Warning: This recap contains storyline and character spoilers for this week's "Test of Strength" episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show.
After last week's relatively uneventful, tame, and cerebral episode — to recap no one died, the twins ate caviar, and Jessica Lange waxed poetic about survival, a lot — American Horror Story: Freak Show fans were even more hungry for action than usual. Thanks to a musical number, mutilation, mail of the black variety, a makeup session with a deadbeat dad, and a heartbreaking murder, viewers couldn’t walk away from the latest installment anything but sated. (In fact, if you found yourself bored by "Test Of Strength," you may be the freak yourself.)
The episode opened with Jimmy checking on the Siamese siblings and Elsa's story at la casa Mott. Dandy and his mom tried to paint a pretty picture of domestic tranquility. The best defense came from mama Mott: "A daily regimen of vitamins and foie gras brought the pink back to their palette." Dandy explained, "Bette and I are in love and love trumps everything." But when he mentioned Dot's desire to get her conjoined twin removed, so she knew he'd read her diary after she made it clear that her secrets were off limits. Bette chided Jimmy for lying about being the one who saved the kids from Twisty, which launched him into a flashback to Halloween and the clown that got away. Finally Bette relented, "I’m sorry, but I choose my sister always." Although we don't see the Mott-ley crew for the rest of the hour, something tells us the murderous manboy is not gonna take their early exit well.
Jimmy, after working himself into a frenzy with his decent cover of Nirvana's "Come As You Are," confronted Elsa when she vetoed adding it to the act. "We don't take orders from a liar. We know what you did with the twins." Elsa continued to deny the charge that she sold the twins and when the Tattlers wandered into the tent, they surprisingly validated her version of the tale. Of course, they had ulterior motives for lying. Bette wants to become a comedian, go blond, eat caviar for breakfast, and take 20 percent of the box office. Dot stuck her toe a tiny bit further into the murky waters of blackmail suggesting 50 percent. Elsa seemed impressed by their new brass ones: "You girls have come a long way since I rescued you from the hospital." Elsa sensed that "little miss sour face" wanted more but hadn't shown all her cards. She snuck a note to Dot, who sent a missive back requesting that Elsa find the doctor they'd read about in the paper. She is dead set on getting her other half removed.
When Elsa told Richard about their return being an issue for her and how she'd like him to find the good doctor, Richard suggested an alternative mercy-killing plan. Elsa cracked, "I’ve heard about managers who would kill for their clients and it looks like I found one."
Richard already had his hands full with a blackmail plot of his own. Having witnessed Dell rough up the bartender at the most progressive gay bar in the '50s (not to mention in the Florida sticks). Dell was looking for Andy, Dandy's most recent victim, when the bartender advised him not to fall in love with a hustler; he responded with a bottle and his fists. Richard, after baiting him and enlisting Maggie to happen upon them — "Rule No. 1 when attempting to blackmail a man with freakish strength and a mean streak the size of the panhandle, make sure you got witnesses!" — said in exchange for a dead but clean freak body, his fairy tale would be safe with him.
Backed into a corner (or should I say closet?), Dell attempted to kidnap Amazon Eve first, but thinking he was there to force himself on her, she straight up kicked his bald ass. The attack rallied the women including Ethel, who was already in a mood after finding out the good doctor had taken his own life. Her answer when Jimmy suggested the cops: "The biggest joke of all, the thing that will sink you every time is hope that the world will right itself, that the just will be rewarded and the wicked punished. Once you buy into that horses--t, you're dead in the water. The only way to survive in this godforsaken world is to take control. Dell is our problem. He hurt one of our own. We can’t let the degenerate prick win. We’ll kill him."
Jimmy held off the bearded executioner by promising getting Dell to leave himself. Dell saw his second chance and proceeded to ply Jimmy with alcohol. But as Jimmy shared his stigma stories and his desire to go gloveless in public, Dell started to have a change of heart. Jimmy ran outside to upchuck and spit out that he'd known all along that Dell was his dad and the reason for his claws. The drunks stumbled back to camp, waking a few folks up in the process with their bro-ing out and declaration of chauvinist codes about keeping their balls. Des pleaded, "Don't let that man corrupt you. You still have time to be somebody."
Dell still needed to pay the piper who lingered like a bad case of the clap. Much to the chagrin of the Internet, he went for the easiest and most innocent target — the adorable Ma Petite. She didn't stand a chance as he lured her out of bed with a new frock and suffocated her when she went in for a thank you hug. More disturbing was seeing her in a display tank at the museum at the show's close.
Click the photo below to launch the gallery of Freak Show deaths... if you dare.
Also in competition for dad of the year was Penny's overbearing pops. She'd been spending time nursing Paul back to health (or at least staving off his death) and had returned home to collect her things so that she could live with "Paul and his kind" when her dad confronted her. "If you shame my reputation, I will do whatever it takes to make sure no one ever knows you belong to me. Prepare for the shaming of your life." As she spouted out bold statements about being in love with Paul and choosing to live as an outcast, dad introduced Morris who was going to give her a "proper sendoff." Hours later she awoke with a forked tongue and her entire face inked to resemble a reptile.
Unfortunately, you have two weeks to wait to see if Paul and Penny seek revenge on the man from Oz, how Amazon Eve and Elsa handle Ma's disappearance, if Dell will get fingered for the crime, or if Richard will let him off the hook after delivering the wee damsel.
American Horror Story: Freak Show airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.