“It’s always fun to get away from camp — even for an hour,” summed up J.J. (Zak Orth) in Wet Hot American Summer after he and the counselors at Firewood debauched their way through town.
It’s been more than an hour that audiences have been away from Camp Firewood. Actually, it’s been two years since the eight-episode prequel First Day of Camp aired, so it’s time for another visit. And this will be the one that gives you something that was oh-so-briefly teased at the end of that cultishly adored 2001 movie about that weird, magical summer of ’81. Debuting Aug. 4 on Netflix, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later will transport you out of the ’80s and deposit you in the ’90s for the counselors’ 10-year-reunion at Firewood. Did Susie (Amy Poehler) grow up to rule the stage? Did Victor (Ken Marino) grow up to manage a chain of strip clubs? Did Andy grow up?
All of those questions — and many others that you are not thinking of right now — will be answered in the eight-episode limited series from Wet Hot creators Michael Showalter (a.k.a. Coop and Ronald Reagan) and David Wain (a.k.a. Yaron, plus a role that you’ll learn about below). “First Day of Camp was resetting your identity from where you were before, in school,” says Wain, who also directed the series. “The camp reunion is about reconnecting to your old identity and remembering who you were as a kid, and this is in the tradition of movies like The Big Chill and Indian Summer, where we’re saying, ‘Here’s all of these people that are coming back together, and old rivalries, old loves, old emotions get reheated up again.’”
And tradition is definitely something to be toyed with. “I really loved the idea of the reunion movie as a trope template, where you have a bunch of friends who are dealing with adulthood, who were friends when they were younger and are now coming back together, and old things are coming up, and they have to work through the past to deal with the present,” says Showalter. “We tried to experiment with some of the tropes of that genre, which is a little bit less about becoming who you are as much as it’s about burying hatchets and letting water flow under the bridge.”
EW asked Wain and Showalter to spit out their gum as well as share a bunch of hints about what you might witness in this new batch of episodes. Here’s the first one, courtesy of Showalter: “Camp Firewood’s past may hold the key to its future.” Read on to unlock more clues.
1. Great Scott! Ben looks totally different! Well, that’s because Ben is no longer played by Bradley Cooper, who wasn’t available to reprise his role because he was tied up directing and starring in A Star is Born. But the producers had already devised a juicy story line for the character that has secret shed sex with McKinley (Michael Ian Black), so they did the only logical thing they could— SPOILER ALERT — they cast their friend Adam Scott in the role, explaining on screen that Ben had undergone minor cosmetic surgery. “The idea that seemed so silly was that he had a nose job and is worried that people won’t recognize him, and the joke is that everybody recognizes him completely and says that you can barely notice it,” says Showalter. Shares Scott: “I guess my first question was, ‘Well, how are we going to explain it?’ And David said, ‘We’re just going to say that you got a nose job,’ and I said, ‘Okay great!’ And that was it. That was the beginning and the end of the discussion.”
2. Fear the nanny! (Or don’t? It’s hard to tell.) Ben and McKinley arrive at the reunion with a baby, as well as a nanny named Renata, because Ben is now an architect and needs to spend some time this weekend on an important project. (“Ben is extremely serious about his career as an architect,” says Scott, “and as anyone knows, a huge component of architecture is blueprints, so expect to hear a lot about blueprints in these new episodes.”) Soon enough, though, the story line begins to rock… the cradle. Renata, played by Alyssa Milano, is an extremely attentive caregiver “who might have some secrets,” says Showalter. “McKinley is being cajoled by [Claire, played by Sarah Burns] that in a movie, typically that person would be a psycho nanny, so he starts to get into his head about it. And there’s the question that we’re playing of, ‘Is she or is she not a psycho nanny?’ And regardless of Renata’s true colors, things turn rather intense. “The story line takes a lot of twists and turns, and keeps twisting and turning all the way to the very end,” hints Wain. “There are some dark moments we enjoyed playing purely dark without any real joke to it, which is what we like to do.”
3. There is a can-do spirit to this season. Camp director-turned-talking can of vegetables (H. Jon Benjamin) is thrust into the heroic spotlight when it witnesses something sinister and enlists the help of a tortured, familiar face to try save the day. “The camp is in danger, in a real way, and the can is one of the only people that knows it,” says Showalter. “So the can goes on a crazy journey, à la Harrison Ford in The Fugitive, where he’s being chased by bad guys and inexplicably is able to run, hitchhike, and have sex. But we never explain the physics of that.”
4. This season boasts a crappy story for the ages. Ten Years Later goes truly old-school by introducing the ultimate camp legend. “The Legend of Willie S—s His Pants was the kid who made a poop out of nervousness at a camp dance, all the way back in 1921,” explains Wain. “Amazingly, it’s not just a one-off story but actually plays into the larger arc of the story, and it’s one of three or four s—ing motifs in this season…. You can all make your Freudian analyses from that.”
