Image credit: Byron Cohen/FX
"HEIL ME!" Suspected Nazi war criminal Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) bluffed Sister Jude out of power and silenced a threat to his freedom with a few taps of his orbitoclast in the conclusion of "I Am Anne Frank."
And so Charlotte Brown gave herself over to the cultural construction of Anne Frank. You could view it as a metaphor for Feminist nightmare (a woman taken over by a role, losing her identity) or a metaphor for Feminist rebellion (a woman escaping the roles foisted on her by patriarchal culture by adopting a meaningful identity of her own creation). Charlotte’s condition sounded to me like pop idolatry gone too far, or empathy without healthy psychic borders. I was also reminded of Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece of psychological and meta-filmmaking horror, Persona, about a nurse named Sister Alma who begins to mind-meld with a patient, a renowned actress. (Hey! “Alma The Nurse.” Like Kit’s wife, Alma! Who made an appearance in this episode, playing nurse to Grace!) The Charlotte/Frank fusion also reminded me of sci-fi author Robert Heinlein’s concept of Grok, introduced in his novel Stranger In A Strange Land. Heinlein’s definition: “Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience.”
To Sister Jude’s ears, Charlotte’s yarn sounded like so much bulls--t. And she fell for it. She sadly dubbed Charlotte “a world class actress. It was very… convincing.” Dr. Thredson, eavesdropping from outside the door, had a different diagnosis. “A classic case of postpartum psychosis,” declared the psychotherapist. (It's here that Charlotte Brown intersects with Charlotte Perkins Gilman, as "The Yellow Wallpaper" chronicles the mental erosion of a new mother suffering from similar severe depression.) Thredson said Charlotte should be hospitalized. Mr. Brown panicked at the prospect of being
forced to care for a howling infant by himself separated from his true love: “She’s not psychotic! She’s a very emotional person!” Sister Jude – tweaked by “Dr. Buttinsky’s” latest attempt at subverting her authority – rashly decided to side with Mr. Brown: “Did you hear what he said? The man wants his wife at home!”
And so Sister Jude reunited Mr. Brown with his missing property... er, wife. “Anne Frank” – no longer in Briarcliff
prison camp togs -- was not happy to be wearing Charlotte’s clothes again, literally and metaphorically: “They made me wear this uncomfortable dress. I don’t care for it anymore.” Mr. Brown played Knight of Mirrors. He tried to get his wife to surrender her illusion/delusion of being a Donna Quixote, tilting at Nazi windmills by showing her a family photo: The Browns, on the couch, allegedly happy. She recognized the child. Anne Frank receded; Charlotte Brown seemed to seep back into her old headspace. Mr. Brown led his subdued wife away, and Sister Jude ascended the Stairway to Heaven convinced she had salvaged something good out of a horrible situation.
She couldn’t have been more wrong.
At The Mending Wall. In the bowels of Briarcliff, Kit Walker and Grace awaited punishment for defiling Sister Jude’s bakery with kneading table hanky-panky: Sterilization. Snip-snip! Bye-bye, reproductive rights. Bye-bye, legacy. The scene between them was artfully shot, and a few times, it broke the fourth wall between show and viewer, as if trying to forge the same empathic rapport with us as Kit and Grace were forging on screen. They were in separate cells, a wall between them. We saw Kit approach the camera. “Are you afraid?” Grace approached, said she wasn’t. He didn’t believe her. We took Grace’s perspective as the barrier between them disappeared, and she reached out to touch him. They spoke of the fate that awaited them, of dreams about to die. Kit said that he and Alma had always wanted kids, maybe two or three, but always kept pushing it off. “And now there will be no tomorrow, for either of us,” said Grace, and as she walked away, the physical boundary between them reappeared. He took responsibility for their plight and apologized. She said had no regrets. They were in this together. They would go down, together. Empathic connection restored, the wall dissolved anew. They touched again.
This intimate sequence struck me as a secret marriage ceremony, complete with sexy psychic consummation. I found it moving… although when Kit mentioned Alma, I wondered: Is he being unfaithful? Maybe. Maybe not: Last week, he decided he was Bloody Face, even if he couldn’t remember committing the crimes; ergo, his wife was dead, slain by his hand. He wasn’t an adulterer -- he was a widower. In addition to Heinlein’s concept of Grok, the scene reminded me of the Robert Frost poem “Mending Wall” quoted in last week’s episode, challenging the maxim that “good fences make good neighbors,” mocking the folly of trying to rein and tame nature. In the same way: The Kit-Grace love shall not be denied! What divine and/or extraterrestrial conspiracy has joined together, let no man (or wicked nun) rip asunder!
Ah, but enter the Twisted Sister to shake s—t up. Sister Mary explained that Sister Jude – impressed by Kit’s well-meaning yet utterly wrong-headed Bloody Face confession in last week’s episode – had decided he had “showed signs of true redemption.” His reward: A stay of sterilization and release from solitary. “Yay.” But Grace’s sentence wasn’t commuted. She was left to languish. Alone. Severed from her soul mate, Grace went bonkers and began to literally bounce off the walls. She exhausted herself exhausting her rage… and then she saw a light, blinding and white, bleeding through the cracks around the door… which began to shake and glow and then melt away… and as we zoomed in on her eyeball, we saw the reflection of gray alien with spindly arms and legs.
Let’s pause to reflect on the alien-related monkey business we’ve seen so far inside The Asylum. There’s a buggy little extra-terrestrial microchip that wants to re-integrate with Kit -- to commune with him – for reasons unknown. Sister Jude chugged the communion wine, then had a close encounter with a grey-face extra-terrestrial during that dark and stormy Nor’easter night. Now, this week: Kit and Grace communed and Grace got abducted. “Communion” links me to Whitley Strieber, esoteric thinker, UFO expert, and author of such books The Hunger (about an immortal bisexual vampire), The Wolfen (possibly god-like creatures who feed on outcasts and misfits), The Coming Global Superstorm (the inspiration for the eco-apocalypse disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow) and, more to the point, Communion, a memoir of his own abduction by a mysterious, inexplicable entity -- maybe an alien, maybe the goddess Ishtar, maybe something else entirely. And did I mention the plot of Robert “Grokky” Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land? It's about a messianic Martian who comes to Earth in hopes of saving humanity from extinction – and possible destruction by his fellow Martians -- by making us more enlightened beings.
Where am I going with all of this? Here:
My new theory is that Kit Walker is an alien who thinks he’s a human being.
Also? He’s a female alien, too.
NEXT: Power plays by Thredson and Arden