. When she hangs up, she finds little Jenny standing behind her. As it turns out, Jenny’s mother gave her a kiss and left her at the asylum. This day keeps getting better and better for Jude.
Monsignor O’Hara arrives at a hospital and is greeted by one of the directors. It seems they have a tuberculosis patient who is in need of Last Rites, but they weren’t able to convince any other priests to come to her aid after seeing the photos that had been released from the Bloody Face murders. The Monsignor seems surprised that TB cases still exist. The director warns the Monsignor that she is a gruesome sight, but the Monsignor assures him that “we’re all God’s creatures.” He goes into the room and sees the woman lying in bed, her face almost unrecognizable with all of the blisters and boils on her face. The Monsignor gets closer, and recognition passes through his expression. “Shelley?”
We go back to 1962 when Father O’Hara first arrives at Briarcliff. They go into one of the TB wards, where Dr. Arden is presiding over several patients. O’Hara is surprised that there are still a few TB cases in the wing, which he thinks would make a great day room. That’s when Dr. Arden introduces himself as the chief of the tubercular wing at Briarcliff. He is aware that O’Hara is the new owner. One of the patients is near death, so Father O’Hara sits with her and prays with her. The next scene shows him hauling her body onto a cart, which Dr. Arden wheels through what we know as the Death Chute. Arden explains that they used to transport hundreds of bodies through this tunnel, where they’d end up in the crematorium and ultimately in a little wall full of holes for their ashes. O’Hara is shocked by the callous treatment of so many people, but Arden points out that many of these patients are long-forgotten. It’s unfortunate, because he has been conducting research on ways to make the human body resistant to strains of illness, and he’s close to making some very important advancements. This piques Father O’Hara’s interest. The only thing holding him back is human trials, as it’s hard to find test subjects. Arden gives the priest a very pointed look and tells him that even Rome would be interested in his research. Rome? This really catches the priest’s interest.
As we return to 1964 and the hospital, we see Monsignor O’Hara choking poor Shelley with his rosary. She takes one last breath before dying. The Monsignor’s hands shake as he pulls away. Now what would possess a priest to murder a helpless, disfigured TB patient?
Dr. Arden is playing classical music in his office. The Monsignor knocks the record from the player. Jude was right about him, he seethes, pointing his finger at the doctor. He mutilated poor Shelley. Dr. Arden doesn’t seem flustered in the least. Briarcliff is a “receptacle” for depravity, Arden points out. He has been able to take these depraved people and through them advance his research. We see Spivey masturbating in a broom closet while watching Mary Eunice bathing in her room. He’s interrupted by Dr. Arden, who tells him that he has mistaken the broom closet for the playground, where he used to “expose himself” to the children there. “Never the boys” though, Spivey points out while wiping off his hand. He has his standards. He follows Dr. Arden down the hall, telling him that he’s a new man. He was only there because Mary Eunice told him to watch her flash herself. Dr. Arden shoves him against the wall in anger.
Back in Arden’s office, Dr. Arden tells O’Hara that he has been able to take these wretched individuals and give their lives purpose. To further this point, he takes O’Hara into his lab, where Spivey is strapped to a table sporting the same horrendous boils that Shelley had. Arden’s research in to tuberculosis and syphilis has gone cutting edge thanks to the studies he has been able to conduct. If the Russians were to bomb the United States, the radiation would wipe out twenty million people, but Arden’s research will ensure that we are able to survive and remain dominant. He turned Spivey into a superhuman. O’Hara has seen enough. Arden should be exposed, but Arden points out that if O’Hara exposes him, then everything that has been hidden at Briarcliff will be exposed. Everything. And they have a common threat a Briarcliff that is more important to deal with.
Jenny is in the kitchen with Sister Eunice, who is chopping vegetables. Jenny wants to try it, but Eunice says she’s too young to use the knife. She asks why her mother abandoned her at the asylum. Jenny says her mother is afraid of her and thinks she killed Josie. Did she? Jenny says no, but Eunice corrects her. “How does she know?” Jenny asks. “I’m the devil,” Eunice replies. Whoa. Anyway, Josie deserved it, Eunice continues nonchalantly. She was just a little shit who only played with Jenny because her mother made her do it. But Jenny has the gift of “authentic impulse,” a gift that should never be killed. And Eunice knows all about it, because she spent her whole life trying to make people like her. She recalls a pool party she attended where she was tricked into dropping her dressing gown while standing on the diving board. Everyone else was supposed to be naked, too, but as it turns out, Eunice was the only one who was actually naked. And they all laughed at her. She tells Jenny that she turned to God, but God isn’t real. He’s just something that someone made up. Eunice says she’s tired of living under the rule of a drunk who wears red lingerie. Dark little Jenny has taken quite a liking to Sister Mary Eunice and confesses that she’s afraid they are going to lock her in her room. Eunice cleans the blade with her fingers and hints that maybe Jenny just needs to learn how to defend herself.
