‘American Horror Story’: Silent Night, Deadly Night

I’m not sure if you guys are big fans of Homeland, but if you are, well, you’ll totally understand what I’m saying here about American Horror Story: Even if you are writing about the most implausible, suspend-your-disbelief from a 90-foot crane kind of crazy, you still need to be internally consistent within the dream world you make up. So for instance, no way would Carrie have ever been let back in at the CIA, even if she was right about Brody. That’s just not how it works. She has a mental problem, and it clearly makes her batshit insane, and she hid that information—a matter of national security–and don’t even get me started on this Dana storyline…whatever.

The point is: That is how this season of American Horror Story is shaping up. While it’s certainly more fun to watch than the first three episodes, when things were so staid and boring, right now the show is so cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs that it doesn’t even make sense within the logic of a program about Nazi zombies, the devil, and Jessica Lange’s accent.

For instance: Sister Mary Eunice. Is she just really bad at being the devil? At this point, she seems more like a bitchy Carrie. Her powers are super limited—she can’t see all/know everything, her murdering abilities are the same as normal psychopath, and when she does use her "gifts" they seem totally arbitrary.

For instance, this week when Sister Jude comes back into Briarcliff to kill her (which, by the way, highlights the inconsistency of the institution’s door policy if every disgruntled ex-employee with a knife can just walk in), Mary Eunice uses her MIND POWERS to throw open the cabinet with all the canes on the floor and scatter them about. But like, that’s it: a telekinetic temper tantrum. Then she "takes care" of Frank, the guard who shot Grace last episode and now wants to go to the police, by freeing a crazy-Santa freak inmate and concocting an elaborate plan to have St. Nick murder him? Crazy Santa can’t even do the job, so Sister Mary Eunice has to do it for him by slitting Frank’s throat herself.

Even for THE DEVIL, that seems like a lot of extra work.

And yikers, can we back up and talk about the insane Santa plotline? Because the most far-fetched aspect of this episode was that the producers somehow managed to get IAN MCSHANE to play a convict who, Jean Valjean-style, goes to jail for stealing a loaf of bread only to get raped by five cops in Santa outfits. So, obvs, when he gets out he takes the jolly red suit of his oppressors and becomes a rape-obsessed psycho murderer. The entire episode I was like, "Man, whoever they got to play Santa looks a LOT like Ian McShane." So good twist, when I got to the credits and saw how the mighty Deadwood has fallen. I wonder if he just went back to his trailer and cried at the indignity of what his 30+ years of thespian training in England has brought upon him.

He delivers lines like, "There is no God, but there is a Santa Claus!" or, after caning Sister Jude, "Are you soft enough yet to receive my light? Except it won’t be light you’re receiving." (It will be his penis.) Luckily, Jude stabs him in the neck with a letter opener, which puts her exactly on par with THE DEVIL in terms of magical murdering tricks. Like, she literally just foiled Mary Eunice’s plan, and why wouldn’t THE DEVIL just go kill Jude herself? Also, why would Jude need to be tricked into coming back to Briarcliff in a double-cross by Arden, after he pretends that he now sees how evil Mary is? It seemed unnecessary. Obviously, it is Jude’s top priority to be locked in a room with Mary Eunice, both making vague threats and maybe pulling each other’s hair, and she’s free to come any time thanks to Briarcliff’s open-door policy.

It was especially weird because of the preceding scene, where Arden gives Mary Eunice giant ruby earrings he’d been saving from the bowel movements of a rich Jewess in his Auschwitz days. Instead of being like "Gross, why have you been caring around shit-crusted rubies for years like you were Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction?" Mary Eunice loves them. And Arden gets upset, because apparently that was a test to see if she was really evil/had a human reflexive gag instinct, and he is obviously torn about his new partner in crime. But I guess he got over it, because the next thing you know he’s helping murder Sister Jude.

Oh, and speaking of that open door policy, someone invited Dr. Thredson to pay a visit to Lana Winterss, despite the fact that his last encounter with Briarcliff was giving it the middle finger. Well, whatever, he finds Lana because "all the newspapers" were talking about the escaped mental patient who came back to Briarcliff after a car accident. Which is off, because Lana tells Kit earlier in the episode that they are stuck at Briarcliff because "no one knows we’re here." Except for all those newspapers.

Anyway, Thredson is about to kill Lana, but Kit, who has been sedated on a morphine drip after he allegedly kills a nun (but it was actually one of those zombie creatures), comes to the rescue and hits Thredson over the head with a trashcan. Then they tie him up and put him in a spare room while they think of a plan. The best minds of their generation, these two.

While disposing of Grace’s body, some aliens appear to Arden in the tuberculosis "death chute" and make Grace disappear. Arden looks mildly shocked, but then again, what’s he going to do? Another day, another dollar full of post-apocalyptic zombies and taking orders from Satan. He doesn’t even have time for this shit.

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‘American Horror Story’: Anne Frank, Nazi Killer

Have we turned a corner in this somewhat terrible but mostly boring season of American Horror Story? Perhaps we have! I mean, right off the bat guys, you know who just showed up at Briarcliff? It’s Anne Frank! Yeah, that Anne Frank! I know, we all thought she was dead too! (I mean, maybe she is. There are zombies and aliens and THE DEVIL and immortal serial killers so maybe the ghost of Anne Frank is hanging out like the Black Delilah was last season.) 

