With American Horror Story's second episode, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk delivered what viewers really wanted from a TV show about a haunted house: a scary movie downsized into an hour-long TV drama. From the episode's chilling opening scene to the second act of mother Viv and daughter Violet being terrorized, "Home Invasion" proved that American Horror Story is more than sex and flash. But don't worry: We were still treated to shots of a shirtless Dylan McDermott, this hour trotting down the stairs to investigate a noise, pecs bouncing happily.
Opening with another flashback to a different chapter in the life of the house, "Home Invasion" began with some campy '60s humor. "Maria, you're such a square," a bad girl laughs on her way out the door to a Doors concert, leaving Maria and nurse Gladys to watch Peyton Place. Unfortunately, Maria and Gladys don't fare too well. A man with blood on his forehead talks his way in, before knocking Maria out with an ashtray. When she comes to, Gladys is gone and she's forced into a nurse's uniform. Hog-tied and praying desperately on a white couch, Maria is alone in the frame for almost half a minute ...until the intruder stabs her repeatedly in the back.
But that's in the past! Now we're back to the cheery trio of Ben, Viv and Violet. Sure, Ben's patient Tate is recounting the ways he fantasizes about Violet to Ben. And yeah, it's kind of annoying how Jessica Lange's "mongoloid" daughter keeps wandering into the house and setting off the alarm in the middle of the night. And then there's Dennis O'Hare's burned former occupant, still skulking around watching Ben run and pitying him. "You pity me?" Ben snarls. "You killed your family!" "But I was never unfaithful," comes the reply. Touche, Burning Man!
And Ben's past just isn't staying on the East Coast. His former mistress keeps calling him to tell him that he needs to accompany her to get an abortion. Like a fool, Ben is out on the next flight to Boston, telling his wife that he has to visit a former suicidal patient. Ben is clearly unaware that pregnant former mistresses are not to be coddled with abortion hand-holding. This is one lady who should go into the basement for a freebie.
And for a while, it seems as if Jessica Lange has the same idea regarding Viv's pregnancy. We see her humming and swaying in her kitchen, mixing up a batch of brownies before asking her daughter Addie to fetch her the Ipecac. "Sometimes it causes internal bleedin'," Lange chirps as she dumps the bottle into the bowl. "Now spit!" Cut to: Jessica Lange proffering two cupcakes to Viv! Of course she wants to come in, but these cupcakes aren't for Ben or Viv, both of whom try to eat one for what seems to be breakfast. No, these were made special for Violet. But Viv uses the opportunity to unload on Jessica Lange her fears that her baby is damaged in some way. If she had known about Addie, would she have gone through with the pregnancy? Hell, Jessica Lange says, she thought about just leaving Addie on the side of the road after she was born. The Chinese do it!
With Ben out of the house, Violet finally tells her mother what she thinks of her: Viv is weak for taking her cheatin' man back. Violet is clearly unaware that most fathers are not rockin' the bod hers is, or she would understand Viv's position a little better. Alone and sad, Viv is dragged downstairs by a knock on the door. It's a female patient of Ben's from earlier, who graphically dreamed of being cut in half by an elevator and gushed about how Ben's house is on the murder house tour. She has blood on her forehead, and in an homage to the opening scene, repeats what the killer said in an effort to recreate the crime. But times have changed, and instead of letting her in, Viv turns the deadbolt. "What kind of a woman are you?" the girl shrieks, as Viv runs to call for help. But the phone is missing! As is Violet's cell phone, which she discovers mere seconds before a masked figure emerges from her closet. How long was that person hiding there?! And from this point on, things get almost unbearably tense.
Turns out, there are three masked crazies in the house, and this terrifying trio are hell bent on recreating the opening murder, with Violet subbing in for Gladys (she was drowned upstairs, by the way) and Viv taking on the role of poor Maria. The two crazy ladies drag Violet upstairs, leaving the fidgety guy to take care of Viv with the original ashtray. An eBay find! Viv, spying Addie behind him, tries to indicate that Addie needs to get help, but the girl disappears without Viv knowing if her words sank in or not.
Addie tries to tell Jessica Lange that Viv and Violet need help, but Jessica Lange is entertaining a sleekly muscled young buck old enough to be her grandson, and does not have time for whatever is happening next door. So she does what any mother would do: locks Addie in a hall closet that has been lined with thrift-shop mirrors.
In the upstairs bathroom, Crazy Lady #1 walks in eating one of Jessica Lange's cupcakes. Nothing works up an appetite like a carefully orchestrated murder recreation, you know. Of course, that Ipecac kicks in fast, and she's out for the count. From out of nowhere, Tate appears and tells Violet to get the other woman into the basement, which is quickly turning into a garbage disposal for people. While Violet, dressed as a nurse, leads the Crazy Lady #2 down there, Tates takes an axe to the still-vomiting Crazy Lady #1. One down, two to go.
Thanks to some quick thinking on the part of Viv, she overpowers her assailant and runs upstairs to find Violet. Instead, she finds a trail of blood along the wall and an empty tub. In the basement, the real Maria and Gladys stand side by side, hands primly folded, pinpricks of blood staining the front of Maria's outfit. Down goes Crazy Lady #2! Slash goes the throat of the Fidgety Gentleman! Reunited, Viv and Violet run screaming down the street, prompting a now-sated Jessica Lange to shoulder on a silk robe and wander next door, where she stands next to Frances Conroy Maid and Tate in the basement, staring down at the bodies. "Did you do this?" Jessica Lange asks. "No, it was Them," Tate answers. And for the first time, the house's character comes into question. Does it have a fondness for this crazy family? Or does it just really hate mean people? Either way, it did the Harmon family a solid.
All that's left is the police wrap-up, for which Ben is present, having fled the abortion clinic when he realized he'd missed 13 calls. Everyone left Tate out of it, which is unfortunate, since his therapy with Ben seems to be a significant portion of a master plan on the part of Jessica Lange and The Maid(s). Ben's return means precious little to Viv, though. She wants to sell the house and get the hell out of Dodge. In this market? Girl, you crazy.