When Alfonso Ribeiro joined Dancing with the Stars, he put all of his skills as a dancer on display. But there was one move that everyone in the audience was waiting for: the iconic Carlton that he often performed on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He made America wait for it and when he finally did it, everyone went wild. The penultimate episode of American Horror Story: Cult was that moment. Finally, the American cult leader that has become a household name, Charles Manson, made his debut on the FX series. And it was worth the wait. Let’s get right into it.
During the final presidential debate between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton, Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) is annoyed by his sister Winter (Billie Lourd) and her friends. They are jeering at Trump and commenting on the improbability of his victory in the election. When Kai pushes back, insisting that America isn’t as progressive as it “pretends to be,” one of them calls him out. She takes some pretty hard shots at Kai and alt-right bros like him, until Kai slaps her across the face. She screams that she’s pressing charges and she does. I didn’t think we needed another flashback to Kai’s pre-election douchebagery, but the outcome of this altercation leads to pretty fulfilling revelation.
Kai is sentenced to probation and anger management. And his designated therapist is none other than Bebe Babbitt (Frances Conroy), the faithful follower of Valerie Solanas (played by Lena Dunham) that viewers met in episode 7. But Kai isn’t interested in changing his views about women, and Bebe doesn’t want him to. Still trying to complete Solanas’ work, Bebe strokes Kai’s ego by telling him what a great leader he is. She, too, likes Trump as a presidential candidate because he inspires female rage. She wants Kai to do something similar, but first he must admit he’s a turd. He agrees to all the terms. So now we know how this unlikely connection came to be and how it radicalised Kai to start his politicised clown cult.
Speaking of politics, in the present, not everyone is happy with the local ordinances Kai has been passing as the new decision maker on the city council. A group of protesters disrupts a rally that he is holding to mark a very early kick off of his campaign for state senate. His conservatism has enraged members of his community, but Kai is growing paranoid and thinks that the federal government has sent the protestors. Things turn violent when the protesters advance, throwing piss on Gary (Chaz Bono) and pepper spraying Kai.
Things only get worse for the disturbed politician when the existing senator, Herbert Jackson, is dismissive of Kai’s bid and position. This agitates Kai, and by extension, his hypermasculine followers. He gathers them around for storytime about a cult leader from the past. This one about is about the Manson family murder of Sharon Tate and company. Billy Eichner is playing Tex Watson. Susan “Sadie” Atkins is played by Sarah Paulson. Leslie Grossman plays Patricia “The Flower Child” Krinwinkel. And Billie Lourd is Linda “The Runaway” Kasabian. They commit a series of gruesome homicides that I don’t care to describe but you can read about on Wikipedia. The point is that, back in his basement/headquarters, Kai is feeling inspired. He thinks that his crew needs to do something drastic in order to gain a national platform like the Manson family. And he has an idea.
Since Tate was pregnant when she was murdered by the Manson family, Kai thinks his crew should send a similar message while standing by his sexist ideas. Gary and a few other boys in blow break into the local Planned Parenthood. Gary thinks they’re there to steal names and addresses of women waiting to get abortions so that they can be murdered. The only casualty of the night will be him. Having slipped into their clown costumes, Kai explains that Gary needs to be sacrifices and the one-handed graciously accepts his fate. At least he’s loyal.
When the Planned Parenthood employee shows up to open the center, Gary’s bloody body is on display. Moments later Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) is on the scene to report on the murder. Kai blames Senator Jackson’s pro-choice supporters for the attack. Beverly’s words are forced and mechanical throughout the broadcast and Kai isn’t satisfied with the quality of her report. She’s obviously nervous and jumpy, and for good reason. She and the other surviving female members of the cult thought they were drinking poison last week in one of Kai’s loyalty tests.
As for the other two women, things are still tense between Winter and Ally (Sarah Paulson). They are cleaning out their ice cream truck and Winter confronts Ally about Ivy’s (Alison Pill) whereabouts. Kai has told Winter that Ivy went to Paris for cooking school and she isn’t buying it. Winter doesn’t believe that her lover, also Ally’s wife, would have left without saying goodbye. The new, improved, vindictive, and murderous Ally uses this as an opportunity to chastise Winter. “If something did happen to Ivy, what makes you think it was Kai?” Ally says with a smile. She is in the game.
And so is Beverly, even though she’s scared out of her mind. At the Butcher on Main, Winter offers Beverly an escape plan and a one-way train ticket to Montana. Beverly knows better than to trust Winter. The last time she made that mistake she was sent to an isolation chamber. Beverly reminds Winter that she is loyal to Kai. She isn’t taking any chances.
But Kai is unraveling. He is becoming extremely paranoid and thinks the feds have bugged his headquarters. Ally tries to calm him down but he retreats to his human tomb, where the bodies of his parents, brother Rudy (Cheyenne Jackson), and Ivy are being stored. Kai is trying to plan his next steps when Rudy’s body raises from the dead and offers him help. But then Charles Manson (also played by Evan Peters) kills the already dead Rudy and tells Kai not to trust anyone, especially the women. Kai is clearly experiencing severe psychosis. And it can’t end well. But Ally is using all of this to her advantage. She presents him with something that looks a lot like a FitBit, claiming to have found the bug. What she does next is honestly impressive.
But first, Bebe shows up, unimpressed with Kai’s efforts. She thinks the cult leader is failing to ignite the rage of women because he’s too busy pissing everyone off. But still following the orders of the Charles Manson only he can see, Kai claps back. He doesn’t think that women are capable of leading the revolution. In fact, he believes he is the only person capable of such a task. Bebe prepares to shoot him and end this whole thing once and for all, but Ally shoots her first. She is on a mission that is about to become very clear.
Winter cuts off all of Kai’s blue hair and gives him a shave as they talk about their relationship. I have to admit, Kai looks kind of cute with a buzz cut. Winter is honest about her concerns for her brother. She doesn’t like the path he’s headed down, and rather than betray him, she would rather take some time away. She promises not to let anyone leave with her, and she’ll kill anyone who tries. Kai give her his blessing and suggests that she travel to Montana… on a train… the same train she tried to put Beverly on. She’s caught.
And this is where Ally’s genius is on full display. She has fed into Kai’s delusion, telling him that Winter was conspiring against him. Ally had planted a tape recorder in the van she was tasked to clean with Winter and used it as evidence of Winter’s betrayal. She orchestrated a perfect set up. Kai demands that Winter confess and when she doesn’t, he strangles her to death. It’s a pretty emotional scene, because Winter was the only other person he loved. He’s crying. One of his boys in blue is crying. And another one of his supporters runs out to his car. He starts to destroy a wiretap that was hidden under his shirt. Before he can drive away, though, Ally joins him in the car.