American Horror Story 1.7: Open House

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

This episode marks the long-awaited return of the S in the episode warnings. It’s just been L and V for so long!

Also, I feel like it’s worth noting that this show, campy and crazy and ridiculous as it is, keeps steadily improving with each episode (well, full disclosure: this one wasn’t particularly strong). I’ve enjoyed it enough to write over 26,000 words about it so far, not including tonight’s recap, but I’ve only just now realized how invested I am in what’s happening and who it’s happening to. Nice job, AHS.

1994 (though we don’t know that for a minute or two. Shhh, don’t tell anybody). A fire burns in the hearth, and Larry, not burnyfaced, hangs up a phone and kneels down in front of Constance as she stares into the fire. He asks what “they” said, and Constance tells him that “they” are going to charge her with criminal child neglect and take “him” away. Larry holds her hand and makes sympathetic faces as she tells Larry “You know how he is. How he suffers so when he’s not with me.” Larry tells her that he loves her, and that he would do anything for her. She tells him to do it, “Like we discussed.” Larry looks briefly horrified.

All right, was anybody else totally baffled by Larry being not burnyfaced in 1994? I had been under the impression that he was way older, and that he’d been living in the house during the seventies–eighties, at the very least. His clothes and mannerisms threw me off, I guess.

Officially 1994 Card. Larry goes up a ladder into the attic, catching a red ball as it rolls over to him (the same one Addie and her unseen buddy were playing with in earlier episodes). Larry rolls it back, and a face (accompanied by a scare chord) peers out of the darkness. It belongs to a child with severe congenital defects–like, I can’t even begin to figure out what’s up with this kid. Maybe craniodiaphyseal dysplasia? He sort of looks like Rocky Dennis.

Larry tells him it’s too late to play, kindly tucking him in and quoting Shakespeare at him. The boy closes his eyes when Larry tells him to, and Larry says “God help me” before smothering the kid with a pillow.

Credits. NO, WAIT, I THINK WE NEED TO TALK MORE ABOUT THE CHILD MURDER.

Ugh, fine, Harmons at the sketchy obstetrician’s office. The obstetrician sits down with a clipboard, and Vivien asks if she saw anything strange, like maybe hooves or horns or the screaming souls of the damned? Ben’s like, eh? But the obstetrician says everything’s fine, and that “Every pregnant woman worries they’ve got a little devil in them.” Yeah, unless they’ve got a little Captain in them. Am I right, pregnant ladies?????

The obstetrician says that she doesn’t want Vivien to get all worked up, but she’s pregnant with twins. Great, the only thing creepier than an S&M demon baby. Vivien and Ben are both understandably flabbergasted.

Marcy the realtor shows a sleazy man with very groomed brows around the murder house, eventually saying “Everything was meticulously restored by a couple of the previous homos–homeowners, homeowners.” The guy genially replies with “Fags have such a great eye for detail, don’t they?” WELL YOUR EYEBROWS LOOK VERY DETAILED, BRO, JUST SAYING. Marcy says, wistfully: “Queer eye.” These two deserve each other.

Marcy leads him into the kitchen, where old Moira is working, and offers him “nibbles.” It’s a euphemism for cookies, not dirtbag sex, I guess. The man immediately asks if young Moira comes with the house, because he didn’t see her in the brochure. OH! AND! I just remembered that the Halloween episode answered part of my question as to what gay men and lesbians see when they look at Moira. Chad and Pat saw old Moira. This may be interesting only to me.

Vivien says that Moira does come with the house, and that she’s worked for consecutive owners. The man shakes Vivien’s hand and Marcy introduces him as Mr. Escandarian. They talk about the Mediterranean up the street that he was also looking at, and how it has a pool, but he could build a pool at the murder house, too. Moira engages in some barely-euphemistic discussion with Escandarian about how deep the pool would be and how she likes it deep, and he’d have to tear up the whole backyard to build it.

