Review: WHAS First Day of Camp ‘Day Is Done’

“We are not Camp Firewood or Camp Tiger Claw. We are all camp people!” -Eric

When the final episode of First Day of Camp opens, Ronald Reagan (Michael Showalter) is ordering the destruction of Camp Firewood and everything within 10 miles of the camp to the objection of one military staff member whose kids are attending Camp Tiger Claw. Back at camp, Neil makes up with his girlfriend as soldiers are descending on the Mess Hall to capture Can of Vegetables Mitch, which leads to an epic showdown between The Falcon (Jon Hamm) and Gene (Christopher Meloni) involving knife catching, pan hurling and high-intensity acrobatics.

The Falcon wins the fight and gets the can, but not really because Gene switched the can and was secretly working with The Falcon all along. It turns out Gene and The Falcon were old “switch-opps” buddies with matching arm tattoos in ‘Nam. Beth (Janeane Garofolo), acting as a stand-in for the audience, is confused by this development, asking why he killed Greg and Jim and tried to kill her, but he dodges the question in an exchange that starts to resemble a counseling session. “If you think about it I think it makes sense,” The Falcon tells her. “I promise.”

The pending destruction of the camp by the President of the United States isn’t the only thing threatening Camp Firewood. The Tiger Claw mob from the end of the last episode is sounding the war cry Gangs of New York/Anchorman-style to punish the camp for its crimes, which has something to do with a code of honor being broken by Andy (Paul Rudd) stealing Katie (Marguerite Moreau) away from Blake (Josh Charles). The ensuing rumble involves jai lai sticks, baseball bats, canoe paddles, paintbrushes, croquet mallets, frisbees, tennis rackets – at one point it looked like someone was about to get a Salute Your Shorts Awful Waffle – nunchucks and an oyster fork Courtney (Kristen Wiig) uses to stab Victor (Ken Marino) in the leg.

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Overhearing the ruckus, Eric (Chris Pine) mousses up his hair, grabs his guitar, gets up on the roof of a cabin and starts jamming on “a song I’ve been working on for a while.” The song – “It’s about friendship” – is of course “Higher and Higher” and as the chorus kicks in everyone drops their weapons and starts singing along. Just like that, the bad blood is forgiven between the two camps and Coop is playing air guitar on the tennis racket he was moments before using to rearrange a preppy Tiger Claw counselor’s face.

The “You saved friendship with a song” mood doesn’t last long though as the soldiers move in. Eric gives his song about friendship another try, but gets immediately shot by one of the soldiers and then is unnecessarily run over by a jeep Reagan is riding in seconds before Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks) shows up yelling about how she’s a journalist with the power to expose the government conspiracy. “You may not have heard of me, but I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Rock & Roll World Magazine.”

Reagan concedes and orders the troops to retreat, leaving behind one of his men to clean up the sludge. That person is of course Ron von Kleinenstein (Judah Friedlander), who completes the last remaining character loop with the 2001 movie by meeting Gail (Molly Shannon) moments after agreeing to stay behind. The last thing that actually happens on the first day of camp is Lindsay making up with her friends because the next scene cuts to the morning of the second day of camp in Coop’s cabin. When Kevin tells him he had a rough night, Coop summarizes the entire plot of the series and then runs into Yaron (David Wain) and Donna (Lake Bell) as they are leaving camp to go “explore each other in a yurt.” The final moments give most of the non-theater counselors (Bradley Cooper’s only appearance in the episode is when he pulls up his ski mask to scratch his nose) parting shots and call forwards to the 2001 movie while Coop plays the shofar at the flag pole.

As finales go, this one was a real gem, containing all of the off-kilter humor and nonsensical self awareness that made this series a home run for Netflix. I didn’t know that it would be possible to exceed expectations considering all the hype surrounding this series before its arrival on July 31, but what this final episode did best for me was remind me why I enjoyed watching this quirky series in the first place. Special as the first movie and the legacy around it are, First Day of Camp delivered on the promise that this group of insanely talented people had when they came together to make a movie almost no one watched in the theater and critics hated all those years ago. Kudos to them for getting the gang all back together and giving fans new and old four more enjoyable hours at Camp Firewood.

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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