American Horror Story: Asylum - Episode Four & Five - I Am Anne Frank
Hi everyone! Me again. I’ve interrupted the shame-spiral of hating myself for not recapping this TV show fast enough to recap this TV show!
But you guys. It’s starting to get hard (he said hopefully). THEY PUT ANNE FRANK IN IT. I AM A ONCE-CATHOLIC ITALIAN BOY. I DON’T KNOW THAT I AM QUALIFIED TO TALK ABOUT HOW NOT OK THIS IS BUT I’LL TRY. HERE WE GO.
So...Briarcliff. It is night. Security Frank leads an un-habited Sister Jude into the wards because they have a guest! She’s kind of aggressive and unsettling, she has no ID and won’t say who she is, and if you come at her with any anti semitic shit she’ll fucking cut you. Which is apparently what happened to her earlier that day to land her in the cuckoo’s nest. Sister Jude lets her and us know that she is very much sympathetic to the Holocaust, and our deep sense of discomfort walks right in and makes itself at home. “We’ll start treatment first thing in the morning. Lock ‘er up.”
Elsewhere, Doctor Arden is playing with his Shelly. He tells her she’s going to live forever and then he sticks a needle in her head. It’s horrible and amazing(ly gratuitous? This whole thing?), but somehow I’m not moved to screengrab it, because ugh. There will be enough ugly things to screengrab. Here’s Sister Jude rocking an evening look and doing her best “you did not get me out of bed for this!” arms-fold with Anne Frank. Roll the credits.
Another morning in the crazy bakery, with Kit and Grace, hanging out smokin’ cigs. They discuss one of Kit’s more recent injuries, and how Doctor Arden *really* wants to know what happened to the alien microchip, and if it crawled back inside of him, and how. Communicating with your doctor is important.
So the doc takes some X-Rays and the alien microchip seems to be AWOL. Then he begs Grace for her backstory and apparently we’ll be doing THAT this episode. OK. Anything to break up the Holocaust horror.
So Young Grace and her French-accented sibling are sleeping in some kind of farmhouse, and she hears a noise, and she walks in on axe murdering and her Daddy is all “please!” and Grace is all HIDE and the killer is all VANISHING FOREVER LOOKING FOR YOU.
And Grace’s sister was all “Non, Grace you are le axe murdereaux!” and something about how the killer was her mother’s treacherous lover? French-accented people. Pffftt. No one believes Grace. Grace, I promise to pretend that I believe you didn’t kill your family, even though you pretty obviously did, if you’ll get back into the background because I find you to be kind of a bothersome, two-dimensional compulsory-hetero love interest character. Kit believes Grace. Grace misses the horses the most. I guess it was a horse farm? Crazy love.
So Dr. Zachary Quinto is on Lana’s case about the shenanigans during the nor’easter. He knows that her and Crazy Romeo and Juliet broke out and then broke back in during the storm. He thinks Lana should totally be trying to escape because she doesn’t belong in this nutty place. He’s really into her, even though she’s not his patient. He can spring her IF they can just cure her pesky homosexuality! Duh, trust him, Lana!
“15th of November, 1964 Dear Kitty (NOT OK) this relentlessly cheerful tune never stops playing…” Lana comes over and tries to get our new guest to stop writing (pens and pencils everywhere, constant chain-smoking, it’s a wonder there aren’t more eye patches in this place) and is generally her incredibly charming self.
Then Doctor Arden comes in and Anne Frank marches right up to him with the “YOU WERE THERE YOU’RE A NAZI!” And out here in TV land we say “Ya know…that…sounds about right…” then she introduces herself as she is dragged kicking and screaming from the room.
After the commercial, Sister Jude meets with Anne Frank, and takes the whole thing with just a pinch of being an asshole. “What a relief it will be to millions of schoolchildren to know you survived.” Laughter is not the best medicine when you’re the only one who finds you funny, Sister!! Anne Frank has a plausible story. Her diary wasn’t published until after she was freed from the concentration camp (I CAN’T BELIEVE I AM WRITING THIS), when she was too ill to tell anyone who she was. She closes by declaring that as a girl she could be killed, but as a symbol she is so much more and THAT is why she never contacted her father. Basically. Not the martyred Jewish teenager we deserve, but the martyred Jewish teenager that we need right now.
