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 “A Secret of My Own,” the true circumstances around Kate’s captivity become clear. We see Martin groom Kate as the town looks for her and get a stunning revelation about Jeanette and Kate that changes everything. Olivia Holt delivers once again in an episode devoted entirely to Kate and Martin as we see just how emotionally manipulated she was. Will this episode cause the viewer to change who they believe? Read on to find out in the penultimate episode of the season.
We flashback to Martin inviting Kate inside after her fight with Joy, and the title screen flashes: “Day 1.” Kate says she feels alone in her own life, and Martin says she’s not alone — he’s listening.
Kate’s therapist gently reminds her about grooming as we see Martin manipulating Kate that night. She falls asleep, and he stares at her as the therapist narrates. Throughout the episode, we are either in 1993 or listening to Kate talk to her therapist in 1994.
The next morning, Kate wakes up on the couch and walks around the house looking for Martin. She wanders down to the basement, where she sees the mirrors lining the wall. Hurrying back upstairs, Kate finds him, and they smile at each other.
Back at Kate’s house, Rod and Joy are frantic. Rod wants to call the police, but Joy says Kate wouldn’t put herself in harm’s way (and Joy wants to keep up appearances). She also notes it’s the first day of school, and Kate wouldn’t miss that. Rod tells Joy that they need to tell Kate they’re sorry and that they will work this all out as a family. Joy sheepishly says they will — once Kate is found safe.
Martin makes Kate breakfast, and he asks her if she can manage to go to school alone. She says she can, and he reminds her that at school, it’s Mr. Harris. As he leaves, we see Mallory capture the tape of Martin on the lawn without noticing Kate in the window. Instead of going to school, Kate continues to explore Martin’s house. She tries on his shirts and attempts to make dinner, setting off the fire alarm as Martin comes home. He asks why she wasn’t at school today, and she says she didn’t know what to say to her family. He tells her he could lose his job or worse, and she needs to leave. Kate apologizes and goes to leave, but the phone rings.
It’s the police letting Martin know that Kate is missing. The tone changes instantly as Martin turns to face Kate. Kate stammers that she can fix this but that she’s not a good liar. Martin says they need to think, pouring them both a drink before muttering that he forgot she was underage. Kate quietly asks what “we” should do as Martin stares ahead.
Kate says sometimes a distraction helps her think, like going for a run. She suggests a game — Never Have I Ever. Martin agrees, and they keep drinking and flirting. We hear 1994 Kate narrate that part of her still feels bad for Martin because of how he was her friend. Sylvia notes that the power imbalance in that relationship made sure it was never a true friendship. Martin tells her the story of a trip to Key West as a drunk, and happy Kate listens adoringly. Martin ups the ante, saying, “Never have I ever … kissed someone older.” Kate matches him, saying, “Are you daring me to?” Martin pulls back, calling her beautiful and smart but that he can’t go there with a student. In 1994, Kate narrates that she was afraid of disappointing anyone after how she was raised, and Sylvia notes that Martin noticed that about her. Kate says he noticed everything about her, that he liked her for who she was. Sylvia frowns as we go back to 1993.
In 1993, Kate and Martin play hide and seek, kissing as Martin chases her. It’s all playful as Kate goes to take a shower, but Martin is broken out of the fantasy when a news report comes on talking about Kate. The title card shows us it has been 30 days since Kate went missing. Kate says she’s bored staying at home all day, but Martin offers a solution. He has travel guides he never got around to reading, and he wants Kate to pick a destination for them to visit for her 18th birthday when they will be “safe.” Kate excitedly tells him that night that she thought of a better idea. They should move somewhere far away, just the two of them.
On day 34, Kate points out that Renee’s parents are 15 years apart. She wants to be 18, so they can be a couple. Kate says her parents like Martin and mention she misses them. Martin says he’s sorry she can’t have them both right now, and she reassures him that she understands. Suddenly, the doorbell rings. Kate hides in the closet as Martin answers the door. It’s Greg Turner. His tire blew out, and he needs to use a phone. Martin sweats as Greg uses the phone, remarking on all the travel guides out on the table. Greg also notices the second coffee cup and teases him about ruining his morning after, which a tense Martin does not appreciate. Greg leaves and Martin tells Kate it was too close.
