American Horror Story, what was that? WHAT WAS THAT!?
But in a good way.
Let me tell you, watching this show with friends vastly improves what was already a pretty good experience. It’s one thing to watch it alone in the dark, but it’s completely another with your bros around to yell and make fun of Ben Harmon, Worst Psychiatrist Forever right along with you.
I feel like Connie Britton’s assurance (in this spoilery interview) that each episode will be scarier than the last might hold some weight. I was definitely more unsettled this time around than last time.
Obligatory warning: this show is disturbing and there is screencapographic evidence in this recap.
This episode begins in 1968, as if the three girls with flippy hair, tight sweaters, and a serious case of the want-to-blow-Jim-Morrisons didn’t tell you. “Aquarius” plays over the girls’ slow-motion descent down the stairs, where they ask if another girl wants to go see the Doors with them. Her name is Maria, and she’s studying for an anatomy exam and thus cannot go see the Doors. It’s the sixties, so she’s a square. A bigger girl in a nurse’s uniform comes in and trades barbs with the main girl (the barbs boil down to “Gay!” and “Whore!,” so it’s basically like every argument ever had on the internet). The other girls go to see the Doors and presumably blow Jim Morrison or something, but not before the main girl raps on the window and flips them off. The nurse is like “Did you forget your diaphragm?” while smoking a cigarette. This woman is going to make an intense grandmother one day. In fact, I think Ryan Murphy might be taking a lot of character inspiration from members of my family.
Maria informs the nurse that you can get the clap even if you’re wearing a diaphragm. The nurse is delighted by Maria’s sass. Maybe the Morrison groupie wasn’t lying about the gay thing.
There’s another knock at the door. Maria answers it. Some dude who looks like Jason Flemyng’s more terrifying brother is standing on the doorstep with blood on his forehead, and he’s like “Can you let me in? I’m bleeding or whatever.” Maria lets him in, because Los Angeles in the Sixties was a different world, I guess?
She cleans up his head on the couch, and there’s some religious talk about whether Jesus will save Maria or not. She says she’s already been saved–they all have. She then realizes that she can’t find a wound, and it literally takes an ashtray upside the head for her to realize that this dude is a little sketchy. The nurse tries to run, but the guy knocks her down.
Maria wakes up with water dripping on her forehead. I’m still not sure she grasps the seriousness of the situation. Jason Flemyng’s evil brother throws a nurse’s uniform at her and tells her to put it on, and what follows is pretty much the most uncomfortably tense few minutes I’ve seen on t.v. recently. I spent the whole time thinking we were going to have to watch a woman be sexually assaulted and I would have to revise my entire opinion of the show, but it didn’t happen (at least, not onscreen, but I don‘t think it happened at all). It was nervewracking enough having to watch her change and watch her while she was tied up and crying. I…would have preferred not having women be victimized at all, but this is American television. If it sounds awful that we have to be relieved when a woman isn’t raped in front of us, that’s because it fucking is awful.
The tension continues in the next scene as Maria, ankles tied to her wrists, starts praying quietly. The man creeps up and watches her like a kid burning ants until she finishes her prayer, then disappears from view. There’s a whole two seconds where you think she might make it, but then he shanks her in the spine like a billion times. Dang.
2011! Tate and Ben are having a hesh sesh in the house again. The camera operator has to be drunk off his balls on mezcal to get all these crazy off-kilter shots. Ben’s phone buzzes on the table, and he apologizes. Tate gets creepy about Violet, and instead of standing up and crane-kicking this kid in the neck, Ben’s like “I’m not comfortable talking about my daughter! Also I am a horrible father in addition to a horrible husband and a horrible psychiatrist!” He asks Tate if he says these things to comfort himself. No, dude, he’s saying it to get a rise out of you. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a sociopathic asshole is just a sociopathic asshole WHO IS TALKING ABOUT YOUR DAUGHTER‘S VAGINA. CRANE KICK CRANE KICK CRANE KICK. You still can’t call CPS on imaginary people, by the way.
We discover that Ben has been seeing Tate for several weeks now. In his home, allowing a sociopath with professed violent psychosexual fantasies access to his lonely, sad, susceptible daughter. Whether he thinks Tate’s serious or not is a moot point when he’s TALKING ABOUT YOUR DAUGHTER’S VAGINA.
Come to me, Violet. I’ll adopt you. I’m your new dad now. We’ll get you some clothes that Blossom Russo didn’t donate to Goodwill and I’ll introduce you to Tumblr. It’ll be okay.
