“If hundreds of African-American protestors get arrested, it’s news. And that’s good for you. Doesn’t that take attention away from your crime? We’ve seen this in other situations recently, outside agitators being brought in to start violence… Is your sister agitating for violence? Is that what she wants?”
This is the ominous message viewers and Carter are greeted with in Thursday night’s episode of American Crime. As Aliyah and her congregation make preparations for their rally, we see that they’re not the only ones getting ready for the possible repercussions. Every suspect, every family member and everyone involved knows they’ll be affected in some way. And that feeling is no better shown than with Barb as she attempts to secure her own crowd of supporters against Aliyah’s rally.
Barb’s continued comments (especially the ones on television) continue to resonate in her normal life as someone throws a rock at her car’s driver-side window. She immediately rattles off the usual blame by saying “they” want to kill her, those people who are writing such horrible things about her online. When the police officer suggests the vandalism could have been committed by a couple of rowdy kids and explains that he can’t really help her without more information, Barbs retorts “Are you going to be this casual when you’re writing about how I was killed?”
Before she can continue to express her fear and anger, Barb receives a phone call from the DA’s office; they will offer Carter a deal for Matt’s murder, but Barb says she won’t “sign off” on any deal as if she truly believes she has the final say on the matter. Barb tries to angrily debate the plea deal away, which is set for 25 years to life, but Barb’s lawyer Nancy says could be reduced to 15 if he gets paroled, by arguing that the man who murdered her son “deserves to die.” But the DA tells it to her straight: They prosecute cases they can win. Not only is the evidence they have circumstantial, but having the gun doesn’t guarantee anything except tying Carter to it and giving them leverage to make the plea. Barb disparages him, “You’re caving. This march. All these people coming to Modesto. You’re afraid of them. I’m not. I’m not agreeing to any plea offer.”
But here’s Barb’s problem. No one needs her permission. “To be frank,” the DA adds with some obvious annoyance, “the coverage of your family’s less than ideal behavior has put added pressure on my office to make this deal.” To which Barb can only reply, “Damn you,” as she decides to have her own demonstration. Nancy attempts to explain that Aliyah’s supporters have had weeks of time to prepare to which Barb asks “To do what? To bus in a lot of people to wear head scarves and act scary? We’re in the right, I’m not going to let people forget that.” With more comments like this, it won’t matter how right Barb thinks she is.
As Barb throws together plans for her counter-demonstration, Carter is being offered the plea deal, which his lawyer seems to believe is decent enough to accept. Aliyah is desperate to convince Carter to fight just a little while longer to get out, but Carter just wants the whole cruel process to be over and take on whatever lesser punishment he can get for his sake and his sister’s. “You show up with your people, it’s gonna be bad out there. They’re gonna put everything I deserve on you. 15 years? I can handle that.” Considering Carter’s past suicide attempt, Aliyah doesn’t agree. She tells Carter she’s not sure how long he’d actually be able to last. So she asks him point blank to not give up just yet. He agrees for now. But it seems Aliyah’s worries about how long Carter could last in jail should extend to how long he can really last while fighting for freedom.
Meanwhile Russ attempts to get his life back on track by applying for a job where he accurately checks the box asking applicants if they have been convicted for a crime. He also goes to visit Mark and Richelle. Before Mark comes home, Richelle asks Russ if he’s been avoiding her, an acceptable question considering how Barb has reacted to her. Russ replies that when Matt invited Russ to his wedding, he went through the “trouble” of inviting Russ because no one really wanted him around. So despite wanting to be there, he knew better. That applies even now. “I know better than to come around,” to which Richelle replies, “But you did get invited… When you skipped the wedding, you think you’re trying to make more of a statement not being there than by showing up?” Russ asks Mark for a favor to fix up Matt and Gwen’s place in exchange for living there during the renovations. Despite Mark’s discomfort over the idea, Russ says he knows it’s weird, but he thinks it could actually make him feel closer to Matt. When Mark tells Russ that his life is over here, Russ says he can’t leave again. Clearly he’s trying to do whatever he can to be a part of the family that just wants to push him away.
Eventually Mark gets Tom to agree to Russ’ offer to renovate, but as soon as he arrives with Mark and Richelle in tow, the feeling of loss for Matt clearly overwhelms him. After Mark and Richelle leaves, all he can do is cry.
