[PLEASE NOTE: This recap of American Horror Story Season 7: Cult, Episode 9: Drink the Kool-Aid DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. It is assumed you have already viewed the episode. If you have not, it is recommended you do so. Episode 9: Drink the Kool-Aid can be viewed on FX, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service.]
Last week’s episode of American Horror Story: Cult takes a break from the kinetic energy of the past several weeks. Instead, the non-linear narrative we’ve become accustomed to as viewers is put aside for a straightforward, linear episode. That is, except for a few flashbacks to the past with AHS once again employing its version of revisionist history.
This week’s episode opens with a montage of such an account, looking at three of the most infamous cults on record. First, we’re treated to a look at Heaven’s Gate. A cult that came to a tragic end in a mass suicide. The purpose of which was to allow its members and their leader, Marshall Applewhite to become one with the extraterrestrials they worshiped. That is the last bit of genuinely accurate cult history we get. Following that, this opening montage becomes a bit anachronistic.
From, there we move on to David Koresh and The Branch Davidians. This particular cult had a compound in Mount Carmel, Texas. Inside its walls, the cult’s leader, David Koresh had convinced his followers that he was a prophet of the Lord. Koresh believed that his purpose was to write another testament in The Bible. Eventually, though, the ATF investigated the cult and its compound on suspicion of the illegal possession of firearms.
Through an escalation events, there was a 51-day standoff between The Branch Davidians and the ATF. In the end, the compound caught on fire with many perishing, including Koresh. Though some reports say that the false prophet was shot, some sources even accuse the ATF of also igniting the blaze. In Cult’s version of these events though, Koresh ends up shooting several of his devotees and then himself.
Finally, the show gives us a depiction of the cult responsible for giving rise to the phrase, “Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid,” Jim Jones and The Peoples Temple. After essentially creating a separatist, religious movement in Guyana, Jones came under scrutiny from the media. Fearing he and his “congregation” would be shut-down, Jones took extreme measures. He had the members of the media investigating in Guyana killed. After this, Jones knew there would ultimately be no way out.
Thus, Jones’ terrible solution was for he and his people to commit mass suicide by drinking grape Flavor-Aid laced with cyanide. The opening montage ends by only showing us part of these events. Cutting to Kai’s (Evan Peters) using these horrible histories as bedtime stories of sorts to all his male followers. Each time he does so, it only reasserts the loyalty of his denim-clad sheep.
The next day, Kai has gone from being a busy cult leader to an active city councilman. During this particular city council meeting, Kai tends to his first big issue. In this case, he essentially proposes internet censorship. However, he calls such a proposal regulation, dubbing it, “The Kai Anderson Freedom of Integrity Internet Act.” He has the support of this majority of his fellow council. One of whom is black and blue. Though it’s never stated, it’s insinuated that Councilman Kai’s cabal is responsible for the violence. Not wanting to stop his winning streak, Kai takes the opportunity to announce his bid for senate in 2018.
That same night, we find that Ally (Sarah Paulson) and Ivy (Alison Pill) are coming to terms with one another. Ivy admits that she joined the cult because she felt lost and thus, needed guidance. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that The Butchery felt overwhelming. Not to mention, that all the while her hatred of Ally grew ever-stronger. Upon hearing all this, Ivy’s estranged wife reminds her that people died due to her actions. Ivy takes this cold, hard fact in; revealing that she wants to leave the cult.
However, Ally already knows this, contending that she joined the cult in an effort to get Ivy out and regain Oz (Cooper Dodson). That way, they can be a family again. Then as if on cue, Winter (Billie Lourd) brings Oz home to the couple on the rocks. Though her son is hesitant, Ally and he seem to re-bond quite quickly. After Oz goes up to his room, Winter apologizes to Ally for all that she did. Winter then also admits that she wants to leave as well after seeing Kai kill their brother. The women begin to plot their escape, but are interrupted when Kai’s blue jean goons show up. They are there to bring the ladies to an “emergency meeting,” as designated by “The Divine Ruler,” as he is now dubbed. It’s demanded that Oz be brought along as well; though he’s left upstairs while the meeting takes place in the basement.
The entire cult is present for this meeting. Even Beverly (Adina Porter), having been let out of the isolation chamber for this occasion. Following Jim Jones’ lead, Kai demands that all his followers drink poison-laced Kool-Aid. He maintains that this will help them transcend beyond their physical bodies, thus transcending as beings, ala Heaven’s Gate. To ensure Kai’s orders are followed, Gary (Chaz Bono) holds all imbibers at gunpoint. All the members of the cult take their drink in trembling terror. That is with the sole exception of one of Kai’s goons, who refuses to do so and is shot dead for that choice. Finally, Kai and Gary take their turns drinking. After he chokes his drink down, Kai reveals that the Kool-Aid was not poisoned. Instead, this was just an exercise to prove that, “They are in this together & would even die for one another.”
