By Lesley | August 4, 2010
In between episodes, the journal entries of some of our campers appear, as if by magic, on the official Huge website. I’ve heard from a few commenters recently that these entries are written by Miz Dooley herself, and if that’s true, I suppose we can consider them canonical, if we have yet reached the point where Huge merits a canon. Is there fanfiction yet? I’m getting a fair number of Google hits from folks seeking fic, mostly “george and amber”, but as I do not read fanfiction myself I don’t know how one would go about looking for it. “Huge” being a common word, Google isn’t much of a help.
This week’s entry comes from Will, written during the Phantasma viewing. Most of it has to do with Will’s realization that Ian hadn’t read her journal, and that nothing he’d said or done since was an encoded message to her about… about feelings she might have hoped he’d been trying to share. There’s a bit about how Will once wished she could look like Amber, but no longer. And then it comes to:
“At least he didn’t read it. At least I have that. Let him think I like someone else. Or that I don’t like anyone. I’ll be his friend. Nothing’s changed. I can’t just stop hanging out with him. Maybe I could have before, but it’s too late now, I’m in too deep. I just want to be near him. No matter how bad it hurts sometimes.”
Reading this, I felt a tiny shock of recognition, palpable but thready, distant, familiar. In the dining room of the home I share with my husband, there is a cedar chest that came from my grandmother’s house, which my father kindly and at great expense shipped to me from Florida many years ago, with the writing desk that had been in my childhood bedroom for as long as I can remember. The cedar chest is piled high with books, like every other surface, but inside it holds journals and diaries going back twenty-five years, tinging them all with a musty smell which makes them seem older than they are, although they are, indeed, getting older all the time. I read that paragraph above, and then numbly, almost involuntarily, went to the cedar chest to open it, to make certain that my journals were still there.
My age has been a recurring theme in these recaps: my distance from my teenage years, my inappropriate crushing(s) on various cast members. I remember the things — songs, books, movies — that spoke to me then and none of them spoke to me as clearly as Will does here, because Will bears a marker that I bore too, one that had shaped my entire perception of myself for all of the life that I could remember, at that point. Sure, Will is a little butch, a little aggressive, a little too smart for her own good, and these were all parts of me then — but Will is also fat, and fat is an amplifer for everything else that seems to be wrong with you. If you are broken, it is because you are fat, and if you are fat, it must be because you are broken; welcome to this maze with no exit, no hope of redemption.
I continue to be surprised by how sweet the adolescent angst of the kids of Camp Victory seems to me now, seen from this vantage point, far up on a hill looking down on the battlefield. Seen in totality it is epic, immense, even beautiful. Seen in microcosm, as with Will’s journal entry, it is devastating and brutal, the difference between the political outcome of a great battle in an unending war, versus the acute pain of an individual who is losing their fight, or whose fight has already been lost. And even this, even this I can watch with a sadistic fondness: You won’t always feel so much, I tell her, in my head, as I tell my teenage self, who still stomps around bitterly in the background noise of my mind from time to time. Is it my age that makes all this seem so tender and innocent and blurry around the edges? I remember the angst, but years have made even the angst palatably savory. I wrote some time ago, in my advice to sixteen-year-olds, about the numbness that age can bring –
“You will, slowly, cease to feel everything so acutely. Pain will hurt less, but joy will be more fleeting. Injustices that once seemed outrageous and blinding will fade into the grey background noise of life. Some of you will be relieved to leave this behind; some of you will fight ferociously to chase after your enthusiasm and your rage and to not let it slip out of view over the horizon.”
I am forever chasing, and I can relate to their misery with the luxury of hindsight, of knowing it will all turn out okay for me, because it always has. There is validation in Huge, for those who have or who continue to struggle with uncertainty, insecurity, hopelessness, fear — a validation you will not find anywhere else right now. C. S. Lewis once said: “We read to know we are not alone.” This is why I watch this show; this is probably why you watch this show, and read these recaps, and this blog, and any other blogs you read, et cetera, et cetera. For company. For comradeship. For commiseration.
