For at least a couple of weeks, Neil Patrick Harris joins the cast of ‘American Horror Story’ in an attempt to liven up the end of the season a little. From what we’ve seen so far, his character may be the biggest freak of all.
Not that we really needed the explanation spelled out, but episode ‘Magical Thinking’ starts off by showing us how Jimmy’s hands wound up on display at the Morbidity Museum. Stanley the con man talks him into sacrificing his left hand in order to pay for a lawyer. Believing that he’s out of other options, Jimmy reluctantly agrees. Stanley gives him a drug that causes him to vomit profusely, then demands that the guards call an ambulance, which just happens to be waiting around the corner with Stanley’s gigolo at the wheel. Jimmy passes out, and by the time he wakes up in a real hospital, Stanley has already sawed off both of his hands. As if that weren’t bad enough, the nurse, who believes that he’s a mass murderer, refuses to give him any pain meds. Talk about a crappy day.
At the circus, Bette is back to being a brunette. She and Dot have made peace with their life connected together, and with their home at the freak show. They’ve also decided that it’s about time to lose their virginity. Unfortunately, with Jimmy gone, prospects for that at the circus don’t look so great… until a fascinating stranger arrives. A travelling salesman named Chester (Harris) comes around peddling pet chameleons, and he very quickly becomes infatuated with both the twins. They likewise fancy him quite a bit, and waste no time letting him know.
Chester is not just a salesman, but also an amateur magician with dreams of performing at the carnival. Elsa isn’t so interested in that, until Chester slyly drops a hint that he may have a lot of money at his disposal. (Is he another con man like Chester?) Elsa agrees to take him on as a bookkeeper and let him be a warm-up act for the show. He’s so enthusiastic about this news that he can’t wait to tell his dummy.
Oh, did Chester forget to mention that he’s a ventriloquist too? He has a dummy named Marjorie, who is clearly voiced by returning castmember Jamie Brewer. As is usually the case with stories about ventriloquists, Chester turns out to be quite looney-tunes crazy. He believes Marjorie is real, and has visions of her as a person (Brewer done-up in heavy makeup) berating him and ordering him around. He’s so attached to this puppet that he insists on wearing her on his hand when the twins throw themselves at him for sex. They decide that they’re OK with that. It’s hardly the strangest thing they’ve experienced.
In case you were worried that the show has forgotten about Dandy, he turns up in this episode too. Still obsessed with the twins, he hires a private investigator who photographs them having sex with Chester. Dandy is terribly disappointed by this.
Dell and Eve bust Jimmy out of jail. Dell is shot in the process but insists that it’s not serious.
Elsa announces that she’s selling the whole freak show to Chester for the sum of $1,000. An ecstatic Chester wants his Marjorie to be the headline act. There’s just one problem: she’s gone missing! Chester frantically searches for her as cops arrive to raid the circus looking for Jimmy. During his search, he runs into Dandy, who tells him that Marjorie has run away and that she’s very upset with him.
In flashbacks, we learn that Chester was a veteran who returned from the war with a serious case of Shell Shock (what we’d call PTSD now). On top of that, he found that his wife was a lesbian and had been cheating on him with another woman. Mostly impotent anyway, Chester would simply sit and watch, with Marjorie in his lap, as the women had sex. Marjorie viciously taunted him about this, until he came home one day and found her brutally murdering them. (Presumably, he snapped and projected his actions onto the dummy, though with this show you never know.)
Via his detective, Dandy knows all about Chester’s past. He tells the nutcase that Marjorie wants him to saw the twins in half for real during his magic act.
In the episode’s climax, Desiree confronts Dell about killing Ma Petite. Guilt-ridden, he confesses to the act, upon which Elsa (who’d been waiting in the shadows behind him) shoots him in the back of the head. Unless we have some flashbacks with him in store, I guess that ends Michael Chiklis’ time on the show, at least for this season.
Neil Patrick Harris’ guest appearance goes a long way toward making this one of the more entertaining episodes of the (admittedly weak) season. He’ll obviously be back for another episode, but I have to assume that Dandy will reassert himself as the main villain for the finale.