In the wake of what appears to another tragic and senseless mass shooting, certain scenes within this week’s episode that contained graphic gun violence were altered for cable television in order to honor the victims. During this announcement, which Murphy made last week, it was also mentioned that the unaltered episode would be released on VOD and streaming platforms the following day. In order to get a fuller scope of the season and the satire they’ve attempted by including these scenes, this recap will cover the unedited episode. Whether you’re here for a quick refresher or you haven’t seen the episode at all, please understand that the aforementioned scenes that were taken out do not affect the plot substantially. Without further preface, let’s jump into what went down this week on American Horror Story: Cult.
Writer: Todd Kubrak | Director: Bradley Buecker
Whilst an American flag waves freely in the air, we hear Kai campaigning for his spot in the city councilman, which will ultimately be a stepping stone for his world domination. As a crowd incessantly chants, “We are the wall!”, we hear a gun being cocked and shots firing, as peril begins to rise. In the midst of all of this, Ivy is simply trying not to die and Harrison is by her side, even saving her from a flying bullet at one point. We see countless civilians die at the helm of whoever is controlling this weapon. Although American Horror Story is no stranger in the slightest to violence and gore, this sequence is incredibly hard to watch due to its realistic properties. This isn’t Queenie using herself as a human voodoo doll or Elsa Mars being murdered by ghosts, this is something that we experience every time we turn on our televisions.
A minor detail I noticed is that when they included the close-up shots of a hand shooting the gun, we see a manicured hand. This may seem completely irrelevant to you as of right now, but I promise this observation serves a purpose. As the SWAT team arrives and tells the shooter to put the gun down, we see Ally clasping a gun in her completely unmanicured hands. This let me know ahead of time that Ally couldn’t have been the shooter, although with her history of irresponsible gun use, this notion is completely plausible. The camera pans and zooms in on an unconscious Kai lying on the stage…
Our episode resumes in a familiar scene featuring Meadow banging on Ally’s windows and divulging to her all the information about Kai’s cult. While I thought Ally left Meadow for dead, we see that there is way more to the story than AHS notoriously presents to us. After Ally hangs up on her wife whose secret has just been exposed to her, Dr. Vincent starts to call. Hesitantly, Ally answers and Rudy is reaching out to her because Ivy was concerned about her. Ally proceeds to tell him that she believes Ivy is involved in something conspicuous, and because it’s Ally saying it, Dr. Vincent just tells her that she’s being grandiose and her unfounded beliefs threaten everyone in her life. After agreeing to relax, Ally runs across the street with a knife and comes to rescue Meadow. Honestly, hallelujah! I thought Ally’s petty grudge was going to get in the way of her saving Meadow, but she finally came to her senses. I mean, the main reason Ally is even saving Meadow is to obtain information on this “cult”, so it’s purely self-serving. Regardless, it still keeps Meadow alive, so I’m here for it! Ally climbs in through one of the Wilton’s windows and heads to the garage to save Meadow. Jack Samuels and Harrison are um...busy with other matters, so they don’t even notice when she sneaks past them.
Ally heroically cuts Meadow loose, but as she’s grabbing her purse, she makes a bunch of noise which causes Jack and Harrison to lose their shit. As Ally and Meadow run out the garage door, he kicks the entry door in and chases after them. Harrison almost stops them but they spray pepper spray in his eyes like the bad bitches they are and are able to just barely escape to their safe haven, The Butchery on Main. Once there, Meadow asks if she can have a cappuccino in a strangely optimistic way. I just love her...that line was golden. The two of them discuss possible plans of action, including even leaving the state. Ally is quick to dismiss this idea, however, because she has a need to be with Oz.
You’d think that because she gets her allocations shut down so frequently that Ally would understand and believe Meadow when she says something as bogus as Ivy being in a cult. Conversely, Ally calls bullshit on everything Meadow says, which forces her to go to great lengths to prove that the cult is real. She brings up a heart-wrenching moment for all of us, Mr. Guinea’s death, and how Ivy was texting her before they arrived at home and left doors open in order to orchestrate their plan to the hilt. Also, the chemical trucks were just spraying water and they were the ones who killed all the dead birds and even spread them out around town.
