American Horror Story Recap: “Test of Strength” [Episode 7]

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The theme of tonight’s episode is hope kills. Others may swing the blade or pull the trigger, but it is the distorted sense of hope that puts many on this path – namely Jimmy. He is blessed/cursed with the highest hope. He marches into Dandy’s house, ready to rescue Bette and Dot, only they don’t exactly want to be rescued. Definitely not Bette. She’s grown accustomed to eating caviar and wearing nice clothes. Dandy proclaims his love for Bette, that he is the killer of Twisty, and promises Dot he’ll get her to that special doctor she wants to see. Knowing that Dandy has read her diary, Dot is now ready to go. Of course, she can’t go it alone, and it is a cheering moment when Bette chooses Dot over Dandy. Yay, they are united! 

Back at the campground, we learn that Jimmy can sing. As he breaks into “Come As You Are” by Nirvana, we are shown a montage of events. Penny is caring for Paul who is still recovering from the knife wound from Elsa. Dell is back at the gay bar looking for his dead boyfriend and beats up the bartender. Stanley is at that same gay bar watching Dell. You can practically see the flaming light bulb over his head as an idea forms. And Elsa is watching yet another performer who’s more talented than she.

Elsa tells Jimmy that she hates the song and Jimmy tells her, too bad, he doesn’t take orders from liars. The freaks close in behind Jimmy to show their solidarity, but Bette and Dot walk in and say it was all a misunderstanding. Dot explains it was her idea to go to Gloria’s house so they could experience the finer things in life. And now they want to come back to the freakier things in life.

Meanwhile, Desi escorts Ethel to the doctor for her surgery. They learn the doctor is dead. A very hostile woman, not the favorite daughter of the doctor – for some reason we were told this – is packing up and blames Ethel and Desi for her father’s death. She tells them it was after their visit that he crushed his own hands then blew his brains out. Though we know Dell is the one that crushed the doc’s hands.

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Stanley approaches Dell at the campgrounds with some double-entendres that weren’t that funny about being gay. He is blackmailing Dell. Stanley pulls out a gun and tells Dell he wants the dead, intact body of a freak. He doesn’t specify which freak he wants like he did with Esmerelda. I guess any old freak will do now. He must be getting desperate.

Jimmy and Esmerelda are in bed together. Esmerelda asks for the umpteenth time that they run away. Jimmy’s not ready yet. He’s thinking of Dandy. A flashback is shown of the other masked clown the night Jimmy killed Twisty. He asks Esmerelda if she would remember his voice if she heard it again. She says maybe. Maybe? At this point why is she here? Think of the scenes they could show with Esmerelda reading palms and telling fortunes. Gold! Instead they’re treating her like someone who just got back from west Africa.

Dell is getting his chloroform ready. Do you notice how chloroform is always readily available to potential killers? Anyhow, he sneaks into the tent of Amazon Eve, of all the dumb choices. And she fights back, like we knew she would, punches Dell in the face, strikes him on the head and tosses him out saying, “Who’s the strong man now?”

Jimmy is livid when her hears about his. He wants to go to the cops. Ethel has a better idea. She wants to kill Dell. She says the only way to survive is to take control. Jimmy asks for the chance to take control. Ethel tells him either he does it, or they will.

In Elsa’s tent with Bette and Dot, Elsa wants to know what they want for their little lie. Dot says they don’t trust Mr. Spencer aka Stanley and will not be going to Hollywood. Therefore Bette’s list of wants are: to be a comedian, to eat more caviar, to dye her hair blonde, a 20% take of the box office, and the money she got from Dandy’s mother. Elsa is insulted. She wants to know what Dot thinks of this. Dot wants 50% of the box office money.

Dell and Jimmy go to town to talk and have a drink. Dell didn’t take him to that other bar he’s so fond of. They drink alcohol that tastes like piss on fire. Dell says that Amazon Eve started it by hitting him over the head with a frying pan. Jimmy doesn’t ask what Dell was doing in her tent in the first place. Instead he keeps turning down the shots of piss-fire only to then drink them.

Jimmy tells a heartwarming story of being in Wisconsin in the winter. He killed a rabbit and skinned it for a fur coat for Ma Petite. Everyone in the freak show hated the cold weather, but this was the best few months of Jimmy’s life. For once he was just a regular guy wearing gloves. Dell takes the gloves off of Jimmy and tells him he has nothing to be ashamed of. They laugh, bond, and continue to drink, until Jimmy runs outside to puke. Dell follows and see’s his opportunity. He picks up a brick. But then, Jimmy tells Dell he knows that he’s his father and that he comes from the Famous Toledo Lobster Clan. Dell admits he’s Jimmy’s father. He drops the brick and they hug it out.

It is early morning and the drunk duo go back to the campgrounds, arm in arm, singing loudly. Elsa tells Dell and Jimmy to shut up. Desi comes out and tells Jimmy to get away from a loser like Dell. Dell yells at the top of his lungs that he is Jimmy’s father. There is a funny drunk scene with Jimmy and Dell talking about giving their balls to women and how you can never get your balls back – careful – this whole scene is a ploy to get you to drop your guard on Dell.

Penny takes a break from caring for Paul to run home and pack her clothes. They’re in love and she wants to live happily ever after at the freak show. Her father is there to greet her. He’s drinking and eerily calm about the shame his daughter will bring his family. It’s because he has a plan. A sick, evil, twisted, maniacal plan. His friend Morris is there to give Penny a proper send off. As Morris steps from behind the shadows we see that his face is completely tatted up.

Bette is a beautiful blonde. She is now a butterfly, no longer the caterpillar. That would be Dot. Bette is now the after picture, no longer the before. That would be Dot, too. Elsa slips a piece of paper to Dot. She wants to know what Dot will do with 50% of the box office money. By now we all now she wants the infamous doctor that can separate conjoined twins, but the artistic, black and white, half-screen gave it a spooky edge.

With this knowledge, Elsa asks Stanley if he can help find this doctor that will separate conjoined twins. He suggests a mercy killing, then laughs like he doesn’t mean it. Good thing Ethel heard the whole conversation from the other room. Hopefully she won’t die before she tells someone. Question is, is Stanley the kind of agent that would kill for his client. Elsa thinks he is, but I’m not so sure. So far he has tried to get Esmerelda and now Dell to do his dirty work.

Speaking of Dell, he sneaks into Ma Petite’s tent with a gift box. She wakes up and inside the box is a pretty, purple, party dress. She tries it on. To thank Dell, Ma Petite hugs him, but Dell doesn’t stop hugging. He squeezes the life out of her.

After the drugs wear off, Penny arrives back at the Paul’s tent. She is now a hideous woman with a snake-face and a forked tongue. Paul cries, blaming himself.

The episode ends at the Morbidity Museum for another unveiling. The last two times at this museum have been fantasies of Stanley’s. When the silk blanket is pulled away we see Ma Petite in her pretty, purple, party dress on display in the jar of formaldehyde.


Unfortunately we will have to wait two weeks to find out because of the Thanksgiving holiday break. In the meantime, here are a few Things to Ponder:

  • Maybe Dell performed CPR on Ma Petite and she’s really alive, even though in 1952 most people didn’t know this life saving skill.
  • When will Dot find out that Jimmy and Esmerelda are lovers?
  • Were you surprised that you wanted more of Dandy and Gloria than we got?
  • And finally, who’s ready for a large scale dance number like they did in Asylum?


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