The bad decisions continue for Aubry (Caitlin Gerard) and Carter (Elvis Nolasco), and Mark (David Hoflin) drops another bombshell in American Crime Episode 5.
The episode opens with Russ (Timothy Hutton) and Mark entering Matt’s home (the police tape has been cut; it’s unclear if they did it or someone else). Russ is overwhelmed upon seeing the scene of the crime, everything suspended in time — a rotten meal still sits at a table, and blood is splattered on the walls. Mark asks if Russ wants to leave, but he continues on their quest. They check in a closet and pull out a suit.
In the next scene, it’s clear this is the suit Matt will be buried in, as Russ and Mark hand the clothes to the pallbearer. Next, we see Matt’s body — our first full, extended view of what he looks like — being pulled out of storage by a mortician.
Obviously, the matter of where Matt is to be buried has been settled. We later see Russ planting flowers in the burial site, while Mark records the activity via his phone. Barb (Felicity Huffman), who never wanted Matt buried in Oakland, stands away, initially out of camera range from the two men. She hurries Mark along to take her away. During the drive away, Barb restates her opposition to burying Matt in Oakland, but Mark tells her it’s what Gwen wants (Gwen is now awake, if you recall from last week’s episode). Mark tiredly asks his mother if their family is ever going to be normal; Barb doesn’t think they will.
Later, we see Mark showing the video of Matt’s burial to Gwen, still in the hospital, who is sad but thankful to Mark.
Having been granted bail, Carter is released, but must abide by certain restrictions, of course, including wearing an ankle monitor and not drinking to excess.
Aliyah (Regina King) takes Carter to an apartment, where she informs him that he will pay for the place by doing some things for her congregation, who helped Carter out with the bond money. Carter is not thrilled with this, but again Aliyah stays strong. She tells her brother that he can have a day to rest, and she will return the day after that at 9am to get him to work. Before she leaves, Carter tries to get her to stay, saying it would be nice to have family to talk to. Aliyah just repeats that she will be back in two days. Based on what happens later, she may regret not staying with her brother.
The Gutierrez family, complete with a recently released Tony (Johnny Ortiz) are in church. Tony and Jenny look over at some other members of the congregation eyeing them with suspicion. Alonzo (Benito Martinez), meanwhile, is lost in his prayers. When they leave, Alonzo tells Tony that he got the car back at the garage, and they can start working on it again. Tony is stunned that his father thinks he would ever want to see the car he was arrested in again. Clearly not having made amends with his father, Tony tells Alonzo he is stupid, and walks off.
Later, we find out that some of the churchgoers where more likely eyeing Alonzo than Tony. A priest visits Alonzo to ask him if he could stay away from Sunday services and go to the less-attended Saturday evening mass. The priest explains that Alonzo’s earlier comments about “illegals” did not sit well with some in the church, some of whom are, themselves, the very people Alonzo insulted. Alonzo again goes on an “illegal” rant, but the priest reminds him they are people, too. Alonzo is upset that, to him, the priest cares more about lawbreakers than his family, who did things the right way.
Later, Tony looks at the paper that Edgar gave him before he left juvie, and as expected, it looks like it may lead to potential trouble. There’s a phone number on the paper, and when Tony calls it, it’s a friend of Edgar’s who owes him money. Tony meets with the boy, who gives him some money to give to Edgar next time he sees him. The boy asks Tony to hang out, and they go get some food. He is clearly older than Tony, as at lunch, in public, he is drinking a beer. He tells Tony that he was in juvie when he was 10, and that’s it. Since then, he has been more careful, getting a 9-to-5 job while still doing his “thing.” We’re not sure what that “thing” is, but Tony seems intrigued by the older boy.
Jenny (Gleendylis Inoa), who noticed others staring at her family in church, is walking home from school when a group of boys start taunting her about her brother. They follow her and continue the harassment, until she turns around and decks one pretty well. Unfortunately, he strikes her back, before running off with the others. Back at home, Jenny has a badly blackened eye, which she tries to cover up with concealer.
We briefly catch up with Hector (Richard Cabral) as he is being patched up from the nasty knife wound to the face he suffered last week, from the gang members he wanted to leave. Hector and his lawyer are meeting with the Deputy D.A., who says he can give Hector some leniency in exchange for more info about Carter. Hector is reluctant; he shrewdly knows the man can’t offer him much, and that their case against Carter has been weakened.
At the garden store, Russ is on break, looking worried, perhaps still thinking about Matt’s house as well as the burial. A coworker asks him if he is all right, and if he would like to talk. She tells him she would be willing to talk any time, and Russ seems genuinely pleased to have someone to listen to at some point, and to possibly have a friend in this new town, since he clearly can’t speak with Barb.
Speaking of Barb, she later gets a visit from Mark at home. Mark says he has some news, and informs her he is getting married. He seems strangely reluctant to tell her. It turns out he met her in Germany, and she is a higher-ranking member of the military. Barb is happy for him, but is surprised and disappointed when Mark tells her he has been seeing this woman a while. When she asks why he never told her, Mark states that his fiancee is a woman of color.
