Tests. It seems all ‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ does this season is test its gentle viewers. For this viewer, this week’s episode ‘Test of Strength’ pushed the boundaries of my sanity and emotional stability.
First, let’s address the staggering genius of Jimmy’s ‘Nirvana’ cover, ‘Come as You Are.’ Such a poignant selection for this angry twenty-something, and in case you didn’t pick up on the subtlety of his anger, AHS made it very clear when he LITERALLY drops his mic after his musical number. We get it. Stop shoving it down our throats that Jimmy Penishands is the freakish equivalent to Johnny Depp’s ‘Crybaby.’ Jimmy serenades an empty circus tent (seriously, for a Freak Show, they don’t really preform for anyone other than themselves and the occasional ghost of Edward Mordrake) after he discovers Bette and Dot at the Mott place – just hanging out, eating caviar and avoiding impending doom at the hands of homicidal maniac, Dandy.
Jimmy learns the truth about Elsa selling them, but before he can drop the truth bomb on everyone, Dot decides to weave a web of lies, one that shines a positive light on Elsa’s betrayal. Why would she do this? Blackmail of course (yet another reoccurring theme in this installment). She and Bette set a list of demands to Elsa which includes skimming 50% of the house profits for themselves (again, where is this mystery ‘house’ money coming from?). Elsa complies hesitantly, but is determined to get to the bottom of why they’d want the money in the first place. Side note – Bette now wants to be a comedian and dyes her hair blonde, but more on that pipe dream later.
Elsewhere, we see The Strong Man at the bar for “gentleman that prefer gentleman,” trying to find his beloved (and now very dead) hustler boyfriend. Alas, the bartender slings some unwarranted advice to Mr. Strong and in return is greeted with an empty beer bottle to the face, along with Strongie’s fists. Pornstache Richard aka killer of dreams and freaks, looks on as this scene unfolds, lurking in the shadows like the god damn creeper he is, clocking Strong Man’s violent outburst. You can almost see him mentally twirling his Pornstache as he hatches a very predictable plot of blackmailing Strongie into doing his evil bidding for him. Give him a freak or he gives up his true sexual nature. Sigh, the chopping block is brought out once again. Gotta say the double-entandras Pornstache delivers this episode are epic! My hats off to you in this respect only. Normally I’d be inclined to tell you to “go eat a bag of di*ks”, just so we’re all clear.
Over to the trailer for young lovers, we see Maggie and Jimmy in the throws of post-coital embrace. Seeing how AHS likes to push the proverbial envelope in terms of what they can get away with on cable, seems odd (and honestly I feel a bit robbed) that they would pass up an opportunity to give us a “boundary pushing” sex scene between these two. Maybe they hit their quota for the season or maybe the scene itself was SO yawn worthy (for reals, these two have ZERO chemistry between them) that it was cut out, but either way I was puzzled by this. End sex tangent. Mag-pie wants to split town but Jimmy still feels like the timing is off so they are staying put for the time being.
Meanwhile, Ethel the bearded lady and ‘not a hermaphrodite any more but still have three awesome boobs’ go to the doctor for Ethel’s surgery only to learn that he committed suicide and smashed both of his ‘gifts’ aka hands before biting it. His bitter spinster daughter (she is 100% a frosty box) tells them it’s all their fault he’s dead, their very existence made him question, God, science,etc. hence the death. Stupid and unnecessary but I guess they really needed to drive home how sad it really is to live in a freak’s shoe.
The only happiness I found in watching this episode, was when Strongie tries to chloroform Amazon Eve (his fist choice in fulfilling his debt to Pornstache) when she wakes up and KICKS THE EVER LOVING SH*T out of him!! F*cking fantastic (if you couldn’t tell, I really like to pepper my articles in curse words when something excites me. This being one of those times. Sorry not sorry, Da). From here on it’s all girl power and make that bastard pay for trying to ‘rape’ her (if they only knew) and insist that Jimmy to takes care of the situation.
They stumble back to camp (where it’s now dawn?) arms around each other, drunkenly giggling and shhhhhhshing themselves when Elsa and Three Boobed Sally find them. It is sort of sweet when Strongie tucks Penishands in, but knowing AHS, this sticky sweet moment can’t exist without another soul crushing scene far behind it. This week we’re given not one, but two of these. Lucky us.Number one and honestly I legitimately cried when this happened because I have a heart, when Strongie finally finds his victim in Ma Petite. You thought she was safe last episode didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU?? Well take this giant open palmed slap to the face viewers: Strongie goes into her tent late at night with the beautiful gift of a tiny dress just for her. She puts it on and expresses her eternal gratitude by giving Strongie a hug. This is hard to even write. He then crushes her tiny body to death, as she struggles to no avail for her last breath. Later we see her lifeless body in that glass jar filled with liquid, back at the Museum for those without a soul, sipping champagne and gawking at her on display. My heart is broken in a thousand million pieces. I don’t think I’ll ever be cheerful again.Number two is when Penny’s sad runaway story comes full circle, when her dad knocks her out – has a buddy tattoo artist transform her into a snakeskin face, with a serpent tongue, turning her into one of the freaks she longs to spend her life with. Saddest part is when she goes back to Paul the Illustrated Seal (ironically his entire body is covered in tattoos except his face, and now she has tattoos only on her face. Quite the pair these two make), blames himself for her new look.We wrap in the weird split screen of Elsa’s floating ‘Great and Powerful Oz’ moment, when she writes a letter to Bette, asking what she really wants the money for and that she’ll help her make her dreams come true. A matching floating Bette head appears and reveals that she wants the surgery and if Else helps her do this, she’ll keep her secret.
So there you have it. Tests were put upon everyone this episode and sadness seep into all of our souls. Or at least mine. Transformations, blackmail and kicks to the emotional gut ran rampant. I hope the final episodes of the season revert back to scary subplots as opposed to the tear inducing themes of what we’re being presented with these past few.’AHS’ is so near and dear to me, and although I know my love for it will never die, I gotta tell you, it feels like I just found out my boyfriend ran over my dog after watching this episode.
Let us know in the comments section below what you thought about this episode and your wishes for the final half of the season!