Anne Frank gets locked up at a Boston mental institution in the ’60s because she stabbed some guys in the neck with a broken bottle for saying someone was trying to "jew" down the price of…I dunno, beer? "That’s how it always starts!" She hisses at Sister Jude. The funny thing about this is that Anne Frank is apparently in hiding, after escaping Auschwitz and getting married to an American soldier who brought her to his home country and then conveniently died. Anne hasn’t told her dad or anyone she’s alive because a) Her dad has a new family (so obviously he doesn’t want to know that his daughter survived the Holocaust), and b) Her book will only work its Holocaust Part II-preventing magic if people think of her as a symbol. (Like Batman? Just like Batman.) Her diary sells because it is about a martyred teen girl, not a bitter 30-something who stabs dudes in the neck. Also, she hates royalties. 

And though we have a LOT of ground to cover today, we really need to pause here. Anne Frank has managed to spend twenty years hiding out in America? Sure, she’s good at it. We know that "hiding" is definitely in her unique set of skills. But how inconspicuous can she be when she has this little social quirk of going all Inglourious Basterds on any drunk dude who makes an ethnic slur? How is she not a serial killer at this point? A well-known serial killer, too, because Fraulein here doesn’t seem to have a problem telling Sister Jude who she really is. That’s right: she tries to get OUT of an asylum by insisting that she’s Anne Frank. 

But Sister Jude, surprisingly, kind of believes her. After all, Anne Frank does have a tattooed wrist, and even better, she freaks out when she sees Dr. Arden, claiming that she knows him from the Holocaust. Apparently he was like the Auschwitz answer to Joseph Mengele (except the Auschwitz answer to Joseph Mengele was Joseph Mengele, so I guess Arden was only in the resident training program there?).

Anyhow, the idea of Anne Frank showing up at your mental institution is a lot easier to swallow if she fingers the guy you hate the most as a secret Nazi killer, let’s be honest.

The evidence is just mounting up for Arden. Like what is he planning on doing with Chloe Sevigny, whose legs he cut off in the last episode? He is probably going to make her into one his immortal zombie creatures, because the undead were not allowed to testify in court until the late ’60s, with the landmark case of Texas State vs. BRAAAAAINS.

Also, the cops are looking into that prostitute that he tried to rape, who saw all his Nazi stuff. Well, she’s dead or something, but the cops know about what happened that night, somehow. Things are looking pretty bad for Academy Award NOMINEE (not winner, my bad) James Cromwell. Where is THE DEVIL/Sister Mary Eunice when you need a body buried these days?

Speaking of THE DEVIL living inside Blondie, he doesn’t do a lot this episode. Makes you wonder what its/her game plan is. If you were the devil, would you want to spend your days in a depressing mental ward, having to pretend to be a nun and only occasionally killing Hispanic women with scissors? Seems like a waste of time. Besides, the real creep of the week is dark-horse candidate Dr. Thresdon. He has decided to help journalist Lana Winters escape from Briarcliff, since he knows she’s not crazy, just gay. Also, she reminds him of himself? "You headshrinkers are such hypocrites," Lana spits at Thredson when he offers to get her released. "According to your bible, the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders, I’m sick." 

Okay, fair, but maybe now is not the time to take out your rainbow pin and make a stand for gay rights, lady. TAKE THE FREE PASS!

Of course, Dr. Thresdon realizes that Lana is right. Being gay IS a mental illness, and he’ll only let her out if he can "cure" her. Lana eventually relents when she hallucinates herself winning a Pulitzer for the book she’s gonna write that exposes Briarcliff as a pretty average mental institution by that era’s standards.  Obviously becoming super-saner by the second, Lana takes Thredson up on his offer to "cure" her, Clockwork Orange-style, by making her look at pictures of naked women while hooked up to an I.V. of throw-up medicine, Apomorphine. This type of "aversion" therapy is a disturbingly real thing that psychiatrists used to do, although treatments rarely involved slipping photos of their patient’s dead girlfriends into the slide reel, I don’t think. But what can Dr. Thredson say? He’s a romantic at heart. He stole the picture from Lana’s house (normal), because he thought she might want a memento of her brutally murdered girlfriend (normal) that will make her vomit every time she looks at it (very normal, nothing to see here). 

Then comes the fun part! Without removing the I.V., Thredson makes Lana masturbate to and with an especially attractive, asexual-looking mental patient named Daniel. Hi Daniel! Where have you been all season? Thresdon keeps cheering Lana on as she sobbingly tries to make herself orgasm while touching Daniel’s "tumescence." (Fun fact: Danielle Steele was hired by Ryan Murphy to write all the euphemisms this season, which is why we keep hearing ostensibly threatening characters toss around terms like "mossy bank" and "rosebud tits.")

It’s a great scene though…maybe the best of the season. Somehow Thredson’s "compassion" is twenty times more horrifying than Sister Jude’s pious beatings or Arden’s over-the-top scary surgeon routine. It reminds me of when Zachary Quinto was on Heroes. His brain-eating, superpower-consuming character Sylar was so disturbing because he looked and acted like such a nice young man. If they re-re-make Psycho, Quinto should totally be Norman Bates.