Sister Jude is ending her phone call when Monsignor O’Hara comes into her office. She tells him that Jenny’s mother is coming back to get her, but she can tell that something is wrong from the expression on his face. Indeed, it looks like he is grappling with the decision he has made but is too afraid to turn back. He tells Jude that Briarcliff has become too much for her, and he has recommended her for a position at a new girl’s home in Pittsburgh. He even has the flight booked already. She knows that Arden is behind this. She reminds him that she was right about him. But he won’t hear it. He becomes even more agitated when she speaks of Arden. Per his request, Sister Jude will be leaving Briarcliff immediately.
While she’s packing, Sister Eunice visits Jude’s room to tell her that Jenny’s mother came to pick her up. Then she sees that Jude is packing and wants to know what is going on. Jude explains that she’s leaving Briarcliff at the request of the Monsignor. They share an embrace; Jude thinks that Eunice is being sweet and considerate, but it’s exactly the opposite. Eunice is cold and calculating and working entirely from her own angle. How will they function? Eunice plays up Jude’s own fears, which leads Jude to promise to do what she can to take Arden down and prevent him from harming the innocent younger nun. She tells Eunice to fetch the cognac and two clean glasses from the kitchen. As she leaves, Eunice casts a long look at the red lingerie in Jude’s drawer.
Back at the Thredson Residence, Oliver Thredson gets a call from Kit, who is using his one phone call in jail to figure out what the hell happened. The cops say they have a taped confession. Kit reminds Thredson that the doctor promised to lie for him so that Kit could avoid getting the chair. The reality is that Thredson lied to Kit and got him deeper in this mess. Thredson tells Kit he needs to start accepting what he did, but Kit won’t back down, telling him that Grace saw Alma in a vision, that she’s alive. He calls Thredson a phony liar, which sends the normally calm and collected doctor into a frenzy.
He’d only left Lana for a few moments, but she was out of bed trying to cut her restraints off. She manages to get back into bed before Thredson sees what she was doing, but Kit’s accusations and insults have pushed him off the deep end. Evidently, there are some unresolved issues that he has with being called names. Suddenly, he notices her elevated heart rate and discovers that she had managed to cut through part of the chain. She was going to abandon him. Now furious at her, Thredson cuffs her to the bed and tells her that she brought this upon herself. He dawns the Bloody Face mask and slowly approaches her.
In one of my favorite moments of the season yet, Sister Mary Eunice dances around Jude’s room, singing along to “You Don’t Own Me.” She’s sporting high heels and the infamous red lingerie. When she gets to the line “Don’t say I can’t go with other boys,” Eunice pulls her ring off her finger and sets it on the dresser. Then she proceeds to sing to the crucifix on the wall. Looks like the devil is coming out to play. A ringing phone interrupts this moment. She answers; it’s Sam Goodman. She tells him he’s speaking to Sister Jude.
Dr. Arden is caring for his precious alstromeria when Sister Jude walks in, wearing a black dress as opposed to her habit. She offers him a toast for having won the battle, and she has always prided herself on her good sportsmanship. Arden is immediately suspicious and won’t drink unless she does as well, so she pours a drink for herself and they drink. The camera pans down at his glass. There was never anything wrong with the drink. She needed his fingerprint. That was her ticket to busting his Nazi ass.
Sam Goodman is putting together his articles and research on Gruber when there’s a knock on the door. But it isn’t Sister Jude—it’s Sister Eunice. He asks if Jude sent her. “She doesn’t know I’m here,” she replies, taking a step toward him.
Sister Jude walks down Sam Goodman’s hallway. His door is open and the phone is ringing. She has the glass and the fingerprints, just as he asked. The phone is ringing so she answers it. The line goes dead. She hears a thump behind her. Goodman is on the floor in his bathroom with a shard of glass in his neck. Jude shrieks and goes to call an ambulance, but Goodman beckons to her. She immediately assumes that Arden did this, but he tells her it was a nun. And it wasn’t just any nun. It was one of her nuns. Sister Jude looks shocked.
