‘American Horror Story: Cult’ Episodes 8 & 9- Ally Ally Oxen Free

On the latest episodes of “American Horror Story: Cult,” the bodies continued to drop at an alarming rate, as Kai (Evan Peters) strengthened his hold on his followers and Ally (Sarah Paulson) stepped up her game to compete with all the forces aligning against her in the aptly-titled “Winter of Our Discontent” and “Drink the Kool-Aid.”

Is it wrong that I like Ally far more now that she’s gone full crazy than I did when she was more on the hysterical side of things? Honestly, I felt sorry for poor Paulson for having to go so hard on the craziness earlier on this season, when it seemed like we couldn’t get through an episode without her bursting into tears or raving like a lunatic about clowns and holes or whatever.

But with the most recent episodes, she’s gone cool, calm and collected, and it not only suits Ally better, it makes it far easier to relate to her, and, for the first time, even root for her. And mind you, she’s now started actively participating in killing people, so… yeah, mixed feelings on my end about all that. Leave it to “AHS” to make people more sympathetic the more murderous they get.

Let’s backtrack a little bit. In “Winter of our Discontent,” we discovered that, contrary to my and other people’s theories, Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson), was not, in fact, in on anything, save the knowledge that his parents were dead and locked up in a room in his family’s house, covered with lye, as per his own request, so as to not screw up their respective futures.

Beyond that, though, he was not feeding Kai info on his patients like some of us thought, and only later realized what his crazy brother was up to. To that end, he went to Ally- who had eventually been released from a temporary incarceration at a local institution, at his own recommendation, after the assassination attempt on Kai and her involvement in it, however tenuous- and Dr. Vincent confessed his realization that his brother Kai had gone off the rails completely and how he planned to help Ally stop him.

Interestingly, Ally instead used this knowledge against Vincent, turning the tables on him and instead going to Kai and telling him about his brother’s intended betrayal, in hopes of gaining Kai’s trust and leveraging it to get her son, Oz (Cooper Dodson), back from her evil wife’s clutches.

Of course, to do so, she had to agree to join Kai’s cult herself and participate in Vincent’s murder, which she did, much to the shock of Ivy (Alison Pill), who was stunned when Ally removed her mask and revealed herself as one of the team. So, clearly Dr. Vincent was innocent in all this, contrary to my suspicions, and Kai had instead broke into his office and absconded with Vincent’s private files to use against his patients, as we saw with the “coffin” couple.

Ally’s betrayal of Ivy, albeit only after the latter betrayed her, was not the only one on display, however. In addition, Winter (Billie Lourd) betrayed the confidence of fellow cult member Beverly Hope (Adina Porter), who had gotten fed up with being sidelined in Kai’s cult after he promised her equality, and had hatched a plan for the women to take him out.

As we saw in flashbacks, Kai had once saved her life when the two of them, in their younger years, had gotten invited to a mysterious get-together held by Pastor Charles (rocker Rick Springfield, of all people), after gleefully trolling people for fun on the dark web. They arrived to find that it was an all-too-real version of what we call a “hell house” in my neck of the woods, but some have dubbed “judgment houses.”

Basically, it’s a radical Christian-run version of a haunted house, where each room is a horrific scene of “sinners” and their gruesome fates when they committed what those people in charge had dubbed unforgivable sins, such as having an abortion, engaging in homosexual activity or general perversion and so on.

One of the scariest nights of one of my friend’s life was when he went to one of these places and secretly recorded it for a podcast and made some flippant comments after, only to find himself overheard by someone else there who didn’t find it to be a laughing matter and didn’t hesitate to tell him so in a threatening manner.

He said it was a bone-chilling moment in which he genuinely feared for his life, making it the most scared he’d ever been at a staged haunted house event ever, for obvious reasons. And he got it all on tape, which is crazy. (The podcast is called “The Midnight Citizen” and it’s on iTunes, as well as here, if you’re interested in checking it out.)

Pretty freaky stuff, and I’m grateful my friend didn’t run afoul of a pastor-gone-horribly-wrong like Charles here, who, in this case, was actually killing people he deemed too sinful to live, but were largely not even guilty of the charges leveled against them. For instance, one person accused of being homosexual was merely giving blood to help those stricken with the AIDS virus, and another was at a health clinic for a mere check-up, not an abortion.

God, no wonder some people are scared to go to those places! Granted, being abducted by a nutty preacher seems a long shot, to be sure, but getting blown up by a crazed bomber with radical religious views is a very real possibility, not to mention the crap people who work at places like Planned Parenthood must go through on a daily basis.

And, as many have pointed out, abortions aren’t even the bulk of what they do there, so it’s nothing if not counterintuitive for the people against them, seeing as they dispense birth control, which keeps unwanted babies from happening in the first place, as well as helping to minimize the spread of STDs.

