Episode Title: "Halloween (Part 2)"
Writer: Tim Minear
Director: David Semel
Previously on "American Horror Story":
After a few unsettling weeks in the Murder house (and one home invasion), Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) and his wife, Vivien (Connie Britton) were desperate to find a buyer. At the suggestion of their Realtor, the Harmons agreed to hire a "fluffer" to decorate the house for a massive Halloween party. However, Ben was harassed by the severely burned Larry Harvey (Denis O'Hare), who murdered Ben's former lover, Hayden (Kate Mara) and helped Ben hide her body in the backyard. Ben shrugged off Larry's demand for money before confronting his patient, Tate Langdon (Evan Peters) about his presence in the house during the home invasion.
Chad (Zachary Quinto) and Patrick (Teddy Sears) came to the house to decorate it, as the Harmons assumed that they were the fluffers hired by the Realtor. In reality, they were the gay couple who lived in the house previous to them and both of Chad and Patrick were murdered by the ghost in the rubber suit (or Rubberman). Because it was Halloween, all of the ghosts could walk and move freely, even away from the house. Chad also coaxed Vivien into discovering that Ben had recent contact with Hayden. Later, Chad alienated the Harmons and seemed ready to fight them until he and Patrick retreated when they spotted the Rubberman.
As Ben and Vivien argued about his relationship with Hayden, Vivien felt an agonizing pain and Ben rushed her to a hospital to check on their baby. Back at the home, Larry returned and pounded on the front door while the Harmons' daughter, Violet (Taissa Farmiga) called her parents. And the Rubberman lurked menacingly behind her…
Moments later, Tate arrives at the house and Larry is seemingly gone. Tate gives Violet a black painted rose and they go off on their long promised date. A short time later, Vivien and Ben arrive at the house and find the alarm going off. As they frantically look for their daughter, Ben finds Hayden waiting outside of their front door. He slams the door in her face. Meanwhile, Vivien reaches Violet by cell phone and the young girl says that she is fine and out with friends. Vivien then catches Ben taking a kitchen knife out as if he's going to kill whoever trashed their front porch and she notes that it's a bad idea. She also tells him they need to talk about him moving out.
Ben angrily insists that he isn't leaving before heading to the gazebo with a shovel to check where he buried Hayden. Larry returns and asks for his money again, but Ben beats the crap out of him with the shovel and accuses him of staging Hayden's death as a crude way of blackmailing him. Seeing that Ben doesn't understand that Hayden really is dead, he challenges him to finish him off, but instead Ben tells Larry not to return. At the beach, Violet tries to make love to Tate, but he says that the drugs from Ben have made him impotent. They are then confronted by five teenagers who look like they've been in a terrible accident… or shooting victims. They taunt Tate and threaten him, causing him to lead Violet away.
In the Murder House, Vivien gets ready for a bath when Hayden calls her cell. Vivien actually seems to be trying to reach Hayden by telling her how she once fell in love with a married man herself. But she soon realizes that Hayden is in the house with them. She runs downstairs to warn Ben and says that she's calling the cops. Ben covers for his reluctance to bring in the cops by claiming that it will just make it harder for them to sell the home. Ben goes to find Hayden and he eventually locates her in the basement. As he confronts her, Larry knocks out Ben with a shovel and apologizes for killing Hayden. He then offers to help by burning the house down.
Outside, Vivien finds Chad destroying the pumpkins outside the house as he screams about his cheating husband. Vivien races back inside and finds a towel on fire that was left by Larry. She manages to put it out but loses track of her dog, Hallie. Hayden then calls Vivien and hints that she's in the kitchen and when Vivien arrives, her dog explodes in the microwave! Just as Tate and Violet return to the Murder House, the five teens catch up to them and threaten Tate again. He runs off to draw them away, but Violet is grabbed by Constance (Jessica Lange), who blames her for the death of Addy (Jamie Brewer). Downstairs, Ben awakens and finds himself tied up, but the sympathetic ghost of Nora Montgomery (Lily Rabe) frees him and tells him to rescue his wife and child.
In another room, Larry prepares to torch the house by spreading gasoline before Chad interrupts him. Elsewhere, Vivien finds her dog, locked in another room and realizes that she was tricked by the microwave explosion. Hayden then confronts her and realizes that Vivien is pregnant; which is one of the reasons that Ben supported Hayden's choice to abort their child. As she moves threateningly towards Vivien, Ben arrives and he reluctantly shares the truth about his activities in Boston and that he slept with Hayden again after he got back together with Vivien. Then the security guy, Luke (Morris Chestnut) finally answers the alarm and takes Hayden into his custody. Next door, Constance and Violet bond over memories of Addy and the older woman reveals that she is Tate's mother.
At the beach, Tate runs out of breath as the teenagers catch up to him. They demand to know why he killed them and it becomes clear that Tate's high school murder fantasy wasn't just a fantasy. As they badger him and plead for answers, Tate claims that he can't remember them and they leave disappointed as the sun comes up. Back at the Murder House, all of the ghosts attached to the property are drawn back to it. In the back of Luke's car, Hayden is despondent as he tells her what she did was evil and she's going to jail. But when they get to the police station, she vanishes without a trace.
In the morning, Ben packs up his bag and kisses his wife solemnly before leaving her and his family behind.
This was the first episode of "American Horror Story" that I really enjoyed all the way through. Of course, Tim Minear is a great writer and I probably shouldn't be surprised that he can make even this show work.
It's been very difficult to get behind Vivien and Ben as leading characters because both of them are rarely sympathetic, not to mention that Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott have been prone to some over-the-top performances. There's still plenty of over-the-top antics in this episode, but both Britton and McDermott had great moments of emotional intensity when Ben was finally forced to confess to impregnating Hayden and sleeping with her after he had reconciled with Vivien. Ghosts aside, this is the human angle of "American Horror Story." Vivien and Ben clearly love each other. They just don't have enough love to stop hurting each other and themselves.
This was also a really strong episode for Tate, as we learned a lot more about his history. It's obvious that Tate carried out a Columbine style High School shooting and murdered at least the five teenage ghosts that haunted him in this episode. But it's less clear if Tate really can't remember actually doing it. Those images must be swimming around in his ghost mind if he could recite the imagery during his sessions with Ben and see them again here. One of Tate's many problems is his lack of empathy, which is why that brief glimpse of it he showed last week with Ben caught me off-guard. However, I suspect that Tate's amnesia about the high school shooting was more about protecting himself from the guilt than anything else.
It's also interesting that Constance is Tate's mother, which may explain why she's still living near the Murder House, but not in it. It also seems like Constance's plan to drag Addie to the property before she died failed to turn her into one of the ghosts who are trapped in the house. So that might mean the end of Addy, but I wouldn't count her out just yet.
Larry is becoming more a comedic figure in this series and that's probably the best direction to take with him. Denis O'Hare has been really hilarious in the last few episodes and if this was more of a straight forward comedy show, I'd love to see Larry get those headshots that he said he needs for his auditions.
I'm also intrigued by the role Nora played in this episode. Although she said some harsh things to Ben, Nora was the only ghost in the house that actually wanted to help him save his family. If she really is sympathetic towards the Harmons, then she may be their best ally in getting out of the Murder House permanently.
This was a legitimately great hour of television and it's revived my hope for the series. I just wish Tim Minear could write every episode.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.