American Horror Story Freak Show, S4E2: Massacres and Matinees
Original Airdate: October 15, 2014
Recap by Sarabeth Pollock
Congratulations to American Horror Story for getting a fifth season renewal and for smashing every viewing record on FX! That’s a huge accomplishment…and it says a lot about what types of shows the viewers want to see on television….
It’s a new day at the Freak Show. The gang is gathered around the table. The Geek is polishing eggs. Jimmy rushes up and turns on the radio. The announcer says that the town of Jupiter is terrified with all of the murders of the past two weeks. Paul, Eve, Suzy and the Geek listen with Jimmy as the radio talks about the heinous crimes, knowing that they had a hand in one of the deaths. The radio even mentions the disappearance of the police detective, and notes that the police are out for blood. (We flash to the diner where the waitress remarks that business has been down because of the murders) That’s when they hear the police sirens.
Two officers approach the tent and ask for the proprietor. Jimmy indicates which tent belongs to Elsa Mars. Inside, Elsa says that while they have nothing to hide, she cannot allow the police to search without a warrant. Pepper is helping her prep her wardrobe. Elsa insists that her “monsters” value their privacy. The detectives advise Elsa that they’re implementing a curfew in light of the murders, which enrages Elsa because that will damage her business. The cops don’t seem too upset about it. When Dot and Bette make an appearance, the police want their statements. The police believe that the twins escaped from the hospital, which makes Elsa laugh considering that they weren’t sick anymore and they could leave of their own free will. Bette stops her sister from biting her nails, and tells the officers that she smelled whisky on their attacker’s breath. The police leave, but it’s clear that they’re not convinced that all is what it seems at the Freak Show.
A young man walks into the local toy shop with coffee for the proprietor, Mr. Hanley. There’s no answer inside, but there is a little toy robot that has been wound up. The little toy robot is also trailing a long stream of blood. The man follows the trail of blood, walking past Twisty the Clown himself, who has positioned himself with other clowns on display. The man goes to the Halloween display, where the trail ends in a puddle of blood. He looks up and sees Mr. Hanley’s head on the shelf. But that’s all he sees, because Twisty the Clown is behind him, and Twisty the Clown puts a knife through the man’s neck.
Cue the creepy credits, please. This episode is warmed up and ready to shock us….
It’s dinnertime under the big top. Legless Suzy slides along the table on a makeshift skateboard, collecting wine from Pepper while the gang chants “Kill the Copper.” When Suzy reaches Jimmy, he’s had enough. “Shut Up!” he shouts, knocking the cup away. Next we see the gang digging up the cop’s body. Apparently, the shallow grave by the swamp isn’t good enough in case the police return. They need to find a better way to dispose of him. Fire. And then spread the ashes as far away as possible. Jimmy apologizes for snapping, but he’s never killed anyone before. Eve says he did what he had to do, given that the cop was going to take the twins away. They might have taken all the freaks away. “I hate that word,” Paul mutters, giving Eve a hand with…a severed hand. Jimmy wonders if the cop had a family. He knows what it was like being raised without a father. If only the people of Jupiter could get to know them for who they are. Then they’d know that they’re not freaks after all….
Dandy lives in a splendid world of fine china and a large salt shaker with his name on it. Doting mom Gloria is seated at the opposite end of the comically long table, watching her son with a mother’s affection. He’s bored, tapping his foot and picking at his golden fork in irritation. Gloria rings the little silver bell on the table and the maid (Nora, played by Patti La Belle) comes in with dinner. “Snails?” Dandy scoffs. That’s what they ordered, Nora reminds them. Just like in Paris. Gloria is overjoyed, while Dandy continues to pout. Nora mutters under her breath at how Dandy is wearing on her last nerve. Dandy sighs and grabs the salt shaker, only it’s not a salt shaker. It’s a baby bottle, made of crystal, and his name is inscribed on it. He goes to the decanter and fills it with cognac, sipping it from the bottle like a child. Gloria says he can’t live on sweets and cognac. She has tried to introduce him to so many nice girls. She wants a grandbaby—what fun that would be. But Dandy sees babies as the most boring thing ever. He wants to be a thespian, but his mother won’t let him because of his proud lineage. Gloria thinks she’s doing him a favor, but he feels like he’s turning to dust under her control. He storms out of the room, ranting about finding real caramel corn. Nora returns and tells Gloria that she found some “parts” and some teeth and fur, and the neighbors have been looking for their cat all day. And with those murders…. But Gloria won’t have it. Dandy is not a bad child. “He’s just bored.”
