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Sarah Paulson in "American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare."
Sarah Paulson in "American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare." (Frank Ockenfels/FX)

Welcome to the penultimate episode of "American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare." To what is probably the surprise of no one, Chapter 9 is the part of the season where everyone dies.

Our episode opens on three young hikers who are exploring the woods in search of the famous house from the "My Roanoke Nightmare" docudrama. They all have GoPros and selfie sticks. The ringleader, Sophie, is played by "AHS" alum Taissa Farmiga, who hasn't appeared on the show since "Coven."  She and her friends Milo and Todd apparently run a "My Roanoke Nightmare" fan site, and they want to find the mysterious house used in the show. They're already plotting how many likes they'll get on Instagram when they post pictures of it during the Blood Moon.

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They trek through the forest in peak "Blair Witch Project" fashion, complete with voice-overs and extreme shaky cam footage. Seriously, the repeated use of shaky cam in this episode was so awful. Not only did the visuals often feel like a bad theme park ride, the constant jerking made it hard to tell exactly what was going in some sequences.

Anyway, while they're walking, the trio stumbles upon the ghost of Diana, Sidney's assistant, who they think is a real woman in need of help. Or at least they do until they find her body in her overturned car. Displaying what actually seems to be a modicum of sense, the kids run straight to the cops to report what they've found. But when the police interview them later, they assume they're lying or trying to pull off some kind of viral internet stunt — there's no body.

Meanwhile, back at the Roanoke House, new arrival Dylan is explaining to Audrey and Lee that he had been told by production to show up at a certain day and time in this Piggy Man costume. The women have to fill him in on the fact that ghosts are real, the Blood Moon is a thing, everyone's dead, and they were just held hostage by a family of cannibal hillbillies.

Dylan takes all this news remarkably well — even the part where Lee wants to return to the cannibal hillbilly farm to look for Monet, and hopefully steal a car. (She also clearly wants to retrieve the tape in which she confessed to murder.) Surprise, they're in luck — it turns out that before he decided to be a C-list actor, Dylan did two tours in Afghanistan and is kind of a commando. He's ready for this.

In the grand tradition of stupid horror movie decisions, the gang splits up when they arrive back at the Polk farm. Dylan heads off to hot-wire a truck, Audrey searches for Monet, and Lee searches for the tape the Polks made. Dylan manages to get the truck started, just as Audrey frees Monet. Confronted by the elder Polk, Audrey has to shoot him to escape, and they make it back outside just in time to see Dylan getting stabbed by the other Polk son. (So much for all the commando training, I guess.)

And if all that wasn't bad enough, the Butcher's group of torch-toting ghosts appears in the distance. It's the final night of the Blood Moon, after all. The other Polk son starts yelling something about how there will be no one to protect them now that Mama Polk is dead, and takes of in the truck Dylan had so conveniently hot-wired. Sorry, ladies.

Audrey and Monet flee, straight back to the Big Shaker Mansion house. Audrey starts having a breakdown, crying about how Lee's probably dead, like Rory, like everyone else. Monet tells her to get herself together, and they decide the best way to do that is to watch the tape Lee was so desperate to retrieve. Maybe not the thing I would have chosen to prioritize, but perhaps stress acts on us all in different ways.

Horrified, they watch Lee get tortured by the Polks — but they also watch her confess to Mason's murder. As the tape plays, we see the real Lee crawling through the woods. She is ultimately discovered by the Witch of the Wood, who offers her a heart from one of the wild pigs to eat, and presumably the same deal she gave the Butcher so long ago. Lee takes it, and takes a big bite. (Yuck.)

Elsewhere, our three social media-obsessed millennials are back in the woods, because they are idiots. Seriously, did they not just see a ghost? Apparently the threat of further spiritual encounters is mitigated by the fact that their ghost video went viral and trended on Twitter. So they're back searching for the house to prove to the cops and their fans that they aren't liars.

They discover Lee, post Wood Witch-possession, staring blankly into the trees. Todd recognizes her and tries to talk to her, but she slashes his throat. Sophie and Milo flee — through a truly tremendous amount of terrible shaky cam — and run straight into Sidney's production truck. There are bodies outside. They barricade themselves inside, only to realize that the cameras in the truck are still on, and the two of them can see into the house itself. They see all the dead bodies of the "Return to Roanoke" cast members, as well as Audrey and Monet hiding in the bedroom. They also see that Lee is approaching the house, walking in that slow, zombie-esque way that monsters do. Sophie decides that they have to try to alert the women, and save them if they can.

