Episode Title: "Open House"
Writer: Brad Falchuk
Director: Tim Hunter
Previously on "American Horror Story":
Violet Harmon (Taissa Farmiga) finally googled her boyfriend, Tate Langdon (Evan Peters) and she discovered that not only was he dead, but he was also responsible for a brutal high school shooting back in 1994 before committing suicide by cop in the Murder House. Tate's mother, Constance (Jessica Lange) brought Violet back to her home and introduced her to a medium, Billie Dean (Sarah Paulson). The older women told Violet that they needed her help to get Tate to cross over into the next world. However, Violet became haunted not only by Tate but by the rest of the ghosts as well. Finally, Violet attempted to overdose on pills, but Tate found her and managed to save her life.
Meanwhile, Ben (Dylan McDermott) and his estranged wife Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) were divided upon how best to sell the house and dissolve their marriage. Ben also came to fear that his wife was forming an emotional attachment to their security specialist, Luke (Morris Chestnut). At the same time, Moira (Frances Conroy) and Constance began preparing strange dishes for Vivien; which she ravenously craved despite herself. Elsewhere, Tate told Violet that he loved her and he promised to leave her alone if she wanted. However, Violet then invited Tate to get in bed and hold her for comfort.
Flashback to 1994, after Tate's high school massacre. A scar-free Larry Harvey (Denis O'Hare) tells Constance that he loves her as she tells him that the authorities are taking her other son away from her over neglectful parenting. Since Larry is devoted to Constance, he climbs into the attic and approaches her son, Beau (Sam Kinsey), a misshapen and mentally disabled young man chained near his bed. Larry goads Beau under the covers and expresses his remorse as he suffocates him. Later, Larry confesses to his wife that he has fallen in love with Constance and plans to send his family away so he can live with her. Hours later, Larry's wife has apparently set herself on fire with their young children as kicks down the bedroom door to save them.
In the present, Ben and Vivien have a family dinner with Violet, who is having none of it. After she retreats to her bedroom, Ben and Vivien argue about being forthright about the history of the Murder House. Vivien wants to be honest and get the full story from the Murder Tour, while Ben tells her not to screw it up. But the Realtor, Marcy (Christine Estabrook) seems to have stuck gold with developer, Joe Eskandarian (Amir Arison); who isn't taken aback when Vivien relates some of dark history behind the house. However, Marcy and Vivien are both weirded out when Joe begins flirting with Moira (Alexandra Breckenridge), since the women only see Moira's older incarnation.
The only other prospective buyer is Larry, who hilariously stares down Marcy's attempt to hold him at gunpoint and gets Vivien to accompany him on a tour of the house he once owned. Later, Ben meets Vivien at the hospital where they learn that she is pregnant with twins. Vivien mentions the two potential buyers for the house and Ben realizes that Larry was the second man. In response, Ben gets into Larry's dilapidated home and tells him to stay away from his family. He also reveals that he knows Ben never went to jail for killing his family and he still believes that Larry didn't actually kill Hayden.
Back at the Murder House, Tate makes Violet promise to stop cutting herself. He also shows her some items hidden in the walls, including photos of the Montgomerys, the original owners of the Murder House. He also tells Violet how to deal with the ghosts that appear to her. Simply tell them to go away and they will. When Violet tries it later, it works. In her bedroom, Vivien fantasies about Luke, Ben and then the Rubber Man; which unnerves her. With the Harmons away, Moira brings Joe upstairs to Violet's room and suggests that they put in a sex swing before she orally services him. Ben catches them leaving Violet's room, but he backs down when Moira says that Joe wants to buy the house. Ben tries to sell him on the building when they are alone, but Joe just wants to tear it down and build condos.
On the Murder Tour, Vivien and Marcy hear about Nora Montgomery (Lily Rabe) and her husband, Charles (Matt Ross), the original owners. According to the legend, Charles reanimated the body of their murdered son with animal parts, which scarred Nora when she tried to nurse it. Nora then killed her husband and herself, prompting Marcy to tell Vivien to leave that story out of the listing. Meanwhile, Larry and Constance learned that Joe was likely to buy the house and tear it down, possibly eliminating its hold on the ghosts within… and Constance's ability to speak with her dead sons.
