AHS: Cult’s Ménage à Trois Of Terror

by Ben Martin

[PLEASE NOTE: This recap of American Horror Story Season 7: Cult, Episode 8:  Winter of Our Discontent  DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. It is assumed you have already viewed the episode. If you have not, it is recommended you do so. Episode 8: Winter of Our Discontent can be viewed on FX, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service.]

Throughout history, you will find that there are many trends that repeat themselves. One of these trends is that when someone becomes successful, that person’s long lost family and friends will come to greet them. Those who crawl out of the woodwork do so with hopes of riding the coattails of whoever is sitting on the proverbial throne. This seems to be the case as this week’s episode opens with Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson) showing up at his now-successful younger brother’s abode. He has come to congratulate Kai (Evan Peters) for all he has achieved in running for office. Vincent also admits to his younger brother that he is ashamed of having not been more supportive. Despite being late to the party, it’s quite evident that Vincent does not know of Kai’s “achievements” with the cult. Kai takes it in stride, insisting his elder brother now refer to him as “Councilman.”

Meanwhile, The Butchery has become the resident mess hall for Kai’s army. What was once a favorite small cafe seems to now be nothing more than a private political establishment, filled with men adorned in blue denim. Ivy (Alison Pill) is not happy, as not only has her restaurant been taken over by these goons; but she has also become more of a servant than anything else. To top it all off, the denim douches treat her with nothing but contempt and misogyny while complaining about the healthy food that their leader has dictated be prepared for them.

That may all be short-lived, though, as she and Beverly (Adina Porter) are still intent on toppling the patriarchy. Alas, it seems that Winter (Billie Lourd) is no longer on board with the cause or at least, wants to delay it. She reasons that her brother is a good person who has just lost his way. She maintains that she just needs to be steered back in the right direction. To illustrate her point, Winter tells of when Kai served as a savior.

Back during Halloween 2015, when she and Kai had been making a habit of surfing the dark web together. The siblings did so with the intent of being the ultimate trolls. Their online personas were those of ultra-conservative Christian extremists, whose modus operandi was to present the absolute extreme as the solution. For example, they offer this scenario on a message board: “Why allow abortion? Instead, just let the mother have the baby and then just kill the mother who wanted to abort the baby?” Eventually, all their trolling gets the dastardly brother and sister invited to Judgement House. A place that lives up to its name, run by a preacher named Pastor Charles, played by none other than Rick Springfield.

Pastor Charles is taking God’s judgment into his own hands; ala Se7en (1995) and in a more modern parlance, Saw (2004). As Kai and Winter wander through Judgement House, they think they’re being treated to nothing more than a very well-done horror show. That is until they encounter a woman bound in stirrups. This woman appears to be bleeding to death and is being electrocuted after having had an abortion. Following that, they find a drug addict who is being given drugs of his choice intravenously until they kill him. In the final room, there’s a gay man tied to a chair that functions much like an iron maiden. The doomed man says that shortly, metal spikes will pierce him. Believing the man, the siblings free him and find that he is telling the truth when spikes pierce through the chair to impair their intended target.

Kai and Winter release the other hostages. It turns out; the “abortionist” had done nothing more than come out of a planned parenthood clinic, only having procured birth control. Furthermore, “the drug addict” had been attending rehab and trying to get clean. Finally, the gay man had been volunteering at an AIDS clinic. These realities prove that all the nut-job pastor’s judgments were even more wrong. Kai decides that there is only one form of justice for  Pastor Charles’ sins. Said “justice” is death as Kai kills the hellfire and brimstone bozo,  using the iron maiden chair to do so. This story gained empathy for Kai from the ladies (and me, which I thought was impossible). Also, the tale buys Kai a little more time.

Not wanting to waste any time in turning the tides, Winter goes to talk to her brother. Before Kai allows her to speak, he demands that she once again pledge her loyalty to him. She does so, hoping to make the most of her opportunity. However, Kai cuts her off before she even has a chance to state her case. Instead, Kai proposes that he, Winter and Detective Samuels (Colton Haynes) have “A messiah baby,” through the means a twisted threesome.

Understandably feeling that her brother has reached a whole new level of disgusting abuse of power, Winter refuses. Despite his sister’s rebuttal, Kai manages to convince her to follow through with the Ménage à trois. To set a mood, Kai dictates they should all wear white religious robes. To add to the atmosphere, he also lights candles and plays All-4-One’s I Swear,” calling it “A holy song.” These lines thankfully add some much needed, albeit, inappropriate levity to the scene. Ultimately though, the unholy ménage à trois is unsuccessful as Samuels proves impotent with Winter. Furthermore, Winter feels sexually assaulted.

In the meantime, Vincent has makes a house call to Ally’s, of his own accord. He has come to apologize to his patient, realizing everything she’s said is true. Vincent’s atonement is not easy for him, considering he had Ally committed to a psych ward for three weeks after her arrest. After Ally accepts her doctor’s apology as well as one might expect, Vincent also reveals that Kai is his brother. However, he’s quick to maintain that he has had nothing to do with the cult’s plot. Understandably, Ally finds all her therapist’s claims hard to buy; particularly of having no cult involvement. Vincent expounds on this, saying he assumes that his brother broke into his office and went through the case files, thus getting all of Ally’s information. Ally is furious, but the good doctor claims that he will rectify the situation. He maintains that not only will he get his brother committed, but he’ll also help Ally get her son back.

