Open graves, bullet wounds, and a nail-gun lobotomy: Even if the title of this episode weren’t “Holes,” the theme would still be clear! This week, American Horror Story digs in a little to the phenomenon of trypophobia, a.k.a. the fear of clustered holes or bumps, while also connecting some very important dots. (Have you been wondering where Kai and Winter’s parents are? Well, hold on to your butts.)
After a confrontation between Beverly and her boss Bob, she heads to a basement meeting where we get our first look at the cult in its totality. We already knew that Beverly, Winter, and the Wiltons were involved, but the members also include Gary the self-amputee, Detective Samuels, and R.J., Beverly’s cameraman. Kai has his disciples, but his plan to ride a wave of fear to a seat on the city council isn’t working out.
“We need to make the murders scarier,” Kai says. “Throw in some satanic stuff like in that movie Paradise Lost” — a comment that probably sent all the nerds in the viewing audience running to do a deep-dive analysis of Milton’s epic poem before realizing that Paradise Lost is also the name of an actual documentary about actual serial murders. Not me, of course. [Frantically hides annotated paperback of Paradise Lost in underpants.]
Beverly makes a good point: If they want people scared, they need to see the clowns. They’re arguing about the best way to make that happen when the last member of the cult arrives.
“You’re late,” says Kai.
“Sorry,” Ivy says. “What’d I miss?”
[Insert thirty-second vindication dance break here for everyone who totally knew there was something weird about Ivy.]
Across town, Ally is analyzing the dissolution of her marriage with Dr. Rudy Vincent. She’s restricted to supervised visits with Ozzy, and she can’t help noticing that Ivy seemed to have planned her exit in advance. But while Ally is inarguably having the world’s most terrible time right now, Ivy has clearly bitten off more than she bargained for in joining forces with Kai. The cult’s next project is another murder, and participation is not optional. Decked out in their finest clown outfits, they invade the home of Beverly’s boss — and because this is a Ryan Murphy show where “extra” is the name of the game, the group gets thrown a curveball. Bob isn’t alone in his house; he’s got a gimp, wearing a sensory deprivation hood, suspended from meat hooks in the attic.
Surrounding the oblivious hanging man, the group starts to debate whether they should just leave him alone — but then Kai says, “We don’t take votes,” and stabs him to death. (You know how the saying goes: Democracy dies in darkness, suspended from meat hooks, wearing a bondage hood.)
It’s more than Ivy can stand; she makes a run for the bathroom and vomits. The rest of the group surrounds the distraught Bob. He’s been stabbed multiple times by now, but it’s Beverly who finishes the job, taking off her mask and burying an axe in his head. Needless to say, she’s first on the scene to break the story — and air exclusive footage of the murder on TV.
Beverly has more pull than the rest of the cult members (remembering also the moment when she and Kai repeated the words “equal power” in a prior episode). In her solo meetings with Kai, she says she sees the group beginning to fragment, something she suggests they nip in the bud by going after “the weak link.” At first, it seems like she means Meadow; in a flashback to the coffin murders, we see that the poncho-wearing blonde wasn’t exactly being a team player. And in the present, she’s discovered by a snooping Ally lying at the bottom of what looks like an open grave in the Wiltons’ back garden. Ally runs home and locks herself in — only to have Meadow bang on the window with some disturbing news:
“It’s a sick cult and everyone’s in it!” she screams, before a bag is thrown over her head and she disappears from view. “Your babysitter! Your wife!” This seems like the kind of bombshell moment that should change everything, but six episodes remaining in the season suggest that the cult will continue culting unabated for a while yet.
Meanwhile, Kai calls a meeting to discuss dissension in the ranks, but it’s not Meadow he’s talking about. The member in bad standing? It’s R.J., and they’re kicking him out of the clubhouse — which in this case is a nice euphemism for “murdering him with a nail gun.” Ivy is the only one to protest, which means she has to go first, putting a nail in R.J.’s temple, which unfortunately doesn’t kill him. Neither do the next half dozen nails, until the gun comes back around to Kai, who takes out the now thoroughly lobotomized cameraman with a shot to the medulla oblongata.
In this moment, Kai seems entirely in control of his cowed, cowering minions. But Beverly — bless her — is unimpressed, and in the next scene we see her pinky to pinky with Kai, challenging him and demanding the truth.
“Where’s your mother and father?”
Finally, someone asks! And finally, in a flashback, we get the truth: Kai isn’t a veteran or an Ivy League grad or any of the other things he’s claimed. He’s the burnout son of a cruel, bitter father who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident — and who took his anger out on everyone around him until Kai’s mother shot him, and then shot herself. And why didn’t this murder-suicide make the news?
“I called my brother,” says Kai. And we flash back again: this time to Dr. Rudy Vincent, the eldest of the Anderson sibs, whose connection to all of this madness is clear at last. Rudy doesn’t want to call the police; Rudy wants to put his dead parents in their bed, cover them with lye, padlock the door, and let them decompose behind it while the kids keep on cashing Dad’s disability checks…as one does. (They’ll tell Winter when she gets home from Vassar, he says.)
It’s unclear how much Rudy knows about Kai’s new status as a cult leader, but it’s very clear where Kai got his obsession with the archetype of “the humiliated man.” Behind that door adorned with a single red rose, he holds hands with his mummified mother and vows to make her proud — but only her, he says. As far as dear old Dad goes, it’s a pleasure for Kai to watch him rot.