Dead of Summer “Modern Love” Review (Season 1 Episode 4)

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In a heartbreaking- and occasionally quite creepy- episode of “Dead of Summer,” we finally got Drew’s story, and as I predicted, it was a doozy, in “Modern Love.” We began with the by-now customary flashback, this time back to 1978 in Chicago, as we met young Andrea, aka Drew, as she proudly presented to her befuddled mother a self-portrait to hang on the fridge. Only it was of a baseball outfit-clad boy, not a girl.

Thus began the saga of Andrea’s journey from girl to boy, with her mother resisting nearly every step of the way. Naturally, a therapist was employed to convince her that she was a girl, but lucky for Andrea, this psychiatrist was a forward-thinking sort.

Instead, she actually actively encouraged Andrea to embrace her inner boy, which “he” dubbed, naturally, Drew. (My apologies in advance if the pronouns get a bit confusing, for obvious reasons- I’ll do my best here to use the correct terminology.)

ZELDA WILLIAMS

Firing said therapist, Drew’s mother stubbornly refused to buy into the truth, and Drew continued to hide who he was, going as a girl in school, then sneaking out at night as a boy. One night, Drew’s mother follows him to a club, where she sees him dancing, looking as free as she’s ever seen him, finally able to be himself.

Cut to Drew’s mother and the therapist, back again, waiting for Drew when he got home from school. It seems that, upon seeing Drew as his “real” self, his mother was finally able to accept him for who he really was…or was she?

Despite embracing Drew in a touching scene that made one think everything was going to be alright, we already knew that something was going to go awry, or Drew wouldn’t be the way he was now, and sure enough, it did.

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In a devastating scene, Drew came home to find his house completely abandoned, except for a lone picture, aptly-enough, left on the fridge, of Drew when he was Andrea, as a little girl holding a red balloon.

On the back was a message from his mother saying in essence, that while she accepted that Drew was his true self, she couldn’t reconcile with losing her daughter, as every time she saw Drew, she was reminded of what she’d lost- a daughter that existed to her, even if she never did to Drew.

One assumes that after that, Drew simply headed to camp to drown her sorrows, as it was one of the few times and places she felt happy and free to be herself, with no one there having any preconceived notions.

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Having visited said camp back in 1983 as Andrea, she’d not only fit in, but interestingly, had helped a pre-out Blair come to terms with his own sexuality by gifting him with- what else?- a mixtape of David Bowie songs.

Meanwhile, in present day, ironically enough, Blair kept bringing up the incident, using it as an example of why and how it was important to be true to one’s self to Drew, as Bowie was to himself, embracing his inner self on the outside and not giving a damn about what anyone else thought.

Fittingly, in what must have cost a pretty penny, Bowie’s music was near-exclusively featured throughout the episode, in such tracks as the very apropos “Boys Keep Swinging,” “Ashes to Ashes” and the titular “Modern Love.”

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Unfortunately, despite all that Bowie did for Blair and Drew alike, when the time come for Drew to come clean about having once been Andrea to Blair, at least in a sense, Blair fully rejected it, running off in disbelief. This left poor Drew in shambles, having to resort to Jesse for solace, which was interesting, given how contentious the two were earlier in the episode.

This was because Jesse figured out what was going on with Drew and threatened to expose him as a “her” to everyone. Drew, in turn, got wind of a DUI that Jesse got under mysterious circumstances- one assumes we’ll get the full story when it’s time for Jesse’s flashback episode- and threatened to do the same with Jesse to Deb, possibly getting her thrown out of camp.

Jesse retaliated by allegedly using Joel’s camera to get footage of Drew taking a shower, which would have proved that he was a she (at least in all outward appearances) to everyone in the most humiliating way imaginable. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Drew opted to run away, with Amy catching sight of him leaving and reporting it back to everyone.

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After Jesse made a catty remark about Amy always wanting to be “everyone’s friend,” Garrett pointed out that, once upon a time, so did she. Realizing her mistake, Jesse made tracks to the bus station and cornered Drew, insisting he come back to camp, admitting that she had struck out at him because she remembered back when Drew was Andrea, how she had picked on her a bit.

