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The Quirky Collections of Design Pros—in Their Childhood vs. Now

NOT SURPRISINGLY architects and designers tend to amass visual artifacts early. New York artist and landscape designer Paula Hayes made snowballs and tiny snowmen that she stored year round in a corner of her family’s freezer “like a little town.” Nunturat Robbamrung, now associate design director at Wilson Associates’ New York studio, accumulated fruit seeds—fascinated by their shape—and organized them by size. Here, eight design pros on their youthful hoarding habits, and the collections they focus on today.


How Venom’s Director Made Sure His Symbiote Stood Apart From Spider-Man 3

Superhero movies are everywhere, and now Sony is trying a new strategy by crafting a cinematic universe around the supporting characters of Spider-Man lore. With the web crawler being apart of the behemoth MCU, the first of these movies is finally hitting theaters with Venom. Ruben Fleischer’s blockbuster will be an origin story for Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy. Hardy is also voicing the antihero title character– sharing scenes with himself in the process. Venom was previously adapted into live-action with Sam Raimi’s less than stellar Spider-Man 3, although he’s looking decidedly different in the new movie. CinemaBlend’s Sean O’Connell recently spoke with director Venom Ruben Fleischer, where he explained the effort to make the character look as different from Topher Grace’s version as possible.

It looks like Venom’s fundamental appearance change is mostly a sign of the times. The capabilities of CGI and visual affects have improved greatly since Spider-Man 3 arrived in 2007. The Raimi movies relied heavily on practical affects, resulting in a Venom that was far more human in appearance. But the big guy is a hulking monster in Venom, which should make comic book fans very happy.

Ruben Fleischer spoke with CinemaBlend editor Sean O’Connell at the recent Venom press junket. The character’s appearance and physical presence is being praised from early critics, and has already been shown off in the brief scenes released ahead of time. When fully transformed, Venom is a giant creature, with a bulky physique ripped directly from the beloved comic book pages. His symbiote abilities can also be far more creative and unpredictable, as modern visual affects create the impossible onscreen.

Ruben Fleischer’s comments also show how methodically he tried to separate Venom from previous web swinging movies. Tom Hardy’s dual Venom characters seem nothing like that of Topher Grace’s in Spider-Man 3, with audiences able to accept a new onscreen version of the iconic character, possibly crafting a new shared universe in the process.

You can catch Venom in theaters October 5th. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

These Two Sauces Will Make Your Steak More Delicious

RAISE THE STEAKS Simmering the carrots for the salsa that’s served with the sirloin draws out sweetness and makes for a velvety purée.
RAISE THE STEAKS Simmering the carrots for the salsa that’s served with the sirloin draws out sweetness and makes for a velvety purée. Photo: James Ransom for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Eugene Jho, Prop Styling by Carla Gonzalez-Hart

The Chef: Fermín Nuñez

These Two Sauces Will Make Your Steak More Delicious

His Restaurant Suerte in Austin, Texas

What He’s Known For Smart, elevated takes on Mexican cooking. Perfecting the art of the tortilla.

A QUALITY STEAK calls for nothing more than salt and a good sear. But the smoky savor of the meat really pops when paired with a little sweetness and acidity.

In this recipe from chef Fermín Nuñez of Suerte in Austin, Texas, a velvety carrot-habanero salsa provides the sweet element plus heat. A fresh pico de gallo of mangos, chiles, shallots and cilantro contributes the crucial acid zing. “It’s a party,” Mr. Nuñez said. “It dances in your mouth.”

Of course, none of that matters if you don’t nail the cooking of the steak. The pan must be good and hot to achieve a proper sear and a rosy interior. Seconds count, so give the sizzling steak your full attention.

It helps that the other elements are so simple. The pico requires no cooking and the salsa calls for little more than simmering the carrots, charring a shallot for added smoky depth, and then a quick blender blitz. You might want to round out the plate with a side of pan-roasted potatoes, as Mr. Nuñez does at Suerte. “I’m in the business of delicious,” he said. “And when I tasted it all together it was obvious.”

