There is no excuse for the terrible things Luke did. He lied to Megan and filmed both her and Isabella having sex. These are obviously HUGE no-nos. He succumbed to peer pressure and blustered to save face. It’s not a good look. Cruel Summer Season 2 Episode 9 laid bare all his insecurities, anxieties, and regrets. As someone who grew up in the 80s when this kind of behavior was even worse, I can attest to the authenticity of the kids’ language and decision-making. Split into just timelines, everyone’s true colors are beginning to show.
Luke’s mistakes shouldn’t make us forget he is the victim here. Both girls were victims of sexual assault after being filmed, but he is dead. He was a sensitive kid with bullies as family members and very few voices of reason to guide him. With Steve and Brent as influences, it is a shock he wasn’t a worse person. We know what he did. He filmed Megan to prove he was “The Man.” He played the tape at the Christmas Party to get even with his Dad without thinking about the ramifications to anyone else, and he spoke poorly about both girls for social clout. Luke didn’t deserve to die, though. The only thing we still don’t know is how it happened.
Fall of 1999
Luke is watching a videotape of his Mom from 1990. Luke, Brent, Megan, and his parents were all at the cabin. Everyone was happy, and Steve didn’t look like the hardened task master he later became. Flash forward nine years later, and Brent is a monster, and his Dad enables it. He nearly drowns Luke, and Steve chastises Luke for being dramatic. It’s not great parenting. The Chambers men talk about Luke and Brent’s Mom with love and respect. I wonder how this family would have been different if she was still alive. Brent has always been more like Steve. He is brash and loud and sucks the air out of every room. Luke is more sensitive despite his mistakes. I think most of the conflict between the brothers is because they are so different, and without their mother, jealousy, and misunderstandings get out of control.
Be careful what you wish for should be the name of the episode. Luke didn’t like getting abused by Brent, but after Brent went to Branson, he was left alone with his Dad. They have very little in common and even less to say to one another. It makes for a tense family life that contributes to Luke’s poor choices. It’s why he gets pressured into being a cool guy. This isn’t the tale of two Lukes. He is the sweet, sensitive boy who loves Megan and longs to be in the Coast Guard. He is also a confused and often weak young man who uses women to impress his friends. Luke is a dreamer and doesn’t always see there are consequences to his actions.
By Fall, Luke is beginning to feel trapped by his Dad. The weight of the future is crushing him. His father expects him to go to Branson like Brent. When Luke tries to discuss it with Steve, he is shut down immediately. Who knows if Steve always placed this much importance on money? Likely he cared more than he should. He tells Luke a military salary won’t pay for a family. Plenty of military families would beg to differ. Cruel Summer Season 2 Episode 9 makes it very clear how much things changed after Luke’s mother died.
The ubiquitous Northland Deal looms large in Steve’s office. We know the deal fell through, and considering the amount of money on the table, I wonder if Steve’s bank account is beginning to hurt. Was this deal discussed so many times just window dressing or a detail that shouldn’t be ignored? Steve has never really been a suspect before because what father could hurt his child, but now I wonder. Did he have a significant life insurance policy on Luke?
Despite Steve refusing to discuss the Coast Guard, Luke had an application sent to the Sheriff’s office. Luke is given good advice about open communication, but Steve is a dictator, and lying certainly seems like the only solution. In early fall, Luke is already beginning to consider blowing his entire life up to avoid following in his Dad’s footsteps.
By November 1999, the trio is showing signs of strain. The Matrix costumes are on point, but their friendship is rocky. Isabella has only hinted at her territorial side. We had inklings that she could be obsessive about her friends. The push and pull between Isabella and Luke is fascinating to watch. Luke seems blissfully unaware of the tension and is not equipped to deal with Isabella’s manipulation. She is driving a wedge between Megan and Luke, and neither realizes it. All of these little things led to Luke’s death. He felt weak at home, with his friends and with Megan, thanks to Isabella. Every time the pressure built up, he did something impulsively that cost him dearly.
Jeff is still angry about Megan. He thinks Brent stole her from him. We know that isn’t true, but teenage hearts break passionately. Mostly, Jeff is angry that Luke wants to be a good guy. He wants everyone to think he is a good guy when in reality, he did terrible things just like his brother. Jeff has seen the recording of Isabella. He accuses Luke of lying about his real nature. At least Brent is an honest a$$hole. It is a valid point. Brent is awful but revels in his badness, while Luke desperately wants to be different but gets derailed by peer pressure. He knows the right thing to do but can’t because he is young and doesn’t have great examples.
