'American Horror Story: Asylum' Recap: He Knows When You've Been Sleeping - Rolling Stone
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‘American Horror Story: Asylum’ Recap: He Knows When You’ve Been Sleeping

Santa Claus is coming to town and wreaking havoc on the residents of Briarcliff

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Lily Rabe as Sister Eunice and Ian McShane as Leigh in 'American Horror Story'.

Byron Cohen/FX

It’s beginning to look a lot like Santa rape! Apparently, I’m more precious about Christmas than I am about Anne Frank, because there were more than a few moments in this week’s episode that had my face paralyzed in a grim mask of disgust. At least Anne Frank was not depicted as a serial killer; I can say that about American Horror Story: Asylum. Kris Kringle, on the other hand. . . well, let’s just say there is no God, but there is a Santa Claus.

We open on December 1962, in which violent criminal Lee (Ian McShane) guns down a Salvation Army Santa and murders five families in their homes. I’m not particularly familiar with the Deadwood actor, but it becomes obvious pretty quickly that McShane is ever-so-slightly too good for this show. It takes a very specific level of detached camp to effectively utter filth bombs like, “You know the difference between that Santa Claus and me? He only comes once a year.”

Over in 1964, however, it’s nice to hear Christmas music on the ol’ Victrola for a change. Sister Mary Eunice insists on decorating the common room Christmas tree, despite Briarcliff’s ban on Christmas ornaments after what happened last year. Oh, do tell! We flashback to 1963 as Briarcliff’s patients gather around the tree for their annual Christmas card photo. While I’m sure the community would love a group photo of their local insane asylum, Lee’s yuletide agitation leads him to biting a guard’s face off. You would think the solution would be “never let Lee out again” versus “stop celebrating Christmas,” but hey, I don’t run a home for the criminally insane. Back in the modern day, Mary Eunice trims the tree with gruesome Briarcliff icons: a pair of false teeth, red ribbons shorn from the heads of her mentally ill patients, etc. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t love it. After all, is there anything more absurd and bizarre than Christmas culture? Besides AHS, that is?

Down in the morgue, Security Guard Frank has been praying for the soul of the deceased Grace. Frank begs Dr. Arden to report Grace‘s death (and her mutant assailant) to the police, so you know he’s going to die soon. Mary Eunice is busy, too – busy grappling with an enraged Sister Jude. Yes, Jude has strapped on her habit once again, dusted off her straight razor and somehow managed to deduce that Mary Eunice has a demon living inside her. I was somewhat disappointed by Jude’s immediate understanding of the demon situation, but it was probably worth it for lines like “Where would you go, foul thing?” and “I’m about to send you back to the hell that made you.”

Jude is unfortunately removed by security before she can spill any demon blood, giving Mary Eunice the opportunity to drop by Lee’s cell with a Santa suit and beseech him to go on a holiday murder spree. We find out that Lee turned evil after a particularly horrifying prison rape, an event that made him obsessed with who was naughty (prison rapists, everyone else in the world) and who was nice (seemingly no one). “Five men held you down and took your virginity,” Mary Eunice gently reminds him. “Well, the first one did. The others took your dignity, your self-esteem and, most importantly. . . your Christmas spirit.”

Wow, lines like these made this the first AHS episode that had me looking up its writer: a Mr. James Wong. I don’t know if James Wong deserves an Emmy or to be lowered into a dry well after this episode. I’m kidding! Kind of. I guess here is the question: Is gay prison gang-rape any worse than forcible limb amputation, throat-slitting or botched hysterectomies?  Let alone a standard heterosexual serial-killer rape? The fact that AHS is making me ponder these most hideous acts alongside the wholesomeness of Christmas is, in the end, its function and its delight as a show. Let’s be honest: I have to recap the whole episode whether I like pansexual Santa rape or not, so I’m choosing to roll with it. If Anne Frank didn’t turn you off, I’m assuming you’re in it for the long haul, too.

