Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 6: “The Dharma Bums”
Tuesday, August 02, 2016
You would think that Cricket’s death would be the focal point of the episode following her fatal encounter with a bear trap last week, but it wasn’t. Instead, Deb was the main focus of “The Dharma Bums” and everything just floated around her story.
“The Dharma Bums” begins in 1970 on the last night of camp. Deb is looking after the campers at the camp dance when her boyfriend Keith sneaks her out so they can bury a time capsule, have sex, and stargaze in the woods.
Camp Stillwater…. Ignoring campers since 1970.
They have some hippie conversations about traveling the world, running away, and talk about Kerouac’s book The Dharma Bums, which they bury in the time capsule. (Disclaimer: I have never read, nor heard of, The Dharma Bums before this episode. I had to google it to find out what it was about. I have also never read On the Road. I tried to start it once and couldn’t get into it.)
Fast Forward to 1989 where the entire Camp Stillwater staff watches Cricket’s parents load their daughter’s belongings into a station wagon. Once the station wagon drives off, Deb addresses the staff about Cricket’s death. And when I say staff, I don’t just mean the now Stillwater Five.
She tells the counselors that they can use the phone in her cabin to call home if they need, and also throws in that campers can, too, if they want. See, once in a while Deb remembers that there are campers at this camp. She has also cancelled activities for the day so everyone can “take care of each other” and then peaces out. This cracks me up. Here is Deb being like “I am going to cancel activities so you can take care of each other. So instead of having any sort of structure or direction, you 18-year-olds are going to sit with grieving kids all day, as you deal with your own grief, and come up with ways to console/entertain them. Also that phone I said you can use, you can’t because I am going to hole myself in my cabin and no one can come in.”
As she walks off, Joel informs her that Deputy Sykes has ruled Cricket’s death an accident. This does not console Deb though. When she gets to her cabin, her old camp lover Keith is there waiting for her. They reconnect, smile, and reminisce about old times and how life has changed yada yada yada. He tells her that he is only here for one night and that she should meet him at their spot in the woods to talk and have sex. She abides, but after they are done doing the deed, Keith is like “Well I said I was only here for one night” and literally just bolts off into the woods. In shock, Deb runs after him. But here is the thing… WHAT ABOUT THE BEAR TRAPS? Did they disappear when Cricket died?
So let me just get Deb’s backstory out of the way now so I can be done with it:
After not running away and traveling the world with Keith, Deb went to Harvard Law and fought the good fight for Children’s Defense League in Chicago. It was there that she met a slick corporate lawyer. She started dating said lawyer and then defied all of her principles by taking a job at an evil corporate law firm. But, even though her life had taken a different direction, she never forgot about Keith. As she is reading one of Keith’s postcards out loud, to herself, in her new corner office her slick lawyer boyfriend comes in and proposes. Here is a tip to anyone proposing to their significant other: if they respond with an unenthusiastic, “Um, of course” and their face looks like this…. it’s probably not going to work out.
One day while leaving her Chicago law office, Deb runs into Keith. Oh fate, you tricky maiden. They go out for a drink and Keith reveals that he has failed at being a writer and asks her to run away with him. When she declines, he offers her his motel room key so she will know where to find him. Deb has a change of mind and heart and goes to see her long-lost lover in the motel, but she is too late. When she arrives Keith is on the floor dead from a heroin overdose. Not knowing how to handle her grief, Deb goes to the place where she and Keith first met, Camp Stillwater, and while she is there she sees that the camp is for sale. And that is how Deb Carpenter became a camp Director.
But that isn’t the interesting part of this story. The interesting part is that Deb has known Keith was a ghost all along! She spent the day avoiding her job as Camp Director to talk to her dead ex and then goes into the woods to have ghost sex. For the record, this is the second time this season that Deb has had imaginary sex in woods. Actually, watching this episode makes me think that maybe Deb and Joel did have sex, only maybe she thought it was Keith? I have no idea. This is way too weird for me to wrap my head around.
Meanwhile, the counselors are together trying to come to terms with Cricket’s death and its relation to all the creepy stuff going on around camp. Alex finds Cricket’s death fishy because an Outdoors Expert like Cricket knew where every bear trap was located in those woods. Joel is convinced that Cricket died because he didn’t listen to Holyoke and kill Amy. Amy thinks Cricket’s death was just an accident. Wait, really Amy? You were the leader of the whole “This Camp Is Haunted” bandwagon. You just found out that Cricket died after a ghost explicitly told Joel that someone would die if he didn’t kill you. How does any of that add up to being an accident?
So Blair comes up with the best idea for how to handle this situation. Find the camp’s old Ouija board and perform a seance to talk to Cricket’s spirit. Obviously, the most logical thing to do in a place haunted by spirits is to try to mess with said spirits by conjuring them. THIS CAN ONLY END BADLY. And thank god Jessie and Amy are there to tell everyone how bad of an idea this is. Joel also thinks it is a bad idea, which makes sense because Holyoke has been haunting him for the past year. Alex and Drew are on Team Seance though. Actually, Drew is on Team Blair but in this situation it translates to Team Seance.