When confused about Ivy’s motives, Meadow bluntly tells Ally that the whole goal of all of this was for Ivy to make Ally crazy. Although we don’t know the full backstory about Ivy, we do know that Ivy’s pissed off about Ally voting for Jill Stein. Aren’t we all? Ally still doesn’t believe that Ivy would join a cult, because she hates organized religion of any type. Meadow, who by now is sick of explanations, tells Ally that because Ivy’s beliefs weren’t tied up or committed to anything, her devotion to Kai is wholehearted. Everything that Meadow has mentioned involving their wicked pranks and Ally’s mental state deteriorating serves a purpose that supersedes everything else, which is Kai’s takeover. While watching Beverly’s coverage of the race for city councilman Ally quickly recognizes Kai as the man who stopped all those protesters a few episodes back. Meadow explains that it’s because Kai paid them, and Ally thinks that they’re in the cult too. Meadow’s just like, “Bitch, you can’t just join! It’s not the damn AARP!” Yet another perfect line from Meadow...she’s always hilarious to me. Meadow stresses the importance of Kai picking you to join the cult and reminisces on her own experiences with Kai.
We are now transported to December of 2016. Meadow explains that although she’s loved Harrison since she was ten, she never truly understood what love was until she met Kai. When Meadow is designing the masks for her fellow cult members, he tells her that a larva bee has to shed her skin to become the queen, and that she is impressive. She mentions to Ally that she built up a wall of Drag Races and Housewives to alleviate herself from the real world. Meadow always felt that she didn’t live up to the expectations of other women her age, but Kai set her free from all of that. When Meadow killed Councilman Chang, Kai kissed her and told her how proud he was.
A few weeks later, this feeling quickly was replaced by anger once Meadow overheard Kai spewing the same queen bee line to Ivy. Meadow, realizing that Kai is a master in the art of seduction and is ultimately full of shit, decides to leave the cult. Harrison and Jack prevent her from leaving. Kai tells them it’s time to call the cops because something horrible has happened to Meadow. While tying her up, Kai says that she’s worthless, she doesn’t exist, and that she’s nothing…” While this flashback is over for the time being, we will come back to it at the end of the episode, so stay tuned.
Coming back to present day, Ally suggests that if the police in Brookfield Heights refuse to listen to them, they can try elsewhere. Meadow brings up the valid point that all of this sounds too crazy to be true. Nobody will listen, so the only way to stop this madness is to kill Kai. Oh my gosh!
It’s now April 3rd, 2017, the day of the city council debate. We see Kai delivering his spiel in the same seductive and alluring way he always does. He tells his fellow Americans that now is the time to be scared and that the government will not protect us when everything starts to go down. We see the familiar face of Mare Winningham stand up and call bullshit on everything that Kai just said.
We are introduced to Sally Keffler, who heavily disputes Kai very publicly. I understand that she was just trying to speak her mind, but generally anyone who crosses Kai has a very short expiration date. Sally brings up the point that overall crime is down historically, and that they need to focus on finding who is responsible for these killings. Oh, sweetie. If you only knew. She calls Kai a reactionary rather than a conservative, noting that he uses fear to remind people of a time that never was. Sally tells the audience that people like Mr. Anderson and Trump aren’t garbage. They’re the flies that swarm to the garbage. After slaying and dragging him, she announces her candidacy for City Council. Kai tries to explain to her that the due dates have passed, but she says she’ll talk to somebody about being a write-in candidate. As much as I love Mare Winningham, I don’t see things ending well for her.
Wow, this episode has a lot of flashbacks. It’s now the day after the election, and we are witnessing the aftermath of Ivy and Winter’s kidnapping. Ivy is now at the Anderson household, cleverly decorated with adjacent Hillary and Trump signs in the front yard that represent Kai and Winter’s respective parties. Ivy is horrified that Gary would actually cut his arm off to vote, and is afraid that they will go to jail. Winter says not to fret, that her brother can get them out of anything. After arriving to Kai’s dungeon-like basement, he asks for some alone time with Ivy. They sit down and have a “pinky meeting”. While initially hesitant, Ivy submits to Kai’s request after he threatens to tell Gary who kidnapped him.
When asked what fills her heart with dread? Ivy says that the thought of laying in bed next to her wife does. We are finally introduced to some backstory and motives for Ivy joining the cult and terrorizing Ally. Ivy says that she started to detest Ally right when Oz was born. Although we’ve been led to believe that Ivy is Oz’s mother, it turns out that Ally actually carried Oz because of Ivy’s endometriosis. According to Ivy, Ally never let her forget that she is Oz’s mom, even going as far as to use terms like “my baby”. Ivy also hates Ally’s entitle phobias at the fact that she voted for Jill fucking Stein.
Kai says that all he sees in front of him is a carcass devoid of happiness, but he believes that Winter could make Ivy happy. Ivy agrees, but only if Oz can come along. Ozzy is the only real reason Ivy is staying in her relationship, and she would never get full custody if she just up and left. Kai asks if she’s ever thought about murder, but Ivy said it would be too traumatic for Oz. Kai ensures her that no court will ever grant Ally custody. Oh, boy.
