American Horror Story: Cult hits a little too close to home in the sixth episode

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Oct 11, 2017

Spoiler alert! This recap contains all the dirt from American Horror Story: Cult episode six, "Mid-Western Assassin." Though the episode's title gives away an awful lot of the plot anyway.

Tonight's episode opens with a "warning" that the producers edited the show in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre. It makes sense, because the episode opens with a mass shooting at a political rally. Though we see Ally with the gun and getting arrested, the episode shows the steps that led up to the shooting.

After Meadow spilled to Ally about the cult, Ally marches over to the Wilton house and frees Meadow. The two flee and hide at The Butchery, where Meadow explains that Ally was just "one project" of the cult, and that the dead birds and mysterious trucks were all done to scare people and make them paranoid.

Jumping back to December 2016, Meadow goes on and on about how she felt helpless, trapped by feminist expectations of perfection. Kai set her free, and she fell in love with him - hard. When she hears Kai giving the same spiel to Ivy, Meadow decides she is out. She tries to leave and is instead tied up in a closet by Harrison and Samuels. Kai takes a few minutes with her, with a knife. It is not until later in the episode that we discover this is where Kai explains his plan for Meadow.

Back in the present, there is a city hall debate. Sally Keffler interrupts Kai's nonsense, calling Kai a reactionary, not a conservative. She declares her candidacy as a write-in, and gets a lot of applause. Kai is worried.

Jumping back again to the day after the election, Ivy is in a panic when she tells Winter she saw Gary voting for president. This is when Winter introduces her to Kai, and they play the pinky game. Ivy first says the thing that scares her the most is "our new president," but he quickly gets her to admit her rage and hatred for Ally. It started when Oz was born. Ivy felt like Ally held it over her that she carried Oz because Ivy was infertile. Then there were all of Ally's "bullshit phobias," and the last straw was her vote for Jill Stein. Ivy doesn't want to kill Ally for fear of what that would do to Oz, so Kai decides to devise a plan that will bar Ally from getting custody.

Present. Ally leaves Meadow to share what she knows about the cult with Dr. Vincent, while Ally goes to visit Sally. After seeing her on TV, she thinks Sally might believe that she is running against a cult leader. And Sally does. She's not surprised because this kind of thing happens when the patriarchy is disturbed. Sally is willing to help. But of course, the cult breaks in. Sally goes for her gun while Ally hides in a back room. The cult disarms Sally, and Kai writes a fake suicide note on Sally's Facebook page. ("Of course people will believe it - it's on Facebook.") He shoots her in the chest, which is not a good place for a suicide. Any half-competent police officer would be able to tell that wound is not self-inflicted. Anyway, Ally can't shut up so one of the clowns goes looking for the noise. She finds Ally, and despite her mask, Ally instantly recognizes this cult member as Ivy. Ivy leaves without killing her.

Ally returns to collect Meadow from Dr. Vincent and discovers Meadow is gone, and she didn't tell Dr. Vincent anything.

The episode returns to where we entered: on the rally. Ally is marching through the crowd and spies Meadow. She goes after her, but Meadow is busy pulling a gun from her bag. She starts shooting, first a woman in front of her, then Kai (making sure only to hit him in the leg), then shooting randomly into the crowd. Ally begs her to stop and grabs the gun. "This is the face of true love," Meadow says before turning the gun around and, with Ally's hand still on it, shooting herself in the face. The cops rush in and arrest Ally. This was Kai's plan all along. An attempted assassination will put Kai on the national stage, and Meadow set up Ally to take the fall, thereby keeping his promise to Ivy. "We are a Christian country. Everyone loves a resurrection," Kai told Meadow while solidifying the plan.

Kai is the consummate cult leader. I would be frightened that the show's writers are considering a second career, but every action is straight out of the cult leader's handbook, especially Charles Manson. Growing up in Los Angeles, with a mom who was a reporter, I heard stories about the Manson Family since way before I probably should have. One of my mom's friends was on a first-name basis with many of Charlie's "girls," the ones who would sit outside the courthouse during his trial. I read Helter Skelter when I was 12 years old. I know more than I should about Manson, and every tactic Kai uses comes straight from Charlie's creepy playbook. Kai has a very specific, if skewed, world view, and he seeks people who are lost, disillusioned, have nothing to believe in. He gives them something to believe in, while making them believe they are loved, valued, important. The only one who doesn't really fit the profile is Ivy. If nothing else, she has something to live for: her son. Maybe there will be more to story?

Of all the episodes this season, this one was the least horrific, but it was so for a horrific reason: everything in this episode was too real, was stuff that I feel like I have been desensitized to. Mass shootings have become a regular occurrence, and frankly Kai doesn't seem as bad as the current leadership in this country. Kai may be more obviously "evil," what with the murders and all, but at least he is intelligent and has a plan. I am tired of living in fear that Trump's irrational middle-of-the-night Tweets might start a nuclear war.

I liked when Sally interrupted the debate to state that Kai wants to return to a time period that never existed. This felt like a direct stab at Trump, but a slightly inaccurate one. The time that Kai wants to return to did exist, but only for white middle-class men. And then Sally was killed, so we aren't going to get any more calming words of wisdom.

What are your thoughts about tonight's episode? Who is scarier: Trump or Kai?