Pepper was abandoned by her family into the inept care of an orphanage when she was born. When she was eighteen years old, she was rescued by Elsa Mars, thereby becoming the first member of Fräulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities. As the troupe grew, she would form a maternal relationship with the dwarf Ma Petite and an innocent romance with fellow "pinhead" Salty, to whom she was informally married in a mock ceremony.
Personality and Appearance
Despite her alleged history of infanticide, she was innocently playful and kind-hearted. She usually wore a flowery muumuu and a girlish bow in the topknot adorning her misshapen mostly bald head. Upon being abducted by aliens, she was given a highly intelligent, confident, forceful and sharply observant personality, who was unafraid to mock and threaten Dr. Arden when he threatened to mutilate Grace, and also correctly accused Oliver Thredson of being evil to his face.
Pepper's role as a performer was a sort of clown act with Salty, providing amusement through innocent dance and play. Her extended role was as an attendant to "Miss Elsa", providing manicures and delivering messages. During a visit from Edward Mordrake on Halloween, she was deemed innocent by the ghost's demon face and she was passed over for "collection".
Upon the death of Salty, she became despondent and unwilling to perform, so Elsa took her to live with her sister, Rita Gayheart. There, she was treated with utter disdain by her sister and brother-in-law, Larry. She was tasked with serving cocktails to her sister and caring for her disfigured and equally unwanted infant nephew, Lucas. With his wife's complicity, Larry killed the child and framed Pepper for the crime. She was convicted of murder and consigned to the asylum at Briarcliff Manor, where she was admitted by Sister Mary Eunice. The nun took her on as a rehabilitation project and entrusted Pepper with custodial duties in the manor's library.
Pepper spent most of her years at the asylum a model inmate, only guilty of pestering visitors to play and hoarding food in her cell. On the night of a massive storm, Pepper excuses herself from the movie night to pee and did not return. Sister Jude mistakenly assumed that she was a casualty of the failed escape of Lana, Grace, and Kit.
In reality, she was abducted by extraterrestrials, who performed genetic alterations that upgraded her subnormal intelligence to genius level. She was returned to the asylum to act as guardian to pregnant and resurrected fellow abductee, Grace. She defends Grace from the experiments Dr Arden tried to perform, stating the extraterrestrials have protected her from harm, as shown when Arden's scalpel is telekinetically flung from his hand. Pepper reveals that the extraterrestrials do not like Arden and mock his experiments, and that if Grace is harmed in any way, the extraterrestrials will abduct him and "stir his brain with a fork". Pepper tried to carry out her charge of protecting Grace bravely against Oliver Thredson, pointing at him and saying she knows what he is up to and he doesn't fool her one second, but the effort to protect Grace was futile as he had her taken away by orderlies. Pepper befriends a defrocked and committed Sister Jude who is in the asylum as a patient, becoming Jude's closest friend. However, when Jude began suffering from delusions, it is revealed that Jude has been imagining Pepper being her friend, and that Pepper died two years ago from pulmonary fibrosis.
To Dr. Arden: "When my sister's husband drowned her baby and sliced his ears off, he told everyone I did it. They tied me up and paraded me in front of a judge. He took one look at the shape of my head, and I was locked up for good. That's how it works for us freaks. We get blamed for everything."
To Sister Jude: "You all right there, boss? You're looking a little green under the gills."
To Oliver Thredson: "I know everything you're up to. You don't fool me for one second."
To Dr. Arden: "If something happens to Grace in here and she's harmed in any way, there won't be anyone else to blame. They'll take you, open up your head, and stir your brain with a fork. And when you're returned, you'll experience first hand how people treat us freaks."
To Dr. Arden: "Why don't you go to your whore nun and have her soothe your deflated ego?"
Despite each story of the show originally being perceived as taking place in its own discrete universe up to Coven, Freak Show changed the cards. Ryan Murphy stated that each story featured on the show shares the same one universe, per 31 October 2014 reports: "This is the first year where we begin to tell you that season two is connected to season four which is connected to season one."
Pepper is the first character to be featured in more than one season along with Sister Mary Eunice and Arthur Arden before crossovers started to become a recurring event.
Pepper was first featured in Asylum and returned in Freak Show. Although she died in Asylum, Freak Show is a prequel. It was confirmed conclusively in the season four episode "Orphans" that Pepper is the same character from both seasons.
Rita Gayheart is the sister of Pepper. Despondent after the loss of Salty and no longer willing to perform, Pepper was taken by Elsa to live with Rita. Rita made excuses that her husband would not allow it but Elsa convinced her to stand up to him and do the right thing by family. Unwilling to admit her own reluctance, Rita agreed. After Rita gave birth to a deformed child, she treated Pepper as a house slave whose duties were making her cocktails and caring for her otherwise unloved baby. She and her husband, wanting to return to a life of leisure, hatched a plan to get rid of both of them by killing the baby and blaming Pepper.
Rita is the second character portrayed by Mare Winningham. For a complete list of her characters, see Cast.
Rita is Mare Winningham's only character to have not been killed by a character portrayed by Evan Peters.
Pepper's cameo in Cult episode, Drink the Kool-Aid