Women are curving conniving men this week on American Horror Story: Freak Show. In episode 5, Stanley/Dr. Mansfield/Richard Spencer intends to dupe Elsa and murder the twins for profit; Dell straddles the fence on whether to leave Desiree for new love; Maggie denies Jimmy’s emo kisses; and Dandy blames a non-existent intruder for Dora’s murder. This is the Waiting to Exhale episode you’ve been waiting for!
Stanley is so pathetic that he gets dissed even in his own fantasies. He’s got big plans for the bodies of the freaks, with gently-used aquarium tanks waiting in the wings to haul them to the American Morbidity Museum. But when he imagines their ceremonious unveiling at the museum, he sees himself denied recognition for his contribution. Is he a realist or just defined by his dirty undershirt? As Richard Spencer, he describes himself to Elsa as an Important Guy working in television, but she shoots him down with “I don’t do TV.” However, she’s more open-minded after a repeat performance of “Life on Mars” that goes entirely unappreciated by Jupiterians. She emerges from her tent the next morning in time to see him driving away with Dot and Bette, and is left in the driveway to gather what’s left of her pride.
The Motts awaken to Dora’s cold body in the dining room. Gloria punts Dandy’s half-assed explanation, pissed that her son murdered the help she needs for corpse duty. Her solution: Bury Dora in the garden under narcissus bulbs, AKA daffodils. Undignified burial aside, Dora deserves a more stately flower, something that will remind Dandy of the fuckboy that he is. According to Gloria, Dandy’s father was also nuts and hints that the Motts are inbred, all in the same tone a person would use to explain the difference between soy and almond milk. An homage to American Psycho shows Dandy alone in his playroom exercising tenaciously in his underwear, complete with voice-over calmly explaining his self-obsession and inner rage. From what we’ve seen of this season, Dandy’s universe consists only of what he can destroy and what he is denied. Cousin-parents aside, he’s the typical product of over-indulgence and secondhand parenting, but with a psychotic flair. Instead of slumming it among common people like other rich kids, Dandy wants to perform an Oscar-winning role for plebes and then tear them apart. He hung out at the freak show because it had a stage he wasn’t allowed on; he chased after Twisty the Clown to make friends after being assaulted by him; together, they performed for an audience they intended to kill. Dora was his only lifeline to reality, and he knew he had to take her out to keep the dream alive and the truth buried. Gloria, thankless savior, will always clean up after him, especially when he’s made a murder in her favorite place to eat lunch.
No one can find Dell on the freak show campgrounds. Desiree is devastated, missing her companion and stage partner. Jimmy commiserates with her on her sofa, seized with guilt over Meep’s death. Their emotions make them kiss each other, but when Jimmy serves up his lobster-hand special, he pulls back a bloody claw. Ethel’s compassionate doctor from episode 3 treats Desiree, asking her about her life to distract her from the painful examination. We learn that she’s from Philadelphia, and had been raised as a boy until the age of 12, when her breasts developed. The doctor determines that Desiree is 100% woman after all, offering scientific terms like “testosterone” and “estrogen” to explain her third boob, citing her “ding-a-ling” as an extra-large clitoris. Her bleeding was caused by a miscarriage, a shock to a woman who had always considered herself sterile. The doctor mentions that there are cosmetic surgeries that can make Desiree appear more womanly, and she is left in a daze, overcome with the possibility of leaving the freak show circuit for good.
Dell is hanging out in a gay bar where Dandy also happens to be cruising. Over Brandy Alexanders, Dell confesses his love to his date (Matt Bomer), who is a prostitute Dell has been seeing on the low since he and Desiree blew into Jupiter. Dell isn’t ready to leave Desiree, but is determined to rescue his Date from the basic clutches of Jupiter someday. The Date mentions someone he met recently, a visiting big-shot from LA who can help him Do Things. Obviously he is talking about Stanley, and it would be so great if he and Dell knew they were rival lovers. But alas, they won’t, since Dandy swooped in on the Date the minute Dell fled in tears. He leads the Date to Twisty’s school bus, where he slips on Twisty’s mask during a childish stripping game and stabs the poor gentleman to maybe-death. During the process of dismemberment, the Date awakens and begs to die. It’s all too much for Dandy. For most people, it’s like making eye contact during sex with someone you hope to never see again.
Stanley fantasizes that he successfully kills Bette and Dot with poisoned cupcakes and suffocation, selling their heads to the museum with minimal explanation. Instead, he’s convinced them so thoroughly of the lie that he can get them their own TV show, that they pass on the cupcakes to keep their figure TV-ready. He returns them to the campgrounds, where Elsa lavishes them with affection and warmth, promising to take them somewhere nice the next day. She delivers them to the Motts’ doorstep, taking Gloria up on the generous sum of cash she offered in exchange for them in episode 1. In lieu of Dora’s career-level shit-talk, Elsa’s fuck-you policy is a suitable substitute.
Maggie, whose heart may or may not exist, reads Jimmy’s palm to indirectly warn him about Stanley, urging him to “go to New York.” She gives him a compliment session, free of charge, but when he goes in for a kiss, she denies him. The way she looks after him when he shuffles away implies a love plot is in the works, but I will only be satisfied with this if she takes Jimmy’s place in one of Stanley’s jars in the end.
Dell eventually returns to his trailer, to find Desiree a changed woman. Not only does she know that she is all female–a fact Dell recoils from–but she now knows what kind of father he’s been to Jimmy, and is disgusted with him. She moves into Ethel’s trailer, vowing to get the cosmetic surgery that will make her appearance more normal-seeming. Dell finds the doctor who treated her and breaks his hands, ensuring that it doesn’t happen. I guess Desiree’s ding-a-ling and extra boob mean that much to him.
Dora’s daughter, Regina (Gabourey Sidibe), phones the Mott residence out of concern for her mother, whom she hasn’t heard from. Gloria brushes it off to talk about how she failed as a parent, crying all over her phone and gardening outfit. Regina bails on the call just as Dandy returns to the mansion, wearing only his underwear and the Date’s blood. Who’s going to clean that up, boy?