After Anne's medical records are posted online, Taylor takes matters into his own hands -- with tragic results
Credit: Felicia Graham/ABC

The Leyland School scandal has now become the Leyland School tragedy.

Taylor Blaine reached the point of no return in tonight’s episode: Unable to handle the relentless emotional trauma stemming from the incident at the Captains’ party, which has now resulted in the anonymous posting of his mother’s medical records online, the troubled teen has drastically changed the narrative of this story.

While strung out on drugs, Taylor went to the Leyland School with a stolen gun — and shot a kid named Wes, one of the four basketball players who beat him up last week.

In a disturbing way, it was almost a relief when we saw Taylor pointing the gun at Wes, the blood spilling out from his tormentor’s abdomen. The episode was so fraught with tension, as it focused primarily on Taylor and his all-consuming pain from every angle. He needed a release, and we needed a release, because neither the drugs he bought from Becca Sullivan, nor the ever-present empty notebook that he was trying so desperately to fill with his feelings, was doing the trick.

All we know is that the straw that broke the camel’s back tonight wasn’t so much the physical attack Taylor received at the hands of the four basketball players (though it didn’t help — the bruises marking up the teen’s face can attest to that). What set him off on his permanent path to destruction, was the disclosure of Anne’s private medical documents in a blatant attempt to discredit her in the public eye.

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From the characters’ point of view, Leslie Graham seems like the primary suspect, and Coach Dan Sullivan even goes so far as to insinuate this claim to the Leyland headmaster’s face. But American Crime viewers are likely going to implicate Michael LaCroix and his dirty police-detective friend in the court of TV-spectator opinion. While tonight’s episode offered no proof linking Kevin’s father to the deed, it’s impossible to ignore last week’s request that the cop “find a way to let [Anne] know she’s messed with the wrong family” here.

But pointing fingers can come later, because first we need to address the one good thing that came out of this leak: Now we know why Anne left Taylor with Patty and Nate (the single mother identifies the elderly couple only as “close friends”) for eight months. She was diagnosed with depressive psychosis and had to undergo treatment. Anne insists to the same local reporter who wrote the first article on the Leyland scandal (who’s interested in the story all over again now that there’s some juicy stuff on the Internet) that she wasn’t “institutionalized,” but “hospitalized.”

NEXT: Into the Woods

Whatever semantics you want to use, the truth is Anne’s experience during those eight months was so bad that just the thought of her relapsing into a depressive state is too much for Taylor to bear. Throughout the entire episode, we watch him steadily unravel, trying a multitude of behaviors to relieve his suffering: He buys a poster featuring a beautiful female Asian warrior in an attempt to get himself aroused by a girl; he buys OxyContin from Becca and implies he wants to get intimate — but after one kiss even she knows it’s not going to happen; he steals a gun from Nate and shoots off bullets in the middle of the woods (the initial gunshots providing the ultimate fake-out, as we first see Taylor disappear behind the trees and then hear the gun go off); he taps his pen furiously on his notebook, straining to get the words out.

Eventually, while hiding out in the woods, the drugs kick in and he begins hallucinating images of Evy Dominguez, Eric Tanner and the female Asian warrior, who has sex with him. But instead of an orgasm, it ends with her plunging her sword into his chest. The visions may have confused Taylor even further, but at least they granted him enough of a release that he could finally write something in his notebook: a kill list that reads “Kevin, Eric, Wes, and Dr. Graham.”

We then cut to Taylor sitting in Leslie’s waiting room, but she’s off-campus, speaking at a seminar — an absence that probably saved her life. Whether he chickens out or just gets tired of waiting, Taylor leaves, but not before observing the latest rehearsal of the school’s modern-dance troupe. Perhaps he was taken with such a beautiful, foreign version (at least to him) of person-to-person touching, because he became distracted and left his notebook, with the kill list inside, behind.

As he exits the school, Taylor is grabbed by an angry, vicious Wes, who doesn’t hesitate to call him a “f—-t” and accuse him of “ratting.” Wes’ voice begins to dim, until there’s nothing but silence. It’s only when Wes’ hand falls, and we see the gun, as well as the teen’s bleeding torso that we understand what’s just happened. Taylor slowly walks away while Wes’ body falls to the ground.

At the same time, a prescient Leslie is in the middle of giving a speech about how “a digital echo chamber” magnifies every crisis, when her phone goes off. She manages to ignore the calls, but she can’t ignore what we can presume to be a text with the news that there’s been a shooting at Leyland. We only see her crestfallen face and her immediate departure from the conference room.

Interestingly enough, Anne can thank the so-called “digital echo chamber” for distracting her diner customers so she could handle the situation when a shaken Taylor stumbled into the restaurant. Since the school shooting was already all over the news, it didn’t take long for Anne to figure out Taylor’s role in the incident.

NEXT: “Nobody controls the digital space”

Because everyone’s eyes were glued to the TV screen, no one was paying attention to Anne as she gently took the gun and hid it in her own bag. But that’s exactly what Taylor doesn’t want — he doesn’t want Anne to be shamed or to take the fall for his misdeeds — so while she’s on the phone with the Indianapolis police trying to throw them off Taylor’s scent (not surprisingly, they call her immediately looking for her son’s whereabouts), he takes the gun back.

At this point, Anne realizes she can’t protect her son anymore. We don’t know if he actually killed Wes, but the fact remains that Taylor Blaine shot a Leyland School student at close range. Game over. Once Anne convinces him to hand over the gun again, this time she calls the police and alerts them to Taylor’s (unarmed) presence at the diner. In the episode’s compelling final moments, she holds her son tightly and insists to the 911 dispatcher that she will not abandon Taylor (reassuring him that she won’t do what he’s been fearing all this time), while enlisting another employee to evacuate the premises.

The episode closes on mother and son, the impending police sirens wailing in the distance. But Taylor, although in shock, also exhibits an emotion that, as I mentioned earlier, many of us watching can’t help but feel as well: relief.

Stray observations:

  • Taylor was hardly the only character to come undone this week, but since no one in the Tanner family pulled a gun on anyone, their story lines are only slightly less serious. Peter’s homophobic feelings toward his brother manifested tonight in the worst way possible, with his spray-painting “God Hates Fags” on a Marshall High School wall. Principal Chris Dixon tries to punish Peter, citing an intolerance of “hate speech,” but is met with lame excuses from Curt, who blames his son’s actions on their problems at home and scoffs at Chris’ recommendation that Peter get counseling. Eric, meanwhile, descended further into an abyss of self-loathing by arranging an anonymous hookup with a guy who ended up physically assaulting him.
  • Richard Cabral’s Sebastian de la Torre is still a peripheral character, but it’s unlikely he’s going to remain on the sidelines for much longer. He’s been following the Leyland scandal online, and cold-calls Anne in this episode with an offer to “help.” Sebastian doesn’t get very far, with a justifiably freaked-out Anne hanging up on him — but he leaves her with this loaded message: “Nobody controls the digital space.”
  • We haven’t seen Evy Dominguez since Episode 5, but whatever she knows about the Captains’ party remains Leyland’s Achilles’ heel. For that reason, Leslie offers Evy’s father a large cash settlement tonight, contingent on the Dominguez family’s agreement to cease all claims against the school, now and forever. It’s no secret that Evy and her parents need this money badly, but despite Mr. Dominguez’s visible temptation, we don’t know if he accepted Leslie’s proposition.
  • Anyone have thoughts on what Dan was up to when he snuck back into Leslie’s office? Looking for evidence that the headmaster was behind Anne’s online smear campaign, perhaps?

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