American Horror Story Asylum, S2E8: Unholy Night
Original Airdate: December 5, 2012
Recap by Sarabeth Pollock
It’s Christmas time…Santa is standing outside of the local grocery store ringing his bell. A woman and her son walk up, and the son is talking about the coonskin cap he wants. “Is that all Christmas is about to you? Presents?” the mother asks, telling her son to put some money into the coffer. Santa thanks the boy and tells him to listen to his mother, and perhaps he will get the hat. The store is closed, so the family departs, leaving Santa to collect the money. A man dressed in black approaches, taunting the Santa for having a good gig. There’s no accountability with what he’s doing, telling children they’ll get what they want when that isn’t always the case. The Santa pulls his beard off and tells the man in black that this is just a job to get him out of the house. Apparently that wasn’t what the man wanted to hear. He points a gun at Santa’s head and fires, sending blood splattering all over the store’s windows.
Little Suzy goes downstairs in her footie pajamas and dressing gown to find Santa kneeling by the tree, playing with her father’s train set. She’s confused…Christmas isn’t for another six days. That’s true, Santa agrees, which is why he didn’t see any milk and cookies. He shaved his beard off because it was scratchy. And then he explains that he crashed through the window as opposed to using the chimney because none of the whole “Christmas thing” makes sense anyway. Reindeer, chimneys? Come on. She asks if he’s hurt because his coat is splattered with blood. It isn’t his blood, he tells her. But enough of that, it’s time to get her parents. Upstairs, she wakes up her father, who realizes that Santa has a gun pointed at his wife’s head. Next we see Santa tying the couple up downstairs beside the tree. The father pleads for him to let them go. He can give them all the money in the safe. Santa laughs. He picked their house because of their Christmas decorations (sounds like they might have gone overboard a bit). He flips a switch and we see that he’s used a strand of lights to bind them. The man pleads again, but clearly Santa has an agenda in mind. He makes a reference to rape, noting that he’s not a Santa who only comes once a year. But it doesn’t seem like he’s talking about the wife (and where is Suzy, anyway?). He offers the terrified couple a chance to choose who he kills first, but then he changes his mind and shoots the husband, then the wife, silencing her screams.
Christmas has arrived at Briarcliff. Sister Eunice puts on a Christmas record and pulls all of the inmates together around a giant Christmas tree. She tells them that Christmas is back, even after “last year’s debacle” that pushed Sister Jude to cancel all future Christmas celebrations. Good thing that Briarcliff is under new management. The only problem is that there are no more decorations. That means they have to pull together and get creative. People, she starts using all kinds of things as decorations, including an inmate’s dentures. His dentures! Gross. Then she walks around and cuts off a lock hair that has been tied with a bow. As she collects these locks of hair, Dr. Arden walks in. He watches her for a long moment, a look of disgust passing across his face, and then he spins and leaves the room. Sister Eunice delights in putting her beribboned hair clippings on the tree.
Frank the Guard is in the surgical theater whispering prayers over Grace’s cold, dead body. He opens his eyes and imagines seeing her looking at him. He leaps back, but then returns, promising her that he will make things right. That’s when Dr. Arden walks in. Frank wants to go to the police, even at risk of exposing the nefarious things he has done in the asylum. Dr. Arden looks implacable as ever, though he’s clearly bristling with anger. He tells Frank that he’ll see what he can do.
Sister Eunice is in Jude’s old office staring at the fire when she’s accosted from behind. Sister Jude is back (habit and all) but now she has a straight razor pressed to Eunice’s neck. How is it that the devil can move so quickly, Sister Jude wonders, and how can a demon wear a crucifix? Jude believes the demon is hiding behind Sister Mary Eunice’s purity…but what if she slits her throat. Demon Eunice laughs, telling Jude that she made a mistake coming back. And what is she really going to do? Cane the devil out of her? The cabinet doors open and the canes come flying out, and the record that had been playing in the background shatters against the wall. Jude is wide-eyed, but resolute. At that moment, Dr. Arden knocks on the door. He comes in, and Sister Eunice orders him to get security.
As the guards force Jude from the property, banning her from Briarcliff’s grounds, Dr. Arden watches from the landing, his fingers clutching the razor. Sister Eunice walks up beside him and takes the razor, brushing his fingers with hers. We have a problem, he tells her. She tells him she has Jude under control. He warns her not to underestimate Jude, which only makes Sister Eunice smile. The issue is that their former Irish cop wants to confess. Sister Jude still smiles. She’s got that under control as well.
A man cowers in the corner of his dark cell. The door opens and a brightly wrapped Christmas present slides across the floor. It’s the murderous Santa we saw at the beginning of the episode. He didn’t think Sister Jude ever wanted to see him again. “Jude is gone,” she replies, handing him a Santa hat. There are new people in charge at Briarcliff.