The good head doctor is on some sort of charity tour, because he also promises Kit that he’ll lie to the judge and give an official diagnosis that he is too insane to stand trial for the Bloody Face murders. That way, Kit can stay at Briarcliff and not get the electric chair. But that’s only if Kit admits that he is really Bloody Face, even though Thredson now suspects that Kit is not the serial killer. 

So, to recap: If Kit can make Thredson believe he murdered three women, Thredson promises to tell the world that he didn’t murder those three women that both he and Kit know he didn’t murder. What? Yes. Anne Frank. 

Later in the kitchen, Kit and his BFF Grace sum up American Horror Story’s interpretation of mental health in one of the most amazing dialogue sequences in history: 

Kit: What if I did make up all this stuff about alien abductions? What if I did murder those women?
Grace: Why are you bringing this up now? 
Kit: Dr. Thredson is starting to say some things that make sense.
Grace: Well, if you were crazy, they wouldn’t make sense to you. Self-doubt is a sure sign of sanity. [Ed. note: Nope.]
Kit: Wait, you are confusing me. So you’re saying that if I were crazy, I wouldn’t believe Dr. Thredson, but if I’m sane, then my crazy stories would be true?
Grace: I have no idea what you just said.

Then they literally just start having sex on the kitchen counter, because thinking hurts their tiny, sane-or-whatever brains. It’s pretty hot, because Kit starts choking her, but then wait… Is that the same counter where the county’s best molasses bread comes from?! Gross! 

Oh, I forgot to mention, Grace tells Kit that she’s locked up in Briarcliff because her stepsister got her boyfriend to murder her stepmom and dad and frame her for it. So, that is a backstory.

Luckily, they are caught and Sister Jude sentences them both to forced sterilization. Which I’m pretty sure you couldn’t even defend back in the uptight ’60s as this is consensual man-on-woman intercourse, but apparently the nun can’t let a "murder baby" into the world. (Sister Jude has seen Dexter, and she knows has this shit works.) 

Sister Jude is in a particularly bad mood because the police won’t arrest Dr. Arden for murder and possible Nazism, and when she calls her crush, Monsignor Tim Howard, to rat him out, the priest makes an appearance for the first time in a while to yell at her and makes her very 🙁 for being a snoop. But then it turns out Howard is in league with Arden, because he calls the doctor and warns him that "they are onto him." The non-plot thickens!

Feeling vulnerable, Jude is actually openly sympathetic later on when Kit comes to her, confused from his overly-complicated Inception-style therapy session, and tries to confess to sins he doesn’t know if he committed or not. That makes Jude remember that time she ran mowed the shit out of a child with her car (how can we forget?), and she lets him keep his balls. 

It turns out Grace did kill her dad and stepmom, but only because he was molesting her. She is sorry she lied to Kit, but he’s like, "It’s okay." Also, she’s still going to lose her uterus so they can still have sex without any fear of murder babies.

Anne Frank confronts Arden is his lab. "I know who you are!" She screams. “You don’t even know who you are!" Arden sneers. "Anne Frank? She died. Or didn’t you bother to read the book?" (Another fun fact: They had zingers in the ’60s, but they called them "zingles" and they cost a nickel at the corner store.) With no good retort, Anne Frank just shoots Arden in the leg with the gun she stole from the cops sent to question him earlier in the episode. But before she kills him, she hears scary scratching noises from behind one of his doors and demands that he give her the key to open it. Unusually bad self-preservation instinct, Anne Frank! When she does get the monster door open, a legless, face-melty Chloe Sevigny drags herself out. 

"Kill meeeee," she rasps. 

"Hi, I’m Anne Frank," says Anne Frank. Dr. Arden moans in pain, remembering all those Golden Globes he won for Six Feet Under

And now it’s TO BE CONTINUED.

Follow Drew Grant on Twitter.

‘American Horror Story: Asylum’: A Candy Apple-Flavored Exorcism

I’m not sure how I feel about American Horror Story: Asylum, you guys. Because either we are in a world where Satan can inhabit a boy—and when he dies, transfers itself over to Sister Mary Eunice—OR we are in a world where the horrors are confined to barbaric hospital conditions and Academy Award nominee James Cromwell trying to rape a prostitute after dressing her up like the aforementioned nun. It can’t be both! Because as terrible as rape and electroshock therapy and BLOODY FACE all are, we are now on some next-level paranormal shit, and that will always take precedence over mortal problems. I’m sorry, Chloe Sevigny. You picked the wrong reality to try out your feminist theories about gender relations and sex, and how come men have as much sex as they want but when women do it, they’re called sluts? Take it to Mad Men, lady, because Briarcliff has some real problems.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First off, our cold open takes care of Lana Winters’ only link outside of Briarcliff, as BLOODY FACE murders her lesbian girlfriend. (Who I’m now recognizing as that chick from all those early 21st century classics like The Faculty.) Oh man, and she was planning to go recant the commitment forms she signed after Sister Jude threatened to out her! Does that mean BLOODY FACE is working with Sister Jude, or that the show didn’t want that loose end hanging over our head all season? Maybe both. Either way, I am convinced the screeching has started to get more intense in the opening sequence. Right?

First season:

Second season:

I think next season they should get these girls to do a cover, since they’ve nailed it. (Skip to 1:11 to skip weird Australian accents.)

