On the season 2 premiere of American Crime, a young man is suspended from an elite private school after some inappropriate pictures of him emerge. His mother finds out there is much more to the story, setting up the season-long storyline that will have viewers questioning, among other things, how socio-economic status can blur the lines between right and wrong.
New season, new crime. The episode opens with a woman calling 911, stating she wants to report a rape. We don’t see anyone, just hear the voices of the caller and the operator.
Cut to the Leyland High School gym which is humming with activity. The walls are adorned with championship banners, revealing the basketball team has a prestigious past. Practice is in full swing and students are lounging in the stands texting. Some are actually watching. One young man stands out, Taylor Blaine (Connor Jessup), he’s handsome and slightly disheveled, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t quite fit in.
This is confirmed as the scene cuts to him having a recent discussion with his guidance counselor. The action jumps back and forth between Taylor in the present and him arguing with the counselor about his prospects for the future. Taylor is pragmatic that he has neither the grades nor the money to attend college despite the woman’s efforts to encourage him otherwise. She wants him to start thinking about his future, but Taylor feels his options are limited.
Back in the gym, the coach, Dan Sullivan (Timothy Hutton), is focused on what appear to be his two star players, Kevin LaCroix (Trevor Jackson) and Eric Tanner (Joey Pollari).
Suddenly, Taylor sees pictures of himself on social media. He appears drunk, and he’s clad only in his underwear and a T-shirt.
Later, Taylor is at the laundromat with his mother, Anne (Lili Taylor), who also wants to talk about her son’s future. Kevin, visibly upset, tells his mother he should have never gone to Leyland and says he doesn’t want to go back. Anne looks concerned but doesn’t question him, perhaps chalking his attitude up to a bad day.
American Crime Review: Season 2 Tackles Rape in a Very Honest and Real Way >>>
A Breeding Ground for Sexual Aggression
Back at the school in the locker room, a group of boys, including Joey, are looking at pictures on his phone. It’s apparently a girl they attend school with, an “Asian bitch,” and Eric tells Kevin he “so wants to rape that.” Kevin brushes his buddy off, not interested in engaging in locker-room banter.
In the gym, a pretty blonde cheerleader is dancing provocatively for a fellow male student. The coach takes out his phone and records the interaction but doesn’t say anything.
There’s More to Kevin Than Meets the Eye
On his way home from practice, Kevin encounters a police officer. At first, it appears he might be getting pulled over, but it turns out the cop knows him and is interested in chatting about the upcoming game. He also tells Kevin to say hello to his mother.
Kevin arrives home with his girlfriend, Val (Monet A. Chandler). It’s apparent Kevin’s parents are affluent. It’s also obvious that his mother, Terri (Regina King), is not a fan of Val. After the kids head upstairs to “study,” Terri comments to her husband, Michael (Andre Benjamin), that for the amount of tuition they are paying, their son should be able to meet a better quality girl.
Michael teases his wife for being such a snob, he came from humble beginnings himself. Terri used to worry that Kevin wouldn’t come home with a girl at all, then she worried that it would be a white girl, and now that her prayers have apparently been answered, she’s still not content.
Upstairs, Kevin and Val are making out, but she puts the breaks on. She notices several expensive watches on Kevin’s dresser and picks one up, asking her boyfriend where he got it, but Kevin doesn’t recall. Kevin isn’t interested in conversation at all and continues to try to engage Val sexually, but after he ignores her requests to cool it, she grows frustrated and decides to leave. When he refuses to drive her home, Val says she’ll call for an Uber, and Kevin makes a crack about how Val thinks she’s all that.
After she leaves, a series of expressions cross Kevin’s face in quick succession: frustration, anger and possibly some regret. There’s a lot going on there, and some of it doesn’t look good.
The Truth About Taylor?
The next day, Taylor is pulled out of class and is called to the dean’s office. His mother arrives and learns that there are pictures of Taylor circulating that show him breaking the school’s code of conduct. Anne demands to see them, but the dean refuses. Taylor needs to show her the pictures himself. He has refused to explain the circumstances, so he’s being suspended for three weeks. Furthermore, there’s a process involved with Taylor returning and a chance he may still not be allowed back. Receiving zero specifics, Anne gets aggravated and storms out with Taylor in tow.
Once outside, Anne demands that Taylor show her the pictures in question and explain himself. He refuses to get in the car and walks off, leaving his mother clueless as to what to do next.
A Double Standard
It’s dinnertime at Coach Sullivan’s house, and he’s showing the video footage he took to his wife, Steph (Hope Davis). It turns out the blonde dancer is his daughter, Becca (Sky Azure Van Vliet). She calls her dad an ass for spying on her. Becca bristles at being chastised by her parents for shaking her butt at some boy. She argues she was just performing part of the routine. There’s a bit of a double standard going on because Coach Sullivan absolves the boy of any responsibility and lays it all on his daughter. She has to be mindful of how she conducts herself.
Becca leaves the table, and Dan is annoyed that Steph showed Becca the video. He sent it to his wife so they could discuss it, not as a way to humiliate his daughter. Dan argues that he could have done that at school. Steph isn’t thrilled with her daughter’s coach, wondering why the woman would teach white suburban girls how to dance like “hoes.”