In the house, Audrey and Monet are drinking and doing drugs. Honestly, can you blame them? They hear a loud noise in the hallway and are relieved to see that it's Lee, but also slightly freaked out when she starts talking about how they don't belong there and are violating the sacred ground of this place or some such insanity. Instead of realizing that Lee has been possessed by a vengeful forest spirit or whatever the Witch of the Wood is, Monet decides that now is the time to let her know that she always knew she was a murderer. The two scuffle, and Lee ultimately throws Monet to her death over the railing. Audrey runs, but she is also eventually caught by Lee, hacked with a cleaver, and thrown down into the storm cellar.

Meanwhile, Sophie is livestreaming, telling all her viewers what's happened. That there are bodies everywhere, that Lee killed her friend, that she is still coming after others in the house. She and Milo, and ostensibly all their friends on the internet, watch as the Butcher and her minions emerge from the woods. They're dragging Dylan along, for the sole purpose of dramatically and graphically disemboweling him.

Seriously, "AHS," was there a real artistic need for the first-person point of view shot of his intestines? (How would that "camera angle" have ever happened, anyway?) This seems to be another example of the rather pointless gore that the show has reveled in in the past episode or so — I understand pushing boundaries, but this scene felt so unnecessary.

Afterward, a title card appears that lets us know the footage we're about to see was recovered from an iCloud account registered to Todd Connors. We watch as Sophie and Milo are dragged toward the Butcher, screaming. They cry and beg for their lives and apologize to each other for what's happening. And then they are both graphically impaled on stakes and burned. We have all watched some terrible, grisly things on "American Horror Story" over the years. And for me, this is one of the worst.

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On the face of it, the addition of three new characters in the season's next-to-last episode is, at this point, just a creation of more grist for the murder mill. Ultimately, they're only here to die. The story noses around the edges of something interesting with the social media component, and the consequences of both our constant need to perform for the internet and our voyeuristic obsession with watching others' lives. Sophie does livestream several deaths, including her own, after all. But the internet audience is apparently so desensitized to that kind of thing that everyone assumes it's a prank. It would have been interesting if the episode had touched on this in a more concrete way, because the insertion of these characters was one of the most interesting parts of the episode. But only if they're meant to be something more than additional bodies in a pile.

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Anyway, when the cops show up on the property the next day, all that's left is the charred remains of Sophie and Milo's bodies. They discover the rest of the dead people, as well as Lee, who is unconscious. When she comes to, she doesn't seem to be possessed anymore, but since this show hasn't exactly been clear about how the magic of the Wood Witch and the Butcher work, your guess is as good as mine.

The police also discover Audrey, as she crawls out of the storm drain, badly injured but alive. As they take her toward the police car, she catches sight of Lee. She becomes instantly furious, calling her a murderer.  She grabs a gun from one of the officers but before she can fire it, she's gunned down by the remainder of the cops.

So there's our final survivor of "My Roanoke Nightmare" – Lee. Everyone else is dead, and there's still an entire episode to go. What happened to her? Was her possession somehow different because she didn't die during it? Why did the Witch of the Wood come to her? And did the she really let Lee go in the end, or is this yet another elaborate fake out? We'll apparently find out in next week's finale, when Lee gets interviewed by Lana Winters — yes, that one  from "AHS: Asylum."

Odds and Ends:

  • This shortened season has been, overall, a positive shift for "AHS." But this season’s “reality show” second act has turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, as it’s just a stream of grisly deaths without much context. Is it enough that we know that apparently the Roanoke myth is real? Because it doesn’t really look like we’re ever going back to it.
  • Between now and next week I’m going to have to work out the time math from the end of "Asylum" to right now. How old is Lana supposed to be?
  • PS: I’m such a sucker. Even though I know this 10th episode mini-storyline in which we try to interrogate what kind of person Lee actually is really kind of gimmicky, I’m so excited to see how this "Asylum" connection plays out.

Thoughts, comments, or elaborate theories to share?  Hit me up on Twitter: @LacyMB

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