Spoiler alert: Do not read on unless you’ve seen episode 11 of “American Horror Story: Hotel,” titled “Battle Royale.”
To say the very, very least, a lot happened in the penultimate episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel,” titled “Battle Royale,” a shoutout to Ramona Royale’s crucial role in this episode (along with Angela Bassett’s terrifying performance). The most important event, of course is that the many people looking for the Countess’ (Lady Gaga) head on a platter finally got their wish.
The Countess finally met her maker, but that wasn’t all. Continuing in “AHS'” habit of bringing back fan favorites, the episode even saw the return of a certain “Coven” witch. But let’s break it all down:
Liz, Iris and Ramona
The episode picks up just before Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) and Iris’ (Kathy Bates) attack on the Countess. Iris is hesitant, but Liz has barely ever seemed so sure of anything before. As we saw, the duo enters the Countess’ suite and fires off bullets, but to Iris’ dismay, her son, Donovan (Matt Bomer), throws himself in front of the Countess. Though injured, the Countess escapes.
Donovan tells them that he can’t die in the hotel, as he’ll be trapped there with the Countess’ “other lovers.” It’s a little strange, given that just a few minutes ago he was perfectly fine with dying at the Countess’ hands, but Liz and Iris drag him out to the street. It seems that, through it all, Iris’ allegiance to her son stays strong. Some “blazing final act” it’s turning out to be for Iris, as she watches her son die in her arms.
Liz late cremates Donovan, and, alone, Iris empties the ashes in room 55. Her coldness returns when Miss Evers shows up, and Iris tells her to vacuum up all of Donovan’s remains.
Liz and Iris have been around long enough to know that it would be a longshot to expect that the Countess actually died. Liz has an idea, however: unleash Ramona from her cage. Iris is understandably weary, given that she and Ramona didn’t end on the best of terms, but Liz points out that they have a common enemy — the enemy that everyone seems to share these days, the Countess.
When they find Ramona, despite having feasted on all the vampire children, she’s not in good shape. She needs a fresh kill to put her back into a fighting position. Iris and Liz vow to help her with that, and the perfect sacrifice falls into their laps.
That sacrifice just so happens to be from “Coven,” with Gabourey Sidibe reprising her role as Queenie. It shows some interesting insight into the aftermath of “Coven”: she’s basically a celebrity, as Liz saw a report on CNN about her, and knows she’s a witch. And a witch’s blood would be perfect for Ramona.
Liz and Iris show Queenie her room, where she’s attacked by Ramona. However, anyone who saw “Coven” should know this won’t be easy for Ramona: Queenie’s a human voodoo doll, and Ramona can’t touch her without harming herself.
There’s a loophole, though, and it appears in the form of James March. He ultimately kills Queenie — he can’t be hurt by her powers because he’s already a ghost. March tells Ramona he also wants the Countess dead, and, like so many others, he thinks Ramona is just the woman for the job. Ramona feasts and, with the blood of a witch in her veins, she’s stronger than ever. But can killing the Countess really be that easy?
The Lowe family
Not too much happened with this B plot in this episode, but the Lowe family finally returns home, about as close to whole as they can get. Scarlett (poor, poor Scarlett) brings up some very valid concerns: What are they supposed to tell Grandma? And how will the infected family members feed?
Feeding, John tells her, will be his concern alone. Later, he kidnaps a man, but returns home to find his family gone. A key to the Hotel Cortez is waiting, and John takes the bait, returning to the place where Sally is waiting. She tells him that March has his family, because John didn’t follow through on his promise. John has to find one more murder, and oh, he delivers.
The Countess and Sally
Sally has saved the Countess from what seemed like almost certain death, dragging her away and, in a brutal scene, removing the bullets from her body.
Why does Sally save the Countess? While you could chalk it up to need — Sally can’t leave the hotel, and therefore couldn’t leave that bait for John — it could also be Sally’s abandonment issues, which the Countess notes. “You’re not going to leave me, right?,” Sally pleads. “They always leave.”
With that, we learn more of Sally’s backstory. She was a musician (and drug dealer) and hopelessly attached to a musical duo. The three go to the Hotel Cortez, where a racy threesome scene quickly turns horrific. Sally, desperate to keep the couple with her, sews the three of them together, but the couple overdoses, and she’s stranded in bed with the corpses at her side. After two days, the Addiction Demon appears and tortures her until she can’t take it anymore, and detaches herself from the couple.
(Edit: Plothole alert? While it would make sense that Sally died this way, we learned earlier that she died when Iris pushed her out of the window of the Hotel Cortez, as commenters have pointed out. But if dragging Donovan out to the street before he died saved him from becoming a ghost of the hotel, shouldn’t it have also saved Sally, who technically died on the street as well? We need answers, Ryan Murphy!)
As a last resort to keep the Countess alive, Sally brings her some of her vampire children. Though it seems to break the Countess’ heart, she accepts their sacrifice, coming back to life by feeding on their blood.
Up and walking again (but still clearly weak), the Countess returns to her suite, where an empowered Ramona finds her, leading to a scene bursting with chemistry as the two alpha females clash once again. Ramona admits it’s easier to kill the Countess in her imagination, and the Countess even attempts to apologize (“I’m not used to this, cut me some slack, bitch,” says the Countess, clearly unaware of what an apology really is).
Ramona is seduced, though. “Kill me, but screw me first,” begs the Countess, and one has to wonder if her emotions are genuine — that she really wants to be freed of the hotel, but still wants Ramona — or if this is just a scheme.
Regardless, it works. The Countess, looking arrogant as ever, goes to leave the hotel, but is stopped in her tracks by John, who shoots her dead — for real, this time. John delivers the Countess’ head to March, who is clearly pleased. Sally, however, goes to kill John, but John dodges her and March holds back Sally. John, having delivered on his promise, goes to find his family.
Those mourning the loss of Lady Gaga hardly had time to grieve, though, as she’s returned as a ghost. She’s clearly not happy about her new state, with all her fire and passion zapped from her. March, however, could not be happier to have the Countess trapped with him.
Miss Evers is being uncharacteristically bitter, and it’s because she now has to deal with the Countess for eternity. In her anger, she admits to March that it was she who left the evidence that led the police to him, not the Countess, and confesses her undying love for him. Honesty is not the best policy in this case, though, as March banishes her from his presence. Miss Evers takes this news strangely well, embracing some new-found freedom.
We end on a painful shot of the Countess, who’s possibly realizing her worst nightmare. However, the Countess doesn’t go down without a fight… which we’ll undoubtedly see as “Hotel” airs its finale next week.