Walla walla who…
How much did we enjoy our 10-year reunion at Camp Firewood? So much so that we set aside our blueprints (“they’re literally kicking our ass”), hired a nanny (“she’s top-notch … we know, we know”), and got Faison to cover for us. All so we could revisit the winners, losers, and things we just couldn’t decide on from the latest installment of David Wain and Michael Showalter’s Wet Hot American Summer. So, if you’ve already read Michael Roffman’s (“he’s the greatest, one of a kind, they broke the mold, etc., etc.”) spoiler-free review and felt the Spirit of Camp Firewood burning brighter than ever within, make it your beeswax to read our spoilerific final camp takeaways and share your own below.
Walla walla hey…
Editorial Director and Junior Counselor
Good, Old Camp Firewood
Camp Firewood, we hardly knew ye. One of the funner aspects of Wet Hot’s two Netflix installments is the wiggle room they allow to flesh out the camp and its characters from the original film. For instance, in the past, we learned the origin story behind a sentient can of mixed vegetables, and this time around we discovered everything from McKinley’s full name to Mike and Claire’s just-off-camera existence to the fact that everyone at camp actually knows Victor still has his V-card. But perhaps funniest of all are all the Camp Firewood traditions and bits of lore that we’re pretty sure we would’ve picked up on during our two previous days at camp. There’s the ubiquitous camp call (“Walla walla who…”), the time-honored camp motto (“You can leave Camp Firewood, but the Spirit of Camp Firewood [insert literally anything here].”), the earworm camp song (“Chums, chums/ On this we all agree”), the highly flammable King of Camp challenge, and the indelible Spirit of Camp Firewood (“It’s like…”). Now, stop being a “Little Willie Shits His Pants.” Andy’s about to do donuts! Ah, just like old times. Get ‘em, boy! –Matt Melis
The Doinks from Camp Tiger Claw
Despite the alliance formed by the 1978 Accord of Lake Winnisuki and the power of protopunk to bring campers from disparate walks of life together, we still believe that nature produces rivals. And frankly, we like our Camp Tiger Claw prep-school turkeys like it’s 1981: collars popped, croquet mallets cocked, and always in the market for a good coxswain. We also like ‘em where we can see ‘em (or at least they can see us) – perched behind a pair of binoculars and pounding their fists – not acting as lackeys and errand boys for Ronald Reagan. While it’s true that their part in the ex-president’s ploy does stand to gain them revenge on Camp Firewood, we long for an age when the rich and the poor settled things, as a matter of principle, on the camp green, armed with tennis rackets and trashcan lids. To those who fight and die honorably, we say: “Tiger Claw/ True salute/ Sun to moon/ Lips are mute/ Tiger Growl!”* –Matt Melis
*Due to the nature of the series’ ending, nothing above makes any sense at all.
The Hand That Rocks McKinley Dozen
Out of all the Camp Firewood alumnus, Ben and McKinley Dozen share the healthiest lifestyle. They’re living large, ostensibly with more lavish goods from Crate and Barrel, and even have a new baby together. Even better, Ben has finally fixed his deviated septum, making him look less like Hollywood hunk Bradley Cooper and more like Hollywood babe Adam Scott. It’s a yuppie heaven that has all the trappings of the late Curtis Hanson’s The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, and although the psychological thriller came out in 1992, Wain and Showalter decided it was fair game for 10 Years Later.
Good for them. It’s one of the many subplots at Camp Firewood that really gels. Series MVP Michael Ian Black thrives as the paranoid parent as his anxious suspicions about Alyssa Milano’s would-be murderous nanny are repeatedly confirmed and debunked through Zuckerian twists and turns. Seriously, the ridiculous lengths that Wain and Showalter take this story to — particularly, the Kill the Baby sequence and the stormy conclusion — recall their finest bits in Stella. What’s more, it’ll reaffirm your faith in the Better Business Bureau. They really don’t fool around. –Michael Roffman
The Hall of Presidents
Okay, it’s a bit of fun to see Showalter’s jellybean-jiggling Ronald Reagan talk shit about others, beat the shit out of others, and literally shit on the ideas of others, and Ian Black’s George H. Bush tickles a spot we haven’t been tickled in since Dana Carvey’s SNL days. And, yeah, the premise for the gag reads great on paper: some run-of-the-mill, podunk summer camp in Maine is actually at the center of evil governmental conspiracies and diabolical revenge plots. In practice, though, these presidents aren’t that good for approval ratings.
