American Horror Story 1.10: Smoldering Children

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

Oh my gosh, we are WINDING DOWN (or WINDING UP?) I don’t want it to end. I mean, I want to know how it ends, but damn, it’s starting to feel pretty final in here.

The beginning of this 1994 flashback is a close-up shot of a giant, spooky glistening ham with pineapple rings and cherries. Constance brings it to the table, where Addy, Tate, and Larry are all sitting together. Addy and Larry look content and happy, but Tate is in LET’S FUCK SHIT UP mode as he tells Constance he’d be glad to say grace before they eat. Constance knows he’s in LFSU mode, but Larry seems pleased that Tate is willing to meet them halfway.

Tate’s prayer: “Dear God, thank you for the salty pig meat we are about to eat, and for the rest of this indigestible swill. And thank you for this charade of a family–my father ran away when I was only six, and if I had known any better, I would have joined him.” Constance slaps his hand “And also because she’s been trying to get back into this house since she lost it. Lord, a big thank you for blinding the asshole that’s doing my mother, so that she can’t see what everybody knows, that she doesn’t really love him.”

Addy grins and says “Amen.” Larry tries to stepdad at Tate, but Tate counters with a reminder that his wife burned herself and their children to death. It’s not very effective! Nothing’s gonna break-a Larry’s stride, and he goes on to tell them that he got them tickets for the community theatre’s production of Brigadoon, where he will be debuting in the chorus. Constance, obviously not interested in Larry except as a way to be in the house, manages a dry “I will be there with bells on” without throwing up. Addy, excited, says she loves the theatre. Tate slams his fist down on the table and says she’s a smart girl, and she knows Larry killed Beau. Constance maintains that he died of natural causes stemming from his “respiratory ailment” and gets on Tate for not using the advantages he has over his siblings, and that “A smile, a kind word, would open the gates of Heaven.” He tearfully tells her he’ll never be her perfect son.

Cut to his room, where he jitters a bit on his bed. His alarm sounds and he turns it off, breaking out a bunch of guns and doing a few lines of powdered pills. He goes to an office full of the most unobservant people ever, and walks through it with a giant red gascan while wearing all black and being like 15 years old. These people have no excuse for this lack of situational awareness, but unfortunately, Larry is the only one Tate’s going to burn alive. Larry flails around, screaming and on fire within his (GLASS-WALLED!) office while Tate walks away, and nobody goes to help. It’s hilarious. Fuck that guy and his receipt calculator!

Tate goes on to kill everybody at his school and then get shot to death by a SWAT team. What a productive day!

Credits. Ben goes into Vivien’s room and apologizes. She tells him she doesn’t want an apology, she wants him to GTFO. He says he believes her. She asks what happened to change his mind about her being a lying whore liar. He sits down, tells her the twins have two dads, and apologizes again. He asks some stupid questions and promises to get her out of the hospital.

Constance’s house (which is REALLY NICE from the front). Two detectives greet her at the door, and inform her of Travis’s untimely demise. She cries over the pictures of his mutilated body, and asks where it was found. Upon hearing that it was South Central, she looks straight at the black detective and says “The colored section? What on earth would he be doing there?” He does not slowly raise both middle fingers in her direction, but it looks like he wants to. Constance asks if what she heard on the news, about a man cut in half (“the Boy Dahlia”) was Travis, and the detectives confirm it. They ask if Travis had enemies, but she says no.

Ben talks on the phone to who I assume is a cop, saying that the rubber mask needs to be dusted for prints. Apparently, civilian psychiatrists are allowed to request fingerprinting services for random bullshit that is not actually evidence because you didn’t believe your wife and never filed a report! At the door is a truant officer, played by Crystal Norris’s dad from this past season of True Blood! AHS is just grabbing everybody from that show.

Violet hasn’t been to school in sixteen days. Uh oh. I KNEW IT. The truant officer notices blowflies around a fruit bowl. If you know anything about crime or decomposition or have watched an episode of CSI: Wherever, you will know that blowflies hang out around rotting meat (corpses of murder victims) and are a pretty good indicator that you’ve got either a dead raccoon or a murder victim all up in your shit.

Violet writes while listening to music in her room. Ben comes in to talk to her, and apologizes for being the world’s shittiest father. They talk about the future, and college, but Violet says that she can’t go back to school. Ben convinces her to go by mentioning juvenile court, but she’s definitely not happy about it.