At Halloween, Martin and Kate carve pumpkins in the kitchen as she tries to convince him to let her wear a costume and greet the trick or treaters. He mentions that he has to go to a PTA meeting, and Kate asks if the police are still looking for her. He says they aren’t since most people assume she ran away — a clear lie that Kate doesn’t catch. In 1994, Sylvia asks what kept her from walking out the door. Kate says she thought she’d have to choose between the world and Martin, and that for a long time, she chose him. That night, she and Martin watch a scary movie in a blanket fort as Kate asks how this will end for them. Martin tells her to just watch the movie. Kate tells her therapist that by that night, she wanted to have a real conversation, but that Martin wasn’t done living in the fantasy.
On day 89, Kate and Martin eat dinner as she tries to ask about her parents and her school friends. He said he hadn’t noticed, and the atmosphere is tense. He asks what’s wrong, and she says she wasn’t expecting apples in the stuffing since that’s not how her mother makes it. He tells her they’ll make their own recipe as 1994 Kate narrates that Martin wanted everything she needed to be within their bubble. He wanted to be everything that mattered to her.
On Christmas Eve, Kate lies in bed depressed as Martin tries to cheer her up. She despondently says she misses the mall and the movies as Martin tries to insist they can watch all the movies they want here. Martin tells her she can stay in bed as long as she wants since he has some Christmas errands to run. We see Jeanette fleeing the mall on her bike dressed in black as police run in, scaring Martin.
At Martin’s house, Kate picks up the phone and dials Jamie’s number. He doesn’t answer, and Kate winds up a snow globe as she paces. She doesn’t say anything, panicking at the thought of revealing their world. This is the voicemail Jamie had on his answering machine from the last episode. Just then, Jeanette arrives at the Harris house, and Kate hears the door crack open. She rushes away and hides upstairs, with Jeanette not noticing her as she opens the door. Jeanette picks up the snow globe, but she hears the floorboards creak. Jeanette runs out with the snow globe without seeing Kate but drops the necklace she got from Mallory. Kate goes down the stairs and picks it up as she watches Jeanette ride away. Sylvia asks why Kate never told Martin about the necklace or Jeanette, and Kate says she liked having a secret from him.
Martin returns with presents, including the pretzel, but Kate glumly notes it’s cold as Martin forces cheer, saying he’ll heat it up for her. Kate tells Sylvia she left once, and we see Kate go to her house. She stands outside and watches as Rod and Joy laugh, clearly having fun without her. She tears up and walks away. Inside, Joy tells Rod she thinks this is the first time she’s laughed in four months. They both start to cry as they picture Kate coming home. Joy wants to cancel Christmas dinner, and Rod holds her as she sobs. Back at Martin’s, Kate sneaks back into the bedroom, now convinced no one is missing her. But Martin wasn’t asleep — his eyes snap open, revealing he knew she left.
The next morning, Martin gives her a pearl necklace, which she pairs with a new red dress he also bought her. They have a candlelit dinner, and Martin asks what’s changed since she seems better. She says it’s just Christmas, but Martin asks if she’s guilty of sneaking out. Kate tells Sylvia it’s the first time she was afraid of him. Sylvia notes he ran out of tools to manipulate her with. Kate asks him not to be mad, and he coldly says, “I will decide when I’m mad and when I’m not.” Kate admits she went to her house but that she didn’t go inside. Martin asks her to consider what it would mean for him if she was caught, and she apologizes profusely, telling him she feels suffocated by the hiding. He turns everything she says against her as Kate is in tears. He tells her she can’t go outside until she’s 18, and Kate says that sounds like kidnapping.
Everything comes to a halt. Kate takes off her necklace and says she wants to leave. He says he doesn’t believe her, but she gets up. Martin says his life will be over, and Kate says she won’t tell anyone. Martin turns it on her, saying people will see her differently now, implying that everyone will see her as a liar and as tainted somehow. Kate says she will figure it out but that she wants to go home. He tries putting on the loving act, but it doesn’t work. Martin’s face changes, and we know what’s about to happen. She asks for her suitcase, and Martin says it’s in the basement. The second Kate goes down the stairs, he shuts the door behind her and locks it. Kate hears the lock and slowly turns, realizing too late what has happened as she goes up the stairs. Martin puts on a record and drowns out her yells as she pounds on the door.
Cruel Summer airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Freeform, with episodes available the next day on Hulu.