Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later: 13 highlights from the Camp Firewood reunion
Did they reunite at 9? Or 9:30?
The junior campers of Camp Firewood make their promised homecoming for Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later — though of course, it’s really been 16 years since the original movie premiered in 2001. Now, (most of) the original cast members are back for Netflix’s second installment in the franchise, following 2015’s prequel First Day of Camp, a crucible of self-referential and absurdist comedy from creators Michael Showalter and David Wain.
Ten Years Later opens on August 7, 1991, as the campers come from all parts of the country to honor the commitment they made 10 years prior. What follows is the rekindling of old campfire flames, disillusionment with childhood memories, and a government conspiracy led by Ronald Reagan to destroy the camp (and a secret from his past). And one heck of a watercooler ending.
We’ve rounded up the best moments, in-jokes, and running bits from the new series, now streaming on Netflix. Walla-walla-hoo! (And beware: SPOILERS AHEAD.)
Adam Scott as Ben (Episode 1: “Reunion”)
The first and most obvious wink at the audience is Adam Scott replacing Bradley Cooper in the role of Ben, McKinley’s husband and Susie’s formerly closeted ex-boyfriend. In one of the first scenes, Ben admits to McKinley (Michael Ian Black) that he’s nervous about the reunion: “None of them have seen me since I got my nose job,” he says.
“You had a deviated septum. You were snoring like crazy. It was a medical issue,” assures McKinley. “Besides, you look exactly the same to me.”
Only a show like Wet Hot could get away with such an unceremonious replacement and pass it off with a nose job joke. Cooper wasn’t able to shoot the reunion due to scheduling issues, but Wain tells EW that Cooper could still appear in potential future incarnations of Wet Hot.
Claire and Mark were here the whole time! (Episode 2: “Softball”)
Claire (Sarah Burns) and boyfriend Mark (Mark Feuerstein) return to Camp Firewood for the 10-year reunion, just like the rest of their fellow junior campers. They have relationship problems just like the other campers, too: Claire confides in JJ, who is in love with her, that she suspects Mark of being unfaithful and asks if he knows anything. (Cut to Mark making out with Nancy in the open). JJ denies knowing anything. “I don’t know what I was thinking,” she says. (Cut to Mark and Nancy screwing behind some hay bales.)
The joke is that neither character was in the 2001 movie; the show just plugs them in as though they were always there. During the second episode, the show stitches new footage of Claire and her boyfriend into a flashback to the original movie, to hilarious effect: “It’s always fun to get away from camp, even for an hour,” says JJ on the bed of Beth’s (Janeane Garofalo) truck. Cut to the couple. “Totally,” Mark says to no one, while Claire laughs.
Deep Throat (Episode 3: “Tigerclaw”)
Elizabeth Banks’ Lindsay finally gets time to shine in episode 3. While her pals are at camp, Lindsay is stuck at her newscaster gig. Her producer wants her to do fluff pieces, but she wants more hard-hitting news, so she jumps at the chance when a mysterious man calls her and tells her to meet her in a parking garage with the “biggest case of political corruption this country has ever seen.”
Which is how Lindsay winds up in a dim parking garage with a shady man with a wide-brimmed hat, a cigarette, and a trench coat. He’s trying to tell her the big lead, but he keeps getting interrupted by a couple looking for their car. “This goes much deeper,” he growls before Lindsay cuts him off: “You know what, they’re circling back.” He promises a big political scandal and tells her to go to an address where all will be revealed.
When she goes to the house at the given address, she finds a picture of Camp Firewood’s class of 1921. The corner of the photograph reads “Ronnie Reagan,” leading her to figure out the former president’s plan to destroy the camp.
“That’s how it always works in the movie” (Episode 4: “Lunch”)
McKinley has been growing suspicious that the nanny, Renata (Alyssa Milano), he and Ben hired to watch their baby at the reunion is actually a homicidal maniac. In episode 3, he calls the nanny service and learns they don’t have anyone under the name of Renata Murphy. The nanny claims that’s because she’s recently divorced.
But in episode 4, Claire reaffirms McKinley’s paranoia by walking him through the horror movie trope of the jealous murdering nanny: “That’s how it always works in the movie. They do some investigating. They find something suspicious. The hot nanny has a perfectly reasonable excuse for why it happened. It’s textbook. She totally has something to hide. It’s all part of her master plan. Give the parents a false sense of security, just gives her more time to just tear their life apart. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. This is a circular conversation.” Tell us about it.
After McKinley sees the nanny practicing stabbing with a knife, he’s convinced of Renata’s bad intentions and tells Claire they’re partners now, leading to a fun bit in which he insists — repeatedly — they’re in this “50/50.” (“I will not agree.”)
Master Chef (Episode 4: “Lunch”)
In a great cooking montage, Gary cuts up peppers, eggs, and onions like a hibachi chef. He ends up serving mac ‘n’ cheese.
