I have to admit: I haven’t been watching Brat Camp at all this summer. I mean, with 3 hours a week of Big Brother and the live feeds on top of that, there’s only so many hours in a day. But when you’re offered a guest spot on TVgasm by the enigmatic B-Side himself (I like to think of him as my own personal Robin Masters, with me his Thomas Magnum), you don’t say no. So I fired up the trusty TiVo and gave it a shot. And it’s not that bad. Think Celebrity Boot Camp with less Lorenzo Lamas. If you haven’t read last week’s recap, in a nutshell they send 9 troubled teens to go out to the wilds of Oregon to hopefully learn something about themselves and change their destructive behavior. How destructive? Well thankfully ABC decided to boil down these kids’ complex and troubled personalities to a phrase small enough so it can fit in a nice tidy onscreen graphic. Hence we have the “Angry Punk” and the ” Hostile Outcast,” or my personal favorite for its sheer randomness, Nick who is “Tried to Stab Twin.” You would think “Has Anger Issues” would’ve worked just as well, but OK (And in his defense, this is his twin).It does make you wonder why they have to add so many qualifiers to the name. Lauren is a “self destructive” drug user? So is the goal of the show to try and have her be a drug user only without all that self-destructiveness that plagued her up until now? Or Perhaps Isaiah can simply become a milder, less angry punk? These are the pitfalls of generalizing kid’s complex emotional problems. But since the show’s named Brat Camp, you kinda learn to go with the flow.
This episode picks up at day 31 and our motley crew of 9 brats are still out in the deserts of Oregon trying to find themselves. No when I say “desert” keep in mind this is Oregon. They do things a little differently out there, so that means we get lots of snow, grass and trees. The brats are closing up their camp and getting ready for another long hike. Now most of the unintentional humor of the show is derived not just from the oversimplified description of the “Brats” but the super hippie names of the Counselors. We’ve got the woman named “Mountain Wind” (make up your own joke there) “Little Big Bear,” “Boulder” and ” Cougar” (who was originally known as “Mellencamp,” but then he sold out). And these hippie counselors are all about the positive reinforcement. As they are packing up camp, “Mountain Wind” says to one of our brats: “Nick, you’re a good digger.” Great. I’m sure that fills him with a sense of pride unmatched in the history of Brat Camp. Next she told Jada that she’s a great blinker, and that Isaiah was probably doing the best exhaling of carbon dioxide she’s ever seen. As our brats finish packing up we get a montage of all their woeful survival skills. Shawn “Steals from mom” points out that it’s “all BS. Straight up. Its not gonna help me.” And we see Derek having trouble breaking down the camp, and ” Boulder” tells him he’s going to really need to learn how to do all this stuff. Not a problem, says Derek. Oooh man. The air is positively thick with reality TV foreshadowing.
Once the camp is broken down, they are off on the cold soggy snowy desert trail. Derek’s once again having trouble keeping up. “I’ve seen kids weaker than you rock out” says “Big Bear” in the most awkward “hey man I may be older but I’m hip too” moments in the show to date. He follows that up by telling Derek over and over again that he ain’t no hollaback girl. Once they reach the new campsite, “Big Bear” makes a startling announcement (not startling as much to us since we’ve had the benefit of clunky ABC foreshadowing). They are all going to have to spend the next 3 days out in the desert…alone. Take THAT, “Steals from Mom!” The reaction from the brats is what you’d expect. Jada says “everyone was ‘confident, calm and bored.” Actually what she really said was that everyone was “shocked scared and excited,” but since she’s the compulsive liar, I just treat her like Bizarro Superman and reverse everything. Lauren, who has a big sleeping bag in her pack and is pictured wearing a huge parka and with a giant field of snow behind her, wonders how she will stay warm and get water. Yeah, that sounds like a real quandary all right. Quickly they are all lined up and soon we have a collection of blindfolded brats being walked to their respective areas of isolation. Well, isolation except for the big ABC camera crew with state of the art night vision cameras 5 feet away at all times. “What am I gonna do by myself except think. That’s boring,” says “angry punk” Isaiah. Geez, here I was ready to invite Angry Punk to my cocktail party. But if he’s gonna be boring, then forget it.