Now that girlfriend is dead, Lana is really stuck up in Briarcliff. Though, ostensibly, neither Lana nor Sister Jude know about the murder, which really makes you wonder what the nun’s long-term plan was, here. She caught Lana snooping around and locked her up to scare her, fine. But now she’s stuck with her, and Lana is writing a bunch of notes about the terrible conditions of the hospital, which she keeps in her pillow until they are found by the U.S. Marshall from Lost who was always trying to catch Kate.  You know he is going to be a really bad guy, because he has one of those faces, like Robert Patrick or the guy who played RoboCop.

"I don’t need those sister, I have an excellent memory!" Lana boasts to Jude’s back, because she is an idiot. "Yeah, we’ll see about that," Sister Jude replies. Lana Winters just earned herself one round of electroshock therapy!

Which again, what is the point here? Sister Jude is obviously reticent to order ECT on a patient, even if it’s only because she has to go beg her mortal enemy, Dr. Science Arden to perform it. So her plan was to just keep Lana locked up forever with her nosy journalist’s brain that’s now a little less nosy because it has the demons tased out of it? That’s a remarkable lack of foresight, especially when the grounds are swarming with state officials, like the aforementioned psychiatrist, Dr. Oliver Thredson. He’s there to determine whether Kip (Tate) is mentally fit to stand trial for the murder of three women that he allegedly skinned alive as BLOODY FACE. But we know Kip isn’t BLOODY FACE, because BLOODY FACE killed Lana’s girlfriend when Kip was locked up. Still, when he tells his story of the little green men abducted his African-American wife, Dr. Thredson gives his opinion while doing the whole Carrie Bradshaw voiceover-while-smoking-while-typing thing: "Diagnosis: Acute Clinical Insanity. Would I never run into Big, and would there ever be a good time to see him? When it comes to relationships, is it smarter to follow your heart or your head?" (Not to nitpick, but "acute clinical insanity" has never been a thing. You are a terrible psychiatrist, Thredson!)

Of course, Sister Jude does not like the new doctor, because she is a woman of God and all doctors are something, whatever, you know how nuns be acting crazy. It is interesting how the show is setting up a triangulation between faith, science, and psychology with Sister Jude, Dr. Arden, and now Dr. Thredson respectively. None of them like each other, and it’s probably a metaphor for how uptight the nation still was back in the day when saying "The National Lesbian League" was still a horrible diss and not an awesome kickball team name.

Dr. Arden runs into "his favorite little helper" out in the woods, as Sister Mary Eunice is feeding the invisible monsters he keeps as pets. He wants to thank her for being such a good little double agent, so he’s brought her a candy apple. She demurs, because we all remember what happened when Eve took that caramelized fruit from the serpent. Dr. Arden insists. She demurs again. Then he’s like "Eat. The. Apple." That does the trick, and is also really uncomfortable, as are all Arden’s scenes this episode. It is deeply disturbing that the man who won an Academy Award for Babe (don’t bother, I’ve already Wiki’d it) can be so rapey!

Lana gets a new friend while getting some pampering in hydrotherapy. It’s the same French girl who befriended Kip. Her name is Grace, and she is so intensely loyal to her new blond boyfriend that even when the journalist tells her she knows of a secret way out through the death chutes, she refuses to come along without him. Lana says it’s non-negotiable because she thinks Kip is crazy and also BLOODY FACE. They part ways amicably enough.

Sister Jude gets a visit from two concerned parents. They say their teenage son has been acting out. Jude says she’s had great success curbing the problem of chronic masturbators. That doesn’t relieve the parents much, as their son’s problems are less about diddling himself and more about ripping open a live Guernsey cow and eating/smearing it all over his body. Dr. Thredson decides to poke his nose into this, because he has all the time in the world to piss off nuns. It’s not like a murder trial hinges on his diagnosis or anything, so he offers his medical expertise as they visit lil’ Jed. He’s strapped to a bed and at first seems normal before totally Linda Blairing out, speaking fluent Latin in a deep satanic voice without even a trace of the Baw-ston accent that at least half the characters on this show have.

"This boy needs to be immediately medicated!" says the psychiatrist. "No doctor, that’s not what this boy needs," says the nun. Jed just earned himself an exorcism! Unsurprisingly, it does not go well, especially when SATAN turns off the power in the asylum and Lana tries to make her escape with Grace but inadvertently tips Kip off. You’ll have to excuse me for finding her betrayal captivating. She called the guards and Kip got beat in the face, big whoop. Did you guys know that there is a literal demon upstairs right now?

And in its homage-y way, AHS has Demon Boy follow the exact script from The Exorcist. He throws priests against walls, and taunts the religious with their darkest secrets. InThe Exorcist, the demon pretends to be Father Karras’ mother, knowing that the priest blamed himself for his her death even though it wasn’t his fault. In American Horror Story, Jed knows Sister Jude feels kind of bad about the time when she was a slutty, drunk, nightclub singer and ran over a kid with her car. Totally the same thing.

Look, I’m not saying all Catholics should have a guilt complex, but maybe Sister Jude should feel a little bit more terrible about being a child murderer and also still kind of a slut, since she wants on Monsignor Howard’s scepter so damn bad? Or maybe she should act a little more sorry when she informs Jed’s parents that instead of helping their son, her staff has killed him? Nah, she has bigger problems to deal with. Like making Lana pick which instrument of torture Jude will use to punish Kip and Grace for trying to escape. (Even though it was all Lana’s idea! Bitch-Judas!)  Lana’s "gift" for being a good tattletale is watching her friend suffer, except Kip cops to the whole thing and takes all the whippings. Poor Kip.

