Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 5: “How to Stay Alive in the Woods”
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
I really enjoyed this week’s episode of Dead of Summer “How to Stay Alive in the Woods.” Yes, the show still had its faults but everything that happened seemed to have a purpose and helped move the plot and the mystery forward. The story was compelling enough that I didn’t even care about the nonsensical way this camp is run (at least kind of). And this is surprising because when I saw this was a Joel episode I assumed that it would consist of Joel pretentiously walking around with his camcorder.
“How to Stay Alive in the Woods” begins with a young Joel filming his older brother Michael get ready for prom. Joel voices his concern about heading to camp without cool older brother to protect his geeky ass. So, Michael takes his Jackie Robinson jersey off his back and gives it to Joel to give him confidence.
As Joel leaves the room to he notices Michael acting weird but lets its go. When he goes upstairs later to see what is taking Michael so long he hears water running in the bathroom. Joel opens the bathroom door and witnesses a scene no one should ever see. He sees his brother lying in the bathtub with his wrists slit and the message
“He will never leave me alone.”
Scrawled above him in blood.
Back in the present day of 1989, the counselors are in the Staff Lounge cabin discussing the previous night’s events when Joel struts in like he is on top of the world. Which he is, because he just slept with a cougar. Alex bros out hooting and hollering about Joel’s conquest and asks to see video footage of them boning (Vomit). Joel doesn’t kiss and tell though. Instead he shifts the conversation by asking for details about Blair/Drew (Blew? Dair? I am still undecided) which shuts everybody up fairly quickly.
The counselors need to get going though since they have a big camp wide camping trip planned. Fun fact: Cricket is the camp’s outdoors expert, so she is leading the hike. What are the qualifications for this position? Fuck if I know, but I think it includes just knowing what a bear trap looks like. Cricket is VERY adamant about everyone being careful of bear traps. That seems to be her main qualification.
Alex continues to be an ass by telling the eight year old campers that a camper eating monster resides in the woods. Alex’s douche bag move actually induces a campers asthma attack. That is how awful Alex is, his douchebaggery literally almost killed a camper.
Jessie and Joel help the camper get her inhaler out of her backpack and Joel ensure young Francie that nothing in these woods will hurt her. Except for bear traps, and well, her asthma.
When Joel turns around he sees Amy with blood dripping down her face and then she falls to the ground. Then out of nowhere, he sees the Tall Man appear behind Amy’s lifeless body. He whips out his camcorder but when he looks into the lens, the Tall Man is nowhere to be found.
At the campsite, Deb assigns each counselor a task. How dare she make these counselor work! Amy and Jessie head down to the creek to collect water where Amy plops down on a rock to read “How to Stay Alive in The Woods,” a book she found in the staff lounge.
(This is a real book but I doubt the line she later recites from it “the right stick is essential to the perfectly roasted marshmallow” is actually in the handbook. I’m just saying). Jessie, not one to beat around the bush, tells her that she saw Amy with her tongue down Garrett’s throat the previous night. Amy is confused because she doesn’t remember kissing Garrett (or the creepy lake hand?). She tries to explain that “So many freaky things are happening in this place,” but Jessie just rolls her eyes. While yes, Amy is correct in noting freaky shit does happen at Camp Stillwater this is probably not the best excuse to use for kissing a boy. If it was me, I would have used the “I don’t remember a kiss. I think I had a blackout from being STRUCK BY LIGHTNING IN THE LAKE TWO DAYS AGO!” excuse. But that’s just me.
Jessie tells her to stop putting up a front and admit she likes Garrett. Amy throws this right back in her face and tells Jessie to admit she likes Garrett. Sound childish? Well it was.
Amy: “The only one putting up a front here is you, and Garrett’s not the only one of your old friends who doesn’t like it.”
Wait huh? This seemed to come out of nowhere.
Joel is assigned to help Deb pitch the tents. I would have made a joke about this, but Alex beat me to it, and now I feel like it would be beneath me. Joel tries to flirt with Deb but instead of flirting back she is just confused. Joel doesn’t understand Deb’s about face and when he tries to bring up the previous night, he realizes it was all in his head. The entire thing. When he heads back to watch all of his Deb footage he realizes that they didn’t have a connection, he was actually a stalker. And that apparently they didn’t have sex, that was also all in his head. So what did he actually do the night before?
Cricket and Alex are charged with collecting wood aka Cricket is collecting wood and Alex is trying to flirt.
His idea of flirting includes: 1) not helping Cricket find or carry any firewood and 2) reminiscing about how he used call her Davey Cricket, a name which she hated. But the kicker is HE FORGOT TO BE AWARE OF THOSE BEAR TRAPS. You do not fuck around with Cricket and her bear traps. When Alex realizes how stressed and wound up Cricket is, he offers to help her relax by servicing her bear trap. VOMIT. Cricket smirks at him and rejects the offer. He pleads with her, saying that he is a changed man to which Cricket responds:
Cricket: “Or maybe I’m the first girl to turn you down, and you can’t handle it.”
I am loving this new-found Cricket Confidence.