Previously: Twilight took a beating, Wayne built a fence, and Chloe/Trent shippers were satisfied.
Meta: If I had known what we were in for when I began this recapping extravaganza, I would have been applying an Angst-O-Meter rating to each episode from the start. As of today I shall be doing so, and will go back and retroactively rate the other eps for the sake of continuity. We’ll work on an angst-scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being on a level with Pee Wee’s Playhouse and 5 being closer to The Remains of the Day.
Angst-O-Meter Rating (1-5): 3
So Huge is taking us to church! Literally. We begin this episode with Dr. Gina leading those campers who choose to attend in a vague and nonspecific service. There’s a prayer that reads a bit like guided meditation, in which Dr. Gina tells the campers they can ask for anything, even simple things — at this point Amber whispers her own prayer for “thighs that don’t touch” — and says, “We can ask to be made kinder, for instance. To be given more of the milk of human kindness.” We get Chloe and Alistair in a tight closeup for this bit, Chloe in the foreground, Alistair, eyes closed, a row behind her.
The quiet contemplation is upended as Dr. Gina turns to see Will and Ian peering in the window. Outside, Will wants to know how ultra-religious a person has to be to go to church whilst at camp. Ian asks why wouldn’t people keep going, if they usually do so when not at camp. Huh. Good point. Ian observes that he attends services there, just not on Sunday. Will: “Oh right, you guys do it on Fridays.” Will wants to know if Ian, like, prays about stuff. He does. Unfortunately, before we can get any further on this topic, a rogue frisbee flies into the scene and both Will and Ian adopt the same ducking hands-over-head pose I tend to strike whenever someone throws something — even a readily-identifiable throwing object, like a ball — at me.
With the frisbee comes an exhortation to “THINK FAST” from Trent, who comes a-runnin’. Ian: “Oh god, my stalker.” He returns Trent’s frisbee, and Trent asks if he wants to play. Ian declines, “I’m still sore from rock climbing.” Mmm hmm. I just KNOW the underwear pillowfights are totally happening and they’re not filming them. Will thinks Trent’s budding bro-crush on Ian is cute. Ian disagrees.
Back at church, we’ve got a rousing chorus of “This Little Light of Mine” going on. Dr. Gina Torres has a marvelous voice. I’m just saying. Alas, we don’t hear much of it, as Salty Dad pulls her aside and Poppy takes over.
In Dr. Gina’s office, she is meeting with George, whom she instructs that “we have a problem.” George is all SHE LOOKED EIGHTEEN OFFICER I SWEAR until Dr. Gina explains that Shay — that’s our Jillian Michaels proxy, missing now since Talent Night — has been called away due to a family emergency. Which means someone else has to lead the camping trip, AKA “Spirit Quest”. Dr. Gina is asking George because he was an eagle scout. No kidding? Dr. Gina and I are both impressed. Also because he has a Native American grandfather, and knowing how to build a fire or dig a hole to shit in is totally genetic. George awkwardly (DRINK!) babbles his way through accepting this important task.
Moments later, he’s packing with Poppy. Poppy seems kind of sad that she wasn’t chosen to lead Spirit Quest; as George notes, Poppy has worked there longer than him, PLUS the spirit quest Poppy went on with Dr. Gina “changed my life.” As the campers prep to leave, Dr. Gina gives Poppy a cell phone for emergencies. LET’S QUEST, YOU GUYS!
As they hike, Becca explains the Questing to Will. Sort of. Will looks dubious, and Ian tells Becca: “Don’t bother, she’s already decided that it sucks.” They rest for a moment next to a stream while George and Poppy consult the thirteen pages of instructions Shay faxed to him that morning. Hilarious. Poppy thinks they should allow themselves to be carried away like fluffy dandelion seeds on a friendly wind of destiny! George wants to follow Shay’s instructions. Amber steps onto a log lying across the stream, and George reaches to steady her, telling her to be careful. Amber then helpfully knocks the thirteen pages of instructions into the water. Oops.
