American Horror Story recap: The Untouchables

Sister Mary and assorted Briarcliff devils reveal their "Origins Of Monstrosity" in a very special Thanksgiving episode. (Not!)
Ep. 06 | Aired Nov 21, 2012

Pass The Nutmeg. Sister Mary shares her recipe for being devilish with Creepy Jenny in "The Origins Of Monstrosity."

Byron Cohen/FX

We then got Mary Eunice McKee’s origin story – a moment from her adolescence that forged or at least summed up her worldview. She was a shy girl – an outsider; a misfit; “just everyone’s victim.” Her luck seemed to change one day when the popular kids invited her to a skinny dipping pool party. She was “the guest of honor,” she was told, and she was shown to the diving board by the host, a certifiable Mean Girl. But when it came time for everyone to drop their social roles and reveal their authentic selves bathrobes, Mary realized she had been duped: Everyone else was wearing a bathing suit. She stood there, naked and exposed and ashamed, everyone looking and laughing at her. And then the Swim Party Carrie used her telekinetic powers to burn everyone alive! No: She escaped by jumping into the pool…

And then, eventually, into The Church. “The only place I thought I would be safe was with God,” she said. “You know there’s no God, right? You’ve already figured out that it’s just a bunch of crap someone made up to keep you from being who you are. From doing what you really want to do. What a chump. And look where it got me? Right here, taking a s—t from a mean old bitch who drinks… and wears trashy red lingerie under her habit.” (Sister Mary made Sister Jude sound pathetic, though later, in one of the episode’s best scenes, we learned just what Judy's power color undies meant to the one-time victim-chump.) For the first time, Jenny laughed. Feeling comfy with the naughty nun, Little Miss Sinister sweated the prospect of being locked in her room forever, prohibited and inhibited from pursuing her bliss. “Don't be a whiner. You're smarter than they are. Don't you ever forget it,” said Sister Mary, running a finger along the dull end of her chopping knife. “Maybe you just need to learn to defend yourself…”

The Lingering Effects Of Hurtful Parenting. Eventually, Mother Reynolds was made to return and retrieve the undesirable misfit daughter she tried to save/dump at Briarcliff. She also suffered the consequences of her dubious parenting, as did Jenny’s allegedly “normal” siblings. In the epilogue, we saw that Jenny had embraced Sister Mary’s unique brand of existential self-help philosophy – How To Find Happiness In A Godless And Nauseating Universe Where No One But You Cares About You – by obeying her authentic impulse, by following her bliss, by… killing her mother and her brother and sister with a butcher knife, under the bridge down by the river. It was the bad man with the beard and brown coat again, she told the police. And they believed her. Which was kind of hard to believe. But hey: Metaphor! Behold the latest cultural product to roll out of the Briarcliff monster-making factory: The Emotionally Untouchable Ayn Rand Ubermenchick! (But at least she’s well prepared for Joss Whedon’s zombie apocalypse…)

The Drama Of The Untouched Child. Oliver Thredson just wants to be loved. Is that so wrong? Well, when you’re abducting women and slicing off their flesh, then yes. His motive: Getting what he was denied as a child: the touch, the tangible feel of a mother’s love. He told his origin story to Lana Winters while sitting on a big old bed eating tomato soup and croque monsieur (“Can I tell you a secret? A little nutmeg makes all the difference in the world.”), just two giddy-giggly pals sharing secrets during a sleepover… except Lana was a hostage, a woman in chains. She spent most of the episode trying very hard to keep her wits and navigate Oliver’s twisty-twisted persona while simultaneously struggling to keep at bay the Kong-sized terror that wanted to stream out of her unblinking bloodshot eyes and tear out of her throat with a Fay Wray scream. (I'm more of a Jessica Lange man myself.)

Thredson’s evolution into Bloody Face began when his mom abandoned him at an age before memory. He grew up in an orphanage – “in the system,” he said with a dismissive eyeroll – where he had morality beaten into him with a leather crop, where all of his basic needs were met, except the spiritual/emotional ones no institution can satisfy. “I followed all the rules,” he said, “especially the rules against affection, or any unnecessary bodily contact, because touch would certainly spoil the child.” In a moment shot topsy-turvy, the camera framed Thredson and Winters upside down on the bed, then glided into a slightly more conventional overhead establishing shot as Thredson claimed to be more “self-aware” than his peers, “different” from other kids, and acutely aware that he was “afflicted.” He wanted to study psychiatry, so he could better understand his “disorder.” The self-conscious camera expressed Thredson’s oddball sense of self... but the disorientation also suggested, to me at least, that for all his claims to enlightenment, the dude was delusion, nonetheless. A turning point in his life came at medical school, where the other students clearly viewed him as a misfit. Gay? Possibly. Depends on how you interpreted this line from a snarky classmate: “Hey, Thredson! I heard this is the closest you’ll get to a girlfriend this quarter!” The jerk was referring to the cadaver of a 33-year-old woman. “The same age as my mother when she abandoned me,” he said. “The same age as you, Lana.” He imagined the woman was his mother, and during one dark night, alone with the body, transgression ensued...

NEXT: “Mommy.” “Baby.” Shlurrrpsuckle.

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