American Crime Episode 8 recap

In American Crime Episode 8, a rally for Carter (Elvis Nolasco) turned chaotic, and Barb (Felicity Huffman) perhaps began the steps toward some sort of self-awareness.


As the episode opened, Carter was being interviewed by a TV reporter about the upcoming rally/march that his sister Aliyah (Regina King) was organizing for him, to be held the next day. The reporter tried to lead Carter with some ratings-driven, controversial questions, implying that Aliyah is bringing in “outside agitators” to start violence. Carter gets up and leaves the interview, telling the reporter, “This isn’t working for me.”

That sentiment from the reporter carries throughout the episode in terms of how people view the upcoming protest, which will be attended by predominantly African-American participants. Rallies such as this, and the attitudes toward them, are another way in which American Crime reflects our own reality (it gets especially real during the actual rally scene itself).

We learn that about 200 marchers are expected, and Timothy (Cedric Duplechain) has concerns about how all these people are going to be accommodated with food, restrooms, etc. “They’re not soldiers, they’re supporters,” Timothy says.

They may not be soldiers, but they are seemingly thrust into a war zone, as death threats come into their office, trying to scare them off of marching. At one point, squad cars race up to the building, and at first we think the police may be trying to evict them. But it turns out they are their to evacuate them; a bomb squad is later seen checking out the site following a threat. Standing outside, Aliyah shares a stare with an angry-looking white woman, who quickly looks away.

The supporters have been putting posters up around Modesto, some of which say, “Justice for Carter Nix,” while others, featuring Barb’s photo, read: “This woman wants to lynch Carter Nix.” It’s referring to Barb’s desire to see Carter get the death penalty, but using words and imagery that particularly harken back to the brutality of the Jim Crow era.

The poster has its intended emotional impact. At one point, Barb is leaving a grocery store when two black men spot her after noticing her on the poster. They follow her. As Barb is driving away, a brick suddenly shatters her car window. She drives away, shaken.

Later, reporting the incident to a police officer, Barb can’t identify the thrower. The cop chalks it up to “rowdy kids,” but Barb thinks someone genuinely wants to hurt her. She sarcastically asks the cop if he will be so flippant when he is writing up her murder.

Right after that, Barb gets a “courtesy call” from the DA’s office, informing her that a plea deal is going to be offered to Carter. Barb is outraged, and won’t sign off on it. Later, she and Nancy (Lili Taylor)  meet with the DA, who tells them he doesn’t need Barb’s permission to make the deal. The plea bargain will see Carter still facing 25 years to life if he pleads to second-degree manslaughter. The man explains that the majority of cases do not go to trial, and if this one does, there’s a chance it could be dismissed, and Carter freed completely. “We prosecute cases we can win,” he explains, admitting the prosecution is weak in its case against Carter. Barb believes the prosecution is caving to all “those people” who are coming to Modesto for the march/rally. The DA explains that Barb and her family’s less-than-flattering behavior while in town has put added pressure on his office to make this deal. “Damn you,” Barb says to him, before leaving.


Later, we see Carter presented the deal by Timothy, with Aliyah also on hand. Timothy says this is the best deal he’s going to get, and safer than a jury. Carter looks at Aliyah sadly. “I’m so tired,” he tells her. “I just want it to be over. If you show up, with your people, they’re going to put everything I deserve on  you.” When Timothy tells Carter he may get parole in 15 years under this deal, Carter tells Aliyah that he can do 15 years. “No,” Aliyah says. “Just end it,” Carter argues. Aliyah worries that given his previous suicide attempt, Carter would try again in prison. “Don’t give up,” she demands of him. “Don’t tak the deal.”

After considering her comments for a while, Carter agrees to not take the deal.

In light of Carter being offered the deal, and Barb believing this to be a result of pressure from Aliyah and her marchers, Barb tells Nancy she thinks they should have a counter-demonstration in support of her son, but she doesn’t know who to round up on short notice, or how to do it.