TOTAL TIME: 35 minutes SERVES: 4

2 (1-pound) sirloin steaks

Kosher salt

4 carrots, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic

6 cups chicken stock

2 dried habanero chiles

2 shallots

5 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

1 large mango, diced

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 small red chile, minced

2 tablespoons butter

Roasted potatoes, to serve (optional)

1. Season steaks generously with salt and set aside.

2. Make carrot-habanero salsa: In a pot over medium-high heat, combine carrots, garlic, stock and habaneros. Simmer until carrots are very tender, 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a dry large sauté pan, cook 1 whole shallot over medium-high heat until charred all over, about 5 minutes. Drain carrots, garlic and habaneros, reserving cooking liquid, and transfer to a blender. Add charred shallot and purée. With motor running, stream in 3 tablespoons oil. Salsa should be loose but not watery. If necessary, blend in some cooking liquid. Season with half the lime juice and salt to taste.

3. Make mango pico de gallo: Mince remaining shallot and toss with mango, cilantro, red chiles and remaining lime juice. Season with salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil.

4. Heat remaining oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Melt 2 tablespoons butter. Lay in steaks and cook, undisturbed, until charred on underside, 3-5 minutes. Repeat on reverse side until meat reaches desired doneness, 3-5 minutes for medium-rare. Let steaks rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.

5. Cut steaks against the grain into ½-inch slices. Smear salsa over four plates. Top with sliced steak and pico de gallo Serve with roasted potatoes, if you like.

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Your New Favorite Brown Liquor

From left: Osocalis XO Alambic Brandy; Bertoux Brandy; Argonaut Speculator; Germain-Robin XO; Copper & Kings American Craft Distilled Brandy.
From left: Osocalis XO Alambic Brandy; Bertoux Brandy; Argonaut Speculator; Germain-Robin XO; Copper & Kings American Craft Distilled Brandy. Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

AFTER YEARS of watching bourbon sales soar, American brandy distillers are ready to get in on the action. The first step: education.

Brandy encompasses a whole range of spirits: Cognacs and Armagnacs, distilled from (grape) wine; Calvados and other apple brandies, made from cider; and fruit brandies derived from berries and tree fruits. The most sought-after brandies are barrel-aged, yielding a liquor as brown and aromatic as any bourbon.

Traditionally, American brandy has been “a bit of an underdog,” according to Thomas Pastuszak, executive wine director for the NoMad Hotel chain. In August, along with Jeff Bell, bar manager of PDT in New York and Hong Kong, Mr. Pastuszak launched Bertoux, a new California brandy intended for mixing into cocktails.

The word premium has long been attached to French brandies, particularly luxe, highly regulated Cognac. By comparison, American-made brandy has been pigeonholed as an unremarkable “value” spirit—a reputation long deserved, on the whole, especially among the largest producers.

In recent years, however, American distillers have been turning out excellent brandies made from a variety of fruits, often in regions not traditionally known for brandy. In Texas, for example, Chip Tate, best known for building the Balcones brand of whiskies, is designing and assembling his own stills and producing brandy made with grapes from the Texas Hill Country wine region. In North Carolina, High Wire Distilling is experimenting with old-school peach and watermelon brandies, made with fruit grown in state.

Even in bourbon central, Louisville, Ky., Joe Heron, co-founder of Copper & Kings, has been garnering attention with his line of grape- and apple-based brandies. Mr. Heron—who founded the popular Crispin Cider and then sold it to MillerCoors—has injected a youthful rock ’n’ roll personality into a category often considered fusty. He names stills after characters in Bob Dylan songs and blasts Queen, David Bowie and Kanye West in the aging cellar (at least, that’s what was playing when I visited), so the pulse of the bass agitates the liquid in the barrels, a technique called “sonic aging.” In January, beer, wine and spirits giant Constellation Brands took a minority stake in Copper & Kings.