The genius behind the Wet Hot Summer series will always be that it takes a sweet, sincere look back at something as innocent as summer camp and then finds spots to twist, bend, and warp that experience. While toxic waste and nukes do raise the stakes, create some additional ridiculousness, and pay homage to flicks from a certain period, we’d much rather be out on the lake, in a bunk, or in the storage shed with our favorite campers for more gags, goofs, and gropes.* –Matt Melis
*Due to the nature of the series’ ending, nothing above makes any sense at all.
Victor and Neil
There’s no better pairing than Ken Marino and Joe Lo Truglio. As Victor and Neil, the two goofballs are proof that friendships forged at Camp Firewood really do last forever. Out of all the former counselors, Victor has the most ironic fate, living the sex-fueled nightlife of Cocktail’s Tom Cruise, despite the fact that he’s still the same ol’ awkward virgin. He hides it well, though: When we first meet up with him, Victor’s “rockin’ and a’sockin'” alongside Neil at an Upper East Side nightclub, where they serve drinks to all the “snizzy lizzy.” But really, there’s a confused soul beneath those tight cut-off shorts.
Neil’s also in a rough place, as he’s just been dumped by his girlfriend, Shari, who wants more than “eating corndogs and watching horror flicks on his futon.” Naturally, neither of these issues stop them from returning to Camp Firewood, where Victor hopes to get some “skunky, monkey, funky, trunky, junky … if you get my meaning,” and together they bring a brand of energy that’s most in line with the original film. It’s just a damn shame that Neil’s such a sucker for long naps — a cheeky way they work around Lo Truglio’s schedule — but what can you do? His bunk’s got the “magic touch.”
Snap, crackle, and … POP! –Michael Roffman
Everything Outside Camp Firewood
We don’t need to leave Camp Firewood. We’ve never had to leave Camp Firewood. In the original film, the only time they ever left campgrounds was to either a.) dispose of bodies, b.) head into town for an hour, or c.) go on a river-rafting adventure. Otherwise, it just wasn’t necessary, as proven in First Day of Camp, where all the surrounding stories felt like dispensary filler, from the exhaustive court scenes starring Michael Cera to the aforementioned chaos involving Reagan. Unfortunately, 10 Years Later adds even more extra curricular activities, and none of them really land.
Sure, it’s funny to see Chris Pine and Jason Schwartzman do their best Counting Crows impersonation as the formerly dead Eric and Greg, but the gag tires as fast as you can say “Sullivan Street”. Worse off is the return of Christopher Meloni’s veteran cook, Gene, whose entire subplot involving his estranged daughter with Molly Shannon’s Gail feels like a lazy afterthought, as if they had maybe two hours to shoot. So, by the time their stories do intersect with the main narrative, it’s no wonder Wain and Showalter tossed their hands up and went with the Cooper Wrote It All ending. –Michael Roffman
I Love the ’90s
Where are we? That’s simple. Camp Firewood. But when are we? That’s trickier, and if you cheat by looking at the characters’ crow’s feet, dad bods, and James Edward Olmos penises, you’re still likely to be off by a decade or more in either direction. Luckily for campers at home, this series comes timestamped as August 17, 1991, and if that doesn’t clarify matters, writer-slash-executive producer Michael Showalter and writer-slash-director-slash-executive producer David Wain make sure we know that Alf rules primetime, boys drool over Kelly LeBrock, and nobody matches Jägerbombs with Eric Stoltz without regretting it the next morning. Composer Craig Wedren even channels the early ’90s by stuffing the series with parodies and pastiches of acts like Bell Biv DeVoe, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Spin Doctors alongside actual soundtrack inclusions of Jesus Jones and Edie Brickel. Still confused? Well, here’s a box with your Apple PowerBook 100, inline skates, beeper, and a bunch of other things from 1991. Now, pack your bags, and get back to camp before they tear it down to put up a B. Dalton Booksellers, Circuit City, or Blockburster Vurdeo. –Matt Melis
Ex-King of Camp Andy Fleckner
Look, Paul Rudd is a big star — he’s Ant-Man for Christ’s sake — so we should only be so grateful he even returned for thirds. Having said that, it’s incredibly telling he only had a limited amount of time to shoot his scenes. Because, despite having one of the more structured narratives of the Firewood gang — fighting for the King of Camp title over that “little river rat” Jeremy “Deegs” Deegenstein — Andy rarely appears in the rest of the story. And when he does, it’s usually through tongue-in-cheek pop-ins that were clearly filmed on previous occasions, similar to the fourth season of Arrested Development.
