AMERICAN HORROR STORY Recap: “Open House”

     November 16, 2011

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When last we met, the folks behind American Horror Story had cleared up two plot points for us: the mortality of Tate (Evan Peters) and the status of Vivien’s (Connie Britton) baby. In my recap of last week’s episode, I mentioned that the preview for tonight’s show would highlight the back-story of Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare) and would feature the younger version of Moira (Alexandra Breckinridge). The 7th episode of American Horror Story, “Open House,” gave us all that and more, as we learned an interesting secret from Larry’s past and were introduced to another member of Constance’s (Jessica Lange) family. Hit the jump for my recap.

american-horror-story-poster-01[SPOILERS] Tonight’s episode, written by series creator Brad Falchuk and directed by Tim Hunter, started off with an unburned Larry speaking to an unknown woman in front of a fireplace. In short order, we find that the woman is none other than Constance, who reveals that her son is about to be taken away to an institution. So devoted is his love for Constance that Larry climbs into the attic to deal with the aforementioned son, Beau (Sam Kinsey), another of Constance’s deformed children. Beau is chained up but appears more playful than dangerous as he rolls a familiar red ball towards Larry. (Now we know who Adelaide (Jamie Brewer) was playing with!) Playtime is over as Larry smothers Beau with a pillow until he dies, making sure that he’ll be a permanent fixture in the house. A hell of an opening.

The main plot of “Open House” involves Moira (also played by Frances Conroy) using her unique talents to encourage Mr. Eskandarian (Amir Arison), a prospective buyer of the house. (When Eskandarian answers Moira’s question about how deep he plans to make the pool, she replies, “Good. I like it deep.”) Not to be outdone by Moira’s one-liners, real estate agent Marcy (Chrstine Estabrook) drops a few of her own as she shows Eskandarian around the house. With a slip of the tongue, she mentions the house’s “previous homos…homeowners” and their “queer eye.”

The plan to sell the house to Eskandarian gets derailed, however, as Larry shows up uninvited. Vivien doesn’t know him but Marcy seems to, as she pulls a gun on him immediately. After Larry spins a false tale of pity about how he rescued school children from a burning bus, they take him on a tour of the house. He takes special care to admire the fireplace and comments that what the library really needs is a mural (tying him back to the macabre mural unveiled by Vivien?).

Things get complicated as Eskandarian returns to find a very willing Moira giving him a tour of the house (and more). After showing him Violet’s (Taissa Farmiga) room and commenting that she’d add a sex swing (welcome back, Ms. Breckenridge!), she offers Mr. Eskandarian a handy and a blowy. Blunt, I know, but it comes back into play later. You see, Moira is under the impression that Eskandarian will dig up the yard, thus revealing her skeleton and setting her free. Eskandarian, however, confesses to Ben (Dylan McDermott) that his plans involve bulldozing the property and building apartments over it, ultimately sealing Moira’s fate as a wandering spirit.

Meanwhile, Ben has broken into Larry’s apartment, after learning that the burned-man stopped by his house earlier. Ben gloats over the fact that he knows Larry is a liar, since he never actually killed his family and was institutionalized as a result of their death. He also revels in his smug victory of finally selling the house so that Larry will never possess it. Larry lashes out, screaming that he needs the house to be happy with “her,” meaning Constance.

dylan-mcdermott-american-horror-story-imageHere we get a nice flashback to Larry confessing his love for Constance to Lorraine, his wife. He tells Lorraine to move back to Ohio with their daughters and he’ll provide for them, but he’s moving Constance into the house with him. His wife reacts rather poorly as you would imagine, and Larry follows her upstairs to find smoke pouring out of their bedroom door and his family burned alive.

Cutting back to the present, Constance and Larry meet in the house’s basement where Constance belittles the man even as he professes his love for her. She calls him “disgusting” and “weak,” saying, “No one can own this house,” in response to Eskandarian’s plans. After Constance pays Mr. Eskandarian a diplomatic visit that goes awry, more drastic measures are taken. In case the plan fails, Constance goes to the house to say goodbye to Tate (who responds that he hates her, more or less) and pays a visit to Beau, the ghost still chained in the attic.

