In which Jen Chaney and Web producer/“True Blood” recapper Paul Williams join forces in their weekly attempt to figure out what the heck is happening on “American Horror Story.”
It’s a very special Thanksgiving episode of “American Horror Story.” And that means we got generous servings of visits to S&M shops, very bossy dead mistresses and lessons in feminism courtesy of Moira.
Seriously, this episode, titled “Rubber Man,” taught us a few things, including what really happened to previous Murder House owners Chad and Patrick and — most important, as the episode title implies — who was dressed as the Gimp when Vivien had her, um, special baby-conceiving encounter.
Regarding the identity of that Rubber Man, we think we speak for all of America when we say: Ewwwwwwwww.
That said, set aside your pumpkin pie and pig pancreas casserole (with marshmallows, mmmmm. . . .), expect spoilers ahead and prepare to explore 10 questions about this week’s “American Horror Story.”
More “American Horror Story”:
1. First things first. Can you believe — spoiler alert — that Tate was in the rubber man suit?
Jen: Well, he was one of the candidates on Paul’s carefully considered list of potential Rubber Men. So in that sense, I wasn’t surprised.
On the other hand, there is something particularly unsettling about watching Violet’s ghost-boyfriend have sex with Violet’s mother, and then later deflower Violet, in the same episode. Tate chose to get it on with Vivien apparently to appease Nora, who doesn’t seem to realize she’s dead and desperately wants her sewn-together little baby back. Hence, Tate’s Connie Britton hookup was just a means to make sure another wee one shows up in the house.
The immediate and obvious question, without getting too explicit, is: How does ghost-sex work? I mean, if you’re dead, it seems like one’s capacity to impregnate someone would die, too. Based on the rules of “American Horror Story” — rules that are admittedly loose and subject to the whims of creator and producer Ryan Murphy — it would seem that the ghosts in the Harmon home still possess all the flesh-and-blood characteristics and capabilities of a living person.
And that may explain why Tate had trouble getting in the mood with Violet on Halloween. Even though it was his night to roam free, once off the premises, he was unable to perform.
Paul: The way Tate took out Chad and Patrick, either being a ghost or wearing the suit also gives you crazy kung-fu powers.
Still, I’m a little disappointed that the Rubber Man is Tate, mostly because of what it will do to poor Violet when she finds out. The Harmons’ daughter is about the only character I have much sympathy for, as she’s the only one still acting in an identifiably human fashion, albeit of the moody teenager variety.
I also wonder if they’re missing the boat on some better storytelling opportunities. Tate already has a central role in the show; having someone else under the mask could have opened things up in new directions. But only time will tell.
Jen: Moira admonished him for always catering to the whims of the ladies of the house, especially Nora. Why would he do that? I suspect it’s because, as he said himself, Tate has mommy issues. Which got me thinking about Constance, who, for the record, was sorely missed this week. (I presume she took the week off to bake a delightful, ipecac-laced pumpkin pie for the holiday.)
If Tate wants to do right by authoritative female figures, I wonder if Tate committed that school shooting because he thought it would please his mother somehow. Perhaps she told him to stand up to the kids at school. Or maybe she suggested he needed to teach the bullies a lesson. In Tate’s twisted mind, he turned that into an excuse to kill. Of course, I could be wrong about this theory, but it seems in keeping with both Constance’s character and Tate’s bitterness toward his mother. And if pleasing Mommy is indeed a complex, it would make sense that he’d want to please mommy Nora and . . . um . . . another mommy: Vivien.
Paul: I think you’re overlooking a key, subtle point here: Tate is just absolutely bonkers. It was chilling how casual he was about killing Chad and Patrick just because they had talked about not having a kid anymore. Dude, they were still going to sell the place! You’re a ghost; you have nothing but time. And all these murders, as we have seen, have an impact on your home’s market value. For a guy who managed to pull off an elaborate, extensive high-school shooting rampage and escape back to his house, Tate is not much of a long-range planner.
