Sometimes, a recap show is necessary.
When Game of Thrones comes back from hiatus or Pretty Little Liars makes a five-year jump, viewers genuinely need an update on what they missed or forgot to invest in new episodes. But recap shows are generally acknowledged for what they are: a utilitarian means of setting the scene before the real action starts, bringing us up to date on each character and plot twist before the season kicks off in earnest.
“Thanksgiving,” by its own admission, is a recap episode where there’s no need for one, accomplishing absolutely nothing in the larger story arc and failing to make up for it with the giddy insanity of a romp like “Beware of Young Girls.” If your real-life Thanksgiving plans interfered with your ability to watch this episode live, one could skip this episode altogether without losing track of the story.
The significant events of “Thanksgiving,” such as they are, can be summed up with a single sentence: Gigi has a room service dinner with the remaining Red Devil, orders Chekov’s Electronic Turkey Carver, and winds up beheaded at Kappa House. The final Red Devil, who turns out to be Grace’s half-sister, is now a free agent.
That’s basically it. We get a couple brief glimpses into the predictably awful home lives of two Wallace students: Chanel #3, whose family devours the world’s nicest TV dinner in front of six different football screens, and Chad, whose family is as boorishly WASPy as he is. (Thad’s an Internet porn addict; Brad’s a creative’s obligatory potshot at Hollywood power agents, complete with a wife named Muffy St. Clair.) Our visits, however, are all too brief—Chanels 1, 3, and 6 (she’s alive!) each have a micro-epiphany and storm out in a huff, though not before delivering some Shoshanna Shapiro-style tantrums. Chanel #1 even has hers in the Hamptons!
The primary purpose of “Thanksgiving,” it turns out, is to collect our survivors under the Kappa House roof, again, and review the case against each and every one of them. Dean Munsch is camped out in Kappa’s pristine, state-of-the-art kitchen, and eventually everyone trickles in to join her: #3 ditches her family, Grace and ZayDay feel weird taking off to Oakland, #5’s family went to the Maldives without her, Grace’s creepy dad wants Thanksgiving with his daughter, #1 and #6 are suddenly all about girl power, Pete is a tireless investigative journalist, and Chad just knew there would be turkey.
Everyone then methodically lays out the case against everyone else, a process that’s both tedious and unnecessary in the age of Internet comment sections. The suspects go from least to most compelling, starting with #3 and her mid-chainsaw massacre pooping session—the scatological humor on this show got old fast, particularly since the entire punchline is “pretty girls have bodily functions, gross!”—and working up to Grace’s dad and his all-too-direct connection to the killers. To cap it all off, Grace just says what we’re all thinking: “All tonight did is prove that at this point, it could be anyone!”
So if Scream Queens isn’t going to eliminate any suspects, and even brings one back in the form of Chanel #6 (the neckbrace saved her, as many predicted), what was the point of “Thanksgiving”? The microwave food monologue, paleo diet boosterism, and revelation that ZayDay’s been live-tweeting the whole night were flashes of the Ryan Murphy bitchiness we know and love-hate, but for the most part, this episode was a forty-minute buildup to the nifty visual of Gigi’s head on a plate. Scream Queens might have done better to simply take the holiday off.