American Horror Story Wiki
American Horror Story Wiki

"Checking In" is the first episode of Hotel. It premiered October 7, 2015.


Detective and family man John Lowe investigates a chain of gruesome murders in Los Angeles. A mysterious tip points him to the enigmatic Hotel Cortez.[1]


On the street outside the Hotel Cortez, a taxi delivers two blonde Swedish tourists. Vendela asks the taxi driver if they are close to Universal Studios, but he tells the girls that it's about ten miles away. Vendela and Agnetha are surprised and disappointed by this, as the hotel is a lot further away from the attractions than they had been led to believe by the online information. The girls walk inside with their luggage and weave their way through the spotless art deco lobby. The check-in counter is vacant, so Agnetha reaches over and presses the service bell. While they wait, the girls muse that the silence and darkness in the reception area is eerie, like a tomb. Another moment passes and Vendela grows impatient, ringing the bell another two times. Iris finally emerges to greet them and asks for their reservations. Vendela and Agnetha switch to Swedish to have a conversation without Iris understanding. They decide that they are unimpressed with the hotel and that they should look elsewhere for accommodation. Vendela turns to Iris and attempts to explain their situation, requesting the return of their deposit. Iris is unhappy with this and refuses to give the girls a refund. Without their deposit money, Vendela and Agnetha do not have the money to book a new hotel. Iris guides the women to their room, and notes that there is no Wi-Fi and that the entire building is a cell phone "dead zone."

When Vendela goes to get ice, she encounters a laundress steaming a bloody bed sheet in the hallway. The laundress notices her stare and tells her that there was a "ghastly" accident in room 51. Vendela arrives at a junction in the corridors and notices a small child at the end of the next hall. He points behind her, and Vendela turns to see a second child. Vendela takes a step toward him and he darts around the corner and out of view. When Vendela follows him, the only person in the hallway is the laundress. She turns back and does a double take as she realizes that the other child has also disappeared. As she scoops ice into the bucket, a metallic, clawed glove approaches her shoulder from behind, but is gone when she turns suddenly.

Returning to their room, she finds Agnetha lighting scented candles because the room reeks of decomposition. A call to Iris proves futile as the receptionist says that the hotel is booked to capacity and refuses to allow them to switch rooms. Agnetha works out that the smell is coming from their mattress. When they strip the bed of its sheets, they discover a line of crude stitching running down the length of the mattress. Despite Agnetha's warning about damaging hotel property, Vendela takes a knife and cuts open the mattress to see what lies beneath. The girls step back from the bed and an arm shoots up from the filling. A naked and decrepit man begins to claw his way out, terrifying the screaming girls.

The tourists cower in the elevator with Iris and demand to know who the man was. Iris claims ignorance and promises that the girls won't be charged for that room as compensation. The elevator doors open and Iris ushers the girls to another room. They are reluctant to follow her, as they both want to leave the hotel right away. Iris informs them that the police are on their way and warns that they will be arrested for evasion if they leave. She ushers them into Room 64, which they "never rent out." Hours pass, and Vendela wakes at 2:25am when the bedside radio switches itself on. She cannot see Agnetha, but hears some strange suckling noises coming from the bathroom. Vendela pushes the door and finds Agnetha sprawled and unconscious on the tiles as two children drink her blood. The children look up as Vendela screams.

In a different hotel, John Lowe investigates a gruesome murder of two adulterers. A woman was fatally impaled through the chest with a spear and her hands are nailed to the headboard. Her corpse straddles her still-living lover, a man who has had his tongue and eyes cut out and placed in the ashtray. His hands are also nailed to the headboard, rendering him incapable of moving. On the floor around the bed, the killer has placed candles and photos of the victims' families and blotted black ink over each their eyes. John believes this is symbolic, suggesting that it was the killer's way of saying that the adulterers' families had been blind to the infidelity. The male victim begs to be removed from his dead paramour.  John discovers a bottle of super glue and deduces that the man has erection-maintaining drugs in his system and has been super-glued into the woman's vagina - the man will have to be transported to the hospital with the corpse still attached.

John returns to his office to research other gruesome deaths in the area. He listens to a recorded report about the torture and death of a man described as an "Oscar blogger." The man was anally violated with a weapon that left traces of gold paint chips. John is interrupted by a video call from his daughter, Scarlett, for her nightly bedtime story. John declines to answer a work-related call, insisting upon his family time and reading Little Women to Scarlet. He later receives a call from a disguised voice; the caller reveals that he has intimate knowledge of the "spear" murder and directs John to the Hotel Cortez room 64 lest he kill again.

Gabriel wants a room at the Hotel Cortez, and Iris gives him the key to room 64 after gouging him on the price. Iris claims that the elevator is broken and Gabriel heads up the stairs. Sally watches him go and calls "dibs" on him from the lobby. She claims that she hasn't seen someone as sweet in ages.

Gabriel reaches his room and he shoots up with heroin. He envisions the laundress seen earlier by Vendela. Before long, a formless and colorless figure ambushes him. It forces Gabriel over and rapes him anally with a drill-bit strap-on dildo.

John arrives to investigate room 64, and Iris bids Liz Taylor to guide him there. Sally watches Gabriel's rape and speaks to him, while Liz and John go up in the elevator. Sally tells Gabriel to tell her he loves her, and he complies before he passes out. She lights up a cigarette, and the rapist has vanished.

