Spoiler alert: The following discusses major plot points from “Outer Banks” Season 3.
As “Outer Banks” Season 3 takes the Pogues back to where the sprawling treasure hunt first started, the whirlwind romance that Sarah (Madelyn Cline) and John B (Chase Stokes) embraced as they carved out their new home in Poguelandia is brutally interrupted when the teens, now married, are forced to confront their own familial ties — including the surprise return of John B’s father, Big John (Charles Halford).
Guided by an instinct to follow the bells, whose rhythm remind him of his father’s previous calling card, John B misses out on the Pogues life-or-death escape from Barbados — as Sarah gives the crew the heart-wrenching OK to leave him behind when their boat sets sail back to the Outer Banks.
As John B prioritizes the seasons-spanning search for his father, Sarah returns to Kitty Hawk with her family life in shambles. As her chosen Pogue family blends with her old life, Sarah finds comfort with familiar faces while feeling like a stranger in her own home.
“For her, home was a big question mark,” Cline told TheWrap. “Coming from the island, I think home … for her is more like family — the security that she has in her relationship with John B and also her friendship with the Pogues.”
TheWrap spoke with Cline and Stokes and got answers to burning questions from the tumultuous up and downs of Sarah and John B’s relationship, and parental confrontations from “Outer Banks” Season 3.
TheWrap: Sarah and John B go through lots of emotional turmoil this season, within their relationship and with their families. When do you think their conflicting feelings about their relationship first started arising?
Cline: I think the complications probably arise — I don’t want to say because of the homecoming of his dad — but I think maybe, because Big John is not necessarily who John B remembers, or thought he was. Sarah obviously doesn’t know the inner workings of that dynamic. I think that the complications probably come because of the two relationships and the hierarchy of the two. John B has been Sarah’s home for the better part of two seasons [but], you know, that’s also his dad. So I think it started because the head butting between those two relationships and [their] priority and everything that came with that.
Stokes: My mom gave me some great advice: she said, “you can’t build a house on a cracked foundation.” I think John B and Sarah started in that element, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to grow. They’re 17, they’re married, they’re trying to figure it out [and] they’re trying to navigate it. There’s emotions and adrenaline and everything is on a high. So I think both of them are struggling to figure out who they are at a young age and trying to figure out how to navigate being a committed partner — and what does that look like with the stakes being as high as [they are]. The show is high octane all the time, so I think mistakes are inevitable in a circumstance like this. They do their best to navigate it in the ways they can and lead with love first, but sometimes you’re bound to make mistakes, and that’s okay. That’s part of growing up.
Why did Sarah feel particularly drawn back to Topper (Austin North) enough to cheat on John B with him?
Cline: Confusion? John B has been Sarah’s home and she feels like she’s been kicked out of it. Where do you go from there? A lot of times I feel like people will go to whoever is opening their arms next — that’s just human nature — anyone who will show love and understanding. I think it came from that and then familiarity; she’s friends with Topper, she’s friends with the Kooks — she knows them. They’re comfortable. It gives her some sense of control over the absolute disorder that her life has become.
Why does John B choose to end his relationship with Sarah?
Stokes: I think John B’s biggest want in life is to be comfortable. From the very beginning we recognize the kid doesn’t know what comfortability is; his dad’s been gone. He’s trying to find it in his friends and I think really what it comes down to is feeling loved and feeling safe. When he feels like that ultimate trust … is broken … he reacts super poorly.
But in the same respect, I kind of also understand Sarah’s side, the way that [John B] responded to her and the things that he said to her leading up to that point was horrible. Topper gave her a safe space, and you can’t blame him. You can’t really blame her in a moment like that to feel comfortable and want to be safe for the first time in a long time, because she’s going through her own battles.
Did you know the moment of reunion between John B and his dad was coming?
Jonas [Pate], Josh [Pate], Shannon [Burke] and I talked about it towards the end of the second season, so something that I’ve been sitting on for a while … [we had] a lot of time to really reflect on what that means and we started to arc out what’s going to happen and how to navigate that. The dynamic between Big John and John B is a challenging one, for sure, to make sure that those moments are there, and the split decisions and sort of the split circumstances are present.
What are the root of the issues that arise with John B’s complicated feelings toward Big John?
Anytime you’re separated from somebody or something for an extended period of time, you create sort of a false narrative in your brain of what that is. With John B, and his dad, he’s been on the run for so long … he’s sort of been on this adrenaline high and this anxiety trip for the better half of 20 episodes. So it’s a sense of relaxation for a second, and like we have seen for this entire show, that goes away real quick. I think it’s a journey of wanting to please your family and please your parents, and sometimes they don’t always have the best intentions, or their intentions aren’t as present as what we perceive them to be.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
“Outer Banks” Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.