L-R: Neil Patrick Harris as Chester, Erika Ervin as Amazon Eve, Mat Fraser as Paul the Illustrated Seal on "American Horror Story: Freak Show."
L-R: Neil Patrick Harris as Chester, Erika Ervin as Amazon Eve, Mat Fraser as Paul the Illustrated Seal on "American Horror Story: Freak Show." (Michele K. Short / FX)

Returning from its holiday hiatus, "American Horror Story" kicks off the run-up to its finale with an episode that features another high-profile guest star, Neil Patrick Harris, and several gruesome twists for our regulars. And there's a really creepy puppet, for those of you who were missing the really creepy clown.

About that Jimmy cliffhanger. In the mid-season finale "Orphans," we're led to believe that Jimmy sold his lobster hands to pay for a lawyer to help him get out of jail. Since this is "AHS," you'd be forgiven for not entirely believing that plot twist without any visual evidence and just sort of assuming that the whole thing would be a big take back in the end. Well, surprise, after we're subjected to some more of Evan Peters' ugly crying (make it stop), that's exactly what happens. Stanley fakes a medical emergency for Jimmy, sneaks him out of jail and has his hands removed. Yikes. Now that there are only two episodes after this one, the stakes have been raised.


Dell visits Jimmy in the hospital and comforts him over the loss of his hands. He tells him prosthetics are pretty good nowadays and that once Jimmy's fancy new lawyer gets him out of jail, they'll probably be able to buy the freak show from Elsa for cheap since she's headed to Hollywood. It's a surprisingly touching scene between father and son, and almost makes them both likable for a hot second. So you can probably guess something (else) bad is about to happen.

There's another new guy in town. A travelling salesman named Chester arrives at the freak show. He sells chameleons, but Chester really wants to be a performer ... because of course he does. A magician, actually. Chester takes an immediate shine to Bette, which is fortunate because, in the aftermath of their recent experiences with Dandy and Jimmy, the girls have decided that all they need in life is each other, and that they're obsessed with sex. Their new project is finding an appropriate partner to indulge their new desires with, and they think Chester is pretty fine.

Chester demonstrates his act to Elsa, who is, to put it mildly, not impressed. He even pulls out his ventriloquist's dummy named Marjorie and they do a creepy routine together. Even though the dummy's voice is provided by "AHS" alum Jamie Brewer, who is awesome, Elsa remains unimpressed. Chester is persistent however, offering to sell his chameleons before the show and touting his math skills. Apparently Elsa hates math as much as I do, because she offers to let him warm up the crowd as long as he helps out with the show's book-keeping. Chester is incredibly grateful; he goes on about how Elsa's giving him a family at last, which at this point we have to assume is just the reaction she inspires in everyone. It's almost sweet in a strange way.

The great Jimmy escape. Later on, Dell stomps into Elsa's trailer in a rage, looking for Stanley. He says he's planning to kill him, and fills Elsa in on the whole Jimmy "cutting his hands off to pay a lawyer because her agent told him to" thing. Elsa is horrified. It's interesting that whatever else you can say about her, her feelings for her "monsters" certainly seem legit, and tells Dell he has to get his son out before he can be sent back to jail. Amazon Eve volunteers to help. Their plan is a simple; they stop the car transporting Jimmy back to jail from the hospital and beat the officers that are with him to death. Subtlety is not their thing, apparently. But, Jimmy's a free man again, or at least a free fugitive.

The new magician's assistant(s). Chester visits Bette and Dot to thank them for putting in a good word with Elsa. He excitedly tells them that he found a sawing box in the storage tent. He decides to make sawing a girl in half a part of his act, and explains to Bette and Dot the mystery behind the trick. He wants them to be his assistants, because he thinks they're beautiful and special. He's so into them — it's almost cute — except it turns out that he is kind of crazy. This is still "AHS," and everyone is to some degree or other.

Dot and Bette get all gussied up that night and visit Chester's trailer. They love that he's clearly into both of them and have decided that the three of them can be in a relationship together. Chester is happy about this, especially the part where they tell him they want to sleep with him, but then he starts having blinding head pains. Time for a really creepy flashback, where we learn that Chester's wife left him for another woman after the war, and that he and the puppet watched the two women have sex with what seems to be some regularity. We also learn that he occasionally sees his doll as a real person, and that Marjorie told him to get rid of his wife. But, Bette and Dot calm him down in spite of thisand the three engage in what has to be the weirdest ménage a trois in the history of television. This show, y'all.

Dandy to the rescue. (Not really.) For some reason, Elsa decided she's going to sell the freak show to Chester, because he has a lot of money and is apparently crazy enough to overpay quite a bit for it. Chester's super psyched, and is already making plans for Marjorie to be his headlining act. Elsa clearly thinks Chester is crazy, but since she's getting a pile of money and he's signing a document that basically promises he can't fire anybody, she seems fine with it.

All is well, or seems to be, until Chester realizes Marjorie is missing. He looks all over the carnival until he runs into Dandy calmly loitering around the grounds. He's been having the twins followed, and knows all about Chester and his involvement with them. He's also had Chester investigated, and knows that he killed his wife and her lover Alice — though Chester's flashback blames a human form of Marjorie who beats them both to death with a hammer. (Lovely.)

Dandy says Marjorie ran away because she was upset about what Chester did with the twins and that she's going to tell everyone his murderous secret. When Chester finally tracks down Marjorie in the big tent, she tells him that she wants him to saw the twins in half for real. Ew. Chester does not seem to find his random visit from Dandy – or his knowledge of his past – too weird, but I guess crazy recognizes its own.

Justice for Ma Petite. Detectives arrive at the freak show and turn it upside down looking for Jimmy and swearing vengeance for the dead cops. They are unsuccessful and Dell returns to his trailer, full of hope and possibility now that his son is saved. Unfortunately, Desiree is there waiting with a gun, and forces him to admit he smothered Ma Petite. Unbeknownst to him, Maggie has also just shown Ma Petite's body to Elsa, and told her the truth about her favorite's death. Elsa shows up at Dell's trailer just in time to hear his confession, and she shoots him in the back of the head. Don't mess with her monsters, indeed.

Odds and Ends

• Dandy's giant mink coat is amazing. That had to be Gloria's, right?


• Are puppets more or less creepy than clowns? It seems kind of a toss up.


• While "human" Marjorie is terrifying, it's still nice to see "AHS" alum Jamie Brewer again.

• Where did Stanley go, exactly? Since everyone knows he got Jimmy to saw his hands off, did he just run? How does all this lead to Elsa ending up famous?

• How did the girls get Ma Petite's body from the Morbid Museum anyway?

• Yes! Danny Huston popped up again in the promo next week.