The second-to-last episode of American Horror Story: Asylum has arrived, guys!
We open in 1967, a few years after the main events at Briarcliff. We see Kit’s home at night, with a photo showing he is still living with Alma and Grace. As we move through the home, we see visual cues that this is a home with children, and we hear the muffled efforts of what could be a struggle. Then we see Kit, bloody, holding an axe! Exhausted, he slumps in a chair. A child’s voice calls for “Daddy,” and he replies that “Daddy will be there in a minute.” Oh no! What could have possibly happened to turn sweet Kit into an axe murderer?
After the creepy opening titles (it makes me sad we’re only going to see these one more time!) we see Grace sketching a drawing of one of the aliens. She is living with Alma, and it looks as if each of their children are growing up healthy. Grace’s child is “Thomas,” Alma’s “Julia.” Alma is a little annoyed that Grace is drawing aliens rather than looking after the two kids, who have succeed in throwing toilet paper around the room (the children themselves are about two or three years old, which is never an easy time!).
Kit comes home, happy to see both Alma and Grace. Is he living in a polygamous household? He mentions how excited he is to engage in some sort of march, which I’m guessing is one of the civil rights marches supporting Martin Luther King Jr, though it isn’t explicitly stated (though his birthday was this last Tuesday, so it seems appropriate given the shows fondness for alluding to various holidays when it can). Alma is worried about how the kids will do on such a march, but when Grace offers to stay home with the children, Alma balks, clearly worried about the alien drawings Grace seems to be obsessing over. Kit avoids picking a side, though he does mention how talented Grace’s drawings are.
That evening, Kit and Alma lie in bed together. Kit kisses her and tries to get her aroused, but Alma is unable to concentrate, bothered about Grace’s alien obsession. Alma suggests that Kit spend more time with Alma to try to help her work through her issues and stop dwelling on the past. Wow, is this a free-loving 1960s family or what?
Kit approaches Grace in the other room, who is immersed in another drawing. She tells him, “I’m not doing it for me, it’s for our children Kit. They need to know where they came from.” In Grace’s mind, she sees the aliens as helpful, not hostile. It’s the memories of killing her family with an axe that haunt Grace, not her alien abductors. Kit tries to console her, reminding her that she’s a different person now. She and Kit kiss and begin to make love, though through the wall, it’s revealed that Alma can hear them. This has got to be one of the more uncomfortable examples of “domestic bliss” I’ve seen in a while.
Suddenly the lights in the house flicker, and a white light appears. Alma screams, terrified, but Grace rushes to comfort her. Kit pulls out a shotgun, and it seems the alien light may have been a false alarm. The curtains have been set on fire, and Kit’s old “friend” from the pilot episode, Billy Marshall, drives away in his truck. Next we see Kit explaining to a policeman about what happened, but since the evidence is circumstantial charges cannot be pressed. Kit is angry, but the policeman makes a point of saying that polygamy is illegal in Massachusetts, and that he’s heard about Kit’s two children, each born of a different race. It doesn’t seem like this cop is too eager to help Kit one way or the other. Kit goes back empty-handed to speak to Grace, and Grace tells him to go help Alma, who still thinks the creatures may have attacked. Well, at least each of the women in Kit’s life cares about him spending time with the other one, right?
Some time later we see Grace teaching Thomas how to speak French (a nice nod to Lizzie Brochere’s actual French background), when Alma finally confronts Grace about obsessing over the aliens so much. Alma views her experience with the aliens as cruel, while Grace sees it as a blessing; they brought her back to life and gave them beautiful children. Grace says she even believes the aliens will return for Kit. As their argument escalates, it is intercut with the violent image of an axe chopping wood. Alma retorts that at least she was not an axe murderer, and that perhaps Grace was locked away in Briarcliff for a reason. Grace responds by saying at least she wasn’t the one locking away herself, and asks if that’s what Alma wants for her baby Julia. Honestly, I’m a little confused what Grace meant by this (is it referring to her shying away from what happened with the aliens, or hiding from society because she’s black?), but either way it causes Alma to finally lose it and slap Grace across the face. Immediately Alma apologizes, but Grace smacks her hand away. Kit enters the home having (finished from chopping wood) confused at what has happened, but Grace just takes Thomas and exits the room.
