American Horror Story Recap: This Girl Is on Pyre

American Horror Story

Burn, Witch. Burn!
Season 3 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN Fearful Pranks Ensue - Episode 304 (Airs Wednesday, October 30, 10:00 PM e/p) --Pictured: Jessica Lange as Fiona -- CR. Michele K. Short/FX

American Horror Story

Burn, Witch. Burn!
Season 3 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

If you thought Halloween festivities ended last week, well, you were in for as rude an awakening as Madame LaLaurie’s progeny. Let’s have at it, my friends.

At Delphine’s special All Hallow’s Eve Ball in 1833, her daughters meet the dashing Jacques, whom Delphine invites to see her “Chamber of Horrors.” Although the chamber may be decked out à la Phantom of the Opera, it contains a Bobbing-for-Eyes bowl and a tub of human intestines that resembles a demonic Red Lobster Shrimp Scampi Special. The daughters, totally aware that this is the No. 1 worst way to meet a man, conspire to kill Delphine — Borquita being the most vocal of the three. But their mother uncovers their plan and has them locked up along with her other gross oddities for a year. She then tells Borquita that, as a special Christmas present, she will fill her mouth with feces. That Lifebuoy isn’t looking so bad now, is it, Ralphie?

Back in the present day, Delphine’s relationship with her daughters hasn’t exactly improved. When zombie Borquita — a dead ringer for Jigsaw from Saw — confronts her mother, Delphine admits that she was a terrible parent and tries to atone for her sins. Borquita responds by grabbing Delphine in a choke hold. Delphine somehow wrenches free (though her escape is not explained), and Borquita ventures upstairs in a door-splintering homage to the “Thriller” video. Queenie, no cowering Ola Ray, tries a trio of voodoo self-flagellations in defense, but it’s Delphine who delivers the final blow, thrusting a fire poker through Borquita and saying that it’s the “only kindness” she ever did for her. I guess that’s one way to see it.

Somebody needs to send Delia a New Orleans Saints helmet full of candy corn because she is having the worst autumn ever. Blinded, she’s bed-ridden in what looks like a post-apocalyptic version of ER’s County General Hospital. Fiona is truly distraught over the attack, and, fueled on every pill she can find, walks through the hallways and hallucinates many things, including an old man who tells her, “You didn’t throw that acid, but you might as well have.”

Fiona enters the room of a young mother who has just given birth to a stillborn baby girl. Against the mother’s wishes, Fiona places the baby into her hands, and then — still in emotional tatters, given Delia’s state — Fiona exhorts the woman to tell her baby how beautiful she is. (Fittingly, this scene looks like the actual video for Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.”) The baby comes to life, and her mother screams delightedly. It’s a truly moving scene, played to perfection by La Lange — not least because it’s the first time that we’ve seen Fiona use her formidable powers for good.

Hank shows up and professes to be Delia’s true protector. “You’re one step up from the men who stand outside Home Depot,” Fiona says. When Fiona leaves the damaged couple alone, Hank touches Delia in a gesture of support. But Delia, simply by way of his touch, is made aware of his adultery until her eyes open and she looks like a singed version of Claire Fisher from the very end of Six Feet Under.

With Fiona and Delia incapacitated, our young protégées must defend their academy alone against what Queenie cheekily calls the “Army of Darkness.” Luke — curiously devoid of any Patti LuPone chaperone — is convinced that the zombies are people in regular Halloween costumes. But when he sees two random guys compliment the zombies on their “prosthetics” and then get disemboweled, he tries to escape. Soon enough, he is horribly injured. Nan comes to his rescue and pulls him into a car, which the zombies begin to smash to bits.

