A powerful Cruel Summer Episode 7 shows how vulnerable young minds can be when clouded by anger, betrayal, manipulation, and guilt.
Poor Kate never had a chance. Whether you believe her about Jeanette or not, she did not deserve what happened to her. Adult, especially teachers, should be our kids’ protectors. They should safeguard the trust parents and students place in them. Instead, he became obsessed with her, and when that wasn’t enough, he took her. Kate may have gone there willingly, but he held her hostage and warped her mind until she was just a shell of the person she once was. There was the typical structure of three timelines with a separate fourth timeline detailing Kate’s time in captivity. Here are all the critical takeaways from Cruel Summer Episode 7.
The music of Cruel Summer Episode 7
There were only three songs in the breathtaking episode. All three are important for different reasons. Dreams from Gabrielle in 1993 is an optimistic view of the world as Kate once saw it. It is about having faith in the world and yourself. Today originally by The Smashing Pumpkins in 1993, it was covered by Olivia Holt herself. This haunting version quickly shows the transition from an innocent bored teen to scarred but healing victim. Lastly, Holt’s cover of Wonderwall, originally by Oasis in 1995, is a terrifying glimpse of what led her to Mr. Harris’ doorstep and the horrible guilt Joy must feel for driving her daughter into the arms of a monster.
August 29th, 1993- Set design matters. What props are where and when factor into the mystery-solving of Cruel Summer. Kate’s pink bunny won at the carnival when she last saw Mr. Harris is in bed with her on her birthday. It is a symbol of innocence that later represents innocence lost and betrayal. Jamie, who is perennially out of touch with what is going on around him, lets Kate’s Dad know he intends to give her a promise ring. His obsessive and guilty feelings in 1994 and 1995 make more sense now. Not only had he moved on with another girl, but presumably, his last interaction with Kate was a bad look. Jamie spilled booze on Kate and, in general, acted like an idiot. His behavior also made her very late for her birthday dinner with her family setting up the huge argument that drove Kate into Mr. Harris’ arms.
I do wonder, however, if Jamie was so drunk he didn’t remember being driven home by Mr. Harris on the night that Kate went missing. He should have gone to the police and let them know that she was in his car the last time he saw her. The two essential things to remember about this night are Kate tells her father about Joy’s affair, and Joy hits her, and this is the night that Kate willingly went to Mr. Harris’s house. Joy is not a great mother. She gaslights her daughter and is far more concerned with appearances than with reality. Likely, this is what kept Joy from looking too hard for Kate. She saw her daughter pack a bag and leave, and when she didn’t return, it was easier for her to assume she ran away than was taken.
A prop alert should be heeded as well, as Jamie’s promise ring looks to have peridot, which is the birthstone for August. A green-colored ring suspiciously shows up again in 1995 when Mallory gives Kate a lime-green-colored ring pop. In a series so much about perception, this is an interesting detail.
August 29th, 1994- Things are very different for Kate on her birthday in 1994. She is no longer full of hope and is reeling from her recent rescue. One thing that hasn’t changed is Joy’s need to control her. She wants her to take her fifteen minutes of fame and use the Marcia Bailey Show to garner public sympathy. Joy and Kate’s relationship is fractured because Kate blames her mother partly for what happened to her and because Joy wants everything to go back to “normal” rather than fixing any core issues. Kate is struggling with PTSD, depression, and an eating disorder. Mr. Harris used every trick in the book, including food withholding, to control Kate. It has left her shook and struggling to eat.
Mallory’s stash of pot helps with that, though. I have been tough on Mallory and will likely continue to be, but in Cruel Summer Episode 7, she does appear to be helping Kate. She also seems to allow Kate to be more open to her sister. Kate’s father is a kind man who made excuses for Joy but has stopped allowing her to call all the shots. He genuinely loves Kate, and his gentle treatment with Kate speaks volumes about the guilt he harbors and the direction he intends on taking with her and Joy moving forward. Rod blames himself for losing her once; he will not lose her again, even if it means he has to leave Joy. In 1994 Kate has not gone through very much therapy yet, and despite being held hostage for nearly a year, she believes Mr. Harris didn’t have another girl before her.
