‘American Horror Story’: And then the Pope got involved

American Horror Story
“Spooky Little Girl”
November 30, 2011


A cab pulls up to Murder House and deposits Mena Suvari The Black Dahlia, who waggles her widely-spaced eyebrows at a passing be-headgeared teenage boy. Murder House is currently being occupied by Dr. David Curan, D.D.S. who scrapes plaque and tightens the braces of the neighborhood children in his living room, apparently. The Black Dahlia is there to have her “cavity” “filled” if Dr. Curan (whom I would call by one of his character’s names, but is best known as “Aaron Sorkin’s Pet”) knows what she means — her friend told her that he makes special arrangements for girls whose cavities need filling, but can’t afford the procedure. Dr. Curan leads The Black Dahlia to the dentist chair where she explains that she’s going to be a famous actress one day and star in a handful of movies, most of which will have the word “America” in the title, before disappearing from the nation’s consciousness other than being “that one girl with the rose petals in that movie with that guy, Kevin Söze.” Now, as for paying the good dentist, she heard he would come to an arrangement for her? Because she really needs him to fill her cavity? Get it? Do you get it, Dr. Curan? In case you didn’t get it the first 8 times, she wants to make the sex with you in payment for her dental procedure. Dr. Curan certainly gets it, and removes the dahlia from her hair before strapping the laughing gas mask over her pretty-but-in-a-strange-way face.

Question: What is the deal with Mena Suvari and flowers? /JerrySeinfeld

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While she is sleeping, Dr. Curan “turns on his drill” and “fills her cavity” before turning on his drill to fill her cavity. (I’m sorry. I hate myself for that.) Alas, The Black Dahlia has taken too much happy gas and has died in his chair. Without much of a plan, Dr. Curan drags The Black Dahlia down to the goblin basement (which I’m pretty sure violates a thousand different OSHA rules) where Dr. Alby is waiting. IN UR GOBLIN BASEMENT, HUFFIN.

Chopping up the body, chopping up the body, chopping up the body, bonus extra smile, there! He fixed it! Now The Black Dahlia is considerably more portable. And not once does Dr. Curan ask any real questions like, “What are you inhaling?” or “Where’d all this surgical equipment come from?” or “Wait, who are you again?” I suppose one shouldn’t look the gift ghost surgeon in the mouth. OH LOOK WHO MADE A DENTAL PUN.

And sometime later, some nice lady and Nice Lady’s Nice Baby discover the poor Black Dahlia cut up to pieces in a vacant lot. Upsetting! Also, Very True Fact!


Ben asks Hot Moira, who is busily making his bed, to make Violet a sandwich, because his petulant daughter doesn’t have any scenes this week isn’t coming out of her room. This gives Hot Moira a chance to growl and squat on the bed and purr come ons at Dr. Ben while also accusing him of having a diseased mind. Hottt! Dr. Ben accuses Hot Moira of being a Girl with Low Self-Esteem whom he does not want. He just wants to be a big happy boring family with his crazy wife, and his crazy daughter and the ghost babies, thankyouverymuch. Now go make that sandwich. Before leaving to make said sandwich, Hot Moira threatens that it’s just a matter of time before his spirit will be willing and his flesh will be weak.

Next door, Constance is drunk painting and insulting her boytoy, Ace Young. After making fun of his telemarketing “job” and accusing him of sleeping with her dead disabled daughter, Constance orders Ace Young to go buy more cigarettes and walk the dog. This is a very healthy relationship!

Instead, he is lured into Murder House to make the sexytimes with Hayden. After, Hayden assures him that she can’t get pregnant, which, great, I guess, and then wonders if his “mom” will be mad. Oh, Ace Young has no intention of telling Constance about this. When Hayden points out that sex is a weapon and that Constance is mistreating him because she’s terrified of losing him, Ace Young shrugs and announces that he supposes he loves Constance. Hayden, done with this dumb-dumb, goes to leave, when Ace Young asks how she gets to live in this house. Oh, Honey, she doesn’t live here yet, but she will soon — Dr. Ben and she are in love. Ace Young then asks if she’s in love with someone else, why she just slept with him — even though he himself just announced that he was in love with someone else BUT WHATEVER — and Hayden explains that she wanted to see if she could have sex with someone alive. Hypothesis answered!

Meanwhile, Officer Foreshadowing is back with Hayden’s sister looking for one missing Hayden. Ben has a panic, especially when Officer Foreshadowing mentions seeing Hayden leave Murder House, and that giant hole that Ben had been digging in the backyard. Which is when Hayden appears, snarls at her sister and sends them away. Nothing to see here! Definitely not buried beneath that brand new gazebo located exactly where Officer Foreshadowing had seen Ben digging! After they leave, Hayden pleads with Ben to remember that she has always been there for him, since the beginning, and ohbytheway she’s a dead ghost she had that abortion.

