A particularly heartbreaking episode of AMERICAN CRIME this week as we see characters deal with death, failure, rejection, and being tragically confined by an unfair system. Halfway through the season’s eight-episodes now, we also saw some major plot developments and introductions of new characters and storylines.
We open on Luis’ face and hear somebody asking him “Tell me about Teo,” a line that is echoed many times throughout the episode, but each time they are asking something different. In this case, it is a police officer asking Luis to tell him about any distinguishing marks, scars, tattoos in order to identify a body, if he is in fact dead. Luis originally mistakes him for asking about Teo’s personality and describes him as a really funny person, always smiling, but who couldn’t stay out of trouble for messing around too much. The officer hands him a fat binder full of pages with pictures of dead people. Teo flips through it slowly and ultimately comes upon his son Teo’s face. And so we have it: that body we saw in the river in episode one is in fact Teo, Luis’ son. When Luis asks where he is, the officer tells him he was most likely cremated. “There’s a fee for the work done, but you can have him.” Luis doesn’t take him up on his offer.
We learned last week that Shae is pregnant, and as it belongs to one of her johns and not Billy her pimp, she plants on having an abortion. This proves to be a much more complicated task in the state of North Carolina than she anticipated. Kimara explains to her that she will need approval in court to have the abortion since she is seventeen years old and thus underage. Shae will have to get a waiver from a judge or permission from her parents to receive her abortion. Meanwhile, Kimara is trying desperately to get pregnant herself. She’s back considering IVF treatment, though it’s expensive and a refund is not guaranteed if it doesn’t take. For all she knows she may not even be able to get pregnant, which you get the feeling would absolutely shatter her.
Jeanette is still dealing with the Hesby clan and the way in which they handle the senseless deaths of migrant workers on their farms. Last week she and JD, her brother in law, decided to form a sort of alliance within the family to push for justice and fair treatment of the immigrants they employ. JD is struggled with booze, however, and was sadly denied by Laurie Ann at his father’s death bed because of it. However, he knows the truth. It’s not his drinking. It’s because he cares what happens on the farm and she doesn’t. He’s sick of seeing people die so the farm can make money. He intends to say something to his father, if he is able to get in front of him before he passes. Jeanette decides she needs to intercede.
And so she sits down with her husband Carson to meet with Laurie Ann, and explains to Laurie that JD came to see their dad and that she turned him away. Laurie Ann chalks it up to a misunderstanding, and immediately picks a fight with Jeanette. She has her own family, doesn’t she? Jeanette objects–the Hesbys are her family, too, but Laurie insists there is a difference, saying that Laurie didn’t tell her what to do with her family when there was trouble, i.e. her drug addict sister who the Hesbys briefly employed before she stole from them. And Laurie points out Jeanette took from them, too; she wrote a check to a workers group to pay them off after the fire. She asks how bad the could have looked, like an admission of guilt, if Carson hadn’t put a stop to the check. You can see Jeanette’s heart drop as she learns her husband cancelled that check. After leaving Laurie Ann, she calls him out on it and Carson defends himself saying that he thought writing the check made her feel good, and he thought if she never knew he cancelled it she could go on feeling that way.
Meanwhile, Luis has to call his wife back in Mexico, Anna. He tells her he found Teo, but when she asks if he’s okay, he tells her that yes, he is. He had just run into money troubles and was too embarrassed to call and ask them to help. “They liked our son up here, they said he was funny, always smiling,” he lies to Anna sadly. He has to hang up on her.
We’re introduced to some new characters this week in the Coates family. Clair Coates picks up Gabrielle, a Haitian woman who speaks only French who has just arrived in America. She’s there to help Clair and her husband Nicholas with their child Nicky. Nicholas is in the furniture manufacturing/wholesale business and we first meet him with a client who inspects some sort of sofa. The client tells him he couldn’t sell it to his customers, the quality is not up to snuff. Nicholas, disappointed in losing a longtime client, confides in a coworker that they may need to look at cutting back on more staff. It’s a hard time for Nicholas’ business, and seems like tough times in the family, as a scene with he and Clair out to dinner ends quickly and with a cold “Let’s get the check, I have work tomorrow,” from Nicholas, much to Clair’s disappointment.
In a meeting with a lawyer, Shae attempts to get a waiver from the court for her abortion. She is asked if she has means to contact her parents. Shae explains she doesn’t know where her dad is, but she knows where her mom is. The lawyer decides that before she can have the court’s permission to have the abortion she’ll need to contact her mom for her permission. Shae is livid. “I screwed guys in alleys because that was better than what I came from,” she spits. “I shouldn’t have to ask the person who made me want to screw uys in alleys if I can have an abortion.” Amen! Kimara explains that the judge will grant an abortion if she’s under twenty weeks pregnant–but don’t count it as a win for women’s rights to choose yet. She’ll first have to have the required ultrasound first. “Why?” she asks. “Because you’re required to.” Great job, America!
At the ultrasound, the doctor tells Shae she looks about fourteen weeks pregnant. The attending doctor tells her that the baby is “really bouncing around in there” and asks her if she wants to hear the heartbeat. She also offers to print her a picture. “I know what you’re trying to do,” Shae says. I was sick to my stomach watching this. But I won’t get into the political side of it all. I just don’t know how anyone can see what these women are forced to go through and not feel sympathy. Kimara is on the verge of tears as she watches.
Coy, forced to work more but still suffering from injuries, collapses in the field. He’s taken to see an on site doctor, who tells him his vitals are good but just to take it easy the rest of the day. However it’s $35 to see him, $10 for the meds. Diego and Isaac are there and Diego insists to the doctor: “Give him some more, just in case.” Coy is more in debt to the farm than ever. He tells Isaac to take the pills. “Remember when you first laughed at me when I told you about picking tomatoes?” Isaac says? And walks off.
That night Luis talks to Coy and tells him he needs him to text Isaac and tell him to come there. Luis then tells Coy to leave. “Nothing is keeping you here,” he says, which is true. Coy leaves and when Isaac shows up, Luis demands of him: “Tell me about Teo.” He tells him he knows he was killed for helping a girl who was being raped in the fields. This exchange is intercut with Coy on a dark desolate road taking all the pills the doctor gave him. Though Isaac says he didn’t do anything, we see flashes of him putting Teo’s body in the river he was found in. “Your son did it to himself,” Isaac says and Luis shoots him once in the gut, then twice in the head. Soon after we see him getting on a bus to head back to Mexico. “Tell me about Teo,” Anna says to him on a phone call before he leaves. “I’ll be home soon,” he says and hangs up.
There is a clever match cut of Isaac and Coy both laying wide-eyed with their head on the ground, Isaac is dead, and we assume Coy is as well… Until the paramedics show up and revive him. “Got anybody you need us to get in touch with?” they ask. “My family, can I call my family?” Coy says.
Overall it was a gutwrenching episode that introduced some new storylines and seemed to end other prematurely. Will we see Luis in Mexico? If so, what could the story possibly involve? Is Coy’s character arc finished here or will we see him reunite with his family? And how will the Coates family, and their new immigrant nanny, play into all this? This is great television and I can’t wait for next week.
Season 3, Episode 4 (S03E04)
American Crime airs Sunday at 10PM on ABC
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Paul Gulyas | Contributor