Tuesday's episode of American Horror Story: Cult, "11/9," finally revealed the many members of Kai's crew and how he recruited them. In short, this man has the charisma of JFK and a radar for weaknesses that can't be matched. He is Manson Smurf and he takes no prisoners.
In "11/9," we flash back to election night for the first time since Cult's premiere, when Ally and Ivy are voting at their local polling place. Harrison and Meadow are also in attendance, and in the most Meadow move ever, she writes in Oprah's name. Love you, girl.
Winter votes for Hillary, snapping a pic of her booth for evidence, of course, and Ally hesitates before voting for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, a decision that will go on to her haunt her. Kai is nowhere to be seen... until he strolls into the polling station with Gary Longstreet (Chaz Bono), who is bleeding like crazy. Unsurprisingly, they both vote for Trump.
Gary leaves his polling booth and screams out, "Welcome to Trump's American, M*therf*ckers!" before revealing the source of his wound: his left arm has been chopped off. More on that later.
Emma Roberts' character, Serena Belinda (lol), is also revealed in this episode as reporter Beverly Hope's workplace nemesis. Serena is also a Trump voter and partakes of some shady business practices we'll return to in a few.
This episode was all about revelations, specifically explaining how Kai brainwashes people into joining his batshit cause.
Turns out he meets Harrison at the gym, having chosen him as a trainer because he "looks strong enough to drag a dead body." Red flag, Harrison. Red flag, dude.
Kai claims to be an app developer, which allows him to work from home and gives him plenty of time to carry out unsavory shenanigans. He tells Harrison that he tested at genius level at age 10, and was invited to join MENSA. Kai is competent and interesting and spends a lot of time talking about how loyal a friend he is.
Harrison, on the other hand, is working a fruitless job and doesn't have many friends. He's constantly bullied by a boss who makes him clean up semen in the men's sauna on the regular, and as such, is less than fulfilled in life.
When Harrison gets home to Meadow that evening, she informs him the bank is foreclosing on their home. She sheds light on their unfortunate financial situation: she had a melanoma and had to go on disability, was sexually harassed by her manager at a craft store, and hasn't been able to work since. They've been paying a $1,500/month mortgage on his trainer salary alone, and she's been managing what little money they have. She tries to engage him in coping sex, but it fails because he is gay, after all. Their relationship is nothing if not bizarre.
Harrison gets to the gym the next day and unloads his bad luck to Kai. He believes he has nothing, and it shows. He is obviously struggling, and Kai takes the opportunity to impart his philosophy:
"Nowhere is a great place to be," he says. "Anything you see in me is in you. I am you. And if I say you're great, then you're great. You have to live your life the way it was meant to be."
We also witness the blue devil trace the dreaded smiley face on the glass door of the sauna, confirming he's responsible for all the murders that have been marked by the symbol.
Kai convinces Harrison to confront his terrible co-worker, later revealed as Vincenzo Ravoli. With his blue-haired instigator at his ear, he breaks Vincenzo's trachea with a barbell. Homophobia doesn't pay, y'all.
Later, we see Harrison regretting his actions, afraid he'll be caught, but Kai has a plan. He takes Vincenzo's phone and sends a text message to all his friends that he's going out of town due to an emergency. He goes on to use his computer skills to erase the last three weeks of surveillance footage. This gives us major perspective on how he pulls off his horrid deeds with such ease. He also just so happens to know Vincenzo has no wife, no pets, and no family, and believe it or not, that's when it really gets weird.
He reveals he's been "watching" Harrison and the people around him, casually throws out the word "bigly," and officially adopts Harrison as his lackey. Every person he targets is researched and observed at length before Kai recruits them.
Meadow gets home to their post-eviction residence (it's a motel :-() to find Kai teaching Harrison how to properly cut off a head, Vincenzo's sad dead body draped across him in the bath tub. Meadow, aghast but jaded from her recent string of bad luck, simply asks Harrison who Kai is, and he responds, "Someone to believe in."
Such brainwash. Much follow.
Adina Porter's Beverly Hope is sick of subpar reporting assignments. We've seen her several times before, but we really get to know her at a dump where she's covering the discovery of Vincenzo's "well-muscled torso." Sigh. Even after death, we can't escape outrageous beauty standards.
Roberts' Serena Belinda, meanwhile, has been assigned to laze about at a salon, testing a cool new massage trend called reflexology. To be clear, there's major favoritism being played by their awful boss, Bob.