And that’s when Dr. Ben discovers The Black Dahlia, the next hot mess in his life, literally, waiting for him in his office. She has a strange feeling, Dr. Ben, that something horrible has happened to her. She’s an actress trying to make her big break, and she finds she gets carried away with men, especially if she thinks they might be able to help her. Can’t he find room on his schedule to see her? Even if she can’t pay, at least not in cash money? And for a moment, Ben fantasizes about making the sex with her, but he snaps out of it and finds room to see her in his busy schedule of non-paying dead patients.

And that’s when the OBGYN calls Ben and is like, “Uh, your wife made the sex with another man, and one of her twins isn’t yours. LOL! KBAI!”

Constance swings by the house, on the warpath: Ace Young came home smelling like tramp, and obviously it’s because Violet made the sex with him. Milk Eyed Moira laughs in her face, and explains that 1. Ace Young isn’t Violet’s type, duh, 2. Violet thinks she’s in love with Constance’s dead son, Tate but 3. that will change when Violet learns about Tate raping her mother while wearing a gimp suit and being the father of one of her mother’s twins. WAIT, WHAT? says Constance, before heading down into the goblin basement to confront her son about his extracurricular activities. When Tate begs his mother to not tell Violet what he’s been up to, she beats him about the head for a while, furious that he might have ruined his chances at getting Dr. Ben to help him, and it’s all very sad, even if he is a dead mass-murdering mother-raper.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ben finds Hot Moira and The Black Dahlia getting it on in his office. After a brief moment of temptation, Ben orders everyone to put their clothes on and to get out of the house. EVERYONE IS FIRED. Ben storms out of the room, leaving a weeping Dahlia to wonder what just happened. Hayden appears and explains that Hot Moira was using her, before explaining to The Black Dahlia that she is one of the most famous murder victims of all time. See? FAMOUS!

Dr. Ben heads to the loony bin to visit with a sedated Vivien. It seems she attacked an orderly when he suggested that Gimpsy was a sexytimes fantasy, which, maybe the orderlies should keep their opinions of the patients’ mental health to themselves or go to school and get a medical degree. In any event, Vivien’s been tied down, which is probably for the best, as Ben comes in and calls her a liar and a whore, and assures her he isn’t going to lift a finger to help her get out of the institution. Kisses!

There’s a flashback to Dr. Ben and Hayden drinking at a bar and flirting and getting their affair on. It seems Hayden confessed to having a crush on Ben and Ben confided to Hayden that he was having marital problems, and then he played some air guitar and the next thing you know she’s pregnant and buried under his gazebo.

Which is where Ben has a little chat with her. Hayden offers that they were written in the stars: they were meant to meet when they did, when Ben’s marriage was failing. Perfect timing! Ben’s like, Yeah, nope. Not really. I used you and I never loved you. SORRY. The reality that Ben is not in love with her hits Hayden, who cries and asks for a hug, which leads to a kiss, which Ben pulls away from. Seriously. Not in love, Hayden. And she can’t hang around here anymore. Hayden protests that she’s there for a reason, and ohbytheway, she saw that black guy in the uniform leave the house in the morning. (Ha! “Black guy”? Well done, writers! I love clever word play!)

Constance, armed with ghost grandbaby news, suggests to Ace Young that they get married. There’s gonna be a ghost grandbaby in the house soon, and she knows he’d make a great father! Ace Young is not quite ready to cast aside his grand ambitions of being famous and singing at Real Housewives’ kid’s pony parties and appearing half-naked 60 feet above TIIIIIMMMMMESSSS SQUAAARRRREEE! The thing is, Constance had those same ridiculous dreams, and if it didn’t happen for her, it ain’t gonna happen for him. Ace Young whinges that Constance is being mean, and she’s all HELL YES I AM BEING MEAN. And by the way, you’re not a real man. He lunges at her threateningly, but Constance, she knows from threatening and warns him that the last man who thought he could strike her came to a very unpleasant end. And he was a real man. Ace Young runs away to cry and comb his hair…

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… and make the sexy with Hayden again. After Ace Young gets his aces younged, he hops up to leave a very unsatisfied Hayden. After all, he really loves Constance and they’ve got a baby on the way. Hayden, however, still has some needs that have been unmet, both physical and emotional, and she asks for a hug. Which turns into STABBING STABBING STABBING and now Ace Young is a ghost in the house, too. (And can I just say how much I love the phallic, psychosexual energy they are giving Hayden? That she, like a slasher in a 80s film, is releasing her rage via extreme sexual violence — she is violating them in such a symbolically masculine way. It’s an interesting reversal from the typical male slasher attacking female victims — Freud’s “penis envy” come to bloody life.)

