'American Horror Story: Cult' recap: Who ISN'T a clown?

Price Peterson
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Warning: This recap of the “Neighbors From Hell” episode of American Horror Story: Cult contains spoilers.

If you learn that later tonight there will be a surprise party thrown in your honor, will anything you do for the rest of the day seem important or even fun? No. Work will last forever, your commute will be maddening, and every interaction with your friends (i.e. future partygoers) will feel slightly fraudulent. Let’s get to the exciting part already! Related: We’re three episodes into AHS: Cult and it’s like the show is borderline TELLING US to get ready for a big reveal of some kind. It’s coming, guys. We’re gonna find out who all these masked clowns are! But now that we’re expecting it, why is the show drawing it out so much? It’s downright frustrating! This was like last season during Roanoke when it was extremely obvious that a huge twist was coming and getting to it seemed to take an eternity. Counterpoint: That season viewed as a whole was clever and effective. But the week-to-week of it was not the best viewing experience. Neither is Cult.

“Neighbors From Hell” was an intermittently amusing and stressful installment in a season that desperately needs to pivot into a better concept and fast. The good news is, that will hopefully happen soon! The bad news is, it’s now been three episodes of the same boring pattern of clown-themed violence and then resets. Anyway, let’s talk about it!

We began with a woman describing in voiceover the time she attempted to do sex and suddenly found herself trapped in a coffin.

Yes, this was a metaphor for most sexual encounters, but also in this case it was a recurring nightmare she’d been having since childhood!

Fortunately, her recurring nightmare had recently been upgraded to more of a Hallmark Channel-style wet dream, so that was pretty great. And this improvement was all due to her therapy sessions with Dr. Cheyenne Jackson, the same guy who had been treating Sarah Paulson’s various phobias! So yeah, he was clearly a great doctor who was saving lives. Except maybe not…

The next thing this lady knew, she and her naked husband were getting locked into caskets by clowns! In real life! For some reason the clown cult knew that this lady had been casket-phobic or whatever and had decided to acquire several expensive caskets and painstakingly transport them into her home and set them up and then lay out an elaborate trap for her and her husband in order to, like, kill her in the style of her own fears. Does this make sense to you in any way? No? OK, then we are on the same page. Long story short, this was A LOT of effort to murder a couple of nobodies, but here we are. Cults gotta cult.

We then got some followup on that whole situation with Sarah Paulson gunning down an innocent man last week. As the body was carted away, Sarah Paulson couldn’t even be bothered to open her backdoor, and police didn’t seem interested in asking her even basic questions about what had happened. Michigan had stand-your-ground laws, and that was that. For her part, Ivy didn’t seem too perturbed by the fact that her (clinically-troubled) wife had acquired a handgun and had murdered Ivy’s employee. And why should she? Love is all you need, I guess.

Unfortunately the rest of the community wasn’t going to let Sarah Paulson off THAT easy. As covered by the local news, protesters had convened outside their restaurant!

I’m not sure where they found this adorable picture of Sarah Paulson, but she was mortified. Yes she had murdered an American citizen whom she had casually assumed was an immigrant, and yes she was making it about herself, but she was NOT a racist. And just when it seemed like everyone was against her, she found herself face to face with an unexpectedly sympathetic friend…

Whuh-oh. If you ever find yourself getting complimented by Kai, you know you’ve done something horribly wrong. Still, we could sense that Sarah Paulson was comforted by Kai’s warm words, and later when he actively stopped protesters from blocking her car it seemed as though Sarah Paulson might even want to join Kai’s cult if he asked nicely enough. In other words, she was on the precipice of madness and only rosé was keeping her sane.

Because, as Sarah Paulson was about to find out, sometimes your clearly psychotic new neighbors turn out to be neighbors from hell.

Before Sarah Paulson could even open a second bottle of rosé, Billy Eichner and Mary Cherry showed up on her welcome mat wearing sombreros and accusing Sarah Paulson of being a racist! This did not go over well, and it was safe to say Sarah Paulson was no longer interested in being friends with these jerks. Also, they are clowns right? I can’t tell if this is extremely obvious or misdirection or what. But they’ve got to be clowns.

It was truly unclear to me why Dermot Mulroney appeared on the show for 12 seconds (on a TV) but something tells me he’ll be a more major character later? Is he a clown? He’s probably a clown.

That night Sarah Paulson and Ivy witnessed a new and terrifying occurrence in their neighborhood… A black chemical truck spraying glowing green gases into their yard. A pretty normal thing to witness, sure, but the next morning they encountered quite a mess on their lawn!

Just tons of dead birds all over the place. At this point Sarah Paulson forgot ALL about the murderous clowns she’d been dealing with lately and suddenly began stressing out so much about, like, GMOs and chemtrails or whatever. Might as well fit in a few more liberal crackpot conspiracy theories before the clown stuff really takes over, y’know?

