These long episodes are ensuring my recaps are insanely long. #SorryNotSorry but starting this off with a reminder that....There will be spoilers, so read at your own risk.
We start the episode with a few answers to some of my questions from last week. We now know what happened to Max Greenfield (who is apparently called Gabriel) and we also know who is sewing people into mattresses - Sally! Gabriel may have cheated death but Sally will not let that stand. She's sewing him into a mattress and his future is basically that of the poor guy who traumatized the Swedish tourists. Sally tells him it is all his fault for thinking he could cheat death as she starts to sew.
She's interrupted by the Swedish tourist who is still alive (for now) screaming. Sally is pissed and goes to investigate. At this point I am yelling "RUN BLONDE MAX GREENFIELD, RUN" at my TV. Sally is pissed and snaps at Iris to shut up the screaming woman while snarkingly asking 'did you forget a cop is staying here?' which is my favourite line. The child 'vampires' are feasting, with one of them declaring that the Swedish tourist 'tastes gross'. That's because she's dead. Elizabeth Taylor tosses the body down a very convenient chute (first nod to the episode title). We also find out that the poor guy in the mattress from the last episode ended up in the basement as well.
After feeding the child 'vamps' are being drained of their blood. Are they a filtering system for Countess and Donovan? The 'vamp' children's blood is being decanted for them and when Iris delivers it she asks the Countess to see Donovan but Donovan doesn't want to see her. He quips that he became a junkie to escape from his mother and that Countess has ensured that he never can. So, wait. Does his mean Murder House rules apply for the hotel? You die inside it and you never leave?! Interesting.
Countess wants to go to an art opening but Donovan just wants to Netflix and chill. Countess is all about the hunt though (she's insatiable) and goes without him. She looks sad and wistful about it though, as if Donovan has disappointed her and the look on her face feels an awful lot like a more permanent goodbye than any of the words used.
A dreamy, hallucinatory sequence shows that John is having a very bad time sleeping in room 64. This room is the actual worst. Some of these scenes are fantastic though as the pacing, and camera work make them very unsettling. Especially effective is John creeping up to the closed shower curtain. It's a heart pounding in time with the pulsing background kind of moment and it really works. He wakes gasping in bed and goes to investigate a noise. Of course he sees Holden again and it results in a chase through the hotel with Holden giggling as John desperately calls his son's name. He looses him only to wind up at the bar with Elizabeth Taylor and Sally. Sally tells him that 'weird things go down, especially at night'. Which, no kidding. We also find out that John is a recovering alcoholic. Everyone in this hotel has an addiction of sorts it appears (some more obvious than others). Sally compares getting high, at least at first, to heaven. Getting close to this blinding light. As time went on it became harder and harder to get to that light. She got lost along the way as she tried to climb higher and higher on this endless ladder (title reference number two). She encourages John to 'climb that ladder' as she senses he wants to get lost too and prompts him to tell her about the last day he drank.
In what may be sad foreshadowing John shares the story of a father who accidentally kills his children with carbon monoxide poisoning and as a result kills himself. Will this be John's fate? His son, daughter, and wife killed (or vampires) and it pushes him over the edge? It feels a little like he's headed down that path. That night sent John on a two day bender, and he offered up the carnival trip as a desperate gesture to make amends (and ended with him losing Holden) which we know made things worse. Hence the no drinking. John's story is incredibly heartbreaking.
Back at the police station, John is informed that this killer is tech savvy as he is capable of sending texts that appear to be from other phones (and he immediately clues in that the original text sending him to the crime scene in the last episode was most likely not sent from his wife, but the killer). John is informed he has a package waiting for him and smartly calls in the bomb squad who determines it is not a bomb, but rather a murder weapon. It's an Oscar covered in blood (probably used on one of the previous victims).
Will Drake is holding a fashion show within the hotel, which is a perfect backdrop for it. John goes to meet his daughter, who has a police escort, in the lobby. She is impressed by the hotel, and even more impressed by the fact that there is a party. Will invites John and his daughter, telling John that Scarlet can play with his son. Hold up a second though. Why does Will know Scarlet's name? John never mentioned it (I have rewatched this scene to make sure) so is there something more going on with Will? Am I reading too much into this? Guess we'll find out.
Sally is pissed (a common state of being for her, which fair. I would be too if I was tossed out a building window) that she is not on the guest list for Will's fancy fashion party. She does live there, as she reminds them.
The lights go out and the Countess and Donovan make quite the entrance looking stunning. Donovan points out John, telling her that he's the cop who checked into room 64. Countess comments that he is very handsome, prompting Donovan to reply with this amazing line
I will admit the guys on the show all share a certain look. I wonder if this is meant to be significant and if it was done deliberately. This quote certainly makes it appear so. We will see if it ties into the overall story in any real way, but I am betting it does.