In a scene that had me momentarily convinced Mary Eunice would be giving birth to Dr. Arden’s Nazi-demon baby, the good doctor gifts her with a beautiful pair of ruby earrings. It should go without saying that he stole them from a Holocaust victim. After Mary Eunice accepts the ill-gotten jewelry with glee, Dr. Arden pulls the ol’ switcheroo and informs her that he is disgusted by her shallowness and greed. This is why you are single, dude! It’s like they say: “Nazi war criminals can’t be choosers.” All of this is ignoring the fact that Mary Eunice threw Arden across the room with her mind last week. Did he think she was a benevolent, telekinetic monster when he gift-wrapped those Holocaust earrings? Doctor, please.

Meanwhile Sister Jude pays a visit to her Mother Superior (who. . . isn’t exactly the best actress, is she?) and begs her to get her back into Briarcliff. “National Broadcasting Company is showing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!” Jude, who just held a blade to a demon’s throat, rages. “This country’s turn toward unmitigated blasphemy frightens me.” Nazis, demon nuns, serial killers: aren’t they all the result of secular Christmas specials? Amen. Maybe it was that Christmas rage that distracted Jude enough to actually join forces with Dr. Arden, who came seeking help with Mary Eunice. I listened to his dumb speech about her corrupted purity, then had to wonder, “Why is Dr. Arden not being disemboweled by a woodland cannibal right now?”

Down in the sick ward, Lana barfs up her food while some kind, idiot nurse reassures her like A KIND IDIOT. Kit mumbles in his sleep nearby, dreaming of a pregnant Alma, then a pregnant Grace. Lana finally puts the most obvious two and two together and figures out that Mary Eunice hasn’t informed the police that Dr. Thredson is Bloody Face. Moments later, Thredson just shows up to take Lana’s skin for his new Bloody Face mask. “You made me give you my intimacy,” he whines. “Do you believe in fate, Lana?” Ugh, this guy. I could barely take any more of his self-important serial killer babble when Kit creams him over the head with a garbage can. Weeeee! Kit and Lana choose to keep Thredson alive in order to prove Kit’s innocence, so they just. . . tie him up in a store closet and just kind of obscure him with some old mattresses. “One day, I’ll bury you,” Lana promises him. Bury you in ratty blankets and boxes!

Up at the Christmas party, Monsignor Timothy congratulates Mary Eunice for her fine work, because he is an idiot. Lee lounges in a Santa costume and a pointed star arrives to top the tree, so you know someone is about to get a Christmas ornament raked across his or her jugular. Sure enough, Lee wigs out and attacks a guard. Poor ol’ Frank takes Lee to solitary confinement, where Mary Eunice slits Frank’s throat. So. . . that was the plan? Make it look like Lee killed Frank? You are a demon, woman! Just choke him with your mind! Alternately, just slash Frank’s throat and dump him in the woods like all those other bodies you dumped out there. You don’t have to watch your back anymore! You are the Lord of the Flies and this is Christmas!

Back in her former office, Sister Jude prays with her back to the door like an AMATEUR. She turns to greet Mary Eunice, and instead finds Lee looking the worse for wear in his dirty Santa digs. Surprise! The sociopathic Nazi doctor double-crossed you!  Where is your straight razor when you need it? Once again, I don’t know why Mary Eunice didn’t just kill Sister Jude with her fiendish powers. Things go from bad to worse when Jude’s caning closet pops open and Lee remembers that time Sister Jude beat him mercilessly. With seconds to go before the Santa rape commences, Sister Jude is forced to stab Lee in the throat. Goodbye, only character I actually felt bad for! Jude’s actions all but guarantee she will become a patient in her own insane asylum now. Oh, and when Dr. Arden wheels Grace’s corpse down the Death Chute, a bright light sears his eyes and the aliens take her body. It’s a Christmas miracle, y’all!

Last Episode: The Dark Angel Rises


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