We rewound the clock to see the beginnings of Kai’s master plan on American Horror Story Season 7 Episode 4.
"11/9" jumped around in time to show how several of the major characters became embroiled in Kai’s radical ideology. What resulted was a masterful showcase for the many talents of Evan Peters.
I'm continually impressed and surprised by Billy Eichner’s performance as Harrison Wilton this season. Before this, I'd always associated him with his outrageous, over the top comedic roles on Parks and Recreation or Billy on the Street.
But it's clear from his American Horror Story performance that Billy has the chops to be a serious dramatic actor.
He makes the most of his funny one-liners, but "11/9" also imbued a tremendous amount of humanity and sympathy to Harrison.
While we saw many regular characters, the majority of the focus was on how both Beverly Hope and Harrison (and by extension, Meadow) became involved with Kai’s “cult.”
Harrison: So, I like to start by asking people what their goals are.
Kai: World domination.
Showing how Kai got to all of these people was brilliantly done.
Evan is extremely talented. Seeing Kai be so charming, manipulative, and simultaneously sympathetic to every individual character’s needs was chilling and convincing.
This is how a cult is really formed. Kai is what a cult leader is really like.
He may be blue-haired and greasy-looking, but this installment reveals that he's actually very intelligent, with a background in computers. He also seems to be something of a sociopath.
Kai preyed upon people that he sensed were malleable and in need of someone to follow, something to believe in.
Interestingly, the two people he bound to him via murderous machinations aren't people you would typically associate with Trump supporters or conservatives: Beverly Hope, a black woman, and Harrison, a gay man.
But both Harrison and Beverly were in a desperate state and therefore easily susceptible to Kai’s influence.
Harrison was deeply unhappy married to Meadow (something we first found out on American Horror Story Season 7 Episode 3). He was also in dire financial straits after Meadow informed him the bank was foreclosing on their home.
Harrison: I mean, how many times has that ever worked for you? Five, six times max?
Poor Meadow, of course, had to resign from her job because of her skin cancer and then from a craft store gig because of sexual harassment.
To top it all off, Harrison’s boss Vinny was a demeaning asshat. It was all a perfect storm before Kai showed up and dialed Harrison’s latent rage all the way up to 11.
The result was Harrison snapping and murdering Vinny – Kai, of course, all but talked him into it. He was the one who pointed out to Harrison that Vinny was asking him to clean semen off of the men’s locker room floor because of his sexuality.
Kai also gave Harrison a pep talk right before the murder, coaching him through disposing of the body properly. It was only after helping Harrison cover up the murder that Kai confessed he'd been "watching" him and everyone around him, fully recruiting him into his world-changing goal.
Harrison: You're the only thing that keeps me going. You are. You're positive, and you're optimistic, and you're transformative, and I'm not.
Kai: Harrison. I'm just a mirror. Anything you see in me is in you. I am you. And if I say you're great, then you're great.
Harrison: I'm great. I'm great.
Kai: You have to live your life the way it was meant to be. To live is to suffer. And to suffer is to find some meaning in that suffering. Do you understand?
The above exchange felt particularly demonstrative of Kai's effectiveness as a cult leader. But pretty much every single line Kai said was like a masterclass in how to brainwash people.
As bad as I feel for Meadow, it was hilarious seeing her face when she walked in on her gay husband sawing off his murdered boss’s head in their hotel room bathroom as Kai calmly talked him through it, joint in hand, no less!
As for Meadow, all she needed was a few compliments from Kai on her artistic abilities – which apparently inspired the clown gang masks? – to be putty in his hands.
Then, there was Beverly. Of course, it was no accident that Kai recruited someone in the media. He needed someone to subtly spread his message (and to pin Vinny's murder on the homeless encampment).
Beverly snapped and beat a skateboarder after being repeatedly taunted by men repeating Trump’s infamous “pussy” quote during her news coverage. She was checked into a facility for psychiatric treatment, and when she came out, a young white woman had basically been handed a promotion over her.
Serena: Something wrong, Beverly?
Beverly: Eat shit, Serena.
Serena: Well, aren't you a nasty woman!
Largely because Dermot Mulroney's news anchor Bob was extremely disgusting and having sex with Serena, who was proudly sleeping her way to the top. The nipple pinching was a little much for me, to be honest. I gagged.