Kai sees Beverly on TV and becomes obsessed with her. After a little googling, he discovers she was sent to a psychiatric facility for 30 days because she went ballistic on a stranger on camera. Full disclosure, she was being harassed by a group of trolls who'd shout things about genitals into her camera every time she filmed, messing with her work and the success of her overall career. Eventually, she snapped, whacking one of the trolls over and over again with her microphone for all her viewers to see. It was really quite glorious, but no way for a journalist to behave, I suppose.
As it turns out, the favoritism at Beverly's network is because Serena is hooking up with their boss, Bob. Beverly, already quite aware of Serena's tricks, walks in on the two of them one night post-groping sesh.
"S*cking d*ck is not gonna build a career, sweetheart," Beverly snarls at Serena.
Bob tells Beverly she's on thin ice, that he really should have fired her when she hit that pain-in-the-ass kid with her mic, and that she'd better stay in her place.
"You cannot fire me, I'm the only Black reporter you have," she replies, but she knows she has no real power despite the unfair situation at hand.
She's seen outside shortly afterward slashing the tires of a car — presumably either Serena's or Bob's — when Kai shows up offering advice. He offers to buy her a cup of coffee and they bond over how the world is set up to humiliate them both.
When it comes time to introduce himself, he tells her a slightly different story than the one he told Harrison: he's a military vet who graduated from Yale in three years. He still mentions that he has a high IQ, but he definitely presents himself as more accomplished than he does to Harrison.
Beverly is angry as a hornet, it's true, but she's skeptical of Kai:
"I don't believe in you, or anyone. Not even myself," she says after he's done trying to sell himself to her.
He leaves and gives her the address to his "campaign office," AKA home basement.
"I'll see you in a few days," he says.
Serena's disdain for puppies is yet another reason to hate her. Truly, she is the least likable character Roberts has ever played on AHS. She's filming a feature for the town's upcoming Rescue League Adoption Jamboree when Kai's clowns come straight up behind her and slash her right in the stomach. They also target her camera man, and the footage keeps rolling until Serena is long gone.
They leave the puppy though, so they're not all bad. Kidding, kidding. Moving along.
RIP Serena Belinda, gone too soon but not really.
Meadow is hilarious, creative, and highly under-appreciated, by the way. Kai is lauding her art when Beverly shows up to his house and asks him if he's the wondrous being who put an end to Serena. Kai confirms he murdered Serena for Beverly so that she would know he'd do anything for her. They hug and bond and Kai tells her "equal power" is coming. She's officially on his suicide squad.
Vincenzo Ravoli's head is discovered about a week after his torso was found at Hoyt Area Landfill, and guess who's there to cover it? Beverly appears on screen, her reporting style suddenly fear-mongering as she calls into question if viewers can trust the government to protect them as long as atrocities like these are going down. Kai smiles as he watches her report live, spreading the scare he's selling.
Finally, we flash back to the night before election day, where Ally and Ivy are convincing themselves Trump will never win because he's a reality TV star.
Ally stays safe at home while Ivy attends a political rally and ends up in a fight with none other than Gary Longstreet. At this point, he still has both arms, by the way.
Like a real sleeze, Gary tells her that a little "p*ssy grabbing" is exactly what she needs, and proceeds to grab her crotch.
Ivy freezes, stunned, but Winter is also at this rally. She defends her, threatening to call the cops, chasing him off. Winter and Ivy go and get coffee at The Butchery on Main, bonding over how much men can suck at times.
'Tis a shame indeed.
But the big revelation here is that Ivy and Winter knew each other weeks before the Mayfair-Richards hired her as their nanny for Ozzy. Ivy pretended not to know Winter. Ivy's computer password is "clownz." Ivy is getting more suspicious every episode.
We catch up with Gary back at the same grocery store Ally visited in episode 1, and Winter has found him. She saw the sign for the store on his truck as he drove away from the rally, and the ladies are ready for revenge. Ivy tases him in the neck, he collapses, and Winter pulls a roll of duct tape off the shelf.
Next thing you know, Gary wakes up to find himself bound in a basement, likely the bottom floor of the grocery store. Ivy and Winter announce that people like him don't deserve to have a say in politics. Maybe so, but what else would a man like Gary be good for, if not to bitch about nothing in particular?
They leave him tied and alone, telling him they'll call the police in 24 hours, long after a woman has been elected his commander in chief.
Winter gets home with blood all over herself, where Kai finds her and demands she tell him everything. She spills, and Kai shows up at Gary's location to take advantage. Gary is desperate to vote before the polls close in an hour, but in true Kai fashion, he's only brought a hand saw. He appeals to Gary's weirdo values, reminding him how hard it is to be a straight white male in America.
Ultimately, he convinces Gary to saw off his own arm in order to get to the voting place in time.
Now that's dedication.
American Horror Story: Cult returns Tuesday, Oct. 3 on FX.