» TV / Reviews / AMERICAN HORROR STORY 1.08 ‘Rubber Man’

AMERICAN HORROR STORY 1.08 ‘Rubber Man’

The Rubber Man ghost stands revealed as the malevolent spirits within the Murder House conspire against Vivien.

Episode Title: "Rubber Man"

Writer: Ryan Murphy
 
Director: Miguel Arteta

Previously on "American Horror Story":

Violet Harmon (Taissa Farmiga) discovered that her boyfriend, Tate Langdon (Evan Peters) was a ghost and that her home (affectionately known in Los Angeles as "The Murder House" ) featured several spirits of the dead trapped inside. Violet grew closer to Tate after he foiled her suicide attempt and he taught her how to dismiss the ghosts from her presence. At the same time, Ben (Dylan McDermott) and his estranged wife Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) learned that Vivien was pregnant with twins instead of the single baby that she expected.

The Harmons also got a serious bidder for the house in the form of developer, Joe Eskandarian (Amir Arison). Joe allowed himself to be seduced by the young incarnation of Moira (Alexandra Breckenridge); who hoped that he would dig up the backyard and find her remains (which would release her spirit from the house). However, Larry Harvey (Denis O'Hare) and his former lover, Constance (Jessica Lange) discovered Joe's intent to destroy the house and build condos in its place. So, they shared the news with Moira, who conspired with them to lure Joe back and kill him.

Later, Violet showed her mother a photo of the home's first owners, and Vivien recognized Nora Montgomery (Lily Rabe) as the woman who seemingly disappeared in her kitchen.

Story:

Six months ago, the Rubber Man moves through the Murder House and even the Realtor, Marcy (Christine Estabrook) seems to sense his presence. The man finds Nora crying over her lost child. When Nora says that she only wants her baby, the man seems to indicate that he will help her. Later, he retrieves the Rubber Man suit from the trash and proceeds to wear it before encountering Vivien in her bedroom. The Rubber Man has rough sex with Vivien and when Ben walks up to the bedroom in a daze, the Rubber Man passes by him unseen. In the basement, the Rubber Man takes off his mask and we see that it's Tate.

Back in the present, Vivien shows Marcy and Moira (Frances Conroy) the picture of the Montgomerys and she insists that Nora was in her kitchen weeks ago. Marcy openly assumes that Vivien's pregnancy is making her deluded and she leaves to find Joe, who hasn't communicated with her since they accepted his low ball offer for the house. In the past, Chad (Zachary Quinto) tells his friend, Peggy that Chad's partner, Pat (Teddy Sears) is having an online affair and losing interest in him. Peggy essentially tells Chad to man up and become dominant. Towards that end, Chad buys the Rubber Man suit from an S&M shop.

However, the suit doesn't have the intended effect for Chad and Pat rejects him. Back in the present, Ben's dead lover, Hayden McClaine (Kate Mara) finds Nora sobbing over her lost child. Hayden explains that they are both dead and trapped within the house, but she suggests that Nora team up with her to torment Vivien into insanity so that they can both get one of Vivien's babies. Soon enough, Hayden steps up her haunting of Vivien with a number of unexplainable occurrences around the house. Vivien also sees the Rubber Man mask planted near the sink for her to find.

Back in the past, Tate puts on the Rubber Man suit again before killing Chad on Halloween. Pat comes in and he tries to fight back, but Tate beats him to death as well. He drags both of their bodies to the basement and (upon Moira's advice) he stages the scene to make it look like a murder/suicide. Tate also tells Nora that he killed the gay couple because they abandoned their plan to adopt a baby. Tate reasons that the next family to move in may have a baby that they can take. In the present, Ben is confused when he catches Violet playing with a ghost that he can't see. Ben chastises Violet for missing school for the last two weeks, so she fires back about his cheating on her mother.

Violet also insists that Ben drove Vivien to the edge of sanity that she's barely hanging on to. Later, Vivien is despondent as she tells Moira that her pregnancy medication is driving her crazy. But Moira tells her that she believes that the house contains dark spirits and that Vivien should leave as soon as she can… while she still can. Vivien takes her advice to heart and she tells Violet that they're leaving immediately. Violet hesitates when it comes to leaving Tate behind, but both mother and daughter are frightened into returning to the house when the ghosts of the home invaders appear in the backseat of their car.

