This week on Freakshow we finally got a look at how some of the seasons of American Horror Story are connected. As previously noted, Ryan Murphy has stated that there is indeed a common thread tying all episodes together; we just don’t know what. Pepper is the first character to appear in more than one season of AHS, and her heartbreaking story shows us just how Asylum (season 2) and Freakshow are linked. But more on that later, here’s all the other stuff that happened first.
Maggie’s super upset about Jimmy being in jail (and the fact that he cheated on her) and decides to drown her sorrows in a bottle. But more than just her cynicism on love comes out when the alcohol loosens her tongue: she tells Desiree that she is in league with Stanley, and that neither of them are who they say they are. Maggie doesn’t tell her the real reason they’re there, of course, but it’s enough to make Desiree mighty suspicious. It’s an eventful night for Maggie, with a visit from Bette and Dot when she returns to her tent. They give Maggie the money they saved up for the surgery, in the hope that she’ll use it to get Jimmy a good lawyer. Maggie doesn’t seem too impressed by this visit, but will more than likely try to help Jimmy out anyway.
Except that someone beats her to it; her partner Stanley pays a visit to Jimmy in prision. Jimmy’s confused as he’s unsure whether he actually killed half a dozen women or not; he’s sure he couldn’t do it, but then again he’d been totally white boy wasted at the time. Stanley’s unsympathetic to this state of mind, but does offer to get Jimmy the best lawyer money can buy. But that’s the problem: Jimmy doesn’t have any money.
Cue Maggie and Desiree. After Desiree kept bugging her with questions about her real identity, Maggie caved. She’s become fond of the freaks and wants to stop Stanley, but she needs help. She also needs someone who knows the truth and can tell the others what’s been going on if Maggie gets killed off. So Maggie takes Desiree on a little field trip to the freak museum Stanley’s been collecting ‘artefacts’ for. We see poor Ma Petite, along with Salty’s decapitated head (more on that in a minute). But wait, there’s a new exhibit being opened right at that very minute! It just happens to be a pair of LOBSTER HANDS. If you’re anything like me, you went whaaaaaat! Because I don’t think there’s much of a point Jimmy using that money to pay a lawyer if a) he has no hands now and b) he bleds to death from, you know, having no hands. Could it have been a dream sequence of some sort? Only time will tell as we wait until next episode.
The rest of the episode was filled with the heartbreaking story of Pepper’s past, and how she came to be in the Freakshow and then the Briarcliff Manor (the asylum) from season 2. Pepper loses her partner Salty at the beginning of the episode (Stanley offered to ‘take care of the body’. Pfft). Salty passes away in his sleep and this latest death is the final straw for Pepper, who can’t go on. Elsa fondly recalls for Desiree how Pepper was the first freak she ever ‘adopted’, having found her in an orphanage even though she was 18 years old. Abandoned by her sister, Elsa befriended Pepper and convinced her to leave with her. But over time, Pepper began to be unhappy as her maternal instinct set in. Elsa managed to buy little Ma Petite from a rich Indian slave, trading her for three cases of Dr. Pepper (which was super random, let’s be honest), and from that day Pepper looked after Ma Petite as her own child. The family was complete when Salty was found a few months later. But with both of these beloved family members gone, the freakshow no longer feels like home to Pepper.
Elsa tracks down her sister, who turns out to be a lovely human being (please note the sarcasm). After a lot of convincing, the vile sister reluctantly agrees to take Pepper in. Jump ahead 4 years and her sister has had a baby – but it has interesting features, just like Pepper. The sister lies in bed all day and demands Pepper makes cocktails, whilst her husband can’t stand the sight of their own child. So they conduct a plan to kill two birds with one stone: the husband cuts the ears off the child and drowns him, and then they frame Pepper for the murder. And there she finds herself Briarcliff Manor. Lily Rabe reprises her superb role as Sister Mary Eunice – although it’s not nearly so fun when she’s not possessed by the devil. At the end of the episode we see Pepper pick up an old magazine that features Elsa Mars on the front cover. So no matter how this season ends, we know that Elsa will get the fame and stardom she always dreamed of it. This kind of annoys me as I hoped someone would murder her or something.
Was Pepper’s story super sad? Yes. Is Naomi Grossman magnificent? Yes. Did this whole plot line fit with the rest of the Freakshow season? No. With 30 – 40 minutes spent on telling Peppers story and connecting the dots between seasons, there wasn’t much substance to advance anything in the current season’s storyline. With more new characters set to appear next episode, I don’t think there’s any way American Horror Story can dig itself out of the hole it’s created for itself now.