That night Kit tries to sleep with Alma, but is restless. He moves to the living room where he yet again finds Grace drawing. Grace tells Kit that even though she loves the children, Alma, and Kit, she refuses to live in fear and isolation. She implores Kit to see that the aliens are heralding a new age of happiness and…WHACK!!! Alma appears out of nowhere and plunges the axe deep into Grace’s neck!
Kit is horrified as Alma backs away, sobbing uncontrollably. He moves to Grace and kisses her as she dies. He pulls the axe out from her neck and sits in the chair (the opening shot of the episode). It seems the beginning shot was a bit of a red herring, and Kit didn’t turn into an axe murderer after all…but Alma did. Well that’s a relief…I guess? Grace has been brought back from the dead once, but I’m not sure the aliens will do it a second time. Poor girl.
We move away from Kit’s storyline back to Briarcliff, now in the year 1968. On the television, Lyndon Johnson reports about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. while Judy plays Candyland with the other inmates. Judy is a good influence on the other patients, helping them with their medications in a kind way, and it’s clear the others in the asylum look up to her. Father Howard enters the common room to speak with Judy, though she plays dumb, “Couldn’t be me, Jude is dead. I was renamed, what was it? Betty Drake.” Howard is leaving Briarcliff, and has come to say goodbye. Judy (Betty?) scoffs at him for not leaving the church also, but Howard shrugs it off. Instead he has been appointed cardinal of New York (wow), and Briarcliff is being donated to the state. Howard has arranged for Judy’s release, saying, “The cruelty ends here.” Having been screwed by Howard for so long, she dismisses it as false hope. “I will make you a believer, Jude,” Howard says, and bids goodbye.
Some time later, we are treated to the rocking beats of Jimmy Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” (one of my favorite songs!), as cops begin to overflow Briarcliff with more and more patients being sent in by the state. The “pleasant” life Judy had managed to build for herself in Briarcliff is about to be stripped away, as Judy seems to recognize one of the patients. It’s the Angel of Death, dressed as a normal person. Whaaaa…? Hendrix’s licks fade away as Judy grows horrified and seems to recognize the Angel, though the woman seems to have no idea what Judy is babbling about. Even so, the woman states that she will be the new “Queen Bee” in Briarcliff, and puts her cigarette out in the dough Judy is kneading.
Judy talks to Pepper, worried about her future. Pepper believes that Howard won’t keep his word, and that they should be wary. As Judy and Pepper watch the new patients flow in, we recognize one of them…Alma! Poor Kit has had to send his wife to Briarcliff (honestly, it’s more likely she pleaded insane and he had little choice in where she was transferred). Sometime later Judy heads to her bedroom, only to find that because Briarcliff is now packed with new patients, everyone gets a roommate. And (of course) Judy’s is “the angel.” The woman still seems to know nothing about Judy’s belief that she is the Angel of Death, but still sneers, “Everything in this cell belongs to me, that includes you.” Judy merely thinks the angel is toying with her.
The next day Pepper notices Judy looking terrified. Judy’s roommate (whose name is never given) enters, threatening a shaken Alma. “Don’t go hopping too far my little chocolate bunny,” she murmurs as Alma slinks away. Next the woman approaches another prisoner whom Judy was helping with medications in her opening scene . The woman is upset with him for not stowing away his meds to give to her, so she stabs him and he falls to the floor. As he dies, she blows him a kiss. Seeing the “kiss of death” Judy is convinced the woman must truly be the dark angel. Later than night, the Angel (complete in her black winged form) seems to lean down to kiss Judy, and she freaks out, terrified. As Judy beats up her roommate, the guards enter and pull her away. Suddenly her roommate looks like an entirely different woman. Had Judy imagined the whole thing?
Judy sits, strapped to a chair in an office. Noticing the faded mark of a cross on the wall, we realize it was once Sister Jude’s office…her own! “Betty Drake, what are we going to do with you?” sighs Melinda Crump, the new headmistress. Crump tells Judy that this is not the first time Judy has had an issue with the roommate assigned to her…in fact it’s the fifth fight of hers in two months. This is a surprise to Judy, and she asks if the Monsignor has left any word for her? After some clarification, Melinda tells Judy that Father Howard is currently cardinal, and left Briarcliff two-and-a-half years ago. Judy has lost track of time, and has indeed gone crazy. We even learn that Pepper has passed away, as Melinda shows Judy her file, saying Pepper died in the winter of 1966. Since this section with Judy started in 1968, how much of it was imagined? Or was it a flub on the writer’s part? Are the visions of the Angel hallucinations? At the very least could they be symbolic?