Wasting no time, Ally and Ivy attempt to make their escape the following afternoon. Alas, when they go to pick up Oz up from school, they find that Winter has already done so. Because of this, Oz is back at the Anderson house, getting acquainted with Kai. After the kid warms up to Kai a bit, Kai tells Oz that he is his father. About that time, the child’s mothers burst in. However, their son resists them as he wants to spend time with his Daddy. Ally and Ivy agree that let Oz spend the night out of fear for their lives.
To distract themselves, the couple spends the evening keeping busy. Ally fixes dinner while Ivy goes through files of sperm donors from the clinic. Over their meal, Ally reveals that the way she overcame her fears was to fill the space they took up in her mind with something else. What she chose to focus on was getting revenge on Ivy. Upon that reveal, Ivy keels over due to having been poisoned by her estranged wife.
With Ivy’s death, this episode wraps back around to Kai’s revisionist telling of Jim Jones and The Peoples’ Temple. In his version, after Jones and his congregation poison themselves, Jesus descends on the fallen congregation, flanked by two angels. (This is done in a very cheesy church play type way as the three descend slowly on wires.) Jesus then resurrects Jones and imbues him with the power of resurrection. The “Holy” Jones then uses his newfound power to resurrect his followers.
Once again, we find that Kai is dispensing the tale to the followers. This time is different though, as young Oz is in attendance. The precocious boy challenges Kai’s version of history, citing the actual tragic history via Wikipedia. Kai does not take this questioning of his authority lightly. He vehemently tells the kid that no one else knows the truth, calling what the child is citing as “fake news.” He proceeds to punish Oz by destroying the child’s phone. Following that, he puts Oz in timeout, which I would imagine is something tantamount to the isolation chamber to which Beverly was sentenced.
Ally comes to pick Oz up from the oddest sleepover in the world the next day. Only to find that the goons will not let her in and that Kai and Oz aren’t home anyway. So, Ally decides to make the most of her time and goes to a fertilization clinic. There, she finds that while Kai was indeed a donor, he is in fact, not Oz’s father. Ally then somehow gets the employee to switch the records to make it look like Kai’s story is true. Later that same night, Kai and Ally have dinner together, seemingly strengthening their bond. As it is her style to drop bombs at the dinner table, Ally reveals to Kai that she killed Ivy by poisoning her. Kai does not bluff, in response, he instead takes another large bite of his Manwich.
As if his response unlocked a reward, Ally tells Kai that she believes his claims, showing him what we know is a false record. After their dinner, the new power couple takes Ivy’s corpse to Kai’s parents’ bedroom tomb, leaving her lye-sprinkled body on the floor to rot. The episode ends with the newly minted parental couple reuniting with Oz and Winter, who appear to be in Rudy’s former office. The child is just sitting there, reading happily. But then he stops; looking up with a smile, Oz hugs his newfound parents. As they wrap their arms around one another, Kai whispers, “Now we can finally be a real family.” In hearing this, a look fear and determination fills Ally’s eyes.
‘Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid,’ continues the winning trend this series has going. Just like last week’s episode, this one proves to be one of the strongest thus far. As I’ve stated in my recaps of the series in the past, I quite enjoy when the show’s writers re-envision darker portions of history. That is done expertly in the aforementioned cult histories montage. In each of the cult examined, Evan Peters plays the respective cult leaders. Once again, Peters proves his range as an actor. He completely manages to disappear into each of this infamous figures. From that point in this episode, I was hooked.
As this episode unfolded, I found myself happy to take a break from the non-linear structure. It seems at this point that it is time just to watch the plot play out. Personally, I’m okay with that because doing so leaves plenty of room to theorize. For example, “Is Ally out for revenge or has she just gone crazy?” Then again, there could be a more extreme conclusion afoot. It occurred to me, “Is it possible that everything we’re seeing is an illusion of Ally’s fractured mind? A state brought on after the election as a form of PTSD?” Granted, that outcome is highly unlikely, but it’s fun to think about. What are your thoughts?
In closing, I find Cult to be the strongest series in the American Horror Story canon. Thus, I cannot wait to see the outcome, and it won’t be long, as we only have two episodes left.
The Penultimate Episode (10): “Charles (Manson) in Charge” will air TUESDAY, NOV. 7 at 10:00 PM on FX.