American Horror Story Freak Show, S4E6: Bullseye
Original Airdate: November 12, 2014
Recap by Sarabeth Pollock
There is a lot of activity at the campground as Elsa orders her workers to bring a giant red and white wheel into the main tent. She comments that life is like that, a mess of choices between one thing and another, like tea or wine. But we’ll all end up on the wheel eventually. Once the wheel has been set up she starts to practice throwing knives at a stuffed dummy, only in her mind she sees Maggie and Jimmy. She says she knows how to stay off the wheel; by staying in control of herself and not letting anything get in the way of what she wants. Ethel sees her practicing and asks if they are bringing it back into the act. Elsa says she used to be a master at the wheel but now it’s for the second act of her television series. Ethel cautions her against leaving too soon, as the Tattler Twins are missing. Elsa says they gave her the slip when she took them dress shopping, when really they should be grateful to her. Ethel says everyone is grateful to her and it’s a special time because it’s her birthday week. She has a big show.
Gloria has a gift for Dandy. They’re sitting in the dining room at dinner. Under the silver dome is a stack of condoms. Gloria says that his affliction is the result of years of inbreeding, so he must be careful when seeing to his “needs.” He is appalled—he’d never violate Bette and Dot. He loves them. After all this time, he finally feels normal. Gloria becomes angry with this news, reminding him that he could never take the girls to cotillions or balls. Dandy knows it’s because they’re freaks, and he reminds his mother that he’s also a freak. He says that there comes a time in every mother’s life when she must give up her son to another woman. He plans to marry Bette and Dot and they will be together forever.
A receiving line has been set up in the main tent as the performers pay homage to the birthday girl. Indeed, a big banner proclaims Elsa’s birthday and the lady herself is perched on a grand throne. Ethel gives her a nice gift while Paul gives her lingerie. “Cheeky bastard!” Elsa laughs. She loves it all. Eve has a huge box. Ma Petite is inside and Elsa is thrilled to have her there. She clutches her to her chest and kisses Ma Petite’s cheek. When she notices that everyone seems sullen, Elsa asks what is wrong. Ma Petite says they miss the twins. Jimmy wonders if they gave any indication of where they were going. Elsa goes into a fury and says she gave them a home and they’re ungrateful. She demands that everyone starts having fun, or else they will end up on her wheel.
Music is playing in Elsa’s tent and Paul is in bed with Elsa. He’s kissing her back while she smokes her opium. She tells him that they don’t fall in love, but she knows he is going to miss her. He gets out of bed and he’s naked. (Incidentally, she isn’t wearing her prosthetic legs) She says he could be her valet in Hollywood. He is impressed that she gave him a thought at all. Elsa asks for her baby, so he brings Ma Petite to her and bids them good night. Elsa cradles Ma Petite in bed and tells her how much she loves her.
Paul ends up in bed with a young woman whose bedroom is covered in floral sheets and wall paper. It’s Penny, the candy striper we met in the first episode. She asks if he wants her, and he says that he loves her more than anything. He wants to get to know her as a man and not just as her lover, so that when they make love she’ll know it’s for real. That’s when her father bursts in and demands to know who she was talking to. Paul is stowed under the bed for now. Dad looks pissed off. He says that he’s trying to keep his little girl safe.
Bette is writing in her diary. She’s in love and life is now wonderful. Dandy bursts into the playroom with a tray full of one of each dish. He introduces Bette to caviar and she loves it. Dot is a bit skeptical, but as they eat dinner with Gloria, who tells her that they can have anything they want, Dot points out that Dandy doesn’t abuse them in any way. Later, they have tea together in the playroom and dandy reads about a successful surgery on another set of Siamese twins. Dot is very interested in the story, and suddenly she realizes that the money she’d need to raise for the surgery is at her fingertips with Dandy. She envisions talking to Jimmy as a single person. Bette would be dead, but she’s ok with that. Suddenly the gilded cage doesn’t look so cage-like.
Paul arrives at the pharmacy and asks for a bottle of Venetian Romance perfume. The clerk says they don’t have any, but Paul sees it on a shelf behind him. Dandy rushes up to the counter, dressed in a full suit, and asks for another hairbrush. Paul recognizes him and talks to him while the clerk goes in the back room. Dandy tries to pretend that he didn’t like the show, but Paul remembers that Dandy did like it, and he liked the twins even more. That’s when Paul notices that Dandy has bought a ton of women’s accessories in sets of two. The clerk returns and asks dandy if Paul is bothering him. When he lies and says Paul tried to pickpocket him, the clerk tells Paul to leave. Paul knows his rights, but Dandy says Paul isn’t even American. Paul decides to take his business to Woolworth. They have ice cream.
That night at the fairgrounds, Jimmy is cleaning up when Paul comes in. The crowd, Jimmy says, was thin because people want to see the twins. Paul tells him about Dandy, and he suspects that Elsa took them to Dandy to get rid of them. Jimmy slaps Paul, telling him that Elsa rescued every one of them and she saved their lives. Paul doesn’t buy it. Jimmy is close enough to pass as a normal man, but Paul knows that Elsa would do anything for one last shot at fame, including killing someone. As Paul storms off, his words sink in with Jimmy.
Bette thanks Dandy for buying the perfect shade of lipstick. Dot is reading the paper and it turns out one of the conjoined twins died, but the other is a miracle. Bette doesn’t think science should interfere with the will of God. Dot thinks that they are more of a cruel joke than the will of God. Bette says they are what they are, and they will always be like that. Dandy listens to the twins and he realizes that Dot likes to keep secrets. He says they shouldn’t have any secrets between them so he proposes a game. They will each share a secret with each other. He tells the girls that he was the one who killed Twisty. Dot says that Jimmy would never lie about that, while Bette is thrilled that Dandy is a hero. When Dot refuses to share a secret, Dandy goes into a rage because Dot won’t play by his rules. He throws a tantrum and leaves.
