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American Horror Story – Recap & Review – Smoldering Children

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American Horror Story
Smoldering Children

Original Air Date: Dec 7, 2011

Kym – TwoCents Reviewer

The tales of 1994 aren’t finished yet – it was an eventful year involving so many of the house’s inhabitants. We see that Larry has moved his new family – Constance, Tate and Adelaide – into the house with lightening speed after the deaths of his own family and clearly Tate is not happy with the situation. He seems so “innocent” when he asks to say grace, but his version is a scathing analysis of the current situation. If only Larry had listened then when Tate tried to point out that Constance didn’t love him and only wanted access to the house. Things might be different. The point here is that Tate knows the score. He knows Larry killed his brother Beau. He knows his mother for who she is. And he swears that he will never be her “perfect son”.

This fateful dinner was the prequel to Tate’s rampage – but it didn’t start at the school.

Tate’s rampage the next day started with a lot of drugs, a lot of guns and a big can of gasoline. He made a detour on his way to school that morning to set fire to Larry at his office. The truth of his burns, that he would like everyone in the present to believe were his sacrifice to his family, is revealed as Tate’s revenge on him for killing his brother.

In the present, Ben is at the hospital visiting Vivien. He confesses that he owes her an apology. Her first response is to tell him to leave – that he’s the one that’s crazy. At least until he admits he knows she was raped. Not surprisingly, she wants to know what changed his mind, since nothing she said on the subject seemed to matter. He tells her about the twins, and how they have separate fathers. He wants to know if she remembers anything and swears that they’ll find the answers. Detectives Granger and Barrios are also looking for answers – about the “Boy Dahlia” and are at Constance’s door. Constance starts out on a bad foot with Granger by indicating that she wouldn’t have any idea why Travis would have been in a “colored” neighborhood. She also insists that Travis didn’t have any enemies, everyone loved him. It’s clear the authorities aren’t satisfied, but there’s not much more they can do at this time.

Back at home, Ben has the authorities at his door too, a truant officer looking for Violet. It seems she’s missed 16 consecutive days of school and they’re about to haul the family into juvenile court. He also notices blow-flies (yes blow-flies) gathering on a bowl of fruit. Ben is embarrassed and vows to contact an exterminator along with getting Violet back on the right path and the truant officer leaves. Ben, still feeling repentant, apologizes to Violet for being a lousy father lately instead of reading her the riot act for cutting school. She reiterates how miserable she’s been there, with the bullying and all, and says she can’t go back. Ultimately, they make a deal that she’ll go back if he promises to start looking for a new school for her.

After the detectives left, Constance packed a butcher knife and headed off to see Larry – her suspect in Travis’ murder. She confronts and corners him, holding the knife to his throat, and he spills it all. He’s weak and a pushover and is very quick to confess that he moved the parts. He has no idea who in the house Travis upset. He helped cover it up to protect her, because of his love for her. Constance, in typical fashion, bluntly tells him “I never loved you. I endured you for the sake of my family.” Just like Tate tried to tell him all those years ago. And still he doesn’t give it up. Constance heads home, just as her son is convincing Violet to skip school yet again, and runs into the detectives on her front porch. The knife slips out of her purse, so this time they have grounds to “invite” her to the precinct to talk about Travis’ murder. Once there, they start a litany of those around her who have died or disappeared over the years, Addie, Beau, Tate, her husband, her maid Moira….. She rails at them for interrupting the grieving process and agrees that she suffered enough loss for multiple lifetimes, but that she never grieved over her husband’s disappearance. She tells of rumors of a love nest and her lack of desire to pursue him, but the visuals are of her grinding his body up and feeding it to her dogs. Moira, we already know, is under the gazebo with Hayden. In any case, her attorney, Harry Goodman, shows up out of the blue to haul her out of there. He tells her that the case is big news and the cops are in a hurry to pin it on someone. And they think she’s the perfect candidate.

While Constance is at the station, an exterminator’s at the house, looking into the blow-fly situation. He determines it to be coming from the crawl space and heads under the house to check it out before he can give an estimate for the extermination. He’s clearly surprised by what he sees, but only briefly since Tate jumps out of the hole he’s looking into, calls him a murderer (for killing millions of insects and vermin?) and kills him with his own poison. Inside, Ben hasn’t noticed that the inspector didn’t come back yet, he’s on the phone trying to “sell” Violet to another school. She’s smart, IQ over 150, fantastic grades until this semester, the problem is the kids she’s hanging out with. Tate overhears this and tells Violet that Ben’s trying to take her away again and that he won’t let him do it. He heads to the basement, where Larry is retrieving Travis’ belongings from behind a section of wall. Travis asks him about the papers and Constance. Larry tells him he’s famous and that Constance is taking it pretty hard, then has a very touching conversation with his dead wife Lorraine as they watch Travis play “tea party” with their daughters, Margaret and Angela.

On his own agenda, Tate has suited up and attacks Ben, trying to knock him out. Ben fights back and manages to pull the mask off, revealing Tate, before passing out. Tate runs back to Violet, saying he’s only knocked Ben out to buy them some time. He encourages her to take some pills with him, that’s it’s the only way they can be together. She tricks him and tries to run away, but can’t get off of the property, no matter which door or gate she tries to use. Tate finally catches up to her and says he needs to show her something, that she needs to trust him. He leads her into the crawl space and shows her what the exterminator saw – her own dead body – from her successful suicide attempt several episodes ago. Tate explains that he tried to save her, but failed, and thought this would be a good opportunity to kill herself on “her own terms”. Oh yeah, and he did already know he was dead.

Next door, Harry has come to get Constance. She’s wanted at the precinct again and he thinks they may be ready to charge her. But when she gets there, Larry is there. He’s turned himself in, along with the evidence he picked up at the house, and confessed to murdering Travis. The detectives brought Constance in because they were hoping she could provide a motive. She could, but she doesn’t, only speculating that he confessed to “pacify a guilty conscience”. In the final scene, Constance visits Larry in prison at his request. He wanted to see her one more time before he’s sent to serve his sentence in Illinois. He practically begs Constance to at least admit she loved him once, but she can’t. Tate was right all those years ago, and she was being honest as well. She never loved him. I don’t think Constance has ever really loved anyone other than herself. Even trying to make Addie die on the property was about her selfishness, not her love for Addie.

In conclusion, I have to confess that I was as surprised as Violet to find out she was already dead. Everything seemed so normal after that scene in the tub that I believed that she survived. Was this a surprise to you too? Or did you realize all along? It’s okay if it was a surprise. To me that means the writers are doing a good job. I always find it cool and exciting when someone sneaks something past me like that. I’m also excited that the house, and its dead residents, have really come to be the stars of the show. The living are seeming more and more like incidental supporting characters. Which means the show can easily survive the death or departure of the remaining members of the Harmon family. But it’s going to be confusing at first. Ben and Vivien think their daughter is still alive. What’s going to happen the next time they try to take her somewhere?

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