Welcome to the wilderness. The wild west of Camp What-A-Nut demands to be tamed and just in time for the episode to begin Connie Kendall arrives to enforce the law. Of course, it’s interesting that Connie would be placed in this role right after she had a run-in with the rules in the previous episode, A Bite of Applesauce. This time Connie is in Whit’s role. She’s the one who has to enforce the consequences in order to uphold the rules even if she doesn’t enjoy it. This all happens right after Whit fired her from Whit’s End. And yet she’s now working at Camp What-A-Nut, which is pretty much owned and run by Mr. Whittaker. And speaking of which, where is Whit? He was at the camp last year, so why not this year? I’m guessing there are a few reasons, one of which is that he’s busy repairing the damage Connie and Eugene did to Whit’s End. They effectively took away any possibility of Whit having vacation time that summer. The good thing about this solution is that Whit gives Connie some space to think things through but also provides her with another job in the meantime. And it gives the audience time to react to what happened in the previous episode and have a bit of breathing room before Connie ultimately has to return to talk things over with Whit.
The backdrop of this episode is that Connie is writing a letter to her mom, which ties the story nicely together through some helpful narration. This is similar to the episode Camp What-A-Nut from Album 2, which is narrated by Donny McCoy. Although I don’t know why Connie would be writing a letter to her mom about how her week at camp went when she lives with her mom and would presumably have returned home before the letter arrived in the mail. Connie improves on Donny’s narration somewhat, partially because the story she’s telling fits into this album’s overall arc, which is already becoming a compelling narrative. In contrast, Donny’s story is a standalone episode with little impact on the show’s main characters. But in both episodes we encounter the same small problem when you make one of your characters the narrator. They become a little too omniscient. Donny and Connie both narrate scenes that they weren’t in and should know nothing about. But like I said, if it’s a problem it’s a small one. And it makes for a much more enjoyable episode to be able to hear all the scenes which Connie didn’t personally witness.
Allison, as with most one-off characters, has a defining characteristic. She is obsessed with TV. So she’s obviously not going to like spending a week in nature without access to her favorite TV shows, which include shows like Leave It to Beaver. Apparently Allison grew up in the 1960’s, but I won’t hold that against her. But dating the show so far back, to a time which was already outdated when this episode first aired in 1989, is a bit unfortunate. This episode is full of drama and if Allison’s aversion to being away from television wasn’t enough, suddenly Robyn and Donna come on the scene and start complaining about the way they look. There seems to be a parallel here with the episode Family Vacation from Album 2, in which Donna throws a tantrum about not wanting to go on vacation away from Odyssey. By the end of Family Vacation Donna is laughing and playing tug-of-war in the mud, but by the end of Connie Goes to Camp Robyn’s new shoes are covered in egg and Allison is dancing around screaming she won, a situation which succeeds in making the audience laugh.
Speaking of humor, the adults in this episode are hilarious. They all have their quirks. The counsellor Thelma Thud commends Lucy for her good posture and work ethic and is completely oblivious to Lucy’s pain and dislike of the task. When the girls complain about scrubbing floors, Thelma asks them if they think they’re better than Ruth and Naomi of the Bible. The girls may not be better than Ruth and Naomi, but apparently the boys are because they don’t have to stoop to such dirty jobs. No one mentions Jesus, who humbled himself to wash his disciples’ feet. Thelma probably didn’t think of that when she decided the girls should do chores while the boys get to do arts and crafts. Meanwhile, nature expert Wilma Neidlebark entertains us with her enthusiasm about the great outdoors. She talks to bugs, addressing one as “Mr. Caterpillar,” and is delighted by an approaching storm, calling it “a small rain shower.” And then there’s Fred Zachary, who couldn’t be more, whatchacall, perfect. He gives the greatest commentary for every scene he’s in. He does his best to teach the boys a thing or two, but they are so incompetent it’s almost ridiculous. From archery to canoeing, they have no idea what they’re doing. And that’s fine with me, since it allows for some pretty funny moments. The boys act as comic relief in this episode while the main plot is playing out on the other side of camp between Jill, Lucy and Connie.
Lucy, the cautious one who always follows the rules, meets Jill, the adventurous one who takes risks and gets Lucy into trouble, a little like Jack Davis. And since this takes place at Camp What-A-Nut, you can expect the kids to encounter some sort of wild animal. Part 1 of Donny McCoy’s adventure in Album 2 ends with a bear chase and a cliff-hanger, and so Part 1 of Connie Goes to Camp follows suit and ends on a cliff-hanger as an unknown monster called the Goat-Man approaches. Jill and Lucy laugh when they scare the other girls, demonstrating how unconcerned Jill is about other people and how Lucy is influenced by her. The fact that they sneak off into the woods also shows their selfishness, because it puts Connie and the other councillors in danger as they have to search for them during the storm. It seems neither of the girls realized that breaking the rules meant to ensure their safety actually makes everyone less safe.
When Jill and Lucy break the rules, Connie is put in the position Whit had in the episode A Bite of Applesauce. Connie seems to realize the connection and, still thinking Whit was wrong to punish her, she does what she thinks Whit should have done. She lets Lucy off. After all, it’s not a big deal. But what a mistake that was. Suddenly Lucy is feeling that just this once it was worth it to disobey the rules and Jill plans even greater escapades of disobedience. It isn’t until Jill and Lucy get caught again that Connie realizes the only way for rules to mean something is for there to be consequences when they’re broken. For the first time she realizes not only why Whit fired her but how difficult it was to do so. This episode does justice to the complex issues involved with enforcing the rules instead of opting for an easy and overly simplistic message. The lesson ties perfectly into the previous episode and contributes so much to developing Connie’s character. This episode gets 5 out of 5 stars.