American Horror Story Episode 1.6: Piggy Piggy

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

This was, for me, the scariest episode of the season, in terms of creep factor and legitimate terror. I screamed at the show for the first time, and watched several parts through my fingers for the first time. THIS IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR. Horror movies and television don’t tend to affect me; I have giggled my way through most mainstream horror movies released in the last few years.

This is not to imply I’m a fearless horror warrior, because I am the opposite. I’ve lost many a night of sleep to spooky internet nonsense and scary video games and imagining what could possibly be lurking in that box in my closet that wasn‘t there before!!!! I have issues with paying attention to, like, everything, but reading and playing video games are way more involved than watching a movie, and that plays to my self-absorption. Symbiosis! Scarebiosis.

However, there are some surefire ways for a movie/show to frighten my posterior off of my body, and this episode nailed a couple of them. So let’s go! Hop onto this tandem tricycle of terror and follow me into the very beating heart of fear. IF YOU EVEN DARE.

Constance, in the murder house, goes to answer the door. Waiting for her are like nine SWAT guys, one of whom flashes his badge and asks if Tate Langdon lives there. Constance informs him that Tate is her son, and the SWAT guys head in. This is a flashback from 1994, and now even the flashback is having a flashback.

We end up in a school library (the bulk of the Columbine murders took place in a library as well), where some familiar faces from the last two weeks are studying, but with significantly fewer holes than we first saw on them. There‘s also a teacher in the library. The cheerleader and the football player are smiley with each other, but that lasts about five seconds before several shots and screams are heard in the hallway. The long-haired kid in the leather jacket rushes in, terrified, and starts shoving bookcases and chairs against the doors. The others ask him what happened, and he tells them: somebody’s shooting the place up. He tells them that the blood on him is not his, that it belongs to another student.

The football player says they need to GTFO with a quickness, but he stops short of the doors when the gunshots get closer. I appreciate that there are real gun sounds instead of the fake BOOM BOOM BOOM noises Hollywood likes to use to make normal guns sound more intimidating. The rap rap rap noise is way more intimidating. It’s real, and it could be twenty other scary things, until you realize that it’s actually worst scary thing.

The teacher tells the kids to hide, and they do. The things the long-haired kid piled in front of the door start shaking, but then they stop. Everyone realizes there’s a second door at the same time, and the goth girl, who’s the closest, freezes up when they tell her to lock it. The teacher runs to it as the handle starts turning, holding it closed, but he’s shot three times through the door and falls down. The kids all hide again as Tate steps in (we don’t see that it’s him, just boots and a gun). He whistles “Twisted Nerve,” fucks with them a little bit (pushing several books off of the shelf right where the goth girl is hiding), and then gets to shooting. It’s pretty harrowing. They all have to hear and sort of half-see as he finds and kills the others, one by one. When the football player and the cheerleader are the only two left, the football player tells her that it’s going to be okay, and stands up to try and get Tate’s attention/stop him, but Tate shoots him. The cheerleader pees, which only happens when you actually have to pee before the scary thing happens, so pee ASAP when you feel the urge and you won’t have to worry about that when something scares you.

Tate finds her under the table and just shoves the whole table out of the way, and she asks him why he’s doing this. He shoots her without answering. Damn. I love that there was no music for this scene, so there was nothing to distract you from how distressing it is.

In the next scene, he zones out on his bed as Constance tries to get the SWAT guys to let her talk to him. How did he get all the way home from the school without getting picked up? The SWAT team gets to his bedroom and trains their sights on his chest. He stands up slowly. We hear Constance screaming his name and telling the SWAT team that he’ll go peacefully. Tate, laser dots moving on his chest, makes a gun out of his hand and points it at his temple.

Credits. Violet Googles–sorry, “Roundsearches,”–the Westfield High massacre. The results seem to mention more than one killer, but that could just be a grammatical mistake.

Violet sees pictures of the victims, then sees a picture of Tate, with Tate’s name under it, identifying him as the killer. She goes downstairs, crying and yelling for her mom, but only finds Constance smoking at the kitchen table. She’s immediately suspicious, demanding to know if Constance hurt her, but Constance is hilariously blasé about Violet’s anger/terror/confusion. Violet tells her to get the hell out of the house, but Constance lays it out. She tells Violet that she didn’t believe it at first, but realized that it was true. She thinks the house is responsible, because they were living there when Tate “lost his way.” Constance tells Violet that it’s arrogant to assume that there’s “only one reality that you’re able to see.”