But even more poor Sister Mary Eunice. Not only is Dr. Arden secretly obsessed with her up to the point where he hires prostitutes to pretend to be her and show him their "mossy pods," but now she is also possessed. We know this because she kicked back her covers in the hospital’s recovery room, and a cross fell off the wall. Well, these kinds of things take time to develop. No one just starts crab-walking up and down staircases after the spirit of Satan enters them. I’m pretty sure it takes a couple weeks of Pig Latin and peeing yourself till you reach that stage. Can’t wait though!

Follow Drew Grant on Twitter.

‘American Horror Story’: The Gang’s All Back! (Well, Sorta)

I loved the first season of American Horror Story. Let’s just begin with that. I thought Jessica Lange deserved the Emmy and Golden Globe. Evan Peters was robbed by not getting any nominations for "Best Crying." (I’m working off the presumption that if this was an actual category, it would just go to Claire Danes for Homeland.) I even have a sketch of Tate Langdon crying above my bed. That is how into American Horror Story I am.

I was so amped up for the second season that I must have watched those creepy promos a million times. Scary nuns! Straight jackets! M.C. Escher staircases! American Horror Story looked at shows like Twin Peaks and True Blood and correctly realized that it’s impossible to keep audiences both terrified and invested in the characters after season 1.5, so they are making each one a self-contained narrative, with it’s own cast.  But since Lange and Peters did such a good job last time around, they were hired to play two new main characters. You can pretty much imagine the state I was in last night for the premiere.

Still, I had my fears. I had my hand-wringing concerns. I was uneasy about American Horror Story’s propensity for straight homages to other scary movies, sometimes at the cost of the series’ own plot. Last season, this predilection gave the show some of its strongest themes—like the whole Rosemary’s Baby thing—but also contributed to its weakest moments. (Two thirds of the second episode was spent literally remaking The Strangers, with a couple Funny Games allusions thrown in for good measure.)

Luckily, this doesn’t seem to be the case in the new American Horror Story, which is set in a Boston mental institution in the 1960s. Except wait! Last year, the premiere began with a flashback to the ’70s. And as we begin our delve into the heart of darkness this year, we start in the present day… a flash-forward. Did American Horror Story just give itself a masturbatory self-homage? Very clever.

A little less clever, however, is the couple we are introduced in this cold open: Mrs. Channing Tatum (Jenna Dewan) and the guy with the douchey tattoos from The Voice. That’s right, Adam "Smugface" Levine is (finally?) flexing his acting chops. He’s a horny newlywed who has agreed to the world’s creepiest honeymoon: his wife wants to go have sex in the biggest haunted attractions in the country. And it just so happens that the now-abandoned Briarcliff Manor for the Criminally Insane happens to be their last stop. "So…this is goodbye," indeed. (Alternate joke: He should "move like Jagger out of there!") Instead, they fuck on an operating table.

Mrs. Tatum explains that in 1908, Briarcliff was the largest tuberculosis ward in the East Coast, which is already super scary because no one wants to die like Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge. Mid-century, the Catholic Church bought the property and turned it into a state-run mental institution. Still, the "death chute" used to funnel bacteria-infested bodies got to stay, because it slipped everybody’s mind that a building that would be housing the CRIMINALLY INSANE should probably not come equipped with its own escape tunnel to the outside world.

Also, fun fact: Among the residents of the Briarcliff was the infamous BLOODY FACE, a serial killer who skinned his victims alive. When Adam Levine hears about BLOODY FACE, he gets so scared that his arm falls off. (Hopefully it was the tattooed arm.) 

Mrs. Tatum tries to act scared now that they are trapped inside, not having sex. And they are stuck in the abandoned sanitarium with whatever scared Adam’s arm off. There’s only one way out, and it’s tuberculcious! She’ll really need to Step Up now! (Alternate joke: Too bad she didn’t take The Vow of silence before coming up with this terrible Honeymoon idea!)

CACHA! CACHA! SHZZZZ! (That’s my impression of the opening credits, feel free to make your own phonetic guesses.)

Now we are in 1964, and some jerk is having his gas pumped by a snappy youth. The guy is complaining about how it cost three whole dollars to fill up his tank. It’s supposed to be one of those moments where we role our eyes and tell this guy "You jerk! Three dollars is SO CHEAP! Wait till the future!" The problem is, three bucks is actually an insane price for gas in 1964.

Even though he has a right to be mad at the gas price, he loses our sympathy when throws his money on the ground. The poor attendant, good-naturedly suffering what is probably the latest in a long string of gas-related indignities, bends down to pick it up. He straightens up to yell "Drive Safely!" while the camera spins around the reveal…Tate!

Well, not Tate. But Evan Peters, playing some guy named Kit Walker (Pronounced "Wah-kah." Remember, this is a Boston period piece, and Kit sounds like he’s channeling Leonardo DiCaprio’s "duly appointed fehdahral maaaahshal" character from Shutter Island.). Kit doesn’t even care that he has a dumb job, or that his friends are pretty menacing and try to steal his gun within, like, two seconds of showing up at the gas station. Kit isn’t going to let that bring him down, because Kit has a secret. He’s in love! Not just in love, but married! And not just married, but married to a pretty black lady! And it’s 1964, or at least an alternative-reality 1964 where Boston has annexed itself from the north and moved down to the Deep South, where a mixed-race couple is the second worst thing you could be, besides homosexual. (Don’t worry, the show will awkwardly force a lesbian storyline into the pilot as well.)

