American Horror Story 1.3: Murder House

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(This program airs Wednesday nights at 10:00 PM on FX)

This was only the third episode? That’s nuts. This episode has a couple of flashbacks, which weren’t really enlightening so much as confusing (which is okay).

1983. Young Moira makes a bed while humming “The Saints Go Marching In.” The room seems familiar. I’m 99% certain it’s The House that the Harmons currently live in. A smarmy-looking dude stands in the doorway, watching Moira–when she notices him, she tells him that she’ll be done in a minute. He says it’d be a shame to waste such a beautiful bed, and starts trying to put his hand up her skirt and kiss her. She gets away from him, saying she really needs her job, and he’s like “You weren’t complaining last time.” She says last time was a mistake, and she was lonely. This Young Moira is different than the provocative deadpan one we already know. He ignores her completely, asking if she wants a Camaro because they just got a new shipment in. She’s like no thanks because this guy is horrible and also because ew, 1983 Camaros. When she tries to leave, he grabs her, throws her on the bed, and tries to rape her. Ugh.

Walking down the hallway is a lady in a red dress, and she has a gun. It’s Constance, with some impressive makeup, and she fires once into the mirror to get her husband’s attention. He stands up and pulls his pants back on, and Moira looks terrified on the bed. Constance shoots her through the fucking eyeball, not even waiting for an explanation. She tells her husband, voice wavering, that she’s loved him since she was sixteen years old. He tries to reason with Constance, but Constance puts three in his chest and gut. She sits on the bed with his body, pulling her earrings off before sobbing into her hands. The camera lingers on Moira’s bloody right eye socket, just so we remember that Old Moira is blind in that eye. Damn.

Present day. Vivien and Ben are arguing. For one brief, glorious moment, it seems like he’s finally decided to come clean so they can hash it out, but no. Ben has just found a new direction in which to fail as a husband/father/human being. All of their money is somehow tied up in the house, on account of some bad investments that Ben allowed someone to make for them. Vivien wants to get the hell out now, on account of her almost getting murdered in there that one time, but Ben is all “You just have PTSD! It’s normal! You just need a therapist! Hell no we‘re not moving out of this house immediately, I see like two patients here, one of whom I keep trying to get rid of! They depend on me!”

Vivien tells him very matter-of-factly that she’s meeting with a realtor in the morning to discuss possible improvements so that they can sell without taking a huge loss. She warns him not to lie to her again, because she’ll leave him if he does. He looks concerned, thinking about how he’s going to ever speak to her again if he can’t lie.

Credits. The music sounds like a demon has possessed that little doorstop thing that makes noises when you flick it.

Meeting with the real estate agent. Vivien pours coffee and is very cordial as the agent offers condolences about how she almost got murdered that one time. Vivien says that she’s not anxious about living in the house, she’s angry. The real estate agent, not seeing that Vivien is totally angry with her, spins off into a weird rant about how the gay couple who owned the house before used to invite her over on Sundays for Bloody Marys and omelets, “So to find out what nasty little perverts they were…you probably heard about the poker from the fireplace being rammed up hi–” “Marcy!” Vivien interrupts, because gross.

Vivien tells Marcy that they want to sell the house, and hope to get back everything they put into it. Marcy starts trying to deflect about the difficult market, referring to Obama as a “bum,” but Vivien quickly stops that line of conversation. “Well, here’s the bottom line: You owe our family. Under the law, you are obligated to disclose any material facts that might have influenced our decision to buy this house.” Marcy insists that the law required her to disclose any deaths on the premises within the last three years, and she did that.

“Nobody’s buying me cooking classes, Mrs. Hormon.”

Harmon.”

Marcy starts complaining about how she lives in a guest house with rats, and that Vivien might want a more seasoned agent for the listing, but Vivien doesn’t give a shit, and she‘s called every realtor in the city. She tells Marcy that Marcy is going to bake cookies, buy flowers, and lie her ass off to sell this house. It’s badass. Connie Britton is like all the awesome parts of everyone’s mom.

