Grief is funny in that sometimes you can forget it for a bit, let loose, have fun, and bask in this one perfect day.
And then, like the other shoe dropping, or the rug being literally ripped from beneath your feet, it all comes crashing down again.
And thanks to the tense-filled moments at the beginning and devastating end of The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 2 Episode 4, that’s precisely what this hour captured so well.
Perfect days and moments don’t last too long because, eventually, life and reality catch up to you.
While we got a bit more insight into Julia and her background with Susannah via offhand comments from Skye, with the underhanded move by the end of the hour, it’s hard to view her as anything beyond villainous.
Fortunately, Elsie Fisher’s cousin Skye makes up some of that by being an endearing addition to this group of teens.
For some viewers, this is the type of installment that they’d thoroughly enjoy as, for the most part, much of the hour we got to spend with the teens of TSITP simply having fun and being teenagers enjoying their summer.
Given the heaviness of some of the subject matter and ongoing grief, everyone having a fun day on the boardwalk, laughing, competing, getting along, and not drowning in their own pain and suffering was refreshing and sweet.
The teens got a throwback to what made this place so special for them all these years. They relived some of their memories from their time spent there and the good times.
They got to clear the heads and be in the moment, getting wrapped up in one another’s company, their storied history that the actors sell so well, making us feel every bit like Skye, an audience insert, if you will, hearing about all their great times while also getting to experience everything firsthand ourselves.
And it was fun. It shockingly consumed much of the hour, and it did not particularly feel as if it was moving the plot forward that much; up to ten minutes of these activities would’ve sufficed anyway.
But we got almost a full hour of hanging out with the Fishers, Conklins, and friends, creating escapism for the audience as much as for the characters.
They sprinkled in a few obligatory flashbacks to previous times at the boardwalk in past summers to further muddle the love triangle between the Fisher boys.
Belly could really see how shitty Conrad made her feel when she was 13, claiming he wanted to spend the day with her when he really hoped to get closer to a beautiful redhead running the ring toss.
And the significance of the stuffed animal, him getting what the redhead claimed was the best of the bunch to give to Belly, versus Conrad knowing then and even now what she wanted, wasn’t lost.
He made it so hard not to love him. When he was sweet like this, he made me remember why I did, used to love him, I mean.
It was a small moment of personal triumph on Belly’s part that she chose her giraffe stuffed animal even when Conrad suggested she get another of the ones he got all those years before.
The thing about Conrad is he’s not malicious or intentionally unkind and inconsiderate of Belly’s feelings. But he’s typically so aloof and self-consumed with his own deep feelings of pain, insecurity, sadness, anxiety, and more that he doesn’t always know how to deal with everyone else around him.
Belly’s coming into her own, and again, I can’t stop gushing enough about the fabulous, nuanced performances that Lola Tung is bringing this season.
One can feel Belly’s maturity as she continues to evolve, including her more realistic perception of Conrad.
She cares about him, no doubt. She likely still loves him too, which in no way detracts from what they could be again. But her feelings about Conrad are no longer colored by rose-tinted glasses and the idealism of her crush.
Conrad isn’t a perfect guy. For Belly, he’s no longer this idealistic concept. She’s experienced how flawed and distinctly human he is, which has muted her feelings toward him, bringing things back to reality in a way necessary for her growth.
And I love that for her. Things are going well between them. They’re getting along just fine despite the initial awkwardness of their reunion in The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 2 Episode 2.
They still haven’t had the conversations that they probably need to work through some things, but there is a bit of them slipping back into the comfort of what they were before they started dating.
And it’s fascinating to see how easily Belly has managed to do that, while Conrad is the one who seems the most awkward regarding that.
Belly has no delusions about Conrad anymore, which on the one hand, can make their relationship even stronger, especially romantically, if they pursue that again, and on the other hand, frees her from the childhood naivete and innocence she had before.
It marks a necessary transition, which is enjoyable to witness regardless of the outcome for any fan of Belly as an individual rather than just Belly/Conrad as an entity.
With a clearer perspective, Belly can analyze things from the past and see them for what they were, good and bad.
It’s not a slight to Conrad that she recognizes how he’s hurt her before without even realizing it, but it is her reality.
And through that, she also sees how things were different between her and Jeremiah. It feels like a notable shift in the love triangle that has started putting Jeremiah on a more even playing ground than before.