“The resurgence is built on the shoulders of an increasingly adventurous consumer within a brown spirits palate preference,” said Mr. Heron. In other words, he said, brandy is “slipstreaming” bourbon. Mr. Heron also credits crossover between wine and brandy—most often made with wine grapes—with helping to introduce the spirit to wine drinkers. Bartenders, too, have played “an enormous role” in raising consumer awareness, he said, and bringing brandy to a place where it is “not traditional and boring.”

He names stills after characters in Bob Dylan songs and blasts Queen, David Bowie and Kanye West in the aging cellar.

In California, America’s most established brandy-making center, a coalition of producers met in April to brainstorm the promotion of the state’s considerable stocks of “America’s other brown spirit.” Participating distilleries at the inaugural California Brandy Summit in Fresno included E. & J. Gallo, F. Korbel & Bros., and smaller producers such as Germain-Robin (since acquired by Gallo), Charbay Distillery & Winery and Osocalis.

Brandy “needs to get out of the commodity box,” lamented Paul Ahvenainen, Korbel’s director of winemaking and master distiller at the summit. “If brandy isn’t sexy, it’s because we’re not making it sexy.”

Ansley Coale, co-founder and principal of Germain-Robin, a craft producer noted for exquisite small-batch brandies, echoed Mr. Ahvenainen’s sentiments. “People don’t know enough about brandy to understand how good it can be, to really believe in it,” he said.

Among the ideas floated for rehabbing California brandy: Emphasize the “terroir” of brandy, similar to that of California wine. Create a “straight brandy” category similar to straight bourbon, with additional legal requirements regarding production, to help drive the premium association. Push more brandy into the cocktail world, where drink recipes are currently far more likely to call for, say, whiskey or rum.

The cocktail push has gained the most traction. Over the last year, Gallo has been touting its Argonaut line intended for mixing into cocktails. The most recent entrant to the fray, Bertoux—named for the inventor of the motorcycle sidecar, an oblique reference to the brandy-based drink of the same name—is a versatile blend of brandies aged three to seven years, sourced from a contract distillery in Parlier, Calif.

Compared to more rigidly defined styles from France (Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados), premium American brandy has yet to find its limits. Expressions range widely, from Copper & Kings’ muscular brandies to the elegance of Germain-Robin to light, easy drinking Bertoux. Among the diverse list of bottles above, any lover of brown spirits should find a winning way into this category.

American brandy “doesn’t have a unique style, so there’s room to play and develop new ones,” said Mr. Pastuszak. “It’s the Wild Wild West appeal there.”

BRANDY, YOU’RE A FINE DRINK / American Bottles to Suit a Range of Tastes

1. Osocalis XO Alambic Brandy (40% ABV, $120)

An outstanding choice to sip straight, fireside. This velvety mix of fresh-cut apple and orange zest mingled with honey, vanilla and sweet spices has a super long finish.

2. Bertoux Brandy (40% ABV, $45)

This bartender-blended brandy intended for mixing into cocktails is relatively light on the palate, melding oak and apricot, and finishing with a flurry of ginger sparks.

3. Argonaut Speculator (43% ABV, $38)

From California brandy giant E. & J. Gallo, this very mellow brandy offers layers of dried fig, caramel and spice. A versatile choice for either sipping or mixing.

4. Germain-Robin XO (40% ABV, $200)

Think elegance and finesse. This is aged longer than most American brandies—about 17 years—yielding a silky sipper accented with vanilla, coconut and roasted nuts. An ideal dessert drink.

5. Copper & Kings American Craft Distilled Brandy 45% ABV, $35)

This robust brandy made in Louisville, Ky., hints at honey and baking spice, with lots of toasty oak tannins providing a dry, puckery finish.

Your New Favorite Brown Liquor
Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

An artifact of an era when brandy was a bartender go-to, this cocktail makes a great showcase for the new wave of American brandies.

Combine 1½ ounces Bertoux Brandy, ¾ ounce lemon juice, ½ ounce Cointreau and ¼ ounce simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.

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Happy Thursday: Prince Harry Just a Kissed a Royal Fan

A woman named Lydia received quite the surprise yesterday (October 3) when Prince Harry gave her a royal kiss on the hand. Yup!