Working together, Moira, Constance and Larry lure Eskandarian into the basement where Moira offers up round two of sexual favors. Unfortunately for Eskandarian, Moira doesn’t listen when he says, “Less teeth.” Having become understandably distraught at having his manhood bitten off, Eskandarian doesn’t notice Larry behind him, ready to asphyxiate him with a plastic bag. By Constance’s orders, Larry “makes sure he’s off the property before he expires” so they don’t have to add another ghost to the house. The current spirits appear to be safe for the moment.

American-Horror-Story-imageLesser arcs in “Open House” involve Violet and Tate, but let’s take Vivien and Ben first. Our first scene with the Harmons shows Vivien and Ben at the doctor’s office awaiting their test results. Not only do the tests appear normal (“No hooves.”), but Vivien is carrying twins (double trouble)!

Without Ben around at night, Vivien fantasizes about sex with Heirloom Security guard, Luke (Morris Chestnut), who morphs into Ben, who changes into the Gimp/Rubber Man, who apparently likes the rough stuff. This memory/fantasy convinces Vivien to get a follow-up test.  Later, after Vivien informs Ben that she disclosed the house’s sordid past to their potential buyer, Ben blows up at her. Ben, meanwhile, has a session with Tate in which Tate confesses that if Ben had been his father, maybe he would have had a better life.

Vivien decides to accompany Marcy the realtor on the Murder House Tour to learn more about the house’s violent history. Along the way they stop at the site of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Marcy quips, “No matter how gruesome the murder, people are still interested in the property.” The narration then continues to the Murder House, which segues into one of the most bat-shit scenes of the show so far.

Going back in time, we see Nora Montgomery (Lily Rabe) polishing her silver in the aftermath of witnessing her husband, Dr. Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) sewing their dead baby back together with spare parts. Lamenting their child’s passing, Charles remarks, “There will be no funeral. The baby is upstairs and waiting for you in the nursery.” In a creepy and super-tense moment, Nora ascends the stairs and moves to the waiting crib to find it empty. A gurgling noise startles her from behind and her face turns into a mask of terror.

American-Horror-Story-imageShe descends and talks to her husband, saying, “I was wrong about you, Charles. You are a genius. How did you do it?” Charles responds, “I used the beating heart from one of our girls.”

In a morbid sequence, Nora describes trying to nurse their Franken-baby which wasn’t hungry for milk, as the camera shows her clawed, bloody breasts. She then tells Charles that they’re damned for the abortions they performed on the young women, as well as the fact that she tried to kill their baby with a letter opener but the thing “clings to life.” Seconds later, she embraces Charles and puts a bullet in his head, then her own. The narration ends saying that their ghosts still wander the halls along with the mutilated corpse of their infant son. Duh.

Meanwhile, Violet is still dealing with the revelation that her boyfriend, Tate, is dead (although it seems like Tate doesn’t quite get the drift, yet). She’s still cutting herself, though Tate stops her. As if the knowledge of the house’s inhabitants wasn’t enough, Violet has to sit through a family dinner with her divorcing parents. She tells them off in a surprisingly level-headed way and stomps off to her room. Distracted by a noise in the attic, Violet ascends the ladder to find a red rubber ball rolling toward her. Beau startles her, but Tate comes to the rescue once again. (However, Violet shows some power over the ghosts as she tells Maria (Rosa Salazar) to leave her alone and it works. Perhaps Violet and Constance are the only ones strong enough to exert some control over the house?)

American-Horror-Story-imageTate shows her some “artifacts” he found, including a stash of gay porn and some vintage pictures of the house and previous family members. Later, when Vivien comes to talk to Violet about the divorce, Violet shows her the photos. In it, Vivien recognizes Nora Montgomery as a previous visitor to the house. “Open House” ends there, with Vivien now privy to a bit of the house’s secrets.

While this episode gave us some glimpses of the relationship between Larry and Constance, as well as foreshadowing some fall-out between Tate and his mother, it was a definite “middle of the season” plot. It tied up more loose ends and is setting the stage for the season finale. The creators have said that each season will have a defined beginning, middle and end with main characters dying by the finale, allowing them to return as ghosts in future seasons. How long can that continue and how crowded is this house going to get until some redemption is achieved? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Looks like my complaints about a lack of Rubber Man sightings will be more than made up for in next week’s episode. Psychotic breaks, sex and stabbings abound when we find out who has been lurking within the rubber suit next Wednesday. While the preview shows Chad (Zachary Quinto) in the suit, I fully expect the show to pull a switcheroo on us. My money’s on Hugo (Eric Close), Constance’s cheatin’ husband. Tune in next week to find out!

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