Ben drinks coffee in the kitchen, and is joined by Moira, who tells him that the coffee is fresh and she just made it. Somehow, she still manages to show him cleavage during this innocuous 30 second scene.

Constance pokes around in the Harmons’ house, stealing some more silverware. Seriously, how do these people get in? I mean, I know they’re all ghosts, but what the shit. Old Moira knocks on the door–hm, I just realized that Constance sees Old Moira now, but saw Young Moira in the flashback. I guess Moira was human then. The actresses are 28 years apart, but is 28 years enough to make Young Moira look like Old Moira? Especially if she died as Young Moira? And I’d really like to know what gay men and women see when they look at her. And bisexuals! I assume that’s the entire audience, since we see her as both, ha.

Anyway, Old Moira scares Constance by knocking on the door. Moira apologizes, though she isn’t really sorry, and she says she wishes Constance would have a heart attack. Knowing their history now makes their scenes a lot more fraught. Constance gives Moira a knife to polish, calls her a shitty maid, and says she’s going to steal a whole set of silverware and sell it on Ebay while making Moira look like a thief. Good to have goals, I suppose.

As Constance leaves the room, she calls Moira a “thief of biblical proportions, your specialty being weak husbands.” Moira, at her breaking point, throws something in Constance’s general direction, and screams “I don’t want to be here anymore! I’m frightened! I miss my mother!” She’s crying. It’s really sad and upsetting, because Frances Conroy is like all the awesome parts of that one aunt you probably have.

Constance is upset as well, asking if Moira believes that she wants to be stuck in this world of filth and rot, too. Sounds familiar, sort of like Tate’s assertion that the world is icky and his murder fantasy is doing people a favor by taking them out of it. It was brought up by several commenters in the last post that Tate could be Constance’s one child who wasn’t afflicted by a “malady,” and I’m inclined to agree. The Infantata even likes him! But that still doesn’t explain who Constance is. Is she a ghost? Maybe a medium? AAAAHHHH.

She tells Moira to have some dignity in her situation. Dude, when you’ve shot someone through the eye because your husband attempted to rape her, you have lost all moral high ground forever and for all time. Constance proves she’s an awful person by saying “Every time I find my heart breaking just a sliver for you, I suddenly remember that you made this mess for yourself! And I also remember, every time I see that ghostly eye, that I was, and continue to be, a hell of a shot.”

“You need to pay for what you’ve done.” Moira snaps at her. Constance assures her that she does pay, “every goddamn day.”

Therapy session. Oh, sorry, “therapy” “session,” with Ben the “psychiatrist.” The patient is played by Adina Porter, bringing the True Blood actor crossover count up to three. She’s supposed to be dreadfully boring, but is all monotone and detail-oriented, which seems like it would speak more to slight Asperger’s or something than being boring. Her husband is going to divorce her for being so boring, even though she’s tried to get interested in what he’s interested in. She lists off sports teams she has researched for him. She’s very good at memorization, which is good because she’s an accountant who is branching out into taxes. Ben is a horrible person, so he teleports himself outside after asking her like one question. It’s not like he’s being paid for his time or anything.

There’s blood on his hands, which makes him woozy, so he washes it off with a faucet in the yard and goes back inside. Moira is scrubbing the floor, ass positioned in the air just so, and basically doesn’t tell him anything except that she’s cleaning up blood and she’s got him covered. He’s like, whaaaat, and walks into his office. Moira follows him, saying she cleaned up his office first “So it’s all ready for your next victim. I mean, patient.” No, Moira, you had it right the first time.

Ben searches frantically for his tape recorder, which Moira hasn’t seen. “I never touch the things on your desk. I just get the stains. Do you want to make a new one?” Ew. She gets all up on his jock, practically bending him over his desk, feeding him standard serial killer folie à deux nonsense about blood rushing and pumping and filling them both up, until he turns and grabs her, yelling that he’s done with this game and she’s fired. Vivien walks in at that moment, sees him manhandling Old Moira, and is understandably WTF about it.

