American Horror Story
November 9, 2011
DING DONG! CANDYGRAM! Actually, it’s the SWAT team and they’re at the Murder House to chat with Tate. It seems that Tate took a shotgun and some sort of hand gun to the school earlier, and pulled a Columbine. The Breakfast Club were in the library that fateful day, and after attempting to bar the doors and hide, Tate managed to shoot his way through a door and Not!Principal Vernon, and kill them all, wordlessly, one-by-one. (Tate neglects, however, to ask Basket Case if she believed in God before he killed her. Which is what Show told us happened last week. Last. Week. You’re not even trying, Show.) This is very creepy and very upsetting and those of us who were around during Columbine are shaken by the entire thing, because MY GOD.
But back to Murder House: the SWAT team HUT HUT HUTs their way up to Tate’s bedroom, focusing their gun lasers on his chest. Tate raises his hands in surrender, then mimes shooting himself in the head, while rocking a crazed smile. But then Tate reaches for an actual gun, which prompts all elventy-three SWAT dudes to shoot him in the chest. An officer
stupidly dramatically attempts to ask a dying Tate why he did it, but he expires before he can give an explanation because of all the BULLET HOLES in his CHEST.
Violet is not a stupid girl (despite being her mother’s daughter) so she does a little internet sleuthing on her high school’s past, and discovers that 1. Tate killed The Breakfast Club some 17 years ago and that 2. her boyfriend is a dead ghost. She doesn’t handle this well, and heads downstairs looking for her mother who is nowhere to be found. But Constance is there, and she knows that Violet has figured out the truth about Tate. Constance assures her that she too questioned her sanity when she found out, but that Murder House will eventually make Violet a believer. Violet meows that Constance is a liar, but Constance continues, explaining that she lived in Murder House when Tate lost his way, and that what happened was the house’s fault.
Constance then brings Violet over to her less muderery house, where her friend Harriet Hayes, medium, is waiting. Harriet Hayes gives some rambling back story about a dead maid, before explaining to Violet that she needs to accept what is happening to her, or she’ll go crazy. Here’s the deal: sometimes the dead stick around because they want revenge, and other times the dead stick around because they don’t know they’re dead. Tate happens to be the latter. Violet STILL isn’t listening to this, because CRAZINESS, so Harriet Hayes pulls up some lady named Mary who tells Violet she doesn’t understand her. THIS FREAKS VIOLET OUT SO GOODBYE. Constance asks Harriet Hayes if she can trust Violet, and Harriet Hayes, she’s not sure, because she’s a medium not a psychic, uh duh.
Learning one’s boyfriend is a dead mass-murdering ghost is tough, so Violet cuts herself a little. And then slashes open her throat! Except not. Just a little waking nightmare or something. Tate materializes behind her and asks if she’s scared now. YEP. DEFINITELY SCARED NOW.
Violet, distraught, runs to her father crying that it’s all her fault. And Ben, thinking that it’s all about him all the time, comforts her that he and her mother both love her. But the darkness! It has her!
Violet meets up with Mean Girl to discuss how they’re going crazy, and the devil and Revelation 12 and stuff. Mean Girl mentions that she’s been taking sleeping pills, and Violet is all I CAN HAZ SLEEPIN PILLZ?
Violet takes a field trip to the library where she reads a plaque with the victims names etched into it, and the wheelchaired Not!Principal Vernon is snotty to her. They get 4 or 5 sickos like her every year. Violet explains that she knows Tate … ‘s mother, and has some questions: Did Not!Principal Vernon know Tate before it happened? Not!Principal Vernon saw him around — he didn’t seem like a bad kid, he liked to read, seemed thoughtful. Violet protests that he had to have been bullied or something, good people don’t just have a bad day and start shooting people. WELL, THERE’S YOUR ANSWER, VIOLET: maybe the kid who killed a bunch of innocent people wasn’t a good person.
Upon arriving back home at the Murder House, Violet is led by Tate into the goblin basement where she’s harassed by the twins and the nurses and the intruders and Dr. Alby for no particular reason. Terrified and FREAKED OUT, Violet heads upstairs to her room where her iPod is blaring and “I LOVE YOU” is written on her chalkboard. Enough of this! resolves Violet, who promptly swallows an entire bottle of Mean Girl sleeping pills. NOM NOM NOM. And then she passes out.
But never fear! Her dead boyfriend is here to drag her suicidal self into the bathtub to shower her with water and shove his fingers down her throat. DON’T YOU DIE ON HIM, VIOLET! And with that, she comes too, coughing and soaked and covered in ghost kisses. It’s like a scene from Sleeping Beauty!
