Photo: ABC

Despite my reservations about American Crime leaving viewers with a bit of whiplash from the disjointed storylines, episode five was pretty solid, especially Jeanette’s storyline.

I’m impressed the writers didn’t keep tip-toeing around her leaving Carson until the end of the season, though it may have felt a little abrupt for some viewers. But Jeanette decided it was time for action, so she made Carson a mountain of food, wrote him what is presumably a very sweet note and she hit the bricks.

Of course, in keeping with the theme of being enslaved, Jeanette does not have a lot of options available to her—and if Carson cut her off, it appears she would have even less.

She’s been a housewife for 24 years, she has no assets of her own, no work history and not really any marketable skills. Getting a divorce requires a full year of formal separation and it could take months to get a hearing for temporary financial support. Now, Carson doesn’t cut her off, but I think that mostly stems from his not taking her seriously rather than him believing she is due part of their finances as payment for taking care of him and their home all these years.

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It’s debatable how much actual work she did since they don’t have kids—taking care of a grown man is not quite the same as raising two or three children, and the Hesbys seems like the kind of people who have a cleaning service or even a live-in housekeeper to take care of the home. But that doesn’t mean Jeanette is owed nothing from her husband because she seems like a very devoted partner who took good care of him for over two decades.

What will be interesting to see is what Jeanette does next. Will she be forced to return to Carson the way so many women, rich and poor, are held financially hostage by the men in their lives? Or will this be what pushes her towards JD? Or perhaps she and Raelyn will make a go of it together? It was nice to see Janel Moloney again after the premiere episode, so that wouldn’t be the end of the world—though it would be yet another way the show kind of veers around instead of focusing on a core group of people who are all connected.

Either way, Jeanette’s escape from her privileged lifestyle was an interesting juxtaposition with Claire and Nicholas Coates. They run in the same kind of upper class circles as the Hesbys and are having their own set of problems, but with them it feels much about ignorant privilege than it does with Jeanette. They definitely haven’t woken up yet to the ways of the world (if they ever will).

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Nicholas might be the most fascinating person this episode, especially in light of the political turn this country took last November. At a fundraising event, he and another wealthy businessman lament the “myth” of white male privilege.

It’s maddening to listen to. Are their lives perfect? No. As a business owner in the manufacturing arena, Nicholas has some honest-to-God problems that are a big part of a generation of people being disenchanted with America and having a nostalgia for bygone eras. But it’s hard to care about his problems when he’s so ignorant of anything outside his own little bubble.

Yes, it’s very tough to have to compete with foreign products or factories based in other countries that can produce their wares on the cheap. I am not unsympathetic to what Nick is dealing with at his business. But he acts like his problems are the same as human sex trafficking and that is so mind-boggling ignorant that it immediately makes me care less about his “problems.”

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It was also very telling to find out that Claire was desperate to have a child and made it happen at any cost, while Nick seems kind of lukewarm about the whole affair. That’s a tough situation and poor Nicky’s life will probably not be easy.

Not in the way living in abject poverty would be hard, but still—it’s hard to have a parent who never really wanted you.

Which is a great segue into what the heck is going on with Shay. She has decided against aborting her baby. The North Carolina laws about forcing an ultrasound and seeing the baby did the trick and she has decided to keep it, while simultaneously deciding to run off from the shelter and go live at a web cam house.

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Being a web cam performer in a house full of a make-shift support system is definitely preferable to the lifestyle Shay was previously leading, but this still feels like a horrible idea, and I’m now a little fearful of the other shoe dropping that does away with both Shay and the baby.

If that doesn’t happen, though, she will surely surpass the 20-week mark and not be able to abort the baby, so when she inevitably changes her mind, I’m still expecting Kimara ex machina to swoop in and adopt the baby.

As the first episode of the back half of the season, American Crime feels like quite a different show than it was four weeks ago. I’m still not completely sold on the meandering, unconnected storylines, though. And the fact that Benito Martinez’s storyline seems to be done is a shame. The show could certainly keep focusing on solving Isaac’s murder as a way to stay with the farm workers, but there’s not a lot of tension there for us viewers in that regard.

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So it seems as though we’ve moved on from that and into Act II, which may or may not be a good thing.

Stray observations

  • “Modern day slavery. In the rest of the world it’s called a job.”
    At this line, I actually wrote in my notes, “STFU, asshole.” The willful ignorance in that statement is astounding.
  • Jeanette: “I don’t have anything. I don’t have anything that’s mine.”
    Carson: “Is that the problem? I treated you too good, I was too good a husband to you?”
    This was such a perfect exchange to encapsulate their marriage. Carson doesn’t hear a word of what Jeanette is saying and instead can’t fathom that anyone would possibly be unhappy in her situation.
  • Do you think Kimara’s new storyline is Vanessa, the girl Kimara saves from her john? Maybe Shay has moved on and now Kimara has found a new girl to try to save. That might be interesting, in a depressing kind of way. Like, of course Kimara can’t save everybody she comes across. In fact, she probably can’t save very many. But if she can’t find Shay, she can’t help her and Kimara probably knows enough by now to maybe give up and move on to someone who wants to be helped. Hmm.

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