Trying to get Eve (Penelope Ann Miller) to help, Barb meets resistance. Eve doesn’t want Gwen dragged out in public (we saw a little earlier how Gwen is starting to try taking steps by using a walker). “We’ve prayed on this,” Eve tells Barb, who reacts in disgust (this is not the first time Barb has been cynical about the Carlins’ faith). When Barb presses the issue, telling Eve to talk with Tom (W. Earl Brown), Eve responds firmly, “I said no, and that’s how it’s going to be.”

Barb later meets with the friend she had lunch with in an earlier episode. At that time, the friend had seemed casually, but still offensively, bigoted, but her she lets her true racist flag fly. Barb asks her for help in a counter-protest. “My husband and I are members of a group,” she tells Barb. “I’m pretty sure we can get people to come out.”

As soon as she talks about being part of a “group” that has links to “like-minded groups,” and especially based on her previous comments, we have suspicions. Those suspicions are confirmed when the group is explained. It’s known as “Rainbow Works,” but its goal is not as innocuous as its name makes it sound. “God keeps all the colors of the rainbow separate,” the woman tells Barb, ” just like we need to keep our races separate.”

Even Barb is floored by this talk. “Segregation?” she asks the woman. “Separation,” the woman corrects her. “I don’t believe in that,” Barb adds, perhaps surprising some viewers. It is here we start seeing some initial glimpses of self-reflection in Barb, and that at least there are some places she won’t go. Barb doesn’t think it’s racist of her to believe that the man who killed her son should die, and doesn’t seem to believe herself as wanting the man to die because he is black.

The friend seems irked at Barb’s comments. She, like most of us watching, had believed that Barb was a like-minded soul, based on their previous conversations. Barb seems embarrassed to have been pegged by this woman as a fellow white supremacist.

“Do you want our help or not?” the woman asks, firmly. Barb does not answer.

Meeting again later with Nancy, Barb learns there has not been much luck in getting turnout for her rally. Aside from, Nancy says, the groups that she wants nothing to do with (referring to white supremacist groups like Rainbow Works). “We will either look ridiculously weak or be overrun by thugs,” Nancy tells Barb. Nancy shows Barb her phone, where her email has been flooded by such groups, saying terrible things. Even Barb is shocked as she reads the comments, and is even more depressed that she can’t even get 100 “decent” people to support her son.

“Do you want to be around those people?” Nancy asks Barb, who may still be considering letting Rainbow Works and others join the march. It’s an interesting twist here that Barb’s traditional, disgusted utterance of “those people” is here being applied, in the same disgusted manner, by Nancy when referring to the white supremacists. “I’m not going to do it if you’re inviting those other people in,” Nancy tells Barb. We finally see where Nancy stands; we could sort of tell in earlier episodes, especially when Nancy spoke with her ex-husband, that Nancy was uncomfortable with Barb’s bigotry, but it’s all out front here, especially in the next exchange between the two women.

“Am I a racist?” Barb asks, and it’s one of those questions that if you have to ask, well …

It’s also a fascinating philosophical question. Is it possible for someone to have some thoughts so ingrained within them that they do not realize how awful they are until the person is almost dragged outside of their own body to look at themselves? It also shows the insidiousness of racism. Racism and bigotry don’t always come cloaked in a white sheet. Sometimes they come wearing fashionable Coach glasses.

Nancy doesn’t answer Barb’s question, but just looks down.

“Oh, my God,” Barb says. Is her journey to self-awareness beginning? Perhaps, but it will be a bumpy journey, because even though we see Barb somberly reflecting by herself in a car paused as a train passes, things transpire that make us wonder where she is headed.

We next see Barb dropping off the car at a body shop to get her shattered window repaired. She asks the manager if there’s a coffee shop nearby where she can wait, but there isn’t. But this is America, and while there may not be a coffee shop nearby, there is, in fact, a gun shop right across the street. Out of boredom and curiosity, Barb wanders in.

The gun shop owner welcomes Barb and asks her if she’s looking. She says no and is ready to walk out when the man recognizes her as the mother of the murdered vet. He tells her how sorry he is for her loss, and Barb is relieved that somebody finally understands her. The man knows how to press those buttons.

