'American Horror Story: Cult' Episode 9 recap: Faces of death cults

Warning: This recap of the “Drink the Kool-Aid” episode of American Horror Story: Cult contains spoilers.

It’s commonly held that “cellar door” is one of the most linguistically pleasing phrases; its rising vowel sounds are answered by its strong consonants, rendering a rhythm as pleasurable to say aloud as it is to hear. But for me, an even more pleasing linguistic phrase is “Angela Bassett.” I mean, just look at that series of letters and sounds. Ah, perfect.

Angela Bassett is one of the all-time great actors, but credit Ryan Murphy for giving her power behind the scenes as well. “Drink the Kool-Aid” was her second directorial outing for the franchise (after one of Roanoke’s installments last year), and while it is borderline perverse that Angela Bassett didn’t appear in this episode, I’ll take what I can get. And “Drink the Kool-Aid” definitely had its moments. Let’s talk about it!

We began with news footage dating back to the 1990s, when Evan Peters went wild with prosthetic makeup.

Here was Evan Peters impersonating Marshall Applewhite, insane steward of the Heaven’s Gate cult, which was notorious both for its eventual mass suicide and for its iconic taste in footwear.

Then Evan Peters donned his best David Koresh drag and we were treated to VHS footage of him murdering his wives and then shooting himself in the head before the government could take their guns. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Relax, Texas.

Finally, Evan Peters dressed up as Jim Jones and we watched him sweatily encourage his followers to sip strong beverages and lay down for a sec. What did all three of these cult leaders have in common, besides a dreamboat covered in latex appliances? They were all powerful and charismatic enough to get their respective cults to die for them!

Which was why Kai was obviously so enamored of them. But judging from the room full of hunks in white long johns who were hanging on Kai’s every word, he seemed pretty close to that level also. As far as nascent death cults go, Kai was on the right track! (Also, how much bleach does this cult go through each week?)

The next day at a city council meeting, Kai successfully bullied the rest of the council members to pass an ordinance allowing him to have full control over the town’s internet. Cool! But the big news was that he’d decided to run for U.S. senator next year. The twelve hunks in chambray shirts in attendance were extremely excited to hear this news, but obviously, Kai would need more voters than that. Also, he would need to presumably murder the incumbent, but that should be easy. There does not appear to be much in the way of law enforcement or FBI or media scrutiny in this world, so sure. Washington, D.C., here we come!

We then got some follow-up on last week’s revelation that Sarah Paulson (as herself) had joined Kai’s cult. Ivy immediately knew this placed her in an awkward position, seeing as she’d attempted to drive Sarah Paulson insane and/or murder her and/or steal her child. But Ivy seemed awful sorry now, so that’s what was important. Meanwhile, Sarah Paulson didn’t have time for apologies; she merely wanted to escape from the cult along with her ex-wife, so it was time to put a plan into action!

It was also nice that Sarah Paulson gave Ozy the new issue of Twisty Chronicles, despite the fact that it had caused both of them nightmares in the past. She was cured of her phobias now, and that was something we can ALL be happy about. As fun as it is to see her running from room to room scream-crying all day, this new chill Sarah Paulson is a welcome break from all that. Y’know?

As though sensing that all the women in his group now hated him and were conspiring against him, Kai summoned them to his carpeted basement and made a big show of pouring everyone Dixie cups full of chemicals using a ladle. To really force everyone to drink, he had Chaz Bono murder a dude who’d declined.

But after Ivy, Sarah Paulson, Winter, and Beverly all choked down their Kool-Aid believing they were about to die, guess what? It wasn’t poisoned! Kai had proven some kind of point! Which point? Unclear.

Probably the main thrust of the episode was this: When Ivy and Sarah Paulson attempted to grab Ozy from school and leave town, they discovered that Kai had taken an interest in their boy. More than an interest, in fact, as Kai informed them that he’d been a frequent sperm donor to the clinic where they’d conceived, so more than likely Kai was Ozy’s biological father! This idea obviously made Sarah Paulson sick to her stomach, but Ivy was kind of cool with it. Which, trust me, Sarah Paulson noticed.

That night she made pasta for her beloved, estranged wife, and as Ivy gorged, Sarah Paulson coolly explained to her that the reason she’d been able to get over her phobias in the institution was because she began to focus all her energies on getting revenge upon Ivy for ruining her life. And that was Ivy’s cue to begin vomiting blood!

Farewell, Ivy. What a mixed-up, questionably motivated, borderline nonsensical character you were. Rest in peace, girl. But also, DAMN, Sarah Paulson.

Even though Kai had been mostly a Red Pill, quasi alt-right person before this episode, suddenly he was really into spirituality and transcendence and particularly the idea that he could offer his followers eternal life or whatever? He even made a bizarre assertion that Jim Jones had been right and after death had been visited by Evan Peters dressed as Jesus, resurrected, and then himself began to resurrect his followers. I’m truly not sure what Kai was trying to say with this, but an eight-year-old with an iPhone quickly poked holes in this claim.

At this point I realized that Ozy is easily as annoying as Kai is, so they MUST be blood-related. But Sarah Paulson was obsessed with finding out the truth, so she bribed the receptionist at the sperm bank to show her a picture of her donor and it WASN’T Kai. Phew!

Except, then why was Sarah Paulson inviting Kai over for Manwiches? Was she going to poison him? Yes, but with LIES instead of arsenic. She decided to provide him with doctored evidence “confirming” he was Ozy’s father. Just the idea that he’d procreated brought tears to Kai’s eyes, and it was clear he had immediately begun to see Sarah Paulson in a new light. She was now the mother of his Chosen One!

To show his gratitude, Kai helped Sarah Paulson drag Ivy’s body into the family tomb (a foul-smelling master suite) and sprinkle it with lye. Few things are as poignant as the chemical desiccation of a loved one, so it was nice to see them have another thing to bond over.

But I think we all knew that this was merely a way for Sarah Paulson to gain Kai’s trust before driving in the dagger. At this point she wasn’t looking to escape the cult — she was looking to destroy it completely. Fingers crossed!

You know, Kai’s cult still makes no sense to me — like, are they political or spiritual, and who even are these people who’ve joined and why? — but on a purely dramatic level I enjoyed “Drink the Kool-Aid.” Was it within Sarah Paulson’s character to turn into a ruthless murderer? Not really, but at least it’s entertaining! Hard to be mad about that. And now that Kai’s facing an insurrection from those closest to him it’ll be fun to see that happen. Assuming things come together next week, we might just be in for a good finale. Or if not good, fun! I’ll take either at this point.

American Horror Story: Cult airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

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