Here’s what happened: While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were on their official visit to Sussex, they did a meet-and-greet session with fans. When the couple got to Lydia—who the Daily Mail reports is an 80-year-old woman—she told Markle that she looked “so beautiful.” And then, Prince Harry swooped in to give her a peck on the hand.

Lydia replied by giggling and saying, “Oh thank you!” You can watch the full video, below:

Prince Harry and Lydia’s adorable moment wasn’t the only dose of royal PDA that fans got during the duke and duchess’s trip to their namesake Sussex. (This was the first trip they took to Sussex, by the way: a fact that’s delighted the Internet.) While chatting with and fist-bumping some school-age children, Markle gave Prince Harry a sweet back rub, likely returning the favor from the time he gave her an impromptu massage at the WellChild Awards in September. Their visit also involved a cute interaction between Prince Harry and a golden retriever. It’s like he’s trying to make us swoon, ya know?

The royal couple is reportedly planning to take their first ever trip to the United States next year. They have no official plans on the books just yet—insiders claim they’re looking at New York, D.C., California, and Canada as potential destinations.

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Prince Harry Skipped a Royal Hunting Trip Because of His Love for Meghan Markle

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Have Reportedly Welcomed a New Addition to Their Family

First Look At Dwayne Johnson And Jason Statham In Hobbs And Shaw

The Fast and the Furious franchise has had an absolutely fascinating tenure in theaters. Starting off as a basic racing flick with some mediocre sequels, the property eventually turned into a beloved action franchise that is considered a new classic. Each installment has made a ton of money at the box office, including the recent blockbuster The Fate of the Furious. While the franchise shows no signs of slowing down (see what I did there?), it’s also expanding to spinoff films– the first of which being Hobbs & Shaw. Starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham as the title characters, the film will follow as the two badasses team up on an adventure separate from the rest of The Family. The first image from Hobbs & Shaw has just arrived, showing the dynamic duo in action.

Uh oh. While Shaw and Hobbs seem to finally come to an agreement by the end of The Fate and The Furious, it’s unclear how well they’ll function as a team throughout the course of their own spinoff movie. It wouldn’t be fun to see the two fan favorites being all buddy buddy, and the first image certainly teases a rocky road for them to walk together.

This first Shaw & Hobbs image comes to us from The Rock himself, Dwayne Johnson. Johnson is one of the busiest men in show business, and is constantly filming, producing, acting in, or promoting one of his movies. Shaw & Hobbs seems like a passion project for Johnson, so it should be interesting to see if his support of the project is more enthusiastic than others. If that’s even possible.

While Dwayne Luke Hobbs made his franchise debut in Fast Five, Jason Statham’s character Shaw is more of a newcomer. After having a brief cameo in Fast & Furious 6, Deckard Shaw was an antagonist who eventually switches side and joins Dom’s crew in The Fate of the Furious. But before a new movie is filmed for the main story, he’ll team up with The Rock for Shaw & Hobbs.

As a reminder, check out the duo’s iconic prison scene in The Fate of the Furious.

I mean, how can you not give those two their own movie? There’s just too much badassery to pass up.

While fans of the Fast and the Furious franchise are psyched for Hobbs and Shaw to get their own movie, there’s been some contention from other members of The Family. Specifically, actor Tyrese Gibson took umbrage with the spinoff, as it essentially delayed the next main installment. And since Gibson’s character Roman Pearce won’t have a role in Hobbs & Shaw, he felt The Rock was taking money from his family by exploring a new project. It was a celebrity feud that lasted months, although it seems to have died down as of late.

You can see Hobbs & Shaw yourself when it arrives in theaters on August 2, 2019. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

DC Universe’s Titans Renewed For Season 2 Before Season 1 Can Even Premiere

Live TV viewership used to dictated whether or not a series lived to see another season, although streaming has always been a different ratings beast, with official viewership numbers often hidden from the public eye. DC Universe hasn’t even premiered Titans yet, but the superhero drama was renewed for Season 2 before the first season even had a chance to debut and score any ratings stats. The confidence-oozing announcement was made at this year’s New York Comic-Con, which CinemaBlend was present for.