George panics and Poppy is philosophical: “Let go of the plan, and let yourself be guided from within!” I had an awesome friend in college of whom Poppy reminds me, though my friend was even more of a flighty hippie.
Back at Camp Victory, Wayne has returned! Yay! Dr. Gina is super-happy to see him. I think the doctor has a touch of come-here-go-away syndrome. Wayne seems as perplexed by her warm reception as I am. He’s just finishing the fence, but maybe he was more work to do, wink wink, nudge nudge.
In the woods, the Questers have finally reached their campsite. George says, “Okay, I know you guys are tired, but we should really start pitching the tents before it gets dark,” and I laughed and laughed and laughed, because I am secretly twelve. George tells them to buddy up for tent-pitching — god, these jokes are too easy — but Poppy asserts that everyone should be matched with a buddy they don’t know well, to expand their minds, or something. She pairs Becca and Chloe, Amber and Will, Trent and Alistair. HEY DOES IAN NEED A BUDDY FOR TENT– oh, damn it, he’s matched up with Dante, whom everyone but me calls by his last name.
Chloe and Becca awkwardly (DRINK!) begin the tent-pitching process, as Becca struggles with part of the tent. Chloe takes it from her saying, “remember?” Becca does remember, as we are treated to a flashback to last summer in which a nerdier, frizzy-haired, fatter (?) and frumpier Chloe hanging out with Becca in happier times, during last year’s Spirit Quest.
Once the sun’s gone down, Poppy wants to invite the campers to form a circle. George whispers to her, “Why don’t we just send them back to their tents?” Poppy wants to do something! The campers assemble and Poppy dubs a ladle the “talking stick”. Whoa, Girl Scout camping trip flashbacks. This one night on one of those trips, I woke up to discover the biggest spider I have ever seen hanging out on my sleeping bag, surveying my suitability as a meal, no doubt. Shudder.
Anyway, the talking ladle. Dante gets the talking ladle first, and, after first tapping it like a microphone, asks what they’re going to do now. Poppy hands the talking ladle to George, who mumbles, “We’re going to… do a thing… where we listen… to the quiet… ness… of nature.” Poppy instructs everyone to close their eyes, and the quiet…ness of nature is observed for like a second before Trent starts giggling, which sets off the fabled Giggle Chain Reaction. Poppy just rolls with it, though, observing that silence can be uncomfortable, because they spend so much of their lives surrounded by noise. George then abruptly announces that everyone should go to bed. Poppy momentarily countermands when she asks them to sit back down and instructs them to pay attention to their dreams. Then she promises them all an “experiential… experience” tomorrow. Hoo boy. George tells everyone not to keep anything edible in their tents lest the campers be turned into bear snacks.
I really dig Poppy and think George should just let her run things — obviously she has both a passion and a gift for it — but George disagrees, and tells Poppy he appreciates her help but doesn’t like that she keeps correcting him in front of “the kids”. Poppy is both hurt and frustrated by George’s recriminations, and finally tells him to do it on his own.
The next morning, Amber wakes to find Will’s hand on her face. She moves it disgustedly, only to have the sleeping Will flop an arm and leg over her. In another tent, a shirtless Trent applies deodorant. Shirt off, he’s shaped a lot like my husband. Damn it, I don’t need to think Trent is hot too. This show has burdened me with enough inappropriate crushes already. Alistair, lying next to Trent, wakes and says sleepily, “Good morning.” Marianne will love this.
Poppy thinks nature makes oatmeal extra tasty. Ian sits down next to Will and tells her he had a dream about her last night. Oh this should be good. “You were drinking out of this giant milk carton, and it was getting all over your shirt, and then I realized, it wasn’t normal milk. It was the milk of human kindness,” at this point, Will is giving him major side-eye, “and I wanted to taste it but you were like –” here we have a gesture, as of keeping a giant milk carton away from someone, “this is mine. And you didn’t give me any. And now I’m totally mad at you.”
