This season of American Horror Story often tracks real headlines, but this week, in an unnerving, tragic parallel, the episode opens with a fictional mass shooting. It had been finished months before last week’s attack in Las Vegas became the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. FX released a statement that he episode was later recut for broadcast after the tragedy. Originally written and filmed to show explicit violence—and emphasize the need for gun control—the recut episode removed the more violent imagery out of respect for the victims of the Vegas shooting, Murphy said at the New Yorker Festival last weekend. The unedited version will appear on VOD and FX platforms.
The scene in question takes place at a rally for Kai, where a shooter targets him as well as several attendees. Once a SWAT team storms the rally, it appears Ally, caught holding a gun, was the shooter. Or was she?
Like in many episodes in this season, we flashback to an earlier scene, from last week, when a hunted-down Meadow told Ally about the cult while Ally was on the phone with Ivy. But we find out that after Ally hung up on Ivy, she immediately got a call from Dr. Vincent. Ally is suspicious—which we now learn is completely valid, since she just found out Ivy is in the cult. Dr. Vincent says she's having an episode. Ally’s being gas-lit by everyone, it seems, and she’s starting to realize it.
Determined, Ally goes across the street (again) and busts out Meadow, now tied up in the garage. They go to the Butchery to hide out. “Could I have a cappuccino?" Meadow asks. Gotta love Meadow.
Meadow proceeds to spill all the cult’s secrets, and to prove Ivy is in it. (For example, the night of the guinea pig explosion, Ivy left the alarm off and texted when they were almost home.) The point was to make Ally crazy. On TV, there’s a report about Kai, who Meadow identifies as their leader. Ally recognizes him as the guy who parted protesters for her after she killed Pedro. Meadow points out that he paid those protesters to be there. (Time for the fake-news drinking game, again.)
Meadow takes us back to December 2016. With her openly gay husband otherwise occupied, she didn’t know love until Kai, who lured her into the cult with attention and affection—and who would ravish her after each killing. One day, Meadow caught him giving the same pep talks to Ivy. In a jealous rage, Meadow tried to leave the cult, calling Kai’s plan to get on the zoning board a slow and stupid path to world domination. (True.) In response, Kai sics the cult on her, and they hatch a plan to “disappear.”
Ally says that they need to tell the FBI or at least go one town over, but Meadow says the only way to stop them is to Kill Kai. Red flag!
At a town hall, Kai spews his fear-mongering rhetoric, until someone calls him out as a snake oil salesman. The woman points out that overall crime is down despite these horrific murders that have taken place. She says Kai is not a conservative at all, he's a reactionary, that he uses the fantasy of a time that never was. We get it, okay! Her blockbuster speech has the crowd applauding. Meet Sally, our Hillary stand-in for the season. In case you were asleep, the next shot is two signs on the lawn, one for Trump and one for Hillary.
We get another flashback to November 9, the day after the election. Ivy is freaking out to Winter about what they did to Gary Longstreet. Winter says that she needs to meet her brother. (Speaking of which, where has Winter been? Ever since we found out about the cult, she’s receded into the background.)
In the Anderson basement, Kai reveals that he discovered Gary in the basement and he knows what Ivy did, blackmailing her into listening. He demands to know what fills her heart with dread—ultimately, it’s laying in bed with Ally. It all started when Ozzie was was born; Ivy couldn't carry a baby. And she's sick of Ally’s entitled phobias and, of course, the breaking point was her for voting for Jill Stein. Kai hatches a plan to make Ally look crazy so Ivy can get custody. I would love to sit down and watch this AHS season with Jill Stein. She's like the Pennywise of the small-town bourgeoisie.
Ally goes to seek the help of Dr. Vincent, leaving Meadow with him. She heads to Sally’s house, and Ally tells her everything that she knows about the cult. Sally assumes at least some of what Ally says is true, and, either way, Kai is no good and should be stopped. “This is what happens every time the patriarchy is threatened,” she says. Sally is a think-piece of a person. “Nothing shocks me. I went to Berkeley,” she adds.
Suddenly, the clowns arrive, hungry for blood; clearly, it’s an attack they planned after that embarrassing town hall. While Ally runs upstairs, Sally grabs her gun, but she’s no match for the group, and she’s pinned down. Kai takes off his mask. But Sally still isn’t scared (she went to Berkeley!) and tells him he will not stop the march of progress. Kai, in turn, writes a suicide note on Sally’s Facebook page, making it look like she killed herself because she didn’t believe progress was possible. He shoots Sally in the heart.
Upstairs, Ally screams, and one of the clowns goes upstairs to check it out. But when the masked clown figure opens the door, Ally does a double-take. “Ivy?” she whispers, able to recognize her wife’s gait, hands, or something else. The clown–Ivy leaves, pretending to have seen nothing.
Ally comes back to Dr. Vincent's, but Meadow is gone. He couldn’t get anything out of her. It becomes increasingly clear that Dr. Vincent doesn’t believe Ally either—and not only that, he thinks she should commit herself. As Ally knows, this is exactly what Ivy wants. She leaves, and fires him. “Damnit,” Dr. Vincent says. Is he in on it, or not?
Ally gets to the rally, looking ravaged. It’s all coming together, and we assume she’s the shooter. Then she spots Meadow in the crowd with a gun. Meadow shoots a bystander, then Kai. She continues to shoot at the crowd as Ally begs her to stop, attempting to wrestle the gun from her hands. Meadow turns it back at herself: “This is the face of true love.” She shoots herself, leaving Ally holding the gun as the authorities arrive.
Last flashback: Meadow’s disappearance didn’t end there. In private, Kai showered her with love and praise, and agreed she was right about his plan being too local. And only Meadow could help him go national: he asks her to try to kill him. “It’s a Christian country. Everyone loves a resurrection,” he says as he seduces her. He instructs her to tell Ally everything, because once it comes out of her mouth, no one will believe it.
Back at the rally, Ally is in handcuffs, Meadow is dead, and Ivy is shook. A bloodied Kai, only shot in the leg, is wheeled away and opens his eyes, ready.
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