I find it interesting that Nora was so cold and calculating in life but has become such a blubbering mess in the afterlife. I wonder how much of that is an act and if she’s still pulling the strings of the men in the house. One thing I forgot to mention from last week was the scene of her complaining about having to polish the silverware. Who else do we know that has a thing for silverware? Constance. Makes me wonder if that was just a throwaway connection or the groundwork for a deeper one.
Of course, maybe Nora’s crying just irritates the other ghosts to no end, as we saw with Hayden, and they’ve elected Tate to step up and do whatever it takes to make it stop.
3. Does the fact that Tate and Violet had sex debunk Jen’s theory about Adelaide taking over Violet’s body?
Jen: It certainly contradicts my previous suggestion that Tate was demonstrating less romantic feelings toward Violet after Addie’s death. But I still think something changed after Adelaide’s passing that led to Violet becoming “evolved.” In fact, Paul, I think you have a theory about that.
Paul: Just wait, we’ll get there soon enough.
4. Did anyone else think it was weird that Violet said this to her father: “You’re so weird and pathetic, I’m surprised you haven’t gone after me”?
Jen: In the context of her father’s other sexual indiscretions, I definitely found it weird. It was such a pointed comment that it seemed like the writers were definitely trying to tell us something, most likely that Ben either has or will indeed go after Violet. This also tied in with the fact that last week, he briefly referred to his daughter by his wife’s name, Vivien.
Paul: I didn’t think twice about it during my first viewing of the episode, actually. It could be taken a lot of different ways, some more meaningful depending on if we find out more context about the characters. It could have been an expression of her daddy issues, mirroring Tate’s mommy issues. Or just a face-value attack on him for putting his libido ahead of his family. Or, since we know Ben had a bad childhood, it would not come as a surprise to find out he was a victim of some kind of abuse or molestation, in which case, that’s a pretty low blow by Violet.
5. Did the whole Patrick and Chad/Rubber Man subplot make sense?
Paul: It didn’t for me, because it didn’t seem to fit with what we saw in the Halloween two-parter. In that episode’s flashback, Chad is amused when Rubber Man, who he thinks is Patrick, walks into the kitchen. He acts like it’s the first time he’s ever seen the suit and is amused by it, which seems out-of-sync with the negative emotions attached to the suit in this episode. Still, it’s most likely just a continuity flub and not anything meaningful.
Jen: I agree with you. I may need to rewatch the scene where Chad (Zachary Quinto) sees Rubber Man enter the kitchen for the first time. But given the massive argument that ensued after he attempted to seduce Patrick in that thing — which, by the way, really is slimming — it seemed like Chad might have been more irritated than amused when he thought he saw his lover wearing it.
6. What was the deal with Moira’s monologue about the book “The Yellow Wallpaper”?
Jen: Clearly, Moira has some issues with men, which is why she delivered a detailed lecture on the history of how males make females think they are crazy. As part of that lecture, she cited Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a story about a woman who went mad after being locked away in a room by her husband who, like Charles Montgomery, was a doctor.
An item of special note, courtesy of the Wikipedia page on the many theories about “The Yellow Wallpaper”: “Another interpretation is to doubt the veracity of many of the narrator’s early statements. There may never have been a husband, sister, baby, or any other characters as described in the story, meaning the entire story (or a large part of it) is the product of a deluded mind, so the reader cannot know what is true and what is not.”
Is this a sign that perhaps much of what we see on “American Horror Story” is the product of a deluded mind? If so, whose? Ben’s? Constance’s? Our own minds? Oh my God — is “American Horror Story” gaslighting its entire audience?!
Paul: As long as it doesn’t end with everyone coming together in a church, Jen. . . .
I guess we can also assume Moira caught a show of “In the Next Room” last Halloween?
And the counterpoint to Moira’s case that men seek reasons to call women crazy is Hayden, who was never very stable and seems to have gotten even crazier since she died. And on that point . . .
7. Does everyone on this show have a doppelganger?
Jen: In yet another comment that screamed “I am important, so pay close attention to me,” Moira told Vivien that “they do say we all have a doppelganger, Mrs. Harmon.” Clearly, Moira has one. But does everyone on the show? Twins are a recurring theme here.
