Last Night's 'American Horror Story: Freak Show' Was the Saddest Yet

We're still reaching for the tissues. While last week's American Horror Story: Freak Show brought the crazy, last night's episode — titled "Orphans" — brought the feels. And this week's star? Pepper.

"Orphans" was all about revealing secrets — from how Elsa arrived to America and started her Freak Show to Pepper's connection to both this season and Asylum. We're still emotionally unpacking all that happened, so we figured it best to break the episode down by its saddest moments. Brace yourselves, guys: This one was a doozy.

Pepper's main squeeze Salty dies and it's really hard on her. 

We open up the episode with Pepper sobbing on top of her husband Salty's dead body. He died of an apparent stroke, and Pepper's having a really hard time coping. (Remember the sun's IRL gift Ma Petite was Pepper's daughter figure in many ways. With Salty dead, she essentially has no one left.) The troupe can't get through to her, even Elsa — who is distraught over what to do. Con-artist and "freak slayer" Stanley dangles the prospect of Elsa going to Hollywood and starting her television career while he looks after the freaks (i.e. he kills them because he's a psychopath who wants to sell the freaks' body parts to a museum). But she refuses to leave; she's too upset over Pepper's breakdown. Turns out, Pepper was Elsa's first freak she recruited when she moved to America in attempt to get hers, break free from her German chorus girl life, and start her own show. Elsa found Pepper in an orphanage, where her sister — who is actually the worst person in the world, but more on that later — dumped her. From then on, Elsa was determined to make Pepper the happiest chick on the planet. When Pepper started feeling maternal, Elsa gave three cases of Dr. Pepper to a powerful far Eastern ruler and received Ma Petite in return (WTF?!). When she was aching for some lovin', Elsa tracked down Salty and married them herself. But now that everyone close to Pepper is dead, she feels it's best that she returns home to her sister. By the way, Elsa: This is the worst idea in the history of bad ideas.

Feels factor: 7.9 

Maggie Esmeralda is drunk, upset and kinda pulls a Gretchen Wieners.  

After Dandy framed Jimmy for slaughtering the tupperware housewives (like a psycho), he's now locked in prison and Maggie's hitting the sauce hard. But she has to snap out of it quickly when Desiree and her new squeeze Angus saunter into her tent and demand a psychic reading about their romance. Maggie starts out nice: She says Desiree and Angus will find blissful lovey-dovey happiness in a house with a white-picket fence out West. But then, she stands up all glossy scotch-eyed and goes on some Gretchen Weiners-type rant about how Desiree and Angus' relationship will go to shit because that's what always happens. Hmmm, smells like Maggie's projecting her own relationship woes onto Desiree. And that's exactly what Queen D says to Maggie when she finds her boozing it up on the merry-go-round. So, what does Maggie do? Admits that Stanley and she are con-artists who have been pickpocketing the box office every night (in other words, she only told half the truth). Desiree believes the con artist bit, but alleges that Maggie and Stanley are involved with all the "freaks [that have] been dyin'!" She then pulls a Marie Laveau and threatens to kill Maggie if she finds out she has anything to do with their deaths. Icon.

Feels factor: 4.8 

Bette and Dot show their support ($$$) for Jimmy. 

Hot off her confrontation with Desiree, Maggie heads back to her tent (probably to get her drank on). However, the fun's not over: Bette and Dot are there and demand Maggie use the money they saved for their canceled surgery to get Jimmy a good lawyer and clear his name. According to Bette, Maggie can be a real hero and save Jimmy/live happily ever after (she's literally the cutest). But Maggie pulls out some Madison Montgomery fangs and calls Bette an idiot for being so idealistic. Dot's not having any of this ish, accuses Maggie of not actually loving Jimmy and throws the money at her. "Do right by Jimmy," she says. Talk about sacrifice.

Feels factor: 6

Stanley cuts Jimmy a deal (literally). 

Stanley pays Jimmy a visit to "see how he's doing." Jimmy admits that he doesn't know for sure if he killed the housewives or not because he was drunk, outraged, and hallucinating at their party. For all he knows, he could've done it. Like the snake in the grass he is, Stanley says that he contacted one of the best lawyers in the state about Jimmy's case. With no money, however, Jimmy is SOL...until Stanley spontaneously (read: cunningly) comes up with a solution: Have Jimmy cut off his lobster hands, sell them to a museum, and use the profits to pay for a lawyer. And guess what? He does it! But Stanley keeps the money for himself, because he sucks.

Feels factor: 8.2

Maggie reveals everything (yes, everything) to Desiree

Maggie's starting to feel pretty guilty (and hungover) about what she and Stanley have been doing to the freaks, and she's determined to make it right. She approaches Desiree ,who is glamorously making a pot roast, and confesses that she knows how to save the freaks. Lady D is hesitant, but Maggie wins her over by taking her to the museum where Stanley's been cutting his deals. That's where Desiree sees it: Pickled body parts of Ma Petite, Salty, and surprise, bitch! — Jimmy's lobster hands on display. Stanley's sinister motives become crystal clear, and Desiree is now ready to work with Maggie and save the freaks. Huzzah?

Feels factor: 

Pepper's fate and her connection to Asylum are finally revealed. 

Earlier in the episode, Elsa takes Pepper to Massachusetts to be reunited with her sister, a martini-sloshing devil-woman who abandoned Pepper at an orphanage because she didn't think she'd be able to find a husband and have children with a "dim-witted sister" around. (We told you she was the worst!) But Elsa manages to coerce this scorpion diva into taking Pepper in so she'll be around family. The sister says she'll have trouble breaking this news to her equally-as-terrible husband Larry, who doesn't even know Pepper exists; however, she reluctantly agrees. Pepper and Elsa exchange heart-wrenching goodbyes, and then the real nightmare begins. Fast-forward a few years, and Pepper's sister and Larry have given birth to a deformed son, Lucas, who won't stop crying. This is too much for Pepper's sister, so she throws herself in bed and makes Pepper a full-time babysitter and bartender. (Who else will make her martinis?)

Larry and Pepper's sister start resenting both of their new houseguests, so Larry offers to "kill two birds with one stone." He murders Lucas — ahem, his child  and pins the crime on Pepper. Pepper's sister then travels to (get ready for it) Briarcliff, the insane asylum from AHS season two, and demands the nuns take in her crazy, murderous sibling. Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe reprises her role  — eeek!) believes this sob story and institutionalizes Pepper, but there is a sort of silver lining. Sister Mary Eunice clearly hasn't become possessed by the devil — remember that terrifying plot point?! — and takes a liking to Pepper, whom she believes is showing genuine remorse for the murder she didn't commit. She decides to make Pepper her special project and gives her more pleasant patient tasks like organizing the asylum library instead of scrubbing the toilets. As Pepper is sorting through library magazines, she comes across one with Elsa on the cover. Somehow, she ends up making it in Hollywood after all. We have to say it again: WTF?!

Feels factor: 10

Some other highlights from the episode:

  • Dell pays a visit to Desiree and begs for a second chance at love, even though he's gay and got cozy with Matt Bomer before Dandy killed him. But Desiree turns Dell down and says she could never make him truly happy. (Does this mean she knows his secret? The mystery!)
  • Desiree attempts to comfort Pepper by reading her a bedtime story, but she has to leave and get ready for the evening's show. Pepper throws a hissy-fit and trashes her tent, to which Desiree cocks her hip and delivers a line akin to Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest: Clean. Up. This. Mess! It's life-changing.
  • What in last night's episode made you cry? Let us know in the comments below. The next episode of Freak Show airs January 7.

    [Photo Credit: FX]