AMERICAN HORROR STORY Recap: Birth

     December 14, 2011

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When last we left the Harmons, their family ties were being stretched to the limits while the ghosts of the house were busy plotting ways to kidnap Vivien’s (Connie Britton) soon-to-be-born twins. If the above sentence makes little sense to you, I suggest catching up on our previous recaps before reading any further. Tonight’s episode “Birth” begins the conclusion of the opening season of FX’s American Horror Story. Viewers who have been with the series from the beginning have watched the Harmon family discover the secrets of the Murder House as well as a host of secrets they’ve been hiding from each other. Unlike many other suspense series on TV, American Horror Story doesn’t keep you waiting and guessing for long. Tonight’s episode proved no different, giving us answers to some questions we haven’t even asked yet as well as one big shock I didn’t see coming. Hit the jump for my recap.

[The following episode recap contains spoilers.]

Lily-Rabe-American-Horror-Story-BirthAs usual, American Horror Story opens with a vignette set in a different time from the main plot. This time, we’re in 1984 watching Newhart on the TV while a passed-out Constance (Jessica Lange) sleeps off an alcohol binge next to a stack of overdue bills. Bob Newhart can be heard saying, “Always give a guy a second chance.” With no parental guidance to speak off, a young Tate (Evan Peters) wanders about the housing playing with his toy dump truck. The forces that haunt the house lure him into the basement where he wanders amongst stacks of boxes packed with belongings. Lurking amongst the clutter is Thaddeus/the Infantata (Ben Woolf), the Franken-baby son of Dr. Charles and Nora Montgomery (Matt Ross, Lily Rabe). He grabs Tate and hauls him deeper into the basement, but the young boy is saved by Nora who tells Thaddeus to simply, “Go away.” We see how protective and relatively strong Nora is at this moment, which contrasts to the weeping, confused Nora found by Tate as we cut to the present timeline. When Tate tells her that Nora can no longer take Vivien’s baby because he loves Violet (Taissa Farmiga) and couldn’t take her brother away from her, Nora replies, “That baby is mine.”

And so sets up the main conflict(s) in this episode, “Birth.” With the impending arrival of the Harmon twins, each ghost in the house has their own plans for them: Chad (Zachary Quinto) and Patrick (Teddy Sears) have resumed their original plan to adopt the babies (with sinister and ghostly intentions, but we’ll touch on that in a moment); Nora, clearly still shaken from the monstrosity that became of her baby, wants a new, whole baby to love; Constance, though not ghostly, is determined to bring another “sweet child” into the house, though she is not pleased at Tate’s involvement as the father; and Hayden (Kate Mara) makes her intentions clear in a short, but spot-on scene. Oh, and let’s not forget the Rosemary’s Baby consequences that were confirmed in a previous episode, “Spooky Little Girl.” There’s a lot going on in this installment so let’s break it down.

Taissa-Farmiga-Evan-Peters-American-Horror-Story-BirthSince this episode tied the characters together more than usual, it’s probably easiest to just follow the scenes as they happened. After the initial opening, we see Ben (Dylan McDermott) arguing with Violet as he tries to take her to pick up Vivien from the mental hospital. Violet, confirmed dead in the previous episode, cannot physically leave the house; she knows this, we know this and Tate knows this, but poor Ben does not. Although she is transported from the van back into the house as Ben drives away, her disappearance is addressed later.

The scene follows Violet, now standing in her bedroom, as she discusses her options with Tate. She’s worried about her parents’ reaction to her successful suicide and is now lamenting her eternal condition of being stuck in the house. The teenage ghost couple stumbles upon the other resident partners, Chad and Patrick as they’re painting cribs in the nursery: one white, one red. After learning about the pair’s plan to take the babies, Violet fills Constance in; Constance, a conservative southern woman, argues with Chad over their unholy adoption of the babies and offers him Ben’s son as long as she can keep her grandchild. Chad, previously unaware that one of the twins was fathered by Tate, now holds an ace up his sleeve. He admits to their plans to keep both of the babies until they’re the “perfect age, about one, one and a half, at which point they’ll smother them with hypoallergenic pillows to keep them cute forever.”

Finding themselves against the clock, Violet, Constance and the medium, Billie Dean (Sarah Paulson) discuss how to rid the house of these specific ghosts. Billie Dean claims that the ghosts may be expelled by overcoming the force that holds them there, a negative force that is more powerful than the sum of the individual tragedies in the house and now wants to “move in our world.” She says that there may be a way to expel the evil forces and mentions the story of the Roanoke Colony of 1590, explaining that a mass exorcism was performed by a shaman to dispel the spirits of the failed colony. He supposedly summoned them by burning their talismans and then purged them with the word, “Croatoan.” This scene was fairly laughable in how serious they tried to make it and I’m glad they addressed it later on.