Tate leans back and says “You’re sexual, right?” and I thought this scene was going to go in a very different direction. Tate starts talking about Ben’s affair, and how the girl wasn’t much older than Violet. Ben’s like “How dare you discuss my sexual indiscretions! Talking about how you want to fuck my daughter is one thing, but this is crossing a line, buddy! We’re done for the day! Please see yourself out of my home while I take this phone call!” And Tate leaves the office while Ben takes the phone call, which is from his adultery partner back in Boston. He’s super offended, but boom: she’s pregnant. Everyone is pregnant!
Credits. Whatever music they use makes it sound like robots are trying to talk to us through oscillating fans.
Skate park! Mirah’s “Special Death” plays softly as Violet and Leah sit at the top of a ramp and talk. Leah has sunglasses and an amazing Jackie Collins hat on, evidently trying to offset the giant bandages on her slashed face. She’s also smoking, which Violet points out quite gently, considering their history. It’s terrible that the least contentious relationship Violet has right now is with the girl who tried to make her eat a lit cigarette, like, four times.
They talk about what they both saw in the basement. Violet insists that it was just Tate with a mask, but Leah knows better. She asks if Violet believes in the devil. Violet doesn’t, but Leah is pretty sure that the creature in the basement is it. Her hair is turning white from fear. “I read on the internet that’s possible!” She’s right, sort of. It would have had to happen over the course of a few weeks. Nevertheless, she does have a grey patch.
Nighttime, Violet’s room. She’s sleeping, but Tate stands at the end of the bed, watching her. I’m going to go ahead and assume he’s a ghost until it’s explained one way or another. The house alarm goes off, clearly not because of Tate, and Ben runs downstairs to turn it off. The front door is suddenly open when he looks at it again. Vivien comes down with a baseball bat, but goes back upstairs to call the cops when Ben takes it from her to search the house. His pectoral muscles flutter pretty much nonstop for this whole scene.
He makes his way down to the basement after the basement door creaks open, and sees Adelaide rolling a red ball on the floor. She giggles and leaves when he asks her to. Ben goes back to his bedroom, not noticing the red ball rolling out of the shadows on its own.
Ben tells Vivien to tell the cops not to come, but that they should get the doors and windows checked, because “If that little freak can get in, anyone can.” Vivien snaps that he shouldn’t call her that. He uses his psychiatrist skills to deduce that she seems a little upset. Way to go, dude. It’s not like she isn’t going through some shit, and it’s not like that shit probably wasn’t a little bit exacerbated by the alarm going off in the middle of the night in your creepy-ass house.
She tells Ben that she hasn’t thrown up; she threw up for two months straight when she was pregnant with Violet. She thinks something’s wrong with the baby. Ben’s like “You’re anxious!” and Vivien’s like “Duh, dipshit.” He tells her that this baby is the reason they moved there and that it’s their second chance. She doesn’t choke him out with her fabulous hair, but I can dream.
Ben has another fucking creepy patient that he’s seeing in his home. Dude, meet them in a park or something, Jesus. This girl talks like Ellen Page and looks like a tired Amanda Seyfried, which means she’s clearly a giant nutbar.
She has dreams about being trapped in a stopped elevator, pulling the doors open, and getting stuck in the gap when the elevator starts up again. Her legs get graphically chopped off at the waist. This is why I only use elevators if I have to (or if I’m feeling lazy. The fear response gets tamped down pretty thoroughly if I need a nap). The girl says she’s had the dream about ten times, then asks Ben what it’s like to live in a murder house. Ben’s like “You can go ask my other patient, Tate. He’s probably in my daughter’s room, jerking off on her hairbrush.”
She tells Ben that his house is on a murder tour. He says he assumed she found him through the SAG insurance list, so she’s an aspiring actress, I suppose? She deflects all his questions with questions about the house. He Miss Cleos her with some dream dictionary nonsense, first ascertaining that she was never molested, then saying that she’s reaching for some kind of missing emotional piece like she’s reaching for her severed legs. “But all you find is a bloody stump.” Is this an appropriate time for a “That’s what she said” joke? I think it is. That’s what she said.
Ben: What do you think might be shut down in you, Bianca?
Bianca: I don’t know. I think I’m just afraid of being cut in half.
In the next scene, Ben is on the phone with Tate’s mom (I bet you a million imagination dollars it’s just Tate making his voice squeakier) and offering to find him another psychiatrist to provide treatment, because “Your son has crossed a line with my daughter.” This guy is the QWOP runner of common sense.