Titans‘ Season 2 renewal came right after New York Comic Con attendees saw the DC Universe staple’s world premiere, although it’s likely the next season commitment was cemented before audiences ever got a chance to see the heroes in action. Season 2’s announcement came on the heels of DC Universe locking down an international distribution deal with Netflix, who will be streaming Titans in every supported country that isn’t the United States or China. That deal will ensure audiences worldwide get to see this edgier, grown-up version of the Titans in action, to decide for themselves whether or not Robin’s mega-diss on Batman was justified.

Titans‘ early renewal isn’t too surprising from a business perspective, especially now that studio execs have had a chance to look at the early subscription numbers for DC Universe. (Plus, cancelling a flagship series ahead of its premiere probably isn’t the best look for a competitive new streaming service.) Barring any major controversies or incidents, it would be very hard to imagine a scenario where Titans wasn’t going to get a Season 2, even if the audience’s response to the new series wasn’t as super as the heroes, since comic book TV is all the rage. But the early buzz seems to be more positive, as a good number of viewers and critics at New York Comic Con appear to have been impressed,

That said, there are a few outliers who aren’t fans of DC Universes’ new hero squad. Some have taken issue with the gritty adaptation of the Teen Titans characters, which has been one of the big talking points leading up to the show’s premiere. Many fans were probably hoping for an adaptation closer to the original Teen Titans animated series by Glen Murakami, which could actually be coming back to television in the future anyway. Another issue some have taken with the series is its portrayal of characters like Starfire, whose live-action look differs from past adaptations of the character.

Starfire can be seen alongside her ass-kicking teammates in the show’s latest trailer, which shows the team linking up for and getting ready for a fight.

Season 1 of Titans is due to arrive on DC Universe on Friday, October 12. It’s one of the many television shows making its debut in the coming months, so be sure to check out our fall premiere guide and see what else is headed to television.

Camila Cabello, Ariana Grande, Post Malone Lead The 2018 MTV EMA Nominations

The MTV EMA will never be the same! After a whirlwind year — during which she notched a No. 1 album and won the top two prizes at the VMAs — Camila Cabello leads the pack of nominees at this year’s star-studded awards show.

Cabello snagged six nominations, including Best Song and Best Video for her Young Thug-featuring smash, “Havana,” which she performed at last year’s show. She’s also up for the coveted Best Artist prize alongside Ariana Grande, Post Malone, Drake, and Dua Lipa. Grande and Malone follow Cabello with five nominations each, while Lipa, Drake, and Shawn Mendes boast four nods to their names. Elsewhere among the pack, game-changing artists like Cardi B, Travis Scott, and BTS are also nominated.

The 2018 MTV EMA will celebrate some of the biggest names in music when the show airs live around the globe from Bilbao, Spain, on Sunday, November 4 at 9 p.m. CEST and at 7 p.m. ET. As always, fans decide the winners in each category for the night, so check out the full list of nominees below and get voting now at!


Ariana Grande

Camila Cabello


Dua Lipa

Post Malone


Ariana Grande — “no tears left to cry”

Camila Cabello — “Havana” ft. Young Thug

Childish Gambino – “This Is America”

Lil Dicky — “Freaky Friday” ft. Chris Brown

The Carters — “APES**T”


Ariana Grande — “no tears left to cry”

Bebe Rexha — “Meant To Be” ft. Florida Georgia Line

Camila Cabello — “Havana” ft. Young Thug

Drake — “God’s Plan”

