If the first three weeks of American Horror Story were a marionette show, “11/9” is the episode where the camera pivots so you can really see all those dangling strings — and the puppet master who’s holding them.
And on one hand…well, duh. This rewind back to election night and its immediate aftermath just makes extra clear what was already obvious: that Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) is the driving force behind all the chaos we’ve seen so far, although his reach extends much further than some of us might have previously imagined. (Et tu, Ivy?) On the other hand, this man-behind-the-curtain angle is a nice break from watching Ally have an endless series of hysterical screaming breakdowns — and a nice opportunity for Adina Porter to remind AHS fans why she’s the best thing to happen to this cast since we lost La Lange.
We open at your friendly neighborhood polls, where reporter Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) is laying down a segment about the election — even though it’s going to be cut so Trump-loving rival reporter Serena Belinda (Emma Roberts) can do a puff piece on vajazzling or some such. And the gang’s all here, though they mostly haven’t met yet: Ally and Ivy, Winter Anderson, Dr. Rudy Vincent, and the Wiltons are all in line to vote. (Meadow, who continues to be a treasure, opines that she’s too ignorant to choose a world leader and writes in “OPRAH.”)
The last to show up is Kai — and he’s not alone. The amputee cashier from Ally’s supermarket is with him, and his missing hand is definitely a recent development, by which I mean it’s gone but actively bleeding all over the place. Emerging from the voting booth, he raises his ragged stump in the air and screams, “THIS IS TRUMP’S AMERICA!” (Informal poll: If you could trade Trump’s actual America for this fictionalized version, in which the worst thing that happens is random grocery store employees waving their recently severed limbs around in public, would you? Discuss!)
From here, Kai’s role as a big, fat spider sitting at the center of a tangled web of political hysteria starts to become clear. His first visit on the day after the election is to Harrison Wilton, who is instantly seduced by Kai’s confidence (followed closely by Kai’s performative jerking-off for his benefit in the locker room shower.) Harrison is beleaguered by a homophobic bully at his gym, besieged by money troubles and impending eviction at home, and so ripe for manipulation overall that it takes all of five minutes for Kai to convince him to murder his bully boss. For Kai, it’s all part of the plan: “I’ve been watching you and the people around you for a long time. You’re a part of something big league,” he says (it sounds like he’s saying “bigly,” of course). And when Meadow walks in on Harrison dismembering the body in their motel room bathtub, the next two lines say it all.
“Who’s that?” she asks, seeing Kai.
“Someone to believe in,” Harrison says.
Kai is good at getting people to believe in him — and at finding people who need someone to play that role. In December, he discovers Beverly Hope, reporting on the discovery of “a well-muscled torso” (the one that used to belong to Harrison’s boss) in a nearby landfill. The news anchor (Dermot Mulroney) welcomes her back, which piques Kai’s interest; within minutes, he discovers that she recently spent 90 days in a psych ward after being repeatedly targeted by pranksters who would pop up during her segments and shout, “Grab her by the p—y!” The last guy who did this to her received an on-camera beating with a microphone, the footage of which resulted in a viral auto-tuned video remix and a leave of absence for Beverly. (Alas, said video is not available on IRL YouTube.) (Recap continues on page 2)