‘American Horror Story: Coven’ Episode 3 Recap: “The Replacements”


Jessica Lange is unable to sleep, so she has a flashback, which happens to me all the time. Her mother, who looks like Miranda Richardson, I think it might actually be Miranda Richardson, and she is wearing some kind of June Carter Cashish outfit in a sickly shade of lavender. Young Fiona, meanwhile, gets to wear a black floral and also bears a significant resemblance to young Charlize Theron, complete with excessive deployment of the hot iron. “They say when the new Supreme starts to flower, the old Supreme starts to fade,” hisses Poor Man’s Charlize to her mother. It turns out that in a coven, a younger future-Supreme actually literally siphons power from the current-Supreme. The mother’s had a vision that the daughter here will be a terrible supreme, but that doesn’t matter because she isn’t able to stop her daughter from seizing the throne by throat-cutting. Someone on the staff’s been watching Game of Thrones.

Pro tip: in your screenwriting class, this is what the teacher means when they refer to “foreshadowing.”

As the credits roll, I keep wondering why there’s so little Frances Conroy in this season. I mean, I love everyone else and am not sure who I would deprive of screentime other than Madison-Emma — and well, let’s put a pin in that.

Jessica Lange goes to some kind of wood-panelled, Big-Band-DJed speakeasy to meditate on mortality. She sees life as a big dance that’s going to end, which is funny because her gait’s a little stiff, actually, but that’s why God invented metaphors. Her aging is getting rather literal, though; visiting a surgeon, Jessica Lange is told the grisly details of her procedure.

Cordelia is still trying to get pregnant, but the spell didn’t work and her bloodwork is preventing any doctor from being willing to treat her. This, somewhat confusingly, parallels Jessica Lange’s problem. I am maybe missing something here but if witch blood interferes with fertility, I have no idea how exactly Jessica Lange gave birth to Cordelia. But details, details.

Zoe/Taissa, meanwhile, goes to visit Mare Winningham with a chin-ring, who is some kind of white-trash hippy hybrid. She’s also Kyle’s mother, and she is clearly devastated by the loss of her son. So devastated that she doesn’t mind sharing that Zoe’s call led her off of a suicide plan. Zoe is, naturally, a little upset by this, but is clarly comforted by the fact that she’s likely to bring Kyle back to his mother. “You’ll see him again,” she tells Mare Winningham. Which Mare Winningham will! Because Misty Day has been healing FrankenKyle at her shack, largely apparently with cuddling while listening to (yes) Stevie Nicks. Zoe is appreciative, but still wants to take FrankenKyle away. Misty is displeased, and so am I, because she is my absolute favorite among all these characters. “I healed him… me!” she points out. But it falls on deaf ears with Zoe, who is on a messianic mission. “I’ll come back for you,” says Zoe. “No you won’t,” says Lily Rabe. Ugh, I always love the lonely characters. And they’re always LONELY!

Back at Miss Robichaux’s Domestic-Fantasy Academy for Young Ladies, there are new neighbors. One of them is Patti LuPone. The other is a disposable shirtless Adonis of a future CW star. Madison-Emma immediately focuses her gunsights on him, leading to a conversation about the relative levels of sexual experience in student ranks. Gabourey, in particular, demurs, which perhaps explains why only Nan and Madison go over to welcome-committee the new, and as it turns out deeply-religious neighbors. Adonis is pretty much immune to Madison-Emma’s charms, and she doesn’t make affairs any better when she both throws a knife at Patti Lupone and lights the curtain on fire. Not the kind of first impression one dreams of making.

Jessica Lange is making Kathy Bates be the maid, and Gabourey, especially, intends to enjoy the role. Kathy Bates complains that she won’t serve a black person but Jessica Lange’s evil apparently doesn’t extend to racism. Jessica Lange has bigger problems, though. She realizes, when Patti LuPone comes to complain about her immolated curtains, that Madison’s powers are growing, which means she has to be the next Supreme.

FrankenKyle, upon returning home, sets off his mother’s suspicions. I mean, he doesn’t speak, which would be a red flag for anyone, I suppose. She’s noticed, she says, that he has a different body than he used to, which sets off alarming Joe Simpson bells about their relationship. And sure enough, it turns out she’s been molesting Kyle throughout his life. And in frankenform, he is not able to control his rage about it and ends up beating her to death with a trophy. When Zoe-Taissa goes by to check on him, she comes upon the gory discovery. That shot lingered a little too long for even horror-fan me, Ryan Murphy.

Cordelia, like her mother, decides to visit Angela Bassett for some spell to solve her problem. Angela Bassett describes a voodoo ceremony that might help. It involves gyrating bodies and goat blood and could be construed as racist. (I’m yearning for the definitive “How Realistic is the voodoo on American Horror Story?” piece, btw, so I can pronounce on this question.) But Angela Bassett turns Cordelia down cold. She shall ever be childless, I guess.

Angela Bassett is also making her first move on Kathy Bates, by sending the minotaur man over to, I don’t know, gore his way through all that beautiful whitewash paneling and somehow win out over Kathy Bates’ eternal life properties. It’s all a little unclear. Anyway, Gabourey’s too busy torturing Kathy Bates to want to get rid of her just yet, so she bravely goes out to confront the Minotaur. Then a slightly weird thing happens where Gabourey says she’s very lonely, and she’s been called a monster too, an lifts up her skirt and begins masturbating and the minotaur is falling for it until he doesn’t and this long run-on sentence is basically a good barometer of my discomfort with this whole scene which comes kind of from prudery but considering the three hours of lebian sex I sat through more something like, eee, I don’t like the way they’re using Gabourey here because all sorts of things to untangle eeee.

After taking Madison out to test the extent of her powers, Jessica Lange decides to get weird. She gives a long, wallpaper-cud kind of speech about how her powers are fading and can’t avoid it. And then she tries to get Madison-Emma to kill her, with a razor, just the same way Jessica Lange killed her mom. (In screenwriting class, this is called “parallelism.”) Except in the struggle things go awry, and Jessica Lange cuts Madison-Emma’s throat instead, triumphing! Maybe Misty Day’s FrankenKyle-healing mud can solve this problem but more likely Madison-Emma’ll stay dead, I think. But all bets are off.