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.”
And indeed, Vivien’s decision to pursue a relaxing, post-freaky-sonogram soak in this week’s episode of “American Horror Story” is what led to her confrontation with Hayden the Zombie Mistress, who, in a nod to the REDRUM moment from “The Shining,” wrote the words “ASK HIM” in the misted-over bathroom mirror. She was encouraging Vivien to ask her husband about what really happened in Boston. But I think we all know what ASK HIM means when it’s spelled backwards: MIH KSA. Gives you the chills, doesn’t it?
That was just one development in part two of “Halloween,” an hour of television that gave us angry, decaying teenagers, Morris Chestnut responding handsomely to every press of a panic button and some decided unpleasantness involving fluffy dogs and microwaves. Here are our 10 questions about what we witnessed.
More “American Horror Story”:
1. Who/what was reaching out from under Violet’s bed at the start of the episode?
Jen: Since both Rubber Suit Man and life of the Halloween party Larry Harvey were both in the vicinity before Violet entered her room, I was inclined to think the hands belonged to one of them. Or — and this is a distinct possibility — that they were written into the script randomly by one of the writers who, to this day, has no idea whose arms those hands belong to but just stuck it in to add a quality jolt moment.
Paul: Well if that was the case, it certainly worked on me. Hands under beds = always creepy. I’m going to hold out hope though that we might not have seen the last of Addie, or her spirit at least.
2. Can we summarize the Tate situation based on what we now know as well as wild speculation?
Jen: Why, of course we can.
We learned a lot about Tate (Evan Peters) in this episode. We already basically knew that he had committed a Columbine-style school shooting at some point. But with the victims of that shooting — their puss-oozing wounds still evident — showing up on Halloween (you know, the night the dead can roam free) we understood more about just how many lives he took. (At least five, based on the number of angry ghosts that presented themselves).
We also got a clearer picture of when Tate committed his crime: roughly around 1994. His references to both Kurt Cobain and Quentin Tarantino hinted that perhaps he left this world sometime in the early 1990s, but when the bitter spirit of the slain cheerleader told Tate that ”I should be 34 years old,” I was inclined to assume the shooting occurred in the same year that “Pulp Fiction” was released. Which, Paul, explains why Tate wears vaguely grunge-era clothes, as you pointed out a few recaps ago.
Constance also confirmed what we previously suspected: that she is Tate’s mother. Presumably — here’s where the wild speculation comes in — she was wracked with guilt when Tate killed his classmates and himself, which is why she can’t move away from the “safe house” where he resides to hide from the brutal reality of what he did.
I have to say, as disturbing as it is, I appreciate the incorporation of a school shooting into the narrative. If “American Horror Story” is a broader look at every real horror that can confront an American family — adultery, fertility/pregnancy problems, a lousy real estate market, mental health issues, financial troubles — then dealing with the heartbreak and shock of a teen who kills his peers as well as himself has to be on the list.
Paul: It was interesting that ghosts of those that Tate killed all had a ceratin timeless, “I Was a Teenage Zombie,” 1950s vibe to them, despite coming from the ’90s. Like they could have been extras with poor Sal Mineo in “Rebel Without a Cause.”
They really cranked Tate’s disaffected loner vibe up to 11 when he’s on the beach alone with Violet, which was a bit ham-handed. What did you make of Tate not being able to remember shooting them? It doesn’t seem like it would be something as simple as denial, though clearly being a ghost doesn’t mean you automatically start being honest with yourself. Constance’s description of him to Violet as being too sensitive, without the “steel” or “grit” to handle it was sad and well put.
I will offer some wild speculation, though — Tate’s love of Violet will ultimately have him siding with the Harmons against the House and whatever tries to harm them, including Constance.
3. Luke (Morris Chestnut) is clearly Vivien’s potential romantic interest. But will he be able to avoid the curse of the black guy in a horror story?
Paul: I really like Morris Chestnut, so it pains me to say this, but there is a 100 percent chance that he is the Rubber Suit Man’s next victim. I can’t imagine it’s a good idea to step in on RSM’s woman.
Jen: My question, to which I do not have an answer, is whether Luke somehow knows what’s up with the Harmon house. He doesn’t seem to. And he seemed genuinely surprised when Hayden the Zombie-Mistress suddenly disappeared from the back seat of his security car. But I couldn’t help but notice that the company he works for is called Heirloom Security, a name that implies a connection to the past. Also, with Ben having left the house, Vivien is totally going to hit that.
4. What happened between Chad and Larry after Chad found him pouring out the gas can?
Jen: Good question. Chad (Zachary Quinto) asked Larry what he was doing to “his house” when he started the gasoline dousing. But we never saw a follow-up to that conversation. However, this suggests that Chad has confronted Larry in the past. Maybe?
Paul: Given the “quittin’ time” stroll back to the house all the ghosts made as the sun was coming up, it was as if they all hang out playing cards in the basement until it’s their time to go haunt the Harmons. So it’s possible Chad was already familiar with Larry.
I think it was probably nothing more than bad editing though, and that we haven’t seen the last of Larry.
