Tonight on American Horror Story: Six months ago, Tate Langdon promises the distraught Nora Montgomery that he’ll help her get a baby, then zips himself into the gimp suit and has sex with the new lady of the house, Vivien Harmon, who believes the masked Tate to be her husband Ben. In the present day: Hayden and Nora conspire to gaslight Vivien, with the intention of taking her twins when she’s declared insane; Vivien and Violet make one last-ditch effort to leave the Murder House, but are stopped by Fiona and Dallas; Vivien accidentally shoots someone with a gun stolen from Marcy; Ben, convinced (with Violet’s reluctant testimony) that Vivien has suffered a psychotic break, takes extreme measures.

Moira: That’s what men do–they make you think you’re crazy so that they can have their fun.

So…Tate is the guy in the gimp suit. Didn’t see that one coming, although in retrospect I’m not sure who else it could have been. Although I would have been very amused if it had turned out to be Beau, or the Montgomerys’ Frankenbaby.

It’s the one major revelation in an episode that focuses more on character moments and moving the plot forward than providing big scary set-pieces. Episodes like those have traditionally been the season’s weakest, but this one manages to pull it off.

As always, the key character moments belong to Violet and Tate, with Vi’s betrayal of Viv being a particularly sharp sting. There are even some good moments for two of my least favorite characters, Marcy and Luke. The return of Chad and Patrick is also very welcome, and although they’re underused, the flashback to Chad buying the gimp suit is particularly amusing (and the phrase “ultimate asslock” really should enter into common parlance). The Langdon family drama is on hold this week, and to be honest, Constance and Larry aren’t really missed.

The one problem plot-wise is Ben’s accidental shooting: nobody seems particularly about the fact that it was committed with a stolen gun. (I’m finished with the season, and I can say that it does bug me that the gun’s theft isn’t even mentioned in future episodes.)

Unfortunately, the big set-pieces don’t pack quite the punch they should, with only the Rubber Man reveal and the carting-away of Vivien being particularly effective. The rape scene relies too much on image processing and editing gimmicks, while Fiona and Dallas’s appearance in the SUV lacks the necessary oomph. The writing and acting makes up for these flaws but they’re there nonetheless.

For the most part, a solid episode that starts the process of putting the pieces together in prep for the endgame.

My rating: 7 of 10.

Season 1 episode ranking

  1. “Piggy Piggy” (ep. 6)
  2. “Murder House” (ep. 3)
  3. “Home Invasion” (ep. 2)
  4. “Rubber Man” (ep. 8)
  5. “Halloween, part 1” (ep. 4)
  6. “Pilot” (ep. 1)
  7. “Open House” (ep. 7)
  8. “Halloween, part 2” (ep. 5)

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