Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 3: “Mix Tape”
Directed by Mick Garris
Written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
* For a review of the previous episode, “Barney Rubble Eyes” – click hereclick here
* For a review of the next episode, “Modern Love” – click here
So the episode name’s been changed to “Mix Tape” and that’s fine because instead of sticking to song names, this one sort of encompasses the idea of being born in 1980s, or having lived through it. I was an ’80s baby, but obviously grew up in the era of mixtapes. I know the pain (and pleasure) of recording one tape to another, messing with the PLAY and RECORD buttons, all that. Nice slice of nostalgia we all love.
This episode opens on Carolina “Cricket” Diaz (Amber Coney) after stepping out of the camp showers. It’s a typical eerie slasher scene. Including flickering lights, darkened halls, a bit of piano music in the background. And of course Cricket heads out into the dark to get back to the cabins, putting her in harm’s way. Luckily for her she gets away with no incident. Only in the forest surrounding her lurk people in strange masks, almost occult-like or pagan masks. Something else lurks about Camp Stillwater.
Being set near the end of the ’80s, Satanic Panic is in full swing. We get a look at Cricket’s home life before camp, as her mother worries about the whole issue (or non-issue, as it turns out). The Diaz family are loving. While Cricket worries about her weight, her father Hector (Alex Fernandez) tells her that she’s “special” and it doesn’t matter that she isn’t exactly like women on television. At camp, Blair Ramos (Mark Indelicato) catches Cricket writing those nasty things about herself on the wall. What’s her endgame there?
Everyone else is doing their thing with camp in full swing. Alex Powell (Ronen Rubinstein) is dealing with the fallout of Blotter getting dosed – Amy Hughes (Elizabeth Lail) isn’t exactly convinced of Alex’s innocence. Of course Jessie Tyler (Paulina Singer) is being her usual asshole self while Drew Reeves (Zelda Williams) continues to glide under the radar, mostly.
We get a look at Cricket and Blair in high school, before camp. The title of the episode comes from Blair telling her she wants something more than sex, she wants something “mix tape” – romantic and all that. Now we know, Carolina only wants to get laid. Back at camp, she finds a note that neither she nor Blair wrote on the wall.
A great moment of editing and writing collide here. When Cricket wonders who else could’ve written on the wall, the scene switches to Deputy Garrett Sykes (Alberto Frezza) looking at a picture of The Tall Man (Tony Todd). Perfect.
When Cricket goes out to where the note suggested, she finds a fire blazing. Around it in the darkness stand those people in the pagan masks. A chase ensues. Then Cricket wakes up. Nice play! That next morning, Carolina is distracted and off in another world. She tells Amy and Jessie about the masks, the fire, all the strangeness of that dream. There’s a lot of paranoia already floating around. Excellent ingredient for any slasher horror, or horror mystery, however you want to categorise the show.
In high school, we see more of Cricket. A guy approaches her at a party and the slightest bit of attention leads her into the house with him.
Back to Stillwater. Deputy Sykes is out at the old cabin, the one where we initially saw The Tall Man at the series start, he looks at the piano. He finds a strange key that doesn’t make any noise, one marked with the same Satanic-like symbol as The Tall Man’s book in his picture. Hmm, interesting. All the while the pagan masked people watch Sykes.
Out to meet her admirer, Cricket comes across Damon (Andrew J. West) the drug dealer. Sykes interrupts this little moment, of course. But mostly Cricket seems disappointed to have not found Alex. Back to high school, Cricket sees the aftermath of having gone with that guy into the house, as he totally blows her off, laughing at her in the hallway. When we cut to camp, Blair is still trying to help his friend. Cricket is still plagued by having issues with her body, wanting to be a slut simply because that’s the high school marker of popularity.
In other news, Joel Goodson (Eli Goree) is trying hard to continue the burgeoning relationship with Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell), the camp’s head honcho. He even drops a Harold and Maude reference, talks about Five Easy Pieces. Some admirable references, I must say.
The danger is gradually coming towards Cricket. She thinks Alex is after her, but he’s more interested in Amy, who in turn is not interested in him. However, a lie concocted by Jessie and perpetuated by Cricket gets them all out on the town, in the bar, away from Amy. When Cricket realises things with Alex aren’t going anywhere, she gets into a bit of uncharted territory. She wants to make him jealous, but the way through being Damon doesn’t exactly make anything less dangerous.
