American Horror Story: Asylum Watch: Episode 6 - The Origins of Monstrosity

”All these wasted lives.”

”All these wasted opportunities.”

Let “The Origins of Monstrosity” be less formally known as “The One Where They All Tried for Emmys.” Back-stories mean monologues, and monologues mean scene chewing, and apparently nobody has frillier teeth for chewing than Joe Fiennes. His performance as Monsignor Howard tonight was played gayer than a game of NAMBLA Spin the Bottle. I’m not knocking the choice of sexuality here, just Fiennes’ performance path taking the Nic Cage route. But enough about gay people. Let’s talk about Zachery Quinto. Er…

As much as it is a piece of escapist television, American Horror Story is also an introduction to an introductory class for people unaware of atrocities in America’s history. Ed Gein was the obvious influence for Thredson’s skin and bone living room aesthetic , which made his sudden transfixion by all things “Mother” so over-the-top it was hoot-worthy, and the Bond Villain method of exposition made it all the more camp and delightful.

He makes Lana croque monsieur, which she eats while shackled (not strapped!) to a bed in his basement. His mother left him at an orphanage when she was 33, so he never got homemade breakfasts, but did get a leather crop in an orphanage. (A minor callback to Leather Suit from the first season.) As a medical student, he locks himself in an embrace with a 33-year-old female corpse, and discovers a happiness substitute in her motherly touch. “Oh, but she smelled of formaldehyde.” It’s not the cold, stiff skin he wants. It’s warm, living skin! Thus, the murders. In order to save her own hide, literally, Lana gets on his good side, eventually succumbing to a matriarchal role. In case my tone doesn’t convey it, realize this is all unapologetic fucking insanity.

Thredson takes a phone call upstairs from Kit, who’s pissed that his taped confession made it to the cops. Kit repeatedly calls Thredson a liar, which enrages him immensely. When he returns and finds Lana cut through her chain, he goes berserk, donning the Bloody Face mask and mentioning he’d watched Lana before she was admitted to Briarcliff. He watched her talking with a coworker during Kit’s arrest, where he overhears her say, “He was somebody’s precious baby crying for his mommy.” Amazing. Lana then oozes with compassion and kind motherly words, and Thredson sobs into his mask before taking it off and uttering this week’s most flabberghasting piece of dialogue.

“Baby needs colostrum!” And then a face full of breast. I applaud you, AHS. “All of that work is behind me, Mommy.” How does he say these lines, including the speech about the rhesus monkey, without keeling over in laughter?

Enough about that. There’s a new kid in town, named Jenny. Her mother accuses her of killing another little girl who was forced to play with Jenny by her mother. Jenny said a bearded man in a brown coat made her stab the girl in the back with scissors. We all know she’s evil, because she kept a chunk of the girl’s hair in her pocket. There was amazing potential when she got paired with Mary Eunice for part of the episode; my mind went wild thinking of the high stakes hijinks these two could get into. Mary Eunice casually tosses it out there that she’s the devil and there is no God. Her backstory involved a life of ridicule, including an instance on a diving board where she was fooled into stripping naked, while everyone else kept their clothes on. Now, as Satan, she isn’t so repressed. Great scene for Rabe. Unfortunately, Jenny’s mother soon picks her up and takes her away from Briarcliff. Later, we see that Jenny has in fact killed her whole family in much the same way: stabbed in the back and blamed on a bearded guy in a brown coat.

Mary Eunice is busy in this episode. Sam Goodman calls Jude early on and tells her Fake Anne Frank’s accusations against Dr. Arden were true, and that he just needs a fingerprint in order to prove it. Jude’s time left is brief, as Monsignor Howard tells her she’s finished there, and he has her booked on a flight to Pittsburgh to start work at a home for wayward girls. Upset, Jude can’t leave the asylum without getting her proof. Mary Eunice, an eye on the red negligee, is tasked with getting “the good cognac” and two glasses, which Jude brings to Arden, toasting him for his “impressive single-mindedness.” Because he’s too suspicious to drink alone, she shares one with him. Admittedly, I’d forgotten about the fingerprint and also thought she might have put something in his drink. Silly me.

