Jeanette Turner and Kate Wallis are on a collision course. Sure, that’s been true since their moms projected their unusual highschool baggage onto them, and unavoidable since Kate accused Jeanette of being complicit in her abduction. But not like earlier episodes, which tended to primarily give attention to both Jeanette or Kate’s views, Episode 5 of Cruel Summer (“As The Carny Gods Intended”) alternates between the 2 to entwine their tales much more earlier than the massive trial.
You know the drill by now: Episode 5 takes place throughout three totally different years on July 29, because the city of Skylin gears up for the county honest. In ’95, the city’s newest summer season extravaganza isn’t stirring up good recollections for Kate — she’s nonetheless seeing Martin in all places, and furiously scribbles “Annabelle” time and again in her pocket book whereas listening to a remedy session by which she reveals she had an “exceedingly normal” encounter on the honest two years earlier. She nonetheless has no thought who despatched the “liar” letter to her, however when Mallory arrives with the information that Jeanette is supposedly sitting within the honest’s dunk tank to boost cash for her authorized charges, Kate has some place else to channel her rage.
Jeanette might not truly be within the dunk tank, however Denise and Greg are at their wit’s finish along with her, as she bites again with defensive sarcasm at any time when the adults speak technique. Jeanette wants individuals to remind the world she’s received a “heart and a soul,” people who find themselves absolutely on her aspect, if she desires to face an opportunity on this trial. And other than Vince and her household, she’s working out of choices. Back in ’93, 15-year-old Jeanette is additionally struggling to let somebody in: her and her associates’ summer season bucket checklist requires that every of them go on their first date, and since Mallory and Vince already crossed it off with a double date, she’s left to entertain geeky out-of-towner Gideon.
Then everyone seems to be off to the honest, an event that by no means appeared to rub anybody the correct option to start with. When Kate lastly works up the braveness to confront Jamie about secretly kissing Jeanette in ’94, he instantly resorts to gaslighting. Even after Kate admits she adopted Jamie to the park after the backyard celebration, he insists, “We both know your memory’s been shaky since the trauma.” Yikes! She dumps him, however Kate’s fair-going is in some way about to get even worse.
Jeanette has dragged Derek alongside to assist her confront Kate in a single last-ditch effort to stave off complete social suicide, and simply so occurs to search out her as she’s coming into a funhouse corridor of mirrors. As Jeanette tries in useless to succeed in Kate inside the funhouse, their reflections start to swap as they flit round one another, caught in a maze that appears method an excessive amount of like Martin’s basement mirror. I’ve theorized about how each Jeanette and Kate might be telling the reality if Martin had a two-way mirror that allowed Kate to see Jeanette in captivity with out Jeanette ever seeing her. This episode opens and closes with a cut up display screen of the 2 women posed in entrance of their bed room mirrors, so if this finally ends up being the massive twist, the clues are already specified by plain sight.
But the worst honest attraction of all? Martin working a ’93 sport sales space. On their date, Jeanette and Gideon run as much as play, however she’s quickly confronted by Kate’s two finest associates, who ask if that’s her geeky boyfriend. So a humiliated Jeanette ditches poor Gideon in her first agency step towards shedding her pores and skin for the favored crowd by ’94. Later, when ’93 Kate has been deserted by Jamie and considered one of his asshole faculty associates, she approaches Martin’s sales space on her personal. He repays her for her gaming finesse with a pink stuffed rabbit, commenting that when he first noticed her on the Garden Club celebration, he briefly assumed she was one of many adults and decides to hold onto a scrunchie Kate left behind on the sales space.
Back on Kate’s remedy tape, her therapist asks if she’s aware of the idea of grooming —it’s wild to consider how, only a decade earlier, Freeform was romanticizing Aria and Ezra’s relationship on Pretty Little Liars. And when Martin angrily admonishes Jeanette about main Gideon on towards the tip of the episode and begrudgingly offers her Kate’s scrunchie to return, you don’t want hindsight to guess at his disturbing intentions.
Back in ’95, Jeanette continues to be struggling to search out every other allies as her trial looms. She in the end finds one, however it’s not who she anticipated: Remember Angela, Greg’s bartender girlfriend from the pilot? She’s clearly been listening to him vent, and has arrived in hopes of getting on Jeanette’s good aspect as soon as and for all. Cruel Summer continues to be doing a reasonably spectacular job of juggling its three timelines for optimum dramatic impact, however hopefully this moody protecting exterior Jeanette has constructed for herself will crumble quickly —traces like “I’m your gun for hire, but you need to feed me bullets” and “If you never leave the fortress, it’s a prison” are a starkly low cost distinction to the delicate YA drama we all know the present is able to pulling off.
Still, it’s rewarding to see Jeanette lastly drop her guard for a second to sing alongside to “What’s Up” by 4 Non-Blondes earlier than collapsing below the load of simply how totally her adolescence has been stripped away from her. Aurelia is masterful at pulling off the tonal shifts in every timeline, and hopefully her days of delivering stilted teen angst dialogue will quickly be behind her.
Cruel Summer is clearly constructing to some kind of catharsis past the women’ petty, trauma-filled rivalry with each other, particularly as they’re pressured to reckon with what shifting ahead would even imply. As Jeanette is pressured to search out new allies, Kate is pissed off to search out that looking for revenge doesn’t present the closure she thought it could. When her and Mallory arrive on the honest, she dunks Jamie as a substitute of Jeanette. He lastly offers her a correct apology for mendacity the 12 months earlier than, however he’s so crushed down by guilt that she will’t assist however really feel pity for him. And when the women break into the cemetery, Kate’s guttural screams as she smashes Martin’s tombstone solely really feel like the start of a bigger reckoning.
In Episode 5’s eerie closing moments, ’93 Jeanette and Kate perch in entrance of their bed room mirrors to apply conversations: Jeanette’s try to befriend Kate, and Kate’s flirtation with Martin, respectively. They’re sweetly awkward moments made all of the extra devastating understanding what occurs to them after they’re inspired to pursue maturity and acceptance within the few shitty avenues that appear out there to them as teenage women. Funhouse mirrors, certainly.
Abby Monteil is a New York-based author. Her work has additionally appeared in The Daily Beast, Insider, Elite Daily, Thrillist, and others.