Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Recap: Where the Lies Stop, Nobody Knows in ‘Cruel Summer’ Season 1, Episode 5 “As the Carny Gods Intended”

Note: This episode of Cruel Summer contains descriptions of grooming, emotional abuse, and sexual assault. For 24/7 help visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE or online.rainn.org.

In “As the Carny Gods Intended,” the town fair becomes the staging ground for several important events in all three timelines. We see 1993 Kate falling further into Martin’s trap as Jeanette begins to morph into the popular girl we know from later. It’s also a powerful exploration of gaslighting, emotional abuse, and grooming that hinges on devastating performances from Olivia Holt and Chiara Aurelia.

Freeform/Bill Matlock

1993

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Jeanette and Kate get ready as the 90s classic “Two Princes” by Spin Doctors plays. We then flash to 1994 and 1995, with both Kate and Jeanette looking much sadder.

1995

But in 1995, Kate hallucinates Martin in the mirror. He hisses, “Liar,” before disappearing. She listens to the tapes of her therapy session, with Sylvia telling Kate that she could not have been at fault for what happened to her since she was a child. On the tapes, Kate tells Sylvia that one strong memory of Martin she has before the kidnapping happened at the county fair.

At Jeanette’s house, her lawyer is telling her what’s going on with her case as Jeanette barely fakes interest. Her father is frustrated, but the lawyer asks for a moment alone with Jeanette. She says Jeanette needs to find other people to believe her — Vincent won’t be enough.

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1993

Mallory and Vincent are cheering Jeanette on as she completes another item on the list: Jeanette going on a date with new kid Gideon. They’re gathering at the fair because it is Skylin High night, meaning only high schoolers will be there along with their parents.

1994

Jamie and Kate arrive at the fair, with Kate again bringing up that he punched Jeanette. Kate asks if Jamie really wants to be with her or if he’s just trying to assuage his guilt over what happened with Jeanette. He tries to lie to her, but she tells him she saw him kiss Jeanette. He immediately gaslights her and tries to act like she’s imagining things because of her trauma, and when she gets out of the car, he punches his horn repeatedly in anger.

Jeanette nervously walks around the fair with Derek, trying to find Jamie. Derek points out that Jamie is with Kate and wants Jeanette to stop “stalking Kate Wallis” at the fair. Jeanette says the only place she can confront Kate is here, and Derek is upset to discover that that’s what she was really planning.

1993

Kate is walking with Jamie when she sees her mother with Scott. She frantically tries to get Jamie to see, but by the time he turns around Rod has arrived and the three are chatting happily.

1995

Kate chats with Ashley about the “liar letter” as she wonders who could have sent it. Mallory sneaks in, and Kate suggests they go to the fair to confront Jeanette. Mallory is unsure, but Kate says if Jeanette sent the letter, she may have cracked and will be at the fair.

1993

Greg talks with a nervous Gideon before his date with Jeanette. All four leave as Greg watches, with Jeanette barely even glancing in Gideon’s direction as they do so.

1995

Greg is in the kitchen as Jeanette enters. Jeanette asks if he is still on her side, and Greg asks if she’s even on her own side. He says he believed her, so he gave up everything for her. But she hasn’t given anything in return, barely even helping her own case. She asks if that’s a no, and he chilling says, “If anyone asks, you are the perfect daughter. First word was ‘dada,’ and you would never hurt a fly … that I know of.”

Freeform/Bill Matlock

1994

Derek asks what Jeanette’s purpose is in confronting Kate, and Jeanette says she wants to talk it out with her. She says she’s sure that the rumor mill is blowing all of this out of proportion, and that once she and Kate talk everything will calm down. Derek wonders what will happen if Kate doesn’t back down from her story, and Jeanette refuses to entertain the possibility because she knows what happened.

1993

Jeanette and Gideon sit on a ride together, and the awkwardness is palpable. But she comes alive when she sees Kate walking around the fair. She eagerly explains that Kate is the coolest girl in school, and that Jamie is the most popular guy. Gideon asks if she knows them, and without missing a beat Jeanette says she does. Gideon is impressed by this, and Jeanette just smiles.

Freeform/Bill Matlock

1994

The Wallis parents are accosted by a reporter as a photographer goes after Kate. Jamie gets the photographer to back off, then tells Kate that he did meet with Jeanette but that he didn’t kiss her, gaslighting her once again. Kate’s confused face is heartbreaking as she is left to wonder if she really saw what she thought she did — and if that kiss didn’t happen, what else is she missing? But then Kate tells him off, saying that the kiss was bad enough, but using her trauma to try to get out of it is even worse. She tells him it’s over, adding, “Congrats! You can kiss whoever you want now,” before leaving.

