We’ve been wondering for a while when Sarah Paulson’s Ally would come back into play in a serious way on American Horror Story: Cult. After Kai’s followers torture her into madness then get her embroiled in a mass shooting, she is carted off to the psych ward, and we haven’t seen much of her (save for a momentary twist) since. That is, until the latest episode, “Drink the Kool-Aid,” when Ally comes back with a vengeance. Happy Halloween! Have some arsenic!
In the episode, Ally pretends like she wants to reunite her family and get away from Kai, but what she really wants is revenge – and Ivy is her No. 1 target. Betrayal always hurts the most when it is done by those closest to you, so Ivy joining up with Kai to take out Ally and take Oz away from her – oh, and also the pesky detail of how they murdered a bunch of people – has Ally on the warpath for her wife.
Over dinner, Ally lays out how she overcame her phobias while she was locked up in the psych ward. It was all about replacing the fear with hatred and vengeance. When Ivy snarks that Ally would never do anything to her, Ally flashes some stone-cold eyes and says, “I already did.”
Turns out there’s arsenic in both Ivy’s wine and pasta. If you’re wondering whether Ivy’s death would have been so bloody and so immediate, the answer is yes and no.
Vomiting blood is one of the symptoms of acute arsenic poisoning, as are dizziness, drowsiness, muscle cramps, and convulsions. However, even in doses large enough to kill someone, the death usually takes hours, if not days. In fact, the symptoms usually take at least 30 minutes to begin appearing, because the poison does have to work its way into a person’s body.
So while Ivy certainly could have died that way, it would have taken much longer than it did (though it would have also made for a pretty boring hour of television).
Arsenic in and of itself is not an inherently bad substance. Organic arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can be found in soil and water, so many foods contain trace elements of it and people consume those foods without any problems. It has also been used medicinally as an antibiotic and anticancer drug. But the trouble arises when groundwater arsenic levels get high enough that people are exposed to elevated levels over long periods of time. That kind of exposure can cause thickening of the skin, diarrhea, heart disease, and cancer.
All of that is in reference to organic arsenic, though. Inorganic arsenic is 500 times more toxic than organic arsenic. It would have only taken about 1/8 teaspoon to kill Ivy (though that still wouldn’t have been immediate).
In the 19th century, inorganic arsenic was commonly referred to as “inheritor’s powder,” because people would use it to kill their relatives in order to inherit. Since arsenic poisoning generally presents as a regular illness, it is very hard to prove, especially back then. There is also evidence to suggest that several historical figures were killed by arsenic poisoning, such as George III of Great Britain, Napoleon Bonaparte of France, and Simon Bolivar of Venezuela.
In pop culture, arsenic features prominently in the 1944 Cary Grant movie Arsenic and Old Lace. Based on a play of the same name, it is a dark comedy about a pair of murderous spinster aunts whose dark dealings Grant’s character must try to cover up. It’s worth a watch if you’re into old movies.
And now Ivy’s gone the way of the victims in Arsenic and Old Lace
, poisoned by someone close to her, with her body unceremoniously dumped in a house to be hidden away and avoid detection. It doesn’t look like Ally wants to poison Kai (or she would have when she had the chance), so hopefully she’s got something more appropriate in mind for the unhinged cult leader.