4.7: Test of Strength
--First of all...my five-year-old laptop is dying, as Apple products generally do when they reach the age at which Apple wants you to pay them more money. While I pursue various solutions and/or scrounge for a new computer, I'm using my boyfriend's. This post and possibly the next few will be my “Notes in Exile.” In case anyone cares.
--Now, then. Metaphors galore. Last week, the spinning bullseye stood in for the unpredictability of life itself. This time around, it was the famous sideshow attraction where you pound a button with a hammer and try to ring the bell. It tests your physical strength. It's how men attempt to prove themselves to their wives, girlfriends, secret mistresses, whatever. In Freak Show, the only guy who can ring that bell is Dell Toledo. What he may not realize is that a test of strength refers not merely to the brawn, but also the mind and soul. How strong a man are you on the inside? How can your character withstand certain moral challenges? This episode handed Dell a huge, whopping chance to redeem himself. He did, but not in the ways that mattered. And after teasing us by fake-killing half its cast, Freak Show finally stuck a dead freak in a jar for real. And it SUCKED.
--For once, we didn't get much of the Motts. Jimmy's ominous arrival at their manor last week was a fakeout, as he seemed to be in no danger. He tried to talk Bette and Dot into returning home – and succeeded, after Dot discovered Dandy had snooped in her diary. Jimmy also realized that, quite possibly, Dandy was the other dude in the clown mask on Halloween night. They left, and Dandy was so upset that his entire face appeared to be trying to hornk itself up his nose. Now, however, Bette's ego is out of control and she wants more of the high life: blonde ringlets, caviar, comedy routines. Bette is, quite frankly, a dingbat, and Dot knows it, so she spearheaded a blackmail scheme, using Bette as a tool to try and force Elsa into kowtowing to the twins' wishes. In Dot's case, she wants to skim half the ticket money so she can surgically banish her sister. As before. Tease.
--For some reason, Stanley is no longer concerned that Esmerelda ain't really onboard any more. He's got a new plan. After spotting Dell at the gay bar, Stanley initiated the second blackmail scheme of the episode, confronting the big galoot and demanding that he snuff a freak, else his man-chasing ways be exposed. I have no fucking idea why, but Dell chose Amazon Eve as his target. Yeah, Dell, go after the eight-foot-tall transgendered powerhouse. Great plan. Awesomely, Dell got his ass kicked halfway to Miami...and, worse for him, Ethel and the other ladies decided to straight-up black widow him in the dead of night. Ethel maybe had reason, for she and Desiree dropped in on their kindly doctor friend to find he'd killed himself. And his daughter, full of anguish and rage, blamed the freaks for her dad's demise and kicked them out. It was a moment of utter injustice, and it opened the floodgates for another Kathy Bates Emmy Award moment, as Ethel whimpered about all the evils of the world, all the rotten shit that life continues to dump on her. The target of her tirade, Jimmy, didn't get it...or didn't seem to.
--Jimmy had a lot going on this week, and I'm rather relieved that he didn't once mention Meep. (Though he did growl through some Nirvana. A lot of people hate this season's musical interludes, but I kinda like their offbeatness.) He tried to calm down the vengeful women, and then he confronted Dell himself. They went to a bar, and the problem is, when two guys go to a bar, bromance often occurs. Nothing like liquor to erode a man's mettle. Drunk and garrulous, Jimmy had no clue what father-son bonding felt like, and so didn't realize he was doing it. Or did he? In the alley outside, Dell considered braining Jimmy with a brick, making him the dead freak delivered to Stanley's greasy paws. But then Jimmy revealed that he'd figured out Dell was his father. And he just wanted Dell to confirm it. Dell did. I liked this so much better than the stereotypical “shocked revelation” scene. It also led to Dell and Jimmy doing a raucous, drunk double act. I suspect many actors secretly hope they'll get to play shit-faced at some point in their careers. So Dell's a real dad now! Can he clean up his act? Well........
--Before I get to the tragedy, let's briefly touch upon the random subplot of randomness. Penny wants to be with Paul and the freaks for good, and because most parental figures on AHS are over-the-top terrible in some way, her daddy said, “Okay!” and got a tattoo artist to turn Penny into an alligator girl. So what? She hated her old life anyway, and somehow I doubt Paul will care if his girlfriend's a bit inked up. I kinda like her with scales.
--Also, Elsa and Dot started up a secret comminique, re: Bette is an irritating problem that should be taken care of. But then Elsa told Stanley about all this, and Stanley's inner monologue went: I can snatch and formaldehydify the twins with Elsa's blessing, just like that? Bonanza! Ahh, but Ethel seems to have overheard. Tease.
--This show has characters I hate because they do shitty things, like Elsa. It has characters I hate because they do shitty things and are badly-portrayed, like Monsignor Howard from Asylum. And then it has characters that do shitty things and that I know I should hate, but can't bring myself to, because I see the pain in their eyes. Dell is such a character. He is so, so torn. Scared of his newfound tenderness toward Jimmy. Stuck in his macho rut, unable to understand his homosexuality. Hating himself. Hating the people who he thinks mock him. He could have fixed everything this week. Here is what I wanted to happen: I wanted Dell to go to Ethel and the ladies and admit that Stanley had blackmailed him. Tell them everything, so that the freaks could give Stanley the horrible death he richly deserves. Instead, Dell snuck into Ma Petite's tent, sweetly gave her a beautiful new dress, and then, his face haggard with self-loathing, killed her. Ma Petite is dead and in a jar, and this time...this time it's real. Why can't I hate Dell? What he just did was unforgivable. And yet...and yet...there is good in that man. I hope, I HOPE, he will accept enough of it to atone in some small way. Somehow.
--Unless, next week, Ma Petite isn't really dead! Jesus...I hate that she died, but if they fake us out one more time, I will go all Angry Ethel on their asses.