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

Women Of The Fall. Dr. Thredson took Lana Winters to his home, a spacious mid-century modern bachelor pad. Lana would have preferred her place. Thredson, so logical, said that her home would be the first place the authorities would look once she was discovered missing from The Asylum. She wanted to call Lois and ask if she knew of Wendy’s whereabouts. “No calls!” said Thredson reproachfully. ”You have to realize I am at risk, too.” They sat down with glasses of wine, and Thredson said something most interesting: “You're going to write about this. You’re going to win a Pulitzer Prize. I just know it. You're the person who’s going to tell my story.” How to interpret this line? Two possibilities. 1. Thredson was revealing his motivation for abducting, neutralizing, killing Lana. He can't be exposed. Therefore, he couldn't risk Lana getting out or escaping and writing about him. 2. Thredson is sincere: He wants Lana to write about him. He isn't just a serial killer who gets his jollies turning women into furniture. He's clearly brilliant, and I suspect he might have an ideological agenda, a purpose that he feels is noble, benefits the culture and justifies his violence. Like this: Aversion therapy/cultural conditioning, writ large. He's trying to create a myth, one that Lana will evangelize to the world. Perhaps he aspires to purge misogyny from the collective consciousness. Maybe he's trying to inspire misogyny. We shall see.

Lana didn't entertain either of these options. All she heard was a male narcissist who thought everything was about him. She was noticeably stunned. Even a touch angry. “’Your’ story?” No: This was her story -- the story of a woman, on behalf all who've been abused and oppressed by institutions like Briarcliff, the men who run them, and everyone who collaborates with them. Thredson’s smirk weakened. Nervous, Lana tried to push out of the awkward moment. “Here’s to taking down Briarcliff,” she said, raising her glass.

“Hear, hear,” said Thredson.

But the dread mounted. Lana looked at the lampshade next to her chair. The material was coarse and  tan and thin as skin. It also sported a pair of blemishes that resembled nipples. Because they were. Gulp. Dr. Thredson pushed a bowl of mints across the table. She looked. The bowl resembled a skullcap. Flight instinct kicked in. She asked to use the restroom. He directed her to a doorway down the hall. She left. Thredson removed his glasses. The game was afoot.

All the doors were locked, save one: A room full of cutting tools, bones, and pony tails hanging from the wall. “I see you have found my little hobby,” said Thredson. Lana must have known the score – but she didn’t want it to be true. “You make furniture?” Thredson: “Lamps, mainly. I make the shades myself.” Lana asked, “What kind of material do you use?” Thredson, a touch gleefully, relishing her fear, stoking it by confirming exactly what she didn't want to be true: “Skin.” He pressed a button. A trap door opened. Down the death chute, Lana plummeted…

And at that moment, back at Briarcliff... Kit Walker found Grace snoozing – and bleeding between the legs – in a chair in the Common Room. What happened? Before he could get an answer, detectives Bias and Connors arrived to arrest him. They had received and heard his taped confession – and he sounded perfectly sane. As the cops dragged Kit away, Grace sprung to life and tried to stop them, but her voice – hoarse from trauma -- was weak, so weak. This is a mistake! He didn’t do it. She’s alive! Everything you said is true! I saw her! Alma is alive…

And at that moment, in some hotel room somewhere... Judy Martin was waking up next to the man in the bar. Sobriety hit her like a vertiginous blow to the head. She grabbed her cigarettes, got dressed. We left Judy as she was doing what Judy does best: Running away. Again. Further to fall? Or has she finally hit the rock bottom she’s been avoiding for years…

Back at Thredson’s house of horrors... Lana Winters regained consciousness down in Bloody Face’s murder dungeon, which seemed to intentionally evoked Martin Vanger’s family room-slaughterhouse in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. She was chained. Wendy was by her side – literally frozen, slowly thawing. Dead? TBD. Their captor –now sporting a black teddy over a denim shirt (?) -- pushed through the plastic curtain that surrounded the shower stall/butchery pen. “Normally, by now, I would have removed the skin and head,” he said of Wendy. "But we need to keep her around a little longer for our purposes.” Alluding to the aversion therapy they attempted last week, in which Thredson tried to "cure" Lana of her homosexuality, he said: “We're going to continue our therapy now, Lana. You can begin by kissing her cold lips.” He donned his Bloody Face mask. He ran a finger across the stitched-on pearly whites. “Don't worry. She won't bite. I took her teeth.”