At this point a naked man entered the ladies’ living room and waggled his presumably unsightly junk in their direction. Ivy rightfully chased him out of there with a decorative statuette, but as they learned, someone had placed a Craigslist ad inviting strangers to come do sex with horny lesbians. In other words they had been pranked! But by whom? The across-the-street neighbors who are clowns? Stay tuned, folks.

At this point we saw Dr. Cheyenne Jackson having a phone therapy session with Sarah Paulson while arranging happy face pins on his desk. He then sat down and looked very suspicious and creepy while advising Sarah Paulson to commit herself to an institution. She politely declined and hung up. But I think we can agree that this guy is definitely a clown if not THE main clown right? Maybe he’s Dicknose? He’s the connection to the woman who was murdered in the cold open, and he would be the reason why the clown cult seems to know all of Sarah Paulson’s phobias. But yes, he’s a clown in my opinion.

That night, Sarah Paulson and Ivy returned home to discover that Ozy had been gifted a guinea pig by Billy Eichner and Mary Cherry. Sarah Paulson then flew into a fit about how she was allergic to dander and that, even worse, Ozy had named the guinea pig the cis-normative “Mister Guinea” because even while terrorized within an inch of her life by strangers she’s still woke AF. As you can imagine, Ozy told her to eat s*** and die (paraphrasing), and this hurt her feelings very badly! And when Sarah Paulson called up the neighbors to spray some haterade of her own, guess who was hanging out with them?

Yep, the detective with Anderson Cooper hair was a friend of Billy Eichner’s! But was it a simple gay hookup or were they just getting in some valuable clown cult hangtime? What I’m trying to say is, Detective Colton Haynes is a clown, right? He’s probably a clown. Look at these three clowns.

As if things couldn’t get worse, the black chemical truck returned! Sarah Paulson had no choice but to run outside and stand directly in its path. Surprisingly, it did not stop and nearly ran her over! Ugh, classic black chemical truck stuff.

As if we needed further confirmation that Mary Cherry was a clown, here she was pinkie-swearing with Kai and divulging to him her worst fears. Kai really digs finding out what people’s fears are, if you haven’t noticed. But I have, I’ve noticed. Not to brag. Lotta fear-based themes this season, and you can quote me on that.

Then, after Ivy, Ozy, and Sarah Paulson forgot their worries over dinner and an ice cream giggle session, they returned home to find Mister Guinea exploding in the microwave!

Who would do such a thing? And who drew a bloody happy face on their front door? And who drew the bloody happy face on Billy Eichner’s house? And why were Billy Eichner and Mary Cherry out beekeeping at this hour? And did we trust them that they didn’t microwave the guinea pig? All great questions.

Then the black chemical truck came back and these workers in black hazmat suits began spraying Sarah Paulson’s lawn! And when she attempted to unmask one of them, guess what was under the mask? Another mask! A smiley face mask just like the smiley faces drawn on everybody’s walls! Now, obviously these double-masked gassers were unable to see anything while doing their job of gassing, so I was impressed at their ability to do diligent gassing while blind. But also, yikes!

And then it was Billy Eichner’s turn to pinkie-swear with Kai and reveal that he secretly wanted Mary Cherry dead. Whuh-oh. Mary Cherry was in trouble maybe! But everyone’s clowns, so who knows.

Later, Ozy was surfing the dark net and came upon hidden camera footage of his nanny Winter fingering his mother in the bathtub last week! When Ivy saw this, she immediately slapped Sarah Paulson in the face and told her she was moving out and that they were FINITO. But also, the password Ozy had used to get around the Net Nanny was “CLOWNZ” so that probably means Ivy is definitely a clown right? Maybe a ringleader clown? Wouldn’t that be a twist? So by my count, that means Ivy, Dr. Cheyenne Jackson, Detective Colton Haynes, Kai, Winter, Billy Eichner, and Mary Cherry are all clowns. Does that about cover it? Only Sarah Paulson is not a clown. Ozy might be a clown. Twisty is dead. But the rest are clowns.

Anyway, then police arrived at Billy Eichner’s place and he was screaming about how he didn’t kill Mary Cherry, and he wasn’t sure how all the blood got everywhere. Was Mary Cherry dead? Had she been murdered on Kai’s orders? The house sure was full of blood and ANOTHER happy face was drawn on the wall. We know this because Sarah Paulson, Ivy, and Ozy just cavalierly entered the crime scene like it was no big deal. Anyway, we didn’t see a body, so it could all be misdirect by a bunch of scheming clowns. Who knows! Only the clowns know.

At this point the main interesting thing about this season is who are the clowns? There are at least three male clowns and three female clowns. And until the masks start coming off and we start getting a clearer picture of what this cult is, and what their plans are, it’s honestly all wheel spinning. I couldn’t possibly be less frightened than observing people deal with phobias. I don’t share those phobias so I can’t relate! Let’s get on with the reveals, and, hopefully, PLOT, already. Have you ever heard of the phrase “Quit clowning around”? Well I feel that it is relevant here. That being said, I am open to the idea of the reveal or twist being so good that this rant will seem silly in retrospect. Roanoke turned out great and I mean that! But I am impatient now. Let’s party already.

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

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