AMERICAN HORROR STORY Recap: “Piggy Piggy”

     November 10, 2011

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Last week, we kicked off our recaps of FX’s American Horror Story. You folks seemed to like it, so here we go again with this week’s episode, “Piggy Piggy.” While I was unconvinced as to Tate’s (Evan Peters) mortality status right up through the first few minutes of this episode, the writers removed all doubt tonight. Honestly, the entirety of the plot seemed focused on hammering in two points: one on Tate’s live/dead status and one on Vivien’s (Connie Britton) baby status. More on that in a minute.

I mentioned in the last recap that I felt the first four episodes of the series served an introductory purpose and that the previous episode was a “soft finale” for that arc. “Piggy Piggy” didn’t really advance any new storylines, so much as clarify the old ones. Luckily, it looks like next week’s episode will break some new ground. Hit the jump for my recap.

american-horror-story-poster-01[SPOILERS] Last week we left off with Vivien kicking Ben (Dylan McDermott) out of the house, Constance (Jessica Lange) grieving over the death of Adelaide (Jamie Brewer) while opening up with Violet (Taissa Farmiga) about her son, Tate. Tate had problems of his own as a group of dead high schoolers kept following him around and accusing him of killing them in the Westfield High massacre 17 years earlier. Un-coincidentally, this is where tonight’s episode picks up.

After a knock on the door, LA SWAT storms into Constance’s house looking for Tate. Cut to 1994 at Westfield High School where a group of students, played by Alessandra Torresani, Ashley Rickards and Jordan David among others, are studying in the library. A few gun shots and terrified screams later and we’re watching what amounts to a dramatic re-enactment of the Columbine school shootings. I give the writers and the network credit for attempting a scene with such sensitive material. As the gunman eliminates the students one by one, we have yet to see his face. I hold out hope, but it’s all for naught, as eventually the camera pans up to reveal Tate, sans skull mask.

(A plot hole and a gripe on my part: the undead kids said in the previous episode that they never knew who killed them and hadn’t seen his face, correct? Also, one of the girls mentioned how Tate had asked her if she believed in God, or something to that effect, before killing her and obviously that didn’t happen. Do I have that right? Moving on.)

Cut to Tate in his bedroom surrounded by SWAT and lit up by little red laser sights. He ends one of the most tense scenes I’ve seen in recent television by putting a metaphorical suicidal finger-gun to his head and pulling the trigger. Oh, the foreboding! Since we started with Tate, let’s continue with Violet.

If the writing on the wall wasn’t obvious enough at that point, then the results of Violet’s search of the Westfield High massacre should be: Tate was the gunman and Tate is dead, the end. With solid evidence that her crush is actually a zombie/ghost, Violet starts to lose her shit. Luckily, Constance is there to keep her together…and she’s brought a guest! Sarah Paulson guest stars as Billie Dean Howard, a spirit medium who seems to have more than a passing familiarity with the house (and, for me, channeled Juno (Sylvia Sidney) the cigarette-smoking case-worker from Beetlejuice).

The medium tells her there are two types of ghosts: those who linger until they exact their revenge and obtain their “pound of flesh,” and those who don’t even know they’re dead. Showing off her skills, Ms. Howard talks to “Mary,” presumably Violet’s grandmother (?), who repeats something that “Mary” told to Violet on her deathbed, something only Violet knew. “They don’t understand you. They’ll never understand you.”

alexandra-breckenridge-american-horror-story-imageThis sends Violet over the edge and she meets up with her friend, Leah (Shelby Young). Apparently the two are suffering from depression and lack of sleep, as well as the over-dramatization of adolescence. Leah retells a biblical story about a red dragon cast down from Heaven by the archangel Michael to prevent it from eating a woman’s unborn baby. That’s not exactly settling Violet’s nerves, but the pills Leah offers might do the trick. (In a very creepy scene, Violet tries to seek solace from Ben, saying “The darkness has me.” He replies, “No, I’ve got you.” Ben = darkness. Done.)

Upon entering her house, we get the long angle shots featuring some of the ghosts walking by just out of focus. Violet descends into the basement (will you people never learn?) and is greeted by pretty much every ghost that haunts the place. (I saw the Twins, the heavyset Nurse, the Doctor, some guy with a slashed up face and a girl that claimed to need help…that couldn’t have been the girl re-enacting the Franklin/Nurse murders, could it? Did you spot anyone else?)

Well, if Violet hasn’t had enough by this point (oh, she did resume cutting herself earlier and even imagined slitting her throat, which caused me to pass out for a second), when she sees her undead lover has written “I Love You” on the chalkboard, she decides she is done. Overdosing on the pills leads to a rescue by undead Tate dragging an unconscious Violet into the bathtub. Forcing her to vomit and bringing her back around, Tate embraces Violet as she cries; the water falls from the showerhead and the bile swirls down the drain. A tender moment, indeed.