Ethel goes off in search of the twins, who are out in the field near the Ferris wheel. She tells the girls (in her awesome accent—is that Pennsylvania Dutch?) that performers need to sing for their food, but Bette insists they aren’t performers. “Speak for yourself,” Dot replies. In the distance, a car approaches with a trailer hitched behind it. The twins wonder who it is, and Ethel replies that it’s someone she used to know.
The car stops, and we see on the side of the trailer that the big bald man is Dell Toledo, the Strong Man. He goes to the trailer and opens the door, offering his hand to the woman inside. Now we get to meet Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree. Desiree isn’t happy—she says this had better be a rest stop. Dell says it could be their Garden of Eden. “So says the snake,” Desiree replies.
Dell explains to Elsa that they are there in response to her ad, and that it took a while to travel from Chicago, where they worked for the famous Giuseppe Brothers. Dell admits that his wife was the star of the show, but the Giuseppes favored animal acts over her. Elsa compliments their love story but doesn’t see how they can offer her anything. We flash back to three weeks prior, when Dell arrives back to find two gay men waiting for their friend, who is inside trying to “change his stripes.” Indeed, inside the tent, Desiree is helping the young man discover the joys of being with a woman. He’s so thankful to have his predilection “cured” so that he can marry a woman and have kids. Desiree cautions him to “come first” before he gets ahead of himself. Dell storms into the tent and says that Desiree is his wife. He twists the man’s head a full 360 degrees. Elsa asks if the police will be coming after them for murder. “There ain’t no murder if there ain’t no body,” Desiree laughs. No Chicago police are going to care about a dead gay man, because the gays rate below “us freaks.” Elsa wants clarification—Desiree is also a freak? As it turns out, she is. Desiree pulls off her shawl to reveal that she has “three titties, full girl parts and a ding-a-ling.” She’s a hermaphrodite, and Dell is the “happiest man on earth.” Desiree glows, her three breasts and their pasties on display. Elsa thinks them a nice couple, but she can’t afford them considering how bad business has been. Desperation appears on Dell’s face, and he tells Elsa that he will sign any contract. The carnies are a dying breed, and they don’t have anywhere else to go. Elsa studies Dell’s calloused hands and decides that a strong male presence just might do them some good. “Do you bark?” she asks. Dell vows to howl if she wants him to.
Gloria is driving around looking for Dandy. She sees a man walking on the side of the road. It’s Twisty the Clown, walking along in broad daylight. As she pulls the car up next to him, we get a great look at his face. Clearly, he is wearing someone else’s skin as a mask, and then the smiley face mouth is attached to it. There are bloody strings holding everything together. Gloria calls out to the clown and asks if he does private parties. Here she is, driving a classic car (even for the 1950s), wearing expensive clothes, and she sees a filthy clown on the side of the road and wonders if he does kids parties. She’s a trip. At any rate, she’s willing to pay handsomely for his services. Twisty gives her a long look.
Jimmy and Dandy walk into the tent. Jimmy thinks Dandy is there for the twins, and even though they’re a great piece of tail, he doesn’t think Dandy belongs there. Dandy is munching on caramel corn. He tells Jimmy that he wants to be a part of the show. He knows show tunes by heart. He begs Jimmy to reconsider, as he will be saving his life. Dandy isn’t the person Jimmy sees on the outside, rather he is a whole other person on the inside and that person is begging to get out. Jimmy grabs Dandy’s hand and says that Dandy’s life doesn’t look so bad from his perspective, that he’d give anything to touch a girl and not have her be terrified. He tells Dandy to go back to his mansion.