By making it hard or even scary for people who go there just wanting simple health care, these people are actually causing unwanted pregnancies and the spread of disease, which just goes to show how little these people think things through. Sadly, we live in a knee-jerk society in which it’s hard to make some people see things rationally, and instead they react in the moment, even if it’s incredibly misinformed.

Perhaps needless to say, this is pretty heady subject matter for a horror show, and a large part of what makes Ryan Murphy and his team such a valuable asset to the genre community. Say what you will about the haphazard plotting and dubious logic, there aren’t many working within the genre willing to tackle such divisive, yet important topics.

They may do so in an oft-heavy-handed manner at times- much like one of those “hell houses”- but at least they’re on the right side of things and not afraid to stand up for something valid and important. Yes, the approach is often off-putting as well, but hey, it is a horror show, for God’s sake, so a little gore to go with all the preaching is to be expected.

I can only imagine what more straight-laced people think of all this- chances are, they probably stopped watching long ago, once they realized that Murphy was “one of them liberal types.” But It’s also what makes “AHS” a cut above most genre-driven shows, so as over-the-top as it can be, I applaud Murphy and everyone else involved and their efforts to at least try to make a point in between all the murder and mayhem.

Getting back to the episode, upon realizing that Pastor Charles was actually planning to kill people he deemed sinners right before their eyes, what was intended as a sort of opportunity to troll people in real life became all too real, and Kai snapped. Freeing everyone concerned, he led a revolt against Charles, ending with his being placed in one of the “Saw”-like traps he had laid for one of his victims, which drove spikes through his chest, killing him instantly, while his would-be victims cheered Kai on.

Winter never forgot that moment, and had been loyal to Kai ever since, for not only saving her life when Charles threatened to kill them, but for standing up for something that meant something. As she admitted in a previous episode, she might be scared to death of him, but Winter also doesn’t entirely disagree with what he stands for- perhaps just his approach to achieving it.

This reaches a nadir in the episode when Kai insists that the two of them need to come together to create a “savior” for future generations via having a child together. Winter is taken aback, but Kai assures her it isn’t incest, as he will be using fellow cult member Jack Samuels, the police detective, as his “proxy,” by having sex with him from behind as he has sex with Winter at the same time. Yikes!

Winter almost goes along with this, as crazy as it is, before reality sets in, and the fully gay Samuels isn’t able to perform in the heat of the moment. Kai is none too happy and dismisses both of them in a rage, his icky plans thankfully thwarted, at least for now.

After Kai punishes Winter via community service picking up trash on the side of the road like a convict, down to making her wear an orange jumpsuit, Winter decides to take matters into her own hands. She grabs Samuels’ gun when he tries to rape her to “prove” he isn’t gay, and shoots him dead, then later puts the blame on Beverly, hence her being tied down along with Dr. Vincent in the aforementioned scene.

Now, granted, if we unpack a lot of this, it doesn’t entirely make sense. I get that the Hell House experience was what served as a turning point for Kai, and turned him from a giddy teen trolling SJWs to a murdering wacko, but how is what he doing with the cult any better than what Pastor Charles was doing? If anything, he now has more in common with Charles than anyone else, being as how he is judging people and killing them based on that judgment.

And basically, despite his claims that anyone, no matter what they get up to in their private life, be they gay, straight, male, female, or whatever ethnicity is welcome in his cult, as we see in these episodes, the bloom has come off the rose to reveal the rotting flower beneath. He intentionally ostracizes the women, making them work in a kitchen, while recruiting an excessive amount of white male supremacist types to join the cult, who intimidate and threaten anyone who tries to talk to Kai.

And yet, Kai himself is clearly a closeted gay man in denial about himself- he claims that men having sex with one another isn’t gay but an “exchange of power,” which is the pitch he makes to seduce Samuels, after the latter has an unsuccessful sexual encounter with another woman while Kai is there, as we see in a flashback.

Kai sees women as a “sap” to a man’s power, and subsequently treats them as inferior, even after actively recruiting them earlier on in the show and in particular, promising Beverly equal status within the cult, which proves to be a lie.

I think that that moment where Beverly turned the tables on Kai and goaded him into confessing to her instead of the other way around sort of sealed her fate. Kai doesn’t like women- or really anyone else, period, but especially not a woman- to have the upper hand on him in anything he does, particularly in regards to the cult.

Interestingly, though, for reasons unknown, he opts not to kill Beverly just yet. Perhaps because he senses he still needs her somehow, probably to continue to help spread his message. But first, as we see in the next episode, he needs to break her down- and everyone else, for that matter- which he does by adopting various methods used by other cult leaders throughout the years.

In “Drink the Kool-Aid,” we see Peters, in a tour de force series of performances that I wish we got a little more of, playing a wide variety of cult leaders, including Marshall Applewhite, leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult; David Koresh, leader of a group of radical Branch Davidians; Jim Jones, the leader of Jonestown, a cult in Guyana; and the big Kahuna of them all, Jesus Christ himself, leader of… well, you know.

