American Horror Story: Cult
“Neighbors from Hell”
September 19, 2017
Laura Kirk-English DuPres is happy to inform Dr. Cheyenne Jackson he has helped her overcome her fear of caskets, thanks to his help. “Taphophobia,” he instructs her to call it. “Call it by its name to take away its power.” Her phobia was born out of the trauma of having her father lock her in a cabinet as a child, and so it was particularly satisfying for Laura Kirk-English DuPres to deal with her fears and be able to close the casket on her awful father’s dead ass.
When Laura Kirk-English DuPres and Mr. Laura Kirk-English DuPres return home from visiting Dr. Cheyenne Jackson, they discover their home has been turned into an impromptu funeral home, complete with matching caskets. And that’s when the murder clowns come out, shove Laura Kirk-English DuPres and Mr. Laura Kirk-English DuPres into their individual caskets, sealing them inside with bolts. So how’s that therapy working out for you now, Laura Kirk-English DuPres?
Over in the lives of characters we already familiar with and are (kinda) invested in, Ally watches as the cops bag up Pedro, and worries that she’s in trouble. But Detective Abercrombie assures her she was just defending herself and Michigan’s Stand Your Ground laws have her back.
Great country we’re living in.
Ivy assures Ally that it is understandable that she MURDERED their EMPLOYEE: after all, they are being attacked by ISIS or whatever. “AND MURDER CLOWNS,” Ally adds to Ivy and Detective Abercrombie’s obvious alarm. Because thinking that ISIS caused a power outage in a small Michigan town makes perfect sense but a band of murder clowns harassing people is a STEP TOO FAR.
Anyway, the power whirrs back on and with that, Detective Abercrombie takes the gun as possible evidence.
The next day, Ivy and Ally are greeted at their restaurant by protestors holding NO PEDRO NO JUSTICE signs, and Beverly Hope, a reporter, exposits for us that people are calling Ally the “lesbian George Zimmerman.”
Ivy decides she’ll sneak in the back of the restaurant and urges Ally to just return home. As Ally slides into the driver’s seat and has a little cry, who should come up to her window but Kai who expresses his admiration for her courage and promises to get rid of the protestors for her, before wishing her a nice day.
Ally returns home and pours herself a well-earned glass of wine but is interrupted by Billy Eichner and Mary Cherry sporting sombreros and yelling at her for being a racist. In perhaps the best moment in the entire episode — maybe series — Billy Eichner throws Taco Bell coupons at her so that she can appropriate some more Hispanic culture, and they scream that they want her out of the neighborhood. Ally protests that they were here first, to which Billy Eichner and Mary Cherry sneer that she should tell that to the Native Americans, and promise that this isn’t over.
That night, news anchor Dermot Mulroney and Beverly Hope report on the casket murders of Laura Kirk-English DuPres and Mr. Laura Kirk-English DuPres, adding that a smiley face similar to the one found in Mr. and Mrs. City Council Guy’s house was found at the scene, casting doubt on the story that their deaths were a murder-suicide. OH, DO YOU THINK.
And that’s when a fogger truck drives down the street, spraying a mysterious green substance. SEND THEM TO HOUSTON, WE’LL HAPPILY BREATHE IN YOUR POISON GAS IF IT KILLS THESE DAMNED MOSQUITOS AND TREE ROACHES.
It also kills a bunch of birds, as Ally and Ivy discover the next morning, and the city is claiming it wasn’t their truck.
Winter swings by the house to make sure she still has a job after the whole abandoning-Ally thing. Ivy assures her she does, and Winter heaves a sigh of relief: she was worried when she saw the guy outside and assumed they were interviewing for a replacement. Ally and Ivy are like, “WHAT GUY?” and Winter tells them the one who said he was here about the ad so she let him inside, and Ally and Ivy are like, “WHAT AD?”
And that’s when they find the naked middle-aged man standing in their living room, waiting for the “horny lesbians” that were promised him in the Craigslist ad. Ally and Ivy show a disappointed Mr. No Pants the door, without his promised blowjob.
Later, Ally discusses the whole mess with Dr. Cheyenne Jackson, convinced that Billy Eichner and Mary Cherry placed the ad. Dr. Cheyenne Jackson urges her to file a police report and, while playing with some smiley face buttons, he casually suggests that she consider voluntarily institutionalizing herself. Instead! She’s going to go confront the protestors and explain that she’s not a racist. Oh! Yes! Definitely do that!
And in fact, her car is surrounded by angry screaming people until it suddenly is not, and only Kai is standing in front of her car. See? He told her he’d get rid of the protestors, he got rid of the protestors. Have a nice day.
That evening, Ally and Ivy come home to find that Mary Cherry has given Oz a guinea pig, Mr. Guinea, as a peace offering. However, 1. they are a no-pet household and 2. they don’t allow cisnormative pet names. Ally instructs Oz to say his goodbyes to Mr. Guinea, but instead, Oz screams that he wishes he could say goodbye to her and runs out of the room.