The next day, Ben is incredulous about Vivien's story and she tells him to ask Violet. Meanwhile, Violet has just finished sleeping with Tate and he urges her to lie about what she saw so that they won't be separated. Sure enough, Violet tells Ben that Vivien was seeing things. So Ben insists upon staying in his study for the night to protect Violet. In the basement, Hayden confronts Tate to goad him into his part of this little drama, but he expresses remorse over hurting people. He rejects Hayden's attempt to seduce him, but he agrees to his role. During the day, Vivien lures Marcy back to the house so she can steal her gun. She also learns that no one has seen Joe since he made the offer for the house.

That night, Vivien is assaulted by the Rubber Man after she turns out the lights. Vivien grabs the gun and shoots at the first person to enter the room, Ben himself. The security patrol officer, Luke (Morris Chestnut) arrives when the EMT officers are patching up Ben. Luke accuses Ben and Hayden of tormenting Vivien, which Ben angrily denies. In her room, Vivien is confronted by Hayden, who confirms that she is dead. The Rubber Man also attacks her again, but by the time that Ben and Luke race into her bedroom, it looks like Vivien has gone completely crazy.

Ben forces Vivien in for a psycological evaluation and the exhausted woman states that at least she's getting out of the house. But Violet regrets not backing her mother up even though Ben believes that she told him the truth earlier. After Ben leaves, Tate appears and tells Violet that he's there for her.

Breakdown:

In retrospect, the reveal that Tate was the Rubber Man all along seems fairly obvious. We even saw him wearing the Rubber Man suit back in the Halloween episode. To be honest, I didn't guess that Tate was the Rubber Man prior to this episode because I assumed that "American Horror Story" was going for a more dramatic reveal. Instead, the moment when Tate took off the Rubber Man mask came off as an "Eh…" moment instead of something that could have been the most pivotal scenes in the series to date.

And while I can appreciate the way that the writers of this show offer up fast answers to their mysteries, the Rubber Man lost a lot of his mystique as soon as we learned that it really was Tate all along. Imagine seeing the first "Star Wars" trilogy knowing that there's an older, whinny version of Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker underneath Darth Vader's mask. That's kind of how this felt.

When the Rubber Man was an unknowable character, part of the fun was guessing at his motives. Now that we know that Tate just wanted to give Nora a baby, it makes the entire angle less interesting. Come to think of it, Nora's characterization in this episode doesn't line up with her brief appearance in the Halloween episode. There Nora was at least aware of what Hayden was planning for Vivien and she was the only ghost sympathetic enough to help Ben save his unborn children. I have a hard time believing that the same ghost who would do that for the Harmons would be so willing to go along with Hayden's plan.

There's some speculation among "American Horror Story" fans that Violet didn't survive her suicide attempt two weeks ago… which coincides with the amount of time that she's been missing from school. I don't know if I buy that, but something has changed for Violet. By siding with Tate over her mother, Violet went a long way towards becoming unlikable. Prior to that, she was my favorite character on the show. But she really was almost unwatchable this week. Neither Ben or Vivien had even won me over, and they both came off badly as well.

First off, you'd think that Vivien would be smart enough not to repeat what happened to her no matter how true it is. If she had a lick of sense, Vivien would know that she sounded crazy. As for Ben, the clueless one was pretty unsympathetic towards his wife's ordeal and his daughter's defiance. This is supposed to be a licensed therapist?! I wouldn't let Ben treat a rodent, much less a family.

The question also has to be asked: can Tate really be the father of Vivien's two babies? If so, how do ghosts have enough physicality to create sperm? Crazy theory time: what if Vivien is only pregnant in the house? That would explain why she only feels comfortable there and it would imply that her pregnancy isn't real when she's out of the house. I don't know how well that tracks with Vivien's appearance in the hospital. But it may explain why Vivien has experienced health problems with her pregnancy that were cured whenever she returned to the house.

"American Horror Story" has put me in the strange position of liking the show but hating the lead characters, VIvien and Ben. I thought that Violet was going to be the saving grace of this series, but if she's going to be just as selfish and unlikable as her parents than I might lose a little interest in the final resolution of this story.

Crave Online Rating: 7.5 out of 10.