Kai uses these examples to help convince the male contingent of his group in the worst slumber party ever that they should be willing to lay their lives on the line for him and his beliefs, or this wouldn’t work. He also reveals his plans to ascend to being the new Senator, thus taking his cult to the next level in the process. Later on, he tries to get his followers- as well as Beverly, Winter, Ally and Ivy under duress- to literally “Drink the Kool-Aid,” as per the episode’s title.

One who doesn’t is promptly killed, but in the end, most everyone does, with Beverly in particular seeming to hope and pray for death, simply so this can all be over. Mission accomplished for Kai, who now has everyone’s complete devotion, but not Beverly, as the power move was simply a test to prove loyalty to the cause and there was nothing, in fact, in said Kool-Aid. “You can’t lead a movement if you’re dead,” Kai points out, finally making some sense.

While Kai’s message remains a bit on the slippery side- I’m not sure he even knows, much less the writers- at least now he has everyone in line, for the time being. But there is certainly one wild card in his midst, and that person is Ally. After all, Ally only joined his cult to get her son back- well that, and, as she later points out, to get revenge on her unfaithful wife, who would rather align herself with a whack job like Kai than do the work to keep her relationship with Ally intact.

Granted, Ally was a handful in the past, but it seems like, as we saw in flashbacks, that Ivy started hating and resenting Ally long before she went off the rails, and lest we forget, Ivy played a part in running Ally off those rails in the first place. Ivy hated that Ally was the one who served as the birth mother of their child, and resented the hell out of her for that all along, so jealousy was far more of a factor than being fed up with her various phobias- which Ivy herself exacerbated. Well that, and Ally voting for Jill Stein, lol.

But Ally got her revenge, poisoning Ivy’s wine and food, in a baller move that even impressed Kai, who himself didn’t much hesitate to drink wine and eat a Manwich (a bit on the nose symbolically- Murphy isn’t one for subtlety- but still funny) with Ally, even after her confession. Further, he shares with Ally the fact that he has his parents’ dead bodies in his upstairs bedroom, their corpses still rotting away, and the two add Ivy to the mix, casually tossing some lye on her and leaving her on the floor to rot.

Once again, this isn’t the most logical move on Kai’s part. Now not one but two women, both of whom he’s terrorized and fully resent him, know about the literal skeletons in his closet, to go along with Winter, who’s known for even longer. Don’t be surprised in the least if one or all of them uses this knowledge against him at some point to help bring Kai down, though his death seems imminent.

Still, this is Ryan Murphy we’re talking about, so don’t necessarily count on good triumphing over evil, given his past track record. Sure, it’s been known to happen- see “Asylum” and “Coven,” in which Sarah Paulson’s respective characters came out on top in the end- but not always. Sometimes- more often than not, in fact- Murphy just kills everyone and calls it a day. We shall see.

Despite their occasional flaws in logic, these were easily two of the best episodes of the season. “Kool-Aid” in particular was a shining moment for Peters, who has arguably never been better on the show than in he is this season. While I wouldn’t have hated it if the show had paced itself somewhat more when it came to these cult leaders’ portrayals, if only to see Peters inhabit them a little more, at least Murphy and company are keeping things moving at a nice clip this season.

Factor in the fact that it’s been one of the more unpredictable seasons of the show, with a near-constant stream of high-profile character killings, all of which have been nicely spread out over the entire season, rather than near-all-at-once towards the end, and that it’s a season full of unexpected twists and some undeniably jaw-dropping moments and I’m actually on board with already saying it’s one of the better seasons of the show.

I love the socio-political bent, and if Murphy’s point is sometimes as hard to follow as Kai’s, at least there’s never a dull moment. I am genuinely curious to see what happens next, and who will be left standing in the end. Will Kai reign supreme? Or will one- or even all- of the remaining ladies step up? Hard to say, but I can’t wait to find out.

What did you think of the last few episodes of “American Horror Story: Cult”? Are you liking the way things are proceeding? Any predictions on what will happen in the final few episodes? Who do you think will be left standing? Will anyone at all? Do you have more sympathy for Ally now that’s she’s stopped behaving like a hysterical mess? Were you sad to see Dr. Vincent and Ivy go? How about that Rick Springfield? (“Don’t Talk to Strangers,” indeed.)

What did you think of Peters’ many cult leader roles? Did any one in particular stand out for you? Are you looking forward to seeing him tackle the most notorious cult leader of all next week, in his take on Charles Manson? Are there any cult leaders you wish we’d got to see him play that haven’t been done yet? Did you love it when Oz called Kai on his BS? (Maybe Oz will be the last one left standing!)

Sound off on this and more down below, and see you in a few weeks for the final wrap-up!