Constance takes Violet to meet Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson), a medium she found through Craigslist. Don’t find mediums through Craigslist! That’s how my uncle died.

Billie tries to calm Violet down, but she’s very WASPy, so it’s more like she disapproves of Violet’s general existence until Violet’s will cracks under the strain and she sits down to drink some tea. Billie tells Violet that she just came from a meeting with Lifetime, who are interested in doing a pilot with her, presumably entitled NOT WITHOUT MY DEAD GHOST DAUGHTER.

Billie tells Violet about when she realized she was touched by an angel: “I used to be like you. Until I was 25. When out of the blue, my cleaning lady shows up as I’m brushing my teeth. Except she’s got no toilet brush and rubber gloves. She’s naked and bloody. Her husband murdered her with an ice pick.”

Constance, hilariously: “It’s hard to keep good help.”

Billie: “Do you think I wanted a bloody Mexican ghost in my bathroom?”

Good lord, Billie’s like if Constance was from New Hampshire instead of Virginia. Also, yes, I do want one. I just realized that I don’t have any bloody Mexican ghost bathroom friends and I think that makes me racist.

Billie tells Violet that some people are chosen, and if they don’t get with the program and accept their mediumocrity, they’ll go insane. This adds another facet to the show’s ghost mythology–can everybody see them under the right circumstances, or is it only specific people? Is it these people that the house attracts?

Billie explains that some ghosts have bad reactions to being horribly murdered, and then there are ones like Tate who don’t even realize they’re dead. Violet decides that everything is bullshit, but she’s wavering on it. Billie asks who Mary is, taking Violet’s hand in hers. We flash back to Violet visiting a very old woman in the hospital. The woman says she’ll never understand Violet, and we come back to Violet freaking out as Billie repeats it. Violet runs away, crying some more. Constance asks Billie if she can trust Violet, but Billie doesn’t know yet.

Cello music. Vivien, hugely pregnant and sitting in a chair with her belly out, seems pretty cool with how she is suddenly eight months along. I will admit to you now that while I respect the magical mystery tour that is pregnancy and childbirth, pretty much every aspect of it freaks me out. Basically, just take any creepy part of pregnancy/childbirth which is every part and crank it up to 11, and I will be sulking under a blanket until it’s over. For example, the fact that you can sometimes see baby feet/hands pressing against the uterine wall and showing through the belly is bad enough. But American Horror Story decided that we needed to see claws poking all up in the belly meats. Vivien screams, then wakes up in bed, no longer eight months along. She pulls off her wedding ring and sets it next to the panic remote, which she presses. Security firms don’t usually handle nightmares.

Wait, did we just stumble upon the perfect idea for an Inception sequel? BRRM BRRM.

Luke shows up about four hours later (I mean, she pressed it at night, and it’s now daytime and she’s dressed. Worst security guard ever, but gosh dang is he good-looking). Vivien is very obvious about only having called for him to get another look at that sweet ass, but Luke doesn’t seem to mind because he’s all like “Perimeters are secure, crazy lady! You‘re totally obviously faking, but your hair is like a golden waterfall and you make me feel very protective while still maintaining an attractive womanly inner strength, so I’ll show up whenever you’re feeling threatened or lonely.” WHICH IS ALWAYS. She tells him about Ben moving out and the affair, he tells her about his wife leaving him for another woman (I would like Connie Britton’s cute shocked-face etched inside my eyelids so I can look at it forever), and I get my hopes up a little bit for some tender makeouts, but then stupid Ben stomps in and gets douchey and tries to territorially pee all over the place by making crazy eyes at the oblivious Luke.

Luke makes his exit, warning them to keep the doors locked and alarms on all the time because Hayden never made it to the police station, “She must have hopped out of my car at a stop sign or something.” There is just a lot to question about that statement, but nobody bothers to do it. There is literally not one person with even a modicum of common sense in this scene. To paraphrase the amazing Kathleen Madigan, I don’t know how any of these people manage to leave their houses in the morning and get home safely at night.

Vivien is angry about Ben showing up and cockblocking, but he claims he needs to be in the house to meet with patients. The only successful therapy session you’ve ever had was at the park, dude, and by “successful” I obviously mean “nobody involved went on to try and kill themselves or your family.” And it was mostly therapy for you, because you cried and the psychopathic murderous ghost who is stalking your daughter had to comfort you. UGH.

