‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ Season 4 Episode 5 Recap: “Pink Cupcakes”

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“Fräulein Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities is about to have a bad run of terrible luck.” This is the redundant mission statement of Stanley, the “poof” and oddity collector who has come to Jupiter to essentially mine Elsa’s show for its freaks, aiming to preserve them and ship them back to the Museum of Morbidity in Philadelphia.

Stanley aims to do this by staying on Elsa’s good side, hoping to somehow distract her from the fact that her stars go missing. He tells her he’s a talent scout — for TV. “I would rather be boiled in oil than be on television,” Elsa says. “I would never participate in what I believe is the end of art and civilization.” Such seemingly high standards for a woman who is so preoccupied with fame.

On the other side of the grounds is Maggie, who plays a crucial part in Stanley’s plan — but has fallen for Jimmy. She tries to warn him away from Jupiter, telling him that he could be whatever he wants to be except, it turns out, her boyfriend. Eventually, while trying to round up Dell for the night’s show, Jimmy finds himself crying on the lap of a drunken Desiree Dupree. He makes a move, goes down on her with his claws, and finds blood.

Ethel takes Desiree to the doctor, and we (and she!) discover that she is not, in fact, a hermaphrodite, just a woman with too much estrogen. (Her ding-a-ling, the doctor explains, is just an enlarged clitoris.) And the bleeding? A miscarried baby. The look of restrained joy that comes over Desiree’s face as she realizes she’s able to have children is just the slightest bit of Angela Bassett magic, and it’s amazing.

But, even with Dell, Desiree, and Ethel out of the picture, the show must go on. Elsa takes the stage, once again singing “Life on Mars,” but the crowd isn’t interested. In one of the season’s most affecting scenes, the sound of the performance cuts out as we hear from Elsa’s perspective the random chitchat and rustling of popcorn bags in the audience. Elsa has a panic attack and bows out once the crowd starts throwing things. Suddenly, she’s reconsidering TV. The next day she’s listening to “Fame” and getting a makeover in preparation for new publicity photos, only to see Stanley driving away with Bette and Dot in the backseat of his car.

There’s an extended, too-long scene of the death and chemical preservation of Bette and Dot, which turns out to be Stanley’s imagination/hopes, but amounts to nothing when the two girls deny his poisoned, titular pink cupcakes. It’s a bit of a meaningless sequence, but still, it plants a deeper seed of jealousy in Elsa.

In the Mott household, Gloria wakes to find Dora dead, murdered by Dandy, who doesn’t even pretend not to have killed the maid he’d known for his whole life. They hire a gardener to dig a pit, bury the body in it, and then spread tulip bulbs on top of it.

Shortly after, there’s an American Psycho-esque montage of Dandy doing pushups, riding an exercise bike, and practicing “actor” faces in front of a mirror. The whole thing is accompanied by a voice over that concludes with, “My body is America,” which is maybe the best way to introduce what is probably the gayest scene in AHS history.

Dandy, done up in a smoking jacket and ascot, hits up the local gay watering hole, looking most likely for a man to cruise and kill, a la Cruising. While there, he bumps into Dell, who is having a drink with an old, very hot friend, Andy (Matt Bomer). Said friend is an artist, a wannabe Tom of Finland and owner of this gay haven. Dell is ecstatic over his artwork, obviously — dude is smokin’, and Dell is super-possessive of him. He loves him, even. Wants to get him a home with good light and a record player, so he can draw. It’s all very sweet. But Andy is a hustler, and Dell storms out when he tells him as such, leaving Andy all alone with two drinks. And in steps Dandy, who will gladly pay as much money as necessary to “take” Andy “home.”

Meanwhile, Dell returns to his home and Desiree, where she confronts him with the news that she knows of his father’s crab claws, and about his being Jimmy’s dad. She calls him a freak, tells him that she’s getting her “enlarged lady parts” minimized, and that she’s leaving him. She storms out on him and steals away to Ethel, and Dell has lost two loves in a single night. Determined to hold on to whatever he can, he pays the town doctor a visit and breaks his fingers, threatening to do the same to the doctor’s granddaughters if he takes away Desiree’s “penis.”

Back to Dandy, who leads Andy to Twisty’s old van and proposes a kind of game, convincing Andy to turn his back and strip. When Andy turns back around, Dandy is naked — save Twisty’s mask. He hesitates, briefly, before stabbing Andy over, and over, and over, in what must have been some kind of perverse Ryan Murphy fantasy that involves two of the most attractive men in Hollywood (Matt Bomer and Finn Wittrock, who were co-stars in Murphy’s The Normal Heart) bloody and naked. Dandy proceeds to dismember and dissolve the body in acid, but Andy lives through the whole thing. “How can you still be alive. You’re making me feel bad. Stop it,” Dandy says, sawing Andy’s right arm off.

He finishes the job and returns home, soaked in blood, just after his mother finishes up a phone call with Dora’s worried daughter (Gabourey Sidibe). Later still, the Mott’s doorbell rings. It’s Elsa, and she’s come bearing gifts. Which, with Elsa, can’t ever be a good thing.

It’s remarkable how heightened Elsa’s bitterness toward her freaks has become, her thirst for fame completely overpowering all of the affection and desperation for survival that motivated her actions in the early episodes of this season. Luckily, the show seems set on accelerating Stanley’s pretty uninteresting storyline, but it’s always useless trying to guess where things are going.

“Pink Cupcakes” was case-in-point, with Dandy surprisingly (and gloriously) thrust to the center of the story. Finn Wittrock’s voiceovers were perfectly executed, and, cheap storytelling device aside, leant an insight to his character that we otherwise rarely get with AHS. And the bar scene with Chiklis and Bomer? One of the best acted in all of the season — in fact, the whole episode was full of little, perfectly acted moments. This show is full of topnotch talent, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but so often that talent is wasted, seemingly directed to do little but chew on the endless high concept scenery. Director Michael Uppendahl somehow reined everything in this week, and it’s a good look for the show. And, while I won’t bet on it continuing, I’m going to hope for it. Also hoping for more Gabourey Sidibe soon. Yay, Gabourey Sidibe!