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Post Mortems

American Horror Stories Episode 5: Ronen Rubinstein Was 'Relieved' by the Ending, Despite Those 'Brutal' Twists

American Horror Stories

Whoa, baby! American Horror Stories delivered its most devilish installment yet with Episode 5, an unsettling hour loaded with demonic scares, table-turning surprises and, of course, plenty of NCIS references.

The episode centers around Liv (Billie Lourd) and Matt (Ronen Rubinstein), a married couple desperate to have a baby. Well, she’s desperate for one. He’s just supporting her dream of motherhood dream because she has always supported his barely-there acting career, which mostly consists of glorified extra work on shows like NCIS. (Side note: I think we can all agree that NCIS is real villain of this episode.)

Sensing Liv’s frustration, the woman working the front desk at the fertility clinic gives her a good-luck totem that has been in her family for generations. Sixteen months and one title sequence later, Liv is the happy mother of a healthy baby boy. Wait, sorry, did I say happy? I meant miserable. “Why did I do this?” Liv yells at the housekeeper. “It was such a f–king mistake!” I’ve never had a baby, but I have had Taco Bell and lived to pay the price, so I totally understand.

As the weeks go by, things get worse. Liv becomes more paranoid, Matt gets called back to NCIS, and the totem starts to… evolve. Horns, wings, the works. Feeling herself slipping into madness, Liv returns to the fertility clinic to seek help from the woman who gifted her the totem. It turns out she’s a witch, and she teaches Liv how to perform a ritual to banish the demon… though things take a turn when Liv accidentally stabs Matt in the process, a mistake that ends with her being committed to a mental hospital.

This is where things get real. We learn that Matt has been working with (and boning!) the woman from the clinic to get their hands on Liv’s money. Matt’s friends were also in on it, but they’re barely able to down their celebratory champagne before the actual demon shows up and brutally murders them, leaving Matt alone to take the fall. After a quick screw-you trip to her husband in prison, Liv returns home and makes sweet love… to the demon! Apparently she cast a summoning spell when she was in the hospital, and now he’s pretty much her sex slave, though she promises to release him after he gives her another baby.

Below, Rubinstein breaks down the episode’s biggest twists and weighs in on the possible involvement of Liv’s therapist (played by Vanessa Williams):

TVLINE | Let’s start at the beginning. What was the conversation between you and Ryan Murphy that made this happen?
It’s kind of hilarious. He called me a few months ago, and it was one of the simplest conversations ever. He was just like, “Hey, are you working this summer?” I said, “Nope.” And he was like, “Cool, I have a great part for you. Are you interested?” And I just said, “Yes, of course!” So I read the script the next day and thought it was just mind-blowing. The script was crazy and exciting and fast-paced. And creepy! That’s what people love about American Horror Story. It’s terrifying. I remember watching Season 1 and having to take mental breaks between episodes.

TVLINE | I did get major Season 1 vibes from this episode.
I agree. Even the look of it, the way it was shot, the therapy scenes. It was very reminiscent of Season 1. I love that they used those elements.

TVLINE | As you were reading the script, did you suspect that Matt wasn’t who he appeared to be?
Oh my God, no! The beauty of it is, especially in the script, there’s never a hint. It’s very common for us this show to incorporate demonic aspects, but the fact that there’s a twist — and then another twist at the end, when the demonic aspect comes back to bite Matt in the ass — is brilliant. I love that it didn’t just go one way or the other. Matt definitely got what was coming for him. I don’t necessarily think the other people deserved to die brutally and get their spines ripped out, but hey, this is American Horror Stories.

TVLINE | Those deaths were brutal. Do you wish you’d gotten to play with the demon, or are you glad that Matt survived?
I don’t know how familiar you are with my work, but I have a really good list of epic deaths in my career. So I’m actually a bit relieved that I survived for once. I don’t think I’ve ever done a horror project where I didn’t brutally die. All the fans on social media were taking bets, and 90 percent thought I was going to get murdered. That was also a big twist for people who know me. If I do a horror movie or show, I’m most likely going to die.

TVLINE | Oh, I’m quite familiar with Dead of Summer. So I know this wasn’t your first time at the demonic rodeo.
I died with an axe to the chest, so I was very relieved to make it out alive — even though prison life is not going to be very pretty for Matt.

TVLINE | I can’t believe we haven’t even talked about Billie Lourd yet! What was your experience like working with her?
When I found out it was going to be Billie [as the lead], I knew the episode was in good hands. I knew I’d have someone to really go at it with. For her especially, the scenes are really intense and emotionally draining. What I went through was easy compared to what she went through. There were so many night shoots, and she had just had a baby, so she was almost in the same phase of being a mom as she was on screen. So she was balancing everything, yet somehow also pulled out this incredible performance with hundreds of layers. She was wonderful to watch and work alongside. She’s a great actor and a great person — the best person to carry the episode.

TVLINE | Here’s one I’m not sure you can answer, but let’s try: Do you know if the therapist was in on it, too?
I actually have no idea, but I don’t think she was. We’ve never talked about it, but I don’t think she’d do that. That would be so messed up. And she probably would have been with us at the celebration scene. I think the therapist and Liv were the only good people in the whole episode. [Laughs]

Your thoughts on Episode 5? Grade “Ba’al” below, then drop a comment with your full review.