Ally, infuriated, calls Billy Eichner and Mary Cherry — who, curiously, are watching TV with Detective Abercrombie — and begins screaming at them. They call her a racist and hang up on her.
And that’s when the fogging truck drives down the street again. Ally, in full freakout mode, runs outside to try to make the truck stop, but it just keeps barrelling towards her BECAUSE THESE BIRDS AREN’T JUST GOING TO KILL THEMSELVES, LADY.
Whaddya know, but Mary Cherry is doing that pinkie thing with Kai because of course Mary Cherry and Billy Eichner are in this thing with Kai. When Kai asks her what she’s afraid of, Mary Cherry replies that she’s afraid that Sonja Morgan has a drinking problem, an answer that earns her a hard slap across the face from Kai because OF COURSE SONJA MORGAN HAS A DRINKING PROBLEM, YOU IDIOT.
Kai makes her try again, and this time offers her a few things she might be afraid of: being 40 and childless, never being loved, never having sex with a man again. And Mary Cherry is like, “Yes, exactly, all of the above. Also, Billy Eichner has made friends with a hot former Abercrombie model and I’m pretty sure they’re talking shit about me.” Kai instructs her to stop saying that she’s sorry for everything, that everything is someone else’s fault from here on out, and that if she wants to be somebody who matters, she has to “make the world wrong.”
Meanwhile, Ally and Ivy and Oz have a nice family meal at the restaurant where Ally informs Oz that he can keep Mr. Guinea, hooray!
But when they return home, someone has put Mr. Guinea in the microwave and timed it perfectly so that Oz sees Mr. Guinea explode as soon as he walks into the kitchen, boo! Oh, and the smiley face has been painted on their front door, so that can’t be great.
Ally decides she knows exactly who is responsible for this and goes marching across the street and punches Billy Eichner square in the face while screaming at them for killing Mr. Guinea and spray-painting the smiley face on the door. This gives Billy Eichner and Mary Cherry pause, and they inform Ally and Ivy that they’ve been marked by the killers. Ally is like “OH PLEASE” before threatening to kill them both if they bother her family again. She stomps back across the street, Ivy and Oz trailing behind her, and on their way out they find a smiley face painted on the side of Billy Eichner and Mary Cherry’s house. But they decide not to tell them because reasons.
And then the truck comes through the neighborhood again, this time, men in hazmat suits climb out of the truck and begin spraying Ally and Ivy’s yard specifically. When Ally goes outside to confront them, she pulls off one’s hood to reveal a smiley face mask staring back at her. She promptly collapses in the grass because hysteria is exhausting.
Meanwhile, Billy Eichner has his own e-meter session with Kai, where he reveals that he is scared of being trapped with his fag hag forever. Kai asks him if he wants her to die, and has him say it out loud, just to see how it feels. You know, for funsies.
Back at Ally and Ivy’s house, Ally is explaining to Detective Incredulous how Billy Eichner and Mary Cherry are behind everything: the supermarket, Pedro’s shooting, the sex ad, Mr. Guinea…
Ivy and Detective Abercrombie:
That’s when the mothers hear Oz screaming, “SHIT SHIT SHIT” from upstairs. When they investigate, he explains that he saw Ivy’s parental control password (“CLOWNZ,” HMMMM) clicked on a link and something went wrong. Ally and Ivy demand to see what it is that he was looking at and whaddya know, it’s surveillance camera footage of Winter giving Ally deep tissue massage to her vagina.
Ivy, understandably, is pissed and announces that she and Oz are leaving. But before they can go anywhere, the cops pull up, and Billy Eichner is in the street covered in blood and screaming that he didn’t do it!: He was asleep! He rolled over and found a puddle of blood! The officers urge him to calm down BUT HE CAN’T! THEY NEED TO CALM UP! THEY SHOULD BE AT HIS LEVEL OF AGITATED! Billy Eichner then points an accusatory finger at Ally and declares that she did it! She killed Mary Cherry! But the cops tackle him before he can go after her.
And that’s when Ally and Ivy notice that Oz isn’t standing with them, that he’s wandered into Billy Eichner’s house — you know, a crime scene — and is staring at the smiley face painted on the dining room wall. I mean, OK. I’m sure the cops are totally cool with the 8-year-old and his mommies just wandering around the murder scene.
So I always intend to get this thing written in a timely fashion, but the part that usually takes the shortest amount of time on a recap — writing about what actually happened in the episode — is a nightmare because SO MUCH HAPPENS IN AN EPISODE. We’ve got characters we don’t know shoved in caskets, protests, Dermot Mulroney, dead guinea pigs, punching, honesty tests, Dr. Cheyenne Jackson acting all shady, Detective Abercrombie acting all shady, fogging trucks, multiple smiley faces, break-ups and naked men wandering into houses. It’s a lot to process and try to make sense of.