We cut away from Judy’s story in Briarcliff to catch up with Lana Winters, now a successful author in 1969 of the book Maniac. Lana reads an excerpt from her pages (about her experience with Dr. Thredson) at a book signing, and a room filled with women hangs on her every word. As Lana reads the book, we start to realize that the story has been greatly embellished. Suddenly Thredson himself appears in the crowd, calling her out on her lies. Then Wendy appears, upset that Lana included her as a “roommate” in the book rather than her lover. While this is clearly a subjective view in Lana’s head, it causes her to cry, and when we snap back to reality, the crowd is affected by her tears. They applaud at her “bravery.”
Moments later Lana signs copies, though she rather rude to her young assistant. This is not the same kind Lana we new from Briarcliff a few years ago. A familiar face appears to get an autograph…Kit Walker, rocking some serious sideburns! Lana and Kit hug, and Lana offers her condolences for Grace. Almost immediately, however, she steers the conversation towards her newfound success, even saying the film rights to her book have been sold and she hopes to be played by Tuesday Weld.
Kit asks Lana to grab a cup of coffee with him. As they drink together, Kit tries to steer the conversation towards talking about Briarcliff, but Lana continues to talk vapidly about herself. She talks about how she plans to write her next book about Lee Emerson’s killing spree, perhaps calling it “Santa and the Seven Nuns” (the number of nuns he killed, in case you were wondering). Kit finally grows angry, asking why Lana is writing these sensationalistic books rather than revealing the truth. Lana says that she has found her voice in writing Maniac, and that she has “a perspective on the stunted male psyche that no one else has.” Kit reminds Lana that she once swore to take down Briarcliff and save Jude, and calls her a “cheap celebrity.” Lana retorts that she’s managed to build a life for herself, at which point Kit finally tells her that his wife Alma was sent to Briarcliff as well.
In a brief flashback, we see Kit visiting Alma in the asylum, showing her some handprints in clay the children had cast. For a moment he thinks about bringing the kids to Briarcliff some time in the future, but seeing the array of crazed patients running around the common room, Kit knows it’s impossible. Lana is horrified to hear this, but even that isn’t the whole story. As it turns out Alma died in Briarcliff, and in a brief flashback we see a nurse showing Kit the body, and we learn that Alma died unexpectedly, her heart stopping suddenly (a kiss from the Angel, perhaps?). Clutching her hand, Kit promises to Alma’s body, “I completely failed you and Grace and those kids. I’ll try to make it right.”
“Everyone’s gone but us,” whispers Lana, hearing Kit’s story. Kit reminds her that there is one person left…Sister Jude. Lana is skeptical, since she tried to get Jude out before and saw her death certificate, but in flashback Kit recounts how he ran into Jude on the same day he saw Alma’s body. Judy is clearly crazy, not even recognizing Kit. Watching the program “The Flying Nun” on television, Judy believes she will fly out of Briarcliff and escape herself. “I don’t doubt it,” says Kit, and he walks away.
Lana is shocked to hear about this, and Kit tells demands that she needs to shut it down. Lana is still in denial that she has any right to do anything. “Every bed in that place she made,” she says of Jude, “Her choice, not ours.” At this point Lana’s assistant approaches, reminding Lana that she has more books to sign. Lana tells Kit it was good to see him, and walks away.
Disgruntled, Kit walks to his beat up car and drives off. We then transition to modern era Bloody Face. He enters an old bookstore and approaches an older woman (whom I at first wondered might be Lana!). Bloody Face says he’s looking for first edition of a particular book: Maniac. The woman responds that the book is not for sale, as it’s her mother’s personal copy. Bloody Face says that he will pay any price, since Lana is his mother. The bookseller responds that the book says that baby died at birth, but we already know Lana was not telling the whole truth in her writing. Bloody Face asks if he can just see the book and her signature. The bookseller brings out the signed copy of Maniac, and Bloody Face gazes at the signature, haunted. The woman tries to put the book away, but Bloody Face says he needs the book. He wants to take the book to Lana herself, confront his mother, and shoot her. The woman smartly hands the book over, knowing her life may well depend on it.
And that’s it! One more episode to go! Will Kit manage to convince Lana to help him rescue Sister Jude? Will Father Howard (now cardinal) get any sort of comeuppance? And what will happen with Bloody Face Jr. confronts his mother? I’m excited to find out!
Read last week’s recap here.