He begins showing her some guns, and lets Barb test pulling the trigger on an unloaded weapon. Barb agrees it is easy enough to use, but perhaps too easy. She doesn’t want any accidents to happen. The man assures her that’s what the safety is for. “It’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by six,” the man tells her, in one of those tough-guy platitudes that could come straight from the NRA, implying that it’s better to be on trial for murder than to be murdered yourself. This seems to work on Barb, who is probably still concerned that people want her dead. So she agrees to buy a gun (apparently no training or wait period is involved here). The ease with which an angry, emotional Barb is able to be tempted by, and end up buying, a deadly weapon is another of those oh-so-real American Crime moments.

Elsewhere in Skokie-land, Russ (Timothy Hutton) is trying to get another job. We see him filling out the application, and he comes to the point that got him in trouble at his previous employer — the area that asks if you have ever been convicted of a crime. Russ’s hand wavers over the question for a few moments before he is honest his time and circles “Yes.” Turning in his application, he gets the familiar, “We’ll let you know” response, which he knows means he won’t hear from them again.

Later, Russ is in the parking lot of his old employer, waiting for Lisa, who pulls in, and seems nervously alarmed to see him. Russ is desperate to connect with someone to talk, and he asks if they could get together and talk about their respective “drama” again. But he can barely ask her out before Lisa firmly says “No.” She ends up having to firmly cut him off again, saying “You ran out on your family and lied about being in jail.” Now, it certainly was creepy of Russ to wait for her in the parking lot, but Lisa may have been a bit too harsh with him here (and I think she was the one who turned him in to her boss).

Moving on to hopefully some more meaningful contact, Russ finally meets Richelle (Gwendoline Yeo), at Mark’s (David Hoflin) place, while Mark is out. Richelle wonders if Russ has been avoiding her (she has been calling him to set up a meeting). Russ admits to her he’s learned when to stay out of his son’s life. Mark shows up and initially wants nothing to do with Russ, but a very understanding and insightful Richelle leaves the father and son alone to do some talking.


Russ has an idea of staying in Matt’s house, paying his rent by fixing the place up. Russ thinks this may make him feel closer to Matt. Mark isn’t sure, but Russ asks him to talk to Tom and Eve about it.

“Just let it go,” Mark tells his father.

“I’m not leaving again,” Russ says, a now-recurring theme with him. “When you’re a father, you’re a father the rest of your life. I need something.”

Later on, Mark meets with Tom, and the two agree that it might be doing them a favor to let Russ stay in Matt’s house and fix it up.

Tensions are still high in the Gutierrez family, too. We first see Alonzo (Benito Martinez) in this episode rewatching the video of Tony (Johnny Ortiz) beating Joaquin. Meeting with a public defender, Alonzo is told that the DA is going to try Tony as an adult, and that Tony should take a plea deal. Like Carter, Alonzo refuses a deal.

Tony is back in juvie and reconnects with Edgar, who got him in trouble his first go-around. “You did right by your sister,” Edgar tells Tony. “And you kept your mouth shut about my cuz. You come out, you’re going to be ferocious. … You ain’t a bitch no more.”

Tony smiles. Edgar continues: “Inside here is going to grow you up some more.” As Edgar turns to walk away, Tony doesn’t look so sure. A look on his face, similar to when he first saw the video of himself in action, seems to show that he is questioning what these “friends” are telling him. Perhaps Tony is growing after all, but not in the way Edgar thinks of as “grown up.”

We see more of Tony’s maturing, and his caring nature, when he meets with his father in juvie. Alonzo has heard of the deal Hector made in exchange for info on Carter. Alonzo thinks Tony should follow suit and say something that confirms Hector’s story. Alonzo realizes that the prosecution really wants to get Carter, and with the march happening soon, all eyes are focused on the case.

Tony keeps telling his father that he doesn’t know anything about the case, but Alonzo still thinks he should say something. “All of them have lied,” Alonzo says. “We have to come up with our story.” When he realizes his father wants him to lie, he asks Alonzo if he ever thought Carter didn’t do it, like Tony was originally. Tony tells Alonzo that he needs to take care of himself, and won’t turn on Carter with a lie.

Speaking of Hector (Richard Cabral), he is still in jail as he hasn’t given his testimony against Carter in court yet. Hector’s lawyer tells him that his girlfriend wants to see him (it was her father whom Hector spoke with on the phone last week, apparently). Hector is unsure at first, but agrees to see her.