Sometime later, Violet flips through a book on birds that Tate had once checked out from the library. Tate appears at her door and talks about how meaningful “Freebird” is or something before noting that something has changed in Violet towards him. If she wants him to leave her alone, he will, because he cares more about her feelings than his own. He loves her, and he would never let anybody or thing ever hurt her. And so she invites her dead boyfriend into her bed for a little spooning because everyone is so very tired.
Meanwhile, Constance has a long rambling monologue where she tells Addy via Harriet Hayes that she was proud of her and thought she was beautiful. In return, Addy tells Constance via Harriet Hayes that she’s a pretty girl now, and that she’s glad Constance didn’t make it to Murder House’s lawn because she doesn’t want to be like Tate: in fact, she’s scared of him now that she knows the truth.
While their daughter was busy being menaced by her dead boyfriend and trying to kill herself, Vivien and Ben have been dealing with their own Very Important Things, like flirting with Handsome Security Guy and nursing some jealousy towards Handsome Security Guy.
Oh, Handsome Security Guy, you are so not getting out of this thing alive.
Vivien has some creepy nightmares about demon baby hands moving around in her giant swollen belly. Upon waking, she removes her wedding ring and
makes a booty call pushes the security panic button, for laffs.
Handsome Security Guy is there in no time, assuring her that he didn’t find anyone on the property, and Vivien is all, Silly little ol’ me! I’ve just been so nervous since I kicked my husband out of the house for being a terrible adulterer who brought his little whore girlfriend to my house. Handsome Security Guy commiserates with her: his wife cheated on him, too. And that’s when Ben wanders through the living room — which, wait, what time is it? It’s not the middle of the night? ANYWAY, Vivien explains to Ben that she thought she heard someone outside, but everything appears to be fine. Handsome Security Guy makes to leave, and is all OHBYTHEWAY, that woman I took out of here the other night, the one that was trying to cut your baby out of your stomach? Yeah, she never made it to jail somehow. Oops! Kbai!
Vivien is NOT happy to see Ben here, but what’s he gonna do? He has to see his patients somewhere, and they can’t afford rent on a office right now, so. She yields, but not without insulting his manhood for a while and assuring him that she will merely be tolerating him.
Ben’s doomed patient of the episode is Cam who is terrified of urban legends even though that was a totally stupid movie. To be fair, Bloody Mary is really scary! I still won’t be in a bathroom with the lights off for any sort of length of time because TOO SCARY. Cam explains that his brothers used to torment him with the stories, and now as an adult, he’s so terrified of them that he can’t have meaningful relationships, sleep at night, or even glance in a mirror to deal with personal hygiene issues, thanks to Piggy Man.
Piggy Man? asks Ben. The story goes that back in 1893 Chicago: a hog butcher did this weird gross thing where he’d wear a mask made from one of the pigs he’d slaughtered to go wander around amongst his pigs and snort at them. I don’t know. Anyway, the story goes that Piggy Man slipped in the pen one night, and the pigs tore him apart, they never found a bit of him. BUT THEN, soon after, his former customers started turning up dead; gutted and skinned in their bathtubs. And so now, if you stand in front of your bathroom mirror and repeat “Hey, piggy pig pig pig,” Piggy Man will return to kill you or something. (And while no part of this really makes any sense: why did Piggy Man come back to kill his customers? Why did he dress up like a pig in the first place? Why would you summon him? Why bathrooms?, I suppose most urban legends don’t make a whole lot of sense when you look at them too closely.)
Ben asks Cam if he’s tried summoning Piggy Man, and Cam assures him that he has not — but he’s afraid that one day he might, which scares the hell out of him. Ben urges Cam to come back to see him again, and to shave in the meantime.
Vivien has decided to hunt down the hospital tech who fainted at the sight of her ultrasound, but is having little luck. Constance arrives unbidden with an offal offering. She’s heard that Vivien is suffering terrible morning sickness every time she leaves Murder House, and Constance’s mother swore by variety meats to get through the first trimester. So! Constance has brought over some sweet breads (yum!), some thymus glands (um …) and a mess of pancreas (no). Constance orders Moira to saute the sweet breads up with some butter because “we need that baby. We need another sweet child around here,” she gnaws on the doorframe. Alrighty then, Mrs. Castevets. Got it.
Moira cooks up the sweet breads and bad mouths Ben for a bit: cheating on one’s pregnant wife is akin to murder in Moira’s eyes, and mark her word, he’ll do it again. She then serves Vivien the sweet breads and explains that the pancreas is meant to be eaten raw. Think of the baby, Vivien. Vivien enjoys the sweet breads, because, Yum! And then sniffs at the pancreas for a bit. NOM NOM NOM.
As part of his cognitive aversion therapy plan, Ben has Cam go into Murder House’s bathroom and play the Piggy Man game while he waits out side. What could possibly go wrong? OH I DON’T KNOW, MAYBE ONE OF THE 37 GHOSTS WHO LIVE IN YOUR BATHROOM COULD POP OUT AND EAT CAM’S FACE OR SOMETHING. Which is pretty much what happens. Cam piggy mans and who should appear but Gladys the dead nurse. EEP! says Cam, but when Ben comes back in, Gladys is long gone, of course.