Lana Winters went Scream Queen. To be continued…

A Wonderful World. A chilling coda to a bleak episode took us back to the home of Jim and Charlotte Brown. He found his wife holding their sleeping son down in her Holocaust research room, all honey wood and flower-print autumnal hued wallpaper. Her back was to camera, and when she turned, we expected to see the terrifying, disfiguring result of her lobotomy. And we did. Her face was bloody... perfect. Everything about her: Well-assembled, sweatless, unblemished. She was the picture perfect, as-seen-on-TV housewife-mother-helpmate. The kind who has pot roast with carrots and potatoes and onions waiting for her husband when he comes home from work. Jim said he was making himself a martini.  "Don't be silly," she said. She'd make one for him. And while holding their child, too! For such was her duty. And Jim Brown loved her for that. He spied the garbage can. He saw that she had filled it with the stuff of her Holocaust obsession. He loved her for that, too. "You seem happy," he said. "Are you as happy as you look?" She paused...

... and the film went old school narrow-mono for the brief moment in which she said "I have never been happier" with such vacant sincerity that it couldn't possibly be trusted...

... and we were back to film. She turned away from him, and us, and the smile on her face weakened as walked into shadow, into darkness, to the kitchen.

Was any of this sequence real? Did Charlotte really survive the lobotomy and become this woman? Was this pure fantasy, and if so, whose? Or was it a metaphor for the lies we tell oursleves, the illusions we chase, the dark shadows we ignore? On the record player, we heard a folk song about equality, fairness, and social justice; a song challenging the notion that "good fences make good neighbors;" a song for change, full of empathy, Communion and Grok: "It Could Be A Wonderful World" by Leon Bibb and Ronnie Gilbert. If we could consider each other/a neighbor, a friend or a brother/It could be a wonderful, wonderful world. We zoomed in on one of the few remaining newspaper clips on Charlotte's Holocaust wall. There, in a photo, stading behind Adolph Hitler, was Hans Gruber, a man Charlotte once beieved was Dr. Arden. But that was bad when she was crazy. She's better now. And Life Is Beautiful. For everyone.


+As stated earlier, the name “Charlotte Brown” could have been a nod to Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the author of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” But how about Charlotte Braun of Charlie Brown/Peanuts fame? She was a strong young woman with a driving personality and definite opinions. SHE WAS ALSO A LOUD TALKER WHO SPOKE IN ALL CAPS. Charlotte Braun only appeared in 10 Peanuts strips, because Charles Schultz didn’t know what more to do with her. In 1955, a reader wrote Schultz to complain about the character. He sent back a letter explaining he was going to “discard” the girl, and drew a rather funny-disturbing image for punctuation: Charlotte Braun with a hatchet embedded in her skull. Dr. Arden would certainly approve.

+Sister Jude’s real name, Judy Martin, evokes Judy Barton, the femme fatale con artist in Hitchcock’s Vertigo. She fell to her death after getting spooked by a nun. Lots of resonance here, including the idea of spirit possession. Which brings me back to...

+What Jim Brown said: "It was like she wanted to relive it, that she could change the outcome." This got me wondering about Sister Mary. What if  she isn't possessed by the devil? What if she's been possessed by the spirit or consciousness of a character we know --Shelley; Lana; Sister Jude -- who, in a supernatural time travel twist, is trying to change history?

To you. What did you think of "I Am Anne Frank" (Part Two)?

Twitter @EWDocJensen

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