American Horror Story recap: Humbug

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. But he's a devil-lovin' psycho who just hates the 'Unholy Night' of Christmas. Sorry.
Ep. 08 | Aired Dec 5, 2012

THE DEVIL'S LITTLE HELPER Sister Mary helps Jean Valjean -- er, I mean Monsieur Lee Miserables get suited up for a Briarcliff slay ride in "Unholy Night"

“This country’s turn toward unadulterated blasphemy frightens me. It worries me deeply. That’s how The Devil works. Bit by bit by bit, he turns our eyes away from God.”  -- Sister Jude, bemoaning the pernicious demonic influence of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.

“Thank you. I’ve had these ideas for awhile." – The Devil

Sister Mary, the new Lion Queen of Birarcliff’s Island of Misfit Toys, spent much of “Unholy Night” doing what every new leader must do when they seize power: Purge enemies, dodge assassination attempts, and execute loyalty tests. She silenced Frank, who revealed admirable character as he struggled with guilt over accidentally killing Grace and resolved to spill everything to the authorities. She survived Sister Jude, who snuck into The Asylum and nearly succeeded at slitting Sister Mary’s throat. And she secured Dr. Arthur Arden’s subservient fidelity after the innocence obsessed Nazi took his own shot at testing her.

But the many diabolical agendas of Sister Mary didn’t stop there. She also threw a Christmas party for the Briarcliff unfortunates, a wickedly ironic affair that pissed that sought to sly commemorate if not formalize the transformation of the Advent season into a secular Festivus. This would be no "Silent Night" birthday bash for Jesus, the fulfillment of God’s promise to save us all from Satan’s power and rescue us from Shachath’s annihilating kiss. No, Sister Mary said their poppy-fizzy-funtime Common Room shindig would culminate with a different form of idol worship: They would gather around the television and watch NBC’s inaugural broadcast of the Rankin-Bass stop-motion classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

(What Sister Mary didn’t tell the inmates (or us) as that the first airing of this Christmas airing was itself an act of corporate evangelism. The show was presented as part of “General Electric’s Fantasy Hour,” and the commercial content was comprised of comical animated interstitials in which Santa’s elves pitched an assortment of GE products as Christmas gifts. Rudolph was the big bang of the Christmas cartoon tradition: One year later saw the debut of A Charlie Brown Christmas, which took a shot at the commercialization of Christmas, and even had Linus clarify the “true meaning of Christmas” by quoting King James scripture. Funny: Charles Schulz’s animated homily was actually created as… an advertising vehicle for Coca-Cola, the company that is arguably most responsible for turning Santa Claus into a cultural icon/marketing tool. Strange bedfellows and all that.)

All of this was lost on The Asylum’s witless wretches. They were just happy for the holiday cheer, no matter what the form, especially since they weren’t expecting to get anything at all. Sister Jude had canceled Christmas forever in the wake of the previous year’s event, which itself was a bit of Banrumesque Humbug: It was conceived as publicity stunt/photo-op, intended to assure the public that Briarcliff was doing its part in the war on everyday terror by keeping the likes of Lee locked up and hidden away, “shackled and under control.” But “Santa” refused to be put on display like a public square Nativity scene: “I don't want to be any part of your damn lie!” Lee found a way to make the gambit backfire on Sister Jude by going Hannibal Lecter on another inmate and chewing off his nose, just as the newspaper shutterbug was setting up his camera. CHOMP! SPIT! SNAP! FLASH!

NEXT: O, Christmas tree! O Christmas tree!/How Satanic are your branches?

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