‘American Horror Story: Coven’ Episode 4 Recap: “Fearful Pranks Ensue”

This episode opens on a young black man being stalked through the streets by white men in a car. We learn he’s the son of one of the hairdressers in Angela Bassett’s salon. He’s just been sent to an integrated school. It’s clear Angela Bassett doesn’t approve, and she’s proven right when the boy shows up hanged in a tree. Vodou is promptly pulled out, and with the help of a snake and some pearls and some blood flambé, brings up some zombies to take revenge on the hanging crew. It’s all a leetle heavy-handed, but hell, this is American Horror Story, and it ain’t subtle.

Up in Spalding the creepy butler’s room, he’s got a bunch of shabby porcelain dolls and a tea party going on. We’re in a rewind to the end of last episode, because the sound of Jessica Lange and Madison-Emma fighting downstairs interrupts his partying. He wraps Madison-Emma up in the carpet, thudding her sparkly, quasi-lucite heels the whole way. Jessica Lange tells him she likes him better without a tongue, that it makes him seem wise. He does some serious acting with his forehead, because, you know, mute. I have to say, I’ve been disappointed by the way they’ve squandered the chance for some freaking Denis O”Hare-on-Lange creepy lovemaking here. Lack of tongue notwithstanding.

Jessica Lange then finds Gabourey lying in the wreckage of the garden shed. The minotaur is behind Jessica Lange, though we won’t learn what happened to him for some time. Jessica Lange’s too busy rousing Cordelia to help her with Gabourey, who momentarily stops breathing, though she’s eventually revived. She castigates Cordelia for going to see Angela Bassett, you know, the standard “you’ve ruined our centuries-old truce with your friendly overture” problem.

Jessica Lange pretends she’s getting antsy and declares that everything will happen internally because the Council’s starting to ask questions after both women showed up on Angela Bassett’s doorstep. Yet: now we learn that the Minotaur’s head has been sent to Angela Bassett in a cardboard box. Bassett does her best impression of Brad Pitt in Seven. She kind of eclipses him.

Apparently emboldened by that little triumph, Jessica Lange announces that she has big plans for Halloween. She says she’s gonna let people see her as “the baddest witch in town,” which apparently means she’ll wear the hat and everything. And when the Council shows, headed by the fabulous, much-missed Frances Conroy as Myrtle Snow, Jessica Lange is almost bored. Snow is convinced that Jessica Lange murdered the last Supreme, which, well, Jessica Lange did, but that doesn’t mean that Snow can do a thing about it. When she tried to get Spalding to turn his love over to the Council wolves, she gets slammed because Spalding, actually, elected to cut hos own tongue out to keep from having to tell the council what really happened between Jessica Lange and her mother: in short, he is really smitten with her.

What’s more, it turns out Madison was not the Supreme, because she wasn’t, as Cordelia said, in “radiant health.” Madison-Emma had a heart murmur which prevented the problem. Apparently, this means Jessica Lange is a Supreme for a reason. What that reason is? Not very clear. Cordelia and Jessica Lange celebrate at a bar, which all seems very triumphant until a random figure in black throws holy water on Cordelia’s face, perhaps scarring her for life.

Meanwhile, at the Bassett Hair Salon, she’s conjured a bunch of zombies to attack Ms. Robichaux’s, three of whom are Marie Leveaux’s faughters. But that’s not the big reveal over at the House of Exceptional Young Ladies. Turns out Spalding’s still got Madison-Emma. She’s up in the room, with the dolls, and he’s even got a special tea party outfit all laid out for her. (Yeah, it’s gross.)

Zoe is upset that her FrankenKyle killed his mother and debates rat-poisoning him, but he escapes the house before she can present him with… a bowl of tuna salad? Is tuna salad appealing to reanimated corpses? Am I missing something?

And Josh Hamilton, as it turns out, is some kind of weird Craigslist-killer, which I’m sure will come to seem less like a non-sequitur in future episodes.