Huge, Episode 8: Survive the only way that you know.

By | August 17, 2010

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Well, we are slowly winding down to the (hopefully temporary) finale. Truth be told, as much as I love recapping, I do look forward to getting back to blogging about other things, like Janelle Monae, and this dress from ASOS.

Angst-O-Meter (1-5): 5

Previously: The campers weighed in. Some will win, some will lose, some were born to sing the blues. Also, Dr. Gina and Salty Dad had a fight, and Amber and George got some quality makeout time, which was witnessed by Will.

It’s evening at Camp Victory. Annnnd, they’re still making out. Actually this is probably a different round. George interrupts to ask, “So when will you be seventeen?” Amber: “March.” George: “Oh. So, soon.” They resume making out, and George moves on to the groping segment of the program, though as he approaches Amber’s belly-chub, she pulls away instantly. She doesn’t want him to touch her stomach. Recognition flickers across the faces of millions of girls nationwide. What’s also interesting about seeing the two of them so… close together, is the reference point it provides for Amber’s size. Much has been made of Amber’s relative smallness compared to the other campers, but next to tiny George — who, standing on his own, looks like pretty much any youthful actor on any teencentric show — Amber’s distance from the slender ideal is cast into much sharper relief. They collaborate to start meeting for morning-makeouts as well, since that would be easier to lie about if Amber was caught outside her cabin. She likes to watch the sun rise! I also bet little birds land on Amber’s shoulders and a band of squirrels plays her a merry song, and maybe a deer comes and sits beside her and tells her how all the deer in the forest only wish they were as wide-eyed and innocent and pure as Amber appears to be.

Makeout times.

Elsewhere, Dr. Gina is making some intense exultations of pleasure in Wayne’s truck. Nah, it ain’t sexual, they’re eating ribs — indeed, good ribs will elicit similar noises from yours truly. The sign outside says “Oink’s Ribs” which is both funny and terrible. Wayne wants to know when Dr. Gina last ate from a drive-through window, and Dr. Gina cheerfully asserts: “I don’t eat in cars.” Or any vehicles. Wayne wants to see Dr. Gina tomorrow night, but Dr. Gina has a thing. She tells Wayne she’s in a twelve-step program, “the one for food”. Turns out she can eat in a car now because she discussed it with her sponsor first, and the “thing” tomorrow night is a meeting marking seven years of abstinence. From food? I guess from overeating.

Dudes, this scene is making me want ribs. Like, really bad.

Wayne wants to come with! Wayne is quite the catch, y’all, with his truck and his ribs and his fascinating knowledge of trivia.

Dr. Gina gets back to her cabin to find Salty Dad changing the light bulbs in her cabin, and explicitly not waiting up for her. Here I must note that Dr. Gina seems to have a smudge of something on her dress and I seriously hope it’s barbecue sauce. I’m going to choose to believe it is, inside my head. As Salty Dad asks how the date went, Dr. Gina gets a text from someone called Jonathan. Oh, I bet that’s the king of the tennis-douchebag camp from the LARPing episode. The text says he needs to see her. Salty Dad asks, “Are you texting, or sexting, or whatever they call it?” You know, it would be so easy for Salty Dad’s occasional pop culture commentary to come off as labored, but somehow it manages to be consistently funny. Salty Dad is happy that Dr. Gina is seeing Wayne so often. Dr. Gina: “So this is how you look when you’re happy?” Salty Dad: “Yup.”

Amber sneaks back into the girls’ cabin, where everyone is asleep — except for Will. Amber doesn’t notice and climbs into her bunk.

Commercials. I loathe this “toning sneaker” trend. You know what else “tones” your ass — if you believe in such things — with far more effectiveness than a pair of magic shoes? Walking!

It’s morning, and Chloe sleeps, blissfully unaware that the other girl campers are preparing to wake her with noisemakers and yelling. IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY CHLOE! YAAAAAAY. Will and Becca give halfhearted groans from the back. Amber reads the freshly-awoken Chloe the list of qualities ascribed to her by her astrological sign, one of which is that she’s “a loyal friend”. Cut to meaningful shot of Becca looking glum, Will watching her sympathetically.

