American Horror Story Wiki
American Horror Story Wiki

"Dollhouse" is the first episode of the second installment of American Horror Stories. It premiered July 21, 2022 on Hulu. [1]


A job interview goes horribly wrong. [2]


The Van Wirt Toy Company is in full swing in Natchez, Mississippi (1961). Miss Coby Dellum applies lipstick in her car, preparing for a job interview within. Inside, plastic is molded and sculpted into dolls and packaged under the watchful eye of Mr. Samuel Van Wirt. He considers dolls without sin, and she questions the wisdom of whether God would prefer humans as dolls. He considers her "not right" for the position, regardless of her overqualifications. Van Wirt's assistant, Eustace grabs and gags her from behind and drags her away.

She awakens in his private dollhouse, a place of eclectic design that Van Wirt created himself. It is full of seeming mannequins (dressed as a diner waitress, a shepherdess, a bride and a French maid). He says she is to be in a pageant for the next seven days. She tries to politely decline, but her participation is not open to debate. Her path is blocked by his mute (tongueless) assistant, and he leaves her locked in to get settled. Coby comes to realize that she is not alone, as several of the mannequin-like women begin moving and speaking. Aurelia, dressed as the French maid, objects to Coby entering late in the contest, as she didn't have to pass the three preliminary tests that the other "dolls" endured. They explain that the contest is to decide which "perfect doll" shall be the mother to Van Wirt's children; the eliminated will be dealt with gruesomely. Harlene and Bonnie show Coby to the room that they share. Some of them have been kidnapped from roadsides or their homes over recent weeks, but none have escaped. Coby spots a young boy, Otis, in the window of the main house.

Harlene explains that Van Wirt ordered his adulterous wife (Otis' mother) and her lover thrown naked into a deep well two years prior when he caught them together. While officially a boating accident, the "dolls" know the cover story to be false.

An alarm bell sounds and the dolls hurry to choose and dress in costumes, posed frozen for Otis and Van Wirt's entertainment. Otis is unamused by the new addition, "Coby the Clown". Otis believes that adults wrongly believe children like clowns, and a desperate Coby offers to show him a magic trick before he arranges for Eustace to dispose of her. While dubious of magic tricks, Otis is fascinated when Coby appears to push a toy truck across the floor with no visible means. He demands that she do so again, and she reluctantly repeats the strange trick.

Later in their quarters, Aurelia is furious that Coby produced the magic trick and demands an explanation. Coby counters that Aurelia should consider instead what it means to win the contest. Will the winner become Van Wirt's wife? Aurelia doesn't care, and wants only to survive. The alarm rings out again, signaling a test. Van Wirt hastily describes a menu, for which the dolls must set a formal place. They have one minute to set the table properly, with the most mistaken doll eliminated. Aurelia's setting is perfect, while Harlene's is flawed. Coby loses major points, including a water glass knocked over in haste, but Faye's setting is ultimately the most mistaken. Eustace stuns her with a cattle prod and hoists her out the door and into the well.

The next morning, Otis visits again. Coby admits to him that she has a telekinetic gift that she has kept secret. She left home because she was different, and she believes he can sympathize. Otis initially disputes that he is different, but concedes to her logic when she points out his current solitary lifestyle. He intimates that he hopes she will be the one to win. She subtly tries to persuade him not to dispose of the other dolls that lose, as they are her friends. She promises she will be a perfect mother if he can get his father to let the others go. That night, he approaches his father with the offer. Van Wirt, in a bad mood because of business matters, asks for Otis' trust in his search for the perfect mother; as a result, Otis backs down before he an make the offer.

Van Wirt's next test comes the following day. Within three minutes, the dolls must blend a particular laundry tincture and iron the solution into a shirt as they fold. Harlene's solution is off, Coby's shirt is overstarched and scorched, and Bonnie's is improperly folded and scented. Only Aurelia's escapes comment. As punishment for Coby's burnt shirt, he holds the hot iron to her hand as she stands frozen without reaction. Eustace stabs the eliminated Bonnie and carries her away.

Harlene and Coby conspire as Harlene sees to Coby's burnt hand. Aurelia overhears and retrieves a decorative pole-cap acorn secured by a sharp shaft, which she uses to shank the back of what she believes is Coby. Coby, anticipating this, has doffed her clown costume and placed it on a mannequin. Coby and Harlene confront Aurelia, who believes the contest is rigged; she does not want to die. Coby explains her plan for them to escape.

Otis awakes in the night to the clanging of the bell, and watches his father and Eustace approach the dollhouse. Van Wirt expounds that the next test is about faith. While costumed dolls are posed in the parlor, the living women use the opportunity (and Coby's telekinetic ability) to escape. Coby stops the trio and says they must take Otis with them, as they don't know what an unstable Van Wirt may do with him once he discovers them missing. Van Wirt continues to read scripture as he enters to quiz the dolls on the canon. Van Wirt discovers that the dolls have placed their costumes on mannequins when "Coby" does not respond.

Aurelia and Harlene part ways with Coby as she searches the house for Otis. They trek into the swamp at the edge of the property. Harlene falls and begs Aurelia to wait, but the younger woman holds a rock to smash her compatriot's skull for being "too slow and too loud". She does not get the opportunity, as Eustace shoots them both.

Meanwhile, the real Coby urges Otis to go with her. He says he is sorry, and stuns her with a cattle prod. She awakes strapped to an oddly shaped metal table as Van Wirt explains that he overheard their escape plans via microphones embedded in the plastic dolls. The final test was risking her life for Otis' benefit, and she alone passed. She realizes that the table is a large doll mold, and that she is to be encased in flexible plastic. Her telekinetic power flickers the lights, but it is not enough to escape her fate.

Coby, now living as a fused plastic doll serves tea to Otis and Van Wirt. She is shocked and mute, but Van Wirt insists she will recover over time. A teacup is propelled to the ceiling and smashes, to their disbelief. Two robed women, witches, freeze Eustace and Van Wirt in place. With flicks of the hand, she shatters the plastic envelope around Coby. They arrived as quickly as they could, as Coby's fledgling spells were weak and avoided detection. They bid Coby to join them, and Coby leaves the dollhouse with them and Otis; she will be his mother, but he may never return to this place. On the way out, one of the savior witches overhears a moan from the frozen Van Wirt. She exits, and with a flicker of magic sets him (and the dollhouse) ablaze.

At the gates of their new home, Coby suggests that Otis call himself instead by his middle name (and plants a story that he has lived there for generations). He agrees, and thus he begins his new life as Spalding with his new friend, a young witch named Myrtle Snow.

Featured Characters[]



  • The episode establish a connection with the witches introduced in American Horror Story: Coven. It also serves as a backstory for Spalding, whose father is also portrayed by Denis O'Hare in the episode.
  • During the second test, Mr. Van Wirt asks the dolls to follow the rules of a "Monsieur Seydoux", who operated the Dauphine Street Laundry. Monsieur Seydoux is a fictive character and not know to have any real-world counterpart.
  • The factory shown at the beginning was also used as the Hollywood studio in FX's "FEUD: Bette and Joan", another Ryan Murphy production which aired in 2017.
  • Miss Robichaux's Academy is portrayed by a different building, when it was portrayed by the Buckner Mansion in Coven and Apocalypse, respectively.

Raised Questions[]

  • Will Coby Dellum appear in future seasons of AHS featuring witches?

Cultural References[]

  • While on the phone, Mr. Van Wirt mentions competitors to the Van Wirt Toy Company, like Mattel and Hasbro, which are real-world toy companies. He also mentions Barbie, which is Mattel's famous fashion doll.