INDEED. Anne Frank counters with “THIS WHOLE PLACE IS INDECENT” (my words), and Sister Jude cannot say SHIT to THAT.
Elsewhere, Dr. Zachary Quinto is laying things out for Kit. He simultaneously believes that (1) Kit is not crazy, but that (2) he killed a lot of people (3) because racism, and (4) that his death would serve no moral purpose and he’ll (5) lie to the courts in order to save Kit’s life (6) as long as he faces his guilt? … Interesting.
Anne Frank tells us all about Doctor Arden, or as she knew him then, Hans Gruber.
He was all nice, handing out candy to the detained and tortured Jewish children. And he had special treatments that he gave out, too! He would flip a coin, pick an inmate, and sometimes the other inmates would ever see those people again, who would naturally be haunted husks of their former selves.
We switch back and forth some more, now to Kit and Zachary Quinto again, recounting the Bloody Face murders. Dr. Zachary Quinto seems pretty convinced that Kit having married a black woman directly correlates to his love of cutting off people’s skin. I mean he IS a psychiatrist!
Sister Jude continues to be like “BULLSHIT,” and Anne Frank whips out the number tattoo. Boom. There is definitely only one way a person can get such a tattoo, and it is a clear discussion-ender.
Dominique plays, Lana is waiting for her delicious, delicious meds, and fantasizing about being honored for her bravery and awesome writing about her experiences. She thanks all the crazy heroes that inspired her survival like Martha the head-smasher and Rudy the chronic masturbator. She resolves to let Dr. Zachary Quinto cure her!
Kit is beating the SHIT out of some dough in the crazy bakery, and Grace comes in to chat, and tell him that the fact that Dr. Zachary Quinto’s constant insistence of his guilt is causing him to doubt himself means that he’s definitely NOT crazy and that all that crap with the aliens definitely happened. Because self doubt is a sure sign of sanity. As are animate microchips, incidentally. Just as they threaten to become tiresome they succumb to their passion, right on the table where they do the baking. La panetiere dangereux.
Obviously they are interrupted immediately post-coitus for punishments. Sister Mary Eunice picks out a big creepy cane with little barbs on it (who the hell makes these?) and Sister Jude throws us the best winking, nudging, jazz hands breaking-the-fourth-wall line EVER with “I don’t know what’s got into you lately Sister, but it’s a decided improvement.” Sing it, Sister. Jude demands to know if they’re purposely trying to make a murder-baby, which is just a great question. And the very reasonable solution for the persistent behavior problems of these two allegedly-murderous horn toads is obviously sterilization. Security Frank interrupts the party to tell Sister J that two detectives are here questioning Doctor Arden, and she bolts from the room, barely suppressing an actual jump for joy. Sister Mary Eunice then leaves Kit alone with Grace’s file, because it’s about time for a flashback.
In Doctor Arden’s office, Sister Jude pretends not to know she’s barging in on a sensitive moment. “Are you here about the Nazi stuff?” “No, he beat up a prostitute.”
Doctor Arden is all “LIES.” The handsome detective is all “she said you had a lot of porno and Nazi stuff.”
Sister Jude is pretty excited by that last bit, and she visibly stiffens when she finds out these homeboys are from homicide. And finally, someone asks the question “would that Masshole auto mechanic with the puppy dog eyes really have the surgical skill to skin and behead those ladies so neatly?” HM.
Meanwhile, Lana is throwing up in another homo-horror scene courtesy of what 1964 was actually like. Dr. Zachary Quinto is showing her pictures of sexy ladies and giving her nauseating medication. Then CLICK and…
Dr. Zachary Quinto took it from her house when he was there. Now, at this point Clea DuVall’s being dead is unverified but assumed by everyone on screen at the moment, which seems like a very strange state of being. But we’re just going to roll with it, because things are about to get a lot more gross and weird (and maybe a little hot, I don’t know what you’re into). Dr. Zachary Quinto brings in Daniel, who is super cute and we’re supposed to recognize, but my reaction was “whoa, where have they been keeping him?” Anyway, Lana is instructed to look at his handsome nakedness while she twiddles her mons, and then she has to touch his hard man-thing, and it doesn’t seem to cure her homosexuality but I sure feel like mine has taken a hit.