During morning affirmations, Dr. Gina warns the campers to be vigilant of self-sabotage. ”There may be a self-destructive part of us that doesn’t want to get better.” I cannot fathom how these kids could possibly sabotage their alleged “success” given that they’re in a closed environment in which they are required to exercise every day and their food intake is strictly monitored. Maybe they’ll start breathing too much? I suppose they could hypothetically capture one of the Camp Victory ducks and eat it.

Trent sees Chloe’s “Happy Birthday” crown and mouths “happy birthday” to her. She mouths back “thank you.” Trent then sees Alistair in the background and slowly realizes it must be Alistair’s birthday too. And they didn’t do anything! Shit. Post-afffirmations, he grabs George and lets him know. George is on it! Like Batman, he will leap into birthday-related action.

At breakfast, Chloe is planning her birthday celebration for that night. She wants to invite Carter but not Sierra. But then who will be on crying detail? Chloe wants to know where they’re going to score some booze, and apparently Trent has a line on a counselor who, supplied with money, will purchase alcohol for them.

Across the room, Becca and Will are chatting. Becca remarks that there’s going to be a full moon tonight, and she wants to go out and sit under it, to draw some runes. She explains it Will, who seems unusually cheerful this morning: “They’re these stones with symbols carved in them. They’re used to divine the future.” And then we have one of my favorite small moments yet, from Will: “I love that word: Divine.”

This is how *I* look almost every day.

Will wants to do it! Yeah! High five! Rune party! Becca’s shocked that Will is interested; Will says, good-naturedly, “I think your nerdiness is contagious.”

Back at the cool kids’ table, Trent is ever-so-subtly trying to create room for Chloe to come clean about Alistair being her brother, by asking about what her family does for birthdays. The moment is lost, however, when Amber announces they should play “Never Have I Ever” tonight. I feel kind of old because this is a game that actually post-dates my own irreverent youth. Or maybe it doesn’t, and the kids I was hanging out with were satisfied to get drunk and hook up with random friends without the intervention of cutesy drinking games.

Walking back to the boys’ cabin, Alistair tells Ian he thinks he and Trent would make a cute band. Ian is understandably unsure of how to take this. But hey, SURPRISE! The boys all yell at Alistair as a means of noting his birthday. Also, he doesn’t have to do his chore on the chore wheel. Dante has to do it! Har. They’ve also made him a card, with a drawing of a top hat and a rabbit. Because Alistair likes magic. Alistair calls the art “visually arresting” and it’s all kind of sweet in an inept-teenage-boys-trying-to-make-good sort of way. Of course, the mention of birthdays brings up talk of cake, which continues for about a minute before Dante bellows, “Stop talking about cake!” Sadly, there is no reference made to two whole cakes, though the circumstances were perfect for it. Instead, Ian asks Alistair about his best-ever birthday gift, and Alistair explains that his sister got all the stuff he wanted. “Like those Sky Dancer dolls? They could fly. She had all of them. And I get, like, G.I. Joe. You ever try to make G.I. Joe dance with the sky? It’s super depressing.”

Circuit training! Becca’s spotting Will’s sit-ups. Ian comes over to tell her he’s worked out the bridge to their song, and they high-five. Will is in an awfully good mood. She tells Ian he should come with her and Becca tonight, for their “fortune-telling rune thing,” and Becca doesn’t even try to hide that she’s disappointed to have to share the evening with anyone other than Will. Now: I know a lot of folks are going to read this as Becca having a crush on Will — the idea has certainly been floated before, and it may be true. But I want to argue that focusing on romantic/sexual pairings overlooks the beautiful things this series is doing with friendship. Speaking for myself, all of my most powerful relationships in my teens and early twenties were friendships, many of which were profoundly intense and even romantic in completely non-sexual ways. I had friends with whom I identified so strongly, it was as though we shared a mind, and one particular relationship in which I very nearly lost myself in the bargain. That one left a deeper impression — negative and positive — on me than any dating or sexual relationship I’ve had before or since (with the obvious exception of my current relationship with my spouse).

