AMERICAN HORROR STORY Recap: ‘Open House’
November 17, 2011 by Ben Phelps
We’ve now passed the halfway point for the first season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY and now, more than ever, it looks like the long-term plan is to keep the house front and center, with the occupants perhaps rotating through. Even though the potential buyer is no longer in any position to purchase the lot for his new development, Ben and Vivien are still set on selling the house (even if Violet’s attachment to it looks like it might change their minds), and Constance will do anything to keep the mansion standing. There’s still a lot that needs to play out with the Harmons, but it seems clear that, whatever ends up happening to them, Constance, the house, and all of its otherworldly inhabitants are sticking around.
As for “Open House” specifically, it’s fitting that it marked the middle of the season, since it was a pretty middle-of-the-road episode. We got a lot more backstory for Larry and the Montgomerys, but other than that (plus a horribly sexist prospective home buyer), there wasn’t much new to offer in this Brad Falchuk-penned installment.
The episode opened in 1994 this week, with a surprising scene between Larry and Constance. Turns out he was having an affair with her, and to prove his love, he agreed to smother her deformed son Beau to keep him from being taken away from her. Although Larry told his wife about the affair and his plan to move in with her (leading her to kill herself in a fire – the real reason for Larry’s burns), the love seemed not to have lasted. Ironically, despite her children’s conditions, Constance couldn’t accept a physically disabled lover.
Her love for her family ultimately saved the house, though. The A-plot saw Vivien holding an open house, with help from her realtor, Marcy, with only one potential buyer legitimately interested and able. However, the wealthy Armenian man, despite promises to Moira of a pool in the backyard, plans to demolish the house and put up an apartment complex in its place.
Vivien doesn’t see this as a problem, as long as he is comfortable with the grisly history (which he is; he wouldn’t be living there anyway). Ben disagrees with the whole “honest and up-front” thing Vivien is doing, but is more than happy to get his family out of the house, because “my family comes first.” (To which Vivien rightfully replies, “Since when?”) Moira and Constance have a different opinion, though. For the former, an apartment development would permanently seal her tomb. For the latter, no more house means no more family (since at least two of her children are stuck there as ghosts). So Moira lures the man to the basement and, in a nice bit of bookending, Larry suffocates him for Constance, as yet another token of love.
The supporting-characters angle of the main plot worked much better than the one dealing with the Harmons. I assume Vivien is going crazier by the day. First she fantasized about having sex with the security officer, Ben, and the gimp suit in quick succession. Then she barely reacted when Marcy pulled out a gun in her kitchen and decided to go on the Murder Tour with her moments later. (Idea: Marcy should hook up with Ben, and they can open a Worst Therapy/Real Estate Office Ever!) Dylan McDermott also got to act laughably tough and brooding in confronting Larry, which I guess could be good if you value unintentional comedy in this series.
The most understated, and thus most effective, story was Violet’s. She knows the truth about Tate, and while she isn’t freaking out like I would expect her to, she’s clearly not unaffected. Tate gets her to promise to stop cutting herself, though, and he later explains the truth about the ghosts in the house, telling her she can see them now because she’s “evolved.” Although Violet still hasn’t developed that much as a character, I do like the idea that she actually feels at home in the house, and it doesn’t seem to be because she’s going crazy. It doesn’t make sense that Vivien and Ben might stay there just for her, but it is nice to see that the house can have some positive effects, too.
A lot of groundwork has now been laid, and since there was a lack of craziness this week, I expect the next six episodes to go all out. It may not all be good, but at least it won’t be boring.
A few other thoughts:
- Why is Marcy, in addition to being horrible at her job, also incredibly racist? Her justification for carrying a gun is that “a lot of minority men in this city would like nothing more than to ravage me on this countertop”? Really?
- Vivien is having twins! And the fear of a hooved baby was legitimate, apparently, although not quite as literally as she meant it. “Every pregnant woman worries they’ve got a little Devil in them,” said the doctor.
- Looks like Vivien is about to gain a little more insight, or become a whole lot more freaked out, about the house. How could Nora Montgomery have shown up on her doorstep if she died years ago?!
- (Unintentional) laugh of the week: I mentioned it above, but Ben’s whole scene at Larry’s house was the opposite of tough and intimidating, especially the closing “Game over.”
What did you think of “Open House”? Did you enjoy getting more backstory, or would you have rather had more creepiness? Do you agree that Vivien is going crazy? And what do you think of a Ben/Marcy spin-off about terrible LA professionals?
Filed under American Horror Story