We begin in Jupiter, Florida, 1952, where a milkman enters a house where his previous delivery remains untouched. The fancy house still has dinner set on the table, and an elderly woman dead next to the table. As he recoils, he hears a thumpity-thump and heads upstairs with the infalliable weapon choice of a rolling pin to investigate. What he thumps...we don't know. But it is rushed to the hospital and we see it's feet on a gurney being pushed down a hallway. The left toes are painted. The right ones are not.
A doctor and nurse in the hospital are looking at xrays, there's one bladder, three kidneys, two spines, four lungs, two hearts. The doctor is trying to play it cool but the nurse keeps staring instead of taking notes.
Enter the belle of all the American Horror Story balls, Jessica Lange, walking down a hospital hallway. She charms her way past a young candy stripper and gets her own outfit to see the double spined wonder. She gives the stripper a card for “Frauline Elsa's Cabinent of Curiosities” and says the only by entering can she know it's secrets. I bet we hear that line again!
In the hospital room, is the thing itself, conjoined twins. Sarah Paulson takes on this tricky role, and it seemed the editing/effects were a little clunky. Also, after hearing that there are 4 lungs and seeing only their heads are separate, they looked awfully small in the ribcage. When Elsa gives Left a drag on her cigarette, Right exhales, which would contradict the 4 lungs. Until we're told otherwise, the two heads are Right and Left, and we see that Right is not swayed by Elsa's initial compliments. Left, however, is sold on the idea that someone is nice and chatty. Elsa questions them about their sex life: two hearts but one reproductive system.
In an open field, a young couple are getting busy when the young man says he has a surprise back in the car for her. While she waits laying on the picnic blanket, her tulle playing in the wind, we meet everyone's new favorite character, who I am calling Stabby McStabberstiens. I'm sure he has a real name but I don't care.Tattered suit, matted but still colored pom poms for buttons, an oversized dusty pink rose on his three tufts of colored, dirty hair and a huge creepy grin from a mask implanted into his face. He bows before the confused and scared lady and offers her fake flowers. The young man comes back and Stabby gets mad and earns his name by, well, stabbing him. Excessively. He's clearly not heard of the 'bros before hoes' adage.
A stereotypical diner has Elsa reading the papers and clipping movie reviews of Marlena Dietrich. She has a whole notebook of similar reviews, which doesn't seem obsessive at all. She sees a slick fellow flirting with her waitress. She knows him and interrupts by asking him to try her lighter. He tells Elsa that they all have to move away from the field they're renting. But Elsa has a plan. When the waitress asks her to close out her check, Elsa says it's on the house because stars never pay.
In a lovely house, girls in dresses are discussing their husbands' lack of sexual appetite. A woman emerges from the back room looking happy and diseveled. The host announces it's the next girls turn. When she gets to the room, we see the guy from the diner, Jimmy. His fingers are melted together in twos, sorta like the penguin's. The girl lays on the bed and he turns his “deformity” into a “proformity.” Just doing what he can to make the world a better place.
Elsa confronts the twins, or more accurately from Right, who silences Left mentally. But Left is eager to talk. Sadly, she just blabbers and Elsa calls her on her just using the plot of Gaslight. Elsa recommends they get their story straight before the cops come.
Stabby McStabbersteins is wandering through a house while a radio reporter talks about the 4 brutal murder in the past two weeks. Stabby takes Corey, the 8 year old boy. In the next scene, we find out where. He's being stored in a cage on a bus along with another, older girl. He takes his time showing them things, apparently trying to put them at ease but then laughs when they ask to leave. He shakes noise makers at them and then tries making balloon animals. When it goes askew, and the balloon pops, the kids startle and then he just gets mad and throws balls at the cage to scare them more. Clearly these children aren't ready for such showmanship.
Right and Left are packing when Elsa drops by to chat. Elsa has it figured out. Bette (Left) wanted to go out to a movie and ended up killing their mom when she says no. Dot (Right) could have stopped her, but decided to later stab Bette in the chest. Both girls are stuck and confused as to what Elsa wants, until Elsa explains that she simply wants them. Cue the twins walking to the entry of the freak show; Bette feeling free and hopeful, Dot far more weary and concerned.