Too Good to Be True
There’s a fundraiser at the school, and a short presentation has Dan Sullivan’s team singing his praises as both a coach and a father figure. Leyland’s headmistress, Leslie Graham (Felicity Huffman), extolls the many virtues of the young men on the basketball team, and credits herself for having the good sense to hire Dan six years ago when she also began her tenure as the head of the school.
It’s interesting to note that Graham points out Leyland participates in a voucher program that enables deserving (in other words: poor) students to attend the prestigious school. All of this looks very good to benefactors.
Anne Searches for Answers
Anne, desperate to unravel the mystery surrounding Taylor’s suspension, calls his girlfriend, Evy (Angelique Rivera). Evy shows Anne the pictures, some which also call Taylor “white trash.” Evy explains that Taylor was invited to a big party thrown by the captain of the basketball team. Kevin LaCroix invited him. Taylor and Evy both went but got separated. Taylor opted to hang with some guys from the team, leaving Evy to fend for herself among some mean girls. Both Taylor and Evy are “voucher kids.”
Sick of being ridiculed by her classmates, Evy went looking for Taylor, and when she found him, he was messed up. All the players were standing around, taking pictures and busting on him. Someone eventually gave them a ride home.
Anne wonders why Taylor didn’t call her, and Evy replies that he felt bad. Anne says her son should feel bad as should Evy. An upset Evy takes off.
A Startling Accusation
While everybody else is watching the Leyland High basketball team win another game, Anne is at home, waiting anxiously for Taylor to arrive. She’s not the only unhappy mother, though. Terri gives Kevin a hard time for passing the ball that resulted in the game-winning shot to Eric. She doesn’t care about basketball. She cares that Kevin didn’t take his shot.
Taylor arrives at the modest apartment that he and his mom share and Anne starts in on him immediately, reminding Taylor of the sacrifices she has made to get him in Leyland. Anne berates him and incessantly demands to know what happened. Finally, Taylor breaks down. Yes, he had a few beers, but beyond that, he thinks someone did something to him. Something very bad judging from the tears rolling down his face. Anne’s anger immediately gives way to sympathy, and she hugs her son.
The next day, Anne goes to see Headmistress Graham. Anne tells Graham that she believes Taylor was sexually assaulted. She’s not able to provide a lot of details, other than who threw the party. She admits that Taylor did drink but she is convinced that her son was drugged. Graham questions what motive anyone would have to hurt Taylor and Anne confesses that her son doesn’t fit in because he’s on financial aid.
Graham promises to take the allegation seriously and will look into it but encourages Anne, because this is a sensitive situation, to keep the matter confidential until Graham can find evidence to support Anne’s claim. She wants Anne to trust that they will do the right thing. She then has Anne sign a sheet of paper acknowledging she made a statemenet and met with Graham and the dean.
An Investigation Begins
The headmistress immediately seeks out Sullivan and informs him of what’s going on. Sullivan doesn’t believe his players did anything wrong, but Graham insists he must speak to them, stating they aren’t beyond reproach. He needs to make it clear that the school is taking this matter seriously, and give them the opportunity to offer up any information if there is any. And if there is, he needs to bring it to her attention.
Sullivan enters the locker room and talks about respect and how it is important how the team as a whole is viewed by outsiders. He mentions the party and a few players look troubled while Eric Tanner just manages to look smug. We aren’t privy to what is said beyond this point.
That night at his home, Sullivan is troubled. He feels guilty for questioning his players, fearful this will affect how they view him. He resents having to follow up on what he’s convinced is an empty allegation. He seems to have come up empty-handed but truly believes if there was something to know, he would know it. He may not like being given the task of digging up dirt on his players, but Steph points out, this isn’t about him.
ABC Mid-Season Schedule: The Bachelor, The Catch and More 2016 Premiere Dates >>>
Anne Takes Action
Anne meets with Headmistress Graham again. Graham expresses concern for Taylor and lets Anne know that if he needs any help with his schoolwork, he still has access to resources and teachers. Anne isn’t as concerned about Taylor’s matriculation as she is about what’s being done about the other situation.
Graham tells Anne that a few individuals will be disciplined. Anne wants to know how, but Graham insists she can’t go into specifics because anyone involved deserves a measure of privacy. Anne accuses Graham of not having the slightest bit of concern regarding Taylor’s privacy and Graham responds that there are pictures of Taylor engaging in lewd acts. Anne gets upset and defends Taylor saying her son didn’t DO anything, but it was done TO him. She blurts out that her son was raped.
This sets off alarm bells with Graham who suggests Anne not toss around that word so freely. Graham reminds Anne that she sat in a room incoherently spewing accusations that she couldn’t confirm, based on things her son didn’t actually say. Six times, Anne said she “didn’t know” when asked for details, and Graham has the signed statement to prove it.
The headmistress suggests that Anne take this time to be with her son and encourage him to make better choices. Anne points out Taylor didn’t choose this. Graham knows Anne wants to believe her son but encourages her to think about what it means to accuse other young men of something that is, “quite frankly, bizarre.” She finishes with, “As bad as things seem now, they can get much worse.”
Anne leaves, and before even exiting the building, she calls the police. This is the call we heard at the beginning of the episode. And this is also where season 2 really begins.
American Crime airs Wednesdays at 10 pm on ABC.
(Image Courtesy of ABC)