American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.11: “Magical Thinking”

Neil Patrick Harris joined the cast of AHS this week as Chester the Magician. Let’s not talk about the doll.

It’s time to start placing your bet, fellow freaks. With only two episodes left, it’s high time we started pegging who’ll live to see the season finale, and what offer our guesses as to the fifth incarnation of American Horror Story.

We’re jumping right back in with Jimmy (Evan Peters) and Stanley (Dennis O’Hare) debating whether or not a lawyer’s retainer is with an arm and a leg. Or, more accurately, two lobster hands. I’ve no idea why people continue to trust Stanley. He’s the most obviously creepy person the freaks have encountered. But Jimmy is in a desperate situation and being accused of murder tends to mess with you a bit.

Look on the bright side, Jimmy! At least Stanley didn’t want your head.

Dell (Michael Chiklis) is livid. Stanley’s not only blackmailed him (Dell) into committing murder, but now he’s added Dell’s son to his list of cons. I’ve warred with myself over Dell. He’s not likable, which is fine, and he’s weak. I’d like to think the writers were clever enough to make the strong man a morally weak character and it wasn’t happenstance. Moments of clarity, like Dell feeding Jimmy, are some of the finest, most impactful in the show.

“I’m nearly fifty, and I’m feeding my son for the first time,” Dell says, and you know what? I believe his sincerity. Yeah, he’s a dick. He’s made horrific choices his entire life, but there’s still humanity in him. I know, I’m a sucker. I love it. I love when they make plans to buy the freak show together. I love the idea of a future for father and son, a healthier relationship, a new beginning.

At this point, you know one of them is going to die.

Before the break, Maggie (Emma Roberts) revealed her and Stanley’s dark secret to Desiree (Angela Bassett) in a rather sadly downplayed moment. One trip to the American Morbidity Museum later, the cards are on the table. I bet Desiree is gunning for Dell the moment she gets back.

Telling them apart just got a whole lot easier.

In happier news, looks like Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson) have a shiny new lease on life. With their bickering at an end, Bette gives up her blonde ringlets for her old mousey-brown bob and the sisters are happier than they’ve ever been. Oh, and they’ve decided their first order of business is taking a lover.

Sometimes this show gives me whiplash from the sheer rapidity in which they reverse situations. I know this season has been all about the sex, but for some reason, I’m always startled by how abrupt and open it is.

They give over their diaries and embark on their mission as one, no secrets between them. I’m not sure how they managed to keep secrets with that telepathy thing going on, but maybe that’s just me. At least the girls have standards, and they are very particular about who they want to deflower them.

Ah, much better. No doll in sight.
Enter Chester (Neil Patrick Harris). I have been looking forward to this moment since I heard Neil Patrick Harris joined the cast. Admittedly, I haven’t enjoyed a lot of his television acting, but the one thing NPH does well is creepy. He did not disappoint me. Chester rolls in as a lizard salesman with dreams of being a stage magician. Elsa (Jessica Lange) is, as usual, unimpressed. It’s a freak show, not a magic show.

I loved Chester’s quirky, insecure charm. Then he introduced Marjorie (Jamie Brewer). We saw Marjorie in the previews before the break. She’s the ventriloquist’s dummy (but don’t call her that. “Dummy” is offensive.)

Okay. You guys have been with me through the season so far, and I think you’ve earned a moment of complete honesty: nothing freaks me out more than dolls, especially ventriloquist dummies than look like they’re demonically possessed. Marjorie is going to haunt my nightmares more soundly than Twisty (John Carroll Lynch) ever could.

You also know I love the crazy ones, so when Chester is having a full-on conversation with Marjorie sans audience, I know he’s whacked and this is going to be interesting. We get a few flashbacks to Chester’s former life in Georgia; he returned from the war with a plate in his head, found his wife had fallen in love with another woman, and he liked to watch (with Marjorie) as they engaged in a bit of horizontal refreshment.

Marjorie, it turns out, is the jealous type. “She” murdered Chester’s wife and her girlfriend, thus prompting him to flee and take up his lucrative career as a lizard salesman, and have I mentioned how weird this show is?

Freak that I am, I can’t decide of Chester is exhibiting signs of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) or PTSD projected into an inanimate object. How did he get Marjorie? That’s what I want to know.

Guess who the twins choose for their sexual debut? Chester! And to some lesser extent, Marjorie. She “relaxes him.” I’m still reeling from how straight and wary Dot suddenly turns welcoming and warm. You were my one hope for common sense on this show, Dot!

Dandy (Finn Wittrock) is sadly still hung up on the twins and certainly isn’t pleased by Chester’s interference. I know we experienced that lovely moment where Dandy turned his mother and the Avon lady into his own twin effigy, but I wish we’d gotten a small hint that he was spying on them before now. The detective he purchased is armed with photos, and I guess background information on Chester’s (Marjorie’s?) crimes.

Dandy’s response? “What a sicko.”

Naturally, he has to get revenge, so Dandy shows up at the freak show, intercepting Chester, who’s desperate to find Marjorie. She ran away, you know, but never fear! Dandy knows where she is.

I’m not sure what happened in those last moments. I don’t know how deep Chester’s psychosis goes, I don’t know if Dandy somehow influenced him or how the final sequence came about in reality, but Marjorie isn’t happy. She demands top billing (oh, Chester bought the freak show, by the way) and she needs her magician to saw the twins in half.

We conclude with Desiree and Dell. Dell’s just rescued Jimmy and the cops arrive in search for them. There’s no hiding the truth now. Desiree knows, and Dell knows that she knows. So after a bit of prompting, he breaks down and confesses. Elsa, as per usual, fires a bullet into the back of his skull. Turns out Maggie managed (somehow) to smuggle Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) from the museum and showed her to Elsa. Elsa flawlessly executes Dell, claiming his admission of guilt was “all she needed to hear.”

Next week should be interesting.

We’re coming to the end of the line. With two episodes left and a bundle of loose ends, I’m praying for a miraculous conclusion to this season of our beloved (and occasionally frustrating) anthology. Who’s going to make it to the season finale? What are we in for next season? Leave your theories and comments below and let’s get the speculations going.


Meghan Harker grew up in a small, awkwardly-named town in Georgia. She attended Brenau University, where she earned her BA in English and a minor in Graphic Design; she also attended the University of Cambridge, England, where she didn't quite master the perfect Oxbridge accent. She's an avid reader, writer, and fire spinner. She's currently working her first novel, a paranormal thriller. Visit her blog at ExquisitelyOdd.com.

Read all posts by Meghan Harker for Criminal Element.

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