Outside the tent, Dandy smashes his forehead into the steering wheel and says “I hate you” over and over again. Suddenly he stops. He has a cut on his head.
Back at the Mott Mansion, Gloria waits for her son’s return with a fish wrapped daintily with cucumber and salmon. She hears Dandy return and chases after him, Nora in tow. Dandy storms up the stairs and tells his mother that he hates her and hates his life, but she’s not listening. Gloria tells him she brought him a friend. She takes Dandy into a room and he walks in and sees Twisty, and Dandy’s eyes grow big. Gloria leaves them alone to get to know each other. The room is large and bright and full of adult-sized toys: a life-sized plastic horse, a croquet game, a puppet theater. Twisty stands at the end of the room. Dandy approaches in awe. Twisty merely stares at him.
Ethel smokes a cigarette outside her trailer. She watches as Desiree leaves Dell’s trailer and goes into another tent. Ethel summons her resolve and goes to Dell’s trailer. He seems surprised to see her, and she tells him that he’s not welcome there. And if he goes near her Jimmy, she’ll have her friends tear Dell apart. Dell doesn’t know Jimmy…but a quick flashback reveals that Dell is Jimmy’s father, and that he had tried to kill Jimmy when he wouldn’t stop crying. Ethel pointed a gun at Dell back then and threatened to kill him if he hurt their son. Back in the present, Dell laughs at the memory and tells Ethel she shouldn’t threaten her new boss. It turns out that Elsa has hired Dell to be the man around the camp, in hopes of beefing up their security. Ethel’s eyes are wide at the revelation.
Inside the main tent, Desiree is perched at the piano while the twins are on stage. Bette is trying to sing but she’s way off key. Elsa tells her that they’ll have to find something else for them to do. Desiree can’t fathom finding something else for the headliners to do. Elsa won’t listen. Suzy and Ma Petite attend to Elsa’s nails while she watches the rehearsal. Desiree recalls a woman in Mexico who can shoot ping pong balls from her you-know-what. Jimmy asks Dot if she can sing. Bette is quick to say no, but Dot says she doesn’t know the song. Jimmy tells Bette to sing to him… She starts singing “Dream a Little Dream,” and it captures everyone’s attention. She can really sing! “Not bad,” Dell drawls, walking into the tent. He announces that they will perform a matinee the next day. Elsa says that people don’t come to see freaks in the daytime. There will be no matinee. Dell doesn’t only disagree, but he says there will be a matinee every day until the curfew is lifted. Desiree cautions him to listen to Elsa, his boss, but no woman is the boss of him. Jimmy steps up to defend Elsa, and Dell pushes him aside. There will be a matinee, with paying crowds in the seats. Elsa has a problem on her hands.
Dandy is entertaining Twisty with a puppet show. He has seen “The King and I” multiple times, of course, including opening night. But Twisty isn’t amused. Dandy suggests that the clown amuse him. He’s had a rotten day and he knows his mother has paid a large sum for his services, so he asks to be entertained. Only then does Dandy walk a circle around Twisty. Dandy isn’t stupid—he knows there is something off about Twisty and his appearance, but he’s so bored he overlooks it all. Twisty holds his bag close, giving nothing away. Dandy goes to the toy chest and tells Twisty that he must earn his keep. When Twisty sees the toy box, he drops his bag and goes to the toys. Dandy hurries over and starts going through the bag. Twisty notices this just as Dandy sees something that makes his eyes grow wide. That’s when Twisty knocks Dandy in the back of his head with a juggling bowling pin. While Dandy howls in pain, Twisty takes off. As we watch Twisty retreat into the woods, we see that Dandy is close behind him.
