SPOILER ALERT: Do not read on unless you’ve seen Season 7, episode 10 of “American Horror Story,” titled “Charles (Manson) in Charge.”
Gary’s (Chaz Bono) dead. Winter’s (Billie Lourd) dead. We are seriously running out of main cast here, people. And as we lose more characters, Kai (Evan Peters) loses more of his mind. The penultimate episode of “American Horror Story: Cult,” written by series co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, feels like it’s an important one, as it’s a turning point for Kai’s psyche. If he’s at the point where he kills his own sister — the last remaining member of his family — what measures won’t he stoop to?
His anger is long-simmering, though. We get a flashback of the first presidential debate, which Winter is watching with her friends as Kai surfs the web nearby. The girls on the couch, all Hillary Clinton supporters, are extremely confident in their chances, not unlike a lot of Democrats in 2016. But Kai pushes back; the people hate Hillary, he says. They’re passionate about Trump. As he and one of Winter’s friends get into it, it reads as a parody of both sides — the hatred of the right, the arrogance of the left. It escalates until Kai slaps her, which lands him in anger management.
The next scene may be the most interesting of the entire episode. The brilliant Frances Conroy returns as Bebe Babbitt, who, in an unlikely twist, galvanizes Kai. Despite being a self-proclaimed “old-school feminist,” she likes Trump… in a way. He unleashes the “female rage,” and now, Kai needs to finish the job. He’s mesmerized by her, falling to his knees as she plants the idea of politics into his brain. She gives Kai a purpose: unleash the feminine rage, and then drown in it.
Cut to Kai doing a version of that — but it’s not just women he’s pissing off now. A Facebook livestream shows an intense protest of one of his political rallies, and as the two sides clash, it conjures up images of other recent violent gatherings. A bottle of urine is thrown at Kai. He’s quite literally silenced as someone unhooks his mic. One protester runs up and pepper sprays him, causing one of his followers to douse his face in milk (okay, but who brings milk to a political rally)?
After that, Kai’s paranoia goes wild. He mirrors Trump as he plays media critic watching the news, and lashes out at Winter, who’s cleaning up the ice cream truck with Ally (Sarah Paulson). Winter seems to be trying to attone, but Ally isn’t having it — and darkly lets her know that she was the one who killed her own wife, Ivy (Alison Pill).
Luckily, there’s nothing to cheer Kai up like a good storytime. Once again, he sits down with his followers to tell the story of the infamous Manson murders at actress Sharon Tate’s house on Aug. 8-9, 1969. In the reenactment, Paulson plays Susan Atkins, Lourd plays Linda Kasabian, and Leslie Grossman and Billy Eichner return to play Patricia Krenwinkel and Tex Watson, respectively. It all plays out in graphic detail, and Lourd’s Kasabian draws parallels to Winter — alone and afraid, Winter and Kasabian both have realized they’re in over their heads.
Kai wants something bigger than the Tate murder. He wants “a night of 1,000 Tates.” In order to carry out his goal, Gary heads to a Planned Parenthood to get the names of the women having abortions, but it’s a trap, of sorts. He’s met there by fellow cult members in clown masks, including none other than Kai himself. Kai explains that Gary’s an important sacrifice for the cause, giving him a diatribe about how Gary’s “closer to me than any of my other children.” Gary somberly accepts his fate and is stabbed to death… only to be found the next day by an unsuspecting Planned Parenthood employee, next to a message: “Stop the slaughter.”
Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) reports on the murder, interviewing Kai as he assigns blood to the hands of one of the “left-wing terrorists” he’s running against. But Beverly’s visibly shaken, breathless as she reports. After Kai scolds her, she meets Winter at the Butchery, who attempts to calm her down. Winter tries to get Beverly to escape, but Beverly, so traumatized from punishments from Kai — and angry with Winter over her lies — that she thinks it’s a trap, and refuses.
Meanwhile, Kai continues to lose it. Ally looks on as Kai tears apart his house looking for wires, and retreats to his dead parents’ room, where Rudy’s (Cheyenne Jackson) ghost gives him a pep talk… until Charles Manson, also played by Peters, takes over. Manson tells Kai he needs to “find the Judas,” which he reads as a mole, just in time for Ally to find a small electronic in the house. But before they can delve into that, Bebe barges in to tell Kai he’s failing at his mission. Kai was only supposed to piss women off, not everybody. It’s an electric scene as they have it out, and as Bebe is about to kill Kai in Valerie Solanas’ name, Ally steps in to save the day, shooting her.
Later, Winter is helping Kai to shave his head and face, perhaps in an effort to be taken more seriously. As Winter delicately holds a blade to his neck, they have an emotional conversation, and Winter asks for his permission to run away. Kai — always with the bait-and-switch — gives her his permission… until he pulls the rug out from under her, revealing that he knew about her chat with Beverly.
Kai proceeds to interrogate Winter in front of his cult, as Ally shows her the electronic (apparently the battery from Winter’s Fitbit) she found in the couch, as well as a recorder. Kai begs Winter to confess, but she helplessly yells back at him that she can’t. Enraged, Kai commits his most emotional murder yet, strangling her with his bare hands and kissing her forehead afterward.
But too bad for Kai, Winter wasn’t actually the mole. It was one of the men, Speedwagon, who rushes outside to smash his recorder, only to be followed by Ally. With this information, Ally wields even more power. As she gains Kai’s trust, this information can only help her as we head into the season finale.