I don’t say this often for American Horror Story, a series that I unapologetically hold near and dear, but tonight’s “Test of Strength” was a complete waste of an hour on almost every level. The best parts were those in which it was most awful, and the parts that should have been great were hampered by the show’s signature ridiculousness. So yeah, it’s basically just like every other episode, only I wasn’t feeling it this time around. Maybe I should have been on whatever Penny the Candy Striper was on when she got her ENTIRE FACE tattooed without waking up once.

”Goodnight, Dad.”

Jimmy should have been taken down twice already in this series, but he’s just such a nice and tortured guy that no one wants to see him suffer any more. He and Dell totally bond over a shitload of rotgut, even though both have initial desires to put the other one down (in a sense). Jimmy wants to warn Dell of an impending lynching following that completely mishandled attempted murder of Amazon Eve, and Dell wants to take his lobster-handed kid out because he’s being blackmailed by Stanley, who knows about the strongman’s homosexual tastes. (It involves the phrase “someone else’s shit under your fingernail.”) The result? The two get completely sloshed for an entire evening and arrive back at the freak show just after sunrise, stumbling and warbling Irish folk songs.

And all because they bonded over Dell being Jimmy’s dad, which wasn’t even going to happen until Jimmy brought it up. Dell ends up doing some major damage later in the episode when he busts up that bartender’s face and kills Ma Petite (in a truly horrifying way), but I’m wondering if Jimmy is supposed to be the weakness that stands against all of Dell’s strengths. Honestly, I doubt Ryan Murphy is going to give this familial relationship a constructive through line, so it probably doesn’t matter. Kudos to Evan Peters for delivering one of my favorite drunken performances in some time though.

“I’ve worked on lots of gals with double chins, but never ones with two heads.”

Ah, twins Bette and Dot, whom I thought would be this season’s greatest assets. Now they’re just as plot-coggy as everyone else. This week, they’re “rescued” from the Mott household by Jimmy, but they save Elsa’s reputation by saying she helped them get a taste of the good life with Dandy. (Dandy, who is going to go fluffernutterly apeshit on Jimmy’s face for taking them away.) They halfway blackmail Elsa into letting Bette dye her hair blonde and jumpstart a career as a singing comedian, along with securing a piece of the daily profits. But of course Elsa has other plans.

For one, she’s perfectly willing to team up with Dot against Bette. Dot wants the expensive surgery in Chicago, and Elsa is willing to give it to her. I guess she thinks that getting Stanley, whom she assumes is a TV guy, to drive them to Chicago is normal behavior, but it seemed pretty fucking dumb to me. Anyway, we know that if that plan gets enacted, he’s just going to kill them and put them in the museum. (Which, technically, he could have already done with a better plan than pink cupcakes.) And Elsa is okay with him killing them, but I guess you can’t just come out and ask a TV guy to kill people in the way that you can randomly ask him to drive two people across the country. Is that what non-contracted managers did back then?

Ethel’s Monologue

So, it’s clear to everyone that Dell should have skipped town after failing to kill Amazon Eve, right? But he didn’t, for some reason, and so everyone needs some kind of revenge; especially Ethel, who wants to kill him. But what she apparently wants to do more is lay the meaning of life out on the line for Jimmy and everyone else in a lengthy speech. A solid performance from Kathy Bates, but whoever decided to add the schmaltzy score needs to be thrown into a burning building.

Daddy’s Surprise

Every season of American Horror Story has that one jammed-in storyline that just doesn’t fit and seems to serve very little purpose, and this year’s trophy goes to the home life of Penny the Candy Striper. Her dad is Chet from the TV version of Weird Science, and he wants her to be around all the time, but is perfectly willing to disown her in every way if she chooses to go against his wishes. And she’s apparently not even going to work anymore; just bouncing between her bedroom and the circus, where she’s banging Paul.

So how does her dad react to her wanting to leave for good? He hires a tattoo artist to come over and fork her tongue and tattoo her face all up to look kind of like a reptile or something. And I don’t even really understand the point of the process. He wanted to make her look like a freak like the rest of them? Okay, I guess that works. Is this going to affect the relationship between her and Paul? Is that the whole point of this, to show her that Paul only wants to bang non-tattoo-faced women, and then she gets some kind of revenge? Fuck this family to the moon and back, although I’m still all about Mat Fraser getting more screentime.

More Inanities

That doctor’s husband kicked Ethel and Desiree out of the office because she thought that, as a method of suicide, her husband smashed both of his hands with a hammer and then had the ability to shoot himself. There is no getting around the massive circumference of fucking dumbness of this notion. Jimmy’s performance of Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” was almost embarrassing to watch and nowhere near as interesting as the other performances. And given that we’ve already seen this season fake us out with museum exhibits, as well as that scene where Emma Roberts puts Ma Petite into a jar, tonight’s ending was so very underwhelming.

I did like Jimmy’s story about Wisconsin though. That was pretty good. See you next week for more vitamins and foie gras.

Other Thoughts Floating Beneath the Big Top

Why isn’t “Big Strong Man” on all of my friends’ Spotify playlists?

“Truthfully? Adequate.” Elsa was speaking of Jimmy’s performance, but that’s how I feel about this whole season on average.

So…does Dell think that Stanley is just going to leave him alone now that he’s killed Ma Petite? I love love love Denis O’Hare, and he always delivers great performances, but his characters are just one-dimensional trash. Did he seriously just stay up all night waiting for Dell to arrive back home, JUST so he could make a snide comment to him?

“The screams of the men who have been nut-shot are so specific.” Ah, you won me over, O’Hare.

I’m going to need an app that just has Kathy Bates saying “rosy notion” over and over again in that redonk accent. “Roosie nooshen. Roosie nooshen.”

Dammit, people. That once scene with Dandy at the beginning, followed by his complete absence for the rest of the episode, was enough to prove that I actually want this infuriating asshat in more scenes. That is soooo frustrating, but what a great (and terrible) quick close-up to his quivering lip.

“Well, tell me when the other man shows up, and I’ll talk to him.” Dell could have had a second career writing “Snappy Comeback” books for kids.

I wish people still wrote me letters, so I could picture each person reading each one in a black and white splitscreen.

If Siamese Twins Floor Wax Hour was on the air, I’d watch it at least once with the Nielson box unplugged.

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