Joel is busy splicing reels together for their big film night, as Amy hangs out and they chat about reality, Time Bandits, all kinds of things. We find out, more than we already knew, that Amy is “super zen” – how Joel puts it. She doesn’t care about meeting guys. She wants to make friends and enjoy herself at camp. Meanwhile, we zip back to high school where Cricket is still struggling, hard, with boys and body image. When she goes home after school Cricket finds her father having just hopped out of bed with a younger, more thin woman than her mother. Yeah, because that’s going to help her issues. Poor girl.
Cut back to camp – Damon takes Cricket for a ride. She figures out he wrote the note in the cabin and even punches him in the face. “Every camp has a whore,” Damon says in front of the whole group. Alex takes a swing at the guy, knocks him around pretty good. Fairly eventful.
At the same time as Alex and Cricket head back to the cabin together, Drew locks lips with Blair. Yowzahs. Everybody’s making out now with Alex and Cricket following suit. Bitter irony: as they fall on the floor, likely about to have sex, she finds Blotter’s mix tape that he made her. What a juxtaposition that is to see. Back in high school, Carolina tells her mother about seeing her father with another woman. Seems that mom knows. She doesn’t want to rock the boat and this really bothers her daughter. “Women like us, sometimes we have to settle,” her mother says in a sad, tragic moment. But at camp, this memory propels Cricket away from the mistake she’s about to make with Alex. She and Blair meet up later and now she’s finally realised he was right about wanting the mix tape-type love.
Simultaneously, Jessie and Sykes – Braces and Townie – are rekindling their old romance. However, Sykes stops short of embracing her. Is he now interested truly in Amy? Or just not interested in Jessie? We’ll see.
Around the woods still waits the pagan masked cult. They’ve even got Cricket’s shoes, the ones she thought were lost, the ones that were in the mud in her supposed dream. When the shoes get dumped in the lake, we also get a look at Blotter’s cut off hand still holding a baby bottle full of juice. Nasty, nasty business.
The next day Amy tries building a bridge between her and Jessie. She knows Jessie’s grandmother didn’t die, as the concocted story went earlier, but does so with a tongue firmly in cheek, trying to make Jessie feel bad as possible. In other news Sykes is tracking down more information relating to The Tall Man, Camp Stillwater, and whatever madness has been linked to their joint history. He finds a soldier’s journal from 1871 talking about Holyoke, some kind of occult leader, as well as all kinds of further craziness. We understand now that The Tall Man is known as Holyoke. Though his boss doesn’t believe any of it, Sykes is stuck. Will he uncover more truths long buried?
There’s still mystery circling around Ms. Mitchell, too. The box she keeps at her cabin is shrouded in dark, purposefully kept secret. She places it in a closet. Inside, there’s also a pagan mask. Much like the one worn by those people creeping around the camp grounds. Oh, Ms. Mitchell; what treasures you hold! Then we also see Damon slipping into one of those masks, a couple friends along with him. All the while things from that soldier’s diary repeat – the deer eviscerated, the cult. Things are getting incredibly dark.
With a bit of Jane’s Addiction playing in the background, Cricket puts on her nice bikini and hits the beach for a bit of volleyball. Her body almost knocks Alex flat. But the real good stuff is happening with Damon, those masked people, as they conduct a ritual. They even brought along The Tall Man’s skull – ahh, now we understand what he wanted with those bones. The skull, a deer’s heart, and the promise: “Her blood will bring yours.”
And when Amy goes into the lake to retrieve an errant volleyball, she witnesses the water boil with blood. A horrific image appears to her – a stag’s head. The sky above gets dark suddenly and everyone starts running inside. Amy gets struck by lightning and floats face first in the water. At the shore, Damon and his cult buddies realise it isn’t Cricket they needed; it’s Amy.
Very cool episode. Everything’s not perfect, but it is exciting, dark, and has a lot of interest going on with various characters. Some people and reviews claim the characters are thin and underdeveloped. I don’t know what show they’re watching.
Stick with me. “Modern Love” is up next. I can’t wait to see what more macabre delights this series has in store.