TV review — American Horror Story: Freak Show , “Test of Strength” [spoiler alert!]

click to enlarge TV review — American Horror Story: Freak Show , “Test of Strength” [spoiler alert!] - FX
TV review — American Horror Story: Freak Show , “Test of Strength” [spoiler alert!]

It’s a busy and satisfying week at the Freak Show as we get a break from Dandy and let the spotlight shine on other baddies: Dell gets tested to his limits and Stanley’s so-far lukewarm presence finally heats up.

Cover of the Week: Nirvana’s “Come As You Are”

Freak Show is just one song from becoming an anachronistic Glee club, but this week’s cover isn’t bad at all. After he’s rescued Bette and Dott from the Motts’, Jimmy growls out one of Nirvana’s great grunge rock anthems. Evan Peters has a very delicious voice here, and the song’s lyrics of contradictory clichés colliding into each other is a good fit for the series.

Advice of the week: “Never Fall in love with a hustler”

At High Noon (Jupiter’s favorite gay haunt,) Dell is waiting around for his beloved male prostitute Andy like an abandoned bulldog. He still doesn’t know that his beautiful boytoy was horrifically eviscerated by Dandy two weeks ago. Stanley’s there too, and despite his intentions of picking up his own Ken doll, he instead spots an opportunity to use Dell for specimen harvesting purposes. So when they’re back at the Freak Show, Stanley blackmails Dell with pitifully hilarious euphemisms; at a hammer high striker game he coos, “You can’t actually get it up?” Holding Dell up at gunpoint to do his bidding, he explains, "I like to aim for the jewels. Kind of my signature shot. The screams of a man who's been nutshot are so specific." Definitely my favorite Stanley moment of the series.

Freak of the Week

Amazon Eve. When Dell chooses her as Stanley’s first victim, she absolutely wipes the caravan with him and ends their fight with, “Who’s the Strongman now?” I got chills. So badass.

Life on Elsa Mars

Just as Jimmy is about reveal the true depravity of Miss Elsa to the freak family, Bette and Dot lie about her kindness. They blackmail Elsa into keeping them on at the Freak Show and to reap 50 percent of box office profits from the top; Bette also wants to become a comedian and to style her hair blonde like Eve Arden. Elsa complies with their terms, but she’s got a plan in place to dispose of them. And that plan is Stanley.

Father-Son Bonding

When Jimmy confronts Dell for attacking Amazon Eve, they go out for drinks and uncomfortably bond. Jimmy runs out back to puke his guts out. Dell picks up a brick to kill him for Stanley’s collection. Before he goes through with it, Jimmy tearfully asks Dell to confess once and for all that he’s his father. Dell does. As they tearfully embrace each other, darling Jimmy tells him, “You gotta go, dad. They’re gonna kill ya.” No, Jimmy!

Father-Daughter Dys-Bonding

Penny and her father provide a negative of Dell and Jimmy’s reconciliation. She’s in love with Paul and has come home to pack her things to leave forever. Daddy would kill her to keep her home. “I’m an electrician,” he proclaims. “A man like me is dead if he doesn’t come with a sterling reputation. You are my blood. If you do something to shame me, to shame this family, I will do whatever it takes to make sure no one ever knows that you belonged to me.” He’s invited Morris, a nasty looking artist, to tattoo reptilian scales all over poor Penny’s face, to mutilate her hair and to fork her tongue. It’s a fate worse than death. Hopefully Paul will be driven to seek vengeance. Or they move to Haight-Ashbury in time for the hippie revolution.

Split Screen Oddity

Elsa performs her letter to Dot in a monologue straight at the camera, filmed only from the neck up and in black-and-white—kind of like an old Hollywood screen test, but menacing. It’s clear that she’s planning to have the twins kill each other.

Dot performs her reply to Elsa in the same fashion. She wants Elsa to contact Dr. Sugar in Chicago to perform the twin separation operation. Elsa consults Stanley for the job, and he is more than happy to assist. Meanwhile, he’s devouring half his body weight of Ethel’s Betty Crocker food like a scavenging coyote.

Stanley’s First American Morbidity Museum Specimen

Ma Petite. Dell snapped the neck of the most innocent character on the show; well, that’s what I heard, at least, while I was too busy hiding my face in my hands. We later get a view of Ma Petite on display in New York, and it’s just cruel and upsetting.

Best Comedic Moment

“Queer,” Stanley slurs and ambushes Dell walking out of a caravan after putting his drunken son to sleep. “Isn’t it?” Stanley continues to the brooding Strongman. “How the best cigarette of the day is always the first?”

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