Evidently the diner is the hub of “normalcy” this season. The waitress hears Jimmy enter and is happy he’s back (he always wore gloves, so she never suspected him of being a freak), but when she turns around she sees a whole gang from the freak show, including Paul, Eve, Suzy, Salty and Pepper. Jimmy would like to be served. Several diner customers leave. One mother says that the group is scaring her daughter. The waitress is about to take orders when Paul grabs a plate from one of the departed guests and starts eating, which upsets the waitress because that food wasn’t for him. Pepper starts clamoring for meatloaf, which excites Salty, and then things start to get out of hand. Coincidentally, Dell is outside hanging signs for the show. He hears the noise coming from the diner and realizes that the freaks are inside. He storms in and grabs Paul, which upsets Jimmy. Dell says that they’re giving everyone a free show, but Jimmy is tired of being called a freak. They’re people, just like everyone else. This makes the manager and the waitress uncomfortable, because they had been judging them. Dell grabs Paul’s plate and dumps it in front of Jimmy, and then he orders everyone to leave. He grabs Jimmy and drags him outside and beats the crap out of him while the other freaks watch from inside the diner. This is their new boss.
The girl and boy trapped in Twisty’s trailer are trying to find a way out. The little boy is wearing a Daniel Boone coonskin hat. He tries to help, but soon he gives up, defeated. The girl manages to loosen a board with a long nail protruding from the end. There’s a noise outside, and they know Twisty is returning. She hides the board behind them before he enters. We also see that Dandy is still following Twisty; he’s outside looking at the toys hanging from the trees all around the trailer.
Twisty is carrying his bag and a set of keys. He opens the cell door and sits down across from the children. Actor John Carroll Lynch does an amazing job exuding emotion in Twisty’s gaze. You can tell that Twisty is after something, and while his means might be sinister, I’m thinking that he’s not really out to be evil, necessarily. Something is wrong with him. He pulls out the little robot from the toy shop, winds it up, and starts mimicking its motions as the boy watches in terrified silence. Twisty seems to sigh, and he slowly starts to stand up. He reaches back into his bag as the girl grasps the board. When Twisty stands again, we see what Dandy caught a glimpse of in the magic bag: the severed head of the young man from the toy store. The boy screams, and the girl takes this opportunity to hit Twisty in the back of the head. This gives them a chance to run out of the trailer. As they leave, we see that Twisty’s smiling mouth has been knocked away, revealing a gaping hole where his mouth and cheek should have been. Twisty is hiding a deformity with his mask(s). The girl and boy run in opposite directions, and she runs straight into Dandy, who asks what’s wrong. She says the clown is crazy, which seems to make him even more excited. He scoops her up and walks back to the trailer, calling for the Clown. Twisty walks up with the boy. “You’ll have to do a much better job at confinement,” Dandy admonishes, and he follows Twisty into the trailer.
The gang returns to the fairgrounds. Jimmy storms into Elsa’s tent and tells her about the altercation with Dell. He knows that Dell is going to tear their group apart. Elsa seems to have resigned herself to the fact that they must do the matinee in light of the curfews. She says they need protection from the police, and that Dell can provide it. Jimmy hands her the badge and says that he was also protecting the group, and the badge is the last thing the left of the detective. She grabs his hand and presses it to her chest. Jimmy uses his final weapon against Dell: one of the posters from town. At the bottom, under the top billing for the twins and Desiree, is the addition “with Elsa Mars and The Geek.”
It’s show time, and Dell is the Master of Ceremonies. Dell introduces the Geek, who bites off the head of a little chick, before introducing their headliners: the Siamese Sisters. The curtain rises and Dot and Bette are center stage. Jimmy sits to the side of the stage in Bette’s line of sight. Elsa is in her powder blue outfit watching from the back of the tent. Paul pounds the drums and Eve plays piano while the rest of the troupe plays other instruments. Bette looks out at the crowd and starts to sing that she’s “been a bad, bad girl.” Suddenly the crowd starts to rise from its seats and goes to the front of the tent, forming a mosh pit in front of Bette and Dot as Bette belts out a cover of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”. People are dancing and reveling in the music. Dot tries to keep up with her sister but Bette is clearly the star. Jimmy looks over at Elsa, who gives him a nod. He walks past Dell, telling him he’s going to take a piss. But he’s on a different mission. The little man rushes the crowd and starts crowd surfing. When she finishes the song, the crowd goes nuts. Dot looks desolate, and Elsa is furious that she has been replaced.
