Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: American Horror Story "Rubber Man"

Non Spoiler Review:
The identity of Vivien's rubber-suited lover has been the longest mystery on American Horror Story. We get that revelation right off the bat, then the backstory to why it all came to pass, and the reasons why a baby is so important to many in the house.

The Chad/Patrick flashbacks filled in the troubling last days of their lives and really present a tragic story that is similarly unfolding for the Harmons. Connie Britton delivered a strong performance this week as the series continues to avoid the usual pitfalls of the horror genre and charges ahead doing whatever the hell it damn well wants. Rubber Man has it all—tragedy, comedy, disturbing and horrific elements, and it never lets up on the stream of revelations and new questions. The only drawback—no Jessica Lange!

Spoilers Now!
Six months earlier, when the Harmons were a happy family and moving in to their awesome house, ghostly Nora was wandering the halls wondering what the heck was up with all this crazy new furniture. A man consoles her and hears all she really wants is her a baby. So he retrieves the rubber suit from the trash and proceeds to seduce Vivien. When the deed is done, he passes a sleepwalking Ben as he returns to the bedroom from his late night fireplace activities. It's Tate who takes off the mask.

Back in the present, Vivien shows both Marcie and Moira the Nora photo. Marcie dismisses it as likely a lookalike granddaughter who visited the house, but Moira seems to suggest it's a doppelganger. Vivien sees a conspiracy to drive her crazy—as in Hayden, whereabouts unknown. Marcie attempts to calm her down while Moira leans more to the supernatural explanation for things. Marcie's desperately trying to find Mr. Escandarian who has not returned her calls in two weeks.

There's a flashback to Chad confiding in a girlfriend about Patrick's potential cheating—Chad's stumbled upon Patrick's online chats that involve some kinky talk. He's been distant, and even sleepwalking (oh noes!). She suggests Patrick's got some interests he isn't comfortable sharing with him, so Chad needs to make an effort to get involved in his boyfriend's fantasies. So Chad heads to the nearest sex shop and gets advice on how to gear up. The salesman points him in the direction of a particular rubber body suit.

Back home, Chad attempts a seduction that fails miserably. Patrick isn't interested at all, so Chad confronts him about his online activities. Chad queens out and wants to kick him out, reminding him he has all the money. Patrick declares the house is driving him crazy, considering he's seen the bills and knows the bank will take it sooner than later. When they do, Chad won't be able to hold it over his head anymore. He goes out, and by the way, he's into leather, not latex.

What do the ghosts do when they're chillin' all day? If you're Nora, you cry in the bedroom and wonder what's going on. Hayden lets her know she's dead and she needs to pull it together. She's been playing with Beauregard, and doesn't believe it's fair the innocent souls are trapped there, too. But there are others who are bitches—like Moira. Hayden's gotten off on the wrong foot with her, too, given she's been torturing Vivien, and Moira is out to protect the lady of the house.

Hayden explains there is a power in the house they can all use to make themselves unknown or to torment others (like Ben). She confesses she acts out her rage—particularly having sex with Hugo (Connie's husband) and killing him over and over again. Hugo doesn't seem to mind. But being dead has made Hayden excessively horny.

Nora still doesn't believe it, so Hayden shows her the hole in the back of her head. Nora has no memory of any of that, but thinks it might be because of her baby which she continues to languish for. Hayden lost hers too, coincidentally enough, and it's just not fair that Vivien gets to have two. That gives Hayden an idea to get a baby for each of them.

Hayden hatches a plan to drive Vivien crazy because you can't raise babies in a loonie bin. As Vivien prepares to go to bed, she experiences a series of hauntings (from Beau's red ball rolling to her feet, breaking glass, heaving furniture, and Hayden's maniacal laughter). She sees the rubber mask on the bathroom sink.

Flashback to Tate putting on the mask and drowning Chad in his barrel of apples. Patrick comes in and gets a thorough beating by Tate, culminating in a disturbing mutilation scene. Both men are tossed into the basement where Nora declares Patrick is dead and it's all wrong. She doesn't recognize Tate, but he explains she's suffered and he's here to help. Chad decided not to have a child, so now maybe a new family will move in to give her what she wants.

Ben comes downstairs and overhears Violet talking to Beauregard, asking him to come out and rolling the ball into the shadows. He directs her to come upstairs given they need to discuss the fact that she's not been in school in two weeks. Violet has no patience for Ben's psychoanalysis and asks how he's missed the fact that Vivien has lost her mind and is eating raw brains. And it's all Ben's fault. He's a cheater and pathetic and she declares she's surprised he hasn't gone after her. She walks out.

Moira makes tea for Vivien, who is struggling to keep it together. She seems to think her medication for nausea is causing side effects and promoting her vision problems. Moira launches into a diatribe about men finding excuses to declare women insane throughout history to lock them away. Moira tells her she's not crazy, and the strange things she's seen are, indeed, true. The house is possessed and she's witnessed these manifestations all the years she worked there. Vivien needs to get out while she still can.

Vivien rushes to pack and wake Violet. But when they get out to the car Violet sees Tate watching. The home invader ghosts are in the car and frighten both of them, leading Vivien to run screaming back inside the house.

