‘American Horror Story’: Freudian slips

American Horror Story
“Open House”
November 16, 2011


Larry and Constance cuddle near the fire at Murder House, and, wait, what? Do what now? They were a couple? Apparently, they were something of a couple! Enough that Constance confides in Larry that the authorities are going to charge her with criminal child neglect and institutionalize “him.” Larry knows what he needs to do.

And so Larry heads up to the attic, where a chained up Eric Stoltz in Mask rolls him a red ball — he wants to play! Sorry, Sloth from The Goonies. It’s time for bed. Larry tucks Quasimodo in, quotes him a little Hamlet, and then smothers Joseph Merrick with a pillow. Cher would have never done that to Rocky.

Sometime after that nasty bit of business, Larry decides its time to tell the wife that he’s leaving her for a blonder model. Mrs. Larry, upset that Larry plans on moving Constance into her house, protests and storms off. When Larry heads upstairs sometime later, he notices smoke pouring out of the bedrooms. Oh no, Mrs. Larry! What have you done? And are the little Larrys with you? Larry bursts down the door to find the room ablaze, and he screams. A lot.


Vivien allows Ben to come to the doctor’s appointment with her, where they learn that not only does the baby not have hooves and is perfectly healthy, there are two of them in there! Ben and Vivien are having twins! Supergreatfantastic news!

Bust out the cookies and clean up the bathroom, it’s time for an open house!

Martha Huber walks prospective buyer Prince Farid bin Abbud (ASIDE: are you watching Homeland? YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING HOMELAND.) through the house and into the kitchen where he molests Hot Moira with his eyeballs and mentions adding a swimming pool. Hot Moira, who desperately wants her body to be exhumed, is THRILLED with this plan, and purrs a bunch of euphemisms about pools. Prince Farid manages to remove his eyeballs from Hot Moira’s cleavage long enough to ask Vivien why the house is listed at such a discount, and Martha Huber explains that Vivien is a very motivated seller, before Vivien begins blathering about all the murders in the Murder House. Prince Farid doesn’t scare easily, and hands Vivien his card in case someone else makes an offer before he can get back to her.

Martha Huber is NOT AMUSED, and suggests that they just include a ticket for the murder tour in the price of the house. Great idea! says Vivien. Let’s take that tour! says Vivien.

This conversation is interrupted by Larry who has decided to stop by the open house for a tour and some noms. Martha Huber is extraordinarily rude to Larry to the point of brandishing a gun at him, which hardly seems like much of a sales strategy. After Larry threatens to sue Martha Huber for violating the ADApointing a weapon at a burn victim is strongly frowned upon by the Americans with Disabilities Act — they take him on a quick tour, where he acts all weird around the fireplace and yammers about the mural. Perhaps one of the most confusing scenes in a show pieced together from confusing scenes.

That night (?) Vivien has the sexytime fantasies about Handsome Security Guy/Ben/Gimspy.

Meanwhile, Violet cuts herself because THE ANGSTS. Tate shows up and licks her wrist to stop her, which NO, EW, and makes Violet promise to not cut herself anymore. In her room, Violet whines about having to eat dinner with her parents, which makes Tate ask her if she believes in ghosts? Tate insists that this can’t be all there is — that there is someplace better for people like her. As for Tate, Someplace Better became Murder House after she moved in.

At dinner Violet refuses to eat, yells at her parents that they make her want to kill herself and storms off in a snit. See: Teenage Girl.

After Violet brats, Vivien suggests that maybe they shouldn’t sell the house after all — because who wouldn’t want to stay alone and pregnant in a Murder House where you and your teenage daughter were attacked by murder fetishists? Cozy! Ben insists that they will, in fact, sell the house, which prompts Vivien to tell him about the two interested parties: Prince Farid and Larry. After a little passive aggressive sniping back and forth, Ben levels a knife at Vivien and threatens her to not screw up the sale of this house. Sure. All of this makes perfect sense.

Prince Farid swings by the house for a private tour from Hot Moira, who leads him up to Violet’s room to “offer” her “services.” NO TEETH. After, the two pass Ben in the hallway, who insists to Prince Farid that his family has been very happy in Murder House. But Prince Farid don’t care, he’s tearing the place down and building apartments. EXCELLENT IDEA, everyone yells. WHY DON’T WE GET STARTED RIGHT NOW, everyone screams.

When Larry returns home one night, he finds a Ben waiting for him inside. Ben was not amused that Larry stopped by the open house, but Larry protests that he’s an interested buyer! This, Ben understands, is just another one of Larry’s lies — like the one about how he killed his family and went to prison, and the other one about how he killed Hayden. LIES! Larry admits that he did try to scare Ben out of the house, but it was for his own good! Murder House! It haz powerz! And Larry needs it, because it’s the only place where he can be happy with Constance again. Tough luck, explains Ben. They’ve got a real buyer on the line who is going to tear the place down once and for all, the end.