SCARIEST PART OF THE EPISODE: Vivien has an amniocentesis. Ben arrives and holds her hand because he’s the “daddy.” Cough.
Vivien then tries to fire Moira for some reason? But Moira is all, “Nope.” And then she serves Vivien another of Constance’s special noms: a raw chilled brain. NOM NOM NOM.
Ben meets with Cam again, who reports that the cognitive exercises aren’t working. Ben urges Cam to not feed his fears (while glowering at Vivien and Handsome Security Guy at some other moment in time). There is no piggy man. Cam must face it and deal with the real issues in his life. BE FREE, CAM.
Vivien manages to hunt the ultrasound tech down in a church, where the tech’s busy praying and lighting candles. Vivien explains to Tech that the hospital claims the ultrasound machine malfunctioned, but that Vivien knows Tech clearly saw something that frightened her. So what was it? THE UNCLEAN THING, THE PLAGUE OF NATIONS, THE BEAST. Let’s try this again, says Vivien: When the ultrasound machine malfunctioned what did you see? HOOVES, MOTHER OF HARLOTS. Super, says Vivien.
Finally, Cam attempts to play piggy man in his own bathroom. After a few tentative tries, he becomes more confident and bellows, “Hey, piggy pig pig pig!” And out jumps a guy from his bathtub who shoots him in the head. Bathtub Guy’s accomplice comes running in and is freaked out: it was just a robbery, and now they’ve committed murder! Ack!
Way to kill another patient, Dr. Sobsalot. You are very good at your job.
Controversy, right? I have to give Ryan Murphy credit — this episode has left me conflicted. I am not a hand-wringing, “television is ruining our kids!”, PTC type. But I have some real issues with this series romanticizing a school shooter, even though at the same time I also appreciate it’s not quite as simple as that. I knew the shooting was coming — from the first episode it was strongly suggested that Tate had committed this terrible crime. But he was simultaneously being drawn as a misunderstood romantic anti-hero. And while I don’t think the depiction of the shooting was anything but grim and terrifying, my gut reaction to seeing it was that it should have never been shown, and it certainly shouldn’t be linked to this brooding romantic figure.
But of course, maybe this is the point. The writers have romanticized Tate for weeks now, so that the horror of what he did would be more palpable to both the viewers and Violet (and the thousands of fangirls who post his image to their tumblrs) when we were forced to actually come to terms with it. Like Moira, Tate has his own duality: he is both a misunderstood, thoughtful kid and a monster capable of unimaginable acts, and reconciling those two parts of him is what we and Violet are left to struggle with.
Why? How? Sometimes the most terrifying thing in the world is the lack of answers to those questions. No matter how much we, as a society, have tried to figure out why Columbine or Virginia Tech happened, there are no single answers that are satisfactory. Sometimes acts are just evil, and sometimes evil acts are committed by people who are otherwise not evil. Which is why it is so terrifying — because it leaves us to question what we, or those we know — or think we know — are capable of.
Which brings us to all the biblical, Revelations bidness in this episode. Both Mean Girl and Tech refer to what they experienced with the Harmons in very biblical terms, and the entire pregnancy dynamic is taking a strong turn to the Rosemary’s Baby. That said, I don’t think we are going to be headed down a very literal biblical road on this series, nor do I think the baby will be the “devil” or “son of the devil” or whatever. I suspect all the Bible talk is merely intended to give Mean Girl and Tech a vocabulary to describe the evil that they witnessed. They are using the terms that they know to explain the inexplicable. After all, part of the Bible’s purpose is to not only to give an explanation for evil’s origins and existence within the world, but to help us find the ways to conquer the evil within each of our souls left there by Original Sin. Or something. Evil must originate from somewhere, and in this case, it seems to come from within Murder House. And, perhaps, Vivien’s womb.
School shootings. Really do not like.
Timeline so far:
1922: Dr. Alby (Montgomery) builds the house for his wife Nora.
1926: Something terrible happens to the Albys.
1968: The nurses are killed by Franklin.
1974: Addy is born.
1978: Twins are killed by the basement goblin.
1983: Constance kills her husband and Moira.
1994: Tate goes on a school shooting spree. Tate is killed in Murder House by a SWAT team.
October 2010: Sylar and Patrick are killed in the house.
Summer 2011: Hayden’s baby is conceived.
September 2011: The Harmons move in.
September 5thish, 2011: Vivien’s baby is conceived.
October 2011: Larry kills Hayden.
October 31, 2011: Addy is killed.
American Horror Story airs on FX Wednesdays at 9 p.m. It is very naughty.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.