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American Horror Story: "Halloween (Part 1)"

Written by Tricia Long on Thursday, October 27 2011 and posted in Reviews

In this week's episode of American Horror Story, everyone becomes a little more human. Does that mean they're all a little closer to being more dead? Find out!

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Wow, so a lot of ground to cover in this week's episode. As with most episodes of American Horror Story, there is a lot of plot and characters coming out of the woodwork at every possible moment. I recommend checking out next week's American Horror Story Halloween recap run on FX, starting Monday, if you've forgotten a few of the finer points. If you haven't been watching it, here's a quick and dirty of why you should:

-Lots of creepy/scary elements
-Taissa Farmiga and Connie Britton are fantastic (the two not wearing a stupid hat
-Plenty of fodder for enjoyable drinking games
-To find out where this convoluted storyline is going
-If you enjoy Ryan Murphy's choice of camera angles, or liked any of his other shows (Nip/Tuck, Glee), you'll like this.

Onward with the recap. In "Halloween (Part 1)", we learn the fate of the previous owners, two fabulously gay men whose marital problems mirror those of current owners Vivian (Connie Britton) and Ben (Dylan McDermott). They had planned on moving in and having a baby together, but now their personal lives are rife with infidelity and marital problems. Played by Zachary Quinto (who I'm gonna go ahead and call Gay Spock) and Teddy Sears, their emotional prologue was probably some of the most gripping acting I've seen yet on American Horror Story. Quinto especially shone, and it looks like his decision to come out of the closet last week was timely. Unfortunately, both men fall prey to the murderous tendencies of the gimp-suited man who haunts the house.

In the present, Vivian and Marty the realtor (Christine Estabrook) discuss how to sell the house. They decide to get a fluffer, someone who comes in and dresses the house up to make it more sellable. Marty says she either knows an expensive woman or a cheap gay – they unanimously decide to use "the gay." I'm going to start drinking every time a gay stereotype is referenced this episode; if the grammar starts to get dicey below, blame Ryan Murphy.

Meanwhile next door, Travis (Michael Gradziadei) is reading the history of Samhain to Addie (Jamie Brewer), which makes Constance (Jessica Lange) mad. They also fight over the fact that Addie will never be "a pretty girl," which is kind of sad. I really hate how Addie is depicted as "monstrous", like having Down syndrome is supposed to be shorthand for "deformed demonspawn". But the important thing to take away from this scene is that Halloween is the one night when the dead can walk freely, so expect the spirits that haunt the Harmon's home to go walking abroad in this episode.

Ben's patient of the week is, once more, Tate (Evan Peters). Ben tried to get rid of him because Tate is creepily obsessed with Ben's daughter, Violet (Tarissa Farmiga). But seriously, can you blame Tate? Aside from Vivian, Violet is the most sympathetic character on the show – and we learn later that she reads graphic novels, in addition to wearing fun hats. At Tate's therapy session at the park later with Ben, where Ben breaks down in tears about how far off track his life has gotten. Even this fails to humanize Ben for me, because he is an all-around awful person.

After saying goodbye to the sexy man (Teddy Lane, Jr.) who came to install their brand-new security system, Vivian finds old Moira (France Conroy) carving pumpkins in the dining room. She asks Vivian for Halloween off, in case you need more of a reminder that the dead can walk abroad that night. On her off night Moira visits her mother in the old folks' home and helps her die by removing her oxygen tube, which is confusing because this series seems to be pro-life (creepy dead baby ghosts) and pro-euthanasia (assisted suicide). Mixed messages, Mr. Murphy, mixed messages. We find out that Moira can't move on from this world, even at her mother's urging.

Back at the Harmon residence, the two dead gay former owners show up and we finally get their names, Chad Warwick (Quinto) and Patrick (Sears). Vivian thinks they are the fluffers (drink), so she invites them in to see the house. They recommend taking down the gazebo and planting an organic garden (drink). Clearly they're in on the whole let's-screw-Ben-over vendetta the house has going right now, because there are dead bodies under the gazebo. In the bathroom, Patrick tries to get Ben to cheat by grabbing his junk (drink) – Christ, is everyone going to try to get Ben to cheat? - while Chad and Vivian are chatting downstairs about catching their partners cheating. Gay Spock recommends she check their cell phone bill to see if Ben's been chatting with Hayden (Ben's former mistress who he visited last week in "Murder House"). I have to say, we're getting so much character and backstory that I wonder how we're ever going to resolve all these storylines, ever.