Neil wakes up with a bang (Episode 5: “King of Camp”)
In a running joke, Neil (Joe Lo Truglio) falls asleep in the first episode, and every so often the camera pans to his bed to remind you that he’s there. He doesn’t wake up until episode 5, and when he does, he teaches Vic to have sex by humping a mattress.
Vic loses his virginity (Episode 6: “Rain”)
Vic (Ken Marion) has always been in-your-face raunchy and horny, despite still being a virgin. Donna (Lake Bell) and Yaron (Wain) approach him about not being able to conceive and ask him to impregnate Donna the old-fashioned way. Vic agrees, seeing it as a chance to finally lose his virginity, and goes to the infirmary. Yaron is also there, ready for “the ceremony.” (Is this an overt Handmaid’s Tale reference?) It’s quite the visual: the couple in bedazzled robes, Yaron playing a triangle, and all three swapping super creepy realistic masks of themselves.
Gene’s long-lost daughter (Episode 6: “Rain”)
Original cast member Molly Shannon returns as Gail when her ex Gene (Christopher Meloni), who has been living in isolation in his Winnebago, stops by her house to recruit her for Mitch’s mission to save the camp. Turns out, Gail now has a daughter, Jenny (Ava Acres), who is a mini-Gene — bandanna, tank top, gruff demeanor, the whole thing. Gene is not getting that this is his daughter. “She likes to cook, just like her father,” hints Gail. “I’m talking about you, Gene.”
“Tell Eugene’s daughter I said goodbye,” Gene says before leaving.
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The champagne glass pyramid (Episode 6: “Rain”)
Neil takes off in this episode to win back his ex-girlfriend Sherry (Beth Dover), who is at her boyfriend Brodfard’s house. Brodfard (Rob Huebel) immediately humiliates Neil in front of everyone because he doesn’t know what second-wave feminism is. Neil gives a rousing speech about his love for Sherry, then tries to exit with dignity, only to walk right into a champagne glass pyramid. After he scrambles out, Sherry leaves, knocking over the rebuilt champagne pyramid. Another man at the party follows suit and knocks over the glasses, too. This was one bit that I almost wish went on longer.
The mole is… (Episode 7: “Dance”)
When Gene and the gang make it to Camp Firewood, they enter the secret bunker, find the control room, and break in using Eric (Chris Pine) and Greg’s (Jason Schwartzman) cyborg flamethrower arms. The best plot twist in the show: They are stopped by Nancy (Nina Hellman) in the kitchen, who, while eating a PB&J, reveals that she has been a Reagan operative the whole time. She was the mole.
What follows is an epic fight scene — Nancy kicks their asses. Thank god Nancy got a plotline after literally answering phones for people the whole season! Justice for Nancy!
David Hyde Pierce makes a cameo (Episode 8: “End Summer Night’s Dream”)
To save the camp, Greg and Mitch (who, I will remind you, was turned into a can of vegetables in the 2015 season) have to call NASA to authorize the missile defense system, so of course they Skype “full professor” and NASA engineer Henry Newman (David Hyde Pierce). The best part about this scene is that Pierce is most definitely in his office at home with his Emmys clearly in the frame. “Okay, hope that was okay; let me know if you want to do it again, and good luck with the rest of the shoot,” Pierce says as he tears off his fake mustache.
No one was ever in danger (Episode 8: “End Summer Night’s Dream”)
While waiting for the nuke to return to Earth and blow them all to bits, the returning campers all lament about all the things they will miss about Firewood and each other. Their love, and the spirit of Camp Firewood, flows through the camp’s sacred totem pole, and just as the missile is about the touch down, the satellite (and the wooden totem pole?) both shoot lasers at it, exploding it. Yeah…
Confetti, and not nuclear waste, rains down! Bush and Reagan explain that there was never any real danger and that the whole plot was a way to reignite the spirit of Firewood in the campers. So, two presidents staged a nuclear crisis to teach some 20-somethings about the magic of camp and friendship?
Bill Clinton, clearly wearing a FULL PROSTHETIC MASK, comes out playing the sax and reveals that he was Deep Throat, who gave Lindsay the lead. Gail is devastated that Gene died over nothing, but a bloody Nancy appears with Gene by her side! Gail’s daughter runs up to Gene, and he finally understands who she is. It’s wild.
Totally meta (Episode 8: “End Summer Night’s Dream”)
One month later, Coop (Showalter) is meeting with his book editor, Laura (Melanie Lynskey), who loves his new ending. “This all really happened?” Laura asks. Coop counters, “What if I told you I just went to my camp reunion and saw some old friends and had a few laughs and that was it? Would that be more believable?…Which story do you want to hear?” Laura confesses her love for him, and they kiss.
One year later, Beth and Mitch (H. Jon Benjamin), who is now surprisingly in human form, are on the beach. She’s reading a book called Wet Hot American Summer. Wait, WHAT? (Showalter and Wain shared their take on the canny ending with EW here.) So…did Coop make up this whole story in his head?
Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later