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"Facelift" is the sixth episode of the second installment of American Horror Stories. It premiered August 25, 2022 on Hulu.


Synopsis[]

A woman desperate to look her best does the unthinkable.[1]

Plot[]

Virginia Mellon alarm wakes her, and she goes through her daily ablutions (including dabbing her morning urine to her face, allegedly to reduce aging spots) before breakfast with her law-student step-daughter Fay. An anti-oxidant juice is her latest attempt to look and feel younger than her increasingly senior age. Her daughter chides her for looking longingly at her soon-to-be divorced neighbor, Bernie. Her daughter drops a hint about where Bernie will be later found for an "impromptu" meeting. She lingers long enough in the wine shop for the clerk to notice, and Bernie arrives to greet her. They exchange pleasantries, and Bernie admits to her that he and his wife are separated. Bernie is called aside by Cassie Brooks, a college dorm-mate from Virginia's past. Cassie looks noticeably younger than expected for an age-peer of Virginia's, appearing 30 years Virginia's junior. Virginia is flustered when it becomes apparent that Cassie and Bernie are romantically linked, and the pair mention that they will be vacationing together soon. Bernie leaves the women to find a particular wine, and Virginia questions Cassie about her beauty secret. Cassie agrees to tell her, on the condition that Virginia stay away from Bernie. Virginia agrees, and Cassie hands her a business card for apparent plastic surgeon Dr Enid Perle.

At an appointment with the doctor, Virginia discusses her fears that she is hideous and Perle rejects her as a patient as a bad fit. Perle explains that beauty must start on the inside and that she must work on her mindset before she would consider taking her on as a patient. Virginia, backtracks and breaks down, describing that she simply wants to be happy with what she sees in the mirror and not feel as alone as she does. This is not how she wants for the final chapter of her life, and that she did not have a chance to become her true self when she moved to Beverly Hills for her husband. Perle, attention piqued again, relates that she does not consider herself a plastic surgeon but instead a worshipper of the human form that must occasionally clean up the ravages of time. Virginia honestly responds that while she doesn't feel worthy of it now, she wants to become someone that she can love. Perle leads Virginia to a room where her face is scanned and imaged, and describes her treatment — a proprietary augmentation and skin rejuvenation technique based on her independent studies and travels. She admits to being cagey about the process, but the wall of successful before and after photos convinces Virginia about the worth of profound changes. The procedural cost gives Virginia pause.

Later, Virginia's business manager Grady counsels her that despite her assets that her late husband's debts make paying for the procedure ill-advised. She threatens to fire him, but he tells her that she is unlikely to find an advisor that wouldn't tell her to sell all her assets as it is. Dejected, Virginia gets ready for bed as night falls. She begins to apply a charcoal mask when she hears laughter outside. She sees Bernie and Cassie through his window, undressing. Spotting her, Cassie closes the curtains with a knowing smirk.

Virginia signs the paperwork for treatment at Perle's office. Perle examines Virginia's hands, noting that unlike typical cosmetic work (which does not generally alter hands) that her treatment will rejuvenate them as well (for no additional cost). Virginia notices, as she is being sedated for surgery, that Perle's office logo is tattooed on the hands and necks of the staff. She muses on this while the anesthetic takes effect and the team begins chanting in Gaelic.

That evening, Fay visits and tries to find her mother in a darkened home where the electricity has failed in a storm. The heavily bandaged Virginia asks Fay to retrieve painkillers from her purse with some water. Fay is concerned about the pain Virginia is to suffer for the week of recovery, and about a call from Grady informing her about the debts her father left behind. Virginia insists that Fay is overreacting, and that the worst case will be taking on a student loan. Virginia, agitated from the pain, cruelly insults Fay; hurt, the younger woman leaves angrily over her step-mother's immediate apologies. As the night wears on, Virginia spills her pills and fumbles with her bandaged hands to take more. She hears voices in Gaelic and has visions of demons pursuing her. Fay returns to take her back to bed and cares for her. The next morning, Fay admits that she impulsively lashed out herself when she was a teenager confronted with what she thought was unfair, and returned because she remembered that sometimes desire leads to doing things one knows they shouldn't do. She won't judge the woman that makes her feel like her true daughter. Fay is curious about the specifics of the procedure, as the bandages are overly thick, but gets an incomplete answer from the patient.

A week later, Perle examines Virginia's bandages and says they are due to come off in another day. The odd sensations Virginia is feeling are not the skin, but are the nerves re-aligning from the holistic nature of the procedure. Perle doesn't think that Fay is being helpful to the healing process (which is moving slowly), and suggests a retreat to Perle's private lodge. It will cost nothing, and the medical staff there will care for Virginia in her recovery. Virginia quickly agrees, and packs for a journey to the undisclosed location over Fay's protests. The law student has found no record of Perle's medical license, which she finds suspicious, and multiple settled malpractice suits. Virginia rebuffs her daughter and is driven to the sizable wooden compound. Virginia's bandages draw the attention of the other guests, and Perle intercepts her with an embrace. Perle acknowledges that many present have been in the same situation and that she will find plenty of support of what she considers to be one big family. Perle suggests that the bandages be cut away at a small gathering of the guests, confident in the results and that Virginia will become quickly comfortable with all present. Meanwhile, Fay has tracked her mother to the retreat (by hiding in the back of the transporting SUV) and is quickly discovered and sedated by security.

Perle addresses the crowd that evening, sharing well wishes for a year of prosperity for them. Some of them respond in Gaelic. Virginia is introduced and she is welcomed to the family on her way to the dais. Virginia tells the crowd that she feels very happy to be there. Perle calls forth Fay, and asks if Virginia knew anything about her intrusion; both mother and daughter admit she had no idea. Perle says that Fay must answer for her violation. Virginia tries to downplay her dynamic with Fay, repeating the harmful insult that she is a step-mother and not a true mother to the young woman, and chiding her. Security takes Fay away and Perle cuts away the bandages to show a disfigured and inhuman porcine visage. Valerie panics, and tries to claw away the new scars. Perle intones, "In the name of Etain the Shining One, who takes the form of the sun and the butterfly, you will take your place among us as a sacrifice." The gathering is a yearly pageant commemorating the giver of beauty slaying the ugly swine. Virginia is bidden to seek the ocean miles away as she is hunted by the crowd through the intervening wilderness. She will have a two minute head start, and can be freed if she makes it to the water. Virginia shakes her hooves in disbelief. The ritual keeps the "beautiful ones" beautiful in perpetuity.

Virginia stumbles as she hears the hunting horn behind her, the crowd whistling and whooping as they come near. A bolt wounds her leg, but she finds her way into a concealed drainage tunnel that takes her most of the way. She encounters Bernie at the other end and begs him for help before noticing the spear in his hand. The group, including Cassie and Perle, quickly descends on Virginia and they stab her with the spears. Fay is brought to the corpse and falls upon it, crying for her mother. Perle reminds her that Virginia rejected her earlier, and tells her that her real mother is one of the clan of Etain's "beautiful ones". Her true mother's gift to her is embracing Fay into the clan as she always should have been. Fay recalls the impulsive incident in her youth, and that a pendant she damaged in her fury was shaped as the butterfly sigil of Etain. Perle says that Virginia never belonged with them, but that Fay does and that she must emerge from her cocoon as the clan will retake the world.

Another day, Fay is on campus applying for law school. She has transformed herself from her meek appearance to a more confident one. A young man notices her butterfly tattoo and asks after it, offering to walk her to her destination. She initially declines, but notices his identical tattoo and agrees. Together, they walk.

Featured Characters[]

Quotes[]

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Gallery[]

References[]

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