Review: WHAS First Day of Camp ‘Lunch’

The second episode of the Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp Netflix series opens about 400 miles from Camp Firewood in the New York City offices of Rock & Roll World magazine where editor Alan (Jordan Peele) is soliciting story ideas from his staff.

The staff of the magazine includes a writer named Lindsay who hasn’t arrived at Camp Firewood yet because she isn’t technically even a counselor at the camp. The barbecue chicken all over her face says it all and her pitch to go under cover to summer camp is the hook that sends the 24-year-old out to get 5,000 words on summer camp and in the words of her editor “make it count.” Human interest pieces aren’t the norm for the magazine – an issue from February 1980 Lindsay holds up includes coverage of the Polish rock scene and features about artists named Randy Blazer, Cozy and Barbara.

In addition to providing fodder for more age jokes, Lindsay’s introduction to the series provides another twist on the original story from the 2001 movie and some classic ’80s television style hijinks where a hair clip and nonsensical biographical information is all that’s needed to convince everyone she really is a counselor and not an adult with, in the words of her voiceover, “a lifetime and career experience.” J.J. (Zak Orth) is so smitten he gives her his 1964 Sandy Koufax baseball card even after she told him and a group of campers she’s from Manhattanville in center upstate down the downtown Ohio.

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Also arriving before lunch is Claude Dumet’s assistant Rhonda (Michaela Watkins), who is even more ridiculous than Claude. Late because a guy jumped in front of the F train, Rhonda goes immediately to work teaching choreography to some of the most uncoordinated staff members imaginable. Ben and Susie end up having a fight followed by a heart to heart talk, which gives Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler more screen time to be amazing together. When lunch does roll around, Gail (Molly Shannon) and Jonas (Christopher Meloni) announce that they are getting married (at camp today) with a crazy beatbox version of the electric slide and Coop cross-dresses to cover for Kevin, whose poop-filled swimming trunks are found in the woods by his bully cabinmate Drew, the Burp King of Westchester. Coop is absolutely terrible pretending to be an old woman named Ms. Patty Pancakes, but that’s still not even the most over-the-top moment of the episode.

Camper Abby Bernstein, played by an age appropriate actress named Bebe Wood, has her first period and immediately turns into 40-year-old actress Marisa Ryan, going from a girl making up songs about how much she hates boys to minutes later checking out Kyle and his “sweet little tush” at lunch. Meanwhile, the Coop, Donna and soccer counselor Yaron (David Wain) love triangle and toxic waste storylines thicken – the latter providing answers to how Mitch ends up a can of vegetables and the former again proving to be the least compelling of the multiple narratives (though David Wain is quite a riot as a devil-stick playing Israeli guy).

As in the first episode, “Lunch” continues to be an entertaining deep dive into the zany fictional world of Camp Firewood that is as much fun to watch as it appears it was to make.

Notes:

-Part of Lindsay’s argument that she can pass for a counselor is that she went to the Columbia School of Journalism.

-Paul Scheer shows up in this episode as Dave, an annoying magazine staffer who repeats everything other people say. His t-shirt says TIFF, which I assume stands for the Toronto International Film Festival. The film festival was staged for the sixth time in 1981 with Chariots of Fire winning the People’s Choice award.

-This episode doesn’t have nearly enough Paul Rudd, but he does tell Kevin “I can’t be your buddy. Go ask one of the inhaler kids.”

-Katie says her boyfriend Blake is like a younger Larry Wilcox. Wilcox starred on the TV show CHiPs as Officer Jonathan Baker.

-Arty is such a big Aerosmith fan, he calls them ‘Smith for short. “Y’all know I love me some ‘smith. And we’re just having fun,” he says before signing off for lunch.

-Gail von Kleinenstein (Molly Shannon) says getting to be arts and crafts counselor means she can finally put her art degree from RISD to good use. RISD stands for Rhode Island School of Design. James Franco, Seth MacFarlane, Shepard Fairey and Gus Van Sant are listed among the notable alumni of the school in Providence.

-Gail gets Jonas an apron that says “I love you from my head tomatoes” as a pre-wedding gift. He doesn’t get it. Jonas tells everyone that Gail and Jonas met at singles disco mixer at the Portsmouth Marriot. “When I saw this little lady’s electric slide I was a goner.”

-Abby Bernstein wears a t-shirt that says Let’s Get Civilized. She wears a shirt that says I’ve Been Civilized Long Enough on the last day of camp in the 2001 film.

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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