“Off With a Bang” shows events from (approximately) July 4th, 1993, 1994, and 1995. For the remainder of this recap, we will be getting into heavy spoilers, so only continue reading if you’ve seen episode 1×03 of Cruel Summer. This episode also gives a warning for images of domestic violence that may be triggering so this will apply to this review as well.
Victim or villain? Jeanette continues to add fuel to the fire as her reckless behavior causes her friends and family to question her even more.
1993 has Mallory (Harley Quinn Smith) bringing over contraband to check another item off the group’s list. Jeanette (Chiara Aurelia) and Vince (Allius Barnes) aren’t on board with smoking it and Mallory tries to defend her decision, but her mom calls and she ends up having to leave. While she’s gone, Jeanette gets rid of it. Mallory is furious at what her friend did, Vince running after her as she leaves.
Cindy (Sarah Drew) assures her daughter that she did the right thing and the two end up discussing Cindy’s past as well as her relationship with Kate’s mom (Andrea Anders) in high school. This is basically the opposite of what Joy told Kate (Olivia Holt) previously. Jeanette asks to skip the fireworks for this year and her mother lets her.
While everyone, including Martin (Blake Lee), is at the fireworks, she uses the key she kept to get back into his house. She takes advantage of the empty house, stealing one of his old yearbooks. To apologize to Mallory, she brings the stolen book to her to check off another list item, allowing the two to make up. Later, it is shown that Jeanette lied about throwing all of what Mallory brought out as we see her posing with and pretending to smoke it.
’94 gives us an interaction between Cindy and her son discussing Kate’s announcement to share her story. She begins to express her concerns over Kate continuing to spread rumors about her daughter. The whole thing is overheard by Jeanette, though neither seemed to realize it. Derek (Barrett Carnahan) brings what Jamie (Froy Gutierrez) did to his sister to their father’s attention. Neither is pleased with the revelation and they go over to the boy’s house. When asked about it, Jamie says he knows what he did was wrong, but Derek already starts to go after him before he can continue.
Greg (Michael Landes) basically tells Jamie to stay away from his daughter and as they go to leave, Jamie speaks up again, telling them that Jeanette isn’t who they think she is. Jeanette gets brought down to the station to discuss what happened to Kate, her parents going with her. Cindy questions why her daughter is being questioned, both parents obviously on edge with the situation. The detective asks Jeanette how Kate got her necklace if Jeanette never saw her. She says she threw the necklace away because it was given to her by an ex-friend and that it’s not hers. She blames the fact that she’s dating (or was dating) Kate’s ex, implying that it was done as revenge. When asked if the fight between her and Jamie was about Kate, Jeanette can’t give them an answer.
Cindy struggles with the fact that her daughter just lied to the police about the necklace being hers, saying both she and Greg know it was their daughter’s necklace. Greg tries to believe his daughter and tells his wife not to let the rumors get to her. Jeanette ends up interrupting them and Greg takes the opportunity to speak to her about what happened with Jamie. He tells her that it is never okay for anyone to do that to her and that no one should ever lay a finger on her like that. He also says he doesn’t want her to go near Jamie anymore.
Just as Vince is closing up the video store, Kate walks in, promising that she’ll be quick. Mallory ends up coming in as well and watches as Kate checks out. Kate rents Silence of the Lambs, Misery, and Groundhog Day (for her dad). She pays and leaves, not sticking around for any conversation and Vince voices his confusion on her choices to Mallory. She says maybe the films somehow comfort Kate, also adding how Kate went through something, sympathetic to the other female. Mallory asks if Vince wants to come over, but he says he’s helping a friend. When she questions who it is, or rather asks him to confirm that it’s not their ex-best friend, he simply tells her not to worry about it, keeping this person’s identity a secret, although it’s later revealed to be Ben (Nathaniel Ashton).
He asks if Vince thinks Mallory figured out what they’re doing, but he assures him that she hasn’t. Ben asks Vince if he thinks Jeanette did what Kate is accusing her of, but Vince stands by his former best friend, saying he believes her. Ben says that if Vince believes her that he does too. It quickly becomes clear that there seems to be some sort of relationship between the two and it leads to a sweet moment with the two of them holding hands and making their way to the dance floor. The two slow dance in their new safe space.
At the fireworks, Jamie asks Jeanette not to make this harder than it already is. She tells him about getting questioned by the police, but Jamie isn’t amused, simply saying that he did too but he didn’t do anything so he had nothing to worry about. Jeanette tries to plead her case once again, saying she didn’t do anything, but the topic quickly focuses back on Kate. He says he won’t abandon her now that she’s back. Jeanette asks if he can try to get Kate to speak to her, but he shuts it down, leading to her bringing up their kiss from the previous week. He begs her not to tell Kate about it, saying she can’t find out. Just as Jeanette starts to walk away, he brings up the fact that she was the one who told him about Kate, seemingly being the only and first person who knew she had gone missing at the time.
’95 brings the drama within the first few minutes, showing Kate getting out of her car to confront Jeanette. Jeanette begs for the light to turn so she can drive while Kate accuses her of now going after her family’s money just like she tried to take over her life while she was away. While we did not get to see much of Jamie in this timeline last episode, we see him being brought home by the cops in this one for stalking Jeanette. Meanwhile, Jeanette watches as newscasters tear her and the lawsuit apart. Vince calls someone while on a break at work; we do not actually know who it is yet, but the person on the other end is someone who has already spoken to Jeanette’s lawyers and asks Vince to stop calling him, saying it brings him pain every time he calls. We then see Jeanette wiping off slurs that are written on her car. Later, while watching TV, she comes across a show depicting a woman on trial, calling herself the victim. Remembering her lawyer’s words from the previous episode she attempts to act “likeable” like the woman on the screen.
Jeanette tells her brother what happened with Kate today, and when she comments about how she misses the days that no one wanted her dead, Derek reassures her that he doesn’t want that. He then comments that Jeanette should take their mom’s call, though we don’t get anything else about why she is no longer in the picture. We also find out that it was actually Jeanette who leaked the lawsuit early. Vince sees her leave the house, not at the fireworks either. Jeanette ends up breaking into Martin’s house, entering through a window.
She goes to the basement where Kate was held captive and Vince shows up after most likely following her there. Jeanette asks him to just go along with her on this before telling him that the first time she came down here while they were playing hide and seek, she got a weird sense that something bad was going to happen. She confesses that she thinks maybe she unleashed something down here, and Vince actually listens to her and what she has to say. Jeanette continues to say that she thought maybe she could reverse things by coming back, but it didn’t work and was just “magical thinking.” We find out the person that Vince had called was Ben; he shares that he had hoped that time would heal all wounds– alluding that something happened between them– but unfortunately as we saw during the call, it didn’t.
Vince is the next to speak to the lawyers and we get a little more insight into his friendship with Jeanette. We find out through this scene mixed with flashbacks to them in the basement that Jeanette visited the house often; claiming she was addicted to the rush of it. Despite knowing this, Vince lies when asked and says that to his knowledge, she has not gone back to the house since that first time.
Be sure to check out my interview with Allius Barnes discussing everything that went down in this episode! New episodes of Cruel Summer will air Tuesdays at 10 PM EDT/PDT on Freeform and be available the next day on Hulu.