After awesome sex with his beautiful chocolate bride, Tate sees lights outside and assumes the worst. He grabs his gun and orders Alma to stay inside. Unlucky for him, it’s not his friends or the KKK but ALIENS.

Generally, I don’t find aliens scary, but this whole sequence was terrifying. There were no little green men or slime-covered monsters. Just piercing light, screaming, objects attaching themselves to the ceiling, and a confusing sequence of shots: Kit—now sans wife—is naked, bathed in pure light one second, and then receiving electroshock therapy (presumably) at Briarcliff the next. Guess no one bought his Area 51 story.

But before we can find out what lead up to Kit’s incarceration, we meet the rest of the cuckoo’s nest. Nosy reporter Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson, who played the psychic last season) goes to Briarcliff on the pretense of writing a story about the asylum’s delicious molasses bread (no, seriously) and meets the madhouse. There’s Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe, looking considerably younger and less bitchy than she did last season as the haughty ghost-mistress of Terror House), a prostrating ditz who acts as second in command to the totally dom Sister Jude (Jessica Lange). Jude is an uptight nun who is only lax in the accent department, which comes and goes as the mood (moo-awd!) strikes her. When we meet her, she’s been shaving nymphomaniac Shelly’s head, but stops halfway to take a meeting. (Lucky for Shelly, she’s played by Chloe Sevigny, so the half-bald thing kind of works for her.)

Lana is more interested in the inmates than the cooking. Why was she giving Shelly a totally punk rock Chelsea, when that hairstyle wouldn’t be in vogue for 30 years?

Jude—whose own hair must be wound pretty tight behind that habit, since her skull looks like it is about to burst out of her face—curtly informs Lana that Shelly had been brought to the asylum after being diagnosed by a psychiatrist. "A psychiatrist," she spits, "who gave her a preposterous diagnosis comparing her to a wood nymph." (Get it??)

So, to sum up the scene: the woman running a mental asylum for the CRIMINALLY INSANE thinks that mental illness is just a new-fangled devil’s term for sin. She’s already giving Nurse Ratched a run for her money.

But Jude and her closet full of whips might not even be the worst of the asylum’s staff. The god-fearing woman is rightfully suspicious of the other "head" of Briarcliff, Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell, Babe and Babe II: Pig in the City). Boston’s answer to Joseph Mengele has been performing secret experiments on some of the patients, and has enlisted Sister Mary Eunice as his accomplice in getting rid of the evidence. Sister Jude thinks it’s fishy that Dr. Arden’s "patients" a) all seem to die right on his operating table and b) don’t have any surviving relatives to complain about it. Then they have a fight that goes something like this, where Sister Jude is like "Blah, blah, GOD!"

"Blah, blah, SCIENCE!" says Dr. Arden. "Also, look at this mutant flower I made…with SCIENCE!"

"Blah, blah, Jesus is watching, abomination, blah, blah, blah." Sister Jude takes her leave. She needs to make dinner for her secret crush, the hospital’s Monsignor, Timothy Howard. (Played by Joseph Fiennes, who finally found the role worth to follow up his portrayal of Shakespeare in 1998.) Sister Jude has a dirty little sex fantasy during the meal after the Monsignor says that her cooking belies a decadent streak. Also, she is wearing a sexy red slip under her cloister. What kind of nun is she?

Well, she had a rough day: It turns out Ms. Walker wasn’t interested in molasses bread at all! She used it as a cover for her real story, about BLOODY FACE, who was due to arrive at the hospital that very afternoon. As Sister Jude prissily marches Ms. Walker out of Briarcliff, the reporter locks eyes on the man who allegedly murdered and skinned three women. Hi, Kit!

Kit does not have a good first day in the asylum, because he is tied to a bed and forced to listen to a nun smugly taunt him about his crimes. Later, he meets a hot new friend named Grace, who sneaks him food and allegedly murdered her whole family. She’s got a cute French accent. The two are instant besties.

But even that fleeting pleasure is cut short. Dr. Arden wants Kit for a brain experiment! Which doesn’t seem smart, seeing as the kid is very high profile and about to go to trial, but whatever. I’m not the crazy doctor here, what do I know? Before Kit can get a fun icepick lobotomy, Arden notices a lump in his neck and decides to cut it out. You know, in case it’s treasure or something.

Unfortunately, it’s not treasure, or even candy. It’s a microchip. Of course, no one in 1964 knows what a microchip is, so the two men stare at the thing like it’s about to sprout legs and run away. Oh, wait, there it goes!

Blah, blah, science, indeed!

Nosy Lana wants to sneak back into the mental asylum and break the story about Sister Jude’s inhumane treatments wide open. Her lesbian girlfriend (see??) think that sounds like a great idea, probably because she just finished getting high. Off her marijuana cigarette. Lana finds Sister Mary Eunice scrambling back out of the woods after feeding those monstrosities Arden is taking care of. She blackmails the nun into sneaking her in the asylum through the death chute, whereupon she is immediately attacked by a monster hiding in a supposedly unoccupied room.