Helllllo Tristan. Nice to meet you. Where you been? His entrance is certainly splashy. Tristan shares the addiction of many at Hotel Cortez and is the bad boy of modelling. He takes drinks from people's hands, attempts to make out with most of the audience (I volunteer as tribute) and genuinely doesn't give any fucks. He makes eye contact with Countess and there is this zap of energy. Both are instantly enthralled with the other (which fair, because Finn Wittrock). Side note that has nothing to do with anything - so happy Finn Wittrock is back. Countess is mesmerized, which prompts Donovan to call her out on it. She replies that Tristan smells like rage, like copper. Yes, Tristan is a very angry person. He also happens to be done with modelling and, as a way to get out of it, slashes his own face with scissors (NOT THE BEAUTIFUL FACE).
Scarlet and Lachlan decide to sneak off during Tristan's spectacle as Lachlan wants to show her something that she has to keep secret. No surprise it's the 'vampire' children in their coffins. Lachlan tells her that nothing wakes them up, only to be proven wrong when he knocks on the lid and Holden opens his eyes. Hmm... I wonder if he is sensing that his sister is there?
For some reason, instead of talking to her brother, Scarlet goes back home? Unsure, but we next see her watching videos of her brother and herself when they were babies in her room.
Tristan is on a rampage. Breaking open doors, tossing stuff around, all to find some more drugs. He starts to go through Countess' things and is interrupted by Donovan who tells him to stop before Donovan makes him stop. Tristan, proving again that he gives zero fucks, tells him to go ahead and call the cops. Donovan has zero patience for Tristan or his tantrums and goes to kill Tristan by choking him (after tasting his blood, of course). Tristan is saved by Countess who cannot hide her crush at all.
Tristan runs out and decides to eat someone's room service that is left in the hall (which, rude) but discovers his sandwich is actually full of maggots. He enters another room and begins to explore, only to be interrupted by Evan Peters who looks like he's stepped out of a black and white movie. He informs Tristan that they are the same deep down in their black hearts, and that he can show Tristan what he has been missing. He calls for someone and it's the maid who has been cleaning up all the blood in Hotel Cortez with a girl who has been tied up. This prompts Tristan to inform them that 'bondage really bores me' before Evan Peters lets him in on the truth. He wants Tristan to KILL the girl. Tells him that it is exhilarating. Tristan doesn't want to do it, so Evan Peters does (to which the maid says 'What a glorious stain') and Tristan runs out of the room and right into Countess.
Meanwhile, John's daughter is taking the bus from their home in the suburbs to the hotel, as her reminiscing has obviously made her want to go find her brother (FINALLY). She finds her way into the room where the vampire children spend their time and Holden is there. He knows who she is, and asks her what took her so long. It's heartbreaking as Holden recognizes that there is a difference in Scarlet that isn't in him. Scarlet wants to take Holden back to their parents but Holden is not having it. He likes it at Hotel Cortez. Scarlet wants a selfie with him at least, but when she gets close Holden tries to bite her as she snaps the picture. She runs and bumps into Sally who has serious dental issues as all her teeth start to rot and fall out (traumatizing Scarlet for life).
Scarlet takes the bus back to her house, to discover her parents are worried as she has been gone 5 hours. She tells that she shook her police escort because she wanted to make sure it was Holden and wanted to surprise them with him. This is where I get a little annoyed. John, your daughter tells you she saw her brother. The same kid YOU saw at the hotel. Instead of believing her and supporting her, YOU YELL AT HER? Not okay. Maybe some of this is his own issues coming out, but still. YOU SAW HIM, JOHN. She is all 'I am not a lying liar. I have a picture' but all that is there is Scarlet with a blurry person beside her. John's wife does let it slip that she blames John for what happened to Holden though. Yeah, this marriage is done.
Tristan is admiring himself in the mirror, and it appears he's been 'infected' by Countess as he is quite happy that the effects of his drug use are gone, and that he is so hot that it prompts him to say that 'I'd do me' as he gazes at his own reflection. Countess admits that their 'condition' means they never age and have a super charged immune system. It also prompts this AMAZING exchange...
1- No fangs. They prefer to cut instead.
2- Never drink from the dead, the diseased or polluted. So basically fresh, clean blood only.
3- No coffins. Blackout curtains work fine as the sun doesn't kill them, it just weakens them.
Countess tells him that he reminds her of someone almost wistfully. She's obviously lost in a memory but all Tristan cares about is killing Kendall Jenner as she blew him off once at Coachella. Tristan is so current, so NOW, that when compared to Donovan (who is so grunge 90's Kurt Cobain when Countess meets him) he is exciting and new. Countess trades them in so that she always feel the same age is my guess. It's an interesting dynamic and one that I hope might be explored. I think this is the Countess' addiction. She is always looking for the next, new thing. She always wants to feel current and relevant and does that through her lover du jour.
Countess informs Tristan to 'not get caught' killing people and that he should never fall in love (because that is saved for her alone, forever). This basically ensures that Tristan is falling in love with someone else before the season is done and I guarantee the Countess kills her (or him).