Both apologized, admitting that neither had really planned to do what they had said- there was no video of Drew in the shower, and Drew had no real intention of going to Deb about Jesse’s DUI.

That accomplished, Drew returned to camp to attend the Masquerade Ball, which Deb had moved up to that night, as a way of welcoming back Amy, who, as you’ll recall, was struck by lightning at the end of last week’s episode.

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Triumphantly walking up to Blair and kissing him, the two left the party together to fool around some more, but when things got too hot and heavy, Drew excused himself to give himself a pep talk in the bathroom before “coming out,” as it were, as a “woman” to Blair.

The only problem was that, throughout the episode, Drew had been plagued by hallucinations of himself as a little girl, only much more ominous, as this little girl had eyes black as night and kept chanting “You can’t hide what you are.”

She was also carrying that red balloon, as in the photograph left on the fridge by Drew’s mother, which was popping up all over the place, sometimes even multiplying into a host of balloons, at one point filling up the bathroom entirely, causing Drew to cry out in horror.

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This bit reminded me a lot of Stephen King’s “IT,” albeit minus the all-important creepy clown. (Which, on a side note, is currently get a remake soon.) All things considered, it was still pretty creepy, even without the clown. Who knew balloons could be so menacing? Go figure.

As I suspected, along with many others, once Drew accepted who he really was and came to terms with his demons, the girl and her balloons promptly disappeared, seemingly for good. Unfortunately, in doing so and telling Blair he was once Andrea, he actually scared Blair off, who headed for the hills in confusion upon the revelation.

You’d think that Blair would be more understanding, given his own situation, but no such luck, which is disappointing. I suppose the point could be made that it was a different kind of situation, as Drew had consciously led Blair to believe “she” was a he, which isn’t technically wrong, but being as how Drew still is a female, at least in terms of his actual body, one can see where Blair would be a bit taken aback, as he genuinely thought Drew was a boy.

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That said, I’m hoping a little time will allow Blair to come to terms with the situation and realize that, just as we can’t always choose who we love, sometime we can’t choose how we’re born, either. From an early age, Drew has always known he was a boy, but he was nonetheless born a girl, so until he actually has an operation to change that, it is what it is and Blair should accept that.

Not in the least because, it was Drew as Andrea, after all, who helped Blair himself come to terms with who he really was, and turnabout is fair play. It might be a bit jarring under the circumstances, but that doesn’t make either Blair or Drew a bad person. They’re just young people coming to terms with some heavy duty issues and these things take time.

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I thought this storyline really delivered in every way, and in some ways served as a nice sort of “apology” for the ham-fisted way that fellow Free Form show “Pretty Little Liars” handled a similar sort of plotline. (Skip ahead past the next paragraph, if you don’t want to be spoiled on “PLL” at all.)

Unfortunately, there, it was used as more of a “twist,” instead of showing us anything resembling the process of how the character in question came to realize their own status as, in that case, a woman trapped in a man’s body. This was a decidedly weird misstep for a show that’s usually on top of such things, as evidenced by the matter-of-fact and affecting way it handled Emily’s homosexuality.

(End of “PLL” spoilers.)

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Here, it was handled much better, walking us through every step of the process, albeit with the future still left uncertain. The writers are to be congratulated, though, for not just making it seem like a plot point, but a honest portrayal of a scenario that must be tough to deal with IRL.

Indeed, one could extend that to all the characters, who continue to surprise by simply seeming real, with all that entails. They make mistakes, sometimes make messes, but in the end, no one is simply good or bad, but, as Jesse states at one point, “complicated.”

To say that one doesn’t often see that nuance in a typical horror movie, least of all during the time period in which this is set, is putting it mildly. If you don’t believe me, check out “Sleepaway Camp” and see how that particular twist was handled and get back to me.

