'American Horror Story: Hotel' recap: Who or what is in Room 33?

For The Baltimore Sun
Has the Countess finally shown compassion on "American Horror Story: Hotel?" Yeah, right.

There were some great scenes this week on “American Horror Story: Hotel.” Once again, Denis O’Hare completely stole the show, but the most important thing that happened — as far as longtime fans are concerned — has to be that opening sequence, and all the interesting inter-series connections it brought up.

OMG, it’s a “Murder House” flashback! The episode opens with the arrival of a cab outside a very familiar building. It’s 1926 and the Countess – or whoever she was back then – has arrived at Season 1’s “Murder House” to visit Dr. Charles Montgomery. Ostensibly, she wants to use his abortion services, but he looks a little taken aback when she claims that she’s only three weeks along when she’s enormous.

They go ahead with the procedure, despite all the signs that something terrifying and very abnormal is happening (i.e. her body temperature is at dead-people levels, so we know that she’s both pregnant and a vampire. How does THAT work?).

The baby survives both the attempted abortion and its mother being dead, and celebrates by attacking and killing the nurse assisting with the procedure. Dr. Montgomery is unfazed, because he is a garbage person, and just hands the baby to the Countess and tells her it’s a boy.

I thought for a second that the Countess’ child was going to turn out to be Thaddeus from Season 1 – the demon baby that haunted the Murder House’s basement – but then I remembered Thaddeus was Charles and Nora’s actual child, just in case you were wondering if this was the sort of show that had so many demonic monster children that viewers might have problems keeping them all straight. (Spoiler alert: It 100 percent is.)

It’s just the thing in Room 33. However, my next guess was that the Countess’ demon spawn would turn out to be “that thing” in Room 33 that Iris referenced back in the pilot. The “thing” is named Bartholomew, and despite the fact that 90 years have passed, it is still a baby and, apparently, still a monster. Is Bartholomew a vampire? Something else? Who’s the father, anyway? (Plus, how do vampires get pregnant?) Inquiring minds want to know.

John Lowe finally discovers something. John Lowe, world’s worst detective, manages to actually discover one of the 15 sketchy things going on in the hotel! A vision of his presumed-dead son Holden appears and shows him the way down to the basement where the glass coffins and vampire children are kept. John is shocked, even more so when he sees his ex-wife Alex is sleeping with Holden in one of them, and very sensibly passes out.

Alex is very unhappy to learn that her ex has discovered her new undead sleeping arrangements and decides to gaslight him as a protective measure. She drugs him and claims he told her he’d been having visions. John looks super confused, but since he actually HAS been seeing visions of dead people lately, her story kind of sounds legit. Alex – who destroyed the glass coffins and moved the vampire children from the basement - says John’s having a psychotic break and needs professional help.

Liz Taylor deserves better than this. In other news, Liz is sleeping with the Countess’ boy-toy, Tristan. As she has previously displayed buckets of exceptionally good judgment, this is incredibly disappointing, because, to date, Tristan has been a fairly terrible person.

They discuss whether or not they’re in love, which they both think they are, despite having exchanged roughly six words up until this point. But somehow, despite the fact that this pairing should not make any sense, their post-coital scene is strangely beautiful. Liz’s line thanking Tristan for seeing “the girl” in her was an unexpected emotional gut-punch, as was his oddly moving admission that he’d never been with anybody before who’d thought he was smart enough to deserve real books as a gift.

Fine, maybe I’m rooting for these crazy kids a little. This is, of course, the exact moment Liz points out that this will never end well for them since they’re both betraying the Countess, who will inevitably be ridiculously angry.

Ramona’s revenge sucks. I’ve been telling myself the silver lining in the cloud of sadness that is Jessica Lange’s departure from “AHS” is that her absence means an increased opportunity for co-stars Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates to shine. (“Freak Show” didn’t do either of these great actresses many favors last year.)