As if to prove my point, Bianca wanders into the kitchen and is creepy some more. Ben’s like “I thought you were gone! I specifically left your spooky ass alone in my house so you could find your own way out! God, it’s like all my patients have obvious boundary issues that I should really be paying attention to or something!” He leads her out, but not before she takes notice of the phone charger on the counter, then tells Tate’s mom (Tate with a squeaky voice, ONE MILLION IMAGINATION DOLLARS) that he’s just not comfortable treating Tate in his home anymore.
Constance’s house. It’s a bright, lovely kitchen, but it’s still creepy. Both the kitchen and Constance look straight out of the fifties. Constance is mixing up chocolate batter in a bowl, and Adelaide is flipping through a bridal magazine. She asks Constance why she doesn’t look like these girls. Constance tells her she just doesn’t, but that she was born with other gifts. I feel like this is the first time we’ve seen her being almost a good person, but when Adelaide asks for clarification, Constance sighs, all “Fingerpainting or something. Get off my nuts.” She doesn’t actually say “Get off my nuts,” but I wish she did. She asks Adelaide to hand her the ipecac syrup, and pours enough into the batter to make a rhino puke out its liver, telling Adelaide what it does as she mixes it in. She then offers the bowl for Adelaide to spit in.
Ben goes for a jump-cutty run through the park, his face looking really intense the whole time. I guess when you got a little startled sort of by a frail man with burns on 70% of his body and terminal brain cancer, it’ll make you wary of going jogging. Or he’s just having a lot of feelings about his pregnant adultery partner, so he has to stop and cry in a tunnel.
But he’s not even masturbating!!!!!!!!
Larry is in the tunnel, watching Ben cry (maybe sad that there are no wieners involved this time?) before approaching him. He tells Ben that he wanted to be an actor, and now that he’s freed up by a dead family and terminal brain cancer, he should just chase that dream! It’s an elaborate and weirdly roundabout way of asking Ben if Ben’s dreams are chasing him, and telling him that the house already knows what happened and is going to use it against him. I’m going to call it now and say that Ben’s probably going to have sex with that gimp before the midseason hiatus.
Ben says that this isn’t about the house, it’s about him! And how he cheated on his wife! Which was also totally about him! Larry, hilariously, says “I’m trying very hard not to judge you,” which gets Ben all het up. “Me? You murdered your entire family!”
Larry: “Yes. But I was never unfaithful.”
Fair enough. But, seriously, cheat on me all you want if the alternative is immolating my ass.
Larry tells Ben that he’s going to have to do the honorable thing and lie to save his family. Here’s my bad theory: I think Larry (and, in fact, Constance and Tate and Moira) is a ghost, conjured by the house to give Ben shitawful advice in order to keep the Harmons there–however, I love that the house is like “Okay, Larry, here’s the deal. The wife and daughter are okay most of the time, but Constance, Moira, and Tate can pretty much take care of them by preying on their lusts and insecurities. Since you did such a good job with those gay dudes, you’ll get the easy mark. This Ben guy legitimately needs a hamster ball to navigate the world, so it’ll be no problem for you to weasel in and ruin everything.” And Larry was like “Awesome. My two-pronged plan of watching him masturbate and following him when he goes jogging is fucking foolproof.”
AND THE SAD THING IS: HE’S RIGHT.
Ben lies to Vivien, telling her that a suicidal former patient of his needs him back in Boston. What, no orphaned puppies in a burning building? Vivien’s confused but supportive; I think she mostly wants to be away from him. She calls him a good man, and yet he steadfastly refuses to be one and tell her the truth.
Constance comes by the next day with some cupcakes, inviting herself in, and telling Vivien that the cupcakes are not for her, because “At your age, you might as well crazy glue a stick of butter right to your ass!” I know Constance is Ryan Murphy’s gay fantasy woman, but seriously, I think he’s watching my family and taking copious notes. They’re for Violet, as an apology for Adelaide’s setting off the alarm, and they even have candied violets on the top.
Vivien, irritated but graceful about it, reaches out to take the plate and set it aside for Violet. Constance stops. “What?” Vivien asks.
“You’re with child.” Constance tells her, smiling. Her body language goes all girlish as she says, delighted, “I have the nose of a truffle pig. I could smell that little angel the moment I walked in. Pheromones.” Vivien is amazed, and apologizes as she tells Constance that Violet isn’t there. She asks Constance if she can smell anything else about the baby, and Constance gestures to the coffeepot. “Two sugars, and a great deal of half-and-half.” she says as she sits down.
Vivien gets the coffee, and Constance asks her if there’s anything in particular she’s worried about. Vivien cuts one of the cupcakes in half, saying Violet’s not going to eat both. Constance looks worried, but doesn’t tell Vivien not to eat it, either. Vivien asks if Constance would have aborted Adelaide if she knew, and Constance says she thought about “Leaving that little bugeye out in the cold. It’s what they do in China.” But in the end, a mother doesn’t abandon their child. She also tells Vivien that she should have stopped after the first–she had four, but her womb was cursed. Her husband looked like Van Johnson, and she says that their beauty must have been “an affront to the gods.” Well, Jessica Lange WAS the reason King Kong went–pardon me, I feel just as terrible about this as you do–apeshit.
Three of her children were born with Down‘s “or some such malady” (the Infantata in the basement is one of her children? Maybe? It would explain why Adelaide can play with it without getting her throat ripped out) and one was not, but something else got him. I need Ryan Murphy to just give me his character bible on Constance so I can read it for the rest of my life.
Constance, tears in her eyes, tells Vivien that her baby’s fine, and that’s enough sad talk for the day. Ben comes in and tries to steal the remaining cupcake, but Constance pulls the plate away. Moira then appears, and exchanges a few tense remarks with Constance when Constance orders her around a bit. We learn that Constance employed Moira for a time. I bet her husband cheated on her with Moira, then Constance killed them both.
Constance makes her exit with drama-queeny flair. Young Moira brings Ben’s suitcase out to the car, and he kisses Vivien goodbye.
Later, Vivien brings Violet the cupcake. Violet doesn’t want it, and she doesn’t want to have a girls’ night, and she’s not that interested in not being an asshole to her mom, either. She’s generally awful in the way only hurt teenagers can be, and calls Vivien weak. Vivien leaves, and Violet spitefully puts the cupcake on the floor outside her door.
Ben has wine in Boston with Hayden, his adultery partner/erstwhile student. She’s played by Kate Mara, who is always welcome on my t.v. Hayden sort of sucks, though. She wanted Ben in town while she got an abortion, which I assumed was going to be a breath of normalcy in a sea of crazycakes and not actually a huge deal, but we swiftly discover that she’s jealous and kind of a huge dick when Ben goes to text Vivien. She cries into his shirt and says she only ever wanted him to love her. This’ll end well.
Vivien is watching a scary movie with her hilarious-looking dog when she hears someone at the door. This is why I only ever watch Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron when I’m alone, because nobody’s going to come into my house and kill me when there’s a talking pony movie onscreen.
Vivien goes downstairs and looks through the peephole. Azura Skye is standing there with blood on her face, asking to be let in while not acting alarming at all. Vivien locks the door and tells her she’s going to call the cops about the “man” who’s going to “stab” Azura Skye. Vivien goes to get the phone as the pounding on the door continues, but it’s not on the charger. Ruh roh.
Vivien goes back to the door, and there’s nobody through the peephole anymore. She yells for Violet, who gives her sass as she comes downstairs. Vivien tells her to go to her room, lock the door, and call 911, and Violet obeys. She doesn’t find her phone in time, and masked people grab both Violet and Vivien and tie them to chairs.
They pull off their masks. One of them is Bianca, and one of them is Lil’ Kevin from the episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where the Nightman was born. They’ve bought the ashtray used to knock Maria out (though I guess it’s a bowl. Whatever, anything can be an ashtray if you want it bad enough), and they’re planning on reenacting the murders, starting with forcing Violet to change into the nurse uniform. Vivien is awesome, only freaking out when Lil’ Kevin grabs and rips Violet’s shirt. Violet is awesome too, headbutting Azura Skye and running the first chance she gets. Vivien trips Lil’ Kevin so he can’t chase her, but ends up getting her chair shoved onto the floor. Since she’s tied to it, she can’t do anything to help Violet, but Tate can! He grabs her and pulls her out of the way as she runs into the kitchen, telling her to lead the killers down into the basement so he can take care of them. She agrees, and is found by Bianca when he disappears.
Lil’ Kevin does some murder-posturing. Vivien notices Adelaide, and tries to get her to send help without alerting Lil’ Kevin. Adelaide is gone by the time he turns around.
In the second-floor bathroom, Violet convinces Azura Skye that the drownin’ bathtub she wants is in the basement. Meanwhile, Bianca eats the cupcake–”It was just set out like it was saying ‘eat me’”–and starts feeling the ipecac fast. She runs off to puke out some organs, telling Azura Skye not to start without her.
FOXY ABS. Constance, looking extra pretty in a pink robe and purple negligee, feels up some long-haired boy toy in her bedroom. And this dude’s seriously gorgeous, but also fairly dumb.