Bette is sold on the 'bigger the star the bigger the tent' life with fancy things. Dot writes in her diary that she's not thrilled. Until she meets Jimmy Darling, who sends her a wink. The bearded lady is Kathy Bates and she's charged with preaching the gospel of Elsa. Elsa, she says, rescued her. More to come later, I imagine. Dot says they aren't anyone's trained monkey and won't perform. But Ethel explains this is the best possible outcome.
Jimmy and his friends are putting up an ad for the Siamese sisters when a car drives by throwing crap at them and calling them freaks. That will come back I'm sure.
Candy striper ruins Elsa's movie night by saying she wants to leave. Elsa calmly explains that she is just feeling the opium and can but not speak of her time here. Candy is all “hell no! I was ravaged!” and wouldn't you know, the movie Elsa is watching of Candy with.....pretty much everyone. “There's nothing to be ashamed of,” Elsa explains. The monsters are the people of the little towns, she explains. They don't have souls, and everyone is living the life they choose. Elsa is informed that the show has sold out for the night, every single seat.
Turns out Jimmy is Ethel's son and he wants out. But Ethel's God is Elsa. Jimmy sounds like he just wants to live a life outside the freak show. Ethel's compromise is telling Jimmy to get the twins to like it at the show. When a cop comes to arrest the twins for their mother's murder, Jimmy get pissed and impulsively stabs the guy in the throat. Dot is in TRUE WUV when he uncuffs them. “You saved us,” she said. “Now you save us,” he replies. And Dot is now a believer!
So who bought out the show? A man and his mom. Dandy is the son and he's a weirdo, making his
On to the show! Ethel is the announcer,showing off the line up and Dandy is so amped. But no more so than when he sees the sisters. And then we see Elsa Mars. Her talent? Singing on a cardboard rocket while in a periwinkle suit and Hedwig makeup. Now I'm not sure you can make Jessica Lange ugly. But the super tight old lady perm hair and horrid makeup come close. But so much glitter and everyone's working together! It's like the end of Rocky Horror, Hedwig and Rushmore. Elsa finishes her song to realize noone
Dandy wants to buy the Siamese Sisters. His mother (Francis Conroy) offers 15,000 “and not another penny unless she grows another head.” Dot turns them down to Elsa's delight. They're a family now. Dandy's mom leaves by throwing shade on Elsa's singing. Stabby rides the carosel, all alone.
After the show, Jimmy leads the crew to the woods and preaches about being left alone. And how if that's can't happen, they should rise up and take the happiness they deserve. If they want to call us monsters, we're gonna act like monsters, he says. He looks at Dot. “And that means you, because you're one of us now.” She swoons. Then they stab the ever-loving shit out of the cop's body as Stabby looks on from the woods. Could this be his home?
Ethel and Elsa have confession time where Elsa shares that her reason for bringing on the twins is so people will come, hear her sing and then she'll become famous. She cries and her cakey make up runs. Her hair flattens. She listens to “Auf Weidersein.” She pops her prosethic legs off. Maybe growing up with school shooting and Iraq wars has numbed me to missing limbs, but to me I was waiting for flippers or bird heads. She just doesn't have anything below the knees? That's not freaky.
Is Stabby part of the crew? He wasn't in the dance number. Elsa wants to stay and his rampant stabbings will bring a lot of unwanted attention. Any truce they forage will be temporary. Chiklis is apparently not Stabby, and Stabby has a name. Booooo. My love for either is untarnished. We'll talk about each next time.
Bette's head is always to the side which looks like a strange photoshop, not like something that she could hold for any amount of time. Yes, I'm saying there'd be a huge muscle strain if your second neck and head were constantly askew. They both have bob haircuts, but Bette's is always lopsided. Just saying.
Oh yeah, those kids are still locked in the cage somewhere. I hope Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConeghey show up and bust them out.
Coming up this season: Emma Roberts is back as a freak show head hunter/possible fortune teller. Angela Bassett is the 3 boobed hermaphrodite. Jimmy volunteers Dot to sing and she busts out Fiona Apple's “Criminal” to the ire of Elsa. She's going to need to kill her meal ticket. Stabby is bought/stolen to be a private clown for Dandy, which could set up a war of the freaks since Dandy and his mom seem to not like the “unbreakable” family ties of the show.
Everyone is about showbiz this year. And discrimination. And skeletons mimicking sex. And two heads, sometimes switched. And protecting your people, though I'm sure that will fall asunder by the next episode. :) Bring it.