After last week’s uneven pilot, the show returned with an episode that granted a few peeks below the surface of these campers.
As the title suggests ("Letters Home"), each camper wrote a letter to his/her parent(s), as the narration of each letter’s content told us a little something about life back home. At the forefront of this episode were family relationships and the affect they have on one’s well-being.
Amber, Will, and Dr. Rand showed that sometimes being honest with your family is difficult at any age...
Amber claims to be very close with her mother, and her letter seems to support that declaration as she writes how much she misses home, but is happy and optimistic about her stay at camp.
A troubling phone call to her mother later in the episode reveals some complexities in this relationship. Initially joyful to speak with her mother, Amber becomes distressed, making a few cryptic statements (“You can go without me” and “Ignore her when she says stuff like that”), and abruptly ending the conversation.
Weight loss may be her primary reason for attending camp, judging from her inspirational magazine pictures, but clearly, there is a little dysfunction at home, which may account for Amber’s secretive and shy nature.
Unsurprisingly, Will doesn’t relish writing her parents, which she avoids until the episode’s end. Her disaffected responses to Dr. Rand’s coaxing, (“Why don’t they write to me if they miss me so much?”) suggest she is, at best, apathetic to her parent’s concern. However, her observations and encounters with the “Dodsons” (new girl Danielle’s parents) reveal how deeply hurt Will is by her relationship with her parents.
Danielle’s mom escorts her to basketball and the kind woman’s words of encouragement inspire Will to really participate, dumping her earlier infuriating indifference to the sport and those who would actually contribute to the game (poor Trent).
When she actually sinks a shot, the cheers of the “Dodsons” both elate and sadden Will. In her letter home, Will refuses to share the good things about camp because it would justify her parents’ decision to send her away. She also admonishes them for all their hurtful and unsupportive comments about her weight, claiming “I try not to care but it hurts.”
Her rare moment of personal honesty, with a letter she will never send, invokes sympathy rather than the usual contempt and annoyance at her apathy, “rebelliousness,” and self-centered attitude. Will has begun to open her eyes about her own motivations and about the needs of those around her.Parallel to the camper’s letter-writing activities, Dr. Rand struggles throughout the episode to write an email to her own mother. Dr. Rand has not yet informed her about her working relationship with her father.
Several times she composes heartfelt emails that explain her desire to reconnect with her father, based mostly on an undeniable bond to him. Each draft is deleted until she finally composes an email that says nothing about her father, and everything about her family’s relationship to each other.
Dr. Rand seems an unlikely guide for campers with her both her family and eating issues (steadfastly holding to a no-eating-after-dinner rule seems a little militant), but her personal drama soften the character. Additionally, she refuses to hypocritically force Will into communicating with her parents, understanding the desire to keep one’s parents in the dark, which may make her the best possible friend/mentor for the disaffected youth.
Overall, the episode tries to round out these characters into more complex individuals, using their family ties as a foundation to build on.
What “Letters Home” does successfully is create a little curiosity about people like Amber and Chloe (why doesn’t she want anyone to know Alistair is her brother?) and some compassion for others like Will and Dr. Rand. The show’s pacing is still a little slow, but the characters seem to be coming to life.
Romantic relationships also seem to be highlighted in this episode, and while progress is lagging, there were some humorous moments in these romantic misfires. Will’s interest in Ian is thwarted by his interest in Amber (and briefly Danielle), as well as his misconception that Will is a lesbian.
Although Becca clarifies her best friend’s sexuality to the clueless Ian, it doesn’t appear a love connection will be forthcoming any time soon. Also, George finally realizes Amber’s real name and offers her the use of his cell phone. The two share a number of moments together, as the young man seems attracted to the shyly coy Amber, but George assumes she has a boyfriend, a claim she does little to refute when she is told to return to her cabin for the night (curfews can be so troublesome for hooking-up).
Quite possibly the funniest part of the episode was Danielle and Chloe’s discussion of the novel Phantasma – a fictional novel model after the Twilight Saga.
In the world of Huge, vampires are replaced with ghosts, but the tween romantic story remains incredibly addictive and cheesy. There is no escaping the Twilight obsession, even in the fictional world of television. “Forever is a promise” indeed.
What did you think of the episode?