American Crime recap: Episode 5
Taylor Blaine’s alleged rape case came to a standstill tonight, as the police determined that there was not enough evidence to charge anyone involved. But the characters in this Indianapolis community are far from putting the incident behind them because there are reminders of it everywhere they turn. Probably the most blatant illustration of this is the sexually tinged modern-dance performance at the Leyland Academy’s fundraising gala.
Up until now, season 2 of American Crime had been intercutting brief instances of this dance troupe’s rehearsals with direct instances pertaining to the underlying school scandal. For example, tonight’s episode opened with one of these erotic rehearsals spliced with a detective reading the graphic texts between Taylor and Eric Tanner, out loud, during a meeting with Taylor and Anne Blaine. But it wasn’t until the actual performance that everything came together, and the resemblance between the muscular dancers in flesh-colored costumes and the three-way love triangle between Taylor, Eric, and Evy Dominguez was unmistakable to anyone who has been watching American Crime this season. However, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that neither headmaster Leslie Graham, nor any of the parents in the audience, picked up on this parallel, especially when one male dancer walks away, leaving the other one sad and alone. And I guess it was just the TV audience, not the Leyland one, who could hear the heavy, sexual breathing emanating from the stage.
The point American Crime seemed to be making in this episode, is that people will see and hear what they want to see and hear — and that they will believe what and whom they want to believe. This is why the truth about what happened between Taylor and Eric the night of the Captains’ party continues to be a muddled affair. Both boys offered up their testimony to the detectives tonight, each painting the other guy as the antagonist, and leaving us with little more than a maddening “he said, he said” situation.
After admitting to an initially consensual hookup with Eric last week, Taylor is sticking to his story that the encounter turned into an attack. Eric, on the other hand, while recovering from his suicide attempt, insists that he did not rape Taylor.
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While the texts do present Taylor as the one who was pushing for aggressive contact, such as choking during sex, he’s still pushing the rape accusation because he “never said yes.” Taylor’s version of the story is that Eric gave him a drink, which made him feel sick and like he “couldn’t control” himself. After their encounter, Eric left the room. So why did Taylor text Eric after the basketball player pretty much abandoned him? “I needed him to admit what he did,” said Taylor.
The other issue here goes back to what was first addressed last week: The reason why Taylor lied for so long is because he was afraid of “everything [the police are] putting my mom through.” Because Anne has left her son behind in the past, he’s afraid she’ll walk out on him again now that she knows he’s gay.
NEXT: “You don’t seem sorry”
This is not an unfounded fear: After the meeting, Anne is visibly upset over the revelation that her son is gay, especially when he admits to the detectives that he’s had one other encounter with a boy. Then again, this kind of conservative outlook makes sense in light of what we learned about her last week, when she disclosed her staunch anti-abortion views.
When Eric speaks to the detectives from his hospital room, his version portrays Taylor as the needy aggressor. The teen also asserts he never gave Taylor any alcohol, and that he was out of the room when the supposed attack occurred. According to Eric, he left the room because after the encounter was over, Taylor started crying and was embarrassed. It was only when Eric returned that he saw Taylor semi-dressed, woozy, and everyone else at the party “Snapchatting his ass.”
“I didn’t rape him,” Eric tells the detectives. “I did what he wanted. I’m sorry I ever went anywhere near him.” The only hint we get that suggests his story doesn’t add up (as opposed to Taylor’s) is when the female detective responds, “You don’t seem sorry.”
But whatever glimmer of hope the detective gave at that moment quickly dissipated, because the police chose not to pursue charges against anyone. This decision also came after Evy gave her own testimonial, where despite her personal pain over Taylor’s dishonesty and infidelity, she too stuck to her story that her boyfriend was raped. There is something about Evy’s brutal honesty and raw emotion here (“How many people have to say it’s a rape before you care?” she yells at the detectives) that makes me believe she is the one person who is telling the closest thing to the truth. She was there, and unlike Taylor and Eric, she has nothing to hide.
With no charges being brought against Eric (or Kevin LaCroix, for that matter), Leslie gets to work tackling the next obstacle facing Leyland Academy: how to welcome back a student whose suicide attempt outed his homosexuality. Because in this conservative community, the problem isn’t that Eric was depressed and felt the desire to kill himself — nope, the real issue here is that he’s gay.
The always-manipulative Leslie expertly guides her board of directors in developing a message that preaches “tolerance and forgiveness,” but not necessarily “acceptance.” If Eric wants to feel accepted, Leslie’s going to leave it to Leyland’s “progressive” students to promote inclusion.
“We don’t have to change what they believe,” she tells the board. “What we have to change is how they perceive the issue. Make it about forgiveness, make it about themes that are central to them. Don’t push any acceptance of Eric’s lifestyle — stick to the tolerance of it.”
This infuriating scene then ends with a brilliant shot of Leslie scrubbing her hands clean — she’s literally washed her hands of this incident and is moving forward.
But just when you think you couldn’t have a better reason to throw a breakable item at Leslie’s face, the episode concludes with one more. Anne is visited at the diner by a man named James, whose daughter was once a Leyland student. The girl was verbally harassed by a teacher, and when the administration proved unhelpful, her parents sent her to school with a hidden recording device.
NEXT: “Something’s gotta be done about that school”
The family presented their evidence to the Leyland honchos, who consequently suspended the teen for unlawfully recording a teacher on school property. Soon afterward, rumors began popping up about the girl, who eventually transferred away from Leyland. James and his wife ultimately took a settlement from the school, but now that he sees Anne suffering from the same ruthless conduct, he encourages her to fight against how Leyland treats those who don’t fit their carefully crafted profile.
“Something’s gotta be done about that school,” he says. “I’m hoping you’ll be stronger than me.”
Will this be the start of Anne’s one-woman takedown of Leyland Academy? I sure hope so.
- Things continue to heat up over at Marshall High School for Chris Dixon. After he suspended Hispanic student Mateo last week for beating up African-American student Tre (because Tre was harassing Evy with bigoted remarks), the other Hispanic kids confront him over unfair treatment. This erupts in an on-campus protest where the students proclaim they are not “thugs” (a word Chris used to describe Mateo). Between this and Chris’s ongoing battles with Hispanic administrators regarding the free-breakfast program, don’t expect the black-Hispanic issue to subside anytime soon.
- There’s a growing rift in the Sullivan marriage these days, exacerbated by Leslie’s Machiavellian use of both Dan and Steph as her personal pawns. After Leslie urges Steph to drop some hints to her husband about encouraging his basketball players to lie to the police if they are questioned any further, the Leyland photographer is disgusted and implores Dan to find another job. Dan, who’s been emasculated enough by Leyland, still sees his role as basketball coach as the only important facet of his identity. So asking him to leave Leyland is like asking him to cut off his arm. “Those boys need me,” Dan insists. Steph couldn’t disagree more. She feels she’s “documenting [the school’s] sins.”
- The police’s decision to not charge anyone “at this time” should’ve caused a sigh of relief for Terri, Michael, and Kevin LaCroix, but all it did is leave a really bad taste in their mouths. While Kevin is not being charged, that doesn’t mean he is “cleared” — meaning, the police want to reserve the right to charge him at a later date should new evidence arise. The unspoken race issue here is beyond flagrant.
- Before testifying with the detectives, Evy had her own moment to confront Taylor about his yearlong deceit, and rightfully so, she did not hold back (even getting physical at one point). But probably the most poignant moment of this scene was the character’s disturbed awareness of how Taylor’s sexual preferences (with her) served his only needs, and reduced her female body to an ersatz version of a male one. “Was I supposed to be a boy to you?” she seethes. “Is that why you did me like that?” An excellent job by both Connor Jessup, and Angelique Rivera, who spoke to EW about the episode here.