Post Malone — “rockstar” ft. 21 Savage


Ariana Grande

Camila Cabello

Dua Lipa

Hailee Steinfeld

Shawn Mendes




Cardi B

Hayley Kiyoko

Jessie Reyez


Cardi B

Dua Lipa


Nicki Minaj

Post Malone





Nicki Minaj

Travis Scott


Ed Sheeran



Shawn Mendes

The Carters


5 Seconds Of Summer

Foo Fighters

Imagine Dragons




Fall Out Boy

Panic! At The Disco

The 1975

Thirty Seconds To Mars

twenty one pilots


Calvin Harris

David Guetta


Martin Garrix

The Chainsmokers



Camila Cabello

Selena Gomez

Shawn Mendes

Taylor Swift


Clean Bandit — MTV Crashes Plymouth, UK 2017

Charli XCX — MTV Crashes Plymouth, UK 2017

David Guetta — Trafalgar Square, UK 2017

Jason Derulo — Isle of MTV Malta 2018

Post Malone — Wireless Festival, UK 2018

Migos — Wireless Festival, UK 2018

J Cole — Wireless Festival, UK 2018

Nick Jonas — MTV Spotlight @ Hyperplay, Singapore 2018

Alessia Cara — MTV Spotlight @ Hyperplay, Singapore 2018


PRETTYMUCH (October 2017)

Why Don’t We (November 2017 )

Grace VanderWaal (December 2017)

Bishop Briggs (January 2018)

Superorganism (February 2018)

Jessie Reyez (March 2018)

Hayley Kiyoko (April 2018)

Lil Xan (May 2018)

Sigrid (June 2018)

Chloe x Halle (July 2018)

Bazzi (August 2018)

Jorja Smith (September 2018)


Ariana Grande

Camila Cabello

Cardi B

Imagine Dragons

Post Malone

X-Men Producer Simon Kinberg Understands Gambit Worries

The X-Men franchise has had a long life in the theaters, but it hasn’t been without missteps. And while R-rated movies like Deadpool and Logan have found massive success, Fox’s next three releases have each been pushed back a few times. No blockbuster is quite as guilty of this as Channing Tatum’s Gambit, which has been delayed more times than you can shake a kinetically charged stick at. Many hardcore cinephiles and Marvel fans have all but given up on the Gambit movie at this point, and producer Simon Kinberg seems to understand that experience. In fact, he shared the cynicism– despite knowing the inner workings of the franchise. As he tells it,

While making a joke about his own insecurities and personal background, Simon Kinberg does seem to level with the fans here. Gambit has had an extremely rocky road to development, with no end in sight. So fans who don’t think the project will ever happen certainly have cause.

Simon Kinberg’s comments to Collider show how in flux the X-Men franchise as a whole is, and how the folks at 20th Century Fox are a bit more flexible than one would think. While running the X-Men franchise for nearly two decades is a massive undertaking, the studio seems to be flying by the seat of their pants in some ways. Just look at the most recent set of delays, as Dark Phoenix takes Gambit‘s release date, The New Mutants was delayed, and Channing Tatum’s movie was left in development hell.

The fans’ trepidation toward Gambit show one way that the superhero genre has changed in the past few years. Because until a blockbuster is actually shot and in the can, there’s no guarantee that previously announced projects will come to fruition. Gambit is a great example of this, as are a variety of DC’s previously announced movies that have no release date or production schedule. There’s still no guarantee the Gambit movie will ever actually make it to theaters, although Simon Kinberg makes it clear that the studio is very much keeping it in mind.

Of course, Simon Kinberg also addresses the possibility that Gambit might never make it to theaters, as he’d just as cynical as the rest of us. And with Disney and Fox’s merger looming in the background, the clock seems to be ticking.

Simon Kinberg’s directorial debut Dark Phoenix will arrive in theaters on June 7th, 2019. In the meantime, check out our 2018 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

American Horror Story: Apocalypse Has Lots Of Great Crossover Moments With Coven And Hotel

Major spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t yet watched American Horror Story: Apocalypse’s latest episode.

After taking three episodes to set up its uncomfortable post-disaster narrative, American Horror Story: Apocalypse pulled the curtain down to show viewers what happened in the years before Ms. Venable poisoned the entirety of Outpost 3’s residents. Not only did the episode fully bring the bulk of Coven‘s betwitching ensemble into the fold, but “Could It Be…Satan?” also took a surprise trip back to another former American Horror Story season, with Hotel‘s haunted lodge and characters reappearing. Let’s go over the various connections seen (and unseen) in Episode 4.