This is why you never take advice from your stoned girlfriend.

When Lana wakes up, she finds herself strapped to a bed in Briarcliff, with a nasty-looking Saw-device on her head. Sister Jude thinks Lana is too nosy, and pulled some strings to have her committed. Despite being mentioned in the episode, Sister Jude has apparently never heard of Nellie Bly.

Things look bleak for Lana, and even bleaker for Mrs. Tatum, whom the show cuts back to for the final sequence. Who is that in the chute? Why, it’s BLOODY FACE! Quick, get your husband, who is finding it "Harder to Breathe," and pull out A Guide to Recognizing Your Local Saints.

It looks like you’re going to need it.

Follow Drew Grant on Twitter.

Some Real Taliban Shit Going Down in Bon Temps

Last Friday, I ran into Christopher Meloni at the premiere of The Amazing Spider-Man. As I professed how much I loved him on this season of True Blood—which is not a total lie, because I definitely don’t hate the character of Roman yet, so that’s as close as I get to loving anything on this show anymore—I asked where he drew his inspiration from when playing the leader of The Authority: basically the Pope and president of all vampires. It was strange, didn’t he think, that Roman’s ideas about peaceful co-existence with humans ("mainstreaming") involved such severe torture and murder to root out any defectors among his own kind? Alan Ball was usually so bludgeningly obvious with his metaphors, but The Authority truly has us stumped: were they a warning of what would happen if even liberalism is taken too far in this country? Or was it about religious hypocrisy? Is this show even trying to be an analogy for gay rights anymore?

Here was what Detective Stabler told me: "I think it’s like our political culture today. Most sides think they are absolutely right. But our power system is not built on absolute rightness, it’s built on compromise. As soon as you take compromise out of the equation…now you have the Taliban. Or call it whatever you want. 

"The Taliban. Or whatever you want to call it." Sure. I mean, leaving aside the fact that this very special episode of True Blood actually deals with the Taliban—insomuch as Terry and his troop buddies did something in Iraq that ended up with a bunch of dead civilians and a guy in South Dakota who can possibly light fires with his mind—this explanation makes a lot of sense. Remember all of those times sovereign nations became/stayed powerful because they all made concessions to the other side?

Or like that episode of Game of Thrones, when Queen Cersai tells LittleFinger, "Power is compromise?" This is just how politics work, people. Without compromise, you have the Taliban, or whatever you want to call it. Vampires. Catholicism. Potatoes. Literally…whatever.

If anything, Mr. Meloni’s answer just confirms my worst fears about True Blood: it’s become so broad and unfocused in trying to draw direct connections between the real world and the one where fairy nightclubs exist in the woods right next to the Red Room from Twin Peaks, Alan Ball’s high horse petered out and died of starvation two years ago. 

How are we supposed to feel smug as open-minded HBO viewers if we don’t even know what cultural institution True Blood is holding a mirror to this season?

Even without getting the word’s straight out of Roman’s mouth, the show has become a spinning compass of morality. As we open the episode—which should have been called "Everyone wakes up and realizes what a whiny, self-righteous bitch Sookie is"—Alcide is jumping in his truck and peeling out of Merlotte’s after learning Sookie killed his ex-girlfriend, Debbie. Sookie is like "Come on, I said I was sorry!" It’s weird that he doesn’t just forgive her for murdering the woman he spent his entire life being in love with right there, but you know how werewolves are a stubborn (wolf)people.

Lafayette, who has heard the commotion outside, takes a break from cooking with bleach and freaks out at Sookie. Now that Alcide knows about Debbie, they will probably be going to jail! Sookie responds that her gram always taught her that when you are in a ditch that the only way out is to do good deeds. Or something. Since the last "good deed" of Sookie’s involved turning her best friend into a vampire, Lafayette is understandably pissed. Also, that is not how you get out of a ditch. Gram was a sweet woman, but she really did not know her way around an aphorism.

Lafayette tells Sookie that she is the Angel of Death (fair), and later he turns into that demon that lives inside of him sometimes and makes him do bad things. His scary mask face that is sort of racist takes over and he shakes Sookie’s car up and down a bunch. Somewhere, James Franco gets an erection and a new idea for an art installation.

As Sookie struggles to maintain her moral high ground relative to everyone else in the universe, she starts to loose it a bit: unable to block out all those mean thoughts other people are having about her turning Tara into a vampire. Apparently, every single person at Merlotte’s has nothing better to think about than what a bad friend Sookie is. Except for one guy, who just wants to know where his drink order is.

This strikes me as odd, seeing as that literally everyone in Bon Temps has been given their own dramatic subplot now, and you’d expect them to be worrying about that, rather than blatantly staring at the girl who can read minds and thinking about how shitty of a person she is. Although that’s definitely what I’d spend my time doing if I lived in the world of True Blood.

At her wit’s end, Sookie tries to turn herself into the police…by going over to her brother’s house and asking him to arrest her. You can tell how committed she is to this project. Also, FYI Jason, Tara is now a vampire. As Jason’s three brain cells try to process all of this terrible news his sister just dumped in his lap, Jessica emerges from Jason’s room and overhears Sookie’s confession. 

