Image credit: Michele K. Short/FX
DRAW A LINE After four decades of peace, Marie launches an attack on the Salem Coven. There are snakes involved.
Part of the fun of American Horror Story's hyper-accelerated storytelling style is how it can conjure up decades of history between characters in a few minutes of quick-cut flashbacks and scenery-chewing speeches. Such was the case with Myrtle Snow and Fiona Goode. In full view of the Council, Myrtle laid into Fiona. She noted that -- given the state of Miss Robichaux's and the whole Salem Coven -- it felt as if there had been no Supreme for four decades. "You were absent from last year's Summit gathering. Three winter petitions remain unsigned. You haven't appointed a new Chancellor in over a decade." I don't know what any of that means, but it sounds important, much like all the things I don't understand about Congress which I nevertheless assume are important. In the society of the Salem Witches, the apparatus of governance has had no center ever since the early '70s -- roughly the time when it became totally normal for American citizens to distrust their government.
"This is the second time while you were under this roof a witch has gone missing from this place," said Myrtle, and we flashed straight back to 1971. Young Fiona told the previous Council that she couldn't believe Supreme Anna-Lee would just disappear. The Council assured her that no one could detect her life force. (ASIDE: The '70s-era Council looked a lot like the contemporary council: A red woman in the middle, a businesslike woman typing away on the right, a fabulously-dressed guy on the left. I was toying with the idea that the Warlock on the Council was the only male witch in each generation -- kind of like the one guy who gets to attend Wellesley each year. But Proto-Myrtle told Young Fiona that none of the "witches or warlocks" on the Council could detect Anna-Lee, implying that there are more warlocks, and also that perhaps the Council is much larger than the Power Trio. END OF ASIDE.)
The Retro-Council asked Fiona if she had any idea where Anna-Lee went. Fiona claimed Anna-Lee was last seen with a bottle of wine, what she called "a final peace offering." This was not too long after she made peace with Marie; the Council asked Fiona if she thought the voodoo witches were at fault. (ASIDE: It's probably obvious to say this about any TV character of the last decade, but Fiona has an awful lot in common with Tony Soprano. Like Tony, she often dodges guilt by blaming her crimes on the African Americans across town. And like Tony, she has a nasty habit of killing off the people who are supposed to replace her: Fear of mortality manifesting as spiritual infanticide. END OF ASIDE.)
The Council informed Young Fiona that she was to be the new Supreme. A party was called -- and we saw that, in 1971, Miss Robichaux's was indeed a heavily-populated Academy. One girl was not too happy about Fiona's ascendance. Young Myrtle vibed nerdy -- Fiona called her "Dogface" -- but she was wise. "I'm a Guardian of Veracity in the Vernacular," she said, "I know when a lie is being told." She wanted to catch Fiona. She cast a truth spell on Spalding's tongue, so it would be incapable of speaking a lie. "I cast a truth spell on Spalding's tongue, so it's incapable of telling a lie!" she whisper-shouted at dinner the next day. "Hi Spalding! I'm not talking about you, I swear!" Predictably, later that night, Miss Robichaux's awoke to horrible screaming. Spalding's tongue lay on the floor of the bathroom, quite a distance from the rest of Spalding. Fiona stared daggers at Myrtle. Boarding schools are dramatic, guys.
In the present, Myrtle began her final arguments. "No witch has been tried and convicted and burned at the stake since 1926," she said -- clearly teeing up a 1926 flashback with Ellen Burstyn playing Annie Oakley, who turns out was secretly a witch who killed President McKinley. "And on a personal note," continued Myrtle, "I've got a book of matches in my pocket, Fiona, and I'm just dying to light this fire."
She called Spalding as a witness. She asked him one thing: "Write the name of the witch who's responsible for severing your tongue." It was almost certainly the worst possible way to phrase that question, since Spalding wrote the name "Myrtle Snow." Turns out he overheard her whisper-screaming about the truth spell, and took matters into his own ends. He went to the bathroom. He brought out his knife. Fiona appeared, looking annoyed. "Thank you for comin'," said Spalding, the first words he's ever spoken on this show. "These are my last words, Miss Fiona," he continued. "I have always loved you." And then he chopped his own tongue off. (On American Horror Story, every incarnation of Denis O'Hare seems cursed to never realize that every incarnation of Jessica Lange is just not that into him.)
Myrtle was angry. She knew Fiona killed one Supreme 40 years ago; she knew Fiona had done it again last night. But Delia chimed in. Madison wasn't the next Supreme, she said. "The hallmark of any rising Supreme is glowing, radiant health. Madison had a heart murmur. She kept it secret." This information turned the tide against Myrtle's prosecution. But it also made Fiona visibly nervous. If Madison wasn't the Supreme...who was?
This is about the time when, for the second time in one hour of television, Angela Bassett killed a snake and brought half the corpses in New Orleans back to life. Yep, just a typical episode of NCIS: LA.
NEXT: Two Untruths and a Lie