Upstairs Addie startles Violet (Taissa Farmiga), then asks her to make her "a pretty girl" since her mom won't let her be one for Halloween. Violet asks how old Addie is but she won't tell, so my theories of her being gimp man's child will have to wait 'til the next episode. In an abrupt change of topic Addie asks if Violet and Tate are dating, because Tate says Violet is pretty. I wonder if Addie wishes she were dating Tate. She also tells Violet she won't stop breaking in because all her friends are in the house, in case you needed another reminder that the house is haunted.

In what has to be one of her more stupid/brazen teenager moments, Violet meets Tate in the basement, where she is assaulted by gimp suit boy who, SURPRISE, is Tate. Is he always the gimp suit guy? Does that mean he got Vivian pregnant? Shit is about to get so much more real if that is the case. Because this is a horror show, they pull out the Ouija board (never a good thing) and ask a question of Charles Montgomery, the drug-addled doctor to the stars who built the house in the 1920's. I won't spoil too much of what they learn, but it involves blabber mouth girls and a Frankenstein baby.

There follows a rather sweet moment where Constance gives Addie a strange and uncanny valley-type "pretty girl" mask to wear for Halloween. I think Constance is just kind of an insecure drunk, but at the end of the day she does love her "monstrous" daughter. This doesn't stop her from making a catty remark about how Addie can only fit into Constance's maternity dresses, but we'll let that slide. After all, can't have someone make too much headway for no reason in just one episode.

In counterpoint to this bright moment, we get a heated little fight between Vivian and Ben. Vivian takes Gay Spock's advice and checks their cell phone records, so she is perfectly within her rights to ask Ben all sorts of questions about his trip to Boston. I love it when she accuses Ben of lying and his solution is to lie some more – it's a fail-proof system! After assuring her that things are over with Hayden, the phone rings. Cue dramatic music, because it's Hayden. They really are not leaving the horror to the imagination on this show.

We gloss right over how much Ben should be freaking out right now, because it's time to go downstairs. Gay Spock criticizes their costumes (drink), but the house looks FABULOUS (drink) so we should let that slide. They fight over how Ben bought the wrong colored apples (drink), which leads Gay Spock to say, "It's not your house. You know it. We know it. And the house knows it. Frankly, you don't deserve it." (drink) Maybe you have to die in order to get the deed?

Vivian goes batshit and screams at Gay Spock and Patrick to leave the house. Because she is totally within her rights, Vivian then asks Ben to leave, too... and she immediately starts to feel the baby kick. They rush her to the hospital, leaving Violet alone in a haunted house on Halloween. When the trick-or-treaters show up, we get to see Addie in her "pretty girl" costume. She tries to hang out with the slutty "pretty" girls, running across the street to get to them when she gets hit by a car. Because she is crazy, Constance decides that the best way to heal Addie will be to pull her onto the lawn of the haunted house. Don't count Addie out though; if there's anything this show has taught us, it's that no one moves on in death.

After the trick-or-treaters leave, Larry (Dennis O'Hare) shows up at the house demanding his money from Ben. Larry is yet another previous owner of the house who was put in jail for killing his family, please note that he has horrible burns on his face. Violet goes downstairs to investigate when she hears the doorbell go off numerous times, and is understandably freaked out. As she calls her parents to find out what to do, we see the gimp-man standing ominously behind her. The alarm is going off when Vivian and Ben get back, and Violet is nowhere to be found. The doorbell rings, and oh shit it's Hayden at the door! This would be a good time to mention how remarkably cool Ben is with all the dead people showing up, as he just slams the door in her face.

So. Deep breaths, people. That's a lot of story for only four episodes. We learned a lot this week; mainly that having a fabulously decorated house will never be enough to keep homicidal ghosts from trying to get you out of it. We also learned that Ouija boards are still a horrible idea, Frankenstein babies are evil, and killing your mom is okay if you're already dead too. Tune in next week to find out what happened to Violet, if Addie is really dead, if Tate is the father of Vivian's baby, and what drinking game I can come up with next.

Review by: Tricia Long

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