Friday, October 15, 2021

Recap: Make A Wish in ‘Cruel Summer’ Season 1, Episode 1 “Happy Birthday Jeanette Turner”

Freeform’s newest drama Cruel Summer is a twisted and unique series anchored by a duo of strong performances from Chiara Aurelia and Olivia Holt. Unlike a typical “whodunnit,” Cruel Summer lays out the story early on, with the focus resting instead on whose version of events is the most accurate. From its time hopping way of framing the story to its period 90s setting, Cruel Summer is sure to intrigue viewers and keep them hooked (for our full review from SXSW 2021, click here). Read on to see what happened on a very memorable birthday for Jeanette Turner.

1993

We open on Jeanette Turner’s 15th birthday as her family surprises her with cake. She’s shy and an almost stereotypical nerd – braces, glasses, messy hair. Her parents Cindy and Greg mention that they’re having family dinner that night, and her brother Derek tries to get out of it by saying he and his girlfriend Tiffany are headed to a Boyz II Men concert. Cindy firmly tells him he can leave before dessert but that he’s not going to miss dinner even as Jeanette tells him it’s fine for him to miss it.

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1994

One year later, a newly glammed up Jeanette wakes up on her birthday, this time greeted by her boyfriend Jamie, who jokes he had to arm wrestle her dad to get the honor of waking her up due to their longstanding family tradition. This Jeanette is more confident than the last version, making jokes about how her parents think she’s waiting for marriage to have sex and confidently flirting. He tells her he and her friends have planned a fun day at the roller rink, and when he leaves she squeals in delight.

1995

Jeanette is again awakened on her birthday, but this time, it’s dark and cold. Her father harshly tells her that her lawyer is here. Jeanette’s long hair is cut off, and her whole demeanor is standoffish and angry. Greg sadly tells her “happy birthday” as he exits. Something happened – but what?

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Jeanette meets with the lawyer, who apologizes for popping in unannounced. She declares the case “difficult” and asks Jeanette to help her, the other lawyers, and her father (but no mention of Cindy). She says “it’s your word against hers” as Jeanette stares into the distance.

1993

Jeanette, Vincent, and Mallory bike down the street, singing together. They’re goofy and sweet with each other, with Mallory even suggesting they make a list of everything they want to do that summer. Mallory jokes they should add something illegal to the list, and Jeanette says she’ll only do something illegal if it’s not “immoral.” They debate the semantics of this as they race to the photo booth at the mall.

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Vincent distracts Jeanette so Mallory can get her birthday gift, and Jeanette catches sight of Kate Wallis shopping with her friends. Kate is beautiful and clearly popular. Jeanette is transfixed. She gathers her nerve and approaches Kate, pretending to shop next to her. Shaking, she half smiles and blurts out “I like your purse!” to Kate. Kate smiles politely and says “thanks” as she continues to browse. Jeanette continues, saying it’s her birthday. Kate kindly wishes her a happy birthday and remembers her name, which causes Jeanette to stumble over her words and get flustered. Just then, Kate’s boyfriend arrives – it’s Jamie, Jeanette’s boyfriend from 1994. As Kate leaves with Jamie, she wishes Jeannette a happy birthday again as Jeanette stares after them. Mallory and Vincent arrive with her gift, and Jeanette tries to be happy even as it’s clear she’s still thinking about Kate.

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1994

At the roller rink, Jeanette and Jamie are kissing. Tennille and Renee, Kate’s two friends from the mall in 1993, are now Jeanette’s friends, with Mallory and Vincent nowhere in sight. The girls press Jeanette for details about “Saturday night,” and she reveals she lost her virginity to Jamie and it was “perfect.” From a distance, Jamie observes as his friend Ben approaches. Ben jokes about how Jeanette is describing her night with Jamie, but says he can tell Jamie really cares about her. Jamie agrees, and Ben asks if he still thinks about Kate. Ben asks if Jamie really thinks Kate ran away, with Jamie saying it beats the alternative that something horrible happened to her.

1995

Jeanette bites her nails as she watches a clip from an old news report discussing how Kate has been missing for two weeks. Jamie sits outside her house in his car, staring at a photo of them together. As he shoves the photo back into his glove compartment, we see a gun hidden there. Vincent calls Jeanette to let her know Jamie is there, and when he offers to call the police she tells him no, saying “if he hurts me, he hurts me.” He awkwardly tell her “happy birthday,” and Jeanette asks if things will ever be normal again. He says he can’t even remember when it was, and takes a photo to prove Jamie was there.

1993

Jeanette excitedly tells Derek about her summer list as they clean up after dinner. Cindy and Greg enter with cake, with Cindy telling Jeanette that the necklace Mallory and Vincent bought “looks a little cheap.” They give her their gift: a framed photo of Greg and baby Jeanette from a roll of film they found and secretly developed.

1995

Greg is at a bar, with the bartender Angela dismissing his concern that his daughter is “potentially a sociopath.” Greg softly says he misses how she used to be. Cindy is clearly out of the picture as he and Angela make plans to head back to his place later and she mentions they’ve been dating for four months.

1993

Jeanette finds Greg in the kitchen sneaking birthday cake. He apologizes that Derek missed her party, but Jeanette says she knows it’s much cooler to be on a date than at his nerdy sister’s party. Greg tells her one day the world is going to see what he sees, and Jeanette says it’s not like one day she’ll wake up popular with everyone noticing her. Greg finds a candle and lights it, telling her if that’s what she wants, she should make a wish. She blows out the candle, smiling.

