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'American Horror Story: Freak Show' Season 4, Episode 10: 'Orphans'

Jules Zucker |
December 18, 2014 | 12:29 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Naomi Grossman as Pepper the Pinhead (FX).
Naomi Grossman as Pepper the Pinhead (FX).

We're used to "AHS" turning our stomachs, but not as accustomed to it breaking our hearts. This episode was gut-wrenchingly sad from beginning to end – all thanks to sweet, mistreated, pinheaded Pepper (Naomi Grossman). Not much else actually goes on in the episode, so let's launch right in.

Pepper's partner in pinhead crime has just passed away, and her grief is hard to watch. Elsa (Jessica Lange) knows that Pepper can no longer go on with the show, so she seeks out the sister that abandoned Pepper as a child. In her pursuit of the sister, practically the whole history of the freak show is unraveled for the audience – Elsa spells it all out for no one in particular.

The Fraulein came to America in the thirties with big dreams, but war was coming and all the normal people had wartime things to do, so she decided deformed and otherwise abnormal people were the crowd that would launch her to fame. Pepper was Elsa's first freak, but soon the show began to build. Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) came soon thereafter and joined the show in exchange for three crates of soda (seems like a fair trade). Pepper, instinctually maternal, took to her right away, and Ma Petite was her everything until Salty (Christopher Neiman) arrived. They fell in pinhead love and were married; they were inseparable up until this point. Pepper mourns him, viewers shed silent tears, and Stanley (Denis O'Hare) cuts off Salty's head and sells it to the Morbidity Museum. Classic Stanley.

READ MORE: 'American Horror Story: Freak Show' Season 4, Episode 9: 'Tupperware Party Massacre'

Meanwhile, Maggie (Emma Roberts) is dulling her own pain with the bottle, as seems to be the trend here in Jupiter. The Tattler sisters (Sarah Paulson) visit her and plead with her to take their money and get Jimmy (Evan Peters) out of jail, lest he end up like poor Meep. Desiree (Angela Bassett) visits her too, to scold her for a very bitter, depressing psychic reading Maggie gave to Desiree and her new beau. Maggie admits that she and Stanley are fakes, and it's not long before she decides to show Desiree the Morbidity Museum, claiming she "wants to do the right thing for once."

Stanley pays a visit to Jimmy in jail and tells him he can get him a stellar attorney. At this point, viewers everywhere are probably screaming at their televisions, but Jimmy thinks it seems legit.

Now back to Pepper for a second. Elsa tracks down the sister (Mare Winningham), who reluctantly agrees to take Pepper in. Elsa and Pepper share a truly tender moment as they say their goodbyes, and they part ways.

READ MORE: 'American Horror Story: Freak Show' Season 4, Episode 9: 'Blood Bath'

Next comes a throwback in the form of a flash forward (what?). We're at Briarcliff with pre-Satan Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), and Pepper's terrible sister is explaining all the reasons the sweet thing should be committed. She's indecent, she's obsessed with her brother-in-law, and she killed the sister's infant son! Sister Mary Eunice looks appalled and intrigued. In reality, Pepper's sister and her even more terrible husband couldn't stand simpleminded Pepper and their crying baby, so they schemed a way to kill two birds with one stone. The solution: kill the baby, frame Pepper. Is there any decency left in this world? Ryan Murphy says no. Pepper is taken to Briarcliff in a straitjacket, and ostensibly here begin the events that pave the way to "AHS: Asylum."

Now, for the kicker ending. As promised, Maggie takes Desiree to the American Morbidity Museum and shows her pickled Ma Petite, pickled Salty, etc. Pickled Ethel (Kathy Bates) probably made an appearance too. But as they ogle, they overhear the curator introducing the museum's newest exhibit… two root vegetable hands that look an awful lot like Jimmy's.

"AHS" more or less took a break from fast-paced plot developments in this episode, instead favoring an in-depth look at one of the show's most treasured characters. It certainly doesn't disappoint, though Dandy is noticeably missing. All things considered, it was sweet and tragic respite from the chaos that is "Freak Show."

Reach Staff Reporter Jules Zucker here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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