Sister Jude tries to organize the inmates for a photographer who came to take their picture. The Monsignor has bought presents for them, and they all need to look happy and jolly for the photographer. We see the Santa pacing around, his hands bound in handcuffs. He sees what she’s trying to do—he thinks that she’s using the photo to hide her guilt at the situation. She tells him that he has it backwards. This photo will help the public feel better because they’ll see that he, Mr. Emerson, killer of 18 people in one night, is front and center in the picture, locked up…and under control. Jude turns and tells Frank that the orderly shouldn’t be wearing a Santa hat. It’s ridiculous. Flighty Sister Eunice flutters in with the photographer in tow. As he sets up, Mr. Emerson flies at the orderly and takes him down to the ground, biting his face and pulling off clumps of flesh. The photographer captures all of it.
Back in 1964, Demon Eunice entices Mr. Emerson with a bright new Santa coat. She understands his pain, she says. He’s a man who was locked away for stealing a loaf of bread, and then while the guards sang Christmas carols, a group of five guards held him down and took his virginity and then continued to defile and humiliate him. She does understand. He fingers the soft white collar of the coat. It’s his choice. He can be the “victim, or the victor.”
Demon Eunice is sitting at “her” desk, feet up and black stockings exposed. She’s smoking a cigarette, listening to “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” Dr. Arden comes in and tells Demon Eunice that in the spirit of the season, he brought her a present, since she is the only family he has now. She makes snide remarks about it being “toilet water from Woolworth,” but when she opens it she finds a box with ruby earrings inside. Her face is full of shock, and then she excitedly tries them on. They can’t possibly be from the area. Are they heirlooms? Arden gives her a long look before explaining that they were from a Jewess in the concentration camps. She came to him complaining of stomach pains, but it turns out she was swallowing them every day and then digging them out of her feces, with the hope of returning to her former wealthy status once the war was over. She died of internal bleeding. Demon Eunice is happy that Arden had the sense to retrieve them from the woman after she died. He sighs, telling her that he’d hoped she’d be appalled at such a gift and offer some glimmer that the innocent Sister Mary Eunice was still inside of her. He’s disgusted. Demon Eunice gets in his face and casually tells him that he’s no angel, either, and if he is against her, not even God can help him.
Guess who’s awake? Poor Lana is retching into a bedpan while a young nun sits beside her, believing that her illness has to do with the cook’s unwashed hands. Lana wants to know if Sister Eunice called the police yet. The young nun assures Lana that everything is under control. This eases Lana’s mind enough for her to notice the person on the other side of the privacy screen who keeps whispering. Who is that? The nun tells her it’s another “unfortunate soul.” Lana doesn’t question this, and she leaves. Then the camera pulls back…and we see that the person in the bed is a restrained and sedated Kit Walker.
Sister Jude talks to Mother Superior about getting back to Briarcliff. Mother Superior says that Jude has lost her credibility, to which Jude replies that she isn’t running anymore. She is part of God’s plan, part of his army. As they speak, television networks are airing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” instead of focusing on something that deals with the Lord and the reason for the season. Mother Superior can see that Jude is a transformed woman and pledges to continue to help her. Then the phone rings. Jude has a visitor.
Jude goes to the chapel to find Dr. Arden sitting near the altar. She starts to argue with him when he finally cracks and says how hard it was for him to go there, to seek out Jude’s help…to admit she was right. He has tried to find a medical reason for Mary Eunice’s behavior but can’t, and he is desperate to cure her. Arden tells Jude that it was her purity that attracted him, because even though he doesn’t believe in God, he has seen evil. She was pure light. And now that’s gone. Sister Jude agrees to help, but only for Sister Eunice’s sake. And Dr. Arden must listen to everything that Jude says. He accepts unequivocally.
Monsignor O’Hara gives the inmates a star to hang on their tree while Arden and Demon Eunice watch. She’s overjoyed that he’s there to celebrate with them, and he’s pleased with her ingenuity on the very creative tree ornaments. She confesses that she has had ideas for a long time, and now she can put them in place. He sees Mr. Emerson dressed as Santa and says that he had questioned her judgment, but clearly he’s benefitting from being out of his cell. Emerson has a girl on his lap, and he whispers to her that they should ravage some elves and get out of there. The girl gets up and walks away. While Eunice tends to the tree, Arden and the Monsignor bury the hatchet in the spirit of the season. Demon Eunice interrupts; she wants to put the star on the tree before the night’s entertainment—a screening of “Rudolph”—begins. She asks Frank to get a ladder. Something tells me that all is not merry and bright here….