Sister Jude and the Mysterious Monsignor talk about the recent visit from the police, and Nazi rumors about the (just barely, at this point) creepiest doctor at Briarcliff. By now Sister Jude is totally committed to Team Anne Frank. Monsignor basically says “stop, you’re a drunk, I think you need some prayer-time.” When she leaves, The Monsignor calls Doctor Arden, who is in the middle of doing still more awful things to Shelly, and the big reveal is “they’re onto you Arthur, if you have any legless mutants you need to stash, hurry up and do it.” My words.
Sister J has a chat with her Mother Superior, who is kind of awesome. They have some penguin time, and talk about how the men just can’t be counted on when shit gets real. She’ll put Sister Jude in touch with someone who can help, and suggests that she focuses a little more on God and a little less on her boyfriend the Monsignor. Good advice!
Kit and Grace wind up in separate cells, because of too much raw-dogging. They still have their gonads. Kit’s mad though, because he found out that Grace really did kill all those people, but it’s OK because her stepfather had been molesting her. I won’t spend any more time recapping this revelation than the writers spent coming up with something so incredibly predictable and cliché. Kit is obviously still bananas for her, though. “I admiyuh you.” Ok, enough.
In the day room, the headbanger is headbanging, the masturbator is masturbating, and Lana is still being gay. Dr. Zachary Quinto is sorry, and now he realizes that aversion/conversion therapy was the wrong way to go. He gives her the snapshot of Clea DuVall, and tells her he’s gonna bust her ass out of there. Well that’s all very odd.
Kit goes to see Sister Jude, to talk about his crimes, and his confusion about not remembering actually committing them. They talk about God, and how he sees you when you run down poorly-supervised children in the night, and when you murder and mutilate your black wife.
They actually have a really touching moment, punctuated nicely by Kit acknowledging that the space monsters couldn’t possibly exist, and Sister Jude has a moment of “Um, sure. Right. Couldn’t possibly.”
Doctor Arden hauls Anne Frank into his office and he’s very mad. He thinks Anne Frank is a liar! He’s gonna show her what happens in Briarcliff, but GOOD. Except Anne Frank stole a gun off of one of those detectives! Who’s scary now, asshole? She wants him to confess! But then she hears something in the closet! Doctor Arden doesn’t want this to go any further, so he lunges at her and … gets shot in the leg! She lets him know she has a bullet for his other leg if he doesn’t give her the key to that room! Exclamation points!
“Kill me?” –Shelly.
Ok, we’re rolling straight into episode five, but first, a moment of reflection. “Where exactly lies the line of tastefulness” is an interesting question. It is not one the writers of this show have set out to answer. I will not attempt to answer it either, because clearly we are in a shock-horror world of mutilation and absurdity, where taste goes on vacation. Trotting out Anne Frank to tell a horror story is pretty gross, but all this Shelly nonsense is REALLY gross, and all of the sex-horror and homo-oppression-horror is also pretty heavy-handed and … is “cheap” the word I’m looking for? Because reminding us just how poorly our queer selves would have fared in the 60’s certainly doesn’t take a lot of effort (but indicting the ethical backwardness of those times is Good Work, as far as I’m concerned). I’m not saying I don’t like it…obviously I’m all in. But it seems worth acknowledging that this shit be mildly problematic, to say the least.
Episode 5! I am (still) Anne Frank.
We open on Sister Jude getting out of a car, so this is already anxiety-provoking. There appear to be no bits of child in her grille. Apparently the Mother Superior sent Sister Jude to a Nazi hunter! “I don’t do zis for money.” And Mr. Nazi Hunter whips out his numbers tattoo. BEEN SEEING A LOT OF THOSE LATELY, SHOW. He tells us about Operation Paperclip, and how the United States is basically crawling with Nazi scientists, and that Doc Arden probably has a whole fake identity courtesy of Uncle Sam.
