We gave it an A-
This week’s episode of American Horror Story opens with a solid blast from the past, as Kai narrates the story of three cults whose members made the ultimate sacrifice for their beloved leaders. Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh, and Jim Jones all get some screen time — all played by Evan Peters, at least according to Google. (He’s virtually unrecognizable in two out of three segments. Is that a fat suit?!)
“These were great men. All of them,” says Kai, and we cut to reality. The AHS cult leader is telling a bedtime story to his dumb army of dude disciples, all of whom are wearing wife-beaters and long underwear in a lovely shade of virginal white. There’s some discussion of the cult’s sexual regulations (no masturbation, apparently — unless you’re wearing a clown mask and defiling a tureen full of bisque). Then, Kai poses a question.
“What if I asked you to make the ultimate sacrifice?”
“With a f—ing smile,” answers one man.
It’s the answer Kai was hoping to hear. Now, he says, it’s time to take things to the next level.
On the outside, the next level is all about controlling information: Kai proposes and passes the Kai Anderson Internet Freedom and Integrity Act, which will keep the city’s residents safe by blocking their access to certain websites. (It appears that some of the council members had to be, er, physically persuaded to vote in favor of this measure.) He also announces a 2018 Senate run, because why not? Kai can do anything!
But on the inside — within the confines of the cult — the next level is the ultimate test of loyalty. Just as Ally, Ivy, and Winter have resolved to flee with the help of a handy-dandy “how to a escape a cult” printout from Google, Kai’s goons invade the house and drag them off to an emergency Kool-Aid-drinking party.
“Our bodies are holding us back,” says Kai, and he commands his disciples to drink. Everyone picks up cups (the guys willingly, the women at gunpoint). When one man declines his cup and gets shot, there’s no choice. They drink the Kool-Aid.
Nothing happens, of course.
“Why would I kill us?” Kai howls. “I’m running for Senate!”
There’s nothing like a suicide fake-out to bring a bunch of bros together, but everyone has a limit, and at least one cult member is there and then some. In the last moments of this scene, the confident, fierce Beverly appears to have completely lost her mind.
Kai’s manipulation doesn’t end there. The next scene finds Ivy and Ally still trying to take their kiddo and run — only to find that he’s been kidnapped by the loyal-again Winter and taken to Kai’s house. By the time they catch up to him, the damage is done: Kai has convinced Ozzy that he (Kai) is Ozzy’s bio-dad, and Ozzy cheerfully meets his moms with a chilling plea: “I wanna stay with Daddy!”
Considering Kai’s track record for killing people who disagree with him (not to mention the distinct possibility that he actually did supply the sperm that made their son), the women make a logical decision to let Ozzy stay the night with “Daddy” — although Ozzy’s insistence on contradicting Kai’s ridiculous rhetoric proves irksome sooner rather than later. A fantasy flashback to the Heaven’s Gate story line shows Jesus (also Evan Peters) descending from heaven to give Jim Jones a smooch on the forehead and a holy high-five; when Ozzy interrupts to point out that Wikipedia’s version of events is somewhat different, Kai growls, “Doubters get no cookies.”
But hey, a little alone time is just what the Mayfair-Richards women need to put the spice back into their marriage, and Ally takes full advantage. After dishing up a beautiful dinner of pasta and wine, she describes to Ivy the despair she felt in the psych ward, as she considered taking her own life — and then describes how she freed herself from her fears by focusing on revenge…on her faithless wife.
“You’ll never do anything to me,” says Ivy, taking yet another giant gulp of the wine that Ally has conspicuously not tasted.
“I already have,” Ally replies, as Ivy begins spitting up blood. Like the song says: Some girls just can’t hold their arsenic.
Even now, it’s anyone’s guess how this season of AHS will end — but in a series that’s focused so far on the political fractures that divide us, it makes a perverse sort of sense that the two most polarizing figures in Cult would come together like this. After murdering her wife, Ally confirms the identity of Ozzy’s sperm donor. Surprise: It’s not Kai. But just a few hours later, she’s serving Kai a Manwich dinner — and a doctored medical file that says [Maury Povich voice] “You ARE the father!”
And holy crap, are those real tears in Kai’s eyes? Has Ally found the one weak spot in this master manipulator’s armor? With just two episodes to go, there’s still time for at least one mind-blowing twist — but for now, let’s call this a tentative confirmation that Ally has gained the upper hand, in an episode that felt like the first in ages to actually have some trajectory (if not nearly enough Francis Conroy in a Bettie Page haircut, for which it gets an A–. Where is she?!!!)
So…yay? Possibly? Kai, at least, is delighted by this turn of events; after depositing Ivy’s body in the upstairs bedroom, he wraps his arms around Ally and Ozzy.
“Now we can be a real family.”
This would be a much sweeter sentiment coming from a guy who didn’t attempt last week to make a “Messiah baby” with his own sister, but for now, we’ll take it.