***Spoilers for American Horror Story: Cult through Episode 8 follow. Spoilers***
Pretty much every season, there’s a point where AHS goes off the rails; it’s something fans have become accustomed to, maybe even look forward to. This is that episode … and its derailing is spectacular, not only in the moments things go mad, but also in its righting. Because, unlike some seasons (I’m talking to you, Coven and Roanoke), Cult reset itself — course-corrected, if you will — realigned its wheels, swung around that corner and for we in the cars, hanging on for dear life, managed to continue the thrill ride. We can see the forest for the trees, and the payoff is gonna be so damned grand. But first, let’s get back to those spectacularly horrifying moments when it all went totally bananas.
Never mind Kai’s “commitment” to family, his pinky swears and his promises; like Kai himself, it’s all for show. On the outside he’s now a Councilman, and would like to be addressed as such, Rudy. Through a series of flashes forward and back, we see how Kai’s bunch of asshole grunts new security force was put in place, as well as the growing discontent among and between members (Beverly, Winter and Ivy).
As Winter recounts her brother’s straying off the path, the first wheel wobbles and our metaphorical coaster car catches air when she introduces us to Pastor Charles and his Judgement House. Let us take a moment to collectively bow our heads, for Ryan Murphy hath graced us with the presence of an 80s heartthrob; General Hospital‘s Dr. Noah Drake, True Detective‘s Dr. Irving Pitlor, Supernatural‘s Lucifer and this guy:
Yup, Pastor Charles was played by Rick Springfield.
Don’t even get me started on the house of horrors Pastor Charles was running; it was so utterly, ridiculously over the top, I’m not sure where one could start. Suffice to say that the man doing his version of the lord’s work took Judgement House to carnival funhouse levels, with Chuck meting out his twisted punishments in the form of torturous deaths. The pastor met his proper end rather quickly thanks to Kai, and after Winter relates this little twisted tale, we’re supposed to believe she can set her brother back on the “right” path.
Yeah … no.
Meanwhile, in present day time, Rudy inexplicably confesses his brother’s gone mad to Ally; Ally — as she is wont to do –screams and cries at Rudy a lot, and finally reaches that moment, the moment I’ve been talking about for quite some time. Here, watch her, because you can see the plan forming in her eyes right before your own … eyes.
When she later lures over Kai for Manwiches — because … a sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal, she lures him with information, and as we find out in the hour’s last moments (to utterly no one’s surprise), Ally joins the cult.
“Joins“, because we know Ally is only pretending; she will feign falling for Kai, pledge her loyalty and maybe even fuck his brains out a time or two, but Ally is going to destroy Kai’s organization from the inside out (though it likely would have done that on its own, anyway). She’s going to do what no none, not Beverly or Winter or any of Cult‘s ostensibly brave women could do; she’s going to cut off the head of the snake, get rid of Kai and go for world domination, herself. I CANNOT WAIT.
Before that can happen, though, our car has to pretty much fly off the track a couple more times. In short, way back when, Kai helped Detective Samuels, Jack (who once had Kai as “his bitch”), understand electricity — “There’s no such thing as gay or straight. You have to lean in to your masculinity” — and how having sex with men will build him up, as opposed to women, who drain energy.
The moment where all was pretty much lost came as Cult leaned in to its inner Game of Thrones, with Kai seemingly suggesting incest, but actually incest-by-proxy with Samuels, in order to create a Messiah — the first of, which Winter points out, kind of blows the whole definition of “Messiah” — only, masculinity leaner, Jack can’t get it up and the whole ceremony is a failure, not unlike this particular plot point … except that hilarious moment when Kai played All 4 One’s I Swear and declared it the official Messiah-making ceremonial song.
No, I’m not making any of this up — it’s all RP Murphy and Co.
Y’all know it wouldn’t be Cult without clowns, so in the final rail-rattling, shaky-wheeled skidding to the point where it all seemed unredeemable, Kai gathers his basement-dwelling, costumed cut-ups, ostensibly to dispose of a couple of traitors. He first takes out his own brother, after letting Rudy think he might have a reprieve through reaffirmation (pinky … less swear) of his loyalty, then stabbing the bad doctor.
Of course, Adina Porter and her character, Beverly are so great that neither Kai nor Ryan Murphy could bear to kill her off, so after it’s revealed that Winter again wimped out (she did kill Samuels after he tried to rape her, but blamed Beverly and betrayed her) and gave up Hope to Kai, Kai has Beverly put in “isolation” instead of killing her. Hopefully this means that when Ally gets a moment, she’ll (or Ivy will) help a girl out.
As the obvious — Ivy is clearly the only one surprised — closing shot of Ally pulling off her clown mask is made, and Kai welcomes the cult’s newest member, there’s a satisfaction in feeling that click of metal on metal, our car impossibly reconnected to the rail as we race off toward episode nine (“Drink the Kool-Aid”; why yes I am, thank you!). The remarkable feat of flying around the hour’s many curves, several of which seemingly veered into the land of no return, and getting us back on track to finish out this surprisingly coherent ride, makes this a wholly entertaining round of American Horror Story. Next week, looks like Peters will take on Jim Jones.
There were points in the episode that were so ridiculous (the rooms in Judgement House, Kai suggesting incest and playing I Swear), I really wasn’t sure we could come back from them, but by gum, it all circled back. So, kudos to all for the through-line here; I’m very excited to watch Ally mess with Kai.
As I’ve mentioned, the ending I dream of is that after she takes over, Ally makes a presidential run (and possibly even wins, the alternate reality as envisioned by Ryan Murphy).
It’s weird to me that a) Rudy blew up the family, and turned on Kai, when he was the one who set them all on the path to crazy in the first place. When we learned Rudy set up the whole dead parents in bed 5EVA, which traumatized Kai and Winter to the point of no return, Rudy seemed the most diabolical of the family. Yet, here he basically gets freaked out by Kai and throws everything to the wind. It serves the story, I suppose, but doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Rudy never would have given up so easily.
Chaz Bono made a reappearance at the end; his Gary Longstreet is now part of the clown cult.
I was blown away when I realized who Pastor Charles was.
Has anyone else been seeing this brilliant, horrifying commercial with the fisherman? It took me a few tries to finally be able to catch who was behind the ad.
Kai: “Well, I was gonna put Harrison in the kitchen, but somebody killed him.”
Winter: “You still mad about that?”
Kai: “No, actually, I’m not.
Ally to Rudy: “Oh Jesus, your sister is screwing my wife.”
Kai to Ally: “Speedwagon will test the food.”
Ally to Kai: “You don’t need Aerosmith to check it for poison?”
Kai to Samuels: “Every time you have sex, they take your power. Deep down, you know that. You don’t need more women. You need a man.”
Samuels to Kai: “I’m not gay.”
Kai to Samuels: “There’s no such thing as gay or straight. You have to lean into your masculinity.
It’s like electricity, positive and negative, the flow. When the circuit is complete, the power flows. You become stronger, plugged in. With a man, there’s no energy drain. You’re building on one another, exponentially. You’ve been giving it up your whole life. It’s time you get some back.”
Winter to Samuels: “It’s as simple as you like dick.
You SOB, Valerie was right. You’re like every man. A turd.
When Hillary lost, I did too. I should have fought back.”
Beverly to Kai: “Nothing is bigger than your ego.”
Kai to Winter: “Time to see the animals in their cages.
You will be the mother of our Messiah baby.
Winter: “Kai, we can’t have a baby. That’s incest.”
I can’t believe I was at the Women’s March three months ago.
Isn’t the whole point of a Messiah that there’s only one?”