Wain and Showalter avoid the same issues that plagued the Bluth family for the most part, but the seams are quite apparent for Andy. Reason being, his story is too good, and his rival is even better. Skyler Gisondo plays such a great dickhead brat, and his chemistry with Rudd ignites upon arrival. When the two meet at the baseball diamond, arguably one of the funniest scenes of the series, Andy’s initial exchange with the kid sounds like something straight out of Wain’s 2008 comedy, Role Models:
Andy: “Hey, shit or get off the pot. You’re ruining the flow of the game.”
Deegs: “You’re ruining the flow of my dick, old man.”
To be fair, the two would-be Kings eventually wind up engaging in a heated relay race (literally) that involves impromptu acoustic songs about dinosaurs and apocalyptic getups straight out of Mad Max: Fury Road. In hindsight, though, the whole thing seems like one big olive branch in lieu of a meatier rivalry that could have lasted a few more episodes. Oh, well. Guess we’ll just have to write our own fan fiction battles between Andy and Deegs in our trusty gournal.
The Ending to Episode Six
Stormy weather descends upon Camp Firewood in Episode Six, and that means a lot more than canceling ultimate Frisbee. Love is dangling perilously over the rocks: Susie’s already been dumped by Garth McArthur; Mike is outed as a serial cheat; JJ confesses his true feelings to Claire; Katie kisses Coop as his fiancée walks in; psychotic Renata moves in on Ben, who is still angry with McKinley; and Victor is about to lose his virginity with Donna as he wears a Yaron mask and she dons a Victor mask. Everybody got that? And for all those hearts on a ledge, the episode culminates in an action scene unparalleled in Wet Hot history except for the time Victor heroically saved a raft of campers (just ask Neil!) from certain death.
As the storm intensifies, Wain’s camera cuts between Coop getting slapped silly, Mike and JJ trading blows, an epic knife fight between Renata and Ben, and, of course, Victor’s crazy-ass deflowering. Not until McKinley delivers a lifesaving deathblow in the nick of time with his birthday candlestick can we all finally let out a deep exhale. “It’s over. The rain has stopped,” one unnamed junior counselor announces. Indeed. It’s actually a brilliant mix of action, pathos, and humor in addition to a first-rate gag on too many story lines going down at once.* –Matt Melis
*Due to the nature of the series’ ending, some of the above makes absolutely no sense.
Odds are we’ve seen the last of our favorite Camp Firewood campers. Wain and Showalter have left their baby (because “having a film is very much like having a baby”) in good stead with a fitting conclusion. Given that 10 Years Later was likely the series’ last hurrah makes the bonkers ending much more palatable. We can forgive – and what’s more, even giggle at – the series having more false endings than a hobbit movie, the notion that presidents personally intervene in our daily lives when we’re a little glum, a good-natured and ridiculously detailed conspiracy that can only be fully explained over pizza from Mario’s (similar to First Day’s twist ending but taken to extreme lengths), and a mega happy ending that would make Wayne and Garth fall to their knees and say, “We’re not worthy.” If not for the spirit of the series, it’d be lazy writing. If not for our love of the characters, it’d be too perfect a send-off. But while the series’ ending might be more fitting than inspired, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Ben and McKinley will never forget this reunion.
McKinley: “I keep seeing her eyes.”
Ben: “This is our life now.”
*Due to the nature of this series’ ending, everything above makes total sense. –Matt Melis