Elsewhere, Trent finds an enormous grasshopper in his oatmeal, which Dante sensitively rescues and instructs to “go on home”. He then ruins it by getting all homophobic on Trent, asking how he’s enjoying sharing a tent with Alistair.
Poppy wants everyone to think about a new name for themselves. She asks Becca to explain, and apparently the idea is that you come up with a name that represents the person you believe yourself to be. The other campers still don’t get it. Becca says, adorably: “I have a book that explains it better.” Dante asks if he can be “banana slug” and seems genuinely stoked when Poppy says “Sure!” Alistair wants to be “Athena”, which Dante not-so-helpfully announces in a girl’s name. Alistair knows. Poppy wants them to think about their new names as they go out into the woods, and George says it’s actually about finding firewood. Make sure it’s dry, here’s a compass and map, try not to be devoured. And HAVE FUN!
Back at camp, Dr. Gina comes into the kitchen, where Salty Dad asks her to help him fill the salt shakers. Dr. Gina, uncharacteristically good-natured, corrects him: “It’s s’nalt. A salt substitute.” Salty Dad: “Don’t you mean s’nubstitute?” LOLLLL. Salty Dad asks Dr. Gina about Spirit Quest, and she explains that its purpose is to break the kids out of their comfort zones, because in your comfort zone, “nothing ever changes.”
In the woods, Becca and Chloe are alone, and reminiscing about how mean Shay was last year. They remember their chosen names from last year: Chloe’s was “pinecone”, and Becca’s was “running turtle”. In an instant, their shared laughter becomes an awkward (DRINK!) reminder of their former friendship, and their smiles evaporate.
Elsewhere, Alistair is collecting firewood while Trent kneels on the ground, checking out a mushroom. Turns out he’s looking for hallucinogenic mushrooms, and he utters the storied phrase spoken by boys nationwide at one point or another, and references his desire to “trip balls”. Sigh. He has a hand-drawn picture of the ball-tripping mushroom he seeks, which seems to me like a one-way ticket to liver and/or kidney failure.
Back at camp, Salty Dad joins Wayne in the fence-building project. Dad tells Wayne that Dr. Gina’s not mad at him, but is rather mad at his Saltiness: “Because I left, when she was eleven. Never came back. Well, here I am now, trying to be her dad.” Wayne says that’s good, and Salty Dad continues: “If at first you don’t succeed–” They exchange looks, and Wayne finishes the thought, “Try again.” I guess Wayne will be purchasing another ticket for Dr. Gina’s Wild Ride.
At the campsite, Poppy and George are alone. George returns Poppy’s phone; he’d tried to call his mom to get his Native American grandfather’s phone number, buuuuut it turns out he’s dead, which would be long distance. George thinks the Quest has failed and wants to run like hell. Poppy reads to him from the book of Native American spirituality she’s been peering at, which asserts that a strong desire to leave the Questy Location is normal, “and a sensation of insanity may take over.” Speaking of tripping “balls”.
The campers are delivering their firewood back to the campsite, and Amber promptly breaks her compass by swinging it around carelessly. Dudes, Amber is a klutz. Like I’m just realizing this now, but she is always breaking shit. Ian is there and apologizes, though I don’t think he had anything to do with it. Ian is totally going to give Amber his compass now, mark my words.
And now we see the promised trust exercises! Ugh. This particular exercise involves one camper leading their blindfolded buddy around. Most of the campers seem to be taking it semi-seriously, except for Will, who drags Amber around with little concern for her welfare, eventually causing her to trip and fall. Amber takes off her blindfold angrily and excuses herself to go to the bathroom. Poppy instructs Will to follow.
Trent is still seeking satisfaction from the magical mushroom kingdom, and Alistair fakes him out by swiping a mushroom from the campsite food supply and “finding” it with Trent. Trent is dubious, but Alistair assures him it’s not poisonous: “Just try it, and see how you feel.”