Even though Jason just turned down Jessica for sex, and Sookie was just ready to pay for her crimes, Jessica’s appearance reminds our protagonist of her true purpose in life: to judge everyone else on their shortcomings and human ways. How DARE Jason have sex with Jessica! That’s it, she’s rescinding her confession, and it’s time for her to show herself the door, thankyouverymuch.

On her way home, her car suddenly goes all Christine on her and speeds up before crashing into a tree. Luckily, even while driving 90 mph, Sookie is able to drop and roll out of the car, unscathed. She’s just so fed up with her situation and all the stupid people in the world who don’t live righteous lives like she does—save the occasional murder—that she goes home and gets drunk.

Meanwhile: Bill and Eric are back in town! The Authority van just drops them back off in Bon Temps, with the promise that they deliver Russell Eddington or die trying. Literally so, with those bomb crucifixes strapped to their bodies. They put their heads together and try to think who let Russell out of his cement death box, but since only two other people knew where he was buried—Alcide and Pam—Eric jumps to conclusions and shows up at Fangtasia, ready to kill his progeny. Also, for some reason he seems to have lost his eyebrows in the last couple episodes. Maybe the UV prison lights used by the Taliban or whatever we want to call it?

Pam is noticeably distressed that Eric would even think she’d do such a thing, especially since she’s now made him the proud grandfather-sire of Tara. (Just what he always wanted…a Tara!) She tells Eric that if he really doesn’t trust her, he should just say the magic words and release himself as her Maker. So that’s a new thing we learned about vampires this week! All you have to do to undo your "Maker" role is say a sentence or two. In English. "I release you, blood of my blood," or something like that. Eric doesn’t do that, but then later he DOES do that. Not because he’s angry at Pam, but because someone needs to live on and do Fangtasia’s expense reports in case he dies. So Progenies are forced to die with their Makers? Or are somehow held responsible for their Maker’s indiscretions? That doesn’t sound right at all…Bill never had to answer for any of Lorena’s crimes, nor does he think to release Jessica from his servitude. 

Plus, it’s entirely unclear what happens once you are "released" from your Maker: you don’t have to do what they say if they use that "As your Maker, I command you," line, but otherwise the effects aren’t noticeable. Pam is still hanging out in Fangtasia, and now she’s making Tara feed off some human girl by pulling that Maker card on her. But then she tells Tara that no human will ever be able to hurt her again, and you can tell Tara really like that idea, because she was always such a victim, you know? A survivor, that’s what Tara is. Though how being a vampire could help her get the trauma of being vampire-raped by Franklin two seasons ago remains, like all things in True Blood, a terribly boring mystery.

Jessica plays the chump card all episode: glamoring Sheriff Bellefleur into forgetting about the Debbie Pelt murder, and convincing Bill to go visit Sookie, even though he just had a heart-to-heart with Tara who told him, with maybe just a smidge of bitterness, that Sookie will always have someone taking a bullet for her and doesn’t need his protection. I know Jessica’s not a mind-reader, but Sookie’s clear disgust for her decision to friend-jump from Hoyt to her brother would make me think twice about helping her out.

Let’s see: what else? Oh yeah, there’s that fairy version of The Box that the Judge takes Jason and Sheriff Bellefleur to. How this previously unknown and somewhat sleazy character ended up with the fairy connections is just…well, see above, re: boring mysteries. The last time we were in fairyland, time slowed down to approximately 15 minutes per human year and there was a Garden of Eden, but this time it’s all hipster bartenders with suspenders and no shirts, girls doing acrobatics from long red drapes, and a bunch of fairy prostitutes. This is where the sheriff runs into that fairy he boned in the woods last season, and Jason finds his cousin Hadley, who we haven’t seen in a bit, but sure, new-old character time. The time-gap is still evident, since Hadley still thinks Sookie’s dead (we wish), and warns Jason that he has to bring her to this "fairy hideout" (fairy strip club) before the vampires kill her just like they killed the Stackhouse parents.

WHAT? You mean that Mr. and Mrs. Stackhouse DIDN’T die in a flash flood?  *Record-scratch* But she’s "already said too much," and when Jason tries to pry more info out of her, he and Andy get thrown out of the fairy whorehouse and back into an empty field by two bouncer fairies who are about to blow them up with their Jubilee powers. "Staaaackhooooouse!" The sheriff wails. 

Sookie fucks Alcide because he told Debbie’s parents that Marcel killed Debbie, and that’s fine with him. Bill and Eric watch from outside. It’s even creepier than it sounds, because they are peeping while standing side by side, staring straight ahead and carrying on a conversation, as if this was how normal people—or vampires—interact with each other. Maybe Sookie can take care of herself, they both shrug, but not at each other, because they are too busy watching her have sex. Plus, they have their own problems to deal with. And not like I’m on Team Sookie, but they both had sex with Salome last week. Vampires in glass houses, y’all.

I guess the last loose end is that Nora finally gives up the other chancellor who is secretly a Sanguanista, after Roman and Salome are finished making love to their homemade torture porn on his Macbook pro. (All vampires use Macs—ANOTHER thing we learned this week!) Roman stakes him. It was the little boy vampire, Drew, and he just explodes everywhere, but mostly on Roman’s face.

You can tell that this is a major departure from this actor’s last television role, where Christopher Meloni barely killed any children at all. Then again, who could tell us what the NYPD’s Special Victim’s Unit would do with absolute power…probably some real Taliban shit, you know?