It is the evening before the Westfield Massacre. Constance serves a ham to Addie, Tate, and Larry. Tate says grace, cussing out his mother and Larry. Tate gets angry when Addie talks about having a good time with Larry because Tate knows Constance got Larry to murder Beau, and also blames Larry for Lorraine setting herself, Margaret and Angie on fire. The next morning, Tate snorts cocaine and crystal meth. He takes out some guns hidden below his bed and puts them in a duffel bag, before donning an American Civil War coat and boots. He walks into Larry's workplace carrying a gas can and he douses Larry in gasoline, setting him alight and walking out as Larry staggers and burns.
Ben visits Vivien in the hospital and wants to apologize to her as he knows that she was raped but she wants him to leave. He was advised not to tell her about the twins having different fathers but does so anyway, and admits that he thought the other father was Luke and that he wants Vivien to come home.
Granger and Barrios are detectives investigating Travis Wanderly's death, a murder now dubbed the "Boy Dahlia" due to its superficial similarities to the Black Dahlia murder decades beforehand. They visit Constance who identifies the body.
Truant Officer McCormick meets Ben at the door and notices blowflies on some produce. He is visiting as Violet has been out of school for 16 consecutive days but she's been in her room "not feeling well". Ben tries to be a good father, but Violet will have none of it. He questions her motives and wants her to return to school, or else they will end up in court and she agrees to a compromise that she will start going to a new school.
Constance arrives at Larry's apartment to talk about Travis as she suspects he killed him. Larry explains that Travis was killed by ghosts in the house and Constance holds a knife to him and tells him she only endured him for the sake of her family.
Violet gets dressed for school, and Tate asks her to spend the day with him.
The detectives have some follow-up questions for Constance and corner her outside her house. Trapped, she has little choice but to go with them.
The detectives interrogate Constance, but she doesn't relent. They ask about Beauregard and Tate, but she plays the grieving survivor. She says Hugo and Moira went "missing" in 1983 and cites rumors of a love nest in Brazil, thus concealing the truth that she ground Hugo into dog food for her kennel and buried Moira in the backyard.
Phil, the exterminator, follows the blowflies to their nest in the crawlspace. He sees something that horrifies him and Tate kills him with his exterminating chemicals.
Ben speaks to a boarding school, Lemon Grove Preparatory School for Girls, on the phone about Violet and tuition. He catches a reflection of Tate on a framed picture of Violet on his desk, but when he turns around, no one is there. Tate finds Violet in the attic waiting for him to play chess and tells her about Ben's boarding school plans and says he won't let Ben separate them. He then dons the rubber suit in the bathroom.
Larry takes the basement wall apart to find Travis' clothes. Travis confronts him and asks him if he's made the news. He also wants to know how Constance is dealing and why she hasn't come to see him. Travis has been playing tea party with Margaret and Angela, Larry's ghost daughters who are still smouldering from the fire. Larry sees them now because he's "ready", according to Lorraine, who tells him to prove he is sorry. He says he will have revenge on Constance, but Lorraine blames him, not Constance.
Rubber Man attacks a fresh-out-of-the-shower Ben. They throw each other around, and Rubber Man tries to asphyxiate Ben with an ether-soaked cloth, but does not succeed and the mask is pulled off Tate. Before Ben passes out, Tate tells him the that only reason he isn't killing him is because of Violet. Ben, horrified, calls for her.
Harry Goodman appears at Constance's door. He says that she's requested at the police station and tells her that he thinks they're going to charge her for Travis' murder.
In the attic, Violet is upset and wants to know if Tate hurt her father. He denies this, saying that he knocked him out so they could have some time without him interfering and assures her Ben is fine otherwise. Tate wants Violet to commit suicide with him so they will be in the house together forever and stole pills from Ben's samples. She tricks him into believing she will do it and says that she wants it to happen in the bathtub and when he agrees she runs away. She runs outside to the gates but there is a couple on the sidewalk walking their dog. They do not hear her, only the dog reacts to her and barks. Every time she tries to exit the gates of the house or a side exit, she instantly re-emerges inside the house. She says she doesn't want to die, but Tate tells her it's too late for that.
Tate wants to show an uncomprehending Violet something, which turns out to be her corpse in the crawlspace. He tells her everything is going to be okay and he loves her -- that she did, in fact, die from the overdose. He never wanted her to be in this position. He tried to save her, but she only vomited up a small part of the pills.
The detectives show Constance that Larry is confessing to Travis' murder, but they still appear to believe she is involved.
Tate has known all along that they are both ghosts and he has been trying to shield her from this.
Larry, in a correctional jumpsuit, is visited by Constance. He wanted to see her one last time before they send him to Illinois for detention. He says he confessed as penance for all his crimes, not to protect her. He can endure any punishment if she will say she loved him. She doesn't and leaves.
For Margaret Harvey, see here.
