Oh, man. Oh, guys. American Horror Story, for the first time in its 4 year run, made me feel a bit weepy last night. “Orphans” marked the fall finale for the show, which will take a two week hiatus before returning with new episodes (some of which feature Neil Patrick Harris and Jamie Brewer!!) beginning on January 7th. As an episode it’s a bit saggy, trying to do too much with too many characters, but parts of it were so, so good. Maggie cried, Jimmy stayed locked away in prison, and now we know all about Pepper, including how she got to the asylum. And it’s heart-breaking. (Warning–spoilers below!!)
Naomi Grossman as Pepper
And oh, Pepper. At the start of the episode, Pepper’s partner, Salty, has died. Pepper is distraught. She won’t leave his body, and Elsa has a difficult time convincing her to eat. Theoretically, at least, Salty’s death was a natural one, a stroke. Pepper is distraught. She won’t leave his body, and Elsa has a difficult time convincing her to eat. When she finally convinces Pepper that Salty’s gone, to give up the body, she has no idea what to do with Salty. Stanley does, though. Cut to Stanley hacking away at Salty’s neck, smoke encircling them both, then seeing Salty’s head in a jar, and I’m finding the idea of a stroke a little….Suspect.
Anyway, Desiree steps in to comfort Pepper. She assumes a very motherly position, Pepper curled in her lap while she reads The Velveteen Rabbit. But when she has to leave, Pepper is enraged. So she goes to talk with Elsa, of course, and through Elsa we find out about Pepper’s background.
Just after the war, Elsa moved to the States and started the carnival circuit as a singer/dancer. She found it difficult to get noticed, though, difficult to be a star in
New Orleans sideshow and burlesque performer Ri Dickulous in “Orphans”
someone else’s world. And she didn’t like working for anyone. She decided to create her own show, her own collection of oddities that would be both family and underlings. Cue Elsa’s profound ambivalence toward the freaks in the show.
Pepper’s parents died, and her sister couldn’t care for her, so she was dropped off at an orphanage. This is where Elsa found her, at the age of 18, after befriending Pepper, the simply walked out of the door together. Elsa and Pepper went to Jupiter together, and the crowd loved Pepper. It wasn’t long before a rich Indian gentleman came to the carnival, and with him he brought Ma Petite. She was his “pet,” but Elsa convinced him to part with her for 3 cases of Dr. Pepper. Hmm. Anyway Ma Petite became a sort of surrogate child for Pepper.
But still Pepper wanted more. She wanted companionship. Elsa sent a series of letters, ultimately resulting in the arrival of Salty. And it was love at first sight. And there was a lovely, bizarre wedding for the two of them, and it was beautiful.
Cut to the present, where Desiree and her beau are making a night of it. They’re in Maggie Esmeralda’s tent, and she’s using her Powers of Observation to tell their future. Only she’s a little drunk and a lot psychotic, given Jimmy’s predicament and their overall relationship, so she yells about how everything will be awful and end and blah-blah-blah. Later, Maggie sits on the merry-go-round, drinking, in the same spot we once saw Twisty. Desiree confronts her, and for some reason, Maggie decides to entirely spill the beans about Stanley, about being on the grift…But not about what they’re actually doing there. At least, not at first.