American Horror Story: Freak Show Recap: Episode 5, “Pink Cupcakes”

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This week American Horror Story allowed us a bit of a breather after the jam-packed, two-part Halloween spectacular and embarked on what felt like Chapter II of this season. Still, some notable events occurred, primarily Dandy’s embracing his murder jones and striking out on his own to satiate his craving FOR BLOOD. Dandy has some funny moments, feigning surprise when Gloria discovers Dora’s body, with an “Oh my stars and garters, someone broke in the house and killed our beloved Dora!” reaction (not an exact quote). Dandy is an unconvincing actor (sorry, but that’s why you can’t be a thespian, kid), and Gloria immediately knows he is guilty; as it turns out, Dandy’s father had the same predilection and offed vagrants he knew no one would miss. According to Gloria, psychosis is a mark of affluence (read, inbreeding), but, as we later learn in her conversation with Dora’s daughter, Regina, she’s not as blasé as she seems and feels guilty for not being a better mother. Dandy is sorry he put her out, but that doesn’t stem his need to “express himself.” He heads over to the local gay bar to find a drifter of his own, after working out/lubing up in some cotton briefs and tennis shoes; it’s all very American Psycho Patrick Bateman, complete with voice-over narration (“this body is America”) but sadly lacking a Huey Lewis soundtrack. At the surprisingly well-trafficked establishment, Dandy finds Andy, pays him a $100, and brings him back to Twisty’s bus. There, they strip to their undies, and Andy stabs Dandy again and again and again. And again and again and again. And then he cuts off his arm, but Andy must be a descendent of Rasputin because he still won’t die, a fact for which Dandy berates him. When he presumably finishes dissolving Andy’s body parts in a bathtub (out behind the bus? did Twisty ever bathe?), he returns home to mom, giving her quite a start, as he is still in his underwear and covered with blood.

 

Andy forgot his mask. (Matt Bomer and Finn Wittrock, American Horror Story: Freak Show, FX)

A veritable Fruit of the Loom commercial, except Dandy is “not a fruit.” (Matt Bomer and Finn Wittrock, American Horror Story: Freak Show, FX)

 

Now that Andy is dead, someone is going to be heartbroken, and it’s not just America missing Matt Bomer’s lovely face. No, we learn that Andy has been dallying with Dell, who would like to run off with him, or at least turn him into a kept man, but Andy is all business and gently rejects his offer. It’s not at all surprising that Dell’s alpha-male syndrome is compensation for his closeted homosexuality; when Andy tells him he is already a freak, he defensively counters, “No one knows I’m one of ‘em.” (Earlier in the episode, when Maggie sees Stanley’s Blueboy magazines, we are once again reminded that on the Great Chain of AHS Being, homosexuals occupy a rung even below freaks.) Dell vents his aggression when Desiree threatens to leave him; after a miscarriage—doubly surprising since she didn’t think a pregnancy was possible and since she started bleeding while consorting with Jimmy and his magic hands—kindly Dr. Bonham tells her that she actually is not a hermaphrodite; she simply has an enlarged clitoris, which he can reduce through surgery. There is no need for Desiree to continue to hitch her wagon to Dell’s fading star; she learns from Ethel that “lobster hands” run in Dell’s family, so he—not she—has been the freak all along. She’s also appalled that he abandoned Jimmy and strongly intimates that she knows he is gay. Once Desiree has the surgery, she can find a new man, and have babies and a “normal” life. To keep this from happening—I’m guessing out of pride and maybe some residual affection—Dell crushes Dr. Bonham’s hands and threatens his family.

 

Perhaps even more dangerous is Stanley, who convinces Elsa that she could have a career in TV, in order to further insinuate himself into her freak show and gain access to his future “specimens.” He fantasizes about exhibiting Paul and the twins, and actually poisons Bette and Dot’s pink cupcakes, which, luckily, Dot rejects on behalf of both of them. But the Tattler sisters are hardly safe. Elsa is booed during another performance of “Life on Mars” and then sees Stanley taking the girls to a picnic, after she primps for a photo shoot to the tune of David Bowie’s “Fame.” There are only so many blows her ego can take. Her solution? Under the pretense of mentorship, drive the sisters out to the Motts’ house in the country and drop them off on the doorstep. Bette might not get her new hat after all.

 

A sulky Elsa = farewell, twins. (Jessica Lange x 5, Denis O'Hare, American Horror Story: Freak Show, FX)

A sulky Elsa = farewell, twins. (Jessica Lange x 5, Denis O’Hare, American Horror Story: Freak Show, FX)

 

 

ASSORTED THOUGHTS

 

Did you get the sense that Maggie rejects Jimmy’s advances, not because of his hands, but because she knows he’s a good person and she’s a fraud? She’s clearly trying to protect him, urging him to flee north.

 

Jimmy says “Meep” more than Meep said “Meep.”

 

Gabourey Sidibe makes her season debut as Regina, Dora’s daughter, who is studying at the “Barbizon Secretary School in New York City” and is concerned that her mother missed their weekly phone call. Although she cuts her conversation with Gloria short (“You’re making me uncomfortable, and I’m going to go now”), we probably can expect her to arrive in Jupiter sometime soon.

 

When Elsa initially rejects Stanley’s suggestion that she perform on TV, she is horrified that she might appear alongside ads for coffee and “shamPOO.” Has the word “shampoo” ever been delivered so exquisitely?

 

Black female freaks had a history of sexualized exhibition in freak shows; from the 1800s on, the black female body was considered primitive and thus hyper-sexual, a view stemming from “scientific” research on African tribes. Perhaps the must famous example of the black female freak is Saartjie Baartman, a South African Khoikoi woman billed as the “Venus Hottentot,” noted for her enlarged buttocks and enlongated labia, typical of her tribe. Intentionally or not, AHS weaves a similar narrative into Desiree’s story, although her enlarged clitoris is taken for a sign of her masculinity as opposed to her atavism. She’s a rather atypical hermaphrodite freak (more common was the “half-and-half,” as exemplified by Joseph-Josephine), but her atypical sexual anatomy, as well as the lust she demonstrates in contrast to Dell’s impotence, does bear a legacy from freak history and the ostensible science of race and eugenics.

 

Bette and Dot’s mother wouldn’t let them listen to Dinah Shore because she was “high yellow.” Rumors of Shore’s biracial ethnicity swirled in the 1950s due to her Russian Jewish parentage.

 

To strains of Roxy Music’s “More Than This,” Dell confesses his love to Jimmy and compares the pain of bending steel to that of unrequited affection. At last both Michael Chiklis (and Angela Bassett, in her final scene with Dell) are given something to do.

 

The “wanted” poster Dandy sees of Twisty: a picture of your run-of-the mill clown. The police sketch artist clearly used a Wooly Willy magnet pad.

 

It seemed like a lot of attention was placed on Dr. Bonham’s family and their pictures. Now that Ryan Murphy has confirmed that all the seasons are connected, I wonder if these are clues to how this season is relates to the others. Dr. Bonham is a prestigious surgeon from “up North”; was he associated with Briarcliff? A relation of someone in the Harmon family?

 

Stanley should have made them chocolate. (Pink Cupcake, American Horror Story: Freak Show, FX)

Stanley should have made them chocolate. (Pink Cupcake, American Horror Story: Freak Show, FX)