In last week’s installment of “Really, ‘American Horror Story’?!? With Paul and Jen,” we pondered important questions related to the weirdest new show on television. Questions like: Are some of these characters ghosts? (Probably.) Is the pregnant Vivien (Connie Britton) destined to deliver a demon baby? (Probably again.) Also, how smart are the Harmons as shoppers? They landed a gorgeous, massive Victorian (albeit one that has apparently been the site of numerous murders) for well below market value, and in a double bargain, they got two maids for the price of one, courtesy of hot Moira and Ruth-Fisher Moira. Try scoring that deal on Living Social.
But this week’s new “American Horror Story” episode, appropriately entitled “Home Invasion,” brought new questions. And given its primary plotline — in which Vivien and daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) were terrorized by a trio of serial-killer-obsessed tweakers — it also brought some genuinely upsetting scares. Scares of a “The Strangers”/“Helter Skelter” variety.
Currently our brains are riddled with enough “Horror Story”-related puzzlers to fill an entire medical book, the kind that a young nurse might read before getting brutally stabbed to death to the sounds of “Psycho ”-esque music. Here are the 10 most pressing ones.
1. What happened to Franklin, the 1968 killer from the episode’s opening sequence?
Jen: If Bianca and co., the contemporary trio of Harmon home invaders, can be believed, the murder of the two young nurses in 1968 was a well-known L.A. case. But it’s unclear whether Franklin the killer was ever caught. Maybe this doesn’t matter at all and the whole opening double homicide was merely a device designed to foreshadow what would happen later in the episode, making it clear that history in the “American Horror Story” house repeats itself. Repeatedly.
Or maybe Franklin is somehow connected to the friendly neighborhood family-killing burn victim Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare)? Could they be brothers, or at the very least metaphorical brothers since they both allegedly killed people in the same totally fabulous house?
Paul: Here’s what I want to know — could Maria not find the source of the bleeding on his forehead because it was just fake blood, or did he just keep bleeding, stigmata-like, despite having no open wound? I mean, I think it’s fair to assume she took some effort to clean it up as she was initially treating him, and he’s clearly still bleeding through the scene.
And I wonder if Franklin (or “our Franklin” as his groupies creepily call him) just was drawn to the Murder House, or did he have some prior connection.
I’m also curious, and it’s probably nothing, but does anyone know what was on the television during the 1968 murders?
2. Did Ben do the right thing by going to Boston?
Paul: I don’t want to force “Lost” comparisons already, because they are wildly different shows in tone and quality, but that was a very Jack Shephard thing to do, right? Ben could justify he was doing the right thing, while also being self-serving and at least a little bit of a martyr.
Jen: I would say Ben did both the right and wrong thing in multiple ways, simultaneously. Which, yes, is textbook Jack Shephard. It was right to support Rooney Mara’s sister since he clearly played a role in her pregnancy, but wrong to lie to his wife. But of course, he didn’t support Kate Mara anyway since he made her cry, probably didn’t offer to pay for the pizza and scooted out of that waiting room before her procedure was over.
It was almost as though external forces — including the aforementioned Mr. Harvey, who convinced him to fib to Vivien — were exerting a pull on Ben. More on that later.
3. Why did Constance want to give the ipecac cupcake to Violet?
Paul: Not to be all Randy from “Scream,” but as we learned from “Rosemary’s Baby,” beware of eccentric neighbors bearing sweets. Especially if you might be carrying the devil’s child. My first thought was that she had made the cupcake because Viv had not been having morning sickness, and they would fool her into thinking the pregnancy was fine. But it might have been much more practical than that — I think she just wanted to harm Violet out of spite for Vivien touching Addie in the first episode.
Jen: Great point about “Rosemary’s Baby.” It’s also impossible to ignore how protective Constance is of Ben. In last week’s episode, she made a point of reassuring him (albeit creepily) during his adventures in stovetop hand-burning. And while she didn’t necessarily object to Vivien taking a bite of her baked goods, she snatched the extra cupcake away from Ben faster than you can say vomit-inducing frosting.
It seems as though she — and others — have a plan for Ben. As to why she’d want to essentially poison Violet, though, I’m not sure spite is enough of a motivator. Besides, Violet is mini-Vera Farmiga. Why would anyone want to make her have internal bleeding? Unless Constance somehow knew that Bianca would ultimately eat that cupcake, thereby derailing plans to kill Vivian and Violet. Given that Constance can smell the pregnant on someone, that’s not out of the realm.
Paul: Maybe that was just a reference to Homer Simpson? ”Mmmm, forbidden doughnut ...”
Of course, when Addie tells Constance “there’s a bad man” next door, Constance hilariously replies something along the lines of “Well, I don’t like him either, but he owns the house now.”
Jen: Right. But she seems to want him to be bad, just at a later date. As she told Ben during his sleep-walking “fire! fire!” moment: “It’s not time yet.”
4. Speaking of Constance and pregnancy, what’s up with those four kids she mentioned?
Jen: First of all, how wonderfully, unexpectedly vulnerable was Jessica Lange in the scene where she discussed her “cursed womb.” She was lip-quiveringly sad one second, then steely again the next. This part is magic for her.
