NOC Recap: The ‘Cruel Summer’ Season Finale Wraps Everything Up and Then Blows It All Up Again

“Hostile Witness” shows events from (approximately) October 3rd, 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 1×10 of Cruel Summer.

Kate and Jeannette’s worlds collide as the court date arrives, finally forcing the two young women to answer the question on everyone’s mind, but the answer comes with a price that not everyone can pay.

Freeform/Bill Matlock

1993 gives us flashbacks of Kate (Olivia Holt) and Martin (Blake Lee) as well as Jamie (Froy Gutierrez) and Jeannette (Chiara Aurelia), showing them both living a “happy” life. We also see a replay of Kate making the phone call to Jamie and Jeannette breaking into Martin’s house the same night. After that, we see Mallory (Harley Quinn Smith) confront Jeannette about stealing something else from Martin’s after cutting her off as a friend. This heated exchange explains how Mallory ends up with the snowglobe, which ends up being a key part of putting all of the memories together.

1994 tells the events of Kate’s appearance on The Marsha Bailey Show. It is the same show we saw Jeannette watching earlier in the season with Kate calling out Jeannette by name. We see both Greg (Michael Landes) and Kate’s parents (played by Andrea Anders and Ben Cain) freaking out about what happened separately before the scene goes to Jeannette cutting off her hair, creating her ’95 look. We also see Mallory’s reaction to the news report of Kate’s rescue, another huge piece of the puzzle.

1995 opens up in the courtroom, both Kate and Jeannette’s lawyers giving their opening statements for each client. As they speak, we see flashbacks of both girls in their cars as they arrive, surrounded by reporters. The case hinges on the fact that Kate knowingly lied about Jeannette on national TV.

After day one of the trial, Jeannette meets up with Jamie, who asks her about what happened. She tells him that today was easy, but tomorrow they’re bringing Kate on the stand as a hostile witness. Jamie comments how that will be good for her case, but Jeannette only focuses on how it won’t exactly make anyone like her. Jamie takes the opportunity to tell her that he likes her before she grabs his hand. Kate goes on her computer to chat with Ashley (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut), still unaware it’s her step-sister, who assures her that she’ll do fine in court the next day. Greg finds his daughter in the kitchen that night and the two have some ice cream before Greg reminds Jeannette that she can still talk to him.

Freeform/Bill Matlock

The next day, we hear Kate’s story, which was that Martin took her by force. She continues to swear by that story under oath, which leads to Jeannette’s lawyer exposing the messages that she sent her step-sister saying that she went to Martin’s house willingly. After, Kate’s lawyer reveals to her that it was Ashley she was chatting with before telling a shocked Kate that what happed that day was a huge blow to their case. Jamie visits Ben (Nathaniel Ashton), but rather than asking for forgiveness for himself, he vouches for Vince (Allius Barnes).

Ashley tries to desperately explain things and apologize to Kate over their computer chat, but the damage is obviously done. Kate expresses the symbolism that the chats meant to her, considering the girl she was chatting with as “her future,” only to realize it was all a lie. Kate then brings up Annabelle again to Mallory, obviously unable to keep going with these crucial missing pieces. She says she’s finally ready to do what her therapist suggested.

Ben goes to visit Vince at the video store, admitting that he was blaming the wrong person this whole time. Vince is clearly struggling with what Ben did to him, using the opportunity to ask what exactly he did that was so wrong to earn this treatment. Ben expresses how vulnerable he was at the time, saying that he wasn’t ready for everyone to see or know about their relationship, but Vince says he wasn’t thinking of anyone else in that moment besides his injured boyfriend. Vince gets a powerful moment where he finally gets to say his piece, saying he was scared too and they were in this together until Ben tossed him to the side. Ben doesn’t argue, telling Vince that he’s right and saying he wants to earn his trust back if Vince will allow him to.

Kate goes back to Martin’s house, slowly taking her surroundings in again after the nightmare she lived through. We quickly realize that Kate invited Jeannette, asking to meet her in the house. When Jeannette questions her choice of venue, Kate insists that this is where the real truth lies. Jeannette brings up the fact that she’s wanted to settle this way before court and the two exchange everything they’ve been dying to say to the other and holding back.

We also find out that they are actually missing day 3 of court while they have this meeting. Jeannette brings up Jamie, both of them once again airing out their version of the truth before agreeing to finally start putting the pieces of the full picture together. Kate mentions Jeannette’s visit to the house in ’93 and admits she wasn’t in the basement at the time. Jeannette shares that she took the snowglobe and Kate tells her that she found the necklace.

