AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM “I am Anne Frank (part 1)” Episode Recap
This probably has been my favorite episode of the season thus far, even though the conclusion to all the story lines will have to wait until next week, as it is a two-parter. With each episode we’re peeling back the layers of Briarcliff and learning more and more secrets about both the patients and those who run the place. This is the first episode not to open with the modern day “who is Bloody Face?” storyline, instead starting right in the 1960s. We open with a new woman being admitted to the asylum for getting violent upon hearing some anti-Semitic remarks (played by one of my favorite actresses, Franka Potente from Run Lola Run and the Bourne franchise).
We then return to where we left off in last week’s final scene, with Dr. Arden experimenting on Shelley and injecting her with drugs. It looks as if Arden plans to turn Shelley into another one of his monsters in woods (she’s starting to grow those horrid boils on her face), and when Shelley asks if she’ll be killed, Dr. Arden remarks, “After this you’ll probably live forever,” further promoting my theory that present-day Bloody Face may be related to Arden’s monsters, but any evidence of that will have to wait for a later episode.
We then have some nice development between Kit and Grace. Kit asks Grace for cigarettes (apparently she’s the one able to get things from the outside, though I’m not sure how), and she notices the cut on Kit’s lip. She asks if it’s Arden’s work, and Kit tells her about Arden searching for the tracer he is convinced is inside Kit, to the point that Arden has X-rayed every inch of Kit’s body trying to find it. Grace still believes Kit’s abduction story, at which point she finally reveals her own story as to why she was admitted into the asylum, shown in flashback. Grace used to live with her father, stepmother, and stepsister on a farm, and one night she was awakened in the middle of the night only to find the two parents being killed by an axe murderer. Grace’s stepsister and the killer were lovers, so they planned the murder and blamed it all on Grace. Grace tells Kit how much she missed the farm, the horses in particular.
In the main break room, Dr. Thredson approaches Lana, suspicious about her absence during the night of the storm during the last episode. Lana denies everything, and Thredson finally tells her he believes she was right to escape. He wants to help her, even “cure” her, but as his stay at the asylum diagnosing Kit is almost out, they are running out of time. Lana, however, feels any sort of “cure” is hopeless.
Also in the break room is the newly admitted Jewish woman, writing in her journal (“Dear Kitty,” she writes…sound familiar?). Lana approaches her to warn about writing and personal belongings in the asylum (Lana was not allowed to take journalism notes in the first few episodes), but this is interrupted when the new woman sees Dr. Arden. “You were there in Auschwitz!” she shouts, and then claims, “I am Anne Frank!” Hey, that’s the name of the episode!
“Anne” is brought before Sister Jude, who doesn’t believe her story, since Anne Frank died in the Holocaust. “Anne,” however, explains how she left the camps, lived on the streets, and eventually married an American, but became a widow when her husband died in the Korean War. Jude asks why Anne never contacted her father (Otto Frank, who in fact did survive the Holocaust), but Anne claims she realized her story would be far more important as one of martyrdom, and the importance of her diary being taught in schools would die if she revealed she was alive. Jude seems to find Anne’s claims in poor taste, though it is an interesting story.
Dr. Thredson meanwhile meets with Kit. He explains the catch-22 of Kit’s situation: if Kit is sane, he is a murderer and goes to the electric chair. If he’s crazy, he’s stuck in the asylum all his life. Thredson tells Kit he believes he is not crazy or evil, but that his psyche concocted the alien abduction fantasy. Thredson believes Kit’s death in the electric chair will serve no moral purpose, and finally tells him, “I am willing to lie, under the condition you face the truth.”
Anne continues to explain her beliefs about Dr. Arden to Jude, shown in chilling black-and-white flashback. She claims Arden was a Nazi doctor named “Hans Gruper” (sounds remarkably like “Hans Gruber” from Die Hard doesn’t it?) who would would appear to be kind to the girls in the camps, but ultimately would perform horrible experiments on them. When Jude still doesn’t believe, Anne shows Jude the number tattooed on her arm, a surefire sign there is truth to her claims.