Back in the present day, Ally brings Meadow into Rudy’s office and wants him to babysit her. She also wants to use Meadow to prove to Dr. Vincent that she’s not actually crazy. While Sally is browsing Facebook, she hears a frantic and relentless knocking on her door. It turns out to be Ally explaining that it’s urgent and that she’s not crazy, but what finally grants her access is the fact that she owns The Butchery on Main.
Ally explains to Sally that there is a cult and Kai is responsible for all of the murders and scandal that’s occurring around town. Ally also mentions that Meadow is a reliable source of information, just in case Sally wouldn’t believe her. Sally is acting shockingly cavalier about all of this new information, replying that nothing shocks her because she went to Berkley. Suddenly, the infamous cult breaks into her house, led by Ivy and Harrison.
Ally’s flight or fight response kicks in...I bet you can guess which one she chooses. We see a new harrowing mask appear, and it’s Gary. Sally is in the corner, pointing a gun at the cult and threatening someone to make a move. Jack bursts in her door and takes her weapon. Once on the ground, Kai takes off his mask and looms over her.
Kai notices that Sally Keffler is an avid user of Facebook, and uses this opportunity to write a nicely crafted suicide note on her behalf. After they shoot her, Ally screams from the bathroom she’s barricaded herself in. Ivy goes to investigate with her haunting elephant/donkey mask to represent the two political parties. Ally recognizes Ivy despite the fact that she was wearing a mask, and thankfully Ivy doesn’t hurt Ally.
When returning back to Dr. Vincent’s office, he informs her that Meadow just randomly left and that she didn’t say anything at all. From her perspective, we can see that Meadow received a call from Kai, which is why she left. Ally is desperately trying to explain all the latest cult drama to Dr. Vincent, but he honestly doesn’t believe her. He once again recommends that she should check herself into a inpatient facility. She walks out and mutters, “Fuck you.” I must say, Ally can be a boss bitch when she wants to.
We are now taken to the day of the shooting at Kai’s rally. He brings up Sally’s suicide, saying that would never desert his followers like she did. From afar, Ally watches Meadow start to take out a gun and shoot a bunch of people, including Kai.
Ally tries to stop her, but before she can, Meadow decides to kill herself. Rest in peace, sweet Meadow. I absolutely love Leslie Grossman. If she doesn’t return for Season 8 of AHS, I’m going to be real upset. Because Meadow ate a bullet, the gun is left in Ally’s hands, just in time for the SWAT team to arrest her.
The flashback I was talking about with Meadow and Kai that wasn’t over yet concludes. All those harsh words that Kai was saying to her turned out to be a compliment, as he says that she’s nothing in the eyes of the world, but she’s everything to him. He begins to seduce her while giving her a speech. He explains that she’s the only one who truly sees him and who can elevate him to the national stage. His assassination was premeditated all along, as he tells Meadow to shoot him in order for him to gain popularity. Kai is a sly mofo...I absolutely adore his character and Evan Peters. Kai mentions that we are a Christian country, and that everyone loves a resurrection. He unties Meadow and tells her to divulge to Ally all of the details of the cult. When the truth comes out of her mouth, it’s able to hide in plain sight. Ally doesn’t stick up for herself and explain to the police what’s going on with the cult. We pan over to Ivy being interviewed and Kai being carried away on a stretcher. His eyes open and he smiles widely and grimly.
This episode was just incredible. I loved so many aspects of it and love seeing Kai seduce everyone and bring them closer to his cause. Evan Peters has always been a great actor and quintessential part of American Horror Story, but his role in this season has proven to be amazing. If he doesn’t receive some sort of Emmy nomination next year, I’m going to be pissed.
I’m going to miss Meadow so much! Leslie Grossman was a hilarious addition to Cult, and although she’s only been in AHS realm for one season, it’s hard to imagine another season without her. At least we still have Billy Eichner to deliver some laughs through Harrison, though. I am so excited to see which direction this season will take in its five remaining episodes. The anti-gun statement that was made in this episode, while hard to stomach, was an incredibly important and relevant one. All in all, another great episode in what’s turning out to be an astonishing season.
Thanks for reading,
Though much too modest to admit it himself, Jonah is perhaps the world's preeminent AHS expert. He loves talking film & television, building his fledgling vinyl and Blu-Ray collection, & having far too many coffee drinks. Jonah can often be found binge watching shows with his handsome one-eyed ocicat, Irving.