This got me thinking about Ben and Vivien and who their doppelgangers or “others” might be. In Vivien’s case, perhaps it’s Hayden’s. And in Ben’s, it could be Tate’s. In both those scenarios, the husband and wife are confronting younger adults who, perhaps, committed sins similar to ones they may have committed. (Vivien said she was involved with a married man once. And although we don’t know what Ben did, he has implied that he had a troubled past that, perhaps, might have involved some Tate-like mental instability.)
For the record, Paul, you are my “American Horror Story” doppelganger. You’re even welcome to parade around in a sexy maid outfit if you so choose.
Paul: I’m wearing one right now, Jen. I find it helps get me in the spirit (no pun intended) of recapping the show. I draw the line at wearing one dead-eye contact lens though.
I would nominate Larry for Ben’s doppelganger. — a twisted version, whose infidelity led to the destruction of his family. I think there are parallels between Nora and Constance — monstrous children, relocated to L.A. by their husbands, a certain homicidal streak, the aforementioned interest in silverware.
And don’t forget about the evil Weasley twins, doppelgangers of the good Weasley twins.
8. How are Hayden and Nora going to get one of Vivien’s babies if she is no longer on the premises?
Jen: Hayden — who, based on the above doppelganger theory, may or may not be the Tyler Durden to Vivien’s Edward Norton — is clearly intent on making everyone think Ben’s wife is nuts. As she explained to Nora, if Vivien gets sent to a mental hospital, her still-growing twin babies will be taken from her. And that means one for Nora and one for Hayden! It’s like a two-for-one deal on Black Friday.
But how will that work, exactly? Once the babies are brought home, and while Vivien remains in the so-called loony bin, the Wonder Ghost Twins will snag the babies from Ben? And for them to take custody, naturally, both babies will have to die. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Paul: Admittedly, I’ve never experienced the joys of raising a newborn myself, but is the plan really to take care of a baby FOR ETERNITY?
If you didn’t think Hayden was crazy before, I rest my case.
Do you think the writers always planned to have Nora and Hayden team up, or did that occur to them later on — maybe Kate Mara had more availability then initially thought — so they changed course to give Vivien twins?
9. Is Vivien actually safer outside the Murder House?
Jen: As she was being led out of her home, Vivien remarked: “At least I’ll be out of this house.” I’m inclined to think she is safer not being there assuming the so-called malevolent spirits really can’t torment her if she’s off-campus, so to speak. The question is what the stigma of being mentally ill will do to her status as a mother. Something makes me think that the aforementioned Constance — who most certainly will not want the Hayden/Nora duo to have those kids — will come to her rescue. Or pseudo-rescue. (P.S. Did Connie Britton go from being pretty together to being totally off her rocker incredibly quickly? Or was it me?)
Paul: By the standards of this show, her descent was positively glacial. Unless the mental hospital they are taking her to is Arkham Asylum, she pretty much has to be safer anywhere ghosts aren’t try to rape and kill her.
It will be interesting to see how her removal from the house affects the pregnancy, though, as there have been frequent, pointed comments about how things go downhill for her physically when she leaves the home.
Jen: This question has been raised before by readers. And it’s an increasingly valid one given the evidence at hand: Violet hasn’t left the house. She apparently hasn’t gone to school in two weeks. (Nice parenting, Harmons.) She’s been deemed “evolved.” She can communicate with other ghosts much more easily.
All signs seemingly point to yes. Perhaps her demise occurred when those mysterious hands grabbed her from under the bed on Halloween. And maybe those hands belonged to Tate, who wanted to have her with him forever. I’m not 100 percent convinced. But I’m probably at 75 percent right now.
Paul: Violet’s totally dead, folks. Sorry to break it to you. She did not survive the suicide attempt. That’s how she’s “evolved,” why she can see the other ghosts now, can make them go away, why she hasn’t been to school in two weeks, why we haven’t seen her interact with anyone outside the house since Leah gave her the pills.
The icing on the cake? Tate’s line about how it was kind of romantic that Chad and Patrick would get to spend an eternity together now. Just like him and Violet.
Jen: Clearly, Paul is convinced. But what do you think, readers? Is Violet dead? How did you feel about the Rubber Man reveal? Post a comment and share your thoughts.