Meanwhile, Mary Eunice is in Jude’s room, wearing the red nightie and dancing around seductively as she sings Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” directly into the front of a crucifix. On the nose with tongue planted firmly in cheek. The phone rings, and she has a conversation with Sam Goodman, feigning Jude’s “the entire Northeast” accent. She pays him the inevitable visit, and later, when Jude herself shows up at his place, she finds him dying on the floor with chunks of mirror glass sticking out of him. He gasps out that it was one of her nuns that did it. Nice that Sam’s mirror motif, whatever its inherent meaning, came full circle here. Of course, Mary Eunice took all the Arden/Grouper proof, so Jude’s fingerprinted cognac glasses are useless now. Is this a dead end for this story line? Can it go no fuhrer? Terrible pun. The Nazi aspect might not even be needed to lock Arden’s ass away. The monsignor is called to the hospital due to an abomination of a human being having been brought in. Yes, the bulbous, bloated monster in the hospital bed is Shelley, and Howard strangles her to death with his rosary, not allowing any chance for proof to come back on Briarcliff. He later calls Arden out for being a monster himself. His back story flamboyantly takes us to Howard’s first arrival at the asylum, and his first meetings with Arden, who impresses upon him the chance to use the forgotten-to-the-world patients for a greater cause. In Arden’s case, the greater cause is mutating Americans so they can outlive a Russian nuclear attack. Of course it is.

Arden then introduces yet another mystery by telling Howard if he doesn’t get his way, he’d illuminate everything in Briarcliff. “And I mean everything.” What is the monsignor hiding? Lots of underaged boys’ junk in his mouth? At times, maybe.

Mary Eunice shows Arden everything Goodman had on him. Well, she did hide some evidence just in case he tries double crossing her. Arden is once again forced to defend himself, earning himself awards cred by the time he screamed out “money grubbing Jews!” He wonders why Mary Eunice is protecting him, and she tells him all he has to do is trust her with his entire soul and everything would work out. Faust, Tom Walker, Max Devlin, and now Arthur Arden. Now I’m intrigued to watch him get his comeuppance at the hands of Satan, rather than Jude or any other worldly beings.

Finally, our present day story isn’t over yet. Current Bloody Face, who doesn’t sound like Thredson, assuming he’d still be doing this in his 80s, even if he’d received Arden’s “live forever” formula. He left the three fake-B.F.’s hanging by the main staircase, but the madman himself has the new bride strapped to an operating table. More mommy issues? How in God’s name is this going to tie in with the main flashback story?

A solid episode of this show doing what it does best: giving viewers lots of asses and bizarre dialogue. I anticipate AHS like no other show in history, because there will often be at least a dozen moments in the show that I could not have possibly predicted or seen in any other form of media. It’s as if all of Takashi Miike’s non-yakuza movies were tossed into a blender and set to “Fun.” I’m not sure how many will be taking the time out of their holiday to read this, but I am thankful for you, readers, and I hope your day is filled with food, family, and non-alliteratively, naps. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Inane Asylum

I hope in one episode, Joe Fiennes takes a mask off and it’s really just been Dylan McDermott under there all this time. And then he kills himself.

“And it was poetic justice that I would be meeting her for the first time on a slab in my gross anatomy lab.” Beyond being a line that someone actually wrote down, it sounded as if the second half of the line was ADR’d post-production, so Thredson gets really intense in the middle. Powerful stuff, that.

I will never enjoy Sarah Paulson more than in the shot of her sweaty, tear-stained face smiling her way through eating a ham and cheese sandwich. There’s something so human about the severe lack of conceit one must have to look like that. Or a lack of a home and sanity.

Why would such a wallflower thumb-in-the-bum like Mary Eunice go to a pool party in the first place, and why would she agree to get naked, standing on a diving board as a centerpiece? If she wanted to fit in more, she should have just taken off the swim cap.

I’m not sure what aspect of the show I should be complimenting here. Before Jenny’s mom is even finished her story, Jude is already reaching for a Bible, which she then sticks in the woman’s hands and says she can’t help. It’s like getting a rotten candy after a doctor visit where you learned you have a fatal disease.

These people refer to Pittsburgh as if it’s the last place anyone would want to be on Earth. I withhold my judgment.

With all the bad press chronic masturbators get on this show, I’m starting to feel like I’m doing something wrong.

Did anyone else expect Rob Zombie to come out when Arden professed that his experiments had been “less than men,” but were now “more than human.” Yeahhh, I am the Astro-Creep…

I wonder if Mark Margolis had ever been called an Israeli Sherlock Holmes before. To me, he looks like Jew Charlie Chan.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.