5. The comedy goes all the way to the top. Three times, in fact. Ten Years Later is three times as important as First Day of Camp, if we’re judging by appearances of U.S. presidents alone: Not only does First Day of Camp veteran Ronald Reagan return, then-current commander-in-chief George H.W. Bush (Black) also factors into the plot, not to mention then-future POTUS Bill Clinton (Wain). Sums up Showalter: “Reagan has a score to settle.”
6. Camp Firewood is up for grabs. “The big issue that they’re unexpectedly confronted with when they arrive at the camp is that that Beth [Janeane Garofalo] is planning on selling it,” says Wain. “This is the place that has so much meaning for them, and they’re trying to figure out what’s going on, who’s going to buy it, and what are they going to do with it. It turns out that the story behind the camp being sold has far more going on than anyone possibly ever dreamed.”
NEXT PAGE: Where’s Gene? Did Andy meet his match? Is Victor still a virgin?
7. Someone will find the Missing Gene. Gene [Christopher Meloni] is at a place in his life where he’s no longer the camp chef, and that place is, well, off-the-grid. “Things have taken a turn for the worse for Gene, and when the camp is in peril, it’s up to the can of vegetables to make great efforts to seek Gene out and pull him out of his stupor and see if he can help at the camp,” says Wain. “But not before making a pit stop where Gene discovers a new person in his life that will change his reality forever.”
8. Andy may have met his match. Andy once ruled Firewood as the alpha a—hole — the King of Camp, if you will — but there’s a new jerk that has laid claim to that throne. His name is Deegs (Skyler Gisondo), and he’s not respectful of his elder. So much so that this conflict will have to be settled in the annual King of Camp competition, the winner of which gets his name and photo up on a wall in the dining hall. “Andy, who has never quite emotionally graduated from being 16, is not happy about [Deegs], so he decides he can’t take it anymore, and he has to invoke a very, very rarely used clause in the King of Camp guidelines that allows him to challenge the throne. Big stuff goes down with fire, a lot of makeup, and big drums.”
9. Are Coop and Katie possibly sitting in a tree? Coop, who’s now an author, shows up at the reunion with a woman on his arm, and it’s… not Katie. It’s his fiancée, Ginny (Maya Erskine). “Coop is reunited with Katie [Marguerite Moreau], and Katie suddenly has feelings for Coop, but Coop has his own personal life, and that’s complicated, so the tides have turned there a little bit,” hints Showalter. “Coop has to choose between two women.” (Keep an eye out for his ultra-awkward introduction of these two women to each other.)
10. If you were wondering what happened to Greg (Jason Schwartzman) and Eric (Chris Pine) after the traumas of First Day of Camp, there’s a glimmer of hope. You could even call it a… Soul Glimmer. “They return to the story in the form of a two-man jam band that plays down in the village, Soul Glimmer, and they’re not super successful, but they’re paying the bills, selling their cassettes,” says Wain. But, but, but — how is Greg alive, and how did Eric survive and wind up as a hitchhiker? “If you’re remembering what happened last season and you’re wondering how they came back,” says Wain, “it will be explained in a clear way.”
What’s that, you say? Ten was a nice round number and, yes, it fit thematically with the whole Ten Years Later, but you’d really like a few more clues? You got it.
11. Susie may have found a new leading man. His name is Garth MacArthur (Jai Courtney), and he’s a rising indie-film actor who has been working with her, as she is now a film producer. “They’re sleeping together, but not really involved — or at least Susie thinks,” says Wain, adding that “this guy is making the switch to the big-time films, and [you’ll see] how that changes him.” Ever the thesp, Susie finds herself on another dramatic stage as well. “Susie and Logan [John Early] try to outshine each other,” says Showalter.
12. The Tigerclaw crew claw their way back into the story. “Firewood and Tigerclaw campers are forced to work together,” says Showalter, adding that Tigerclaw’s pompous, popped-collar leader Blake (Josh Charles) “finds himself in a tight spot.”
13. To the Victor may finally go some spoils. Donna (Lake Bell) and Yaron are aiming to “spice up” their relationship, according to Showalter. What exactly does that mean? “They’re looking for someone to impregnate Donna, and Victor, who’s still a virgin, is their first choice.” Hippie Hebrew chanting may or may not be involved.
14. Lindsay is trying to be an investigative gournalist. Sorry, journalist. In the prequel, Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks) was revealed to be an undercover journalist at Rock & Roll World magazine who was posing as a camper to get the real scoop on what it’s like to be teenager. In Ten Years Later, we find her toiling in a different medium, as a TV reporter, and the story of a lifetime might have just landed on her lap. “Lindsay investigates a mysterious lead,” is all that Showalter will reveal. Will she crack the case? Story at 9. Or 9:30. Just be there on time.