When the news of Lena Dunham’s addition to the newest season of American Horror Story was announced a few months prior, I was eager to see which direction her role would travel in. I was informed she would be playing radical feminist, Valerie Solanas, a few weeks ago, and that Evan Peters would be playing Andy Warhol. I was excited to see Dunham portray Solanas to the hilt and perhaps even more excited when I found out that Evan Peters, who has been remarkable this season, would be taking on another role. American Horror Story is certainly no stranger to having an actor portray multiple different characters within the same season, but aren’t we all just thankful that Sarah Paulson was relieved from that duty this time around? Don’t get me wrong...I love Sarah Paulson as much as any other AHS fan, but having her portrayal of Shelby, Audrey, and Lana all in the same season was slightly overkill. I knew a little bit about Valerie Solanas going into this episode, and with Cult being on a streak of some sort when it comes to delivering quality episodes, my standards were quite high. Without further fodder, let’s delve right into the recap!
Valerie Solanas Died For Your Sins: Scumbag
Writer: Crystal Liu | Director: Rachel Goldberg
Let me start off this recap with a fair warning to all of you reading this. This particular episode has an overabundance of flashbacks in it. Although they all pertain to the Valerie Solanas narrative this episode revolves around, there are many different times and dates associated with particular scenes. I vow to try my best when it comes to recapping this for all of you. Quite honestly, my first viewing of the episode was a little rough due to all of these flashbacks, but after watching once more and taking notes, I feel as though I can sufficiently relay the information back.
Our episode begins by letting us know that it is June 3rd, 1968. Valerie is seen having sex in the back of a car in an effort to scrounge up a few extra dollars. When her customer is short five dollars, she politely says, “Fuck you, you little dick piece of dogshit.” Valerie takes this five dollars into a gun shop and asks how many bullets she can get for the money she has. When asked who the bullets are for, we see Solanas utter, “Andy Warhol” proudly.
Instead of showing us the flashbacks in chronological order, AHS does a flashback within a flashback and goes back to 24 hours earlier where we can see Valerie’s motive. Warhol is on set working on a project when Solanas bursts in and asks about the status of her movie script, entitled “Up Your Ass”. Andy claims that he cannot find it, which is his polite yet unsubtle way of saying that he didn’t like it. Valerie claims that he didn’t like it because he can’t stand to see a woman succeed in this world. Andy replies snidely, saying, “Oh Valerie, you know women can’t be serious artists.” After she explodes and threatens to wipe the smug expression from his pale patriarchal face, Valerie is escorted off the premises.
If this episode were to chronologically organize this scene, the day after she got kicked out would’ve been when she had sex and bought some bullets for Warhol. We are taken to the events that take place after Valerie bought her bullets. She waits in the elevator with her gun, cleverly disguised in a paper bag, preparing to shoot Warhol.
When she finally makes up her mind, she discovers that Andy is no longer in the studio. Nevertheless, Solanas refuses to give up and waits in the elevator some more. Warhol eventually returns, and she follows him in. Warhol compliments her, saying that she looks pretty with a little bit of makeup on. While Andy’s talking on the phone, Valerie shoots at him twice but misses. Finally, she gets much closer to her target and exclaims, “Suck my dick, Warhol!” She shoots him directly in the chest and our title sequence begins.
Moving back to the present day, we are bombarded with various news coverage regarding the appalling shooting that occurred during Kai’s campaign rally. It appears as though somebody straightened up the story and Meadow is being blamed for all of it. Okay, but how iconic is her and Harrison’s photo displayed in the news?
At the end of last week’s amazing episode, we saw Ally being arrested. We are given an update on her, saying that she is in police custody as of right now. Harrison reads a statement about how Meadow’s actions were politically motivated and how she vowed to get payback on Trump supporters, although we all know that Kai put the idea in her head. The news also gives us an update on Kai. He receives news that he is up twenty points in the polls, which means that he now has a seat on the City Council.
