Kate Wallis is a victim.
On the June 8 episode of Cruel Summer, viewers learned the unexpected origins behind the popular girl's kidnapping. As fans of the show well know, Kate (Olivia Holt) willingly went to Vice Principal Martin Harris' (Blake Lee) house after a fight with her mother. What was even more surprising? In the latest episode, titled "A Secret of My Own," it was revealed that Kate and Martin had a months-long affair before the former ended up locked in a basement.
However, before you judge the teenager for running away and participating in an inappropriate dalliance, see what the Cruel Summer stars had to say about this, for lack of a better word, relationship. In an exclusive chat with E! News, Olivia and Blake sounded off on their characters' involvement and highlighted how grooming played a major factor.
Despite Kate's confidence and popularity, Olivia defended that her character is like every other teenager trying to find their place in the world. "So, I think, having all those elements in place and then meeting someone who she truly believes understands her and hears her and believes in her is sort of what she sees," she explained. "But, on the other side, it's pure grooming. It's pure manipulation."
Per Olivia, she did a lot of research to properly portray a victim of manipulation and grooming.
Like Olivia, Blake made it abundantly clear that there was nothing consensual about Kate and Martin's relationship. Even though Martin didn't expect Kate's arrival in episode seven, Blake noted that the educator-turned-kidnapper "set out the blueprints for it to happen."
"He spoke to Kate as a peer, as an adult, he didn't talk to her like a teacher talking to a student," he said. "He tried to find things that they had in common and that he could relate to. So, I don't think that he thinks of himself as a bad person because that's the only way that he'd be able to get through his day-to-day life. But I do think that all of the groundwork that he puts in, it all kind of comes together in the way that he hoped."
Still, by the end of episode nine, Kate and Martin's bubble existence in the house imploded when Kate decided she was ready to go home. However, in order to prevent that, the vice principal locked Kate away.
On why it was important to show this escalation from manipulated complacency to imprisonment, the stars revealed it was so viewers wouldn't romanticize Kate and Martin's relationship. "I think that Tia [Napolitano] did a great job of showing the boundaries and watching him try to fight it, but then, ultimately, not," Blake noted. "The audience should never root for these people to be together."
Supporting this sentiment, Olivia added, "Never!"
The season finale of Cruel Summer airs June 15 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Freeform and next day on Hulu.