Alex and Blair go to the kitchen to pick up some ginger and chicken blood. Luckily the staples of every healthy camp diet are also the necessary items for a seance. As they are about to leave Deb catches them. Blair refuses to tell her why they are in the kitchen and criticizes her handling of Cricket’s death:
Deb: I am your boss. You have to listen to me.
Blair: No! What, do you want to fire me? Go ahead.
Deb: Go back to your cabin and I’ll speak with you in the morning.
Blair: No screw that. I’m tired of taking orders from someone who obviously doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing.
While I understand Blair’s anger, and I have made it clear about my feelings on how this camp is run, Blair’s outburst seems out of place. Until this episode, Blair has not taken a single issue with how Deb runs this camp or the two or three tasks Deb has assigned him. Blair’s only issue is how Deb has dealt with the aftermath of Cricket’s death. So while I appreciate someone calling Deb out at being the worst Camp Director ever, Blair’s words rang hollow.
Anyway, Blair and Alex peace out because they have a seance to perform. Everyone forms in a circle to get the spirit party started except for Joel. Joel needs to film the seance because of course, he is Joel.
At first, they think the seance didn’t work. That is until a spirit jumped out of the Ouija board and into Amy’s body. Amy’s body starts convulsing and doing its normal exorcist thing until finally she sits upright and Cricket starts speaking through her. But Cricket’s spirit isn’t the only spirit to enter Amy’s body, Holyoke got in there as well and has his own message for the gang:
Possessed Amy: “You should have killed Amy when you had the chance. She is the doorway. Kill her. Kill her. Kill her.”
Finally, Blair undoes the spell and all is good, right? Nope. Jessie’s hand is now possessed and it is drawing pictures of skulls and compasses on its own accord.
While they are trying to sort out what just happened, Amy finds out that it wasn’t just Cricket’s spirit inside of her and she starts freaking out
Amy: “Someone else? What happened to me?”
This poor girl! Freaky shit keeps happening to her but she always blacks out during it!
Joel knows what is up though. What happened was they woke up Holyoke’s spirit. But, on the plus side, at least they know that all this crazy shit is real (a conclusion I thought was made last week). Jessie decides to get the big guns in on this so she goes to call Sykes for help. As Jessie leaves Amy calls out for her:
Amy: Jessie. I’ll cover your cabin.
They have to keep up the charade that they care about their campers once in a while.
While running to Deb’s cabin to call Garrett, Jessie runs into Garrett at camp. See earlier that day Garrett had found a clue in his father’s cufflink that lead him to an old case file that lead him right back to camp. (I wonder if the cops ever respond to non-Camp Stillwater incidents?) Jessie explains to Sykes everything that went down with the Ouija board and shows him the possessed drawing. The drawing lines up perfectly with the demon lake map that Garrett has so the two head out on a treasure hunt.
The next day Deb calls a camp-wide meeting, and I think it is finally official… this is the size of the entire camp.
Deb delivers a personal and wildly inappropriate speech to the mixed group of 8- and 18-year olds. First, she apologizes for hiding instead of being there for everyone and says that she understands why people are calling her a shitty Camp Director behind her back. Next, Deb looks straight at Blair (while addressing the entire camp) and says:
Deb: “But maybe trying to talk to the ghost of a person we miss the most isn’t the best way to remember them.”
I could maybe give Deb some leeway if she were talking to just the counselors, even the randos that were not part of the seance, but she is addressing the ENTIRE CAMP. INCLUDING THE CAMPERS. Can you imagine this as a camper? You are devastated because you just lost your counselor to a bear trap and the next day there is literally nothing to do but sit around because all activities have been cancelled. Then the following day you are called to a camp-wide meeting where out of nowhere your Camp Director starts talking about how you shouldn’t deal with your grief by talking to ghosts. I mean, I just can’t.
On a non-snarky note, Deb brings everyone out to the woods for a Cricket memorial. The core counselors each put a memento in the box to remember Cricket: Joel, a D&D figurine; Amy, a Rolling Stone issue; Alex, the flower he was holding while waiting to bone Cricket; and finally Blair, his friendship bracelet. Drew doesn’t put anything in the box. Instead he brings Blair peanut butter cups to show that he cares.
Jessie is also missing from this memorial because she is still out with Garrett digging for treasure. And if gold meant a box containing a scrunchy, a skull and a deer heart, well gosh darnit, these two just hit gold. Not only did they hit gold, but the sacrifice box also helped them decipher the map’s code.