Barb is puzzled by the term. “Is she black?” Mark says she isn’t black, but it doesn’t matter. He reminds his mother of how she has always gone off on black people, “illegals” and others of “those people” we’ve heard Barb talk about so much in the show so far. Mark is clearly disappointed that his mother thinks and talks this way; he frankly states that he and Matt grew up screwed up by this. Mark is thankful that he got away and began expanding his mind. Barb resorts to her familiar old, “it was hard for me” speech, and Mark cuts her off, explaining, again tiredly, that yes, he knows it was hard for her, but that he has no control over the past, only the present.
Barb wants to meet her son’s fiancee, but Mark reminds her of how she admitted their family can never be normal, and he asks her how he can bring his fiancee into a situation like this. It sounds like the woman will be showing up when she gets leave, so it will be interesting to see what happens when/if she and Barb come face-to-face.
Mark continues to be an intriguing character; very self-aware and aware of his family’s issues and trying to rise above them, even as he is empathetic toward the others in his, and other people’s, families.
Most of the episode focuses on Carter and Aubry. Aubry, at first, appears to be following her stepdad’s wishes in going to Narcotics Anonymous. She tells her stepdad she is sober, and asks if she can borrow his car to go to meetings. He agrees to rent her a car, but it is quickly apparent that Aubry’s sweet act is just that — an act. We later see her buying some beer and taking off for Carter’s new place.
When Carter opens the door to Aubry, she is backlit by sunlight, and appears to the be the angel she always seemed to him in his dreams. Unfortunately, she turns out to be more of a devil, tempting Carter into even more trouble.
After they have sex, Carter later awakens to find Aubry has removed his ankle monitor. He is angry, but Aubry says it’s no big deal; it has been off over an hour and no one has come looking for him yet.
Aubry tells Carter that the state wants to execute him for a crime he did not commit. Carter explains how the case against him has been falling apart, but Aubry has some wild scheme for the two of them to go on the run — drive up to Canada and find a “coyote” to smuggle them to Vietnam. This last point is clearly a fantasy of hers based on how earlier in the episode she found another one of those ads she likes, a romantic picture of an interracial couple, this one advertising a Vietnam getaway. She shows the ad to Carter. He tells her the people in that ad are not real, but Aubry insists they are.
During these scenes, we start to get the sense that Carter’s jail experience, as well as what he heard from Aliyah, has started to have some effect on him, as he avoids the drinking and drugs that Aubry brings back into his life. But she is the one drug that he still can’t kick; his addiction to her leads him to go along with her plan, and they drive off.
But even in the car, Carter has his doubts. He asks how they are going to get into Canada without passports, but Aubry is insistent that they only need their driver’s licenses (wrong). Carter has to regularly tell Aubry, who is kicking back beers while in the driver’s seat, to not drink and drive, or litter (she throws an empty out the window while driving). Carter does not want to be brought back into custody on something stupid.
Eventually, Aubry — high on both the booze and her own fantasies — gets to the point where she cannot drive, and the car veers off into a ditch. Carter puts her in the back seat and drives, but turns the car around to head back (it turns out they were only about 40 minutes away, having stopped for beer at Aubry’s request and then having a picnic lunch).
But Carter is not heading back because he knows this road trip is a bad idea; he is doing so because, before passing out, Aubry had wanted to go back and get more drugs. Her plans was to ask her stepdad for money. They show up at her stepdad’s place, and by this time Aubry has awakened. She goes in and finds only her stepbrother. Aubry looks a wreck, but Brian — either naively believing her or not wanting to upset her — congratulates her on her claims of sobriety. Aubry says she wanted to ask her stepdad for money, and the brother is not sure when he would be back, but he could loan her some money. When Aubry says she needs $500 “for a dress,” her brother says he can’t do that. He gives her what he does have — $87 – -and she leaves.
Later, Aubry and Carter go to their regular dealer and Aubry starts partying right there (“I’m good,” says Carter, upon refusing drugs from the dealer). Unfortunately, another guy shows up, and it turns out to be the guy Carter ripped off in the first episode. Instantly, the two men begin beating Carter to teach him a lesson. Aubry, very high, leaps up with a razor blade she was using to cut some cocaine, and cuts the man’s throat, killing him.
Escaping to a motel, a frightened Carter soaks in a tub to wash the man’s blood off him. Aubry assures him that two drug dealers won’t be calling the cops on them, and seems blase about having just killed a man. She invites Carter to join her “party” — she has taken a good amount of drugs from the dealers — but Carter declines. He clearly knows this all day has been a disaster, and a very bad decision, but he still can’t stay away from his love, no matter how much she is trying to entice him into old habits, to pretend things are the way they once were.
The scene suddenly cuts to Carter frantically trying to revive Aubry, who has overdosed, and is unresponsive. Her eyes are open, but it seems like she could be dead. Carter is on the phone with 911, unsure of what motel they are at, demanding they get there quickly. The paramedics show up and work on Aubry, with a despondent Carter wailing in the background.
As the episode closes, Carter is in the back of a police car. Big trouble is clearly ahead of him, but, again, all he can think of is Aubry. He desperately asks the officers in the front what happened to Aubry, and there is no answer for him, or for us, at this point.