It’s Elsa’s birthday week on American Horror Story and the gifts the show gives us just keep on coming! The major plotlines in Episode 6, “Bullseye”, revolve around last week’s mini-cliffhanger when Elsa delivered the Tattler twins to the doorstep of Gloria Mott; not only what’s happening to them in that house of crazies, but also how the freaks react to their absence. It’s all dealt with promptly, rather than stretching out over several episodes. And, as usual, the ways in which other subplots intertwine with the main plot are both clever and organic.
The funniest line occurs before the opening credits. At the dining table, Dandy (Finn Wittrock) comments on the new maid, “I like Dora better,” to which Gloria (Frances Conroy) replies, “Well, hindsight is 20/20.” Yep, Dandy, you shouldn’t have brutally murdered Dora if you liked her so much! He continues to tell his mother that he’s going to marry the twins (Sarah Paulson). When she points out that they’re freaks, he says, “When I’m with them, I feel normal.”
Bette, wearing a white ribbon in her hair as the “good” twin, seems smitten with Dandy, as well. However, Dot, wearing a red ribbon in her hair as the “bad” twin, is skeptical… that is, until she realizes he has the money required to perform the surgery that could separate the twins. She’s dead set on having the surgery, even if one of them (preferably Bette, I assume) dies as a result. During a moment of sharing secrets, Dandy tells them he killed the clown. Bette coos that he’s a hero, but Dot doesn’t believe him, which makes him angry. (My guess is that he’s also hoping only one twin survives.)
Meanwhile, Elsa’s (Jessica Lange) birthday celebration is overshadowed by the freaks’ concern over the twins. Poor Elsa; no matter what she does, she can’t step out from under their shadow. She erupts, “No more about the twins, do you hear me? I demand you start having fun this instant!” She gets a little pleasure, though, from Paul the Illustrated Seal (Mat Fraser), who’s getting more than a little pleasure from Penny (Grace Gummer).
The plots intersect when Paul encounters Dandy at the drug store and notices he’s buying everything in pairs. He tries to convince Jimmy (Evan Peters) that the twins are being held at the Motts, but he doesn’t believe him… at first. Eventually, the gang rallies and confronts Elsa. “Where are the twins? The general consensus is you’ve done something nefarious with them.” Yeah, she doesn’t take that well. “You should be ashamed after everything I’ve done for you… for our family. No one leaves here until one of you is strapped in the wheel to prove their unadulterated love for me.”
The “wheel” is the titular bullseye, with which Elsa has been practicing her knife-throwing routine. It’s not hard to predict who will volunteer to be strapped to the spinning wheel as knives are sailing through the air at him: Paul. I don’t know if Elsa gets the outcome she desires, but it further separates her from her “family” and leaves her insisting, “It was an accident.” So, the episode begins with Elsa promising to take her monsters with her to Hollywood and ends with her isolated from them.
In the other subplot of the episode, which, by the way, shows neither hide nor hair of Dell (Michael Chiklis) or Desiree (Angela Bassett), Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and Madison (Emma Roberts) plan their first procurement for the museum. He wants to chop off Jimmy’s lobster claws, but she apparently has real feelings for him and they decide instead to go after Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge), the world’s smallest woman. Madison’s true colors are revealed in the episode and I won’t spoil here whether they’re good or bad.
The episode ends with final notes on the two main subplots. First, Dandy reads Dot’s diary, after which his disposition returns as the monster we’ve come to know and love. “I was never destined to feel love. I must accept this emptiness as a blessing, not a curse. I know why I was put here, Mother. My purpose is to bring death.” Then, Jimmy rings the doorbell…
Second, Elsa shares a moment with Ethel (Kathy Bates). She apparently had a sister two years older than her who died at birth. Elsa’s existence was only a painful reminder to her parents. So she had to create her own family, “You are the sister I never had.” Ethel replies, “If I ever found out you were lying, I’d kill you with my own two hands.” And the episode closes with Elsa’s birthday wish: “I just want to be loved.”
After a couple weeks of absolutely crazy shenanigans on American Horror Story Freak Show, Episode 6 is more subdued, favoring drama over carnage. And it repeated a gimmick that started in Episode 5 in which the show is using scenes that demonstrate the outcomes of what some of its characters are thinking. Last week it was Stanley imagining the response of delivering the twins to the museum. This week it was Dot imagining life after the operation. I’m not quite used to these sequences yet. They’re a little confusing because they may not be imaginings but, instead, flash forwards to the future.