“Facelift” makes villains of the beautiful in another well-executed but predictable story turned on its head by a last-minute twist.
This recap of American Horror Stories season 2, episode 6, “Facelift”, contains spoilers.
How much do you worry about getting old?
It’s a concern. I never thought about it until I entered my 30s and realized my beer belly wasn’t going anywhere and I suddenly couldn’t get up and down the stairs without huffing. You start thinking about changing your diet, doing more exercise, and being a little more responsible. What you don’t do is pee into a mason jar and smear your dark, pungent urine all over your face. Well, I don’t, anyway.
American Horror Stories season 2, episode 6 recap
But that’s what Virginia (Judith Light) does in “Facelift”. She’s worried about getting old, but apparently not about being dehydrated (that shade of yellow is not good.) Her rich husband is dead, her mid-30s daughter is preoccupied, and she hates who she sees in the mirror. The pee thing isn’t a quirk and isn’t played for humor. Virginia legitimately despises herself.
When she’s pushed by her daughter to accidentally run into a handsome neighbor named Bernie who has recently separated from his wife, Virginia discovers he’s dating a former college roommate named Cassie who is the same age but looks unnaturally youthful. When Virginia presses her about her secret, she gives her the card of a new-age plastic surgeon named Dr. Perle who sees herself as more of a “worshipper” of the human form. She believes time is graffitiing the work of the gods and that her role is, simply, to clean up. She does so using a very expensive and secretive proprietary technique that for all intents and purposes turns people into different, better versions of themselves.
Initially, Virginia doesn’t seem like the right client. If she hates herself already, she’ll hate herself whatever work she has done; the problem is within. But she makes a case for herself. She just wants to become someone worthy of self-love.
The problem is that Virginia can’t afford the surgery. Her late husband, Bill, left her with a lot of debt, and the procedure is extortionate. Her business manager, Grady, says flat-out that it’s untenable. So, Virginia moves some money around and does it anyway. A grateful Perle offers to fix her hands for free since if they don’t match the face it tends to ruin the overall effect. That night, after the surgery, Virginia’s daughter, Fay, finds her rambling around the house with both her face and hands covered in bandages. She’s desperate for pain medication that Fay stuffs into her mouth, but in her delirium, when confronted about the debts looming over them, Virginia — apparently for the first time — refers to Fay as her “stepdaughter”. Devastated, she leaves Virginia to it.
While she returns later than night to find Virginia even more confused, hearing demonic voices in the air and such, Perle nonetheless decides that Fay is a bad influence and a hindrance to the healing process, so instead invites Virginia to a healing retreat — complimentary, like the hands — that is open to all of her patients. There, she will be looked after, and her bandages will be removed. She will join a big family of accepting people, and for the first time in a long time, she will feel beautiful.
Fay follows Virginia there and gets caught. When she’s presented to Virginia, the wicked stepmother once again denounces her, and claims she isn’t her “real daughter”. In a ceremony, Perle removes Virginia’s bandages and reveals she has been fashioned into a pig, with a snout and trotters. She’s intended to be a sacrifice — that’s her great honor. She gets to flee through the woods between the retreat and the Pacific Ocean, and if she makes it to the water, she’ll go free.
Predictably, Virginia doesn’t make it. She’s caught by Bernie and Cassie and eventually violently skewered by the spears of her pursuers. But unpredictably, this all turns out to be for the benefit of Fay. See, Fay’s biological mother was one of the “beautiful people”, blessed by Etain — a figure from Irish mythology — and this is her gift to Fay. Spurred on by Perle, she presumably drinks from Virginia’s swine blood and takes her place as a supposedly much hotter version of herself (she just takes her glasses off and wears her hair down, but whatever.)
You can stream American Horror Stories season 2, episode 6, “Facelift”, exclusively on Hulu.