Jaw dropping and self-referential, “The Morning After” is a treat for AHS fans as the story wriggles into dark corners of the Outpost.
“The Morning After” resumes where last week left off, with Wilhemina Venable (Sarah Paulson) confronting the arrival of Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) while poor Emily (Ashley Santos) wakes up to a closet full of snakes. After last week’s 666 mirror message, it’s safe to assume the devil is in the Outpost, even before Michael’s arrival. Of course Miriam’s (Kathy Bates) excitement for some fresh grub is both logical and creepy. Unfortunately, the dinner party that follows is a little too Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, complete with live snakes crawling across the table, despite having been previously chopped up and cooked.
Michael’s description of the Sanctuary to the Outpost occupants certainly doesn’t it sell it as Utopia. His plan, as he presents it, is to interview each member of the group to gauge their worthiness of inclusion in the Sanctuary. Of course, he is vague on how his decisions are made to avoid, as Mr Gallant (Evan Peterson) says, “Gaming the system.” When the system itself is a game, how does that even work? In the scenes that follow, we start to find out.
Gallant volunteers to go first, discussing both his ability to procreate if demanded, but also his disdain for his Nana Evie (Joan Collins) for trying to make him a perfect gay. The flashback to the bachelor style dinner party, complete with “Relax” and some gas mask bisque eating, shows how he pushed back against her expectations of him. The sexually charged interrogation dabbles in some vaguely meta (and oogey) elements if you consider that Michael is the son of Tate Langdon (who was also played by Peters). However, vaguely becomes obviously when Rubber Man (Peters, maybe?) appears at Gallant’s door. Thinking it is Michael coming for some late night dirty play, he lets him in and then, well, if Nana Evie wasn’t aware of her grandson’s sexual proclivities before, she certainly is now after peaking through his door. Evie, however, decides to use it to her advantage, running to Miriam with the news that Gallant has been doing some bad, bad things with a man in latex.
Elsewhere, Emily and Tim (Kyle Allen) sneak into Michael’s room, stumbling on some correspondence (because there is WiFi in the bunker?!) letting them know that Venable hasn’t exactly been playing by the rules. Apparently, the no sexy time rule is just a Venable house rule, not a Cooperative rule. From above, Rubber Man clings like Spiderman watching them, even though Michael just left the room. But come on, we all know Michael isn’t Rubber Man.
Rather than spying on the lovebirds, Michael is too busy confronting Venable about her playing fast and loose with the Cooperative’s actual rules. She tries to sidestep, noting that she received now destroyed directives and insinuating that perhaps Michael and the male species are to blame for the worldwide destruction in part due to their toxic masculinity. He counters with a description of tumour covered survivors dying from radiation poisoning to whom he showed no mercy. This is a classic AHS scene where we see a character we generally despise put into a predicament which makes the character more sympathetic. In Venable’s case, Michael demands that she remove her dress so he can examine her physically. A single tear streaks her cheek as he unzips her dress to reveal a distended hump on her spine. She doesn’t pass the test, he tells her.
Miriam charges in to report that Gallant has broken the fornication rule. He and Michael must know each other, the women rationalize. I mean, yeah, they do. But also no, not really. The way the writers flirt with this dynamic is clever yet slightly maddening, particularly when Gallant spouts lines like “In my soul, I’ve known him always.” So Miriam whips him, chained to the ceiling, something he enjoys a bit too much to be useful. Sadly for Gallant, Michael reveals he wasn’t Rubber Man; he finds Gallant too needy and wouldn’t have sex with him if he were the last man on earth. Which he kind of is. And oh, by the way, Nana Evie ratted out her grandson. Michael certainly knows how to start some drama.
The song on repeat in the parlour now is “Time in a Bottle,” fitting thematically, but also another Evan Peters meta moment when you consider it’s the song of his infamous slow-motion kitchen run in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The episode is starting to get a little Being John Malkovich. Over the music, Dinah (Adina Porter) attempts to talk with Coco (Leslie Grossman) but gets lambasted by generational nonsense from the heiress and her assistant (Billie Lourde). It’s a funny Boomers versus Millennials exchange (there are a large number of Chrises to choose from for movies) until Gallant enters the room. Nana Evie shames her grandson, arguing her value as a cultural touchstone who should be saved. All Gallant wanted was her love, he snaps. Turns out it isn’t the gay lifestyle that bothers her; it’s his uselessness.
Somehow everyone is too distracted to wonder where Tim and Emily have strayed. They are now questioning reality. What is true and what isn’t? It doesn’t matter because now they can break Venable’s not real rule and have sex. In the world of horror, this should mean the end for them. With Rubber Man lurking on the sidelines, they’re either going to get kinky or they’re going to get dead. Before that can happen, Miriam finds them, dragging them to face their punishment.
Gallant stews over his grandmother’s harsh words, until the music shifts to Fleetwood Mac. This is a total fake-out for fans desperately awaiting the arrival of the witches since in that world Stevie Nicks always heralds Misty Day (Lily Rabe). But instead of the white witch, we get more Rubber Man. Following him through the building, Gallant finds himself face to face in the bedroom again with his most recent lover. He reaches for the scissors; for a moment, it seems like we might see Evan Peters face off with Evan Peters. Instead, Gallant stabs the still masked Rubber Man, believing he has killed Michael for spurning him. Except Michael appears behind him. The illusion lifts and Nana Evie is pinned beneath the scissors, a glamorous butterfly killed by her own grandson.
In Venable’s office, Tim and Emily call out the fake rules. Since Michael isn’t around to interfere, the pair is taken to the decontamination shower to be executed. Instead, Tim fights back. In the struggle, Miriam is shot and we see her clutching part of her broken, decidedly non-human body. With that and Venable’s hump, we may have robots leading the Outpost.
Next week’s episode takes place on Halloween Eve. The Halloween episodes are always some of the craziest. After this week’s insanity, I can’t begin to imagine what that might entail.
Amber is a doctoral candidate in Language, Diversity, and Literacy at Texas Tech. She holds an MA in Literature and History and a BFA in Theatre. A Texas-based mother of two, she is an Associate Professor of English and History at Howard College.