American Horror Story recap: Suffer Not A Woman

Not a good night for the ladies, as Bloody Face shows his true face and Dr. Arden seizes control of The Asylum 
Ep. 05 | Aired Nov 14, 2012

"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."

Byron Cohen/FX

“You know, when I was a child, I would come home after school to an empty house. My father had flown the coop. My mother worked as a maid at a hotel. It was lonely. So I brought in a baby squirrel that I had found and kept him in a shoebox came home. He looked sickly. He was dead already, but I didn't know that. I had forgotten to feed him for a couple days. So I took him out of the box and laid him on the table, and I and prayed my heart out for several hours, and when my mother came home and found him she screamed bloody murder and threw him in the garbage.  She worked hard, my mother, she was exhausted. She couldn't have known how cruel that was. I cried and cried and saying God didn't answer my prayers. I remember my mother was pouring herself a whisky -- the Martin family cure for everything. She looked at me and laughed. ‘God always answers our prayers, Judy. It's just rarely the answer we're looking for.’” She wiped her tears, then added: “It's over for me, Frank. My goose is cooked.”

“I certainly hope you’re not blaming yourself,” said Frank, trying to be consoling. “Men are never going to accept a woman being in charge. Especially not a woman as strong as you. In my opinion? You never had a chance.” So cynical. So... Biblical? (1 Timothy 2:12: "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.") How much has changed since the sixties? Debate!

We never got a scene that showed Monsignor Timothy firing Sister Jude, so we have to wonder about the exact nature of Sister Jude’s employment status at Briarcliff.  But the episode clearly wanted us to believe that she had lost her place within The Asylum. As she removed her Bride of Christ gold band and donned a tight gray dress, as she reverted from Sister Jude to mere Judy Martin, I found myself thinking of Charlotte’s line. Why do I have to wear this uncomfortable dress? I don’t care for it anymore…

Judy Martin, no longer in the habit she wanted, fell back on older, self-destructive habits. She hit a bar, flipped open a compact mirror, and applied a thick coat of ravage me red lipstick. A man at another table saw the red light flashing and took the seat next to her. She didn't complain. “What’s your poison, sweetheart?” he asked.

As we waited on Judy’s answer, we cut Dr. Arden’s operating theater at Briarcliff. He couldn't get Sister Jude to prostate herself before him, but Charlotte Brown would surely do. He strapped her to a table and gassed her into docility. (Just like old times, Herr Doktor?) He prepared her for a procedure that he boasted of performing well and often: A transorbital lobotomy. The tools: A small silver hammer, and Bloody Face’s weapon of choice, an orbitoclast. As a score lifted from some old Hollywood melodrama swelled, Arden gently tapped the spike through her eye, each blow given a crushing, clanking sound effect, like a hammer to a nail. It felt like a crucifixion. Another innocent woman sacrificed, so the evil empire of mad men could flourish. Good-bye, “Anne Frank.” Hush-hush, Sweet Charlotte. As the score reached a thunderous crescendo, we cut back to the bar, where Judy Martin was firing up a cigarette and shooting the man buying her drinks a come-hither look. It was her Don Draper-at-the-end-of-Mad-Men-Season-5 moment – The Return of The Tramp. And it didn’t feel like a triumph at all.

The Man Who Was Never There. Were you surprised that Dr. Oliver Thredson was Bloody Face (circa 64)? I was. I didn’t want this mostly-enlightened Camelot-era do-gooder to betray me. I also didn’t think Zachary Quinto would go to the super-genius serial killer place again after Sylar. But I’m glad he did, because he’s going to kill it, as he proved in his scenes in this episode. And as I’m obsessed with the show’s self-awareness and explicit and implicit pop references (and admittedly, I am projecting some/many of them), I am convinced that a show that aspires to be a crazy fantasia on national themes is playing to What We Know About Quinto – Heroes, Star Trek, Angels In America – either for winks and giggles, or to generate meaningful, provocative irony. They have the guy who plays Spock playing a psychotherapist. In other words: DR. SPOCK. Come on!

The show certainly played games in the ways it both obscured Dr. Thredson’s sinister secret and teased it. I’m thinking of his very first scene, when we saw him processing the facts of Kit Walker’s case and making a preliminary diagnosis – a scene that ended with Thredson looking directly to camera, looking frustrated and conflicted. Then, that moment felt like this: How can I possibly help this guy? Now, this: How am I going to frame this sap? The most coy-fun clue: Thredson name-dropping B.F. Skinner (“Bloody Face”) in the third episode. The revelation puts a new twist on the moment in “Tricks and Treats” when poor possessed Jed Potter seemed to channel Dr. Thredson’s mother: “I see what you have become and I’m glad I gave you up.” Looking forward to that backstory.

More pressing: His plan for Lana Winters. He succeeded in sneaking her out of Briarcliff with the well-timed distraction of lighting a guard’s cigarette. Frank nearly busted him, but Thredson brushed him off, and more, fire a parting shot at Sister Jude full of knowing gloat. “I don’t work here anymore, Frank. In fact I never did,” he said. “You can tell her I said that.”

Oliver Thredson. Is that even his real name?

NEXT: Into Death Chute, Fly Girl!


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