Back at Camp Victory, Dr. Gina appears all freaking dolled up in a dress, with her hair down and curly. Salty Dad is astonished. She explains she had to coach swimming today, and her hair got wet. Salty Dad: “So, this is your real hair?” Seriously, all you curly/kinky/non-straight-haired women: let your curls be curly. Your hair is awesome. There’s a knock at the door, and it’s Wayne, who is likewise floored by Dr. Gina’s transformation. “This is her real hair,” says Salty Dad, pointing, before Dr. Gina gently smacks his hand down. So Wayne and Dr. Gina are going on a date. I kind of wish we could see more of this subplot.
Evidently Amber can only pee in freaking Canada, as she and Will have been walking this whole time. Amber — after instructing Will to both stand further away and also provide entertainment by talking — finally relieves herself. What’s she using for toilet paper? As Will babbles on for the benefit of Amber’s bladder, she begins to wonder which direction they came from. OH NOES. Amber’s not sure either. “And we don’t even have a compass,” says Will. No wait, Amber does. Will: “I thought you broke our compass.” Amber: “Ian gave me his.” Shit, y’all, I heard the sizzle when that particular piece of bacon hit the pan. Will simmers for a moment before ripping the compass from Amber’s hands and throwing it forcefully into the trees. It’s an incredibly stupid thing to do, but I also understand the sheer rage with which the action is dispensed. Amber thinks they should go “this way”, and off they go, without compass or map.
Huh, a commercial for an ABC Family showing of Sixteen Candles is promoted with “See where it began for Secret Life’s Molly Ringwald.” Hey, what about Salty Dad? He was the dad in Sixteen Candles too.
Back at the Quest, George and Poppy are worried. It’s dark, and Will and Amber have yet to return. George goes to look for them. Nearby, Trent is feeling all stoned off the suggestion that he ate a hallucinogenic mushroom. Sometimes the suggestion is all it takes, man. Trent studies a pinecone (remember Chloe’s name from last year?) with meticulous wonder, and asks Alistair how he knows about mushrooms and stuff. Apparently Alistair’s parents used to take him and his sister camping all the time, “before my sister started hating us.” Trent’s all wow, man, that’s such a bringdown, and ultimately it comes out that not only is Chloe Alistair’s sister, but they’re twins. Whoa. Trent wants to know why Alistair chose the name Athena, specifically why he chose a girl’s name. Alistair: “I like the name. I don’t see why I should have to choose a boy’s name just because people expect me to.” Trent is moved: “It’s like you have this personality, that people see you as, and you start to think maybe, that is all you are.”
Poppy tells the campers she’ll let them know as soon as Will and Amber are found, but in the meantime, she needs them to get in their tents. Ian doesn’t budge from where he sits beside the campfire. When Poppy asks him to comply, Ian needs a minute, and Poppy kindly leaves him alone.
Lost in the woods, Will is basically resigned to their inevitable death, when Amber hears something. Will, referring to wild animals: “Did he say to look them in the eye, or to never look them in the eye?” It’s not an animal; it’s a car. They’ve found a road, and more than that, a diner. Will and Amber hug for a split second before recoiling from each other in embarrassment. The woman closing up in the diner is spectacularly unhelpful, and neither of the girls knows the phone number for the camp. Doesn’t 411 still exist? Will watches mournfully as the last of the day’s donuts are dumped into the trash, and observes that she’s starving.
Once outside again, Amber wants to retrace their steps, while Will argues that when you’re lost, you’re supposed to stay put. Will’s still fixated on the donuts, and Amber needs her to focus. It turns into a standoff, and Amber walks back into the woods, leaving Will alone outside the Diner. Next to the dumpster. In which the bag containing the day-old donuts has just been left.
You see where this is going.
In the woods, George wanders, calling Amber’s and Will’s names with increasing urgency.