Vivien lays it all out for him, saying she wants to bash his face in and that she thinks he’s disgusting. She tells him they’re going to divorce and sell the house, but she’ll let him be a father to their kids “Because I happen to think you’re a good one.” Our Vivien is not a terrific judge of character. She tells him that they’re not going to be friends, though. Ben makes hangdog faces after Vivien tells him he can see patients if he wants to, but he has to leave after his last session. Not counting tonight’s episode, he’s seen three patients total since the series began. One of them got chopped almost in half and the other one is hospitalized, and he told the other one that he can’t see him anymore. He’s only going to be there for like ten minutes.

Violet stands in the bathroom with her razor stash, and opens up her wrist. She then cuts her own throat. It’s okay, though, she’s just imagining it. Tate, behind her in the mirror, asks if she’s scared now. He disappears when she turns to look at him.

Ben‘s patient is Derek, played by ERIC STONESTREET! AKA Cam on Modern Family. I think the rest of this recap should just be an audio loop of him screaming “I’M BREAKING THE WINDOW!” because that shit was funnier than anything I could ever dream of writing. Alas, I am not technologically capable of doing that. Plus, I think Laura might send ninjas in the night to give me botulism with weaponized canned peaches.

Derek has an urban legend problem–namely, he’s like me, and is only scared of stupid shit instead of things that require fear. He also realizes that it‘s just stupid shit, but that doesn‘t help when your mind is tricking you into seeing shadows in every corner and convincing you that there‘s a man pretending to be a clown statue in the corner of your room (there isn‘t a man in the corner of your room, but there is one just out of sight at the foot of your bed).

Derek’s fear of stupid shit has taken over his life. He can’t sleep, can’t even look into mirrors. The cause of this last one is “Piggyman.” I’ll transcribe Derek’s story, but Eric Stonestreet does a great job of telling it:

He was a hog butcher in Chicago, during the World‘s Fair of 1893. Before he would go in to the slaughter pen, he would put on this mask, this pig mask, that he made from one of his other kills. And he would snort, [snort noise], you know, like a pig, so that they would think he was one of them. And one day he slipped, he fell, and the pigs–the hogs–they tore him apart. And they didn‘t find one piece of him anywhere. So everyone assumed…so it wasn‘t long after that his former customers, they started turning up dead. Gutted, skinned, and hung upside down in a bathtub to drain like a hog in a shop. And they say if you stand in front of a mirror and say “Here, piggy pig pig pig,” that he‘ll return for his slaughter.

Ben asks if Derek has tried it. Derek says no–we flash to him saying it into a mirror, then the fucking pig-masked dude slashing him up from inside the shower–but he’s afraid that there’s something inside him that might. UGH. I love pigs, and had several of them growing up, but bringing them into the realm of horror is another one of those guaranteed scary things I hate. Pigs are so smart and friendly and tasty, they’re practically the perfect animal. But then you get something like this, or Piggsy from Manhunt, or any of the million movies where they’re used as a corpse disposal, suddenly they become terror incarnate (true story, though, when I was growing up there was a dilapidated red farmhouse on a hill if you walked through the woods far enough, and there was a pretty solid urban rural legend involving pigs about that place, too. I guess spooky pigs are universal).

Ben tells Derek he wants to see him again, and schedules another appointment. He asks him to shave in a mirror before their next meeting, and Derek warily agrees. Ben leaves him to show himself out, as usual. Violet comes in just after he leaves, obviously upset, and apologizes. Ben thinks it’s about the divorce and tries to comfort her. It doesn’t work.

Vivien calls the hospital and tries to find out more about the ultrasound tech who fainted. She quit, apparently, and Vivien asks them to have the tech call her, somehow. Constance walks in, and Vivien tries to comfort her but is rebuffed. Constance instead focuses on Vivien’s morning sickness/pain, and gives Vivien a covered plate of offal, which Constance‘s mother suggested was a cure for morning sickness. Being that my family line is a delightful mix of Southerners, Puerto Ricans, and farm stock from New York, I’ve eaten heart, liver, tongue, neck, and chitlins. I can’t really recommend any of them, but if pressed, I’d say tongue was probably the best. But seriously, don’t even bother. There are plenty of other animal parts to eat. Try cheeks if you’re feeling adventurous.

Constance inquires after Violet, and Vivien says she’s been withdrawn since Addy died. Constance says that transitions can be difficult, and tells Moira to sauté the sweetbreads she brought, “Like you used to do for me.” Moira agrees, and Constance leaves with an ominous “We need that baby.”