We now see Beverly walking out to her car when she spots a woman in a green cloak hanging out by her car and smoking a cigar. Beverly asks if she can help her, and also mentions that she doesn’t go for theatrical bullshit such as this. This mysterious woman reveals her identity and it turns out to be Frances Conroy, beloved member of the AHS family. Conroy discusses how women give away to the natural order of things, but she knows what it means to assassinate a man. Beverly not so politely asks her if she is homeless or schizo. Frances Conroy’s character, who is not yet revealed to us, mentions how it was incredibly convenient that Meadow missed her Mark at the shooting. She tells Beverly that she’s residing in room twelve of the Reunion Hotel and that Beverly should give her a ring-a-ding when she’s ready to hear the truth.
The next day, Beverly makes a trip to the Anderson household and is greeted by a not-so-friendly face standing in front of their door. This man is wearing a blue shirt and khaki pants and doesn’t say much. When Beverly attempts to go inside, another man who is dressed the exact same refuses to let her in. Beverly, like the bad bitch she is, tells them that she’s Beverly motherfucking Hope and they’re going to want to get the hell out of her way. She yells for Kai, who eventually answers the door. Something really doesn’t feel right about all of this. Kai informs Bev that these men are “volunteers” who are from all over the Midwest and are looking to make history. Beverly says that she feels the cult is losing momentum, and that they need fresh blood. Kai counters this by saying that the public needs stability throughout all of this, and Beverly asks what happened to setting the world on fire. Before Beverly is kicked out for not being a man, she says to Kai that they agreed on having equal power, and this is not what it feels like. In the midst of this sudden change within Kai, Beverly decides to go to the Reunion Hotel to meet the stranger who talked to her before.
Over at The Butchery on Main, Ivy and Winter are discussing everything that’s happened with Ally. The cops took her away and apparently nobody knows where she is. Suddenly, Beverly knocks on the door with the delightful Frances Conroy by her side, looking to help all of them. We are introduced to her character, who is named Bebe Babbitt. Kai promised all of the women in the cult a seat at the table, but now that he’s won, he is pushing them to side as if they weren’t there all along. Bebe brings up the point that history may change, but herstory always repeats itself. For those who don’t know what herstory is, it’s simply a term for female history, used frequently in RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Bebe informs the girls of the cult that Valerie Solanas was the love of her life. Winter knew a little bit about her from her women’s studies classes at Vassar and said that she was one crazy bitch. Bebe tells Winter that the world was insane and Valerie was the only person of sane mind. “The bullets she put in Warhol were the first shots of a revolution”, Bebe says to the group as she segues into a series of flashbacks.
We are now at the Chelsea Hotel in New York...the year is 1967. Bebe, narrating over these flashbacks sporadically, tells us that Valerie had given birth twice by the time she was fifteen. The first time Bebe met her was in a room at the Chelsea Hotel. Solanas was thirty by then and she had just finished her masterpiece, The SCUM Manifesto. She would offer stage readings in her hotel room. The price of admission for women was $1.00 and for men, it was $2.50. Solanas had written the first thesis to suggest that men were the problem and not simply women.
Throughout her various readings, she’d conjured up a group of loyal followers, notably the wonderful Jamie Brewer. Valerie Solanas proposed that the planet will not move forward until they get their hands bloody and murder every fucking man on it. Although Solanas was strongly opposed to men, she did allow some gay men, such as Bruce and Maurice into her club, only if they give a speech that completely diminishes their self-confidence in front of a group of women for a change.
We are told that SCUM is the Society for Cutting Up Men, and the goal is to kill all men who aren’t part of their auxiliary. SCUM eventually relocated to San Francisco, on the cusp of the start of the revolution. Their plan was to start “couple-busting”, killing both men and women, in order to show women that spreading their legs doesn’t give them any more value.
In 1968, while the rest of the ladies of SCUM stayed in San Francisco, Valerie went back to New York. She instructed Bebe, who she was in a relationship with at this point, to wait for the signal until they started couple-busting. This signal, which Valerie never quite told to Bebe was obviously the shooting of Warhol. After this happens, we see SCUM kill a couple that was making out in their car. When they mention the names of the victims, Winter quickly objects and says that those were the first victims of the Zodiac Killer. Bebe tells Winter that the SCUM killings were the Zodiac killings….