Interestingly enough, he’s not even trying to get on that field. He’s just being loving, supportive, charming, sweet Jeremiah. And Belly feels more drawn to that and has a modicum of emotional maturity and openness that differs from her experience with Conrad.
Belly’s newfound appreciation for Jeremiah and what he adds to her life feels natural and nice, and there’s no guarantee of where it’s going or if it’ll go anywhere at all.
Jeremiah: It’s okay to be scared.
Belly: ESP tell you that?
Jeremiah: No, your face did. Hey, don’t worry, I’m right there with you, okay?
Belly voiceover: Jeremiah is always there when I need him.
Taylor astutely sees it, which contrasts with Steven’s thinking that he sees sparks still between Conrad and Belly.
Belly does have a calming presence on Conrad and an ability to shift his mood when it’s required.
He isn’t handling things well with Julia, and their interactions are so fraught with tension that it makes everyone uncomfortable.
Conrad doesn’t know how not to be an asshole with her, but you can understand that to a degree, especially as he’s still processing his emotions however he can.
Conrad can’t fake playing nice, and I can’t fault him for that, even if his ire can be intense.
Julia: I understand your family has wonderful memories here, and you will always have them. Memories are like that.
Conrad: It is not the same, and you know that.
He’s so overwhelmed with emotions that he doesn’t know what to do with them all. It’s no wonder he’s been having more panic attacks than usual.
I appreciated the bonding between him and Steven as Steven told him about the first time they took him surfing and remarked how cool he thought Conrad was then and now.
Steven has missed his friends, and we rarely see the closeness of the bond between the boys in that way. I love that Steven was there to help Conrad and be who he confided in about Stanford ahead of anyone else.
And as usual, Conrad doesn’t want to think about relocating and leaving Jer on one side of the country while he’s on another when he feels things are getting back to normal between them.
Steven: So you want to tell me what got you all worked up, or be bros and pretend this never happened?
Conrad: I found out I got into Stanford.
They lost their mother, and he doesn’t want to lose his brother or make his brother feel like he’s losing him.
But so far, Conrad’s plan to stop Julia from selling the beach house consisted of him being petulant and biting to her. And Julia was no better being a royal biotch to these teenagers who were supposed to be family to her.
It’s like no one has any regard for the time everyone needs to grieve. If we’re guessing that Susannah died sometime in May, why would anyone think these grieving kids would be okay with losing something their mother loved by June?
It doesn’t matter what the story is behind Julia and Susannah’s history and their inability to resolve things. Why is Julia this heartless and callous about these literal kids?
Skye tried to defend their mother a bit, which was a valiant effort. Through Skye, we learned that the last time they saw each other was at a Christmas event where Julia wanted to resolve issues from their past, and Susannah was too caught up in a picture-perfect Christmas with the family.
Julia left in tears, prompting her and Skye to have pizza for Christmas, and they simply never saw their family again. What history could possibly justify all of this? Who knows?
Julia’s feelings may be valid, but her actions just aren’t, no matter how much Skye wants to defend their mother.
It’s disheartening that whatever happened between Julia and Susannah; it affected the children. The more we got to know Skye outside their mother’s reach, playing in the arcade and getting roped in the competition with Belly and Conrad, the more lovable they were.
They seem like a good kid, and it hurt your heart that they didn’t get to grow up with the Fisher boys and Belly, experiencing the magic of Cousins Beach, too.
They would’ve fit in wonderfully, and it would be such a great experience, considering Skye is so introverted and seemingly anti-social.
You know what they say about cousins being your first best friends. Skye could’ve had that. The longer Skye hung out with the others and genuinely enjoyed themselves, the more I wished they had gotten to be part of their lives the entire time.
As an aside, I loved how realistic it was that they had some of the characters accidentally misgendering Skye before getting it right.
My mom’s not evil, Conrad, and your mom wasn’t a saint.
So often, it turns into a big thing with only the harmful component of it showcased, and I appreciated how they showed that these people who haven’t seen Skye in a while might accidentally do it at first before getting it right with ease and correcting each other.
The boys went from resistant and rude to Skye, particularly Conrad, to embracing them and having a good time in a way they probably would’ve been in another lifetime.
It was a perfect, magical time of the kids being in their own bubble, untouched, just being kids and having a good time.
We knew it had to come crashing down, but no one could’ve anticipated it would happen like it did in those last moments.
It sucked that Julia even put Skye in the position to potentially face the anger or heartbreak of Conrad, Jeremiah, and Belly when they returned to the empty house.
