SPOILER ALERT: Do not read on unless you’ve seen Season 7, episode 6 of “American Horror Story,” titled “Mid-Western Assassination.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This recap is based on the original version of the episode that will be airing on VOD platforms. FX edited the opening shooting scene in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, which is the version that was broadcast on the cable network.
“American Horror Story” has never been afraid to tackle our deepest phobias, but in this week’s episode, it touches on an unfortunately very real fear: mass shootings. It feels especially raw, given the near-daily mass shootings in the U.S., that “Mid-Western Assassination” opens with one at a political rally, which FX acknowledged by making “significant cuts” to that scene in the wake of recent news.
Nevertheless, we see Kai (Evan Peters) galvanizing the people in town before the gunshots ring out. Ivy’s (Alison Pill) in the middle of it all, and Harrison (Billy Eichner) attempts to cover her. A bystander even encourages her to run, but he’s shot, and Ivy’s understandably more than shaken as she holds his hand until he’s shot again. SWAT comes in, and the shocker: It’s Ally who holds the gun, shaking as police apprehend her. On the stage is Kai, curled up and unconscious.
But in order to understand how we got here, we need to back up a bit. We see the scene in the last episode where Meadow (Leslie Grossman) begs Ally (Sarah Paulson) for help, but Harrison and Detective Samuels (Colton Haynes) put a sheet over her and drag her away. As Ally locks up her house, Dr. Rudy (Cheyenne Jackson) calls, to her surprise. He tells her that Ivy was “concerned” and asked him to check in with her. “I don’t know who to trust,” she tells him. He thinks she’s having an episode, but she insists that something’s going on — and Ivy’s in on it. But then Dr. Rudy latches on to her biggest fear: losing her son, Oz. Even still, she ignores his advice to get some rest and heads over to the neighbors’ house.
She crawls through the window to find Harrison and Samuels copulating, and steals keys from one of their pants. After finding Meadow bound and gagged in the garage, Ally cuts her loose, but Meadow blows their cover when she grabs her purse and causes a toolbox to fall. Samuels and Harrison find them and chase them, but they manage to escape, finding refuge at the Butchery.
Now that our unlikely buddies are alone, they disagree on their next plan of action. Meadow insists that they have to keep moving, even out of the country, but Ally won’t go anywhere without Oz. She asks Meadow about her allegations that there is a cult, and that Ivy is involved, and Meadow doubles down. “How do you think we’ve been getting into your house?,” Meadow asks her. Of course, Ivy set it up for them. Ivy did it to “make you crazy,” Meadow tells Ally, and yes, Ivy is still mad at Ally for voting for Jill Stein. But Ally is just one project — it’s nothing compared to “the takeover,” Meadow intones.
Ally tries to rationalize it out: Ivy doesn’t believe in anything! But that’s how it starts, Meadow explains. Kai gives them something to believe in, which is a nice transition to a flashback from December 2016. Meadow’s always been in love with Harrison, but with Kai, it’s taken to a new level. We see Kai nurturing her, encouraging her as she draws. “Is there anything you can’t do?,” he asks, giving her her highly sought-after validation, showering her with compliments. “You burn brighter than anyone,” he tells her.
Kai clearly preys on Meadow’s insecurities and made her feel special, despite the rut she’s found herself in. However, Meadow catches Kai regurgitating the same lines to Ivy and is heartbroken and furious, and goes to pack her things and leave. Kai, Harrison, and Samuels, however, see this and stand in her way. Then, Meadow commits the worst sin: doubting Kai, pointing out that maybe, just maybe, a city council seat won’t lead to world domination. They tie her up, and Kai twists the knife. “No one gives a s— if you live or die,” he tells her. “You are worthless. You don’t exist. You’re nothing.” Then they toss her in the grave in the yard, with Harrison not even sparing a second thought. In the present day, Meadow insists that no one will help them. They have to kill Kai.
