‘American Horror Story: Asylum’ Recap: Episode 5
By Mark Peikert
The plots brought to a full boil on this week’s episode of American Horror Story: Asylum aren’t the ones you’d expect.
Sister Lily Rabe is still possessed, but that wily demon inside her is lying pretty low. Likewise, the slow reveal of the Not So Good Dr. Cromwell continues to simmer, especially after he lobotomized Anne Frank, who turned out to be a housewife whose post-partum depression led to an obsession with researching Auschwitz—and whose subplot this week was another example of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk exploring the real horrors inflicted by society during the 1960s.
What moved forward with the speed and tension of a runaway train was Lesbian Lana’s storyline. Freed from Briarcliff by Dr. Zachary Quinto, she’s all set to relax at him swanky bachelor pad when he turns on a table lamp over her freshly poured glass of red wine. The shade looks suspiciously like skin, but that can’t be, can it? And that bowl holding mints—is it a skull? Ever the intrepid girl reporter, Lana excuses herself to use the restroom…and finds an unlocked door leading to a room of drying skins. “You’ve discovered my hobby,” Dr. Zachary Quinto says with a smirk. “You make furniture?” Lana guesses with a courageous attempt at a smile. Wrong answer, Lana, and her punishment is that Dr. Zachary Quinto pulls the lever that deposits her in a heap on the tiled floor of his basement lair.
It’s there that she spies poor, frozen Clea DuVall, who’s been taken off of ice to help Lana with her aversion therapy. Dr. Zachary Quinto, hereafter to be referred to as Bloody Face Quinto, wants Lana to kiss her lover, and puts on his mask of human skin for the moment. The teeth are Clea DuVall’s!
Other than the aliens possibly impregnating Grace and the surprise appearance of a legless Chloe Sevigny on a school’s playground, where she made her way after being dragged out of the asylum by Sister Lily Rabe, the episode belonged to Sister Jessica Lange, as is only right. Whether she was hiring a Nazi hunter in a single take that went overboard with filming through mirrors, turning ashen when the Not So Good Dr. Cromwell tells her he’ll press charges against her for letting Anne Frank shoot him, or putting on lipstick with the aplomb of a gangster’s moll in a B movie, Lange ruled the hour.
Her best moment (of the series?) came when she tearfully reminisced to the guard about a pet baby squirrel she kept as a lonely little girl, one that eventually died because she forgot to feed it. The guard feels her pain, and tells her it’s not her fault; no man would ever take orders from a woman, especially someone as strong as Sister Jessica Lange. “You never had a chance,” he says ruefully. “My goose is cooked,” she chokes out, by now reverting back to her original Bah-ston accent. But then she gets herself up, puts on a more electric shade of lipstick, does some wonders with her hair, tosses her wedding ring on the bureau, and hits the town! Since she’s Jessica Lange, she has no problem picking up a man in a local bar, lit with the suffused neon of a Douglas Sirk film or an Edward Hopper painting. By the time she sneaks out of his SRO the next morning, it’s unclear whether she’s truly whipped or if she’s simply regenerated her powers for another round with the patriarchy.
Judging from next week’s previews, it looks like the latter. And if anyone can triumph over a sadistic Nazi, it’s Sister Jessica Lange. If only Lana hadn’t gotten off on the wrong foot with her; she’ll need all the help she can get.