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

It was a noble vision – and an irresistible temptation. Lana decided that the problem of one’s person’s sexual identity was but a hill of beans in a bizarro world that desperately needed self-sacrificing heroism. She would love thy neighbor by becoming a Good Neighbor, by fencing off and redirecting desires that came naturally to her. In another moment in which Paulson’s Lana broke the fourth wall, we saw this gay woman swallow a cup of bitter pills and then look at us with furious eyes as we heard her internal monologue: “I did everything I could do to survive, and then I did what I had to do to get out.”

And with that, Lana marched into Thredson’s office and submitted herself to his care, accompanied by a flourish of music that seemed imported from a old Hollywood melodrama, say, the films of Douglas Sirk, like A Time To Live and a Time To Die, The Tarnished Angels, and more to the highly loaded/mega-knowing point… Imitation of Life, starring Lana “Banana” Turner. “How soon can we begin your therapy?” I'm pretty sure Thredson's smirk was the same smirk that the spider gave the fly.

And so Thredson tried to reconfigure Lana’s sexuality as if she were some clockwork orange with allegedly “cutting edge” aversion therapy. The plan was to train her body to become repelled by “certain triggers.” Lana looked at photos of attractive semi-dressed women in sexy poses – a stag flick slide show – while injecting drugs that made her nauseated. She barfed. This was good. But would she barf at the sight of her true love, Wendy? He flashed a photo of Wendy looking sleepy-sexy, smoking while laying in bed. Lana tried to fight it – or tried not to fight it? Regardless, she puked. Thredson praised her determination. “Let’s move on the conversion part of your therapy,” he said. “I think you might enjoy this part.”

Thredson brought in an attractive patient named Daniel. The man-child with the shoulder length brown hair was wearing only a robe. “He told me he thinks you’re a very good person, and he said he would be honored to participate in anything that might liberate you,” said Thredson, his ironic application of Feminist language just … ugh. Even more so: Lana, beaten down, with a line right out of a porn film: “Whatever you say, doctor. I want to do whatever works.” Thredson asked Daniel to disrobe. Thredson then asked Lana to touch herself while “gazing upon his physique.” Then, Thredson asked her to hold Daniel’s “member” while continuing to masturbate. “And try to relate the pleasure you’re feeling to his tumescence.”  Lana was becoming increasingly distraught. “You’re doing good work,” Thredson said. “We’re all rooting for you?” (WE ARE? WHO’S THIS ‘WE’ YOU SPEAK OF, DOCTOR? ) (And again, American Horror Story makes us complicit in its cultural complaints re: objectification, demonization, normalization, and marginalization. Who’s to blame? Who’s not to blame?)

Lana tried. She tried hard… but she couldn’t. Whether it was her nature asserting itself, or just the queasy nature of this entire degrading experience, Lana barfed once more. This time, no drugs necessary. “Just give me a few minutes,” said Lana. “I know I can do this!” But Thredson knew she couldn’t. “In a perfect world, I would love to dive into talk therapy, and get the root of your particular fixation,” Thredson said. “But my expertise tells me that aversion/conversion therapy won’t work with you.” This whole sequence was easily the saddest, most infuriating, even horrifying thing I've ever seen on this show, especially because it was so true-to-life plausible.

Broken and defeated – and maybe, hopefully, a little relieved? -- Lana wept. Her story ended on what seemed like a grace note. Dr. Thredson visited her in the Common Room and apologized for trying to “cure” her. “I am not an aversion therapy proponent, but I thought it made sense in the moment,” he said. “I wish I had spared you.” He gave her a gift: The photo of Wendy. She took it. She brightened. No nausea. “They’ll never let me keep it,” she said. Thredson smiled a conspiratorial smile. “You only have to hide it until the end of the week,” he said. “I’m leaving here Friday and I’m taking you with me.” Hope flashed in Lana’s eyes, or tried to. How the hell was Thredson going to liberate her from Briarcliff? “I don’t know how yet,” he said, “but I will not leave you in this place, Lana. That’s a promise.” Lana and Dr. Thredson: Bonded by empathy, struggle, regret and forgiveness, shared mission…

And yet, we remember the story that The Girl With The Auschwitz Tattoo told us, about a kindly doctor who won the trust of young women by giving them sweets and then betrayed them horribly, and we have to wonder if Lana’s just ceded her fate to a two-faced devil playing a diabolical long con…

NEXT: Kit and Grace recognize their sameness ("homo" in Greek), then get “familiar” with each other (sexual). So they’re… metaphorically homosexual?

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