1994

Jeanette and Jamie split up the photos from their roller rink date as they head up Jeanette’s driveway. They hear what sounds like a gunshot in the distance, and Vincent leaves his house to investigate. Jamie blows him off with a sarcastic “welcome to Texas,” and Jeanette says nothing to defend Vincent as Jamie guides her into the house.

1995

Jeanette gets to a new section of the news report, with Jamie pleading for Kate’s return. Angela arrives, creating an awkward encounter between them as Jeanette refuses to acknowledge her and Greg are dating and snaps at Angela. Angela tells her she’s there for Jeanette if she wants to talk, but that she can’t talk to her like that. Surprisingly, Jeanette backs down. We montage through all three versions of Jeanette going to bed the night of her birthday, with only 1993 Jeanette looking completely happy.

1993

Jeanette, Mallory, and Vincent get to their to-do list, starting with using the keys Jeanette’s father has for his job as a realtor to “break in” to an empty house. Jeanette is apprehensive, but she goes along with the plan. The three lie horribly as Mallory pretends to use the bathroom to find the keys. At the house, Jeanette is still nervous while Mallory and Vincent joke.

1995

Outside the same house, a reporter states that it is the anniversary of the “shocking” event that took place there the year prior.

1994

Mallory angrily tells Vincent that she heard Jeanette and Jamie had sex. Vincent is silent, and Mallory accuses him of still liking her even after she “mutated” over the past year. Vincent wants to believe they just grew apart, but Mallory says this town did not need another Kate Wallis when the first one “sucked to begin with.”

1993

It turns out the item on the list was “play hide and seek in an empty house” – completely innocent. Jeanette counts as the others hide. She goes around the empty house looking for them, finding a basement with mirrors as she searches. But it turns out they aren’t alone – the new owner is in the kitchen. His name is Martin Harris, and he is their new assistant principal. Jeanette manages to get herself and her friends out of trouble as Mallory and Vincent sneak out when they hear the voices from downstairs. Outside, she smiles broadly as she reunites with them, elated at getting away without getting in trouble.

1995

Jeanette drinks alone as she watches another tape, this one from 1994 (which reveals that Kate disappeared in 1993 as she pops out the old tape with the year on the label). Mallory calls her “conniving” in an interview as Jeanette throws a pillow at the TV.

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1994

Renee and Tennille discuss the one year anniversary of Kate’s disappearance as they shop with Jeanette. Mallory spots them from outside the store and comes inside, confronting Jeanette by telling her she knows about her and Jamie. Jeanette tells Renee and Tennille to give them a minute alone, and to Mallory’s shock, Jeanette says she’s always been here for Mallory and that she’s not going away. Jeanette says she wishes she knew where Mallory’s anger was coming from and that they both pulled away from each other. She pulls a stunned Mallory in for a hug and says if she wants to talk, she knows where to find her. Mallory glares and says “you sound just like her” as she runs away, with Vincent apologizing and chasing after Mallory.

1995

Jeanette eats fast food alone in her car as a group of teenagers call her a “psycho.” Throwing her milkshake at them, she speeds away to a meeting with her lawyer. The lawyer says they have a big issue: Jeanette’s likeability. Jeanette bitterly asks how the jury is supposed to connect with “the most hated person in the nation.” She chronicles how everyone in her life hates her and the abuse she has suffered. She asks how she could possibly be likeable, and her lawyer evenly says “it’s the only way to win.” Jeanette says she’ll try to be more like “her” as the lawyer nods.

1994

Tennille and Jeanette are gossiping at Renee’s house. Renee comes upstairs in shock, and tells them Kate has been found. A look of panic comes over Jeanette’s face as Renee tells them Kate is alive. They rush to Jamie’s house, and Jeanette attempts desperately to tell him something as Ben tells her she needs to go, now. Jamie rushes out of the house and punches Jeanette in the face as the others gawk, with Jamie screaming “what did you do to her” as Ben pulls him away. Jeanette sobs as the girls hold her.

Back at Jeanette’s house, Cindy holds a back of frozen vegetables to Jeanette’s face as she lies and says it was a volleyball accident. On the news, the anchor says Kate Wallis has been found, and her abductor was killed in a shootout with police. The family watches as the newscaster reports that the abductor was Martin Harris, with footage of Kate being led from the house. As Cindy frets over the social puzzle Kate’s return presents, the camera zooms in on Jeanette as she silently cries.

1993

Jeanette pockets the key to Martin’s house as Derek apologizes for missing her birthday. He’s sincere and tells her “15’s gonna be your year” as she goes inside, and Jeanette hides the key in her music box along with the necklace Mallory got her.

1995

Jeanette watches an interview Kate did three months after her rescue. Kate tells the interviewer that in order to heal, there’s something she needs to share with the world. She says that a few months into her ordeal, a girl saw her and she thought she was saved. But Kate goes on, telling the shocked reporter that the girl who saw her never told anyone, taking over her life and letting her nightmare continue for months. Turning directly to the camera, Kate says “Jeanette Turner, I hope you rot in hell” as we see 1995 Jeanette stare blankly at the TV.

Cruel Summer airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Freeform, with episodes available next day on Hulu.

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Jules
I am a nurse and dedicated nerd from Boston, MA. When I'm not at work, I'm rewatching old favorites like Supernatural or discovering my new obsessions (too many to count!). When not fangirling, I can be found reading, writing, or listening to a true crime podcast. You can find me on Twitter @juleswritesblog for more nerdy nonsense.

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