You can't do an '80s show without a good David Bowie tribute -- that's the rule
Credit: Freeform/Katie Yu
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For a show that’s both literally and figuratively campy, Dead of Summer just got really real, yo. Sure, there’s still some of the usual demon-worshipping mask action going on, but the bulk of this week’s episode focuses on the devastating backstory of Drew, who was born a girl named Andrea but hopes the summer of ‘89 at Camp Stillwater will be one filled with the acceptance he’s longed for all his life. So far, things are off to a terrible start.

Drew has identified as a boy for more than a decade, but his mom had a hell of a time coming to terms with the reality of his true gender. Thanks to his sudden, wickedry-induced new visions of the creepiest red balloon this side of Stephen King’s IT, we’re taking a journey back in time to when Drew’s mom just couldn’t wrap her head around her child being transgender.

Her words serve as an eerie echo of some of the common apprehensions parents might have in her situation, and even when she does come to a point of understanding about what’s happening, her pain over losing a daughter is not quelled by gaining a son, so she leaves him all alone. This is serious stuff, here, guys.

Drew finds hope in the form of Blair, who still thinks he’s a newcomer who’s gay and just looking for a friend to understand and accept him, but one of those things is not true. Drew’s face has been a part of all their lives already — and only one person among the camp counselors knows the truth.

Jessie decides she has the right to out Drew as being formerly known as Andrea — that one girl in the 1983 yearbook they’re all busy giggling over — but Drew’s got a little something to hold over her head in return. As it turns out, Jessie failed to mention the ongoing DUI charge she’s still dealing with, so both of them have pasts they’d rather not have exposed, thankyouverymuch. It’s a nasty little game of chicken they play, but when Drew folds and flits off to the bus station to places unknown (it’s not like he has a mom to come home to right now), Jessie pulls a Grinch and grows her heart three sizes, just big enough to show some compassion for what Drew’s dealing with. She meets him at the bus stop and offers an olive branch in the form of a story about her own sordid home life, and suddenly they’re unshakable besties.

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This gives Drew the courage to pursue his interest in Blair, who’s conveniently wearing a Bowie getup to the camp’s masquerade ball that Deb’s pushed up. Bowie holds some serious significance for both Blair and Drew: Once upon a time, when Blair was enduring his own identity issues with his homosexuality, a camp friend named Andrea gave him a Bowie mixtape — which inspired him to live his life to the truest extent possible, haters be damned. “Listening to Bowie gave me the courage to come out,” Blair explains. Of course, Blair doesn’t quite realize the person who gave him that tape is exactly who he’s talking to — much less when they’re kissing to, what else, Bowie’s own “Modern Love.” So when their tryst threatens to turn into some under-the-shirt time, Drew decides to obey the menacing child-with-balloon presence’s warning that he “can’t hide” who he is, and Blair’s façade of understanding comes crashing right down.

Blair’s not as woke as he’s appeared to be, apparently, so the only person left for Drew to turn to is Jessie, who’s warmed up enough by the campfire to give him a hug while he cries over yet another cruel rejection by someone he cares about. Sad face.

NEXT: Now about that box…

Now that all the feel-spot stabbery is out of the way, let’s talk about Deb. First of all, Joel’s got a major shine for her, as evidenced by her starring role in his American Beauty-style footage. This proves to be pretty convenient for Amy, who’s somehow miraculously unscathed after being struck by lightning, as she leads the group in an investigation into the how and why of Deb’s possession of the mask in her closet.

Alex, whose Russian origin and laundry-stealing tendencies aren’t a current topic of discussion, is just as curious as she is about the fearless leader, so he swipes Joel’s camera and treats the group to some stalker-ish footage of Deb wandering into the woods and retrieving a mysterious box. Joel’s not too thrilled about the invasion of his personal items — especially when he finds out they’re suspicious of his dreamgirl — but he’s willing to do a little ill-advised reconnaissance to find out what they’re so worked up about.

Meanwhile, Cricket and Alex try to take a peek at what’s inside the box, but tropes being tropes, Deb shows up at her house just in time to thwart their sneaky efforts with Joel and his questions in tow. She promises to show him what’s in the box, but she wants to take a stroll in the woods before doing so. (For a guy who’s so well-versed on Friday the 13th Part VI, he oughta know better than that, but hey.)

Cricket and Alex turn to Amy and Garrett for help because they feel sure Joel’s just walked into trouble. Since the good officer’s just not buying any of this supernatural brouhaha — claiming to only fear anyone who actually, to quote, “believes in this crap” — he decides to go it alone in the woods, too.

The box, it turns out, is only opened by the necklace key that resides in Deb’s cleavage, and what she retrieves from it is some book she says Joel reminds her of. That’s when they start getting frisky on the blanket she’s suggestively laid out, and suddenly the employer-employee relationship is irreversibly blurred and they’re reenacting about three dozen scenes from the slasher genre right there on the ground.

And while Garrett never quite finds them there in the dreary and whisper-wind-filled forest, he does come across Amy in a similarly weird situation. He might not be able to see what she’s seeing, but she’s totally possessed and clutching hands with some lake monster who compels her to plant one on him just in time for Jessie to see. (Blotter and Parker are, of course, behind all of this mind-trickery, but they remain uncaught as the men underneath the masks.)

Amy snaps back to reality and doesn’t remember the smooch or how she got shin-deep in the muck, but maybe her behavior will be enough for Garrett to finally accept that the things he’s been researching lately aren’t so unrealistic after all.

Episode Recaps

Dead of Summer
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