When Team Jellyfish unfurls its tentacles at the conclusion of The Summer I Turned Pretty season 2, Conrad's the one who ends up stung.
It's a huge fall for the oldest Fisher brother (Christopher Briney) from the start of the episode, when he's unusually smiley and upbeat, having just nailed his final and locked in his transfer to Stanford. His next step is to find his girl and tell her he loves her…
…until he sees said girl making out with his brother against his car.
At Jeremiah's (Gavin Casalegno) urging, Belly (Lola Tung) runs after him. Conrad lashes out, accusing her of going after Jere to make him jealous, which won't work since he doesn't want her anymore anyway. I mean, at least he's consistent in his utter inability to be honest about his feelings.
Poor Connie ends up abandoning most of his belongings and heads back to the car, where Jeremiah insisted on waiting for him, despite his clear concern that Belly actually did make out with him to get Conrad's attention.
Nobody's sure what to expect when Conrad rolls up, but it's for sure not his aggressive, almost frightening cheerfulness as he climbs into the backseat for the ride home. (Floor Cry's spooky cover of "Happy Together" is the perfect soundtrack.)
At first he chides Jeremiah for not realizing Belly will get carsick if she keeps reading in the car, letting Jere point out that she popped a Dramamine earlier. Then he snarkily compliments her on his Brown sweatshirt before asking about their romantic Finch excursion. He finally segues into how long they've been back together, dredging up Jeremiah's hookup history in the process. It's not until he asks which brother's the better kisser that the pair in the front seat get really annoyed.
I will say, this is the most alive Conrad's been all season, and I… I kinda like it. He's lit up from the inside, even if it's fueled with hurt and jealousy and pettiness.
Okay, let's leave that unhappy trio for a bit to check in on the other Conklins. Laurel (Jackie Chung) channels her inner Susannah, encouraging Steven (Sean Kaufman) to have a fun, chill summer with his girlfriend, and Steven in turn encourages his mom to hit a literary meetup that she's worried she's too midlist and suburban for.
Unfortunately, Steven's date with Taylor (Rain Spencer) turns out to be a group hang with the volleyball girlies, one of whom breaks the news that Milo wrote an entire diss album about him. Ha!!
The girls talk volleyball camp, which segues to Taylor and Steven discussing Belly's romantic triumphs that week. But oops, they each think a different brother emerged as the winner, and things get tense.
After the rest of the group bail, Taylor admits she's not enjoying the bicker-flirting anymore, especially with Steven staying loyal to Conrad, who broke Belly's heart. (Also, she's absolutely correct that the "Conrad was crappy to Belly because his mother was dying" holds no water because JEREMIAH WAS ALSO DEALING WITH HIS MOTHER'S DEATH AND MANAGED TO BE DECENT, SHEESH.)
The night ends with Steven alone, angrily eating a sandwich while listening to Milo's diss track "Getting Even with Steven," which is yards and yards more clever and self-aware than I would've expected. (Can Steven do a pullup?) Paired with Taylor ignoring his texts, Steven's left unsure of where he stands with her.
Still, it's better than the road trip from hell, which has slowed to a crawl thanks to a rainstorm that leads to flash flooding. When they pull off the highway for snacks, Jeremiah grabs Swedish Fish for Belly, arguing they're no different than Conrad's choice of Sour Patch Kids, which he claims are her favorite.
Jere, what? Those two things are so wildly, extremely different! One has a sweet and simple flavor profile, maybe overwhelmingly so, while the other's bracingly tart with a layer of sugar that — ohhhh, okay, got it, got it.
amazon studios Gavin Casalegno (Jeremiah), Christopher Briney (Conrad)
Before they leave, Jeremiah tells Conrad that he never stopped liking Belly, and although Conrad doesn't respond, we all know what's burning in his heart, his brain, on the tip of his tongue, ready to be shouted out: it's not that Conrad never stopped liking Belly; it's that he never stopped loving her.
But he stays silent, and when they get back in the car, Belly excitedly chooses the Sour Patch Kids. And, well, even the staunchest members of Team Jere have to admit that this… this isn't great. Should candy preference be the basis to determine fundamental romantic compatibility for the rest of your life? Honestly, maybe!
The storm's bad enough that the trio head to a nearby motel, where there's only one room left, and that room has only one bed because of course it does. This trope's a classic for a reason.
Conrad hangs back, giving Jere the chance to tell Belly that he's just waiting for her to run back to Conrad once she realizes he's still in love with her. She swears he's not and she won't, but she promises to talk to Connie in the morning, then heads off to shower.
At the vending machines, Jeremiah insists that Conrad talk to him about the situation. We love a communication king! Conrad finally admits that he still loves Belly, and Jeremiah insists that she deserves to know how Conrad feels, and he deserves to know who she'll pick when all their cards are on the table. And although he'd fight like hell for Belly if it were anyone else, he'll step aside if she chooses Conrad.
Unaware of the negotiations happening outside, Belly answers a call from Laurel and asks what it feels like to fall out of love. Her mom's authorly advice is that love has different seasons, and her more practical advice is to decide if you're remembering what you used to have or if you're looking forward to what you could have. She also says it's okay if Belly doesn't know yet. (This is also very good advice! Take your time, baby girl. You're still young!)
