Kim Jackson Davis as Tanya Peterson, Tennille's mom, in Freeform's 'Cruel Summer' also on Hulu

Umm, We Need To Talk About Tanya On Cruel Summer

Tennille's mom has a secret.


Just when you thought you’d met all the suspicious characters in Freeform’s Cruel Summer, the YA series drops another person in the mix who could completely change the entire story. While the May 18 episode highlighted how *ahem* untrustworthy Jeanette is, it also showcased another resident of Skylin, Texas, who’s not afraid to tell a lie. It turns out, Tennille’s mom, Tanya Peterson, is all kinds of sus. Episode 6 showed just how big of a role she plays in Kate and Jeanette’s story, and how she might be the link that finally leads to the truth.

Warning: Spoilers for Cruel Summer Season 1, Episode 6 follow. The major question fans are wondering while watching the series is “Did Jeanette (Chiara Aurelia) see Kate (Olivia Holt)?” The entire season, viewers are trying to figure out whether or not Jeanette knew Kate was being held hostage by their new vice principal, Martin Harris (Blake Lee). While that’s the major mystery surrounding the series, the introduction to Tennille’s mother might shine some light on what’s really going down.

In case you’re scratching your head, Tennille (Shelby Surdam) was one of Kate’s besties before jumping ship and befriending Jeanette when Kate went missing. Until Episode 6, Tennille’s mother, Tanya (Kim Jackson Davis), wasn’t really in the picture, but when she’s given the chance to tell her “story,” it really messes things up for Jeanette.

Freeform/Bill Matlock

Viewers got their first glimpse of Tanya — a retail saleswoman — while Jeanette and her friend, Mallory (Harley Quinn Smith) were shoplifting at the mall in 1993. The girls saw Tanya flirting with (an uninterested) Mr. Harris, who reluctantly agreed to go on a date with Tanya. Since Jeanette overhead their conversation and knew when his house would be free that night, she took the opportunity to break in, something she later told her friend, Vince (Allius Barnes), she did often.

Unfortunately for Jeanette, she didn’t quite get the memo as to when the date would end. She found herself hiding in Mr. Harris’ closet as Tanya tried (and failed) to seduce him. In an effort to soften Harris’ resolve, Tanya told him she was lying to her ex-husband so he’d pay child support for Tennille, even though (unbeknownst to him), she's not his biological daughter.

Later, when Tanya stumbled upon Jeanette hiding in the closet, the two agreed to keep their lips sealed: Jeanette wouldn’t tell anyone Tanya was lying for child support, and Tanya wouldn’t tell anyone Jeanette was in Mr. Harris’ house. Except, of course, a year later there’s a massive case surrounding whether or not Jeanette had *ever been* in Harris’ house, and Tanya — who loves attention — wanted her 15 minutes of fame.


So, when Tanya told a local news station Harris tried to force himself on her when she was at his home (which, to be fair, was not true as far as we know), Jeanette realized Tennille’s mother might rat her out for more time in the spotlight. And a year later, that’s exactly what Tanya intended to do. In 1995, Jeannette learned through her lawyer that Tanya said she had info that would affect the case.

So, what did Jeanette do? She visited Tanya at the store and threatened to spill the beans about Tennille’s father. "The provable facts I know could have devastating consequences on your family as you know it," Jeannette told Tanya. And not so shockingly, when Tanya was later questioned by lawyers, she lied and said she didn’t have reason to think Jeanette ever saw Kate in captivity.

While it seems like Jeanette covered her tracks, I have a feeling if Tanya has a change of heart, things will look even worse for Jeanette. Viewers will have to wait to see if Tennille's mom keeps quiet as Cruel Summer continues Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Freeform (and the following day on Hulu).