Outside the strange little pocket of insanity and terror that is the focal point of American Horror Story: Asylum, the world seems to move at a swift pace, while inside, life for the inmates appears to slow down to an insufferable crawl. Time inside Briarcliff is spent going to and from the commons area, enduring various “barbaric” treatments and (for a select few) attempting to get out. But as is usually the case in horror, the venue just doesn’t want to see anyone leave – which is certainly the case in the storyline involving the surprisingly not dead Leo (Adam Levine) and Theresa (Jenna Dewan-Tatum).
‘Nor’easter’ is, for Ryan Murphy and his band of writers, that moment in horror where the conditions outside the terrible place actually make those being terrorized want to stay indoors. So, again, Asylum touches on a familiar horror trope, and then brings its special brand of lunacy to the proceedings. As you can no doubt tell by the episode’s title, the weather around Briarcliff is going to get a tad inclement, which, according to Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), can cause something of an adverse change in the stability of the various residents of her happy little sanitarium.
So, in an attempt to avoid having to deal with more unpleasantness on top of the storm, Jude does what any caregiver would: she plops them all in front of the TV. Or in this case, a borrowed copy of the 1932 film The Sign of the Cross, starring Claudette Colbert and Charles Laughton (two names that provide Lange plenty of opportunity to utilze that accent she’s got going). At any rate, everybody seems particularly excited at the thought of some entertainment that doesn’t involve Spivey (Mark Consuelos) and Kit (Evan Peters) duking it out, or Sister Jude caning anyone.
Apparently, whatever has possessed Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) is a bit of a film buff, or at least a fan of anything depicting bad things happening to Christians. It’s also a bit of an instigator when it comes to Sister Jude and Dr. Arden (James Cromwell), slapping some bright red lipstick on the formerly demure Sister Eunice and delivering a newspaper from 1949, with an article concerning the little girl who Jude, back in her chanteuse days, struck with her car while presumably under the influence. It’s all enough to get Jude properly fired up, and since Sister Eunice just so happens to have brought the sacramental wine, Jude decides she’ll ride out the storm by falling off the wagon. It seems that for all her fear of the storm causing some commotion with the inmates, the two people it most affects are Sister Jude herself and Dr. Arden.
To that end, Sister Eunice stirs up some emotions in Dr. Arden that he’d rather pay for, which results in yet another confrontation between Jude and the good doctor – each adamant that the change in the young nun’s behavior is a direct result of her exposure to the other. But Eunice can’t stay in one place for too long – not when there’s a Briarcliff inmate who can see past her façade and needs to be slain and fed to the mutants who prowl the sanitarium’s grounds. And besides, it’s much more fun to watch Jude skulk about Briarcliff’s halls in search of the missing inmate while Arden seemingly wanders aimlessly, adorning statues with lipstick and calling them names before smashing them to bits. That kind of behavior is a far cry from the studious doctor who had been dismantling the chip he’d taken out of Kit’s body, only to watch it reassemble before his very eyes.
Curious, Arden puts the scampering bit of (supposedly) alien technology in a jar, like a kid would a grasshopper, and goes poking around Kit’s neck again, hoping to turn up more evidence that will help him identify the strange object. As it turns out, the owner of the wily bit of tech might already be in Briarcliff, since it looks as though, in her search for the missing inmate, Sister Jude has what some might call a close encounter. (Although, I suppose it could be something other than an alien, considering how off the walls this episode manages to get.)
Prior to the semi-disastrous screening of The Sign of the Cross, Lana (Sarah Paulson) manages to get the sympathetic Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) to deliver a message to her lover, Wendy (Clea DuVall). Later, Thredson describes in great detail how, on the request of a mental patient, he went to a strange woman’s house, entered it and uncovered evidence that her lover may have fallen victim to none other than Bloody Face. Quinto’s deadpan delivery of the news is nearly as unsettling as Sister Jude announcing she’s heading out in search of the missing inmate.
Disappointingly, the movie also sets off yet another doomed escape attempt by Kit and Grace (Lizzie Brocheré), who intend to use the storm as cover, if only they could find the hidden tunnel Lana used to gain entrance to Briarcliff. But now, with the information she’s gained from Thredson, Lana’s on team Kit, and is ready to show them the way out.
Naturally, Shelly (Chloë Sevigny) wants out, too, so she can go to France where her feminine wiles and insatiability can finally be appreciated. Things get complicated and Shelly offers to distract a guard so the others can flee, but neither party ends up particularly well off. The trio’s escape (complete with another Shawshank moment) manages to stir up the mutants’ interest, and they wind up being chased through the forest, barely making their way back inside the sanitarium. Elsewhere, Shelly winds up in Dr. Arden’s company, only to discover his various shortcomings and wind up with both of her legs cut off. Because that’s what evil doctors do, right?
‘Nor’easter’ is definitely the busiest Asylum has been so far this season, and although the majority of what pops up on screen seems to be extreme for the sake of being extreme – which is, after all, sort of this show’s method of operation – there is enough frenzied storytelling going on that the odds are pretty good the audience will find something to be entertained with.
American Horror Story: Asylum continues next Wednesday with ‘I am Anne Frank: Part 1’ @10pm on FX. Check out a preview for the episode below: