Nicole Wilder/ABC
March 19, 2017 at 11:00 PM EDT

American Crime

TV Show
Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, Regina King, Lili Taylor
Current Status
In Season
We gave it an A

We may know the conclusion of this story before Luis does, but if there’s any silver lining to his experience, it’s that he is now the first person on this season of American Crime to exhibit a form of resistance to the despicable conditions he and his fellow immigrants face. As he deserts the farm to continue his search for Teo, Luis is tracked down by his boss, who attempts to strong-arm him into remaining until his debt is paid off. That’s when Luis shows his true colors: He’s hip to how these corrupt field bosses work, oh, and he’s bilingual, too. The Spanish-only act was so he could slip into these farms without drawing attention to himself. Luis calls the boss on his BS — in perfect English — knowing full well he can’t arrest him because that would mean alerting the cops to the fact that the farm thrives on the labor of undocumented migrants who live “20 people to a box.” Adios, sucker. (Note: This is how I interpreted the scene. It is possible the switch to English was made solely as a creative choice.)

As we further delve into Kimara’s story line this episode, her relationship with underage prostitute Shae is for the most part put on the back burner. But considering how Kimara’s journey toward parenthood is such an integral part of her character, the bombshell that Shae is pregnant (and that it ain’t her first time) will inevitably intertwine these two as the season progresses. The juxtaposition between Kimara and Shae is a stark one: Here is a woman desperate for a child, while at the same time she is desperately trying to help a pregnant teenager who is in no position to support a baby.

Since she was taken into police custody, Shae has been put into a shelter and, not surprisingly, is resistant to testifying against her pimp, Billy. In her eyes, life as a working girl was a helluva lot better than where she is now; at least with Billy it was only six, as opposed to eight, people to a room, she had a cell phone, and she wasn’t forced to attend daily chapel.

For the third season in a row, Regina King is putting in an award-worthy performance as the discouraged Kimara, who is starting to question why she even does what she does anymore, because it seems no one wants her help. We’ve known since last week that she’s become jaded, but hearing her open up to her colleague, Abby (Sandra Oh), about how hopeless she feels (forget about the kids she’s trying to save) really drives home her level of despair: “I feel like I’m on this lifeboat that only holds 10 people,” she tells Abby, “and there was a time that I didn’t care that it only held 10 people. I tried to get 100 people on that boat, but now I just accept 10 is all I can get — maybe 10.”

Exploring Kimara’s cynicism makes her character multifaceted enough, but as we learned briefly in the season premiere, American Crime is also giving Kimara an added layer that may be more thought provoking than her advocacy travails. Her desire for a family consumes her soul so much that this week, she goes to the home of her married ex-boyfriend, Reggie, and proposes that he father her child. “It shouldn’t be this lonely trying to have a family,” she confides in him. And she’s right, because having a baby shouldn’t be such a clinical experience. But if Reggie says yes (he requests some time to discuss it with his wife), will Kimara’s happiness come at the expense of his own family harmony?

In an episode that contrasts Kimara’s struggle with infertility with Luis’ search for his son and even Jeanette’s constant shunning by her in-laws, the differences between these disparate characters are palpable. But it’s the sense of loneliness that is the underlying thread here, and it makes the exploitation backdrop all the more powerful — and painful.

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