10 Thoughts on Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp Electro/City

And welcome back! We had a brief hiatus over the past few days because I was trapped in an alternate dimension where I could only write about Bojack Horseman, so we missed a day of our beloved WHAS. But today, we’re picking up right where we left off with the episode Electro/City! That’s right, it’s the opening day… well, hour of the musical, I guess. It’s been the opening day for the entire season.

Things are heating up backstage at Camp Firewood, while Blake over at Camp Tiger Claw is seething in fury over Andy trying to seduce his beloved Katie. Meanwhile, Beth and Greg have convinced their lawyer, Jim Stansel (Michael Cera) to go to court against the evil corporation Zanstar. Also, Lindsay found that rockstar she was looking for but that is the least interesting thing going on right now.

Alright, here’s some things I thought about while I watched the above mentioned program.

1. I’m surprised that there are still two episodes left 

I kind of assumed that the musical was going to be the big set piece for the season. It’s been hyped basically since episode one and revolved around Andy and Katie (Paul Rudd and Marguerite Moreau), who are arguably the closest the show gets to main characters. Besides JJ (Zak Orth) and Coop (Michael Showalter), they are are the only characters to appear in all eight episodes of the season. But I guess by the end of the episode, their storyline was anything but resolved. It did result in Paul Rudd having a very real moment on camera where we got to see his heartbreak at Katie tacitly rejecting him. It’s nice to be reminded every once in awhile that these comedic actors have real serious acting chops and can use them when called upon. But to get back to my point, if this isn’t the big set piece of the season, there must be something pretty spectacular coming. Class war with Camp Tiger Claw? Pleeeease?

2. Michael Showalter is the king of being shafted

Not literally. But his attempts to get close to Donna (Lake Bell) being thwarted by the sexy Jewish boy Yaron (David Wain, looking like a completely different person) are some of the most successful bits of the season so far. His face at the beginning of Electro/City when Donna is ignoring him in favor of Yaron is priceless.

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You can almost hear the “waah-waah-waaaaaaaaah” trombone sound that is Coop’s life radiating through that image. Ah, it is good to have this storyline back. I feel like it’s the most human plot of this season. Or at least the most relatable. I also realize I may be outing myself here as somebody who was maybe not so good with the ladies in my formative years, and therefore maybe this plot just appeals to me because I identify with Coop real hard.

Moving on.

3. This is a plotty episode

I understand that in every TV show, there has to be stretches where the plot gets moved along swiftly so that a narrative conclusion doesn’t get short-shrift by the time the seasons over. In show like Breaking Bad or Mad Men, where understanding the plotting and moving the story forward are integral to the enjoyment of the show, big plotty set pieces are important and carefully crafted, making the narratives dense and rich. WHAS is no Breaking Bad. I’m not saying that disparagingly, though. Not in the slightest. Plot is intrinsically underserved in this show because the jokes and gags come first, and the characters and their interactions come second. Plot comes in maybe third. So when you have an episode where a lot of things happen all at once, some of which I’ll get to, it makes the episode a tad less enjoyable over all. Hopefully, we’ll get back to wall-to-wall jokes tomorrow.

4. It’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Starring Michael Cera!  

This is where some of the plottiness comes in. Jim Stansel, the lawyer representing Camp Firewood, has refused Zanstar’s offer of $5 million to drop the suit. And so they take it to trial… later that night. Michael Cera gets to do a whole bunch of speechifying, lampooning every overwrought courtroom drama ever made. This whole sub plot is kind of funny, but it never really hit home for me. Maybe it’s because the approach the writers took with it was more of just a straight spoof. There was some over the top silliness, but nothing on the level we see back at camp. The best bit in this entire story was when Stansel has given up and stormed out of the courtroom. Beth follows him, trying to convince him to get back on the horse. As they’re talking, we hear “Wait!” from an unfamiliar voice. A tall man with a jewfro talking in a robot voice comes sort of half trotting around the corner, holding the evidence that will defeat Zanstar. It’s a totally ridiculous 11th hour deus ex machina, and it’s perfect for this show. We never find out who the heck that guy was. And that is how it should be.

5. There’s that kiss

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Yes, Ben and McKinley have finally given in and it was beautiful. Now, I want to clarify, because I don’t think I have before, I’m not super familiar with the original WHAS, so all of this is fairly surprising to me. I know, blasphemy and all that. But I’m enjoying the crap out of this, even if my memory of the original is a tad hazy. It was nice to see the two of them so excited after killing it with their Zoot Suit number. And while we’re talking Zoot Suit…

6. How is Zoot Suit the closing number of the first act!?

Alright, I’m going to out myself for the second time this review. I’m also an actor and grew up in the theatre world. In musicals, the show is usually divided into two acts. The last song of the first act is almost always a showstopper, including the whole cast and often representing a break-out moment for one of the characters. Think “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. No? Wrong audience..? Okay, well, Zoot Suit is no showstopper. I’m also very unclear how it fits into the plot of Electro/City at all. Curse this unclear plotting!

Oh, right. I was supposed to get off my high horse about that.

7. Uhm. Susie is 16?

Amy Poehler’s character, Susie, who slept with John Slattery’s character, Claude, in the last episode is apparently only 16. Claude asks her to come be his assistant in New York after the musical goes off without a hitch. But she insists that she has to stay in Camp Firewood. Besides, their relationship would never work because she’s only 16. That is some pretty clever bait and switch going on. I guess because Susie and Ben were in positions of authority and weren’t really part of the camp counselor group, I just assumed they were both older. I think that was definitely by design. I think David Wain and the other writers wanted you to say “wait, what?” when you find out Susie’s age. Just another brilliant little moment in a sea of brilliant little moments.

8. Wow, this musical is dark

I mean, it ends with Andy’s character being executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Jesus, who picked this play for a summer camp? Also, how long did it run on Broadway? Also, I kind of just want to watch an entire episode where they perform the musical. I’m really curious about what the plot of Electro/City actually is.

9. Best joke of the episode goes to: that one iPhone gag

After a crushing defeat, the head of Zanstar calls in the Falcon to take care of the mess. It’s all very menacing until Greg (Jason Shwartzman) comes up and says “Excuse me? What’s that metal thing in your hand?” and you realize he’s using an iPhone and that it’s the 80’s and wow I didn’t even notice that that was an anachronism until it was blatantly pointed out. Well done again, WHAS. Well done…

10. MURDER!

OH SHIT! MICHAEL CERA AND JASON SHWARTZMAN ARE DEAD. The Falcon (Jon Hamm) straight up murdered them right after the trial. Damn! That’s one humdinger of a cliffhanger! I guess you guys will have to check in tomorrow to see how this crazy turn of events affects the crew.

See you tomorrow!

Check out thoughts on earlier episodes of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp below!

10 Thoughts on Wet Hot American Summer – Dinner

10 Thoughts on Wet Hot American Summer – Auditions

10 Thoughts on Wet Hot American Summer – Activities

10 Thoughts on Wet Hot American Summer – Campers Arrive & Lunch

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