Meanwhile, Ben is visiting Vivien and preparing to take her home before they are to leave for Vivien’s sister’s house in Florida. However, the resident doctor has other plans as he advises the Harmons to have an immediate C-section. Apparently one of the twins is growing at an incredibly advanced rate, stealing nutrients from the other baby who grows weaker by the hour.Zachary-Quinto-Teddy-Sears-American-Horror-Story-Birth

Back at the house, Tate tempts Patrick sexually in order to get his hands on his ring, thinking it to be an appropriate talisman. While it looks like Patrick is about to submit to Tate’s advances, he turns the tables and beats the hell out of Tate, relishing in the fact that he’ll get to do it over and over again. While in a tirade, Patrick once again confesses that he hates being stuck with Chad for eternity, a fact that Chad happens to overhear, which elicits his expected reaction: running away and sulking. Patrick leaves a bloody Tate and a ring behind. Violet, who managed to swipe Chad’s watch, is all ready to perform the exorcism ceremony, but the arrival of her parents derails that plan.

Ben tries to drag Violet out of the house again, chastising her for disappearing on him earlier and accusing her of being on drugs. After a bit of a shouting match, Violet admits that she’s dead and wants them to leave before they die, too. Before Ben can really react, they hear Vivien’s shouts of pain from outside; the twins are coming, far too early. A nearby Constance helps Vivien into the house (a place that Vivien is clearly not thrilled about being in again) and her water breaks just inside the door.

In one of the craziest sequences in American Horror Story so far, Ben nearly has a mental breakdown and I couldn’t really blame him for once: Vivien is in labor; Constance is acting as a mid-wife; Violet just told him that she’s dead; the destructive twins, Troy and Bryan (Bodhi and Kai Schulz) are outside smashing Ben’s car windows before approaching him with their throats clearly slit and then the lights go out, with lit candles illuminating Dr. Charles Montgomery attending to Vivien with the ghost nurses, Maria (Rosa Salazar) and Gladys (Celia Finkelstein). It’s no wonder Ben starts to lose it. The birthing scene is chaotic, interspersed with scenes of Ben freaking out (and appearing to be in an asylum for a part of it…is this whole thing going to be just a delusional, psychotic break on his part? I certainly hope not). Constance tells him to pull himself together as Vivien needs him and the house is trying to help. There are also flashbacks to Violet’s birth, a nice touch of brightness and warmth in an incredibly dark scene and series that also leads to a moment of reconciliation between Ben and Vivien.

Since Chad and Patrick are still lurking about the house, plotting to steal the soon-to-be-born babies, Violet goes ahead with her exorcism plan at the behest of Constance. In one of the episode’s few moments of levity, Violet throws the talismans into the furnace and shouts, “Croatoan!” at Chad when he arrives. Chad goes into a seizure and appears ready to be banished…until he breaks into a smile and tells Violet that all of those spells are bullshit. He also tells her that he and Patrick have called off their “adoption” due to their relationship difficulties; he just so happens to let slip that Tate was the one who murdered he and Patrick and also was responsible for raping Violet’s mother and fathering one of the twins.

Taissa-Farmiga-Jessica-Lange-American-Horror-Story-BirthNow, about those babies. Dr. Charles tells Vivien and Ben that their first child is stillborn. He lovingly wraps it up in a blanket and covertly hands it off to his wife, Nora, who disappears with it into the bowels of the house. Now, the question here is, was it actually alive, just weak due to prematurity and having its nutrients stolen from the devil-twin? Or was it actually stillborn, which, since it died in the house, would make it an undead/ghost baby? Guess we’ll find out soon.

The second baby is now on the way, but its birth results in Vivien suffering serious bleeding. After it’s born, Constance takes the baby to clean it up, where Moira (Frances Conroy) coos over it, calling it the most beautiful baby she’s ever seen. Then, delivering the best line of the episode, Hayden appears and says, “Hey, bitches. Get all that slime off my baby yet?” So even though Chad and Patrick have changed their plans and Nora seems to be appeased for the moment, there are still baby-grudges being held by other resident ghosts.

American-Horror-Story-BirthAdding to the incredibly crowded haunted house is, somewhat surprisingly, Vivien herself. Having given in to her injuries and the persuasive callings to “the other side” by Violet, Vivien dies and becomes a permanent resident of the Harmon House. After Violet confronts Tate about all of his past sins, she tells him that she loves him but can’t forgive him. In a mysterious moment, Violet tells Tate to “go away” and he disappears; whether it’s for good or just from the vicinity remains to be seen. We’re left with a scene of Vivien embracing her daughter in the bedroom, giving her the comfort in death she so desperately sought in life. That leaves poor Ben as the sole living resident in the Harmon House and I fully expect him to go bananas in the next episode.

In next week’s finale, “Afterbirth” it looks like we’ll find out as Ben can be seen playing Russian Roulette by himself with a loaded pistol. It looks like he and Constance are involved in a pretty heated argument and Ben even threatens her safety. Meanwhile, the rest of the ghosts are vying for who will be taking care of one (or both?) of the new twins. Tune in next week for the recap to “Afterbirth” and the first season of American Horror Story.

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