Image credit: Ray Mickshaw/FX
SMELLS LIKE SWINE SPIRITS Violet (Taissa Farmiga) tries to come to grips with the supernatural nature of Murder House and the fact that her boyfriend is an undead mass murderer. At least she doesn't have to eat raw hog brains.
Because the nightmare of the cloven foot infantata had made her jittery, Vivien ate the heart and throat, sizzled and seasoned to surprisingly yummy perfection by Moira Sr.; apparently, she used to make this dish all the time when former employer Constance was with child. However, Vivien only sniffed the precious pancreas, which Moira said should be consumed uncooked. Still, the desperate housemaid -- who dodged another eviction from The Victorian by offering to work for free after cash-crunched Vivien tried to give her the pink slip -- did succeed in getting Vivien to swallow another dish of old wives’ oink-oink, against courtesy of Constance. “The most nutritious organ of all,” Moira said. “It came from an organic farm. I hear the raw food movement is really taking off.” Moira put the covered bowl on the table and walked away, leaving Vivien alone, and leaving us to wonder if the grotesque feasting that followed really happened or only took place in Vivien’s imagination. (In American Horror Story, there may be no difference.) Under the lid: Chilled pig brain. Again: Gross. And isn’t cold deli supposed to be, like, reallyreally bad for pregnant women? But again: Metaphor? I found it interesting that in an episode full of “Why? Why?!” grappling and reality blurring, that pitted scientific orientation against religious mysticism and common sense versus superstitious thinking, Moira fed Vivien the raw noggin of one of the smartest, most sensible animals on the planet. In the same way Christians take and eat the body and blood of Christ in symbolic form during Communion, Moira’s bowl of raw pig brain could be interpreted as a sacrament of Reason, given to Vivien to further fortify the bulwark of her mind. You are what you eat, after all.
Of course, raw pig brain should also be interpreted as… raw freakin’ pig brain. And watching Vivien pick at it, then nervously munch on it, then warm up to it (I’m sure that dash of pepper really helped), and then gobblegobblegobble it all up may have been the most nauseating thing I’ve seen on cable television since Rick and Glenn dressed themselves in zombie guts this time last year on The Walking Dead.
Still, I think my “boosting Vivien’s immunity to crazy” reading of the raw swine buffet makes sense when you consider where Vivien’s storyline culminated: At church, and a meeting with Nurse Angie, who since fainting away at the sight of Vivien’s ungodly ultrasound on Halloween night had traded in her life of medicine for a life of prayer, Bible study, and religious hysteria. She treated Vivien the way Vivien treated Ben – like an unclean animal to be kept at a safe remove. “That’s... probably... close enough,” she said nervously as Vivien scooched into a pew. Vivien: What exactly did you see on that monitor that made you pass out? Nurse Angie – echoing born again devil believer Leah – began pulling scary bits out of Revelation, the stuff of so many sensationalistic horror movie nightmares and dippy doomsday preacher eschatology. “I saw the unclean thing that you carry in your womb,” Nurse Angie said. “The plague of nations. The beast.” Vivien – fortified with 100% more pig brain – made Richard Dawkins eyes at the woman’s devil delusion. “Okay, so you didn’t see anything,” she cracked. “The machine malfunctioned.” Nurse Angie protested: “It didn’t! I saw the little hooves!” Vivien shook her sensible head and quipped: “You need some help.” (She should have given her Ben’s card! They need the money!) As Vivien walked away, Nurse Angie began preaching. “And the woman was full with the filthiness of her fornication! The mother of harlots and abominations of the earth!” Between this and Leah’s Red Dragon ruminations, “Piggy, Piggy” reminded us that The Bible can be one scary horror story. Especially if you’re a woman.
UNPLUGGED: BEN HARMON
The curious case of Dr. Shrinker’s newest patient was an island of story unto itself, but one that commented on the anxiety of influence and the war on reason evident in every other corner of the episode. Meet Derek (well played by Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet), a twisted nerve of a man, terrified of unreal things. “Urban legends,” he explained. Bloody Mary. Candyman. Lady In White. When he was a child, his loathsome little brothers used to hold him down and fill his head with these crazy-chilling American myths. “Nothing else scares me,” Derek said. “Terrorism. Disease. Violent crime. The economy. Just these stories are that utter bulls—t.”
The urban legend that spooked him the most was Piggyman, a fictional fiction created for the episode, but one that struck me as built from pieces of real and made-up horror stories, including all of the aforementioned ("Candyman" in particular), plus bits of The Devil In The White City, Saw, Robert Pickton and Hannibal. Also? The song "Piggy" by Nine Inch Nails, recorded in the home of Charles Manson victim Sharon Tate. ("Hey pig piggy pig pig pig/All of my fears came true.") “The story goes that he’s a hog butcher in Chicago during the World’s Fair of 1893,” Derek explained. “Before he’d go into the slaughter pen, he’d put on this mask, this pig mask, that he made from one of his other kills. And he would snort like a pig. Make him think he was one of them. And then one day he slipped and fell and the pigs – the hogs – tore him apart. They didn’t find one piece of him anywhere. Or so everyone assumed. It was not too long after this that his former customers started turning up dead. Gutted. Skinned. And hung upside down in the bathtub to rain like a hog in a shop. And they say if you stand in front of a mirror and say: ‘Here piggy pig pig’ that he’ll return for the slaughter.” CUT TO: Derek imagining himself in his bathroom, looking into the mirror and saying the accursed words and getting hacked to shreds by a slaughterhouse butcher wearing overalls and a pig’s head with sharp tusks. (Cleaver. Cleaver. Chop. Chop.) The tusks really sold it for me.
NEXT: The Death of Piggy