Sleepaway Camp

Part of me thought it would have been pretty sweet to have named Drew’s alter ego Angela in tribute to that film, but then, I suppose it might have been seen as a bit of a backhanded compliment and backwards-thinking, given how that film’s twist was handled, which is to say, as a twist and not as if it were a real person’s experience, which wouldn’t be in keeping with this show’s approach. But maybe the “A” name was a bit of a nod in that film’s direction? If so, well-played, “DOS.”

I also loved that the episode served as a bit of a tribute to the late, great David Bowie, whose loss is almost beyond words to express. In fact, hearing Blair wax eloquently about Bowie here, I found myself reflecting back on my own words in a eulogy I wrote upon Bowie’s passing, which can be found here.

I may not be gay personally, but believe you me, Bowie helped me big-time in coming to terms with being a bit of a misfit, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in that. Kudos to the show for also recognizing that and using it in a way that was considered and well thought out. In other words, it wasn’t just a gratuitous use of a recently departed star as a plot point, it had real, deeply-felt meaning here that rang true to the characters and their situation.

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Beyond that, we had a few developments here and there elsewhere. The counselors finally compared notes on their respective hallucinations and/or nightmares, with Amy correctly assuming it had something to do with the grounds and the lake in particular, which she had somewhat confirmed by stealing a glance at the journal Garrett found.

Most everyone came to the conclusion that perhaps Deb was involved in all the spooky goings-on somehow, especially Cricket, when she found out that Deb had one of those freaky wicker masks in her room, as well as spotting one worn by someone in the yearbook from Deb’s summer back in the 70’s that led her back to camp now.

Further, we got a look at some of what was in Deb’s box (insert off-color joke here), as she took Joel out to the woods to tell her all about it- off-camera, of course. It seems that it was filled with mementos of a love that took place back in the 70’s, between Deb and a guy that would seem to have died. He gave her a copy of Kerouac’s “The Dharma Bums” (probably a wink to “Lost” there) and told her that “life is a series of moments that, if you’re brave enough, you can help create.”

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Taking the hint, Joel made his move, and he and Deb hooked up in the woods, as things got progressively stranger around them. Also in the forest were Damon and his Satanic bunch, who were there to keep a watchful eye on Amy, who did indeed start acting strange her own self.

Walking as if in a trance to the lake, she went to the shallow end and held out her hand, only for it to be grasped by a demonic-looking creature and held, in a sort of loving embrace. However, the minute Garrett appeared, it disappeared and she turned around and passionately kissed him, which Jesse had the misfortune to witness.

But shortly thereafter, she snapped out of it and seemingly had no remembrance of what had happened, so it may have been less of a loving moment between her and Garrett and more of a forced one, in a way, though why I couldn’t say just yet. But good luck selling that to Jesse, who probably wasn’t thrilled to see it.

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That was about it, beyond the usual cool references, including Blaine sporting a Clash t-shirt, a member of the Satanist crew wearing a Zeppelin shirt (Damon had his customary Iron Maiden one) and a recurring “Friday the Thirteenth Part 6” mention, in regards to Amy being struck by lightning, but coming back super-charged, as it were, just as Jason did in that installment.

This was perhaps the first truly great episode of the show, and one might argue, the creepiest. Or maybe that part of it was the induced “IT” flashbacks I was having because of all the balloons. Either way, it worked for me, no pun intended, not in the least because of the effectiveness of Drew’s touching story. The show is truly getting better all the time- here’s hoping they can keep up the good work.

RONEN RUBINSTEIN, AMBER CONEY, ELIZABETH LAIL

What did you think about the latest episode of “Dead of Summer”? Did you also find Drew’s story affecting? What did you make of Blair’s reaction to it? Do you think he’ll come around eventually? Is Deb the “teacher” Damon keeps referring to? Did her hook-up with Joel cause some of what happened in the woods? What else was in her box that we didn’t see? (There appeared to be a telescope, though I can’t be sure.) Any predictions on what’s next? Sound off down below, and see you next week!