Stanley finds Maggie outside. She tells him that the twins are gone and no one knows where they are. Stanley needs something to transport so he suggests that they take Jimmy. He tells her to lure him to their car. All they need is his hands. Maggie clearly doesn’t want this to happen, so she suggests that they take Ma Petite. We see a vision of Maggie bringing Ma Petite to a barn. Ma Petite says that Maggie is very nice. Little does she know, Maggie and Stanley are going to put her in a jar. We see Ma Petite stuck in a jar, and she screams when Stanley pours the formaldehyde in. Ma Petite is soon pickled. Back in reality, Stanley laughs at Maggie’s ruthlessness.
Elsa is in her tent practicing her singing. “These precious days I’ll spend with you,” she sings, looking at Paul, who is watching her. He says that the audiences will love it. He moves to leave, but she wants to know if he will stay. He’s got things on his mind, but it turns out that she smells the Venetian Romance on him and wants to know who he’s screwing. She knows her monsters don’t wear perfume. He says he’s not beholden to her. He knows she did something to the girls and he tells her that everyone is talking about it. She demands that he wake everyone. They convene in the main tent, where Elsa rips down the birthday banner. She asks Toulouse if he remembers how she rescued him from a chain gang. Or how she found Salty and Pepper in the orphanage, where her own sister wouldn’t have anything to do with her. They were gnawing on rats in their urine soaked crib. Ethel wants her to calm down, but Elsa demands that one of them goes onto her wheel. Jimmy volunteers, but Paul says it should be him.
Paul is strapped in and he tells Elsa not to miss. “I always miss, darling. That’s the point,” she says. Elsa makes a show of the situation, telling the gathering that it takes a split second to separate life and death. As the wheel spins, she throws a knife and everyone gasps. She tells them that fate is the true master. A knife lands between Paul’s legs. Then she throws the last one, and it plunges into his stomach. She seems saddened by what she has done, but as soon as the others have taken Paul away, she wipes her forehead in relief.
Penny the candy striper is sneaking out when her father points a rifle at her. He thought she could be a burglar. She tells him that she is in love and she’s going to live her life. If he doesn’t like that, then he can shoot her. She leaves.
Maggie sneaks into Ma Petites bedroom and grabs her. Ma Petite says the moon is beautiful, and that Maggie is beautiful. Her present is in the barn. Ma Petite is hoping for a pony. Maggie says they are playing a game and she puts Ma Petite in a jar “like a butterfly.” Ma Petite flaps her arms as if they were wings while Maggie prepares the formaldehyde.
Penny arrives at the fairgrounds. Eve and the gang are seated at a table. Penny says she’s looking for Paul.
Paul is in Elsa’s tent. He takes a hit of her opium. Elsa tells him that she doesn’t think the spinning wheel act is right for her television show. It takes too long. Paul knows that she didn’t really call a doctor. Elsa says that she wouldn’t shed a tear if he died because he betrayed him. That’s when Penny rushes in and demands to know when they called for the doctor.
Ethel is putting the finishing touches on the cake. Jimmy can’t believe she is actually finishing it, but Ethel points out that the cake was already made. She doesn’t like that Jimmy is questioning Elsa. Jimmy says that the doctor never came, and that Paul had been trying to tell him something about the twins. Ethel won’t hear it.
There’s a knock on the door and Eve tells Jimmy that something bad has happened to Ma Petite. She wasn’t at breakfast or in her tent. Jimmy says they’ll find her, but that’s when Maggie rounds the corner with Ma Petite in her arms. Eve takes Ma Petite and Maggie says they were out hunting fireflies. She grabs Jimmy’s hand and says that they should run away together. She doesn’t care where, so long as they are together. She kisses him and he tells her to pack her bags. Maggie heads to her tent and Stanley is there waiting. He has a train ticket with him and notes that Ma Petite is not in a jar. Maggie says that with the twins gone, all of the freaks are on alert. Stanley says it’s a good thing that there is no value in her dead body, so he’s switching back to his plan—Jimmy. Or, more specifically, his hands.
Gloria takes a tray to the playroom. Dandy tells her to go away. He’s crying. He has been reading Dot’s diary. He tells his mother to read it. She reads that Dot is tired of eating caviar and pretending to tolerate him. He cries hearing that she is only after his money. Gloria thinks that they might be able to bribe her by spoiling the other twin. Dandy compares how he feels to when he had tuberculosis and they went to Iowa and they were surrounded by open space. That’s how he feels. Empty. Now he knows what he is supposed to do. He packs a knife in his belt. “My purpose is to bring death.”
The doorbell rings. It’s Jimmy. Dandy tells his mother he is here for the girls. She lets him inside.
Ethel has a hunk of cake for Elsa and tells her that everyone else is with Paul. They don’t feel like celebrating. Elsa agrees that family should stick together. Elsa says that she had a sister who died as an infant. Her parents probably had Elsa to heal their pain, but she was nothing more than a reminder. She made her own family. She loves them all, but she sees Ethel that she’s like a sister. That’s why she saved her. Why can’t everyone else see that she loves them? Ethel points out that there is a lot going on. She lights the candle and hands the cake to Elsa. She says that if she ever finds out that Elsa is lying or if she did anything to the twins, she’ll kill her with her own hands. “I just wanted to be loved,” Elsa says. She blows out the candle.
I have a feeling that things are about to go south really fast in the next few episodes.
What did you think of tonight’s episode?