Michael Is An Alpha Warlock

Looping everything together in American Horror Story: Apocalypse‘s latest episode was antichrist Michael Langdon’s backstory, which was not set next door to the Murder House under Constance’s care, but partially with an elite academy for burgeoning warlocks, similar to Miss Robichaux’s Academy. (It also happened to be the building presently known as Outpost 3, where Cheyenne Jackson made his seasonal debut.) Though Michael wasn’t necessarily always aware of the powers festering inside him, he strengthened them under the care of Kathy Bates’ Satan-worshipping guardian, whom Mrs. Mead was modeled after. Michael’s mastery caused his superiors to believe him to be the most powerful supernatural entity in existence. Even more powerful than Coven‘s Supreme, perhaps, which is how viewers arrived at the biggest surprise of the episode…

Queenie At The Hotel Cortez

Powerful as Sarah Paulson’s current Supreme Cordelia may be, she copped to the Hawthorne school’s upper echelon that she wasn’t able to rescue Queenie’s soul from eternally playing board games with Evan Peters’ Mr. March within the possessive Hotel Cortez. What a joy it was to see both Gabourey Sidibe’s Queenie and Mr. March again, and I was so hopeful for Liz Taylor or Ramona Royale would pop up, too. That didn’t happen, though Queenie did get to escape back to the land of the living, but only after Michael and his ever-growing ego showed up to whisk her away. Which meant that Mr. March didn’t have a game buddy anymore, the poor guy.

Madison’s Hell

Just as Queenie was temporarily trapped in an eternal tug-of-war with another hellacious entity, so was Emma Roberts’ Madison Montgomery. Only, she was stuck in her own personal hell, which wasn’t all THAT far off from Queenie’s stressful fast food afterlife in Coven. Madison was being forced to work as a cashier in a retail department store, which is about as spot-on a character reflection as any in this show. Alas, she didn’t actually have to spend all of eternity checking out angst-ridden demons, because she was also saved by Michael, who brought both Madison and Queenie back to Hawthorne. The sight of them made Cordelia literally pass out, which means Michael’s powers are more impressive than she thought, which possibly doesn’t bode well for her allies.

Outpost 3’s Survivors Are All Coven Witches

As we learned early on, and then later witnessed in part, Miss Robichaux’s Academy was also attended by Leslie Grossman’s Coco, Adina Porter’s Dinah, and Billie Lourd’s Mallory. Each of them had an “identity spell” put on them, though, so that they wouldn’t be aware of their true selves while cavorting with others. (Coco had to have been the “new Madison” of the Academy when she got there.) What’s more, when the episode went back in time to show us just how magical Mallory was in her early days, Apocalypse dropped another big crossover cameo in the form of Taissa Farmiga’s Zoe Benson. We’ve yet to see how Coco, Dinah and Mallory will use their powers for either good or evil, but it’s interesting to now know they have them.

But Where Are Jessica Lange And Lily Rabe?

“Could It Be…Satan?” featured a handful of moments when it seemed inevitable for Jessica Lange’s Constance Langdon (or even Fiona Goode) to bark at someone from a nearby chair, a cigarette dangling from her lips. Similarly, I would have bet some hard cash on Michael’s hell visits also incorporating a rescue for Lily Rabe’s Fleetwood Mac-obsessed witch Misty Day, whose resurrection has previously been teased. Both actresses are confirmed to be returning to the franchise this season in limited capacities, and I guess it makes sense to spread these crossover cameos out more. But if we don’t get Misty Day back by next week, we riot! Unless Michael says we shouldn’t, of course.

American Horror Story: Apocalypse airs every Wednesday night on FX at 10:00 p.m. ET, and you can bet that Ryan Murphy & Co. have a lot more weird tricks and twists up their sleeves. While waiting for more showstoppers, our fall TV premiere schedule will assist in finding all the great new and returning shows hitting primetime soon.

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