Last week's episode ended on a weird note of happiness, as Fraulein Elsa's freak show was at least partially embraced by their local community, thanks to the whole Jimmy saving their kidnapped kids from a serial killer thing. But that doesn't seem likely to last long - Denis O'Hare's super sleazy Stanley has arrived on the scene, and things are about to get messy.
Everyone wants to be a (television) star. Stanley's already fantasizing about the gala the museum will throw to feature their contributions, so you know it's on now. His accomplice Maggie (aka Esmeralda) is not really feeling the idea of murdering their way around the carnival, but Stanley insists that accidents happen and Elsa's show is just going to hit a remarkable run of bad luck.
Stanley visits with Elsa and continues spinning his big lie that he's a Hollywood agent. Elsa, of course, eats this up until he admits that he works for a television network, and if you can't already write Elsa's rant about how the sad little TV boxes are destroying wonder and glamor in the world, well, you haven't been paying attention.
However, Elsa’s pretty quick to change her tune once she performs “Life on Mars” again and her audience yawns through it because they don’t appreciate David Bowie appropriately and/or saw the first episode of this season already. There are some artistic slow-motion shots as we watch Elsa’s entire internal logic structure recalibrate as the crowd starts throwing popcorn at her.Suddenly, television stardom doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world. (But seriously who *throws popcorn* at Jessica Lange this is just blasphemy.)
You know who else is into the prospect of television stardom? Bette and Dot. Turns out Stanley's also promised the twins their own variety show, and they're excited. There are a few weird fake-out fantasy sequences where we learn how Stanley would kill the girls via pink frosted cupcakes if he could, but despite the gross-out nature of the scene where the audience is meant to think one of the twins is dead, they're both fine. Elsa herself is even willing to mentor them to help them in their quest for television success! (Surprise, that's a lie. She saw them go off for a picnic with Stanley and is crazy jealous because, yet again, it looks like they're trying to take her place.)
Desiree gets shocking news. Jimmy, sent to find Dell when he misses a performance, ends up having a pity party with an intoxicated Desiree, who's upset about the fact that she married a complete jerk. Jimmy's sad because he hasn't had a chance to cry about Meep the Geek's death yet this episode, and also because his new crush Esmeralda just shot him down when he tried to kiss her. All of this results in Desiree and Jimmy fooling around, which is a little bit gross when you realize that technically she's his stepmother, but luckily proceedings come to a screeching halt when she starts bleeding everywhere.
Desiree is rushed to see Ethel's nice doctor friend from last week, where we learn she's actually 100% female, she just has a chemical imbalance that's resulted in various extra or enlarged lady parts. Nice Doctor claims he can totally fix that if it's something that bothers her, by the way. He also breaks it to her that her bleeding episode was in fact a miscarriage, which is something of a shock as it seemed she was unaware she could have children.
Welcome to the Dandy Mott School for murder. Elsewhere,Gloria Mott discovers the fact that Patti LaBelle is dead in her kitchen. Dandy tries to play it off like there's been some kind of home invasion, but Gloria is not having it, because she is somehow both intensely crazy and intensely awesome. She knows instantly that Dandy's responsible for their dead maid problem, and she actually sends him to his room for it. Because, punishment. To which Dandy responds by working out and internal monologuing about how he's the very model of a modern … murderer, I guess.
Anyway, Gloria makes her gardeners dig a twelve foot hole in the backyard under the guise of having a ton of special bulbs from Holland that must be planted extra deep because horticulture. They clearly do not believe her, but she brazens it out admirably, and I'm struck again by the realization that Frances Conroy is just such an unsung hero of the "AHS" franchise.
Gloria claims Dandy has “the sickness” like his father, and it’s all just an affliction of the affluent, since you’re pretty much bound to end up with a psychotic eventually because of all the inbreeding. Dandy says he doesn’t want to end up like his father – and if we don’t at least get a flashback about his father this season I’m going to be so upset –but complains that if his mother had just let him be an actor like he wanted this could all have been avoided.
Dell and Dandy cross paths — sort of. Meanwhile, in a twist you may have guessed if you were paying attention to Dell's impotency problems last week, it turns out our resident strongman is not at work because he's off visiting … a secret speakeasy with gay prostitutes? So, Dell is busy having drinks with Matt Bomer from "White Collar," aka Andy. Andy is apparently Dell's secret boyfriend, over whom he is very possessive and territorial. Dell's busy having an identity crisis about whether to leave his wife or not and what sort of life he ultimately wants to have, which would probably matter more if Dell were in any way sympathetic or a character we cared about.
This is about to not matter very much, because, of course, Dandy also decides to pay a visit to this secret speakeasy, and, of course, Andy's the guy he decides to pick up.
In one of the more disturbing sequences ever performed on this show, Dandy pays Andy $20 to come home with him – and by home, of course we mean Twisty's Disgusting Murder Van – where he proceeds to strip, don his biohazard clown smile mask and violently kill him. Dandy's not so skilled at the actual murder business yet and botches things, badly. This means we have to sit through a scene where someone not only gets stabbed about 15 times, but partially dismembered while still alive. Sweet dreams, kids.
Odds and Ends
• Welcome back Gabourey Sidibe! If we had to lose Patti LaBelle in such a pointless fashion, at least we're getting "Coven's" Queen of Snark back. She's Dora's daughter, who will probably notice if her mother's never heard from again.
• Any episode that features a Jessica Lange power-walk to a David Bowie song ("Fame" this time) is a winner in my book.
• Did anyone else cheer when Desiree told Dell she was leaving him to go find herself a normal, better life? Go, girl.
• The burgeoning friendship between Desiree and Ethel is awesome, and a nice inversion of the Delphine and Marie relationship from "Coven."
• I'm legitimately more upset about what happened to Ethel's Nice Doctor friend than I am about Meep. (Does that make me terrible?) Ugh, Dell is *the worst*.
• The end of the episode features Elsa taking Bette and Dot to the Motts house under the guise of going clothes shopping. Apparently the prospect of selling her carnival's salvation into some kind of forced human slavery is an acceptable option now that a TV show is on the line?
• Does Stanley have any inkling about Elsa's big secret? Would he care if he did? Why did he act so interested in the idea of her career? If he doesn't know about her missing legs she's the one person in the carnival who's literally worthless to him, because she's normal.