“American Horror Story” gave fans an a-ha moment during the midseason finale when episode 10 shared insight into how Season 4 and Season 2 of the terrifying miniseries are connected. Prior to the airing of the episode, titled “Orphan,” Ryan Murphy, the co-creator of the hit FX series, revealed that there is a correlation between every season of the series, adding that the bridge between “Freak Show” and “Asylum” would be gapped in the anticipated winter finale.
The midseason finale kicked off with Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) explaining that the “death of a beloved monster is always a sorrow, but never a surprise.” During her statement, scenes of Pepper (Naomi Grossman) embracing the dead body of Salty (Christopher Neiman) played. According to Elsa, the pinhead had allegedly died in his sleep from a stroke. But that revelation was the least bit comforting to Pepper who sobbed over the death of her soul mate.
Elsa explained to Desiree (Angela Bassett), who witnessed Pepper’s mourning take a rage-filled turn, why her freak was so devastated by the demise of Salty. “She has known nothing but abandonment for her entire life,” Elsa said, before diving into the lengthy history she shared with her original monster.
A flashback revealed that Elsa was determined to star in her own show after singing back up in a circus. Thus sparked her idea to create a freak show. “Come for the freaks but stay for the star,” she stated. The only thing Elsa needed to do to set her plan in motion was to collect a few freaks. That’s when she stumbled upon Pepper in an orphanage.
Elsa explained that Pepper never knew her father and that after her mother died -- her sister was then left in charge, until she decided she couldn’t handle the burden. Because Pepper was an adult, they let Elsa waltz right out of the orphanage with the child-like pinhead.
Pepper was Elsa’s first freak in what would soon be a large collection -- not to mention, Pepper was also the first person who ever gave Elsa unconditional love. To repay her for her loyalty, Elsa did everything in her power to make her freak happy, which included quenching Pepper’s nurturing thirst by adding Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge).
“Her maternal needs were fulfilled yet she wanted more,” Elsa said, adding that Pepper craved someone to wed. That’s when she brought home Salty. “It was love at first sight,” she explained.
The wedding, which Elsa described as a “magical affair” that was “deeply moving,” was officiated through the Fraulein.
With both Ma Petite and Salty dead, it’s no wonder why Pepper is completely unraveled.
“The girl lost everyone she loved,” Desiree said, advising that perhaps Elsa should search for Pepper’s sister in order to reunite the devastated freak with family.
“Maybe it’s time for our little angel to go back home,” Elsa agreed.
Meanwhile Maggie (Emma Roberts) decided to give a reading to Desiree and her “tall drink of water” -- a man who became smitten with Des after witnessing her swinging performance. Maggie used her excellent attention to detail to give them a fairy-tale reading. But soon their white picket future turned to ash as Maggie revealed that their happiness would crumble.
Desiree called Maggie out on the reading that was clearly influenced by her sadness over Jimmy (Evan Peters). That’s when Maggie broke down, admitting to not being a fortuneteller as well as the truth behind her true relationship with Stanley (Denis O’Hare). She explained Stanley took her in after she nearly got caught stealing by a police officer. She didn’t have parents or anyone else to turn to so she accepted when he offered her a position to become his partner in crime.
But Maggie couldn’t find the strength to tell Desiree the real reason they made their way to the freak show. At first, she claimed they were only there to pickpocket customers. But Desiree called wolf. She revealed that she’s noticed an eerie pattern of freaks showing up dead since the two of them arrived to the camp. Desiree then threatened Maggie, saying that if she found out the hoax of a fortuneteller was behind the death of her freak-family, she’d kill her.
Stanley then paid Jimmy a visit in jail where he left the Lobster Boy with an opportunity to attain freedom on the table. He claimed he felt empathy for Jimmy because he too lost his mother at a young age. That’s why he wanted to help Jimmy get a lawyer -- for a price. Stanley finished his meeting with Jimmy by giving his claws a suspicious look.
With a change in the wind, Maggie went to Desiree for help. The fraud fortune teller had started letting a plan simmer in her head that would help free Jimmy from jail, save any more of the freaks from getting killed, and put the real killer behind bars. But it would take some brainpower -- and a visit to the Museum of Morbid Curiosities.
Maggie brought Desiree to the museum where she explained that the anatomy of freaks’ were worth a big chunk of change. “He got paid $3,000 for Ma Petite’s body,” she revealed as Desiree saw the littlest freak’s figure floating in a tube. Desiree then saw Salty’s decapitated head (Stanley’s work) before witnessing the museum’s newest collectible—the ectrodactylyl hands (aka lobster hands that Jimmy has). Maggie fainted at the mere sight.
But it was Pepper’s story that really had us cringing. In the Season 4 midseason finale, Elsa decided to reunite Pepper with the woman who abandoned her at the orphanage many moons ago.
“She probably remembers me leaving her at the orphanage. I couldn’t keep her,” Pepper’s sister said, claiming that she couldn’t live out her dream of having a family if her “dim-witted sister” was around. But as it turned out, Pepper’s sister never had children due to her “clogged pipes.” However, she did manage to score a husband, one who she said would be concerned over the thought of Pepper living with them.
Elsa begged for her to stand up to her husband out of fear that Pepper would die of a broken heart and loneliness if she didn’t live with family. (Is anyone else curious why Pepper couldn’t have just stayed with Elsa?) After a heart-breaking goodbye, Elsa left Pepper to live with her sister. But in 1962, Pepper’s family bonding officially came to an end.
“I gave it everything, we both did -- me and Larry -- but I guess genes are genes,” Pepper’s sister told Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe). (We’ll give you a moment to totally freak out over her role reprisal!)
Sister Mary Eunice then asks Pepper’s sister why she brought Pepper to Briarcliff Asylum. According to Pepper’s sibling, it was because Pepper was a murderer with a “killer instinct.” Pepper’s sister explained that before her 50th birthday she had an unexpected baby that was born “deformed.”
Apparently the birth of her child is when Pepper’s trouble started. Pepper’s sister claimed she had an infatuation with her husband that drove her to walk around the house naked in addition to killing their child.
“Neither of us saw what happened,” she lied.
It was revealed that Pepper’s sister and her husband devised a plan to rid them of both monsters. While Pepper was giving the baby a bath, Larry interrupted and locked Pepper out, which is when he drowned and cut the ears off of the child. But they blamed the heinous act on the pinhead.
“She snapped his little ears off, drowned him in the tub then went downstairs to watch her show,” Pepper’s sister said. Pepper was then taken out of the house in a straightjacket and sent straight to Briarcliff.
“You must never ever let her out of here,” Pepper’s sister pleaded.
During a bonding moment between Sister Mary Eunice and Pepper, the nun claimed she saw “redemption” in Pepper’s eyes. She then gave Pepper the noble task of sorting magazines instead of scrubbing dirty toilets, saying that Pepper would be her special project.
The midseason finale concluded with Pepper piling magazines, taking a moment to admire one with Elsa’s face plastered across the front of Life.
“American Horror Story: Freak Show” Season 4 returns Wednesday, Jan. 7. Catch episode 11 at 10 p.m. EST on FX.