This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Episode seven of The Summer I Turned Pretty season two, “Love Affair,” begins with some of the best performances we’ve seen yet this season. As morning comes after a whirlwind of a retro-themed party, Belly wakes up not just with the worst hangover, but with the bubble of Cousins officially burst. Of course, it doesn’t help her bad mood nor her headache that she’s woken up by her mom, Laurel, yelling at her and demanding to know what she, Steven, Jeremiah, and Conrad have done to the house. At first, Belly is confused why Laurel is even there, until she remembers that she drunk-dialed her, sobbing and saying that she needs her mom to come fix the mess that they’ve all gotten themselves into.
Their ensuing conversation is heartbreakingly emotional, as all of their mixed emotions come to the surface over the way they’ve each been harboring grief from Susannah’s death and how that’s effected their relationship. Personally, though, I walk away from this first scene being firmly Team Laurel, because this show has seemingly all but forgotten that while Belly certainly deserves to grieve, her pain is not worse than Laurel, who lost her best friend, or the Fisher boys, who lost their mother. I’m glad that we finally get to see Laurel reveal how she’s been dealing with — or, rather, not dealing with — her loss.
A New Villain’s in Town
Of course, while Laurel and Belly have some issues to work through, Laurel hardly emerges as the villain of the episode or the season, as she quickly pledges to help the Cousins crew save the house. Enter Julia, who at this point is just a cloak and broom away from being a wicked witch. Shocked at finding the house in shambles after the party, she turns to Laurel to help, though Laurel quickly puts her in her place by siding with the kids. Finally, we get the full revelation of what Julia and Susannah’s relationship has been like, after several allusions throughout the rest of the episodes, though it seems entirely too one-dimensional. I certainly am not a Julia fan, but I wish that she had more of a character development than being the stereotypical jaded black sheep of the perfect family.
The one intriguing aspect of Julia’s truth monologue, though, is how she also felt slighted by Laurel, Steven, and Belly for how close they were to the Fisher family and to the Cousins house. Julia even goes as far as to point out that when Laurel writes in her memoir that she and Susannah were sisters, it was clear to Susannah’s actual sister that there was no place for her and Skye in the perfect world of Cousins. She felt so excluded to the point where she didn’t even know Susannah was sick and couldn’t attend her funeral, though now she wishes she could do something to mend their relationship and say goodbye. As Laurel quickly suggests, the thing that could retroactively fix Julia and Susannah’s broken sisterhood is to let Conrad and Jeremiah keep the Cousins house.
Suddenly Julia is the best thing that has happened to Cousins as she immediately agrees to back out of the sale. This, of course, leaves it up to Conrad and Jeremiah’s father, Adam (Tom Everett Scott), to decide whether or not he wants to purchase the Cousins house or allow the boys to access their trust funds. Just as Julia turns into the hero of the summer, Adam immediately takes her place as the half-formed villain, complete with demeaning Laurel and yelling at his two sons. While last season hinted at Adam not being the best husband or father, this episode positions him as the worst of the worst, which I would have liked to see fleshed out a little more.
The Boys are Back
With Adam to team up against, Conrad and Jeremiah make up from their epic standoff last episode. They agree that they just need to simply talk about the things that bother them, which circles back nicely to how open The Summer I Turned Pretty has been about showing men having real emotions and struggling with their feelings. There’s still a little bit of tension, though, mainly over Belly. As each boy interacts with Belly, we see plenty of side-eye from the other brother, clearly alluding to Belly and their respective love for her being the one thing that maybe they can’t, or shouldn’t, talk about just yet.
But for one more shiny night, the whole gang is back together (save for Cam Cameron, who disappeared the moment the clock struck midnight, Skye, who left with little more than a plate of leftovers, and Taylor, who had to head off to volleyball camp right when things were getting good with her and Steven.) There’s dancing, there’s cheeseburgers, there’s camaraderie, and even though Susannah’s not there, she would be proud of the legacy that she passed on. Things start to feel a little more normal with the four of them spending a fun time together in the house that brought them all together. For once, after days and episodes of trying to recapture the magic from their childhood in various outlets, it seems that all it took to mend the fabulous foursome of the Fisher and Conklin siblings is to just let it all go and accept things as they are.
But pretty soon everyone’s packing up to head home and it feels like the end of the summer until we’re reminded that it is only just beginning as the Fishers and Conklins plan on another trip to Cousins on July 4th. It’s crazy to think how much has happened in just a few days and that summer is far from over — Conrad’s school year hasn’t even finished yet. Their all-nighter of fun and friendship was also a late-night study session for Conrad to finish his final exams at Brown University, all in hopes of passing so he can successfully transfer to Stanford.
As Belly and Jeremiah drop Conrad off to take his exam, though, it feels like fall is in the air, tinged with the winds of change. Belly expresses her dreams of the future: a future of stability, of reality, of adulthood. And while Conrad was everything that her past self wanted, the future she sees might not have room for her childhood fantasy anymore.
Images Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video
Rating - 6/10