Photo: ABC

American Crime has taken a really weird turn in Season 3. I have felt for a while that the season was disjointed and kind of all over the map, but “Episode Six” feels especially random.

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Let’s stay with poor Shay. Didn’t really see that one coming. It’s not as though it’s a huge shock that someone as vulnerable and lost as she is would end up dead, but to have it happen in such a random way was really jarring. You would expect something like a violent john or pimp, but to be fatally stabbed in the neck with a nail file by her webcam housemate Tracy and have her body dumped in the river? That’s somehow even sadder. It’s also kind of fitting, which makes it sadder still.

Not fitting in a “just desserts” kind of way, that’s not what I mean. But just that Shay has had such a sad life all along and this is how it ends. It’s too depressing for words. Kimara is going to be beside herself if she finds out.

Speaking of Kimara, Abby Tanaka has popped up again and is asking Kimara to lie about the number of kids she placed in Abby’s shelter last year so the shelter can get a bigger grant from a charitable foundation. Kimara doesn’t feel comfortable lying and while that’s commendable, I’m definitely on Team Abby here. Look, of course it’s not OK to lie and certainly not if they were running some kind of scam to line their pockets. But I truly believe Abby is not doing that. It’s like she says, she needs more money to help more people, but they can’t get more money if the numbers only qualify them for the amount that takes care of the number of people they are already equipped to handle. It’s a vicious cycle and a bump of this kind of money could mean everything to this shelter.

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Of course, the way American Crime rolls is that it doesn’t feel possible that Abby will get her money, be able to offer Kimara a better job and everything will be fine, with more people being helped and the shelter not worrying about money so much. It feels more like they’ll get caught and it’ll be another situation of people not getting the help they desperately need, even if these are the good guys who should be getting all the help they can.

But we’ll just have to wait and see on that one. What we don’t have to wait and see on anymore is the Coates household. Nicholas is obviously the worst, but I’ve been sort of avoiding digging too much into Claire and her relationship with Gabrielle because it didn’t feel like we had enough information yet on what was going on there.

It finally seems like we do and it really is like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” levels of dysfunction happening in that house. Nicholas is playing the “white, straight, white collar” victim card for all it’s worth, being super crappy to Claire in front of their friends. Look, if you feel like your wife should maybe work outside the home in order to afford a nanny, that’s a legitimate conversation a married couple should have. But to just cut her down at every turn with passive-aggressive remarks is awful.

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But she’s just as bad, embroiling Gabrielle in some sick game where people have to speak English to her, but Gabrielle has to speak French to Claire. And now Gabrielle has to sleep in the sewing room because Claire decides she needs an office. I also thought Claire might have been lying about Gabrielle hurting herself, but after that scene at the end with the ice, I’m not sure. It’s all very strange and frankly, I could kind of do without this entire plotline. I’d rather be back with the Hesby siblings and the farm, which we saw none of this episode.

We did get to keep up with Jeanette, which is nice because her journey is one of the most interesting and watchable of the season, especially now that Shay’s storyline has come to an end.

Jeanette is staying with Raelyn and trying to find work, realizing some hard truths about work in this country. The only thing she’s qualified to do is food service, which the career center says pays minimum wage. Jeanette blanches at $7.50/hour to wait tables, but she’s not qualified for anything else and taking classes is expensive and time consuming. Welcome to reality for millions of people, Jeanette.

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Do you think there will be a breaking point where Jeanette goes back to Carson because she can’t make this work? I’d love to see her decide to just “pull herself up by her boot straps,” as pundits are fond of saying, if only because it’d be nice to see her gain her independence. But that doesn’t feel like the way this story is going. In a season about indentured servitude and human trafficking, Jeanette’s journey may not turn out to be one of making a difference at the farms, but may in fact be one of the different kind of indentured servitude a homemaker faces if they ever try to leave their situation.

The Jeanette/Raelyn scenes were the strongest of the episode for me and I wish there had been more of that. I’d love to dig in more on why Raelyn thinks Carson is so great and Jeanette should go back to him, especially if Jeanette would tell her sister about the fire and how things are at the farm. Maybe that conversation is coming, but it felt like a missed opportunity here.

Overall, this season has felt a little bit like one big missed opportunity. There are too many things going on that I wish the show could take deeper dives on, while maybe laying off plots like the Coates family. Do you agree, A.V. Club readers? Or is there a Team Coates contingent out there? I’m genuinely interested.

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Stray observations

  • Of course Shay is picky about her clients. That scene with Rex and Kelly was one of the more WTF moments of the season, but it feels exactly like the way Shay would behave. She has gone through the life she’s led and somehow managed to still have a good heart and it’s that much sadder that she’s dead.
  • The shot of Claire at the breakfast table was beautifully framed, the way the giant table stretched off screen. It felt a bit like Citizen Kane’s famous breakfast montage to me, standing in for how far apart Nicholas and Claire are in their marriage.
  • Do waitresses get paid minimum wage now? It was always my experience as both a waitress and a bartender that you made less than minimum per hour because it was assumed you’d make up the difference in tips. It doesn’t excuse how poor our minimum wage is in this country, but I’m just curious what other people’s experiences are there.
  • Jeanette: “Something I want? There’s nothing out there that pays a living wage.”
    Raelyn: “Where you been? Or you think I don’t get paid nothin’ ‘cause I like not gettin’ paid nothin’?”
  • Raelyn: “You know why minimum wage is so low around here? They buried stuff about it in that transgender bathroom bill. Even if somebody wanted to pay more, they can’t. They made people scared and got ‘em to vote against themeslves. Things are hard because some people are stupid.”
    I want to stitch that last line on a pillow. “Things are hard because some people are stupid.” Preach, American Crime.

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