‘American Horror Story’ 4.07 Recap: “Beauty Is Painful, Sweetheart”

The latest episode of ‘American Horror Story’ could have been titled “Everybody Hates Dell.” I get the feeling that Michael Chiklis’ strongman character probably won’t make it to the end of the season, with the number of enemies he’s collecting.

The episode is really titled ‘Test of Strength’, which I suppose is meant to have multiple thematic meanings.

We start with Jimmy at the Motts’ mansion to visit the twins. At first, they won’t leave with him. Bette believes she’s in love with Dandy, and Dot has been trying to collect enough money for separation surgery. It doesn’t take Jimmy very long to figure out that Dandy was the second clown at the bus in the woods, but he can’t prove it yet. When Dandy lets slip that he read Dot’s diary, she gets pissed and changes her mind about going with Jimmy. Bette agrees to go as well, if that’s what her sister wants. Dandy is a wee bit miffed, as you might imagine.

Jimmy brings the girls back to the circus and confronts Elsa about selling them to the Motts. However, Dot changes her story and now claims that Elsa was merely helping them run away of their own volition. Obviously, she’s working an angle here. In private afterwards, she blackmails Elsa into giving them 50% of the box office.

Dell’s secret boyfriend the gay hustler has gone missing, and Dell is kind of upset about that. (He doesn’t yet know that Dandy killed him.) When the bartender at the gay bar makes a flippant remark, Dell beats him up. Conveniently there to witness the altercation is Stanley the con man (or Richard Stanley, as appears to be his full name).

Later on back at the circus, Stanley tells Dell that he knows he’s gay, and blackmails him (lots of blackmail attempts this week) into helping him collect a dead freak. Dell stupidly tries to snatch Eve the Amazonian woman, who fights back and gives him a good beating for his efforts. She then tells Ethel, Desiree and Jimmy about what Dell’s done. Ethel wants to kill him (literally, murder him). She’s in a pretty foul mood after learning that her doctor killed himself – on account of Dell breaking his hands and threatening his family, which Ethel doesn’t know yet. Jimmy convinces her to let him talk to Dell first.

Dell agrees to talk to Jimmy at a bar, and actively works to get the boy drunk. Jimmy runs out into an alley to puke, and Dell picks up a brick to smash his head, because he’s planning to give Jimmy’s body to Stanley. However, Jimmy reveals that he knows Dell is his father, and makes him admit it. Dell loses his will to hurt his son. He drops the brick and gives Jimmy a hug.

This still leaves Dell in a bind, unfortunately. To make good on his promise to Stanley, he snaps tiny Ma Petite’s neck. As the episode ends, we see her body on display at the Morbidity Museum. And this time, it’s not a fake-out fantasy sequence.

In another side story, Penny the candy striper girl (Grace Gummer) returns home to collect some things before she runs off with the circus. Her furious father knocks her out and has a friend tattoo a lizard scale pattern all over her face. If she wants to live with the freaks, she’s going to be a freak.

I’ve been feeling kind of down on ‘American Horror Story’ this season. Honestly, there’s nothing in particular wrong with this episode (though I’m a little sad about Ma Petite). It’s a decent enough entry in the series. I’m just still waiting for something this season to wow me, and this certainly isn’t it.


  1. Watching Come as You Are performed by lobster boy was painful. I wish they stopped the singing. Since when did he sing? if they’re gonna sing, sing something from that era, otherwise keep it on Glee. I like this season better than last, but I I’m not loving it. It’s not really a horror story. I love Cathy bates and her character is interesting but the Dr. Evil accent is distracting. It makes her monIologues funny instead if emotional. Jessica Lange carried the first two seasons with little effort, but I’m growing tired if her too. I’m kind of hoping Elsa gets whacked, preferably while singing Life on Mars. I want to be creeped out again, not have my heart strings tugged at. I hope they’re saving it for the next half.

    • Josh Zyber

      I wish I knew what kind of accent Kathy Bates is doing. She’s obviously put a lot of work into it, but I can’t identify it and (as you say) it’s very distracting.

      This is Jessica Lange’s last season on the show, FYI.

      • When this season first started, I could’ve sworn that at times it was southern, then I got little bits of Irish, maybe? Now we have Mike Myers. As far as Jessica Lange goes, it’s not all her fault, I blame the way she’s been written. I was aware that it was her final season on AHS, I just would’ve of loved for her to bow out with grace. Not like this.

  2. Nicole

    I couldn’t figure out that accent either, so I did some research…and I read an article where she was being interviewed and she said the accent is Baltimore…she claims to even speak like that off set because otherwise she loses it..

    • I looked up what I believe is the same article you read. I have good friends from Baltimore and have met several people from there and they certainly didn’t sound like that. I didn’t know the Baltimore accent was a thing kind of like Minnesota, New York, Boston. I’ve met people from New Hampshire and even they have a Boston like accent ( at least to my ears they do). I guess kudos to her for trying. I wonder if they’ll give some kind of back story on where she’s from that will give more purpose for her efforts. If I haven’t missed it already. I have missed a couple of episodes.

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