Television

Cruel Summer

Cruel Summer Episode 3 Off With A Bang Review- All The Clues, Hints, Music, And Timeline Explained

Pizza Rolls, Slam Pigs, and video stores shared space in Cruel Summer Episode 3 with the continued misery of Jeanette, Kate, and everyone connected to them.

Freeforms’s addictive mystery Cruel Summer hooked us with the first two episodes and starting reeling us in with Cruel Summer Episode 3. The more we think we know, the less we actually do. Seemless timeline switching kept us on our toes, while the nostalgic hits from the 90s are a dream for anyone old enough to remember the music or young enough to appreciate it for the first time. Set on July 4th, 1993, 1994, and 1995 it is sun-drenched and in the later years, full of pain. Something terrible happened to Kate. We just don’t know quite yet how much Jeanette knew about it.

So many secrets and lies. Some are harmless, while others are monsters that could be indicative of more significant personality flaws. Lies are never good. They have the power to taint even the purest among us. Unfortunately for Jeanette and Kate, they have ruined their lives and everyone that cares about them.

The music of Cruel Summer Episode 3

As always, the soundtrack paints the picture of innocence lost. Not all of the music in Cruel Summer Episode 3 was plucked directly from the 90s. Between the sunny twangs of Sure Feels Nice by Fastgun from which is not from the era but has the same old-school charm of the era’s country bests and Hole references the emotional whiplash could take a toll if not grounded in visual cues. Jeanette should listen to the lyrics of Respect Yourself by Cottage Sounds Unlimited featuring Traci Amos & Oscar Jackson. Instead, the insecure girl is a nasty cocktail of insecurity, approval-seeking, and bulldozer.

Another non 90’s era song, Enemy by Jennifer Tefft, is the perfect example of paying homage to an era without becoming a knockoff. Fairweather Friend’s Sick, Sick, Sick is an angst-fueled anthem for both girls who are angry with each other and the world for everything they have been through. 1993’s The Muff’s Everywhere I go is quintessential 90’s pop that refused to join the grunge touch sounds coming out of Seattle. The lyrics tell a story that feels as if Jeannette herself could write it.

It's not that I've done wrong
I never think I'm wrong
But when you're watching me
I feel so guiltyIt's not the way I thought it'd be
The lack of all my privacy
And if it ever gets out of hand
I'll bring you down

Lastly, Fade into You gets double treatment with Mazzy Star’s 1993 dreamy original and later Bleach Bath’s 2017 much harder cover. The music is an auditory metaphor for the girls. They are mirror images of each other and themselves. What was once kind, sweet, and innocent became angry, vindictive, jealous, and selfish.

The Timeline Explained

July 4th 1993-Things still look rosy for our awkward but sweet teen in 1993. The summer of the list is in full swing, and Jeanette’s mom continues to be obsessed with popularity even if her daughter isn’t. The trio of Mallory, Vince, and Jeanette swiped contraband from their parents that included a nude magazine(this was before Pornhub), cooking sherry, and a bag of joints. The collections show just how naive these kids still were. Drugs and alcohol aren’t an excellent sign for a fifteen-year-old, but the group is clearly hesitant to do anything with it, and cooking sherry is undrinkable. A hilarious moment where Jeanette thinks burying a joint will cause a pot plant to grow in her yard is a reminder that she was a sweet girl once.

A troubling trait rears its head, though when she first flushes the pot without discussing it with Mallory and later reveals they she actually kept it and lied about it. Neither trait is positive, and both could have widespread ramifications for the story. Lastly, we see Jeanette enter Mr. Harris’s house another time. After using the stolen key again, she steals Mr. Harris’s yearbook from Widow Falls as a peace offering for Mallory. She is wearing the necklace when she brings it to Mallory, so she hadn’t lost it yet.


July 4th 1994-The entire family is still living in the house. Jeanette’s mom is panicked that Kate’s story will impact the family negatively. She is firmly Team Jeanette and doesn’t believe what Kate is saying about her. Mr. Turner and Jeanette’s brother confront Jamie about hitting Jeanette. After returning from Jamie’s house, the police are at their house to question Jeanette, who goes willingly. Their biggest questions have to do with the necklace that Kate claims proved Jeanette knew about her abduction.

