American Horror Story: Cult, Episode 8 Recap: "Winter Of Our Discontent"

Photo: Frank Ockenfels/FX.
Fans of Hulu’s smash hit The Handmaid’s Tale were in for a treat as they watched episode seven of American Horror Story: Cult. It included many of the same elements of the dystopian series based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name: the subjugation of women, weird sexual ceremonies, and the constant questioning of who to trust in the grand scheme of things. Here’s what happened.
It turns out that Dr. Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson), who I’ve kept a suspicious eye on since the very start of this season, did not actually know what his brother Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) was up to. He confronts his younger brother about being left in the dark as Kai’s cult evolved but vows to help him anyway. Vincent is actually just giving his brother lip service, and will pay dearly for it later.
The women in the cult, Ivy (Alison Pill), Beverly (Adina Porter), and Winter (Billie Lourd), have been subjugated to domestic work at the Butcher on Main. They’ve been forced to serve Kai’s misogynistic boys in blue healthy foods as they berate the women on their attitude and appearance. None of the women like the way things are going and think taking Kai out is the only way to relieve them of their current subjugation. Beverly makes it crystal clear that she is running out of patience and willing to take matters into her own hands. But Winter’s loyalty to her blue-haired brother is unwavering and she convinces the other two to let her speak to them first. I don’t understand why they trust that she’s willing to put feminism over family, but Ivy and Beverly acquiesce to their her plan.
Kai himself has dived headfirst into his new role as councilman and he’s using his usual tactics, fear and intimidation, to sway votes in his favour. He gets them to pass a decree allowing his armed henchmen to act as private security in their hometown of Brookfield Heights, Michigan. Thanks to a flashback scene, we also know how Kai became obsessed with political power. Apparently him and Winter used to pass the time pretending to be anti-abortion bigots on the dark web. They were so good at it that a pastor named Charles invited the pair of him to his Judgement House. It turns out Pastor Charles was a psychopath who was holding people he believed to be sinners against their will in various states of torture. Kai was pretty disturbed by the whole thing and ended up killing Pastor Charles with one of his own torture devices. According to Winter, that’s when Kai dyed his hair, started using Adderall, and hadn’t been the same since. Although, after this episode, all of Winter’s recollections are questionable.
Presently, Kai has devised a plan for his sister. He breaks down in tears during their pinky promise game, officially named Pinky Power by the siblings, moved by his sister’s unwavering loyalty. He loves her so much that he has delegated a special task to her: birthing their movement’s messiah. But don’t worry, even Kai is above incest. No, he wants Detective Samuels (Colton Haynes) to impregnate her in a weird threesome where he penetrates the cop while the cop penetrates Winter. There’s your creepy sexual ritual. But Winter can’t go through with it. She feels like she’s being raped, which she kind of is. Neither can Detective Samuels, who can’t get an erection for a woman. This, too, comes with a strange backstory linking back to Kai.
Not only was Kai using drugs, he was selling them via illegal prescriptions. Detective Samuels busted him and began blackmailing Kai for blow jobs and money. During one of Kai’s required, weekly payoffs he walked in on Samuels getting violent with a female sexual partner after his erection failed him. Kai identified Samuels’ problem as one of power. By his assessment, Samuels was giving all of his power away to women by trying to sleep with them, when he actually needed a man (translation: another dick) to restore it. So Kai topped him, giving Detective Samuels — who still insists he isn’t gay — his power back. Nothing like some good anal sex to give someone a boost of confidence, am I right?
Anyway, Samuels shares this story with Winter after he picks her up from the side of the road. As punishment for not going through with Kai’s sex ritual, he’s forced her to put recycled trash back on the streets where it belongs because he doesn’t believe in global warming. Winter calls bullshit and tells Samuels that he’s actually just gay, not lacking power. And like many a rapist armed with fragile masculinity before him, Samuels tries to rape Winter to prove himself. But she fights back and uses his own gun to shoot him. Remember this.
In other news, Ally (Sarah Paulson) is out of jail. This doesn’t nearly as much as the news that Gucci Mane was released from prison last year, but I’m still kind of relieved. After all, she didn’t commit the crime that had her locked away in a psychiatric ward for three weeks. Newly aware of his brother’s activities, Dr. Vincent, her psychiatrist, pays her a visit and reveals that Kai is his brother. She is rightfully furious that Kai has been using information from Dr. Vincent’s medical file on her to trigger her phobias. She wants to have his license revoked. But Dr. Vincent is deeply apologetic for all the harm not taking her anxieties seriously has caused — mainly losing custody of her young son — and promises to make things right.
But scorned Ally has a plan of her own. She invites Kai over for dinner (a good one if you like sloppy joes). She has information that she is willing to share with the cult leader if he agrees to reunite her with her son. She tells Kai that Dr. Vincent is plotting to have him committed out of fear that his ties to Kai will risk his practice and reputation. It’s a great story considering that Dr. Vincent used the same excuse to convince Kai to hide his parents’ deaths years before. She also declares that everything that has happened to her in the past few months has miraculously cured her of all her fears. Ally is officially a savage, in a good way.
All of the bread crumbs left in this episode culminate into a final scene where Kai has gathered the cult to deal with its two betrayers: Beverly and Vincent. They’re brought before the group in Kai’s basement, bound by the hands and mouth. Kai addresses Vincent first. He unties his hands for one last game of Pinky Power (Vincent taught Kai the game when they were teenagers in order to escape from their abusive home life). But just as quickly as it begins, Kai cuts off his big brother’s finger before stabbing him in the neck. Then he turns to Beverly. Winter told him a different story about how Samuels was shot in his car: Beverly did it. The lone Black woman insists she’s innocent of that specific crime but remains unapologetic in her position that Kai is a terrible leader. She welcomes death as an alternative to following Kai’s rule any longer. Perhaps because of this, he forgoes killing her and instead has her sent to an unseen isolation chamber.
With their business handled, all of the remaining cult members remove their clown masks. The last person to show themselves is Ally, who is the newest recruit. We knew it was coming. Her estranged wife Ivy, who thought her involvement in the cult had rid her of Ally for good, did not. And she is clearly shook.
Kai has reached now reached Jerry Springer levels of messy, but unlike the Handmaid's Tale, the women he's toying with are fighting back.

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