When Becca’s face falls, I recognize it — I know that feeling, as an introvert who tends to prefer one-on-one social interactions to large groups. It is a longing for a special understanding, for an opportunity to connect privately with someone who gets you, who knows you, who likes you and appreciates you, just as you are. There is a romance to friendships like this, but it is not necessarily borne of a sexual desire so much as an emotional one. I’ve been in love with friends. I’ve been in love with friends for their amazing minds and their wonderful personalities, and for our shared ability to understand one another, and support one another, and to say what needs to be said, and to listen. There is romance in that, but we have no language for it in our culture — no way of identifying it and recognizing it except in half-formed concepts and vague descriptions. We have no means of speaking about desire for emotional and intellectual connection, as sex is always paramount, always primary, always assumed to be the driving force behind human connection. And sometimes it is. But sometimes it is not.

Ian leaves at George’s assertion that there is to be no “socializing”; Becca collects herself. George leans down to correct Will’s form, instructing her to “keep your neck straight, and let your ab muscles do all the work.” At this, he gestures, or possibly touches, Will’s stomach, and she says, brusquely: “I got it.”

Trent and Chloe are using the free weights, and Chloe is explaining that she’s told her parents all she wants for her birthday is a car. Oh, is that all? Trent is still trying to create space for her to talk about her brother, by asking about her family again. Chloe finally gets it, and Trent admits Alistair told him. Trent doesn’t seem to get why it’s a big deal, but Chloe is visibly upset. Whether she’s upset about being connected with her brother, or because she feels guilty about how she’s treated him, is anyone’s guess.

Making matters worse, Dante comes over to tell Chloe that their alcohol-supplying counselor has changed his mind: “He had some change of heart where he realized it’s wrong to sell booze to kids and doesn’t want to go to jail, or whatever.” Chloe is beside herself. Dante: “I know! Screw him, right?” LOL. Precious.

Chloe says the party’s off and storms outside, followed by Trent. Trent foolishly believes having a good time sans alcohol is totally possible, but Chloe says without food or drinks, it’s not even a party. Trent insists that the two of them will have a good time, even if nobody else shows up.

The girls return to their cabin post-circuit-training, and Poppy needs to speak with Amber urgently. Amber assumes the worst, but no, Poppy just wants her to sign the birthday card she got for Chloe. Which is, for some reason, under her bed. Where Amber also sees a bottle of vodka. Well. Poppy wants to keep vodka under her bed, all right then.

Hey guys, why do I continue to be a moron who can't see that Will would make an awesome girlfriend?

At dinner, Trent catches up with Ian and asks if he wants to come to Chloe’s birthday get-together later. As soon as Ian hears that Amber will be there, he’s in, at which point Trent gives him a dap, and Ian says, adorably, “Ow.” Walking away, Trent tells Dante he should make out with Carter again, to which Dante says, exasperatedly: “She hasn’t talked to me since movie night, AND I found out she has a boyfriend back home. So just stop!” Trent: “Rough.”

Ian joins Becca and Will and tells them that Trent’s invited him to hang out. Will: “I thought you had total contempt for that whole group.” Well yeah, says Ian, but this is a chance to talk to Amber! Will: “If you want to miss out on a sweet neo-pagan ritual, it’s your loss.” Becca is chuffed to have things back to just her and Will. As Alistair approaches, Ian quickly asks them not to mention his invitation to Alistair, as Trent didn’t invite him. Tonight’s after-dinner activity seems to be board games, and Alistair asks if anyone likes Risk. Dude, set the board UP. I will so be there. Will starts to explain that she and Becca are having a runeathon, but Becca is not having any more interlopers, and so she interrupts and informs Alistair it’s a “girls’ night” thing. That’s hardly a deterrent, given that Alistair probably gets along with girls better than Will does. Sorry Alistair, you’re all alone on your birthday!

In the girls’ cabin, everyone is heading out, and Amber says she’ll meet them. Once they’re gone, she sneaks into Poppy’s room and steals some of her vodka. I swear I was one of like five teens ever who never gave a crap about booze. I might occasionally be out until three AM on weeknights — I didn’t have a curfew — but in my pre-college life I probably engaged in underage drinking less than ten times, and I never touched drugs.