Thredson and Kit begin their therapy. Thredson starts to explain psychological reasons for why Kit may in fact have killed a librarian and a secretary first (removing both the head and the skin), and finally his wife. Thredson’s justification is that Kit’s frustration at keeping the identity of his wife a secret from his white friends (she being a black woman in the 1960s, and their marriage taboo) finally got to be too much, and Kit killed her in a rage. Thredson’s words have a bewitching power, and Kit starts to wonder if it all may in fact be true.
Lana, meanwhile, starts to imagine her story being broken in a neat surrealist fantasy scene where she gives a speech about the asylum and her fellow inmates in the asylum itself. Lana finally realizes how much power her words could have on the outside world for shutting down Briarcliff and helping the other patients, and decides she indeed needs to go to Thredson and get “cured” if it’s the only means to an escape.
Kit, frustrated at the dueling stories in his mind, angrily punches dough in the kitchen, wondering if he is in fact crazy. In a gorgeously lit scene, Grace approaches him, trying to comfort him. When Kit explains that being crazy is the only thing that makes sense, Grace reminds him that this is the first sign he isn’t crazy. The sexual tension between Grace and Kit finally gives way, and the two lost souls begin kissing and ultimately make love on the table, only be interrupted when a guard walks in, catching them in the act. Whoops!
Once again Kit and Grace are brought before Sister Jude while Sister Mary (still possessed, in case you forgot) tries to pick out an appropriate cane. In a funny moment, Sister Jude finds this shocking and says, “I don’t know what’s gotten into you sister, but it’s a decided improvement!” However since caning hasn’t worked in the past for these two troublesome patients, Sister Jude decides she may have to sterilize them instead. Yikes! Kit and Grace start to protest, but the moment is interrupted by the arrival of two detectives there to investigate Dr. Arden. As Jude gets up to deal with the detectives, Mary has a guard lead Grace away, and then shows Kit the file on Grace. We don’t see what’s in the file, but the look on Kit’s face shows that he feels betrayed.
Jude meets with the detectives, who are following a claim from a prostitute (the same one Arden had over a few episodes ago) who felt threatened by Arden and claims to have found Nazi memorabilia in his home. The detectives are not there to paint Arden as a Nazi, however, but are investigating homicide. Looks like the Bloody Face murder case may not be in fact closed, as one of the officers suggests to Jude that Arden is far more likely to be able to remove skin and the head of a woman than Kit.
Meanwhile Dr. Thredson begins his treatment of Lana in a sequence I found far more disturbing than any of the Bloody Face stabbings or alien abductions we’ve yet seen on the show. Like something out of A Clockwork Orange, Thredson drugs Lana with a chemical that makes her feel sick while showing her a slideshow of “triggers” (scantily-clad women), hoping she will become repelled by them. One of the photos is Lana’s lover Wendy. It’s too much for Lana, and Thredson stops the treatment. When Lana asks where he got the photo, Thredson says he found it the other night when searching for Wendy at Lana’s apartment in the previous episode. Thredson then decides perhaps it is time to move to the next step in the treatment, “conversion.” He brings in another patient, a young man with long hair named “Daniel.” Daniel strips, and Lana is forced to look. “Are you going to make him touch me?” Lana asks, horrified. Instead Thredson replies, “I’m going to ask you to touch yourself.” Lana tries to masturbate, and eventually Thredson asks her to touch Daniel’s private parts at the same time. Lana tries, but she is unable to do it, and collapses sobbing. Yeesh!
Jude approaches Father Howard about Anne’s claims about Arden, but Father Howard doesn’t believe her, shocked Jude would even begin to take the word of a patient over another employee. About Anne he remarks, “Where’s she now, hiding in the attack?” (hey, Holocaust jokes!). Father Howard has gotten word of Jude’s lapse into alcoholism during the storm, and clearly is not ready to take anything she says for granted.
