In the penultimate episode of American Horror Story, titled Fire and Reign, we're finally given all the pieces of this complex puzzle, but one question remains: Is Armageddon unavoidable?

Those who have been following my weekly recaps of American Horror Story: Apocalypse know that I've toyed with the idea of time travel on a few occasions. It started when the series shifted from post to pre-Apocalypse, meaning the focus changed from the events of the present to the events leading up to the day the bombs dropped. I realized they were putting a lot of time into telling us a story we already knew the conclusion too, and not necessarily in a way that heightened anticipation. It was more like, what's the point of rooting for Cordelia and the Coven when we know it's all just gonna go to Hell (literally)? I started to wonder if the titular Apocalypse wasn't set in stone, but rather one possible version of the future. After last night's episode, "Fire and Reign", I think we have confirmation of that hypothesis.

We open with the bowl-cut eggheads Jeff and Mutt as they kick around their lab, playing with guns and cocaine and sex robots. Jeff's annoyed because his coffee taste like "burnt asshole" and traffic sucks in LA, and he cites these travesties as examples of why the world needs to end. He's also peeved that Michael Langdon (aka Kid Antichrist) is still finding himself as an emissary of ultimate evil and not ready to bring hellfire down on the masses just yet. Enter Ms. Venable with a message about the Cooperative, her curiosity perked. Dumb and Dumber won't tell her anything-except that these are the guys who make the movers and shakers move and shake. The Jerky Boys give her shit and she decides she's had enough.

Related: American Horror Story: Apocalypse Episode 8.3 Recap: Forbidden Fruit

Back at the Coven, the witches join forces in an attempt to seal the Academy under a spell of protection, but Dinah Stevens crashes the party. Using a mixture of blood, gunpowder, and voodoo magic, she busts down the doors for Michael and his lieutenant/surrogate mother Ms. Mead. For her help, Michael ensures she'll get a lucrative gig as a talk show hostess, explaining how she went from voodoo priestess to pop culture mogul.

Michael and Mead waste no time decimating the witches who foiled his attempts to become the next Supreme. Cordelia escapes, sending Michael into a depression, but Mead tells him to get his head back in the game. It's here that we realize robot-Mead isn't a real approximation of her human likeness-she's merely a puppet, one who speaks words supplied by Jeff and Mutt. Michael is instructed to quit looking to horror movies like The Omen III for inspiration; rather he should listen to Jeff and Mutt-and they've got plenty to say.

During a sit down with the dastardly duo, Michael is introduced to The Cooperative (via a list of its members) and we all learn that this is simply the rebranded name of an age-old secret society: The Illuminati! They explain that since they've all pledged their souls to Satan, he's got a virtual army at his disposal. It's time to initiate a plan, one that uses "mutual assure destruction" protocols to trigger an automatic nuclear war.

Over at Misty's cabin in the swamp, Cordelia, Myrtle, Mallory, and Coco lick their wounds; Cordelia attempts to bring Zoe and Queenie back to life via astral projection, but fails, owing to Michael's ability to completely eradicate a person's soul (a fate worse that death). And here's where time travel is referenced explicitly for the very first time: The only way top rescue their Coven-mates from uber-death, is to to change history itself.

Cordelia believes Mallory, as the next supreme, is powerful enough to execute a legendary spell that will allow her to travel back in time in order to alter the very fabric of history. As a means of test-driving this theory, Cordelia and Myrtle send Mallory on a mission to rescue the Romanov family from Siberia in 1918. Though she's ultimately unsuccessful (emerging from the experience with psychological trauma and bleeding eyeballs) she proves she can time jump without dying. Cordelia and Myrtle head to Hawthorn, the Warlock Academy in Los Angeles, only to find all their potential allies massacred and dismembers, assembled into a grotesque pentagram. And that's how the institute became vacant for the Cooperative, who we know will remodel the facility into Outpost Three.

Back at the office with Jeff and Mutt, Venable is in the process of quitting when she's offered a new gig: Administrator for the Cooperative. Now why on earth would she want to continue working with these shit-heads? Well, she's tantalized by the idea of being a strict taskmaster. The wheels have definitely been set into motion for ultimate doom.

Michael reveals his presence to the assembled Cooperative, its members' identities obscured by cool mirror masks. He demands obedience and immediately shares plans for the {NEiY3gHDR7YFmk||impending Apocalypse. Next week, Cordelia and her Coven will have to watch the world burn if they want to save it. Check back next Thursday for the final recap of Season 8; American Horror Story: Apocalypse airs on FX.