‘American Horror Story: Cult’: Lending a hand

American Horror Story: Cult
“11/9”
September 26, 2017

We begin on Election Night, with Beverly Hope reporting from the polls that though Trump seems to be gaining in some precincts, Clinton is still expected to win handily.

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Beverly is interrupted by rival newslady, Emma Roberts, who explains she has to cut the line to vote because she’s supposed to be manning the anchor desk with Dermot Mulroney that night. Beverly is OUTRAGED, as Emma Roberts is a baby reporter who was just on traffic duty a couple months ago, and in return, Emma Roberts accuses her of being one of those angry women who like to drag other women down to feel good about themselves.

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And with that, she Emma Roberts her way to the head of the line, skipping past Ivy and Ally who are excited about electing the first Madam President, and Billy Eichner and Mary Cherry who thinks there should be some sort of test to prevent people as dumb as she is from voting. I’ve been thinking the same thing since November 9th, girl.

Once inside, Ivy reiterates to Ally: NO PROTEST VOTES, but Ally votes for Jill Stein anyway because dum-dum learned nothing from 2000. I STILL DON’T FORGIVE YOU, RALPH.

Kai comes running into the polling place practically carrying Chaz Bono who is shaky and bleeding and demands that Chaz Bono be allowed to cast his vote. And he does, for Trump before storming out of the booth lifting his arm — which is a bleeding stump — and yelling, “WELCOME TO TRUMP’S AMERICA, MOTHERFUCKERS!”

Yeah, thanks, it’s great to be here.

The next day, Kai shows up to the gym where Billy on the Street is a personal trainer and explains that he requested him to help him achieve his goal: world domination. While working out, Kai asks Billy Eichner what “flavor gay” he is and when Billy Eichner asks him in exchange if he’s gay, Kai goes on one of those white boy rants about how he doesn’t believe in “labels” and that a man with no labels has only allegiance to “what’s right.”

Billy Eichner, impressed with how “smart” Kai is, learns that Kai is an app developer who was a “freak” as a kid, joining Mensa when he was 10. Kai then explains to Billy Eichner that while he’s hetero, he would fight and kill for anyone in his “crew,” and if one of them woke up with a raging hardon, he’d find a way to show them how much he loved them.

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Then Billy Eichner’s meathead boss orders him to do “cleanup in aisle 4,” i.e. clean up the steam room where some dude has just jerked off, and Billy Eichner has a sad.

As he cleans up the mess, Billy Eichner hears something … but doesn’t notice the smiley face drawn in the condensation on the steam room window. He does notice, however, Kai having his way with himself in the shower, and promising to clean up after himself.

Billy Eichner:

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When Billy Eichner returns home to Mary Cherry, he’s greeted with some bummer news: they are in foreclosure. Between his paltry salary, her melanoma and then her shitty job at a craft store she had to quit after being sexually harassed, they just weren’t bringing in enough to cover the bills. Boo.

Mary Cherry tries to make them both feel better by straddling him, but, oh, honey, no.

Back at the gym, Billy Eichner is encouraged by Meathead to pressure Kai into signing up for more workout sessions which he does by being all, “YO, BRO, CHECK YOU OUT,” and Kai is like, “ew, no.”

Billy Eichner then explains the whole foreclosure mess and how he has nothing and nowhere to go. But Kai sees it differently: nowhere is a great place to be — he’s free. Billy Eichner admires his optimism, and Kai insists that he’s a mirror, whatever Billy Eichner sees inside of Kai, is actually inside of Billy Eichner himself. Kai then goes all Nietzche: “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in that suffering.”

Billy Eichner:

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And that’s when Meathead instructs him to clean up aisle 4.

As Billy Eichner does as he’s told, Kai joins him in the steam room, absently drawing a smiley face on the window and urging Billy Eichner to use his pain and his anger productively: combine them and show Meathead that he will not be used as a human cum mop. And he should do that by crushing Meathead’s throat with a barbell and then smashing his meat head in with a free weight.

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The reality of what he just did hits Billy Eichner, but Kai assures him that he’ll take care of everything: he sends out a text from Meathead’s phone to all of his contacts, explaining that he is out of town for an emergency, and swipes the past three weeks of security footage. Because that won’t be suspicious when people start looking into his disappearance.

BUT WHATEVER. Kai assures Billy Eichner that he just took the first step to be a part of something that matters and to be someone important.

Billy Eichner:

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On her way back to their motel room, Mary Cherry offers to fuck some homeless guys for a hit off their joint, but they’re like, “Just take it,” which has to be a blow to the ol’ ego. When she arrives at the room, she finds Billy Eichner in the bathtub chopping Meathead’s head off with a saw while Kai watches. She’s ok with it.

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Beverly Hope grumpily covers the story of Meathead’s head and handless body being discovered at the town dump, while that bitch Emma Roberts does a six-part story on reflexology. As she closes out her report, Dermot Mulroney takes a moment to welcome her back — prompting Kai to wonder just where she had been. After popping a prescription pill of some sort, and doing a smidge of internet sleuthing, he discovers that Beverly had to take a little me time after this happened:

Dude, I’d freak out, too.

Back in the studio, Beverly interrupts Dermot Mulroney and Emma Roberts’ nipple massaging session only to have Dermot Mulroney instruct her to cut several minutes out of her piece on the ten most dangerous places in Michigan so that Emma Roberts can have more time for her wine tasting report.