In 1969 at Lake Berryessa, we see a couple enjoying a nice picnic when the women of SCUM stab them to death. Personally, I think that Twisty will always be the king of picnic murders, but it was still a worthy effort on their part. During her time at the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Valerie was orchestrating all of the SCUM killings. However, an anonymous tipper sent some letters into the paper that were filled with grueling and accurate details on all of the murders. Although the fearless women of SCUM were killing everyone, the Zodiac Killer was trying to take credit for all of it. Apparently, there was one other murder that the imposter actually committed, but everything else he wrongfully took ownership over. Valerie was released and made her way back to San Francisco.
In 1973 at the Bristol Hotel, Valerie informs her fellow women that she was dead fuckin’ wrong about men. Solanas found some incriminating evidence under Maurice’s bed. Maurice denies this almost as quickly as Valerie plunges a knife into Bruce, who was actually the Zodiac, as we see on his watch. A stabbing party commences! Maurice gets away just in time to avoid being dismembered and having his mutilated genitals being stuffed into his mouth like Bruce. The cops discover Bruce’s body placed in the same formation as the logo of the Zodiac killer a few days later…
Valerie attempts to turn herself in for all of the SCUM killings in order to have her hard work recognized, but nobody believes her. We watch as Valerie’s mental health slowly deteriorates over time. She’s preaching with a flair like we’ve never seen before, and we watch all of the women of SCUM leave in an incredibly sad time lapse. Her schizophrenia begins to take over, and she sees the ghost of Warhol, who died about a year before she did. Warhol tells her she’s really let herself go, and she begins to describe how men have always oppressed her. Even now, she says, she’s not seen for her own thoughts or ideas. Whenever someone says her name, they instantly think of Andy Warhol. Valerie died alone after being used up and spit out by the world. The incredibly long flashback ends and the female cult members agree that they must reclaim the power. Beverly says they need to strike back, and this time, they won’t miss.
Back in the present day, Kai is visiting his parents in his DIY mausoleum when Winter walks in. Kai tells Winter that the crown is heavy, and proceeds to ask her if he can count on her. Winter says yes, obviously. Kai confronts her about The SCUM Manifesto pamphlet that Bebe gave her, saying that he’s fascinated by Solanas’ theories and ideas. Kai already has the charisma, but he needs a philosophy. He wants to release a social media statement, but Kai needs to have a catchy name. He suggests, MLWB (Men Lead Women Bleed), claiming that Harrison suggested it.
Presumably sometime later, Ivy and Harrison are in The Butchery on Main waiting to surprise Kai. The real surprise, Harrison discovers, is a group of women reading The SCUM Manifesto. Harrison is hit by a blunt object and strapped to a table, surrounded by the women of the cult. The girls question him about what happened to Meadow. Beverly tells him that of all people, he should understand what it’s like to be marginalized and therefore has no excuse for his sexist comments. Harrison tells them that he never said that, but Ivy screams that they are SCUM and they murder him. Oh my gosh, a cult within a cult!
Beverly is reporting Harrison’s death, saying that his body was (coincidentally) found covered by scum in a pond. Kai looks down at The SCUM Manifesto and back up at Beverly just in time for her to look deeply into the camera and say, “Clearly the promise of law and order in Brookfield Heights is not being kept.” Kai says, “They’re at their best when they’re angry, don’t you think?” Bebe replies with, “Aren’t we all?”
Although I genuinely enjoyed seeing Dunham play Valerie Solanas, I hope I’m not the only one that thinks this episode was a little bit too flashback-heavy. I understand that the Solanas narrative ultimately tied into the cult, but I think it could’ve been cleaned up and not consumed so much of the episode. I did enjoy this episode, however, as the twists at the end saved it. Although the Lena Dunham flashbacks dragged on a bit too long, they were ultimately used a springboard for the events that will take place within the remaining four episodes. Kai is a mastermind when it comes to seducing people and carrying out plans. He used Babbitt as a pawn to incite the women of the cult and get rid of Harrison, but it all seemed so natural. I remember saying last week that even though Meadow is dead, Harrison will still be there to provide laughs, but I guess I spoke too soon. I am very excited to watch the next episode, “Winter of Our Discontent”, and to share my thoughts with all of you.
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.