Hannah and Clay connect at the school dance, but a crass rumor ruins the mood. Clay takes Courtney to visit Hannah's grave.
Everyone has reacted very differently to the tapes that Hannah left behind. Clay is having the harshest reaction yet. He's lashing out because he wants to find meaning in all of this. He wants to hurt the people who hurt Hannah. He sees them as the reason why he couldn't have more of a relationship with her. Every time he made progress and was close to kissing her, something would happen that would only ruin Hannah's life more. And now, he's hurting the others for taking Hannah away from her. All of this has the potential to change once he listens to his own tape. The others who have heard all of them know just how game-changing that moment will be. So, it's fascinating to see all of them band together against Clay. Some of them were friends before all of this happened. That friendship was key to destroying Hannah's life. Justin, Alex, Jessica and Zach are all a part of the same group of friends. But it's also fascinating to see Courtney be complicit in all of this because she wants to keep her secret while the group alienates Tyler because they don't take him seriously as a threat to the secret. Clay is and they need to do something about that now.
Clay's inability to act on his feelings for Hannah may ultimately be the reason why he is on the tapes. He's a very awkward guy who never really made his move. The spark is there between them. Clay looks back on the school dance with regrets of not kissing Hannah. In his head, he can imagine this epic dance between them where he exudes so much confidence. But in reality, he was shy and awkward. He had to be pressured into going to the dance and then going up to Hannah. He's not confident with himself. So, that leaves him largely on the sidelines of Hannah's story. He doesn't help her when she needs it the most. He hears the hurtful things said about her. He claims that they don't change his feelings for her. And yet, he never seems to share those feelings to Hannah. He never makes it clear that he's a friend who can support her through this trying time. All of this is why he wants to take her seriously now. She's gone and he needs her death to mean something. He doesn't know the full truth. But he want people to pay for all the horrible things they did to Hannah.
Clay has already done that to Tyler. He took a picture of him and spread it through the rest of the school. And now, Tyler's the one being bullied. He's the one being ridiculed. At least, the school administration is away of that though. And yet, that only further showcases that Mr. Porter may not be all that good at his job because he simply doesn't understand the students at this school. He doesn't even know what pantsing is. That's how clueless he is. All of this could have major consequences for Clay. Right now, the parents are trying to learn if bullying goes on at this school and if the administration is even aware of it. None of the kids on the tapes have told their parents about them. They are maintaining the secrets. It's a bond of mutually assured destruction. Clay doesn't have that yet because he hasn't heard his tape and what horrible thing he did to Hannah. He's different from the rest in his reaction. But in reality, he may not be that much better. The other kids aren't afraid to take action to control the situation. Clay is a threat that should be taken care of because he is still intent on hurting the people who hurt Hannah.
In this episode, Courtney is the focus of the tape. The audience already has the foundation for her friendship with Hannah and the secret she is trying to keep. She's gay but doesn't want anyone to know. Even though she has two dads, this is something she wants to keep secret because she doesn't want to face all of that bullying just yet. She deflected when she was accused of being one of the kids in the picture Tyler took. She did so by starting a new rumor about Hannah. It's a horrifying moment that destroys their friendship for good. Hannah was working so hard to get back in the good graces of Courtney. She needed a friend right now. Courtney did too. She needed someone who understood what she was going through and didn't judge. Hannah could have been that person but Courtney panicked instead. She turned her classmates against Hannah once more. It was a selfish thing for her to do. And now, she's facing the scorn and judgment of Clay. He doesn't understand what's the big deal. He brings her to Hannah's gravesite not knowing the pain it will cause Courtney. He's clueless about the potential consequences of his actions. He doesn't understand other people's views of the world. He doesn't understand why Courtney did what she did. His acceptance of that fact may be important for the future. It may get him to back off on people until he knows the full truth.
And yet, Clay is also being pressured into maintaining the secrets of the tape by Justin and his group of friends. They've tried being nice and accepting to him. They've tried welcoming him into the group. They've tried casually stopping his questions and actions as he listens to each tape. But none of it has worked. In fact, he's only causing more damage. He's hurt Tyler and Courtney, with the expectation of more coming soon. So, it's understandable that Justin wants to change tactics. He does so in order to protect him and Jessica mostly. He, Zach and Alex kidnap Clay and then sped up in the car until Clay agrees not to hurt anyone else. It's a threat that they had no plans of actually acting on. It works because Clay agrees. But then, something more happens once Alex doesn't slow down. He's not reacting the same way as everyone else either. He actually believes in what Hannah said on the tapes. Justin is doing all of this to protect himself and Jessica. They believe Hannah was lying. Those lies could ruin their lives. But Alex knows exactly what he did and how it hurt Hannah. So, he may actually want to crash this car. The only reason he doesn't is because he's pulled over by a cop. That cop also happens to his father. So, he's able to avoid consequences. But none of this seems planned. And yet, it still gives Justin exactly what he wants in showing Clay that he can't trust anyone else with this information outside of the group.
Some more thoughts:
- "Tape 3, Side A" was written by Julia Bicknell and directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez.
- The school dance is also when Justin and Jessica seemingly got together. At the time, she was still furious with Alex and danced with Justin because she was upset and he was kind. But she also got too drunk and needed a friend to take care of her. Hannah was still a good friend to her despite all that Jessica did to her.
- Jessica keeps mentioning a party at her house that will be important in the later tapes. They are the game changer that Clay can't get to while he's still on this warpath. Those are the moments she's truly afraid of. Plus, it seems likely that something bad happened there since Jessica seemingly apologized to Hannah while she was drunk for how she reacted to the list.
- At first, it seems like Clay's mom has a meeting with the principal to know if the school is a safe place for her son. But then, it's revealed that she's one of the lawyers hired to defend the school in the lawsuit from the Bakers. That has the potential to really complicate things - especially if Clay comes clean with everything he knows.
- There was a spark between Tony and Ryan, the school's newspaper editor, right? They were very close together at the DJ booth at the school dance. Is that a new coupling the audience should be aware of? Or does it simply just casually reveal that Tony is gay?
- It's also revealed how Hannah and Tony knew each other. That had to be the case if he was willing to oversee this whole project with the tapes and help her parents in the aftermath of her death. And yet, it can't be too personal otherwise Hannah wouldn't have committed suicide because she would have had a friend she could talk to.
As noted in previous reviews from this show, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.