At the diner, Will turns over a milk crate and stands on it to look inside the dumpster. She surveys the garbage anxiously, searching for the donuts, and finds them, grabbing one with what looks like coffee grounds stuck to it. Will holds the donut, conflicted, desperate.
Elsewhere, George mumbles recriminations to himself, while Will clutches her dumpster donut and begs no one in particular for help.
At Will’s age, I’d spent so much of my life in forced denial. I could not remember how it was, as it must have been at some point, to eat a meal without a constant running tally of calories and fat grams thrumming in my head. I have to this day no memories prior to my early twenties, of eating anything, ever, and truly enjoying it. Eating was a chore to be gotten through; food could not be choked down quickly enough, and the faster I ate the less I had to think about it. I have often observed that I never craved sugar in my life prior to dieting, and I only learned to eat cellophane-wrapped snack cakes and waxen candy bars as a rebellion, a revolt against the tyranny of the cupboard at home filled with blue and white Jenny Craig boxes, a mutiny upon the Weight Watchers lists. Denial breeds craving — deprivation makes us desire whatever we’re missing more and more. Will holds her coffee-ground-sprinkled forbidden donut like a trophy or a hard-won prize; she ought to be able to eat a donut, right? She ought to be trusted to take care of her own body, to manage her desires, to take pleasure in food.
But it’s wrong. The circumstances are wrong. There is no pleasure in this. Elsewhere in the woods, George sees a wolf which leads him to the compass Will had thrown in anger. Standing over the dumpster, Will sees the letters S-I-G-N on a partially-obscured milk carton and throws the donut down, angry, disgusted. At herself for dumpster-diving for food? At a culture that has put her in this position? We may never know.
In the woods, George and Amber find each other, as we knew they would. Amber rewards George with a hug and a chaste kiss; George responds by going into full-on makeout mode. After a few moments of passionate teenage kissing, George rightly observes that they should go find Will. When they do, Amber tries not to look too smug.
Dr. Gina and Wayne are sitting on the tailgate of his truck, talking — notably NOT making out — next to a pond, when Dr. Gina’s phone rings. It’s Poppy, calling from the Quest, girding herself to admit that they lost some kids. Just as she’s getting to it, she sees George and our errant campers come through the trees, and so Dr. Gina’s date gets to continue unabated. Hopefully with some makeout.
There are hugs aplenty at the campground upon their return. Let’s kill the fatted calf! Fatted, get it? Oh never mind. I think Dante calls Amber “Amburger” which is hiLARious.
Later, Trent sneaks into Chloe and Becca’s tent while Becca is sleeping. They have a sweet moment and get to kissing, and as the camera pans down to reveal Becca in the foreground, with the lovers making out behind her, she opens her eyes and looks annoyed. Welcome to my college-dorm experience, dear.
Beside the fire, George reads to Poppy from the book on Native American spirituality they’ve been sharing. Other campers sleep peacefully. Ian wakes and looks over to see Dante writing something, holding a flashlight. Fucking hell, is Ian ever adorable. I had to get that in just once in this recap, okay?
In the morning, they pack up to head back to the comparative luxury of Camp Victory. As they do so, Trent remarks to Dante, “That kid Alistair? He’s really deep.” He then calls Alistair by the name he chose, Athena, asking him for the bug spray. Trent, I’m really starting to dig you. Chloe walks by Becca and Becca seems to expect her to help, but instead she passes by and hugs Amber. This triggers another flashback: Becca and Chloe the previous summer, goofing around at the Questsite, until two handsome boys approach. One of them gives Chloe a once-over. I presume this is the second sleeping-bag shenanigan-er.
Back in reality, Will notices Becca packing up alone and volunteers to help her. Aww. Our campers walk out of the woods — wiser, kinder, less comfortable? We can hope.
Next week: um, some nonspecific stuff happens. This is a really vague teaser, right up until it shows more making out between Amber and George, which Will seems to witness. SCANDAL!
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