‘American Horror Story’ 4.05 Recap: “Whatever Magic Happens, Happens”

Following a two-parter of episodes that disappointed me greatly, ‘American Horror Story’ returned to its tried-and-true formula of freaks and psycho killers. Although an improvement, is this episode too little too late?

The primary focus of episode ‘Pink Cupcakes’ is the con man formerly known as Mansfield, now calling himself Spencer (Denis O’Hare). Pretending to be a Hollywood talent scout, he attempts to seduce Elsa with promises of TV stardom, but Elsa initially rebukes television as “the death of art and civilization.” She dreams of lighting up the silver screen instead. However, during another performance of Bowie’s “Life on Mars” for a packed house, the audience turns on her, throwing popcorn and booing her off the stage. Humbled, Elsa crawls back to Spencer. He, meanwhile, has already turned his attentions to Dot and Bette. (He was never really interested in Elsa in the first place.)

Spencer lures the twins out for a picnic where he tries to feed them poisoned cupcakes. In a disturbing fake-out fantasy sequence (one of several in the episode), he imagines that Bette eats a cupcake and dies, her head rotting away while Dot begs to be taken to a hospital, upon which Spencer strangles her and saws off both heads at the torso in order to sell and display them at the American Morbidity Museum. In reality, Dot refuses cupcakes for the both of them, insisting that they’ll need to watch their figure if they’re going to be famous.

After they return to the circus, Elsa pretends to be nice to the girls and offers to drive them to their next appointment with Spencer, but actually delivers them to the rich wacko Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy) who’d previously offered to buy them for her demented son Dandy.

Speaking of the Motts, Gloria discovers the dead body of her maid and immediately knows that Dandy is responsible. She reveals that, as is common among rich families that desire to consolidate and preserve their wealth, Dandy is the product of some inbreeding, which might explain his psychopathy. Gloria helps him bury the body in the garden, and must bluff her way through an awkward phone call with the maid’s concerned daughter (Gabourey Sidibe).

When Dell (Michael Chiklis) goes missing from the circus for a day, his (unaware) son Jimmy very nearly has sex with Dell’s wife Desiree (Angela Bassett), until Desiree experiences heavy vaginal bleeding. Ethel (Kathy Bates) brings her to the friendly doctor, who informs Desiree that she is 100% woman, that her “ding-a-ling” is really an enlarged clitoris caused by a testosterone imbalance, and that her extra breast is the result of her body overcompensating with too much estrogen. The bleeding was a miscarriage, so she’s even capable of having children.

Rocked by this news, Desiree tells Dell the next day that she’s going to leave him and have surgery to become a normal woman. Enraged, Dell marches to the doctor’s office, breaks his hands and threatens to harm his family.

It turns out that Dell’s anger issues stem from his repressed homosexuality. While he was away from the circus, he’d been visiting a gay club, where he’s fallen in love with a young hustler named Andy. After Andy makes it clear that theirs is only a business relationship, Dell leaves and Dandy Mott (also hanging out at the club) steps in to hire him. Dandy brings Andy to the clown’s bus (you’d think it would still be cordoned off as a crime scene), where they both get undressed and Dandy stabs the hell out of the unsuspecting gigalo. Unfortunately for him, Andy proves very hard to kill even after repeated stabbings. Dandy dismembers him and returns home to mommy covered in blood.

All things considered, this is a solid episode, but I think the show needs to be better than just solid right now. Also, I found the repeated fake-outs, where we watch a whole chain of events play out only to discover that it was just a fantasy, both frustrating and hacky. The series could use to pull off something really amazing soon in order to recover its momentum.

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