‘American Horror Stories’ Recap: Gaslighting Is Scarier Than a Demon Named ‘Ba’al’

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SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “American Horror Stories” Season 1, Episode 5, “Ba’al,” streaming now on FX on Hulu.

“American Horror Stories’ ” fifth episode was the scariest yet, though maybe it wasn’t as terrifying for people who don’t have kids. This author had to watch a lot of it from behind her fingers and screamed right out loud several times. However, this episode also had a glaring plot hole when all the twists and turns were finally revealed. But first…

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The episode, entitle “Ba’al,” opened with a couple getting bad news from their fertility doctor. They had done five rounds of IVF and hadn’t gotten pregnant, so it was time to consider other options. But the woman, Liv (Billie Lourd), insisted they keep trying because it was so important to her to be pregnant.

The clinic’s receptionist Bernadette (Virginia Gardner) felt so bad for the couple that she gave Liv a creepy little statue that one puts under their bed when they are being intimate — in order to magically get a baby. The receptionist said it had been in her family forever. Liv was desperate and thought “a little magic couldn’t hurt,” which immediately had us bracing for demon babies.

That night, Liv and Matt (Ronen Rubinstein) had some intense sex that was intercut with lightning changes, shots of the creepy statue and a lot of snake sounds, which all served to prove things would not end well for them.

Cut to 16 months later and they had a baby, but Liv was feeling like a failure as a mother — specifically that her baby hated her and it was “a fucking mistake” to have him. All she ever wanted to do was be a mom and now she felt like she’s terrible at it. She also finally remembered that creepy statue was still under her bed and put it away in a box in the closet.

Matt encouraged Liv to talk to a doctor who specializes in postpartum disorders. She wasn’t sure, but that night on the baby monitor, Liv saw a demon standing over her baby and that convinced her to go talk to the doctor.

She told Dr. Berger (Vanessa Williams) that it felt like the baby hated her, so the doctor sent her home with some tools to help her. At first, everything seemed great. But soon enough she found the creepy statue in her son’s crib and it had grown bigger and sprouted wings. The housekeeper insisted it wasn’t her who put it there, quit on the spot and ran out the door.

When Liv thought she heard a noise in the air vents, she went into the basement to investigate and found one of the ducts ripped open and claw marks on the wall. Matt pooh-poohed her fears, saying it was a trapped raccoon and that it was weird that she thought this demon statue was what brought them a baby. Quite the metaphor for people ignoring pregnant women and new mothers when they’re convinced something is wrong.

After seeing the demon on the baby monitor again, Liv ran the audio through her computer and played it for Matt. She heard the demon saying, “I want him,” as though Ba’al came back to take his baby. But Matt didn’t hear it, of course, and now thought Liv was losing her grip on reality.

He brought Dr. Berger back and she calmly explained to Liv that she was hearing what she wanted to hear because her hormones were on overdrive and she was sleep-deprived. She gave Liv Zoloft to help her even out and get some sleep.

But Zoloft was not going to help when Matt and Liv’s friends came over for dinner and brought an Ouija board. At first, it was all fun and games when one of them spelled out “Jack Mehoff.” But then the planchette started moving again and spelled out “H-E I-S M-I-N-E,” about which Liv naturally freaked out.

Matt started yelling at her about embarrassing him in front of his friends and then told her to “figure her shit out” or he was done. That night, the demon showed up screaming, “He is mine,” so Liv finally went to see Bernadette to find out what the hell was going on and how to get rid of the demon.

Bernadette said Ba’al was a fertility god, not a demon, but she gave her a ritual to perform that should solve her problem. So, Liv lit some candles and read some incantations, then cut her hand and made a blood offering to the demon statue as smoke swirled around her and the baby. When Liv thought the demon was there, she whirled around — but ended up stabbing Matt with the ritual dagger. Two weeks later, she was in a mental hospital.

She told Matt she would not coming home until Dr. Berger said she’s safe to be around him and the baby. But when he left, Bernadette was waiting for him in the car. It turned out they planned this whole charade so Matt could divorce Liv and take her money. Matt’s college friends were also in on gaslighting Liv with costumes, audio/visual effects and switching out her medication to make her hallucinate.

As they celebrated their success, Matt went upstairs to take care of the baby and suddenly the demon was real. He appeared in the house and quickly dispatched Matt’s friends in super gory fashion, and then the show cut to Matt in jail for murdering his friends. Liv, having been released from the mental hospital, came to visit him. She asked him why he would do this to her and he said it was because he didn’t want kids, then he didn’t want her — but he wanted her money.

The police thought greed got in the way so Matt killed his friends rather than share the money, but Matt told Liv that the demon was real. She laughed in his face, told him she would never pay for his attorney and walked out. Interestingly, when she left him, he was pleading with her not to return to the house, but even if he grew a conscience, it was too little, too late.

That night, the demon showed up and asked Liv to release him. It turned out she performed the ritual again in the mental hospital and brought the demon to her. She was the one who sent the demon to Matt and his friends. She agreed to release him if he would give her another baby and they started to get intimate as the credits rolled.

There was one glaring plot hole in this otherwise very scary and very entertaining episode. Matt talked about how he was doing things to keep him from impregnating Liv — hot tubs, tight underwear, steroids. But Liv got pregnant anyway. So, he and Bernadette had to gaslight her into thinking a demon impregnated her. But Bernadette gave Liv the demon statue before she got pregnant and, at that point, it seemed Matt was still actively trying to keep them from having a baby.

So, if the plan was hatched after Liv found out she was pregnant, Bernadette giving her the statue before she was pregnant makes no sense. How did they know she would get pregnant? Were they just hoping she would so that they could then gaslight her into thinking the baby came from a demon? Or was there more power to that statue than even they realized?

On the surface, this is a great episode, but if you think about it for even a little bit, it doesn’t make a ton of sense. If you want to enjoy the ride for the final two episodes still to come, perhaps it is best not to think about it much at all.

“American Horror Stories” drops new episodes Thursdays on FX on Hulu.

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