Beverly’s rage is understandable, and Adina Porter sells it powerfully as usual. But I felt that Beverly’s recruitment was a tad rushed compared with Harrison’s.
We got the sense that Kai had been working on Harrison for weeks, whereas Beverly went from zero to a-okay with cold-blooded murder after a single coffee chat.
Perhaps that's just proof that Beverly was in a more fragile mental state than Harrison, but it still felt weird.
Believe me, Beverly Hope. If you get the world scared enough, they will set the world on fire for us.Kai
Perhaps the most powerful part of the Kai/Beverly section is how he basically laid out his entire plan and backstory to her. He revealed he was in the army, in Iraq, then graduated from Yale with a double degree in political science and women's studies. Because of course, he did.
According to what he told Beverly (though who knows how honest he's being), he intends to win the city council seat, then climb the political ladder while amassing millions of followers. As of what we've seen so far, that's a completely plausible plan.
But will he actually uphold his "equal power" promise to her? Or will he bump her off when it's convenient?
The most interesting section of this installment revealed quite the twist – unbeknownst to Ally, Ivy knew Winter before they hired her.
In fact, they kidnapped a man together! Quite the bonding experience, no?
I'd pretty much already surmised that Ivy was, to some degree, “in bed” with Kai’s cult. It’s important to note that "11/9" doesn't confirm this, but just heavily suggests it.
We only saw Ivy go to the Clinton vs Trump rally to face-off with conservatives. When soon-to-be armless Gary attacked her, Winter intervened.
Welcome to Trump's America, motherfuckers!Gary
What's interesting is, from what we saw of Winter and Kai’s brief encounter, kidnapping and chaining up Gary to prevent him from voting was Winter’s first act of violence. That leads me to believe that this was the trigger event that solidified her induction into Kai’s cult. But what about Ivy?
Ivy was a full-throated participant in Gary’s kidnapping. Since she's generally been portrayed as a reasonable and level-headed liberal (unlike her wife), this was a complicated and thought-provoking decision on Ryan Murphy’s part.
I was particularly struck by Ivy’s stated kidnapping motives – namely, that people like Gary don't deserve a vote.
Ivy: People like you don't deserve to have a say. You don't matter anymore.
Winter: Consider yourself silenced, bitch!
That, of course, is absurd and undemocratic. It's the very antithesis of what liberals claim to preach.
It goes without saying that everyone has the right to vote. Ivy’s move just proves that, even for the most seemingly level-headed folks, it's a fine line between disagreeing with someone and denying them the right to their opinion.
The structure of this installment was brilliant – a closed loop. The opening scene ended with newly-armless Gary being half-carried to the voting booth by Kai. The closing scene showed us exactly how he came to be armless.
The dialogue between Kai and Gary perfectly encapsulated what so many men like Gary think of liberal women – that they are all radical, man-hating (and man-denigrating) “feminazis.”
In Gary’s case, being confronted with those thoughts was enough to get him to saw his own arm off to keep “those women” out of power.
It's smart satire and purposely over the top. I, for one, am enjoying seeing Ryan Murphy criticize and sympathize with people all across the political spectrum. It's a pleasant surprise.
- RIP, Emma Roberts. That was a far briefer role than I anticipated! What a gruesome and shocking death-by-clowns. In broad daylight, no less!
- I loved the opening sequence showing how everyone voted. We already knew that Armless Gary was a Trump supporter, Ivy was a Clinton supporter, and Ally had voted for Jill Stein against her wife’s wishes. But surprisingly, Harrison voted for Gary Johnson and Meadow wrote in a vote for Oprah (after complaining that she wasn't qualified to choose the president).
- The costuming department is doing a great job with outfit colors signifying political affiliations. Serena had on a bright red coat on Election Day, when she voted for Trump (though weirdly lied about it and said she was voting for Hillary), while Beverly was wearing a blue outfit.
- I am still 100% confused about the relation between Kai and Winter. And Winter in general. Was she ever a legitimate Clinton supporter, or was her campaigning all part of some type of long con for Kai?
- Meadow is so deliciously pathetic. Trying in vain to seduce Harrison and then offering herself to the scuzzy pot smokers who turned her down – yeesh. Embarrassing and cringe-worthy.
- Anybody else glad this hour was a solid break from Ally?
What did you think of "11/9"? Share your thoughts by commenting below, and don't forget that you can watch American Horror Story online here at TV Fanatic anytime!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.