Moira cooks the offal and asks Vivien if she may speak plainly. Vivien okays her, and Moira immediately trashes Ben, saying that he’s basically the worst for cheating on his pregnant wife and that she knows he’ll do it again if given the chance. Vivien doesn’t want to hear it, but she also doesn’t stop her. Moira gives her the finished food, telling her she left the pancreas raw because that’s the best way to eat it. NO THAT IS THE WORST WAY. Besides, Dr. Google just told me pregnant women should limit their organ meat intake.

Vivien cleans up after she’s finished, and tentatively sniffs the raw pancreas on the counter. STOP TAKING MEDICAL ADVICE FROM CRAZY LADIES.

Ben walks Derek down the hallway of the murder house. Derek admits that he shaved using the toaster’s reflective surface. Ben says that’s a start, and that Derek’s okay because he’s in Ben’s house now, so he’s safe. Run away, Derek. If you try that Piggyman thing in this house, not only will he appear and kill you, he will probably have weird sex with you first. Or second. Maybe even third?

Ben shuts the light off and closes the door, leaving Derek alone in the bathroom with an emergency flashlight. Derek is terrified, but he goes to the mirror anyway, and shakily calls for Piggyman, jerking around with the flashlight each time. He goes to the shower, pulling the curtain away to reveal the nurse from the second episode! AAAAAHHHHHH! (This was where I screamed.)

Ben comes into the bathroom as Derek and I shriek like infants. Derek points at the shower, but Ben finds nothing there. Derek cries, hunching over as Ben hugs him, and groans “I’m broken. I didn’t even get to the third pig.”

Vivien is at the vaguely creepy obstetrician’s office from a few episodes ago, getting an AFT to check for anything wrong with the fetus. See, even getting shots is a thousand times more awful when you’re pregnant, because now giant needles have to stab right through your belly to see if something terrible will happen to your baby. And it might cause a miscarriage apparently!

My uterus is now and forever sealed off like the mines of Moria.

Ben shows up late, because he cannot do anything right. The obstetrician gleefully ignores the awkwardness and Vivien’s hateful looks, lies that there’s going to be a tiny pinch, and jabs a needle into Vivien. Vivien (probably by accident) lets Ben hold onto her hand.

Violet, at the skate park/abandoned empty pool full of skateboarders, apologizes to Leah. Leah, with a smile, asks if Violet was attacked, too. She says she knows the devil exists, and that he’s beautiful, not a “little red man.” Leah then launches into a synopsis of the Book of Revelation, with the screaming pregnant woman whose baby is about to be eaten by the great red dragon. The archangel Michael saves her/the baby by throwing the dragon down to the earth, and from then on, the dragon hates the woman and declares war on her and on all of her children. “And that’s us.” Leah finishes. Violet’s silent, and Leah, hilariously, goes “Yeah, things got pretty weird there for me.”

They commiserate over not being able to eat or sleep, and Leah gives Violet some of her pills to help her sleep.

Violet goes to Westfield High to sort of harass the teacher who was in the library. He’s in a wheelchair, and he dismisses Violet outright as “one of those sickos” who comes to see the place where the massacre happened, but she gets him to talk to her through subtle application of shouting “Why are you bullshitting me?” and looking like a twitchy weirdo. Violet just wants to know why, but so does the teacher. They get nowhere, so he ends up angry and she ends up no better off than before. It’s a really good scene despite Violet’s lack of tact (maybe because of it).

Vivien gives Moira some bad news: she’s going to have to let her go because money‘s tight. Moira once again manages to badass her way out of being fired, insisting that she’ll work for free and that she wouldn’t be able to leave Vivien in her time of need. She also busts out a dish of something else Constance brought over. I think you know what’s coming. YOU’RE RIGHT, IT’S BRAINS. RAW BRAINS. AND THEN WE WATCH VIVIEN EAT IT HAPPILY FOR LIKE SIX HOURS.

She has the good grace to look disgusted when she’s done, at least. But it’s too little, too late. I have already cried a river of blood.

Violet sets up her iPod in a deck, but doesn’t start up any music. She follows Tate down to the basement (where is Vivien? This family is never in the house at the same time. I feel like they’re secretly at the end of the–underrated!–Silent Hill film and occupying the same house while on different planes of existence, only vaguely aware of each others’ presences), where SURPRISE all of the ghosts ever are having a We Haunt This Shitty House Anonymous meeting. Violet freaks out and runs back upstairs, where her music is playing. It’s the kind of music that had me girding my loins for some kind of strange jumpcut-tastic haunted teenager sex, but Violet disagrees, and turns the music off. If you found this page by googling “haunted teenager sex,” hello! Can we get super married? I don’t have a lot of money, but I do have a lot of false moustaches. My phone number is (813) 326-[redacted].