Back at Briarcliff, Sister Eunice reads over the documents she snatched from Goodman’s apartment. She tells Dr. Arden that he was very handsome back in his Hans Gruber days. He can’t believe that Sister Jude had this “Israeli Sherlock Holmes” in a hotel doing research on him. Eunice confirms that she was about to expose him, but then she assures him that she has taken care of it all. When she calls him Hans, he slams his hands down on the exam table. To her credit, Sister Eunice doesn’t even flinch and instead smiles indulgently at his rage. She tells him that she hid some of the evidence in case he tries to double-cross her. He pleads his case, telling her how lonely it is trying to hide his work from the “pious vigilantes” who don’t understand the work he’s doing. He doesn’t understand why she’s trying to help him. He believes himself to be too old and ugly for her to love him, so what is it that she wants? She tells him that she wants him to trust her with his entire soul, as this is the beginning of a great new era. As she kisses him, it’s clear that he is putty in her very capable hands. He was driving the boat, but now she’s in total control.
A police officer asks Jenny to describe the man who killed her mother and siblings. A knife is sticking out of her mother’s back, a knife that looks a lot like the one Sister Eunice was using a few nights prior. Jenny calmly describes the bearded man in a coat to the officer. She certainly doesn’t look like she’s upset that her mother, brother and sister are all dead now. She calmly twirls a lock of their hair around her fingers.
Thredson explains to Lana that she’ll feel the first cut, but then shock will take over and she won’t feel anything else. She tells him that it doesn’t have to be that way. He straddles her midsection with the mask on, slowly cutting apart her clothing. It turns out that he had been watching her before she arrived at Briarcliff. He saw her at the police station as they waited for Kit Walker to be brought in. She was explaining to a colleague that she was tired of her cooking column and wanted to figure out the man behind the killer. After all, he was still someone’s son. That was what caught Thredson’s eye. She understood him. Lana pleads with Thredson not to hurt her. She says that a mother’s love is always unconditional, and he sits back when he hears this and pulls off the mask. That’s it—she has hit the money spot. “My baby,” she whispers. “Baby needs colostrum,” he replies, leaning down. He fastens his mouth to her breast while she tries not to scream.
Back in the present, the officers lower the three bodies to the ground. They have traced the phone to a man named Leo Morrison. The three masked men are teenagers, yet to be identified. Leo is in his thirties. Upon searching the asylum, they find poor Leo face down where he had been shot. A phone rings, and when they find it they see that the phone is in Leo’s detached hand. But we know that Teresa had dropped the phone, so someone moved it after Leo died. One of the detectives answers it. “You know who I am,” the voice says. He goes on to say that he just killed the imposters. After he hands up, another detective comes in and announces that according to Leo’s sister, he was there on his honeymoon. So where is his bride?
We flash to a dark room with a bed and lots of old medical equipment all over. Teresa is tied to the table, and she’s slowly regaining consciousness. Bloody Face emerges from the shadows, wearing a white undershirt and a heavy duty apron. Holy hell, what is going on??
Well, tonight was a nice little trip down memory lane for our Briarcliff friends. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Sister Mary Eunice spent most of her youth trying to fit in. It doesn’t surprise me that Thredson is trying to make up for his mother’s abandonment by killing those women…but I was a bit shocked that he was trying to turn Lana into his surrogate mother. The scene at the end when he tries to drink her breast milk was just bizarre. And what’s really striking about it is that he clearly is gifted with superior intelligence and is in fact a real doctor. Reflecting on past episodes, it makes sense that he’s a real doctor, because that was part of the mystery that Dr. Arden was trying to solve. Arden couldn’t believe that Kit was capable of skinning those women with such precision. And the demon spirit inside the boy recognized Thredson’s abandonment issues.
The introduction of Jenny was interested. Will she have a role on the show? What will become of her now that her whole family has been killed? Aside from the “You Don’t Own Me” scene, I really enjoyed Jenny’s interaction with Sister Eunice. There was something about the way that Eunice spoke so nonchalantly to the child that was really striking. The child has evil inside of her, and Eunice acknowledged that she was devil. What an interesting pair they made.
As always, I would love to hear your comments about tonight’s show. The preview for next week looks insane…like, literally insane. Who knows what will happen next….