Hayden, realizing that she’s made a huge mistake, worries how to get rid of the body lest Dr. Ben get arrested or move away. Fortunately, there’s a huffing mad man in the basement who can make Ace Young more portable, as long as she has someone who can get him out of the basement. Additionally fortunate, Hayden has someone who owes her a favor.

And that’s how the basketball players discover Ace Young all Black Dahliaed in the weeds. Thanks, Larry!

(UPDATE: And it just occurred to me that in “Home Invasion,” one home invader (the “patient”) was found off the property by the police, cut to pieces like The Black Dahlia. The cops assumed that her accomplices turned on her when their attempt to murder Vivien and Violet was unsuccessful. BUT! INSTEAD! It was Dr. Alby’s M.O. all along! It’s not that they were trying to recreate The Black Dahlia murder, but rather, she was dissected by the same man who cut up The Black Dahlia in the first place. The question is, where are the other two bodies? They were never found. I’m thinking they’re still on — or in — the property somewhere.)

Constance pays Vivien a visit in the mental hospital, and makes a bunch of noise about single motherhood, community and sisterhood, before assuring Vivien that she knows the pain of being doubted by everyone. This, for some reason, makes Vivien confide in Constance that she was raped by Gimpsy. Constance assures Vivien that she believes her, and promises not to tell anyone.

Back at Murder House, Ben pushes the panic button, summoning Handsome Security Guard, whom he accuses of half-impregnating his wife. Handsome Security Guard laughs in Ben’s face on account of being sterile before basically calling Vivien a slut. This, for some reason, offends Ben, and Handsome Security Guard is all, Dude, you’re the one who called your wife a whore and a liar first. Also, there’s also that whole institutionalizing the woman you love thing, which, come to think of it, is probably the safest place for her. YES. YES IT IS. VIVIEN SHOULD STAY THERE, PLEASE.

Ben then finds the Gimpsy mask lying in the bathroom just as fired Hot Moira is leaving. She weakly moans some come ons at him, and Ben is all, No thanks. Hey, listen, I think I made a huge mistake. Was Vivien actually attacked by a dead teenager in a rubber suit? Hot Moira congratulates Dr. Ben, before turning into Milk Eyed Moira. He’s finally seeing things as they actually are.

Constance meets with Harriet Hayes, who is very excited about Lifetime possibly picking up her pilot, which YES TO THAT. SOMEBODY MAKE THIS HAPPEN. I love me a paranormal show, for reals. But Constance is too distracted with ghost grandbaby news to focus on Harriet Hayes’ big news. Constance asks Harriet Hayes what happens when a human becomes pregnant by a ghost, and Harriet Hayes responds by dragging the Pope into it, because that’s just how crazy this show is. According to Harriet Hayes, Papal Expert: after the Pope is chosen, he is taken to something called the “room of tears” where he opens a box that contains the ultimate secret of the end of the world: a child born of human and spirit will usher in the end of times, it is the essence of evil. Which: 1. I’m pretty sure the “essence of evil” was actually “I Am King” by Sean Combs, and 2. How much of a secret this can possibly be when some housewife medium from Los Angeles knows it? Harriet Hayes explains that a ghost baby is a perversion of the Immaculate Conception, and that if the Holy Ghost impregnated Mary by whispering in her ear, don’t you think the Devil is going to want “more bang for his buck?” Infallible logic!

OK. Remember when I said they were just talking metaphorically about the devil and the antichrist and all that?

Yeah, I was wrong.

But before we get to all THAT, a couple thematic things about this episode: this was Ben’s Test. This episode reminded me (as most things do) of Lost. WAIT! HEAR ME OUT! On Lost, the Island was a special place with powers — an Axis Mundi — a sacred location where the dead could walk amongst and communicate with the living, where the living were given a second chance at life, a chance at redemption, a chance to be “reborn.” Sound familiar?

Murder House is a dark vision of the Axis Mundi. The house (for reasons I hope will remain mysterious) serves as vessel for the spirits who died there, a connection between the world of the living and the world of the dead. And the souls who die on the property are trapped there — not unlike being trapped on their own island.

