Sally smokes at a window before returning to the task of sewing Gabriel into a mattress. He protests her lie about giving him freedom, but she chastises him for thinking that he could cheat death and tearfully kisses him goodbye before shoving his face beneath the ticking. She is interrupted by cries for help traveling through the air ducts. She goes to the prison room to complain and there finds the towheaded children feeding on the wrists of a caged and screaming Agnetha. They balk at the taste of her blood and Iris pronounces her dead.
Liz wheels the corpse of Vendela to a garbage chute, and Miss Evers removes the bloody sheet over her for cleaning. Vendela's body is sent sliding to a basement room to join the bodies of her roommate Agnetha and the decrepit man they found in their mattress.
In the hidden retro game room, the children receive dialysis and their cleansed blood is pumped into a decanter which is taken to Elizabeth. She promptly pours the blood into two champagne glasses, one of which she hands to Donovan. She wants to go to an art opening to hunt, but Donovan wants to stay in and watch House of Cards. She takes a town car to the opening alone.
Max Ellison, a patient of Alex, has worrisome symptoms of the measles. Alex scolds his cyberchondriac and anti-vaxxer mother and tells her that Max could die over the next few weeks, and that there is no treatment but keeping his fever down.
John awakes in Room 64 and shortly gets a knock for turndown service from Miss Evers, which he declines. He momentarily has a vision of the Addiction Demon which startles him. He washes his face in the bathroom and thinks he hears action in his shower. He pulls back the curtain to find a couple of corpses having sex, and he awakes from the dream. He hears a giggle outside and chases Holden throughout the seemingly vacant hotel. Sally engages him on the balcony bar, and Liz serves the sober John a Ginger Ale.
Sally talks about her life of poetry and track marks, including the claim that she wrote a song with Patti Smith. She describes the endless ladder of diminishing returns from chemical highs, and inquires about his last drink. He says that it started like most days, but he investigated a family annihilator who it seems poisoned his wife and children before shooting himself. Instead they actually died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a gasoline generator used indoors and he killed himself in response. He followed up with a vacation intended for stress relief, but Holden went missing during the trip. He stays sober now because he "can't afford to get lost".
The Bel Air victims received texts from a third party, spoofed to seem like they were from each other (much as Alex's text was spoofed). John is receiving strange deliveries, too: one is a package from Hotel Cortez. Initially thought to be a bomb, instead it contains the "Oscar" used in another murder.
Claudia Bankson visits Will at the Hotel, and Liz teaches the folks from Vogue how to "vogue". Claudia is intrigued by John, who meets Scarlett in the party-filled lobby. John thinks the fashion show inappropriate for his daughter until Will introduces her to Lachlan. Sally makes a scene about not being on the party's guest list, but makes special note of Scarlett. Elizabeth and Donovan make a grand entrance to the runway's front row. Tristan Duffy prepares in the green room with a snort, then seduces the crowd. He in turn notices Elizabeth, who smells the model's rage. Will watches angrily as Tristan slices his face with a razor to bring an abrupt end to his modeling career.
Lachlan leads Scarlett to a hidden passage where the towheads sleep in glass coffins. He says that nothing will wake them, but Holden notes the presence of his sister.
Home movies on Scarlett's laptop remind her of Holden.
Tristan breaks his way into the penthouse to track down cocaine. Donovan intervenes, and is stopped from eating Tristan by Elizabeth. Tristan takes the opportunity to flee in the elevator and finds himself stopped on the 7th floor. He exits, hearing jazz and FDR's "fear itself" speech. He eats abandoned room service, which he finds maggoty after a mouthful. Journeying further into the room, he encounters James March, who notes Tristan's vices. A whistle from the anachronistic March summons Evers with a bound prostitute in tow. March offers Tristan a gun, but kills the woman himself when Tristan declines. The model runs, where he is captured by Elizabeth.
Scarlett catches a bus to the hotel, passing through the lobby being cleaned. She returns to the coffin room to find them empty, and she follows the video game noises to the playroom. Holden asks what took her so long. Scarlett asks if she remembers her, and he identifies his sister. She shows him pictures of the family, and she wonders why he hasn't aged. She offers to take him home, and he responds that he is home, but that she can visit anytime. He scares her with super-speed when she tries to take a picture, and she runs from the room where Sally accosts her in the hallway with a bloody mouth. The terrified youth runs.