Freeform/Bill Matlock

Kate insists she looked out the window that night and saw Jeannette’s bike. Jeannette questions if she saw her actual face and Kate lists that she heard Jeannette’s voice and saw her bike and necklace. Jeannette uses that to try to say Kate lied, but it quickly comes to light as Kate is explaining her side that the bike was actually Mallory’s. Mallory is the one who saw Kate that night, not Jeannette, who reiterates again that she never saw Kate. This revelation leads to a really honest moment as Kate says if she didn’t think she was right, she never would’ve accused Jeannette, sincerely apologizing to the other girl. Jeannette asks what exactly happened between her and Martin in the house, which allows Kate to open up about what occurred between the two of them.

She explains to Jeannette that she’s having trouble unlocking a memory and how her therapist said that going back down to the basement could help her remember. In a meaningful moment, Kate asks Jeannette if she’ll go with her and she agrees, joining these two women together to face this horrible evil that has ruined so much of their lives for different reasons.

Kate begins to get some flashbacks and we see a bloodstain on the floor. She begins to tell Jeannette the same thing she told her therapist, but this time we actually see what happened. Martin comes down, defeated and holding a box in his hands. Kate tries to talk him off the ledge, trying to buy herself some time, but Martin reveals that the police came by that day before revealing a gun named Annabelle. The gun is the same one that took his father’s life and Kate heartbreakingly asks if Martin’s going to take hers too.

Martin apologizes and says goodbye to Kate before putting the gun to his own head. The moment is definitely a hard one to watch due to the great performance from both actors. Martin drops the gun before airing out his frustrations at the situation he created. While he’s distracted, Kate grabs the gun, pointing it at her captor. The action clearly surprises Martin and he tries to convince her to give him the gun. Thankfully, she doesn’t give in and ends up shooting him after he tries to call what they had “love.”

She drops the gun and crumbles to the floor next to Martin, who is dead. She voices to Jeannette that she felt paralyzed and sat with him there all night. She expresses her guilt and shares that she called the cops the next morning. Jeannette brings up another piece of information we thought we knew, which was that Martin supposedly died in a shoot-out, but Kate explains they made a mistake as we see the gunshot that Jamie and Jeannette heard on Jeannette’s birthday was when Kate killed Martin.

Freeform/Bill Matlock

Kate voices that she’s the bad guy, but Jeannette assures her that no one would ever blame her for killing Martin. Kate says that Jeannette is right for suing her because she didn’t deserve this and that she should take the money, but Jeannette stresses that it was never about the money. Jeannette expresses how all she’s ever wanted was to feel what it was like to be popular, beautiful, and enough, an idea that many women struggle with daily.

It’s a very vulnerable and real moment that can really be used to teach people to be kinder to others. We then see Kate on the steps of the court, speaking with the press. She explains how while she was kidnapped, she has also come to learn Jeannette’s truth and that the other girl never saw her. Lastly, she calls Jeannette a victim before Kate is quickly treated as a villain by the reporters the way that Jeannette was.

Mallory is packing her bag when Kate shows up, stating that she knows the other girl saw her. She calls her out for not saying anything to her after they became friends and Mallory shares her truth about the situation. She explains that she saw a woman living freely, not in the basement, and had no idea that it was actually Kate.

Mallory only realized what she had witnessed when she saw Kate’s rescue on the news. She never said anything because it would mean exposing that Kate had been lying. Mallory continues to tell Kate that she’s leaving town and Kate won’t ever have to see her again, but Kate doesn’t waste another second before telling the girl not to and hugging her, silently forgiving her and saving the beautiful relationship that was formed between them.

ONE MONTH LATER: Jeannette is now on The Marsha Bailey Show, being reintroduced to the world as the most wronged woman in America. Mallory and Kate are shown watching the show together, Kate reminding her that Jeannette is innocent before suggesting they go for a drive. When asked what life looks like now that the truth is out, Jeannette comments how she has the greatest dad by her side and the best boyfriend she could hope for, implying that she is back together with Jamie. She then adds her final words, telling Kate she forgives her. Kate and Mallory dance in the street with music blasting from their car and end the scene with a kiss that everyone watching will love as well as a feeling of pure freedom.

Freeform/Bill Matlock

Now, of course, we’re skipping back to 1994 to dissect THAT ending twist. Just when you think it’s over, we see Jeannette going back into Martin’s house. Kate hears her walking through the house and yells up, originally asking if it’s Martin but then announcing who she is and begging for help. Jeannette seems like she’s going to free the other girl but freezes with her hand right above the doorknob before pulling it back as Kate continues to voice that Martin locked her down there and asks to be let out. The camera zooms in on Jeannette who simply stares ahead at the locked basement door and smiles. Jeannette did say she never saw Kate.

Episodes of Freeform’s Cruel Summer are available to watch the next day on Hulu. The series was renewed for a season 2 earlier today so get ready for all-new secrets in 2022!

Be sure to check out our interviews with the incredible cast of the series: Olivia Holt, Chiara Aurelia, Allius Barnes, Sarah Drew, Nathaniel Ashton, Barrett Carnahan, and Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut.