Welcome to Briarcliff
Terrifying evils blur the boundaries between reality and insanity at the Briarcliff Manor.
A man (Leo) and his wife (Teresa) explore the abandoned Briarcliff Asylum, recounting the history of the dilapidated ruins. They hear a noise during a sexual encounter and follow it. Leo points an iPhone through a slot to get an image of what is there. Teresa goes down on him as a motivation. After some movement, whatever is on the other side rips off his arm.
A family on a road trip gets a fill-up from a full service fuel station attended by Kit. His friends, including Billy, want him to scare someone with his boss' gun (their target is a black man, who purportedly made a pass at a white woman). Kit declines, and his friends engage in racist innuendo regarding his "maid". He heads home to his wife Alma instead. Their interracial marriage is secret, as their families and community would not approve. After a bout of lovemaking, Alma goes to make dinner. Mysterious lights prompt Kit to run outside, thinking it is more shenanigans from Billy. Instead, Kit finds that the blinding lights are coming from the sky. He hears Alma inside calling for help, when suddenly an extremely loud sound booms, breaking windows and silencing Kit's screams. When it ends, Kit looks around worried, and spots items in his house levitating to the ceiling. Suddenly, he is lifted to the ceiling, as the light and sounds return.
Lana Winters is ostensibly doing a story on Briarcliff's bakery. She encounters a child-like microcephalic woman named Pepper in the yard. She is informed by Sister Mary Eunice that Pepper drowned her sister's baby and sliced his ears off. Shelly is having her head shaven by Sister Jude, likely punishment for sexual misconduct. Sister Jude does not believe in mental illness, thinking it just an excuse for sin, and also believes Shelley is "a victim of her own lust".
Sister Mary Eunice rushes in to warn Sister Jude that Bloody Face is arriving. It is Kit, who is processed and sedated. He is there to determine his fitness to stand trial. He tries to tell Sister Jude of his strange encounter, believing he was abducted by aliens, but she will have none of it. She insults Alma, prompting his spitting on her. She comments that he should not have done that, and breaks out a cane for punishment.
Kit encounters many residents in the common room, including Grace, who warns him not to turn off the annoying music in the room, and Shelley (who sexually harasses him). Spivey, a greaser, picks a fight with Kit, making racist comments and calling him Bloody Face. Kit gets into a physical altercation with him that is interrupted by Sister Jude via a loud whistle. Sister Jude has Kit hauled away to solitary confinement.
Dr Arden is mutating plants with gamma rays. He and Sister Jude are butting heads about missing patients, who Arden claims are dead and cremated. These missing patients have no families, which the Sister finds curious.
Grace visits Kit in solitary. She brings him a sense of comfort, and offers him a drag of her cigarette. He asks what she did to get in the asylum, and she says that "They say I chopped up my family". Kit asks if this is true, and she insists that it is not. She leaves when she hears footsteps, but promises she will return.
Lana dines with her lover Wendy Peyser (a 3rd grade science teacher), who is getting high before dinner. Lana aspires to win a high profile article, but her boss (Emmerman) wants her to stick to the cooking column.
Sr. Jude prays as she cooks dinner. She is wearing red lingerie and touches her body with her perfume-sprayed hand. Later she and Monsignor Howard have dinner together. She asks where he found Arden, and he rebuffs her concerns about him. He insists that science and faith can co-exist under their roof and that she can be Mother Superior in his new order, as he aspires to be Pope. She fantasizes about mounting him at the table as he urges her to let Arden do as he will.
Arden and Sr. Mary Eunice discuss a presence in the woods, and she takes out food (raw meat) to them. She encounters Lana, and warns her that they must leave quickly. Lana hears something that she believes is some kind of animal.
Arden takes a special interest in Kit, entering his room.
Teresa rushes to get help for Leo. She tries to retrieve his phone from the car (hers is on the other side of a locked door, along with Leo's arm) and finds the front door to the ruined asylum locked. She runs to find an alternate route through a hidden tunnel.
Lana and Sr. Mary Eunice escape through hidden tunnels, and Lana negotiates for free reign of the asylum to find Bloody Face. She encounters Spivey, who throws his feces at Sr. Mary Eunice, who rushes to the powder room in tears. She then runs into Shelley, who is fellating an orderly. Shelley tells Lana that Kit was sent to solitary, and moments later an angry Sr. Jude patrols the ward, nearly catching Lana. Lana finds a solitary cell and hides within. A bloody arm from inside knocks her unconscious.
Arden explains that despite Sr. Jude's disapproval and authority, that his science will prevail. He experiments on Kit, sans anesthetic. He wants to directly examine Kit's brain, and asks him about his killing methodology. As Kit is probed (including electrical stimulation and eye clamps), he recalls his abduction experience. Arden removes a mechanical-looking implant from Kit's neck, which unfolds legs and scurries away.
Sr. Jude scolds Sr. Mary for allowing Lana into the asylum, and grabs her paddle to punish her. A sobbing Sr. Mary insists that the cane is not big enough for the sins she has committed, and brings her a much larger one. She begs Sr. Jude to punish her as she lifts her habit and bares her bottom, but Sr. Jude orders her away, saying she does not have time for her.
Sr. Jude visits Wendy and intimidates her into not fighting Lana's commitment by threatening to reveal their "inversion". The asylum has restrained her during her trespassing and will be "treating" her for her disorder.
Arden is cleaning an closed solitary cell (in which Leo's arm lies in the present), where he is discovered by Sr. Jude. Something has been living in it, but Arden denies such.
Teresa continues running for help (down the same tunnel from which Lana arrived in the past), and encounters Bloody Face, wearing a skin mask, ending with her screaming in fright.
- Welcome to Briarcliff - With a small crew in tow, Billy visits Kit Walker at his job to enlist his aid, and his boss' gun, to terrorize a black man that purportedly propositioned a friend's sister.
- I Am Anne Frank: Part 1 - In an alternate (i.e. alien-free) accounting of events by Dr. Thredson, Billy and friends follow Kit home after their visit to the garage and harass him to the point of homicidal rage.
- Chloë Sevigny as Shelley
- Adam Levine as Leo
- Jenna Dewan Tatum as Teresa
- Clea DuVall as Wendy Paisa
- Mark Consuelos as Spivey
- Britne Oldford as Alma Walker
- Joe Egender as Billy
- Mark Englehardt as Carl
- Marc Aden Gray as Dad
- Naomi Grossman as Pepper
- Gloria Laino as The Mexican
- Henry G. Sanders as Willie
- Casey Wyman as Daniel
- Teresa: "Legend has it that once you were committed at Briarcliff, you never got out."
- Shelley: "Do you think I'm full of shame and regret for what I've done now, Sister? You could shave me bald as a cue-ball and I'd still be the hottest tamale in this joint!"
- Msgr Howard: "The tonic for a diseased mind lies in the 3 P's: productivity, prayer, and purification."
- Sr Jude: "You're out of your depth, Miss Lana Banana."
- Sr Jude: "I wonder: did her dark meat slide off the bone any easier than your other victims?"
- Grace: "What you put out into the world comes back to you."
- Sr Jude: "Mental illness is just a fashionable name for sin."
- Kit: "I'm not crazy"
Grace: "Too bad for you."
- Kit: "There is no God. Not one that would've created the things I saw."
- Kit: "I thought Sister Jude ran this place."
Arden: "So did she."
- Kit (About the aliens): "They weren't human, they were monsters"
Sister Jude: "All monsters are human."
- Sister Mary Eunice: "It's not big enough, sister."
- Zachary Quinto (Oliver Thredson) is credited, but does not appear.
- From Teresa's iPhone: Briarcliff was built in 1908, the largest tuberculosis ward on the East Coast. 46,000 died there. The corpses were shuttled out through the "death chute". The Catholic Church purchased and converted it into a sanitarium in 1962.
- Location hints: Lana's license plate is from Massachusetts. Her paper, "The Gazette" seems to have a local scope, as they are covering a story regarding a small bakery. She mentions Canada geese. Kit is delivered to Briarcliff by a vehicle bearing Massachusetts State Police license plates. Chicopee and Provincetown (towns in Massachusetts) are mentioned in the episode. We can probably assume Briarcliff is also in Massachusetts.
- This episode is a reverse of the series Pilot episode (the Pilot flashing back to a past event before showing the present, while this episode shows the present before flashing back to the main storyline of the second season).
- Two music cues from Pino Donaggio's score for the 1976 film version of Carrie are used in this episode. Bucket Of Blood is used three times, as Lana Winters approaches the asylum; as Lana is watching Kit Walker being delivered to the asylum; and as Sister Mary Eunice appears to be feeding someone or something in the woods. For The Last Time We'll Pray is used as Lana makes her way inside the asylum.
- According to producer Tim Minear, the "true" story of interracial couple Barney and Betty Hill inspired the alien abduction subplot and the characters of Kit and Alma Walker.
- What really happened to Alma?
- What is the true identity of Bloody Face?
- What severed Leo's arm?
- What has Arden created in the woods?
- Is Sister Eunice really stupid, or just pretending?
- Is the chip in Kit's neck real or was it all just inside his head?
- Dominique by Soeur Marie (ad nauseum in the common room)
- There Goes My Baby by The Drifters (Kit in the garage)
- Voices of Light V: Pater Noster by composer Richard Einhorn (Sr. Jude's fantasy)
- Moon in My Mind by Frankie Rose (Leo and Teresa enter Briarcliff)
- Lovemaker, Lovebreaker by Frank Fafara (Kit and Alma post-coitus)
- Bucket of Blood by Pino Donaggio from Carrie (Lana arrives at Briarcliff)
- For the Last Time We'll Pray by Pino Donaggio from Carrie (Sr. Mary escorts Lana)
- Softly Baby by Red Gardland (Lana and Wendy talking)
- ↑ assumed date, definitely contemporary, as it features an iPhone
- ↑ credited as, but referred to as Jack
- ↑ credited as, the patient dancing in Rec Room
- ↑ 'CARRIE' CUES & ECHOES OF 'SISTERS'
AS 'AMERICAN HORROR STORY' BEGINS ITS SECOND SEASON. De Palma a la Mod (October 17, 2012).