Awkward kitchen meeting. Ben uses a lot of words to call Moira a giant slutty slutslut who keeps coming on to him, and Vivien just keeps getting mildly perturbed when she looks at the senior citizen standing before her. It’s actually really funny, at least until Vivien suggests that Moira might want to find another job. Moira gets upset, and manages to somehow yell her way out of a firing. I’m impressed. I also think that Moira has been bumped up to the character I desperately need to know the most about, because I’m so confused and none of my theories actually hold up when I look at them twice. Like, Moira seems aware of the fact that she’s two people and that men “see what they want to see” while women “see into a person’s soul.”

Vivien, fairly but firmly, tells Ben that she thinks he’s feeling so guilty over his infidelity that it’s making him crazy, and she’d like to get out of the house without a lawsuit, so if he could stop grabbing the maid and accusing her of being a whore, that would be great.

Outside, Vivien cuts some yellow roses (which could symbolize jealousy and infidelity in Victorian times) just as a bus for the ETERNAL DARKNESS TOUR pulls up in front of the house. She stands there, totally bemused, as hilarious murder music plays.

Ben comes across Violet smoking, though she tries to stub out her cigarette. He tells her not to worry about it, he’s not there to bust her. He’s such an amazing father that he’s not worried about his kid’s future emphysema! She apparently deserves lung cancer and an expensive habit for going through that home invasion, the brave little trooper. He asks if she wants to talk to someone (“Not me. I’m way too expensive.” Best thing you’ve ever done for her), but she tells him that she’s okay. He leaves, and Tate slinks out from where he was hiding to join her once again. He tells her that Ben’s a good father, and that Violet’s “lucky like that.” Now I know Tate is working against her.

In the kitchen, there are some more inappropriate advances from Moira, but her heart doesn’t seem in it. He’s still looking for his tape recorder, and she says it might be down her dress. When Ben refuses to play along, she tells him she let his next patient into his office. He’s surprised, because he didn’t have a patient. When he goes to the office, boom. It’s Hayden. Here’s an old but useful tip, everybody: do not stick your dick in crazy, and do not let crazy stick their dick in you. I don’t care how hot they are; unless you’ve go the resources to get off the grid and move to Panama for the rest of your life, it’s not worth it.

Hayden is playful when she tells him that she didn’t have the abortion, and she’s moving to California on Ben’s dime so that he can be a father to their baby. He tries telling her that he’s a broke degenerate at this point in time, but her crazy will not be ignored. An LAPD detective shows up, so he manages to get Hayden out of the house with a promise to meet her the next day.

The detective wants to talk to Ben about Sally Freeman, the boring patient. The detective says that’s literally how everyone he talked to described her. Ben was the last person to see her. Moira saunters in, listening to them talk, and when she leaves, the detective says “How the hell do you get anything done with that thing around?” because there are no decent men in Ryan Murphy projects. Ben says that he can’t tell the detective what they talked about, but he doesn’t know where Sally went. The detective gives Ben his card and says “I’ll let myself out. Hopefully run into your maid.” That detective is going to be in the house forever.

Flashback. A dude in a leather jacket is hustling a bigger dude in a leather jacket in an alley. The bigger dude is like “I told you I ain’t no faggot,” but his moustache says otherwise. So does his dick, apparently. Up until that point, the big dude had looked pretty interested in some anonymous alley-banging, but this affront to his manhood was too much to take. Things get homicidal (homocidal?) pretty quick, and it’s revealed that this is a stop on the ETERNAL DARKNESS TOUR, the alley where Sal Mineo was murdered. The conductor says that you’d be hard-pressed to find someone in Los Angeles who didn’t think that it was a hate crime rather than a random mugging. Like there aren’t any multitasking criminals.

The last stop is Vivien’s house, and surprise! She’s on the bus. Which appears to be some kind of truck, actually. Her giant sunglasses are amazing.

We go into another flashback as Stan the tour guide narrates. The house was built in the 1920s, by Dr. Charles Montgomery (surgeon to the stars, played by Matt Ross) for his wife Nora (prominent East Coast socialite, played by Lily Rabe). But Montgomery fell on hard times and got addicted to drugs, and developed a “terrifying Frankenstein complex,” but not in the Asimovian fear-of-androids sense. Is the Frankenstein complex a real thing? I think I have it with regards to sandwiches. I’ve constructed quite a few horrifying monsters out of frightening components and ended up with my life in ruins and everything I love destroyed. Thanks, Quiznos.

