American Horror Story: Cult: “11/9” Season 7 Episode 4 Review

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Kai assembles his cult in the season’s strongest episode so far.

As Cult has progressed this season, I’ve continually wondered about Kai’s greasy blue hair. Does it have to do with the killer clowns he employs? Is the blue supposed to represent the blue on the American flag? Is he mocking “blue states” and democratic voters? Maybe it’s just a character choice that Evan Peters made.

“11/9” more or less gave me my answer. The episode takes us back closer to the election, starting with the night before. Kai, a mysterious figure until now, proves just how masterful he is at manipulating vulnerable people to join his cult. The season premiere pinned him as a die-hard Trump supporter, but this week he was revealed to be something much more sinister.

His blue hair started to make sense to me as I watched him recruit both Harrison, and a local news reporter named Beverly (Adina Porter). Beverly is a black woman and Harrison is a gay man, so Kai’s interest in them seemed initially suspect. Then I realized that he isn’t a Trump supporter at all. As the episode goes on, it becomes more and more apparent that Kai doesn’t care about Trump, he just cares about the fear that his Presidency will bring. In short, Kai is one of those men who “just wants to watch the world burn.” He’s The Joker.

Before any diehard Batman fans get the wrong idea, I’d like to officially state that I am in no way comparing Evan Peter’s performance this season to Heath Ledger’s in The Dark Knight. I’m just saying, the similarities are there. From the clown mask-wearing henchmen to the dyed, greasy hair, it’s clear that Kai is an agent of chaos. And a smart one, at that. This week we learn that Kai was invited to join Mensa at age 14, served in the military, graduated from Yale where he double majored in poly-sci and feminist studies, and now works in computers. He sees the fear and the anger that this election stirred in people on both sides of the campaign, and he knows he can use it to his advantage.

“11/9” is a tightly written and directed episode. It’s book-ended by the story of how Kai brings a frenzied, bleeding man (Chaz Bono) to a polling place so he can vote for Trump, only to reveal one of his hands missing. This narrative keeps in line with the idea that Kai is a Trump supporter, but before we learn any more about the one-handed man, the episode jumps to the next day, and we learn how Kai meets Harrison at the gym.

It’s easy to see where this plot is going from Kai’s immediate intensity and Harrison’s wide-eyed interest in him. After training with him for twelve weeks, Kai is able to convince Harrison that he needs to believe in himself, which really means murdering his douchey boss. Though this story is somewhat predictable, it’s elevated by Billy Eichner and Leslie Grossman’s comedic relief. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Billy on the Street, you know that Eichner’s continuous shouting of “I’m a murderer!” is gold, and Grossman’s constant state of detachment is equally hilarious.

Next on Kai’s list is Beverly, whom he learns about from a YouTube compilation of men interrupting her newscasts to shout, “grab her right in the pussy,” which is both inspired by Trump’s leaked Access Hollywood tape and this news broadcast that went viral. In the end, Beverly decides that she’s going to grab back and attacks one of the kids who interrupts her. To make matters worse, the head of her network keeps shunting her aside for a younger colleague (Emma Roberts) who isn’t afraid to sleep her way to the top.

This scenario is a little different than Harrison’s, as Beverly is already ready to set the world on fire, but she doesn’t believe Kai is the man to do it. So, in order to prove himself, he has his clown crew murder her co-worker during one of her broadcasts. Soon after, she’s a believer.

What’s so interesting about this plot is Kai’s insistence that they will have “equal power” once their goals are achieved. It makes sense on paper. Most film and television villains who just want to destroy everything are hoping to start fresh from the ashes with a better society. Yet, Kai is clearly aiming to be the leader of this society, so I doubt he has plans for true equality once it’s established. It’s why he goes after people in highly emotional states. They’re much easier to control.

“11/9” comes full circle in the end, as we see just how the one-handed man got his appendage cut off in the first place. This is the most intriguing part of the episode, as it involves both Winter and Ivy. Winter has already been living with Kai, so it’s safe to assume she was part of his cult before he recruited Harrison and Beverly. What’s more of a surprise, however, is that Winter meets Ivy at a protest rally and defends her from the one-handed man (he has two hands still at this point) when he assaults her. Winter is able to convince Ivy to fight back, and they decide to tie the man in a locked basement so he can’t cast his vote for Trump the next day.

Their history together makes Ivy all the more suspect, in my opinion. I’ve been feeling for a while that she somehow has to be involved with Kai’s cult, and this gives her a direct connection and a violent secret. It also makes Ally’s betrayal with Winter all the more interesting. I have a feeling that we’re going to be seeing a darker side of Ivy within the coming weeks. At the very least, this explains why she keeps letting Winter—the world’s worst babysitter—come back into the house.

The episode ends with Kai finding the man locked in the basement. He uses some easy manipulation on him to get him to cut his hand off so he can be freed from the handcuffs he’s in and go vote. It’s an excellent way to tie everything together, and it’s proof that Kai is trying to band together both Democrats and Republicans alike. He hasn’t picked a side in this battle, because he knows it will be so much easier to pick off individual people to control once they’re in a state of distress. That’s what makes him so much more dangerous than just an average Trump supporter, and what makes this season a whole lot more engrossing. Grade: A-


Some Other Notes:

    • Though her character’s death made narrative sense, I’m sad that Emma Roberts won’t be around for longer this season. She was just as bitchy and snarky as I could’ve hoped for, and made me wish that Scream Queens has been a better show.
    • Also, I know that her boss at the news station is supposed to be seen at creepy and predatory, but he’s also played by Dermot Mulroney, so it’s a bit of a catch-22.
    • The auto-tuned mashup of Beverly’s news anchor mishaps was so spot-on.


By Mike Papirmeister

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