Back at Briarcliff, Anne Frank hauls Doctor Arden into Sister Jude’s office, where Sister Mary Eunice is just straight-up going through drawers. And just when it looks like the jig is up for Doctor Arden, Security Frank saves the day!
Sister Jude is debriefing a newly straight-jacketed Anne Frank, and the question of “where the fuck is Shelly?” is soon on everyone’s mind. After the gunplay shenanigans (Sister Jude can’t leave this place for five minutes to visit a Nazi hunter!) they apparently went all through Doctor Arden’s lab, and there was no sign of any mutant nymphomaniacs.
Then Anne Frank’s husband shows up, and really fucks with our heads. You see, his wife had some kind of post-partum psychotic break, grew obsessed with Anne Frank’s diary and the Holocaust in general, and started doing the whole “room covered in newspaper clippings” thing. And some other stuff.
And 1964 being what it is, Sister Jude is only too happy to release Anne Frank, or rather Charlotte, The Disturbed Woman Who Thinks She’s Anne Frank, to her husband. So to be clear, if you are a woman, it is entirely up to your husband whether you get committed at Briarcliff. Sane woman who likes having orgies with musicians? Briarcliff. Not-sane woman who gives herself a concentration camp tattoo and is obviously a danger to her child? You’re coming home! Come on little lady, just snap out of it! All you need is some good, wholesome baby time.
I am completely failing at conveying how much I thought this woman was Anne Frank, and then how in three minutes it all came crashing down. I went from “Well OBVIOUSLY it’s Anne Frank,” to “whoa, how could I think this was Anne Frank, she’s OBVIOUSLY a crazy woman!” It was actually a pretty awesome moment, all way-questionable things considered.
Of course her husband could always be a CIA agent sent to protect Doctor Nazi Woman-Murderer. Or an alien! Or a wendigo! Honestly who knows at this point?
Sister Jude is too tired and disappointed that her Nazi adventure is over to listen to Dr. Zachary Quinto give her lip about Kit’s upcoming sterilization. Kit and Grace whisper through the walls of their adjoining cells in what is clearly an homage to Abelard and Heloise. So derivative, this show.
Then along comes Sister Mary Eunice, with some great news for Kit! It’s dinnertime, and you aren’t getting fixed in the morning! Kit skips off to dinner, balls intact, and Sister M.E. gloats over Grace because for whatever reason SHE is still getting sterilized. The decision-making process here is unclear. Sister Mary Eunice seems to be just doing whatever the hell she wants now, and good on her. Maybe the aliens told her to save Kit’s balls?
Grace freaks out!
Then the aliens come for her! This show buttoned up the Anne Frank thing (MAYBE) like five minutes ago and now they’re throwing the aliens at us again! OK!
So the aliens are slenderman, basically.
There’s a medication montage, and Lana is thinking about how excited she is to escape when Dr. Zachary Quinto spookily sneaks up on her to plan it out. Then he starts prodding Kit with a tape recorder, trying to get him to basically confess all his crimes…and this is supposed to help him? Kit is confused, and so are we. Kit, don’t say you remember killing your wife! Especially since she seems to be pregnant on a light starship with Grace and the OB/GYN torture aliens!
Sister Jude is all ashamed because Anne Frank really being a crazy lady means that Doctor Arden isn’t a war criminal. Maybe. She tries to cozy up to Doctor Arden, because she feels like her position is getting a little tenuous, and he says (my words) “Nope, your position is getting tenuous. Ha ha! You’re fucked and I hate you.”
And Doctor Arden is so happy. But then Sister Mary Eunice comes in and gives him weird pantsfeelings while administering to his Nazi leg wound. But she actually wants to apologize for showing him her mossy bank. And Doctor Arden, never one to beat around the bush, thanks the sister for hiding his science project. And this show, never ever one to be subtle or ambiguous even a little, gives us a montage of Sister Mary Eunice dragging what’s left of Shelly through the tunnels under the crazyhouse. I’ll spare you a screenshot of that.
