AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM “The Coat Hanger” Episode Recap

Pregnancy was the main theme in last week’s episode, though this being American Horror Story, that episode was of course called “The Coat Hanger.”

We open in the modern day, with a man claiming to be named John Morgan (Dylan McDermott) meeting a therapist (called Dr. Gardner) who may be able to curb some of his “impulses” via post-hypnotic suggestion that have been developing since he was a child.  The therapist at first assumes he is talking about touching himself, but John replies that this is not the case.  As a child he felt compelled to skin an (already dead) cat, and from there he moved on to killing the animals to skin them, and ultimately kill people.  Living in foster care and curious about his origins, he did some research, only to discover that his last name is not Morgan…it was Thredson.  “I’m the son of Bloody Face,” the man says.  He wants the therapist to cure him so he can go to medical school, in order to get the proper training and learn how to skin people better!

For the record, I totally called the whole "Son of Bloody Face" thing.
For the record, I totally called the whole “Son of Bloody Face” thing.

Next we’re back in 1964.  Sister Mary meets with Lana, and reveals to her that she is pregnant.  Lana doesn’t want to have the baby, but Sister Mary is going to force her to have it anyway, as she runs Briarcliff now.  Mary seems to be using the baby as an excuse to keep Lana in the asylum.  When Lana doubts Sister Mary’s story, Mary passes a piece of paper to Lana proving she is right, and Lana faints.

Sister Jude awakens, bound to a bed, looking up at Father Howard.  At first it seems she is tied down for killing Lee (the murderous Santa Claus in the previous episode), but as it turns out Lee is still alive!  Jude is being framed for killing the guard Frank (whom Mary actually killed).  In a brief flashback we see various members of Briarcliff speaking with a lawyer about Frank’s death.  Mary and Arden are clearly the orchestrators, and Lee gives witness to saying he saw the deed from his jail cell.  Father Howard has been fooled into believing it as well (and he possibly wants to protect a bit about his work with Arden), and even Mother Claudia now believes Jude is crazy, doubting Jude’s story of the devil possessing Sister Mary.  The sequence ends with Howard telling Jude she is considered a patient at Briarcliff now.  How the tables have turned!

Next we have a brief scene of Lana working in the kitchen.  She notices a worker carrying uniforms on a rack into a storage closet…hmm…

Father Howard looks over Jude’s belongings, the red lingerie in particular.  Mary catches him, and asks about Howard’s desire to be pope (which Sister Jude told her about).  Howard is put off at first, but Mary says she’s there to help him, and continues to plant the seeds of ambition in Father Howard’s mind.

Alone in her cell, we see why Lana was so interested in the storage closet, as she pulls out a hidden coat hanger.  Uh-oh!

Two nuns abusively try to hold down Jude as she refuses her pills.  Seeing what is going on, Howard tells them off, then brings in Lee.  Lee responds that he “forgives” Sister Jude for everything she has done.  There is a flashback to when Lee was in jail, and their places were switched.  Lee is shown being thrown into solitary, and Jude says she will never forgive him for what he has done.  Lee replies that he doesn’t need her forgiveness.  When the flashback is over, Lee kisses Jude on the head, and Jude is shocked, remembering and realizing the irony (Jessica Lange is fantastic in this scene, by the way).  Despite being an actual murderer, Lee is being the bigger person, or at least putting up the appearance of being one.

We catch up with Kit next, who has been faking taking the drugs through the IV.  Lana approaches him finally wanting to kill Thredson, but Kit responds again that he doesn’t want this to happen because he thinks he’ll get sent to the electric chair.  Lana, however, thinks she has a way to make Thredson talk.

Puzzled about the disappearance of Grace’s body in the previous episode, Arden searches through the death chute catacombs, and sees some alien footprints on the ground.

In the supply closet where Thredson has been locked away, Lana approaches him.  She gives him some water, and then shows Thredson the slip of paper proving that she is pregnant.  Thredson desperately wants to be a father, since he doesn’t want the child to grow up an orphan like himself (ultimately what led to his perversion).  Lana tells Thredson she plans to abort the baby, and pulls out the coat hanger, threatening to do it right in front of him.  Thredson gets desperate, and Lana starts interrogating him about each of the murders.  When she asks about her former lover Wendy, Thredson grows sinister, saying that he knows she never loved Lana.  However Lana fights back as their dialogue is suddenly played back.  Kit was outside the door, and has been recording their entire conversation.  Thredson realizes he’s been had, and asks if it was all a lie, even the baby.  Lana responds that the part about the baby was true, but that she already performed the abortion the night before.   There is a quick (and super gross) flashback showing this.  Eww!!!  Having the confession, Lana says that she plans to kill Thredson next, and she leaves him alone in the closet.

Kit walks through the ward with the tape recording, and decides to hide it in the bathroom.  He is almost caught by Dr. Arden, who seems to have a slight inkling that something might be up.

However if Arden suspects anything, he doesn’t show it.  He brings Kit into his office and offers him a cigarette, then a drink (which Kit refuses).  Arden admits he’s seen the same alien creatures Kit has seen, showing Kit a cast of the print in the death chute.  Arden knows the aliens took Grace’s body, and since Arden knows Kit and Grace had sex, he asks if Kit had sex with Alma before she was taken also.  Arden believes the aliens are experimenting, perhaps performing some type of eugenics.  Since he believes the creatures are studying Kit, he wants to use Kit to find a way to bring them back.  If Kit were brought to the brink of death the aliens, clearly interested in Kit, might return to stop this from happening.  “You want to kill me?” asks Kit.  “No Mr. Walker,” Arden replies, “I want to almost kill you.”  Arden would prefer Kit to cooperate, but makes it clear he is not asking permission.  Kit allows it, because he wants to see his wife Alma again.  Then, in a symbolic gesture, Kit takes the drink.