Here, a Frankenstein complex is just getting blazed and sewing random shit together. That’s basically all we do here in the South. Nora Montgomery walks around the house, calling for her husband. He is in the basement, sewing what looks like bat wings to a pig corpse–we now know that all of the things in jars belonged to him. He yells at her that he’s working, and she’s pissed off because he’s made them five minutes late for dinner. He angrily rips the wings off of the pig, and angrily huffs something out of his handkerchief.

Dinner is strained, to say the least. A cute little baby is oblivious as his parents’ marriage self-destructs. Nora is angry that Charles is wasting his talent. He feels that she isn’t understanding of how he’s going to make it into medical journals (probably as a case study, but don’t tell him that). He throws a cup and the baby starts crying, prompting Nora to order the maid in to remove him. This is the only way I want to have a child.

Nora tells him he’d better buck up, because the bill collectors are coming. It looks like every couple who lives in the house is doomed to repeat these patterns of money problems/cheating/anger issues. She also informs him that she has a girl coming with sixty dollars the next day, and that the girl probably has friends, so Charles had better not be blotto.

The girl arrives the next day, and Nora reassures her that an abortion is the right thing to do, because “You can’t be a star of the silver screen with an obligation hanging on your skirt.” She takes the girl’s money and gives her laudanum, then hands her off to Charles. She seems shaken, and pops a pill into her mouth before we end up back in the present day. Stan is still narrating, but makes it seem like the Montgomerys were murdering these girls instead of giving them abortions, referring to the abortions as a “reign of terror.”

Vivien realizes suddenly that there‘s blood on her pants, hops off of the bus-truck, and runs into her house. Stan yells that she can’t go in there, but she tells him that it’s her house. I’m going to try that on the next ghost tour I go on.

At the doctor’s office, a friendly doctor (who I also suspect is a ghost, on account of how she’s adamant that Vivien and Ben not move) tells Vivien that she’s fine, and the baby’s fine, and that the blood was just normal spotting and it’s nothing to worry about. She notices that Vivien seems worried anyway, and says that’s bad for the baby. Ben remembers Hayden in his office and when Vivien sliced his arm in Boston, and passes out for a few seconds. The doctor orders and EKG and bloodwork.

Marcy puts up the FOR SALE sign as Constance walks two cute wiener dogs down the sidewalk. Constance notices Tate in a window of the house, and waves to him, a hopeful look on her face. He ignores her and walks away from the window. Marcy clears her throat, confused. Constance continues on her walk, saying “Good luck selling this lemon.”

Ben goes power walking in the park. Larry Harvey hoves into the frame to hobble alongside him, saying “I like it when you don’t run. It makes it easier to keep up.” He also asks Ben if Ben will run a scene with him, because he’s still interested in becoming an actor. Ben wants no part of it. Larry asks if Ben is still having problems with Hayden, and when Ben tells him it’s none of his business, he asks for a thousand dollars. “I need it. I need headshots.” Hahaha.

Ben stops and yells at him, telling Larry that if he comes near him again, there’s going to be a problem. As Ben walks away, Larry says “Oh, I understand,” and smiles in a way that means he most assuredly doesn’t.

Ben tears apart his office some more, looking for the tape recorder. He teleports himself outside again, taking a nap next to a shovel (which he has probably had sex with). Constance is standing in the yard, wearing a cute dress. Ben starts digging with the shovel for no reason whatsoever, while Constance talks to him about how the ground was poisoned with pesticides, so he should just build a gazebo. She paints a pretty relaxing picture, and he seems taken with the idea. Constance shoots a look at Moira, who is standing in the window on the second floor, looking appalled and scared.

The doorbell rings. Vivien looks cautiously through the peephole. It’s Nora Montgomery, aaaaahhhh! She looks shifty and desperate, but after a false start, Vivien lets her in anyway. She holds a heavy candlestick behind her back, though, so there’s that.