When she shows up, their initial conversation is in Spanish, unsubtitled. But non-Spanish speakers don’t need a translation to figure out what is happening. She is letting Hector have it, and is not hiding her disappointment. “The only way I can lay eyes on you is when you’re locked down, in jail,” she says, angrily and sadly, when their conversation shifts to English. We learn it’s been five years since they saw each other, and that they have a daughter together. Hector asks if he can see a picture, and she gives him a physical photo (she’s not allowed to bring her phone in).

“That’s who you ran from,” she tells Hector. “You said you’d send for us.” Hector comes up with some excuses about being ashamed, and not being given a chance to get a job, but she wonders why he went into a gang instead.

Hector tells her that once he testifies he will be released into witness protection, and that she and their daughter can come with. They will let them, if they are married. Upon hearing this, she looks incredulous and sad, and leaves.

We do see a bit of Aubry (Caitlin Gerard) in this episode, still in the hospital. Her stepmother comes to talk with her, wondering why she accused Brian of molestation. Apparently, based on that, the police have been combing through all aspects of Brian’s life.

“He wasn’t using you and passing you around for sex,” she tells her daughter.

“You don’t know that, and you don’t care,” Aubry responds.

“You humiliated him.”

Aubry coldly answers, “I will sell you all down the river before flipping on Carter.”

The prime action in Episode 8 was the buildup to Aliyah’s march for Carter, and that plays out near the end of the episode. Meeting again with the prickly deputy mayor,  Aliyah is told that she can have a permit, but it’s to hold the march in a park outside of the city. This is not acceptable to Aliyah. The deputy mayor tells Aliyah that she is looking for confrontation, but Aliyah responds that she wants what’s right for her brother.

“I’m just trying to keep things from getting out of hand,” the woman tells Aliyah. “These things always end in violence.”

“These things always begin with violence,” Aliyah counters, violence against innocent black men.

“That doesn’t apply to your brother,” the woman responds.

“Then reopen the case and prove me wrong,” Aliyah demands, referencing her previous request of the mayor’s office.

The day of the march arrives, and the Carter supporters kick things off with a stirring prayer, and reminding each other to do things in peace. As they march into the city, they are chanting “Justice Now,” with pictures of Carter, But solidifying how American Crime takes place in a version of our reality, there are also signs on hand reflecting similar major events of the past few years. There is a sign reading “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” a phrase that became a symbol of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, and another sign reading “Don’t forget Trayvon,” referring to Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2012.

Reflecting reality even more, the march is soon met with counter-marchers, including Barb’s “friend” from Rainbow Works and her followers. She is on hand, chanting things like “Separation is beautiful.” As she arrives chanting this, she somewhat glares at Barb, who is standing next to Nancy, so perhaps the two did have a falling out, and maybe Barb did ask her not to come. But they are here anyway, and among the white supremacist groups people are shouting terrible things like “Go back to Africa” to the Carter marchers.


Aliyah’s group eventually runs into a wall of police officers, and if the real-world protests of recent years have taught us anything, it’s that this will likely not end well. And it doesn’t.  A police officer repeatedly shouts into a loudspeaker that Aliyah’s group is unlawfully gathering and must disperse, but they hold their ground.

And then, a shot rings out.

It is unclear where or who the shot came from, but it causes things to erupt into chaos. We cut in and out of the frenzy through some creative directorial decisions, catching glimpses of people running, fighting, being tear-gassed. And at one point, we see the woman from Rainbow Works on the ground, wounded, appearing to be the one who got shot. But where did the shot come from?

Maybe we’ll learn more of the aftermath of the rally next week. This episode ends on a calmer note, though, as Russ begins his work in Matt’s house. Mark and Richelle drop him off, and after wandering quietly about the house a bit, Russ sits on the bed in Matt’s bedroom and finally breaks down, quietly weeping.

NEXT WEEK: Some people on Twitter have suspected Aubry is the one who killed Matt, and in the preview clip for next week’s episode, she does, in fact, say she is the one. Of course, given Aubry’s erratic nature and tendency to lie, can we believe her? (Also, would the series really tease the actual killer in a trailer clip?)


ABC/Ryan Green