5. When Nora whispered, “Save the baby,” to Ben, what was she referring to?
Paul: It was a shoutout to Zachary Quinto’s “save the cheerleader” inducing-stint on “Heroes,” right? Okay, that’s almost certainly not true.
Jen: I assumed that she thought she was still talking to her husband Charles, telling him to save their Frankensteined version of a baby. But she also may have been referring to Vivien (Connie Britton) and Ben’s (Dylan McDermott) baby. Or — option C — maybe those infants are one and the same. Maybe Vivien’s pregnancy is a function of her presence in the house and she will essentially give birth to a new version of the weird Montgomery child. Which would mean that, perhaps, the man in the Rubber Suit is ... Charles Montgomery?
Paul: I definitely thought she meant to save Vivien’s baby, though the idea that Frankenbaby is growing inside her is super-disturbing, so well done, Jen.
6. Why does Constance embrace Violet after Addie’s death?
Jen: Just a couple of weeks ago, Constance (Jessica Lange) was trying to feed Violet (Taissa Farmiga) vomit-inducing cupcakes. Now she’s taken a shine to her. Why? With Addie gone, Violet is the only bridge between Constance and Tate. And Constance definitely needs to maintain that bridge.
Side note: The scene in which Constance made up Addie’s face while she lay in the morgue — a few hours shy of when treating her like a pretty girl might have made a difference to her — was the most heartbreaking moment in this episode.
Paul: I think Constance blames Violet and is just getting close to her in order to ultimately get her revenge, which could set up the Tate vs. Constance dynamic.
7. Are the ghosts on different teams? They don’t seem to have the same goals.
Jen: As far as I can tell, Moira, Tate and the (presumably) alive Constance all want to keep the Harmons in the house. But Larry and Chad want them gone, or at least want to harass them. And Hayden just wants to get Ben back. If the house has brought the Harmons there for some purpose, what is that purpose and how do the ghosts fit into that?
Based on my Nora theory above, I think she sees the Harmons as a way to bring her son back to life. Moira, Tate and Constance see the family as a means to maintaining life in the house; perhaps without genuine life there, the ghosts aren’t as vivid as they might otherwise be?
As for Larry I still can’t figure out what he wants, other than permission to set fires, $1,000 and a career in the theater.
Paul: I think this is one of the most muddled parts of the show (which is saying something.) They certainly all seem to have their own agendas, and I don’t expect we’re going to get any kind of governing principles about who is in control, as it would limit the storytelling possibilities for the writers.
8. Since all of the Murder House ghosts appeared to return home on Nov. 1 looking like some sort of depressing, spectral Justice League, should we assume we’ve met all the ghosts the house has to offer?
Paul: We should never assume anything with this show. There are big chunks of time, plus stories alluded to at youregoingtodieinthere.com/ that I can’t imagine we’ve seen them all. Plus, as noted above, I don’t think the writers care very much about the internal logic of the show. Ryan Murphy never really cared about it on “Glee” or “Nip/Tuck” when he was dealing with flesh-and-blood people, so I don’t expect him to be a stickler for it now.
Jen: Indeed. So we saw the Weasley twins, the dead nurses, Chad, Patrick, Nora and Moira heading home after their liberating Halloween. But I too am hoping/assuming there are still more ghosts we have not met yet.
Also, random question: If a person has to die on the Murder House premises in order to roam the place during the afterlife, why is Tate there? I am assuming he shot himself after committing his multiple murders and died on the scene at Westfield High. I need more information on that one.
9. Is Ben’s departure from the home a good idea?
Jen: No, only because something totally bad will happen if the man of the house is absent. Even though the man of the house is kind of a nightmare himself. Call it a hunch.
Paul: It is a good idea to Morris Chestnut!
I suspect we’ll get some more of Ben’s back story while he’s gone. It would also be interesting to see him have some therapy sessions, a la Melfi and Peter Bogdonavich on “The Sopranos.” I think it will be tough to come up with a plausible reconciliation for Ben and Vivien, won’t it? Though I had the same thought about 25 of the various relationships on “Nip/Tuck,” so I’m prepared for that to be glossed over.
10. What’s more faux-disgusting: a bathtub filled with fake blood or a dog pretend-exploding in a microwave?
Paul:I was just glad to see the dog return and live through the episode. Where has the dog been, by the way? And why haven’t they upgraded to a German shepherd or, you know, a Bengal tiger at this point?
I have only vague memories of this movie, but was the bathtub scene a reference to that Harrison Ford/Michelle Pfeiffer flick “What Lies Beneath”? (The answer, of course, being Hayden.)
Jen: There was a bathtub scene (and words written in a mirror) in “What Lies Beneath.” Good call. This whole situation — especially the poor dog possibly being in the microwave — reminded me more of “Fatal Attraction,” and, to a lesser extent, “Gremlins.” And, as a dog owner, the reheat-on-high moment was totally nasty and upsetting even though it turned out to be untrue.
But before you start revising that moment in your mind again, shift your thoughts to the comments section. Weigh in on our theories or posit a few of your own by sharing your thoughts below.