american horror story winter of our discontent 1

(Every week, we’re going to get the discussion going about American Horror Story: Cult by answering one important question: who is the main villain of the episode?)

After last week’s episode of American Horror Story: Cult – with its surprise breakout performance by Lena Dunham – “Winter of Our Discontent” finally began showing the repercussions for Kai Anderson’s (Evan Peters) maniacal actions. Not only does it seem like his grip on reality is slipping, but his dysfunctional family unit is unraveling right before his eyes.

With Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) champing at the bit for power and Ally’s (Sarah Paulson) surprise rebound – she’s totally cured, you guys! – AHS: Cult is setting up a few major conflicts for everyone’s favorite blue-haired madman.

This Week’s Big Bad: Pastor Charles

Thanks to a little story shared by Winter (Billie Lourd), we’re given another flashback. Honestly, I’m getting a bit tired of all the flashbacks this season, but this one was pretty interesting. In her best attempt to stop Beverly and Ivy (Alison Pill) from cutting the head off the snake…err, Kai…she informs them that Kai wasn’t always bad. But showing brother and sister trolling around the Dark Web doesn’t really make them feel like heroes.

However, it’s during their dumb attacks on random “social justice warriors” that they receive a mysterious invitation from a Pastor Charles (Rick Springfield) to a sinister looking place called Judgement House. Since it’s a week before Halloween, and since I’m a huge fan of horror-themed home haunts, I was immediately on board for this odd twist.

As Kai and Winter head into the Judgement House, it became pretty clear this was some sort of perverse take on stuff like House of a Thousand Corpses. Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding may not have been there to yuck it up with the attraction’s patrons, but Springfield’s performance as Pastor Charles really helps set the tone for this oddball scenario.

Basically, Kai and Winter are temporarily trapped in a house – or, “show” as the Pastor calls it – where different victims, or “sinners” as the Pastor viewed them, are put through different Saw-like acts of torture.  In the end, the brother and sister team free the victims and turned the table on Charles, strapping him to a chair full of giant knives and he quickly meets his bloody end.

Yes, Kai committed more murder throughout this episode, but I stand by my assertion that Pastor Charles is the big bad of the week. Springfield’s performance as the deranged holy man is a delight, and honestly, much better than his brief turn as Lucifer in season 12 of Supernatural. And as Winter mentioned to Beverly and Ivy, if it weren’t for this trip to Judgement House, Kai may not have become addicted to his adderall, the Dark Web or that Manic Panic dye job he’s been sporting since.

Winter Anderson’s Discontent

Winter has been literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. While she’s now romantically involved with Ivy and has found a connection to Valerie Solanas’ SCUM manifesto, she still has a deep-seated loyalty to her brother. We saw this as she traveled into the bowels of Kai’s mini-Project Mayhem. But as she attempted to find common ground with her brother – getting the women out of the kitchen and stopping Kai’s goons from the constant sexual harassment high on her list of necessary fixes – she gets coerced in a pinky to pinky sit-down.

This is where things get a bit laughable. (Guffaws, people. I couldn’t stop guffawing.) Their conversation ends as quickly as it started and, as Winter expresses legitimate concern for her brother, he in-turn suggests they have a baby together.

“It’s time you understand your place in the bigger picture,” Kai tells her. The new city councilman then traverses a perverse road previously traveled by the likes of Jim Jones and David Koresh. I know what you’re thinking: this totally was incest. But Kai had a plan to make it kinda un-incest-y. All Winter had to do was have sex with Detective Samuels (Colton Haynes). “As he enters you,” Kai explained,” I enter him. That way, I will remain the father and you will remain pure and un-soiled.” Sure…?

This whole bizarre scenario reaches its crescendo as All 4 One’s ’90s slow jam, “I Swear,” plays on the iPod. Stating the song should be played “whenever a messiah is conceived” really nails home just how detached from reality Kai has become. Unless this is all a part of some sort of master plan no one has quite figured out yet. Remember, this is American Horror Story and that would such an American Horror Story thing to do.

Some Fuel For Beverly Hope’s Fire

I think we can all agree that Kai Anderson is one messed-up individual. But birds of a feather flock together and mini-Project Mayhem – including the core cult members – are all suffering from their own mental deficiencies in one way or another. I’m still having a hard time coming to grips with Ivy’s involvement in all this, but the one character who has been ripe with rage from the very beginning has been Beverly Hope.

In her mind, it’s clear that Kai has to go. During their initial meeting, Anderson promised her equal power. But a partnership, this most definitely is not. Last week’s episode really planted a seed for an inevitable battle of the sexes to transpire in the group. This hasn’t happened yet.

Instead, Beverly relied on Winter to talk some sense into Kai and has been stuck doing kitchen duty while all of Kai’s denim-clad grunts roam the streets doing his bidding. And unfortunately for the nightly news correspondent, things only go downhill from there.

Sarah Paulson’s Ugly Cry-Face Exits, Stage Left

One major reveal in Tuesday’s episode found Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson) to be an innocent bystander through all of Kai’s murderous deeds. That was unexpected, really. Ally (Sarah Paulson) returned to the living – after being locked in a psych ward for three weeks – and her former psychiatrist requests assistance in putting his brother away. Instead, his plea fell on deaf ears, prompting Ally to set up a meeting with the blue-haired man himself.

“There’s something different about you,” Kai tells Ally. “Did you get a new haircut or something?” Not exactly. According to Ally, her time away helped cure her of her phobias (Because it’s totally that easy!). Instead of being scared of Kai – or clowns, or holes, or blood – Ally proposes a deal. If Kai guarantees the return of her son, she’ll give him valuable intel. And then, she immediately gives up said info, throwing Kai’s older brother right smack dab under the bus.

This leads a confrontation between Kai, in full clown cult regalia, and Rudy, bound and forced to his knees amid Kai’s growing army. It doesn’t end well for Dr. Vincent – Kai stabs him straight in the jugular. Kneeled next to Rudy was the other “traitor” – Kai’s words, not mine – Ms. Beverly Hope. Why exactly was she there? Well, let me explain…

After Detective Samuels failed at having sex with Kai’s sister, the two had an argument in his car. It seemed it was Samuels’ turn to defend Kai to Winter and the backstory we were given was an interesting one, to say the least. It turns out Kai was busted by Samuels for selling prescription drugs illegally. But instead of turning him, the cop used him for a time to make easy money off his sales. That is until the one night that Anderson entered his home, discovered a bunch of Nazi collectibles adorning a case, and discovered Samuels’ difficulty in connecting with the opposite sex.

Long story short: Kai had sex with Samuels to save him from himself. And that was the defense Samuels gives to Winter regarding her brother before immediately trying to rape her in his car. Somehow still stuck between that rock and that hard place, it seemed that Winter finally chose a side – shooting Samuels right in the head.

Except, she fed Kai a massive lie implicating Beverly as the one with the gun. And here we are. After murdering his own flesh and blood, you’d think Kai wouldn’t hesitate to take out Beverly. But you’d be wrong. Even after she called him a fake egomaniacal whore, Kai spared her life. Why did he spare her life? Was this all a part of his plan? At this point, I have absolutely no idea.

After all was said and done, American Horror Story: Cult had one more reveal: Ally Mayfair-Richards was the one in the clown mask previously worn by Beverly. Has Kai sold her on his manifesto? Is Ally the perfect cult member? Or…is she a double agent out to get revenge on her estranged wife? Inquiring minds want to know.

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