NEXT: The worst fears about the rally are realized[pagebreak]
Aliyah’s office is targeted with bomb threats (Is someone trying to scare or disrupt them?), as Barb continues to try and rally supporters for her counter-demonstration because as she says it, she “can’t let those people be the only ones on the news anymore.” She tries to convince Eve to let Gwen be a sort of figurehead for her side of the protest, but Eve is not comfortable dragging her daughter out to fix what she believes Barb has broken.
Barb’s friend meanwhile states that she and her husband could help bring bodies to the event as they are members of a group called the Central Valley Rainbow Works who could support Barb. What exactly do they advocate? “God keeps all the colors of the rainbow separate. Just like we need to keep our races separate.” Despite Barb explaining that she doesn’t believe in segregation (to which her friend replies that it’s not segregation but “separation”), a worry does clearly creep into her brain. Is she racist? The worry is not fully formulated until Nancy tells her that she will support her cause as long as Barb doesn’t let the “bigots” of the Rainbow Works to come to the rally as well. Barb then finally asks Nancy if she really is a racist, and she’s not happy with the realization that it’s possible.
With Tony still stuck behind bars, Alonzo is desperate to get him out by any means necessary. And that includes lying. Alonzo tells Tony that the only way he can get him out if is Tony is willing to lie and say that Hector told him Carter killed Matt. But despite your regular recapper Chris Lee’s smart words about Tony’s recent descent into “good-boy-gone-bad-dom,” he still knows right from wrong. And lying about something even if it could get him out of jail is wrong. “Maybe the guy didn’t do anything, like me. Have you thought about that?” Tony asks. Then he adds, “You can’t help me. I gotta take care of myself.” It’s pretty indicative of the effect the juvie boys have had on him. But considering prosecution wants to try Tony as an adult, he might eventually cave and do whatever it takes to get out.
Hector also gets a visitor in jail: His girlfriend, Sabila, that he ditched when he escaped Sinaloa for that murder rap. Apparently Hector left behind not just Sabila but a little baby girl as well. When confronted with the desire to know why he ran and never came back for his child, Hector explained that he was ashamed for his actions. He stated that no matter where he was, he tried to do right, but it never worked out. “People see me how they see me,” Hector proclaims as his reason for not being able to pull his life together. “You wanna be ashamed of something,” Sabila says. “Be ashamed of leaving your little girl.” When Hector explains that he could get them witness protection and they could essentially start over in America if they got married, Sabila leaves, but not before giving a look to Hector that explains without words how little she now believes in him.
The protest is inching closer and closer, and as Barb gets her car window fixed, she wanders into a gun store. At first she’s just perusing until she toys with the idea of getting a gun to protect herself from all of the people who apparently want to harm and/or kill her. The gun store employee happens to be supportive of her troubles and offers her suggestions on a gun to buy. When she starts pulling the trigger of the empty weapons, she states, “Wow it’s easy. It’s too easy.” Despite initially being worried about how easy it could be to shoot someone, she settles on a revolver after the employee explains to her that it’s “better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.”
During all of this tension, Aubry is visited and confronted by her mother who asks her why she feels the need to protect Carter over her own family. “You wanted me to flip on Carter. And I will sell you all down the river before that happens,” she proclaims. Aubry’s mother clearly doesn’t understand why her daughter loves and supports someone who she believes will get her killed. “We’ve saved each other more times that I can count,” Aubry states. And she explains that she loves the feeling of loving someone so much that if you can’t live with them, you can’t live at all. Her mother stands firm that Carter will be convicted of killing Matt, but Aubry stays firm about his innocence. “They can’t prove he ever touched that gun because he didn’t,” she says matter-of-factly. Does she know something we don’t? Is there a chance she’s actually responsible for the murder? Or is she just hoping her staunch belief in Carter’s innocence will eventually prove that belief as truth?
Finally, it’s time for the rally. The march starts peaceful enough with Aliyah’s congregation promoting and advocating for peace. Things get tense as the Modesto police line up with riot gear ready to go, signs demand justice for Carter and state phrases like “Don’t forget Trayvon,” angry protestors of the protest shout insults like “Go back to Africa,” and some of Aliyah’s crowd seethe at the police with questions like “You gonna shoot me too? You gonna shoot me because I’m black?” But throughout it all, they march loudly yet without fear or incendiary movement. But the tense peace lasts only for a few moments as a shot or some kind of loud noise rings out, and the violence begins. Despite efforts to keep the peace, the accusations from the beginning of the episode loom over quick cuts of the police trying to end the protests. Did someone bring in an agitator to create violence? At this point, it could have come from either side. And until we know for sure, that makes everyone’s attempts at justice worrisome.