Detective Granger is one of the two detectives (along with Detective Barrios) who are looking into the murder case of Travis Wanderly aka the "Boy Dahlia". They inform Constance Langdon of Travis's death and she immediately recognizes Travis's death from the news as the "Boy Dahlia". The two later come back to Constance's house after she threatens Larry Harvey with a knife, believing that he had Travis killed out of jealousy. Barrios reveals that a Korean man told them of Constance and Travis's fighting.The knife falls out of her purse, and having nowhere to run, the two bring her into the police station for custody since she is now a suspect. Granger reviews her history of family death (such as Beauregard and Hugo), and notes that the district attorney wanted to charge her with murder over Moira's and Hugo's death, but they are considered "missing" since neither body was found. Granger brings Constance in once again since Larry confessed to everything, and she denies any connection to him.
Detective Barrios, along with her partner Detective Granger, are looking into the murder case of Travis Wanderly aka the "Boy Dahlia". They inform Constance Langdon of Travis's death and she immediately recognizes Travis's death from the news as the "Boy Dahlia". After learning from a Korean store owner of Constance and Travis's fights, they come back to her house where a knife falls out of her purse now making Constance a suspect in the murder. Unknown to the two detectives, she had used the knife to threaten Larry Harvey who she believed had Travis killed out of jealousy. Soon, she is brought into custody where Granger reviews her history of family death (such as Beauregard and Hugo), and notes that the district attorney wanted to charge her with murder over Moira's and Hugo's death, but they are considered "missing" since neither body was found.
Phil Critter is an exterminator hired by Ben Harmon to get rid of blowflies, who had recently starting swarming into the house. Critter follows the blowflies to their nest, located in the crawlspace under the house. However, their nest is the badly decomposing corpse of Ben's daughter, Violet. Critter is frightened by what he sees, but Tate shows up, and in order to keep Critter from telling Ben and to protect Violet, he shoves Critter's hose into his mouth and causes him to ingest his own poisons, killing him.
Harry Goodman is a lawyer appointed by the court to represent Constance Langdon in defense of the state's accuse for Travis's murder.
- Violet: "So…all this time, I thought I was protecting you. But you were protecting me."
That’s all I ever wanted to do, since I first saw you.
Hi, I'm Tate. I'm dead. Wanna hook up
- [Violet gives Tate an uncertain look]
I don't think so...
I died when I took all those pills.
I tried to save you. I did. I tried to make you throw them up. You threw up some…not enough. You took so many, Violet. You died crying. I held you. You were safe. You died…loved.
- Tate (Saying Grace)
Dear God thank you for the salty pig meat we are about to eat along with the rest of the indigestible swill and thank you for the new charade of a family. My father left me when I was only six if I had known any better I would have joined him and mostly because she’s been trying to get back into this house ever since she lost him Lord a big thank you for blinding the asshole that’s doing my mother so that he can’t see what everybody already knows, she doesn’t really love him.
- Constance: "Those Koreans - they're so suspicious, ever since Hiroshima!"
- [Violet in her room, listening to Throwing Muses’ “Hate My Way”]
I can be a smack freak/And hate society/I could hate God... And blame Dad…
- Violet: "Is this some headshrinker trick to make me feel sorry for you?"
- Tate: "Phil! You’re a murderer! You need to stay and repent for the countless innocent lives you have stolen"
- Constance: "I have long stopped wondering why the mad do mad things."
- This is the only episode of Murder House to not feature Frances Conroy playing old Moira O'Hara.
- The song that Violet listens to when Ben comes to her room is a song about suicide that also references a 1984 shooting massacre at a San Ysidro McDonald's by James Oliver Huberty.
- In Tate's room is a copy of the novel "Evening in Byzantium", first published in 1973, by Irwin Shaw. The book is about an alienated poet-at-heart addressing the crazy tumult in the world around him. A woman named Constance is trying to be his lover. Irwin Shaw’s first book in the 1930s was a play called “Bury the Dead” (1936). It is about the ghosts of soldiers who have been killed but refuse to be buried.
- On Tate's board are clippings which read "You're not listening", "Murder" and "Warrior", but also "Koalas" and "Zulu".
- The reason this episode is called "Smoldering Children" is because of Larry's daughters and the burning rage in Tate.
- Why did Tate not bury Violet?
- Why does Tate pretend to Constance and Billie Dean that he doesn't know that he is dead?
- Why didn't Tate leave Violet's body after she died to be found by her parents?
- Why does Tate not see his father Hugo if Hayden can see him?
- Given that both Constance and Larry lived in the Murder House, why did they not encounter any ghosts while living in it?
- When did Tate first appear to Constance?
- Why can Constance see Tate and Beau, but Larry was not able to see Lorraine and their daughters before?
- Given that it was revealed in this episode that Tate was only faking to not know that he is dead, was he also faking not remembering the massacre he committed?
- What does Constance know about the origins of Larry's burns? In a previous episode she said that Larry was weak and that the house had got to him and that's why he got the burns.