“Happy Birthday, Kate Wallis” shows events from (approximately) August 29th, 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 1×07 of Cruel Summer.
Kate struggles with a family secret she’s been holding on to. Joy tries to convince Kate to go on “The Marsha Bailey Show.” Mallory has a birthday surprise.
1993 starts off by introducing the day as Kate’s (Olivia Holt) birthday, which is happy and vibrant in this year. While waiting for Kate, Jamie (Froy Gutierrez) tells Rod (Ben Cain) that he is planning to give Kate a promise ring as her birthday gift. He opens up about his home life and says that he sees his future with Kate. Joy (Andrea Anders) reminds her daughter that she has her birthday dinner at 7 sharp tonight and to make sure she’s home from the mall by then. At the food court, Jamie does give Kate the promise ring, telling her that it means he is all in.
Tennille brought alcohol for Kate’s birthday, which leads to Jamie getting drunk. After Ben (Nathaniel Ashton) knocks into Jamie, he accidentally spills the alcohol on Kate’s dress. She asks him to hurry and get a napkin because she needs to get home. As they walk home, Kate asks Jamie what he really wants in the future and Jamie tells her how he wants a big house and a big family like her parents, obviously implying he wants it with her. The two end up in front of Martin’s (Blake Lee) house, who offers to give the two teens a ride home. After dropping off Jamie, Kate and Martin briefly discuss the “big family secret” and Martin encourages her to finally bring it to light.
When she gets home, Joy immediately begins to go off on her daughter for being late before Kate finally brings up the secret that has been weighing on her. Rod comes in and Kate tells Rod about the kiss she saw, but Joy immediately denies it and says her daughter is lying for attention. Joy brings up Kate thinking Rod was having an affair to discredit her before Kate apologizes and begs her father to believe her. Joy hits her daughter, Rod trying to step in, but Joy tells him that Kate is her daughter and she will discipline her as she sees fit. We also see Martin alone in his house, thinking of all of his previous encounters with Kate.
Kate goes to her room and packs a bag, she and her mother fighting as she does. A flashback is shown of Kate eating food while sitting on the floor, Martin standing behind her watching. He gives a speech pretending to be this good guy, someone that keeps Kate clothed and gives her food, before telling her to remember exactly how she ended up here. During their fight, Joy tells her how she can predict her daughter’s every move, and to ensure that she doesn’t know where she is, Kate goes to Martin’s house rather than one of her friends’ or Jamie’s. She shares what happened, telling him in tears that she’s scared and doesn’t know where to go. He invites her in and we finally are given another huge piece of the puzzle.
1994 shows Kate starting off her special day by chatting with Ashley (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) on the computer, telling her that she still isn’t able to sleep. She also reveals that she can’t eat either, saying Martin used food to control her. The conversation is cut short as her parents come in, singing happy birthday to their daughter. Joy tells Kate that she’s been invited to be a guest on The Marsha Bailey Show, but her daughter doesn’t want any part of it. Kate invited Mallory (Harley Quinn Smith) over to celebrate her birthday, Ashley finding the duo high as they eat nachos in Kate’s room. Ashley ends up getting invited to stay and they all go to the video store to pick out a movie. Vince (Allius Barnes) questions Mallory about her new friendship, but she brings up that he’s still friends with Jeanette (Chiara Aurelia).
As the trio watches the movie, Kate tells them about her mom wanting her to go on The Marsha Bailey Show before we see her get truly sucked into the movie. She yells at the girl on the screen to run as we see flashbacks showing Kate’s attempt at escaping. The whole experience seems to bring Kate and Ashley closer, showing maybe there is some hope in that relationship. Joy tries to push the interview again, but Kate continues to say no, bringing up her previous birthday from the year before. Kate and Rod have a heart-to-heart on the topic of Joy; Rod insisting that things have changed since last year when he always sided with Joy and that Kate is his daughter too. He says that losing Kate was an earthquake and that everything else, including his wife cheating, felt like a speedbump.
Joy comes in and asks them to turn the news on, another girl telling the news that she also had a close call with Martin before he took Kate. Kate reveals that Martin told her what happened with this other girl and says that she’s lying about it. Joy uses this to try to convince Kate to do the interview. Later, Joy mentions the conversation she heard between her husband and daughter before it gets into a deeper conversation. Rod brings up the affair before stating that if she ever implies that he’s not Kate’s father again, they won’t survive it.
In ’95 she is woken up by Mallory, who wishes her both a happy birthday and friendiversary. As she goes to the bathroom and shuts the door, we see a flashback to her time in captivity, Martin trying to open the door and using food as leverage for her to let him in. He tells her that people have given up on looking for her, even telling her that Jamie is now dating Jeanette. Martin adds for her to get comfortable because this is Kate’s world now. In the present, Kate finds more Annabelle information on the tapes and as she listens, we see her go into complete distress as her therapist attempts to discuss it with her. Shutting the tapes off, Kate struggles to understand why the memory is still missing, but Mallory takes on the job of ensuring her friend doesn’t think about anything unpleasant for the remainder of her birthday.
As a birthday surprise, Mallory takes her to the roller rink, leading to Kate declaring this the best birthday ever. The whole montage and scenes between the pair are really beautifully done as we see both girls actually happy for once. More empowering female friendships like theirs are definitely needed in entertainment today. Mallory finds a printer in the Wallis’ donations box and Kate tells her that she can have it. Mallory then discovers what was jamming the printer, shocking both of them. It turns out that Joy was the one that sent Kate the ‘liar’ note, making up the story about someone sending it to her. Joy claims it was done to protect her daughter, but Kate doesn’t buy it. Kate tells her mother how her therapist told her that Martin was grooming her from the moment they met. She begins to open up about how Joy raised her to be blindly obedient, trusting, and open, which Martin took advantage of. Then, Kate brings up The Marsha Bailey Show, which is apparently what got her sued. Joy blames it on the fact that Kate went off script but Kate insists that she’s not a puppet.
Joy expresses how devastating it is for her to watch Kate grow closer to Rod and do everything she used to do with her, saying she’s jealous that Kate forgave Rod but not her mother. Joy claims that Kate has always needed a bad guy to motivate her, so she took on the role to ensure her daughter took the lawsuit seriously. She apologizes for not protecting Kate from Martin but says she will die trying to protect her from everything else. Kate tells her mother that she’s missed her too and the whole exchange is done in such a heartbreaking and real way, giving fantastic performances from both Holt and Anders.
We also finally get to see more from Ashley and Derek (Barrett Carnahan)! Derek stayed over at Ashley’s dorm room, the two joking with each other before Ashley goes to take a shower. Derek asks if he can check his email, but Ashley doesn’t hear him. When he goes on her computer, the chat between her and Kate is open. Derek is shocked by the messages, printing them out and taking them to Jeanette. He tells his sister to read them and it is revealed that Kate went to Martin’s house willingly, which Jeanette claims changes everything.
New episodes of Cruel Summer air Tuesdays at 10 PM EDT/PDT on Freeform and are available the next day on Hulu.