This episode is answering a lot of questions about the Countess and her 'virus'. First she was born in 1904 and the person who 'turned' her is even more beautiful than Tristan and a guy (who is apparently long gone now as per Countess). She is kind of blowing Tristan's mind as he is questioning her amidst marathon sexytime sessions.
This 'virus' is very similar to a sexually transmitted disease which adds another layer to this show's theme of addiction. I wonder if there are rules about passing it along, or if Tristan is now capable of infecting anyone he wants to like she is. This could get super interesting.
Donovan comes to break up their sexytimes and tells Tristan he won't last a week. Donovan and Tristan REALLY don't like each other. Countess asks Tristan to leave for a minute prompting Donovan to express his disgust that she's turned Tristan. Donovan insults Tristan and Countess insults Donovan...
Countess tells Donovan that she didn't want to hurt him, and that there is no reason that this has to end badly. She is basically kicking him to the curb for Tristan (lending proof to my theory that she trades them in when the next thing comes along to keep herself feeling current). Donovan protests, tells her that he loves her. Countess just tells him that it's the heartbreaks that make them who they are. He protests again, and reminds her of what she said about the night she turned him. She had said it was the most spiritual moment of her life. He pushes her to tell him that she felt the same about turning Tristan. She tells him that turning Tristan was one of the most erotic moments she's ever experienced, which visibly hurts Donovan. The look on Countess' face as she taps that final nail into their relationship coffin tells us everything about her character without a word. She relishes hurting him. Oh, Tristan. Donovan is PISSED now. I predict Tristan doesn't last the entire season because Donovan is going to be out for blood.
John storms into the lobby and starts yelling at Iris about everything that is going on in the hotel. He's pissed and wants answers. He goes to arrest her for murder or maybe kidnapping (he's not really sure which, he's just unravelling) and Iris quips 'aren't you going to frisk me first' when he whips out the handcuffs. John wants her to tell him all about Hotel Cortez, so sit back because it's story time, nightmare inducing style.
The hotel's origins are as blood soaked as the current going ons. We find out that Evan Peters is actually the gentleman who built the hotel, and that his name is James Patrick March. This is basically American Horror Story's version of H. H. Holmes. He designed the hotel to include hidden chutes, hallways that lead nowhere, secret passages, and all so he could commit murder. Evan Peters is so DIFFERENT from his other AHS roles, and he is KILLING it. He does a phenomenal job and has thrown himself into this character. I love that it was shot in black and white because this character screams black and white. We quickly see that Mr March is addicted to murder (there is that addiction theme again) and that his loving maid (who currently still cleans up the messes in Hotel Cortez) is addicted to him. If Tristan Duffy is right out of American Psycho (or other Bret Easton Ellis novel) this character is right out of a golden age of Hollywood horror movie.
We catch the briefest glimpse of Mr March's wife who is blonde, and he apparently made her watch his kills. However we do see her remove the gag from the victim's mouth saying that she 'liked it' and I don't think she meant the scarf itself. I think she loved every minute of the screaming and that she's actually the Countess. Is he the person who gave her the virus? Doubtful, but I do think she was married to him. He is probably who Tristan reminds her of.
James March has a conversation with a victim about religion and God. The victim taunts that as long as there is God, James will never find peace. James vows that his message to world will be one against religion (basically he vows to kill God) and wants every bible brought to him. Hmm... perhaps these murders are not inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins, but rather the Ten Commandments. We see what could be the first murder in the ones currently haunting John, and since James wasn't careful with not leaving behind clues, he gets caught. The police are at his door so he kills his loving maid, Ms Evers, and then himself. This new information makes me think Murder House rules do apply and that is why they are both still there. Is Mr March the current Ten Commandments Killer too? Or someone copying him? I can't be Mr March if Murder House rules apply because he would not be able to leave.
Story time over with, John claps and tells Iris she should work as a writer for the movies. She tells him that room 64 was Mr March's office, and that it's the heart of the hotel (which is black as the ace of spades) and that he's sleeping in it (so he best get to believing).
John gets confirmation that the gold flecks on the first victim are a match to the Oscar statue delivered to John (just, ewww). John also has an interest in Mr March now, as he puts it together that the murders are in fact inspired by the Ten Commandments.
We end the episode with Tristan picking up a guy using a social media app (Grindr, maybe) and luring him to the hotel with the promise of sex. They make out in the elevator, but the guy is dismayed when Countess joins them in the bedroom. The poor guy is viciously stabbed by Tristan. Tristan offers some blood to Countess who says she'd rather watch. Another potential clue to her being Mr March's wife (he did 'make' her watch, right?). Tristan and Countess start making out over the dead guy's body as Tristan breathlessly tells her 'I want more'. Me too, Tristan. Me too.
You are a saint if you've read this entire thing. Sorry so wordy (blame the almost 2 hour show length). We got some answers, more questions, and lots of blood and sex. Cannot wait to see if any of my theories are right. Did I miss anything? Do you have theories of your own? Let me know in the comments.
Until next week .... enjoy your stay (but maybe avoid room service).