‘American Horror Story’ 5.09 Recap: “A Woman Can Only Be Pushed So Far”

After the previous episode devoted its whole hour to revealing the identity of the Ten Commandments Killer, ‘American Horror Story’ basically forgets about that in the follow-up and doesn’t mention him at all. Instead, Angela Bassett returns to remind us that she’s still supposed to be on the show this season too.

Two episodes ago, the Countess learned that her great love Rudolph Valentino, the legendary silent film star, had been locked away in a hidden wing of her hotel this whole time without her knowledge. Since he has gotten out and left the hotel, she hires a private detective to find him. In the meantime, she moves forward with her plans to marry Will Drake. When he says that he wants their wedding to be a big event, she insists that they make it a small, intimate affair.

Being engaged to another man won’t stop the Countess from screwing Donovan again. He begs her to swear a commitment to him. She promises him that she’ll murder Drake just as soon as the wedding is over and that they’ll be an exclusive couple.

At the reception desk, Iris checks in a pair of porn stars and their director, who intend to shoot a quickie porno in one of the rooms. Apparently, this is a common occurrence. This time, however, Iris has had enough of the degeneracy. Describing herself as “Dirty Harriet,” she barges into the room and quickly murders the director and female star. The male actor locks himself in the bathroom. As she’s busy exsanguinating the first two victims, Donovan walks in and is impressed with his mother. He kicks in the door to the bathroom to get the last one.

Later, the Countess confronts Iris about her baby Bartholomew getting free. (This was three episodes back.) Iris gives up Ramona Royale (Bassett) as the one who let him out.

Miss Evers the crazy maid attempts to warn Drake not to marry the Countess. She’s still quite jealous over how the Countess stole James March away from her. She says that, “No one survives her.” Drake thinks she’s nuts and fires her. Evers ominously declares that someday soon he’ll beg her for help to save his life, and she will do nothing for him.

The Countess hires a contractor to seal off the recently-discovered wing where Valentino had been trapped. She also wants security cameras installed inside. March, who knows the building better than anyone, offers to help the contractor. The Countess is still furious with him over Valentino and says that she’ll never speak to him again if he can’t get the work done in less than 24 hours before her marriage to Drake.

Donovan has kept the last porn star alive and drags him over to Ramona’s house as an offering. He tells her that tonight will be the best time to take their revenge on the Countess, because he slipped a drug into her drink that will knock her out for hours. When Donovan asks where Ramona was the last 20 years that prevented her from acting against the Countess until now, Ramona launches into a long story (via an extended flashback to 1992) about her elderly father with Alzheimer’s. Ramona thought she could cure him by turning him into a vampire, but it merely froze him in the same state of dementia. She cared for him for two decades until the point came when she had to put him out of his misery by drowning him in his bathtub.

Back to the present day, Alex tracks down the boy Max that she turned into a vampire a while back (the one who then turned all the other kids in his school). They’d been responsible for a rash of murders on the homeless. She finds the kids in a house with a pile of corpses. A young vampire girl named Madeline doesn’t want to kill anymore and hasn’t been feeding. Alex offers to bring all the kids to the hotel to help them, but they don’t trust adults and refuse, then run away.

Ramona sneaks into the Countess’ suite to kill her, but of course it’s a trap. Donovan has set her up. They capture her and lock her in a weird cage contraption with fluorescent lights on it. Iris is upset when she realizes that Donovan is back with the Countess again and betrayed their planned coup.

The detective tracks Valentino to a motel, and the Countess reunites with him. He’s having trouble adjusting to the modern world, but his wife Natacha has embraced it. (She especially loves shopping.) The Countess tells him that, as soon as she acquires Will Drake’s money, she intends to turn the hotel into a fortress against the modern world. If Natacha can’t accept that plan… well, perhaps they don’t need her anymore.

Donovan spots the Countess leaving the motel and realizes that she lied when she told him that he’d be the only man in her life.

The wedding occurs as scheduled in the hotel lobby, with only Liz and Iris in attendance as witnesses. Afterward, Drake heads to the bar for a drink while the Countess goes upstairs to change. March introduces himself to Drake, and makes a deliberate offhand remark about the Countess having a son from a previous marriage. Perplexed by this news, Drake allows March to lead him upstairs to see baby Bartholomew. He’s horrified by the creature.

The Countess, feigning disappointment in her new husband, knocks Drake out and locks him in the hotel wing with Ramona. Unlike Ramona, however, Drake is not sealed in a cage. He can move about. Ramona begs him to set her free and he stupidly does so. Ramona then promptly slashes his throat and feeds on him while Miss Evers’ ghost stands over him and gloats. The Countess watches the whole thing on the security cameras.

Episode Verdict

While acknowledging that it’s had its ups and downs, I’ve generally enjoyed this season of ‘American Horror Story’ better than the last couple. Unfortunately, this episode mostly feels like a placeholder to pad the show’s length as we wait for the finale. Ramona’s long flashback doesn’t serve much of any purpose. Aside from Drake’s murder, the other storylines barely move forward an inch. The last five minutes could have been saved for the start of a new episode without needing any of the rest.

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