“11/9”: The Birth Of A Cult In American Horror Story 7.4

by Ben Martin

[PLEASE NOTE: This recap of American Horror Story Season 7: Cult, Episode 4: 11/9 DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. It is assumed you have already viewed the episode. If you have not, it is recommended you do so. Episode 4: 11/9 can be seen on FX, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service.]

If you read my recap of Episode 3 of American Horror Story: Cult, you know I felt it was getting repetitive. Oddly enough, the series rectifies that by going back to a day it’s already covered. That being a terrifying night in U.S. history, and in the show’s (and in my own personal) opinion, Election Night, November 9, 2016. This episode opens on that fateful night at the polls with local reporter Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) covering Michigan’s turnout. Beverly’s thrilled to be covering such an important event, but that’s short-lived when her rival shows up. Serina Belinda (played by AHS and Ryan Murphy alum, Emma Roberts) is a fellow reporter at the local station. The thing is, Serina is younger and viewed as more attractive than the seasoned Beverly.

Beverly has been seen briefly in all of this season’s previous episodes. But, during this opening scene, outside the polls, the focus is shifted to characters with whom we’ve become more familiar. The Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson and Alison Pill, respectively) are there to cast their votes. As are their soon to be neighbors, Harrison (Billy Eichner) and Meadow Wilton (Leslie Grossman). Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson) is also at the polls to put in his two cents. Once inside the voting booth, we see that Ivy eagerly votes for Hillary as Ally puts her support behind Jill Stein.
When Harrison has his turn, he votes for Gary Johnson while Meadow completely throws away her vote on Oprah Winfrey. The voting process is interrupted when Kai (Evan Peters) bursts through the door; dragging the grocery store clerk from the Season Premiere, whose name turns out to be Gary K. Longstreet (Chaz Bono) with him. Kai demands that “This man be allowed to vote!” Such a demand is voiced despite the fact that Gary’s bleeding heavily, due to an invisible wound. Gary gets to cast his Trump vote, through blood sweat and tears; which is doubly unfortunate, as does Kai.
After this cold-open, we come to the day after the election. Harrison is working his miserable day-job as a personal trainer at a local gym. His boss, Vincenzo ‘Vinny’ Ravoli (T.J. Hoban) is an abusive bully, who treats Harrison like garbage. Vinny informs Harrison that he has a new client, who turns out to be none other than Kai. The two immediately make a connection with budding cult leader planting seeds with Harrison; telling Harrison that he can, “Change the world.” That was the highlight of Harrison’s day as he comes home only to find out from Meadow that their house is being foreclosed upon.
The following day, Harrison tells Kai about his situation. With minimal effort, Kai convinces Harrison that he should kill his boss. In turn, Harrison does just that by beating Vinny to death with a free-weight. The dastardly duo then spends the rest of the night covering their tracks, and Kai informs Harrison that he’s been watching him for awhile. Last but not least, they dispose of Vinny’s corpse; which Meadow finds them doing. She is instantly pulled in by this incident and Kai’s magnetism.

From there, the focus goes back to Beverly Hope as she grows ever more frustrated with the state of her career. Kai sees her on the news and believes she would be a good cult candidate after doing some research on the reporter. Through his research, we discover that Beverly suffered a breakdown months earlier. Her breakdown was ultimately due to the state of her career. However, it was fueled by the fact that she was repeatedly camera bombed by morons as she attempted to report on stories. Every one of these idiots would shout Trump’s encouragement of the sexual assault of women (we all know what that is and I’m not dignifying it by writing it here). Eventually, Beverly snapped, beating down one of these goobers with her microphone. Following this, she admitted herself to a mental health facility for a month, taking a leave of absence from her work.
After doing this research, Kai makes Beverly’s acquaintance. He lulls the struggling reporter into the culture of fear he’s building and assures her that he can fix all her problems. Kai proves, unfortunately, to be a man of his word. A few days later, Serina and her cameraman are brutally stabbed to death by the clown cult. (We are shown that, to no one’s surprise, the three clowns are Kai, Harrison, and Meadow.) Upon finding out that Kai perpetrated this murder, Beverly pledges her loyalty to him, thereby becoming a cult member. Together, Kai and Beverly plot to create “fake news.” They do this by having other members of the cult commit numerous murders. Thus, allowing Beverly to follow leads that bleed, without any real competition.

The episode then goes back further in time, to the day before the election. Ivy is trying to convince Ally to accompany her to an anti-Trump protest. Alas, she has no success in doing so, with Ally citing that it won’t make any difference. Ivy still insists on going and does so; only to be sexually assaulted by Gary in a fashion that the current president is so fond of. Winter (Billie Lourd) witnesses this attack and comes to Ivy’s aid as Gary flees. The pair decides to leave the protest and over lunch get to know one another. Winter proves to have her brother’s skill-set as she suggests to Ivy that they do something to Gary in retaliation for him sexually assaulting Ivy. Later that night, the ladies find Gary at his grocery store, Fields, which he owns. He’s working alone; so the two easily tase and kidnap him.
Gary wakes up in a basement, bound with tape. Also, his right hand is cuffed to a pipe. Winter and Ivy are standing over him as he panics. After leaving him with some food and water, the pair assures Gary that they will notify the police of his location within 24 hours. They add that this is all being done to him so that he cannot cast his vote. Shortly thereafter, Winter’s on such a high, that she tells Kai what she and Ivy did. Kai decides to use this information and to go see Gary. Down in the basement, he fuels Gary’s anger; telling him that he’s a disenfranchised straight, white male who must vote and reclaim America at any cost. Gary’s cost proves to be a steep one as he cuts off his on hand, simply to have the ability to vote. With this, 11/9 ends where it began.
I found this episode to be a breath of fresh air! The past couple of episodes have been all about building bridges. Whereas this episode is about the pieces that make up said bridges. By going back and showing us all this, the series manages to break what was becoming a very repetitive cycle. Not to mention, the slightly non-linear approach manages to make this “secret origins” episode even more intriguing. After all, if you look at real cult histories, you’ll often find that some of the most fascinating aspects of them occurred in their beginnings. Beyond that, how a cult leader lulls their members in, tends to be the most intriguing and terrifying aspect of such.

This may be where the episode’s strongest suit comes in. A prime example is The Wiltons. Prior to this episode, I found them repulsive. Granted, I still do, but after this episode, I also have some sympathy for them, as well as Beverly. By making these otherwise at best fairly unlikable characters empathetic, the show may have turned the tables on me. Now I find myself re-invested in this show, thanks to the fact that it further explored these characters. Furthermore, my suspicions that Ivy’s involved with the cult was also confirmed. I expected that such a “revelation” would decrease my interest. On the contrary, I now want to see the evolution of her involvement. Best of all, this episode touched on the real horror of human desperation brought on by political polarization. To me, that will always be scarier than a cabal of clowns. In conclusion,  I greatly look forward to the next episode of AHS!

AHS Season 7, Episode 5: “Holes” will air Tuesday, October 3 at 10 PM on FX.

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