But not of this!
So Shelly’s loose. But hey, lose a Shelly, gain an Anne Frank, who’s back at Briarcliff kicking and screaming. Doctor Arden’s still pretty mad about his leg.
So Anne Frank/Charlotte’s husband is pretty worried about her tendency to strangle their kid. It turns out Sister Jude’s recommendation to send the extremely mentally ill woman home to care for a small child wasn’t the best, and maybe there’s a good reason for her position being tenuous? I love her and all, God save Jessica Lange, but Sister Jude is kind of in the wrong line of work here.
Meanwhile, Lana is a little skeptical that Dr Zachary Quinto can just walk her right the hell out the front door, but he pretty much does exactly that. Off he goes with Lana hiding in his car, having gotten Kit's confession, and we realize that we don't know anything about this guy and wow shit he's totally the killer.
Doctor Arden and Anne Frank/Charlotte’s husband have a chat, and Doctor Arden knows just what she needs. Spookymusic spookymusic – it’s lobotomy time!
Dr Zachary Quinto is almost stopped by Security Frank, but just because they want him to consult on the Anne Frank situation, and he ain’t havin’ it. He’s got totally non-homicidal stuff to do right now. Five minutes later, Security Frank, whose ability to do his job properly is also beginning to come into question, notices that Lana is gone. Sister Jude responds by launching into the most brain-breaking dead squirrel monologue I have ever heard.
Security Frank reveals that he is quite the feminist thinker for being a blue collar Frank from 1964, and wait did I say that Sister Jude’s speech was the most brain-breaking something? Because we see this happen.
For the record, I take the less stomach-turning visuals for my screenrgabs, because I don’t want these recaps to just be pure snuff porn.
And it gets worse.
Lana is alone with Dr. Zachary Quinto, and she seems eager to get out of the limbo of being an escaped mental patient who is stuck with just this one guy. And he’s less eager, somehow, with his suggestions that they drink some wine and talk to the police tomorrow, why are you in such a rush, Lana? Geez. He jumps around a corner all horror movie-y, and physically stops her from using the phone. He tries to be all “no, no, we just have to lay low for tonight,” except that the lamp has nipples.
And there’s a skull candy dish and it’s all very Ed Gein, and Dr. Zachary Quinto is crunching on mints like they’re tasty fingerbones, and it’s just nuts. Oh this show. They let us know that they are 100% motherfucking done dancing around this one, and Lana stumbles on the serial killer taxidermy room, and Dr. Zachary Bloodyface is like “I MAKE LAMPSHADES OUT OF SKIN.” BOOM TRAPDOOR.
Back at Briarcliff, Grace is there! She’s bleeding terribly, and talking dreamily and screaming about how Alma is pregnant with alien babies just as the old-timey police guys come for Kit. He’s guilty! Well, he did confess. Dr. Bloodyface sure pulled this one off. He even has his own personal Lana now. Who is at this very moment reliving some scenes from the Saw franchise, except with more frozen murdered lovers.
Don’t worry Lana, Dr. Bloodyface didn’t cut off Clea DuVall’s skin and head because he wants to keep doing gay conversion therapy on you with her corpse. He put her teeth on his Bloodyface mask. It’s just great.
And we close with a very weird Anne Frank coda. Charlotte is totally fine, for some reason, post-skull-cracking. She’s all dolled up and looking pretty and holding her baby. The twist is that we see Dr. Arden in one of the pictures that are still hanging around their house, all Nazi’d up.
The Bloodyface reveal did kind of hijack this two-parter, which is all well and good because the Anne Frank story worked better in the background. Really all of the plot elements work best when they’re in the background, because they’re all so vulgar and over-the-top. The content itself is inherently extreme, what with Exorcist-style demonic possession and the leering focus on American murder, but the presentation never fails to beat us over the head with the way things play out.
So what did everyone think of Anne Frank? Crazy lady who stumbled on a hidden war criminal? Real Anne Frank, victim of international conspiracy and forced surgical procedures? This is of too questionable taste to discuss? I just don’t know.