Which is why Beverly slashes the tires on Emma Robert’s car. And that’s where Kai finds her and offers to buy her a cup of coffee.

Over coffee, Kai tells Beverly that he doesn’t blame her for her rage, Black women have it the worst. After all: one side assumes they are a diversity hire who doesn’t deserve to be where they are, and the other side is sympathetic to the fact that Black women get a raw deal, but they do fuck all to fix it. She shouldn’t be slashing tires, she should be slashing throats.

Kai goes on to explain that fear can be transmitted like a virus, starting in a small town and eventually infect the country, but that it needs a messenger and a microphone.

Kai then gives us a few more background notes: he’s 30 years old, did an Army tour in Iraq, graduated from Yale with a double degree in political science and feminist studies. Oh, and he’s running for city council. When Beverly points out that there isn’t an open city council seat, Kai assures her that there will be before promising that it’s just the first stepping stone for him. But that he needs her: they would have equal power.

Beverly explains that she’s filled with a rage that makes her want to be the last person on Earth just so she can watch everyone else die before her, before telling Kai that no matter how much she wants to believe that he can smash this entire shitshow to bits, she doesn’t. So Kai hands her a business card and promises to see her in his campaign office in a few days.

Sometime later, Emma Roberts is filming some puff piece about puppies or something, when three clowns wander into the shot and muderize her and her cameraman to death.

R.I.P. Emma Roberts. I wish you had stuck around at least a little longer to Emma Roberts some more.

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Beverly finds Kai in his basement looking over some clown mask sketches with Mary Cherry and Billy Eichner and reports that she saw the footage of Emma Roberts being murdered to death by murder clowns. Kai explains that he did it for her so that she would believe. And she does, she believes in him now. As they hug, they agree to share equal power.

We’ll see how that goes.

But there Beverly is, reporting on the discovery of Meathead’s head and hands in a homeless camp — and you know how those homeless can be. So scary! How much carnage will their community put up with before they say enough?

Then we swerve back in time to the day before the election, as Ivy announces that she’s going to a pro-Hillary rally, but Ally declines to join her because what difference will a rally make, really? Also, Ally just really prefers Jill Stein’s position on GMOs, so, you know, she’s terrible and totally deserves to be harassed by murder clowns.

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Ivy goes to the rally alone where she exchanges words with Chaz Bono. In return, Chaz Bono follows the model of his idol and “grabs her by the pussy.” Winter, who also happens to be at the rally, sees this and chases down Chaz Bono, but he’s able to drive away before she can scratch his eyeballs out. Winter then checks on a stunned Ivy and suggests that they go get something to eat.

Over lunch at Ivy’s restaurant, Ivy tells Winter that she hates feeling so powerless and angry. But Winter encourages her to be angry, and the two agree that it’s infuriating that men think they can just get away with anything, they should prove that notion wrong.

The two women swing by the grocery store where Chaz Bono works, tase him and tie him up in a basement. When he comes to, they explain that they are going to leave him there for the next 24 hours — just long enough that he will miss the election. As he screams, they duct tape his mouth, telling him that he doesn’t matter anymore.

When Winter returns home with blood on her face, Kai demands to know everything,

Kai finds Chaz Bono in the basement and informs him that he only has one hour left to make it to the polls. But good news: Kai’s here to help! Kai hands Chaz Bono a saw, reminding Chaz Bono that for the past eight years, liberals have been laughing at him and humiliating him, a hard-working, American man. This is his chance to get back at all of them! But he has to really want it. And so Chaz Bono saw off his hand to free himself so that he can cast a vote for Trump and ruin America. Hooray.

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It feels weird and disrespectful to be writing about this show when we just experienced a real American Horror Story with the shooting in Las Vegas and will continue to endure a real American Horror Story wherein no one does anything about it.

So I’m not going to spend long on this episode, even though it was easily the best so far this season, and it helped shed some real light on what is going on here. But a few comments before I close it up:

But a few quick comments before I close up:

After the first couple of episodes, there was a lot of anger being directed at the series for its bothsidesism: liberals and conservatives were being portrayed as equally insufferable which didn’t sit well with Ryan Murphy’s core audience. While I agree that if Murphy was going to insist on wading into politics this season, he should have handled this a little more carefully, it also appears that what he was really trying to get across is that we’re not all that different when it comes to core motivating emotions: fear, anger, and humiliation.

Kai and Winter are seeking out a core group of people who have been humiliated and giving them back a sense of power through violence. In turn, Kai clearly intends to use the fear their violence generates to amass power and tear down the prevailing system. He is basically recreating the engine that drove the Trump machine, but instead of aligning it with a political party, Kai seems intent on using it to generate chaos. We’ll see.

As I was thinking about this episode this week, on Facebook the “On This Day” feature pulled up one of my posts from last year about a man who shot up my neighborhood. I spent the weekend thinking about how that post felt particularly relevant to this episode as it is about using violence to regain a sense of power after being humiliated. I can not express to you how much it breaks my heart that this post ended up being relevant not just to a fictional television series, but to actual horrific events this week.

But here we are.

American Horror Story: Cult airs Tuesdays at 9/10 p.m. on FX.

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