Warning: This recap of the “Charles (Manson) in Charge” episode of American Horror Story: Cult contains spoilers.
As a wise man in drag once said, “F*** it, and put on a wig.” Like a sort of lace-front Prozac, a good wig can really turn your day around. Just got dumped? A ginger bob will make you feel fun n’ flirty again. Utterly broke? This curly Farrah Fawcett number says otherwise! The state took away your kids? It’s asymmetrical flat-top time. Your seventh season is a near franchise-ruiner? Hand me that Manson wig, girl!
This week’s episode of Cult was entitled “Charles (Manson) in Charge” and sure enough, Evan Peters dressed up as Charles Manson! It was a fun distraction from the overall storyline and helped ease us into next week’s finale. Let’s talk about this episode!
We began in a carpeted den of iniquity where three basics were attempting to hate-watch a U.S. presidential debate while a Redditor all-caps’d his way through every comments section on the web.
After Kai ruined the fun by ranting about how much everybody hates Hillary, Winter’s brunette friend here had no choice but to drag him and his demographic for being mouth-breathing, sexually frustrated, Atlas Shrugged literalists, and he suddenly slapped her for it! This, friends, was assault. And Kai was going to have to face some consequences.
Unfortunately for society, Kai’s consequences were some anger management therapy sessions led by none other than former Valerie Solanas acolyte Frances Conroy (as herself). But instead of encouraging Kai to, like, hit a pillow with a Nerf bat, she instead recognized he was a future guru in the making and made him agree to, like, start a pro-woman cult. He apparently only needed a three-minute monologue from an old woman to agree to this, and suddenly he was on the path toward toppling society via city council meetings! So it began.
Unfortunately, Kai’s next step of running for U.S. Senate hit a snag when counter-protestors began to outnumber his supporters at public events. Hurtful homemade signs led to negative TV coverage led to jeers led to Kai getting maced in the eyes and face and head holes. World domination was not going to be as easy as he thought!
Because Kai is only human (and that’s pretty much all he is), he decided to cheer himself up with a retreat to Storyland. Yes, he gathered up all the hunks in long johns to hear the riveting tale of another cult leader who was more infamous than Kai could ever hope to be: Charles Manson!
The fun of these flashbacks was getting to see the Manson girls played by some familiar faces. Here was Sarah Paulson in a unibrow merkin as Susan Atkins!
Mary Cherry played Patricia Krenwinkel, obviously.
And Billie Lourd played the timid eventual star witness against Manson, Linda Kasabian.
Plus, we had Billy Eichner in a backward wig as Tex Watson! Obviously, this was a fun game of dress-up, but the reenactments of the murders themselves were much less fun in my opinion.
For example, I was a real frown emoji when Sharon Tate got knifed in her pregnant tum-tum. Like OK, American Horror Story, it’s audacious to be venerating and valorizing real-life killers every now and again, but also real people died? And this slightly campy reenactment of their murders felt grosser than this show gets usually? Anyway, that is my bummer thought of the day!
Back in real life, Kai decided he needed to start being more ambitious with his acts of horror if he wanted to be immortalized like Manson has been. His solution was to lure Chaz Bono (as himself) to the local Planned Parenthood where he’d be murdered by the clowns and then his corpse would be arranged in the front walkway to sort of resemble an abortion protest that could be pinned on Kai’s political adversaries. Or something?
Yeah, I’m not sure. Also Kai seems very OK with systematically reducing his cult membership numbers, even the members who were most loyal to him. Not sure that’s great cult management on his part, but Kai gotta Kai.
Also, Beverly seemed way less into the idea of taking Kai down. I guess spending a few weeks locked in a closet will do that to a person. Winter took pity on her, probably because she’d framed Beverly for murder and that can wear on a person’s conscience, so she bought Beverly a train ticket to Montana and if you can believe it, Beverly declined to accept it! Instead, she pledged her undying loyalty to Kai. Beverly must be both Swedish and ill because she definitely had Stockholm syndrome.
Probably the main idea behind this episode was that Kai was not doing well mentally. He’d become superparanoid that there was a traitor in his midst (a thought Sarah Paulson had been subtly and not-so-subtly encouraging) and he also had begun to hallucinate that his dead brother, Dr. Cheyenne Jackson, was now a sassy zombie and also Charles Manson was doling out personal-life-improvement advice to Kai, Tyler Durden style.
Charles Manson felt that Kai had been too nice to the women in his life, and he needed to send them on an all-day shopping spree in the afterlife. Yeah, Kai was not doing great. Also, can I say one thing about these cult leader impersonations? Kind of the main thing with cult leaders is they tell their followers that THEY are the only person who is right, the only person worth trusting completely, nobody else. They are MESSIAHS. I don’t believe any of them would name-check other cult leaders (whose reigns all ended in disaster) as heroes or influences. Makes no sense other than the writers just wanted to see Evan Peters in different wigs. Or maybe the idea is that Kai is the worst cult leader of all time, in which case, sure. I’m listening.
Speaking of bad cult leaders, at this point Frances Conroy (as, again, herself) busted into Kai’s house wearing her green velvet cloak and cussed him out! She had explicitly told him he should start a cult that would get women to overthrow the patriarchy, but he clearly had not been interested in doing that. And before she could pull out her pistol and end Kai, guess who snuck up behind her and exploded her skull with a bullet? Sarah Paulson! She had saved the day, which further earned Kai’s trust. Unfortunately, Kai’s hair was now blood-stained. Fortunately, it was makeover time.
Much better! That weak blue dye was starting to get on everybody’s nerves. Imagine having to eat a meal looking at those stringy, greasy locks. No way. Anyway, Winter buzzed his head and then shaved his face, and it was a really tense scene because Kai was attempting to figure out if Winter was the mole or not. Sarah Paulson had “discovered” a wireless bug hidden in the sofa, and Kai was starting to believe that Winter was working with the authorities, especially after he found out that she’d bought Beverly a train ticket to Montana! Honestly, how dare she.
Then Kai strangled Winter to death and it was sad. Farewell, Winter! May you debate politics in monotone with the devils in heck.
The big reveal, of course, was that Sarah Paulson (and one of the henchmen) had been the ones infiltrating the cult. Or at least, he’d been wearing a wire and she knew about it. Whatever the case, it appeared Kai’s cult was now officially headed toward doom. Would he catch on and force a big group suicide (or worse) or would he, like, realize the errors of his ways and become chill? We’ll find out next week in the grand finale!
“Charles (Manson) in Charge” was definitely the second-to-last episode of American Horror Story: Cult. I’m glad that at least three big characters got killed, but I had mixed feelings about the Manson reenactments. I don’t know, guys. I just don’t know. Maybe the finale will be great? Let’s talk more about it then!
American Horror Story: Cult airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.
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