Beans! Larry hears a knock on his door and finds Constance waiting there. He’s pitifully happy, until she accuses him of murdering Travis and threatens to slit his throat with the butcher’s knife in her bag. “Now, likely, I won’t have the upper-body strength to saw you in half like you did my poor Travis…” Then she threatens to cut his dick off, but Larry manages to make her back off by telling her he only moved the body. Constance is taken aback by the thought that Travis is still in the house, and goes to leave and find him. Larry grabs her, desperately trying to make her see him. “He’s dead, and I’m here, and I love you!” It’s pathetic and really sad. Constance tells him she never loved him, she only endured him, for the sake of her family. Larry snaps “So you’re going back to your dead boy?” Constance tells him that even dead, even a boy, Travis was twice the man than Larry is. Larry says “Well, he is now.” HA.

Violet gets ready for school. Tate grabs her on her way out the door, and convinces her to spend the day with him, because the truancy office won’t care if she’s gone one more day. Speaking from personal experience: yes, they totally do.

Constance comes home to find the detectives on her front step. They say that they spoke to the Korean shopowners, and were informed that Constance and Travis used to fight a lot. Constance displays an intense ignorance of the difference between Korean history and Japanese history, and drops her knife at the worst moment. The detectives, super schadenfreudey, drag her down to the station for questioning.

Crazy pest-control guy crazies all over the place, and offers to check out the crawlspace under the house to give Ben an estimate.

Constance does that haughty-offended thing in the interrogation room, all insulting and HOW DARE YOU-ing. The detectives don’t care, and whip out a shitload of files of all the people who have died or disappeared around her–her husband, Moira, Beauregard, Tate, Addy, and now Travis. It doesn’t look very good for her. We find out through flashbacks that she buried Moira, but ground her husband up and fed him to the dogs that lived in the basement, complete with the awesome line “Once I discovered that he had cheated, Hugo meant no more to me than dogshit.” Ick.

A young, flustered-looking lawyer comes in and tells Constance not to say anything else. He warns her that, even with her professed innocence, the cops are looking for a scapegoat. Any more talking could put her in “a tight spot.”

Phil the pest control guy suits up, whistling “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” He crawls through the crawlspace, goofing off in an Ahnold accent until he comes to a hole in the floor and freaks out. Tate appears as Phil falls backwards. Tate calls him a murderer (OF BUGS) and tells him he needs to stay here and repent. He then jams the spray nozzle down Phil’s throat and pumps him full of insecticide, Men in Black-style. Eek.

Ben talks on the phone with someone from the Lemon Grove Preparatory School for Girls, for which he has a pamphlet. We learn that Violet has always had stellar grades, except for this past semester, and also that she has an IQ north of 150. He sees Tate’s face on a picture of Violet, but decides it was imaginary.

Violet checkmates Tate as he comes back up into the attic. He tells her forlornly that he heard Ben talking about boarding school, and she gets upset. But Tate has a plan! And it involves putting on the rubber suit again. TATE. RAPE PLANS ARE TERRIBLE PLANS.

Larry pulls bricks out of the basement wall, and withdraws Travis’s bloody clothes and the murder weapon. Travis appears, asking what Larry’s doing, but is appeased when Larry says that he’s just moving it for safekeeping. Travis asks if he’s on the news, and Larry tells him yes. He also asks how Constance took it, and instead of doing the petty thing, he tells Travis that Constance took it hard. Travis says that’s “cool,” and asks why she hasn’t been over to see him. Larry says it might be too soon.

A little girl calls for him to come play from offscreen, and he says he’ll be there. Larry’s like, oh shiiiiiiiiit, and steps forward to see two little girls having a tea party. Their heads and bodies are burned andstill smoldering ash in some places. The makeup is amazing, gruesome, and genuinely unsettling. Travis sits with them, happily joining their tea party. I knew there was a reason I liked him.

Larry sits down next to his wife (same makeup), and asks why he can only see them now after so many years. She peacefully tells him that it’s because he’s ready; he’s on the cusp. Larry tells Lorraine that he’s going to ruin Constance for what she did, but Lorraine tells him that Constance didn’t break their vows–he did. Now, if only there was someone to call Ben on his shit in the most concise way possible!

Speak of the devil. Ben finishes showering, and after wiping the steam off of the mirror, he sees the rubber man standing behind him. They fight, Ben doing a lot of yelling and getting thrown into shit as the rubber man tries to chloroform him. He manages to pull the mask off and reveal Tate just as he goes under. Tate hisses into his ear that he’s only keeping him alive for Violet’s sake, and Ben passes out. Guys, we finally found the thing Ben’s good at, and that’s keeping a towel wrapped around his body during strenuous activity!