He asks her if she thinks he could model, and she tells him, smiling, that “There’s not a closed door in the world that beauty couldn’t open.“ He tells her she’s beautiful too, and seems to mean it. I don’t know if he’s a hooker or what, because when Adelaide interrupts their face touching/dancing, she says “I’m in a business meeting.” But he doesn’t seem like a hooker, except for the hooker posing! Adelaide insists that there’s a bad man next door, and Constance is like “I don’t care for him either, but he owns the place.” I laughed like a (very sexy) hyena.
Adelaide interrupts their makeouts once more, still insisting that there’s a bad man next door, and an annoyed Constance drags her down a hallway–everything is faded and drably lovely in this house–and locks her in a closet with mirrors on every wall, the bad girl closet. Adelaide screams every time she turns around, and Constance walks slowly (and a little regretfully) back down the hallway toward her room, letting her head thunk gently on the door before gathering herself and going back inside. Adelaide keeps screaming.
BOOM, VOMIT SHOT. Bianca says “This isn’t right.” and I’m like DO YOU FUCKING THINK? GROSS. She staggers back out to the hallway, calling for her comrades and suggesting that they call it a night and maybe get her some medical attention. They’re not in the bathroom where she left them, but Tate is! And he brought along a friend!
He nails her in the stomach a few times, then leaves her. She staggers some more, disoriented and leaving a trail of blood along the walls.
Lil’ Kevin puts a crucifix on Vivien, then cuts her out of the chair so she can put the uniform on. She scans the area, looking for something to use as a weapon, and decides on a fireplace poker. She throws the uniform and goes for the poker, but Lil’ Kevin tackles her. She grabs the ashbowl and nails him in the face with it, taking a second to bash his head in a little bit before running away. I would have used his knife, but still: good play, Viv.
Basement. The lights cut out when Azura Skye and Violet get downstairs, and Violet ducks away in the darkness. Azura Skye is like “WTF, I’m a murderer and even I’m creeped out by this shit.” when Tate shows her a bathtub (he starts out on the left of it and moves to the right, I think) full of water/nurse ghost.
Violet and Vivien run screaming down the street past Constance’s window. This is probably going to be a recurring theme in this neighborhood.
We finally find out that Azura Skye’s name is Fiona when Lil’ Kevin wakes up and yells for her after following Maria’s ghost to the basement. He sees her dead, throat ripped out, a ghost on either side of the tub, and is like “…faaaaaaack.”
In Boston, Ben sits with Hayden at the abortion clinic. When she leaves him to have it done, he checks his phone. 13 missed calls. Vivien is admirably restrained; I’d have been blowing up his phone like a goddamn claymore mine and texting nonstop.
12:00 AM PICK UP YOUR GODDAMN PHONE
12:03 AM FOR SHIT’S SAKE THERE’S CREEPERS IN THE HOUSE
12:05 AM BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNNNNN
12:10 AM BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNNN WHAT THE SHIT
12:12 AM YOU BETTER BE MAKING A WISH FOR ME TO GET OUT OF THIS ALIVE
12:20 AM UGH YOU DILLHOLE ANSWER YOUR PHONE
12:31 AM MOTHERFUCKER WE’RE GETTING KILLED IN HERE
12:40 AM I want a divorce
There is a meeting of the ghosties in the basement, in which it seems that there is a plot to keep Tate in with Ben and/or Violet. They decide to get rid of the bodies together. I’d like a Three Amigos movie with these guys.
Two detectives interview Ben (who lies to them) and Vivien the next day, suspiciously calm for dealing with an attempted double homicide in which two of the perpetrators are nowhere to be found. I mean, we know that they’re dead, but the detectives are like “lol no big, we found your fake counseling patient’s nearly-bisected body down the street and figure the other two probably did it when she tried to back out. Black Dahlia reference! We’re so cool.” They’re as good at their job as Ben is at his. The cops go to the kitchen to “check for more prints.“ I think by “check for more prints” they mean “eat doughnuts and contaminate the crime scene.” NOBODY EVEN WENT INTO THE KITCHEN! THERE’S NOT A CSI SETUP ANYWHERE! FUCKRRAHRAHRHARGHGAHRH!
Ben asks Violet how Tate got in, and she immediately shuts him down by saying she was glad Tate was there, because Ben wasn’t. Me too. Violet leaves, but stops briefly to tell Vivien that she was really brave. Aw. I hope they can have a real relationship with each other when Ben is eaten by dragons or whatever is going to happen in the finale.
Ben apologizes for not being there. He then says “I’m home now.” Vivien answers “No, you’re not. We’re selling this house.”
Not bloody likely.
(I would like to thank my best friend Chelsea and her boyfriend Jason for yelling at the television with me during this episode. If you laughed at any of the jokes in this recap, one of them is probably responsible for it.)