You could see Skye checking their phone, trying to figure out if Julia had even texted or called them about her plans and what she did while they were away.
The emptiness of that house was utterly heartbreaking, and you could see that it caught them all so far off guard that they couldn’t do anything but stare, stunned, at their second home being empty as they held back tears.
It was positively monstrous of Julia to do that, denying them even the chance to go through Susannah‘s belongings or their own. I called that woman everything in the book in my head for such a horrendous, heartless, trifling maneuver.
Understandably, Julia says she can’t afford to keep the maintenance up on that beach house year-round just for anyone to frequent it during the summer.
However, there were better ways to handle things.
Interestingly, the kids are keeping Laurel out of this altogether, as Laurel would be formidable enough to stand up against Julia in some capacity.
Surely, as Susannah’s best friend, Laurel knows a bit more, even if it’s just Susannah’s perspective, about why there is so much friction between the sisters.
But we did get some lovely content for Laurel during this installment.
She was still having a hard time during the writer’s tour, but the appearance of Cleveland certainly helped things.
Cleveland’s return to series was handled perfectly and felt organic to the storytelling. In contrast, Cam randomly working at the arcade and then spending the entire day emceeing the competition instead of working his shift did not.
I love Cleveland and Laurel. They have something special there, even though things fizzled out between them. He’s the perfect shoulder for her to lean on during such a trying time, and I like that he always feels tuned into Laurel and her needs, even when she isn’t to herself.
Cleveland: Look, things may have fizzled between us, but you can always talk to me.
Laurel: We had so long to prepare for this, and I still have no fucking idea how to process it, let alone talk about it.
One of the best quotes of the hour was what he said about the support he got during his depression. He didn’t want friends who tried to lift him out of this dark place because it was a near-impossible task.
He was grateful for the friends who got down and dirty in the muck with him, allowed him to experience his feelings, and gave him companionship while he worked through things.
Cleveland is 100% correct about letting her kids get to see her grieving. They’re all going through it, and her attempts at being strong and acting as if she’s carrying on and unaffected are failing and straining things with her and Belly, particularly.
Laurel needs to let Belly in. She needs to allow them to grieve together and support each other openly so neither feels as if they have to bottle up and hide their emotions or push them down.
It’s one of those things that feel so profoundly cultural, too, that I genuinely look forward to Laurel and Belly breaking through that cycle and this societal and cultural notion that one has to conceal and bottle up their emotions rather than feeling and sharing them.
I want that for them so desperately, especially for Laurel. Susannah always helped her with that, and it’s like, without her best friend, she’s untethered and closing up into herself.
Cleveland is so soft, gentle, tender-hearted, and kind. He shows Laurel so much grace and reverence that I genuinely hope they share more time together.
And he was so good for Conrad, too, so hopefully, he can get in touch with him as well. Conrad needs that as well.
I had a really bad episode of depression a few years ago. It felt like I was sitting in the bottom of a deep hole, looking at the world going on above me. The friends that helped me the most were not the ones who tried to get me out of the hole. It was the friends who climbed down into the hole and sat with me a bit to really make things better. It isn’t a right way to do this, Laurel.
Sometimes, The parallels between Conrad and Laurel are so striking that one wonders why they don’t play around with them more.
It’s also interesting to note how Julia and Susanna and their relationship connects with Conrad and Jeremiah and theirs.
As much as Conrad seems to loathe his Aunt Julia, they share a similar knack for guarding their hearts and keeping their walls up, sometimes to the detriment of those around them.
On the flip side, hearing about Julia’s desire to unpack some of the past with her sister and talk things through and have her feelings validated compared to Susannah’s willingness to make sure things were perfect and happy and leave the past behind them feels familiar.
The past doesn’t determine your fate. It’s the choices that you make today. Trust me; I know things.
It reminds one a bit of how Jeremiah is more emotionally open when it comes to his sibling relationship with his brother, and Conrad, like Susannah in this example, doesn’t want to unpack things and just wants things to be happy in the present without tapping into the emotional aspect of matters.
It’s such a tangled web with this family that they’ll hopefully unpack as the season progresses.
Over to you, TSITP Fanatics.
Were you devastated by that ending? What’s your impression of Skye? Do you think Belly is seeing the potential of things with Jeremiah? Sound off below!
The Summer I Turned Pretty returns with an all-new episode Friday on Amazon Prime Video.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You’ll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on Twitter.