Vivien shows her through the house, and she’s pretty creepy the whole time, pointing out the chestnut wood and Tiffany fixtures and acting like a murder house fetishist. She’s baffled by the pasta arm and the microwave that Vivien uses to make tea. When Vivien goes to get the tea out of the microwave, we see that there’s a giant hole in the back of Nora’s head. She disappears. Vivien turns around with two mugs of tea and is like “For shit’s sake.”

Ben continues digging in the backyard when the detective shows up again. They found Sally Freeman, checked into a hospital after a suicide attempt. We see what actually happened–Ben, in a fugue, basically ignored Sally until she slit her wrists, at which point Ben asked her halfheartedly to stop. She grabbed his recorder and ran away. Ben tells the detective that it was covered under doctor-patient confidentiality (which, I don’t think so. That’s a 5150 no matter what, and I’m pretty sure any psychiatrist who let a patient go after she cut her wrists in his office would have gotten in a lot of trouble). The detective gives the recorder back, and tells Ben that it’s not a crime to be an asshole. Except for when it is.

A hot lady in a cutoff shirt shows Vivien and Violet around a nice apartment, then leaves them to talk it out. Violet wants to stay in the house because it’s got “soul.” Or, more accurately, “souls of the unquiet dead.” Vivien, instead of telling Violet that she doesn’t make the decisions, caves to Violet’s claim that she’ll run away so hard that nobody will find her.

The doctor calls Ben and tells him that his EKG and bloodwork were fine, except there was a tiny bit of laudanum in his system. He puts it together that Moira drugged him, and goes to confront her. She just says “Prove it,” to his claims and walks away. I laughed.

The doorbell rings again. It’s Hayden, and she’s pissed. She runs around the house, yelling for Vivien so she can tell her everything, while Ben chases her around and tells her that she’s being crazy. That your educated opinion, Doctor? She stops, eventually, and he manages to calm her down, convincing her to go out to lunch with him. They head outside. In the middle of Hayden telling us that she could go for a big, thick, juicy [burger probably], she is hit in the face with a goddamn shovel. It’s Larry, and he hits her again just to be sure. Ben tackles him, shaking him around, while Larry calmly tells him he’s not a murderer yet. Ben goes and cradles Hayden. Larry asks him if he’s taking a DNA bath. And seriously, dude, you are.

Larry is hilariously calm while Ben freaks out, crying and yelling. Larry’s like “Go clean yourself up before your wife gets back. I’ll clean this up.” He goes to the hole Ben started digging, and is very complimentary about it. Ben staggers inside and pukes into the sink while Larry digs. I call bullshit on how fast Larry gets that hole done, okay, he only has one functional arm, and digging is hard enough with two. Larry finds a skeleton already buried down there, and presses his hat to his heart out of respect. Moira cries in the window; it’s her skeleton.

Larry dumps Hayden’s body in, and it’s covered up. Constance, putting in earrings, stands with Moira and tells her she’s stuck here forever. WHAAAAT. Ben pours concrete and starts building a gazebo. My friend was like “Finally! Carpentry! Something he’s good at!” but then we decided that it’s probably going to collapse and kill some people soon. Also, he leaves a hole in the top where he doesn’t finish the roof as he stands under it with Vivien. DON’T LET PEOPLE INTO YOUR HALF-FINISHED PROJECTS. Especially if you’re as awful at everything as Ben is.

At night, while Ben and Vivien sleep, Nora visits. She sits on the end of their bed, reaching out to touch Vivien. The last shot is of her gaping head wound. Oooh dear.

NEXT WEEK: Halloween! Zachary Quinto! QUINTOWEEN!

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  • Samantha

    “Connie Britton is like all the awesome parts of everyone’s mom.”

    Yes, this is the perfect way to describe her.

    God, this episode… I so disliked Moira for the past two weeks, and then THIS happened and my heart just broke for her. I wish she wouldn’t let Constance bully her around. And I’m not entirely convinced that Constance is a ghost. I was also wondering about the age gap/passage of time, because Constance did say in a previous episode, “Don’t make me have to kill you again,” or something, so I feel like Moira was alive in the 80s? I DON’T KNOW. This show hurts my brain. I love it.

