It is not often that we come across a cliché that makes us glad about its existence. “Surviving Summer” is the story of Summer, who is forced to spend 6 weeks in Shorehaven, a small town in Australia, with a family who are friends of her mother. While initially reluctant to stay there, she falls in love with the people and the place through a journey of self-discovery and responsibility.
Sounds like a movie we have seen before? But surprisingly, the storyline manages to hold its own. Set against a surfing background, the show explores how Summer makes friends with the other characters and gets involved in their lives, learning a lesson in how to care by thinking beyond her impulsiveness. The characters have a personality that is not just for the purpose of furthering the main protagonist’s storyline, making the story unfold in a way that feels very genuine. Let us take a look to see how the show sets itself apart.
How Does Summer Start Liking Shorehaven?
The show starts with Summer, a rather rebellious teen, getting expelled from her school. Her mother is at a loss as to what to do as she needs to go on a work assignment to the Middle East, and no other school would be interested in taking her daughter in because this was the second time she’s been expelled. Therefore, having no other option, she decides to send Summer to live with an old friend of hers in Shorehaven. Summer is less than pleased with this idea but has no choice. Once in Australia, she decides that she is going to leave immediately. When Summer describes the family as consisting of a tightly wound mother, a trying to be cool dad, and a son who must definitely be on the ‘loser spectrum,’ we rolled our eyes at this ‘trying to be unnecessarily edgy teenager.’ This is one of the few cliches in the story that has successfully kept away from them for the most part.
Summer meets Poppy and Bodhi at the beach, and while she likes them, she is sure of leaving, so she doesn’t really interact much, though she gets invited to their party. Once her flight is booked, she continues her rebellious streak and actually goes to the party, forcing Ari to tag along as he needs to watch over her. At the party, they are caught by Ari’s parents, who ground him as punishment for sneaking out.
Ari is upset at this as he was hoping to be able to participate in the surfing competition, but Summer encourages him to break the rules and do what suits him. This is how most of Ari and Summer’s relationship goes, with Ari being the one too scared to deviate from the rules, and he appears to be someone who gives up at the first sign of trouble. This is in stark contrast to Summer, who pursues what she wants, sometimes at the cost of others, a character flaw that she eventually learns to tame by the end of the show.
Summer is a loyal friend to Poppy, Bodhi, Marlon, and Ari. As she spends time with them, mostly at the beach, she learns to think in terms of a group rather than just as an individual. Be it the time she participated in the surfing competition for fun but only ended up ruining Bodhi’s chances with her carelessness, or the number of times her actions got Ari in trouble, or even when she takes out her anger on her mother at the group, saying she was only hanging out with them because there was literally no one else in the town and she did not enjoy it one bit, she learned from her mistakes. Summer had her ‘impulsive rebel without a cause’ moments, but she was also someone who deeply cared. She cared enough to go to Bodhi’s house when she did not show up for the competition, and she also participated in the competition and won for the Shorehaven team. Not just that, she was with Ari and helped him through his panic attacks and even ended up missing her flight because of that.
In the final episode, Margot, Summer’s mother, watches her fondly as she surfs, and they have a heart-to-heart chat later on. Margot admits that Summer’s independence always made her feel as if she was constantly getting in her daughter’s way. She promises that after getting back to New York, she will cut back on work and give her daughter more time. Summer tells her that Margot shouldn’t have to compromise on her career because of her thoughtlessness. They both decide to work on their issues post-getting back to New York. We see Summer change from a person who was angry at the world and her mother for not thinking about her more to a person who herself learns to think about others before herself. The ultimate proof of this was when, right before leaving, she left a letter for Ari’s parents where she confessed to everything, including how Ari had to ride some dangerous waves because of her and how it wasn’t his fault. She takes responsibility for her actions and how she treats the people around her, instead of just blaming the world for being unfair to her. This is how we know that she has grown.
How Does Ari Come Out Of His Parents’ Shadow?
Ari is a pro-surfer who is trying to get back into the game after spending a year in the hospital following a shoulder injury. His parents don’t want him to do so because they are worried about him and the danger he might be in. Ari finds their concern restrictive, but the only way he knows how to deal with it is by listening to everything they say to hopefully get back in their good books and get their permission to do what he wants. Ari is quite the straight shooter who plays by the rules through his dedication to surfing. He is definitely angry with his friends for not visiting him in the hospital, and that is the reason he does not visit Poppy when her mother passes away. But he later realizes the error of his judgment in this and apologizes to Poppy. He also has a somewhat strained friendship with Marlon. Ari got the injury to his shoulder when he and Marlon decided to jump off a cliff into the waves. But on the count of three, only Ari jumped. Ari is not angry with Marlon for not jumping, but it does infuriate him that he did not come to visit him. He is also not okay with the fact that Marlon knew that he had a crush on Bodhi yet chose to pursue and date her in Ari’s absence. He gets into a fight with him on his first day back, but they eventually get over their differences after talking it out.
