With only one episode left to go on "American Horror Story: Hotel," the series' fifth and possibly goriest season, the stakes have gotten very high, and the body count has become devastatingly severe.
This week, the Countess (Lady Gaga) has been at once removed from and forever entombed within the walls of the Hotel Cortez. But her demise came at something of a surprise by the time it was done.
Let's review from the top, shall we?
To kick off the penultimate episode, we get the before shot on that time Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) and Iris (Kathy Bates) went wild west style all up in the Countess’ penthouse last episode. And while it sure looked like a bitchin’ take-down procedure executed to perfection, it didn’t quite go over as planned.
The plan was, per Liz, to “go in, guns blazing and don’t stop, and once she goes down, we need to make sure she stays down.” But that … didn’t happen. Like, at all.
See, the girls came in and did their pistol bidding, but instead of nailing the Countess per the plan, Donovan (Matt Bomer) steps in front and takes the brunt of the violence, leaving him without a chance of survival and the Countess skittering off to somewhere marked by a trail of blood. He’s not exactly thrilled about dying, but he doesn’t want it to be inside of the Cortez.
“You can’t let me die in this place,” he tells her. “I can’t be trapped here with her other lovers.”
Though they had a mission, the direction has definitely changed. Now, the mission is to free him of an afterlife of certain doom -- that is, lingering in the hotel forever like the rest of her victims/lovers. And somehow they make it to the sidewalk before he’s completely gone.
“Am I safe?” he asks as he’s laid down on his final, concrete bed. And then, after decades spent shunning her efforts, he finally says the words she’s been waiting for all the while: “Thank you, Mom.” (She'll later scatter his ashes all over a hotel bed and then make the maid deal with it, but nevermind that.)
The Countess makes a big sacrifice.FX
Countess' salvation comes from an unlikely source as Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson) reveals that she has some experience working with a needle and thread -- courtesy of a super sick story about her love/drug tryst with a pair of grunge rockers circa 1993 -- and manages to remove all the bullets lodged in Countess' bod.
So, why does Sally save her instead of stealing the crown and becoming the queen of the Cortez? Well, she needs her.
"I don't want you, bitch," she snaps at her charge before she gets too flattered about the whole thing. Instead, she wants Countess to retrieve John Lowe (Wes Bentley) from his newly re-happy home and bring him back to the hotel to die and thus be stuck with her forever.
Oh, and one more thing. Countess has lost a sh-tload of blood, so they're going to have to drain the kid vamps, who are completely willing to help their "Mommy" this way. It's totally f--ked, but she ultimately gives into it because of course she does.
Meet the human voodoo doll.FX
Now than their solo Plan A has failed, Liz and Iris decide to turn to Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett), who they were supposed to help handle the Countess the first time around. They think a little hat-in-hand apology action'll convince her re-join their ranks.
And they're mostly right, except Ramona needs a warm drink before she can return to business (apparently Will Drake and that hoard of vampire children that got dumped into the hall weren't enough to sate her thirst). Conveniently, that's when they run into Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), a new hotel guest that's all booked for a three-day stay.
Only, Queenie's got a hidden witch gift to reflect any hurt on her back to the person she's fighting. She has Ramona in quite a tussle until James March (Evan Peters) pops in and handles her. He needs Ramona to win at her attempt to kill the Countess -- but only if she can make it happen inside the hotel. See, he wants his bride forever and always, and he knows she's fourfiveseconds from wildin' right on outta there.
The Tenth Commandment killing commences.FX
When John Lowe comes home -- with a fresh, drug-free blood source all ready in the trunk for his wife and son, no less -- and finds his house empty and a Cortez key dangling oh-so-teasingly, he knows exactly who's to blame.
But one promise that his family's fine and well ("for now," Sally murmurs cruelly), he's ready to do March's final bidding and complete the set of 10 Commandment kills for him. And he knows just who to target, too.
It's Mrs. March to you (and everyone foreverrrrrr).
Countess' quick wit suffered nothing in the first assassination attempt, so when Ramona makes it into her room, body full of witch blood that makes her feel strong and capable as a bear, the only thing that can save Countess is her mouth.
And ohhhh does she use it. She gamely plays a five-part series of cards, like so:
1. First, she compliments the f--k out of her former lover, saying things like she smells like walnuts and looks incredible.
2. Then comes the reminder that she is/was/will always be the HBIC, so Ramona better think twice before fully bringing it.
3. That's when the walls come down just a touch. "I think everyone in the world thinks they’re either blessed or cursed. I’ve come to realize that I’m neither. I am a curse. Nobody that gets within 10 feet of me survives," she laments.
4. Oh, and then she makes sure she knows this isn't a pity plea she's dishing out here; she's trying to make it right with a long-overdue apology.
5. Then comes the irrefutable offer. First, she puts the whole hotel on the table because she's soooo over living there and wallowing in heartbreak anymore, and then she puts her whole self out there and asks for a reunion bedsession. One of those two things (or both) won her over and bam, she's all packed and dressed and heading for the door.
Only, who's there waiting for her with a gun full of bullets that won't miss this time but John Lowe? And voila! Mr. March has his tenth and final kill room souvenir in the form of Countess' perfect head.
Lucky for John that March is so damn happy with his job well done because he totes steps into save him from a stabby Sally who wants nothing more than what March himself has accomplished: a live-in forever love.
The toast to end all toasts.
After Ms. Evers (Mare Winningham) is finally made to answer for her part in the destruction of Mr. March and confesses her long-held love of him, he banishes her and leaves her feeling "strangely free."
Meanwhile, poor Countess is feeling the exact opposite right now because as she sits across the table from her now 'til-never-ever-do-we-part husband whom she's always hated, she also has to stomach his salute to their newly redefined level of foreverness.
"How thrilled I am to have you across from me, not once a month but from now on. Until the sun falls from the sky and the heavens burn in conflagration."
Yeah, she looks absolutely THRILLED, James.