Vivien interrupts their deep-dickscussion by asking if Escandarian would like to see the rest of the house, but he only wants to know why Vivien is selling it for so little money. Marcy tries to bullshit with the truth that Vivien’s a very motivated seller, but Vivien tells him that the house has a troubling, violent history. Escandarian is cool with it, and tells them that if they get an offer before hearing from him, they should contact him. He leaves. Marcy bitches at Vivien for telling the truth, and Vivien says they should go on the murder tour to see WTF is actually up with the house. They hear a noise, and walk back to the kitchen to see LARRY’S BURNYFACE IN CLOSEUP. Well, we see it in closeup. They just see the back of his head, until he turns around and says he‘s there to see the house. He steals nibbles while Marcy tries to get him out of the house and Vivien makes hilarious faces. When Marcy doesn’t let up on him, he starts licking his fingers and touching everything (my greatest fear) while talking about how “If he’d known he was going to be shunned for his affliction, I wouldn’t have run back under that burning school bus to save all those children.” Hee.

He pours a glass of chardonnay, and tells them they’re going to show them the house, and Marcy straight-up whips out a gun and points it at him. Vivien’s like “Um, what the shit?” and Marcy says “A woman in my line of work can’t be too careful. There are a lot of minority men in this city who would like nothing more than to ravage me on this countertop.” While we all process this statement and realize that it is a real thought that many Tea Partiers have had at some point or another (constantly, maybe a little wistfully on long, dark, lonely nights? Who knows how their minds work), Vivien tells her firmly to put the gun away. Larry says that he hopes she’s permitted for that, because he’ll be mentioning it in his lawsuit. He brings up the Americans with Disabilities Act and Marcy puts the gun down immediately.

Vivien shows Larry the living room, and he’s fascinated by the fireplace. He asks her to show him that it works, and there’s a lot of awkward staring between Marcy and Vivien as he gets all romantic with the fire.

Speaking of awkward romance! Vivien goes to bed that night and gets down to business, fantasizing about banging awesome Luke:

YAY HI!

Who transforms into stupid Ben:

GO AWAY.

Who then becomes the Rubber Man:

...okay whatevs, I'm down.

The sex gets progressively more awkward until she either comes or is too weirded out by Rubby M to finish. She sits up, looking disgruntled, and casts her vibrator away in despair.

Violet takes a razor to her wrist, ho hum. Tate snaps at her to stop that, and says “Let me see that” like he’s going to slap a butterfly bandage on it or something. Instead, he puts his mouth on the cut. Violet’s like “That’s gross!” and Tate’s like “I know! Cutting yourself totally is gross! Promise me you’ll never do it again!” And Violet’s like “Ugh, crazy ghosts of psychopathic murderers, always trying to change you!” but agrees not to cut herself anymore.

In Violet’s room–where she has a glass vase full of babydoll parts–Violet tells Tate about the “brutal family dinner” Vivien and Ben have planned. Tate reads a book quite intensely, then asks if Violet believes in ghosts. She asks why he’s asking her. I thought he knew he was a ghost, but I guess not. But really, how do you miss that? At some point, it becomes willful ignorance. Probably around the second year stuck in the same house. HOW DOES HE CHANGE CLOTHES?

They cute-morbid at each other for a little while, talking about how there’s got to be a better place after death, at least for Violet. “Not you?” Violet asks. Tate says “Ever since you came here, this is my better place.” Aaw. I wish they hadn’t cast someone as attractive as Evan Peters, because it’s like I immediately forget Tate killed fifteen people when he does stuff like sit with his legs hooked over the footboard of Violet’s bed.

Brutal family dinner. That is some serious pot roast, but it’s too late to make my own pot roast, also I don’t have any pot roast, also also I can’t be trusted with anything more complicated than a microwave chimichanga. I cannot overstate the difficulty of my life. Ben and Vivien incompetently try to make Violet tell them what’s wrong, but she gives them all the deets anyway: they dragged her out to California to save the family, decided to get a divorce, and are selling the house she actually likes. My first instinct is usually to say CHILD SHUT UP THEY’RE DOING THEIR BEST, but one of her parents is Ben Harmon and the other parent willingly married Ben Harmon. Violet was kinda boned on the parental front from the outset.

Violet leaves the table, and Ben proceeds to be incompetent some more. Like, I disagree with Vivien when she says maybe they shouldn’t sell the house, but when Ben tells her they need to, I know it’s because he’s a toolbox and is only thinking about himself. I would like to congratulate Ryan Murphy for creating a character so absolutely loathsome that even I can’t find something to like about him. Dylan McDermott is attractive, but not attractive enough to make up for this awful character.

