SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not seen Season 7, episode 8 of “American Horror Story,” titled “Winter of Our Discontent.”
The name of this week’s episode, “Winter of Our Discontent,” isn’t just significant for its connection to Billie Lourd’s Winter, and the simmering anger of the women of the cult. It’s the name of a John Steinbeck classic, one that zeroes in on an epic family conflict and ends in death, not unlike the most recent “American Horror Story,” which explores the deeply screwed-up dynamic of the Anderson children.
The episode starts off with Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson) approaching Kai’s (Evan Peters) heavily guarded home/cult headquarters before they sit down for a heart-to-heart. Kai is upset that Rudy didn’t come to visit him in the hospital after he was shot, and accuses him of being ashamed, as it was his patient, Ally (Sarah Paulson), who he says conspired to kill him. Rudy admits that Kai’s not entirely wrong, but now, he’s proud of him. He wants to help him, even, and Kai seems encouraged by the validation. But Kai wouldn’t let this interaction go without a power move, telling Rudy to call him “councilman” now.
Meanwhile, the women of the cult continue to be dissatisfied with Kai. Ivy (Alison Pill) serves the guards at the Butchery, who belittle her and tell her she’d be “more f—able if she smiled.” She seems to be at her breaking point as she exclaims to Winter and Beverly (Adina Porter), “How did this handmaid’s s— even happen?” While it might seem like just a bunch of “dude-bros,” as Ivy calls them, Kai is starting to wield real power as a politician, as we see a bit of a city council meeting where Kai rallies for an insane police presence in the streets. He’s, quite literally, building an army. His motion passes after he makes a veiled threat against the daughters of one of the councilmen opposing him.
Beverly, too, is fed up with Kai, but Winter insists that they can’t go after him. If he falls, they all fall. Beverly gives her an ultimatum, telling her to “wake up, little girl.” There’s a side to Kai, though, that they don’t know, Winter tries to explain, as we get a flashback from October 2015. They were “trolling social justice warriors” (ironic, given that Winter was a liberal ahead of the election) on abortion forums and more on the dark web when they get an invitation from someone named Pastor Charles to the “Judgment House.” At Kai’s urging, they go to what ends up being a sketchy house in the middle of nowhere. The man who greets them, calling himself “the watchman,” tells them that, like Fight Club, they’re not allowed to talk about what they find inside — which is absolutely horrifying.
In one room, a nursery of sorts, they find a woman in stirrups, bleeding out in front of an empty crib and begging for help. “I killed my baby and now I’m bleeding to death,” she tells them. It’s there that Kai actually realizes that this isn’t some staged haunted house — it’s real. In the next room, they find a man paying for another alleged sin in a scene right out of “Seven,” pumped with the “drugs of his choice” to near death. And in the third room, while Pastor Charles preaches under a neon sign, a man is punished for being gay. Kai vows to save them all, moving the man in the third room just as knives were set to burst through his chest. As he rushes to save the others, the pastor corners Winter, telling her that she “needs to be in the show,” but Kai saves her.
Before he kills the pastor, Kai notes that he was actually misrepresenting the “sins” of these victims. The woman was just at Planned Parenthood to treat a UTI, not for an abortion. The man being punished for his alleged homosexuality was merely volunteering at an AIDS clinic. As Winter demands blood on the sidelines, Kai kills him in the same way he was going to kill one of his victims.
After Winter pleads her appeal, Beverly agrees to give it a try, but only gives her until the end of the week. Winter goes to meet with Kai, who has noticed that the women are “restless” — and he knows about Harrison (Billy Eichner), but he’s not even mad about it. He does have another intense pinky power scene with Winter, where he presents her with a strange (to say the least) proposition: that she be the mother to his child, the “messiah.” But would Kai engage in incest? Of course not! He explains that Detective Samuels (Colton Haynes) will have sex with her, while he has sex with him, so it’s all “pure.” Phew! Now it’s not weird at all.
Elsewhere, Ally, who completed a stint in a psych ward after “conspiring” to kill Kai, is furious with Dr. Rudy. At her house, Rudy reveals that Kai and Winter are his siblings, and Ally comes to the realization that her therapist’s sister is with her wife. Ally puts it all together: every phobia she revealed to Rudy was used against her. He swears that Kai must have broken into his files, and as she screams that Rudy’s taken everything from her, he promises her that he’ll help to get it all back, including Oz.
We jump back to Winter, though, who is in a ridiculous outfit, along with Samuels for the “anointing.” Kai, without a shred of irony, plays “I Swear” by All-4-One and declares that it’s the holy song for whenever a “messiah is conceived.” It’s all over-the-top enough to be humorous, but there’s a dark undertone — Winter clearly does not want this. Samuels tries to have sex with her as they awkwardly avoid eye contact, but he can’t “get it up for girls anymore.” Winter draws a line, though, and says she feels like she’s being raped. Finally, she stands up to Kai, and will have to pay the price for that later.
Ally is also taking action… some unconventional action. She’s invited Kai to her home, where she’s making perfectly manly sloppy joes. Kai has brought protection in case she wants to harm him, but she only wants to offer him information. The guards leave after Ally asks for privacy — and mocks Kai for fearing her. She wants her son in exchange for this information, and Kai is hesitant until she tells him that Rudy’s trying to have him committed. Rudy wants to prove that he, at some point, tried to stop him. Why is Ally turning to Kai now? He cured her of all her phobias, she says. “I’m not afraid of anything anymore.”
Winter, meanwhile, is serving her time for disobeying Kai, picking up trash (despite the fact that Kai wants her to put it all back, since he doesn’t believe in global warming) in a dunce cap. Samuels brings her lunch — gruel — and calls her his servant. He’s doing all this for Kai, but their relationship wasn’t always this way. In a flashback, we learn that Samuels once had the power over Kai. After finding him conducting a prescription drug deal, Samuels blackmailed Kai into cutting him in on the profits.
But when Kai goes to Samuels’ one night to deliver the money, he finds Samuels trying to have sex with a woman, but he’s not aroused by her. After she storms out, Samuels opens up to Kai. He can get any girl he wants, but he just hasn’t found the right one yet… though that’s not the case, according to Kai. Kai tells him, in another one of his “take back the power” diatribes, that he doesn’t need more women, but a man. When Samuels insists that he’s not gay, Kai tells him to “lean into his masculinity.” When he has sex with a woman, she’s taking his power; when he has sex with a man, they’re “building on one another,” leading to Samuels and Kai themselves copulating.
In the present day, he still tells Winter that he’s not gay. Even still, he tries to rape her and impregnate her after all, but she takes his gun and pushes him off. Recalling Valerie Solanas’ “turd” rhetoric, she reaches her breaking point and shoots him in the head.
That brings us to another torturous ritual, but this time, it’s Rudy and Beverly being punished. Kai starts with Rudy, who swears that he’s trying to help Kai and that he can still trust him. Kai believes Ally’s story, though, so the ship has already sailed. Rudy tries to manipulative him, recalling their pinky power, and Kai offers him his pinky once again. It’s a fake-out, however, as Kai cuts off Rudy’s little finger before killing him. As Rudy bleeds out, Kai turns to Beverly.
Kai reveals that Winter had framed Beverly for Samuels’ murder, and she protests, but Kai doesn’t believe her. When he claims that she betrayed him, Beverly recalls their “equal partnership” promise, and faces her fate with fury, taunting him, calling him a “turd.” He send her to isolation, and gives another speech about loyalty before we start to see the remaining group members, including a new one… Ally herself, opening up a whole new chapter in hers and Ivy’s troubled relationship.