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

Back in the present, we found Pope-aspiring messianic wannabe arriving at a more traditional hospital, summoned by a doctor friend to deliver last rites to a legless Jane Doe suffering from a mysterious ailment. Father Timothy immediately recognized her: It was Shelley. He was appalled by her condition. He was also deeply alarmed that one of Dr. Arden’s incriminating “loose ends” had escaped Briarcliff. The forward-thinking priest panicked, then invented, on the spot, a novel new form of “last rites.” He choked Shelley to death with rosary beads. It was a shockingly abrupt end for a character who I thought – hoped – would recover and help lead an end-of-season rage-against-the-machine women’s revolt against Briarcliff.  No such luck. She died as she lived: Manhandled. Perhaps there will be more to say of her in the weeks to come; perhaps her unjust death will be a catalyst to other characters to take rebellious action against the corrupt powers that be. Sister Jude, I’m looking at you…

Despot or Artist? In his miniscule defense, Monsignor Timothy didn’t enjoy murdering Shelley. He huffed back to Briarcliff and tried to tear Dr. Arden a new one. “Jude was right about you. You’re a monster!” The former Nazi wasn’t easily rattled, and ridiculed his hypocrisy by quoting Matthew 7:5 at him. But Arden confessed that yes, he had pushed the limits on his work with the “evolutionary failures” and “human waste” and “wasted lives” of Briarcliff – and all for the greater good. He said his heroic immortality project had yield a wonderful, unexpected result.  Through the alchemy of weird science, Arden believed he could mutate human beings veritable human cockroaches, incapable of being harmed by the ultimate horror of post-Englightenment modernism. No, not existential despair. Atomic holocaust! He brought the Monsignor into the operating theater and announced: “Witness the next stage of human evolution!” There was Spivey on the table, looking like a boiled lobster. Once loathsome and untouchable, now indestructible...and still loathsome. But Arden only saw beauty, as well as his own artistic/scientific greatness. Beat that, God! (Regarding Spivey: The pervy flasher became Arden’s latest test subject after the doctor caught him peeping on Sister Mary while bathing and signing “Jesus Loves Me.” What really put a wasp in Arden’s wig was when Spivey insisted that Sister Mary had asked to be ogled.)

Monsignor Timothy, aghast, tried to storm out of Dr. Arden's dungeon of despair. He seemed resolved to expose the evil egghead's crimes. But Arden stopped him by reminding him that he had no business riding a high horse: The dude was dirty, too, although I couldn't tell from the dialogue if Arden was referring to the obvious (you’ve been harboring – and hoping to benefit from -- a war criminal who's been conducting cruel human experiments) or alluding to some secret not yet revealed, like, say, something to do with that Father Jerry who came to Briarcliff with Father Timothy? You and I have nothing to fear from each other,” Arden said. “However, we do have a threat in common we both know where the real danger lies.”

Checkmated, Monsignor Timothy has no choice but to take out Sister Jude. He was sending her to Father Bernard’s Home For Wayward Girls in Pittsburgh. Transferred. Like she was community property. He had already booked her flight. She would be goners by the following Friday.

The Empress' New Clothes. For Sister Mary, the ousting of Sister Judy was a rapturous event. Ding! Dong! The wicked symbol of my Bad Faith oppression is dead! She couldn’t even wait until the mean old girl to leave to celebrate. While Judy was down in Arden’s dungeon conceding defeat to her triumphant adversary (a pool party ruse, designed to snag a fingerprint that could help Nazi hunt Sam Goodman prove and expose Arden’s Hans Gruber past), Sister Mary pranced around Judy’s room, singing along to the proto-feminist smash “You Don’t Own Me” by sixties pop star Lesley Gore (“It’s My Party,” “It’s Judy’s Turn To Cry”; today, openly gay and an activist for LGBT causes), wearing a garment she coveted like a golden idol: that “trashy” red lingerie. It was the symbol of everything she had been taught to tamp down. Her true colors. Her sexuality. Her authentic impulses. Her freak flag victory dance -- which included a moment in which she chucked rosary beads at a crucifix -- was a celebration of liberation from Judy’s rules, The Church, her old “chump” self..