Constance tries to make Joe reconsider his plans, but he rudely rejects her and wouldn't listen. So, Constance tells Moira that she will be entombed forever when Joe tears down the home to redevelop it and Moira is angered enough to do Constance's bidding. Constance also briefly reunites with the ghosts of Beau and Tate, but Tate says that his therapy with Ben has helped him realize that he hates his mother. Later, Young Moira lures Joe down to the basement and begins orally pleasuring him again… until her teeth make an unfortunate bite for Joe. As he screams in pain, Larry throws a plastic bag over his head and suffocates Joe almost to the point of death.
Constance makes a point to tell Larry to keep Joe alive until he's off of the property, so he won't be another ghost to contend with. Inside the house, Vivien starts to bond with Violet again as they look over the photos that Tate found. However, Vivien is startled when she recognizes Nora from the photograph as the same woman she met weeks ago whom she assumed was an interested buyer… a woman who literally disappeared in her kitchen.
It's interesting to see that "American Horror Story" has managed to improve on the early episodes and expand the mythology of the Murder House… and yet I still can't stand the Harmons. Ben and Vivien that is, Violet has some potential. Watching the House and the spirits within prey on the Harmons can be fun, but I just don't care about them as characters.
Vivien is particularly problematic for me, as Connie Britton's usual reaction shot is such a vacant stare that it creates an emotional disconnect. It's like she doesn't know what she's supposed to be reacting to. Some of Vivien's deficiencies were lessened this week by making Marcy her defacto sidekick. Judging from her rants, Marcy is a horribly bigoted person, but she gets a lot of great lines. Her note to Vivien about leaving the urban legend out of the listing was brilliant.
Denis O'Hare has also been a Godsend for this series. Ever since Larry Harvey stopped being the prophet of doom (as he was in the pilot) and he settled into a more comical vein, Larry has been on fire. Or should we not mention fire? Anyway, O'Hare's tics while acting under the burn makeup have sold me on just how unhinged Larry has become. His tour of the Murder House with Vivien was pretty hilarious, as was the way he threatened Marcy with a lawsuit if they didn't show him the home. I'm not as fond of the more serious Larry that appeared in the flashback, but he at least had some remorse for his actions. Not that it stopped him from murdering Beau…
Violet has become more compelling as she realizes that she can exert some control over the ghosts around her. If the show evolved into a story solely about Violet figuring out how to use her apparent gifts as a Medium, I'd be in favor of that. Vivien seems to finally be coming around to the idea that there are ghosts around them, unless she's going to jump back into denial about Nora's disappearance into thin air. Meanwhile, Ben seems as clueless as always as he asks Tate to keep an eye on his daughter. Tate may not be acting as crazy as he was before, but when did Ben get comfortable with seeing him back at the house again?
Joe was a total sleaze, but it would have been amusing to see the ghosts attempt to deal with an owner who had no plans to even live in the house. But it does beg the question about what the ultimate agenda is of the spirits within the Murder House. Constance didn't care about the Harmons potentially moving away, even though she seemed connected to whatever demonspawn (or twin demonspawn) is within Vivien. If that's the case and the babies aren't important, than why was Constance bringing over brains and organs for Vivien to eat in the last episode? It could be that Rubber Man has his own plans; which are separate from Constance's. But we should learn more in next week's episode.
The Moiras also had some amusing moments this week, especially when older Moira wiped her lips coming out of Violet's bedroom. The puzzled reactions from Vivien and Marcy were also priceless as they struggled to understand why the much younger man was flirting with the older Moira that they saw. It's also implied that Young Moira castrated Joe… with her teeth. And something tells me that's not the first time she's done something like that. Ben may have been a bad husband, but he at least had the sense to turn down Moira's advances. If he hadn't, the same thing could have happened to him.
At this point, I'm invested in the overall story of the series, even if Ben and Vivien stick out as the weak points. But I'm more than willing to give "American Horror Story" a full season to win me over. It's earned its shot.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.