EPISODE 9: “Tape 5, Side A”
1. On this next tape, it’s summer vacation — and Hannah is ready to let summer be her reset button.
To commemorate her new attitude and attempt to start over, she gets a haircut — but neither her parents nor Clay make that big of a deal about it. She’s crying out for attention (and she looks great) but no one is giving her enough of it.
2. This is the first time Clay hears a tape before we do.
He heads to school having already heard about Jessica’s party — and he’s furious. I thought I had missed an episode, but nope. It’s finally time to learn about the event we’ve heard so much about.
3. Jessica is getting wilder and wilder.
She’s smoking and drinking at school, brushing off Clay’s attempts to talk to her about what happened at her party. Which, as far as we know, was just that she hooked up with her boyfriend, Justin. But Clay doesn’t believe it. “If something happened, I’d remember it,” Jessica says.
4. Mr. Baker brings the poem to Mr. Porter. He’s furious.
In hindsight, it’s obvious that Hannah’s poem was a cry for help. And since it went “viral” around the school, with students and teachers alike reading it, Mr. Baker accuses Mr. Porter of not trying to find out which student, who was clearly in pain, wrote it. Mrs. Baker is furious that her husband had this confrontation, because he essentially gave up the only piece of evidence they had on their side in this horrible legal case, alleging the school knew about Hannah’s bullying and did nothing.
5. Jessica’s infamous party is a back-to-school party at the start of the year.
Clay tries to convince Hannah to come, since Jeff has convinced him to go. “It might be cool to actually hang out,” he says. She isn’t quite sure if she wants to go or not, but she definitely likes that Clay wants her to.
6. Hannah’s mom barely notices her hair, and pushes her to go to the party.
She seems excited that Hannah wants to do something social, although it kind of seems like Hannah wants her to make her stay home. She mentions all the homework she has, but Mrs. Baker just replies, “Go, don’t go, it’s up to you.” Remember that whole “direction” thing? Hannah still isn’t getting any.
7. The tape gang is still after Clay.
Marcus takes it upon himself to ask, “What’s your play here?” and Clay is furious that Marcus is implying this is all a game. They decide, again, they need to stop Clay once and for all. Marcus buys a bag of pot and puts it in Clay’s backpack, then tells Mr. Porter he’s “worried” about him. Clay gets searched — and suspended for three days.
8. Turns out, there are going to be three stories from Jessica’s party — and the Jessica/Justin story is only one of them.
9. And by the way… this horrible story is what warrants Justin’s second tape.
So here it is: Jessica and Justin were all over each other all night. Jessica was getting drunker and drunker, which is partly Justin’s fault, but partly because they’re high schoolers, and everyone was getting way too drunk that night. Hannah tries to “warn” Jess about Justin — since he’s the one who took that photo of her on the slide — but Jess brushes it off. And it turns out he’s not the one she needed to be warned about. Justin and Jess go up to Jessica’s room to hook up — although that’s where Hannah had been seeking refuge from the party, so she hides in a closet while they make out on the bed. Jessica passes out. Justin is annoyed, but leaves.
In the hallway, Bryce tries to go in the room, and Justin tries to stop him. “I bet you had some fun with her in there. Let me see,” Bryce says. Justin persists: “She’s my girlfriend!”
Bryce shoots back, “She’s your summer hookup. What’s mine is yours, right?” This is nauseating. It’s horrible. He pushes Justin away and goes into the room, locking the door behind him, and proceeds to rape Jessica while Justin, horrified and crying, sits on the outside of the door, and Hannah, horrified and crying, hides in the closet. The first few times we get glimpses of this scene, it seems like Jessica might have been unconscious the whole time. But when we finally do see it, we realize she woke up, she fought, she cried, and he still kept going, and still Justin and Hannah didn’t stop it.
I barely have words for how awful this is, but Hannah puts it bluntly to Justin on the tape: “That girl had two chances last night. But we both let her down.” She doesn’t know how to live with it.
10. Clay finally tells his mom some of the truth about his friendship with Hannah.
“I did know Hannah Baker,” he tells her in front of the police station, where he’s supposed to sign up for an anti-drug course because of the pot. “We worked together at the Crestmont… she was my friend. And I miss her really f—ing bad. I didn’t know how empty it would feel. There’s this big part of the world that’s gone and everyone else keeps moving forward.” It’s utterly heartbreaking to hear him admit what we all already know.
11. Clay tries to get Justin to tell Jessica the truth about what happened that night.
“Why are you protecting Bryce?” Clay asks, which is what we’ve all been thinking. “What does he have on you?”
Justin finally admits, “I’m protecting Jessica!”
No wonder Jessica and Justin are having problems: She’s confused and traumatized by what happened, not fully sure if what she remembers in fragments was real. If no one is acting like it’s real and no one is admitting it happened… did she imagine it? It’s even more disturbing how much she’s hanging out with Bryce — and now I understand why Justin is so angry about it. He’s traumatized and ashamed for not stopping the rape, but also trying to protect his girlfriend, whom he really, really loves, by not reminding her of this trauma. It’s a tough situation all around, but like Clay says, why are they protecting Bryce? Why not just take it to court?
12. Clay confronts Tony in the garage about the contents of the tape.
“How did you listen to that and ignore it?” he cries. Tony says he’s doing it for Hannah, so that it’s not Bryce’s word against the dead girl’s, making it open season on Hannah Baker all over again.
13. Clay lunges after Tony, then starts kicking his own bike, which obviously breaks. Tony fixes the bike, and then ices Clay’s leg.
Is Tony some kind of saint? Clay starts the next tape while sitting next to Tony in the garage.
Episode grade: A-
Click ahead for episode 10.