'American Horror Story: Asylum' Recap: Judy vs. the Devil - Rolling Stone
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‘American Horror Story: Asylum’ Recap: Judy vs. the Devil

A demon comes to Briarcliff Manor

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James Cromwell as Dr. Arden in 'American Horror Story'

Michael Becker/FX

Aaaaaand Adam Levine is dead. We don’t know that for sure, but boy, he does not look good, what with the meat-hook wounds in his chest. Tonight’s Tricks and Treats picks up right where the season premiere left off: with Teresa confronting Bloody Face in the Death Chute. It’s too early to predict the nature of Bloody Face, but after tonight’s episode, might I suggest we’re dealing with a lineage of killers (possibly possessed individuals?), rather than just one weird dude hanging out in Briarcliff forever? Alternately, Bloody Face could be a ghost! Do you think Ryan Murphy will include a ghost element in this season, or is he too burnt out? Not that we really need them. Demons are the new ghost anyway.

But first, betrayal! Back in 1964, Wendy and her friends Barb and, I’m going to say, Khaki Pants commisserate nervously in the wake of Lana‘s commitment to the asylum. (On a related note, I apologize for writing that Wendy was played by Franka Potente rather than Clea Duvall. I have a terrifying disease where 70 percent of actresses appear to be Franka Potente.) (Also, I’m an idiot.) Wendy decides to recant her claim that Lana is insane, which might not be easy. “You signed a document,” Khaki Pants reminds her. A totally fake document obtained through blackmail, but a document nonetheless!

They hear a knock on the door and gasp in terror. Fortunately for Wendy, it’s just her students trick-or-treating a day early. Unfortunately for Wendy’s students, they just saw their teacher openly weeping in her living room, perhaps the most terrifying sight a child can see. “Check out the mass murders, Barb,” Khaki Pants sneers at their fright. Yeah, Barb! You dumb jerk, with your ludicrous fears about serial killers preying on women! Khaki Pants makes an incredibly tone-deaf play for Wendy, who demurs and prepares for bed instead . . . only to be hooked in the hallway by Bloody Face. Jeez, I hope Wendy isn’t actually dead. She’s the character I most identify with. Who doesn’t enjoy sparking up a doob while simultaneously taking a hot shower?

Over at Briarcliff, the maintenance staff follows the grand tradition of asylum lighting and doesn’t have a goddamn lightbulb on in the entire place. During room check, Sister Jude and her leering security guard goon discover Lana’s painstaking secret notes (“Lies!”) stashed in a pillowcase. Hot to erase Lana’s memories of all the weird-ass stuff she’s already seen, Jude informs Dr. Arden she’s changed her mind about electroshock therapy. “I prayed about it,” she admits. “When I wasn’t praying for you to find a halfway decent haberdasher.” Ba-zing! Smack in the goatee with Lange’s velvet glove!

For my money, Lana’s “treatments” are a genuinely scary turn of events.  Who doesn’t shudder at the thought of being imprisoned without recourse, their pleas for mercy unheard, horrible weird rubber things jammed in their screaming mouth? We only catch a glimpse of Lana’s post-treatment mental distortion, but even those blurry seconds opens up all sorts of possibilities. If your own mind can be muddled with, then every element of your reality is up for grabs!

Not that everyone agrees with the doctor’s practices. Court-ordered psychologist Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) might only be at Briarcliff to determine if Kit is sane enough to stand trial, but he couldn’t help but notice all the canings, beatings and general filthy wetness affecting the Manor’s residents. Horrible screams and soiled sheets aside, Kit is an engrossing subject – a murderer who denies killing anyone. “Alma isn’t dead,” he says of his wife. “That body didn’t have a head.” Was I the only one who first thought he meant the aliens took his wife’s head and were keeping it alive somewhere? I gasped with delight at the suggestion . . . before realizing he just meant the headless body could have belonged to someone else. “After they took her, she was alive,” Kit insists. God, wherever Alma is, might that she just be an animate head. Needless to say, it takes Thredson about five minutes to diagnose Kit as totally insane.

