“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