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‘American Horror Story: Cult’ Dials Up The Gore While Flashing Back To The Election In ‘11/9’

American Horror Story: Cult has spent the past few episodes slowly peeling away the layers to reveal the who, what, and whys, when it comes to the murderous clowns terrorizing the fictional suburban Michigan town. The season’s fourth episode, “11/9,” takes us back to the election and its aftermath, and in doing so it fills in some holes (pun intended) in the story. The major reveal is that we now know beyond the shadow of a doubt — although it was heavily implied before — that Evan Peters’ Kai is indeed behind the clown murders. Likewise, we know for sure that Harrison, Meadow, and local reporter Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) are all working with him — in addition to Winter and Ivy (more than likely).

The episode opens with a flash forward to election night, with Beverly reporting from a polling station. As the cameraman informs her that the station probably won’t be using her segment, a younger colleague, Serina Belinda (Emma Roberts, playing yet another “love to hate” character) saunters up to rub it in her face. “Eat shit, Serina,” Porter spits out, in a perfectly delivered line, to which Serina replies, “Well aren’t you a nasty woman,” noting that she’s on her way to vote for “HRC” — lest anyone forgot this season is about the 2016 election.

As it just so happens, our complete cast of characters are also waiting in line to vote, and it’s revealed that Beverly, Ivy, Winter, and Dr. Rudy Vincent have all voted for Hillary; Harrison for Gary Johnson; Meadow with a write in for “Oprah”; Ally, as we already know, for Jill Stein; and, as it turns out, Serina for Trump. Because Ryan Murphy is not being subtle whatsoever about how terrible that character is supposed to be. Kai also drags in an injured Gary Longstreet (Chaz Bono, as the Trump-supporting grocery store cashier from the premiere episode), and after they both vote, Gary raises what is revealed to be a bleeding stump of an arm in the air and screams, “Welcome to Trump’s America, motherf*ckers!”

But we’ll get back to that in a bit!

After the credits roll, in another flashback we learn how Kai and Harrison became acquainted, when the former shows up at the latter’s gym for a personal training session the day after the election. Kai admits that he personally requested Harrison to train him, and it’s soon apparent why. Harrison is routinely belittled and bullied by the lead trainer at the gym, and the flattery of an unsettling and intense blue-haired stranger is apparently enough to offset other eyebrow-raising remarks he makes about moving dead bodies and world domination.

When he arrives home at some point later, Meadow reveals to Harrison that the bank is foreclosing on their home and they have to be out in three days. Things go from bad to worse, when — back at the gym — his boss threatens to fire him if he doesn’t sell Kai more training sessions. In attempting to do so Harrison breaks down, revealing to Kai that he’s hit rock bottom, which was apparently just what the aspiring cult leader needed to hear to fully sink his claws into his prey. Together, they murder Harrison’s boss and dismember the body. Walking in on the scene, Meadow deadpans, “Just when I think my life can’t get any worse.” When she points to Kai and asks who he is, Harrison tells her, “Someone to believe in.”

Flash forward to December, and things aren’t going much better for Beverly, who has been relegated to covering dead bodies (of Harrison’s boss, specifically) at dumpster sites, while Serina enjoys cushy puff pieces thanks to an affair with the lead anchor, Bob (Dermot Mulroney). Watching the report from home, Kai picks up on the fact that Bob tells Beverly it’s good to have her back, which leads him to go down the rabbit hole and learn that she recently spent some time in a psychiatric hospital for beating a young man who screamed “grab her by the pussy” at her during a live news report.

Clearly Kai is targeting people who feel victimized and full of rage, but when he approaches Beverly in the station parking lot, slashing her coworker’s tires, she’s not about to trust some white boy with blue hair. She changes her mind, however, when Kai and his fellow masked clowns (Harrison and Meadow, obviously) murder Serina and her cameraman in the middle of filming a segment — in a scene that seemed to hit a little too close to home to an on-air shooting double murder that took place in Virginia in 2015, honestly. At any rate, that brings the cult tally to, what, three members, now?

The most shocking twist in the revealing and blessedly mostly Ally-free episode (apologies to Sarah Paulson, who I love, even if her character, not so much) came when Ivy attended a pre-election rally and ran into none other than Winter, who was previously insinuated to have been a stranger when the couple hired her as their nanny. Winter comes to Ivy’s aid when Gary assaults her at the rally, and the two later attack him in the grocery store, chaining him up in the back room to prevent him from voting for Trump. Bringing the episode full circle, Winter confesses the act to her brother, who goes to rescue Gary and offers him a machete to free himself by gruesomely chopping off his own hand.

“11/9” was probably the strongest episode of the season so far, as it finally feels like we’ve got some forward momentum and the pieces are really starting to come together. But a few mysteries still remain going into next week’s fifth episode, “Holes.” Like, how involved is Ivy at this point, and is she actively taking part in gaslighting her own wife? And if she and Winter are all in, does that mean that they’re actively working together alongside Gary? You’d have to think that would be pretty awkward, with the whole hand thing. And what role does the therapist have in this? It is possible that Kai is not the one pulling the strings, but he’s got someone else giving him the orders? (Especially, as it’s revealed in one scene, that Kai has got a prescription for Adderall?)

All will hopefully be revealed in time, but given what happened with Roanoke (which also saw a major twist in the fifth episode), we shouldn’t be surprised if the next episode turns everything on its head.

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