From one Anderson brother making a house call to another, Ally invites her tormentor, Kai over for dinner. He accepts the invitation, though not without reservation. Upon his arrival, Kai is flanked by two bodyguards. Such a precaution is not surprising considering the cult leader’s reasonable assumption that Ally would attempt to kill him in some fashion or another. However, Ally proves that she has no intention of providing Kai with his last meal. On the contrary, our heroine says she wants to work with Kai. Apparently, Kai is befuddled by this at first. However, Ally quickly soothes his reservations, saying she’ll do whatever it takes to get her son back. For leverage, she reveals to Kai that his brother is trying to get Kai committed. Furthermore, she adds that thanks to Kai’s terrorizing her, she is no longer afraid of anything and thereby, cured.

The next day, we find Winter paying her penance for not playing her part in the threesome. As such, she is forced to pick up litter on the side of the road while wearing an orange jumpsuit and a dunce’s cap. Then, a black, unmarked Dodge Charger pulls up alongside her. It’s Detective Samuels who is bringing her lunch and passing on Kai’s further orders. Winter takes her lunch break with Samuels in the car, disgusted that she yet again, has to choke down Gruel. Samuels tries to ignore her, maintaining that he simply there to do their leader’s bidding. All this leads her to ask Samuels, “Have you always been Kai’s bitch? The detective counters, “No, in fact when we first met, he was mine.”

Flashing back about a year and a half, it is revealed that Samuels had busted Kai for prescription fraud using Dr. Rudy’s name. But, instead of arresting him, Samuels blackmailed Kai for a 70/30 split of his scheme. One night, Kai brings Samuels his cut. When enters the house; Kai finds that his unwanted partner is in the midst of sex with a woman. However, this woman quickly flees after Samuels tries to choke her. Samuels is upset by his impotence until the future cult leader intercedes; convincing Samuels to “Lean into his masculinity and take power.” The two of them proceed to have sex,  creating a bond between them. Back in the present, Winter takes a moment to soak in Samuels’ secret origins. Then, she uses his story, to belittle the detective and mock his sexuality. Enraged and intent on proving Winter wrong, Samuels attempts to rape her. However, she grabs the detective’s gun and shoots him in the face before he gets to chance to continue his assault.

Later that night, a cult gathering is called by Kai. It is his intention to expose his cult’s most recent betrayals. First, the cabal brings his brother Vincent before their leader. After giving a speech about “pinky power,” Kai reveals to his followers that Vincent intended to have him committed. With that, Kai breaks the bond of brotherhood, cutting off Vincent’s pinky finger and slashing his throat. While the blood is still fresh on the carpet, Beverly is brought before the cult. Thanks to the story his sister told him, Kai is under the impression that Beverly is responsible for shooting Samuels.

The leader and his former right-hand woman feel betrayed by one another. Deeming that death is too good for Beverly, he has her sentenced, indefinitely, to “the isolation chamber.” After doing so, Kai dictates, “Loyalty must be absolute; without it, we have nothing. Now we can move forward.” As if on cue, the camera then circles around the basement as each cult member removes their mask. Finally, we come to a person who has donned the costume formerly worn by Beverly. The mystery member removes the cover and is revealed to be Ally. Ivy is shocked as the slightest of smirks forms on her estranged wife’s face. With this not so surprising reveal, the episode ends.

I’m not going to bother burying the lead here. I found this week’s episode, “The Winter of Our Discontent,” to be one of the strongest Cult has presented yet. It probably helps that the episode opens with something that I could, sadly ,identify within that of “The Judgement House.” Evangelical Christian churches, particularly contemporary ones, have made a habit of creating something similar, commonly referred to as “Hell Houses.” These Hell Houses are thankfully non-violent but are similar to that of Judgement House. Usually presented around Halloween, Hell Houses give their patrons a terrifying depiction of Hell as described in The Bible. Of course, the only way this depiction of damnation can be avoided is to embrace Christ and join the church.

The first time I ever encountered such a thing, I was in middle school. Even then, I found the idea of scaring someone into Jesus or any faith and/or religion to be repulsive and rejected it outright. Thus, to see AHS take such a concept to the absolute extreme made me shudder, so I was hooked for the rest of the episode. I also greatly enjoyed the fact that the otherwise seemingly useless character of Samuels was explained and then eliminated. Overall, I felt this episode progressed the series along nicely while managing to be quite scary. Not to mention, it left me with a burning question: “What is Ally’s actual game here?” This writer guess is that she wants to tear the cult apart from the inside. But, we shall see in the coming weeks.

However, I do have one major qualm with this episode. That being, “Where is Bebe Babbitt?!” After last week’s episode, it seemed she would be a significant piece of the remainder of the series. I mean, she did help incite mutiny on the ladies’ part for goodness sake! Alas, as of this week’s episode, it appears that is not the case. I was greatly disappointed by her absence. Hopefully, though, she will have more of a part to play before Cult’s conclusion. Other than that though, this was an excellent episode. I look forward to whatever is to come in the few remaining episodes.

Episode 9: Drink the Kool-Aid will air Tuesday, October 31, Halloween on FX at 10:00 PM.

Ben Martin

Ben Martin is a life-long movie & TV lover. In his teens, he decided he wanted to do more than just watch the things he enjoyed. So Ben decided to start writing his opinions on TV & movies a well. Mr. Martin also writes screenplays, short stories and opinion columns.