American Horror Story recap: Build a Better Boyfriend

Zoe and Madison pull a Frankenstein, while Delia explores alternative fertility treatments. Plus: Jessica Lange vs. Angela Bassett, Round One.
Ep. 02 | Aired Oct 16, 2013

REQUIEM FOR MISS PITTYPAT National treasure Kathy Bates, shown here mournfully pondering seven different ways she could kill you. Go ahead, make a joke about Harry's Law. She dares you.

Michele K. Short/FX

At the Morgue, Madison and Zoe reassembled Kyle back together, using the very best boy parts they could find. They had plenty of time to sew him together. You might think it's strange that the Morgue was so understaffed, but clearly you haven't heard about the government shutdown and how America is like, broken, man. Madison intoned lots of words, some in arcane languages. "Azazel, we submit to you body and soul, the lord of the underworld," she said. "Did we just marry the devil? 'Cause I dunno if I'm down with that," said Zoe.

No luck. The boy did not arise. Madison walked outside, leaving Zoe to say goodbye. Zoe told the dead Kyle: "My life's just been so out of control lately. Wish I could've kept you out of it." Then she kissed the decaying lips of her undecapitated corpse-crush. It was gross but also sweet, like every kiss you had before you turned 20. In the swamp, Misty Day seemed to notice something; meanwhile, a Morgue worker finally showed up, and Madison left Zoe behind to suffer the consequences. The Morgue worker saw Zoe...but then Kyle suddenly arose, beating the Morgue worker senseless and letting out a loud resurrection scream.

None of this mattered at all, because the next scene featured Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett at their most Lange-y and Bassett-y. It was like watching two giants fight each other with giant shotguns that fired nuclear bombs. Fiona was in a beauty shop in the Ninth Ward. "You're not used to having a white woman in your chair, are you?" asked Fiona. Her hairdresser deadpanned: "Not used to having a white woman in this neighborhood." The Ninth Ward rose to national prominence after Hurricane Katrina, partially as a symbol of the storm's devastation and partially as a symbol of post-storm government neglect; when the Ninth Ward was namechecked, it immediately lent the scene a deeper subtext.

But before I mention subtext, I do need to mention that Angela Bassett sashayed in wearing a gold leopard-print shirt underneath a bright red jacket and with twisted hair that looked plentiful enough to asphyxiate a stegosaurus. (Knowing nothing about hair, the internet informs me that Bassett's hairstyle is called a "Marley Twist," which I would argue should henceforth be referred to as a "Bassett Twist," which is coincidentally a great name for a rock band.)

You see, it turns out that Angela Bassett is playing Marie Laveau, another real-life person whose existence is shrouded in mystery. She hasn't aged a day since we saw her in the 1830s. And she had Fiona's number down. "Woman like you wipes her ass with diamonds. She don't just walk in here for hair extensions. I know exactly what you are: Witch. I can smell the stink of it on you." This is an old rivalry, we learned. "Your kind and my kind have been going after each other for centuries," said Fiona. "Kind of like a hammer going after a nail."

The show immediately complicated our understanding of this black-and-white dynamic by implying that there was ambiguity around the roots of witchery. Marie insisted that the witches got everything from her kind. Fiona scoffed: "Tituba. Voodoo slave girl who graced us with her black magic? She couldn't tell a love potion from a recipe for chocolate chip cookies." But Marie insisted, "You made her a slave." According to her, Tituba came from the Arawak, a tribe of Native Americans. Supposedly, the first tribe Christopher Columbus met upon arriving on these shores was Arawak. This implies that the witching world could be torn along continental lines: The white witches who migrated from Europe, the Arawak-derived line of Tituba. According to Marie, Tituba "Learned the secrets of the other side from a 2000-year-old line of Shamans. Necromancy. She gave it to your girls of Salem."

Fiona -- in this case playing the role of "White Upper-Class American Dismissive Of Any Claim On Her Ascendance" -- said, "You wanna tell me some illiterate voodoo slave girl gave me my crown?" Deadpanned Marie: "Maybe you haven't heard the news of civilization starting in Africa." So, in a nutshell: The entire history of humanity was being played out onscreen by two actresses speaking in the most insane accents on record. (To save our education system, all American schoolchildren should take a class that is just Angela Bassett and Jessica Lange re-enacting history as extended passive-aggressive bitch-slap verbal warfare. Ideally, with props. And by "props," I mean lots of lamps to throw, for effect.)

Fiona wanted what Marie already had: Eternal life. And she insisted she had something Marie wanted. "You could offer me a unicorn that s--- hundred-dollar bills, and I'd still never give you more than a headache." But Fiona has Marie's number, too. She almost set the hair salon on fire. And she ended their talk with: "Nice to see you doing so well after all these years. Maybe in another century, you could have two s---hole salons." I initially thought Fiona was just offering Marie the Madame LaLaurie. But maybe she was offering something else: Money? Power? Prestige? Watch this space, and maybe ask the Emmys to let Lange and Bassett host next year.

NEXT: Fertility rites

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