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American Horror Story: "Open House"

Written by Tricia Long on Thursday, November 17 2011 and posted in Reviews

They should have called it "Full Disclosure", as in "we are fully disclosing all the kinky sex that could possibly happen on one show."

In the beinning of "Open House", we see Larry kill the house's version of Quasimodo, Bo, because Constance is afraid he'll be taken away. So Larry and Constance had a thing way back in 1994, right before Larry's family died in a fire. And now we also know that Constance only gives birth to babies who have one issue or another (and before you jump to the comments, I think Addie was totally awesome but she did have a thing for whatever entity is possessing the house).

We learn that Larry did not kill his family, as he claimed the first time Ben met him. Instead, after he told his wife to move back to Ohio (the horror!), she burned their daughters and herself alive. This would leave Larry understandably wracked with guilt, and he spent years in a mental ward. Constance later tells him that he "let the house get to" him, which I think is just a tad insensitive. His family died in front of him, have a little sympathy. I don't know how far we should believe this story, though. Ben did some digging to find out that Larry hadn't been in prison, but we don't know much beyond that. Did his wife really kill herself, or is this another study in misdirection? Constance's behavior seems to suggest the latter.

Well, we're seven episodes in and so far the Harmons have had no success selling the house. Margie the realtor and Vivian host an open house which only welcomes two guests: an Armenian real estate developer and everyone's favorite burn victim, Larry. Vivian drops the bomb on the Armenian about the house's past, but he doesn't seem too flustered. Margie calls her out on it, so Vivian insists that they go on the haunted house car tour to find out what exactly happened there.

I guess that the tour only tells the most sensational story, otherwise they might get a parking violation in front of the Murder House. The tour guide tells the group about Nora and Charles Montgomery, the abortion-giving drug addicts who built the house in the '20s. We finally find out how they died – Nora was horrified by their Frankenbaby, which thirsted for her blood, so she killed it, her husband and then herself. No mention of the ginger kids, the murdered nurses or the gay couple who lived there previously – or Tate's school shooting, for that matter. I have to say, I really love Nora's character. She has that unique combination of strong and crazy that makes her intriguing, plus her hair is fierce.

What struck me in "Open House" was the copious amounts of sex – oral and what I would call "self-starting" in polite company. I'm really going to gloss over the finer points of Vivian's little fantasy session here – a lady never discusses these things too openly – but let's just say it goes from awesome (Luke, the sexy security guard), to meh (Ben), to terrifying (Gimp Suit Man). This is probably what everyone will be talking about, but I thought it was kind of a cheap shot. Sex gets a lot of thrills, but the story is shaping up to be more than cheap.

Back to the Armenian who's trying to buy the house. He clearly has a thing for Moira, who appears in her younger form to him as she does to most horny men, and receives oral sex from her in Violet's room. Because that's not fucked up at all. Moira does this mainly because she believes that through some renovations to the house he will discover her body, thereby allowing her to leave this plane of existence. As they leave Violet's room the pair run into Ben, who mentions how happy the house has made them. It doesn't matter to the Armenian – he's just going to tear the house down and build condos.

When she visits his gaudy mansion, Constance confirms the Armenian's plans. They have a semi-philosophical conversation about the need to be "caretakers" as opposed to "building the future." This is an incredibly topical moment, given the environmental concerns our world faces today. That, and the need to make sure dead ghosts have a place to go. Equal housing opportunity for all!

Constance goes to the house to see Tate, whose dark side comes out around her. He says that his main problem is "he hates his mother". Judging by his desire for a father like Ben (who actually should get a "Worst Father of the Year" slap), it's probably based on the fact that Constance shot her husband, Tate's father, all those years ago. Constance goes upstairs to say goodbye to the ghost of her deformed child, Bo, and we learn why she's so attached to the house: with the exception of Addie, all her children have died there. The magical properties of the house means that she can see all her dead children in one place- if the house is gone, she will presumably lose that. To protect her ghostly family, Constance and Moira conspire to get the Armenian in the basement and then kill him in the most gruesome way possible: during oral. Larry cuts off his oxygen with a plastic bag, but they make sure to get him off the property "before he expires."

The episode really slows down around Tate and Violet, and I mean that in the best way possible. I was worried when this episode kicked off that we would be subjected to another barrage of movie references, but after getting the initial plot point of the episode (selling the house) out of the way we were free to enjoy Violet's troubled life and the creepy-sweet moments she has with Tate. She's been withdrawn from her parents, so they have a nice sit-down meal to hash out their problems. Violet is justifiably pissed off at her parents for first uprooting her from Boston, then splitting up when they were supposed to be mending their family relationships. I don't know if she's more freaked out by the pregnancy/divorce double whammy or if she just doesn't want them to sell the house. Either way, the dinner is a failure and she retreats back up to her room.

Tate spends a lot of time with Violet in this episode. She hears a ball rolling in the attic and discovers the ghost of Bo, and is understandably terrified. Tate shows her how to make them go away (not through oral, that would just be repetitive) – just tell them to go away! It's so simple! Then he shows her some of the treasures he's found in the attic, including a box of pictures from when the Montgomerys were still living in the house. Vivian later sees these pictures and recognizes Nora, who visited the house previously.

What should be a major plot point of the episode is lost in the shuffle: Vivian is having twins. And according to the ob/gyn, the babies do not have hooves. Vivian orders more tests because she is understandably freaked out by the unusual food choices and Biblical references from last week's episode. But, how did we not see this baby before? I'd be interested in knowing if one baby is Gimp Suited Man's and one is Ben's... or something. Stop confusing me, American Horror Story!

Here's my big question, though: is Violet dead? I know last week that it seemed like she survived the sleeping pill overdose, but American Horror Story has proven adroit at misdirection in the past. Ben states that Violet never leaves her room anymore and she definitely seems more isolated from the rest of the family. The other ghosts are visiting her more, and if she were like Tate then she might not even be aware that she's dead. This is probably just whistling in the dark, but I think it would make sense if she were just another unaware ghost in the house.

Overall, a slow episode full of sweet character moments. By easing up on the plot, the writers have given American Horror Story's phenomenal cast a chance to shine. They've also thankfully shunted Ben to the side, as his character is awful. Like really, I hate him a lot – the less time he has on the screen, the better. He just whines about wanting to keep the family together when he should have been thinking of that month's ago. Really, dude, you're a therapist – you should recognize the crazy behavior that goes with grieving.

Written or Contributed by: Tricia Long

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