American Horror Story: Cult 7×5 Review: Holes
After an episode detailing how Kai and his cult came to be, “Holes” seeks to fill in a few of the missing pieces for how Kai and his band of cultists function in their quest to change the US.
Episode 5 opens with Beverly being scolded by her boss, Bob, for trying to instill fear into people as well as questioning how she is always the first on the scene to these gruesome murders. This automatically seems at odds with how American media functions since Bob does not like her fear-mongering focus on calling the murders the cause of a serial killer. The 2017 Donald Trump favorite buzzword of fake news is mentioned a few times in how Beverly reports the recent murders as well as her tactic of trying to show crime as on the rise when it is actually lower than it has been in the past. Already this episode’s theme of holes is showing.
All of Bob’s points against Beverly are accurate and are a direct commentary on how American news outlets like to spread misinformation on certain things in order to create click bait or to instill fear in people in order to keep them watching. American news loves to focus on crime as the basis of stories as opposed to feel good stories despite the fact that crime is at a relative low.
Beverly threatens to use Bob’s affair with the deceased news caster, Selena, as a piece of blackmail after Bob threatens to fire her. Beverly leaves which transitions into the next scene at Kai’s house with the whole gang, talking about how Kai is down in the polls for city council and how most people don’t even know what city council is. This is another commentary on how local elections are often ignored when compared to more national elections despite the fact they arguably have more of an impact on the immediate lives of the people in the area.
Beverly is concerned about Bob knowing the holes in her story for how she keeps reporting these murders. Kai’s response is to kill Bob. RJ is not on board with this plan (who is this guy anyway?). Kai smacks RJ for doubting him, immediately showing that Kai will do whatever it takes to establish that his rule is law and you do not question it. Ivy shows up to the meeting late because, surprise! Ivy is working with Kai. This is a plot twist that was suggested last episode when it was shown that Ivy and Winter had met previously, something that Ivy conveniently left out when Winter showed up to apply to be Ivy and Ally’s nanny.
The problem with this season is every part of Kai’s plan is falling too neatly into place. Every cog in his wheel is turning exactly as he wishes which makes reveals of people working with him to be obvious. Of course they had to be working with Kai, otherwise nothing would make sense. This makes every surprise reveal to fall as flat as Ally’s character.
Speaking of Ally, the next scene shows Ally talking to her psychiatrist again after waking up and scratching her neck raw. She was seeing bugs crawling out of the holes in her skin, caused by the stress of her wife leaving her and taking their son with her. “It was like she prepared,” Ally tells him, following the frustrating trend of Ally always being three steps behind. We have literal holes in Ally’s skin and holes in Ally’s ability to see what is in front of her.
Why is Kai focusing so hard on Ally? What does he have to gain from harassing Ally to the point of a mental breakdown? This is the only real mystery this season. Ally is not a high profile figure. She is not a politician, but a local business owner. Yes, he has immediate access to her and her family since Ivy is working with him, but to what end? Eventually Ally will be joining Kai and his cult, but the gaslighting and emotional manipulation does not seem necessary, Kai is focusing a lot of excess energy and time into Ally. While this episode barely focuses on Ally’s continued harassment, it makes earlier episodes seem out of character and downright confusing since there does not seem to be a reason to go to such lengths to radicalize Ally.
Along the way to kill Bob (Beverly’s boss) because Beverly suggested the people needed to see a vicious murder as opposed to simply be told about it, Kai is shown to be once again popping pills. Kai’s constant pill taking is unnecessary to show his derangement and other further stigmatizes people with mental illnesses who need to take medications. While American Horror Story is not necessarily known for their sensitivity on any issues, this small detail just seems to unnecessary especially since it is done as Kai and his cult are on their way to film them murdering someone.
We finally get to see who is who under the clown masks, many of which were already speculated on. Kai is the three-faced clown, Ivy is the elephant clown, brainy clown is RJ, tall pockmarked clown is Harrison, and so forth. Meadow is absent from this scene, as her whereabouts from the previous episode are not revealed. As they murder Bob, they discover that not only does Bob have a penchant for younger blonde reporters, but also for dudes and BDSM. His attic has a man suspended by hooks with a hood over his head, only referred to as a ‘gimp’.
RJ believes that he should be spared and suggests they take a vote on whether or not he should be killed. There are holes in Kai’s loyal group of followers. This enrages Kai as there is no voting in this cult, Kai’s word is final and the only authority. Kai murders the suspended man in a very gory scene as the suspension hooks rip from his body as Kai stabs him. Bob is murdered next in a relatively less grisly way.