Stockholm Syndrome and self-loathing are a nasty cocktail that prevents her from seeing Mr. Harris as he was. He was a pedophile and a kidnapper. She may think he only loved her, but the news report indicates that isn’t true. Her belief that she was special is a narrative she uses to cope with the trauma of her captivity. Kate needs to make sense of what happened to her even while knowing it was wrong. Mr. Harris tried this before with a student at Widow Falls, which he taught at just before Skylin and is the yearbook Jeanette took when she broke into his house.
August 29th, 1995- Mallory and Kate’s relationship has evolved, and after watching Kate’s consecutive birthdays, it makes more sense now. She provides something for Kate that she desperately needs. Mallory protects Kate and tries to give her an outlet for everything terrible happening to her. She takes her to the skating rink for a private skate, and for a brief moment, Kate can be a teenager again. She needs that, considering the lawsuit is looming, and Joy blames Kate for getting them into this mess in the first place. Kate went off script a year ago on the Marcia Bailey Show. Did she tell the truth, or was she motivated by anger? We also learn that Joy typed the LIAR letter herself. The incredibly self-absorbed and selfish mother was jealous of Kate’s relationship with her father.
Joy also has some very twisted logic about providing Kate needing a “bad guy” to motivate her. It is a sickening comment that puts their dynamic front and center and raises questions about the validity of Kate’s accusations. Jeanette could be the obligatory “bad guy” and maybe innocent of everything Kate accused her of if there is some truth to this. Derek and Kate’s sister hook up at college, which unfortunately provides him with an opportunity to print out her chat conversation. Armed with that information, Jeanette will be able to defend herself. It will devastate kate, though. She will probably lose her lawsuit and will learn her sister has been lying to her for a year. Kate already has trust issues, and this will not help her.
Lastly, Kate is still struggling to remember Annabelle. Her reaction in 1994 is abrupt and forceful. What if the thing that Kate is shutting out is another girl Mr. Harris lives with? Maybe Annabelle is another girl that he took before moving and is living with Mr. Harris. He definitely has the skills to control young minds. If he worked on Annabelle for a long time, he could have broken her, and she could be freely living with him now but stayed hidden to keep their secret safe. She could have ran during the police shoot-out and could be the child talked about in the news report in 1994.
A fourth timeline- Several events can’t have taken place just a day or two before or after August 29th, 1993-1995. Kate has several flashbacks to her time with Mr. Harris. He tells her no one is looking for her anymore and that Jamie is dating Jeanette. Jamie is a fickle teen boy, but I doubt he moved on from Kate just days after her disappearance. She was angry, and he knew he screwed up, but he wouldn’t expect the perfect golden girl to leave her ideal life and permanently run away. This scene has to be at least three weeks after August 29th, 1993.
The other scene that is out of synch with everything else is a news report heard in the background of Mr. Harris’s house about the Rodney King beating. The beating occurred in 1991, and the trial coverage, including the civil and criminal cases, concluded in April 1993 and August 1994. We don’t have context for this scene, so we are left to assume the coverage about the riots is from August 1993, which would be odd because the riots occurred in April of 1992. Two of the officers involved in King’s beating were convicted in April of 1993, months before Kate’s birthday. It can’t be August of 1994 either, as Mr. Harris was already dead at that point.
Cruel Summer Episode 7 was a terrifying glimpse into the mind of a pedophile. It should be a wake-up call for parents that it is incredibly easy for kids to be fooled. So much of this series is about truth and lies, and perceptions. Kate and Jeanette are on opposite sides of the fight right now, but the truth is almost always somewhere in the middle. There are only three episodes left before we learn what really happened. Find all our Cruel Summer coverage here.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.