After the first night things seem to be going well for the brats. Everyone seems to be adjusting, and lessons are starting to be learned. No sooner do we get lulled into this Oprah moment than we get to the second night, and Isaiah, our “Angry Punk,” starts to have issues of the angry, punkish kind. He plays with his fire, referring to himself as a pyro, (clearly ignoring his own ABC created nickname. Man he truly is a punk) then declaring into his “solo cam” that all the “local punks” better throw him a “freedom party” when he gets home. And there better be punch. And cookies too. But no clowns. Punks don’t like clowns. Then he gives a message “to all you parents watching this at home.” The actual message that followed was bleeped out, but I can only assume it was something punkish and angry like “You’re all ca-ca poo-poo pee-pee heads!”
“Compulsive Liar” Jada writes a song about her mother and sings it into her solo cam. I was hoping she would belt out Henry Rollins song “Liar,” but what we get isn’t quite as cool. Imagine a bratty 14-year-old Mariah Carey stuck in the wilderness (I would’ve added “who can’t sing” to that sentence but I think by choosing Mariah Carey it was somewhat redundant). Jada then declares she wants out so she does what she does best and writes a letter of lies to her parents about how she’s near death and unloved and yadda yadda. We cut to her laughing about how good she is at manipulating her parents, even calling them suckers. Man she is such a … whats the word I’m looking for? Holy terror? No that’s not it. A whippersnapper? Nah, too long. God if only I could think of a short concise word to describe this very troublesome child. Ah well, never mind…
They actually read the letter verbatim on the show, and it was some grade A prime BS .”I’m dying out here. Oh my god.” “I hope the tears that are out of your eyes are pouring out like mine.” I mean c’mon. Who’s gonna buy that crap? Quick cut to…her parents buying that crap. Man, they are suckers. They should follow up this show with “Sucker Camp” and just stick all the parents out here, but on the way tell them they’re going to Vegas. Anyway, before you know it we have a conference call with the head camp counselor “Flying Eagle.” Sure he looks like a middle aged Jewish camp counselor wearing a nice sweater vest, but don’t let that fool you. This eagle’s got claws. He immediately calls bullshit on the whole situation and convinces her parents that she’s actually fine. Something you would think the parents would have realized from the start knowing that each child has an entire ABC camera crew 5 feet away from them at all times.
On to day three, and “Mountain Wind” tells us this is the toughest day of the 3 day ordeal. This is where a lot of the kids break down. We watch Isaiah reading a letter from his mom where she tells him she loves him and she’s sorry for breaking up her family, etc. Really sad stuff. And soon enough Isaiah is crying. OK, it was a touching letter so I’ll let it slide, but he better not pull this at the local punk freedom party. If he does he’s not getting any punch. Lauren also writes a long letter to her parents, the object of which is trying to get out of boarding school. Her friends are “her air” she needs them so bad. We then cut to both the camp counselors and her parents all saying they can’t wait to get her into boarding school. Ouch. Sucks to be you Lauren. But hey, seeing as how you’re the self-destructive drug abuser, its hard to argue with the parents on that call.
Here we learn Lexy was sent to Brat Camp for hurling acid on her father’s shirt.
Now that it is day three, our voiceover announcer tells us that the hike cannot be complete without the mysterious final ceremony. And let me tell you, this is where our camp counselor’s true hippie really comes out to shine. I could smell the patchouli oil emanating from my TV set as they put on tribal paints and started playing the wood flute and talking about the spirit of transformation. One by one the counselors go down the line and gives the kids new, hippie names like “Painted Butterfly” and “Flying Firefox.” I was hoping that at least one of the counselors had a sense of humor and named one of them “Flaming Douchebag” just for giggles, but it wasn’t to be. They did decide to name one kid “Emerging Frog” which made me laugh. Nothing like having your name as a euphemism for a morning erection.
In his other life, this counselor is a 14th level Warrior Paladin with a +5 enchantment spell!
As the episode wraps up it seems that everyone has learned a lesson and grown a little bit more, except for Jada. We are left with some bratty comments and a freeze frame on a decidedly snotty little smile. Oh Reality TV foreshadowing, you’ve done it again! Can’t wait for next week!