Amber presents her gift to Chloe, who is astonished. At first, she thinks Poppy willingly contributed the booze, until Amber explains: “I snuck some, and then watered down the bottle so it would look like it’s still full.”


Never let it be said that Amber isn’t a complex character, folks. Even Chloe is shocked.

The party gets rolling, and “Never Have I Ever” included. Carter’s never had sex outdoors. One of the guys has. Ooooh. Trent isn’t drinking. You go, Trent. Represent for the responsible teens. Ian turns up, and he isn’t drinking either. I do like how the non-drinkers are not being pressured or shamed here. I used to employ driving as an excuse to not drink, since I was the one with the big car and tended to drive, wherever we were going.

Next Trent says he’s never shoplifted. Amber has. This actually doesn’t surprise me in the least. She says her friends started her doing it because the store employees would never suspect her, and so: “I got really good at it.” When she wants something, man, she don’t want to pay for it. But then she almost got caught — which was “the scariest thing ever” — so she stopped.

Back at camp, Poppy’s leading game night with her usual mixture of earnest dorkiness.

At Chloe’s party, they’ve moved on to truth or dare. Oh god, this always ends badly. TEENAGERS PLEASE NOTE: TRUTH OR DARE ALWAYS ENDS BADLY. Never in the history of truth or dare has there been an instance of this game that didn’t close with someone crying or filled with rage. Dante dares Amber to kiss Chloe. Well, that’s predictable. They do it, and it ain’t no peck either. Ian’s expression immediately following is possibly the funniest thing I have seen on this show.


Y’all, I wept with laughter taking this screenshot. WEPT. The image actually fails to capture the sheer fucking wonderment on his face. You should watch it on Hulu if possible. Because turnabout is fair play, Amber returns by daring Dante to kiss a boy.

Didn’t I say this would end badly?

Dante tries to argue, but nobody is letting him off the hook. Amber suddenly gets up and says she’s not feeling well, and Chloe follows — also Ian — to make sure she’s okay. In their absence, the remaining campers decide Dante should kiss “that really gay guy, Alistair.” Trent tries to volunteer to “take one for the team” — or in this case, for his buddy Athena — by offering to be the recipient of Dante’s affections, but Dante says no. Off the merry band of half-drunk teens goes, to further torment the kid who already feels isolated for not fitting in.

A little ways off, and ostensibly out of earshot, Amber is doubled over on the ground, with Chloe holding her hair, as Ian stands in the background. He asks if Amber’s okay, and offers to walk Amber back to her cabin so Chloe doesn’t have to leave her party. Off they go, Ian gingerly touching Amber’s shoulder, as Chloe heads back to rejoin the now-evaporated group. When she hears the news of the impending Dante/Alistair pairing, she and Trent run to catch up.

Ian and Amber have made it back to camp, and Amber feels worse than ever. She slurringly thanks Ian and gives him an awkward hug while Will surreptitiously watches from inside the cabin. Hug completed, Ian awkwardly (DRINK!) leans in, but is denied when Amber lurches away, oblivious, making a beeline for the bathroom. An appropriate moment to kiss is not just any moment in which two people’s face are close together; it’s a feeling, a vibration in the air. Possibly most teenaged straight boys are too hungry for proximal flesh to know when it’s happening and when it’s not, but I knew, even at that age. This is not the moment, Ian.

Seconds later, Amber is upchucking in the sink. The sink? Seriously, woman? You couldn’t make the toilet? Will comes in and expresses concern, until Amber says she just drank too much. Will is hilariously unimpressed by this. She starts to leave, saying she’s supposed to meet Becca, when Amber loudly vomits again. Sighing, Will turns around and comes to hold Amber’s hair and hand her a damp washcloth — a “community” washcloth, which is just what you want to be wiping up puke with. Will asks Amber who gave her the “hooch” — hee hee — and presumes it was George. Amber wonders why she’d say that. After some hinting around on both sides, Will finally tells Amber she saw her making out with George. Amber’s kneejerk response is, “No one’s ever going to believe that. Everyone knows you make stuff up.” Not, “Oh shit, I’m busted,” or “Please keep it a secret,” but rather, “You’re a liar, and no one will believe you.” Call me crazy, but I suspect there might be just a teensy bit of projecting going on here.