Kit carries a fresh-cut Christmas tree into his brightly painted living room. A very-pregnant Alma follows behind him and they laugh about the sex of the child. He wants a boy (thinking of baseball and football) but promises that he’d love a little girl “to the moon and back.” As he kneels to get closer to her round belly, Alma is replaced by Grace. He apologizes profusely and says that’s it’s his fault that she died. Grace quiets him, asking him to dance. Then he hears his name. When he opens his eyes, Lana is hovering over him. He’s too doped up to hear her, but she’s there. She didn’t know that Grace was dead (and she doesn’t really believe him when he tells her). She can prove he’s innocent, as she was kidnapped by Dr. Thredson and he took Kit’s case so that he could coerce Kit into confessing to the crimes that he committed. Lana needs to get to a phone. Obviously they’re both in danger if there is a manhunt going on to find Kit, and yet the police haven’t been notified that he’s there. That means that no one is looking for her, either. The truth is chilling. They’re trapped at Briarcliff unless they find a way out. She disconnects his IV drop and promises to be back for him. Kit can’t tell if she was real or imagined.
Arden opens the door in the kitchen. Sister Jude is waiting there, pleased that he kept his word. She tells him to bring Eunice to her office and lock the door. As she goes down the hall, she turns to him. She never thought she’d see the day that they would be working together.
Monsignor O’Hara praises the fact that Eunice has stepped outside of Jude’s shadow and has infused a new energy into the asylum. She wants him to stay to see Frank put the star on the tree. As Frank puts the star in its place, Emerson comes around the tree and knocks the ladder over, sending Frank crashing down on top of a cart. The orderlies grab Emerson and Frank starts punching him. “One step forward, two steps back,” Eunice sighs, ordering Frank to take Emerson to solitary.
While the staff is distracted, Lana goes into one of the offices. She picks up the phone and starts to dial, but then she realizes that she’s not alone. Dr. Thredson steps out of the shadows. Was she going to make a toll call?
Frank throws Emerson into his cell, not bothering to remove the Santa suit. He locks the door and turns around. Demon Eunice is standing there, and she asks if Emerson gave him any trouble. She slits his throat. Emerson watches with glee as Eunice ponders where the blade came from…and whether or not it would lead to a full-scale slaughter.
Jude prays in her office while she waits for Demon Eunice. But Eunice doesn’t come. Instead, it’s Emerson in his Santa suit…and he wants to open his present….
Outside the office, Eunice turns to see Arden standing there. Was this enough for her to not question his loyalty? She smiles and caresses his cheek. WTF? He sold out Sister Jude to get in good with the Demon Bitch? Holy Hell.
Emerson slowly approaches Jude, telling her that she locked him away to die in there. Jude tries to play it off. He’s out now. They should pray together. Prayer is not what he has in mind. He’d rather shove a crucifix up her ass and torture her. He hits her. Eunice and Arden listen to the struggle going on inside the office. She asks if it upsets his “delicate sensibilities.” Clearly Arden can handle inhuman acts and ungodly atrocities. But he’s still playing his own game. He tells Demon Eunice that he has more pressing things to take care of.
Thredson faces off against Lana. It will be such a relief to know that the escaped mental patient has been returned to the asylum. She tells him that she’ll expose him, but he reminds her that no one will believe her. She’s the mental patient. However, he spent the past few days erasing every trace of Bloody Face. Everything has been thrown into the furnace. Lana reminds him that she has a voice and she can tell everyone what happened. Ah, but there’s that little credibility problem, he points out. He even thought of allowing her to testify in court…but then he realized that he needs her in order for a new Bloody Face to be born. They struggle but he catches her, dragging her to the door. When he opens it, he gets hit in the face and knocked out…by Kit. Lana stares in relief at Kit.
Sister Jude tries to escape from Emerson. She tells him that she’s not the enemy, but he doesn’t listen to her. Instead, he throws her against the cabinet, and the doors open, revealing the cane collection inside. This might be proof that there is a God. He has flashbacks of the times when Jude caned him, telling him that she wanted to soften him up so God could get through to him. As he whips her, he reminds her that she threw him into a hole and never bothered to check on him.
Lana tells Kit that they have to kill Thredson, but Kit stops her. He’s the only thing that will keep him from the electric chair. Lana understands this, but why haven’t they turned Kit in?
Arden wheels Grace’s body through the Death Chute to the crematorium. Suddenly there is a bright light, and when it fades, her body is gone.
Back in the office, Jude tries to keep Emerson away from her. She’s on the bed and he rushes her. As it turns out, she grabbed something sharp while he was caning her. When he jumps on tops of her and pulls off her habit, she stabs him in the neck and he falls to the floor. She stares at his dying body, then at the blood on her hand.
Kit and Lana hide Thredson in an old storage room. He has been bound and gagged, and they use mattresses to block him from view. Lana tells Kit to get back to the infirmary, so he leaves her. She kneels down and regards Thredson, steely resolve in her eyes. “One day I’ll bury you,” she growls.
Well, folks, it looks like the show picked up again after last week’s little speed bump of an episode. What do you think? Did you get your fill of Christmas cheer tonight, or was this a big “bah humbug” for you?
And it looks like an old friend is visiting next week….