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

Thredson stripped to the waist and cuddled with the dead woman. At last! A mother’s touch. Skin to skin contact. Just when we thought that necrophilia might follow... oh, wait, was that just me? Forget I said that!  Anyway: Didn't happen! “Oh, but she smelled of formaldehyde,” he recalled. “And her skin, even after I removed it, was cold and stiff.” So Thredson began abducting and killing, skinning and decapitating. “Warm living skin,” he murmured. Lana didn't like the sound of that, and she started to lose it, but Thredson quickly comforted her and told her not to worry: “Now that you’re here, all of that work is behind me. Mommy.” Lana gulped.

Turned out Thredson realized that he had deeper spiritual cravings that mere Filet-o-Female couldn’t sate. He needed to be known. By another human being who would not judge him, who would give him grace to be his freaky self, who would love him unconditionally. He also yearned for significance -- esteem and acknowledgment from the world. He believed Lana was uniquely qualified to satisfy all of those longings, and he came to that conclusion before their Briarcliff daze. Flashback! On the day of Kit Walker’s arrest, Thredson went to the police station to watch the spectacle and found himself within earshot of an earnest young reporter, an Upton Sinclair wannabe determined to get the scoop on Bloody Face: None other than Lana Winters. “Aren’t you sick and tired of writing the same old story with different names?” she told a fellow journalist, a man named Phil. “Start with some blood and guts, a pinch of sympathy for the victims, then top it off with moral outrage.” Did she think a “woman’s touch” would make a for a better story? Hell yes! “That’s what's been missing from this story. You think this mook is just some monster, but no monster starts off that way. He was somebody’s precious baby crying out for his mommy.” From the shadows, Thredson listened, and he swooned. Mommy. A plan bloomed. Lana Winters, imbued with such profound empathy, would be his Truman Capote. She would grok him, then share his story in print... followed by a book, then a feature film adaptation, and a host of other media opportunities, no doubt.

The Struggle Against The Truth. Lana would require a little more convincing in order to play the social role that Thredson wanted to force upon her. (Talk about Bad Faith!) When Thredson left the dungeon to bus their “mommy snack” dishes, and then was delayed from returning by a phone call from Kit Walker, Lana seized the opportunity and tried to escape. She was close, so very close, to filing through her chains… but then Thredson arrived, and in a pique of anger, too. Kit had ripped him for setting him up, for getting him to record a confession under the guise of practicing sincerity for his insanity defense and then leaking it to the police. Thredson was oddly bothered Kit’s totally righteous complaint, and when Kit told him he was “full of s—t” and a “phony lying bastard,” Bloody Face got red in the face. “You – you stop calling me that!” “Stop calling me that!”  He sounded like a child protesting some verbal schoolyard bullying -- except the cruel words happened to be true. He took that agitation down into the basement, and he was in the throes of that conflict when he noticed that Lana was also hot and bothered. Suspicious, Thredson examined her chains, realized she had worn herself out from trying to free herself from attempting to abandon him. Just like Mommy did in the time before memory. Uh-oh.

Thredson put on his Bloody Face mask. A complex thing, this ugly role. It was empowering, and dehumanizing. It allowed him the tactile sensation of female flesh, but also expressed the hideousness that he felt about himself. Oliver Thredson: The Untouched Child, The Untouchable Man. He mounted Lana Winters and began ripping away her shirt and severing her bra straps with a scalpel. Skinning was about toe follow. But then he heard the words he yearned to hear, words that Lana knew she had to say in order to survive this moment, and hopefully the next. “It’s all right, Oliver. I don't want you to feel guilty. A mother’s love is unconditional. You never had that, did you? Everyone deserves that. Even you. Baby.” As in: Her baby. As in: Yes, Oliver. I will be your terrycloth monkey-mom.

Thredson took off his mask. His eyes were full of tears. Grateful tears. “Baby need colostrum,” said Thredson, a PG variation on Dennis Hopper's R-rated Frank Booth from Blue Velvet, another pop culture rogue with an icky Freudian bent. He went down on her breast and began to suckle with the rapaciousness of a starving infant, and Lana Winters tried very hard not to scream from the totally f---ed up thing that was happening to her.


The Pursuit Of Heroic Self-Image. Monsignor Timothy Howard came to Briarcliff Manor Sanatorium with a big heart and the best of intentions. Then he met Dr. Arthur Arden, and soon he was on the road to hell. The year was 1962. The Catholic Church had just purchased the Briarcliff with the desire of turning the TB hospital into an asylum. Father Timothy, accompanied by another priest, Father Jerry, arrived in time to help Arden, Briarcliff’s supervising physician, tend to the last of the dying patients, "The Incurables," the ones that various new TB drugs couldn't touch and help. The conversation that changed everything occurred while Arden and Timothy were wheeling a bundled-up corpse through the death chute toward the crematorium. In previous episodes, this grim corridor had been an ironic symbol for escape, for salvation, for happily ever after – a denial of dearth. So it was a fitting setting for Arden to explain the great, heroic work he had been pursuing at Briarcliff: “An immune booster – a sort of bacterial cocktail, if you will. It would actually inhibit most disease from ever taking hold in the human body.” (Sounded like Arden was searching for a cure for HIV.) He was close, so very close to accomplishing his goal, a Becker-esque "immortality project" made literal. All he needed was living, human test subjects. Volunteers would be tough to recruit, said Arden, but he had brainstormed a final solution, perhaps inspired by certain previous experiences. He wanted the outcasts. The misfits. The untouchables. “There are those whose lives otherwise serve no purpose,” Arden told the new madhouse landlord. “Through our work together, they would have contributed to the greater good. A good that wouldn't go unnoticed even in Rome…”

The wink-wink/nudge-nudge was not lost on the ambitious young priest.

NEXT: Last rites for Shelley.

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