When it comes to Bodhi, Ari is certainly glad when she and Marlon break up and pursue her, even getting her a gift, but is never quite able to confess to her due to some reason or the other. However, once he overhears Bodhi telling Poppy that she would never dream of dating him, he backs off and starts getting over her. He also has a certain relationship with Poppy where they are good friends, but he is hurt that she did not visit him in the hospital, and Poppy is hurt because he did visit her when her mom died. But they have been friends for years and have gotten over their differences. In a certain game the group plays, which is some version of “Never Have I Ever,” it is revealed that Poppy has always liked Ari. In another scene, Poppy invites Ari home and takes the initiative to kiss him, and it looks like Ari responds, though he later decides that he would prefer to be friends with her.
Ari is a good kid. The subplot regarding his panic attacks had some substance, and we understand his hesitation in talking about it to his parents. He was scared that he would be permanently banned from surfing and hid his problems because of that. But throughout, his dedication to the sport was his defining trait, which, weirdly, made him the least interesting character. The only time we see any sign of a rebellious spirit in him is when he tells Summer that he was going to move out of his house if his parents continued with their disapproval of his surfing.
Our only problem with the Summer-Ari storyline is that their romantic subplot in the last two episodes was completely useless and unwarranted. We can’t help but feel that it was there just for the purpose of adhering to the cliché of the protagonist getting together with a guy. They were friends till that point, with not even a hint of having any feelings for each other, and suddenly, Summer and Ari kissed during the sunset. The point of the whole show was friendship. Their romance felt a little jarring to us, especially when it was so abrupt.
How Bodhi And Marlon Come To Terms With Their Lives?
Initially, we think of Marlon as an insecure person who is a bit of a jerk. We are not completely wrong. His biggest mistake was probably telling all of his friends that Ari did not want to meet them during his time at the hospital, as he thought that once they knew how he got the injury, they would stop being his friends. It was a very selfish movie that went beyond protecting himself to actually hurting all of his friends. Even when he was dating Bodhi, he didn’t always seem to care about her feelings. When she did not show up for the competition, he refused to go check on her, and Summer had to go instead. He also seems to always put himself first, and anything that goes wrong is never his fault. But this changes over the season. When he joins Anchor Cove, the people ask him to block Ari in the competition so that their members could win instead. He refuses to do so and willingly gets kicked out. This is the ultimate act that shows he has changed and grown as a person when he recognizes the values that he actually considers important.
Bodhi, who is the typical sweet girl next door who is just trying to make everyone happy, finds her fire by the end of the 10 episodes. She has her ambitions, but she often finds herself taking care of others’ emotions, especially her father’s. But after a talk with her father about how she wants to do her own thing and the decision to break up with Marlon, she comes into her own and really shines as the backbone of the Shorehaven surfing team. She is our favorite character after Poppy.
Does Poppy Learn To Love Surfing Again?
Poppy is our favorite character in the whole show. She is dedicated, organized, takes care of everyone, can lead by example, and has a dignified strength that is just so inspiring. We have decided that she can do no wrong. Be it the way she handled the rejection from Ari or the embarrassing betrayal by Griff, she is a lesson in grace for everyone. While one of the main contenders for the championship, she does struggle at times as she is still unable to get over her mother’s death, whom she seems to want to emulate in her life. But with time, she slowly accepts the lack of her presence in her life as she draws strength from her lessons. Watching Poppy in the show was a pure delight, and she is one of the most inspiring characters in a show with a fluff theme and a realistic execution.
‘Surviving Summer’ Ending Explained: Does Ari Meet Summer? Why Does Ari Give Up The Competition?
Before Ari goes to his competition, he is looking for Summer as he wants her to see him, but finds out from his parents that she left for the airport an hour ago and also left a letter for them where she confesses that she was responsible for him going to the party and riding the waves. All the trouble he was in was a direct result of her actions. Ari’s parents apologize for forcing Summer on him, but he is wracked with feelings of guilt. Just as he is about to go for the competition, he makes a decision and leaves the arena. He goes to his parents and confesses to them that he has been having panic attacks and that Summer is the one who helped him through them. He tells them that he must meet her before she leaves. We can understand the reason Ari lets it all get away from him. He understands that he is putting himself in danger by not trusting his parents, and he needs to be more logical and take responsibility for himself the way Summer has. He reaches the airport just in time as Summer is leaving and asks her to stay with him. However, she assures him that he would be fine without her and that all of them mean a lot to her. This is to signify that Summer and Ari have both realized that solving their problems does not require rebellion; it just requires responsibility. The show ends with Ari going surfing with his friends and Summer looking for her own surfing spot in NYC.
What We Liked About ‘Surviving Summer’? Will There Be A Season 2?
We don’t think that there will be a Season 2 as ‘Surviving Summer’ is a complete story by itself that doesn’t really require more. All of the characters had complete storylines with the ends neatly tied up, really leaving not much room for another season. However, we won’t complain if it does happen.
First things first, the music was fantastic, as was the screenplay. It also got the sports element of it right by getting the audience actually invested in surfing without finding the details too off-putting. Despite being quite a done concept, the series seemed very new and authentic due to the treatment of its storyline, a feat no other content has been able to achieve in recent times. Also, there was not a single dull moment in this strangely binge-able show. Other than a moment or two, like when Poppy has a near-concussion or the romance between Ari and Summer, it was nearly perfect with not a single thing feeling out of place. We like the show and hope that it gets the hype it deserves. It can be recommended as an easy weekend watch.