American Horror Story recap: Change You Can't Believe In

The monsters of The Asylum try to redeem themselves (or pretend to) in an episode filled with cliffhangers and one nasty coat hanger 
Ep. 09 | Aired Dec 12, 2012

WE ARE NEVER EVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER! Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) discovers one more sour reason to really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really hate Dr. Oliver Thredson in "The Coat Hanger."

Johnny Morgan needed to change. He was a walking, talking mistake of a man, and he desperately needed correction. He had “impulses,” you see. Unbearable, bewildering urges. They’d been there all of his misbegotten, unwanted life, from his foster home childhood back in the day to his wayward adulthood here in the new century present. In the beginning, Johnny only wanted to peel the flesh off deceased animals. But then he realized there’s more than one way to skin a dead cat. You can skin living cats, too. Also? You can kill them. It was scary, at first. Then… amazing. And yet, the dark passenger that squatted in his head and burned with abominable desires could not be sated, and the quest for relief and fulfillment eluded him. (If only this proto-Dexter had a clever father to redirect his psychotic energies toward ironic good!)

And so misfit Johnny grew up lost and loopy. One day, while serving time in the clink for armed robbery, Johnny worked the prison computer and searched his genealogy, hoping to learn the origins of his monstrosity. Shocking revelation! Johnny discovered he was a Thredson. He was the son of Bloody Face. Whoa. Now that explained a lot. (And implied a lot, too. Specifically: That Dr. Oliver Thredson’s crimes circa 1964 were, at some point, exposed.) Johnny got out of jail and shacked up in his damned daddy’s old place and took up his father’s mantle. Alas, his first pass at removing a lass of her epidermal outerwear didn't go so well. (R.I.P. Teresa the Horror Freak? Dead from Johnny’s clumsy flaying? Unclear.) He needed more skill with the knife. He needed… medical school.

Oh, but who was he kidding? He’d never live up to his legendary pappy. It was his madness to even try. All the more reason to be purged of the perverse wants that were driving him batty. And so he sought help from a qualified professional capable of rehabbing his mind and saving his soul.

Johnny went to a Penny Saver hypnotist.

Seriously: Why suffer and submit to the hard work of knowing thyself and the hard time of soul care when you can opt for cheap and easy, expedient and immediate? Change you can believe in is important, but times are tight, and that scary fiscal cliff keeps getting closer and closer and closer…

But even Little Miss Mesmerist had to admit that her approach to behavior modification wasn’t a sufficient remedy for Johnny Roger’s plight. Allow me to elaborate by imagining her internal monologue:

Dude. Who do you think I am? Freakin’ Freud? YOU FOUND ME IN THE PENNY SAVER. I treat smoking addictions and eating disorders by planting post-hypnotic suggestions in the topsoil of your psyche. That’s why this show gave me the name “Dr. Gardner.” Or not. I don’t know. The point, Johnny, is that I am a metaphor for quick fix culture and superficial change. I am only concerned with outward appearances. Hence, one of several possible meanings for the African mask that this episode has conspicuously placed it on my desk. In certain African cultures from which this mask might hail (or not) (like I know for sure!), wearing this ceremonial totem thingie isn't about hiding identity, but shedding your façade to become spirit. (As a side note, we might wonder if this is a clue to the endgame of this season of American Horror Story: Is The Asylum but a zeitgeist hatchery that will give birth to the spirit of the new age that will embed in the brain and govern actions and shape perspectives like a proverbial post-hypnotic suggestion? And if so: What shall it be? But I digress. Within a digression! Funny me!) From our parochial perspective, this mask is an example of so-called “primitive art,” which had a profound influence on Western art, for it inspired the likes of Picasso and Matisse and more to develop new, more expressive forms of visual representation like cubism and fauvism that eschewed the aesthetics of realism to pursue deeper, spiritual truths. Or so Wikipedia tells me. And to be clear: I exist in ironic relationship to the meaning of Screw cubism! Screw profound, systemic change!  Which is all to say: I can’t rehabilitate your psychotic sadistic misogyny. Sorry.

 Also, would you mind too much if I called the police?

 NEXT: A lot less italic type.

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