"Pink Cupcakes" continues the show's grand tradition of mixing sex and blood and showbiz, with some added "gotcha" moments that had me questioning the future of the season. It also gives some good screen time to one of the biggest stars on the show, Angela Bassett, and her character Desiree Dupree, and it introduces two new characters that are already very interesting.
Let's start the show. Spoilers from here on out.
"We Toil In The Dark"
The very first scenes of the episode are a fantasy of Stanley's that takes place at the medical oddity museum, where there's a "Night of Discovery" gala and unveiling of their latest specimen. Stanley (Denis O'Hare) and Maggie (Emma Roberts) are in the audience, and there's someone awfully familiar floating in the tank. It's a fantasy that we'll return to again and again, wherein Stanley finally gets his day in the sun (and gets paid) for bringing in rare and pricey specimens. Maggie sniffs at him for hoping to be mentioned at the unveiling ceremony, and he replies, "You and I, we toil in the dark, unrecognized, unappreciated -" "But well paid," Maggie replies. This is a theme the show returns to again and again, the hidden side of life that's often seen as unsavory, seedy, dangerous, or immoral, and how we all trick ourselves into thinking that what we're doing is justified or somehow, well, at least not as bad as what everyone else is up to. Of course, killing people to sell as medical specimens is actually much worse than, say, being a woman with a beard, but try telling that to Stanley and Maggie.
Back in real life, Maggie and Stanley are plotting in his hotel room. When a bunch of men's magazines fall out of Stanley's suitcase, Maggie's disgusted and insults him. This isn't the first time someone's made homophobic remarks, and it's usually in terms of how [fill in the '50s slang here] are so much worse than the sideshow freaks. Everyone is looking for someone else to look down on around here, to make themselves feel better about their own shortcomings. Whether or not that's true in real life is up to just how cynical the viewer is about human nature.
Mommy and Daddy Issues
Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy) isn't as daffy as she sounds; she's unpleasantly surprised by Dora's corpse in the dining room, but she knows how to handle the situation. After all, Dandy (Finn Wittrock) does take after his daddy. Dora (Patti LaBelle) is given a rather undignified burial in the backyard as Gloria waxes poetic about the dangers of inbreeding among the affluent; psychos like Dandy just sort of pop up now and then, you know? Dandy's career as a serial killer starts off with some "American Psycho"-style calisthenics and posing in his tighty whiteys and droning on about the theater and how his mother ruins everything. He has a real "Leaves of Grass" moment as he's writhing around in his undies when he exclaims, "This body is America!"
Speaking of mommy issues, Dora's daughter Regina is getting worried. Gabourey Sidibe's character is finally revealed, and she shoots to the top of the show's Most Valuable Player list in just the course of one long-distance phone call. Regina is concerned that her mom missed their weekly call, but Gloria is more interested in reminiscing about Dandy's childhood and whether or not she was a bad mom. "I'm feeling really uncomfortable so I'm going to go now," Regina says, which is exactly the sort of sensible thing no one on "American Horror Story" ever says; she's already piquing my interest!
Then there's Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) and his crooked family tree. Maggie tries to warn him about a bad guy coming his way who will feed him all sorts of lies (that would be Maggie's buddy Stanley), but he gets sad when she rebuffs his kiss and runs off with a pout. When he's sent to scare up Dell before the show starts, he finds Desiree alone in her and Dell's trailer. She's drunk and depressed because she knows he's up to something, and honestly, when you're a woman with three breasts and "a ding-a-ling," well, love stinks.
This is just the beginning of Bassett's episode ownage. She gets a tasty monologue about why she loves Dell and what it was like growing up being raised as a boy until puberty when she grew not two but three breasts and so on. Naturally, all of this sadness makes them both feel aroused! Jimmy does what he does, but this time around, what he normally does with his claw hand does something ... bad. Like, there's blood and stuff. Ethel (Kathy Bates) brings Desiree to her doctor, who continues to be much more understanding and empathetic than most doctors today are towards people with gender non-conforming bodies, never mind someone in the '50s in Florida. Turns out, Desiree was pregnant and miscarried; she is "100 percent woman," according to the doc. I'm not buying whatever the explanation is for Desiree's third breast, but he did explain that she simply has an oversized clitoris, and that he could easily make it smaller if she wanted but it's really not a big deal. Desiree's psyched to try having another baby with Dell, but Ethel has some bad news for her... besides the fact that she was just pretty intimate with her stepson.
Dysfunctional Duos and More Darkness
While Desiree is busy getting frisky with Jimmy, Dell is at a gentleman's club where you can hire a fellow for company and other services. He's smitten with a young artist named Andy (Matt Bomer), but Andy's not buying his big talk of whisking him away and so on. Andy wants to know what Dell's got to lose by coming out, why, if he's so in love with Andy, he has to keep it a secret when Dell is already in the freak show? He's already an outsider, so what's the difference? Because, unlike almost all of the other performers in Elsa's show, Dell has the privilege of passing as a "normal" person in everyday life. Jimmy can wear gloves to hide his hands, but that's about as far as it goes.
Again, it's a question of what each character thinks is worse in the sociological food chain. Is having two heads morally inferior to being gay? Is being a murderer better or worse than having lobster claw-like hands? Well, we can all probably agree that murder is worse, but you get the idea.
So Dell is conflicted about his different desires. As we see later in the episode, he doesn't want to have a baby with Desiree but he doesn't want her to leave him either. And he definitely doesn't want the doctor to do anything that will give her the confidence to leave him. He returns to his trailer to find Desiree packed and ready to go; she knows the truth about him and about his son and about how he's got "freak blood" running in his veins.
Andy has a new client waiting in the wings, and that client is just dandy. Dandy takes Andy to his love nest, which is Twisty's torture van, where the scene takes a turn for the worse for poor Andy. But wait, something strange is happening. Dandy has stabbed Andy a whole bunch and has begun dismembering him, but it seems that Andy is still alive? Is Andy actually alive or is Dandy losing his last final marble?
Meanwhile, Dot and Bette are at it again. After Elsa bombs magnificently at the sold-out show - apparently the folks of Jupiter aren't huge fans of David Bowie - Stanley/Richard's offer for her very own TV show sounds a lot less like "the death of art and civilization" than it did before. Stanley/Richard's also scheming to get the twins; heck, he'll take as many of the freaks as he can, as we see from his morbid daydreams about specimens floating in tanks at the medical oddity museum. Although Dot manages to keep Bette from snacking on his poisonous pink cupcakes, she can't convince Bette that Elsa has something equally nefarious in mind. Which is how they end up dumped on the Motts' doorstep as a pair of very expensive playthings for Dandy at the end of the episode.
Andy mentions another guy who'd been chatting him up and promising him to take him away, and it sounds awfully like Stanley.
Great use of David Bowie's "Fame" for Elsa's getting-ready montage. Who doesn't like to put on a little glam rock before getting gussied up?
It can't be a coincidence that Dandy and Andy's names are almost identical. You might even guess that Dandy is a silly high society nickname for Andrew, in which case should we assume there's something more symbolic or supernatural at play? Why the heck isn't Andy dying?!
Stanley's fantasies were a little too real for my taste. I really hope he doesn't succeed.