Vivien tells him that they’ve got two buyers lined up, Escandarian (who she thinks is Persian for some reason) and Larry. Ben flips out on Vivien when she says she wants to go on the murder tour to get the full deets on the house. God, he’s an asshole. Vivien calls him on it: “It must be great to be able to do that, to just flip a switch and be able to justify your bad behavior.”

Ben lies: “My family comes first.”

Vivien counters: “Since when?”

Ben gestures with a knife when he says “Don’t screw this up. We‘re selling this house.” Not like I’m going to stab you gestures, but also: maybe it is that kind of gesture.

Doorbell. Escandarian is awful, but his pocket squares thrill me. Moira answers the door and tells him that Vivien is out, but she’d be happy to show him “anything you want to see.” First up is Violet’s room. “As you can see, this room belongs to a sad, depressed teenager. But it has real potential.” What kind of potential? Paint it red and hang a sex swing. Escandarian immediately fantasizes that he’s in a hilarious pair of manties and sex-swinging the heck out of Moira.

Moira says that it’s always been one of her fantasies to swim naked in a heated pool. She kicks an ottoman over in front of Escandarian and immediately gets down on his johnson, mistaking him for Persian yet again–”I always heard Persians have big thick cocks. Something a girl can gnaw on.” Do people mix up Persians and Armenians a lot in the real world and I’m just not aware of it?

Escandarian warns her not to use teeth, and compliments the softness of her hands. “Not rough like most maids.” EW. She totally blows him in Violet’s room.

Old Moira walks out into the hallway first, wiping her mouth. WAIT, THE POV OF THIS SCENE IS TWO DUDES! WHY ARE WE SEEING OLD MOIRA? Is old Moira what she really looks like, then? I think it’s just because the writers thought it would be hilarious to have Frances Conroy act out the post-beej scene. She becomes young Moira a second later, which pretty much cements that it was for the (dubious) lulz.

Ben’s like, what the fuck were you doing in my daughter’s room, strange man and pervert maid! But when Moira says Escandarian is about to make an offer on the house, Ben is all smiles. I HATE HIM SO MUCH. Ben says that they’ve been very happy at the house, but Escandarian doesn’t care–he’s going to bulldoze it and turn it into apartment units. Ben says “Great idea.”

Larry walks home with a paper bag of groceries. I see a loaf of bread, but no celery. Sitting in the dark of his apartment is Ben, who tries to be intimidating with a lighter but mostly comes off as one of those guys with patchy beards who wears a fedora and owns a Zippo but can’t pull either of them off.

He tells Larry that he (over)paid someone twenty bucks to break into Larry’s place for him. He can’t even trespass right. Ben tells Larry that he did some checking on his background, finally: Larry never went to prison. He was in a burn ward for two years, then institutionalized. But what about the terminal brain cancer? He also didn’t kill his wife and kids.

Larry tells Ben that he doesn’t know everything, and that it’s true that he tried to scare him out of the house. “But I was only doing it for your own good.” Ben is skeptical that Larry would want to buy such an evil place, and Larry says that he needs it. It’s the only hope he ever has of being happy again…with HER.

Flashback. Larry, unburnyfaced, tells his wife, Lorraine, to sit down at the table because they need to have a chat. He tells her that he’s fallen in love with Constance. She says that Constance is very beautiful, and “If I were a man, I suppose I would love her, too.” She asks if he’s going to move out, but he actually wants her to take their daughters and go back to Ohio, where he “will provide for you, always.” Well, there’s that, I guess. This is awful, obviously, but Larry is still a better person than Ben. At least he’s honest.

Lorraine finally cracks a little, asking “You’re going to move her into our house?” Larry snaps that it was Constance’s house first, and that he can’t live without her. Lorraine leaves the table, and Larry exhales.

Later, he goes up the stairs, calling for his wife. He gets to a room and sees smoke coming out from behind the door, and the handle burns his hand. He yells, asking if the girls are in there. He kicks open the door to reveal the inferno behind it. Ruh roh.

Back in the future, Ben’s like “All this, for Constance?” Larry says she’s the most exciting woman he’s ever met. Ben tells Larry that they’ve got a buyer, and that he’s going to pull the whole house down. And Ben’s going to the cops to get a restraining order. He also drops his cigarette on Larry’s floor in a poor attempt at a threatening gesture. Have some class, douchebag.