Vivien and Martha Huber go on the Murder Tour, which makes a stop at the Nicole Brown Simpson condo. Note to self: take the Murder Tour next time in Los Angeles, it looks awesome. The tour then swings by Murder House, where the tour guide helpfully introduces Vivien as the owner to the rest of the group.


Mrs. Alby is unhappy about polishing silver and the whole thing where her husband sewed pig wings onto their dead baby’s parts, and now they can’t have an open casket for Baby Alby. But Dr. Alby is here to tell her that there isn’t going to be a funeral! Baby Alby is upstairs in the nursery! Waiting for her! Mrs. Alby goes upstairs, alone for some reason, and discovers the crib … empty. But there is something in the corner, behind her, scurrying.

Mrs. Alby returns downstairs, dazed and bloodied, and with nothing but praise for her huffing husband: he’s a genius! she was wrong about him! how on Earth did he accomplish this? Dr. Alby explains that he used the beating heart from one of the basement girls and stapled it to some pig wings and TA-DA! Basement goblin! Mrs. Alby’s chest is covered with blood, and she explains that she tried to nurse the goblin, but it wasn’t milk he was looking for. So she tried to stab it to death, but it didn’t take. Mrs. Alby sarcastically offers to alert the media to Dr. Alby’s remarkable success. But since sarcasm is lost on huffers, Mrs. Alby embraces her husband, shoots him in the head, and then shoots herself.


Vivien returns to the doctor to complain that she’s still experiencing morning sickness every time she leaves the house, so won’t the doctor please run a bunch more tests, maybe for horns and brimstone this time, KTHNX.

Constance meets Larry in the basement for a Very Important Meeting. Larry allows Constance to humiliate and threaten him for a while, before he cuts to the chase: the Harmons are selling the Murder House, and it’s going to be torn down. ALERT.

Violet hears something in the attic. DON’T GO IN THE ATTIC. But because she’s a white girl in a horror series (careful with the link — Eddie Murphy and salty language ahoy) she goes into the attic. And once in the attic, Pluto from The Hills Have Eyes tries to instigate a game of Roll the Red Ball Back and Forth, but Violet freaks out. Fortunately, Tate is there to tell The Phantom of the Opera to GO AWAY! and to explain to Violet that now that she’s evolved, she’ll be able to see the people who died in the house. AWSUM SUPERPOWER!!1!!!!!1! However, she has the power to make them go away by simply ordering them to do so. Tate then reveals a bunch of junk he’s found in the house, including some of Dr. Alby’s baby pieces jars, some gay porn and some Alby family photos. Later, when Violet is trying to go through the pictures, Dead Nurse Maria appears and whines about what “he” did to her, and Violet shouts at her to GO AWAY because she only wants to talk to ghosts that she makes out with.

Constance swings by Prince Farid’s McPalace to try to convince him to not tear down Murder House and to chew on his gold-plated molding. Prince Farid is not moved by her entreaty for respect for those who came before us, and demands that she make him a sandwich. ONE DAY YOUR TIME WILL COME, Constance threatens on her way out. FORESHADOWING, she hollers.

Tate has his session with Ben where he claims that the drugs seem to be working, and he’s feeling considerably less shooty. Ben is all, Super, hey would you spy on my duaghter for me? That’d be great.

Constance comes to Murder House wanting to talk to her son, and Milk Eyed Moira smirks that it looks like Constance’s been crying. GOOD. Constance storms off, and finds Tate upstairs and a bit flinchy. Constance asks if Ben has been helping him, and Tate confirms that they really seem to be getting to the root of Tate’s issues: he hates his mother. OOOH SNAP.

Constance then heads to the attic to visit her other son, the Uruk-hai, to hug him and tell him that she has to say goodbye now, because someone is going to take him away from her forever. There is crying and scenery gnawing.

Constance returns downstairs and berates Milk Eyed Moira for throwing herself at Prince Farid, but HA HA there’s not going to be any swimming pool or any exhuming Moira’s bones because Prince Farid is going to build a bunch of cheap apartments right on top of her slutty self. And while Constance would otherwise love seeing Moira trapped in some sort of subsidized nightmare, it would mean she would also lose her family, forever. SO. Vested interests and all that. What’s going to work? Team work.

And so, Hot Moira lures Prince Farid back to Murder House and into the basement where she “offers” her “services” again, this time with an extra helping of teeth. While Prince Farid is screaming, horribly, Larry throws a plastic bag over his head. There’s thrashing and kicking and thrashing and kicking and Constance orders Larry to finish the process off campus, so she doesn’t have to deal with His Highness the Sandwich King again. This is a reasonable request.