Finally, as Tate professes his love for Violet out loud (he also confesses to loving birds since they can fly away whenever they want), she seems to pity him and suddenly becomes okay with him being dead, even if he doesn’t know it. She calls him over to the bed and there, Tate earns the nickname “Zombie Little Spoon.” (And of course, the presence of a bright red object foreshadowing doom and gloom.) Unfortunately for Tate, the last bit of screen time he gets in “Piggy Piggy” is when the SWAT team is blowing him away because he attempts to pull a gun on them.

Let’s up the creep factor a bit and talk about the episode title with Ben and his patient, played by guest star Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family). Ben is pretty useless in this episode, but he does show moments of his façade breaking down. Vivien has allowed him to enter the house in order to see one last patient. She then lays down the law, telling Ben he disgusts and disappoints her and that they are finished. (Apparently for Vivien, a little Morris Chestnut goes a long way, but more on that in a second.)

dylan-mcdermott-american-horror-story-imageBen’s new patient is scared of the dark, spooky stories and mirrors. He relates one story in particular to his doctor, the story of the Piggy Man. The legend goes that a Chicago hog butcher at the World’s Fair in 1893 used to wear a mask made from a dead hog’s head in order to mock the pigs before he butchered them. One day, he slipped and fell and the hogs attacked him, leaving not a trace behind. Legend has it that if you say, “Here piggy, piggy, piggy” in a dark bathroom mirror repeatedly, the Piggy Man will appear and attack you. (“Bloody Mary” anyone? If you said Paranormal Activity 3, please stop reading right now.)

Anyway, Good Old Doctor Ben suggests going up to the bathroom in his (Murder) house to try the legend out. Worst. Idea. Ever. The poor patient does what he’s told and turns around to find Maria (Rosa Salazar) standing in the bathtub, quite dead. (Do I have the right ghost here?) Ben rushes in to find nothing but his blubbering patient. Things don’t turn out too well when the patient tries the Piggy Man legend out in his own bathroom, only to get shot in the back of the head by a portly burglar who took offense at being called “piggy.” (One of the strangest scenes ever, but darkly funny.)

The only other reason for Ben in this episode was to sow the seeds of jealousy as he sees Luke (Morris Chestnut) and Vivien sharing coffee in the Harmon’s house. And if Vivien has her way, that’s not the only thing she’ll be sharing! Let’s get to her arc as we wrap this up.

A scene from last week’s promo showed Vivien rubbing her hands over her distended, very pregnant belly while cello music played and the little demon hands pressed against her skin from the inside. This scene was replayed as, you guessed it, a dream sequence. Deciding that she needed some comfort through company, Vivien pressed the button for Heirloom Security (after taking off her wedding band). Good old Luke showed up in time to flirt with Vivien and share his own struggles with his wife’s infidelities, but Ben showed up as an inconvenient cock-block. Luke did let slip, however, that Hayden (Kate Mara) had managed to disappear before he could get her to the police, so that the Harmons should be careful.

american-horror-story-imageVivien and the maid, Moira (Frances Conroy) are sitting in the kitchen when Constance comes in with a tray. The two matriarchs swap thin pleasantries and Vivien passes on condolences for the loss of Adelaide. Constance replies with concern for not only Vivien’s unborn baby but also for Violet. Then, in one of the strangest sequences in this show so far, Constance offers Vivien pork offal in order to ensure a healthy baby. Moira fries up the sweetbread and two types of thymus glands (how elegant), but leaves the pancreas raw. Vivien, to my surprise, eats the whole plate. Later, she eats raw pig brains… (I’ve nicknamed this episode “Demon Baby Food.”)

Meanwhile, Vivien is at an amniocentesis appointment to check the health of her baby. Ben shows up late and Vivien says he didn’t have to come, to which the technician replies, “Of course he does, he’s the daddy!” which made me laugh. Oh, if only she knew!

As Vivien has tracked down the nurse that fainted upon looking at her ultrasound, the two women meet in the church. The nurse, Angela, keeps her distance from Vivien and though Vivien swears that it was a technical malfunction, Angela swears on the cross that she saw “hooves, the unclean thing, the beast, the plague of nations.” Vivien leaves, assuming Angela is crazy, as the nurse spouts scripture at her.

All in all, this was a quirky episode that tied off a few points: Tate’s dead, check. Vivien’s baby is probably a demon, check. But it didn’t start too many new questions. I’m okay with that, as long as the series picks up and takes it to a new level. One highlight (in a good way) of tonight’s episode was Constance’s chat with Adelaide through the medium, in which Constance finally came across as a genuinely loving mother. That was a much needed bit of light in a dark, dark episode.

While this week we had no Rubber Suit Man, no Infantata and no Larry the Burned Man, at least one of those things will be remedied next week. (Along with the return of the glorious Alexandra Breckinridge as the young version of Moira. Her and Larry are easily my favorites on the show.) The quick preview featured:

– The abortion doctor telling his wife that their baby was upstairs waiting for her.

– Young Moira saying it was a good thing she was hungry again (?)

– Vivien fantasizing about sex with Ben/Luke/Rubber Suit Man

– A bouncing red rubber ball…of doom!

– A fiery vision that looks like we’ll get to explore more of Larry’s story at last!

I’m sure I missed/screwed up something so let me hear about it in the comments!

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