Six episodes in and so much is happening at Camp Firewood and Waterville, Maine, that “Electro/City” feels like it could easily be the season finale. Between the production of Electro/City and the court case against Xenstar, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp knocks out two of the biggest events the show has been building to with “Electro/City,” but also provides an incredible end to the second act of this series and the best episode of the series so far. It’s so exciting, I could eat a whole sheet cake!
Considering that Electro/City’s pre-production began only a few hours prior to this episode, the program is quite a feat. Also—as all Firewood productions—it becomes a hot bed for relationship changes. We get the predictable rise and fall of Andy and Katie’s relationship, as they share their first kiss after Andy farted in Katie’s face and she fell in love with him. Coop and Kevin are both interrupted by their romantic rivals, Yaron and Drew, respectively. In what is the most surprisingly adorable story in First Day of Camp, McKinley and Ben share their first kiss! Which of course leads to Ben and Susie breaking up, but hey, they both cheated on each other and I’m pretty sure Ben was never that interested anyways. Just a hunch. Unfortunately we also get the decision that the whole Gail/Jeff marriage just isn’t going to work out. It’s almost like they just got married yesterday! Or even earlier.
All credit to Susie and Ben: Electro/City is a pretty great musical, even if it is such a cruel place to live. Electro/City is one of First Day of Camp’s biggest set pieces and it absolutely does not disappoint. The story alone is hilarious, but just the thought that they created this entire set, cast the roles and learned this entire musical in a day adds a whole extra layer of greatness to their production.
We’d be blessed with just Electro/City, but no, we also get Jim Stansel’s trial against Xenstar, which is equally brilliant. Having Bruce Greenwood—the fourth Mad Men alumni in First Day of Camp—fight Michael Cera is a true David vs. Goliath. Thankfully Jim Stansel has three great friends from Camp Firewood in his corner, as well as one last piece of evidence, a giant floppy disk, that proves Xenstar guilty on all counts. However the victory is short lived as The Falcon appears and shoots Jim Stansel and Greg, killing them both, a very convenient way to get rid of two of the characters that don’t appear in the film.
Wet Hot American Summer and First Day of Camp both succeed because of their looseness. Any semblance of play, especially in the film, almost seems accidental, as if these characters stumbled into some purpose for the day. But when the show and film totally commit to a bit, as they do with Electro/City and the trial, they become near-perfect examples of how fantastic David Wain and Michael Showalter’s writing ability is and how much we’ve come to care for and appreciate these characters. It’s such a silly show, yet when Andy lifts up Katie during Electro/City, as REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You” plays, I can’t help but get chills.
Speaking of great uses of music, “Electro/City” turns “Higher & Higher” into not only a great song for montages, but into Eric’s brilliant masterpiece that has been inside of him for years that just needs to come out. Honestly, the entire Eric and Lindsay storyline is completely unnecessary, but it’s ridiculousness in every sense is so wonderful that it makes for one of the most fun arcs in the entire series. The explanation of “Higher & Higher”’s origins might be the least essential explanation in a series filled with unnecessary explanations, but it also might have the most fulfilling conclusion of any arc.
“Electro/City” gives us everything that made Wet Hot American Summer so incredible: insanely quotable lines, great arcs that go in unexpected directions, gigantic laughs and touching moments that’ll surprise you by how much you care for these characters. “Electro/City” is a perfectly crafted half-hour of Camp Firewood bliss. It’s almost as if this show farted in our face and made us fall in love with Wet Hot American Summer all over again.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. He’s old enough to take a big, fat shit on your face. You can follow him on Twitter.