On kitchen duty again, Lana steals a large knife to kill Dr. Arden.  However she gets caught by a large guard, and he makes it let her go.

In church Lee prays, and is approached by Father Howard.  Howard seems to believe that Lee could actually be repentant (though I’m not buying it), though I didn’t buy it for a second.  Howard’s ambition is clearly clouding his judgment, since  at the very least he should have remembered that Lee went ballistic and tried to kill Frank at the Christmas tree ceremony only a few nights before.  Regardless, Howard baptizes Lee.  Then, unsurprisingly, Lee drowns Father Howard in the holy water, which admittedly is kind of a poetic way for him to go.

Seriously, how stupid can you get?!
Seriously, how stupid can you get?!

Lana returns to her room, and tries to turn her (bloody…yuck!) coat hanger into some sort of stabbing weapon.  She practices stabbing her pillow, and it seems like it will get the job done.  She rushes to Thredson’s closet, only to find that Thredson has escaped or gone missing!  Uh-oh!!!  How did he get out?  Did Dr. Arden do it?  We don’t have time to find out, as Lana goes running through the asylum only to run into Sister Mary.  Lana thinks Mary must have let Lana go, though we don’t get a definitive answer from Mary.  Mary confiscates Lana’s coat hanger, and feeling Lana’s belly (and using her demon powers), sees that the baby is still alive.  She can even tell that it is a boy!  It seems doubtful, but did Sister Mary manage to bring the baby back to life with her demon powers?!  Or is Lana just really bad at performing her own abortion?

Back in the modern day, another girl comes to see Dr. Gardner.  Seeing only the back of the therapist’s chair, in a shot taken straight out of the Hitchcock classic Psycho, the girl turns the chair around to see Dr. Gardner has been killed (though not skinned…yet).  As the girl tries to escape, she runs right into modern era Bloody Face himself!

We come back to 1964 with a close-up on the record player in the break room, which Jude demanded to play music in the first episode.  Lana sits in a chair smoking (which you shouldn’t do with a baby, but yet again this is 1964 and Lana doesn’t seem to want this baby either!), and is approached by Sister Jude.  “What did they do to you?” asks Lana.  “Nothing I didn’t do to you,” replies Jude.  In my favorite line from the episode Jude then asks, “Goddammit, give me a cigarette, I’ve earned it,” which is a line far removed from the pious Jude we’ve seen in the past, and shows just how much she’s changed.  Jude even slips off the cigarette filter, and takes a deep and heavy drag.  Jude apologizes to Lana, though she says she doesn’t expect forgiveness (a reference to the Lee scene earlier in the episode).  Jude then tells Lana she wants to help her escape, but Lana is untrustworthy, since her last escape didn’t go so well.  Jude promises to earn Lana’s trust stating, “things are going to change around here.”  Jude then walks across the room and switches off the record player, smashing the record on the ground.  She gets a round of applause from the other inmates–it’s probably the first time any of them have approved of something she has done!

On Arden’s operating table, Arden explains to Kit that he plans to stab him with a drug that will cause his heart to stop beating in a matter of minutes, but that he has another drug that can be used to revive him.   Kit is scared, but willing to go through with it.  Kit whispers the Lord’s Prayer, the only prayer he can remember, “Just in case.”

Apparently those alien lights do NOT help you get a good tan, though...
Apparently those alien lights do NOT help you get a good tan, though…

Arden stabs Kit Pulp Fiction style and Kit’s heart stops beating.  Sure enough, the alien lights appear!  Arden searches around to find their source, only to discover Pepper the Pinhead.  I haven’t mentioned Pepper in these recaps because up until now she had seemed a minor character, but she was an inmate who appeared in the first few episodes who seemingly got lost in the Nor’easter storm.  Looks like she may have been abducted by aliens instead!  Pepper (speaking without any sign of mental retardation, which is odd) tells Arden that the baby is in full term, and it won’t be long.  Grace is also there, looking up at Arden, seeming very calm and SUPER pregnant.  Arden demands to know who brought Grace there, but Pepper only responds that she’ll look after Grace (is Pepper an alien?).  Arden feels Grace’s belly, amazed.  Meanwhile I’m wondering why Arden doesn’t run back and save Kit!

In the final scene, a worker catches Howard strung to the cross in the church, like Christ.  As the worker runs to get help, the Angel of Death approaches, Howard pleads, “Help me” to which the angel responds “I’m here.”

We won’t have a new episode of American Horror Story until early January, but we’re pretty close to the end at this point.  I’m eager to finally see what’s going on with the aliens, and how (if?) the show will tie everything up.  Have a Happy New Year everyone!

Read last week’s recap here.

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The Author

Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. Son of an archaeologist, he spent his childhood years developing a fondness of nature and the outdoors, which was rivaled only for his love of filmmaking and storytelling.
In 2008 he graduated from the University of Southern California's film program, and currently makes a living as an editor in addition to working on his own creative projects.
He has a weakness for redheads, seafood pasta, and dinosaurs.