This wish has largely come true as far as Bates is concerned, because Iris has given her some great material to work with. Not so much for Bassett though, since her “Hotel” character has been largely absent so far. With Ramona’s revenge-plot kicking into high gear, it’s easy to assume that is about to change, but … nope.

While the Countess is out of town, Ramona and Donovan visit the Cortez, ostensibly to kill all the vampire children and make their ex suffer. (This plan seems … very simplistic. And what was the point of having Iris spy for them anyway?) Their murder mission hits a snag when they discover all the Children of the Corn have been moved to a new secret location and no one, not even Iris, knows where. Ramona decides to kill the thing in Room 33 instead, but only succeeds in letting Bartholomew loose in the building.

Ramona is terrible at revenge.

No one ever leaves this show. While snooping in the Countess’ suite, Donovan runs into the ghosts of those irritating German tourists who died in the season premiere. He clues them in to the fact that they’re dead, and explains they’re trapped in the hotel and have to find some sort of purpose to break themselves free of their endless loop of walking the hallways.

Like so many other things on “AHS,” this means murder, and they kill a random guest we’ve never seen before in an attempt to find meaning in their new afterlife. Alex discovers them moping afterward and explains that they don’t have to kill people to find purpose; they could just drive them crazy instead. In fact, she has a perfect candidate for someone they could use for practice. Three guesses who it is.

John’s breakdown continues apace. Elsewhere in the hotel, John’s crazy is intensifying, as he lounges and drinks on the (surely disgusting) hallway floor. Liz appears out of nowhere to offer help, but he insists that he’s pretty into having this breakdown on his own terms, thanks.

Of course, the German ghost girls show up and convince John that what will really make him feel better is a threesome. Somehow, there’s a lot of blood involved from somewhere – it’s literally coating John – and it’s all pretty gross. John starts screaming and running into walls, and somehow this is STILL the least interesting mental breakdown ever.

In an act of defiance, John goes back home, where he suddenly remembers he has a daughter, and fetches Scarlett from the friend’s house where she’s been stranded for two days. (Dad of the Year!) He unpacks, but it turns out he’s accidentally brought demon baby Bartholomew home in his luggage. John tries to shoot him in the kitchen, but this just brings the cops and Alex to his house, and prompts yet another pointless conversation about his deteriorating mental state. Alex finds the demon spawn in the bushes though, and takes him back to the hotel.

Liz really, really deserves better than this. In a decision that is sweet, and also extremely stupid, Liz confesses to the Countess that she’s in love with Tristan. The Countess doesn’t share, but says Liz can have her boy-toy when she’s done with him, whenever that turns out to be. Liz protests, claiming that her human life is finite and the Countess has forever. The three of them end up having drinks, and an awkward conversation where the Countess rambles on about what human emotions taste like. (Sometimes I hate this show.)

The upshot is that the Countess feels super betrayed, Liz is sadly hopeful and Tristan’s angry. He claims the Countess uses people who love her just so she can feed off their heartbreak later, and he’s worth more than that. Liz says that after everything she’s done for her and the hotel, surely she can have this thing this once. Surprisingly, the Countess agrees.

Everyone looks super happy for approximately two seconds, before the Countess slits Tristan’s throat and kills him, as Liz wails and cries and clutches at his body. It’s horrible. Poor Liz.

Odds and Ends

• Does anyone NOT believe that John is somehow the Ten Commandments Killer? This not only explains his invite to James March’s serial killer party, but his blackouts and general crazed demeanor.

• Loved the way Liz and Ramona’s friendship felt like it had history. Would love a flashback of the two of them interacting when Ramona was with the Countess.

• Liz better get Team Revenge on track next week is all I’m saying.

• Whose blood was John covered in after his ghost threesome? Why does he seem completely unconcerned about this?

• What happened to the mob of hungry vampire teens from last week?

• Still waiting on that scene where Iris and Donovan talk out the fact that he turned her ...

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

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