ETERNAL DARKNESS TOURS, starring STAN, the ETERNAL DARKNESS GUIDE. Guiding ghost tours is my third dream job. My first is rich globetrotting superspy, and my second is rich globetrotting writer. Anybody got a hookup? The tour goes from the OJ house to the murder house.

Flashback to 1926! Nora polishes all her own silver. I really like Lily Rabe. It’s hard enough to find modern actresses who look like they could have come out of the 20s, but she’s got the mannerisms and speech patterns down perfectly, without looking or sounding like she‘s trying too hard to do it. MAYBE LILY RABE IS A GHOST?

Nora wonders aloud what her mother would say if she could see her polishing her own silver. I know my own mother would say “That’s way too much silver. Pawn that shit.” Charles appears, looking haggard. Nora mutters that she wishes she were a widow. She waxes on how she bought the dress she’s wearing for her mother’s funeral, and who would have known she’d be wearing it to her son’s? Which will have to be closed-casket, because of what Charles did. Charles says that he actually got it right this time, and that their son is waiting for her upstairs. She half-smiles, half-grimaces, and goes to Thaddeus’s room while the crazy music gets crazier. She hesitates, but goes inside. The crib is covered. She pulls the cover up, but there’s no baby inside. There IS an unseen hissing monstrosity behind her, though.

Charles huffs a ton of ether or whatever it is as Nora comes back downstairs, looking out of it. She tells him he’s a genius; he said he’s been waiting a long time to hear that from her. Apparently, he used the still-beating heart of one of the abortion patients to bring Thaddeus back to life. That biology seems kind of dodgy, but we’ll let it slide. Charles notices that something is amiss. Nora says that she tried to nurse Thaddeus, but it wasn’t milk he was craving. Her chest where it shows above her neckline is scratched up, and there’s a doily wrapped around what is probably a missing finger. EUGH.

She says that they’re damned because of what they did, and expresses regret about the girls/fetuses. She also says that she tried to kill the unholy abomination upstairs by stabbing it with a letter opener, but it wouldn’t die. Charles doesn’t like that, but she calms him down by saying that she’ll hold a press conference about his genius, and that he’s finally a man after all. Charles goes to his knees in front of her, and she strokes his head before she totally blows it off with a gun. She then eats a bullet herself. Oh dear.

Ostetrician’s. Vivien still doesn’t feel good when she leaves her house, and requests a TBS test. The obstetrician reluctantly agrees to do it.

Constance goes into the basement of the murder house, insulting Larry’s flowers (“They smelled like the gas station you bought them from.”) and drawing him out of hiding. She completely cuts him down for being sad and pathetic and kind of ooky, even while he tells her he loves her. She says that if he sees her skulking around again, she’ll send Travis out to beat him up. TRAVIS I MISS YOU.

Larry informs her about Escandarian’s plans for the house. Nobody knows what’ll happen to all the ghosts that reside there.

Violet hears scratching in the attic and goes up there, because nobody in this show makes good decisions. Beau scares her, but Tate scares Beau. He tells Violet that she now has the power to control the dead! Or, rather, just make them go away by telling them to go away. He shows her his stash of crazy stuff to calm her down–it includes a jar of something mysterious, some gay porn magazines (Tate: “Check thith out.“ Violet: “I think gay porn is hot.“ Tate: “Totally.“ HAHA I FEEL LIKE THEY‘RE BEING SERIOUS. Why else would a teenage boy keep gay porn in his secret stash of wonders?), and a box of old photographs that Violet goes through later in her room. “Don’t Look Back” by Kissing Cousins plays as she looks at them, one of the house and then one of the Montgomerys, before one of the nurse ghosts shows up. Violet shuts her eyes and firmly tells her to GTFO, and the ghost disappears.

Escandarian’s. Constance is about to steal something, but Escandarian appears in a bathrobe and foils her kleptomania.