Regarding Constance’s kids — three of whom had Down’s and one of whom was “lost to other things” — I could not help but think that those “other things” may have involved weird experiments in the Harmon house basement. It would explain why Adelaide keeps coming into the place and, as she did in this episode, seemingly playing with unseen children. She’s not trying to trespass. She just wants to say hi to her brother.
Paul: I’ll offer some wild conjecture here — Tate is Constance’s fourth child, the one “lost to other things,” now a ghost. Constance won’t move and has become the house’s human caretaker in order to stay close to her children.
Addie’s red ball is a reference to that famous scene from “The Changeling,” right?
Jen: I believe you are correct, sir. George C. Scott’s house in that 1980 film also bears some striking similarities to the Harmon residence.
5. What’s the story with the hot model who hooked up with Constance?
Jen: He’s a figment of her imagination. When Adelaide came into her mom’s room, the shirtless wonder was standing right behind Constance but Adelaide didn’t even notice him. Which makes sense. Because he wasn’t there.
Paul: I think you’re right, though it’s funny that a figment of her imagination wants to know if he could model.
Jen: Look, I’m not saying it’s normal. Maybe he is a memory of the empty-headed Adonises she met during her days as an aspiring starlet.
6. Speaking of which, why do Tate and other people come and go at random?
Paul: At the beginning of the episode, when the alarm went off and Tate was in Violet’s room, he could have gotten in the house with Addie’s help. Or so we’re supposed to suppose (I suppose.)
When Violet is running from the home invaders and Tate pulls her into the kitchen, though, he quite literally backs into a wall and fades away as the invaders enter the room. I don’t know how else they could have missed him. Not to mention before he gives Bianca the ax, he walks one way in front of her in the bathroom, then shows up behind her.
I’m at more of a loss to explain how the invaders got into Violet’s room, after she pretty clearly locked the door, if memory serves. Maybe one of them had sneaked in and been hiding.
Jen: Despite all the evidence laid out above, I’m still hesitant to definitively declare that Tate is a ghost, only because he seems to have a mother that Ben has consulted about his treatment. Although maybe that’s Constance or Moira posing as his mom. (Or Constance actually acting as his mom because she is his mom, based on your aforementioned theory.) It is telling that we still have not seen him outside the Harmon house. Oh, and that he’s able to conjure up dead nurses in the basement. “Even in a town this big, people don’t just disappear,” the cop told Vivien and Ben at the end of this episode. Well, maybe some of them can and do.
7. Why are Constance, Tate and Moira in cahoots?
Jen: After the home invaders were killed, this unlikely trio gathered to come up with a plan. And they said some highly provocative things. First Constance asked whether the dead bodies were Tate’s “handiwork.” No, Moira said. “It was them.” Then Tate added, “We have to get rid of the bodies if we want him to keep treating me.” In other words, Ben can’t suspect that Tate killed these people.
But why are these three suddenly the macabre equivalent of the Superfriends? And why do they want Ben to continue treating Tate? So he can continue getting closer to Violet? To keep the family in the house? This was left tantalizingly unclear.
Paul: Maybe this is all just an elaborate real-estate scheme? Or it’s so they can deliver awesome lines like “You get the shovel, I’ll get the bleach.”
8. Who is “them”?
Jen: When Moira said, “No, it was them,” as noted above, who did she mean? Who is them?
Paul: I think she meant the ghosts of Gladys and Maria. Interesting that Tate fails to mention he killed a third person, though. I wonder if he would have been in trouble for that.
Jen: I thought Gladys and Maria were just another manifestation of whatever demon spirits are down in the basement. The “thing” or “things” in the basement functions much like the spirits in “Poltergeist”: It knows what scares you. For Fiona, the sight of those murder victims would ultimately be frightening to her. For Violet’s suddenly gray-haired friend, it was that fanged goblin creature. So when Moira says it was “them,” I think she’s referring to the spirits that make all these manifestations appear.
9. Is the house exerting its will on the Harmons, a la the island in “Lost”?
Paul: I think it definitely is on Ben. And, frankly, if it’s not influencing their behavior, it’s going to be hard to buy any reason they don’t sell the house and get the heck out of there as soon as possible.
Jen: I have this feeling that despite Vivien’s expressed desire to move, the following episode will make it clear that the island, I mean the house, isn’t done with them yet.
10. What is the real American horror story in “American Horror Story”?
Paul: Murphy and Falchuk have hardly been subtle about this, given the number or references to fetuses, abortions, miscarriages, infanticide and devil babies, but I have the sense that they do not believe that the children are the future, even if we teach them well and let them lead the way.
There’s also the recurring question of “what are you afraid of?” but perhaps we should take that up next week. Someone’s knocking at my door, in need of help.
Jen: Don’t let him in, Paul, no matter how much his forehead appears to be bleeding!
Maybe it’s too early in the series to start considering larger themes. But I wonder if the fracture of the American family is the real horror story here. The move and all of this subsequent insanity occurred because of Ben’s marital indiscretion, as well as the loss of a child. Mother and daughter were attacked when Dad went away from home to tend to a former lover.
I mean, is it possible that underneath all its depravity, violence and Gimp suits, the message of “American Horror Story” is actually something Focus on the Family could get behind?
Readers, it’s time for you to jump in and start sharing your thoughts via the comments. I’m baking some very special cupcakes and I believe they’re ready to serve.