American Horror Story recap: The Girl With The Auschwitz Tattoo

Secrets are exposed as Anne Frank checks into The Asylum and goes gunning for a certain Nazi mad scientist
Ep. 04 | Aired Nov 7, 2012

TO BE FRANK, OR NOT TO BE FRANK? Franka Potente as Anne Frank... or someone who thinks she's Anne Frank. Which Persona is she?

Byron Cohen/FX

With Sister Jude too conflicted, restricted and passive to act against him, Dr. Arden heeded the monsignor’s warning and moved against Anne Frank. He dragged her into his dungeon. He demanded that she explain her “Anne Frank” claim. He insisted he was not Dr. Hans Gruber of Auschwitz. “I’m from Scottsdale!” Arden thundered. Anne wouldn’t give up. She wanted to know what Arden did in his lab. More sick death camp experiments? “You want to know what goes on in here? You’re about to find out!”

Arden turned his back to lock the door, and when he faced Anne anew, he saw that she was holding a gun that she had picked from the pocket of Det. Bias during a run-in on the Stairway to Heaven. “Now’s the time,” Anne said. “Confess, Hans Gruber, you Nazi piece of s--t!” When she was distracted by the sound of something going BUMP! inside a closet, Arden charged. Anne sent him sprawling with a shot to the leg. She opened the cabinet and set loose a living nightmare, legless and bloodied and scabbed – the crawling near-dead. And for the second time this week on basic cable, a woman destroyed by horror begged to be put down.

“Kill me,” said Shelley.

++++

As the woman who couldn't possibly be who she said she was brought Dr. Arden to his knees, Lana Turner aspired to topple all of Briarcliff by trying to be someone she knew she wasn't. Dr. Thredson – not a big fan of Sister Jude himself – brought her the opportunity while quizzing her about her attempted escape with Kit and Grace during movie night. (In a quick flashback, we saw Thredson eavesdropping on the trio and showing intense concern as Kit said, “If they know we got out, it’s the end of us.”) Lana didn’t know if she could trust Thredson, so she tried to deny it. “Here’s the thing, Lana: You don't belong here,” said Thredson. “You’re not a danger to society. You were right to try an escape.”

Lana couldn’t agree more. But she still wasn’t quite buying what Thredson selling. How could she trust a man of science whose science was so wrong-headed, so poisoned by dominant culture bias about her sexuality? She rebuked Thredson, the way Jesus chastised the graceless, moralistic wise men of his age: “You headshrinkers are such hypocrites. According to your ‘Bible’ -- The Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders -- I am sick. I have an illness.”

Thredson couldn't deny his teaching, his received and accepted worldview. But he tried to convince her that this was irrelevant. He was outraged by the injustice of her incarceration. He had also claimed that he had come to deeply identify with her. We took Lana’s perspective in the conversation as Thredson looked right into camera – i.e. Lana’s eyes/our eyes.  “I see myself in you,” said Thredson, a vulnerable smile breaking across his normally deadpan face. “Someone thoughtful and intelligent. You have something to offer the world. They can't keep you here if they don’t have a current diagnosis. If I can convince them I have cured you, they will be forced to release you.” With the fourth wall between show and viewer breached, I found myself looking not so much at Dr. Thredson but the man behind the mask, Zachary Quinto, and suddenly realizing that everything I knew of his work informed the stakes of the moment and framed the question at hand: Is Thredson an Angel in America, a Spock with a heart? Or is Thredson the proto-Sylar? Hard to tell. Such a Margin Call!

When we reversed angle on the scene, and took Thredson’s/Quinto’s POV, Lana’s/Sarah Paulson’s response spoke directly to us, our moment, our moment in history: “Doctor I have been this way since… since I can remember. There is no cure.”

With that, the show resumed conventional storytelling, as Thredson abandoned the personal approach and made it all practical/pragmatic. “Your choice,” he said coldly. He said was leaving in a week. Friday, at the latest. “If you want help getting out of this s---hole, we better jump in,” he said. “You're a fish out of water, Lana, gasping for life. It won’t end well. Trust me.” His analogy was interesting, as it begged the question: Was life in the toxic cultural waters outside of Briarcliff really all that better?

Actually, yes. And as the day progressed, as Lana was forced to gobble down her daily dose of mood-altering, identity-squelching drugs, and as she mingled among the lost and institutionalized and “the resigned to die,” to use “Anne Frank’s” words, she realized she had to escape, by any means, not just for her sake, but also for everyone else suffering within Briarcliff. She gave herself over to a dream – an Anne Frank dream of changing the world, not to mention an quintessentially American dream of finding significance and vindication through cultural affirmation. She imagined receiving an award for writing a six-part expose on Briarcliff. She imagined giving a gracious acceptance speech in which she praised the true “heroes” of her story, the Briarcliff unfortunates who inspired her to struggle and persevere toward liberation and justice for all. Martha, the depressed widower, who spent her days pounding her head against the wall. Rudy, the alleged degenerate man who spent his days incessantly masturbating, and whose self-pleasuring escapism only got worse the more Sister Jude tried to correct him with her cane. Lana imagined her own suffering (the cruel, scorching electroshock therapy), and the hours spent languishing in her cell, nurturing hope by reciting the lines of “Mending Wall,” the metaphorical Robert Frost poem challenging the conventional wisdom that “good fences make good neighbors,” as Mother Nature respects no walls; she can’t can be tamed and directed. Something there is that doesn't love a wall/That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it/And spills the upper boulders in the sun/And makes gaps even two can pass abreast…

NEXT: The Gay Self-Deceiver

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