But then we remember that Sister Mary is possessed by Satan, and we wonder: Just how liberated is she? Has her authentic self, her true creative spirit been empowered and unleashed? Or has she traded one form of enslavement for another? Is she her own woman? Or is she someone’s Sister Jude? (If the latter, then the beat concluding Mary’s dancing-with-myself V-J Day party – answering the phone, identifying herself as Sister Jude, in her voice – takes on double meaning.)

After traveling to Sam Goodman’s motel and murdering him with a shard of shattered vanity mirror, Sister Mary visited Dr. Arden and told him that she had neutralized the “Israeli Sherlock Holmes.” But being a subversive little devil, she couldn't resist poking at his secret by calling him “Hans.” Arden exploded in much the same way that Oliver Thredson exploded when Kit Walker called him a phony lying bastard. “Don't call me that! Ever!” thundered Arden. Either he carried a great deal of shame over his Nazi past, or simply didn't trust lesser souls to assess and judge him properly, especially “so-called Nazi hunters” who, in his blustery, hateful opinion, happened to be  “self-loathing.. self-seeking… money-grubbing Jews!”

So maybe not so much shame. Arden’s sputtery anti-Semitism was the beginning of a coming out moment, in which the bastard formerly known as Hans Gruber let down the walls, got vulnerable, and dared to reveal that underneath his proud, great man veneer, he was actually… a really proud, truly Great Man. His speech reminded me, ironically, of one of Shelley’s poignantly strained self-aggrandizing soliloquies. “I’m not monster! I’m a visionary!” whimpered Arden. “Do you have any idea how lonely a path this is? What it’s like to carry on your work in secret, hiding from those pious vigilantes?!”

Cut to Sister Mary, and the fallen angel hiding behind her eyes saying: Been there, Been doing that since before the dawn of creation. Host Body Mary, tell this little Jenny wuss to stop his whining, already! “Arthur!” said the Sister, sweet yet firm. “You’re preaching to the converted!” Arden was taken aback. He knew had an ally in Sister Mary. But a fellow traveler in abhorrent grandiosity? Like him, a “Piss Christ” heretic/aspiring God killer? It was too good to be true… so it probably wasn’t. Was it? “Why are you protecting me?” said Arden. “You're not in love with me. I’m a fool. I know I’m too old. Too ugly.” Watching Arden slip into self-loathing and confess to feeling hideous – untouchable – was actually rather poignant. “Is there something you want from me?”

There was. But for now, Sister Mary was going to keep the devilish details to herself. She stuck to the broad strokes. “This is the beginning of a whole new era,” said Mary. (New era of what? Post-Modern Godlessness? Proud Mary Feminism? Horror Freak Geekdom? Tell us, Twisted Sister! Tell us now!) (Nope!) “All you need to do is trust me with your entire soul, and I promise you, everything will work out.” And with that, Sister Mary completed her quiet coup of Briarcliff by planting a kiss on Arden’s cheek. It took his breath away…

And perhaps quite a bit more.

Meanwhile, in the present... Teresa lives! And she's being held captive by a next-gen Bloody Face voiced by Dylan McDermott! THEORY! All of American Horror Story: Asylum is the chaotic psychic projection of Ben Harmon, wielding the dark magic of his Murder House afterlife to rewrite the last fifty years of American history in order to subvert his own birth, eradicate his very existence and all of the events of the first season of American Horror Story, thus saving the world from the Constance Langdon-raised Antichrist Superstar sired by Evil Tate via his poor wife Vivien. Who's with me on this? Anyone? Anyone? Hello?!

Time for me to put some nutmeg on the turkey. And no, Spivey, that's not a euphemism. I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the holiday... right after you give me a couple hundred words of your own about the episode. What did you make of "The Origins of Monstrosity?"

Twitter: @EWDocJensen

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