The next morning, the police descend upon the fairgrounds. They have a warrant to search the premises in conjunction with the disappearance of the police officer. Elsa looks over at Jimmy again, and Dell asks why Jimmy looks so smug. The police finish searching Dell’s trailer, finding nothing. They move on to the other trailers. It looks like someone called in a tip about Dell. Dell pulls Jimmy aside and tells him that he knows what Jimmy tried to do. We flash to the performance the day before, when Jimmy went to the bathroom. Dell had seen Jimmy go into Dell’s trailer. He’d been planting evidence. Dell is smarter than that. An officer announces that he found something: the detective’s badge was under the Geek’s bedroll. They drag the poor man out of his trailer and he is clearly terrified. The officer tells Elsa that the badge belonged to the detective. She shrugs and walks away. Jimmy realizes that no one is going to step in to save the Geek. He is put into the car and taken away. The Geek turns and looks back at the group as the car drives from the fairgrounds. Elsa grabs Jimmy’s arm when he steps toward the departing car.
The officers know that the Geek is not the mastermind behind the murders, and they doubt that he did anything wrong, but they know that a night in confinement with the general population will probably make him sing like a canary. The poor Geek is dragged into the cell, where he retreats into the corner as the huge men gather around him.
Back at the fairgrounds, Elsa goes into Bette and Dot’s tent. Bette is sleeping with her eyes covered by a mask. Dot wakes up and sees Elsa. Elsa and Dot have a special relationship that Bette doesn’t approve of. When Bette starts to wake, Dot says she’s talking to Elsa, but Bette is still half-asleep and thinks her sister is making things up. Dot laughs and puts her finger to her lips. Elsa laughs with her. Dot says her sister is angry with her, and that she’s acting like a different person. Elsa tells the girl that she can do something about it. She leaves a knife under Dot’s pillow. Remember that it was Bette who stabbed Dot after Dot killed their mother. Looks like jealousy is going to drive a wedge between the Siamese Sisters. (Sorry, I had to say it)
Ethel finds her son getting drunk on the main stage. He’s never been drunk before, but his guilt over what happened to the police officer, and subsequently the Geek, is eating him alive. Ethel says that the police had no right to rough him up the way they did. That’s when Jimmy reveals that Dell was the one who beat him up. She urges Jimmy to stay away from Dell, but Jimmy reminds her that he has a contract and he is their boss now. It will be impossible to get rid of him given the success of the matinee. Jimmy storms out of the tent, with Ethel behind him. Jimmy is barely outside of the devil’s mouth when a truck pulls up. The police officer is at the wheel and two guys are in back. They throw a bundle out from the bed and it lands at Jimmy’s feet. They pull away quickly. Jimmy starts to open the bundle and we see the Geek’s blue feathers poking out from underneath the blanket. When we see his face, it’s clear the Geek has been beaten to death. “No!” Jimmy screams.
Well, that was quite the ride tonight, wasn’t it, folks? I don’t know about you, but I’m not as scared of Twisty as I was last week. I feel bad for the poor guy, even though he’s a terrifying killer. He’s a sad soul, hideously deformed. All he seems to want is a companion…and now he has the perfect companion in Dandy. And I’m terribly saddened about the Geek. Truthfully, I watched this episode a week ago (thanks to the FX press people), and this scene has stuck with me all week.
I can only imagine what’s coming up in the next episode….
What did you think? What shocked you? Which character do you want to learn more about?