To the rescue comes wide-brimmed Zoe, who, having apparently joined the cast of Stomp, beats pots and pans together to distract the attackers. She then discovers a chainsaw in Delia’s nursery, but it fizzles after she massacres most of the horde. As a last resort, Zoe holds up one bloodied hand, chants about nature, and somehow makes a zombie tumble over dead. Zoe’s power is so strong, in fact, that she breaks Marie Laveau’s incantation, sending the levitating voodoo queen toppling to the ground. “They got something real powerful in that witch house now,” Marie Laveau says, quoting Kimye’s neighbors.

The day after Halloween, Nan and Zoe have a daytime bonfire and burn the remains of their zombie foes. (FYI, all it takes to turn Zoe’s wardrobe from drab to Rodarte is a gigantic splash of zombie blood.) Luke is convalescing in Nan’s room — a circumstance that Fiona supports. Meanwhile, Fiona compliments Zoe’s resourcefulness in offing the undead. It would seem that Fiona has no idea about Zoe’s newfound talent — which, if we’ve learned anything, is good news. Delphine subsequently tries to commiserate with Fiona over their shared bad maternity, but Fiona replies, “I doubt it. You, after all, are the maid.”

This may come as no surprise, but I legitimately have more respect for Frances Conroy than I do for the people who just came in first at the New York City Marathon. It was, after all, Myrtle Snow who threw acid in Delia’s face — a fact that Fiona caught by way of a security mirror in the hospital. So when the Council shows up after the zombie attack, all too eager to impeach Fiona, Fiona digs into Myrtle with the dogged determination of a consummate pro. (2013 Christmas Wishlist Item: a T-shirt of Fiona yelling, “You will sit and you will listen!”) Fiona reveals that Myrtle has been checking into a nearby motel under the name “Jennifer Wooley” — Veronica Lake’s character in I Married a Witch — and that Myrtle has been crafting makeshift Fiona hate shrines. Then, in a literal sleight of hand, Fiona reveals to the Council Myrtle’s burnt right palm. This, according to the current Supreme, is evidence of Myrtle’s guilt in Delia’s acidic disfigurement. Myrtle is therefore sentenced to burn at the stake, a sentence that she accepts proudly yet defiantly.

Myrtle wasn’t necessarily the perpetrator of the crime: In truth, Queenie, at the behest of Fiona, used her voodoo powers to singe Myrtle’s hand from afar. Queenie confronts Fiona about this, unsure as to whether or not her actions were justified. Fiona, ever-unctuous, seems to promise the title of the next Supreme to Queenie — and not only the title of the next Supreme but the first Supreme of Color. #YesWeCandle

By the by, Spalding’s tea parties are still a thing. (nb, the best comedic moment of the episode is when the zombie-frightened witches consider hiding in Spalding’s attic and he twitchingly demurs). The tea parties are the usual drab affair: some old records; a collection of sunlit porcelain dolls; spritz after spritz of Febreze; Emma Roberts’s days-old corpse in a coffinlike tomb; a cameo by her decayed, dislocated arm. If Spalding were played by Justin Timblerlake, the consequent SNL sketch would be “D*ck in a W*tch in a Box.”

Every week, I feel as if I profess a new scene to be the best of this show’s run, and this week is no different: In the most memorable image yet, Myrtle Snow, sporting a white dress, is escorted to her arid death against the buoyant belches of Dr. John’s “Right Place Wrong Time.” (This scene looks uncannily like the end of The Tree of Life.) “You’re all a bunch of little toads in a pot that Fiona is slowly bringing to a boil!” Myrtle screams. “I’d rather burn than boil.” This girl is on pyre.

But not for long: Misty Day, having stolen a feathered earring from an artisanal flea market, somehow shows up on the scene, shoos away the canines chomping at Myrtle’s charred remains, and revives the redhead, who looks like Darth Maul after a bender. Uh-oh …

What did I miss, my little birds? What will Myrtle Snow’s vengeance entail? Where is Patti Lupone? Can we just give everyone Emmys now? And, most important, am I the only one who thinks this is the best entertainment of the fall?

American Horror Story Recap: Girl on Pyre