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Two shocking deaths, two pre-pedophiliac dwarves, one failed suicide, and a Weimar Republic-era snuff film—this has been a relatively sleepy, Sirkian season of American Horror Story. But not last night. We learned: What is Elsa's deal, what is Twisty's deal, and how long puppy play has been a thing, basically.

The politics are garbled, but provocative. Best to hear it in full: Edward Mordrake, still hunting for a "pure" freak soul, demands Elsa tell him the story of her life's darkest lining. (His spirits take off her prosthetics to prod her vulnerability.) So Elsa, doing that Jessica Lange thing where she's deluding herself, us, and everyone else simultaneously, talks him up as the mysterious man of her prophecy—and then she unravels the tale of her early German years as the hottest sex worker in Berlin. (We greet her there in leather, boots first.) Pee, dog collars, nails on toilet seats. It was a scene. And she was its star.

Then actual darkness interrupts: Hired for a particular job using the magic of the motion camera, drugged, and then tied down, Elsa had her legs chainsawed off by men wearing panty hose with lipstick mouths, the sequence transforming from a grotesquerie we know (lurid black-and-white) to one we do not.

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But hers is not the soul Mordrake is looking for, and a misbegotten "performance" by Twisty and his new protegee draws the spirit into the woods, where everything about the episode so far—its grossness, its sadness, its violence—gets turned up. Mordrake demands a story, and he demands Twisty tell it without his mask on. The spirit will hear him clearly, Twisty only has to think the words.

He used to be a sweet clown, and a simple one, until some sexually deviant dwarves in his circus conned him into running. They told him the police think he's a pedophile; back home in Jupiter and all alone since his mother died, the townspeople do, too. A shotgun blast to the face solves nothing/everything: The deformity gives Twisty the inspiration for his new act: Saving (kidnapping) children, performing for them, feeding on their goodness and wonder.

This is the tragedy Mordrake sought: He stabs Twisty, killing him, and setting him free.

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Dandy, returning to the scene of the crime, claims Twisty's mask for himself, goes back to his house, and slices the maid's neck wide open, killing her, and setting himself free. (RIP, Patti LaBelle.)

And, lo: The freak show is popular again! The way that this happened was that Jimmy and Maggie helped Twisty's victims escape and the police think Jimmy may have killed Twisty himself. So a mob forms outside the freak show grounds, not to run them off, but to thank them. (One little girl even baked brownies.) What they do not know is: At least half of the performers have blood on their hands; and at least half of those hands are hiding knives.

[Videos via FX]

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