Constance’s lawyer shows up with a hangdog face and a crappy latte. He tells Constance that shit’s about to get real and that they’re needed down at the police station, even though he‘s unable to tell her why.

Violet asks WTF Tate just did when he shows up back in the attic. He’s like “Nevermind that I just kicked the shit out of your father and then chloroformed him! WE MUST KILL OURSELVES NOW. WE‘LL BE TOGETHER FOREVER.” Violet’s all “Okay, let me go start a romantic nice bath.” Because she’s got the highest ratio of good-to-bad decisions on this show, she immediately starts screaming and running once she’s away from him. She makes it to the front gate, screaming for help, but as soon as she pushes it open she ends up running in through the back door of the house. Tate tries to calm her down. She runs out the front door and in through the back about three thousand more times before it dawns on her that something is amiss.

Tate attempts to comfort her while she refuses to face the fact that she’s dead, then tells her he has to show her something. He leads her down into the crawlspace, telling her to close her eyes as he leads her to where the hole in the ground is. Her body’s down there, all curled into a ball and with a mouth full of flies. Tate, crying almost as much as she is, tells her he tried to make her throw up the pills she took several episodes ago. He couldn’t get all of them out of her. She died crying, but also safe and loved.

She says “I hardly feel anything,” and walks away from the body, out of it. Tate tells her he thought if she chose to die, with him, then “You wouldn‘t be so sad. I never wanted you to see this–I‘m so sorry, Violet.”

Ugh, that tugs the heartstrings. I love Violet, and it’s sad to see her end this way. I’m glad the writers had the stones to kill her, which is awesome from a storytelling standpoint, but still. I don’t like Tate (Evan Peters is fantastic, and I appreciate that they tried to make the mass-murdering psychopathic rapist a sympathetic character, but I’ve only got so much sympathy to spare for these folks and Tate constantly ends up second to last above Ben on the hierarchy. But I mean, there’s like a whole chasm between him and Ben, obviously. Together, Violet and Tate are really tragic. There’s a whole lot they’re never going to be able to do now.

Constance and her lawyer are prepared to be all sassy at the detectives, but it turns out that Larry confessed to the murder. When the detective asks Constance why she thinks he confessed, she tells him that it must be because he was so super guilty.

Tate and Violet play cards and talk about their nonexistent future. They’ll be playing cards together in the house, forever. Violet seems almost content with that, but the spooky music says otherwise.

Larry and Constance talk at the prison. Larry will get shipped to Illinois to serve his sentence. Constance is cold as ice the whole time. Larry presses his hand against the glass between them, telling her that he can get through anything if she‘d just say she loves him. Constance almost looks like she might reciprocate, but she pulls her hand away at the last minute, walking away without a word. Larry is left alone, crying out of his good eye. Damn.

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  • mrmonkeybottoms

    “She runs out the front door and in through the back about three thousand more times before it dawns on her that something is amiss.”

    LOL

    • Sam H

      I know it was supposed to be startling and stressful and stuff but I could not stop laughing.

  • MP

    I never have a comment to make about the episodes themselves because they fill my brain so full of crack and WTF that I usually don’t find much to articulate about them, but I want to say I’ve been loving re-living the episodes through your recaps. .

    And oh God, Violet. The scene of her seeing the body was so chilling and tragic at the same time. I’m sad for her, but at the same time… I feel like maybe she can find some real purpose in the afterlife by kicking ass and taking names among the ghosts of that house, now that she knows what’s going on and has some agency.

    • Sam H

      Thank you so much, I’m glad you like them!

      I hope so! She’s been tossed around like a ragdoll since the series began, despite her best efforts, so it’ll be great to see what she does with this relative freedom and knowledge she has now.

  • Samantha

    Dude. DUDE. I’m sad we probably won’t see Denis O’Hare (or at least not a lot of him) in these last two episodes. Larry is one of my favorite characters and probably one of the only people on the show who I haven’t wanted to punch in the face at some point lol.

    I have friends who are such champions of Tate. I’m like, “Dude… he’s a murderer and a rapist. HOW CAN YOU LIKE HIM?!” I get what they’re trying to do, and he is a pretty tragic character, but come on… he’s committed like a hundred crimes!

    I don’t even know – if Ben is the only person to get out of this house alive, I’m losing faith in all humanity.

  • Phinney28

    Everyone on tumblr is so in love with Tate which frightens me.