Jeanette claims she threw the necklace away while Dad says it’s a necklace sold at the mall that many people could have had. Both are valid points, but judging from what we know about Jeanette and her lite breaking and entering, she probably lost it at the house one of the many times she broke in. We just don’t know if she ever saw Kate.

Ben and Vince get a much-needed expansion of their characters. Ben has shown loyalty to Jeanette that didn’t make sense until tonight. The two were a closeted couple that went to a gay bar to be together. Vince believes Jeanette, and so Ben does without question as well. The sweet pair is a poignant reminder that it wasn’t that long ago that being LGBTQ+ was not just taboo but potentially dangerous. Vince is working at a video store, and Kate comes in to rent Groundhog Day for her father and Misery and Silence of the Lambs. Both are psychological character studies in terror. They don’t understand why she would rent something scary right after being rescued, but they aren’t willing to judge her. In reality, it isn’t that uncommon for victims of terrible things like Kate to find solace in horror. A study in 2018 theorized just that.


July 4th 1995-

There are moments when Jeanette is the sweet, scared girl she was in 1993. One of those times was when Kate jumped out of her car intent on yelling at Jeanette. Kate says Jeanette wanted to steal her life, her parents’ money and is interested in nothing but sloppy seconds. It’s a brutal tirade that Jeanette may deserve. Jamie isn’t fairing any better as he is belligerent and hostile to the police when they catch him stalking Jeanette. The fact that his mother refers to it as loitering should raise red flags for everyone.

A new reporter questions if some people are wired wrong from the start. She speculates Jeanette may be that type of person. She speculates Jeanette doesn’t know right from wrong and takes everyone down with her. A chilling rehearsal of sorts shows us Jeanette is capable of serious deception. Is she a scared girl looking for safety or a sociopath trying to save her ass?

Things are any better for Vince, who had a burgeoning relationship with Ben in 1994 but looks to be alone and regretful now. Why did they break up? Did Jeanette come between them? Jeanette’s brother is not in jail or dead. He is at college and does come home to do laundry. Her big brother is ride or die regardless of his parent’s feelings. He tells Jeanette to answer their mom’s calls from time to time. We still don’t know why she doesn’t live there. Finally, Jeanette no longer has a key to Mr. Harris’s house, but she still breaks in.

Vincent finds her there and asks her why she broke in? Jeanette tells him she felt something the first time she was there. It felt like a precursor of the evil to come. She says she thought if she could undo whatever she unleashed, it would make everything right again. Vince and Jeanette bond over magical thinking. She wishes she could fix everything she went through in the last several years, and he wishes whatever happened with him, and Ben could be resolved. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, though, and they both are no better off than before. The only difference is one more lie between them. Vince lies during the deposition. He says he had no knowledge of Jeanette entering Mr. Harris’s house other than the very first time. Always her friend, he protects her.

Lying will catch up with you eventually. Everyone has something to hide in Cruel Summer. Things are just beginning to heat up. For now, we have to wait to find out who knew what, when. Who is a victim and who is a villain? Maybe everyone is a bot of both? Follow all our Cruel Summer coverage here.

Lingering Questions:

  • Why did Jeanette lie about the joint? She angered her friend by pitching it. She could have easily said JK to Mallory, and the argument would have blown over much quicker. Also, why protest smoking it if you planned to keep it all along? Is she a pathological liar, and that was her genesis?
  • Mr. Turner was watching a baseball game in his living room on July 4th, 1995. Considering they are in Texas, you would think he watched either the Houston Astro’s or the Texas Rangers. Both played that day at approximately 3:30 pm CST. Both games would be over before dark.
  • There is no Widow Falls high school in Texas.
  • Jeanette’s mom was the Prom Queen and head cheerleader of her high school. Perhaps the reason Kate’s mom finds her so offputting is that neither woman ever grew up. They just switched places.
  • Jamie is a monster. His mother is enabling his behavior. He needs help before he hurts someone.

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