Review: WHAS First Day of Camp ‘Activities’

I’ve only been at Camp Firewood for a few hours but it already feels like an old pair of sneakers.” -Arty

The third episode of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp gives us our first glimpse of new characters played by Jon Hamm and Chris Pine, but it also includes entirely too much of the Coop and Donna love story, the weakest of the Netflix series’ storylines and not nearly enough development of other characters and storylines.

Donna and Coop’s ongoing love saga somehow gets even dumber when Donna gives Coop a shofar she bought for him in Israel and Coop starts seeing virtually everyone else at camp – even the bully Drew from his cabin – playing the same horns around camp. “You give me a shofar Donna, you told me it was special; you said all that stuff to me about strength, love, joy; You said I was the only person you said that to and then you said it to Yaron too,” Coop tells Donna, who in turn accuses him of opposing the 13th Amendment. “Freedom of speech, God, that’s a privilege Coop. Don’t you realize how lucky we are,” she says.

Greg and Beth deal with the aftermath of Mitch’s assumed death from falling into a pool of toxic waste when “Activities” opens. Specifically a mob of parents wanting to know where the director is.

Sending the parents to talk to a scarecrow with a Camp Firewood shirt on, Greg and Beth hatch an insane plan involving getting Xenstar to stop dumping by hacking their mainframe computer with a code they are convinced Jonas with his military background will know. Jonas denies that he ever served in “The Nam” but starts talking when Mitch shows up as a talking can of vegetables. McKinley’s brother Steve (Kevin Sussman), makes his first appearance in the series by effortlessly hacking the government computer.

The hack immediately alerts Ron von Kleinenstein (Judah Friedlander), who we learn works in the White House and when he tells Ronald Reagan (Michael Showalter) about what the two head counselors at Camp Firewood have done, Reagan orders The Falcon to take care of the situation and then beats Ron senseless. The Falcon, a CIA operative who gets his orders via pay phone at the end of the episode, is played by Jon Hamm. 

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Pine shows up in flashback scenes of a story J.J. tells about the mysterious broken down old cabin. Lindsay, looking for an angle to her Rock & Roll World magazine piece, pries the story out of J.J. of former rock star Eric, whose band Rockin’ Knights of Summer were signed to a record deal after playing their most popular song “Turn It Up” at a Camp Firewood talent show in the ’70s. Eric flamed out in the studio and as the story goes returned to Camp Firewood to live as a recluse. As J.J. tells the story, Lindsay types notes on her portable typewriter and later convinces her editor Alan (Jordan Peele) that this is the perfect angle for her 5,000-word piece on summer camp.

Meanwhile, disaster strikes on the theater stage when one of the Electro City leads falls off the stage and the rivalry between three-collar Camp Tiger Claw Blake (Josh Charles) and Andy (Paul Rudd) heats up when Blake sees Andy giving Katie a back rub through his binoculars. Blake later confronts Katie in her bunk and Katie is no longer convinced she wants to go to the Camp Tiger Claw formal with him. “I’m not sure I can go. They’re putting on a musical and there’s a big staff party afterwards at the roundhouse,” Katie tells him. “Let me be perfectly clear, if you back out on the formal you and me we’re toast,” Blake says.

Out of the three episodes so far, “Activities” is the weakest, but it does lay important groundwork for future developments of the story and goes a long way to explain several things that happen on the last day of camp in the 2001 movie.

Notes:

-Jonas (Christopher Meloni) is something to watch in this episode, especially when he reenacts memories from his life to try and uncover the pass code.

-I love how every time Coop and Donna kiss, the camera pans out and we see that all of his campers are in the bunk.

-When Donna gives Coop the shofar and he comments about the way its wrapped – the shoebox and the lid are individually wrapped – she explains that it’s easier for multiple takes.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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