Escandarian dispenses with the smalltalk and tells Constance to make him an offer on her house. She asks him for a drink, and he gets her one, but he’s not very patient with her when she talks about the history of migration to California (apparently, people used to show up looking for “a patch of land that not even a red Indian had set foot on.”) and how they have a duty to preserve the past. Escandarian is having none of it, and tells her to get out if she isn’t going to buy the house herself. He tells her that the only uses he has for women are business, sex, and sandwiches, and if she’s not going to go make him one, she really does need to be on her way.

Angry, but composed, she says “One day, your time is going to end. And they’ll be building on top of you, too.” He doesn’t care, and heads upstairs because he has Ben Harmonitis and doesn’t care if weird strangers are wandering around his house. I hope Constance steals all his ugly little figurines.

Therapy time. Tate is cute and charming, telling Ben that he thinks the drugs are working and he doesn’t have any more visions and now he can levitate and speak the language of all animals. Ben tells him that the session’s over, and turns the recorder off. He says he’s worried about Violet, and asks Tate if Tate would keep an eye out and tell him if she’s in trouble. Tate agrees, saying he wishes Ben was his father. I hope he’s lying, because otherwise, this is very sad.

Constance lets herself into the murder house and snipes back and forth with Moira. I wish these two had been friends, or at least frenemies, because Frances Conroy and Jessica Lange both do so well with these characters and have such great chemistry. Then again, watching them hiss at each other is also fun. Moira notes that Constance has been crying, and tells Constance that Tate’s probably lurking around somewhere if she needs to talk to him.

Constance finds Tate, and he’s chilly toward her. She asks if Ben is helping him, and he says yes. “We’re getting to the root of the problem. Turns out, I hate my mother.” He leaves, and the heartbreak is plain on Constance’s face. She decides to go check on Beau in the attic, sitting down with him on the bed and explaining that he’s going to be taken from her. She hugs him tight when the news distresses him. Augh! Terrible person, terrible mother, still so sympathetic.

Kitchen. Constance refers to Escandarian as a Persian AGAIN (seriously, what?) when she asks what Moira wanted to accomplish by throwing herself at him. Moira says that he’s going to build her a swimming pool, and when they dig up the backyard, they’ll find her bones and Constance will go to prison. Constance calls her a stupid slut and tells Moira what’s really going to happen. Moira doesn’t believe her, but Constance convinces her with the admission that she‘d love to see Moira stuck there for eternity, “Scrubbing out low-flow toilets in government-subsidized housing,” but that Constance might also lose her family forever. Moira is upset, asking why men always lie. Constance softens on her for a moment, saying that they can help each other out. All Moira has to do is “what you do best.”

Escandarian shows up, sans pocket square. Young Moira assures him that the Harmons are tucked into bed, and leads him down to the basement “Where nobody can hear us.” Here is a tip: if someone ever uses soundproofing as a selling point on going anywhere, you need to never go to that place with them. JUST DON’T.

Moira sits him down and starts in on his dick again. He’s okay at first, but then she’s using too much tooth, BUT THEN SHE BITES HIS DICK OFF. She stands up, wiping blood off of her mouth as he screams, and Larry puts a plastic bag over his head from behind, holding it there until he stops moving. Constance comes in, saying she finally appreciates Moira’s talents, and tells Larry to make sure Escandarian is off the property before he dies.

“Harsh Realm” by Widowspeak plays as Violet looks at the pictures some more. Vivien comes into her room to talk to her about the house sale and the move. Violet changes the subject to how Vivien knew when she was in love with Ben, and smiles a little because Tate is handsome and apparently that’s a pretty surefire way to know when you’re in love. Violet shows Vivien the old picture of the murder house, and shows her the Montgomery family photo, also.

Vivien recognizes Nora from when she visited, and we cut out on her shocked face.

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  • Pauli

    I’m constantly amazed that this show manages to make all these characters we’d normally despise somehow sympathetic.

    One note: I’m pretty sure Vivien asks the doctor for a CVS (chorionic villus sampling) test.

    • Sam H

      Except Ben. Ben is both despicable and unsympathetic.

      Ah, that makes more sense!

  • Samantha

    Ahh I have been hitting F5 like crazy waiting for this! lol I love your recaps. Not to sound creepy or anything.

    ANYWAY. Yeah, I assumed Larry was much older, too. The first time we saw him, when he was telling Ben about how he supposedly murdered his family, I thought his clothes were pretty 60s-ish, but I guess that would make him way older than he looks.

