As someone who is generally not a fan of the horror genre, I still enjoy American Horror Story. Any genuine horror tends to be eclipsed by the campiness of it all, and the gore is mostly (but not always) cartoonish. Having said that, I had a really difficult time getting through this week’s episode of Cult, “Holes,” which featured some of the most over-the-top violence of the series to date, arguably heading into legit torture porn territory. There were a couple of times I had to get up and walk away from my laptop as it became too much to even handle. But on the plus side, the episode did feature some pretty big reveals, answering most, if not all of the big questions of the season.
Such as … the therapist is in on it! It was pretty obvious that Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson) was somehow involved by the way victims phobias were used against them. But what wasn’t clear was exactly how he was involved. (The fact that he’s top billed main cast was also a clue.) Now we know that Rudy is actually Kai and Winter’s older brother, and is in fact likely the real mastermind pulling the strings of the cult.
Another big reveal took place in the cold open, as the various cult members — Harrison (Billy Eichner), Beverly (Adina Porter), Beverly’s cameraman R.J. (James Morosini), Detective Jack Samuels (Colton Haynes), and Gary Longstreet (Chaz Bono) — assembled at Kai and Winter’s house to discuss media exposure for their killings, ultimately deciding to murder Beverly’s sexist boss Bob and film it. And then who should show up, but Ivy Mayfair-Richards, who popped in at the last moment, apologizing for her lateness. If it wasn’t already obvious before, we now know that, yes, Ally’s wife has been in on the cult the whole time, and has been actively working to gaslight her and drive her crazy to push her out of her life.
Not surprisingly, Ally has not been taking the separation well, as Ivy has since cut her off financially and convinced a judge to only allow supervised visitation with the couple’s son, Oz. This leads to even more nightmares, as she explains to Dr. Vincent that she clawed at her own neck in her sleep, injuring herself, after dreaming about holes appearing in her skin. (Hey, that’s the name of this episode!) When asked by the doctor whether or not Ally had any idea that her relationship with Ivy might be tenuous, a flashback cuts to September of 2016.
As Ivy goes over the profits after a slow night at their restaurant, noting that they were digging themselves into a “hole” financially, Ally surprises her wife with a gift: an expensive-looking sex toy. Ivy’s furious reaction suggests that there had been trouble in paradise in the couple’s marriage, even before the election.
Back in the present, Ivy discusses the situation with Winter while driving in the car, revealing that Oz keeps asking whether or not she’s going to be his “third mom.” When Winter asks her whether or not she’s ready for the radical action they have planned ahead, Ivy replies, “Radicals are the only thing who have ever gotten anything done. I’m ready. I hate this country, what it’s become.” Revealing her motivation for tormenting Ally, she adds, “I hate my [bleeping] wife for letting it happen.”
The pair meet up with the rest of the cult, who are preparing to murder Bob while chanting “Heil Satan” in Latin, because just a bunch of terrifying clowns horrifically murdering a dude on film apparently wouldn’t be enough to sufficiently scare people. They arrive to learn that Bob isn’t alone, but in a very Ryan Murphy-esque twist, has a black-hooded “gimp” in his attic, suspended from the ceiling by metal hooks piercing his skin, which leads to the first gag-inducing murder scene in the episode. After killing the gimp, Ivy runs to the toilet to vomit up DNA evidence everywhere (I mean really, this isn’t “murder 101,” here) while the rest head back downstairs to finish off Bob. Before planting an axe in his skull, Beverly takes off her clown mask so he can see her face — which seems like it might be important later.
Later, Beverly and Kai discuss the murder, the latter noting that it could have gone more smoothly, which leads Beverly to suggest eliminating the weakest link to terrify the others into submission. In a flashback to the coffin murders, cameraman R.J. freaks out over the decision to leave the couple trapped, and back in the present Beverly notes that “his weakness is a cancer.” “Then we need to cut it out,” answers Kai.
Catching back up with Ally, after noticing suspicious activity while spying on the neighbors’ house with a telescope, she goes over to snoop. There she finds Meadow, who was apparently not killed two episodes ago, alive and at the bottom of a freshly dug… hole in the ground. Meadow pleads for help but because Ally is still the worst, she runs home and barricades herself inside, calling Ivy. Somehow Meadow manages to escape and runs to Ally’s, but she refuses to let her in. Before Meadow is dragged off screaming she reveals, “It’s a cult, Ally. It’s a sick cult and everyone’s in it. The police, my husband, your babysitter, your wife.” It seems unlikely that this reveal was part of their plan, but really, it’s not like Ally can do much with the information being that literally anyone who could help her is already in the cult.
The suspicious activity Ally noticed, meanwhile, was the cult members preparing to murder R.J. across the street. In the second horrific murder scene of the episode, Kai forces the other members to take turns shooting a freaking nail gun into R.J.’s head in an attempt to quash dissension in the ranks. The others are naturally reluctant to go along with it — particularly Ivy, who only now seems to realize just how screwed she is — but eventually give in and kill poor R.J.
In the final, revealing flashback scene of the episode, Beverly and Kai sit across from one another at the kitchen table and the reporter asks him to tell her who he is, for real, and what happened to his family. In a flashback on top of the flashback, Kai explains that three years earlier his mother committed murder-suicide after his father was left disabled, violent, and angry from a motorcycle accident. Not knowing what to do, Kai called his brother — now revealed to be none other than Dr. Rudy Vincent. Instead of calling the cops and losing the million dollar accident settlement their father was awarded to the death tax, along with pensions and disability checks, Vincent informs Kai that they’re going to entomb their parents in their bedroom, cover them with lye to mask the smell, and padlock the door. Kai reluctantly agrees, and the two pinky swear on it.
Uh, after three years, would no one honestly miss their parents? No other family, friends, or heck — given his father’s health situation — even doctors would come looking, or get suspicious? It seems like a minor quibble in a show where just earlier, a guy hanging from hooks in his skin got murdered by people dressed as clowns, but I’m sticking with it.
Another seemingly important flashback revelation: Kai apparently majored in religious studies in college, so it stands to be reasoned that he knows a lot about cults. Also, when Kai reveals their parents dead bodies to Winter, he tells her, “This is the end, but it’s also the beginning of something. The Omega and the Alpha.” Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, as well as terms for God Book of Revelation. If Kai is the Alpha, does that mean his brother is the Omega? At the pace this season is moving now, we likely won’t have to wait long to find out.