Since being useless, making fun of her, offering her sex, and not taking bear traps seriously did not work Alex heads over to the Gay Best Friend to get some advice. He asks Blair what Cricket’s favorite song is and for some bizarre reason Blair tells him. Next stop on the journey into Cricket’s pants, procuring said song. Good thing Drew is only two steps away and brought every cassette tape he owns on this camping trip. He tells Alex he can take the tape as long as he never calls him Drewski again.
As Alex leaves, Blair tries to apologize to Drew for how he reacted the previous night. He asks him for a second chance but Drew turns him down. Drew opened himself up to Blair, made himself vulnerable, and Blair rejected him. Now Drew’s walls are back up. I know Drew puts up the tough guy front, which makes sense to protect himself, but I am convinced that if Blair keeps at it, he will break through Drew’s walls again.
Blair then discovers that all of the meat for dinner has spoiled since someone forgot to put ice in the cooler (I bet it was Alex’s fault). Now someone has to go back to camp and bring back enough hot dogs to feed the entire camp. Joel doesn’t want Amy to go because the Tall Man is telling him to kill her. And then comes maybe my favorite most ridiculous line ever on this show:
Drew: Amy you’re better with the kids. Jessie and I will go.
Your LITERAL JOB is to spend time and watch over these campers. YOU SHOULD ALL BE GOOD WITH KIDS.
But I am fine with Drew’s decision because it leads to some great Jessie/Drew bonding time. This friendship makes me so happy. Also what makes me happy… Jessie is totally team Blair/Drew! As they are walking back to the campsite with the hotdogs they run into Sykes outside of the creepy haunted cabin. You know, that romantic one that Alex brought Amy to on their first date. Drew takes this as his cue to leave and Jessie and Garrett go to investigate the cabin. Within two seconds Jessie proves she is a better cop than Garrett by finding a trapdoor that contains a 19th century recording thingy, a creepy doll, and a pair of cufflinks belonging to Garrett’s late father. They play the recording and it turns out the Tall Man was actually a cult leader named Holyoke and he convinced his followers to commit a mass suicide in Lake Stillwater. (That kid last week should be happy all he found in that lake was a pair of old boots)
Meanwhile the Tall Man keeps terrorizing Joel. And he now he has infiltrated his safe place. The one thing that keeps him sane: his camera. His camera was his anchor to reality. If he didn’t see the Tall Man through the lens, then Joel knew he wasn’t real. But now there is nothing to tether him to reality. So when Francie has another asthma attack Joel takes it upon himself to go find her inhaler by himself. If he isn’t around Amy then he can’t kill her right? But if he doesn’t kill her then someone else will die? He literally has no options.
Amy follows Joel through the woods and when Joel sees her the Tall Man just keeps chanting “Her or someone else.”
Joel can’t take it anymore and as he puts a knife to his wrist he repeats the same words he read above his brother’s dead body:
Joel:“He’ll never leave me alone”
Amy, the angelic saint that she is, stops him and comforts him and tells him everything is going to be okay.
Around the campfire, Joel tells the others about his brother’s suicide and how he has been seeing things for the past year. It started right before prom, just like it had with his brother. He first saw the Tall Man when he was getting fitted for his tux, but then he just kept popping up. Joel is convinced his is going insane and realizes it is time to reach out for help:
Joel: “My camera used to be the only thing that I could trust to show me what’s real. It’d never lie. But now the camera’s not working and I’m getting worse.”
Jessie comes in at the tail end of Joel’s confession and reveals what she and Sykes found in the cabin. Joel freaks out when he sees the picture of Holyoke and realizes it is the same man who has been haunting him. Amy is like ZOINKS:
Amy: “This place it feeds on our weaknesses, and Holyoke has something to do with it.”
Jessie is still not buying it and out of nowhere Anton walks into the counselor circle to announce that Joel isn’t the only one seeing Holyoke. (Hi Anton!) Joel asks what Holyoke wants from him
Anton: He told you what he wants. You didn’t listen. He said you should have killed her when you had the chance.
Meanwhile, Alex is standing around with his one flower and borrowed boombox and tape waiting to get laid. Cricket hears the music and gets excited that maybe Alex HAS changed. But her excitement fades when a wooden horse masked man pushes her and her head lands straight into a bear trap. THAT I did not see coming. I really thought Alex was going to die. I was hoping and praying it would be Alex. But in the end, not even Cricket could save herself from those bear traps. RIP Cricket, we barely knew thee.
- Just a random aside, per Joel’s camcorder it is July 4th. I find it interesting that no one mentioned this. There could have been some awesome horror scenes with fireworks and stuff.
- Are Drew and Jessie supposed to be carrying enough in their backpacks to feed an entire camp? Also, they never actually return to the campsite until it was dark so did the kids even eat dinner?
Putting aside the rather ridiculous notion of getting back to nature by camping in the woods (tents) when you are already at present GETTING BACK TO NATURE BY CAMPING IN THE WOODS!!!! (rustic wooden cabins), the first ‘that is totally ridiculous’ moment of the series occurred in this episode, and that is this…
No one in the entire world would take a bunch of kids camping in the woods with ACTIVE BEAR TRAPS ALL OVER THE PLACE!!!! What’s next, playing horseshoes in a minefield? Make sure you hit the stake kids, one errant throw could cause the death and maiming of us all! Hide and seek at the gun range? Bobbing for apples in a barrel of toxic sludge? The good news Timmy, you got an apple! The bad news, your face is melting off…