  • Samantha

    ALSO Larry is my favorite character. I can’t help but love him lol.

    • Sam H

      He just wants to be an actor!

    • Sam H

      I know, right? It’s like, bam, suddenly Moira’s got so much depth and inspires a lot of empathy when she was just kind of there before. I like it.

      Haha, I’m in the same brain-hurty boat you are. At this point, I figure Constance is either a ghost or a medium who is bound to the house’s ghosts/the house somehow, but it could go anywhere.

  • Catherine

    Now you have me thinking Constance is a ghost and that didn’t occur to me before. She dresses in late 70s clothes like she’s stuck in a time warp…I guess the real clue is that she told Moira she didn’t want to be there either. Then they both sort of appear. Maybe they are both stuck? I really thought she was going to kill herself after killing Moira and her husband.

    I think that Moira was drugging Ben and planting the idea and the shovel to dig up the area to free her spirit (allowing a decent burial, getting away from the power of the house and rejoining her mommy) and then Constance would poo poo the idea due to pestisides, while suggesting “heaven” in a gazebo. I was actually more disturbed by Moira’s pain at being found, coming so close to being “freed” from purgatory and then paved over sealing her fate, than I was by Heydan’s murder. (Frances Conroy is so great. Her losing her temper at being fired was awesome. When she’s finished, she turns around and says, “there are fresh towels…”)

    As far as the age difference between Constance and Moira, do ghosts age? The other ghosts didn’t. Women may see old Moira and men young Moira, but that’s because, “Men see what they want to see….women see into the soul of a person.” So since she didn’t age in real life and died in her mid-2os, perhaps it’s just her soul that’s oldm bitter and worn. (In real life Jessica and Frances are only 4 years apart, but I don’t think Frances has had work and the botox of Jessica).

    I wonder what happened to the Montgomery baby? Mrs. M is all, “I had a baby once.” I was scared something was going to happen to the baby in that dinner scene. Does she want the baby Constance is carrying? Constance was bleeding, but it she says it stopped when she went into the house? Then Mrs. M was all mooney over her. Constance seems to want the baby too, no?

    What is the deal with Larry? Is he a ghost in a 1972 Fury? I know Ben told him that he cheated on his wife, but did he name names? He seemed to know a lot. Is he Ben’s conscience?

    Thanks again for a fun read recap.

    • Sam H

      See, I’m thinking either ghost or medium, but it could be anything. Constance is Batman. I DON’T EVEN KNOW.

      Ooh, that’s an intriguing idea, and I think you’re right! In that case, oh my god, Constance is the absolute worst person ever. Poor Moira.

      Yeah, I was trying to match up ages but then I couldn’t really figure out if that would tell me anything useful. The actresses who play Moira are 28 years apart, and Moira’s been dead for 28 years, but I can’t figure out why her spirit would age, or why their personalities are so different. AAAH.

      I think Larry is for Ben what Tate is for Violet–a ghost/entity specifically responsible for keeping Ben in the house and weak to its will. I honestly can’t tell whether he’s a ghost or not. I like not knowing and I HATE not knowing at the same time! Stupid show.

      Thank you for reading and sharing!

  • Catherine

    P.S. I think Jessica Lange should get an Emmy for this role. Her “Home sweet home of cicadas in your ears…heaven….” speech. She’s just fantastic in this role.

    • Sam H

      Jessica Lange is amazing! This character could easily be this one-dimensional stereotype, but she’s put so much into her that Constance is actually fascinating and (occasionally) sympathetic, despite being horrible.

  • Catherine

    Had another thought this morning…Constance is constantly putting on and taking off her earings. and has a bit of a fixation about them. I am sure I am losing it by reading into everything, but it popped into my head while getting ready for work. Or it’s just a tick of the actress. In the last episode alone, she takes them off to cry after she murders, and was putting them on in the window while telling Moira she’s here forever. She was asking Viv about hers in episode one and how she had “diamonds for every day of the week.” I am sure I am overthinking…