Then we get some more background, jumping to a city council debate just a little bit earlier. Kai is trying to rally the locals for change, telling them, “The monsters are here! It’s time to be scared!” But one woman, Sally Keffler, declares BS. Kai brings up councilman Chang’s murder, and the clowns, but she points out that crime is, in fact, down from last year. She correctly notes that he’s just fear-mongering, and that he’s not a conservative, just a garbage fly. She announces that she’s running against him, and she seems capable and formidable: clearly, a threat to Kai.
But before we find out what action he takes against Sally, we jump back to the day after the election, where Ivy is freaking out over Gary, who, with Winter (Billie Lourd), she tied up and “silenced” before he cut his own hand off to vote. Ivy fears that she’s going to jail, but no worries — Winter’s brother “can fix anything,” she tells her. Winter leaves Ivy alone with Kai, and when he offers Ivy his pinky, she laughs it off… until he brings up Gary. Kai admits that he helped Gary escape, and Ivy concedes to the fear. She admits that she’s afraid of Trump, but her wife scares her even more.
Ivy’s hatred for Ally is actually rooted in something quite sad: she became jealous that Ally got to carry Oz, as Ivy couldn’t because of her endometriosis. Moreover, Ivy resents her “entitled bulls— phobias,” and, yes, again brings up that Jill Stein vote. Kai gives her hope of an escape, but there’s one thing standing in the way: Oz, who Ivy refuses to lose. Kai, at the very least, wants to make sure Ally isn’t granted custody.
Back to Meadow and Ally’s big adventure, Ally barges into Dr. Rudy’s office with Meadow. She leaves Meadow with him, despite his protests, and marches off to find evidence of the cult Meadow’s told her about. That brings her to Sally’s doorstep, who actually hears her out. Ally tells her about Kai’s cult, and Sally is initially hard to read, but she actually seems like she might believe her. Kai is no good and she knows it. “You came to the right place,” she assures Ally. “Nothing shocks me. I went to Berkeley.”
But then, the clowns burst in, surrounding Sally, who brandishes her gun. They have a stare-down for awhile, but then a clown appears from behind her, taking her gun, and then tie her up. Kai takes off his mask, and they have a political argument so typical of today: Kai thinks Sally’s an elite, while Kai is just a “spasm of democracy” according to her. Kai, though, clearly has the upper-hand, and begins to write a suicide note on her Facebook page. She insists that no one will believe she killed herself, but Kai responds, “Of course they will. It’s on Facebook,” before murdering her.
Meanwhile, Ally wails in the bathroom, where Ivy wanders off to. Ally recognizes her, but before anything else can happen, Ivy’s beckoned away. With her life spared, Ally returns to tell Dr. Rudy about the cult’s murder, but Meadow has already left. Dr. Rudy tried to get information out of her, but Meadow refused to say a word, and he tries to convince Ally that it’s not real. He again encourages her to check into a treatment center, and goes so far as to threaten to force her into it, which, unsurprisingly, does not elicit a happy response from Ally.
And now, we return to the rally. Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) reports on a big turnout for Kai, who talks about Sally’s “suicide.” I will never desert you like she did,” he says. Ally spots Ivy in the crowd, and goes after her as the crowd chants, but then we hear the gunshots. It’s revealed that the gunman is actually Meadow, and she shoots Kai in the leg, then, expressionless, continues to fire away. Ally tries to wrestle the gun from her, but Meadow shoots herself dead after telling her, “This is the face of true love.”
It’s all explained as we return to the scene where Meadow is tied up. After berating her, Kai flips the script, telling her, “You were right about all of it.” Only Meadow can elevate Kai to the level he needs. Kai wants her to try and fail to assassinate him, because “everyone loves a resurrection,” and he explains the plan further as they have sex. It was all part of Kai’s plan.
The episode ends with Kai being taken away in a stretcher, but with a knowing smile: the violence was a heavy price, but it’s one that he’s willing to pay.