    Re: what people see when they look at Moira – I wonder what she looks like when no one is looking at her, or when she looks in a mirror? It’s like a goddamn boggart. For some reason I assume that when “we” look at her, we see old Moira, so that’s her “default,” which is why when she left Vi’s bedroom after that beej, she was old – because no one was looking at her. If that makes sense? I don’t know, I probably think about this too much lol. But yeah, Frances Conroy wiping her mouth was pretty funny in a kind of gross way.

    Dude, the nurses are the only two ghosts on this show who freak me out. They show up at the scariest times and seem to have no other personality except for wanting to scare the shit out of people. I feel like, though, some of them are trying to protect the Harmons – or at least Violet – definitely not Ben because he’s the worst person alive. Like the episode with the intruders.

    I love love love Nora. She is one of my favorites, and Lily Rabe is beautiful. I also still love Tate. I CAN’T HELP IT OK.

    • Sam H

      I LOVE YOUR COMMENTS. Creepiness fully intended.

      Yeah, I thought he was a ghost from the 70s or so until it was established that ghosts can’t leave the house. Sigh.

      I’m so confused by Moira! I’m not sure if it’s someone falling down on continuity or if it’s intentional, but I guess we’ll find out by the end of the season. I mean, I hope we will.

      I know I’m replying late, but all the ghost stuff went nuts in this week’s episode. AAAAHHH

      Agreed!

  • Catherine

    Constance was dating Larry – He kills Beau in the attic so he couldn’t be taken away from her. 1994. I wonder if this was after Tate shot up the school and that while they were investigating they found Beau in the attic. Poor Larry still doesn’t understand that Constance doesn’t care about him, she was just using him.

    Viv is having twins, yeah! Damien I and II. That OB has to be in on it like Rosemary’s baby, your sick so “it’s your body telling you to stay home.” OB is frustrated with the testing Viv wants done…everything is alright…..

    Armenian guy….perhaps it is that LA has a large Persian/Iranian population stereotyped for being nouveau riche/flashy/tacky/arrogant? Gosh the writers on this show are such bigots…just like the “teapartiers!”

    Again, Constance has the best lines…”Monstrous temples to the gods of travertine…” Guess Constance doesn’t like HGTV. How does she feel about granite countertops? I also loved, “I would normally rejoice at the thought of you spending eternity scrubbing out low flow toilets in government subsidized housing….” So Moira won’t be free, she just wants Constance to be caught after all of these years.

    I loved that as the guy is passing out with the bag on his head he sees old Moira. Did you notice that?

    Marcie is so screwy “I find that rice paper very cheap.” “Thank you for taking me on this tour, “ it’s so inspiring! Dead baby may still be in the house? “Let’s not include that in the listing.”

    Lily Rabe – I agree. Perfect. She really has those Philadelphia “Main Line” affectations down. I have loved every scene with her. I hope we see more of her.

    • Samantha

      I DID notice that Escandarian saw old Moira when he was being suffocated but totally forgot! I wonder what that means… can she control what people see?

      • Catherine

        Maybe he was passing out/dying he sees “real” Moira. Still, it breaks “ghost” rules of not aging after you are dead, so Moira is a mystery.

    • Sam H

      I think it was probably before, because they would have taken Beau away immediately in the aftermath of the shooting. Larry is so tragic.

      I never trust any kind of doctor in horror movies, and this is exactly why. They’re always so sketchy, even if they’re not murderers!

      The repeated Iranian thing seems like it was supposed to be significant, but it went nowhere. Even if L.A. did have that kind of stereotype, Vivien (who’s from Boston and doesn’t get out much) still mistook him for Iranian. Weeeeird.

      Moira is tragic, too! Like you hate somebody for so long that your hate is no longer about you, it just becomes about hurting the other person as much as possible. That’s really sad.

      I did notice that! Maybe old Moira is the real face (but ghosts don’t age after death), and since he was sort of straddling the line between life and death, he could see her true face? In this week’s episode, Tate (ghost) sees Moira as old, and Hayden did mention that they could make themselves unseen–maybe that covers changing your appearance as necessary?

      Haha, Marcy makes me laugh with her terribleness. And Lily Rabe is so amaaaaazing.