She returns home to find the house swarming with police, not knowing that she herself is the subject of a manhunt. She escaped her police protection out the window of the restroom so that she could confirm Holden's residence in the hotel. Alex is flooded with grief, but John is angry, insisting that Holden is dead. Scarlett attempts to prove her case with the picture, but Holden is a blur.
Back at the hotel, Tristan revels in his new altered state. She explains the rules: unaging, but not invulnerable; avoid the energy sapping sun and dead or diseased blood; don't get caught, and don't fall in love. Elizabeth says she was born in 1904, turned by a beautiful man. She enjoys the decadence of every decade, but the disco era most of all. Donovan enters, saying Tristan won't last a week. Elizabeth asks Donovan for a private moment. He can't believe she turned Tristan, and she admits that she is abandoning Donovan. She tells him to pack, and that she lives for the heartbreak.
John invades Iris' space behind the desk, angry at letting Scarlett roam. He handcuffs her, wanting answers about the secrets behind the hotel. She says all he needs to do is "ask nice and buy a lady a drink".
Liz pours drinks for the pair, and Iris starts with the story of the nouveau riche James March and his hotel, a monument to his sadism. The architect questions the secret passage system in the blueprints, and March leads the discussion to his office. Opening a safe there, March leads the man in to stab him with a saber.
The hotel is a trap, she explains, designed to ensnare victims with no escape and muted sounds. At least three per week met their end with him. Miss Evers was one of his contemporaries, and she loved him loyally. His disdain for religion and regulations led March to a desire to kill God as his contribution and message to the world.
Mutilated bodies found alongside a monogrammed handkerchief led the police to his doorstep, and he offers Miss Evers the choice of which of them are to die first. She chooses herself, via the gun, so long as he will do her the honor of being his last victim. He does, then slices open his own throat as the police invade his sanctum.
John applauds Iris' story, disbelieving the supernatural elements. She mentions that Room 64 used to be March's office, the hotel's black heart.
John pieces together clues, including the confirmed murder weapon of the Oscar blogger. He asks Andy if he is familiar with James March, and posits that the Ten Commandments Killer is following up on March's work.
In the lobby, Tristan thumbs through Grindr, drawing a victim his way. Some rough and bloody making out leads to the penthouse, where Elizabeth approves of his choice. The victim is turned off by her female intrusion, but they put an end to his objections quickly. Tristan insists that "just because he's sucking on a guy it doesn't make him gay", and he proves it by a tryst with Elizabeth atop the victim's corpse.
- Sally (To John Lowe): "Patti Smith said that my poems were like glass shattering. I wrote a song with her...and then she wrote me off."
- Mr. March (To Tristan): "You know. In your black heart of hearts, you know. You're just like me."
Tristan (To Mr. March): "I don't think so, dude."
- Mr.March (To his victim): "My father was a true believer. Ate the little cracker and drank the wine every Sunday. And he was the meanest son of a bitch you've ever seen. Killed a cat for purring too loud. You want me to tell you the worst thing in this world? Religion. That and regulations."
- Commentary:Megan Daley (2015-10-15). Hotel is Evan Peters' favorite season of American Horror Story. Entertainment Weekly.
- "Chutes and Ladders" is an ancient game, which exemplifies the concept of "survival of the fittest". It is also the origin for the term "back to square one".
- Specifically, it refers to the unique design of the hotel by March, with its false doors and literal chutes for the disposal of corpses.
- Symbolically, "Chutes and Ladders" may also serve as the "ups" (ladders) and "downs" (chutes) in a metaphorical way about life.
- Angela Bassett (Ramona Royale) is credited but doesn't appear.
- ↑ http://gamerssphere.com/2015/09/15/american-horror-story-hotel-5x02-chutes-and-ladders-synopsis/
- ↑ http://www.spoilertv.com/2015/09/american-horror-story-episode-502.html