Dexter is called to a crime scene at the abandoned hospital where, the night before, the Ice Truck Killer left security guard Tony Tucci strapped to a table for Dexter to kill. Instead, Dexter had reported the crime scene and Tucci had been hospitalized after the Killer had amputated his hand and leg. Debra and Sgt. James Doakes question Tucci when he wakes up in hospital, but Doakes is unimpressed with Debra's ways of trying to extract information from Tucci. He severely reprimands her for suggesting to blindfold Tucci in order to help him remember his encounter with the Killer. After she confronts him about his attitude towards her, he agrees to blindfold Tucci, who subsequently remembers that the Killer used to chew throat lozenges. They return to the crime scene and find a lozenge wrapper, on which forensics expert Vince Masuka finds a partial fingerprint.Dexter's girlfriend Rita Bennett comforts her upset co-worker, Yelina, and learns that Yelina's fiance, who was immigrating from Cuba illegally with the help of a coyote, is missing. Rita asks Dexter to look into the problem using his police connections, and he finds a list of subjects from a past police case.
Dexter investigates Jorge Castillo, a salvage yard owner, After Yelina's fiance washes up dead on a beach, he discovers that Castillo is murdering the smuggled immigrants who cannot pay for their freedom. Dexter leads Castillo into a trailer in his salvage yard, but as he prepares to kill him, Castillo's wife Valerie arrives. Dexter realizes that the couple is working together, and decides to kill both Jorge and Valerie in the trailer. After killing them, he dumps their bodies in the ocean and frees their Cuban prisoners, not noticing the person watching him from the trunk of a car in the yard.
In flashbacks, a teenage Dexter learns how to fake a romantic relationship with a girl, thanks to help from his father, Harry.
"Love American Style" attracted 6.7 million viewers when broadcast on CBS in March 2008, 18 months after its original broadcast on Showtime.
IGN's Eric Goldman felt that the episode's juggling of multiple storylines was "satisfying," and that the scene in which Dexter prepares to kill Castillo was "terrific." Though he praised Debra and Doakes' storyline with Tucci, he wrote that "it was a bit disappointing to then see Deb be a bit too quickly vindicated at the end."
Paula Paige, writing for TV Guide, said that the episode: "will go down in cable history as Dexter's finest [episode] to date." She was pleased with Debra's character development and the "downright stylish" cinematography, but thought that Jorge and Valerie's final, passionate words to each other were "too much for me."
Ray Ellis of Blogcritics believed that the episode "takes the series into a more three-dimensional direction." He described the episode's subplots and themes as what "make Dexter compelling," and wrote that Debra's character reached a more "empathic level" in the episode.
TV Squad critic Keith McDuffee praised the increasing complexity of Dexter's relationship with his father through flashbacks, and thought that Dexter's voiceovers were "the best thing about this show."
Jeff Lindsay, author of Darkly Dreaming Dexter, upon which the show is based, was initially upset with the episode's plot. In an interview, he said that: I was about to be really unhappy with [the episode]. But the twist at the end," referring to the person watching Dexter from the car trunk, "That was wonderful."
- The line Dexter says to Jorge Castillo in Spanish translates to "Perhaps the fish find you." He says this in response to Castillo claiming that he only owns a rowboat with a hole in it.