The drunk groundskeeper was found at “1”, and Cricket was found at “3” so they head to the location marked as “2” to find out what is buried there. When they arrive though, all they find is a pool of coagulated red goo. After further examination, Sykes looks up at Jessie and exclaims “Eureka! This is blood.” I truly believe that the phrase “No Shit Sherlock” was created for this very instance.
In the distance Damon and his evil gang watch from their car Luckily a true believer had moved Blotter’s decapitated head from the location marked “2” on the map, and the “teacher” is very proud of him.
Hmm. Okay here are my thoughts on the mystery. There are two main unknowns now:
- The True Believer
- The Teacher
I know nothing is ever really “safe” to assume, but after this episode I think it is safe to assume that Deb is not the big bad. To me Garrett, Blair and Drew are also off the suspect list. So now one of the questions becomes was it The Teacher or the True Believer we saw in the last scene of this episode. I think it was the True Believer which means the True Believer needs to be an adult. And now I know sometimes timelines are ambiguous to trick us but I will make the following assumptions. Jessie is now ruled out as the true believer because she was with Garrett, and Amy and Alex are ruled out because they were at Cricket’s memorial. That leaves only two adults that we know on the show 1) Garrett’s mom 2) Garrett’s boss. So now for The Teacher, that is a lot more complicated. I want to rule out Anton because that is just too obvious. I don’t think it is any of the core group, but if I had to pick two people who it could be from them it would be Alex and Blair. The only other person I think it could be is this camper.
I hope you all remember her! She is the girl who had the Hear and Speak gaming device taken away from her by Cricket in episode 3! If having your bizarre handheld digital English Language device taken from you during Arts and Farts isn’t reason enough for revenge, I don’t know what is!
I need to discuss the presence/existence of these other counselors. I am going to limit myself to five questions because this can go on forever.
- Who are they and do they have names?
- Why did they not come up to help set up camp?
- Why is that one guy ALWAYS wearing fisherman overalls?
- Why have we never seen a single main character interact with any of these people?
- Are any of them co-counselors with the main crew?
LOL, great review! You were particularly snarky this week!
About “The Dharma Bums”… when I saw that was the title of this episode before starting to watch, it immediately made me think of the hit ABC show from a few years back LOST. (Anyone else think of that?) In fact, whenever I see the word “Dharma” in any context, I think of LOST, as the so-called ‘Dharma Initiative’ was one of the big mysteries on the show. Add to that the fact that Elizabeth Mitchell had joined the cast of LOST in the last few seasons, and it really caught my attention. I didn’t know WHY the episode was titled that, but figured it would become clear.
Of course when they showed the title of that book, it did become clear. I too had never heard of the book, and googled it as I was watching to discover it was indeed a real book, a semi-sequel to the famous Kerouac book ‘On the Road’.
Then later when Drew handed Blair the candy bar I knew the writers of this show were messing with us…the familiar “Apollo” brand which doesn’t actually exist, but was the pretend brand of choice for candy on, yep you guessed it, LOST! (Hurley’s favorite, if my memory serves!) Not sure if all the lost references will actually mean anything or not, but certainly BIG Easter eggs for fans of LOST.
As far as guessing who the big bad is, I will use the “Scooby-Doo” method of deduction. At the end of each show, when they unmasked the bad guy of the week, it was always basically the only other character we saw that show! As a kid, it was always like “WOW it was the old guy who ran the amusement park, holy cow!” (I’m sure those reveals would be much less impressive to me now…) It must be the Sheriff, he is the only other person we have seen, and oddly, we have not seen him much considering all the shit that had been going down at the camp. Plus, it has to be someone the same age as Deb, the same someone who was at her dance in 1970 wearing the same creepy mask we have been seeing all season.
Curious, have you watched Friday the 13th part 6 yet?
First, I have not had the chance to watch Friday the 13th part 6 yet. I will try to watch it this or next weekend.
Also…YES! The first thing I thought of was Dharma Initiatives from Lost as well! But then I saw that it was about The Dharma Bums and I thought that maybe I was being stupid assuming that it was a Lost reference instead of the book so I didn’t mention it. Also I knew that chocolate wrapper looked familiar I just couldn’t place it!
When I said Garrett’s boss I was referring to the Sheriff. I’m not sure if that was clear. It is kind of a lose lose for me in this situation. If The Sheriff is the Big Bad that is just so obvious, and that is disappointing. If he isn’t The Big Bad and it is just a rando that will also be disappointing. Basically the only way I won’t be disappointed is if the Hear n’ Speak girl is somehow involved.
Sometimes the obvious thing is the best thing. Trying to be too clever sometimes makes tv shows or movies worse than if they had just done the obvious thing. Doing the obvious thing properly, with quality and logic abounding, can be a very satisfying conclusion to a story.
And if it is the Hear n’ Speak girl…well, can’t think of something too clever to say about it, so I will just say something obvious like…i will shit a brick!