Ben is enraged Vivien tried to take Violet out of state. Vivien tries to convince him the home invaders were back and Violet can corroborate it. But Ben is trying to diagnose her rather than listen. He wants to discuss the brain eating—ever hear of Mad Cow disease? Vivien wonders if Ben is conspiring with Hayden to get rid of her. She shows him the rubber mask and asks how it got back into the house and just about reveals their kinky night she conceived her child.

Violet appears to have had sex with Tate. She asks if the ghosts can actually hurt them. Tate says no, but she can't tell her mother the truth or they'll say she's crazy and lock her up. And they'll never see one another again. Ben calls Violet down, so when she's asked about what she saw, she lies and tells her father she didn't see anything, but just said what she thought her mother wanted. Vivien looks totally betrayed. Ben says he's staying the night to protect his daughter.

Tate is in the basement when Hayden comes by to taunt him and tells him to man up and take care of Vivien before she escapes with Violet. Tate knows what he needs to do, but doesn't enjoy doing it. Hayden wants to fool around and work his way up to it, but Tate brushes her off.

Vivien summons Marcie inexplicably to ream her out about screwing up the sale. Marcie protests that the missing Escandarian has completely refused to return her calls. Then Vivien feigns a fainting spell and while Marcie gets her water, she rifles through her bag and steals Marcie's gun. Then she says she's okay and sends the realtor on her way.

That night she checks her room thoroughly, but Tate is still there and attacks her. Vivien pushes her panic button, grabs the gun and shoots(!) Ben as he comes through the door. The police and Luke show up. Ben is okay as the bullet has passed through his hand and he refuses to be seen by a doctor despite the paramedic suggesting it. Luke demands more of an explanation and advises the officers that the Harmons are separated and Ben has a mistress with a criminal record. Ben is enraged and tells him to get out of his house.

Vivien's been given a Valium, but that allows Hayden to appear and torture her some more. She wants the babies. She tells him the father of Vivien's babies is there, and Tate appears to try and rape her. Vivien wakes up to Ben on top of her and Luke standing over them. She asks if they saw the rapist in the suit, but he's nowhere to be seen. All her ranting of the rubber suit and Hayden seal the deal that she's lost her marbles. 

Violet comes in to say they're ready for her. The police come in to take her away and Ben reveals he's had her committed. Vivien protests at first, then realizes she'll at least be out of the house, so goes with them willingly while shooting her daughter a look of absolute betrayal. Tate tells Violet it's all okay, because he's there with her.

The final flashback shows Tate dragging the still living Chad to the basement. Moira tells him not to kill him, given the last thing they need is a murder investigation, and Tate should get over his need to please the women of the house. She gives him a gun, so he shoots into Patrick, puts the gun in Chad's hand and shoots him too to make it look like a suicide. Tate muses it's romantic they'll be together forever.  

The Verdict:
I'm ambivalent about Tate's reveal as the rubber man. Given we already saw Tate wear the rubber suit in the past, the fact he is the culprit was kind of a logical no-brainer, but why all the ominous devil stuff regarding Vivien's baby? Tate now appears beyond redemption, despite my initial impression he might be saved. He's completely insane (crazier than Hayden, even?) simply for the brutal deaths he inflicts upon the likes of Chad and Patrick to satisfy his own sadism.

Tate's deeds are sure to catch up with him when it comes to Violet, though, and I'm anxious to see if she'll stick with him (given how she sacrificed her mother this week) if it comes to light who he's killed and the paternity of her unborn siblings. Is it too much to hope that our dear departed Adelaide (somehow) fills Violet in on the truth?

I was left feeling a little relieved for Vivien given she's gotten out of the house at last. Extra marks also goes to Frances Conroy's long-winded diatribe against men. But what's her ultimate plan (aside from getting her bones dug up). Moira at first conspires with Connie to keep Vivien and her baby healthy. Now she's encouraging Vivien to flee the house. If the babies die in the house, will Nora and Hayden be able to take them? Are Tate's motivations exclusively to get a replacement child for Nora?

The collapse of Chad and Patrick's relationship was tough to watch, especially knowing their imminent doom. Seeing its parallel with Vivien and Ben was a great contrast. And to add Violet's betrayal of her mother (especially given how she went to town on her father's infidelities) really made me cringe at the level of suffering in store for Vivien.

Ben is also acting extremely aggressive and belligerent this week. Are we to read anything into his refusal to go to the hospital to get his gunshot wound checked out? That all seems extremely odd.

So I'm kicking myself for not thinking of this, but I've been reading a few theories that Vivien actually died from her overdose and that's why she's not been in school the last couple of weeks (or been seen outside the house this episode). If so, what happened to her body? Is it hidden somewhere on the property?

The writers are to be commended for not letting this show have a moment's rest. The characters are continually in flux and pretty much anything can happen from week to week. The level of revelations that get dealt with each episode is a stark contrast to other genre shows that seem to hold all their cards until the end. I don't doubt there are numerous other surprises coming, and I'll be eagerly watching the final two episodes.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...