American Horror Story recap: Violation

Vivien Harmon battles spectral terrorists trying to destroy her mind and the identity of Murder House's sex suit bogeyman is revealed in 'Rubber Man'
Ep. 08 | Aired Nov 23, 2011

"At least I'll be out of this house." Vivien (Connie Britton) was betrayed by the living, psychologically tortured by the dead, and came to the realization that she had been raped by something hideously inhuman in "Rubber Man." How much more crazy-psycho-pissed do you think Vivien's going to be when she discovers what she and Violet have something in common with the man-child behind the zipper mask?

Ray Mickshaw/FX

The lady of the house drifts from room to room like a ghost. She is trying very hard to keep hold of her mind. A violation has occurred. Something alien has taken possession of her home. Something profane has desecrated her sacred space. Nothing is as it should be. The décor – “cheap” and “vulgar” -- is not her décor. The furniture, the pottery, the stacks of books – a thin tome on Greta Garbo; another called Interiors – belong to another time, place, and sensibility. “Who are you? What did you do to my house?” asks Norah Montgomery, full of despair. “I am terribly confused.”

A gentle hand squeezes her shoulder. “How could I comfort you,” the stranger says.

“My baby,” Norah says. “Where is my baby?”

In 1925, Norah's son, Thaddeus Montgomery, was kidnapped and chopped up by an embittered madman. The next year, the baby was reassembled and revived by another. Norah's husband, Charles, had cut out the beating heart of a young woman that had come to him for an abortion to make the re-animated abomination, which Norah tried to love but couldn’t, which she tried to kill, but failed. This all happened decades ago, on the day that Norah put a bullet in her husband’s head, then one in her own. Perhaps the memories were in the brains that she sprayed across the dining room wall.

“Is that what you want?” the stranger asks. “A baby?”

“Yes,” she says. “I just want my baby.” She turns to see the stranger’s face, but he is gone.

It is six months ago.

The lady of the house is in her negligee and massaging lotion into her skin when the Rubber Man enters the bedroom. She thinks the man behind the zipper mask is her husband. She thinks he wants to have some kinky fun; she thinks that he wants to make love to her. But the Rubber Man is not Ben Harmon. He is not even a man. And the sex that he wants and that he gets from Vivien Harmon is not kinky or fun or loving. It is a violation.

The Rapist finishes and zips up and leaves the room and moves quickly down the stairs, silent as a shadow and invisible to the man of the house sleepwalking up the stairs and to the bedroom.

“I love you,” says Vivien unconvincingly. Ben, vacant: “I love you, too.”

In the bathroom, The Rapist removes his mask. A 17-year-old boy who died 17 years earlier looks at himself in the mirror. A face full of evil blurs into a face full of fear – the two halves of Tate Langdon, horrifying and horrified, forever at war.

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And in this way we learned the Rubber Man’s secret identity. For those of us who bet the house on Constance’s cheating husband, played by Eric Close (who did return this episode for a clever cameo during Hayden’s revealing tutorial on the Murder House Rules), we got taken by a well-played bluff. Let us remember that American Horror Story fingered Tate from the start. Recall the pilot episode: There was the scene when Tate and Violet conspired to give mean girl Leah a taste of her own bullying medicine by scaring her with haunted house shock therapy, just as Hayden and Tate plotted to terrorize Vivien in last night’s story. When Violet asked how exactly they would freak the girl, Tate replied: “That where I come in.” Off this line, the storytelling cut to the moment when the Rubber Man’s entrance. (We explored this segue in detail in our recap of the pilot.)

Tate committed other dehumanizing violations in “Rubber Man” both in and out of his trash-salvaged latex couture. He not only murdered ex-residents Chad and Patrick, but the sadistic specter needlessly sodomized the latter with a fireplace poker. He also took Violet’s virginity. It was consensual, but it was also statutory rape, as Violet is at least 15, no older than 17. There was also the strong suggestion that Tate’s alleged inability to remember his past has been one big con. The Langdon lad’s most likable moment in the episode came when he throttled the even less likable Hayden after she busted Little Lord Fauntleroy's chops for Violet moonyness. Thanks to Evan Peters remarkable performance, Tate remains a compelling and – am I evil for feeling this way? – sympathetic soul, despite being a mass-murdering violence junkie. I look forward to learning more about how he became so warped. His mother, Constance, must be one cause. Here’s my theory for another: Tate has a “dark half” -- a vanishing twin. Tate is comprised of two conjoined, competing consciousnesses. The second belongs to twin bother that died in the womb and was absorbed by the other twin (it can happen!), though his spirit endured and evolved while riding shotgun in Tate’s mind. One twin is the rapist/killer. The other is the well-meaning Violet lover. We know that Constance has one other child we have not yet met. Maybe it’s my hypothetical parasitical infant doppleganger?

Look at me. I want to like this kid so much, I’m inventing Brian De Palma scenarios to get him off the hook for his sins.

NEXT: Yes, “Mike’s Spikes” is a real thing. I checked, and now my browser needs a shower.

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