After the murders, Beverly is first on the scene and reports them. Winter reports that Kai’s numbers are up 10 points. However, Beverly is shown talking one-on-one with Kai after the murder, asking if he noticed anything odd. Beverly mentions that RJ has been repeatedly questioning Kai’s authority and showing weakness in their plan and that weakness needs to be cut out. This scene shows that while Kai may be in charge, he is not necessarily the entire brains behind the operation. Beverly holds a lot more sway with Kai than the others in the group do. This difference in power dynamics is something that hopefully will be explored in later episodes as either a plot point or a conflict point.
The episode comes back to Ally, who is now alone in her house with her paranoia. She is watching her neighbors (Harrison and Meadow) through the windows where she sees Harrison kissing the cop who has repeatedly shown up to her house, the restaurant, etc. This fuels her paranoia about her neighbors (which is more than correct) and she goes to see what is going on. There she finds Meadow trapped in a hole and begging for help. Ally scoots away to call 911 (of which the lines are experiencing a heavy load) and then calls Ivy. Ivy immediately berates her for calling and seeing things before Meadow is banging on the window and telling Ally about the cult Harrison and them are all in, and yes, Ivy is in it too. Meadow is then dragged away with a burlap sack on her head.
Once again, everything about this is too clean to not be part of the plan. Kai knows Ally is alone in the house. He is instilling fear with everyone who are probably calling 911 at an increased rate over every little bump, and Meadow was recently stuck in the hole so how did she get out to run to Ally? Too clean. Too perfectly set up.
Everyone is shown to be at Kai’s house for a meeting, where Kai is talking about how they need to be unified and not question his ideals or their plan. Weakness needs to be rooted out. Since Meadow was taken away in a bag, Ryan Murphy is expecting the viewer to believe that Meadow will be the one to be made an example of. This makes it seem like Ryan Murphy forget the set-up for his entire episode, which showed that RJ was in fact the weak link in the cult currently. To no one’s surprise, RJ is gagged and tied to a chair. Kai forces Ivy, after much protesting, to be the first one to put the nail in RJ’s coffin, or in this case, his head. Questioning Kai or his plan is death.
The episode ends exposing the holes in Kai’s story. Beverly is in charge of one of these pinky swear sessions, questioning Kai about his true story. As shown in the previous episode, Kai gives a different story to each person in order to connect with them better or make him seem greater than he is. Beverly gets the ‘real’ story from Kai. While not shocking per say, this part of the episode is the most unseen in some ways than any of the actual ‘twists’ the season has had so far.
Kai’s father was an upstanding lawyer until a motorcycle accident took his legs. He became abusive afterwards, berating Kai for doing nothing, especially his degree in religious studies. Kai is not the only victim of his father’s rage though, as is shown in a scene where Kai’s father berates his mother at dinner. He yells at her that she is having an affair and demands to know who she is having sex with since his penis no longer works due to the accident. He is mentally and physically abusive to Kai and Kai’s mother. Eventually, Kai’s mother has had enough and she ends up not only murdering Kai’s father, but killing herself in front of Kai.
This is the least fucked up part of this. Instead of calling the cops, Kai calls his brother who, surprise, is the psychologist Ally has been seeing! This twist is meant to upstage the twist of Ivy being in the cult in the beginning of “Holes”. However, this reveal was spoiled two episodes ago when the clown cult went after a seemingly random couple after having just seen the psychologist. It is even alluded to in this episode where Beverly lets everyone know that said deceased couple was reported of having to just left the office.
Instead of maybe reporting the murder-suicide, or burying the bodies to hide the crime, or any sense of logical way to hide a crime, Kai’s brother suggests that they put the bodies in the bed, cover them with lye, and let them decompose. “It’ll be like a mausoleum,” he proclaims. This is the most twisted part of the episode. Winter is in college and he just opened a practice and can’t have this kind of scandal associated with him. Kai goes along with the plan, which happened three years ago. Beverly asks the question on every viewer’s mind, are they still there? Of course they are, this wouldn’t be American Horror Story without some weird and fucked up twist! Kai even visits them and talks to them, telling them he will be great one day. “Holes” ends on one such scene with Kai grasping the decomposing arm of his father (gag).
“Holes” fills in some of the previous holes from previous episodes, though a lot of them have already been figured out. There are still some giant gaping ones, like why they’re going through all of this for Ally, but slowly the story is coming together. While not as good as the previous episode, Ryan Murphy is slowly digging this season up from the grave that was dug early on. Hopefully he will keep Ally buried and focus more on Kai and his cult from now on.
Author: Lucian Clark
Lucian is the owner/creator of queer horror website, GenderTerror. They also hold a BA in Psychology from Post University. Favorites video games, rats, and cosplaying. They can be found most of the time writing fanfiction or yelling excitedly on Twitter.
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