Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

American Horror Story: Freak Show: “Tupperware Party Massacre”

Watching Jimmy Darling's arrest: Rose Siggins, Naomi Grossman, Erika Ervin, Emma Roberts, Mat Fraser, Christopher Neiman [Sam Lothridge/FX]

“You’re my savior,” Dandy Mott gushes to Maggie Esmerelda as she spins a vague, flattering fortune of future happiness to the man who tried to saw her in two. But he doesn’t believe that. A god doesn’t go looking for saviors. He expects worship, and if he goes looking for anything, it’s supplicants and servants.

That’s what Esmerelda is to him. She’s the medium for a service granted, future favors secured with an absurdly large gratuity that’s still a pittance to Dandy.

When Dandy tells Jimmy Darling, “I’m your god, and I’ve decided that you need to suffer,” it seems metaphorical, a description of the power he plans to wield as he strikes down what little Jimmy has left and revels in it. But Dandy means it literally, and when Regina comes to confront him, he giddily seeks a testament from the last person left who really knows him. “You must have had some sense at least that I was destined to be this. I am a god! A god who was chosen to walk among men!”

“Tupperware Party Massacre” is a tangle of loose ends and mangled stories. Selfish, pettish Bette’s swerve to selfless sacrifice comes out of nowhere, rendering it empty sappiness instead of affecting generosity. Dell’s suicide attempt makes narrative sense, but it goes nowhere and says nothing about the show or the characters. Bette promises her sister and Jimmy as much privacy as conjoined twins can have, but moments later she’s kissing him along with Dot, who tempts Jimmy with the prospect of “a blonde and a brunette for a wife,” two women pledging themselves to his pleasure.

That’s the idea at the heart of the episode. Despite Dandy’s repeated jubilations—and the echoes of godly power from Dot, who offers Jimmy the all-but-divine absolution to “take your pain away, replace it with love,” and from Stanley, who casts Elsa as the all-powerful protector of “God’s castoffs” who can well afford to slay two of them— “Tupperware Party Massacre” isn’t about godliness, but about devotion and the indelicate labors of serving a master.

Ashamed of his desires, Dell traded his freedom and his conscience for Stanley’s silence, and it’s driven him to self-destruction. Elsa’s persuaded once again to murder by half-hearted blandishments and continued hints of stardom. The phony Dr. Sugar is willing to kill (sorry, euthanize) the twins in exchange for sex… and maybe some more of Stanley’s empty promises? If I were a police lieutenant, I might not take the man raving “I have seen the face of God and he is looking at me from the mirror!” at his word when he promised me a million dollars in cash to abet his crimes. At the very least, I’d want to see a stack of bills before pulling the trigger.


From the doomed, nameless housewife who scandalizes her fellow partygoers with stories of conjugal blowjobs (and her reward of a brand-new stove), to the phony doc, who’s rewarded for fumbling through his lines with Stanley’s preemptory “Suck my cock,” to Dot tempting Jimmy with the promise of “two souls, two mouths, devoted just to you,” this episode is about service, supplication, and selling out to someone more powerful.

It’s no accident the episode opens with Dandy handing over a too-generous sum for Esmerelda’s reading, or that it features so many incidents of sales masquerading as socializing—the Avon lady, the Tupperware party, the fortune teller flirting and flattering. Everyone here is selling or buying something bigger than a mere service. For better or worse, they’re selling their lives and their souls… and selling them cheap.


Stray observations:

  • This week in American Horror Poetry: “You can go to the movies any time you want. Sing along with the radio, dance all night.” “With one leg?”
  • In this poorly plotted, poorly structured episode, one line particularly struck me. Dell’s vision of Ethel twice urges him to “step up” and put his head in the noose, turning the strongman’s traditional exhortations to “step up and take a swing” against him.
  • This week in “Maybe society is the real freak show”: The well-heeled suburban housewives put on their prettiest afternoon frocks to be fingerbanged in turn by The Lobster Boy, but marital fellatio shocks them.
  • The musical sting on “Regina, I killed your mother!” made me laugh out loud, and I honestly can’t tell if that was the show’s goal.
  • Jimmy’s rejection of Dot because “I’m in love with someone else” is no doubt intended as a lure for next week, but who cares? Jimmy and Esmerelda bore me silly, but to be fair, I’m bored by Jimmy’s unending round of dalliances. Let’s see, he fell for Dot, discarded her for Maggie, made a move on Desiree, sought solace in Ima’s ample bosom, and now he’s circling back around for another go?
  • However, I am mighty keen to see what happens when Angus T. Jefferson (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) finally gets his rendezvous with Desiree. That’s one piece of bait I took: I’d like a whole season following the two of them.
  • A technical glitch kept me from labeling “Tupperware Party Massacre” with a grade. I’ll update as soon as possible, but until then: C.