1995

Angela throws away the tabloid Jeanette was reading as she looks up, shocked. Angela tells her they’re going out, and that if Jeanette wants someone on her side she needs to let people in. When Jeanette protests, Angela notes that it’s not like she has a lot of options.

Kate and Mallory are shocked to see who they think is Jeanette sitting in the dunk tank. But it’s really Jamie, and without hesitation Kate picks up the baseball and hits the target, dunking him before he even has the chance to say anything.

1994

A drunk Cindy is sitting on the couch after a run-in at the video store. She’s experiencing the town’s hatred of Jeanette firsthand. Greg is upset she’s drinking, but she doesn’t care. Greg goes to the video store as Angela runs in. She apologizes to whoever owns a white sedan, but she just hit their car and is late for an apartment showing. Greg is instantly smitten and tells her he’s the best real estate agent in town.

1995

Mallory and Kate watch Tennille and Renee give an interview, basking in the attention. Kate sees the funhouse and flashes back to …

Freeform/Bill Matlock

1994

… where Tennille and Renee are giggling as Kate sees Jeanette. Jeanette starts to run towards her as Mallory pulls Kate into the funhouse, saying they can lose her in there. Derek tells Jeanette he’s not chasing Kate Wallis through a funhouse as Jeanette plows on. Inside, Kate starts to panic as she loses Mallory and Jeanette calls out for her. Kate sees Martin staring in the mirror.

Outside, Derek tells Jeanette she needs to drop it. He says he believes her, but that she won’t win against the Wallis family. He says she should go back to being the old Jeanette as she simply says, “I can’t.”

Freeform/Bill Matlock

1995

Mallory suggests they watch Clerks (a nod to the actress playing her, Harley Quinn Smith, whose father is Kevin Smith) as Kate continues to stare at the funhouse. She pulls out the Walkman and listens to the description of the night she saw Martin at the fair.

1993

Martin is running a booth at the fair for charity. Gideon and Jeanette play the game, with Jeanette accidentally letting slip that she knows his previous school. Tennille and Renee see and make fun of Jeanette for being with Gideon. Instead of defending him, she tells the girls he’s just a loser as she runs off.

1995

Angela takes Jeanette to the bar, where they talk. Hoping to open her up, she suggests karaoke.

1993

Gideon waits in vain for Jeanette as Martin gently tells him she’s not coming back. Kate approaches the booth when Gideon leaves, and it’s clear Martin was hoping to see her.

Freeform/Bill Matlock

1995

Kate sees Jamie and approaches him. He’s drunk, and she asks if he’s okay. He tells Kate she was right, that he did kiss Jeanette. He says he’s sorry, and Kate whispers, “I knew it,” as she moves closer. He asks if she wants to hit him, and she asks him to say it again. He tells her she was right, and she kisses him goodbye as she says, “That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever done for me.”

1993

Martin lets Kate win the game, praising her skills. He hands her a stuffed toy as a prize, and she says she hopes she made a better impression of herself tonight than she did at the hunting lodge. Martin confesses that she made a great impression at the garden party. He flatters her, telling her that she seemed so mature compared to the other girls at the party that he mistook her for one of the adults. She asks why he didn’t say hello, and he says he didn’t know her then. She smiles, and he smiles back, knowing he’s got her. She accidentally leaves her scrunchie behind and he keeps it as a souvenir. We hear Sylvia’s voice telling Kate about grooming as he stares after her.

Jeanette, Mallory, and Vincent walk by, and Martin calls Jeanette over. He says he wants her to think about how Gideon must feel right now (hitting a little too close to home, apparently) and asks if she wants him to feel like that. Jeanette notices the scrunchie and says she can give the scrunchie back to Kate. He reluctantly hands it over, and Jeanette sees the chance to talk to Kate and hide what she did from Mallory and Vincent.

1995

Angela starts singing to “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes. Jeanette joins in, releasing something inside as she does. But she freezes up and asks Angela why she’s doing this. Angela says she wants to break her out of the mental prison she’s in.

1993

In a split-screen, we see Jeanette and Kate getting ready for bed. Kate hugs the stuffed animal and tries to look older. She flirts with an imaginary Martin in the mirror. Jeanette rehearses returning Kate’s scrunchie, imagining Kate being so grateful she asks her to hang out.

1995

Mallory and Kate are standing over Martin’s grave, with Mallory saying Kate can do this. Mallory tells Kate to let it all out, and she digs a hole over Martin’s grave. She stuffs the toy inside and uses the shovel to destroy his headstone.

Cruel Summer airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Freeform, with the episode available the 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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