Violet turns and sees I LOVE YOU written on the blackboard. She collapses, crying, and starts downing the pills like candy. She lays down on the bed and starts to drift away. We next see her being dragged down the hallway by a screaming and crying Tate, who’s begging her not to die on him as he pulls her into the bathroom, sitting with her under the shower stream and jamming his fingers down her throat to bring the pills back up. It works, and she cry-whimpers when she realizes what’s happening. Tate strokes her hair and kisses her head, not realizing that she‘s crying because of him. It’s so sad, and so well-acted. Like, dang, Taissa Farmiga!

(I also have to wonder if she died and is now a ghost? I want to believe the show wouldn’t fake us out like that, but who knows.)

Derek has another session with stupid Ben. He’s still feeling a ton of anxiety, and is even more bummed out because he met a lady but is too ashamed of his covered mirrors/piggy terror to even risk asking her out, because what if she wants to go home with him? Just pretend you’re sitting shiva, dude. Shiva forever.

Ben starts dumping his own issues all over Derek, during which time we see that he has apparently been lurking around at night outside the house, watching Vivien talk with Luke inside. Ben orders Derek to go home and say the words into the mirror. NOOOO.

Big church. Vivien meets up with Angela, the ultrasound tech who fainted. When she asks why they’re in a church, Angela’s all “This is the only place I feel safe.” and won’t get close to Vivien. Vivien asks what she saw, and Angela tells her “I saw the unclean thing that you carry in your womb. The Plague of Nations. The Beast.” Vivien’s like, “Okay, so you didn‘t see anything…so, the machine malfunctioned.” Angela says “It was not. I saw the little hooves.” AAAAAAHHHHH. She starts yelling Bible stuff after Vivien as Vivien leaves.

Derek prepares to do the Piggyman ritual in his bathroom. He gets a little cocky at the end, and suddenly the shower curtain is thrown open, and a fat guy in robber-chic, who was hiding in the shower, says “Who you callin’ a pig?” and shoots Derek in the head, killing him. The robber’s partner runs in and berates him, and they both leave. GOD BEN YOU RUIN FUCKING EVERYTHING.

In Constance’s kitchen, she’s having wine with Billie and playfully accuses her of being a fraud. Billie says that it’s not her fault Addie’s mad at Constance. Constance wants to talk to Addie, that she‘s got one last thing she wants to say to her. She says that she misses Addie terribly, and that Addie was her one reason for living. Billie, channeling Addie, says that she should have told her that when she was alive. Billie smiles and says that Addie’s a feisty one. Constance’s smile is kind of heartbreaking, as is her speech for Addie–about how proud she is, and what a beautiful girl she was. Jessica Lange is amazing, you guys.

Billie says that Addie is grateful, for the words and for the fact that Constance didn’t get her to the lawn at the old house in time. Constance gets wary, and Billie continues, saying that Addie doesn’t want to be with Tate, now that she knows the truth.

Flashback to 1994 again. Constance screams at the SWAT guys, trying to make them let her in, but they block her. Tate fingerguns his head, then reaches for a real gun. The SWAT team pumps him full of lead, and Constance collapses against the wall. The main officer tries to ask Tate why he did it, but Tate dies before he can answer.

Present day. Violet reads a book about birds on her bed. It‘s Tate‘s library book. Tate comes into her room, telling her that he likes birds because they can fly away. Violet is chilly toward him. He asks if she’s going to tell her parents about the pills, but she says no. “I’m sleeping a lot. They already think I’m depressed.”

Tate: “Are you?”

Violet: “I’m sad.”

Tate: “Me too.”

Tate Edward Cullens her hardcore, his eyes teary as he’s telling her that she’s changed and he’ll leave her alone if she wants, but only if she really wants. He tells her he loves her and would never let anything happen to her. Her expression is somewhere between horrified and slightly less horrified, until she caves to his vampiric charms and tells him to come over to her. He climbs over the foot of the bed and snuggles in with her. Delightfully, he is the little spoon.

“I’m tired.” he says.

“Me too.” she answers. Fade to black.

It’s hard to believe this is only the sixth episode! Holy crap!