But what I find most fascinating is the way both the Island and Murder House test their inhabitants. On both series, the characters are transported to a new mysterious place that could be their second chance, a new start. However, while they can attempt to shed their pasts physically, the truth is, the past remains with them emotionally. And through the special qualities of both the Island and Murder House, the characters are tested to see if they have actually changed. They are confronted by their demons, haunted by their pasts, and forced to either fall back into familiar damaging patterns, or change and become better, more heroic people. Well, on Lost they were heroic. Ben is merely able to resist having sex with three dead women, which is not exactly heroic in the traditional sense. Still! Ben was tested several times in this episode: by Hot Moira, Hayden, The Black Dahlia and the Hot Moira/Black Dahlia combo, and he managed to walk away each time, despite giving some serious thought to indulging. Ben is changing. He is beginning to see the truth. Just how far he will change, however, remains to be seen. I am fairly certain this series is not, like Lost, ultimately a redemptive one, and that a dark ending lays ahead for Ben.

Speaking of starting over, another major theme of this episode and of the series itself, seems to be this question of fame. Constance eloquently explained to Prince Farid a couple of episodes ago that people used to come to California, the unspoiled West, for a space of their own. Now they come to California looking for fame. Both reasons are about making a new start, creating a new life, a new persona for oneself. This is mirrored in Constance’s own story, Ace Young’s and of course The Black Dahlia’s (and to a lesser degree, Harriet Hayes); they are all in Los Angeles looking for a different life, one in which they are famous. The allure of fame is a powerful one, and the small town rube who either makes it big or is destroyed by Hollywood is part of the American mythos. What’s interesting is how this series is exploring the darker side of that fame myth, in a new (non-noirish) way — which I suppose is how that strange, somewhat discordant Sal Mineo death scene from an earlier episode fits into the larger thematic picture, it’s goes along with the theme of connection between fame and death. Our culture doesn’t just make celebrities out of those whose talents we admire; we also bestow fame upon those who meet grisly ends whose stories somehow tap into our collective psyche, like Natalie Holloway or Nicole Simpson or The Black Dahlia. Fame can be a dark gift.

SPEAKING OF DARK GIFTS. So let’s talk apocalypse. As I said, I was far off base when I suggested that this show wasn’t going to go down the End of Days road with the baby, and that they were simply giving a name to the evil that exists within the house. WRONG. Way wrong. Which, considering all the Rosemary’s Baby nods, I’m not sure how I didn’t see coming. SO YEAH. DEVIL BABY. I have many many questions, including how, exactly, does a series play out the Antichrist angle? On the one hand, it seems like quite the bang to go out on for the first season. How do you top Devil Baby? On the other, it could be an interesting thread that could tie together future seasons: after all, the Antichrist has to be older than a newborn to make trouble, right? So it could become this interesting thread where we are watching The Omen grow up either in or next door to Murder House.

And since I brought Lost up earlier, I should point out that during the entirety of that series, there was this constant “END OF THE WORLD” threat about the Island that was never fully explained. Something something light bathtub plug something. What I’m saying is while the Antichrist angle is interesting, it could be a potentially very treacherous road to explore if the writers don’t know where they’re headed with it — unless it’s not intended to be a overarching element of the entire series, i.e., the baby dies in the first season. We’ll see. (Also worth noting about Lost? Twins. The two forces fighting for control of the Island, and by extension the world, were twin brothers. One light, one dark. SYMBOLS FTW!)

All that said, Ryan Murphy notes in this interview that Harriet Hayes might not be the most reliable source of information. Just because she throws the word “Antichrist” around doesn’t mean she knows what she’s talking about.

Still, I liked the crazy Pope Box element, which came from so far out of left field that it works in this completely insane series. And I’m pleased that the box imagery was reintroduced after our brief discussion of Vivien and Pandora’s Box. Once you see something, you can’t unsee it. Once Vivien saw the photograph of Mrs. Alby, she came to know a fundamental truth of the house that changed her. Similarly, according to this story, once he takes the robes and the big hat, the new Pope opens a box and becomes privy to a great universal secret that he can’t unknow. I think this is where the show is headed — that those who come to understand the house, the truth of the house, once that box is opened, it changes them, and they, as much as the spirits who haunt it, become its prisoner.

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.

1947: Dr. Curan kills The Black Dahlia in Murder House.

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: Tate, as Rubber Man, kills Sylar and Patrick in the house.

Summer 2011: Hayden’s baby is conceived.

September 2011: The Harmons move in.

September 5thish, 2011: Vivien’s baby is conceived after Tate dons the Rubber Man suit and rapes her.

Fall 2011: The Murder Festishists are killed inside the house by Tate and the Nurses.

October 2011: Larry kills Hayden.

October 31, 2011: Addy is killed.

Presumably early 2012: Prince Farid is killed by Larry and Moira.

March, 2012: Vivien is institutionalized.

Spring 2012: Hayden kills Ace Young in Murder House.

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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