EPISODE 3: “Tape 2, Side A”
1. Tape 3 is for Alex.
Did you think it would be for anyone else? Alex’s story is thoroughly intertwined with Jessica’s. He’s the one who wrote that damning list, he also left Hannah behind, and he “traded up” for cooler friends. But what exactly did he do or say to Hannah?
2. Justin’s home life is a mess.
Before we find out more about Alex, we see Justin coming to grips with his situation. He’s still at Bryce’s, but while he’s alone, he stumbles around Bryce’s beautiful home, stopping to take a long look at a family portrait. He cries because his home life is nothing like this one; he can’t stay at home with his mom and her latest meth-head boyfriend, and the only comfort he has now is Jessica, who shows up at Bryce’s to talk Justin through everything.
3. Mrs. Baker learns about high school culture.
After discovering the list in episode 2, Mrs. Baker works quickly to find out how else the school and its students treated Hannah. She tries to talk to the principal, but given the lawsuit she and her husband have against the school, he can offer very little other than his condolences. Disappointed by the outcome, Mrs. Baker cries in the bathroom — and then notices the messages scrawled on the stalls. They’re lewd notes left behind by girls, calling each other sluts and whores and insulting anyone who sees them. Horrified, Mrs. Baker takes snapshots of the notes, and by the time she leaves, she’s in no mood for Courtney’s memorial, only noting that if Courtney really knew Hannah, she’d have known Hannah hated roses.
4. Porter is still hoping to talk to all of the students.
Meanwhile, the guidance counselor is still poking around for more information. He seems uneasy about Hannah, telling the principal he only ever talked to her about colleges. Later, he even meets with Courtney and Marcus, hoping to get a better sense of how the student body is reacting. But something tells me he’s also trying to protect his own secret in some way — but that’s probably saved for another tape.
5. Clay confronts Alex.
Without finishing the tape — Clay is incredibly slow to listen through Hannah’s testimonials because it hurts him too much — Clay tries to talk to Alex to find out his side of the story. Out in the hall instead of sitting through a wash of a history class, Clay finds Alex ripping down the suicide prevention posters that went up. He can’t figure out why Alex would have hurt Jessica, but Alex doesn’t tell him anything. Instead, another student brushes past them to rifle through the scraps of paper in the trash, collecting pieces he likes for a project he’s hoping to publish, while Tyler (Devin Druid), the photographer, walks in on them and gets too close.
6. Clay, Astronomy Boy.
We learn plenty more from the next flashback. One fine day in the past, Clay asks Hannah if she’d like to watch an eclipse with him that night. She agrees, and after work, they clean up — they see Alex walking out alone instead of with Jessica as usual — and head up to the roof. It’s a sweet scene from there: Both are two shy to act on the sparks they feel, and Hannah especially has too much baggage to deal with at the time. So instead, they just spend a night in the cold, glancing at each other and staring at the sky.
7. Clay, Just Another High School Boy.
The next day, Clay’s goodwill with Hannah fades when Alex’s list gets passed around. Even he reads it — and does so while Hannah’s watching from across Mrs. Bradley’s classrooms. It turns out the list targets the girls in school and gives them superlatives based on their looks. You know, like Best Ass (which goes to Hannah), and Worst Ass… which goes to Jessica. Later that day, Clay can’t help but notice (and objectify) his female classmates in a different way, which the jock he’s tutoring, Jeff, picks up on. Imagine if the girls came up with a list of boys this way — but then again, the girls would never do such a thing.
8. Alex finally wants to talk.
After thinking it through, Alex decides he wants to talk to Clay about what really went down. He requests a meeting with Clay at Monet’s, where Clay arrives early and talks to Skye, his classmate and barista. They were friends a long time ago, but at least their relationship didn’t turn as frosty as Alex’s did with Hannah: Alex explains that he became admired by the jocks for attracting Jessica, whom they considered hot, and because he started to hang out with that group of guys — he couldn’t bring himself to say no — he felt he needed to put pressure on Jessica the way the rest of the jocks did on girls. But then Jessica said no to having sex with him, and because of that, he lashed out with the list, which he made with some of his new friends.
9. Alex regrets the list.
This is no surprise, of course, considering how it blew up his relationships with Jessica and Hannah and caused the two girls to lose each other as friends. When Alex reaches this conclusion, he starts to grow louder and louder, confessing his guilt and saying that all of them killed Hannah Baker. Before he gets carried away, though, Tony and Mrs. Baker walk into Monet’s, and Clay decides it’s time for them to go.
10. Clay follows the tape’s instructions to the liquor store, “where butterfly met hurricane.”
Hannah’s story about Alex doesn’t end with a slap. Instead, it ends with something more invasive and even more damaging on Hannah’s soul: Bryce’s inappropriate grab of her ass in the liquor store she frequented for candy. When Bryce spotted Hannah inside, he casually harassed her, and there was nothing she could do about it. “You made it open season on Hannah Baker,” she explains in her tape to Alex, pointing out that putting her on a list, even as a joke, left her a target for cruel interactions like these. In the present, Clay walks to the store and bumps right into Bryce, too.
11. Clay gets caught in his own hurricane.
Bryce doesn’t let Clay leave the store without purchasing a giant bottle of beer, and when Clay tries to toss it away outside, he gets caught by Bryce, Justin, Zach, and Alex, who are drinking while loitering around the alley. He’s forced by the jocks to chug his entire bottle and compete against Alex, and though Clay wins, he gets caught and admonished by Tony, who watches the entire scene with disgust. Tony still refuses to share more with Clay, and so Clay, frustrated, chases Tony on his bike until he spots Tony beating up someone he doesn’t know with another man behind a factory. What exactly is going on here? Too bad Clay can’t think too much of it: By the time he gets home, he’s drunk and sick and winds up vomiting all over the dinner table in front of mom and dad.
12. Alex can’t deal with any of it anymore.
Later that night, Alex hangs at Bryce’s pool house with the guys but can’t find any joy in their activities. He walks out alone, leaving Justin, Bryce, Zach, and Montgomery behind, before falling into the pool and staying submerged for a long while. Alex appears to have taken the tapes the hardest so far, even though, as he told Clay, he listened to all of them in one sitting.
13. Clay prepares for an ominous fourth tape.
Hannah concludes her third tape with a warning that the next one will require the listener to break some rules. “Be careful,” Hannah says. “And don’t get caught.” Easy for her to say: Now that Clay’s grounded, he has to sneak away from his house through the window. Tony was right about the tapes — they only get harder to deal with as you go along.
Episode grade: B
Click ahead for episode 4.