Meanwhile, while we already knew that nymphomaniacal Shelly loves to bone (“I have a cucumber in my room. Not because I was hungry,” she teases Sister Jude, later declaring, “My mother made me wear mittens to bed”), we soon discover she was institutionalized by her jazz musician husband (what with his cigarettes and his hands!) for sleeping around. Dr. Arden rebuffs Shelly’s sexual advances, probably because he was too busy being a grade-A pervert about his crush on Sister Mary Eunice. After taking a lovely stroll in the woods to feed the hell beasts that reside there in secret, he presents Mary Eunice with a beautiful cloisonné jar filled with HORRIBLE BUGS. Just kidding, it’s filled with a caramel apple, a caramel apple so obviously drugged, even a woman who would unquestioningly feed forest demons might hesitate before taking a bite.

Back at home, Arden hires a prostitute, cutting up an enormous roast, requiring she dress in a nun’s habit and otherwise intimating to the audience that it may have been he who committed the Bloody Face kills. But . . . but my theory! After finding S&M photos, Sister Mary Call Girl is able to escape, hopefully to tell the police about Arden’s potential danger to the community. Ha ha, just kidding! This is 1964. They probably would have had Wendy sign her documents too.

How have I gone on so long without discussing the exorcism? Sister Jude and Dr. Thredson reluctantly team up to treat poor Jed, a 35-year-old-looking 17-year-old who has all the symptoms of demon possession: volatility, speaking in tongues, um, tearing out a live cow’s heart and eating it in front of his father’s horrified eyes. “Good boys gone bad is my area of expertise,” Jude smirks, and I die. Thredson is dubious, but the exorcist himself arrives filled with confidence. “A non-believer?” he says. “Good, I like having one in the room. Ups my game.” I don’t know if people were using the phrase “ups my game” in 1964, but OK. Once the ceremony begins, Sister Jude is forced to leave Thredson, the Monsignor and the exorcist to their work because she’s just a woman . . . all the better for the devil to bait her once she returns to pray over Jed.

“It drives you crazy, doesn’t it?,” the demon-teen hisses as he struggles against his restraints. “To be the smartest person in the room with no real power, because of that smelly clam between your legs?” Heyo! The devil also reveals that Sister Jude was once a brazen harlot who’s had “53 cocks in there already,” and by “once” I mean “about sixth months ago based on the flashback.” We also learn Jude’s true secret: she killed a girl while drinking and driving. Jude attacks the boy and Thredson intervenes with actual medical help, but it’s too late. Jed dies, the lights flicker and the demon leaps to Sister Mary Eunice, who I look forward to transforming into a brazen hussy and eating bovine organs straight from the source. Maybe now she’ll have the confidence to actually find out what the hell is in the woods. Someone tell us!

Meanwhile, you know when you are trapped in an insane asylum but you can’t help checking out DAT BOOTY? Lana certainly does, as she ogles Grace‘s butt as they take some kind of gross, hot therapeutic baths. “You have trouble trusting people,” muses Grace, a woman locked up in an insane asylum to Lana, another woman locked in an insane asylum. Lana bitterly tells her about Wendy’s document signing before revealing that she knows a way out (Death Chute, y’all!). Grace refuses to escape without Kit, her best friend of one day, but Lana refuses to help an accused woman killer. She . . . knows Grace allegedly chopped up her family, right? 

When the demon leaves Jed’s body and causes a power failure (sure, OK), Lana, Grace and Kit have a chance to escape the ward. Instead, Lana screams for the security guards to prevent Kit from going free. As a reward for her actions (and because she is evil), Sister Jude lets Lana watch her cane Grace and Kit. Kit heroically takes on Grace’s lashes, and I admired Ryan Murphy’s restrain in not showing us the cane actually hitting Evan Peters’ ass. Actually, I bet they filmed it and FX just thought it was too much. Ah, well. Maybe on the DVD.

Last episode: Productivity, Prayer and Alien Hands

In This Article: American Horror Story


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