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American Gothic - Kindred Spirits - Review: "Frog Aficionado"

Turtlenecks are great. They are trendy shirts that can be great fashion choices on cool fall and winter days. I love turtlenecks and own several.

I felt the need to disclose my position on turtlenecks before we dive into this truly crazy episode, where most members of the Hawthorne family are gripped by turtleneck psychosis. Their irrational hatred for the humble turtleneck drives Alison to go after a poor reporter with scissors for having the audacity to wear turtlenecks while reporting on the misfortunes of the Hawthorne family. Maybe having sex with Tom and planting the bug have something to do with Alison's distaste for Jennifer, but I get the feeling that Alison was just looking for a reason to go after that turtleneck and Jennifer was happy to oblige by being a horrible person.

I wrote last week about American Gothic's use of dark humor to complement the show. This week seemed to show the downside of that humor. It leaves the audience with a bit of a disconnect as to how we are supposed to react to certain situations. When Alison goes after Jennifer's shirt with the pair of scissors, were we supposed to cheer? Laugh? Gasp?

Because that scene is weird.

But maybe that's the point.

The theme this week was the Hawthorne siblings making good(ish) choices. Garrett makes an effort to connect with his sisters. Alison and Tom try to be more transparent in their marriage. Cam finally realizes that Sophie is holding him back from sobriety. Tessa and Brady decide to commit to making their family work. Even Jack decides not to shoot a crossbow at his new crush. Progress!

And yet, the episode didn't feel especially triumphant. None of these choices seem like they're going to last because we've been told for the past eight episodes that despite their outward veneer, the Hawthornes are all screw-ups.

I keep going back to the scene between Alison and Jennifer. Jennifer hasn't been portrayed as sympathetic, but when Alison exacts her revenge, it isn't a winning or heartwarming moment. It's just creepy. The Hawthorne family is so screwed up at this point, that that's really the best they can hope for. A week where the press doesn't report on finding another serial killer in the family is a good week for them.

We've reached the point where the show setting up for its endgame and I'm beginning to wonder about the finale. Can this show even have a happy ending and what would that happy ending look like? Presumably, the killer will be revealed, but other than that, what can the audience look forward to? Nothing is going to make up for Madeline killing her husband. They're not going to magically find a cure for Jack's mental problems, as this episode shows.

Despite my previous thoughts on Jack, as the show accompanies Jack to psychopath camp, I am interested in what the show has to say about Jack's condition. In a lot of shows, shipping Jack off to a special program would be the happy ending, but American Gothic points out that just moving Jack to another location doesn't solve the underlying issues. That being said, I'm still way about the show's treatment of Jack. With Jack stopping himself before he shoots his campmate with the crossbow, the show seems to be pointing out more psychopathic kids and saying "Hey audience, Jack isn't as messed up as these kids!" Just because there are other troubled kids out there doesn't make up for the fact that Jack tried to kill his cousin.

In addition to the anti-turtleneck cabal and Jack's camp adventures, the episode focused on Tessa's mixed feelings about her pregnancy and Cam's journey in rehab. Neither of these storylines proved to be very interesting. Despite tackling interesting issues like nature vs. nurture and the relationship between drugs and creativity, the show didn't say anything new about them. They seemed like they belonged in a more normal family drama than the weirdness we've been treated to these past eight weeks.

So enjoy the weirdness while it lasts! Let the image of Alison, Madeline, and Garrett cackling about turtlenecks while drinking enormous glasses of wine warm your heart! It is as happy an ending as an episode can have.

Meanwhile... this week in Brady: Last week Brady and Linda were on top of the case. This week they couldn't even recognize when an old sassy blind lady is lying to them. Brady also got rewarded for his intrepid police work by having his boss tell him about Tessa's pregnancy while investigating an active crime scene, which did get a solid laugh out of me. Better luck next week guys! At least you have a crime scene that isn't a decade old now.

Top Suspects of the Week:

Hawthorne & Family: Seriously, next week Brady and Linda are going to find photographs of all six Silver Bells victims wearing turtlenecks and the pieces will fall into place.

Christina: Christina apparently died during the week and was reincarnated from a no-nonsense, compassionate doctor who serves as a love interest for a Hawthorne brother into a no-nonsense, compassionate nurse who serves as a love interest for a Hawthorne brother.

Someone New: I can't imagine any of the Hawthornes taking a break from turtleneck mania, rehab, and prenatal appointments to go murder the blind woman. I am assuming we're going to be introduced to a new suspect soon.

Caramel Watch: Once again, no Caramel. RIP that raccoon that was dissected by Sadie. I don't think Caramel would be happy that his regenerative nerve endings were used as a bonding moment between Sadie and Jack.

Who's your top suspect? When will Caramel come back? How do you feel about turtlenecks? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author - Laurel Weibezahn
Laurel Weibezahn is a freelance writer. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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