Finally, Vivien checks in on Violet and explains that in the event the house is sold to Dead Prince Farid, they will go live with Aunt Unimportant, and Ben will … stay behind with his patients? Who knows/cares. Violet asks how Vivien knew she was in love with her father in the first place, and Vivien explains that falling in love makes you feel like you are seeing the undead going crazy, and you know you’d do anything for the other person like not question why they want to take “business trips” back to the town where the woman with whom he cheated on you lives. BUT WHATEVER. And then Violet shows Vivien the pictures of the Alby family — which makes Vivien realize that she met Mrs. Alby a couple weeks ago. EEP!

Even for the most Freudian show on television this episode was SUPER FREUDIAN. I should preface this by saying that the extent of my knowledge of Freud’s theories extends about as deep as Wikipedia, so don’t be expecting any great analysis here. BUT. This series is all about those darker impulses that lie within us, all the sexual and violent urges that we tamp down and repress, the id that we lock away in our subconscious — and how this house, this space unleashes all of these urges, destroying lives in the process.

Freudian theories hinge on the idea that we are psychologically shaped in early childhood by our relationships with our parents, and that residual dark urges towards our parents — both sexual and violent — lie within our unconscious minds. This episode is an exploration of that dark place within both parent and child towards each another: that urge to destroy what created us, and what we have created. Violet lashes out at her parents that they make her want to kill herself; Tate flatly tells his mother he hates her (and it should be noted that the teens’ violent impulses towards their parents are turned onto themselves — their hatred manifests, interestingly enough, in suicidal acts); and the basement goblin, in perhaps one of the most Freudian images ever on television, literally consumes his mother when she attempts to nurse him. (And it’s difficult to discuss the Moira/Prince Farid storyline tastefully [pun SO NOT INTENDED] on a family site, but since we’re being Freudian, ORAL FIXATION MUCH?)

There is also, of course, the violence directed by the parents towards their children: Constance kills — or rather, has someone kill — her son; it’s presumed (but certainly not confirmed) that Mrs. Larry set the fire that kills her children; and Mrs. Alby attempts to kill the basement goblin, but fails. In our society, the most unforgivable and inexplicable crime a woman can commit is to kill her own children, and yet there seems to be something in this house that drives women to do that very thing, some dark impulse that is unleashed. (It should be noted that there is a post-Freudian complex called the “Medea complex,” in which a mother harbors homicidal impulses towards her children, usually as a means to exert revenge on her husband. It’s based on the ancient myth in which Medea, ticked that her husband Jason up and ran off with some hussy, poisons said hussy and hussy’s father and then kills her kids just to stick it to Jason.)

All of this violence between parents and children is a backdrop for whatever it is Vivien is carrying within her. Last week’s business with Vivien eating disgusting organ meats was a dark take on what many women experience while pregnant. When you’re pregnant, you often feel out of control of your body, that something completely alien has taken over and is calling the shots. You eat things you wouldn’t otherwise eat, your emotions are volatile, your dreams are strange and often very dark, and your body literally becomes unrecognizable — the self is transformed inside and out. And with all of these unfamiliar changes taking place with one’s body and mind, it’s not uncommon for pregnant women to have darker worries, to be concerned that there’s something … wrong with the baby that they are carrying. Especially if the father is a murderous, latex suit-wearing gimp.

Last little thing I wanted to point out — the items that Tate dug out of the attic and showed Violet, the Alby’s items, their medical equipment and photographs, were kept in boxes. Boxes are often symbols of mysteries, secrets that often are best left unknown. Pandora’s box is the classic example of this; once Pandora allowed her curiosity to get the better of her, and she opened the box that she was explicitly ordered to never look into, she unleashed all of the evils into the world, and they couldn’t be put back away. I’m wondering if the boxes tucked into the attic won’t be Vivien’s Pandora’s boxes: she can not unsee Mrs. Alby’s faces in those pictures, she can’t unknow the fact that Mrs. Alby paid a visit to Murder House, and having seen that, having known this, Vivien’s own sanity might be at stake. Once the box has been opened, the damage can not be undone.

Timeline so far:

1922: Dr. Alby (Montgomery) builds the house for his wife Nora.

1926: Baby Alby is kidnapped, and dismembered. Dr. Alby revives him. After attempting and failing to kill Baby Alby,  Mrs. Alby shoots and kills Dr. Alby and herself.

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.

1994: Larry kills Constance’s son Beau in the attic.

1994: There is a fire that kills Mrs. Larry and Larry’s daughters in Murder House.

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.

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