FX’s American Horror Story
Season 9, Episode 7: “The Lady in White”
Directed by Liz Friedlander
Written by John J. Gray
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Episode 100” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Rest in Pieces” – click here
The episode perfectly begins with “Buttons and Bows” by Dinah Shore, jumping back to 1948 at Camp Golden Star. A woman (Lily Rabe returns!) works behind the counter at the canteen and cooking in the kitchen while also looking after her two sons. She’s a bit harder on the older boy, digging into him for being a loner and reading comic books all the time. The older son is a young Benjamin Richter.
He’s teased by the girls for being fat, so he doesn’t want to go swimming with his little brother Bobby. He tells his brother to stay by the wharf and follows a counsellor and a lifeguard who sneak off to have sex. Benjamin watches on until he rushes back to his brother, right before Bobby gets caught in the motor of a boat and filling the water with blood. “You killed my baby,” the grieving mother screams at the lifeguard. Then she tells everybody they’re all guilty. A very Pamela Voorhees-type moment.
Back to 1989. Nurse Rita a.k.a Donna has helped Brooke Thompson escape the death penalty. They’re back at a motel, where Brooke is feeling pretty shitty, puking, and barely staying conscious. She doesn’t trust the woman, even if Donna saved her ultimately. That doesn’t excuse what she did, and tried to do, before. Right now, poor Brooke has to ride it out like a junkie until her system is back to normal. When she’s feeling better, she gets hold of Donna, threatening her. She wonders if it’s another social experiment. Maybe it’s only Donna trying to buy back a piece of her soul. Or did she perfectly place that newspaper with the ad for the Camp Redwood festival? Hard to tell. One thing’s for sure: Brooke is going to go back there to kill Margaret Booth. She wonderfully references “Morning in America” as part of her missing out on nearly the whole of ’80s, which is another nice tie between Ronald Reagan-era American politics and the slasher sub-genre— doubly so with his face featured prominently in a shot during the title sequence.
At a roller rink, Brooke and Donna talk about heading to Camp Redwood. They’re overheard by a man named Bruce (Dylan McDermott also returns!). He tries to hitch a ride and “pay for gas.” The two women say no and go on their way. The car won’t start, giving Bruce a shot to impress them with his skills. This convinces the women, even if Brooke’s reluctant, so Bruce hitches a ride. He probably doesn’t have anything to do with all the Missing posters along the highway.
On the road, Bruce sniffs coke in the backseat. Brooke and Donna quickly have an uneasy feeling. He rants about the urban legend of people turning off their lights on the road and then killing anybody who flashes headlights at them. This pisses Brooke off. She wants him to get out of the car. When they pull over, the guy won’t get out. Brooke pulls her knife, but that’s also when a cop pulls over with his lights flashing. The cop gets shot by Bruce, giving Donna time to peel out.
Richter has come back to Camp Redwood. He gets jumped by the guys who were dressed like Mr. Jingles, whom he dispatched violently. They want to kill him. Apparently, so says one of them, Montana wants all the bloodshed to wait for the festival. Ben’s taken to Montana and the others, many mad at him for murdering them. He only wants to kill Richard Ramirez. He’s pretty tripped out by all the dead people. “What does being a ghost feel like?” he asks, finding out all these dead killers can feel emotion and sensation like when they were alive. They want out. So they’re going to have some fun killing, which will hopefully draw attention, like paranormal experts. Because they’re also being terrorised, by a woman in a white nightgown. Richter knows it’s his mother.
Seems mom went nuts in 1950, a couple years after Bobby got killed.
She killed the counsellors. Young Benji walked in to see his mother soaked in blood, wearing a white gown and brandishing a knife. It was the first time she’d really shown affection, reaching out with crimson hands for a hug. He was horrified to see what she’d done. And then she turned on him, too. She stabbed him in the leg before he was able to get away. She chased him, so he had no choice but to stab in her self-defence.
Xavier takes Richter into the woods to a strange shack. The big guy heads inside. He finds eerie child toys. He meets his mother there, her skin as ghostly white as the gown she wears. She’s very, very angry. She can barely hear the name of her dead boy without going mad. She talks about wandering the grounds of Camp Redwood years after she died, seeing Benji with Margaret in 1970. Mom used young Marg to do her bidding, whispering horrible things in her ear at night. “The wrong son died,” she says. And she wants him to suffer like her, even worse after hearing he has a son of his own.
Brutal moment set to “Poison” by Alice Cooper, as Brooke and Donna get blindsided by an angry Bruce. He guns a man down at the intersection, then he’s going to have himself some fun. Brooke wakes up in a truck with Bruce, a who hopes to “surpass Bundy himself” in terms of body count. Behind them, Donna lies in the road tied to the back of the truck— especially brutal, given the racial connotations— and Bruce is going to force Brooke to drive. She pulls a fast one on his ass, ramming the truck in reverse, slamming him against the windshield. Donna has the sense enough to lie down flat, letting the truck pass over her. Brooke manages to deflect the shotgun barrel and get the gun from his waistband, popping a shot in his knee. Fuck you, Bruce! Brooke cuts off his thumbs, then she and Donna head off on the last stretch together.
At Camp Redwood, Marg receives Kajagoogoo and their lead singer, Limahl— referencing the song “Too Shy“— while Trevor sees Montana in the distance, transfixed by her presence. He goes to look for her, finding her out there in the tall grass a ways off. They start to get intimate. Wanna bet he’s going to die? Things don’t look so great for Kajagoogoo, either. He comes across Ramirez, come to take what the devil’s owed for success. Courtney later finds a massacre on the tour bus.
By the water, Richter and his mother talk. She says that if Ramirez is the one to kill him he will be gone forever. She also says if Ben kills himself, then he’ll be around forever. Will Richter commit suicide to “come back forever” in order to truly protect his son? If he loses against the Night Stalker, he’ll never be able to keep his boy safe. He speaks to his brother Bobby, apologising, then stabs himself to death.
“From the moment you were born,
I knew you were a parasite,
sucking me dry…”
A great, wild episode! Love to see McDermott and Rabe return to new, albeit brief roles in the anthology series. They’re always welcomed presences. Also, the whole plot involving Richter’s mother was just spectacular, giving homage to Friday the 13th while doing its totally own American Horror Story-like thing.
“Rest in Pieces” is next time.