American Horror Story: Coven Recap: Old Hens, New Tricks

American Horror Story

Fearful Pranks Ensue
Season 3 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

American Horror Story

Fearful Pranks Ensue
Season 3 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Michele K. Short/FX

Happy Halloween Episode, tout le monde. Before we proceed further, I have a pressing question: Is it too late for the American Girl Place to hold a Spalding-themed tea party for Halloween?

Dear, dear Spalding. We’ve been waiting for three episodes to get the intel on him, and it’s a doozy. Our favorite tongueless majordomo’s evenings look like a demented film adaptation of Behind the Attic Wall. He has an armada of china-faced dolls that he entertains nightly, sometimes dressed as Peter Pan, and now he has added a life-size counterpart to his collection — Madison’s pink-undergarmented corpse! Cue up Tom Petty, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance (Lewis Carroll Remix).”

Nan, unaware of Fiona’s involvement in Madison’s murder — and Spalding’s subsequent coverup, which is rendered in a nice, his-point-of-view sequence — suspects that Madison has died because she can’t “hear” her anymore. So she summons the Council: Frances Conroy’s Grace Coddington embodiment, Myrtle Snow; everyone’s favorite pocket gay, Leslie Jordan, as best-selling occult author Quentin; and Robin Bartlett’s surly Cecily.

At first, when they confront Delia, she accidentally spills half-beanfuls about her visit to Cornrow City and about Queenie’s Minotaur attack. But the trio’s real purpose for visiting eventually leads to a tribunal that puts everyone in the hot seat — especially Fiona, who full-out reads Myrtle for filth: “Look at you — developing a sense of style when no one was paying attention.”

Oh, Fifi. She may think that Madison would have been a bad Supreme for the coven, but her deflection of the murder has more holes than Nan’s jack-o’-lantern. After killing Anna Leigh years ago, Fiona faced a similar tribunal in 1971 and convinced those witches that Anna Leigh’s disappearance was the result of the ongoing Salem/Voodoo battle. However, the young Myrtle Snow — a self-professed “guardian of veracity in the vernacular” and so dead a ringer for Ingrid Michaelson that I wanted her torso to be a ukulele — suspected Spalding of being in cahoots with Fiona. She enchanted his tongue so that he couldn’t tell a lie, but Spalding, overhearing this plan, summoned Fiona to his bathroom, where he confessed his love to her before cutting out his own tongue and bleeding all over the floor (AHS: where Avox meets Clorox).

In the present day, a still-furious Myrtle takes Fiona fully to task, declaring that it’s as if the coven has been without a Supreme for 40 years: Fiona missed their Summer Gathering, has failed to sign three petitions, and has even neglected to announce a Chancellor. Myrtle also announces that the last year in which a witch was “tried, convicted, and burned at the stake” was 1926; she is just dying to a light a fire with the book of matches in her pocket. Myrtle then calls Spalding to the “stand” and attempts to out Fiona by asking him to write his perpetrator’s name on a piece of paper. He writes Myrtle’s name instead, causing Myrtle to wail that Fiona has now done away with two Supremes. (Why didn’t Myrtle think of asking Spalding to write this down, I dunno, 40 years ago?) Frances Conroy may be tender-voiced most of the time, but damn, can she caterwaul like a pro.

Surprisingly, Delia comes to Fiona’s aid and divests Myrtle of this theory. According to Delia, Madison was not, in fact, the true Supreme because she had a heart murmur. (We know this because Delia saw Madison monitoring her pulse while the latter was dressed like Dr. Horrible.) Fiona then uses her time-tested method of getting a fellow witch soused to disarm Delia. In a few sloppy rounds of “I Never,” Fiona tells Delia that she thinks Hank, Delia’s husband, is full of BS, then denies that she killed Madison. In turn, Delia gets so drunk that she voms into a toilet (not exactly the morning sickness that she’s always wanted). A cloaked figure summarily emerges from one of the bathroom stalls and tosses acid in Delia’s eyes. Guess Delia won’t care all that much about her missing rug now.

Speaking of Hank! In theory, he’s out of town on business (“I hate it when you take foreman jobs out of town,” Delia tells him like a nonexistent Madame Jean Valjean). Lo and behold, Hank is busy engaging in a sexcapade with Alexandra Breckenridge’s Kaylee, whom he met via “an online community dedicated to collecting Thomas Kinkade paintings,” a.k.a. Pinterest. Kaylee is astonished to find soup and burritos in the hotel vending machine since all of the hotels she knew had only “pop and Reese’s” (Siri, please give me directions to every hotel that Kaylee knows). Kaylee also refers to sushi as “the raw fish stuff,” believes that Hank is a USDA “agent” instead of an “inspector,” and thinks that San Diego is as exotic as Cathay. Can Kaylee has cheezburger?

Kaylee confesses to Hank that she really likes him. “Is that a problem?” he asks, while pouring her some more wine. “It is if you’re gonna break my heart,” she replies. Hank’s response? Shooting her through the head. To be fair, this constitutes breaking her head and not her heart, so way to play the system, Hank.

It’s a tough week for lovebirds and/or love bulls. After coming upon an attacked Queenie, Fiona sends Bastien’s still-blinking head in a box to Marie Laveau’s salon. But Laveau is not one to be messed with: We find in flashbacks that her special blend of pearls, blood, chalk drawings on the floor, and every snake on Earth is capable of conjuring zombies full-on “Thriller”-style when she is wronged. In fact, after the 1961 lynching of a boy named Henry who was simply trying to attend a recently integrated school, she brought a former Civil War soldier to life so that he could bayonet one of the bigots in a barn. She also once used the blood of Salem witches past to “paint [her] day room red.”

The tussle between the two witch worlds eventually led to a truce of sorts, proffered by Laveau to Anna Leigh — one that forbade each side from crossing into the territory of the other. Fiona and Delia have clearly broken this truce. Therefore, against Chantal’s admonitions, Laveau employs her earlier necromancy, calling forth dozens of undead until they descend upon Miss Robichaux’s. Foremost among these are — surprise! — Delphine’s three daughters.

This comes at a particularly fragile time for the seemingly repentant sadist: Delphine, ever-wary of her new berth in time, believes in all of the old superstitions about Halloween — a fact that Fiona derides while donning a witch hat and asking rhetorically, “Who’s the baddest witch in town?” The conceit of having a truly horrifying person be horrified in turn is a very compelling one, and Bates is one of the few actresses who could credibly convey Delphine’s contrition for mistreating Queenie. Simply the way in which she carries herself when asking Fiona if Bastien will return – the prospect of which Fiona denies — is perfection. Kathy Bates, I will clean your house.

On this week’s episode of Frankie and Zoe: Zoe apologies to FrankenKyle, then tries to feed him rat-poison-laden TUNA™ before he wanders off into the Halloween twilight to be mistaken for a costumed teenager. Zoe then dresses as Taylor Swift from the Red cover shoot. Stay tuned for next week.

What further trouble will befall our coven this Halloween? Was Delia’s assailant Fiona or someone else? Will Delia finally get her potion médécine despite Fiona’s dismissal of it? Did Spalding’s scarecrow remind anyone else of Maryann’s Bacchanalian altar from True Blood? Can Luke make us all cookies? Gotta run: I have to help my family get this hair shipment sent out.

American Horror Story: Coven Recap