Spoilers are ahead. After episode 5's deeply upsetting carnival, which realigned the key relationships between Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt), Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia), and Martin Harris (Blake Lee), Cruel Summer turns its eyes to the adults in the small town. Episode 5 is about Jeanette's parents, specifically Cindy (Sarah Drew) and what it was that turned her so vehemently against her daughter. It's an interesting tonal shift, as we ended the previous episode with full knowledge of the malicious and abusive intent that Martin had towards Kate. So now, shifting towards other adults with complicity in the situation makes a lot of sense. While there are no easy answers here, there's a lot to take away.
While we know that Greg Turner (Michael Landes) has — somewhat reluctantly — stuck by Jeanette, her mother's role has been unclear. But this episode, we see their wedding anniversary in each of the three timelines and suddenly everything becomes clear. Like most of what happens in 1993, the Turners were living in idyllic bliss. Their wedding anniversary was treated as almost a holiday in their house and it's just another part of the perfect life Jeanette didn't realize that she had. But in 1994, Cindy is already struggling with sliding down the town's social ladder and discovers what she believes — correctly — is the key to Martin's house under Jeanette's jewelry box. And that's where the unravelling truly begins.
There's a profound sadness to this episode as all of the family's problems come from the inherent lack of trust and openness that builds between parents and teenagers. While it does look bad that Jeanette has the key and we know she got addicted to breaking into his house (which comes into play later this episode), there is a relatively innocent explanation as to why she has it. But Cindy is so horrified to find it that when she speaks to Janette, she instead she asks questions in a roundabout way, hinting that she knows something without directly mentioning the key. Her daughter's own caginess in response just seems like more proof for Cindy that something is wrong. Greg, on the other hand, has such an unerring belief in his daughter that his wife's suspicions seem like a betrayal, and that no matter what the truth is, to many people, her actions will come across that way.
It's not just Jeanette's parents who are in the spotlight this week, though. Tanya Peterson (Kim Jackson Davis), the mother of Jeanette's ex-BFF Tennille, has chosen to depose herself in support of Kate. But Jeanette has a plan of her own. See, the thing that Tanya wants to expose is that in 1993, when she aggressively pursued a date with Martin, she found Jeanette hiding in his cupboard. The teen had been there trying to steal a CD as a gift for Vince (Allius Barnes), but in the process, she overheard Tanya forcing herself on Martin and casually boasting that she'd been committing major paternity and child support fraud. In a darkly revealing moment, Jeanette blackmails Tanya with her knowledge of the child support fraud in order to keep Tanya from testifying against her. Once again, Jeanette seems like the more suspicious character.
It is entirely possible she is just protecting herself from the rumor-mongering town. She has plenty of reasons to suspect that her neighbors will jump at any chance to attack her, especially the mother of her popular friends who never liked her. But engaging in blackmail certainly seems like she could be hiding her connection to Martin's home for her own more nefarious reasons.
It's all very nature versus nurture, which fits into the wider shape of this episode. Is Jeanette actually hiding something terrible that she witnessed and allowed to happen? Or has the behavior of the adults around her made her think that she has to hide the more innocent nature of her connection to his house, because otherwise she'll be villainized? The questions around Jeanette are a smart reflection of Kate's own struggle to tell the whole truth about what happened with Martin. Like Jeanette, she's afraid that she'll somehow be seen as culpable if she admits the whole truth — in Kate's case, that she was attracted to Martin before he took her prisoner in his home.
Just as episode 5 ended with the reveal that Kate had been groomed by Martin and was in the early stages of a crush on him in 1993, this episode finishes with more historical context for where we find ourselves in 1995. Jeanette's mom Cindy did visit Martin's house and tried the key, which is what led to her leaving the family home. It's a rare exploration of motherhood that centers a mother as her whole own person, outside of her children and will likely have viewers split down the middle. There's a power in Cindy choosing herself over her family, but it's a controversial decision and the way she does it impacts Jeanette and Greg forever. If you've been wondering what happened to Greg in 1994 that made him end up pushing Jeanette away in 1995, well, that would be because Cindy gave him the key too and encouraged him to go and see whether or not it fit the door. The final moments of "An Ocean Inside Me" show Greg walking in and realizing that whoever he thought his daughter was, there's an entire side to her that he doesn't know.
The biggest question now is did Greg ever actually broach this with Jeanette? Or did he follow his wife's lead and let it eat him up and destroy his relationship with his daughter? We know that Angela (Brooklyn Sudano) has been working to reconnect the pair. She holds no ill will towards Jeanette and instead wants her to find a peace in her life as it is now. She even shares a drink with Cindy in 1995 (Cindy's first appearance in that year) and counsels her on her choices and separation, supporting her choice to leave the family and building the career she always wanted. But Cindy hints that Greg might have lied to Angela about the separation, which means he could have also lied to her about Jeanette's possible involvement with Kate's abduction.
Whatever the truth turns out to be, we now know that Cindy's own struggles to seek out her own happiness and peace have massively impacted Jeanette's relationship with Greg, and quite possibly her future.