”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.

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