Or is he? In the next scene Father Howard calls up Dr. Arden to tell him, “They’re onto you. Take care of any housekeeping,” presumable meaning Shelley. Looks like Father Howard isn’t a pure man of the cloth either. Is anyone in this asylum who they appear to be? It is interesting to note that actor Joseph Feinnes, whose character seems to be OK with Dr. Arden’s Nazi-related science, is the younger brother of Ralph Feinnes, who has played perhaps the most notorious Nazi villain ever portrayed on screen in Schindler’s List.
Outdoors in the woods (woods that seem suspiciously full of southern California oaks, but I won’t be a stickler), Jude seeks advice about Arden from a new character, Mother Claudia. Claudia thinks she can find a way to help convict Arden, though what that is exactly will have to wait until the next episode.
Sister Mary places Kit back in his solitary cell, which shares a wall with Grace’s cell (was there an intentional “Pyramus and Thisbe” vibe here or did I just spend too many years studying classics?). Grace immediately rushes to the wall to ask Kit if he is OK. Kit admits his balls are still intact, but then asks Grace why she lied, having seen her file. Grace relents, and admits she is in fact a murderer, but she is not sorry. As a child she was raped by her father, and her stepmother gave her candy to keep her quiet. Finally it got to be too much, and she murdered both of them. “Do I repulse you?” she asks. Kit shakes his head. “No. I admire you.” It’s one of the most tender moments we have seen on American Horror Story this season, and scenes like these are really where the show finds its strength. While not apologizing for Grace’s actions, we understand why she did the things she did. Last season was able to humanize Tate as a ghost (also played by Evan Peters), even though in life he was a disturbed teenager who shot up a school. In Asylum, Grace is tender, vulnerable, and caring, arguably the nicest patient in the asylum, and yet she is unquestionably a murderer.
In the common room, Thredson meets with Lana, apologizing for forcing the therapy upon her. He admits he was only trying to help her escape, and gives her the picture of Wendy he had been using during her treatment. Lana believes the guards will confiscate the picture, but Thredson says she won’t have to keep it hidden for very long; he has decided to rescue her at the end of the week by taking her with him.
In a moral quandary, Kit goes to Sister Jude to confess, asking her about whether or not God is supposed to see everything. Jude has a brief flash of the hit-and-run from years ago, but retains composure. Kit then confesses to Sister Jude that he must have killed those women, because it’s the only thing that makes sense. It’s never said outright, but perhaps understanding that Grace can be a murderer and still a good person also caused Kit to believe he could have done terrible things while still being “himself.” It’s a touching scene (and a spectacular performance from Evan Peters), and it puts Sister Jude in great conflict herself. We already know she had a run-in with an alien monster in the previous episode (though she may be too drunk to remember it, or the aliens could have made her forget for all we know), and regardless Jude now knows there is a good chance Arden could in fact be the Bloody Face killer. Conflicted, she listens to Kit’s confection, but takes serious pity on him. With luck this will be even more of an incentive to use whatever information Mother Claudia gave her.
In the final scene, Anne confronts Dr. Arden in his lab (busily trying to tidy things up after Father Howard’s warning). When Arden tries to press her away Anne brandishes a gun stolen from one of the detectives. She shoots Arden and he goes down. Then, hearing a suspicious noise in a closed-off cell, she uses Arden’s keys to open the door revealing Shelley, looking more terrible and deformed then ever before. “Kill me!” Shelley pleads!
That’s it for now, but we have several exciting threads leading into part 2 for next week. Poor Kit and Grace are set to be sterilized, Sister Jude is building her case against Dr. Arden, Thredson has pledged to help Lana escape, and Shelley…well…I just feel worse and worse for Shelley every week.
Read last week’s recap here, and be sure to check in next week to see how the two-parter concludes!