Will tells Amber she hasn’t told anyone, and asks how old George is. At this, Amber shifts into begging mode, pleading with Will to keep what she knows to herself. Amber: “It could ruin his whole life and he’s such a good person.” Will thinks for a moment, and then puts Amber to bed in her bunk, saying she’ll clean up after her. I love how Will has her shit together.

Meanwhile, Carter stands outside an open window to the common room, where Alistair is playing a board game with some other campers. She gets his attention, and when he comes over, she tells him Dante wants to talk to him. Alistair comes outside to join Dante on the porch, while Carter and the other mean kids hide under the railing, ostensibly so they can hear and see without being noticed. Dante begins by dourly asking Alistair if they have Scrabble inside. Alistair confirms this, obviously confused. Dante stops trying to flirt, and asks point-blank: “So you’re like gay, right?” Alistair’s expression quivers, shifting in waves for a long moment. “I don’t really think of it like that,” he says. “I don’t really like labels. I’d rather just… be a person. And, another person. And, be comfortable in who I am. And who we are.” Dante wants to know, “but is the other person a dude or a girl?” Alistair tries to explain it, “in theory”, but Dante just goes in for the kiss. There are quiet gasps from the mean kids, still hidden, and Chloe and Trent finally reach them just in time to see the main event.

As Dante pulls back, Alistair immediately apologizes, saying he thinks Dante is a nice guy, but he likes someone else. For a moment, Dante is bewildered by this rejection. Soon he collects himself and says, “It was a joke, dude,” which is the unofficial cue for the rest of the collaborators to burst out laughing. Except for Chloe and Trent. The siblings match gazes, guilt and sadness in Chloe’s crumpling face, Alistair’s eyes frighteningly and unexpectedly dark with rage, both their expressions saturated with pain. Without a word, Alistair turns and walks away.

Chloe turns on Dante, shoving him hard, shouting. Nobody understands why she is so angry. When she runs off, Trent follows.

Elsewhere, Dr. Gina celebrates her sobriety. Or abstinence. “Hi, I’m Dorothy and I’m a compulsive overeater.”

Ian finds Becca in the woods, stood up by Will. Both seem unsurprised. “You know how she is, “ says Ian. “I do,” says Becca. Ian takes a rune. Curiously, the runes used are the exact same set I had in college; they had a particular sound, clicking against each other.

Somewhere, Trent comforts Chloe, telling her he’d always wanted a twin, “because you’d never be alone.” Chloe says that’s the worst part. Even Camp Victory — she came alone last year, and so she could have this place to herself. But not now.

Trent and Chloe

Wayne brings Dr. Gina home from her meeting, and tells her he was glad to be there for it. Dr. Gina, who can be an amazing idiot for someone so smart, asks if he means he thinks he’s a compulsive overeater. No, he means he likes you. Awkward. (DRINK!) Her phone beeps, and she throws her purse to the side. They kiss, apparently for the first time. Wayne leaves, and Dr. Gina checks her phone. Guess who?

Commercials. More magical ass-narrowing sneakers!

In the girls’ cabin, Amber is telling Will about kissing George during Spirit Quest. “It’s so hard, to like, be around someone, and have to pretend you don’t feel what you feel.” Will looks away, saying, “Yeah.”

Becca returns, and Will immediately apologizes, explaining that Amber was running for vomit queen. Amber seconds this. Becca’s reaction is chilly; when Will asks if they can do it now, Becca says she’s too tired. How long until Becca snaps, from feeling shoved aside so often? It’s probably a matter of time.

