American Horror Story: Asylum, S2:E12, “Continuum”

“Everyone knows there’s only one way out of Briarcliff, and it ain’t the front door.”

sisterwife trouble

sisterwives?

 

There’s trouble in the Walker household. In spite of an idyllic (if somewhat unconventional) family portrait, tension is growing between Alma and Grace.  It hinges primarily on their attitudes toward their respective abductions; Alma was pulled from a happy life and experimented upon, while Grace was saved from death and captivity. Naturally, they’ve got different feelings on the subject. Kit tries to steer their interest toward a civil rights march and fails. When Alma points out Grace’s obsession, Kit observes that she never talks about it at all.

The tension itself isn’t surprising; what is is how these two women are conflicted not about sharing a husband, but about whether or not they want aliens to return for them. It’s such an issue that when Billy Marshall and friends try to burn the Walker homestead down, Alma has post-traumatic flashbacks to the abduction.

Another day in the Walker house. Alma confesses, “I’m done with the alien talk. It was the worst thing that ever happened to me, and you act like it was a religious experience.” The debate finally comes to a head, interspersed with flashes of Kit splitting logs. Alma calls Grace an axe murderer, and Grace insists the aliens will return for Kit because of how open-minded he is. Alma slaps Grace, who doesn’t seem too upset; that evening she says, “I love you, Kit. And Alma. And our sweet, beautiful miracle babies.” Then Alma kills her with an axe, which is somewhat poetic.

1968. Inside Briarcliff, an emergency broadcast announcing the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. is juxtaposed with a rousing game of Candyland. Jude Betty Drake rules the scene with Pepper as her right hand. Monseigneur Timothy visits to say goodbye; he’s been appointed Cardinal of New York and the church has relinquished Briarcliff to the state for use as an ‘overflow facility.’  He vows to get Jude out, but she’s skeptical. “The cruelest thing of all, Timothy, is false hope.”

The harmony of Candyland and smiling bakery shifts at Briarcliff is disrupted by the sudden continuous influx of new people. Jude is shocked to see the Angel of Death again, this time in the guise of an inmate/patient who offers Jude co-rulership over Briarcliff. Disturbed, Jude hopes Timothy is quick about getting her released, but Pepper is skeptical. Alma can be seen in the background, part of Briarcliff’s new ‘overflow.’  Suddenly there’s no peace for Jude; the Angel of Death is her new roommate, and the woman claims, “Everything in this cell belongs to me. That includes you.”  This is only the beginning of the woman’s havoc-causing; she goes on to stab another patient in the common room, and Jude wakes to the woman trying to kiss her.

But it’s not the Angel of Death after all. Jude realizes she’s been seeing things wrong, and ‘wakes’ in a straitjacket in the office of Dr. Miranda Crump. Jude scrambles, trying to answer the doctor’s questions in a way that doesn’t make her sound insane, and we learn ‘Betty Drake’ has gone through 5 roommates, Timothy’s promotion to Cardinal was 2.5 years ago when Jude thinks it was just Monday, and Pepper died in the winter of ’66, just after the state’s takeover.

1969. Best-selling author Lana Winters is at a bookstore for a signing of her memoir, Maniac: One Woman’s Story of Survival. “How long had it been? 20 minutes? 20 hours? 20 days? In a windowless room without a clock, time felt like a luxury i couldn’t afford.” It’s quickly revealed she’s talking about her time with Thredson rather than her stay in Briarcliff; instead of writing her expose, Lana has carefully embellished the already sensational story or her abduction by Bloodyface. In spite of her ambition, the lies she’s told are haunting her in the guise of Oliver and Wendy, who confront her about the falsehoods. “Face it, Lana. You’re only interested in one thing. Fame.”

The audience is moved by Lana’s show of emotion, commending it as bravery for her ordeal. Kit arrives at the signing, and Lana offers consolation about Grace before going right back into talking about herself, wondering if Tuesday Weld might be cast to play her in the film about Maniac. They get coffee together, but when Kit tries to talk about Briarcliff Lana shifts to her plan to write about Leigh Emerson. Kit calls her out. “You swore you were gonna take down Briarcliff. Expose it to the world. You promised Jude. You were gonna be a reporter, not a cheap celebrity.” He reveals that Alma died in Briarcliff, which has substantially deteriorated in quality even from the cramped circumstances shown with Jude, as two inmates are fornicating in a corner of the common room.

“Everyone’s gone but us.” She sympathizes, but Kit says he’s seen Jude, who isn’t dead like Monseigneur Timothy told Lana but might be a little bit crazy after all. Kit wants Lana to make good on her promise, and accuses her of being hard. “I’m as hard as I have to be. It’s what’s kept me alive.” As Kit pulls away from the bookstore, Johnny Thredson Morgan is getting high in his car before confronting the owner of the store about her signed copy of Maniac. When she won’t sell he tries to negotiate, telling her he’s Lana’s son. “I was a Women’s Studies major. I’ve read every one of her books. The only baby she ever had was by rape, with Bloodyface, and he died at birth.”

Johnny looks at the signature on the flyleaf. “That’s her signature. That’s as close as I ever got to her in person.” He continues, explaining how he’s got a plan to meet his mother. “I’ll present this book of lies, and I’ll say, ‘I’m in your book. Except I didn’t die. I’m the piece of trash you threw away 48 years ago. I’m your son.’ And once she fully understands who it is standing in front of her, I’ll take out my 9mm handgun, point it at her face, and pull the trigger. And finally,I will have completed my father’s work. But first, I’m gonna need that book.” Wisely, the woman hands it over.

 

Clearly the involuntary nursing in “Spilt Milk” didn’t warm Lana’s heart to her newborn, and as phantom-Thredson points out, Lana is only interested in fame. In the previous episode Lana herself acknowledged that she was willing to do anything to break the Briarcliff story but never anticipated the cost, so it seems strange that she’d be telling a different story entirely, and a fictionalized one at that. Apparently in addition to Wendy, the cost included her journalistic integrity as well.

Also, what’s with the time jumps this episode? It shows 1968 as the year Timothy ascends to Cardinal-hood, yet Dr. Crump says the state has run Briarcliff since 1966. Again, nothing we see can be relied upon as fact.

 

 

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