I love the Final Destination franchise, and so I always look forward to a new episode from FD writer James Wong. In fact, every time I nearly choke on a mozzarella stick or slip in a puddle of coconut body splash, I refer to it as "having a James Wong episode," because these are the kinds of undignified ways I'd go if Death were trying to get me. But James, I have to take issue with the name of this AHS episode. "Smoldering Children"? Yikes, there's a Google search that's going to get you on an FBI watch list.
"Smoldering" — ugh — "Children" opens in the Murder House dining room in the eventful year of 1994. "Ladies and gentlemen, the ham," Constance announces. Alas, she's being literal and it's not [insert any character from AHS here]. She's serving dinner to her unhappily blended family, Addy, Larry, and Tate. Tate takes the opportunity to say the kind of passive-aggressive grace that only a teenager can, when he's trying to piss off their stepdads and provide a chronology for a confused audience. "My father ran off when I was 6," he prays, by way of explanation.("Hold on, does that make sense?" replied God, counting on His fingers. "How old did the cheerleader say she would be?")
So, I guess the reason why Constance never went to jail for her husband's murder is because she pretended that her husband left. Okay, cool. Fair enough. I'll take it. But I think my favorite bit of "let's just get this out of the way" exposition is when Larry explains that his wife self-immolated her and killed his kids and then is like, "On a lighter note, I got you tickets to see me in BRIGADOON." Hey, self-parody! Oh, okay, AHS writers. I get it. You're in on the fact that you're crazy and now you can talk about it, just like Anne Heche.
Tate is not enthusiastic about seeing Larry's performance. I think we all know the feeling of being obligated to go see someone's show because they ask so nicely and they've been kind of depressed. I only WISH I had Tate's excuse so I could be like, "No, I'm not going to see your improv show. I think you may have killed my mutant brother." Guess I'm stuck lying about food poisoning till then.
I guess the show was REALLY bad, because Tate ends up lighting Larry on fire, presumably as a prelude to his coke-filled school shooter rampage.
Back in the present, Ben has just arrived in the world's least helpfully decorated psych unit to visit Viv. I was momentarily upset that he showed up empty-handed, but then I realized that I also don't know what flowers say, "I'm sorry and I've chosen to believe you were raped by a ghost."
Dylan McD is a great actor, but I loved his struggle to look plausible as he explained to her that she was carrying two babies. You know that moment that everybody in the "Cowbell" sketch broke character because Will Ferrell's hairy belly was showing? This plot point = Will Ferrel's hairy belly.
Back at Murder House Adjacent, Constance has some visitors. It's CHARLES S. DUTTON and friend as detectives, here to inquire about the murder of Travis, the "Boy Dahlia" (ahahahahaaha). Constance, bold as racist brass, refers to South Central as "the colored section" of L.A. To Charles S. Dutton.
Next door, a truant officer has shown up at Ben's to ask why Violet has been absent from school for sixteen days and is understandably uneasy by all the flies in the house. Hey, where IS Violet anyway? If you said up in her room, listening to post-punk and journaling, you are projecting. But coincidentally, you're also right. She and Ben have a heart-to-heart, and she agrees to go back to school if he'll let her transfer.
Larry, the Gil Gunderson of This Show, is making a bowl of cold beans in his bachelor sad when Constance arrives. Larry explains that he only disposed of Travis's body and that someone in the House killed him, so Constance promptly dashes off to get some ghost ass before dashing Larry's hope of reunion sex.
Vy is juuuuuuust about to leave for school when Tate physically accosts her and is all, "Don't go! Let's hang out and play Scrabble all day!" Words with ABUSIVE BOYFRIENDS, am I right?
Dutton and friend are back to ask Constance more questions, and in response they get a contender for line of the episode: "Oh, those Koreans. They're always so suspicious. Ever since Hiroshima." Happy Pearl Harbor Day, everybody! She's just returned from threatening Larry with a kitchen knife, and of course it clatters out of her bag, as kitchen knives are wont to do in front of cops you've just said a bunch of racist things in front of.
Back at MH-HQ, Ben and Phil the Hipster Exterminator are trying to figure out where all these damn flies are coming from. I THINK I MAY HAVE AN IDEA, how about you guys?
Downtown, Dutton and his partner question Constance about the copious amount of tragedy that seems to surround her with commendable lack of incredulity. And here we find out in flashback that after she shot Hugo and Moira, she ground him up and fed him to her dogs. (Nice dogs-eating-people foley here, AHS effects team. Who wants meatballs?) Enter her lawyer Harry, and let's hope it's not a bad sign for Constance that she'll be defended by the guy who also played Harry from that Dumb and Dumber prequel. Well, let's hope Lloyd is representing the state.
Exterminator Phil heads into the basement to figure out where all of those dang flies are coming from, and of course he finds a body and of course, Tate murders him with his own poison spray before we can see who it is. He tells Violet that Ben is trying to get rid of her. Ugh, Tate. Please chill.
Speaking of chill, Larry's in the Harmon's basement when he runs into Travis, Murder House's own Spiccoli. He's spending his time being dead having tea parties with Larry's extra-well-done children and scrapbooking. Ha, oh Trav. You're the kind of dead boyfriend I can get behind. But why are Larry's kids and wife Lorraine all charred while he's intact and hot? Apparently Larry is only just now seeing them because he's "ready." Yeeee-ok.
Cut to various angles of Dylan McDermott showering and me adding Ryan Murphy to my holiday zucchini bread list. Thanks, Ryan! God bless us everyone. Tate shows up, they tussle, and Ben sees his face just before he's chloroformed unconscious.
Harry the nervous cutie lawyer shows up at Constance's house with a latte and a summons from the police. (Aww. So this is how you meet nice guys in Los Angeles? Noted.) Down at the station, the police tell her that Larry has confessed. But since he's also vowed to get revenge on Constance, I'm guessing there's more to it than that. Probably all part of District Attorney Lloyd Christmas's elaborate legal strategy.
Up in the attic, Tate is trying to force some suicide pact bullshit on Violet. Okay, Violet. Time to give those mix tapes back. Violet finally breaks out of her teen sex haze and tries to escape, but of course, she can't leave the house. Tate takes her down to the basement and shows her her body, which is when we get flashbackial confirmation that she did, indeed, die during her original suicide attempt. Man! I did not want homegirl to be dead. Those girls who get stuck with their high school boyfriend are the ones who end up posting miserable boozy Facebook posts about their kids at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday. She's surprisingly okay with it after a good cry, and Tate explains that he never told her that he was dead, because she wouldn't have hooked up with him then. Uh, it's called Strawberry Boone's Farm, Tate, get to know it.
We wrap with Constance visiting Larry in jail, doing that whole "hand-on-the-plexiglass" thing and asking her to tell him she loves him. Jeez, it's like the men on this show have never read a Steve Harvey book. She's just about to place her hand against his PSYYYYYYCH!, she pulls it back, leaving him proverbially "hangin'." Ice cold, and a role model to us all.
Okay, guys. Tune in next week, when we'll probably get Violet admitting to her dad that she's dead, plus hopefully more goofy cute lawyer antics and the return of Larry's adorable Brazilian churrasco children and their way chill uncle Trav.