Scatological humor is a huge, steaming chunk of the Wain-Showalter comedic sensibility, so much so that the Wet Hot American Summer DVD came with a commentary track consisting solely of farting sounds to make flatulence a larger, smellier element of the film. Camp Firewood is at the eye of a fartnado, and that’s only accounting for the farts we can hear. It stands to reason that in a camp plagued by gas, there are many silent-but-deadly farts that go unheard but are still acutely smelt, often by the very people who dealt them. First Day Of Camp establishes that, in this world, farts aren’t just funny, they are revered. Andy breaks one off in the mess hall and wafts it over to Katie’s table, and she can’t help but crack a smile. “I’m gonna fart my way into that snatch,” says Andy, a strategy that seems entirely plausible given Katie’s reaction. It’s safe to assume that a world in which a man can woo a woman into bed by farting in her direction, there is a terrifying population problem in search of a solution. Is it possible that First Day Of Camp exists in the same cinematic universe as The Purge? Talk amongst yourselves.
“Dinner” is part of First Day Of Camp’s lumpy middle section, but it’s still pretty funny and remarkably dense. Between Greg and Beth and the Xenstar conspiracy, Susie’s relationship with Dumet, Lindsay’s quest to profile Eric, Ben and McKinley’s awkward flirtation, and the Coop-Donna-Yaron triangle, “Dinner” has a lot on its plate. (Especially considering that isn’t even an exhaustive list.) It’s both impressive and frustrating how plot-driven First Day Of Camp is. The movie had plenty of plot too, but it was largely contained in one part of the story while the rest of the movie was random, lackadaisical camp shenanigans. Camp Firewood mellowed out considerably over course of the summer. With things this hectic, there’s no way Andy would be able to devote five minutes to cleaning up a lunch tray.
Andy’s busy with Electro City, which is proving to be too great a challenge and commitment for him to handle. He tries to walk out of the production, but Susie reels him back in with a tough-love mentor speech every bit as rousing as Debbie Allen’s monologue in Fame: “Theater is fear. Theater is pain. Theater is now, and it’s you. And if there’s anyone in here that does not have torments within them, well they can get the fuck out.” Andy resentfully throws his body back towards the stage in the same way he’ll soon take way too long to clean up a few eating utensils.
“Dinner” includes the show’s second superhero origin story. First it was the tragic accident that turned Mitch into a can of vegetables, and now it’s the combination of rage and rejection that turns mild-mannered Jonas Jurgenson into scarred war vet Gene Jenkinson. Given the choice to hunt down and murder Victor for his prank phone call or rush to his wedding with Gail, he chooses the latter. But Jeff (yes, the city hall records clerk) swoops in and steals Gail away from him. It’s surprising this doesn’t happen more often in movies and television because looking up information on microfiche is an incredibly intimate act. A forlorn Gene now has no reason to suppress his true self. The sad part is that the kitchen appliances are just minding their own business, blissfully unaware that they’re about to be furiously humped.
The flaw in “Dinner” is the Beth and Greg thread, or at least the beginning of it. First Day Of Camp has shown dedication to picking up episodes right at the prior episode’s cliffhanger. But in “Dinner,” there’s no appearance from or mention of The Falcon, who was last seen trying to assassinate Beth and Greg. It’s jarring enough that I thought I might have accidentally skipped an episode, but “Dinner” leapfrogged over it. Given the nature of the show, it’s not the biggest sin in the world to drop storylines with no rhyme, reason, or notice, but these episodes have been so plot heavy, First Day Of Camp is tasked with bringing its plots to a satisfying conclusion in a way the film wasn’t. Here’s hoping Wain and Showalter are as committed to sticking the landing as Katie and Andy are to putting on the best production of Electro City rural Maine has ever seen.
- Michael Cera shows up as Beth and Greg’s attorney, Jim Stansel.
- Jonas/Gene’s pursuit of Victor further cements the show’s reputation for having the most hilarious and absurd chase scenes ever committed to film.
- Greg to Beth, before they hook up in their hideout in spite of Mitch: “He’s a can of vegetables. He doesn’t have to know.”
- Beth was at one time committed to her relationship with Mitch even as a can of vegetables. That’s powerful stuff.
- Gail really lucks out when it comes to advice from children. Something about arts and crafts draws in the most precocious, world-weary campers.