Episode Title: "Halloween (Part 1)"
Writer: James Wong
Director: David Semel
Previously on "American Horror Story":
In the aftermath of the home invasion, Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) and his wife, Vivien (Connie Britton) realized that they were unable to sell their house due to the amount of money that they put into it and the house's bad reputation. Vivien then began blackmailing the Realtor who sold them the house in the first place to help them pawn it off on someone else. Meanwhile, Ben began experiencing blackouts thanks to the ghost housekeeper Moira (Frances Conroy), who continued to appear to him as Young Moira (Alex Breckenridge) as she attempted to seduce him.
When Ben tried to have Moira fired, the older Moira convinced Viven that Ben was the one harrassing her. To make matters worse, Ben's former lover, Hayden (Kate Mara) followed him back from Boston and announced that she was keeping their baby. After Ben missed a meeting with her, Hayden showed up at his door and frantically threatened to expose their child to Viven. Just when Ben seemed about to hurt Hayden, Larry Harvey (Denis O'Hare) appeared and murdered Hayden with a shovel (so that Ben wouldn't have to). Larry then strongly indicated that he wanted Ben to pay him $1,000 for the service.
Aghast, Ben buried Hayden in the backyard next to Moira's body; which he then covered with cement and built a gazebo over it. Up in the house, Constance (Jessica Lange) taunted Moira that she would never leave now that her body was entombed beneath the cement.
In a flashback to 2010, we meet Chad (Zachary Quinto) and Patrick (Teddy Sears), the gay couple who owned the home prior to the Harmons. After an extended argument that demonstrates that their relationship was just as troubled as the Harmons' current state, Patrick storms out. Hours later, the Rubberman ghost appears before Chad, who assumes that it is Patrick in the costume… until the ghost breaks his neck in the apple dunk tank. Patrick arrives just in time to see Rubberman turning towards him. Back to the present, the Realator tells the Harmons that the house has an image problem that is keeping them from selling.
Fortunately, the Realator thinks that she has a solution: throw a massive Halloween party inside the house and make it family friendly. She even suggests hiring a relatively inexpensive gay "fluffer" (an interior designer, NOT THE OTHER KIND!) to help give the house a style makeover. Soon after, Larry shows up at the door and harasses Ben for his $1,000. And when Ben doesn't bend to threats of exposing where Hayden's body is hidden, Larry simply says that his patience has its limits. For that matter, Ben seems to have had his fill of Tate Langdon (Evan Peters); whom he insists finally tell him what he was doing inside of his house the night of the home invasion.
Tate spins some BS tale about how he got in (obviously leaving the part out about being one of the ghosts haunting the home) and he begs Ben to keep him as a client. Ben agrees, but only if they no longer meet at the house. Later, Tate meets with Ben's daughter, Violet (Taissa Farmiga) in the basement and he shares the history of the house where Dr. Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) performed underground abortions before his own child was kidnapped and dismembered. In his insanity, Montgomery tried to Frankenstein his baby back together with parts from various animals; which Violet scoffs at.
Later, Constance's daughter, Addy (Jamie Brewer) surprises Violet in the house and asks for her help being a "pretty girl." Violet obliges and only lightly tells Addy to stop breaking into their house. Constance freaks out when she sees the makeup on Addy, who refuses to go out as Snoopy again for Halloween. Back at the house, Chad and Patrick show up at the Harmons' door and they assume them to be the fluffers. Chad turns out to be very good at carving decorative pumpkins, but Patrick comes on to Ben after treating his hand cut. While Ben is freaked out, Chad coaches Vivien to check her husband's phone records for evidence of cheating.
Elsewhere, Moira visits her mother on her day off and turns off her life support. However, Moira can not journey with her mother to the great beyond because she is still tied to the house. At an outdoor coffee house, Ben breaks down in tears during his session with Tate, causing Tate to actually comfort the doctor himself. Back at home, Vivien confronts Ben with phone records that show that Hayden had been in touch with him. He insists that he told Hayden it was over, but her phone number appears on his phone while they are talking and Vivien remains angry. Later, Chad freaks out over Vivien and Ben's cheap Halloween costumes and he begins insulting them. The Harmons tell Chad and Patrick to leave, but the gay couple only retreats when they see the Rubberman.
Vivien tries to throw Ben out as well, but a painful sensation in her stomach leads Ben to take her to the hospital. Violet is left behind to man the house and she is warned not to open the door. Meanwhile, Constance makes up with Addy by buying her a creepy "pretty girl" mask. Addy is so proud of her costume that she chases after some other local girls to keep talking with them… right before Addy is run down by a hit and run driver. Constance finds her daughter being tended to by paramedics and she tries to drag her to the Harmons' property before she dies. But it is apparently too late.
At the hospital, Vivien and Ben are told that their baby should be fine, but the monitoring equipment shorts out. They then get a call from Violet about a stranger (Larry) banging on their door looking for Ben. Vivien and Ben race home only to find Violet gone and the alarm going off. After shutting it down, Ben is surprised when he finds Hayden's ghost at his door, but he slams it shut in her face.
As much as I want to like this show, the Harmons are trying my patience. And so are all of the ghosts on "American Horror Story."
Before we get to that, I have to ask: are there any rules on this show? Can the ghosts just do whatever the f*** they want from a week to week basis? I assumed that the ghosts could only have a physical presence in or around the house, but Moira is solid enough to go the nursing home and take her mother off of life support and Tate meets with Ben at a public place. I'm not sure if the BS explanation about the dead being able to go anywhere they want on Halloween is meant to cover it. But it's not clearly defined onscreen what boundaries the ghosts have, if any.
The flashback sequence proved that the Rubberman can murder his victims at will, so why hasn't he killed the Harmons yet? The one thing that intrigues me about the show is that the agenda of the ghosts isn't clear. If they don't want the Harmons dead, then what do they want? And is Constance dead? If not, why does she seem to be able to order Moira around?
Zachary Quinto got a lot of press for coming on this show as one of the deceased gay owners first referenced in the pilot. Given Quinto's recent outing of himself, I wonder why he took a role that was such an amazing stereotype. Chad and Patrick barely have any qualities that weren't derived from gay stock characters. There's no substance or subtlety between them and they ended up being quite annoying. On this show, they're far from alone in that regard.
The only person in the ensemble who looks like he's having any fun is Denis O'Hare as Larry Harvey; but even his strange character tics are going to get old quickly if he's so one dimensional that he only cares about blackmailing Ben for just $1,000.
Ben and Vivien are the two primary problems on this show. They are the main characters and I simply don't care about either one of them. It could be the writing or the performances, but Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton just don't have any believable chemistry between them, even for a couple whose relationship is in so much trouble. The creeping signs that Ben is cracking under pressure have potential, but there hasn't been a real defining moment for this series that has ever made me reevaluate my opinion of the show. I'd be very happy if the creative team can turn "American Horror Story" around.
On a side note, I did enjoy Tate's backstory about the house. It offered a fairly creepy reason why the house is so haunted and I loved the brief period scenes between Dr. Montgomery and his wife.
There may be a great series buried somewhere in "American Horror Story." But there are so many bodies in the backyard that it's hard to tell where to start digging.
Crave Online Rating: 6.5 out of 10.