December 1999 shows a much different Megan in Cruel Summer Season 2 Episode 9. The girl who never drank got straight A’s and responsibly cared for her whole family has morphed into a girl who was skipping school regularly and getting C’s. Isabella is a good-time girl who encourages all of Megan’s baser instincts. She also is doing everything she can to pry Megan away from Luke. Talk of her traveling makes Luke insecure about their future. Although Cruel Summer Season 2 Episode 9 is called The Miseducation of Luke, it could have also been Megan’s Miseducation. Isabella blew into town, and everything changed.
Luke got into Branson and the Coast Guard Academy, but Steve continued to fight him. When Luke tries to talk to him about it again, Steve tells him it is Branson, or you are cut off. For the second time, Luke talks about running away. We finally got an answer for who played the tape at the Christmas Party. Luke and Steve argued about Branson, and things got slightly physical. Luke stupidly switched the tape to get even with his Dad. It was an emotional decision that didn’t consider Megan’s feelings.
He made the tape to get the boys off his back and played it later to hurt his father. Both are selfish decisions that hurt Megan. Luke does care for her. He is just young and dumb. Luke should have considered how this would hurt her. He never should have been bullied into taping her. So many mistakes he made along the way might have prevented this tragedy. As the tape aired and he saw Megan’s face, he realized what he had done, but it was too late.
Time was shifting in Cruel Summer Season 2 Episode 9. We next see directly following the party. It’s a particularly icky scene that shows Luke at his worst. She is hesitant about being intimate in the cabin, knowing girls were filmed there, and he assures her it was a one-time thing. Megan continues to be nervous, and he says it’s a “camera, not a predator,” to which she asks, “Is there a difference?” It’s the main difference between men and women, especially in the past. She views it as a violation, and he only sees sex. He is congratulated, and she loses her scholarship and her reputation. Steve doesn’t help when he advises Luke to cut bait and explore other options.
January 1st, 2000
Isabella did shoot Luke in the ear. It wasn’t life-threatening, but scary. Isabella and Megan are torn about what to do. Isabella wants to leave him tied up, and Megan wants to release him. In the end, Megan defers to Isabella and leaves him tied up. Either way, the girls blackmail him with his confession tape. Before Megan leaves, she also tells him she is pregnant. He is understandably shocked and says all of the wrong things. She leaves him tied up, declaring she never wanted to see him again.
Drugged, bleeding, and very emotional, Luke gets himself untied and staggers out of the cabin to the dock, where he pages someone for help, who arrives shortly after. He is surprised the person who came showed up. We only glimpse feet and legs, so we don’t know who he called. Almost anyone is possible. Jeff was angry but a trusted friend. Brent and Steve are family, and Luke could be surprised either of them would come running that late at night, but I doubt it was them. He peripherally knew Ned, but I doubt he had his number. We last see Isabella and Megan in bed. Either of them could have left, though.
In July of 2000, Megan looked shocked Luke was dead. Isabella looked resolved and was the first to remind Megan they needed to keep their story straight. Megan probably returned to the cabin the next day and found it empty. Someone had to write a letter to Steve. It looked like it was in his handwriting. A few people may be able to fake that. Maybe Brent. Potentially Megan, who had practically grown up with him, could write a fake letter that might fool Steve. There is also the possibility that Isabella was the one called, and she forced Luke to write the letter. She could have made him leave it in the cabin and run away.
Maybe he fell in and drowned because he shouldn’t have been out on the water in his state, and perhaps she pushed him. I think we will see him call Isabella and watch her orchestrate the entire running away scenario so she could have Megan all too herself. I think she fought with Lisa, and Lisa died similarly, making it highly probable that Isabella killed both Luke and Lisa, however, accidentally. Megan only cleaned the cabin after they found Luke’s body which makes me believe she didn’t know he was dead. All that will come out in the closing gotcha moments of the Cruel Summer Season 2 finale.
Cruel Sumer Season 2 Episode 9 proves we really do become our parents. Luke doesn’t want to be like Steve. He doesn’t want the life, money, or pressures of being in business. The thing that mattered more than anything to Steve was reputation. Luke is struggling with the same thing. Perception is a tricky thing. Luke perceives himself as the hero. He wants everyone else to think of him like that, too, but he makes choices contrary to being righteous. We have most of the answers now, but we still don’t know how Luke died. Was he drowned by someone as his brother pushing him under the water foreshadowed, or was it all a horrible accident? Who did he page for help? What happened to Megan’s baby? Prepare for the unexpected, though. 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.