Chiara Aurelia as Jeanette and Olivia Holt as Kate in Freeform's 'Cruel Summer' also on Hulu

The 'Cruel Summer' Mirror Theory, Explained

Originally Published: 
Freeform/Frank Ockenfels

What makes watching a thriller series so, well, thrilling is trying to figure out the big reveal before the final credits roll. Freeform's new YA series Cruel Summer is a perfect example. As the teen mystery/drama leaves fans guessing and speculating after each new twist, a major fan theory has emerged and it just might explain what's actually going on in the town of Skylin, Texas. If you haven't heard about it yet, the Cruel Summer two-way mirror theory might have you thinking about Jeanette and Kate in a totally new way.

From the series' premiere on April 20, it was clear the two main characters were very different individuals who each envied something about the other. Kate (Olivia Holt) was a popular girl whose family life felt unsteady and who always felt like she had to perform versus be herself. Jeanette (Chiara Aurelia), on the other hand, was unpopular and while she longed to be liked, she had a family that generally respected who she was as a person.

After Kate went missing, Jeanette somehow filled her shoes, gaining the love of Kate's boyfriend, Jamie (Froy Gutierrez) and admiration from Kate's popular friends. So, it was a pretty big deal when Kate returned from being held hostage and told the world Jeanette knew where she had been but did nothing to help. Even though Jeanette denied knowing anything about Kate's whereabouts, she quickly went from being newly popular to "the most detested person in America."

Freeform/Bill Matlock

Warning: Spoilers for Cruel Summer Episode 3 follow. While the big question in this story is about who's telling the truth, a recent fan theory might explain how both of these girls are telling their own, honest versions of what happened. Enter: the two-way mirror theory. Basically, the theory — which has been posited by fans all over social media — says Kate was unknowingly being held hostage behind a two-way mirror. So, if Jeanette broke into Martin's house (which she told Vince (Allius Barnes) she often did in Episode 3), Kate might have seen her through the mirror, whereas Jeanette would have only seen her own reflection.

If you recall, early on in the series, Jeanette discovered a room of mirrors while exploring Martin's basement. While you'd think that would be something investigators would consider, perhaps Martin removed the mirrors after Kate escaped (if she escaped versus getting rescued — we still don't exactly know how she got out). This, paired with the fact that the promo poster for the series shows both girls looking into a mirror and seeing the other's reflection (with the line "the truth is how you see it") seems pretty telling. If this is a case of a mirror playing tricks on them, it would explain why each girl insists they're telling the truth, because they are. Their own version of it, at least.


What makes all of this extra confusing, however, is the fact that Kate had Jeanette's necklace and was using that as proof that Jeanette had seen her when she was trapped. When questioned about it, Jeanette said she threw the necklace away after having a falling out with her friend Mallory (Harley Quinn Smith), who gave it to her as a birthday gift. This could be completely true; maybe Jeanette tossed the necklace out in Martin's house (since this was a place she had a great, Mallory-related memory). Or, maybe it fell off when she broke in and Kate found it.

That said, the necklace was purchased at the mall the same day Jeanette was there chatting with Kate. Kate later complimented Jeanette on the necklace, so who knows? Maybe Kate purchased one herself and after Jeanette said she didn't see her and decided to use her own necklace as "proof."

Whatever actually went down, it seems like the creepy mirror in the basement could play a role in the whole "she said, she said" thing. Or it could all just be smoke and *mirrors* to throw viewers off what's actually going on. Continue your detective work as Cruel Summer continues on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Freeform and the following day on Hulu.

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