Liz and John breeze through the hallways to room 64. Liz wants a tip, cash or otherwise, but John claims to have no cash. John opens the door to find a clean and apparently vacant room, despite the assault that had just taken place. He lies down and sleeps as Gabriel appears to wake, hidden underneath the bed.

When John awakens, one of the strange children is in his room. He gives chase, getting lost in the hallways. He calls out to him with the name Holden, and seems to recognize the boy.

Elizabeth gets ready to go out and puts on a record playing She Wants Revenge's "Tear You Apart" as Donovan bathes. A cocaine bump later, they dress themselves up and head to an outdoor cinema in the park to see "Nosferatu." They seduce a young couple through vampiric glamour and sexually-suggestive gestures, then bring them back to their hotel penthouse. There they engage in a writhing pansexual orgy on the bed. Eventually, Elizabeth and Donovan wear clawed, metallic gloves with which they slash their guests' throats and drink from their spurting jugulars. They resolve to call housekeeping for cleanup as they lie post-coital amid the bloody mess.

John returns home to his family. His wife, Alex, is a pediatrician disgruntled by his late arrival which has in turn made her late for a slew of house calls. She has prepared dinner, but John and Scarlett choose instead to go out for sushi once she leaves.

Iris brings in a "cleanser" for the two Scandinavian tourists who are encaged in neon lit "iron maiden" confinement cages. She prepares a meal of livers and other organs in a blender and attempts to force feed them from a tube. Sally interrupts, asking Iris to give them compassion. They argue about care of the guests and Iris' motives for staying. Iris blames Sally for her suffering and hands over responsibility for the two women, where she leaves to feed "that thing in room 33." Sally explains that the room used to be a puppet theater, and unlocks Vendela's cage and commands her to run. A frustrated Iris chases her through the lobby and as she nears the exit doors a stoic Elizabeth appears and fatally stops her in her tracks with a slice across the throat with her metal claw. Elizabeth tells a now frightened Iris that such an incident must never happen again.

Over sushi, John's daughter Scarlett speaks of dreaming of her brother Holden, which makes John uncomfortable. He gets a text message from Alex which leads them back to a dark luxurious home. A uniformed police officer waits for John's arrival outside. John directs him to watch Scarlett, then proceeds to enter the house. The caller from earlier calls him again, restating that he would kill again. The cop leaves his post to investigate movement in the trees. Scarlett leaves the back seat of the car and wanders into the house, where she finds two men disemboweled and suspended above beds. John, chasing a dark figure, gives up the chase to follow her screams.

On a family trip to the Santa Monica Pier in 2010, John turned his back on his son Holden for a moment while the boy rode a carousel.  During that moment, Holden disappeared.

Alex is frantic about her safety after her phone was cloned to lure John. She is upset about the most recent events against the backdrop of Holden's disappearance.

At the Hotel, Marcy greets Will Drake and his son Lachlan, mentioning that she just had to put down her dog that day. They are doing a walk-through for the sale of the hotel, of which Iris is totally ignorant. They tour the penthouse to find it still occupied by Donovan and Elizabeth. She is familiar with Will's fashion work, and is far more embracing of their new neighbor. She sends Donovan to show Will a sculpture, and Elizabeth guides Lachlan to a secret room where the strange children (including Holden) play video games and eat from candy dispensers.

Iris is upset about the hotel sale, and we see that she followed her son Donovan and Sally there in 1994. Liz Taylor, manning the desk, is less than forthcoming without cash. She goes to find an ATM. Upstairs, Donovan shoots heroin from Sally's contaminated needle in room 64. Iris beats on the door where Donovan is unconscious until Sally lets her in. Sally bumbles through the hallways before being pushed out of a window to her death by Iris. Afterwards, Iris returns to room 64 to find Elizabeth stroking Donovan's corpse.

Back in 2015, John packs for an extended stay at Hotel Cortez; Iris checks him into room 64 as "Hotel California" plays.


  • Liz Taylor: "Some of the old-timers have been here since the dawn of time."
  • Sally: "And now you are going to entertain me. Move me with your tears."
  • Elizabeth: "I lived in New York once, many years ago. I loved roaming the streets, devouring the pulse of the city.. Electrifying. I miss it very much."


  • The music playing at the start as the two girls enter the hotel is an instrumental version of 'The Eternal' by Joy Division.
  • Marcy appears, bridging this season with Murder House. She also mentions Hallie's fate. Both last appeared in "Afterbirth"AHSW-MurderHouse-FullTelevision.
  • Until this episode, Sarah Paulson's characters in all previous seasons alone held the honor of never being killed off. Ryan Murphy's promise that it would be different this season. [2] was cleverly kept without losing another muse.
  • Angela Bassett and Evan Peters are credited but don't appear.
  • Murphy teased upcoming ties to the Ten Commandment Killer and how hotels are places where secrets are kept, unlike the previous season which was about exposing one's vulnerability. [3]
  • Murphy said he wanted to explore vampirism without doing vampires. No fangs and black capes this season![3]
  • Entertainment Weekly's review by Jeff Jensen gave the premiere a B-.[4]