I know I’m being repetitive as hell, but man I love this season. The format, the characters, the story, the suspense: it finally all works. We spent the first half of the season in a creepy, tension-filled story and I was worried the twist last week would ruin it all, but this is a reset button that works. The second half of the season is a new-ish format (all found footage now) and is a fun bloodbath. The jokes and the camp and the nonsense work when you have actors and reality show contestants as the characters, and the first half was so uncharacteristically restrained that it doesn’t feel like overkill. Man, I love this season.
This week’s episode starts just before last weeks ended: Dominic (Cuba Gooding Jr.) has just arrived at the house, and Sidney is watching in the production trailer hoping for a fight. Matt and Dominic start to take swings at one another when another member of the crew comes in with food for Sidney and the cameraman. They chat about poor, dead-but-no-one-knows-it Diana and then dig into their greasy fried dinner. The camera man is the only one who happens to catch the action on the monitors behind them: Rory being stabbed by the nurses. Sidney goes to rewind the tapes when they hear a scream outside the trailer. The girl bringing them dinner (did she get a name?) has been attacked and is bleeding out, which Sidney insists they film. Agnes (Kathy Bates) comes running out in full Butcher gear and swings her hatchet, taking down Sidney and the camera man. We’re only starting episode two and the body count is up to four. I love this season.
Back inside the house, everyone is searching for Rory when Audrey decides it’s a hoax made by Sidney. Rory had a movie offer, she tells them, and Sidney must have used that to make it look like he’d been killed to scare everyone else. This is one of the three or four times this episode someone looks into the camera yelling at Sidney, not knowing he’s dead in the grass.
With that seemingly diffused, everyone scatters again and Dominic takes a moment to talk to Shelby. Dominic is here to be the bad guy, he says, because bad guys are the true stars of reality TV. He’s going to break up Shelby and Matt for good, for no reason but ratings, and even has a body cam so he can get some scandalous up close shots. Dominic tries to convince Shelby to give him a chance since Matt doesn’t want her anymore, but Shelby thinks she can win Matt back. Matt sees the two talking closely and tells them Dominic can have Shelby, he doesn’t want or care about her anymore. It’s a dick move but that doesn’t seem to deter Shelby.
Meanwhile, Agnes is holed up in the bunker acting as crazy as ever. She’s still dressed as the Butcher, talking to her camera and slipping in and out of personalities. As the Butcher, she believes what she did was right and true and she was defending her land. Then she slips, and Agnes can’t believe she murdered a P.A. who had a new baby and was always kind to her on set. Is she more Agnes or the Butcher right now? Agnes, I think, since the lights flicker and she’s suddenly surrounded by those Blair Witch symbols. The Butcher must not be happy with Agnes stealing her thunder.
And does she ever: in a blink of an eye, Agnes is back at the house attacking Shelby. She slashes her int he shoulder with her clever and stops to wonder why Shelby is still filming her (in true found footage fashion). Shelby wants the world to see who killed her and is ready to die, but Dominic comes flying in before Agnes can finish the job. He pulls Agnes off and tends to Shelby’s wounds and Agnes seemingly disappears from the room. Are there more secret tunnels than just the one we know?
No one’s cell phones work, and help doesn’t seem to be coming from Sidney in the production office. Matt is tending to Shelby now and tells Dominic he should be the one to go for help. Lee says she’ll go find Sidney and call an ambulance because she has a gun with her for protection. Monet and Audrey tag along, even though they think Lee is a murderer. Okay, whatever. More importantly, Lee is going to film every moment and wants them to film too: the house is filled with cameras that the crew can manipulate and edit, but if they film the truth no one can edit that. So the three girls take to the tunnel below the house to escape, cell phone cameras in hand. They see the ghost of Mott, which Audrey thinks is Rory and Lee shoots at for some reason. The ghost charges them and they escape the tunnel into the woods, terrified. “What was that!” “You knew that was down there?” Guys, we all knew that was down there. Audrey, you filmed that scene. The ghost lives in the tunnels. Come on, ladies!
They make their way through the woods to the production trailer and find the three crew members dead outside, covered in blood with organs spilling out. “Are they dead?” cries Audrey. “Uh, YEAH.” Snaps Lee. “I don’t know, I’m not American, I’m not used to all this CARNAGE!” Audrey bawls. It’s the best exchange of the night, possibly of the show. I love them. Agnes reappears, clever in hand, and Lee finally hits a living target. Agnes goes down and the women go running into the woods, back to the house. Wait, what? What about walking to town or finding help? Nope, they’re going back to the ghost house.
Back at the house, Matt and Shelby are napping together when he awakens suddenly and walks down to the basement, seemingly in a trance. Dominic sees him and follows downstairs, where Matt and the real tree witch (no more Lady Gaga!) are going at it. Dominic runs upstairs to get Shelby and show her what’s happening. Shelby freaks and throws the witch off Matt, and the witch takes off. She tells Matt they have to leave, get away from the witch before she tries to take Matt again when Matt finally comes clean: he loves the witch. He can’t get enough of her. He didn’t come here to see Shelby again, he came to find the witch and be with her. This is the final straw for Shelby, who bashes Matt’s head in. Yep, meek little Shelby, always crying and shouting “MAAAAAATT” bashed his damn head in. The only one more surprised than me is maybe Dominic, the unwitting witness to all this madness.
It’s Blair Witch redux with Lee, Monet and Audrey running through the forest, filming themselves. They see torches (the real Roanoke ghosts! Finally!) and run off the road into the woods, where they stop and Audrey gives a heart felt sobbing to the camera confession. She loves Rory, and he gave her the best months of her life, and a drop of blood lands on her face as she talks. Rory’s corpse is strung out across the tree, ripped open and bleeding down onto them. She freaks out and sobs while Lee insists that they keep filming while Audrey grieves, but they don’t get to for long. The real Polk family, the cannibal hillbillies, have arrived. They’re separated at the Polk house, with Lee being tortured on her own. The hillbillies rip her clothes off (still filming, which is considerate of them) and start to season her leg. “You’ve got to tenderise the meat,” Mama Polk says before stabbing Lee’s leg. We don’t see what happens to her next, but Mama Polk and the others are now feeding strips of meat to Monet and Audrey.
Back at the house, Dominic is trying to convince Shelby to turn herself in. The murder was caught on multiple cameras, and the whole crew knows she did it (spoilers: the whole crew is dead). So much for Dominic being the bad boy of the season, he’s the only smart and good character so far. He saved Shelby, took care of her injury, showed her the truth about Matt and is gently talking her off the ledge now. Team Dominic!
They don’t get very far because Agnes is outside the house, screaming and lighting torches and, of course, filming herself. She’s got gas cans everywhere and is getting ready to torch the house when the real Roanoke ghosts show up behind her. Agnes is excited until she realises the real Butcher is with them. Agnes gasps and drops to her knees, eyes filled with tears and says “I just wanted to be on TV.” Maybe not the best plea? The Butcher, obviously, pulls out her clever and slices Agnes’ head off. “Oh shit!” Dominic shouts, as do I.
We’ve got quite a few episodes left, and the body count is already pretty high. There are only about five characters left (if we think Lee survived her run-in with the Polks), and we’ve been promised one will be left standing. My two guesses (Matt, because the witch would protect him, or Agnes, because she’s possessed by the Butcher) both bit it this episode, so I’m not sure who our final girl or guy will be. I’m rooting for Dominic now, but his cool-headed sanity when faced with danger will never make it through a season of American Horror Story.
Who’s going to be our lone survivor? Or is that just another AHS fake out?