American Horror Story season premiere recap: Tainted Love

In the series premiere, the Unhappy Harmons buy a house over the Internet. Then they have sex. Complications ensue.
Ep. 01 | Aired Oct 5, 2011

"HONEY, DOES MY BLACK RUBBER FETISH SUIT MAKE ME LOOK FAT?"  Vivien (Connie Britton) and Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) move to a house that may or may not be haunted in the pilot episode of American Horror Story.

Robert Zuckerman/FX

Los Angeles. 1978. The house stands derelict. Waiting to be possessed; perhaps waiting to do the same. Animal bones hang and clang from a gnarly old oak in the unkept yard like a morbid wind chime. A coded warning. No Trespassing. But it’s too late for that. A girl in a lemon yellow dress loiters in the weeds, giving the ivy choked façade the evil eye. Adelaide. She knows much about what has come before -- and knows a little of what’s to come.

Two boys approach. Twins. A pair of pint-sized droogs out for a bit of the old ultraviolence. Orange hair, pale skin, keeping a clockwork beat by tossing firecracker Pop Its. Swinging baseball bats and looking semi-tough in high-waist blue jeans and matching, color-opposite striped shirts. Troy wears red and black. Bryan wears black and green -- a color combo that will recur throughout the episode, in scenes about kids getting pumped-up kicks from violence. Baseball: “The American Pastime.” Firecrackers: Independence Day. The pasty boys in their stripes, color coded red, white and blue and snot-rot green. American Horror Story: What exactly is on your crazy-chaotic mind?

We hate these runty rotters. The show gives us no other choice. They taunt Adelaide by blowing her wet kissy-kissies. She has Down’s syndrome, so they call her a freak. But it’s the house they want to brutalize, not her. She tells them what time it is. "Excuse me," the girl says. "You are going to die in there.” The boys try to bully her into silence. "We got bats," Bryan declares. Apropos of nothing save their puffed-up petulance, Troy bashes a small tree next to the door of the house. “I hate trees!” Abby squawks. “You’re going to regret it! You’re going to regret it!” And they will.

Inside the house: Cobwebs and dust and things left behind. The boys gawk. Batter up! They go wild with their playthings of mass destruction, smashing light fixtures, windows, a television. Meanwhile, the thing that lives downstairs has a song on its mind: “Tonight You Belong To Me” by Patience and Prudence. We hear it. But the boys are oblivious. Smash! Crash!  Blood rushes. Adrenaline surges. Chaos reigns. Reason has left the building.

There’s an eviscerated critter by the stairs. Freshly mauled. The twins ogle the dying animal’s oozing blood and heaving chest. "Awesome," marvels Troy. They see the open door, leading to the downward stairwell. They should leave, but no: They pull out their flashlights and descend into darkness. Clearly they haven’t seen many horror movies. (It’s 1978. They probably don’t have cable yet.) But we have. Time for some ugly little Americans to get punished.

In the basement, in a far room: The workbench of some wicked mad doctor. Cutting boards. Cutting utensils. Cut-up body parts preserved in jars. A leg. A baby’s head. And more. BOO! One boy drops a jar containing a hairy scalp with attached ear. The boys catch a clue: It's time to leave. They’re bugged by the fetid stench here in the bowels of the house. Like a dead raccoon stuck in a chimney, says one. “Smells like s--t,” says the other. “S--t” and “filth” and “dirty” -- the buzzwords of the pilot. How did these boys get so foul and foul-mouthed? Who’s not loving them and nurturing them the way they should be loved and nurtured? Their parents? Our culture? Oh, wait: No cable. Or maybe we’ll never know.

The twin in green stripes ascends the stairs, but then realizes that the twin in red stripes is no longer behind him. He stops. Silly rabbit. Doesn’t he know you’re never supposed to look back on the hill-climb out of hell? Bryan's flashlight beam finds a fallen Troy, bloody and terrified. And then we see it. Fleetingly. Pause: An overgrown child in a blood-splattered nightgown. He/she/it charges. Pause: The monster’s close-up -- weathered skin; wispy frazzled hair; jagged teeth like shattered glass; puckered mouth. Kissy-kissy, you lispy little tree-hater. Tonight, you belong to me...

Bryan screams.

And outside, Adelaide stands alone.

NEXT: The new American Dream: When everything fails, Reboot!

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