Then Laurel walks into the author event, where she gets an enthusiastic greeting from the other authors, who encourage her to read from her book. She chooses the section where Susannah stayed with her while she gave birth to Belly, "our special girl."
Okay, quick timeline sidenote: Laurel says Susannah died about a month ago, and WHAT? So we have prom in early May, then the Belly-Susannah conversation we're about to discuss, then Susannah's death and the events of the funeral. But now Conrad's in the middle of finals in… early June? But high school's out. How much time passed between the funeral and now? I thought it had been a couple of months, especially with Conrad and Belly declaring that they're O-V-E-R each other, but we know they just made plans for July 4, so —
You know what? It's Jeremy Bearimy. Let's move on.
At the motel, the boys give Belly the bed, each claiming the floor on opposite sides of her. And while Jere manages to nod off, a still-awake Conrad quietly tells a still-awake Belly, "I still want you. Of course I do."
And then we flash back to Belly's final conversation with Susannah (Rachel Blanchard), who's too exhausted to hang on to her usual sunny self. Still her face lights up when Belly walks into the room.
They talk about prom and the breakup, and Susannah asks Belly to look after Conrad, who still loves her. Belly insists that Susannah will be there to do that herself, even though she doesn't believe it, then she crawls onto her sickbed so Susannah can hold her as tightly as she's able.
"Bigger Than the Whole Sky" is playing when Jeremiah enters the room, sees Belly, and excuses himself right away. Susannah assures her that she, Jere, and Conrad will find a way back together someday. Then the two cry and affirm how much they love each other as Taylor sings about goodbyes.
DEVASTATING use of Ms. Swift — although the show isn't done with us (or Taylor) quite yet.
The next morning, Belly finds Jeremiah outside the motel, having gone to grab them all breakfast. She tells him she talked to Conrad, and he braces himself to launch into a "we can still be friends" speech, but she interrupts him with a kiss. And then another and another.
amazon studios Gavin Casalegno (Jeremiah), Lola Tung (Belly)
Back in the room, Conrad lies and says he didn't mean what he said in the night. Belly isn't surprised by this inevitable give-and-take of feelings, and she makes the decision to evict him from her heart.
And that's when freaking "Exile" kicks up on the soundtrack. "EXILE." Truly, it's emotional terrorism as the saddest breakup song of the decade plays under Conrad returning Belly's infinity necklace with a finality that didn't exist the last time.
Then he leaves to catch a bus back to Cousins, confirming that he'll see them for the July Fourth holiday before quietly telling Jere to get Belly back home safely.
Conrad seems okay until he leaves the room and collapses against the wall, having just done… okay, maybe not the hardest thing in his life; he did bury his mother last month after all. But this was bad and hard and selfless.
Taylor Swift was right; Connie couldn't turn things around, so he's leaving out the, well, the only door.
Back at home, the other Taylor's getting ready for volleyball camp when Steven shows up with Belly's supplies, then takes the opportunity to call her out for bailing on him and leaving him on read.
Taylor admits that she's freaked. She's usually the one who cares the least in her relationships, but her crush on Steven's been so big for so long that she's scared of getting hurt.
When Steven promises that's not gonna happen, she backs him onto the hood of his car to kiss him, murmuring, "Team Staylor." "One thousand percent," he agrees.
They arrive at camp at the same time as Belly, who's all kissy with Jeremiah. Taylor's brother won! (She's magnanimous in victory.)
Steven asks Jere if he wants to play videogames, but he prefers to stay and watch Belly, so Steven bounces, which is weird. Wouldn't he want to stay too? (You're in the recording studio writing diss tracks, but I'm at her summer camp. We are not the same.)
Belly has one more obstacle to conquer this season, and that's Coach announcing in front of god and everybody that Belly isn't welcome at camp. And here's where we see a season of growth.
Belly takes responsibility for giving up on herself and for letting the team down. She promises that she'll work overtime to contribute if she gets another shot, down to being the equipment and Gatorade girl.
It works, and Belly delightedly joins her friends on the court.
And we close the season with Jeremiah beaming as he watches his girlfriend channel her Killa B instincts. With Conrad painting over the graffiti in the beach house and unpacking Junior Mint in Belly's newly restored bedroom. With Belly excited for a future that looks different than she always pictured as she spikes the volleyball.
Kissin' cousins corner
Season 2, like the summer of 2023 itself, flew by. And the characters who started off mired in grief end the run of episodes with growth and optimism. Season 3 (and the summer of 2024) can't come fast enough; I wonder what yet-to-be-written Taylor Swift songs will rip our hearts out then…
Okay, but what's that Fourth of July party gonna be like? Here's hoping somebody gives Conrad a hug between now and then. The boy needs it.
So do you prefer Swedish Fish or a Sour Patch Kids? And does your candy preference correspond with your brother preference? Please discuss, and show your work. (Also, this is a trick question. The superior gummy candy is Scandinavian Swimmers, the Trader Joe's version of Swedish Fish. Try it; you'll see.)
See you next summer at Cousins Beach, friends!
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