Image credit: Byron Cohen/FX
"I'LL FLY AWAY!" "Betty Drake" (Jessica Lange) takes a (psychotic) break in "Continuum." The haggard survivor of Briarcliff horror vowed to make like The Flying Nun (which was based on her life's story, don't you know!) and flap away from The Asylum, even without her magic habit. Was American Horror Story foreshadowing Sister Jude's fate in next week's finale? Theory: Watch the aliens float Judy up into the sky and then into their mothership, where she'll come face to face with the Queen E.T., played by Sally Field.
The audience in the bookstore was oblivious to the civil war in Lana's head. To her fans, the plucky dame had been stopped short by reliving the terror she was narrating to them. "I'm sorry you had to go through that again!" said the Newman rep. "You're so incredibly brave!" The crowd burst into applause. Lana lapped it up. Her momentary spasm of conscience: Squelched. Such was Lana's post-Briarcliff happily ever after. She had fame (an appearance on the Dick Cavett show!), she had money (Nice suit!), and she had a personal assistant she could use and abuse without remorse. (How dare her girl Friday forget the almonds? And a warm can of Tab?!? Woman, get thee to the HoJos for a cold one!) She was the mirror twin to Monsignor Timothy: A hoary high priestess of secular culture, and ambitious for greater, grander office.
Enter Kit Walker. He dropped by to get a book signed, say hello to his old Briarcliff war buddy, and push an agenda. Lana seemed pleased to see Kit, even when he made her feel a little bit guilty for never calling after Grace's death. "It would have been nice to hear from you," said Kit. "Can't lie." Lana quickly steered the conversation toward her favorite topic: Her awesome life. She had just sold Maniac's movie rights to Hollywood. "What do you think of Tuesday Weld as me?" she giggle-squealed. "A girl can dream."
"She'd be a great you," Kit said to her alarmingly phony friend. Lord love a duck, woman, what the hell happened to you?
Lana's me-me-me-me blather continued over coffee. She was planning her follow-up book, something that continued to burnish her brand as a leading expert in "the stunted male psyche." It would be a book about that psycho Christmas hater, Lee Emerson, who, we learned, murdered seven nuns after escaping The Asylum. She even had a title: Santa And The Seven Nuns. "Too campy?"
Kit was done with this. He slammed his fists on the table and demanded to know why she was wasting her time writing about the maniacs of the world. "You swore you were going to take down Briarcliff! Expose it to the world!" said Kit. "You promised Jude. You were gonna be a reporter, not a cheap celebrity." Lana sat back and squirmed, uncomfortable with the reminder of her broken promise. She tried to recover, tried to pretend she didn't care. Things change, she said. People change, she said. She had built a "substantial" life for herself. She wasn't going to apologize for surviving and thriving. Her great subject as an author was America's mad men -- the "canvas" for her sensationalistic, exploitative art. She wanted to be Truman Capote circa In Cold Blood, not Upton Sinclair. She could be good at this. Quixotic heroic quests? Tilting at windmills? Not for her. Disillusioned Lana was done with losing.
To be fair, Lana wasn't completely heartless. She hurt for Kit when he told her that Alma had not only been confined to Briarcliff after killing Grace... but she had just recently died there, too. Alma couldn't endure the fearsome, toxic culture, the separation from her family, and the all the other unfortunates, the suffering lemons who played with their catheter tubes and screwed lovelessly in front of her. One day, her heart stopped beating, and that was that. Holding her cold dead hand, Kit took responsibility for his wife's destruction. "I'm sorry, Alma. I'm such a fool. All my crazy plans, and look where it got us. I completely failed you. And Grace. And those kids. I'm going to try to make it right."
Kit had another Asylum shocker for Lana: Judy Martin was alive. He saw her in the common room, watching The Flying Nun, ranting about how the show was based on her life ("They stole the rights! It's my story!"), how that devilish Sally Field/Sister Bertille had stolen her magic habit, and how she was going to escape, nonetheless. "I can fly without it," she said. "One, day, I'm going to fly my ass right out of here! Watch and see!"
"I don't doubt it," Kit told her, moved by Judy's fire. If only his believed Alma had the same.
Judy's passion for The Flying Nun smacked of cultural commentary. Thesis: Our failure to deal with real life horror and build a better world drives us toward escapism. (Whatever happened to happily ever after? You're reading it.) Judy's dream of "I'll Fly Away!" flight smacked of foreshadowing: I predict alien ascension in next week's finale. (Maybe Kit Walker will take her to the mothership when his secret Stranger In A Strange Land Martian identity is finally revealed.) Regardless: Lana made it clear she no longer wanted any part in liberating her former persecutor/oppressor. "It's heartbreaking," she conceded, "but let’s be real here. Every bed in that place, she made. Her choice. Not ours." Kit blanched at her gonzo, pitiless individualism. In fact, you could say she sounded almost BloodyFace-esque. You only have yourself to blame.
"Can you really be that hard?" Kit asked.
"I am as hard as I have to be," said Lana. "It’s what's kept me alive." She paid the bill, and they parted ways.
So ended the story's sixties-set narrative. Bummer. Will Lana regain her idealism and team with Kit for one last shot at taking down Briarcliff and fulfilling her promise to Judy? I hope so. And if so, it will be interesting to see how that story parallels what promises to be the finale's present day storyline: Johnny Morgan's bid to assassinate Lana, the woman he believes to be his mother. (Still alive in 2013, apparently!) We briefly saw Johnny at "Continuum's" end, trying to acquire Maniac from the owner of a going-out-of-business bookstore. The shopkeeper was a woman's studies major who had read every book Lana had ever written, and who believed what she read, that Lana's only son, rape-sired by Bloody Face, died shortly after birth. So she wasn't buying Johnny's heritage claim. Anyway, she didn't want to sell her only copy, which was an autographed first edition, a gift from her mother, who was inspired by the book to leave her abusive husband, "her own version of Bloody Face." (Glad to see Maniac was good for something despite its problematic approach to truth-telling.)
And yet, Johnny convince the tome peddler to fork over the book by creeping her out with his master plan:
"When I see her, I am going to greet her with a polite 'Hello, Miss Winters. Do you know who I am?' And she'll shake her head in ignorance. And then I’ll present her with this book of lies. And then I’ll say, 'I'm in your book! Except I didn't die. I'm the piece of trash you threw away 48 years ago. I’m your son.' And when she fully understands who it is standing in front of her, I’ll take out my handgun, point it at her face, and pull the trigger. And finally, I will have completed my father's work. But first: I'm going to need that book!"
Ms. Woman's Studies Major pushed it toward him. The Maniac burned. The endgame of American Horror Story: Asylum awaits. See you next week.