And that’s where recapping this series always proves to be more challenging than a silly piece of diversionary entertainment should be. There’s just so much nonsense and noise that it’s difficult to figure out where any of this is going. And if I’ve learned one thing about this series it’s that trying to figure out where any of this going is an exercise in futility.
That said. It felt like this episode gave us a little bit of direction in where this is going!
As noted in the previous post, it seems like Winter and Kai are slowly luring Ally into their fold. She was symbolically cleansed by Winter in the previous episode before unwittingly performing an initiation rite by killing Pedro. As a result, Kai’s attitude towards Ally changes: no longer is he antagonistic and threatening, he now is acting as her protector and champion.
Kai is grooming Ally psychologically, (presumably) triggering her fear and then offering her release from it — classic cult leader behavior.
But what about Dr. Cheyenne Jackson? After this episode, he seems to be neck deep in this whole thing, what with the lady with the casket phobia and the smiley face buttons and the fact that he knows all of Ally’s phobias and weaknesses. He has to be involved somehow, right?
Maybe! Probably! But if I had to guess, Dr. Cheyenne Jackson will be the inadvertent cause of the cult — not the leader or even a member.
I don’t know how much you know about Scientology other than it’s a cult, Tom Cruise is involved, something about someone named Xenu and that Leah Remini is on a one-woman mission to burn it all down. What you may not know that when its creator, L. Ron Hubbard designed Dianetics, the program that became the backbone of Scientology, he believed that he had a legitimate psychiatric breakthrough on his hands, a technique that would revolutionize psychiatry forever.
But before he developed Dianetics, L. Ron Hubbard long had an interest in psychiatry and hypnosis, at which he was apparently quite skilled. He also was, from accounts by everyone who knew him, a crazy nut job, and he himself sought psychiatric help from the military. However, there are no records to suggest he ever received any. Later, he came up with Dianetics, his own form of regression therapy, and claimed that he could make people remember events going all the way back to their own birth. Actual psychiatrists were not as convinced.
According to the brilliant Lawrence Wright book, Going Clear :
While Hubbard was still writing Dianetics, he contacted both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association representing himself as a colleague who had made fundamental advance in the science. … When scienists tested some of HUbbard’s claims and found that his techniques produced no measurable improvement, he blamed them for failing to understand his system.
Hubbard’s rejection by the mental health establishment, even before Dianetics was published, was itself a kind of pre-birth trauma. After that, whenever Dianetics or Scientology was attacked in the press of by governments, Hubbard saw the hand of psychiatrists. “The psychiatrist and his front groups operate straight out of the terrorist textbooks,” he wrote bitterly years later. “The Mafia looks like a convention of Sunday school teachers compared to these terrorist groups.” Toward the end of his life he concluded that if psychiatrists “had the power to torture and kill everyone, they would do so … Recognize them for what they are: psychotic criminals — and handle them accordingly.” Psychiatry was “the sole cause of decline in the universe.”
And so I’m wondering if, as an homage to America’s most successful cult, the origins of the cult on the show can also be found in some sort of negative reaction to psychiatry. If you notice, Kai is performing a sort of talk therapy with Winter, Billy Eichner, and Mary Cherry when he makes them link pinkies and talk about their fears. (It’s also similar to the “auditing” process in Scientology, wherein a subject is given an “E-Meter” to hold while they are asked probing questions about their past.) And Kai’s entire message, that we should embrace the fear, is not actually all that different from exposure therapy, in which a patient is exposed to the thing that they fear in a safe environment so as to desensitize the patient over time.
So what if Kai is a former patient of Dr. Cheyenne Jackson’s, and things didn’t work out for one reason or another. As a result, Kai rejects Dr. Cheyenne Jackson’s form of therapy and creates his own, a la L. Rob Hubbard. Perhaps Kai takes it further and has someone on the inside working for Dr. Cheyenne Jackson and feeding him information on Dr. Cheyenne Jackson’s patients — including Ally — whom he then targets, either to punish Dr. Cheyenne Jackson, to set him up, or, like Hubbard, to prove that he is his superior.
It’s been leaked that Evan Peters is going to play other cult leaders later on the show, including Charles Manson, David Koresh, Jim Jones and Andy Warhol (who, technically, was not a cult leader). L. Ron Hubbard is not on that list despite being one of the most prolific cult leaders of all time. And so I’m wondering if instead of directly referencing him, if the entire cult itself isn’t a sly homage to Hubbard and his personal war on psychiatry.
Of course, the way this show is, that makes entirely too much sense, so probably not.
American Horror Story: Cult airs Tuesdays at 9/10 p.m. on FX.