In the boys’ cabin, Trent is yelling at Dante, while simultaneously keeping up the lie that Chloe and Alistair don’t know each other. Dante claims to have been drunk and manipulated: “I was a pawn in this situation!” When Ian asks what’s wrong, Trent vaguely says the party didn’t end so well. Ian asks for specifics just in time for Alistair to stomp inside angrily, refusing to speak to or look at anyone, going directly into the bathroom and slamming the door. Dante says “no hard feelings”, which is probably pretty high on the list of stupid things to say in this situation. Trent tries, “Hey, Athena, we’re really sorry. You can hit me if you want. I’m serious.” Ian wants to know: “What did you do to him?”

Alistair slams back out of the bathroom, walks to his bunk, furiously removes his Crocs, and then climbs up into bed. Ian climbs the ladder after him and leans over, saying, “Alistair,” but Alistair wordlessly pulls a sheet over his head.

In a parked SUV in the woods, Dr. Gina has just finished having mostly-clothed sex with the married guy who runs the tennis-douchebag camp next door. “I hate myself,” she says. Man, this show got really dark all of a sudden. Can I get one shot of some swimwear-clad fats? Maybe the long-awaited boys’ cabin underwear-pillowfight? Dante leading a massive multi-fatty dance spectacular to “Separate Ways” as a fitting apology to Alistair? “Someday, love will find you!” Something?

It’s the next morning. The Camp Victory ducks are back! Wait, is one of them missing?

Amber is in bed, but fully dressed, and sneaks out to meet George. Elsewhere George is walking, and when he hears someone else, assumes it’s Amber, saying, “Don’t be scared, it’s just me.” It’s not Amber. It’s Dr. Gina, doing the fabled Walk of Shame. George, too self-absorbed to notice, starts babbling about going for an early run, and can’t see that Dr. Gina wants nothing more out of life at this moment than for him to shut the fuck up and go away. He babbles more about self-sabotage, asking how he can stop a kid from doing this. Dr. Gina says he can be a good example, but in the end it comes down to individual choice: we are who we choose to be. She tries, again, to walk away, but George persistently sticks with her, barnacle-like, all the way back to camp.

Somewhere, Amber waits, leaning against a rock.

Later, Alistair sits watching some of the other campers play on the main field, looking at the birthday card on which Trent has written: “Athena, You rock dude! Trent,” and then watching Trent himself. Some kids are playing tetherball! I want to play tetherball! Ian joins Alistair at the picnic table, and asks him what Trent said. Damn, I would have liked to see that conversation. Alistair said Trent’s apology was “pretty heartfelt”. Also Dante won’t even look at him. Ian is all yeah, fuck those jerks. Then Alistair says, “You want to know the lamest part? That was my first kiss.”

I love the chub in this screencap. CHUB!

Ian commiserates, telling the tale of his terrible first kiss, involving braces, in which his tongue got stuck in “this girl’s Machiavellian flytrap of a mouth.” I feel vaguely guilty that my first kiss was actually kind of awesome and romantic. I probably paid for this when it turned out that every single guy I dated in my entire life was gay or otherwise queer, with two exceptions, one of which is the one I married, so although I have some grand kissing behind me, I also have a lot of hard-won angst as well.

Trent waves at Alistair, and he waves back. Ian: “Wait, you forgave him?” Alistair: “I had to. How could I not?” And here, it becomes apparent who it is that Alistair likes.

Amber comes back to camp to find George helping Poppy pack up the boating stuff. Poppy asks if she’s okay, and Amber says, “It’s just weird when you think something’s gonna happen, but then it doesn’t, and you don’t know why.” Poppy thinks Amber is upset because boating has been cancelled today. Poppy explains it’s because there’s a chance of thunderstorms, “right George?” George: “Yeah, they had to cancel it, it was too dangerous.” What proceeds is a wonderfully delicate coded conversation between Amber and George, in which Amber asks when they can go “boating” again, and George tells her there are a lot of other activities at camp, and maybe Amber should turn her attentions elsewhere. Amber leaves, sadly, and the oblivious Poppy tells George, “I think maybe she needs a hug.”

Our epilogue this week shows us Alistair drawing runes with Becca. His is blank, and his question was, “Will I ever be in love with someone who loves me back?” He thinks this is a bad result, but a blank rune is like a blank page — not empty, but rather rife with possibilities.

Next week: Part one of the two part finale — Parents’ Weekend.

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