After last week’s episode, I kind of expected that Cruel Summer would go big this week by revealing a lot of dark secrets, which would have given us at least some clues about what happened to Luke. While there are two genuinely big reveals, the episode still plays out in a rather cautious manner. Instead of putting all the cards on the table, it gives the audience just about enough to get hooked on. It does end with a solid cliffhanger, which will certainly be instrumental in the progression of this story in the second half of the season.
Christmas In Summer
Chatham summer is one of a kind. At least the one where everything used to be all bright and sunny. Isabella and Luke are going pretty good, while Megan is hanging out with Jeff. At least, that is the term she intends to use for the time being. We don’t get any Jeff in this episode as he is away in the Summer’ 99 timeline. And in the other two timelines, Jeff has the bare minimum importance, so it really doesn’t matter.
The town is celebrating their traditional summertime Christmas. Isabella is obviously unfamiliar with the whole thing, and she is obviously very excited. But her excitement takes a backseat when she gets a sudden visit from a certain Trevor. It was high time for Cruel Summer to give us something about Isabella’s life before Chatham, and we get that in flesh and blood. Trevor happens to be Lisa’s brother. In case it has slipped out of your mind, Lisa was Isabella’s best friend before Chatham.
As you would expect, Trevor is not just Lisa’s brother. Although it is not explicitly mentioned, Cruel Summer makes it quite clear that Trevor and Isabella had a romantic thing in the past. And Trevor is apparently not happy to see Luke. But the more important thing here is that Trevor keeps mentioning the last winter and “St. Bart”. We still don’t get to know what happened at St. Bart, but it can’t be anything good. Well, we actually find out by the end of the episode; more on that, eventually.
Meanwhile, remember the strange older guy who lives near Luke’s cabin? Yes, the one Megan claims to know. Turns out, Megan is actually sort of friendly with him. Isabella notices Megan talking to the man, Ned, in a very friendly manner while he waits for his order at the local pub. When Isabella asks, Megan says that he is just lonely, and she is just being kind to him. The other notably important thing is Megan watching Isabella making out with Trevor. Upon getting confronted, Isabella explains that it was mostly Trevor who had some unresolved feelings, and all she ever wanted was to say goodbye.
At the cabin, Luke and Isabella gets intimate and the former loses his virginity. It is obviously a big deal for Luke, and he appears to be genuinely happy about it. But Isabella does sense something is off when Luke mentions the movie The Matrix, which he has watched with Megan so many times that it has become their movie. Back at home, Megan confesses to Isabella that she does have feelings for Luke. But she feels guilty about doing so, and the next morning she asks Isabella to forget about it. And she uses the “red pill” reference from “The Matrix”. Isabella realizes she is in the wrong relationship. Cruel Summer has done a great with this whole dynamic, with subtle uses of metaphors and references.
A Not So Merry Christmas
Following the eventual dinner, Debbie and Steve are taking some time off. Christmas (the actual one) is here, but it doesn’t seem quite merry under the circumstances. However, Isabella still tries to lighten things up by gifting Megan an expensive monitor, perfectly suitable for Megan’s needs. But Megan’s response to her best friend’s warm generosity turns out to be rather cold. After coming back from Chambers’ house, Megan has gone into a shell, and she is not letting anyone in, including Luke. Isabella is obviously concerned about her best friend but can’t seem to find a way in.
Meanwhile, Debbie accidentally comes across a bunch of unsent letters written by Isabella to Lisa. When she asks why Isabella hasn’t sent those, Isabella replies that it is because Lisa is sailing, and she will eventually send it when Lisa hits the dock. Isabella talks about her concern for Megan, but Debbie reassures her that Megan always comes back.
Later that day, Isabella asks Megan if she would like to see the Christmas lights, but Megan refuses as she has a shift at the local pub. Sensing something is off, Isabella follows Megan and finds out something which none of us saw coming! Megan meets Ned and gives him a Christmas gift; the two share a laugh, and when he offers her a cup of hot chocolate, she goes in with him. Isabella asks Luke to come home, and upon his arrival, she tells him about Megan meeting Ned. When Megan returns, both Isabella and Luke don’t confront her and ask about her shift instead. Megan coolly lies and walks away. But that is not the only questionable thing she does. Megan also seems to alter her report card, replacing a C+ with a better grade. Then she digitally communicates with someone with the pseudonym “CBABBAGE5” about hacking into federal database. The mysterious person seems to be concerned for her and asks her to be careful. Cruel Summer doesn’t wait too long to tell us who this person is, with a carefully placed conversation about “extra mustard”. Yes, this is Ned, who is probably Megan’s mentor on her path to becoming a full-time hacker from a straight-A student.
Isabella does make another attempt to make her best friend talk by trying to make a conversation while Megan is reading a mystery thriller novel. But Megan still seems to be stand-offish, and Isabella gives up. However, at night, Megan tells Isabella that the monitor was really great and she should have been more emphatic in her response. Things do seem to get a little better between the two, but we all know where it goes eventually.
What Happened At St. Bart?
Let us address the pregnancy plot first. The obvious question after last week’s episode was how Mayers got to know about it, which was not too hard to answer. It had to be Isabella, given she was the one who poked around Megan’s trash. Well, it turns out Isabella was not actually planning to do Megan dirty. It was her cut-throat lawyer, Rebecca, who went ahead by herself without consulting her client. In fact, Isabella tries to apologize to Megan about it, but Megan doesn’t buy it. Isabella even claims that she has not given up on their friendship, but Megan blows her off by saying she is being delusional.
With her being the prime suspect and also having the news about her pregnancy out, Megan lets Debbie know that she doesn’t want Isabella at their house anymore. While Debbie was handling the fort the best she could by being as neutral as possible, this time, she sides with her own daughter and asks Isabella to go away. Isabella doesn’t seem to mind as she tells Debbie that she has already packed her bags. Before leaving, she asks Debbie to check under her bed, where something will be found which might help Megan. That “something” turns out to be a letter to Megan from Trevor. Megan reads it in front of Debbie. Trevor had basically said that he didn’t tell them everything when he visited last summer, but after knowing about Luke, he had to. Megan finds a newspaper cutting along with the letter. It is a report about a mysterious death in St. Bart. The name of the victim happens to be Lisa.
Now, there is still not enough to come up with proper theories, but I will add my two cents here. Isabella didn’t kill Lisa or Luke, but she is a magnet for trouble. Wherever she goes, something bad happens that affects the lives of people associated with her. But Isabella isn’t inherently bad. At least, so far, it seems like she genuinely cares about Megan and the Landry family. And if it wasn’t for her, Megan wouldn’t have found out about Trevor’s letter as well. Is this Isabella’s way of proving her loyalty to Megan by endangering herself? Megan is the most interesting character here. Despite her being the de facto lead, we don’t know a lot about her. Her knowing Ned and Ned being present while Luke’s body was being taken out of the water by the police must have had some connection. We all want to know what really happened to Luke, but the burning question right now has to be this: who is Megan Landry, really?