The narrative focus shifted gears on American Horror Story Season 7 Episode 5, for an hour that ultimately revealed Kai to be all too human.
“Holes” explored the dynamics of the cult and gave us a “behind the scenes” look into many of the horrific murders that have taken place so far – and several new ones!
But most importantly, “Holes” was full of exciting, jaw-dropping, game-changing reveals.
Well, to be honest, some were less “jaw-dropping” than others – but I'm still loving the forward plot momentum!
Unlike past seasons of the show, which have had a tendency to meander in pointless gore and admittedly impressive (but ultimately meaningless) visuals, Cult is by far the series’ most accessible and straightforward (but still scary!) iteration yet.
Which makes it even more of a shame that people are avoiding it based solely on its imagined offensiveness.
I'm certain that plenty of would-be viewers saw the American Horror Story Season 7 Premiere and decided to quit while they were ahead on principle. Seeing Kai, a blue-haired, murderous Trump voter, it's not surprising that conservative folks might feel personally attacked.
But what the last several installments – and particularly “Holes” – have made abundantly clear is that it’s not about politics at all.
Cult is, at its core, about the extremist, cult-like sensibilities that have sprung up on both sides of the political spectrum in the aftermath of Trump’s election.
The clearest way that Ryan Murphy has demonstrated this is through Ivy.
I'd guessed earlier that Ivy was in on Ally’s torture and a member of Kai’s cult. And I don't say that to sound clever – I don't think it was particularly subtle that Ivy knew something more than she was saying.
But American Horror Story Season 7 Episode 4’s flashbacks to election night and its immediate aftermath were the first real, definitive proof that Ivy is not what she seems.
That installment ended with Ivy and Winter teaming up to kidnap and chain up Gary, who then sawed his own arm off to escape and go vote at Kai’s behest in the closing scene.
“Holes” confirmed our worst fears about Ivy, when she casually walked into a cult meeting like “Oh, hey, what's up, guys?”
Kai: You're late.
Ivy: Sorry. What'd I miss?
It wasn't so much of a twist as it was an “A-ha, I knew it!” moment.
What was more interesting than Ivy’s involvement was her stated motive.
In the car with Winter – who ironically appears to have a thing for Ivy – Ivy confirmed that her participation with Kai’s ghoulish activities was politically motivated in a chilling speech:
Radicals are the only people who've ever gotten anything done. I'm ready. I hate this country — what it's become. I hate my fucking wife for letting it happen. The only thing I love right now is my son, and I will do whatever it takes to make the world a better place for him. Even if it means burning it all down.Ivy
Frustrated and furious with her Jill Stein voter of a wife (who Ivy believed “allowed” Trump’s America to come to pass), she's taken a “burn it all down” stance. Although, to be honest, I'm not exactly sure what good she thinks enacting Kai’s plan of fear-based domination and leadership will accomplish.
What exactly did Kai say to her that convinced her their interests overlap? Because I'm not buying it...
And on that note – isn't it weird for Ivy and Winter to be in the room with Gary, the man they inadvertently left armless who also became a Kai follower as a result? The irony is delicious.
By showing the “behind the scenes” events of each of the murders, the writers also set up what I’m certain will be the eventual downfall of Kai (and possibly the cult as a whole).
These sequences demonstrated that not everybody in the cult has the same stomach for murder that Kai (and, incidentally, Beverly) have.
When the group, in the present, decided to target Beverly’s crappy boss Bob in order to show gruesome murder footage on TV and stoke fear for the purpose of increasing Kai’s votes, RJ suggested they spare the “gimp” Bob had tied up in the attic.
Kai wasn't cool with that idea – and Beverly wasn't cool with RJ's dissension.
As an aside – what a random, shocking detail that Beverly’s boss was into kidnapping and torture!!
Seeing the masked "gimp" tied up and with hooks in his flesh was almost as gross as that Emma Roberts nipple pinch! (Just kidding, this was 1,000 times worse.)
Also, it put into context exactly what Bob was licking off of his gloved hands when he came down the stairs in the beginning of that scene. Barf.
Easily the most interesting character we've encountered so far is Beverly Hope.
"11/9" established that the reporter was full of rage and ready to snap. "Holes" made clear that she's a contender to snatch the cult leadership right out from under Kai.
It was Beverly who suggested that they kill R.J. for not wanting to kill the "gimp" and to force the other questioning cult members into line, leading to that horrific group murder scene.
We can bring them to heel if we go after the weak link.Beverly
Interestingly, Harrison and Gary were all in on killing RJ, while Winter and Ivy were hesitant. In the end, Ivy willingly took the first shot, to prove her loyalty.
Kai, it's important to note, initially thought that Beverly was referring to Ivy when she mentioned a dissenter among their ranks. Was her act of "solidarity" enough to win back his trust? Probably not. Her days are numbered.
Beverly also made a point to unmask herself so that Bob could look into her eyes and know it was her as she delivered the killing blow. Chick is ruthless.
All this, paired with Beverly turning the tables on Kai in the final scene and demanding to know his backstory, makes me believe that we're set to see Beverly try for a power grab at some point. Whether she'll be successful is anybody's guess.
But given the third act switcheroo that made American Horror Story Season 6 all about Adina Porter's Lee in the end, I wouldn't be surprised to see Ryan Murphy hand the leading villain reigns over to Beverly at some point fairly soon.
There were two other major plot developments on "Holes."
In the first, a lonely Ally used Oz's telescope to spy on the neighbors. She caught Harrison making out with Detective Jack Samuels – then stumbled upon Meadow tied up and about to be buried alive by the two men in her own front yard.
Poor Meadow! She may be annoying, but what an awful fate – to be killed by your gay best friend/husband after joining a murderous clown cult at his request. Yikes.
Meadow briefly escaping from the hole did lead to one important reveal – she spilled the news to Ally that there was a cult at work and that Ivy was a part of it.
It's a cult, Ally. It's a sick cult. And everyone's in it. The police. My husband. Your babysitter. Your wife.Meadow
What will Ally do now that she knows?
The second major plot development was the reveal that Kai and Winter are siblings – and that Ally's psychiatrist Dr. Rudy Vincent is their older brother.
Even more horrifically, we found out exactly why Kai lost his marbles and fell into this anarchic, atheistic mindset – namely, that his abusive, disabled father was killed by his abused, beloved mother, who then shot herself to end her suffering, back in 2014.
Surprisingly, Dr. Rudy is arguably the most screwed up of the three siblings, given that he immediately thought to hide their parents' bodies in order to cover up the crime and continue receiving their money.
That reveal – that Dr. Rudy is Kai's older brother – was easily the most shocking we've seen so far. It was incredibly well done, via Kai's retelling of the events of his parents' deaths.
Did Rudy inspire Kai's mission? How much does he know about his younger siblings' activities? I'm guessing a lot. He probably pointed his kid brother right in Ally's direction, as he ostensibly did with the couple who were suffocated in the coffins.
- Kai mentioned the chemical trucks spraying in the neighborhood during his on-air interview with Beverly. That seems to suggest that he's behind the chemicals, but I still have no idea how he could possibly be pulling that off.
- Kai got the linked pinkies thing from Rudy!
- Ally's bugs-in-the-neck nightmare sequence had me twitching around in my seat while watching. So horrifying.
- Ally played a relatively minor role on this installment. But gosh, Ally's supervised visit with Oz was so painful to watch. I legitimately felt sympathy for her.
- When Ivy asked where Meadow was, Harrison told her Meadow was "with a friend." Why is he hiding the murder from the other cult members? Or is it just Ivy who isn't being clued in?
- His father's self-emasculation led to Kai frequenting r/TheRedPill, because of course it did.
- On the flip side, only Evan Peters could make holding a decaying corpse's bony hand seem like a sweet/sympathetic act.
What did you think of "Holes"? Remember that you can watch American Horror Story online here at TV Fanatic anytime!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.